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Guest jmecklenborg

Cincinnati: Liberty Street Road Diet

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Not sure about a study, but OKI has a neat map that shows AADT readings.  http://traffic.oki.org/  Liberty through OTR is about 15,000 which is pretty high, but for comparison Linwood and Observatory through Hyde Park and Mt. Lookout have a similar volume with generally only one lane each way except at rush hours and few or no turn lanes.  Even Central Parkway through downtown has a similar traffic volume, but it's much wider of course.  I think it just illustrates how overbuilt many of these streets are. 

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I'll definitely have to look at that in more depth. I'll be curious to see what roads are overbuilt for their volumes. I have some suspicions.

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I recently visited Hendersonville, NC and was very impressed by their Main Street, which for a small town of ~13,000 residents was remarkably vibrant. I don't know the history of their Main St, but it appears they must have done a significant road diet, bringing traffic down to one lane in each direction, introducing extra-wide bumpouts at each intersection, and re-routing traffic into an "s-shape" to further slow traffic. In so doing, they created large spaces for restaurant seating. Seems to have been very successful. Their Main St is quite different from Liberty, but nonetheless it shows the potential for how road diets can create vibrant public spaces. I really hope that Cincinnati makes Liberty into a more inviting space.

 

Here is a streetview of Hendersonville:

https://www.google.com/maps/@35.316572,-82.46023,3a,75y,156.38h,83.64t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sXHnDBAI_oXr9RUfpXKb0Mw!2e0

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That's fantastic! The S curve language leads to interesting spaces and the crosswalk language midblock at the S is really nice as well. The amount of seating, trees, plantings, huge curb bumpouts, etc. does a ton compared to typical straight street. I wonder if something like this could be implemented somewhere in OTR. Liberty doesn't seem like the type of road this could work on, but something smaller could use this to create something unique.

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That's fantastic! The S curve language leads to interesting spaces and the crosswalk language midblock at the S is really nice as well. The amount of seating, trees, plantings, huge curb bumpouts, etc. does a ton compared to typical straight street. I wonder if something like this could be implemented somewhere in OTR. Liberty doesn't seem like the type of road this could work on, but something smaller could use this to create something unique.

 

I love this type of design, but I don't see it working anywhere in OTR or downtown.  It's better for small town main streets and not trunk roads.  I think this could've worked on Short Vine, but the festival design they're building now will work as well.  Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis has been a successful downtown S-curve project for a long time, but even they are considering redesigning it to be straight boulevard design.

 

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^Wow - that Evansville Main Street is awesome and I love the curbless design (though I worry the brick pavers won't age well with snow plows). I agree that Liberty might not be the best candidate for this, but there probably are other streets where this could work on. I feel like 13th St (between Main and Race ) has very little traffic and would benefit a lot from this kind of transformation.

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Originally I thought of Woodburn, but I agree with ProkNo5 that it isn't really necessary in Cincinnati and is better suited for small towns. Also, Woodburn won't be getting a new streetscape for a long time. Their's is beautiful right now. Madison Road in Madisonville's downtown would probably be the best candidate, though.

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Madisonville is a GREAT suggestion. They're looking to grow right now too. I'm sure the Community Council would live suggestions like this.

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The sweeping curves leads to a loss of parking or sidewalk space, can lead to some sight distance issues and isn't universally accepted.

 

Here is Morehead, Kentucky: http://goo.gl/maps/JPbqd. Some of the bulb-outs have already been removed. This went from two-lanes with parallel parking to a mix of parallel and angled. The problem with this is that there is a lot of wasted space in the curves - there are no sidewalk extensions, few trees and a lot of barren black asphalt. Having all angled parking on one side for a block would be preferable, along with consolidated, structured city-owned parking. Even with the streetscaping (done in the early 1990's), their main street is pretty dead for a college town.

 

Here is Richmond, Indiana: http://goo.gl/maps/5vUT0. They did something similar, but with proper bulb-outs and more extensive landscaping. But they gave up a lot of potential parking to add in the sweeping curves. Their main street is pretty dead.

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I'm wary of the curved thing myself, it's like you're trying to take an urban place and overlay a rural road typology on top of it.  I say you're better off making the roadway and driving lanes as narrow as possible, and having buildings and the sidewalk, street furniture, bike lanes, planting strips, cafe spaces, etc. come close to the roadway to physically and visually narrow it.  That slows down traffic just as well if not better than all these curves.  Even the oft-cited preference for on-street parking is risky from a traffic calming perspective, because can you guarantee that the parked cars will always be there?  If not, then for part of the time the implied width of the adjacent lane doubles, allowing it to become a highway until it gets parked in again.   

 

http://urbankchoze.blogspot.com/2014/02/on-street-parking-good-or-bad.html

 

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I agree, the curved road thing seems like a very "small town" thing to do. If you want to keep the same ROW but reduce the speed of traffic, put in wider sidewalks, angled parking or bike lanes. Or put in cobblestones to naturally slow the traffic.

 

Or, why not make it one big cobblestone space with no markings and just let people figure it out?

 

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The City's Department of Transportation and Engineering is organizing an open house on Wednesday, November 18, from 6-8pm at the Woodward Theater to discuss the Liberty Street improvements.

 

 

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I'm interested but skeptical. Notice that the term "road diet" is no longer being used...

 

Ha!  Totally.  It must have been changed to the "Liberty Street Safety Improvement Study" to make sure it gets past Cranley's desk.

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UrbanCincy has an informative piece on the history of Liberty St before and after its widening in 1955, as well as their own recommendations moving forward. They bring up Jeff Speck, who was recently in Cincinnati and gave a series of recommendations regarding ways to make our streets more friendly for pedestrians. I would also add that UrbanCincy's design is in line with "Plan Cincinnati", a document that seems to have been forgotten at City Hall these days.

 

http://www.urbancincy.com/2015/11/could-narrowing-liberty-street-unlock-development/

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Liberty St. played no role in the city's traffic (no streetcar line, etc.) until the extension was built.  If the extension were eliminated (something that is now more practical than ever with the upcoming I-71 MLK interchange) then the street would return to being a sleepy cross street.  There would be no need for a turn lane or a bike lane.  There is no bike traffic on Liberty St. as-is because it doesn't connect places that people go. 

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^I pretty frequently see bikes on Liberty, and there would be more if it wasn't such a horrendously designed street that makes you feel like someone is going to kill you in their car.

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I like having access to both I-71 and I-75 from the neighborhood. However I don't think Liberty needs to be an arterial between the two highways because no one needs to be using it to get from one highway to the other (and I suspect few people actually do.) Thus OTR should be the origin or destination of most of the traffic on Liberty. As such I hope people will understand slowing the traffic down a little in order to create a better neighborhood.

 

That goes for the West End portion of Liberty too! Tons of pedestrians crossing the street there.


www.cincinnatiideas.com

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The I-71 access is at Elsinore and Eden Park Dr. via Reading.  Central Parkway leads to that via Reading, as does 13th.  The MLK interchange will be removing almost all of the 471 N and S traffic from Reading Rd. between Liberty and Eden Park Dr. 

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Liberty St. played no role in the city's traffic (no streetcar line, etc.) until the extension was built.  If the extension were eliminated (something that is now more practical than ever with the upcoming I-71 MLK interchange) then the street would return to being a sleepy cross street.  There would be no need for a turn lane or a bike lane.  There is no bike traffic on Liberty St. as-is because it doesn't connect places that people go.

 

Are you actually advocating for eliminating the extension? What would be the benefit of doing that? Eliminating it entirely would be expensive, reduce connectivity, and increase congestion on all other streets. What would you do with the right of way after you eliminate the extension?

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Liberty St. played no role in the city's traffic (no streetcar line, etc.) until the extension was built.  If the extension were eliminated (something that is now more practical than ever with the upcoming I-71 MLK interchange) then the street would return to being a sleepy cross street.  There would be no need for a turn lane or a bike lane.  There is no bike traffic on Liberty St. as-is because it doesn't connect places that people go.

 

Are you actually advocating for eliminating the extension? What would be the benefit of doing that? Eliminating it entirely would be expensive, reduce connectivity, and increase congestion on all other streets. What would you do with the right of way after you eliminate the extension?

 

Reconnect the north-south streets, for starters. Don't eliminate it completely, perhaps, but just make it one way each way. Make it a park. Put in housing.

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I'm all for taking Liberty down to 1 lane of traffic in each direction, increasing the size of the southern parcels to allow for more infill...  but I don't understand why jmecklenborg wants to "eliminate" it entirely. Perhaps I just misunderstood his post.

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He's speaking of the extension that was built to connect it to Reading. The original Liberty went straight up the hill and that was that. The street grid of Pendleton was more cohesive since that section of Liberty didn't exist. Removing it would probably be unnecessary but narrowing the driving lanes would be nice.

 

That being said, there's about a 0% chance of the ROW shrinking. The only thing that would occur is wider sidewalks, bike lanes, and the like to make the portion of the ROW dedicated to moving cars less. But a full overhaul that would shrink the ROW and make the southern parcels larger is more or less not a possibility unfortunately. Not without FAR more political willpower than we currently have.

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Yeah - I know that the extension is between Broadway and Reading. You can see the original property parcels on CAGIS, and how the extension cut through a huge swath of the grid. I just can't imagine the City restoring that street grid at this point.

 

 

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He's speaking of the extension that was built to connect it to Reading. The original Liberty went straight up the hill and that was that. The street grid of Pendleton was more cohesive since that section of Liberty didn't exist. Removing it would probably be unnecessary but narrowing the driving lanes would be nice.

 

That being said, there's about a 0% chance of the ROW shrinking. The only thing that would occur is wider sidewalks, bike lanes, and the like to make the portion of the ROW dedicated to moving cars less. But a full overhaul that would shrink the ROW and make the southern parcels larger is more or less not a possibility unfortunately. Not without FAR more political willpower than we currently have.

 

Well, if the city had any smarts, they would increase the amount of developable land on the south side, and sell the developable land to help finance the road diet...

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These excessively wide streets are an asset that could be used for creating world-class transit, bike, and pedestrian spaces.  The trick is properly reallocating that space within the right-of-way to achieve those goals, which by necessity will require taking some (or a lot) of space away from cars, whether moving or parked.  I think trying to physically narrow the right-of-way, while possible in some cases, would only serve to make the street just like all the others around it that are of a similar width.  That's not really all that attractive.  We have so many 40-foot streets with 50-60-foot rights-of-way that it's not really a differentiator.

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He's speaking of the extension that was built to connect it to Reading. The original Liberty went straight up the hill and that was that. The street grid of Pendleton was more cohesive since that section of Liberty didn't exist. Removing it would probably be unnecessary but narrowing the driving lanes would be nice.

 

That being said, there's about a 0% chance of the ROW shrinking. The only thing that would occur is wider sidewalks, bike lanes, and the like to make the portion of the ROW dedicated to moving cars less. But a full overhaul that would shrink the ROW and make the southern parcels larger is more or less not a possibility unfortunately. Not without FAR more political willpower than we currently have.

 

Well, if the city had any smarts, they would increase the amount of developable land on the south side, and sell the developable land to help finance the road diet...

 

You read my mind.  What came to mind for me was the FWW project.  One of the benefits stated was reclaiming 15 acres (?) for prime redevelopment.  Everybody loved that idea.

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He's speaking of the extension that was built to connect it to Reading. The original Liberty went straight up the hill and that was that. The street grid of Pendleton was more cohesive since that section of Liberty didn't exist. Removing it would probably be unnecessary but narrowing the driving lanes would be nice.

 

That being said, there's about a 0% chance of the ROW shrinking. The only thing that would occur is wider sidewalks, bike lanes, and the like to make the portion of the ROW dedicated to moving cars less. But a full overhaul that would shrink the ROW and make the southern parcels larger is more or less not a possibility unfortunately. Not without FAR more political willpower than we currently have.

 

Well, if the city had any smarts, they would increase the amount of developable land on the south side, and sell the developable land to help finance the road diet...

 

You read my mind.  What came to mind for me was the FWW project.  One of the benefits stated was reclaiming 15 acres (?) for prime redevelopment.  Everybody loved that idea.

 

Without expanding any properties or changing ROW, there is already over 4 acres of developable land along Liberty Street in large (for OTR) parcels. Since Liberty is so wide and there is no original streetscape on the south side, the opportunity exists to do higher density (height) infill on those parcels.

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Liberty Street is so unnecessarily wide that we can make everyone happy. Eliminate one travel lane in each direction, add a bike boulevard on the north or south side, and you'll still have room for new development on the south side.

 

liberty-street-existing.png

 

liberty-street-remix-1.png

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I'd like to see a landscaped median between intersections, a driving lane removed, a bike lane added in each direction, sidewalks expanded, sidewalk bump-outs at intersections, and new lighting/landscaping. This should also provide for restaurants/bars/cafes to have outdoor seating on the (now very large) sidewalks along Liberty. That's how we are going to truly connect north and south of Liberty.

 

Excited for the prospects, but hopefully this isn't a squandered opportunity. If they don't do it mostly right, it shouldn't be done. No sense in tearing up the changes in a couple of years because we are cheap and half-ass it.

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Exactly. I hope that this isn't just an attempt to add some landscaping and turn Liberty into another Central Parkway. If narrowing the street in some way is not part of the conversation, we shouldn't be making any changes right now. We should just wait until we have a more progressive administration that's willing to make the real changes that are needed.

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Two-way cycletracks (especially one so narrow) is not in any way a "best practice" for cycling infrastructure.  They have some merit on difficult one-way streets, but nowhere else.  You can gain space by shifting the street trees and lighting into the parking lanes (take up one space every so often for a tree and lights, parking kiosks, etc.).  That ensures that the street remains narrowed even if the parking isn't used, and it allows the sidewalk area to be narrower but more functional.  Like so:

 

 

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