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Cincinnati: Liberty Street Road Diet

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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?

 

After playing around with the traffic counts map linked earlier, I see that most of Liberty carries about the same amount of traffic as Ludlow Avenue in Clifton, particularly the business district, where the traffic measurements were taken. Liberty east of Sycamore carries about 2000 more vehicles per day, but I agree with Jake's earlier post that that number may very well drop when the MLK interchange at I-71 is finished, and I'm not too concerned with that portion as the land on the north side isn't really developable anyway. Aside from the theoretical max capacity, a comparison to the reality of Ludlow could help. Parking restrictions at rush hour and a few restrictions on left turns during certain days/hours works well there.

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A road like Ludlow would be fantastically scaled to reconnect the neighborhood. Someone needs to get one proving the ability for Liberty west of Sycamore to carry the necessary traffic with that configuration.

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My feedback to the city:

 

Liberty Street is not a pleasant place.  Cars in four lanes of traffic weave and exhibit race car behavior as they speed forward only to screech to a halt at the next red light.  Noisy trucks billow out smoke.  It's very uncomfortable for a pedestrian to walk beside.  As a result it is shunned by the joggers, dog walkers, and people going about their everyday business, and the vacuum is filled by loiterers that drink malt liquor starting early in the morning.  The street is also filthy, inundated with litter and trash of every sort.

 

When Liberty Street was widened in the 1950's, many buildings were torn down and Over-the-Rhine was divided into two halves.  This action served automobile pass-through traffic counts and not the residents of the neighborhood.  As a result the street has remained blighted ever since.  Fortunately the cure is obvious: turn the street back into a walkable place that will attract people and economic activity.  As a nearby example, Vine Street through Over the Rhine underwent traffic calming when it was converted into a two way street from a one way street.  It has since won national acclaim and is turning into one of the economic engines of our region, a place where small businesses start before spreading to other neighborhoods, cities, and states.  While the dedicated efforts of 3CDC fuel this success, it could not happen if Vine Street was not an eminently walkable place.  We need to do the same to Liberty Street. 

 

I understand there is concern by the traffic engineers in reducing the capacity of Liberty Street given that 18,000 vehicles a day use it.  I think those concerns are overblown.  First, just as "induced demand" is a real phenomenon where additional cars start using a street when additional lanes are added, "reduced demand" is a real phenomenon as well for streets that undergo capacity reductions.  Secondly, there are plenty of nearby streets that can absorb rerouted traffic from Liberty. Our freely flowing north-south streets can easily direct traffic to Central Parkway for example.  Finally, the street is oversized for the number of cars a day that use it currently.  According to the Urban Street Design Guide, "streets carrying up to 25,000 vehicles per day function effectively with 3 lanes, depending on the traffic volumes of nearby adjacent streets."  (National Association of City Transportation Officials, Urban Street Design Guide,  Island Press, 2013,  pg. 14.)

 

This is why I am for turning Liberty into three lane street (one travel lane in each direction and a center turn lane.) 

 

However, the only way to have this street find its full economic and aesthetic potential is to have new development facing it, especially on the south side of the street.  In my opinion the existing lots on the south side are so small and odd shaped that a normal new development will require at least an extra 20'.  Thus, the three lane option as presented by the city's Department of Transportation and Engineering should remove either the bike lanes or the permanent parking lanes, to regain space for development on the south side of the street. This would potentially return 24' ft. for development (8' per lane plus the 8' already in plan.)   

 

The five lane option as presented by the City would have roughly the same footprint as the three lane street described above, and also allow roughly the same footprint for new development.  Thus, I would consider the five lane option as an acceptable intermediary step in Liberty's eventual conversion into a three lane street. However, I would view such an intermediary step as an unnecessary half-measure and overly cautious of offending drivers' sensibilities.

 

Liberty St. could be the centerpiece of a burgeoning neighborhood, a beautiful boulevard with sidewalk cafes, etc.  Let's work to make this project a nationwide model for what can happen when we build places for people instead of accommodating auto traffic. 


www.cincinnatiideas.com

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Peak demand on Liberty is at Sycamore in each direction at just under 1,000 vehicles per hour (something like 980ish). Daily demand is about 18,000 in each direction. Peak demand is spread out fairly evenly for 12 hours each week day.

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Peak demand on Liberty is at Sycamore in each direction at just under 1,000 vehicles per hour (something like 980ish). Daily demand is about 18,000 in each direction. Peak demand is spread out fairly evenly for 12 hours each week day.

 

Wait 18k in each direction for 36k total? That's not what I understood from the OKI link above


www.cincinnatiideas.com

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My understanding was each direction. But honestly, that is the least important number to think about. You should never design a street based on daily demand. Hourly demand is the only one that matters.

 

EDIT: unless you're trying to decide if the road should be paved or left gravel. Then I could see daily demand being relevant. But I don't see the relevance in an urban setting.

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^ Which means the numbers the city is stating (18,000 per day in each direction) are about 2.5 times the latest OKI numbers of 14-16,000 per day combined (both directions).

 

I agree with peak hourly demand being more important in this context but I still question the city's numbers. I don't remember seeing any traffic counters on Liberty in recent years and I drive it almost daily.

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A huge percentage of this road's traffic is I-471 traffic to and from Christ Hospital.  Close the extension and that traffic will simply divert to Reading/Dorchester. 

 

Doing so would also eliminate a dangerous situation when turning left from 471 to Central Parkway.  There's no turn arrow, but it feels like the kind of intersection that normally has one because of the number of lanes and because it's a 5 way.  I've seen a number of close calls where someone turned left onto Central from 471, thinking that the oncoming traffic didn't have a green light.  It happens more than you'd think, precisely because Liberty is so overbuilt, so cars don't stack up at the red light heading from Liberty to 471.  People think the oncoming traffic is going to slow at the intersection and it doesn't.

 

Additionally, diverting traffic from Liberty to Central would probably help the properties along the east/west portion of Central, as they would benefit from increased exposure from people that would otherwise shortcut from 471->Liberty->Central on their way north to Clifton or Northside.

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^That also brings up the point that Central Parkway is equally overbuilt and rarely crowds and could easily handle any reduction in capacity from Liberty itself. I use Central Parkway every morning to get to Eggleston-Columbia Parkway and other than stopping at red lights there's never any slow down whatsoever. People regularly fly by me able to go 45 even which is a pretty good sign of a road being overbuilt.

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Are road traffic counts readily available online somewhere for those of us not super educated on the numbers to compare Liberty to other roads?

 

jjakucyk posted this earlier in the thread and it is what I have been referencing:

 

http://traffic.oki.org

 

 

 

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Wow, wait, so Central Parkway and Liberty have the same basic traffic counts?

 

I'm seeing this plan as needing to be two-pronged. Liberty+Central Parkway road diets. Liberty's goal being to shrink the ROW as much as possible to allow for redevelopment of that land and Central Parkway to be as multi-modal as possible with more usable public space, bike lanes, and transit lanes. View them as two parts to the same solution opposed to separate entities that have to be treated as such.

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After the last Liberty street meeting ended, I was speaking with some of the people from the city and one of them threw out that they were very close to eliminating a "lane or two" from CP...and then the streetcar came in.

 

I wasn't focused on it at the time, but that comment has come back to me and I'm frankly puzzled by it. The streetcar takes up a single lane for two blocks. It doesn't prevent left turns. What has materially changed regarding the format of CP that now precludes taking away that lane or two?

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Yeah I can easily see the lane it occupies being completely blocked off from other traffic with a curb and reducing by a lane on the other side and having a much better street already.

 

Central Parkway needs a lot of help. It's nearly as terrible as Liberty but is less urgent because buildings front both sides and the median creates a moment of respite while crossing. But it's gigantic and needn't be. Especially if it's only carrying as much traffic as Ludlow through the gaslight business district. Which, now that I know that, is going to be my mental desire and I know it won't be met. But all this talk of needing all these lanes is nothing more than BS knowing that the same can be handled by two lanes with no left turn lanes at all.

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Yeah I can easily see the lane it occupies being completely blocked off from other traffic with a curb and reducing by a lane on the other side and having a much better street already.

 

Central Parkway needs a lot of help. It's nearly as terrible as Liberty but is less urgent because buildings front both sides and the median creates a moment of respite while crossing. But it's gigantic and needn't be. Especially if it's only carrying as much traffic as Ludlow through the gaslight business district. Which, now that I know that, is going to be my mental desire and I know it won't be met. But all this talk of needing all these lanes is nothing more than BS knowing that the same can be handled by two lanes with no left turn lanes at all.

 

One thing about CP is that after the light turns green there are like ten seconds of vehicles moving through the intersection, then it's empty for the rest of the light cycle

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The only time I've seen gridlocked traffic on Central Parkway was the weekend when the casino opened.  I think GPS was telling people from the north to take I-75 to Ezzard Charles...after which thousands of vehicles inched the mile or so to their destination.  Any of them could have gotten off at Findlay/Western, then headed across on Liberty, but none of these people seemed to know that. 

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Around 2008, the city added bumpouts for parking on the north side of Liberty at the intersection with Main. The enlarged sidewalks make that corner so much nicer for pedestrians. And creating the triangular bumpout where McMicken and Main split makes that intersection much better for pedestrians as well. Anybody know the history behind that mini-streetscape project? Who funded it? My guess it was somehow in conjunction with the Rothenberg renovation, but I'm not sure.

 

2007 (before): https://www.google.com/maps/@39.1126541,-84.5125116,3a,90y,40.16h,87.62t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sqPcE4MbG-Cx6hBsn78t4hA!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

2009 (after): https://www.google.com/maps/@39.1126541,-84.5125116,3a,90y,40.16h,87.62t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sqPcE4MbG-Cx6hBsn78t4hA!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

 

 

 

 

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That intersection is the perfect example of the benefit of giving street space back to the pedestrian with essentially zero negative consequences. We need to be compiling examples from around the country of how to do this properly and show it works just fine. Hell, if they can shut Broadway down through Times Square with minimal effects then we can shrink Liberty.

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Around 2008, the city added bumpouts for parking on the north side of Liberty at the intersection with Main. The enlarged sidewalks make that corner so much nicer for pedestrians. And creating the triangular bumpout where McMicken and Main split makes that intersection much better for pedestrians as well. Anybody know the history behind that mini-streetscape project? Who funded it? My guess it was somehow in conjunction with the Rothenberg renovation, but I'm not sure.

 

2007 (before): https://www.google.com/maps/@39.1126541,-84.5125116,3a,90y,40.16h,87.62t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sqPcE4MbG-Cx6hBsn78t4hA!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

2009 (after): https://www.google.com/maps/@39.1126541,-84.5125116,3a,90y,40.16h,87.62t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sqPcE4MbG-Cx6hBsn78t4hA!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

 

 

It had nothing to do with Rothenberg but with the Main/McMicken reconstruction spurred by Vernon Rader's redevelopments. I forget the exact genesis, but while it was good for some pedestrian aspects other parts were lost opportunities. Notice that the center islands were cut back and do not provide any rest/protection for pedestrians, but cut in a way to ensure the largest possible turning radius for cars turning from Main/McMicken. This goes for the couple of other islands along Liberty put in a few years earlier, but turning lanes were given preference and very few were installed.

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I have a vision in my head of Pleasant Street and Republic street being pedestrian/bike only, with the larger north/south streets holding the traffic, and the alleys behind buildings giving vehicular access to peoples private garages. To this point, I think that any traffic calming measures on Liberty Street should include mid-block cross walks similar to what you see between the Westin and Fountain Square downtown. I am sure 5th street downtown gets nearly as many cars as Liberty, especially during rush hour, so if it works there it would work on Liberty too. This would really help the walking connection between Washington Park and Findlay Market via Pleasant Street; and Findlay Playground to the Streetcaron 12th via Republic. It would also help the overall pedestrian connectivity across Liberty. Mid-block crosswalks could also line up with Moore and Clay and would create more reasons for Liberty Street drivers to slow down and pay attention to their surroundings. Just a thought, but something that I think should be included in the process of re-working Liberty Street.

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5th Street is quite different, since it's a 1-way street with no parking. But I agree that the mid-street pedestrian crossings would be nice. (Though I'm not convinced that it's necessary to make Pleasant and Republic entirely car-free, since they already work quite well for pedestrians.)

 

Ironically enough, considering how car-centric it is, old Montgomery has a nice example that Liberty ought to emulate. Near the Montgomery Inn, there is a <a href="https://www.google.com/maps/@39.2275103,-84.3544147,3a,90y,32.51h,81.63t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sbKzS02yxqTsDEkEZK0nUOQ!2e0!7i13312!8i6656">crosswalk with lights embedded into the ground</a> that flash when a pedestrian is crossing.

 

Similar to Ludlow, this stretch of Montgomery is 2 lanes each direction with on-street parking allowed whenever possible. I think this configuration provides a nice pedestrian scale, allows for street parking to buffer businesses from traffic, and can still manage significant traffic load. The OKI AADT count for Montgomery is 2013 was 25,000 per day, while Liberty had only ~15,000 (last measured in '06).

 

If 2-lanes in each direction is sufficient for Montgomery Rd, then it should be more than enough for Liberty.

 

 

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^I would argue that 2 lanes on Montgomery Road isn't enough, because traffic is usually backed up for miles, but "fixing" it would likely require the demolition of buildings in their downtown, so that's a nonstarter.

 

But I think Liberty is greatly overbuilt and should have travel lanes removed entirely.

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We REALLY need to compile examples of the type of road we want (Ludlow and Montgomery Road are great examples) that handle similar or more traffic per day/hour than Liberty and prove that there's absolutely no need for all these lanes.

 

And then we can hand all that information over to the city with a note attaches saying, "and Central Parkway sucks" and get that discussion started.

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I think the benefits of those flashing crosswalks are mostly feel-goodery and little else.

 

I agree... but combined with the brick texture, it provides a signal to drivers that is better than zebra stripes on asphalt.

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I've seen in-pavement flashers work quite well in other areas of he country. Hell of a lot better than an overhead sign with a single flashing light ala East Pete Rose Way at the Midland Building where police officers stop the morning and evening rush hour traffic to allow pedestrians to cross.


"It's just fate, as usual, keeping its bargain and screwing us in the fine print..." - John Crichton

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Out front of the Goldman Sachs building in Lower Manhattan is a bike path. When a person is approaching the sidewalk that crosses the bike path lights in hte ground automatically begin flashing signaling that someone is about to cross the cyclists so they have time to stop. It's a nice system. Obviously not exactly the same as a road, but someone pushing a button to begin the flashing will grab people's attention. A sign that flashes 100% of the time is useless because it becomes so regular and a part of the background that people ignore it and its meaning. Something that only happens when a person is actually crossing and grabs people's attention is necessary all over the city, and a mid-block crossing of a new Liberty Street would be a good spot.

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I love the Australian signage for mid-block/unsignalised pedestrian crossings. Those feet! Here is a nice example where a raised walk interacts with a cycle track in Sydney's Surry Hills neighbourhood. I think that it is raised is what really slows the drivers down. A blinking light seems like it would be visual litter.

 

bourkestreetsydney.jpg

 

It would also be cool if intersections along Liberty could be raised too, giving priority to bike/ped. Here is another example of that along the same cycle track. These are also used a lot in Sydney, even along busy thoroughfares ala Liberty.

 

511867-howes.jpg

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The landscaping not only looks good, it keeps pedestrians from jaywalking across the bike lane.  This is one of the major problems with "protected" bike lanes -- bikes aren't protected from erratic pedestrian movements in and across the lane. 

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We REALLY need to compile examples of the type of road we want (Ludlow and Montgomery Road are great examples) that handle similar or more traffic per day/hour than Liberty and prove that there's absolutely no need for all these lanes.

 

And then we can hand all that information over to the city with a note attaches saying, "and Central Parkway sucks" and get that discussion started.

 

Actually, I think the strategy is to make the argument that we don't need both Liberty and Central to be this wide.  Narrowing Liberty won't contribute to any congestion because it's already so overbuilt.  But even if it did, that portion of Central serves basically the same purpose as Liberty and could easily handle the overflow.  And it's accessible from both OTR and the CBD, so if you absolutely had to have one overbuilt road running east/west through that part of town, you'd want it to be Central, not Liberty.  If the Liberty street road diet goes well, you then refocus on giving Central a similar treatment a few years down the road.

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We REALLY need to compile examples of the type of road we want (Ludlow and Montgomery Road are great examples) that handle similar or more traffic per day/hour than Liberty and prove that there's absolutely no need for all these lanes.

 

And then we can hand all that information over to the city with a note attaches saying, "and Central Parkway sucks" and get that discussion started.

 

Actually, I think the strategy is to make the argument that we don't need both Liberty and Central to be this wide.  Narrowing Liberty won't contribute to any congestion because it's already so overbuilt.  But even if it did, that portion of Central serves basically the same purpose as Liberty and could easily handle the overflow.  And it's accessible from both OTR and the CBD, so if you absolutely had to have one overbuilt road running east/west through that part of town, you'd want it to be Central, not Liberty.  If the Liberty street road diet goes well, you then refocus on giving Central a similar treatment a few years down the road.

 

I assume you mean Central Parkway, which is different from Central. Confusing, especially since they run parallel to each other for almost 2 miles.

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^Yes. I forgot that Central Ave even existed. I was responding to jmicha's comment on Central Parkway, specifically the section between Plum and Reading, which mirrors the same portion of Liberty.

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