Dirk VanderHart

For the last four years, the grassroots group Better Block PDX has been at the center of some of the most innovative transportation experiments Portland's seen.

From its Better Old Town Chinatown project beefing up bike and pedestrian access on Northwest and Southwest Third (a buffered bike lane was eventually installed after the experiment), to the Better Naito project that the city's since made a yearly thing, the folks at Better Block have a knack for proving their concepts can work.

And now the group's looking for ideas.

In a new request for proposals, Better Block is inviting ideas for which "pop-up" projects it should help facilitate next. The group plans to accept suggestions through the summer, then forward its four favorites to Portland State University planning students. The top two ideas will move to engineering students, who'll produce a traffic plan, according to the document. Better Block will assist those top two projects in getting city permits, and plans to lend materials.

"We are looking for public places where small changes to the streetscape will make a big difference," the request reads. "This is an opportunity for your community organization to partner with us to plan your pop-up project."

Better Block's solicitation comes at an apt time. Just yesterday, the Portland Bureau of Transportation announced it's bringing back Better Naito from May through September, meaning a northbound lane of Naito Parkway will be reserved for bike and pedestrian use.

That's not a surprise, but it's guaranteed to rankle the Portland Business Alliance, which flipped out about the project last year.

This will mark the second year PBOT oversees the project, after taking the reins from Better Block. And as it has in years past the bureau is making the case that the safety project doesn't hamper traffic patterns as much as skeptics think.

By using devices that pick up Bluetooth signals from passing phones ("without obtaining or recording any personal information," PBOT says), the city found that average northbound car trips adjacent to the project increased by an average of 46 seconds. During rush hour, average commuting time increased by roughly a minute and a half, the bureau says.

"The road to Better Naito 2017 was paved with tireless advocacy and hard work by Better Block PDX and a team of local students passionate about creating better public spaces in Portland," says PBOT's report, which includes a lot more data about travel on Better Naito. "In many ways, Better Naito echoes the same values and vision that led to the establishment of Waterfront Park."