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Cincinnati: Liberty Street Road Diet

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Between that and getting rid of the extension there is space for about 1,000 new residents.  I thought about writing a letter to the editor about this recently.  The increased value of this land is a way for the city to get a direct return for its public subsidies for the streetcar and other OTR improvements.

 

IMO The extension to Reading is the only part of the street that doesn't need a road diet though. It's a the foot of the hill so it's kind of paralleling what would be a natural obstacle between neighborhoods anyway.  The damage it did to the grid happened long ago. I would rather see the diet extend westward from Central Parkway to I-75 because there are a lot of pedestrians crossing Liberty on that portion. 


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According to the Urban Street Design Guide from NACTO (National Association of City Transportation Officials,) (Island Press, 2013, pg 14):

 

Streets carrying up to 25,000 vehicles per day function effectively with 3 lanes, depending on the traffic volumes of nearby adjacent streets. 

 

Up thread it said that Liberty had average traffic of 18,000 vehicles per day.  Sounds doable. 

 

(three lanes= two travel lanes (one in each direction) and a turn lane)


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When the guy from the DOTE introduced the 3-lane option, he accidentally let his inner traffic engineer out and called the option "ridiculous" before backtracking. However, I will give the DOTE more credit than some of the other people in this thread. Once they understood that everyone in the room wanted a reduction in lanes, a reduction in speed, and a reduction in traffic volume, they changed their tune. Looking forward to seeing what comes out of the next meeting.

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I would never fault a guy for thinking in line with his job and what his industry has pushed for for decades. Capacity has been the name of the game in traffic engineering in most of the country for a long time and removing this line of thinking and sacrificing this for pedestrian improvements is still a fairly new endeavor for the traffic engineering field. But it requires intelligent thinking and problem solving which is why I think if we push for it enough that some of our traffic engineering talent will be interested in finding a creative solution that meets everyone's needs. A reduction of at least two lanes and traffic calming methods will not only have minimal effect on volume but also give back tons of land to development and help bridge the pedestrian gap. There's a solution somewhere that will greatly improve the neighborhood.

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When the guy from the DOTE introduced the 3-lane option, he accidentally let his inner traffic engineer out and called the option "ridiculous" before backtracking. However, I will give the DOTE more credit than some of the other people in this thread. Once they understood that everyone in the room wanted a reduction in lanes, a reduction in speed, and a reduction in traffic volume, they changed their tune. Looking forward to seeing what comes out of the next meeting.

 

I really want to like that 3 lane option, but with two traffic lanes, one turn lane, two bike lanes, and two parking lanes, it seems like Liberty would still be very wide.  If they ditched one or both parking lanes or the bike lanes, I think I'd like it better.  At this point, I'm more into the 4 and 5 lane options.  Where is everyone else at on the proposed options?  I feel like we need to get unified behind one of these, or else we'll end up with a 7-laner.

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The problem with the 4 lane option is that there is no turn lane. There will be more accidents on Liberty because of it. People not paying attention rear ending the person in front of them.

 

If you add bumpouts to the 3 lane option at each intersection, you're really only crossing 4 total lanes if there are bike lanes (3 without bike lanes). 4 lanes is what you're crossing on most streets in OTR (Main, Vine, Elm, Race, etc).

 

And I don't think it would be good to eliminate parking on Liberty. The neighborhood still needs parking even with the streetcar and new parking garages.

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I think preserving on-street parking is essential and it might be more important than having the protected bike lanes. We also have to remember the 3 lane option is still five lanes when parking is included. Bump outs not only reduce the number of lanes a person has to cross but also eliminates the possibility of using those as rush hour lanes.


“All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.”
-Friedrich Nietzsche

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The problem with the 4 lane option is that there is no turn lane. There will be more accidents on Liberty because of it. People not paying attention rear ending the person in front of them.

 

If you add bumpouts to the 3 lane option at each intersection, you're really only crossing 4 total lanes if there are bike lanes (3 without bike lanes). 4 lanes is what you're crossing on most streets in OTR (Main, Vine, Elm, Race, etc).

 

Okay, so the 4 lane option is out.  But I don't think you can add bumpouts with the current 3 lane option because the bike lines are between the parking lane and the sidewalk.  I guess you could have a little island or something, but it just feels like we're cramming too much into one plan, and you only get an additional 8' for development.  If you sacrifice the bike lanes, you get something similar but a lot simpler and with an additional 20' for development (thanks to urbancincy for the easy links).  In time, you could even reduce to 3 lanes by adding bump outs if traffic demands allow for that:

 

Liberty-Street-3-lane-.jpg

Liberty-Street-Option-5.jpg

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I definitely think picking a plan that calms traffic to the point of not needing bike lanes is the most preferable plan. That way you benefit those who bike, return more space to development, and create the smallest crossing distance for pedestrians.

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My pick is definitely #5. They also mentioned that, while bumpouts may not appear on all the renderings, they can be included as part of the various options. So if we did option #5 with bumpouts, which would prevent the parking lanes from ever becoming driving lanes (as John mentioned), I think we will have a great feeling street for all users.

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^I'm all for that, but I don't think that's part of the current vision for the 5 lane option.  They list "provides existing vehicular capacity" and "parking spaces lost during rush hour" in the pros and cons list for that option.  We might have to take that plan as is for now and then lobby for bumpouts at a later date.  Still a win in my book.

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^Parking would only be limited from 9-9 or 7-7 I believe. I think Option 5 with the rush hour driving lane is the best option after the 3 option. It gets almost everything I want, and can be easily converted to my vision by simply adding bumpouts at a later date.

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You're not going to have any viable biking opportunities on Liberty with only one travel lane and no bike facilities. It's illegal to use a two-way turn lane to pass, and even if that's not enforced the number of intersections and actual turn lanes makes it impractical to do so anyway.  Therefore, anyone biking in the roadway will be "in the way" of motor vehicles and vulnerable to harassment.  This is an "only the fearless will partake" kind of situation. 

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In my view, these two items are non-negotiable and should not be included:

1. Have parking, or don't.  But really we should have it.  On/off peak parking is saying, ok, you have a neighborhood except for a few hours a day when we clear it out to make way for commuters.  Permanent parking allows for access to neighborhood businesses, bump-outs, and ONLY NEEDS TO BE 8FT wide.  That shaves 4 ft off the width.  on/off parking is a bad 1960's idea and only a place like Cincinnati would still be considering it. Completely backwards.  I'm shocked that there are urbanists on here that support it.

 

2. 4 lanes without dedicated turn lanes.  Couple this with parking and you have a total disaster.  When people are parked people taking lefts block traffic.  When parking is open you have people swerving.  This design has been nicknamed the "death street." 2 lanes are essentially blocked for turns.  How is that a good use of space?  Read more here: http://streets.mn/2014/10/28/four-lane-death-roads-should-be-illegal/

 

 

The street should be:  Dedicated 8ft, all-times, parking lanes with bump-outs.  2 travel lanes in each direction.  Left turn lanes where warranted, landscaped median where it isn't.  3-4ft bike lanes would be ok, but not necessary.  Option 3 is the only real option to consider, in my view. None of them are perfect.

 

Concerns about traffic tie-ups with a road diet are greatly exaggerated.  The MLK interchange is going in. Central Parkway has open capacity.  If some people need to wait an extra minute to get where they are going, so what.  Let's take back the neighborhood from cars.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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5 feet is the absolute minimum for bike lane width. 

 

One other thing to consider is that the US (and maybe Canada) are about the only places where two-way left turn lanes are used.  They're very inefficient uses of space, and they preference through traffic by getting pesky local accesses "out of the way."  Now that's not to say other countries don't have left turn lanes, they most certainly do, but once streets get to be more than just one travel lane in each direction, they become more like boulevards with medians.  Where there's left turns there's a turn lane, and then only at main intersections, with access to driveways and alleys limited to right-in-right-out situations.

 

On Liberty, if all the north-south streets were two-way, then you could just about have dedicated left turn lanes lining up back-to-back the whole way, as is currently the case between Main and Walnut.  That's probably overkill, but the point is that if you're talking a 3-lane configuration, then THIS is what you should be shooting for:  https://goo.gl/maps/FPVtAvr3YFL2 

 

 

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The city could block off Liberty St. right now with those barriers they had on McMicken last year and we'd all see that this road plays no essential role whatsoever.  This street could die completely and nobody would notice.  So the nuclear option should be the baseline for all conversations, then build up from there, with brick-paved alley as the most grandiose option. 

 

Again, after the I-71 MLK interchange opens, whatever babbling brook of activity the 471 ramps feed onto the Liberty St. Extension will be reduced to a nervous trickle.  It's a ghost town over there. 

 

 

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Thanks jjakucyk that is what I had in mind and the Euro-ness of it makes it look even better than what I was imagining myself.  The protected bike lanes are awesome. 

 

Does anyone still think a 4-lane option is good??

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IMO two lanes of vehicle travel in one direction is going to lead to traffic weaving/race car behavior and will not be sufficiently pleasant/safe experience for pedestrians. So the 3 lane option is the only option really.

 

A version of the three lane option should have been presented without bike lanes and more room for development. Then it would be getting more votes instead of splitting the vote for people who want 20' of development. I wonder if this was intentional on the city's part.


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All of this is exactly why I support the three lane option (one travel lane in each direction with a dedicated turn lane and permanent parking on both sides with bumpouts). This would shorten the travel distance for pedestrians to 3 lanes. It would slow down traffic so people wouldn't use Liberty as a thoroughfare and make biking more friendly. I support the on/off parking/driving lanes 5 option as my second choice only because it would be easily converted into permanent parking. I don't support that type of parking option long term. The 4 lane option would be a disaster and all of the 7 lane options would fail to actually shrink the street's footprint, leaving north and south of Liberty feeling like islands separated by a moat.

 

And I'm all for the center turn lane being a landscaped/brick median between intersections, but that's the least of my concerns right now with Liberty.

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I'd support the two configurations you've mentioned Ryan with some calming ideas below.

 

The central turn lane to be Belgian block. It relates to Elm Street which definitely slows people down, looks nicer, and can act as a central visual median without having to actually reduce the ability to allow for left turns in a protected lane.

 

Raised intersections. I know a LOT of drivers hate this but my attitude about that is very much an "I don't really give a damn" attitude. They reduce speed greatly and create a friendlier pedestrian crossing zone. Preferably these would also be paved in Belgian block.

 

No left turns at spots other than main roads. In places where you don't want a left turn, plant trees in the median (which is still flush with the driving lanes) and allow for parallel parking between trees. Space them so two cars can fit between each tree. This might mean the central lane/median has to be wider than currently proposed but a configuration like this which would allow for left turns and increased parking plus significant traffic calming would be achieved by having parked cars on both sides of the single driving lane in each direction (in the 3 lane setup).

 

I know that^ is an unconventional handling of a central lane in the US, but I think that's what we need here and works in many European cities.

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I agree with most of what is being said here, but we're not going to get option 3.  It wasn't even presented until someone complained about its exclusion, and the presenter apparently referred to it as ridiculous.  That's a really important detail, because it reveals that they are going to smile at us publicly and dismiss us privately if they hear the words "option 3".  Option 3 may be the best one, but it doesn't seem to actually be on the table.  "Option 3 without bike lanes" is essentially the same as "option 5 with bumpouts", so I'd recommend we start getting behind option 5 and try to lobby for bumpouts/full-time parking, either from the outset or eventually.  We're going to reach a more sympathetic ear if we try to work with an option they've presented to us and tweak it, than we will if we insist on "ordering off-menu" by pushing for option 3. 

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I agree with most of what is being said here, but we're not going to get option 3.  It wasn't even presented until someone complained about its exclusion, and the presenter apparently referred to it as ridiculous.  That's a really important detail, because it reveals that they are going to smile at us publicly and dismiss us privately if they hear the words "option 3".  Option 3 may be the best one, but it doesn't seem to actually be on the table.  "Option 3 without bike lanes" is essentially the same as "option 5 with bumpouts", so I'd recommend we start getting behind option 5 and try to lobby for bumpouts/full-time parking, either from the outset or eventually.  We're going to reach a more sympathetic ear if we try to work with an option they've presented to us and tweak it, than we will if we insist on "ordering off-menu" by pushing for option 3. 

 

Disagree.  The way to begin negotiations about this is for the neighborhood to be loud and vocal and state directly what we want. (That is the lesson learned from the streetcar after all.)  Let's recognize that the best interest of the neighborhood is directly antithetical to the goal of traffic engineers who want to maintain capacity.   

 

The part of your statement that I agree with is that this conversion could be some kind of two stage process.  But it needn't be if we just do what we know will be a runaway success the first time instead of taking nervous half measures. 

 

The more people push for 3 the less likely we are to end up with 7. 


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^So... are you arguing for option 3 unaltered (with bikelanes)?  Because it sounds like most of the posters in this thread think that the bike lanes are not necessary and actually make the design more complicated and leave less room for development. 

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^So... are you arguing for option 3 unaltered (with bikelanes)?  Because it sounds like most of the posters in this thread think that the bike lanes are not necessary and actually make the design more complicated and leave less room for development.

 

I'm for three lanes with or without bike lanes. 

 

The five lane proposal would have two lanes of traffic in one direction with no shield for pedestrians on the sidewalk most of the day.  It wouldn't slow traffic and would be unpleasant to walk beside.  Hardly any better than Colerain Avenue.  The main upside of this proposal is it could be converted to three lanes in the future (and developers can take advantage of the 20' of development space in the meantime.) 

 

Three lanes with bike lanes would send a message about what kind of neighborhood we are trying to build.  It would also allow leisure-paced cycling across the neighborhood.  You could build islands at intersection in the parking lane/ bike buffer to shrink the width for people trying to cross the street.  Eight additional feet of development isn't a lot but it's not nothing. 

 

Three lanes without bike lanes might allow 24' feet of development (16 from the removed bike lanes plus the original 8.)  With 24' of additional room for development it might be a true gamechanger with some really cool structures being built on the south side of Liberty.  Liberty St. could be the centerpiece of a burgeoning neighborhood, a beautiful boulevard with sidewalk cafes etc.  The fact that you've slowed and reduced traffic might result in some higher quality structures being built as well than in the other scenarios. 

 

Something need to be done.  The street is totally trashed with litter and is the hangout of people drinking malt liquor early in the morning on the sidewalk.  The fact that no notable development has occurred since the road widening in the 50's is utterly damning of the current layout which serves automobiles and not people. 


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Magic wand? No, of course not.

 

But as it is now about half of the lots south of Liberty are such an odd configuration and size that nothing can be practically built on them meaning in the current configuration we may never see infill in places such as the lot south of Liberty between Vine and Republic. That lot is just not a scale that works for new infill. And that's a huge problem.

 

Unless we create the bones for larger infill we're going to screw our future out of a proper urban street no matter what happens down the line. Once new buildings are there that's the end of that conversation.

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As long as we can get two lanes removed from the ROW and added to the southern properties I say do it now. If it isn't perfect, but still is structurally the same as a perfect plan (5 lanes with on/off rush lanes instead of bump outs and permanent parking), I say go for it. If they decide to essentially do streetscaping like the 7 lane plans I say don't move forward.

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My suggestion would be to put the whole thing on hold until we get a more conducive administration. We'll only get one shot at it and it's too important to waste on a half-baked Cranley-esque design.

 

There are two steps in this process. The first step is getting the DOTE to choose an alternative. The second step is getting the city to put forward the funding the implement the plan.

 

I think we should push as hard as possible for DOTE to choose a good plan. If they do, it's possible that the administration will block funding for it. Even so, we'll put the plan on a shelf and be able to pick it up in the future.

 

If the DOTE picks a bad plan that does very little to calm traffic, we should write to our council members and tell them not to waste money on a half-@$$ed streetscaping.

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My suggestion would be to put the whole thing on hold until we get a more conducive administration. We'll only get one shot at it and it's too important to waste on a half-baked Cranley-esque design.

 

There are two steps in this process. The first step is getting the DOTE to choose an alternative. The second step is getting the city to put forward the funding the implement the plan.

 

Thank you.  This is what I was trying to say earlier.  If DOTE is hostile toward option 3 (which they apparently are), then the very similar option 5 may be worth pursuing.  Otherwise, we're likely to get one of the option 7 variants, because we know that traffic engineers think that moving more cars faster is the ideal scenario.  It sounds like we need their buy-in, so we'd better decide on which of their options is the most attractive alternative.

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^So... are you arguing for option 3 unaltered (with bikelanes)?  Because it sounds like most of the posters in this thread think that the bike lanes are not necessary and actually make the design more complicated and leave less room for development.

 

I'm for three lanes with or without bike lanes. 

 

The five lane proposal would have two lanes of traffic in one direction with no shield for pedestrians on the sidewalk most of the day.  It wouldn't slow traffic and would be unpleasant to walk beside.  Hardly any better than Colerain Avenue.  The main upside of this proposal is it could be converted to three lanes in the future (and developers can take advantage of the 20' of development space in the meantime.) 

 

Three lanes with bike lanes would send a message about what kind of neighborhood we are trying to build.  It would also allow leisure-paced cycling across the neighborhood.  You could build islands at intersection in the parking lane/ bike buffer to shrink the width for people trying to cross the street.  Eight additional feet of development isn't a lot but it's not nothing. 

 

Three lanes without bike lanes might allow 24' feet of development (16 from the removed bike lanes plus the original 8.)  With 24' of additional room for development it might be a true gamechanger with some really cool structures being built on the south side of Liberty.  Liberty St. could be the centerpiece of a burgeoning neighborhood, a beautiful boulevard with sidewalk cafes etc.  The fact that you've slowed and reduced traffic might result in some higher quality structures being built as well than in the other scenarios. 

 

Something need to be done.  The street is totally trashed with litter and is the hangout of people drinking malt liquor early in the morning on the sidewalk.  The fact that no notable development has occurred since the road widening in the 50's is utterly damning of the current layout which serves automobiles and not people.

 

I walked Liberty again tonight and I've reached a decision. 3 Lanes without bike lanes. The only way to have this street find its full potential is to have new development facing it. IMO the existing Lots are so small and odd shaped that a normal looking development will require at least an extra 20'.

 

So here's my preferences, which would all take up roughly the same footprint, which is critical for development space and is the controlling factor:

 

1. Three Lanes, no bike lanes, permanent parking

2. Three lanes with bike lanes instead of permanent parking ( taestell[/member] option)

3. Five lanes as presented with hope for further conversion in a more enlightened era

 

I get your point now Jimmy_James[/member] ...

 

 


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As a professional in the field (transportation planning), I would urge you guys to consider whether you want Liberty to be a neighborhood street (as it was historically, based on old photos) or a boulevard.

 

If you want a neighborhood street, then forget about the turn lane. Something like a four-lane street with 10' travel lanes, 7'-8' parking lanes. With this option you get a lot more space for development, reverting things back to as they used to be.

 

If you want a boulevard, you don't want to skip bicycle accommodations. (I'd suggest something like jjakucyk's Denmark example up-thread.) Just by virtue of having those turn lanes, you're inviting volumes and speeds inconsistent with comfortable vehicular cycling. Here you'll sacrifice development space, but that is the cost of the boulevard choice.

 

Building the boulevard without all proper accommodations (median off intersections, bike facilities), you're forcing on a shoe that doesn't fit. Akin to a "stroad" but in a more urban (and far less extreme) style.

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What's the capacity of a road that's just one lane in each direction without turn lanes like Vine Street? Could a realistic case be made for that to be the model used opposed to something with a turn lane?

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As a professional in the field (transportation planning), I would urge you guys to consider whether you want Liberty to be a neighborhood street (as it was historically, based on old photos) or a boulevard.

 

If you want a neighborhood street, then forget about the turn lane. Something like a four-lane street with 10' travel lanes, 7'-8' parking lanes. With this option you get a lot more space for development, reverting things back to as they used to be.

 

If you want a boulevard, you don't want to skip bicycle accommodations. (I'd suggest something like jjakucyk's Denmark example up-thread.) Just by virtue of having those turn lanes, you're inviting volumes and speeds inconsistent with comfortable vehicular cycling. Here you'll sacrifice development space, but that is the cost of the boulevard choice.

 

Building the boulevard without all proper accommodations (median off intersections, bike facilities), you're forcing on a shoe that doesn't fit. Akin to a "stroad" but in a more urban (and far less extreme) style.

 

Thank you, you put it better than I did.  Also in looking at it, the extra development land really only helps 1 1/2 blocks where there's existing nice historic buildings near the street corners that leave tight and oddly shaped parcels.  That's the block between Vine and Republic, plus the west corner of Elm and Walnut.  That's really it.  Everywhere else there's either already a building there that fits, there's a non-contributing building that could be removed, or there's a large enough parking lot or alley that could be cut back/abandoned for new development.  So while there's certainly benefits to selling off the land for development to help finance the project, the issue of oddly shaped and unbuildable parcels is blown out of proportion.  That's not to say exposing the ugly party walls of the buildings that remain isn't damaging to the street, but that's something of a separate problem. 

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