July 31, 2005
When we think about commuting, we tend to think about trips from home to work. Or maybe home to school. But last week, I got exposed to another kind of commuting when I had the opportunity to do a ride-along with Ride Connection.
Ride Connection is a unique organization that coordinates a network of over 30 services providers. Last year they scheduled almost 300,000 rides. Their services range from fleet management to programs that teach seniors to be independently mobile.
Last week I had a chance to share a ride with a number of seniors participating in day programs at LifeWorks NW. LifeWorks provides a range of mental health services. The folks I was riding with were participating in a 'structured day' program designed for those with Alzheimer's Disease. This program provides an opportunity for socializing, activities and often provides a much needed break for in-home caregivers.
Clients can arrive at LifeWorks in a number of different vehicles: medical transport (similar to an ambulance), vehicles with wheelchair lifts, or in buses. I rode along on a bus route, which reminded me a lot of a school bus route. All of my fellow passengers were mostly ambulatory, although with varying degrees of assistance ranging from canes to wheelchairs (although all were able to walk onto the bus). There are several buses operating out of LifeWorks, each of which has regularly scheduled morning and afternoon routes to pick-up and drop-off clients.
In this particular case, Ride Connection’s role is to organize vehicle maintenance and to train the bus drivers.
So here’s a shout out to the great services provided by Ride Connection (and to the great driver who hosted me) and a reminder that commuting can take a lot of forms.
July 30, 2005
What is Flexcar?
Flexcar is a carsharing service. We own and manage a large, fully-automated, self-service fleet of fuel efficient cars, trucks and vans. Businesses and individuals pay a modest annual membership fee, and then use an online reservation system and a "keycard" (proximity card) to enter and drive the vehicle that they reserved.
Unlike traditional car rental, carsharing is either hourly or by-the-day. Also, Flexcar's pricing is all-inclusive. Rates include full insurance, gas and unlimited miles. Members typically cancel their own car insurance because it's included in Flexcar's rates. Upon joining, they cancel their insurance and sell their personal vehicle, thereby eliminating what is typically their second largest household expense: their car.
AAA estimates that it costs over $500/month to own a car (assumptions: new Taurus every 5 years; full insurance, etc). AAA's figures, by the way, do NOT include Downtown parking. Instead of driving everywhere, Flexcar members rely primarily on public transportation, bikes and their feet, and only drive when they really need to (e.g. to get a big load of groceries, go to the Coast for a weekend, go to a meeting in the suburbs, etc.).
If a Flexcar member who doesn't have car insurance goes to a rental car agency, they walk in expecting to pay something around $25 a day, but they eventually end up with a bill totaling closer to $60/day. Why? Insurance costs extra. Gas also costs extra. And if you're an hour late, you get charged for an extra day.
With Flexcar, by comparison, the cost includes everything: insurance, gas, maintenance, cleaning, and a reserved parking space wherever you picked up (and later drop off) the car.
Also, with Flexcar, you can reserve & use a car, truck or van in 1/2 hour increments. So if you need a car for 3.5 hours, you're not stuck paying for 24. Also, you don't have to stand in line, sign a lot of paperwork, fill the tank (unless it drops below a quarter tank, in which case you fill it with an in-vehicle gas credit card). Once approved as a member (requirements include a reasonable driving record to be approved) you get a member number, and PIN and an electronic "keycard," which gets you in the car. (Your PIN is also needed in order to enable your chosen car's ignition).
How much does it cost?
Hourly: $7 - $9
Daily: $35 - $90 ($56 is pretty typical).
These prices include everything – gas, insurance, an unlimited miles. The daily rates very depending on the vehicle-specific "daily cap," (the maximum charge for a 24 hour calendar day) which is either 5 hours, 7 hours or 10 hours.
Many Flexcar members go weeks without needing a car; others drive every few days. Some drive once a month, to get out of town for a weekend. Others drive the same vehicle (the one located nearest their home) every weekend. Some even have a recurring reservation (e.g. every Saturday at 10AM to 1PM) on the same vehicle for the next several months. For example, every Saturday at 10, a member might go to "their" Flexcar, open it with their keycard, enter their PIN, run all of their errands for the week, return the car, lock it up, and leave it for the next driver.
The incremental cost structure ($40 a year for a membership; no additional cost unless you actually drive) gives members a powerful (approx. $8/hour) incentive to drive judiciously. Over time, members tend to ride bikes, walk and ride transit more & more, and drive less.
What about availability?
Flexcar vehicles are usually driven 4-8 hours/day. 6 hours is pretty typical. When all of the vehicles in a neighborhood reach that threshold, we add more cars, thus keeping availability in sync with demand. 6 hours/day sounds like a lot, but bear in mind that this is over a 24 hour calendar day. So are cars are actually only about 25% utilized. Midday is "peak time," so we recommend reserving a few hours in advance for a lunch meeting, but most members still make their reservations at the very last minute. This means that they sometimes don't get the car closest to them, but with an ever-denser network, there's almost never a problem getting a Flexcar somewhere nearby.
Who uses Flexcar?
150+ private companies use Flexcar. They find it more convenient and cost effective than owning, insuring, maintaining and parking underutilized fleet cars. About 6 public agencies in Portland/Vancouver also use Flexcar's service. Demographically speaking, Flexcar members (close to 6k of them in Portland; 30k nationwide) are typically well-educated transit riders who live and/or work in the City. About 1/3 don't own a car; the rest use Flexcar as an occasional second car. Our "second car" clientele use our service because it's simply more convenient (self service, incremental, predictable pricing, no paperwork, decentralized) than renting a car.
July 29, 2005
Today's Portland Tribune features an article titled Walk, ride at your peril reporting about the nine pedestrian and cyclist fatalities this year so far.
So today's question is: are these just a statistical blip, or are there systematic issues going on involving the transportation system, or behavioral changes by drivers, pedestrians or cyclists?
July 28, 2005
Today I attended a joint meeting of MTAC (Metro Technical Advisory Committee) and TPAC (Transportation Policy Alternatives Committee - on which I am a citizen representative). The purpose of the meeting was to review the 2030 population forecasts, which will help drive the next update the Regional Transportation Plan and the next UGB (Urban Growth Boundary) expansion.
The headline, as has been reported elsewhere, is that between 2000 and 2030 we will add 1.1 million residents to the region, reaching the population level that had originally been planned for 2040.
Ironically, on the way to the meeting, I was listening to a podcast of Smart City (a radio program out of Memphis that is regretably not broadcast locally) talking about the problems of Detroit, which has seen its population shrink by 50% since 1960. Anyone want to pick which problem to have?
The interesting part of the discussion today was not about the faster than expected growth, but rather about the choices and assumptions we will need to make:
Can Damascus come online fast enough to absorb much of this growth?
Will we run out of exception lands and need to begin expanding the UGB onto Exclusive Farm Use lands?
How much infill can we expect? Metro has lowered the forecast for infill, but as Al Burns, a planner from Portland put it "if we expand the UGB, of course we won't get the level of infill we want." Al quoted Lewis Mumford: "trend is not destiny."
Others from Portland made a compelling case that Metro's input data is missing all the 1/4 acre and under infill developments that are happening in Portland.
If we build a 10-lane bridge over the Columbia on I-5 we get both more commuters and more jobs in Portland. Don't build it and the jobs go to Vancouver.
Which cities get the growth? Both Portland and Washington County were lobbying for more housing, while Gresham was lobbying for more jobs.
Watch this space...
July 27, 2005
For over a decade, bicycle planners have been grappling with various concepts for how to make it easier to bicycle downtown. It is a consistent complaint of potential cyclists throughout the region that downtown is a frightening place for cyclists. A recent Bicycle Transportation Alliance member survey revealed dozens of suggestions, some contradicting each other, some unlikely. I propose that we need a comprehensive look at bicycling in downtown.
Yes we have Waterfront Park and the Eastbank. What a great loop! Soon we will have bicycle lanes on Naito Parkway. We have bicycle lanes on much of SW Jefferson and SW Broadway, and a piece of SW 3rd. The question of bicycle lanes on other streets is a big one. The traditional location of a bicycle lane, in between the right-most travel lane and the on-street parking (as on SW Broadway), may not make the most sense given that there are parking garage driveways on so many blocks, a high level of on-street parking turnover, and heavy right-turn movements every other block. It makes sense on SW Broadway because it has enough of an uphill grade to create a speed differential with cars. But on 2nd, 3rd, 4th? The left side has the same issues. Placing the bicycle lane in between the middle lanes may work, but is contrary to current practice and may be confusing.
Many say we don't need bicycle lanes at all in downtown; bicyclists should just share the lane. Confident cyclists know that traffic signals are timed at 12 mph or so, such that you can bicycle in the middle of a traffic lane ("take the lane") and hit all the signals. Personally I prefer to bike in the middle lane on 2nd, 3rd, and 4th, avoiding the conflicts with right and left turning vehicles. But "taking the lane" only works well for very confident cyclists, not the new cyclists we are trying to attract. Bicycle lanes would also allow bicyclists to bypass traffic in congested conditions, a very attractive proposition signaling that bicycling is a better way to navigate downtown.
Another emerging concept is that of a "shared lane marking," or a bicycle stencil placed in a travel lane to indicate that bicyclists and motorists are to share the lane. At least this would let motorists know we belong. But a) it's not a standard marking yet (nationally or in Oregon), and so would need to be accompanied by a lot of education and outreach to help people understand its meaning, and b) which lane to put it in? Cyclists seem to distribute themselves evenly between all three lanes on 2nd, 3rd, 4th, even Broadway. Shared lane markings in all three lanes?
What about the bus mall? The new bus mall will have a continuous travel lane that cyclists can share; how well will that work? What about the east-west streets? Connections and routes in Old Town & the Pearl? How to connect it all together to form a cohesive network?
These questions are not easy to answer, and will require a collaborative approach between the City, the downtown business community, and cyclists, among others. The potential payoff is huge. Already there are almost 9000 daily bicycling trips over the downtown bridges, with many hundreds of additional trips from neighborhoods west. These trips have translated into improved health, and have had positive impacts on available downtown auto parking and traffic. Tourists visiting Portland seek opportunities to rent bicycles and enjoy the City by bicycle. The challenge is on: how do we make downtown Portland more bicycle-friendly so that we attract new daily bicycle riders?
July 26, 2005
Rule # 4 has just been added to the site:
This site HAS a point of view, generally supportive of transit and compact development, and efforts to reduce VMT (vehicles miles travelled) per capita. This is intended to be the general center of the conversation here. While opposing views are welcome, participation that is of a quality or quantity that combines to undermine the purpose of the site may be restricted or refused.
While my democratic (small 'd') instincts have held sway to date and comments have been completing unregulated, it has become clear to me that the persistent and vocal participation of anti-transit folks has come to dominate the site, despite polite requests to respect the purpose of the site.
I fear that this is driving away the very people that Portland Transport was constructed to bring together. Accordingly, for at least the next several weeks I am banning the most vocal of the critics, not because I don't want criticism, but because I want the community to have a chance to come together as was intended.
Those who find they can no longer comment are welcome to e-mail me directly to discuss their status.
July 25, 2005
In today's tight fiscal environment, governments are seeking ways to generate "economic development" through transportation projects. Many of the flexible funding and state-generated transportation finance programs now focus on economics.
This is a shift. Transportation used to be measured in capacity and funding went to increase movement of cars. In the 1990's, Portlander's talked about livability and funded plans and projects to promote that end. Now it's all economic development.
A major problem is that very little research exists on the topic of economic impacts of transportation investments. More notably, public officials and transportation engineers have no clue where to best place $1 of public transportation dollars to best leverage Return on Investment (ROI) from the private sector.
My favorite transportation project is the removal of the Lovejoy Ramp of the Broadway Bridge. For $20 million this project removed a local truck bridge to open up the entire North Pearl District to over $1 billion in new construction investment. This project used existing utilities and infrastructure to create a huge local economic surge. The emerging South Waterfront is another area, with over $1 billion of planned development on less than $100 million of public investment, including Streetcar.
Perhaps focusing on ROI and Economic Development is not so bad for alternative mode advocates. Consider that foot traffic, not car traffic, is the key to retail business and proximity advantages provided by clustered business districts.
What's your opinion? Do you have any insight on the hazy issues of ROI and Economic Development? Do you have a favorite project that supports my supposition of alternative mode projects being good for the economy or dare you beg to differ?
July 24, 2005
No, we're not starting a podcast (at least not yet).
But we will from time to time point our readers to interesting content we come across in audio form.
Included is a discussion of lifecycle costs that reaches a surprising conclusion about passenger rail versus air travel.
It movitivated me to order the book.
From: Close-in SE Portland
Bad weather: #14 Hawthorne bus
Good weather: Bicycle (Breezer 7-speed, with wide tires, upright posture and shock absorber seat; designed for the over 50 set...)
Daytime in-town appointments: Walk
Daytime out of town appointments: Flexcar (business account)
Daytime out of town personal errands: Flexcar (personal account)
Monthly cost: negligible. My employer provides me with a TriMet pass and a Flexcar account (for work-related daytime travel). I don't do many personal errands during the day, so I typically don't have much of a Flexcar tab.
The bike has internal gearing, so it requires little maintenance. Here's a summary of my monthly transportation expenses (after buying the bike):
Gas: $0 (included w/Flexcar's hourly rate)
Car insurance: $0 (included w/Flexcar's hourly rate)
Car payment: none
Bus pass: $0 (employee benefit)
I lived this way (a bike & a bus pass; no personal car) from when I was 16, until three months ago, when my second daughter was born, and Amanda and I bought our first car. We're looking forward to selling it once both our girls no longer need car seats.
July 23, 2005
The New York Times Business Section had a long and interesting article a few weeks ago on oil consumption in the US. The Oil Uproar That Isn't
A few interesting quotes:
The most visible element of this new equation is that relative to demand, oil is no longer in plentiful supply. The time when we could count on cheap oil and even cheaper natural gas is clearly ending. -- David J. O'Reilly, CEO of Chevron.
Furthermore, Mr O'Reilly stated that it took 125 years to consume a trillion barrels of oil; the next trillion is likely to be consumed in the just 35 years.
On our dependence on foreign sources (who may not always behave according to the laws of economics...):
Crude oil imports have doubled over the last three decades and now account for nearly two-thirds of the oil Americans burn... In the same three decade period, oil demand in the US has grown by 18 percent while domestic production has continued on a slow and probably irrevocable path of decline.
The basic approach to energy policy in this country, according to the nation's first Energy Secretary, James Schlesinger, is "only two modes--complacency and panic."
July 22, 2005
The Joint Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC) and Department of Land and Conservation Development Commission (LCDC) Subcommittee met on July 19th. They will move the TPR Mission Statement amendments to the full LCDC at the November meeting in Medford.
The TPR Workgroup will discuss the changes again on August 2nd. To my knowledge, no other formal meetings are scheduled, unless DLCD (or ODOT for that matter because they are funding and driving the process) are pushed.
Apparently LCDC Commissioner Marilyn Worrix requested specific feedback on how the changes shift the policy, which specific changes are problematic and why, and "what is the harm" in the proposal (also echoed by Ron Henri.)
I would like to note that:
1. The original reason to change the rule had to do with the words "Reduced Reliance on the Automobile." A secondary, and more recent issue is the readability. Do these issues warrant a complete rewrite?
2. ODOT states publicly that this rewrite does not alter the policy. However at least two staff/consultants have conceded that this both a policy document and that there is a shift.
3. Public participation has been totally lacking. ODOT failed to post the meeting materials prior to the meeting (but the BTA did) and there are no recorded minutes of either the Workgroup or Sub Committee meetings. In fact, to date, there has been more discussion on Portland Transport (albeit about issues not relating to the topic) than anywhere else.
July 21, 2005
Decisions about where and when we make transit investments are some of the most important decisions facing our community today. Our choices will influence land development, travel patterns, the economy, public health and our very quality of life.
TriMet's Transit Investment Plan (TIP) seeks to provide a framework for how transit investments will be made. The TIP is a five-year plan that is updated annually that establishes the priorities for where TriMet will expand service, on-street amenities and customer information. The TIP provides local governments with a guide for their planning processes so they can leverage our investment with transit-related infrastructure such as sidewalks and safe street crossings. The TIP is becoming the basis for partnerships to improve transit service and access to that service throughout the region. The 2005 TIP has just been released.
Our region has much to be proud of in the transit system we have today. Since 1998, TriMet boosted the number of Frequent Service lines providing 15-minute or better service, seven days a week, from four to 16. Today, more than half of all bus rides are on the Frequent Service network. Innovative partnerships in Washington County are adding new sidewalks, pedestrian islands and shelters to complement Frequent Service on TV Highway.
In May 2004, the Interstate MAX Yellow Line from the Expo Center to downtown opened four months early and served 3.9 million rides in its first year of operation. Weekday ridership is up 92 percent compared to the former bus line on Interstate Avenue and the number of business has increased by 50 percent.
These investments in our system are encouraging new riders to try public transportation. Overall, ridership increased 2.5 percent in FY2004, bringing the annual number of rides provided to 91.1 million. Our ridership is growing because we have made wise investments in the transit system, connecting people with jobs, recreational opportunities, shopping and to other people.
One measure of performance is to look at how we compare to other transit systems around the country. In terms of overall population served, we rank 29th in the country. However, in terms of number of riders, we rank 12th. On weekends, our ridership ranking is even higher, serving more riders than much larger transit agencies in Seattle, Denver and San Jose.
While we have been able to make significant transit investments in the past few years, we will not be able to expand service this year because of the continued slowdown in the economy. In addition, the high cost of diesel fuel is stretching our already limited resources. To address the ongoing budget problems we are doing three things. First, we are continuing to look for internal efficiencies. For example, we have made great strides in improving the fuel efficiency of our buses, to the point that we believe we are the most fuel efficient transit agency in the country. Second, we had a mid-year fare increase in April that will help offset record high diesel prices. Finally, we are making some strategic schedule changes and adjustments on low ridership trips to reduce costs while still meeting the needs of our riders.
Even with limited resources we have many opportunities on the horizon. We are finding new ways to improve customer service through innovations. For example, actual arrival time of buses at all 7,800 bus stops is now only a phone call away through our 503-238-RIDE line.
TriMet is committed to providing high quality transit service that meets the needs of all our riders. We will work hard and make good choices to maintain our quality of life and provide more transportation options for the entire region.
July 20, 2005
In 1973 the Oregon Legislature passed SB 100 creating a strong statewide land-use planning program. A set of 19 Statewide Planning Goals, are at the foundation of this planning. Every city and county is required develop local comprehensive plans that are consistent with these goals.
Statewide Planning Goal 12 is Transportation. Division 12, OAR 660-012-0000, is known as the Transportation Planning Rule (TPR) and provides the details for local communities to implement Goal 12. The TPR specifically sets details for developing Transportation System Plans, or TSPs, that guide local transportation investments.
On July 19th a Joint Subcommittee of the Oregon Transportation Commission and Department of Land Conservation and Development is set to recommend a complete overhaul of the purpose statement of the TPR! In almost complete secrecy, the process that was sparked by a few stakeholders' concerned with the words "reduced reliance of the automobile" has turned into a total policy gut and stuff.
The First sentence of the current TPR currently reads:
The purpose of this Division is to implement Statewide Planning Goal 12 (Transportation) and promote the development of safe, convenient and economic transportation systems that are designed to reduce reliance of the automobile so that the air pollution, traffic and other livability problems faced by urban areas in other parts of the country might be avoided.
The TPR provides the teeth to alternative mode advocacy and vision to Oregon's transportation planning. ODOT is quietly behind gutting it. I appeal to you to get involved demand a transparent and full process.
The LCDC Commissioners on the Subcommittee are: Hanley Jenkins, Ron Henri and Marilyn Worrix
Contact members of the LCDC at: http://www.oregon.gov/LCD/lcdc.shtml#Current_Members
Read the Proposed Changes to the TPR Purpose Statements:
Read the TPR at: http://arcweb.sos.state.or.us/rules/OARS_600/OAR_660/660_012.html
[Thanks to Rob Zako for a primer on the TPR]
Updated July 20, 2005
ODOT has posted a better side-by-side comparison of the old and new language (PDF).
In response to a question on another thread some time ago, here is the data on energy usage of TriMet vehicles, compared to representative numbers for autos, measured in BTUs per passenger mile:
TriMet MAX 646
TriMet Bus 3,792
Auto (17 mpg) 6,712
SUV (14 mpg) 8,150
A constant issue and challenge in Portland is improving roadway conditions to make bicycling safer. I believe experienced -- and even moderately skilled cyclists -- could, through our own behaviors and over time, dramatically improve the traffic safety of city streets. We can do this, in part, by changing motorist's and cyclist's expectations of how cyclists behave on the streets, and how we should be treated. As individuals, we can help accomplish this by riding with Courtesy and Confidence, as outlined below. The goals of purposefully riding courteously and confidently is to win allies and educate road users.
My basic rules for riding courteously and confidently are:
1. Always yield to pedestrians.
2. Ring a bell when approaching to pass either another cyclist or a pedestrian.
3. Be pleasant to others (corollary: Don't behave like a confrontational, righteous jerk).
4. Never run a red light.
1. Know and follow traffic laws, as they are your ally.
2. Take the lane when conditions merit.
3. Don't rush.
4. Come to a complete and legal stop at stop signs whenever anybody else is present at the intersection.
The intent of riding with courtesy is to win allies, or at least not alienate more motorists and pedestrians. People walking are often startled -- even frightened by cyclists behaving in a manner that appears reckless. A cyclist challenging a pedestrian for space on a shared path, riding aggressively on a sidewalk, or simply passing a pedestrian without an audible warning ("on your left" just doesn't cut it -- you need a bell) is frightening to many pedestrians. Anger develops from fright; every time this type of interaction plays out, one more person has one more reason to not want to promote increased bicycling in Portland. The same is true for rude our illegal interactions with motorists. Performing a risky maneuver on the street, and then responding to a honked horn with the universal salute is not a way to win support from people in cars. From my professional experience, I can assure you that such interactions create lasting negative impressions that make people less likely to support increased funding for expanding bicycling in Portland. Similarly, running red lights simply angers people who believe everybody should play by the rules -- it's like a slap in the face for many. Ironically, running reds rarely gains cyclists any significant time advantage over cyclists who stop for them.
The intent of riding with confidence is to educate road users by creating for them an expectation of appropriate and safe behavior. Knowing the law helps cyclists to ride confidently. State traffic law allows cyclists to not ride far to the right of a street when the travel lane is too narrow for safe side-by-side travel by a motor vehicle and a bicycle (ORS 814.430.c). One can argue that any travel lane narrower than 14' is too narrow for such side-by-side travel, and very few lanes in Portland are that wide. Only when there is one lane in the direction of travel does a cyclist ("slow moving vehicle") have to pull over for a faster motorist ("overtaking vehicle"). If there is more than one lane in the direction of travel, then a cyclist does not need to pull over at all (ORS 811.425). Riding in this manner sets an expectation that motorists cannot pass when conditions are not safe to do so, that indeed they will often have to drive slower in the presence of a cyclist. Importantly, when riding like this, or at any time, there is no requirement to ride fast. Many cannot ride fast. Motorists need to understand and expect this. [As do cyclists -- fast and aggressive riders on some well-used Portland paths are creating unsafe and unpleasant conditions for other cyclists, not to mention pedestrians.] Such behaviors can be a powerful tool for riding safely and educating all road users; knowing the law and how it supports this is crucial.
Similarly, a cyclist coming to a complete and legal stop at a stop sign when any other road user is present in the intersection can have a powerful educational effect, especially when the cyclist is being followed by an automobile. Most people sorely need to be taught how to come to a legal stop. Since cars are so potentially injurious to others it is especially important that motorists stop. A cyclist coming to a complete stop both encourages and requires that motorists also come to a complete stop.
These are simple ideas and actions, but creating both positive impressions and consistent expectations can be transformative if they occur widely and frequently. Individual cyclists who behave well, legally, and confidently have the potential to educate a wide swath of Portland's citizens as to what is expected and appropriate behavior when driving and bicycling.
I'd like to more fully flesh out these ideas and hear if there's any agreement that they're worth pursuing.
July 18, 2005
We're still early in the life of this site. I'd like to clarify its purpose and ask for the help of our users in achieving that purpose.
This site unquestionably has a point of view. The agenda is not hidden. The contributors in large part are advocates for, or responsible for implementing, alternative modes of transportation. My intention in creating this blog was to give those folks an opportunity to converse with each other and cross-pollinate their ideas, while allowing a more public audience to share in the conversation.
In our first few weeks, we have attracted the attention and participation of what I will call 'transit skeptics' (I apologize if you feel that's not an appropriate label). This has led to some long and heated debates about the appropriateness of investments in transit and light rail in particular.
While I recognize that this is an important debate, I would strongly suggest that this blog is not the appropriate venue. While we want to keep the site open to everyone, if every post that mentions transit descends into a debate about whether transit is or is not a good investment, the site will never serve its purpose of exchanging ideas to make transit and other modes even better for our community.
To put it another way, it just isn't good manners to be invited to a party and then start an argument that drives the other guests away. If everyone who posts an idea here has their thoughts dissected line-by-line with a view to discrediting them, I expect that the quality and quantity of the contributions is going to drop pretty quickly.
I absolutely believe that folks who do not share our views on transportation have a right to speak, but perhaps another forum may be more appropriate?
So my request to the skeptics is to understand what this particular conversation is about, and be respectful of that. By all means hang around and keep us honest, but please be good guests.
Editor's Note: This appeared as an opinion piece today on Oregon Live with a summary in the printed edition of the O. We're cross-posting it here to allow a little more exposure and discussion.
Portland's Willamette River bridges connect east and west, north and south, uniting neighborhoods into one great city. Visitors marvel at the bridges' beauty, variety, and utility; Portlanders adorn our walls with posters that celebrate the bridges' engineering details as much as their lofty design.
Yet, as the $38 million upgrade of the 75-year-old St. Johns Bridge nears completion, the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) is poised to miss a perfect opportunity to strengthen the connections among Portland communities.
The St. Johns Bridge is the only bridge spanning the Willamette River for five miles north or south. ODOT is currently planning to remodel the bridge in a way that endangers pedestrians and bicyclists, fails the freight community's stated standards for trucks, and is nerve-wracking for everyday car commuters – even though all of these problems can be solved at no cost.
The bridge currently has four narrow traffic lanes, no bike lanes, and substandard sidewalks -- an arrangement that makes everyone feel unsafe. Fast-moving twenty-ton trucks mix with cars and bicyclists in the roadway, and bicyclists try to share narrow, substandard sidewalks with pedestrians, as trucks zoom by.
Neighbors in St. Johns who want to safely bike or walk to landmark Forest Park, a short mile away via the St. Johns Bridge, might be advised to take a twelve-mile detour via the Broadway Bridge. In effect, North Portland is cut off from Northwest Portland for far too many people.
Yet instead of improving upon the situation, ODOT is planning to perpetuate it.
ODOT originally wanted to look at different bridge configurations, and spent tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars hiring outside consultants. Those consultants found that the pinch-points for travel happen at the ends of the bridge, and that "no capacity constraints or operational flaws on the bridge" would result from a new design, one that would use two wide travel lanes with shoulder areas mid-bridge.
Under pressure from special interests, ODOT simply ignored the facts at hand. The result, if it is allowed to go forward, is a bridge that will continue to be unsafe for the quarter of the area's residents who cannot drive.
There is a solution that benefits neighbors, helps businesses move freight, creates transportation choices, and makes the bridge safer for everyone. Maintaining four lanes at the ends of the bridge, but having the middle of the bridge striped with two wide lanes and wide shoulders, would give everyone room to breathe, making it easy to share the road. Trucks, cars, bicycles, and pedestrians could all fit safely and comfortably.
Sadly, neighborhood disconnection is currently carrying the day. ODOT is buckling under to special interests, and ignoring the facts it spent our tax dollars to learn, as well as its obligation to provide safe facilities for all Portlanders.
The St. Johns Bridge is named after settler James Johns, who started the local ferry system across the Willamette River with a single rowboat in 1852. It's disappointing that the bridge bearing his name has become a symbol of disconnection rather than connection.
Bridge renovations offer a once-in-a-generation chance to make real improvements in the relationship among Portland neighborhoods. Our children will live with the results of today's decisions, and it's our responsibility to make the best choice.
Instead of settling for an unsafe bridge that limits options, we should leave our kids a safer, better facility that reconnects our neighborhoods and our city. The bridges are a symbol of Portland. Let us reconnect.
Evan Manvel is the Executive Director of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance. Erik Palmer is the Land Use Chair of Friends of Cathedral Park.
July 17, 2005
Editor's Note: We hope to make 'My Commute' or 'My Trip' a regular Sunday feature. We're looking for stories of how people get around the region in creative or noteworthy ways.
Readers are invited to submit their stories to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Perhaps the most salient feature of my commute is that most days, I don't! I live in NW Portland and work for the Xerox Office Group in Wilsonville. Four days out of five, I telecommute from my home (or anywhere else I can find a high-speed connection for my laptop).
But you have to see your co-workers sometimes, and Thursdays are staff meeting day for me.
Since I haven't seen much of my car (a Geo Metro) since my step-son turned 17 (he uses it to commute to school and work) my Thursday commute trip is decidely multi-modal.
In the morning, I hop on my bike (a very heavy cruiser, but with fenders and a chain guard making it great for street clothes) and pedal down (literally a slight downhill - about 1.5 miles) to the Pearl district, where I pick up the TriMet #96 at the start of the transit mall. Some mornings the two bike racks fill up at the first stop!
45 minutes and $1.70 later (actually, I buy the 10-ticket books and it's a little cheaper), I've read the morning papers and am at Commerce Circle at the end of the line. Wilsonville has done a great job of putting in bike lanes as they have redeveloped their streets, so another quick pedal (about 2.5 miles) across the freeway and I'm at my desk at Xerox (bike lockers available, but since I'm only doing this one day a week, I just use the rack by the door). A total of 4 miles of light pedaling mean I'm not sweaty and don't need a shower, I can go right to staff meeting.
At the end of the day, the headphones go on to catch the news on NPR and I make use of another great transit system, SMART (South Metro Area Rapid Transit). The SMART 201 line picks me up at my office and deposits me and my cruiser at the Barbur Transit Center 30 minutes later - and it's FREE.
From the Transit Center, it's a half mile downhill (with bike lane), a slight uphill (intermitant bike lanes) and then downhill for five miles into downtown. If I want to get some exercise I can push myself here. Then there's the adrenalin rush at the two bridges on Barbur where the bike lane goes away and I have to merge back into traffic :-)
Downtown I can either speed through on 4th Ave (the slight downhill makes it easy to keep up with the signal progression, I generally head for the middle lane and take the lane, the cars don't mind because I can keep up with the cars in front of us). Or, I can drop down to Waterfront Park for the scenic route. Then it's back up through the Pearl to Northwest in time to get over to Friendly House for the weekly CSA pickup. Total bike miles for the return trip, about 8.
July 16, 2005
America is an entitlement society. Unlike European - or even more strikingly, Asian culture - we don't share. We don't cooperate. Every special interest group has their own identity and expects their own separate but equal facility.
Non-transport example: look at how Portland solved the dogs in parks problem. Not by getting dog owners and non-dog owners to cooperate and follow common sense rules of civility better. No. Instead ugly chain link fences were erected like miniature Berlin walls in our parks, creating dog only areas and in the process further atomizing both our social and physical shared resources.
But this is a transport blog, not a dog blog. So how about sidewalks and bike lanes? Why do we need bike lanes AND sidewalks even in constricted downtown right of way situations where the space simply doesn't exist?
And in those cases where there isn't enough room - why does a winner take all ethic operate so that NO bike lane is built but sidewalks are FULL IDEAL width?
Without going into any details - hard fought "visionary" urban corridor plans like Burnside and Hawthorne where bikes have been basically shut out could have looked really different if a shared bike/ped facility had been designed. But even in the case of the Burnside plan, which has 30' wide sidewalks no one knows what to do with - the possibility of mode sharing was never mentioned. To do so would be to risk having every bike person and every ped person in the room start throwing chairs at you. Why?
Our new South Waterfront Greenway will have strictly separated bike and pedestrian pathways (at double the price for one). Peds will get all the waterfront views and ambience, bikes, banned from waterfront access, will be pushed back into the shrubbery - so they can "go fast". This decision was made by city of Portland planners in secret with no opportunity for public input or comment. They said it was obvious this was the only right way. Why?
Why can't bikes and pedestrians share facilities and why can't new facilities be designed to encourage sharing? Examples from Europe - and Asia are staring us in the face. In Japan tens of thousands of bike commuters share the sidewalk with pedestrians every day. No one dies or even gets into fist fights. [www.japanesestreets.com for amusing if not engineerocentric view of what it is like on an urban street in Japan.]
Every thoughtful transportation planner in the Metro area will tell you the problem with advancing Portland's bike masterplan is that all the "low fruit" has been picked. All the easy streets with sufficient right of way for bike lanes have been converted. What is left is the dreaded parking removal option or just a bunch of discontinuous routes never to be completed. Why can't anyone look at shared sidewalk facilities to fill missing links?
To study the hows and whys of successful sharing I will be spending 7 weeks in Japan starting this August on a fellowship grant from the Architectural Foundation of Oregon. I hope to file some communiques from the field and have more to tell you when I get back. Meanwhile, please get me your questions and comments for my upcoming research! I hope to use all of you reading this blog as a brain trust for my fellowship. If we can't share the sidewalk, let's at least share ideas.
July 14, 2005
While I am leery of whole celebrity-as-expert phenomena (look south in fear of the Governator!), actor Tom Hanks does a great job here presenting the simple choices that we CAN make that can make a big difference. As in many things—energy efficiency, water conservation, family amity—small actions can bring about big changes.
Read Tom Hanks' commencement address at Vassar about the power of individual choices.
July 13, 2005
My idea is to develop internally-funded, neighborhood-based Transportation Demand Management programs. Portland State University and OHSU have shown us the way. Both institutions collect parking revenues from those who drive into their "neighborhood" and recycle these funds to reduce parking demand. They do this by:
- Subsidizing transit
- Investing in bicycle infrastructure
- Subsidizing car sharing for non-SOV commuters
Any employee who gives up their parking space at PSU or OHSU gets a free transit pass and/or a safe place to park their bike, and free daytime use of Flexcar. Why play Robin Hood? Because it saves everyone money – even those who drive to work and pay to park. PSU and OHSU avoid building more structured parking, which costs anywhere from $25,000 to $40,000 per space, and continually drives up everyone’s parking fees. In other words, it’s cheaper to subsidize alternatives than it is to accommodate more cars with new parking structures.
For PSU, at least, this approach has worked incredibly well. According to Dan Zalkow, PSU's Transportation and Parking Manager, since the year 2000 PSU's campus population has grown by 7,000 people (42%) and its classroom and office space has increased by 1 million square feet, but the campus has added fewer than 350 new parking spaces. Why? More people 42% (vs. 35% previously) are riding transit and bikes, and since daytime Flexcar use is free for non-SOV commuters, there’s no longer any need to drive to campus.
My question to the Portland Transport readership is simple: how about trying this on a neighborhood scale?
July 12, 2005
Of course, getting there without going anywhere is the ultimate in mobility.
The effort to get a City-wide WiFi Cloud is having a public workshop on July 28th.
The perception has been shared here and elsewhere that the Streetcar is slow. Some have even gone so far as to suggest that a person walking can keep up with the Streetcar.
First we need to look at the purpose the Streetcar was constructed for. It was designed to be a circulator in the city center, not a commuter service. As such, it is geared toward frequent stops and short trips. This is the reason that stops are spaced relatively closely together. The emphasis is on convenience rather than speed. If we are successful in funding an extension to Lake Oswego, we will clearly be designing to a different set of goals and design parameters like stop spacing will look much differently.
It turns out that the biggest variable in the Streetcar’s progress through downtown is time boarding and de-boarding passengers. As the passenger count has risen to 7,800 per weekday, this has required the operations staff to sharpen their focus to keep service on-time, and sometimes we are challenged during peak periods.
Other important considerations include signal timing. For example, in the burn-in process leading up to opening the extension to RiverPlace, we were able to work with the signals engineers at PDOT to reduce the average Streetcar wait at the Naito Parkway signals from 45 seconds to 15 seconds.
So how fast is the Streetcar? Well, I can’t keep up. I often get downtown by walking along the alignment until a Streetcar catches up with me (something I can do without risking it catching me between stops by using the NextBus signs in the shelters). If I just miss the train at 23rd and Marshall, the next train (13 minutes behind) will catch me somewhere between Johnson and Everett.
In fact, the published schedule for Streetcar shows a 22-minute trip from PSU to NW 23rd, a distance of 2.4 miles. That works out to 6.5 miles per hour. Googling 'typical walking speed' produces estimates of 2.5-3.5 mph.
How does Streetcar compare to a bus? Let’s look at a side-by-side comparison. Both Streetcar and the #15 go from downtown to NW 23rd and Lovejoy/Marshall. Unfortunately since neither system publishes schedules for every stop, we’ll have to take approximate comparables:
Streetcar from Central Library (10th and Yamhill) to NW 23rd and Marshall: 17 minutes (3pm)
# 15 from 5th and Washington to NW 23rd and Lovejoy: 17 minutes (at 3pm)
In the morning, the bus shaves a few minutes off this, presumably because traffic is lighter, while Streetcar keeps a more constant schedule (different operating practices on scheduling), but you get the idea, the difference is measured in deltas of a minute or two.
By the way, the power-to-weight ratio of the Inekon vehicle is actually better than that of a MAX car, so watch out when we get on the open stretches to Lake O!
Let’s call it a Streetcar Named [Relatively] Speedy.
July 11, 2005
As a transportation consultant, travelling around, working cities throughout the U.S., I am struck always by all the things we are doing right here in Portland. On a recent visit to Dallas, Texas, where I was raised, a hideous haze of air pollution sent my asthma into full flair. I met with the Parks Board of a fast-growing bedroom suburb south of there. This town has close to no land-use or zoning regulations, land is cheap, demand is high. The town is growing so fast that plots of land that the most current maps show are vacant, and that City staff think are undeveloped, are already platted out and construction has started. Houses are built right up to the edge of flood-prone drainageway creeks and country roads are being widened to the standard seven-lane cross section. Working in these towns, you realize how much we have learned, how much we have to share. Welcome concepts include requiring developers provide sidewalks, improving the streetscape, developing trails and bikeways, purchasing or requiring conservation easements and streambank protection, and introduction of native vegetation.
Coming back home, I biked from SE Portland to Metro for a meeting, breathing in the fresh air, grateful for how easy it is to get around by foot, bicycle, or bus in the inner parts of Portland. And yet we have such a long way to go. Downtown Portland remains a frightening place for new and less aggressive bicyclists; we need a fresh and comprehensive look at needed downtown bicycle improvements. Some of the suburbs are making great strides in becoming more bicycle/pedestrian/transit friendly. For example, the progressive leaders in Wilsonville, where we're working on a bicycle/pedestrian/parks/transit plan, are guiding both new development and retrofit of existing development in the right direction. But much of our suburban development remains auto-centric, with little relief in sight.
I live a few blocks from SE Portland's Edwards Elementary, which is being closed along with the neighborhood school program at Richmond. This leaves one of the most walkable neighborhoods in Portland without a school in walking distance. We have cherished our walks to and from school with our 6-year old son, our close-knit community of close-by families, the ease of a 2-minute bike ride or 8 minute walk to school. In concept, the closure is due to declining enrollment (although not at Edwards). It also reflects Portland Public School (PPS) District's focus on expansion of special-focus magnet schools over traditional neighborhood schools. Furthermore, it reveals a disconnect between the City of Portland, which is investing signficant funds into "Safe Routes to School", or helping increase bicycling and walking to school, and PPS, which leaves bicycling and walking opportunities, health-oriented transportation, and neighborhood cohesion out of the picture. Safe Routes to School programs in other cities are having rapid and positive results, with more kids and parents bicycling and walking. Hopefully we’ll have the same positive results here.
July 10, 2005
Going to a movie is something I rarely do — public life doesn't leave too many nights free and frankly I'd rather spend time with the family or a good book than risk most Hollywood fare. But last Wednesday I went to a screening of End of Surburbia put on by a newly formed group of concerned citizens billing themselves as Peak Oil Portland. I've got to say, the film veered perilously close to being a horror flick — complete with approaching, seemingly invincible monster that will destroy life as we know it.
Given that the American lifestyle is so dependent on massive consumption of energy, any talk of reducing energy use engenders accusations from the pro-business camp of being "anti-growth" and "anti-prosperity." The film's thesis that the reduction in energy will be involuntary and drastic, and will cause widespread economic disruption if not collapse. No wonder some in the audience began to wail about the threat to their retirement funds and quality of life. I wonder how it will be received by those that repeat endlessly the mantra that "quality of life begins with a job" as a magic incantation against regulation and taxation?
With stars like urban critic James Kunstler and oil investor Matthew Simmons, End of Suburbia will be hard to ignore. Events like the 2003 failure of the east coast power grid and recent dramatic reduction of oil reserve forecasts by Shell Oil as well as the Saudis add evidence to the claim that we are really going to burn up all the natural gas and oil. (We are not in Kansas anymore, Toto. In the real world resources are limited.)
Of course, way before that happens, world demand for energy combined with declining or more expensively extracted supplies will cause large and unending price hikes. Our country is very vulnerable to any disruption in our energy sources. We import most of our energy (80% of oil, 50% of natural gas) and consume much more per person than other industrialized nations. End of Suburbia details in excruciating detail the profligate nature of suburban development, going beyond the energy issue into a general critique of sprawl and promotion of more urban development as a partial response to the coming energy crisis. Will smart growth and new urbanism be enough? What do we do with the hundreds of square miles of suburbs if gas prices climb to $5-10 a gallon?
Kunstler's dark vision sees the suburbs as future slums for those without the bucks to buy a place in town where they can live without a car. He goes farther to point out that today's comfortable middle class won't just be car-less but may not have jobs at all as today's economy requires huge inputs of oil to operate. In this he is seconded by the capitalist Simmons. Sustainable, locally self-reliant economies will become necessary, not a utopian indulgence in the future these two foresee. The greedy myopia of Measure 37, encouraging conversion of prime farm, orchard and forestland into vacation homes and subdivisions, is exposed as suicidal when imported food will once again be made a luxury by increased costs of shipping goods around the world and it is prohibitively expensive to commute by car.
What can we do here? The good news is that much of what we are doing is helping reduce our dependence on fossil fuel: light rail, farmers markets, bike lanes, insulating houses, keeping tight urban growth boundaries, building housing in city centers. But, if the problem is as great as laid out in End of Suburbia there is much more we need to do.
July 9, 2005
Joel Weishaus is a neighborhood activist in NW Portland and a member of the Northwest Elder Advisory Team, a program of Friendly House.
He writes that he has sent this letter to TriMet (PDF) [linked document removed at request of author] regarding the impact of fare increases on senior citizens. The letter was copied to Mayor Potter and Commissioner Adams. He indicates that to date no response has been received.
July 8, 2005
We bicycle advocates have never liked the term "alternative" transportation. It intimates a second choice, an alternative to something we really, really want. Hooey! Feet, bikes, and transit have been our first choice. A car is a good choice ... when it’s the last choice. So finally, there's a new term — "active" transportation. The more positive and accurate name says, "We choose our feet, and we feel great."
Don’t quote me, but I think the term "active transportation" started with the collaboration of public health researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC directs Americans to walk for exercise, but where to walk? US cities are designed for cars not people. (Don’t get me started on mall walking.)
So enlightened folks at the CDC saw the connection between our auto-oriented, unwalkable American cities and the declining health of our citizens. (Of course there’s junk food and video games and computers and TV, but if kids could play in the street again … ah, the subject of a future blog.) With the exciting partnership between public health and transportation professionals, we can get back on our feet. Public awareness is the first step. And changing the usage of a single word creates awareness.
So repeat after me! Active transportation is the new alternative.
July 7, 2005
In light of today's London terrorist attack, the US Department of Homeland Security raised the threat level to orange for mass transit systems. There have been no specific threats, but TriMet is increasing presence and vigilance on the transit system. Riders can help by reporting any suspicious behavior or package to a TriMet employee or call 9-1-1. Additional police officers are being deployed from area law enforcement agencies to provided increased presence.
I was relieved to find in my inbox this morning a message from my sister-in-law in London that she and my brother, who works in the financial district, are OK. I suspect my brother will be walking home this evening.
After the first sense of relief, my next two thoughts were:
- What steps can we take to make sure our own transit systems here in Portland are as secure as they can be?
- If we let attacks like this affect our modal choices, the terrorists win.
July 6, 2005
Over at www.commissionersam.com, Sam Adams has asked what it would take to make Portland the first Platinum biking city in the U.S.
Today, two Portland Transport contributors who are very close to Portland's bicycle program share there thoughts on what taking it to the next level might look like.
This post is NOT open for comments, but please DO comment on the individuals posts themselves:
I attended last year's ceremony where the League of American Bicyclists (LAB) presented Portland the "Gold" award for best American bike City. Commissioner Adams (great that he landed the Portland Office of Transportation (PDOT) assignment!) has said he doesn't think this is good enough. He wants us to be "Platinum", a level the LAB has never presented to any city. What will it take to get us there?
A whole lot. The fact is, for the last few years Portland has been going backwards on bike and pedestrian projects and policies, or at best coasting forward at a slower and slower speed.
About 5 years ago Portland City Council abolished both the bike and pedestrian programs within PDOT. Each of these programs was nationally recognized, with fantastic, dedicated staff. The real reason for the axe was cost cutting, but the stated rationale was "mainstreaming". All project management and engineering staff within PDOT and the City as a whole were said to have become so sensitized to bike/ped issues that no further special programs were necessary.
If so - why is current major redevelopment on Naito Pkway at the Pier One site not being required to to fully implement an obligation to install bikelanes on their portion of Naito - a Bike Masterplan throughway? Why do more block faces than ever in downtown Portland lack short term bike parking (thanks to meter removal and only slapdash replacement with racks)? Why is the BTA still fighting BDS tooth and nail to get enforcement of bike parking in new development? Why does the City have no enforcement mechanism for keeping barbed concertina wire on tops of fences from hanging out into public sidewalk space (this 6'-6" pedestrian asks)?
And why for the last six years has the "bike pool" bike at the Portland building, supposedly there to encourage staff to cycle on short business trips, hung locked on a rack near the parking attendant's booth because the key is lost and no one can be bothered to find it?
Commissioner Adams - I throw down the gauntlet. How about for starters trying to unleash the Portland Bldg bike and other city motor pool bikes in bondage?
You can work your way up from there.
Over the past 15 years Portland has been very successful in building its bikeway network, installing bicycle parking, and running promotional programs in support of bicycling. The results have been dramatic as increasing bicycle use has correlated nicely with the growth of the network and has demonstrated the success of the "build it and they will come"
approach. However, a comparison of 1990 and 2000 US Census data shows that bicycling in Portland is really a tale of two cities. In the inner city, in an approximately 4 mile radius from the Burnside Bridge, bicycle commuting in 2000 increased dramatically compared to what it was in 1990. But beyond that 4-mile radius bicycle commute rates have remained essentially flat over those 10 years.
I believe the primary reason for this has to do with the shorter trip distances in this inner ring to the City's main employment centers. But, I suspect there are other reasons that have to do with differences in the structure of the roadway network and the transportation system. In inner NE, SE, N, and NW the roads are in a grid network. Cyclists of different levels can choose whether to ride an arterial street with a bicycle lane, or a quieter local street (whether it's been developed as a bicycle boulevard or not), or even on one of the newer off-street paths that have proved so popular. In outer Portland the grid is not so fine-grained. The only through streets tend to be arterials, and these outer arterials have more lanes, higher traffic volumes and higher speeds than those in the inner city. While they are also striped with bicycle lanes, the bicycle lanes tend to be narrower than what we'd like to see on roads with such volumes and speeds, because that was all that would fit. This creates a riding environment in outer Portland that, while fine for an experienced rider who doesn't mind the traffic, is not very inviting to newer cyclists.
The question this poses then is where and how do we focus our limited resources in the City to increase bicycling rates? While bicycle use in the inner city has more than tripled over the past decade, there is still immense room for progress. Given the short trip distances and maturity of the network, the inner city is ripe for continuing dramatic increases in bicycle use with continuing refinement of the network and promotion. On the other hand, there is much we could do to promote bicycling in outer Portland. One effort could focus on decreasing bicycling trip distances by emphasizing the bike-light rail link (for example, by providing better bicycle access and parking at existing and planned light rail stations).
Answering this question of where and how to focus, and developing (and funding) the strategies in support of those answers will help define how and where bicycling continues to develop in Portland.
July 5, 2005
Finishing up the first official day for Portland Transport, I want to thank a number of folks:
- Our wonderful contributors
- The 400+ folks who visited today
- The "friends and family" who helped us burn in the site over the weekend
- The four local blogs who gave us a plug today
- The one blog that trashed us - thanks, Jack, you validated that we're going in the right direction
In the spirit of blogging stream-of-experience, let me share my transit experience today that highlights two ways to enhance transit that I think are much underused:
- Enhancer: Buses + Bikes
My car and my 17 year old disappeared together about a year ago. Since that time my personal mobility has been largely car-free. Today I had a medical appoint out near Washington Square. I hopped on my bike in NW Portland, pedaled down to the transit mall (downhill) and put my bike on the #56. Thirty-five minutes later I got off at Washington Square and pedaled another mile to the doctor.
Using Trimet and bikes in combination make it easy to get anywhere in our region (hill in the way? take the bus over it!). I'd like to encourage a lot more people to look at this combo. You don't need to be a super-biker to make this work.
- Enhancer: Real Time Arrival Info
I HATE waiting at bus stops. After I finished my medical appointment today, I did some errands around Washington Square and finished up on Main St. in Tigard for lunch, on the #12 line that would take me and my bike back to downtown Portland. As I sat down with my lunch I pulled out my Treo 650 and pulled up the real time arrivals to see when the next bus is coming. I was able to finish my sandwich, roll my bike across the street and place it on the bus that just pulled up. While not everyone has a web-enabled cell phone, TriMet has made this feature available by voice from any cell phone. Just call 503-238-RIDE and punch in the stop number (you'll find it on the sign or shelter)!
Stop waiting at bus stops!
That's all for today, please come back tomorrow when Portland Transport will feature a discussion of Portland's bicycle program!
There have been some news articles discussing the possibility of building a Wal-Mart store on the property located at 8300 SE McLoughlin Blvd. For over a decade beginning with the South/North Transit Corridor Study this site has been identified by the region as a possible MAX light rail station and park & ride for the Milwaukie MAX extension; and most recently identified as Phase II of the South Corridor Project process.
In April 2003, the South Corridor Policy Committee adopted a "Locally Preferred Alternative" (LPA) that identified light rail as the preferred transportation alternative for extending MAX into Clackamas County and which called out two phased alignments. Phase I would extend light rail from Gateway Transit Center to Clackamas Town Center along I-205; Phase II from downtown Portland to Milwaukie included two possible proposed routings for the future light rail alignment – the "Southgate Crossover" and the "Tillamook" alignment, respectively. Both of those alignment variations through the North Milwaukie Industrial District required use of the site now identified for the Wal-Mart store.
This site was selected for a light rail station and park & ride because of its direct access to Tacoma Street and communities on either side of SE McLoughlin. Proximity to the Springwater Trail was another access consideration. SE Bybee and SE Tacoma streets offer the only points of access to the planned alignment between the Brooklyn neighborhood and downtown Milwaukie. The continuing aspiration for future MAX station and park & ride facilities at this site was reconfirmed through the recent Milwaukie Working Group deliberations that sought to refine siting considerations for the new Milwaukie Transit Center. While the 8300 SE McLoughlin site was not a variable in that exercise, it was consistently represented in the nine transit center scenarios as a MAX station and structured park & ride lot.
Neither the Locally Preferred Alternative identified in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement nor the Land Use Final Order (LUFO) precludes redevelopment of this property. The planned light rail project achieves a more formal federal status only after the completion of a Final Environmental Impact Statement (as is the case for the South Corridor Project first phase along I-205). Thus, the region has no committed resources at this time to present a counter offer to purchase the property.
While the region and TriMet remain interested in this property for transit purposes, the required Final Environmental Impact Statement has yet to be initiated, that when completed would allow purchase of the property.
That work is anticipated to begin under management of Metro and TriMet in early 2006. Other regional partners will contribute to the work and the funding of that study. The property could be developed for a Wal-Mart store before the region has completed the steps necessary to purchase it for extension of MAX to Milwaukie.
Editor's note: You can follow the Wal-Mart story on a number of local blogs:
July 4, 2005
Columbia River Crossing ... a tunnel, a "Burnside Bridge" with MAX, and a freight arterial with added passenger rail capacity ... Let’s call it the "4-4-2."
Deliberations have begun on different options for a Columbia River Crossing. A tunnel under the Columbia River (including Oregon Slough/Portland Harbor) may offer a simple - even elegant, data based and cost effective solution to this transportation challenge - separating through trips from local ones. Then the fun begins...
The I-5 Task Force recommended 10 total lanes - freeway/auxiliary/arterial - and a pair of lightrail tracks between Oregon and Washington; data shows that at least 1/3, if not more, of all trips across the existing Interstate Bridges are of local origin with local destinations. "4-4-2" addresses the growing demand for local access across the Columbia River by creating a variety of options for those trips:
- Four (4) through freeway lanes in a tunnel, going to six (6) lanes at Columbia Blvd. in Portland and Mill Plain Blvd. in Vancouver. (Columbia and Mill Plain are key E/W freight arterials)
- Four (4) arterial lanes for local traffic on existing twin Interstate Bridges with dedicated light rail alignment in what are now the inside lanes.
- Two (2) new arterial lanes designed for freight on upgraded railroad bridge - new lift and possible 3rd track for passenger rail.
- Boulevard type arterial with traffic signals and/or circles for traffic distribution replaces existing freeway between River and Mill Plain; redevelop old freeway right-of-way between downtown Vancouver and Historic Reserve.
- Boulevard type arterial with traffic signals and/or circles for traffic distribution replaces existing freeway from River to Denver Avenue/MLK and Marine Dr; redevelop vacated right-of-way and adjacent property between Columbia and bridgehead.
- Upgrade & widen sidewalks on Interstate Bridges; add bike bridge in space between bridges supported by existing structures.
The Tunnel option simplifies construction logistics, has fewer impacts on river traffic, water quality, fish or air traffic. The conversion of the existing Interstate Bridges, retains historic structures, re-using them in new ways to accommodate local vehicle and transit trips. Removal/conversion of existing freeway segments captures valuable land adjacent to transit, arterials and the River for re-development…commercial, industrial or residental/retail.
The original Interstate Bridge, built in 1917, had four traffic lanes with streetcar tracks - you could take the Union Avenue streetcar to downtown Vancouver! With the construction of I-5 through North Portland and across the River, a second bridge was built and together the twin bridges became I-5 - the arterial and transit connections were lost!
"4-4-2" restores the arterial/rail connectivity between Portland and Vancouver.
July 2, 2005
Transportation advocates have long known that free parking has a high cost: it encourages drive-alone trips, ties up valuable land in acres of impermeable, pedestrian-unfriendly parking lots, and creates business districts lacking in "life on the street." This fantastic article takes a closer look at the high price of free parking in our cities, including Portland:
The central city districts that have done really well in recent years aren’t the ones that have provided the most parking; they’re the ones that have provided the least. Portland, Oregon, instead of expanding its downtown parking capacity, has spent the past 30 years restricting it. There was less parking per capita in downtown Portland in the 1990s than there was in the 1970s. And Portland, as any visitor notices at once, has one of the most successful downtowns in America.
It's not hard to do the math and figure out that if every person in your office block drives their own car to work, it's going to eat up a LOT of land to store their empty cars during the day. Some cities now devote more land to parking in downtown than to all other uses combined! Parking reduction is one of the best tools we have to get people out of their cars, benefiting the environment, public safety, and local businesses, not to mention freeing up land for development.
As the author quotes,
automobile dependency resembles addiction to smoking, and free parking is like free cigarettes...it will take decades for cities to recover from the damage.
July 1, 2005
A common criticism of Portland's Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) is that it drives up housing costs. While I believe there is ample evidence that housing costs have risen even more dramatically in many sprawling regions, a new report offers evidence that Portland's compact urban form generates an economic benefit in reduced transportation costs.
Driven to Spend: Pumping Dollars out of Our Households and Communities, released this month by the Center for Neighborhood Technology and the Surface Transportation Policy Project, puts Portland at position 27 on the list of the country's 28 major Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) for cost of transportation (Baltimore edged us out for the lowest cost). The national average is 19.1% of household expenditures spent on transportation, while here in Portland we come in at 15.1%. Houston is most expensive at 20.9%.
On the housing side of the ledger, the Portland MSA spends 34.5% of household expenditures (12 MSAs are more expensive), against a national average of 32.9%. Looking at housing and transportation combined, we are the fourth most affordable, at 49.6% of household expenditures (national average, 52.0%).
Among the key findings of the report: "Households in regions that have invested in public transportation reap financial benefits from having affordable transportation options, even as gasoline prices rise."
I'll cringe a little bit less as I pay my Trimet fare come September.