Raleigh Bike Plan Update Shows Us The Network

New bike lane on Hillsborough Street

Fresh paint on Hillsborough Street.

In mid 2014, I did a post about the evolution of Raleigh’s bicycle network. It’s been years, it feels slow-moving, but the pieces may be starting to connect and create this thing called a “Network”. I got really into looking at the maps in the latest draft chapter of the Raleigh Bike Plan Update. The complete document should be done before the end of the year and some of the material is available now.

Dive in to the Raleigh Bike Plan Update.

Looking at Chapter 3 shows the recommended network. It includes 126 new miles of greenway, 149 miles of new protected bikeways, and 277 miles of new bike lanes. The full breakdown is in the below table.

Table 3-1

It’s great to see so little sharrows being planned as, in my opinion, they don’t do very much. The recommendation is for more than three times more miles of bike facilities versus what we currently have. That’s a big ramp up in expanding the “Network.”

Protected bikeways are a huge step in the right direction to get riders on to the network. A protected bikeway is described as such:

This plan update defines a protected bikeway as a bicycle facility that is physically separated from motor vehicle traffic within a street corridor. For this Plan, this includes cycle tracks and buffered bike lanes, in addition to the City’s shared-use path and greenway network. The on-road physical separation can be achieved through parked cars, curbs, medians, bollards/traffic posts, planters, or marked buffered space between the bike lane and adjacent travel lane.

The one catch that I don’t like about greenways is that they have, historically, been seen as recreational paths versus effective transit routes. In only a certain amount of cases does a greenway help someone get from point A to B faster than a street.

Speaking of Point A to B, the chapter shows us the recommended network on a map of Raleigh. I decided to take a look at five possible routes starting from downtown Raleigh and seeing how the bicycle network of the future would accommodate versus today.

I have a deep hope that the Raleigh of the near future can make all of inside-the-beltline a bikeable haven for residents to easily zip around on. The network should get folks from their homes to any major destination easily.

I’ve included a doctored-up screenshot of those maps with each route.

Downtown Raleigh to North Hills
From one urban center to another, getting to North Hills and back by bicycle would be a fantastic way to move around. Today, the greenways are just too far away and don’t provide a direct enough route. With Capital Boulevard being a huge east/west barrier, getting to St. Mary’s Street is the best option. Heading North, the ride should cross over to Lassiter Mill Road where it will take you to North Hills.

Recommended route to North Hills from downtown Raleigh

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Currently, both of these roads have bike lanes and sharrows for almost the entire route with some sections unmarked. According to the draft plan, a new protected bikeway would go in starting north of Peace Street but wouldn’t be that long. (up to Wade) Along with some new sharrows on Lassiter Mill Road, there’s not much improvement on this route.

Downtown Raleigh to Five Points

The closest two destinations in this list, getting to Five Points is pretty much a ride up Glenwood Avenue. Today, there are no bicycle facilities between Five Points and Glenwood South. The two-lane road isn’t so difficult but that does mean you need to be comfortable riding in traffic.

Sadly, the recommended network has nothing planned for Glenwood Avenue here. Instead, a new route will go in along West Street. A protected bikeway/greenway trail, which we’ve covered before, is recommended form the Warehouse District all the way to Wade Avenue. The route will split with a greenway going northeast along Capital and sharrows along Fairview Road. That will lead you straight into Five Points.

Recommended route to Five Points from downtown Raleigh

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This will be a great north/south connection and I’m interested to see if it’s possible to add a connection, somehow, to this greenway along Capital Boulevard from the eastern neighborhoods, like Mordecai and Oakwood.

Downtown Raleigh to Crabtree Valley Mall

Ride to the mall? It’s probably better to just take the bus. Route 6 is a direct shot from downtown Raleigh to Crabtree Valley Mall. You can’t get more convenient then that. Still, riding your bike adds a little freedom. I’ve done this once with the intent to get some exercise and do some shopping. It’s not for every day though but maybe it is for some.

Today, Glenwood Avenue towards Crabtree is pretty hectic and there are some bike lanes but only for a small portion of the route. The recommended network adds protected bike lanes north of Glenwood/Oberlin. Taking the route to Five Points would be how you start. You then would most likely continue north on Fairview, get to Oberlin where bike lanes exist today, and take Glenwood north on the new protected bike lanes.

Recommended route to Five Points from downtown Raleigh

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This is a big improvement. The challenge though is pulling into Crabtree Mall once you are there. It would be fantastic to see the spaghetti bowl in that area cleaned up but an easy fix might be a bicycle “off ramp” onto the greenway that goes underneath Glenwood Avenue and goes to the Crabtree Valley Avenue entrance.

Downtown Raleigh to the Fairgrounds

Hillsborough Street is so direct, so straight that using it for cycling transit would be really tempting when going west. Up until just this week, we now have bike lanes starting from the Capital building mostly going up until NC State University. Currently, it then fades out for now but the two lanes west of Faircloth Street might makes things manageable for biking without any lanes.

Recommended route to Five Points from downtown Raleigh

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The recommended network continues the bike lanes in front of the university and uses a combination of protected (mostly) and bike lanes to get to the fairgrounds. The plan is actually to extend them all the way out to I-40.

This is a huge improvement for connecting to West Raleigh.

Downtown Raleigh to the Farmer’s Market

Today, getting to the Farmer’s Market by bicycle isn’t the mot difficult as you have a few options. The longer but safest route is by greenway but a few residential streets could get you out there faster without the need for bicycle facilities. Still, a straight shot would be most ideal and that most likely means that Lake Wheeler Road needs a makeover.

Recommended route to Five Points from downtown Raleigh

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It is great to see a protected bike lane on the recommended draft map between the Farmer’s Market and downtown Raleigh along Lake Wheeler. A protected lane is probably best as Lake Wheeler has some nice hills and is pretty direct.

Great improvement here.

Wrap Up

For me, connecting major destinations together in a more direct route is what I’m looking for in bicycle improvements. Since this is a downtown Raleigh blog, that’s the approach I took in these five routes.

As always, the draft bicycle plan is still a work in progress and you can submit feedback on what you see up there.

Winterfest Celebration on Saturday, December 5

Winterfest 1

Planning is fun but so is getting out in our downtown. This year’s Winterfest will be on Saturday December 5 and it will include a whole list of activities.

There will of course be the ice rink, Raleigh’s only natural ice rink which runs up through the end of January. The December event will include a tree lighting, live music by Raleigh’s own American Aquarium, food trucks, and more.

The center of it all takes place in City Plaza. Thank you to the City of Raleigh and Downtown Raleigh Alliance for putting it all together.

2015 Ipreo Raleigh Winterfest

Date/Time: Sat., Dec. 5 from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m.
City Plaza and 300-400 Block of Fayetteville Street
Event website

A Walk Around the News & Observer Block

The News & Observer building in downtown Raleigh

It’s great to introduce a new project to follow here on the blog. Just this week, it was announced that the News & Observer has reached a deal to sell their headquarters site in downtown Raleigh to local developers. The deal is one of the biggest, coming in at $20.2 million for the 3-acre site. Having walked by there hundreds of times, I had to do it again but this time with this deal in mind.

The News & Observer owns a majority of the land on their block but not all of it. Here’s a quick map of the block and the properties involved.

Click for larger

Between Martin/Hargett and McDowell/Salisbury Streets, the yellow and orange areas shown in the map are properties that were owned by the News & Observer. The yellow area is open for development. The orange indicates where McClatchy Interactive currently has a lease and this area is not part of the development deal.

According to the N&O, things will start taking shape on the southeast corner of the block.

The first phase will involve renovating the building at the corner of Martin and Salisbury streets that now houses The N&O’s printing presses. The N&O has signed a long-term lease to occupy about 50,000 square feet in the renovated building, which will also include street-level retail.

*N&O reaches deal to sell downtown Raleigh headquarters

That makes sense as the employees need space to work before demolishing the current site. It’s great to see the N&O employees staying in downtown Raleigh.

Corner of Martin and Salisbury Street

Corner of Martin and Salisbury Street

After that, there will be plenty of room for new construction and the development group will most likely work on the plans throughout next year. The article mentions a hotel and apartments.

There really are a lot of positives to this downtown site from what I see. The location puts you a few blocks from Fayetteville Street and Moore Square as well as the Warehouse District. There is easy in and out access using McDowell and nearby Dawson Streets when driving. Raleigh Union Station will be three blocks away and downtown’s main bus station is two blocks away.

Salisbury Street

Salisbury Street. I will not miss this crumbling parking deck.

For a hotel, the convention center is within walking distance as well as all the dining and amenities on Fayetteville Street. Government and private sector workers should easily consider a hotel stay here because of its close proximity to so many companies and government buildings.

While Fayetteville Street dominates the pedestrian population counts these days, the Martin and Hargett pair are becoming key east/west walking corridors. Being right in between these two streets, the new development could really add more retail space to Martin Street, keeping that “block after block” of active space theme that’s needed to create some real shopping activity.

It’s yet another fun-to-watch development in the pipeline for us.

Diving Into The Site Plans for The Dillon

Preliminary rendering of The Dillon

Preliminary rendering of The Dillon, released in June 2015

Last week, site plans for The Dillon were submitted to the city and posted on their website. You can dive into it yourself here (when I looked, it was incorrectly spelled “dillion”) or follow along with the highlights below.

Some quick background first. The Dillon is a two building project in the warehouse district. It combines multiple properties that will result in an all-block building plus a smaller building across the street. The all-block building will consist of the Dillon Supply Company warehouse located between Martin/Hargett and West/Harrington Street and the surface parking lot on the northern end of the block. The smaller building will be to the north, across Hargett Street and will replace the surface parking lot.

Here’s a map that shows the location.

Location of The Dillon

Click for larger.

The mixed-use project (both buildings) will consist of office, ground-floor retail, and residential. Here are the key takeaways from this site plan submission:

Ground floor retail was a big discussion point in the earlier rezoning cases for this project. I took a screenshot of the preliminary site plan and filled in the ground-floor retail spaces in red to give us an idea of how much sidewalk space will be going to retail.

Retail spaces in The Dillon

Click for larger.

My first reaction is that there isn’t enough retail space. However, you could almost argue against it when you consider a few things.

I’ll admit that some spaces in this site plan aren’t labeled, or not labeled clear enough, so there COULD be more retail space but I just can’t see it at this time.

We’ll see how the discussion goes as if The Dillon provides enough retail space for the warehouse district. It certainly is much, much more than the zero square feet we have today in that location.

Another interesting tidbit I found on the city’s website was a request for an amendment to the stepback requirements:

The current stepback requirements for building massing standards requires a 15′-0 stepback between the 3rd and 7th story for all street frontages. A different configuration for this project is proposed that includes more significant stepbacks on the north and south with not stepping back on the east and west as well as stepping back after the 8th story. The massing solution proposed meets the intent of the regulations by providing more access to light and air at the street level, mitigating wind impacts, maintaining a consistent street scale, and visually reducing the perceived scale of the building.

Or better, you can see the sketch below.

Location of The Dillon

Click for larger.

You can get a sense of how the main building steps back as it rises up, hiding its height along Martin Street but still showing vertical along West and Harrington Streets.

The portico on the corner of West and Martin Streets may be considered the “main” entrance to the building as it will face the future Raleigh Union Station. Travelers that are still using a car are most likely going through this corner in-between the parking deck and the station.

Lastly, the retail spaces being mainly positioned along West and Martin Street do help extend the pedestrian and retail corridors that are in their infant stages along these streets. This is a recommendation from the Downtown Plan and should be kept this way with more utility or residential along West and Harrington Streets.

It will be fun to watch this one up until construction starts.

Municipography, Parking and Outdoor Seating, The Finale

Municipography is a summary of current issues going through the Raleigh City Council and other municipal departments in the city. The point is to try to deliver any video, photos, and text associated with the discussions happening at City Hall or elsewhere. Since this is a downtown Raleigh blog, the focus is on the center of the city.

I recommend email readers click through to the website to see the embedded video.

I don’t know about you but I am actually pretty relieved that these two issues, downtown parking fees and the outdoor seating ordinance, are winding down. It’s amazing to see how simple issues like these really get the emotions flowing in people and create some bad press for our downtown.

Let’s put these to bed.

Downtown Parking Fees

If the embedded video doesn’t show for you, click here.

The above video has the council discussion. We recently talked about the proposed 7-day parking fee for the city-owned decks that was already approved and in the latest city budget. City staff also worked to come down on the hours of this fee to work with the concerned business owners.

In the end, a pretty fair plan of implementing a flat $5 fee for Friday and Saturday night starting at 5pm would go into affect at the end of this year. To clarify, if someone comes into a deck before 5pm on Friday, they are subject to paying the same rate as before (pre-5pm hourly rates) and then if they leave after 5pm, they must pay the additional $5 fee. That closes the loophole of parking at 4:59pm and not paying anything.

I asked David Meeker, a downtown business owner who worked with the city on these parking fees for his thoughts.

“City Council realized businesses would be affected by the parking fees. They ended going further than the businesses wanted to go but not as far as staff wanted them to go. It’s a true compromise that will get the decks cleaned up without putting anyone out of business,” says Meeker.

Outdoor Seating

If the embedded video doesn’t show for you, click here.

In the video, you can see the presentation that gives some thoughts about what we’ve learned after the 90-day trial of the new ordinance around private use of public space. Reductions in overcrowding of sidewalks, pedestrian access issues, and enforcement issues were listed as some of the measurements for success with the new ordinance.

When looking at a snapshot between this year and last, what are called “quality of life” issues were at a decrease. Issues like littering, alcohol violations, sleeping in public space were among the list. It wasn’t clear that the new ordinance was the cause but the way the presentation came out suggested that it could have been a factor.

After the presentation and discussion, the following motion was approved:

I still don’t see the need for “roping in” (if you will) the outdoor seating on Sunday to Thursdays since there were no problems on these nights but perhaps that can be seen as a compromise.

A lesson learned here is how important it is to communicate with our business community on any slight changes to permits. From the city’s point of view, it may seem like a good move to test a new change for 90 days but at the same time, you are tinkering with business revenue. I’m a huge supporter of doing things on a trial basis but this one resulted in tens of thousands of dollars lost, as reported by some businesses.

Like I said earlier, I’m glad to move on from this topic but looking back, this was just not handled very well and a lack of communication was the main culprit in my opinion.

Pic of the Week

114 Fayetteville Street, November 2015

114 Fayetteville Street, November 2015

I hadn’t really thought much about what was going on at 114 Fayetteville Street until recently. I walked by and noticed that the second and third floors have been removed. In the last ten years this building has been tinkered with so much but produced nothing.

At one point, the facade was white with a different window layout. In 2006, the building was empty.
114 Fayetteville Street, October 2006

114 Fayetteville Street, October 2006

Then sometime in 2007, scaffolding went up, the bricks were painted red (or replaced?) and new windows went in.
114 Fayetteville Street, 2007

114 Fayetteville Street, 2007

Which produced this look. Still, no occupants.

114 Fayetteville Street, March 2008

114 Fayetteville Street, March 2008

That didn’t seem to work and now 114 Fayetteville is a single-story building. What will happen next?

If you jump all the way back to about 1926, 114 Fayetteville Street was different back then too. At the time, an Eckerd’s Drug Store, in addition to other shops, occupied the bottom store.

114 and 112 Fayetteville Street, about 1926

N_53_16_1737 – 114 and 112 Fayetteville Street, about 1926

Photos of 112 and 114 Fayetteville Street comes courtesy of the State Archives of North Carolina. For digital copies of the image or any other historic photos, note the call number, and contact Kim Andersen at State Archives at 919.807.7311 or email to kim.andersen@ncdcr.gov

Glenwood South Crosswalks

Crosswalk at Glenwood and Jones Street

A volunteer group of good folks in Glenwood South came together and put art on the streets. Three designs from local artists have been applied to three crosswalks on Glenwood at Jones, North, and Tucker Street.

These citizen-led projects are always high-quality. The bottom-up approach is fueled by passion and if you haven’t participated in one, it can be a grueling test of patience. Doing creative things within the public realm is quite a challenge and I applaud anyone who takes a stab at it.

Crosswalk at Glenwood and North Street

The city’s top-down culture directly clashes with people’s big ideas for their neighborhood or city in general. You can make a lot of people nervous by proposing outside-the-box ideas. This is why you sometimes see guerilla urbanism take place in some cases, where asking for forgiveness is easier than permission.

Thank you to Donna Belt and the entire team behind this. I think this is simply fantastic!

Crosswalk at Glenwood and Tucker Street

Municipography, Parking in Downtown Raleigh

Municipography is a summary of current issues going through the Raleigh City Council and other municipal departments in the city. The point is to try to deliver any video, photos, and text associated with the discussions happening at City Hall or elsewhere. Since this is a downtown Raleigh blog, the focus is on the center of the city.

I recommend email readers click through to the website to see the embedded video.

Parking in downtown Raleigh is being discussed once again. If you haven’t heard yet, this latest city budget added some new fees to our downtown decks at times that were previously free.

Please keep in mind that this only applies to the city-owned parking decks that predominantly are located in the core business district. There are no city-owned decks in the warehouse district or Glenwood South, for example, so this wouldn’t apply to anything in those areas. State, county, and private decks do their own thing but with the city owning eight decks total, this change is big enough to take note of.

A quick side note. This change does not apply to the convention center deck, the performing arts deck (that one to the south of the convention center), and the Blount Street deck so only five of the eight city-owned decks would have the new changes.

To start things off, I went straight to the budget and found a few interesting snippets.

In order to better support the maintenance and cleanliness of the decks, a flat $5 night and weekend parking fee is included in the budget and will take effect December 31, 2015. This new fee will fund a dedicated cleaning crew, equipment upgrades, and additional staffing for the parking attendant booths.

– Page 10

Implementation of night and weekend paid parking is expected to generate $950,000 in revenue during the initial six month period beginning December 31, 2015. This revenue will offset the cost of a dedicated janitorial crew to provide 24-hour coverage for cleaning and sanitizing the parking decks ($250,000 for first six months). Funds are also budgeted for increased contractual services to staff the parking decks during the night and weekend hours ($250,000) and to upgrade parking deck equipment and software ($450,000).

– Page 127

Some additional actions listed in the budget here are:

Work with McLaurin Parking to sub-contract a janitorial crew of 12 workers dedicated to cleaning and sanitizing the parking decks to address the challenges of increased nighttime and special events activities in the decks.

Begin priority structural repairs in the Wilmington Station, City Center, Cabarrus and Performing Arts Decks based on priorities identified in the 2013 Kimley-Horn Deck Assessment Report.

Engage a consulting firm to conduct a parking study of current parking space inventory, space commitments and future obligations and provide recommendations for new deck locations and capacities on the east and west sides of downtown. This study is essential for the city to maintain an available parking supply that can accommodate the demands of new business development, downtown residential life and the increasing number of downtown activities.

– Page 127

The proposed $5 flat fee would go into place 7pm-7am every weeknight, all-day Saturday, (that’s up until 7am Sunday morning) and after 1pm on Sunday. This plan is already approved per the budget.

The daytime worker versus the nightlifer is a bit different and it seems the decks are getting pretty dirty with this rise in nighttime use. The current funding model is seen as outdated for handling today’s use of the city’s decks and a change is needed.

A group of downtown business owners have gotten together and are trying to work with the city. They see the proposed change as too drastic and want to see the hours reduced and/or a phase-in approach take place.

Below is the presentation to the city council from Public Works about the changes and some follow-on discussion. If you can’t see the embedded video, click here.

Unfortunately, some raw numbers would have made this presentation great and allowed us to have some data to play with. There was a bar chart shown but the point it was trying to make wasn’t too clear so I won’t share that in this post.

It’s irrelevant though as most of us can agree that Friday and Saturday are seeing increased parking deck use, some filling up completely, and we’re capturing no revenue here to offset the needed repairs and keep them clean.

As a city, we’ve decided to run our parking as an enterprise fund. In short, that means it has to pay for itself. By that adopted process, we must explore ways to get more revenue flowing as the fund is currently in the negative.

In addition to paying off debt, what I’m most interested in is what the new visitor experience will be like as a result of this $5 flat fee. Currently, six staff members are in charge of the eight city-owned decks. They take care of maintenance and cleaning. With the added fees, this number would increase to 12, according to the presentation.

Does that result in a better looking, better operating facilities or are we just keeping pace? That’s yet to be seen.

A compromise between the approved plan in the budget and the downtown business owners that think this is too much, too fast was looked at. A number of alternatives were put together, changing hours, changing the fee rates. The preferred alternative from city staff looks like this:

Note the weekend enforcement drops Sunday and goes from Friday night through Saturday until the early morning hours of Sunday. Saturday all-day hours seem to be the key capture time here and revenues from Sunday to Wednesday night are not that significant.

In addition, the decks would be color-coded to help in locating the deck that you parked in, (a common complaint by the way) reduced monthly spaces for downtown employees, and a special program with Marbles Museum for complimentary parking.

Here is a breakdown of some nearby cities and what they charge in downtown on nights and weekends.

Peer City Parking Rates

A $5 flat fee, when compared around the state/region, is not ridiculous by any means. Still, some feel that the fee would deter visitors and be yet another obstacle for retail in downtown to grow.

Personally, I welcome this $5 flat parking fee during our busiest nights and weekend days. I even think Sunday should be included. What I hope to see in exchange are spotless parking decks, well-designed wayfinding, new elevators, and top-notch customer service. (in-person and through technology) People are willing to pay if the experience is very positive.

I even think on-street metered parking should continue to run, that way parking in a deck is more attractive and removes congestion off the streets.

If the city won’t do it, we’re just making private parking decks and lots more likely to rise up. The conversation on this topic continues, at the city council, during their Nov 3 meeting.

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