If you haven’t noticed, Wiley Elementary on St. Mary’s Street is undergoing an extensive renovation and expansion. The $24 million project adds 20,000 sq. feet of classroom and administration space as well as renovations to the 1923 building.
Improvements to the grounds are being made to address erosion issues and a more efficient parking/driveway is being added to improve parent drop-off. The construction should finish in Summer 2019.
The project page has a nice aerial shot of the construction as well, shown below.
This past weekend, Oaks and Spokes, Raleigh’s loudest and most organized voice for bicycling in Raleigh, set up a cycle track demo for a section of Harrington Street. As a huge supporter, I hung out, volunteered, and just absorbed the street with this temporary cycle track in place.
Having only seen cycle tracks in other cities but never actually ridden through one, it was a pleasure to ride through it in my own city. After giving it some thought, here’s what I took away from this weekend’s demo.
Two-Way is the Right Way
When you compare the suburbs with downtown, one major difference is the mobility scale of each environment. Historically, downtowns that pre-date the car were built at a more human-scale with things closer together while suburban areas planned around cars are more spread out.
In downtown, walking, a human-scale form of mobility, is well accommodated with sidewalks on both sides of the street and no real “direction.” There is no such thing as a northbound sidewalk for example where as Wilmington Street is a one-way street for cars heading north. Wilmington is an example of a road designed for car-scale mobility.
This was fine for awhile but with a street culture obsessed with markings and direction today, when we make space for human-scale things (i.e. bicycles and scooters) they don’t work when the scale is actually intended for cars.
We should strive to make all street space two-way for bicycles, scooters, etc. in order to make on-street, human-scale movement more intuitive and natural.
This probably explains some of the “bad behavior” we have seen with scooters recently because it takes too long to circle the block if the final destination is closer when going up a one-way street.
Consider me an advocate now for having every single downtown street converted to two-way for bicycles alongside existing car traffic flows.
Humans, not Cars, Need Buffers
Similar to the above point, I want to reiterate a solid point that the cycle track gives users above painted bike lanes. Physical separation is the key point here and should be required in future installs.
It’s in plain sight yet few seem to notice that when we drive a car, the car itself is wrapping us with safety features and physical protections. At the human-scale, as a walker or cyclist, those features don’t exist and we rely on our physical environment for safety.
This is true in other areas as well outside of transportation. I think most obvious is with outdoor seating. Outdoor seating is more popular along sidewalks with on-street parking versus active travel lanes. The cars act as a barrier and makes it more comfortable to sit.
We need to familiarize ourselves with a variety of ways we can physically separate our human-scale mobility options away from the car-scale options.
Curb Space Productivity Needs to be Explored
As publicly-owned space, our curb areas and how we are using that space is being brought into the conversation. Alongside plans for future cycle tracks and other new street space like dedicated bus lanes, we need to understand how to make this limited space more productive.
This means objectively challenging the thought that removing on-street parking will be a detriment to nearby businesses. New parking decks are popping up around downtown Raleigh so their use in addition to the loss of the few spaces per block needs to be looked at.
Loading zones also need to be looked at as the streets also need to be a transportation network for our downtown businesses. Are their operating hours set correctly? Can these be consolidated?
I do think it doesn’t necessarily mean that a cycle track gets 24-hour access to the space either. Allowing deliveries to be made inside a cycle track between certain hours may be appropriate. Delivery persons may have to put cones out to redirect riders into the street, as just an idea.
The Cycling Community is Alive in Raleigh!
This past weekend, I met folks who knew about the project and all the work that was going into it as well as those who just came out of curiosity. Others just stumbled on the project and had positive things to say. Advocacy was strong and the community stepped up to support.
I feel like a real community has been built in Raleigh around cycling and the longer we don’t serve that community, the louder and louder it’ll get.
Again, a lot of credit and thanks goes to those behind Oaks and Spokes so if this is something that interests you, reach out and help.
Expansion at Trophy Brewing on Morgan Street is well underway. The new space next door adds more restaurant and brewery space. A few parking spaces in front will be replaced with the new building as well as possible outdoor seating.
Work is underway to convert this building along West Street into office and restaurant space. Formerly the home of Auto Interiors & Tops, the building may have outdoor space and a bar facing the train tracks.
Seems like a great renovation project here as Glenwood South continues to “dense up” on the food and beverage options.
I’m happy with this pano I took looking east over West Street into the future Smokey Hollow Phase 2 site. It shows you how large the work taking place here really is.
Buildings have been demolished along Harrington already and the space between The West (photo right) and Smokey Hollow Phase 1 (photo left) is becoming more and more ready to begin construction this year.
Have you seen them yet? The Citrix Cycle bikeshare system is finally up and running albeit in a limited capacity. The system has “soft launched” with more stations coming online throughout this month and next.
The electric-assist bicycles have been very enjoyable to ride. I know I have been eager to see this system up and running and the timing is great as the warmer months approach.
This downtown plan attempts to lay out the groundwork for how our future transit system will work within the downtown area. The future bus network of Raleigh will consist of bus-rapid transit lanes and higher frequency bus routes that are running longer hours. Combined with an expanded bicycle network, the downtown portion presents some pretty unique challenges.
The streets aren’t getting any wider so reallocating space is a community-driven conversation that is currently starting. When we talk about dedicated bus lanes for faster service that means less space for other things on our downtown streets.
Full build out is planned for 2027 and with portions relying on state and federal funding, applications are being prepared right now!
When you look at the plan, you’ll see near, mid, and long-term plans for the downtown portion of the bus rapid network. The routes aren’t set in stone as different variables and decisions that haven’t been made may impact those routes.
Below are the maps for the three plans, meshed together for easier viewing. Click for a larger view.
Planned to be up and running in 2023, the east Raleigh BRT line is the first of the rapid transit lines to come online. Moving east/west down New Bern Avenue and Edenton Streets, this route has the least amount of impacts from a historical and infrastructure perspective.
I also think it’s sort of the most obvious when you look at serving the eastern portion of the city. Plus, the current bus route along this corridor has the second-highest ridership in the system. (only behind the Capital Boulevard route)
Mid-term, the BRT routes serving the west and south will come online connecting at GoRaleigh Station. The route down Western Boulevard is also most direct while a choice still exists for the routes to the south. Saunders, McDowell/Dawson, and Wilmington Street could all be possible entry/exit points to downtown. There are still two many outside variables that need to be determined so this has been left open.
Along side all of this is a greatly expanded bicycle network. A mix of protected lanes and non-protected lanes will be added as a way to compliment the bus traffic moving throughout downtown. This is shown through another map below.
There is a lot to consider here when looking at the plan so far. As unpopular as it may sound, I worry about the fact that downtown is on a path to having two bus stations with GoRaleigh’s recent renovations and RUSbus being planned to integrate into train travel (Amtrak and future commuter rail) at Union Station. Won’t this bifurcate the system as it approaches downtown? I fear this may slow things down canceling out the improvements we’ve provided through dedicated lanes.
This BRT plan is still only one layer, one lens of the entire thing though. I’ll be really interested to see the full build out and future plan with all modes coexisting. That means with local bus, rapid bus, commuter rail, and bicycles lanes, the system just might function more robustly and speedier than I think.
What do you think? We have a huge discussion going on the Community. Come share.