Active transportation, street and development character offer more big ideas for the West Quadrant Plan
This is the final post in a series about the West Quadrant Plan Charrette.
The City of Portland is renowned for innovative transportation solutions. With progressive traffic signal systems, inventive bicycle facilities, light rail, buses and streetcar all built within a tight grid of small blocks with complete sidewalks in the Downtown area, this reputation is well-earned. However, there is still work to be done to make it a more complete and safe system for all modes of transportation.
During the West Quadrant Charrette in June, participants brainstormed how to improve options for people to get around. The existing bicycle network isn’t contiguous or clear and often fast moving cyclists create pedestrian safety issues, particularly in Waterfront Park. In addition to accommodating higher speed bicycle commuters, there is a growing desire to provide more safe and quiet pedestrian and bicycle routes located off busy streets. Many charrette participants felt the City should provide develop travel options for both the recreating and commuting cyclist.
One idea is to create an active transportation loop all the way around the Central City, on both the east and west sides of the river. This loop would have many access points, allowing people to easily get to any part of the West Quadrant by walking or cycling. A designated recreation oriented “low-traffic” route could create a greater sense of safety for concerned cyclists and pedestrians, provide for easier access to many areas, and potentially act as an economic and tourism stimulus. This facility would help address a large untapped pool of potential bicycle riders who would like to ride in and around the Central City, but are uncomfortable mixing with the heavy vehicle and cycling traffic common in some parts of the area.
Street and Development Character
Enhancing the actual street development type and character can also help create safer, more welcoming streets in the West Quadrant. High quality streets that support existing and future development uses of major corridors in the Central City fall into three categories:
- Retail and Commercial Streets – These are the busiest streets found in the West Quadrant, with high volumes of traffic from all transportation modes, plenty of ground-level retail storefronts, and other community-oriented activities. These streets are where most of the quadrant’s residents, workers and visitors come together and experience the urban character of the neighborhood.
- Boulevard Streets – These streets may have similar travel capacity as Retail Commercial streets, but can offer other types of experiences as well. They can be the “second” street of a couplet, create and define a district “edge,” or strengthen a local transportation route within the quadrant. A landscaped street character provides a distinct alternative to the more hardscaped storefront experience on the Retail Commercial streets.
- Flexible Streets – These streets create a system of local connections through the quadrant, linking different districts and communities. Offering alternative routes to the busier street network, they generally have a quieter, more park-like character, with relief from the rest of the quadrant’s busier corridors.
Being more deliberate about our streets both from a transportation and development perspective are just some of the big ideas that came out of the West Quadrant Charrette. Check out previous posts on the Willamette River and Housing and Neighborhoods for other big ideas.