Special Report: Walkable Streets

Portland Bureau of Transportation on Traffic Management

Portland doesn't have 'best place to raise a child' as its official slogan, but they are light years ahead of us in achieving that goal.

By Jason Leach
Published January 25, 2013

Check out this page from the Portland, Oregon Bureau of Transportation. Scroll through the list on the left for examples of traffic management, i.e. traffic restriction and reduction.

This is the Portland Bureau of Transportation explaining all of their methods to calm traffic so that neighbourhoods can become safer for cycling/walking and more livable for families.

They don't have "best place to raise a child" as their official slogan, but trust me, they are light years ahead of us in achieving that goal.

Give me action on the ground instead of slogans on letterhead any day of the week.

Portland Transportation Priorities in Hamilton

I would love to see partial access restricting right turns on certain streets in my neighbourhood. Right turns onto Strathcona from York are incredibly dangerous. We almost lost a couple kids while we lived there.

People still act like they are on Highway 403 and the curbs are cut like a highway ramp - similar to Sean Burak's observations in a recent article.

I would also like to see speed humps on Peter Street to Brian due to the short-cutters that roar through the neighbourhood. I'd love to see a curb extension built preventing right turns onto Peter from Queen - this is the source of the bad speeding.

People don't want to stay on Queen to King so they fly through our neighbourhood. By the time they are done with stop signs and slower streets, I'm convinced they haven't saved any time, but they still do it.

Let's get serious about quality of life in Hamilton.

Livable Streets in Portland

The following video is a typical end of school day scene in Portland. I witnessed this with my own eyes last fall when I was there. It's an amazing sight to see:

Please note: this is not a special event like 'Open Streets'. This is the normal, everyday end of school trek home all through urban/inner city Portland.

In Portland, the traffic engineers understand that traffic means people, not people in cars.

Jason Leach was born and raised in the Hammer and currently lives downtown with his wife and children. You can follow him on twitter.

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By Rimshot (anonymous) | Posted January 25, 2013 at 21:12:50

Portland is to Hamilton as Toronto is to Hillsboro.

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By Sigma Cub (anonymous) | Posted January 26, 2013 at 08:52:37 in reply to Comment 85558

Yes, Hillsboro is Oregon's fourth-largest city, but it is serviced by TriMet's MAX Blue. The analogy would hold if the TTC were running LRT from McMaster to Eastgate.

Metrolinx is too new and ineffectual to be a meaningful part of the analogy, and FWIW, they're not even using Portland as an instructive example of a funding strategy, concentrating instead on Vancouver, Montreal, Chicago, NYC, London and Paris.

http://www.bigmove.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/BigConversationKit-sml.pdf

This may reflect an internal analysis that tells them the political appetite is for a certain combination of funding options (based on the four North American systems profiles, Metrolinx would be funded by fares, gas tax, property tax, retail tax and road tolls).

TriMet is apparently 55% funded by payroll tax:

"As of 2012, the payroll tax rate was $0.007018 per dollar, meaning that affected employers must pay TriMet 0.7018 percent of each worker's gross payroll for services performed inside the service area."

http://portlandafoot.org/w/TriMet_payroll_tax
http://portlandafoot.org/w/TriMet_service_area

"According to TriMet's 2010 report by the Citizens Advisory Committee on the Budget, another 22 percent or so came from fares, 16 percent from state and federal operating grants and 9 percent from miscellaneous other sources, including sales of advertising."

http://portlandafoot.org/w/TriMet_budget

In March 2010, a review of HSR operations noted that HSR cash and ticket fares were 25% lower than the average in the peer group. (Pass systems were average.)


http://www.hamilton.ca/NR/rdonlyres/9D868772-92BE-4A69-B874-42A1081726CD/0/TTRFinalReport.pdf

Of the HSR, IBI notes that "Direct operating costs will be $93,758,000 in 2014 compared to $63,801,000 in 2008," a 32% increase that I am guessing will have to be offset somehow, most likely by some combination of by increased city/provincial/federal funding, tax levies, fare increases -- or simply more resolute measures to curb "fare leakage":

"While praising the overall efficiency of the HSR, IBI notes that average fares are low because of the large number of riders getting discounted or free trips. They calculate that '44 percent of all passengers have a discounted fare other than an adult monthly pass' and note that 'free boardings for persons with personal mobility devices are potentially subject to abuse.'

Reducing this fare 'leakage,' IBI suggests, could be an alternative to fare increases. And they urge 'discounts for social programs should be treated as such and not funded entirely from the HSR budget.'"

http://www.hamiltoncatch.org/view_article.php?id=648

As to whether other Oregonian cities have adopted similarly broad menus of traffic-taming measures, I can't say. I would imagine that Portland's influence would be strongest closest to home. Can anyone report on traffic engineering in Eurgene, Salen, Greshham, etc?

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By jason (registered) | Posted January 25, 2013 at 22:33:23 in reply to Comment 85558

Well, yes. That's what happens when once city leads and the other lags. It's a huge problem we need to fix.

Comment edited by jason on 2013-01-25 22:33:45

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By Jason Jr. (anonymous) | Posted January 26, 2013 at 05:34:43 in reply to Comment 85559

Yeah! What he said!

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By Jason Jr. Jr. (anonymous) | Posted January 26, 2013 at 10:26:31 in reply to Comment 85561

C'mon dad, let's get you back to the ward.

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By Jason IV (anonymous) | Posted January 27, 2013 at 08:31:01 in reply to Comment 85588

Which ward? I'm already in a ward in the city, ward 2 to be exact

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By me, me and me! (anonymous) | Posted January 26, 2013 at 07:09:36

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted January 29, 2013 at 11:12:19 in reply to Comment 85576

We will in all likelihood continue to post articles that make arguments about Hamilton's civic infrastructure and its various effects on the city's public life, culture, economy and environment, given that advocacy for urban revitalization is our core mandate.

If that topic bores you, the broadest repository of human knowledge in the history of the world is only a click away. I have every confidence that you will be able to find something more to your taste.

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By Change it up, hit the bell (anonymous) | Posted January 27, 2013 at 08:33:01 in reply to Comment 85576

Change it up, hit the bell!

I'd have to agree with me, me and me! as Jason's love affair with a city he used to live in has never gone away.

Can someone answer me this?

By doing all of these wonderful things in Portland, has it attracted new business? Kept existing business from leaving? Attracted more people to live there? What's the occupancy rate in their hotels? If there is increases in those things, where do they build houses, condos, and apartment buildings? Does portland have a downtown as old and textured with history like ours?

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted January 26, 2013 at 21:48:48 in reply to Comment 85576

Redundant? Pretty weak.

Arguing a point you do not feel has been addressed is not redundant. You can disagree with the opinion or how it is expressed but simply declaring it redundant doesn't contribute anything.

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted January 26, 2013 at 17:19:11 in reply to Comment 85576

How has it become redundant? It could only possibly be redundant if the city was actually doing something to fix the obvious problems.

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By dept of redundancy dept (anonymous) | Posted January 27, 2013 at 08:34:26 in reply to Comment 85608

It's the same old, same old. Some people can't stop talking about something that's far off, others can't stop complaining when someone else brings it up. Things like this never change around here because for the most part, neither side will listen to the opposing side. Their mind's made up, don't confuse them with the facts!

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By jason (registered) | Posted January 26, 2013 at 11:33:18 in reply to Comment 85576

it's only redundant and boring because we have one of the most outdated cultures of any city I've been to. We're no closer to moving into 21st Century city-building practices than we were 20 years ago. We all wish this topic never had to get brought up again...but it does until it changes.

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By me, me and me! (anonymous) | Posted January 27, 2013 at 13:55:30 in reply to Comment 85592

Jason...It's redundant because the topic has been over written on here, no where else, it's boring because the topic has no zing, it's lost it's legs. Democracy will prevail one day, today is not that day!

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By jason (registered) | Posted January 27, 2013 at 14:26:03 in reply to Comment 85623

perhaps it's because I have kids, but I don't find it redundant to want my city to actually be the best place to raise a child instead of just wasting letterhead saying so. Until that after school scene in the above video can be the reality in Hamilton's neighbourhoods, this topic will always come up. Is it redundant that every single urban expert who have visited Hamilton in the past 15 years for our summits, conventions and horn-tooting sessions all say the same thing about our downtown freeways?? No. It will never become redundant until we actually do something about it.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted January 27, 2013 at 14:30:30 in reply to Comment 85624

The bike riding is a common sight in the 'burbs. Just sayin'.

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By jason (registered) | Posted January 27, 2013 at 18:56:32 in reply to Comment 85625

this is not a common sight anywhere in Hamilton.

http://vimeo.com/16552771#

I live downtown and was impressed at the number of commuting cyclists who were on the roads during last weeks cold snap. Cycling is slowly increasing here for sure, but it's not even remotely close to the levels experienced in cities that encourage it and build infrastructure for it.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted January 27, 2013 at 22:21:49 in reply to Comment 85639

How would you know what is happening in an area of the city you don't live in and despise?

I see it all the time when visiting my folks in Dundas. Lots of people riding bikes on the rail trail, on the roads, to and from work and school.

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By jason (registered) | Posted January 27, 2013 at 22:39:05 in reply to Comment 85641

absolutely. I see that activity too. But let's be real - there is nowhere in Hamilton that looks like the streets of Portland in the above video. Not sure what you're getting at with 'despise'? I love Dundas. Was there twice last week. Go hiking there all the time.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted February 04, 2013 at 20:29:37 in reply to Comment 85643

Sure, you go to use their natural beauty, but would never live there and bash the burbs on a regular basis.

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By Jason Jr. (anonymous) | Posted January 26, 2013 at 11:58:32 in reply to Comment 85592

Yeah! We're so boring here!

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted January 26, 2013 at 12:06:15 in reply to Comment 85594

Go to sleep, junior. The adults are trying to have a conversation.

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By seancb jr. (anonymous) | Posted January 26, 2013 at 15:23:48 in reply to Comment 85597

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By MattM (registered) | Posted January 26, 2013 at 09:40:48 in reply to Comment 85576

You're right, it shouldn't HAVE to be brought up this many times. It should have happened decades ago.

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By Sigma Cub (anonymous) | Posted January 28, 2013 at 08:13:09

Jay Robb comment over at the Spec:

I’d dodge four lanes of one-way traffic for a quinoa, chickpea & black bean salad and a Cuban super burger.

But I don’t need to risk life and limb because the Earth to Table Bread Bar and Chuck’s Burger Bar have set up shop on Locke Street South. It’s a thriving street in Hamilton’s lower city that proves Jeff Speck’s Theory of Walkability.

Speck, a city planner, architectural designer and author of Walkable City, says you can attract a whole lot of pedestrian traffic if you offer a walk that’s useful, safe, comfortable and interesting.

“Useful means that most aspects of daily life are located close at hand and organized in a way that walking serves them well,” says Speck. “Safe means that the street has been designed to give pedestrians a fighting chance against being hit by automobiles; they must not only be safe, but feel safe.

“Comfortable means that buildings and landscape shape urban streets into outdoor living rooms. Interesting means that sidewalks are lined by unique buildings with friendly faces and signs of humanity abound.”

Locke Street South delivers on all four counts with slow-moving two-way traffic, curbside parking and a healthy mix of restaurants, shops and residences. What’s more, the street isn’t saddled with long and boring swaths of vacant lots and blacktop or what Speck calls missing teeth.

“Get walkability right and so much of the rest will follow,” says Speck.

Downtown Hamilton’s answer to Locke Street South is James Street North. Speck would agree that converting the one-way street in 2005 was a smart move. “If your downtown lacks vitality and it’s got one-ways, it’s probably time for a change.”

Speck outlines a host of other ways that could revitalize the heart of Hamilton. Get more people living downtown by allowing homeowners to add granny flats and introduce inclusionary zoning to strike the right balance of market rate and affordable housing. Speck warns many downtowns have too much affordable housing.

Revisit how much parking is mandated for new businesses and condo developments. Rather than require parking beside or behind buildings, allow owners and developers to pay in-lieu fees for shared spaces at nearby and centrally located municipal lots and garages. “Instead of providing parking, businesses are only required to pay for it, which allows the parking to be located in the right place and, importantly, shared.” Allow owners and developers to offer parking cash-outs so employees and condo dwellers can trade their parking spaces for cash equivalents.

Put an end to cheap curbside parking and designate downtown as a parking benefit district so all the coins fed into meters are reinvested to enhance walkability in the core. “In addition to improving sidewalks, trees, lighting and street furniture, these districts can bury overhead wires, renovate storefronts, hire public service officers and keep everything spic and span.”

Set height limits on new construction to encourage more mid-rise development and avoid having entire downtown blocks dedicated to single tall towers set back from the street and surrounded by acres of parking. In the District of Columbia, buildings can only be 20 feet taller than their width.

Put fat roads on a diet and reuse eliminated lanes for a combination of angled street parking, separated bike lanes, wider sidewalks, patios, trees and awnings.

“These fixes simply give pedestrians a fighting chance, while also embracing bikes, enhancing transit and making downtown living attractive to a broader range of people,” says Speck. “Most are not expensive. Each one individually makes a difference; collectively, they can transform a city and the lives of its residents.”

Before spending a dime, downtown Hamilton needs an urban triage plan. Speck recommends ranking streets (James North would get an A) and mapping out the pedestrian traffic that’s already flowing between key points in the core. “Streets are either in or out,” says Speck about where to invest money to increase walkability. “Ideally, the entirety of city leadership, both public and private sector, comes together around a simple understanding: Build These Sites First.”

Whether we live in the core or the ’burbs, we should all be pushing for a pedestrian-friendly downtown. Offering a useful, safe, comfortable and interesting walk will bring in new businesses, retiring baby boomers and the young entrepreneurial talent that every city’s chasing. “Every relocation decision, be it a college graduate’s or a corporation’s, is made with an image of place in mind. And, with rare exception, that image is downtown. If the downtown doesn’t look good, the city doesn’t look good.”

And to borrow a line from Speck, we can’t afford to have a downtown that’s easy to drive to, but not worth arriving at.


http://www.thespec.com/news/business/article/876517--get-walkable-and-get-it-right

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By Rimshot (anonymous) | Posted January 28, 2013 at 11:09:10 in reply to Comment 85644

"PS: Don't forget to add a casino. Nothing boosts walkability like a floor full of slots."

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By highwater (registered) | Posted January 28, 2013 at 13:28:08 in reply to Comment 85652

Exactly.

Cities thrive when they’re tightly packed, full of things to do and not interrupted by monoliths like giant stadiums, expressways or convention centres—the very things that hopeful politicians keep trying and failing to defibrillate their downtowns with...

On a practical level, lively streets—the thing that makes cities so appealing—depend on lots of people hopping back and forth between many destinations at all hours. Casinos, on the other hand, are designed to suck people in and keep people in, monopolizing their time and their money. They turn away from the outside world, blocking daylight to obscure the passage of time. Come for a drink. Stare at the slots. Stay for the show. Stay longer for the sensory overload. Stagger out some hours later.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted January 28, 2013 at 10:55:34 in reply to Comment 85644

"Speck outlines a host of other ways that could revitalize the heart of Hamilton. Get more people living downtown by allowing homeowners to add granny flats and introduce inclusionary zoning to strike the right balance of market rate and affordable housing. Speck warns many downtowns have too much affordable housing."

I'm all for loosening Hamilton's zoning, but I'm not sure how granny flats is going to revitalize downtown. Downtown has a surplus of singles and more than its share of under-the-radar housing conversions. What it arguably needs are more families, and a more balanced socioeconomic mix.

For example: In the 2006 census, the four tracts bordering Locke South had roughly the same population as the four tracts bordering James North, and a lower net population density. But the four Locke South tracts (Queen/King/403/Escarpment) had a average median household income of over $56,000, while the four tracks adjacent to James North (Queen/King/Wellington/Rails) had an average median household income of $29,500. The lowest median household income of the Locke South tracts was higher than the highest median household income of the James North tracts.

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By jason (registered) | Posted January 28, 2013 at 09:39:42 in reply to Comment 85644

absolutely bang on. And nothing new. We know this, and we know how to do it as James and Locke prove.

But here is the missing ingredient in Hamilton:

“Ideally, the entirety of city leadership, both public and private sector, comes together around a simple understanding: Build These Sites First.”

Leadership is virtually non-existent on this topic aside from Farr and McHattie.
Heck, we still have elected officials who are fine with allowing downtown's main streets to rot forever so they can save 45 seconds in their car.

Comment edited by jason on 2013-01-28 09:40:42

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted January 31, 2013 at 18:22:45

People don't want to stay on Queen to King so they fly through our neighbourhood. By the time they are done with stop signs and slower streets, I'm convinced they haven't saved any time, but they still do it.

If King, Canon, and Main were made to less efficient at moving traffic, by de-timing the lights or turning them into two way streets, what do you think would happen to your neighborhood?

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By i'm a highway star (anonymous) | Posted February 01, 2013 at 13:16:39 in reply to Comment 85711

50% of the current traffic would move to the highways where it belongs, that's what. And most peoples' trips would change in duration by a matter of 2 or 3 minutes.

But SpaceMonkey's in a hurry so the entire lower city can just shut up and give him his 3 minutes.

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted February 01, 2013 at 21:03:11 in reply to Comment 85733

Where did you get that data from?

I'll refrain from the personal attacks, although it is tempting. The post is quite trollish.

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