* Thanks to Nick Falbo who put together the following analysis of how improving traffic safety on Foster does not necessarily lead to increased commute times or a further burden on drivers.
On this blog we write a lot about the in-progress update to the 2003 Foster Streetscape Plan, and much of our attention is focused on the potential pedestrian improvements in the area. Today, let’s talk about driving on Foster Road.
All of us here at FosterPowellPDX.com drive on Foster, and all of us intend to continue to drive on Foster. We also appreciate that the majority of commuters in our neighborhoods drive to work, and that they intend to continue to drive to work. All this talk of more pedestrian crossings, fewer lanes, less speeding, and on-street parking has got to make our commute worse, right?
Thankfully, it doesn’t.
We want to be very clear that we want the drivers of Foster to have a good commute. But let us also be clear when we say commuting is about more than getting from one place to the next as quickly as possible.
Believe it or not, fewer lanes don’t mean more congestion. It has been shown throughout the country that a two lane street with a center turn lane can move just as many cars, just as quickly, as a four lane street#. How can that be? I’m sure you’ve all had to wait in the inside lanes on Foster behind drivers trying to make a left turn. By giving them their own space, they don’t block traffic, and you get on your way. Traffic volumes on Foster are pretty high, so this reconfiguration needs more analysis, but SE Tacoma street did the same thing a decade ago and it carries even more traffic than Foster.
Commuters want to travel safely. When we talk about safety improvements on Foster, this is most beneficial for people driving because they’re the ones that need it. 96% of the crashes on Foster involved only people driving (2). Thankfully for everyone, safety improvements for people walking have been shown to increase safety for those in cars too.
Commuters want a low-stress drive. Poor visibility, people trying to cross at unmarked crosswalks, and busses sitting half in/out of the travel lane all contribute to confusion and stress while driving. By improving lighting, formalizing crossings, and better clarifying bus stops, driving can be more predictable and less stressful.
Commuters want a pleasant drive. An asphalt and concrete strip of dead trees is not a happy place to be for anyone. Improvements to the aesthetics do matter, especially when you’re driving down the same street every day.
Economic development on the corridor is a big deal. If improvements to the street can promote more business development, then some of these trips might be going to local businesses rather than out of the area. Closer destinations means fewer miles in the car, and fewer trips requiring a car, freeing up space for others.
And let’s not forget that commuting makes up only 20% of all trips (3). On the other 80% of trips the details listed above can be even more important than they are for commuting.
There are only 5,000 commute trips each day (4) on Foster Road. Compare this to the 10,000 people that live within walking distance to the Foster streetscape area in the Lents, Mt Scott-Arleta and Foster-Powell neighborhoods. Thankfully, as we show above, the needs of commuters and the needs of neighborhoods aren’t always at odds.
We look forward to moving forward with the entire Foster Road community in making our street a better place to be, drive, walk, and live._______________________________________________________________
1 http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/provencountermeasures/fhwa_sa_12_013.htm 2 Out of 2212 reported crashes between 2000 and 2009, only 71 involved bicyclists or pedestrians. http://www.portlandonline.com/transportation/index.cfm?a=386470&c=54892 3 US Census Bureau. http://www.census.gov/prod/2011pubs/acs-15.pdf 4 Foster carries around 25,000 car trips each day. Only 20% of these are commute trips.