Thursday, April 29, 2010

Governor's Advisory Group On Global Warming

Taken directly from page 88 of the report from the Oregon Strategy for
Greenhouse Gas Reductions

TRAN-12: Set up traffic flow engineering “Best Practices.”
Specific Recommended Actions:
Improve signal timing by leveraging The Climate Trust, Federal Highway Administration and City of Portland initiatives.
Enforce speed limits.
Apply Intelligent Transportation System solutions.
Identify, prioritize and reduce recurring traffic congestion and optimize highway speeds to the preferred range.
Analyze potential projects using value pricing (i.e., congestion pricing).

Truck and auto travel is most energy efficient when vehicles travel in the 40 to 50 mph range without frequent stops and starts. Traffic flow can be optimized through targeted infrastructure investments, traffic signal re-timing, value pricing, and investments in alternatives to the automobile. Projects that improve traffic flow through road widening or traffic management strategies will reduce fuel use in the short-term if vehicles operate at more efficient speeds with less braking and accelerating. However, increasing or improving road capacity may attract more
drivers, thereby increasing vehicle miles traveled and eroding GHG benefits.
Intelligent transportation systems encompass a broad range of wireless and wireline communications-based information, control and electronics technologies. When integrated into the transportation system infrastructure and in vehicles themselves, these technologies help monitor and manage traffic flow, reduce congestion, provide alternate routes to travelers, enhance productivity, and save lives, time and money.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Minneapolis' Left Turns Yield to Bikes

I learned a lot from the visit to Minneapolis. In downtown, I thought there are the starts of a pretty good system. A fair number of bike lanes and a lot of activity in downtown. While there are a lot of bike lanes, there isn't a continuity throughout the streets that builds new riders confidence. I found myself in a couple of locations where the bike lane ended without signage notifying me of the upcoming change.

As I biked and walked around the City, the first thing I (and a few others of my colleagues noticed) is that the traffic signals are set for moving traffic. The cycle lengths (the amount of time) are long, which leads to a wide variety of speeds on the streets.

The left turns throughout downtown are set up to make the streets accessible, yet this can result in drivers that are looking for gaps in traffic and creating a less safe environment of people on bikes.

Minneapolis uses some left hand bike lanes, which I understand in some cases are useful. One of the things I found in using these was there were times I didn't know which side to be on in advance. Especially when you are turning from a permitted left turn onto a new street. So, I am not sure I like the application all that much, but at the same time one can't design for visitors. Yet.... one should design (especially for cyclists and trying to lure commuters) for newer riders to encourage that they'll bike for the second time.
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More Minneapolis Photos

On the previous post on Minneapolis, some of my photos of the off-street facilities were not uploaded.
So, here are a few of those. If I remember I will try to add captions to the locations. The first two are on the Midtown route.

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Pedestrian Funding by Year

I took this from the AASHTO report on livability and couldn't help but notice a little change since 2008. I am guessing that Fiscal Year 2009 suggests a change in leadership, but am not sure. I will have to ask my friends at FHWA.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Minneapolis is Worthy of the #1 Bike City

I am eating crow tonight. I scoffed when Bicyling Magazine ranked Minneapolis above Portland as the #1 City for Cycling in America. Yet, after a half day riding around, I am inclined to say that with their facilities they are worthy.
It's definitely not their on-street facilities. I met with one of the City's transportation planners, Don Pflaum (he's not dubbed the bicycle coordinator on his card, but he was extremely knowledgeable about the system) and he admitted as much. It was fun to hear that he watches what we do as inspiration at times.
They have tried a few things too, left side bike lanes (it seems like they use these more than right hand side ones in downtown), bike boxes, colored pavement (although the pictures don't show much tint here, and bike signage. Some of the pavement conditions were typical of a City where there's as much weather as they have here, so that was to be expected.
Some of the facilities that I ended up biking on didn't make a soft transition from the with bike facility condition to the without. A couple of times, especially later at night, I found myself missing a sign and then ending up on a street without any guidance. I guess vehicular cycling would eliminate this as an issue, but when the speeds are 35-45 mph, even I wonder where I should go next. 1,500 miles from home and I wonder if I should be on the sidewalk...
The off-street paths are amazing. As a Portlander, I am extremely envious of the facilities they built in 1915 when they constructed a ton of bridges. Perhaps they got them cheaper because they bought them in bulk, I don't know but it seems that they have a lot of them and found a way to get them built. Of course, Minneapolis had the I-35 bridge failure and in my ride around the town, I saw the bridge sections laid out as if they were still being inspected or analzyed. It was hard to think of the engineers who must have felt awful after having the bridge fail under their responsibility. Yet, no one person is really responsible for that, or rather we're all in part playing a role.
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