Idea #27: Return downtown’s street grid to two-way traffic

main-street-concept

Downtown Spokane’s Main Avenue on the East End is currently under discussion for major improvements, including center-lane parking, new street trees, and pedestrian enhancements, like a mid-block crossing. (PHOTO: City of Spokane)

In late 2008, in the middle of the Great Recession, the struggling downtown area in Vancouver, Wash. decided to make a change. A cheap change, but a big change. In essence, it painted a yellow line down the middle of Main Street, changed some signage and traffic lights, and opened the street to two-way traffic.

The results were almost instantaneous. Within a few short weeks, the businesses downtown reported a massive surge in customers. And why not? Two-way streets better encourage pedestrian activity, smooth and slow traffic, and, perhaps most critically for Spokane, ease the difficulty of finding a metered parking spot. They’re also easier to navigate for visitors and residents alike. One-way streets are literally a relic of our nation’s Cold War-era past, built primarily to allow for swift evacuations and troop deployments in the aftermath of a nuclear attack.

So let’s return to a two-way street grid downtown.

Sure, it’ll be harder to convert the Lincoln/Monroe and Division/Browne couplets, but other streets could be converted with relatively little difficulty. Like Stevens. Like Washington. Like Sprague. Like First Avenue.

And of course, like Main Avenue. City officials and East End businesses have been working for years on a project that would add center-lane parking on Main Avenue, but for little apparent reason maintain that street’s one-way status. That’s absurd. Converting the street to serve both eastbound and westbound traffic would enhance both the pedestrian and the vehicular experience, improving navigation, parking, and the streetscape. It’s time to stop talking. Downtown Spokane should be a people-friendly place, welcoming to all types of commuters–pedestrians, bicyclists, transit users, and drivers. It should make navigation simple and easy, and walking a breeze. Vitality on the sidewalk should be the first and foremost priority. And the potential here is huge. So let’s make it happen. Let’s convert more streets downtown to two-way traffic.

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS: What do you think? Should Main Avenue and potentially other streets downtown be converted back to two-way status?  Why do you think there hasn’t been more progress on this in recent years? And would you be more likely to go downtown if navigation and parking were enhanced along with the pedestrian experience? Share your thoughts on Facebook, on Twitter, and in the comments below. We love to hear from you.

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4 thoughts on “Idea #27: Return downtown’s street grid to two-way traffic

  1. This site is difficult to post but will try again- 2 lanes does not make pedestrian traffic better- Pedestrians have to look both ways and fight 2 way traffic- Crossing intersections are more dangerous with 2 way traffic. Yes drivers might slow down but there is not an advantage of 2 way traffic for walkers.
    Reducing lanes and adding a bike lane would help- Making parking between 2 lanes is asking for problems. Those working at Sarnac, Boots, Magic Lantern, etc will want to come early to get parking. Those living in neighborhoods with amenities on South Hill, Lincoln Heights, Garland, Perry District, and Kendall Yards have their own neighborhood shops and pubs and are hesitant to travel downtown unless there is a good drawing card as a movie they want to see or a meeting they want to attend, or a lecture, etc- Many would travel downtown more frequently if it was not a hassle to park. Sure we ride bikes and walk in our own neighborhoods but in inclimate weather why go downtown and fight for a parking space that we have to pay for parking. A downtown line might be nice but do not see that in Main Street Plan as another commented-

  2. Attended a Spokane Comedy Club performance a week ago. Having the comic open his show poking fun at our abundance of our one-way streets was an embarrassment. And is indicative of just how slow Spokane is to embrace even beneficial change. Spokane may be in trouble when a *comic* knows more about urban planning than do the economic and political elites in our fair city.

  3. Denver is worse. Also my traffic joke about Spokane. What is a traffic jam in Spokane? answer 8 cars at a stop light. compared to other cities we are fabulous. Lived on the East coast the first 22 years of my life then Germany for many years. They call their traffic jams Staus and they csn go on for miles on Autobahn at various areas. Our traffic moves along. Don’t wreck a good thing. People will be trowling Main street for the few spots they will open and with two way traffic I predict more pedestrian accidents too.

  4. so 2-way parking may be dead on Main. The city has a brand new idea to redo the street and it does not include 2 way. anyone know what is going on with that?

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