We were able to get ahold of the NextRail draft plan today and have taken a first look… and it’s not great. It also isn’t horrible.
Our truncated conclusion is this: We have a lot work to do if we expect bike lanes and pedestrian improvements to be integrated into the project, especially at the neighborhood level. There are no guarantees that any of what we’ve been trumpeting over the last two months will be part of the streetcar project.
It is important to know that this is not the final plan. It is a draft of a conceptual plan, so there is still time to get bicycle infrastructure and pedestrian policy integrated into this project. We are working out the details on the direction of our next campaign and will keep you up to date on next steps. Right now we simply ask you to stay tuned.
If you live near any of the corridors, start talking to your neighbors about this. Start organizing a list of those who support bike lanes and/or pedestrian improvements as part of the streetcar.
For more detailed information about our initial findings, keep reading. Fair warning: it gets a little wonky:
Curb running preferred option on all corridors
Why does this matter? Curb running streetcar makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to add bicycle lanes alongside the streetcar. Only Linwood is identified as being suitable for center running, but this appears to be for the purpose of giving streetcar a dedicated lane and not necessarily to open up space for bike lanes.
Bike lanes not included in renderings of preferred options
Even in the center-running option on Linwood bike lanes are not included. None of the preferred option street cross-section renderings show a single bike lane. Although, the center running option on Linwood could provide ample space for a variety of treatments, no bike lanes were drawn. This seems to indicate that the consultants have determined that bike lanes are not preferred for any of the corridors. No justification is provided until later in the document.
Center running alignments downgraded based on outdated car-centric metric
It appears that the alignment options were evaluated, in part, based on impacts to Level of Service modeling. This considers impact only on how it affects the flow of car traffic. So the ability to add bike lanes to the streetcar corridors was affected, at least partly, by its impact to automobile traffic. This approach is also problematic because it indicates that, even with such a progressive concept as the streetcar, we are still beholden to outdated metrics that fail to consider a broader perspective. Kansas City needs to do better than this.
Only Linwood identified as potential for bike lane in bike/ped section of report
There is a section that briefly discusses considerations for bike and pedestrian infrastructure. However, only Linwood is specifically identified as suitable for bike lanes. We have shown that there is space on any of the corridors, so it’s perplexing that only Linwood is identified. Furthermore, the document suggests that any design for bike lanes on Linwood could not conform to “best practices for bicycle facilities”. This appears to be because all options recommend 10 to 11 foot dedicated car lanes in lieu of 8 foot parking with mixed traffic streetcar lane.
Dedicated thru lanes for cars preferred over bike lanes and on-street parking
Seattle’s First Hill streetcar line incorporates a mixed center-running lane and parking lanes on each side as well as a cycle track in a similar ROW width. It’s unclear why the center-running mixed traffic option wasn’t even considered. Adding a mixed-traffic streetcar (center or curb) should allow for elimination of a car lane in each direction however it doesn’t appear that any of the recommended options do this. Streetcar is an opportunity for much needed ‘road diets’ but these recommendations seem to neglect that fact.
Minimal consideration given to pedestrian improvements
At the very least, the document should provide recommendations that the city adopt more progressive, pedestrian-friendly policy. Although it may be outside of the scope of this project, we really hoped that there would be some concrete recommendations from the consultant on how best to address pedestrian needs through zoning, transportation policy and general pedestrian improvements. If you recall, we recommended several key improvements in pedestrian policy for all streetcar zones such as automatic pedestrian signals and zoning overlays. It doesn’t appear that any of these made it into the plan.
This is not the final plan. There is still time to get bicycle infrastructure and pedestrian policy integrated into the streetcar project. We are working out the details on the direction of our next campaign and will keep you up to date on next steps. But at this point, we are a very long way from seeing bike/ped improvements as part of this project.