Archive for the Portland Street Blades Category

[#AddressNerd] Fractional Blocks In The Portland Street Blade 2.0 Design

Posted in PDX Street Blades, Portland Street Blades, Street Blade Gallery on June 6, 2014 by Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis
3107.
While cities try to be planned in even chunks, life isn’t perfect. The ideal is digital; the reality, analog. Streets oft-times happen where they happen.

A good example of this is the grid layout of Salt Lake City, where the address block is a standard thing and the street can concievably land anywhere in that block. For example, a two standard streets, one the 35th and the next the 36th, would be named 3500 South and 3600 South. A street about 1/3 of the way between 3500 South and 3600 South might be named 3530 South. One eight-tenths of the way could be named 3580 South.

On this plan addresses are childs’ play to augur in on. As you travel north or south on any street that would cross these, you just glance right or left to see how the addresses are running. A bit dry, perhaps; an address like 455 West 3530 South is mathematically exciting but literarily dull. But Portland’s signage acts just like this. Check this blade fro SW Broadway near PSU that I snapped some time ago. The tab reads 700. SW Broadway is the 7th block west of the river in Downtown. The blade is telling you not that the block down the SW Broadway face is 700, but that you are either entering or leaving the 700 block of whatever cross street you’re on. As in SLC, the crossing-street system assumes you don’t need to be reminded what street you’re on, but you do want to know how far up or down the street you’re on without having to crane your neck left or right and hope to see the number as you go past.

If SW Broadway were a street in SLC, it would be South 700 West. 

I frame the concept thusly because it sets the stage for this next picture; the intersection of NE Pacific Street and NE Holladay Court.

The intersection of these two streets do not happen on an even address block point, and the new way of street-blading Portland attempts to address this. As someone who loves precision in such things, I’m kind of over the moon here. A bit of commentary perforce: in raw terms, the intersection of NE Pacific Street and NE Holladay Court is of two streets that are defined as east-west runners. They therefore have very similar blockface numbers. However! One has to remember that when you look at that block index, you’re not looking at the the address on the street that is named but the address on the street you’re already on that’s defined by the point of the crossing street. Thus, NE Pacific Street cuts across NE Holladay Court at approximately 13050 NE Holladay Court; NE Holladay Court intersects NE Pacific Street at the address of 13020 NE Pacific Street.

If that weren’t bewildering enough, this blade set might make you cross your eyes:


This is a few hundred feet back, where Holladay Street bends to become Holladay Court. Not exactly an intersection as one might think about it, until one thinks about it: it’s an intersection, just one where a street name changes. Each block index reads 13000; this intersection is where the 13000 block begins and ends on either street.

It’s a little challenging to get used to if you’re a new Portlander; the only other Willamette Valley city I know that does it this way is McMinnville. Eventually, it’ll click, and once it does, it’ll seem like the most organic and natural thing … as long as you start with the idea that you already know what street you’re on, and this tells you what’s coming and going as you travel.

And the font? That’s Clearview, baby. Looks good to me!

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Another New Street Blade – On E Burnside

Posted in Graphic Design, pdx_geography, pdx_history, Portland Geography, Portland History, Portland Lore, Portland Quirks, Portland Street Blades, Portland Street Scenes, Portland Streets, Sign Design, type, typography on July 15, 2009 by Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis

2148.One of the street blades we were out to get yesterday I missed putting in the big post a couple back, but there’s also a new one on E Burnside.

This is East Burnside Street in the 9100 block, looking east. The car in the distance is just crossing the I-205 overpass.

Standing on the north side of the street at this point you are at the physical corner of East Burnside and NE 91st Place. Looking across the street, you can see this:

Atop that post, just visible in the foliage, is the street blade, mounted so as to identify the cross street to someone leaving NE 91st Place … though with all that foliate, we aren’t quite saying “mission accomplished” here. However, it makes a first-class background for a close up picture:

The new sign, like the others we’ve been increasingly finding, is in the Clearview font.

The block index ought to be zero, and should read “00” in the upper right hand corner (which you’d read “zero-hundred” maybe). Although it is possible that it was deemed unnecessary to include a block number because it is the baseline and this is a well-known thing. Still, as a format-completist, I’d like to see the double-aught there.

Sign Safari: New Blades on outer Tibbetts and Taggart, And A Couple of Oddities

Posted in Portland Geography, Portland Quirks, Portland Street Blades, Portland visual history, Street Blade Gallery, street blades on July 15, 2009 by Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis

2145.We went on sign safari again today, and came up with some goodies, from one end of the east side to the other. New Street blades, with the new Clearview font, show how the new Portland street blade look is shaping up. We have a couple of oddities as well, one which proves an assumption we made earlier.

Not long ago, I don’t remember why, I had an occasion to be along SE 162nd between Division and Powell, and caught a glimpse of the new blades in passing. Went back today, and here’s what we got:

Zooming in for a nice, close look, we find that while the numbered avenue still seems to use the old-style glyphs:

… the named blade uses the new Clearview type (this is also kind of evident in the photo above):

The tracking amongst all the letters is rather appropriate, and nothing in the positioning of the glyps looks forced or awkward at all.

The ironic thing about this was, I had forgotten the name of the street, confusing it with another T-named street nearby – Tibbetts. I told The Wife™ we were going out to 162nd and Tibbetts to see the new blades. She wanted to do a little neighborhood cruising and we found our way to Tibbetts. What should we find at SE 167th Avenue and Tibbetts Street, of all things, but this:

Another catch! In constrast to the last blade set, whereas the blade for SE Tibbetts Street is in Clearview:

So, also is the numbered avenue blade:

The downstroke to the 7 is the dead giveaway where, but the subtle curves and tapers on all the glyphs should be obvious to students of the form.

This is additionally notable because it’s the first one which is solidly away from any main thoroughfare. SE 167th and Tibbetts is in a sleepy corner of a remote SE neighborhood, which is still very charming, with mid 20th Century ranch-style houses and gently curving streets. Very pleasant area overall.

In the area, we also found an oddity. Street blades have been appearing on very narrow streets serving infill housing on greatly subdivided lots; these seem to typically be green glyphs on a white background, opposite the Portland standard. Given the look of the property this following street stub serves, we’re pretty sure that these signs denote privately-maintained streets whose developers arranged to be integrated into the address grid for purposes of ease of location. This sign was seen along SE 162nd Avenue, between (as you might expect) Division and Stark Streets:

At least two notable differences are immediately apparent here. First of all, unlike any other sign of this type, the specific (HAWTHORNE) is larger than both the directional (SE) as well as the generic (CT). Situate as it is, we can safely assume that it was named as an extension to SE Hawthorne Blvd (it’s the county standard to do things this way). Secondly, the post on which the single blade is mounted is not the round metal pipe, but rather more of a fence-post which is square in cross-section. Also, as you can tell by this photo:

It’s built rather lowe to the ground. The city doesn’t seem to mount blades this low without some sort of reason, which is usually apparent from the surroundings. There’s no real reason to put the sign down this low – as a matter of fact, a taller pole would actually make it more visible. Also, something about the location of that sign within a private front-yard fence line strongly suggests that this is a private installation.

To close out this safari, how about something you may not have known: you’re aware that any numbered street (except in Linnton) is an Avenue. How about one that’s a Boulevard? For a while now, the section of NE 122nd Avenue north of Sandy, through Airport Way to Marine Drive, has been designated as such:

This blade is at the corner of NE 122nd and Marine Drive, but has been marked “NE 122nd Blvd”. No apparent reason for this except, we guess, that 122nd north of Sandy very wide, high-capacity road serving the industrial flatland. However, though the signs along most of this stretch have it as Blvd, new signs going in at 122nd and Airport Way now denote 122nd Avenue, so maybe that designation is reverting.

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I’m Not The Only One Talking About Portland’s Street Signs …

Posted in liff in oregon, liff in PDX, Portland Street Blades, Portland Transportation, Sign Design on April 29, 2009 by Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis
2045.Joseph Rose, The Oregonian‘s commute columnist, wrote a couple of articles not too long ago about the street signage in Portland, too long ago, not sure how I missed them, but I’ve stumbled on them, and they take on the oddities and drawbacks in Portland signage, and how it tends to fall short in many areas.

The two columns make very good points as well as at least one strange one, about which one crotchet presently. The first one makes reference to awkward and insufficient directional signage (which I quite assuredly agree with) and then stretches just a bit to draw out dramatic tension between the lacklustre street signage and Portland’s progressive transportation reputation.

The strange point came with a quote from one Sharon Linnenkohl, a recent Angeleno transplant who has trouble finding things in town while she learns the lay of the land, and mentioned that “getting to Foster Road from I-205 southbound is a guessing game”, which just seems odd to me. But before I seem to be rashing on Rose and Linnenkohl a bit too much, I will say that the overarching point is well-taken, and perhaps explains why we’ve been seeing a new street blade standard for Portland:

For starters, most of the street-name signs don’t comply with new federal regulations adopted for America’s aging population. The font on the signs is too small and their ability to reflect light at night is way beyond warranty.

Which is a esteemably fair call, once you get beyond the Federal regulations point. There are a lot of old and badly-reflective signs that need replacment and how, and the newer blades we’ve been seeing about fit that bill admirably.

The second one points out some more problems, noting one of the more famous critical points, the lower deck of the Marquam Bridge going south. Approaching this bridge and knowing that at the other end you have to go left to leave the stack to go downtown and stay right to go left out of that, is kind of counter-intutive.

There is a reason for it, however, and it has to do with the old Mount Hood Freeway (and now for a digression). The Mount Hood, as planned, was to merge into the lower deck’s lanes from the left. Since that was the future designated route in for Interstate 84 (The Banfield was to simply be US 30) It was assumed that westbound traffic would prefer not to have to change lanes (so as to go straight downtown – The Mount Hood was planned for commuters, after all). It was therefore thought that the downtown leg stay on the right so as to reduce the number of lane changes. But the Mount Hood Freeway was never built, and there you go.

The second column continues in the vein of inadequate signage making it hard to find ones way around (and to) the bridges of the Rose City, amongst other things, and touches on the subject I’ve been obsessed on of late: street blades.

The old street blades are presumably being swapped over because they just aren’t up to spec anymore and as the baby boom makes its way up the population pyramid, they’re going to need to see where the hell it is they’re going. The real payoff from that column, though, are numbers. They’re pretty intimidating and intriguing:

  • There are 130,500 signs to maintain in PDX. These include …
  • 40,000 street blades
  • 5,500 guide signs
  • 10,000 “yellow school” signs
  • 14,000 STOP signs
  • 12,000 Warning signs
  • 49,000 parking signs
  • The annual budget for the sign shop is $702,000, which covers missing and vandalized signs and not much else, apparently
  • The signs are produced in a sign shop that has 1 (one) employee
  • Each new street blade costs $22 to make
  • The real problem is finding hands to put up the signs. Funds are at a bare-bones level, though, so they have to apparently wait for a break in work crew business to erect them.

It looks like a case of doing the best they have with what they got.

But at least now we do have some idea of why the new street blades are going up. And they are more readable, that’s obvious (as I think I’m documenting very aptly here).

In Matters Related, Red Electric blogger Rick Seifert posted a couple of times about a sign imbroglio in his Southwest neighborhood. Anyone travelling down Southwest Barbur Blvd from downtown Portland knows about that hard little turn you need to make to get off Barbur going southbound to get to Southwest Capitol Highway to get to the Hillsdale business district and beyond to Southwest Beaverton Hillsdale Highway. It’s a very tight corner, but it’s at least got a rather adequate sign.

ODOT decided to place a bike warning sign at that intersection, which is a wise thing to do. But why, one wonders, did they put it right in front of the Capitol Hwy/Hillsdale guide sign. Couldn’t they step back and say “ahh … won’t work“? Seriously – this really did make the guide sign pointless, and also partially obscured the directional sign to OHSU.

After lodging a complaint with Those Who Must Do Something, the sign was moved, and you can see the Hillsdale/Capitol Hwy guide again … but the TriMet bus stop sign still obscures the big blue-n-white H.

And so it goes.

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I’m Not The Only One Talking About Portland’s Street Signs …

Posted in liff in oregon, liff in PDX, Portland Street Blades, Portland Transportation, Sign Design on April 29, 2009 by Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis
2045.Joseph Rose, The Oregonian‘s commute columnist, wrote a couple of articles not too long ago about the street signage in Portland, too long ago, not sure how I missed them, but I’ve stumbled on them, and they take on the oddities and drawbacks in Portland signage, and how it tends to fall short in many areas.

The two columns make very good points as well as at least one strange one, about which one crotchet presently. The first one makes reference to awkward and insufficient directional signage (which I quite assuredly agree with) and then stretches just a bit to draw out dramatic tension between the lacklustre street signage and Portland’s progressive transportation reputation.

The strange point came with a quote from one Sharon Linnenkohl, a recent Angeleno transplant who has trouble finding things in town while she learns the lay of the land, and mentioned that “getting to Foster Road from I-205 southbound is a guessing game”, which just seems odd to me. But before I seem to be rashing on Rose and Linnenkohl a bit too much, I will say that the overarching point is well-taken, and perhaps explains why we’ve been seeing a new street blade standard for Portland:

For starters, most of the street-name signs don’t comply with new federal regulations adopted for America’s aging population. The font on the signs is too small and their ability to reflect light at night is way beyond warranty.

Which is a esteemably fair call, once you get beyond the Federal regulations point. There are a lot of old and badly-reflective signs that need replacment and how, and the newer blades we’ve been seeing about fit that bill admirably.

The second one points out some more problems, noting one of the more famous critical points, the lower deck of the Marquam Bridge going south. Approaching this bridge and knowing that at the other end you have to go left to leave the stack to go downtown and stay right to go left out of that, is kind of counter-intutive.

There is a reason for it, however, and it has to do with the old Mount Hood Freeway (and now for a digression). The Mount Hood, as planned, was to merge into the lower deck’s lanes from the left. Since that was the future designated route in for Interstate 84 (The Banfield was to simply be US 30) It was assumed that westbound traffic would prefer not to have to change lanes (so as to go straight downtown – The Mount Hood was planned for commuters, after all). It was therefore thought that the downtown leg stay on the right so as to reduce the number of lane changes. But the Mount Hood Freeway was never built, and there you go.

The second column continues in the vein of inadequate signage making it hard to find ones way around (and to) the bridges of the Rose City, amongst other things, and touches on the subject I’ve been obsessed on of late: street blades.

The old street blades are presumably being swapped over because they just aren’t up to spec anymore and as the baby boom makes its way up the population pyramid, they’re going to need to see where the hell it is they’re going. The real payoff from that column, though, are numbers. They’re pretty intimidating and intriguing:

  • There are 130,500 signs to maintain in PDX. These include …
  • 40,000 street blades
  • 5,500 guide signs
  • 10,000 “yellow school” signs
  • 14,000 STOP signs
  • 12,000 Warning signs
  • 49,000 parking signs
  • The annual budget for the sign shop is $702,000, which covers missing and vandalized signs and not much else, apparently
  • The signs are produced in a sign shop that has 1 (one) employee
  • Each new street blade costs $22 to make
  • The real problem is finding hands to put up the signs. Funds are at a bare-bones level, though, so they have to apparently wait for a break in work crew business to erect them.

It looks like a case of doing the best they have with what they got.

But at least now we do have some idea of why the new street blades are going up. And they are more readable, that’s obvious (as I think I’m documenting very aptly here).

In Matters Related, Red Electric blogger Rick Seifert posted a couple of times about a sign imbroglio in his Southwest neighborhood. Anyone travelling down Southwest Barbur Blvd from downtown Portland knows about that hard little turn you need to make to get off Barbur going southbound to get to Southwest Capitol Highway to get to the Hillsdale business district and beyond to Southwest Beaverton Hillsdale Highway. It’s a very tight corner, but it’s at least got a rather adequate sign.

ODOT decided to place a bike warning sign at that intersection, which is a wise thing to do. But why, one wonders, did they put it right in front of the Capitol Hwy/Hillsdale guide sign. Couldn’t they step back and say “ahh … won’t work“? Seriously – this really did make the guide sign pointless, and also partially obscured the directional sign to OHSU.

After lodging a complaint with Those Who Must Do Something, the sign was moved, and you can see the Hillsdale/Capitol Hwy guide again … but the TriMet bus stop sign still obscures the big blue-n-white H.

And so it goes.

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SE 82nd And Washington, Tuesday, 8 PM

Posted in liff in oregon, liff in PDX, Portland Geography, Portland History, Portland Pictures, Portland Street Blades, Portland Street Scenes, Street Blade Gallery on April 22, 2009 by Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis
2040.The sign of the Chinese Village restaurant, SE 82nd and Washington, doesn’t get any respect in any classic neon inventories of the Portland area. But that doesn’t mean it’s just as charming:

If you’ll remember the timeless quality of that sunset on Tuesday evening, I’m sure you’lll agree. It seemed to go on forever. If you don’t agree with me … well, why you got to be so mean?

The sign top along 82nd by many of the signs reads 82nd Avenue of Roses:

It’s a bid to raise the profile of 82nd Avenue which, by many accounts, might pass as distressed. It doesn’t bother me much. You see a different level of life on 82nd Avenue and it looks a little threadbare in places, but, judging by the ruin latterly practiced in Portland under the rubric of “urban renewal”, maybe it’s better off the way it is.

There are lovely places alone 82nd; there are shabby places along 82nd. Sure it would be nice ever everything were lovely and dear and pleasing, but life isn’t that way: there are sweet spots and ugly spots. Why are we afraid that the world around us reflect the life that we live?

Sure there are things about 82nd Avenue that need attention; the prostitution traffic along that arterial comes to mind. But for every shabby car lot there’s a rehabilitated restaurant; for every tired-looking Safeway store there’s a pleasant view of Mount Tabor.

But then, I’ve always looked up at life from lower levels. Maybe that’s why it does’t faze me too much.

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SE 82nd And Washington, Tuesday, 8 PM

Posted in liff in oregon, liff in PDX, Portland Geography, Portland History, Portland Pictures, Portland Street Blades, Portland Street Scenes, Street Blade Gallery on April 22, 2009 by Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis
2040.The sign of the Chinese Village restaurant, SE 82nd and Washington, doesn’t get any respect in any classic neon inventories of the Portland area. But that doesn’t mean it’s just as charming:

If you’ll remember the timeless quality of that sunset on Tuesday evening, I’m sure you’lll agree. It seemed to go on forever. If you don’t agree with me … well, why you got to be so mean?

The sign top along 82nd by many of the signs reads 82nd Avenue of Roses:

It’s a bid to raise the profile of 82nd Avenue which, by many accounts, might pass as distressed. It doesn’t bother me much. You see a different level of life on 82nd Avenue and it looks a little threadbare in places, but, judging by the ruin latterly practiced in Portland under the rubric of “urban renewal”, maybe it’s better off the way it is.

There are lovely places alone 82nd; there are shabby places along 82nd. Sure it would be nice ever everything were lovely and dear and pleasing, but life isn’t that way: there are sweet spots and ugly spots. Why are we afraid that the world around us reflect the life that we live?

Sure there are things about 82nd Avenue that need attention; the prostitution traffic along that arterial comes to mind. But for every shabby car lot there’s a rehabilitated restaurant; for every tired-looking Safeway store there’s a pleasant view of Mount Tabor.

But then, I’ve always looked up at life from lower levels. Maybe that’s why it does’t faze me too much.

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