Cruising along the second phase of the Madison Ave Road Diet

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We got a chance to bike along the new section of the Madison Ave traffic calming project late Monday afternoon. New pavement + freshly-striped bike lanes = a nice ride, even alongside plenty of vehicle traffic.

The second phase of the "road diet" stretches from Partridge to Lark. It's part of an overall effort to reconfiguration the Madison Ave corridor from Allen to Lark to increase road safety and amenities for cyclists and pedestrians.

The new layout replaced a four-lane configuration (two vehicle lanes in each direction) with a three-lane layout (one vehicle lane in each direction, with a turn lane in the middle) and bike lanes on each side. Phase two also includes new traffic and pedestrians signals. Those signals are one of the keys to project -- traffic modeling indicated that signal coordination should be able to keep vehicle traffic travel times along the corridor at levels close to the old layout.

The new section isn't quite finished. Some of the striping -- including the zones for buses -- isn't down yet. But the city said Monday that the phase will be completed soon -- probably within the next week or so.

We'll circle back around to the project when it's officially complete (Update: And here's that post.), but just on first look it's remarkable how much different the corridor feels with the new configuration.

Here are a few more pics if you'd like to gawk...

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Madison and Lake

Madison_Ave_road_diet_phase2_2018-06-25__4.jpg
Along Washington Park

Madison_Ave_road_diet_phase2_2018-06-25__6.jpg
Madison and New Scotland

Madison_Ave_road_diet_phase2_2018-06-25__3.jpg
Along Washington Park

Earlier:
+ The Madison Ave Road Diet moves to phase two
+ Adapting to the Madison Ave Road Diet
+ Thinking about the future of Washington Ave

Comments

So, how is traffic light coordination doing in this case? I've seen how DOT tried to manage light coordination job along Washington ave. ext., and was quite impressed.. with DOT complete inability to handle the issue.

Thanks for sharing, love it!

Really excited to take my first ride along the entire way!

I know I am in the minority here, but I really think the road diet was a bad idea. People are driving more like idiots in that section now, and the traffic back up is much worse than it was prior to the road diet project.

I loooooove the road diet changes to Madison AND the much-needed improvement to the Swan St / Plaza underpass thing. On the latter, the tiniest bit of striping and a lane divider fixed a daily traffic backup that extended from the South Mall Arterial all the way up Swan, and on Madison in both directions. It was an obvious fix, and took what feels like a decade, but it's finally done and seems to be a huge improvement.

Sat down in Washington Park the other day for an hour or so and counted 3 people riding bikes down the new bike lanes in that hour. Maybe the word isn’t out yet or people are waiting for even better weather......I sure hope so! Then again I often times visit Jennings Landing at various hours and am oftentimes THE ONLY person there.....similar to the ESP when I can walk alone for hours with only seeing a few people.....especially on Sunday’s....any other great ideas that cost a ton????? Can’t wait for the gondola and the highway ramp! PS meanwhile Bus station continues to look like Calcutta!

So exciting! I've biked down the new Madison Avenue several times now and absolutely love it. The road feels so much safer not only as a bicyclist but as a driver too!

@BS

1. Go to Jennings Landing on Thursday night
2. Keep counting bikes, Albany Bike Coalition will want those numbers
3. Keep the negativity flowing we would hate to lose that vibe we have all worked so hard to create here. And you are right, all those things you seem to enjoy should never have been created, they suck, this place sucks, everyone sucks, winter is coming.....blerrrg
4. Its a bus station, what do you expect.
5. Next time your in the park get off your duff and try a CDPHP Cycle! Then come on here and tell us how awful it was.

Don't get carried away Paul. The change at the Swan Street underpass thing has helped a little. I think it was really about the people making the illegal u-turn to go up Hudson. Twits still hold everybody up because they refuse to use THE WHOLE LANE sitting there for them. I hope time makes this better.

I don't know what Doc is on about. The behavior of drivers certainly isn't worse. It's still pretty crap, but hey, this is still Albany.

I'm a big fan of having the bike lane.

However, I think some serious driver education is going to be needed. I've ridden the whole thing twice now and have been cut off by cars making a right three times and actually had one car pull down to the right of me at a light so she could turn on the red light instead of waiting 10sec for the light to turn green.

Should the City post some signs about what is expected of drivers re: not driving into the bike lane without looking first?

These are pretty massive changes everyone, so they will take time to get used to. Everyone giving this a week and judging it is pretty lame. Give it time and a chance. Can we just be happy that changes are being made to try and make these problem areas better instead of just bashing on every little thing? I swear that sometimes ya'll just come here to be #madonline

Danny - Hopefully in time people will see that the merge from Swan is designed to happen parallel to the traffic coming around the 'loop', not perpendicular. Then they'll think 'oh, I'm so dumb, I could have been doing it this way for the last ten years, even without the new striping!' Or maybe I'm giving people too much credit ;)

How can anyone consider the Madison Ave road diet a bad idea? The benefit-cost ratio was something like 4:1, not to mention the city also made all those utility repairs last summer before paving, the pedestrian signal upgrades which were much needed especially near Willet St and Madison. For a corridor like Madison, it's safer to have a two-way opposing left turn lane (less rear end accidents). Have you ridden a bicycle on that pavement in the last five years?! Also - there is an average of 30 bicycles per hour on Madison according to the Albany Dept of Development and Planning annual counts. Also - the City only funded a small portion of the job - from Partridge to Lake, the rest was either 100% State or 80/15/5 split federal/state/city. It's naive to think that a new Albany Bus Station or a Madison Ave Road Diet is an either/or situation. Totally different animals.

LDP - a tough choice, honestly speaking. Turning red across bike lane on red, or waiting for light to change and then waiting for a bicycle to pass while holding up the traffic.. First is probably a better choice - until you're one of those bicyclists who think that traffic light do not apply to them...

A major issue with the Swan St. entrance to the underpass is that drivers coming around the hairpin loop want to be in the right lane for parking or the "mouse hole" exit to Madison. The tweak is an improvement though!

As for the actual road diet, I don't often drive or bike that stretch of Madison Ave, but as a pedestrian, the crossing at Willet / Washington Park is a big improvement. Vehicle traffic is constantly coming from somewhere and it was always a tricky crossing to navigate.

Big fan of the road diet and what it has done for the speed + feel of the neighborhoods. One bit of clarification I've always been interested in is what the rule is regarding right turns at the stop-light near CVS (Main St.) The striping opens up for a bus-stop. People routinely drive over into that area when making their right turn (as opposed to waiting in the single line), but it seems like something that probably isn't allowed. Any clarification?

I LOVE the bike lanes. And since they built in, cyclists will come. My family was hesitant to bike on Madison, but rest assured, we will be using it a lot.

Folks need to keep in mind the road diet was not just about bikes.

The four lane configuration required left turning vehicles to stop in traffic and cross two travel lanes. This created a lot of conflicts for both head on and t-bone crashes. The road had more than the statewide average for crashes in large part because of this configuration. I live two blocks from quail and Madison and can assure you I've seen the aftermath of several crashes. The traffic volume being WELL under the level of service driven volume to support a four lane street, the state elected to consider two travel lanes and a center turning lane. We've seen this before on streets like Colvin and Fuller. There was no raging debate for those thoroughfares. This center lane allows for vehicles to safely que and then cross one lane.

The center lane also provides a refuge for pedestrians. We have a lot of residents who are elderly, have a mobility impairment or push a stoller. Crossing four lanes under duress, while drivers prioritize crossing two travel lanes before thinking about the crosswalk was at times very scary. Thanks the the center turn lane, and the bike lanes, traffic is calmed, it moves a little slower. Is there a slight increase in congestion? Perhaps. But now the maximum speed of the road is dictated by the slowest driver, not the will of a vehicle racing to swerve around queuing cars.

It's not JUST about bikes. But the great thing is, the road will be safer for cyclists - and now people will have a safe place to ride, out of traffic, and we may see a decrease in vehicle traffic as a result - which could help alleviate the congestion.

At the end of the day, this road works better now for everyone. Not just the commuter looking to speed through. It works for residents who hope to walk across the street. Neighbors that want to bike to the restaurant and enjoy it. It also works for these commuters, who deserve a safe street to make their trip.

Mike - If it's the first car at the light, by all means, turn in front of me while I'm stopped at the light.

That's not the situations I'm describing. I'm referring first, to a green light where a car turned in front of me as I was coming into the intersection at New Scotland, and second where I was stopped at the light in the bike lane and a car drove to my right, against the curb to make a right turn instead of waiting in the travel lane at Lake. Those are a recipe for someone to get killed.

I'm all for and want as much bike infrastructure as we can get and Madison already feels much safer to ride on than it did before. I just think as more cycling infrastructure is built, more driver education is going to be needed. I'm a big proponent of the road diet and projects like it. They're good for neighborhoods and urban development. But people are going to have to change their driving behavior as a result as well.

LDP - turning in front of a bicyclist is a problem. A well known one.
I do not quite understand your second scenario, though. There was enough room between you an the curb, and driver saw you and still chosen to use that room? I don't see that as an issue, until there was BARELY enough room for the car.

Reducing # of travel lanes, adding bike lanes and a shared center turn lane are all positive improvements to Madison Ave. I now save 6-7 minutes on my morning commute by bike, and am no longer subject to impatient driver harassment now that the bike lanes provide dedicated space for cyclists. This treatment should be applied to every thoroughfare in the City.

B so glad you shaved off a whole 7 minutes on your commute....pretty good return on multimillion dollar investment...you’re welcome.

I lived across from the Washington Park tennis courts on Madison Ave for two years and just moved in April. This section of Madison was a mad house daily during the 9-4 commute. I was rear ended in December stopped at the Madison/New Scotland red light headed toward Lark Street by a vehicle going full speed as cars commonly do in that area to breeze through that long intersection light. Hopefully the single lane slows the flow of traffic. I do worry about the bike lanes because the road is now mapped similar to Clinton Ave. where you see vehicles double parked in the bike lane, or rushed drivers cruising down the bike lane to pass slower cars on the right.. Interested in driving through the area to see the improvements, but concerned drivers commuting through that section of the city will continue to make their own rules as they have always done.

BS

The road reconstruction (desperately needed because pavement, curbs, and striping were an absolute disaster) was several million dollars.

The cost of paint for the bike lane was a fraction of that cost. What's the cost of paint after you gut a kitchen?

The bike lane, the reduction in travel lanes, and the safety improvements made by the center turn lane made this road Federal Aid eligible.

Oh, and the rate of crashes will drop.

Sooooo.....

The would be a great opportunity for APD and NYSP to make of show of enforcing traffic and speed rules, in this thoroughfare and all over the city. I myself find myself driving way to fast and running yellow lights. It seems to be part of Albany driving culture...

Daleyplanit - if I remember correctly, bike lanes are about 15% of pavement total width. So cost of bike lanes is about 15% of the project cost.

@Mike-
Except no. The road needed repaving. Bikes contributed an immeasurably small percentage of the degradation, so didn't influence the need to repave. If the bike lanes were scrapped and the configuration not altered at all, there would be no difference in the cost to repave (except the funding model would have been different i.e. worse for the city if I understand correctly). So, responsible for share of the paint: sure. 15% of the project cost: nah.

Ed - except yes. Degradation of city roads is driven by weather, buses are second offender. So repavement was done to benefit bikes - and same would happen for next maintenance cycle.
If bike lanes were not used, we could get another usable traffic lane, or strip of lawn aand less cost of pavement, or more parking spaces, or something else - but 15% of pavement went to bicycles. Hence cost allocation.

What does it cost to register a bike in Albany?bike taxes? What taxes or tolls do the bicyclist pay??? Insurance costs??? Enjoy your lane.....doesn’t mean I’m against it.....I ride too....

@BS

Local roads are predominately paid for with local dollars - property taxes. Aside from Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS), there are few local road funding programs available to municipalities. Most state and federal funding is dedicated to high volume roads. So when your paying gas tax or registration fees that money is predominately spent elsewhere. Because local roads are paid for predominately with local dollars,it's property tax that drives the funding for maintenance and construction. Thus, use the road or not, you still pay for it. If you're in a bus, you pay for it, same as on foot, or on bike, whether you own or rent. Even if you never step in a car you pay for local roads.

Projects like Madison Ave get programmed into a local long range transportation plan (TIP) that is developed by representatives of the municipalities in the four-county region. The demand is always higher than the funding. Thus, for local "scraps" the municipalities participating in this program must work together to prioritize the federal and state dollars available and set aside for local projects. Thankfully, the safety, transit, and multi-modal benefits of the road diet were recognized region-wide and the project was funded. Very few local roads are federal aid eligible. That's part of the reason why the safety improvements and multi-modal improvements were critical.

There are a few ways to look at the benefits of providing streets that prioritize local use. One, local users get a street that has more features constructed for their safety in mind. Two, because a road's service life is proportionate to maintenance (local cost) and use (no local control like congestion pricing) the more a road is used, and the higher the cost to maintain it. That's why registration fees are based on vehicle weight. Heavy vehicles do more damage to roads.

There are no tolls. On any local roads. Anywhere. Even i-87 doesn't have tolls. Biggest freebie there is. There's a reason development went north instead of south. Speaking of...

I want our local roads to be as safe as can be for commuters. But I have no sympathy for their travel times. We have a great city, and I think they should weigh in travel time in to quality of life. What's that hour do for them sitting on the Northway? Worse yet, a god chunk of commuters work for state, education, and non profit institutions. These are good people, but these institutions do not contribute to local tax levy. The roads here are disproportionately funded by local tax levy. One could argue that because collector roads in the suburbs are more likely to be state and county roads, that we in the city pay a disproportionately higher cost for THOSE roads, too!

As far as insurance costs, I'm not sure what you're on about.

You're really hung on up bikes, and that single white line, so I think we'll agree to disagree from this point forward if my points above don't land. But keep in mind, the project was about more than bike lanes - that was, to use my analogy used before, an added benefit to the road diet. The most significant driving factor was the layout of the road. The removal of the center two lanes and creation of the center turn lane will allow the road to function with a significant reduction in crashes -as has been done all across the US.

@mike

The reduction in travel lanes and creation of the center turn lane was paramount.

Thus, if no bike lanes, the space would be wither dead or a wider travel lane (wider travel lanes = higher speeds, so that's a non starter) Space would NEVER have been grass. Moving curbs would be a non starter (think about all those cathbasins and manholes to be relocated!

The bike lanes only required striping. Completely gravy. And good gravy too, it helped the project score well enough to get the federal and state aid.

Thus, one could ague, paving was going to happen anyway. And it's likely that without the bike lanes the project might not have been as competitive. One could argue it's the 15% of the space that pulled the other 85% up...


Daleyplanit - of course the given right of way width limits the options. What we had is 4 lanes shoehorned into space of 3.5 lanes, and more sensible solutions for arterial - for example 5 lanes (2+turning+2 were) off the table as there is no room for that.
Grassy medians are used on such roads, and it would be a reasonable option here. Some catches with turning traffic, but probably very doable with bunch of "right turn only" signs.
And saying that those 15% are a gimmick d.. well, you may be right, we have another one in a pipeline - that ramp park....

@Mike:

What's this "ramp park"?

grandmastergus - http://alloveralbany.com/archive/2018/05/24/albany-skyway-public-meeting-2018-05-22-design
Highway ramp to be converted into park,

Wait, Mike...are you saying you'd rather have a grassy median that would require additional traffic restrictions than the bike lanes which are a more "usable" space and helped get the project funded? I mean, yeah, I love greenery too...but...come on man, you're trolling, right?

Ed - I am showing other competing scenarios, trying to convince people that bike lanes are not "free". Bike lanes is just one of possible options - not necessarily the cheapest one - and there is no really good way to redesign city streets where right of way is too narrow. Not that bike lanes are not justified - they do have an associated cost, and as always we all hope that benefits make it worth spending money.
And I don't buy that "helped to get project funded" thing. Bike lanes were on the table once street redesign came on agenda, not the other way around. On a similar note, 85 and Washington ave ext. could be funded without bike lanes.

I’m not a traffic engineer....I thank you for the monetary breakdown and the rationale for the “diet”...... I am able to count......yesterday I sat out for three hours in the Park in the heat getting some sun......I counted 2 bikes using the bike lanes......keep me abreast of the daily ridership....don’t see us becoming like Vietnam or amsterdam(not NY)a time soon....would prefer to have a trolley crossing the city along Broadway from north end to south end.....as a start....bikes not helpful to the old the tired the obese the handicapped the sick and the lazy....ie 80-90% of population.....enjoy your bike janes boys and girls....and again you’re welcome!(love new pavement anyways)

@Mike

The Capital District Transportation Committee programs federal and state aid for local projects in the region. Check out their New Visions Plan. Then Read the Albany Comp plan and the City's Bike Master Plan. There's a complete streets policy, too.

CDTC Policy Board meetings are held quarterly on the 1st Thursday of the month at 3:00 pm. This body develops transportation policy and priorities for the region.

Planning Committee meetings are held at 9:30 a.m. on the first Wednesday of the month. This body programs funding for projects.

The second Tuesday of the month CDTC hosts the regional bike and pedestrian task force meetings. This committee advises the Planning and Policy boards.

Bike lanes have been discussed ad nauseam for nearly a decade.

The project was part of Transportation Improvement Plan application submitted and evaluated several years before it kicked off. http://www.cdtcmpo.org/factsh16/A565.pdf

The decisions to develop, fund, and implement transportation projects are not made lightly, or overnight. The process and planning were all discussed at length at various stakeholder engagement meetings over the course of several years.

Washington Ave did receive funding that included bike accommodations (notice bikes are no longer prohibited thanks to wider shoulders incorporated into the project). Further out, the adjacent access roads provide for bikes and no "on thoroughfare" improvements were deemed necessary.

85's future has yet to be determined. It's a state route so DOT will call the ball, but not without input from locals. Albany is likely eyeing bike lanes as width allows.

Delaware Ave in Bethlehem is slated to have a road diet traffic calming project implemented when it's time comes. The feasibility study was just completed and the town voted to accept the findings and recommend the "diet" to NYSDOT. The project will be very similar to Madison Ave. Like Madison ave, it's a long process and it's likely to be 5 years out.

Daleyplanit - so what? Are you saying it actually costs even more than 15%?

Ummm I have a job during the times of those meetings and I don’t know who of us will still be around in the future if it really takes that long to build a road....seriously though it’s all good and hopefully the traffic will move the walkers will be safe and the bike riders will come......still want to be able to access all that downtown has to offer with some type of transportation ie to get from Wellington’s to Druthers.....etc

@BS

"would prefer to have a trolley crossing the city along Broadway from north end to south end.....as a start....bikes not helpful to the old the tired the obese the handicapped the sick and the lazy....ie 80-90% of population."

"still want to be able to access all that downtown has to offer with some type of transportation ie to get from Wellington’s to Druthers"

You seem to be calling for a bus line which already exists. I took the liberty of looking it up for you and the 22 runs straight between Wellington's and Druthers. It would take you approximately 7 minutes and involve less than 500 feet of walking. For most people this should be very doable. I don't think a trolley system is needed. Why reinvent the wheel when it is already more than serviceable?

If you are worried about the safety, reliability, and ease of access of the bus system in Albany, I can vouch for it. I take it every day to and from work and have found it to be safe to use, pretty consistently on time, and easy to access even while recovering from a serious surgery.

If you were sitting outside counting bikes yesterday, you are going to end up with a shorter count than on any day that wasn't the hottest we've had in years on bike lanes that I'm sure most of the population of Albany doesn't know exist yet. Give it time. More riders will come.


@Mike

You're arguing against Daleyplanit in bad faith and seem to be intentionally misconstruing statements to defend the position that bike lanes are wasteful. It isn't cool.

jm - I never said "wasteful". All I am saying - they are not free. They do have non-insignificant construction and maintenance cost - and as with any such project, it is to be seen if they would pay off.
Nothing more, nothing less. If someone else wants to see them as gimmick - it is up to them.
Can things be done differently? Of course. Can things be done better? That is a very very interesting question.

@BS

Again, the City performs bicycle counts twice a year with numerous counters (mostly volunteers) placed throughout the City during peak hours, and the results consistently show 30/hour on average. To say you only see 2 bikes at a random hour of the day is arbitrary and not scientific. Besides, from an engineering standpoint you would not use low counts to justify NOT making pedestrian and bicycle safety improvements.

Fact is, lots of people in this City do not own a car and need to bike to get to work, doctor's appointments, classes...

But you want a trolley to take you between bar rooms?!

Jack - 30 /hour counts with lots of advance warning ("mostly volunteers") can easily be created by a few people circling the area. If that number is not confirmed by a random observation, probability of such action is very non-zero.

@ Mike

Re "so what"

You stated:

"And I don't buy that "helped to get project funded" thing. Bike lanes were on the table once street redesign came on agenda, not the other way around."

I provided a link to the meetings, publications, application, and policy that led to the development of the project long before the design was finalized.

I am not stating that "15% of the project was spent on bike lanes.

If you're counting capital costs, then less than 1% was spent on the striping and paint for the lines. If you're counting the leverage of the bike lanes, then you need to consider their inclusion in the project (driven primarily by the lane reduction and turning lane, which throughout the thread people ignore by getting caught up in bike lanes) as part of the multi-modal palette that led to funding. The feds and state simply don't dole out much local money for mill and fill repaving. This street's redesign met a host of safety, transportation, and community development plans and that's why it was funded.

People can argue whether the leveraged investment was worth it or not until they're blue in the face, really. The project happened, and projects like this will continue to happen locally and nationally as transportation policy becomes more holistic and inclusive. Change is hard, I get it. Some people can't cop with the added light cycle or minute of travel time at peak times. People need to consider that transportation infrastructure must to balancing everyone's needs, and be more equitable.

I've provided links to the resources people can review for more about this project. I think I've said enough and provided links to all my source material and basis for my arguments. I don't mean to hijack this comment section any further. If you're still hungry to chew on more transportation design policy and resources here are a few:

https://nacto.org/publication/urban-street-design-guide/ (Design)

http://t4america.org/ (Advocacy, policy)

https://smartgrowthamerica.org/program/national-complete-streets-coalition/ (advocacy, policy)

https://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/road_diets/guidance/info_guide/ (Federal guidance on road diets)

http://www.cdtcmpo.org/documents/new-visions-rtp (Regional long range transportation plan)

Thanks for the dialogue, folks.

Daleyplanit - as long as you maintain that stripping is the only direct cost here, you are cheating. No reason to look further until you recognize that as a medical fact.

@Mike

What do you want?

I'm done now that we've established the bicycle counts in Albany is a conspiracy.

Jack - you comment that casual observation is not scientific. It is, actually. An d it is not confirming honest count hypotheses. And yes, bicycle counts are known to be exaggerated.
It is too easy to do so, and it makes too much sense for those involved to pass on that. And word "science" is way too much abused these days.

To whoever made the comment about taking the 22bus as a means to get around a small city....has never obviously been to a functional small city....I can assure you that there is not one visitor to the convention center that will take a bus from there to Druthers...ps the wish for a trolly system has nothing to do with me getting from bar to bar.....you can’t biokd a convention center and a bunch of apartments and restaurants without some master plan for details like getting around....as much as walking is great I can assure you that nobody from out of town will walk from the convention center to Druthers either in the snow or the heat. Trolleys worked pretty darn well in oh I don’t know 1920......and now too.....it’s not a pipe dream.....it’s not that difficult

Thank you to the commenters proving that Albany is a backwards dystopia where facts and research don't matter as long as you have feelings! Seriously, you make me ashamed to be from here. Keep fighting the good fight Daleyplanit.

Not a huge fan of it. I am not able to bike to work, and the road diet adds time on my morning commute. Traffic has increased significantly too, or so it feels.

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