Influencing Long-Term Change in Richardson, Texas
There are few things more inspiring than getting covered in paint alongside neighbors who are actively making the changes they want to see in the world. This summer, we had the opportunity to partner locally with a Dallas neighbor: the City of Richardson. With the help of city staff and residents, we worked to bring about a vibrant plaza in a previously lonely warehouse district, as well as a shiny new bike lane and crosswalk for testing along Greenville Avenue.
Doug McDonald, the Planning Projects Manager of the City of Richardson, updated us with word that the City Council has been on the move with zoning changes and new cross-sections approval. This means that it's only a matter of time before the permanent installation process will begin. Below, McDonald details the highlights of the projects, their results, and where city infrastructure is headed.
Influencing Long-Term Change in Richardson, Texas
A short 2 months ago in the 100-degree heat, the City of Richardson staff and volunteers from Bike Friendly Richardson and AARP were painting bike lanes with the Better Block Foundation and a new crosswalk along a 1.8-mile corridor in the heart of Richardson’s planned Innovation District. This was our second demonstration project with Better Block to test and showcase new amenities for the district as we were preparing a new form-based zoning code to align with the District’s vision developed last year.
The six-lane corridor, Greenville Avenue, is designed to carry many more vehicles than currently use it and was designed to have a capacity of 45,000 vehicles per day. Today, it has a usage between 11,000 and 13,000 vehicles per day between Beltline Road and Campbell Road. Historically dating back to 1987, the highest average count of vehicles per day on this segment of Greenville Avenue occurred in 1988 with 18,734 vehicles. This was two years before DART’s Richardson Transit Center opened along this corridor which brought bus transit to the area and 1,129 parking spaces for new commuters. Today, only 31% of these parking spaces are utilized. In short, and not uncommon for many communities, this road is overbuilt. Because of this initial data, this street was identified for new bicycle and pedestrian improvements last year during the City’s visioning study. In addition, the DART Arapaho Center Station is envisioned as the front door to Richardson’s Innovation District with plans for new transit-oriented development and Greenville Avenue presents itself as the signature multimodal street for the District; connecting the Innovation District to The CORE (Downtown Richardson), Chinatown, and Eastside development.
While we had existing traffic counts for the street, we had interest to test the impacts of the lane reduction and visually demonstrate the improvements to support the vision for bike and pedestrian improvements. We first gathered data on speeds, counts (again), and travel times using INRIX crowdsourcing data to establish a baseline for existing conditions in the six-lane configuration. Once this collection was completed, we worked with Better Block to implement the lane reduction and install bike lanes along the 1.8-mile corridor (3.6 miles of bike lanes!) – reducing the street capacity from six to four lanes. As part of this test, we also used green paint (a first for our city) for vehicle/bicycle conflict zones and temporary vertical delineators (another first) to test physically separated bike lane in the city. This project was funded in part by a grant from AARP’s Liveable Communities Initiative.
Four weeks later after drivers adjusted, we gathered the same data with the new four-lane configuration. We also analyzed incidents on US 75 because of concerns that traffic diverts to Greenville, thus providing a reason for the existing six-lane configuration to remain. The results of this study indicated:
Greenville Avenue was not as a significant reliever to US 75 incidents, and when an incident did occur, the delay was not significantly different between the four-lane and six-lane configurations. One of the incidents occurred when the lane reduction testing was in effect, so it allowed us to evaluate this difference. Similar to having parking to meet the needs of Black Friday, the frequency of these incidents are not enough to justify the need to keep Greenville a six-lane facility.
Only 25-30% of the six-lane capacity is utilized. The data shows that the roadway carries volume similar to a two-lane facility!
The Level-of-Service remains unchanged.
The traffic volumes remained consistent. There was concern that this lane reduction would divert traffic to another north/south thoroughfare, but the volumes did not indicate this happening.
Using crowdsource travel data (INRIX), we were able to determine the lane reduction increased the average travel time in the corridor by only 11.5 seconds. During this testing, the City did not adjust signal timing along the corridor, so this should decrease once timings are adjusted for permanent implementation.
The lane reduction did not have an impact on lowing speeds, and the City will be evaluating additional traffic calming methods to reduce speeds along this corridor.
As a result, it was concluded that the lanes can be removed on Greenville Avenue and still operate within acceptable conditions, leaving adequate room for future growth along the corridor. City Staff presented these findings and new cross-sections to City Council and on December 9, the Richardson City Council approved the new form-based zoning code for the Innovation District. This new zoning code includes new cross-sections supporting the reduced lane configuration on Greenville, along with transit-oriented development land use entitlements around the Arapaho Center Station. The new zoning around the station is progressive, with allowances for multifamily and mixed-use with minimum residential densities, removal of building height restrictions, 0-10’ build-to lines along Greenville Avenue to support a new urban form, and reduced/eliminated parking requirements (there are no parking minimums for the residential component of mixed-use buildings). With the adoption of the new street cross-sections, permanent bike lanes will be installed along this corridor by June 2020 as part of a $100,000 Made to Move grant funded by Blue Zones and Degree.
By implementing this temporary demonstration, it allowed us to gather the necessary information and data to better inform our decision. It also allowed us to address concerns and provide hard data and talking points for our city leaders to use and distribute among the community. A full report from Kimley-Horn and Associates can be downloaded here. During this testing, we had the ability to gather feedback from the public on the design, location, and function of the facilities. This user experience feedback has been instrumental, and we will be making design changes to the permanent bike lane design based on this feedback. A full report of public comments can be downloaded here. In addition, it allowed us to test new concepts and see how they would work on the ground before we made a major capital investment to install permanently.
On a side note, the new at-grade crosswalk constructed at the Arapaho Center Station with the assistance of Better Block is continuing to be evaluated. The City will be installing additional elements to improve the lighting and safety of the crosswalk before a formal decision is made next year. We also collected data before and after the crosswalk was installed to evaluate pedestrian behavior, and after two weeks of opening, over 60 percent of transit riders were using the new crosswalk versus the existing underground tunnel.
Recently we had to close the crosswalk for repainting, and we couldn’t keep riders from walking under and around our construction barricades because the ease and convenience of this new amenity.
Doug McDonald, AICP
Planning Projects Manager, City of Richardson