PBOT survey aims to reveal city's pedestrian priorities
Is there an area of your neighborhood in desperate need of a rapid flashing beacon, a crosswalk or an actual sidewalk?
The Portland Bureau of Transportation is updating its 1998 Pedestrian Master Plan and needs input from the community. A survey can be taken through Sept. 30 to identify the city's neediest areas to give the bureau some focus.
The original master plan laid out 146 pedestrian-focused projects, and as of August 2017, only 50 of them had been either fully completed or are funded and in design, engineering or construction.
Another 46 projects have been partially constructed, while an additional 32 projects haven't been completed but are on the Transportation System Plan as a future project.
"We have made significant gains in the last 20 years, so clearly there are a lot of neighborhoods still lacking sidewalks. Not just residential streets, but arterial and collective level streets, that maybe have only sidewalks on one side, or in some locations, on either side," says Pedestrian Coordinator Michelle Marx. "So, we know we have sidewalk gaps to fill."
She also says things have evolved since 1998 in terms of awareness about how crossings play into the pedestrian network. Twenty years ago, no one was installing rapid flashing beacons — but they do come with a hefty price tag.
"Each of those beacons costs $100,000 or more, so $1 million buys you 10. We've installed between 30 and 40 just in Portland east of 82nd Avenue, where you have these really big, wide streets, and you drive up to 500 or even 1,000 feet without a crosswalk," says Dylan Rivera, PBOT spokesman.
He says there are limited funds and competing priorities. For instance, is it more important to have those rapid flashing beacons, or sidewalks to schools?
"There's a tremendous amount of needed infrastructure all over the city ... so hundreds of miles are lacking sidewalks on busy streets," Rivera says.
To find focus, they hope the survey will help them determine problematic locations in the city and what types of projects should have priority.
"We have a Safe Routes to Schools program that has generated plans and ideas for pedestrian improvement to new schools across the city, and we don't have even close to funding to build all those plans," Rivera says.
PBOT has a maintenance budget of $63.8 million, and a capital improvements budget of $166.8 million.
Significant portions of the city's sidewalks have come from private development and not just public dollars. If a developer buys a vacant lot with intentions to build an apartment building, PBOT will assess the impact on the transportation system. They collect system development charges to supplement that growth, in addition to design guidelines that require a sidewalk or even a street. Some of these rules were born out of the original master plan.
"So establishing those rules, and essentially what we're saying because of the requirement for new development and requirement to comply with the pedestrian design guide, we've probably seen dozens, maybe hundreds of miles of sidewalk built in the last 20 years by private developers at their expense," Rivera says.
But some areas have been neglected, including Southwest Portland and outer Northeast Portland.
The bureau regularly has to remind people that Powell Boulevard, 82nd Avenue and Barbur Boulevard are state highways, controlled by the Oregon Department of Transportation, although Mayor Ted Wheeler has expressed interest in transferring 82nd Avenue to the city.
"I always like to remind people that the fundamental way you experience your city as a human is on a sidewalk," Marx says. "It's also the most sustainable, most affordable way to get around, and folks may not always recognize themselves as a pedestrian, but everyone's a pedestrian. The most memorable cities are the ones you're walking around and experiencing by foot."
Take the survey
The Pedestrian Master Plan survey can be taken at: www.surveymonkey.com/r/PedPDX
Find out more about the master plan at: www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/72504