August 31, 2005
Last month in a commentary titled "Road funding scheme ignores constitution, physics," Orval Etter charged that the Oregon Department of Transportation hasn't been charging trucks their fair share for the costs of roads.
The Oregon Constitution requires that highway user tax rates ensure "fairness and proportionality" between light (up to 8,000-pound) and heavy (more than 8,000-pound) vehicles. According to Etter, heavy trucks inflict proportionally far more damage on roads than do light vehicles -- the result of a "fourth power law."
Orval Etter of Eugene is an emeritus associate professor of public affairs and administration at the University of Oregon.
But in a recent response titled "Oregon a pioneer in the just division of highway taxes," John Merriss argued that trucks are paying their fair share for the costs of highways.
According to Merriss: "When all costs are considered, the past two Oregon studies have found light vehicles responsible for approximately two-thirds of total highway expenditures and heavy vehicles one-third. These results are generally in line with those of other recent state studies and the 1997 federal study. Therefore, in Oregon, we currently assign two-thirds of the costs of highways to light vehicles and one-third to heavy vehicles."
John Merriss is manager of policy and economic analysis for the Oregon Department of Transportation.
But at its August meeting, the Oregon Transportation Commission approved Oregon Highway Plan. What such a designation means isn't completely clear. But the general intent is to give priority to the needs of truck freight on highways designated as freight routes -- even over the needs of local communities through which highways pass.
Can anyone shed additional light on this issue?
August 30, 2005
Background: As part of my ongoing, seemingly single handed crusade to look at multitasking of sidewalk spaces for multimodal use I was awarded a grant from the Architectural Foundation of Oregon (AFO) to study the ped/bike zone of urban streetscapes in Japan. So...
I am writing from my hotel room in Kobe looking out at the twinkling lights of the Akashi Kaikiyo Bridge - the world’s longest suspension bridge. All the lights, thousands, change into rainbow hues for 5 minutes at the top of each hour (wouldn’t this be great on Portland’s bridges?). It makes a very good reason to keep drinking in the 17th floor rooftop bar for multiple hourly increments. But the prices don’t.
So far I have been in 4 cities, studied dozens of streets (a few in detail), taken about 600 photos, interviewed about 1/2 dozen planners and academics, presented a paper on “Portland vs. Japan” at the 8th Annual Asian Urbanization conference where I learned a lot about things like the evolution of pan-Asian mega-cities and the transportation costs of distributing fresh vegetables in SE Asia (peas are big in India), while also getting a chance to meet and mingle with planners, engineers and geographer types from Nanjing, Taipei, Bangkok, New Delhi, Berlin, Vienna, Kyoto and the University of Akron (Ohio). During our conference bus tour I got within 30 yards of Prime Minister Koizumi (check this out for cultural difference related to street operations: “Oh so sorry, the Prime Minister is on top of a bus making a speech -- yes, that guy right in front of you waving his arms -- and traffic is moving slow around him, apologies we are late due to this vexing unforeseen inconvenience” vs. how many blocks would be barricaded for President Bush?) visited a historic Sake factory, and rode up in a tiny cable car halfway to the stars... uh oh... wrong song. Really all research related, I promise.
A trend is going on in Tokyo, and perhaps all over Japan and SE Asia that I have decided to call “collosalization”. Incoherently platted small properties that date back to Japan’s medieval period are being assembled by big developers who are then bulldozing everything so that gigantic new projects - like the Roppongi Hills complex - can be built. A major concern is whether this new type of development can maintain the fine grained texture of built environment that is so much a part of Japanese culture. There is so much detail everywhere...
Next stop was in Oita City, on the south island of Kyushu. This modest port city of around 500,000 is not so far from the size of Portland .... but imagine a Portland where from Burnside to Terwilliger along SW Broadway is a solid unbroken line of parked bikes, almost stacked on top of each other along the edge of the sidewalk. Imagine women with perfect hair in high heels and Givenchy dresses riding bikes around Nordies downtown - in 90 degree weather. Then imagine trains so long you can’t see either end of them coming into Union Station every five minutes. Even if you hate sushi - this should be Portland’s future! To support all the pedestrian vitality, the investment in paving, urban furnishings, etc. is very impressive. Ooops, room lights out - the bridge is doing its rainbow thing.
Kobe is a major port city of about 1.5 million, maybe not so far from Portland’s future build out(?). Very urbane and to some degree Westernized. Because of the Great Hanshin earthquake ten years ago an unprecedented amount of new building and infrastructure has been put in place. Certainly a city with its own distinct personality and some great streets. It has seven different subway lines, three distinct railway lines (often going almost the same places) a monorail and about a dozen different aerial tram lines. I was interested in this last on Portland’s behalf, but it turns out they are all distinctly touristy, so no commuter cable cars. Unless you would commute to the hot springs.
Aside from sketching, which takes forever, everything takes a lot longer than it would in the US. I stand and stare at the ubiquitous sign monument maps on the street for ages. Figuring out what train to catch, where to eat, which direction to walk in, how to talk to people... it all takes time. And then there are the distractions. Virtually everything: folding bikes, stationary shops, women in kimonos, comic books, robotic welcoming cats, temples, shrines, cable cars (Kobe has them all over the place), did I mention food?
Well, this is getting too long and maybe unfocused. Wanted you all to know I am surviving despite my substandard Japanese and super-standard height (only banged my head once today - improving). It is fabulous being here. Hope I can bring back some condensed experience that will be - if not immediately useful - at least thought provoking.
for now - sayonara,
August 29, 2005
Yeah, Portland is a national leader in transportation and land use planning. Early visionaries set the pace: Governor Tom McCall, Neil Goldschmidt, Ernie Bonner, followed by recent stars: Charlie Hales, Elsa Coleman, Mia Birk, and my favorite Rex Burkholder just to name a few. (Extra)ordinary citizens also shaped the vision of a lively, 24-hour downtown and neighborhoods with destinations worth the trip and the trip worth taking by foot and bike: blank walls right next to a sidewalk are outlawed, public art is plentiful, wide sidewalks and town squares allow us to linger and interact, bike lanes mark the way to sustainable transportation and physical well-being. We understand we must make the route pleasant and convenient or few will choose active transportation over driving. And recently, we have made the connection between public health and transportation, but at the Second International Conference on Gross National Happiness in Nova Scotia, Canadian Catherine O’Brien Ph.D. is asking us to make the connection between happiness and transportation.
Let's incorporate the H word into transportation planning in Portland. Remember when livability rhetoric included transit and pedestrians, but it was hard for leaders to say the B word? Now bicycling is mainstream. Catherine O’Brien says we need to include happiness in the planning process. Plan for children “talking to friends, kicking pebbles, negotiating snow banks, jumping in piles of leaves or puddles.” The Bicycle Transportation Alliance and the Willamette Pedestrian Coalition in partnership with the City of Portland and other communities around Oregon are increasing the opportunities for children to walk and bike to school and kick a few pebbles along the way. Instead of children’s safety perhaps we should make children’s happiness a planning goal.
Consider spiritual wellbeing and transportation. If you ride a bike on a tree-lined avenue or interrupt your walk to admire a neighbor’s blooming passion flower with your child in hand, you know what O’Brien means by spiritual well-being in relation to transportation. O’Brien’s paper quotes Enrique Peñalosa, the former mayor of Bogota.
We had to build a city not for businesses or automobiles, but for children and thus for people. Instead of building highways, we restricted car use. …We invested in high-quality sidewalks, pedestrian streets, parks, bicycle paths, libraries; we got rid of thousands of cluttering commercial signs and planted trees. … All our everyday efforts have one objective: HAPPINESS (conversation with Peñalosa in Ives, 2002).
In Portland, we’ve reached planning goals other cities covet, but how much more can we achieve if we consider happiness first in transportation planning? Can we actually write the H word into the Transportation System Plan?
August 26, 2005
With all the discussion of Peak Oil this week, it seems very appropriate to add this to the bookshelf this week.
Kunstler convincingly makes the case for our proximity to peak production, then goes on the make a very depressing case for the impact this will have on world society and economy. I think (hope) his scenarios are overly pessimistic, but this book keeps me up at night.
One interesting note is that Kunstler lists nuclear as one of the few energy technologies that could readily fill the energy gap left by exhausted fossil fuels. I wonder how the environmental community is going to react to what could become an uncomfortable reality?
The countervailing view of course is that human ingenuity will work out alternative energy sources. But will it happen fast enough to prevent significant disruption?
August 25, 2005
This hit my inbox today:
2005 Pedestrian Crosswalk Enforcement Action
The Enforcement Action was very successful in raising awareness about the 'Stop and Stay Stopped' Oregon Crosswalk Law that requires motorists to stop for pedestrians when they are in the motorist's lane, the lane right before the motorist's lane, or the lane immediately after the motorist's lane.
Police issued a total of 25 citations and 3 warnings to drivers that violated the law during this Enforcement Action. Violation of the law carries a fine of $237.
During the event multiple people that work in the area applauded Police and Transportation for their work in bringing more attention to this crossing.
Moira Green, Lloyd District Traffic Management Association, provided the news media with her own personal near-miss pedestrian crossing experience at this location and expressed her strong concerns for the safety of workers and community residents that use this crossing.
Location: 800 Block of NE Multnomah St. (Tuesday, August 23, 2005)
* Total Citations Issued: 25
* Total Warnings Issued: 3
Biking to work this morning I passed a golf-cart like vehicle that was chugging down the street. I was reminded about how uncreative we are with our choices of vehicles. Most households have a couple of cars -- and those cars are overbuilt for what they're actually used for 95% of the time. They're set up to carry five people, go really fast, etc. -- when almost all our trips are single person to a close destination where speed isn't paramount. It's like using a sledgehammer to kill the housefly, or using a blunderbuss when a rubber band gun would do.
For getting around town, we could use those golf cart vehicles, which, if moving at 20 mph, would get us to our five-mile destination in 15 minutes, compared with 12 minutes for a 30 mph car ride. Many folks are moving to FlexCar for their second car, but we it seems we could be using more scooters, golf carts, electric bikes, etc. (and, of course, normal bikes) for short trips of one person. With transportation expenditures almost equal to housing costs, it seems just cultural expectation (and mental difficulty in adding fixed costs to marginal costs in our heads) that's preventing us from thinking more creatively about matching our vehicles to our needs.
Traveling in the future may involve twelve or twenty significantly different types of vehicles all moving around town. From the Segway to the bike, the wheelchair to the golf cart, the pick-up to the bus, it seems more diversity is the way of the future.
When it comes to bikes, there are definitely some creative vehicles out there, and the industry seems to be constantly offering new products that actually meet the trips -- the new around-town cruisers are the perfect example. When will other industries catch up? What price will gas have to reach?
August 24, 2005
Over at Bike Portland, Jonathan is reporting on an AP story that suggests that our urban design may be one of the reasons that Oregon, unlike other states, did not show an increase in obesity in the most recent reporting period.
The article features our own Linda Ginenthal from the Portland Office of Transportation!
A few weeks ago we introduced the idea of "The Portland Bicycle", an entry-level commuter bicycle that would appeal to folks first entering the bicycle commuting realm, designed and manufactured here in our region.
The discussion identified the need for commuting bikes at a variety of price/feature points, but we'd like to focus on the entry-level model. To recap, this is a bike that can be ridden for short trips, or put on a bus for longer trips, and is aimed at someone who is not an experienced cyclist. It should be ridable in street clothes, and the target price point is $300 or under.
So with those parameters in mind, I'd like to have some additional discussion about specific features, starting with the gearing.
How many gears do we need? 3, 4, 7?
What are the pros and cons of an internal hub versus a traditional derailleur?
What style of shifter would be best?
Share your wisdom!
August 23, 2005
A recent story in the New York Times provides a fascinating and fairly balanced look at worldwide oil supply and demand. In brief, the story is that we don't know for sure, but the long-term prospects are cause for concern. The issue is whether new reserves can be discovered and exploited fast enough to keep up with growing demand, in particular, as China becomes more industrialized and more dependent on oil.
There are those who go around talking about "peak oil," apparently suggesting that soon all of us will be riding bicycles.
I am not one of those people.
Cars and trucks are currently the dominate forms of transportation in the United States, and will likely continue to be for the foreseeable future. Even if oil supplies dry up, it is likely that motor vehicle technology will gradually shift to other sources of energy, thus perhaps making oil and gasoline obsolete but not motor vehicles and roads.
But the cost of gasoline will likely rise significantly over time, if not overnight. We are already seeing that with the current high gasoline prices. Of course, we have seen gasoline prices go up before and they eventually came down. Gasoline prices will probably fall somewhat after summer ends. But the long-term trend is upward.
As the price of gas rises, people won't suddenly stop driving cars and trucks. But failing to plan is planning to fail. And those communities, states or nations that plan for a diversified transportation system that provides multiple practical transportation choices for both people and freight will have an economic advantage over those who don't.
In particular, Oregon and especially the Portland metro area should strive to provide of a diversified transportation system, for economic and security reasons as well as for environmental reasons. We can and must do better in planning for a strong economic future for Oregon, in part, built on a well-diversified transportation system. To do otherwise would be to bury our heads in the (Saudi Arabian) sand.
August 22, 2005
This Friday, August 26, from 9-noon, there will be a Bike Safety Leadership Workshop at Southeast Uplift. There will be a Workshop in each neighborhood district coalition in the city. These meetings will be an opportunity to create a common understanding about bicycle safety issues and to initiate a bicycle safety group in each neighborhood district coalition. This is a great opportunity to become more involved with bike safety issues and to be more involved with your neighborhood. If you are interested, please plan to attend the Workshop that is taking place in your neighborhood district coalition. If you are unsure which coalition you live in, please see http://www.portlandonline.com/oni/index.cfm?c=35789.
The Workshop will include:
- a presentation about bicycle safety (including bike crash map information),
- followed by a bicycle ride to locations emblematic of issues related to bicycle safety in the district,
- followed by a re-group for a discussion about some of the more challenging questions (e.g., how do we respond as a community after a fatality? how do neighborhoods better access Transportation or Police services? etc).
The idea is to build a bicycle safety group in each district coalition that has a common understanding of bike safety issues and to enable a bicycle liaison in the Police precincts.
The schedule for the Workshops is:
Friday, 8/26, 9-12:00: Southeast Uplife (SEUL) 3534 SE Main Fireside Room Thursday, 9/1 from 1-5: Central North Neighborhoods (CNN) 4415 NE 87th in the Community Room Friday, 9/9 from 1-5: North Portland Neighborhood Services (NPNS) (Kenton Firehouse, 8105 N Brandon) Thursday, 9/15 from 1-5: East Portland Neighborhood (EPNO) East Precinct Community Room Thursday, 9/22 from 9-12: Northeast Coalition of Neighbors (NECN) 4815 NE 7th, Community Room
Workshops will be scheduled for Southwest Neighbors, Inc (SWNI) and Neighbors West, Northwest (NWNW) very soon. I will send an announcement of those dates as soon as they are confirmed.
If you have any questions about this effort, please give me a phone call and I'd be glad to provide any information I can.
Community and School Traffic Safety Partnership Portland Office of Transportation
There it was again in the newspaper last week — a throw away line about immigration and drivers licenses in a larger article about immigration and border patrols between Mexico and Arizona. Governor Richardson of Arizona said “I have the most migrant-friendly state” as he cited a policy of issuing drivers licenses without regard to immigration status. Now, what I can’t understand is why immigration status has any thing to do with being a safe driver, which is what a driver’s license is supposed to make sure you are. If you are a pedestrian, bicyclist or even another car driver, wouldn’t you rather be concerned with how safely the driver in the lane next to you is operating their vehicle rather than whether or not they are living in the US legally? The fact that many people use their drivers license as identification has nothing to do with why drivers licenses were required in the first place.
A number of years ago, California had a ballot measure that would have denied public health services to undocumented residents. Public health workers argued and protested against implementation of the measure, I think successfully, because they realized that infectious diseases do not care whether they are being passed from legal residents or non-legal residents. Medical experts have probably never seen an infection virus that asked for legal resident documentation before settling in to cause serious illness.
Identify theft and concerns about terrorists infiltrating our country are hot topics in media today. Identify theft is one issue. But does anyone really think that a person who has come to the US to blow up a building is really worried about whether or not they have a drivers license? Besides, I’ll bet Timothy McVeigh who was a legal US citizen showed his drivers license to rent a truck before he filled it with explosives and drove to the Oklahoma City Federal Building. A drivers license does not prove that some one is unhinged.
Back to Arizona Governor Richardson and his migrant friendly policy. Checking the DMV websites of both Oregon and Arizona, both states ask for similar documentation. Proof of who you are in the form of one or two specific pieces of identification and one or two items from a secondary list of possible documents. The lists look to be the same to me. Neither list states that one must have a legal immigration status or be a US citizen in order to take the test to make sure you know how to drive safely and carry a drivers license. Makes sense to me.
August 19, 2005
I moved to Portland nearly two years ago. The trip across country took our trusty van as a sacrifice for making the distance in Missoula, so my ex and I arrived without motor powered wheels. Since I wasn't willing to drive the beast we named Bert, this was not a concern. Especially given the fact that Portland's transportation system is leaps and bounds beyond Michigan's, another one of those places where you must have a car to get around.
I have lived in Southeast, Southwest, and now North Portland. All places have given me different aspects of commuting to work (next to Willamette Park) and other areas of interest, whether it be a party in Gresham, school at PSU, or seeing a friend's band (Port Authority) play at Kelly's or Porky's.
I have most of my frequently used stop IDs memorized (1152, 11812, 3619, 4466). Recent living without internet has familiarized me even more with 503-238-RIDE (7433); press one to pick your bus stop. Navigating Tri-Met's website is old hat.
Living in Southeast and now North Portland has brought me back to transferring, which I prefer not to do. Living in Southwest was less than one mile to work, so I walked every day, generally on Macadam. I am elated to learn of Metro's desire to study the travel from Lake Oswego to Portland, since Macadam is smelly, noisy, and not pedestrian friendly.
I took the bus to school after the 8-5 quota is over, and generally the bus home, although riding my bike was about the same amount of time as waiting for and then riding the bus (10-20 minutes). Work pays for my bus pass currently because it is school related. But, this too comes at a discount (summer all zone for 2 1/2 months was $75).
I haven't ridden my bike much this summer, but it is another form of transportation I use. I love the exhilarating rush I get when speeding down a hill at 25 or 27 mph, the wind in my face, and the fact that I created that rush with my feet, the pedals, and the bike I partially maintained myself.
Flexcar fills in when I need to be somewhere very soon or a planned event: moving across town, last minute trips the ocean, dinner with a friend who is going to where I came from; emergency Vet visits to Dove Lewis; grocery shopping when carrying laundry detergent, food items, and TP just doesn't quite work on the bus. Flexcar spending ranges from $0 to $200 a month, since my uses for it have varied incredibly – but do not forget that covers maintenance, gas, insurance, and the car's depreciation.
Although the commute is now back to around an hour (50 minutes is the best bet, but I get to work at 7:15 instead of 8), I wouldn't trade it for waiting in rush hour traffic. You can't read a book while waiting for the stop and go to cease. You can't let your mind wander at a red light that's about to turn green. You can't ponder effectively the days upcoming events while paying attention to other cars, pedestrians, and cyclists.
The more I slow down my transportation, the more I notice which new store is coming up, which one left, the garter snake scurrying out of my way, and the many slugs Portland has to offer and other bugs you must step around. Don't forget the beautiful flowers I now have time to stop and smell. I step outside of my reclusive box everyday to familiarize myself with strangers on public transit with all of its glory - the smiling bus drivers to that odd urine smell. I won't trade that for rush hour and an air conditioned cage.
August 18, 2005
Guest contributor Patrick Donaldson is a member of the Hollywood Boosters.
As one of Portland's oldest organized business districts the Hollywood District continues to identify new methods of attracting and keeping customers for the various goods and services available in our Northeast Portland community.
During the expansion of bicycle lanes throughout the city it became apparent that not all areas were as excited about the prospect of compression of automobile travel paths, reduced, eliminated or modified automobile parking spaces and the general concern about 'change'.
The Hollywood Boosters, who represent the varied interests of over five hundred land owners, building owners, and business owners and operators viewed the bicycle lane issue as an opportunity to attract new customers - those using bicycles as their mode of transport. Thus, we were able to work cooperatively with Louise Tippens of the City of Portland to achieve what most people believe was a 'nonevent,' namely more parking in our district for more people - who happen to be traveling via bicycle.
We have subsequently added creative bicycle racks and plan to add more of the same as well as standard means of securing and sheltering bicycles while employees, customers and visitors use the Hollywood District.
Our dilemma - the Sandy Blvd. Resurfacing & Streetscape project is about to finish their work followed on the heels by the Hollywood Sewer Project. Both of these initiatives will cause disruption to normal patterns of traffic for pedestrians, bicycles and automobiles. We are concerned that the efforts made so far could cause a reduction in ridership or conversely an increase in need for modes of transportation other than automobiles.
Does anyone have any thoughts on this?
In addition, METRO will be hosting its "Get Centered" event in the Hollywood District Thursday, October 27, 2005. The purpose is to showcase the area and attract new development.
The Hollywood Boosters will work to ensure that all future development not only accommodates pedestrian, bicycle and mass transit but actually creates even more opportunity for people to utilize these forms of transportation.
We look forward to anyone and everyone's thoughts as we attempt to create business vitality and success in changing times.
August 17, 2005
Back in March I almost became a pedestrian statistic when I chose to tangle with an impatient motorist and learned the hard way you can’t stop a car with your bare hands. The encounter catapulted me into the street on the back of my head, landed me in the E.R., and threw my autonomic nervous system seriously out-of-whack.
Kaiser therapist Sue Davis offered me tools to get some balance back. But after a few sessions, she said, “I want you to think about this: your sense of what’s right and wrong led you to put your life in danger. Maybe you could write an essay about that?”
I started pondering my own notions of right and wrong, and all the ideas that are present in our culture. I grew up in a family of people who know what’s right and are not afraid to set you straight. I hadn’t really thought before about how that was related to my work of doing right and trying to make the world a better place for pedestrians.
In this matter of the crash it was clear that I was wrong, at least by some standards. I got launched because I held onto a car, trying to stop it, while the driver accelerated. Didn’t I understand physics? The police officer who responded lectured me on my folly. The driver’s insurance adjuster determined that I was more at fault than her client. The attorney I consulted said that the moment I touched the car I crossed a line and cut the legs out from under any case I might have had. One of the witnesses called me, weeks after the incident, to let me know he thought I was at fault.
On the other hand, there were those to whom it was perfectly clear that the driver was wrong. She had honked at me to get out of her way when I was crossing with the walk light, shouted at me when I tried to talk to her, and floored the accelerator when I tried to keep her from going on in front of me. These listeners were indignant on my behalf and shocked that the driver hadn’t been charged. Friend after friend offered sympathy and support, and many related their own frightening interactions with rude drivers.
My husband, Scott, didn’t see that right and wrong came into it. “You weren’t wrong,” he said. “You just made a tactical mistake. You never should have moved from in front of the car. You had the physical advantage, and you gave it up.”
As I thought about the many faces of right and wrong I asked my friends and family to explore the subject with me. Is there a continuum of righteousness? I imagined that at one end might be the struggle for social justice. Isn’t it right to work to change what is wrong, to undo injustices and to rectify inequalities? Was Rosa Parks right or wrong when she refused to move to the back of the bus? Did right or wrong enter into it? What about the lone man who stood up to the tanks in Tiananmen Square? What would Gandhi have done in my crosswalk?
And if there is a spectrum, what’s at the other end? Shushing someone at the symphony, or sweetly informing a litterbug, “Pardon me, you dropped something...”? Can we possibly hope to raise the level of civility by correcting uncivil behavior? No one responds well to scolding.
I learned a lot about the convictions of my friends. One dear friend is so passionate about what he thinks is right and wrong in bicycling that he rides after and catches up to miscreants who run red lights on their bikes so he can lecture them on how they make all bicyclists look bad. But another, hearing about that, asked if he would have told Rosa Parks she was making Blacks look bad? Yet another recounted how, while riding MAX, she snatched the cigarette from the fingers of a young person who had the temerity to light up, quite illegally – and crushed it under her heel. “What possessed me,” she wondered afterward. “I could have been shot.”
I thought about the behavior of a motorist who passed Scott and me as we biked home together one evening, just two blocks from our house. As he passed, gunning his engine, he rolled down the passenger-side window to shout, “You’re supposed to ride single-file, a**holes.” Scott thought the driver – who turns out to live just a couple blocks away from us – was just a jerk, with a reaction totally out of proportion to any delay he suffered behind us on a quiet neighborhood street. I pondered whether the driver’s reaction really was a deep personal affront that we were not following the rules of the road.
Another friend shared curiously parallel story, only she was the driver who confronted the cyclists. She thought they were rude and unfair to refuse to move from riding abreast to riding single file so she could safely pass them on a winding country road. After she did pass them, and reached her destination, she walked back out to the road and stopped the two bikers as they came by, so she could bring them to a sense of their iniquity. As I listened to her tell the story, I couldn’t help but reflect privately that if she had enough time to stop and confront them, she could have equally well have used the same time to drive slowly behind them to her destination.
I began to think about the duality of these tales. It’s a truism that there are two sides to every story, and it seems each side is hardened in the belief of being in the right by the nature of these traffic-related encounters.
I came back to thinking about the driver who honked at me. Whatever value judgment could be made about my subsequent actions, surely she was wrong to honk at me? My grown son Colin had a wonderful insight. “It’s like this, Mom,” he said. “She was in a hurry, you got in front of her, she said ‘Oh, balls,’ and she honked. To you, that was as out of line as someone making fake farting noises in church. But to her it wasn’t like being in church. It was like being a second grader at an assembly. Everyone makes fake farting noises.”
David Engwicht, the Australian social inventor who brought traffic calming to prominence and then disowned it, has a gem of new book out, Mental Speed Bumps: The smarter way to tame traffic. In it, he postulates that we can experience “an outbreak of civility” on our neighborhood streets if we just bring out the storyteller in motorists. Offer them intrigue, uncertainty and humor, and their storyteller persona will take over to try to fit a story to what they see. They will unconsciously slow down, and everyone will have a better time.
I imagine my encounter with the young motorist unfolding differently. Instead of righteousness, I respond with humor. I see myself dancing in the crosswalk, one hand circling up, breaking into song like Diana Ross: “STOP, for pe-DES-tr-ians! Before you break my head!” My heart is lighter, just visualizing this. Yes, it’s life-and-death out there in the streets. But giving in to rage is not the answer. Maybe I’ll try intrigue, next time.
August 16, 2005
Updated: OTC/LCDC move away from State Planning Goals, towards building roads in response to development
Update: 1000 Friends has put their official comments to the workgroup (PDF, 245K) online.
A primary purpose of the Transportation Planning Rule (TPR), which implements Statewide Planning Goal 12 (Transportation), is to assure that land uses and transportation systems are planned together "to reduce reliance on 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."
Because it is very difficult to construct a new road through a developed area and because a road once built is very difficult to move or remove, it is critical that land uses and transportation system be planned together to get the roads and other transportation facilities right the first time.
But a joint subcommittee of the Land Conservation Development Commission (LCDC) and the Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC) is looking to change the purpose of the rule to deemphasize coordinated land use and transportation planning and to emphasize building more roads to serve development that has already occurred -- an approach that would likely cost taxpayers more, use up land quicker and be no more effective at controlling traffic congestion.
The subcommittee was originally created to address concerns about the extent to which there should be adequate transportation facilities to serve new development arising out of the Jaqua v. City of Springfield (PeaceHealth) case decided by LUBA and the Court of Appeals. But those issues were mostly resolved last March when LCDC clarified the applicable rules.
But now the subcommittee is moving forward to change other parts of the rule, with no mandate for doing so.
While the current staff proposal states that the TPR "implements Statewide Planning Goal 12 (Transportation) and provisions of other statewide planning goals related to transportation planning," staff has so far ignored Goal 12 and the other planning goals. Rather, the real goal of the effort appears to be to satisfy certain vocal developers and other special interests to allow development with few restrictions -- and to facilitate ODOT constructing highways after the fact in response to such development .
The next meeting of the advisory TPR Work Group, which consists of some interested stakeholders, is on Tuesday, August 2, 9 am - noon, at the ODOT HR Training Center, 2775 19th Street SE, Salem, OR 97302-1503 from 9 am - 12 pm. The next meeting of the joint subcommittee is on Friday, September 23, 8 am - noon, at the same location.
If you would like to know more, please contact me.
Editor's note: Jerry passes on this link to a bike rental program in France:
Could this be made to work in Portland? Is there a market for bicycle rentals if access is made convenient enough?
August 15, 2005
When Commissioner Adams was assigned the Portland Office of Transportation (the real name for the bureau we affectionally call PDOT), he took charge of an agency with two key staffing vacancies.
The director position is open, vacated as part of the Mayor's 'Commissioner of Everything' period. Perhaps equally important, the Division of Transportation Planning is also missing a head, following the retirement of Laurel Wentworth.
These two positions will be critical for shaping the next phase of Portland's transportation history. In particular, the Planning chief sits on TPAC (at Metro) and helps form regional consensus (to be backed up politically by Commissioner Adams sitting on JPACT). So the impact of these hires extends to the whole region.
So let's help Sam with his hiring process. What kind of qualities should he look for in these two key hires? Do you have individuals you want to nominate?
August 14, 2005
The brainchild an ex-county commissioner, Rick Bauman, Bridge Pedal has exploded since its rough beginning 10 years ago to becoming the place to be on the third Sunday of August. 20,000 or so riders packed the streets and bridges today, so many, in fact, that there were traffic jams!!!
But, the big difference was, everyone was smiling from ear to ear.
Modeled on a famous ride in Montreal, the Bridge Pedal offers something for everyone, from the die hard racer on their 15 lb. Speed mobiles (some of whom rode the 38 mile loop twice!) to families riding old street bikes pulled out of the garage just for this event. I saw riders in tu-tus and riders in pirate gear. There was even a bicycle for four!
While the event is a bit like Disneyland's ersatz Main Street with the bridges and streets closed to traffic with volunteers (THANK YOU
VOLUNTEERS!) at every corner, we have found that getting people out on their bikes for events like this opens their minds to the idea that this could just possibly be something to use to get to the store, to school or even to work!
From its humble beginnings as almost a pirate ride, with ODOT, the police, PDOT and everyone else grumbling about such a unorthodox use of the roads (they're for cars, dammit), the Bridge Pedal has become the place to see and be seen by agencies and politicos. Besides myself, there were 3 Metro Councilors and I saw Mayor Potter and City Councilor Sam Adams.
We owe a lot in this town to people like Rick Bauman, whose craziness is infectious and fun. Closing down Interstate Highways so the people can have fun?! Putting a bike helmet on Portlandia!?
Thank you Rick. Thank you Providence. Thank you Portland!
August 12, 2005
If you're not one of the 19,000 of us who will be crossing and re-crossing the Willamette River on Sunday during the Providence Bridge Pedal, then you might want to look at the following to help get around. TriMet has provided information on bus detours and Mike Pullen from the County passes along the following:
As usual, the event will require some changes in how motorists get around the city, especially when crossing the Willamette River. Several bridges -– including the Broadway, Burnside, Morrison and St. Johns -- will remain open to vehicular traffic in both directions, despite the presence of cyclists and walkers.
Here is the traffic plan that will be in effect for Bridge Pedal:
- The Sellwood Bridge will be closed westbound from 6:30 am to 8:30 am.
- The Ross Island Bridge will be closed westbound from 6:30 am to 10:30 am, with TriMet bus service operating in both directions.
- The Marquam Bridge will be closed northbound (upper deck) from 5:30 am to 11:00 am.
- The Hawthorne Bridge will be closed eastbound from 6:00 am to 10:30 am, with TriMet bus service operating in both directions. The outside eastbound lane will be closed beginning Saturday evening.
- The Morrison Bridge will be open in both directions. One eastbound lane will be closed from 6:00 am to 8:30 am.
- The Burnside Bridge will be open in both directions. One westbound lane will be closed from 6:30 am to 11:00 am.
- The Steel Bridge will be closed in both directions from 6:30 am until noon. TriMet bus and MAX service will operate in both directions.
- The Broadway Bridge will be open in both directions. One eastbound lane will be closed from 6:30 am to 11:00 am.
- The Fremont Bridge will be closed southbound (upper deck) from 5:30 am to 11:30 am.
- The St. Johns Bridge will have one lane open in both directions, with two lanes closed from 8:00 am to 11:30 am.
Bridge Pedal will also require traffic changes on several state highways and Portland streets Sunday morning, including:
- I-5 and I-405: Motorists approaching the Marquam Bridge on northbound I-5 will be routed to northbound I-405 during the temporary Marquam Bridge closure (from 5:30 am to 11:00 am). The two right lanes of southbound I-405 to northbound I-5/Marquam Bridge will be closed. Motorists on southbound I-405 will be able to access southbound I-5 at all times. All lanes of southbound I-5 will remain open at all times.
- U.S. 30: The right lane of eastbound U.S. 30 will be closed between NW Kittridge Ave. and the St. Johns Bridge.
- Naito Parkway will be closed in both directions between SW Columbia and the Steel Bridge. NW Naito Parkway/NW Front Ave. will be closed southbound from NW Nicolai to the Steel Bridge. SW Naito will be closed northbound from SW Harrison to SW Columbia.
- SW Macadam Ave.: One northbound lane will be closed between the Sellwood Bridge and Ross Island Bridge, with some delays accessing areas east of SW Macadam Ave.
- Access to OMSI will be open, with delays.
- N Willamette Blvd. will be closed eastbound between N Richmond Ave. and N Portland Blvd.
- N Greeley Ave. will be closed southbound from N Killingsworth St. to N Interstate Ave.
- N Ivanhoe St. will be closed between N Leavitt Ave. and N Philadelphia Ave.
The Broadway, Burnside, Morrison and Hawthorne drawbridges will not be able to open for river traffic between 6:00 am and noon.
My Commute: 7th and NE Graham St to SW 12th and Morrison St
About 75% of the time, when I go into the office, I ride my bike.
When I do, my route is NE 7th St South to Broadway. I turn West and ride down to the Broadway Bridge. At around 11th, I turn South and go across the Pearl and Burnside into SW. On Morrison I turn west and go about a block to my office, right above the grand Bicycle Transportation Alliance.
Recent tragedies involving cars hitting people on foot and bike, particularly more than one along my exact commute in the last two months, have prompted me to consider better routes including MLK to Russell, and across Williams to the bike lane that then heads south to meet up with Broadway safely west of the I-5 North onramp that is so dangerous on Broadway and Interstate.
When I do not ride in, I usually telecommute. Challenges here include a good solid connection to the servers at the office so that I can efficiently run MS Exchange and share files. A VPN connection with my Mac is not as seamless for me as for other employees with Windows but I hope to get a previously-established-now-mysteriously-not-working VPN tunnel going again soon.
We are out of our offices for the next TWO WEEKS for some remodeling so there’s no time like the present...
I absolutely love commuting to work by bike.
August 11, 2005
Many of the models of great public squares were European of course, but Pioneer Courthouse Square compared favorably. Esther Short Park in Vancouver was also discussed in detail (and with compliments).
A key difference between European and American squares/plazas/piazzas is that in Europe the square extends all the way to the building faces, while in America they are almost always bounded by streets. Which is an excellent reminder that streets are an important part of the public realm and very important in how they frame public spaces.
So what examples can you site for streets in our region that make great public spaces or set off other public space? What are the biggest opportunities lost?
Of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the great work of City Repair (pictured left).
August 10, 2005
We're making a few editorial changes on the site.
First, we've changed the tagline to "A conversation about access and mobility in the Portland/Vancouver region". The change is intended to recognize that access is just as important as mobility (as discussed in a number of threads) and to include our friends across the river, since the intent is for this to be a regional site.
Second, we'll be changing our publication schedule a bit. In watching visitor patterns for the first month, we've noticed that there's not a lot of activity on the weekends. So, at least for the doldrums of August, we'll focus on publishing new content on weekdays, moving the 'My Commute' feature to Fridays. Of course, if there's breaking news, we'll bring it to you whenever it happens. We'll reevaluate this policy in the fall.
A great overview of Transit Oriented Development principles and practices. Covers issues from planning to finance including case studies based on actual projects.
Explains why many TOD projects to date have failed to meet expectations (some have been oversold). Discusses the natural tension between being a 'place' and being a node in a transportation system.
Today's question: How is Transit Oriented Development doing in our region? Which projects have been successes? Which not?
August 9, 2005
Congress has passed H.R. 3, SAFETEA-LU, and submitted it to the President for his signature. The legislation amends Titles 23 and 49 of the United States Code and authorizes the expenditure of $286.5 billion dollars over the next five years (2005-2009).
Bicycling, walking, and transit seem to have done pretty well. DeFazio, Blumenauer, and others also brought in the bacon for Oregon, including PSU’s Transportation Center, a Mega Project that includes fixing bridges, Street Car demonstration project, and other. However other groups, such as STPP, criticize the effort as a highway bill and failing to really increase funding for new transit.
What do people think, what new work does this create? How can we best shape Oregon’s’ transportation system in light of this new five year funding program?
The BTA website has more information on how H.R.3 impacts bicycling and walking.
[Editor's Note: Scott is being modest. He was instrumental in getting Safe Routes to School legislation adopted at the state level this session!]
August 8, 2005
In 1991 the Congress declared the end of the decades long public works program we know as the Interstate Highway system. Inspired by the German autobahn and horrified by the efficiency of the Nazi war machine, President Dwight Eisenhower envisioned a high speed network of roadways between cities to allow fast deployment of armies in event of invasion. (Originally, the interstate freeways were to end at the edge of cities, not plow through them but that is another sad tale of Congressional pork-barreling best saved for another day.)
50 years and oh so many trillions of dollars later, just about anywhere you might want to go (and some places you wouldn’t) have a 4-10 lane, limited access highway. So, what to do when the big suck of highway building is done? It was called ISTEA, the Intermodal Surface Transportation Act of 1991. This 6 year re-authorization of federal transportation spending included a huge shift in policy; made spending categories flexible and gave more spending authorities to metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs). There were set asides for non-highway projects and the idea that people need transportation options like transit, bikeways and sidewalks became federal policy.
14 years later, what is in the new transportation spending bill just passed by Congress? Given the anti-diluvean, reality-averse character of the ruling party (intelligent design?), the good news is that most of the reforms of ISTEA remain. And some good new additions were made like $600M for Safe Routes to School and a small increase in planning funds for metropolitan areas. Oregon’s delegation is also increasing its clout, with Rep. DeFazio playing a major role in bringing home the earmark bacon--returning to Oregon more money than we pay in federal gas taxes. But earmarks make up only about 10% of the total $286Billion in the bill yet get most of the attention.
The money is heavily skewed towards building new roads, which pleases the land developers who get new lands opened up at public expense, but doesn’t include enough to keep the existing roadway network functioning (one of the big earmarks Rep. DeFazio got was $160M for fixing bridges on I-5. But Oregonians are paying $2.5 Billion of their own money to fix bridges on the national highway system (I-5 and I-84) including bonding of most future modernization revenue leaving most other state projects withering on the vine).
Highway projects continue to get a massive federal overmatch of 80% (raised to 90% in Oregon, again thanks to DeFazio) and require little in the way of justification while transit projects go through a process that could have been devised by Torquemada and typically get only 50% federal funding.
By default, American transportation policy continues to serve the interests of a few: the truckers (who fight desperately any “subsidies” of the more efficient rail system), land developers and the automobile-industrial complex. It is also anti-city (blue-red?) because cities don’t need more roads, they need functioning alternatives to commuting by car which would also free up road space for freight movement to keep these economic centers humming. Contrast this to European and Asian countries that use high gasoline taxes and highway tolls to develop comprehensive, convenient and speedy transit systems that give people real choice in how they travel, support high quality urban environments and support the economy.
Add to the fire an Energy Bill that continues to heavily subsidize oil and gas companies (as Oregon’s gasoline prices hit record highs—what’s happened to the free market, guys?) and ignore alternatives…
I guess I’ve answered my question, “Does America have a Transportation Policy?”
Americans will keep on driving until the oil runs out.
August 7, 2005
Commute: "To travel as a commuter or to make substitution or exchange", are two definitions of the word commute. I choose to look to the second definition as to what I personally believe to be true.
I moved here from Phoenix, AZ less than a year ago, and if you know anything about Phoenix, you have to DRIVE everywhere. Let me be the first to tell you that it was awful. When I first moved here I was so used to driving, that I did in fact drive everywhere, that is until I learned what TriMet could really do for me. So here is my story:
I have since ditched my car, it sits in my covered parking space, and it is collecting cobwebs as we speak. I have not driven my car since April, and I don't plan on driving it any longer.
I live in Beaverton and currently work for Nike at the WHQ. I live about a mile from work and I walk everyday to and from, rain or shine. (A little rain never hurt anyone right?) It amazes me the amount of people who live so close to Nike that could walk, or bike, or even take the MAX, and yet they choose to drive. Nike does have shuttle service from the Beaverton Creek MAX stop to the campus here, so why should you drive everyday? And I hear them all complain about not being able to find parking. Who would've thought? Actually it irritates me a little that they DO choose to drive! But this is about my commute, not my irritation with drivers and cars.
As far as any other places I need to go I always utilize TriMet. I do many after work activities in which I will take public transportation, and I could care less if it takes me an hour and half. For example I play rugby for the Portland Avalanche, and we practice at Delta Park. So two days a week I go from Nike in Beaverton to the Delta Park MAX stop. My commute is around an hour, plus another 15-20 minutes walk to the space where we practice. I love this commute because it totally prepares me mentally for the game. I also co-chair for Human Rights Campaign and I normally have two meetings a month and one event to attend a month. All of these meetings and events take place all over the Portland Metro area, and guess how I get there? You got it, Bus, MAX, or Streetcar.
I get a lot of flack for taking MAX, or bus, but to me it is my alone time you know? I am so busy and always on the go, that, rather than be irritated and raising my blood pressure my driving, I take public transportation and relax. I love to read and listen to music, and I would normally not have time to do these activities if it weren't for TriMet. Portland's public transportation system is amazing, and I feel I am a better person for using it.
August 6, 2005
It's been a sad summer in the bicycling community.
A friend called me Monday night to report the fifth cyclist death in a Portland-area crash since the start of June. We must stop and mourn the deaths and honor the lives of our neighbors, our friends, and our family members. We also have to respond, and act today to prevent future deaths.
The media are writing and reporting on the issue, with a bleed-and-lead headline blaring from last Friday's Portland Tribune "Walk, ride at your peril." That's irresponsible journalism, as biking and walking remain relatively safe activities. But it's right for people to be concerned.
Community members are looking to point fingers, wanting to know "Why is this happening, and who should be blamed?" After five deaths, it would ease our minds if there were a single reason. But there is no single reason.
Luckily, there are things we can do. Most of these crashes are not just accidents – they are preventable. Whether or not we take the actions we know will improve safety, instead of wishing the deaths away, depends on our collective will.
First, as drivers and cyclists, we have to act responsibly when we're on the road. As drivers, we need to yield to bikes, drive defensively and at reasonable speeds, not drink and drive, forgo distractions such as talking on cell phones, and generally be courteous and thoughtful. As cyclists, we need to be visible and ride predictably and defensively. We need to yield to others when appropriate and be aware that drivers may not see us. Sharing our roads doesn't have to be deadly. People can learn more at www.easytoshare.com.
Second, law enforcement officials need to respond effectively and send a clear message that our roads must be safe for all. Negligent and dangerous drivers who are making our roads unsafe by speeding through neighborhoods and in school zones, running red lights, and driving while drunk, must be cited, especially when their actions result in deaths.
Third, our elected officials must dedicate the required resources to identify the most dangerous roads and bridges and fix them, as well as improving safety during every upgrade. The Oregon Department of Transportation recently spent $38 million revamping the St. Johns Bridge and failed to include safe bike facilities. That should be unacceptable.
Fourth, community partners such as the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA), schools, and Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) must work to educate drivers and bicyclists about safely sharing the road. The BTA and others will continue to provide bike safety education classes to beginning cyclists, working to create safe habits for a lifetime. The DMV should make sure drivers get the same training.
Fifth, the media should continue to draw attention to the crashes, in a thoughtful and responsible way. While drawing attention to specific problems and incidents, media stories should remind us that bicycling remains a safe way to move about Portland, and has long-term health benefits that far outweigh the odds of being in a crash. Moreover, bicycling is getting safer and safer as more people bicycle, as drivers are getting more used to people on the road. The media should also remind us that driving is a dangerous activity, both for drivers and other road users. Every year in Portland, roughly fifteen times more drivers and passengers die than cyclists, yet those deaths fade into the background.
Each bicyclist's death is tragic. But those deaths will be even more tragic if we do not act decisively, and take actions that we know can save lives today.
August 5, 2005
Which puts me in mind that over the longer term, the ambition for Portland Transport is to extend beyond being a conversation about mobility to also be a resource center for mobility. To that end, I'm looking to attract some volunteer geeks to work on this. Skills needed include:
So if you're jazzed about alternative modes, have these skills, or other technical website skills, get in touch with me.
By the way, on a transportation-related note about the conference, the bike racks were overflowing (not with my bike however, I hoofed it from NW Portland). I don't know if that happens at other conferences at the convention center, but our local open source folks clearly include a biking contingent!
There was also at least one Segway, whatever that means :-)
August 4, 2005
[Apparently my prior title for this post was too cynical :-)]
I had actually suggested this idea to Commissioner Adams shortly after he was elected. I suspect that others inside PDOT smarter than me may have originated it independently, but I still feel a small glow of pride...
Good for the City and good for Flexcar!
The following is a dramatization of actual events. Actual dialog and concepts presented have been compressed and highlighted for loggification purposes:
So I'm sitting there at the sushi bar with Portland's Consul General from Japan, asking him for advice on my upcoming fellowship study (which isn't easy to do in Japanese - especially as the sake starts to take effect).
"So - the Architectural Foundation of Oregon has given you a grant to go to my country to study... what exactly?" he asks.
"Urban Design issues" I tell him. "I'm fascinated by all the activity that takes place in the pedestrian zones along street edges in Japan. The built environment seems so chaotic, no one seems to be following any rules, and yet it all works so beautifully. I really want to study this."
The Consul General, an urbane, westernized diplomat to his toes, pauses for a second, sake cup halfway to his lips. "BAKA!!" (you idiot!) he exclaims, slaming the table and almost upsetting the sake. "My country has nothing to teach the West about urban design! We can only learn from you! Go to Europe!" He then launches into a monlogue about how much he hates walking on the street in Tokyo.
Hmmm. At this moment I have the realization -- it's going to be even more difficult than I thought. Before I can learn from my hosts, I may have to convince them they have something worth studying.
And yet - despite the GC's extolling the "order" of European streets -- the latest, hotest transportation design theory coming out of Europe is "shared space", the concept of creating roadway anarchy - no directions, no grade separations, no signalized interstections - to promote harmonious use of transportation infrastructure. Can you imagine anything more threatening to a classically trained traffic engineer?
"Who has the right of way? I don't care. People have to find their own way, negotiatie for themselves, use their own brains" says Hans Monderman, an avante garde Dutch traffic engineer (not at the sushi bar with us, but talking w/a NYT reporter earlier this year).
As some of you know, selected towns in Europe have actually done it - ripped out all their traffic signage, their traffic lights and their sidewalks - and found that it works great. An intersection in the Dutch town of Drachten, reconfigured by Mr. Monderman, handles 20,000 cars a day without signage, traffic lights or sidewalks.
But Japanese urban design (or lack thereof) and streetscape environment goes far beyond this. The most common word used by Westerners to describe it is "chaos". The most common reaction: paralysis due to total sensory overload. Do Japanese streets work in spite of it? or because of it?
How different is Portland with it's minutely detailed design review directives for buildings (this architect knows full well), its heavily regulated streets and it's draconian laws against any type of two or three dimensional information display! Portland's goal is to create an urban environment where human activity can flourish and transportation via all modes is encouraged. But if that is the case - how much better the "chaos" of urban Japan accomplishes this than does Portland!
Bike/ped/transit splits in the cities I will be visiting (some no bigger than Portland) must be 80% or more. Shop densities and sales volumes put NW 23rd Ave. to shame.
We have certainly made immense progress in turning Portland into a liveable 24 hour city, but I think most would acknowledge we still have a long way to go. Have we reached a plateau, or even a state of diminishing returns where more and more design and traffic regulation is bringing about less and less desirable change and increased vitality?
All questions I am looking to - not answer, but to think more about during my travels in Japan. Please get me any ideas, questions, hot spots, etc.
you may have for my study. And stand by for future postings from the land of the rising sun. I leave next Monday for seven(!) weeks.
August 3, 2005
Listen to the show (mp3, 12.7M)
- Safety for cyclists
- Jonathan Maus from bikeportland.org, a popular Portland bike blog, talks about great bike blogs and other bike-related web sites.
There is a lot of hand-wringing going on in some quarters of the business and transportation policy communities about the "freight problem." How do we keep trucks moving on what appear to be congested roadways. Curiously, until recently there was only scattered data on this issue; the I-5 Task Force - aka "Trade Partnership" - made its recommendations based on virtually no freight data other than Port assertions that the volumes will grow.
The Portland Freight Master Plan has begun to pull data together from PDOT, the Port and ODOT. Some of that data shows that traffic volumes on two key industrial area arterials, Columbia Blvd. and Going Street, have actually declined in the last five years! Furthermore, 20 year projections show most of the growth in freight movement will occur in industrial/employment areas adjacent to the Willamette & Columbia Rivers, and the existing arterials there will handle that growth (see Technical Memo #4 PDF 4.6MB). Freight delays are likely on NW St. Helens road and SE McLoughlin, but those delays have more to do with commuters than with trucks. So maybe we can relax a bit when it comes to freight movement on the arterial front.
How about the regional freeway network?
One piece of data that was presented to the I-5 Task Force several years ago showed that only about 10% of the vehicles on I-5 in the peak hours are moving freight. Most of our congestion at those times is due to people driving to work, and most of them are alone in the their vehicles. Offering those commuters options to driving alone to work would appear to be the most cost effective means to increase the % of vehicles carrying freight in the peak hours.
Other interesting numbers to consider: 50% of congestion is incident related, which suggests that we can do a lot better in managing incidents. And last it should be noted that the peak hours (approx. two hours in the AM and three in the PM) represent just over 10% of the total operational time of any freeway. Put another way, for 90% of the time even our most congested freeway works pretty well. Efficiencies over 90% cost a lot of money!
The focus for those of us seeking to improve the movement of freight needs to be increasing the efficiency of existing roadway capacity - something any business would do. Give folks stuck on I-5 an option and many will happily take it. So watch out for "freight" projects that add capacity - they may only make matters worse for that vital sector of the transportation picture - everyone knows that most capacity increases will be overwhelmed by commuters - most of them alone in their cars - swearing at the trucks.
Because, when it comes to the subject of freight and how it gets around, It isn't so much that the public isn't conscious of a "freight problem,"... it just thinks trucks ARE the problem.
August 2, 2005
US Senator Gordon Smith today met with Washington County officials announcing he has secured a commitment from US Secretary of Transportation Norm Mineta to allow the Washington County Commuter Rail project to move forward. The event was held at TriMet's Beaverton Transit Center, the first station along the 14.7-mile Washington County Commuter Rail project.
In February the project was recommended in the President's budget, but has since been stalled due to an 11th hour rule change by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) adjusting their cost effectiveness calculation, bumping the project out of range to get a recommended rating and a Full Funding Grant Agreement.
Senator Smith led the Oregon Delegation in securing a legislative fix to the FTA's new rules and allow the project to move into construction. He also worked with the delegation in getting language in the Transportation Reauthorization bill that just passed Congress that would also remove the FTA roadblock.
Additionally, Senator Smith has secured $15 million for the project in the Senate Appropriations bill, and will work with the rest of the delegation to ensure the $15 million remains in the final appropriations bill expected to pass Congress in October.
"Senator Smith's leadership and commitment means that in this heavily-congested corridor we will soon have an alternative mode of transportation," said TriMet General Manager Fred Hansen. "He led the Oregon delegation in making sure this project will serve the cities of Beaverton, Tigard, Tualatin and Wilsonville."
Washington County Chair Tom Brian said that local officials "have been advocating for this project for nearly a decade because it will improve mobility and will help strengthen the economic vitality of the cities along the alignment."
Other local dignitaries attended today’s event to thank Senator Smith for his efforts, including Metro President David Bragdon, Washington County Commissioner Roy Rogers, Beaverton Mayor Rob Drake, Wilsonville Mayor Charlotte Lehan, Sherwood Mayor Keith Mays, Tigard City Councilor Sydney Sherwood and Tualatin City Councilor Jay Harris.
The project is now in final design, with 75 percent of the work complete. The design work will now begin again and should be completed by the end of year. The project is expected to sign a Full Funding Grant Agreement in mid-2006 and begin construction shortly thereafter. The commuter rail project could open in fall 2008.
The 14.7-mile commuter rail line would use existing freight tracks to add transit service in the heavily traveled I-5 and Hwy 217 corridor. The line would connect with MAX light rail in Beaverton, then travel to Tigard, Tualatin and Wilsonville. Travel time between the five stations would take 37 minutes, with service every 30 minutes during rush hour.
One of the pieces of news this week from the Federal Transportation Bill was funding to prototype local manufacture of streetcars, so that we might have a true "Portland Streetcar".
Well, Portland Transport doesn’t have $4M for a project, but we do have a very creative audience. On several threads it has been remarked that bicycles on the market in the U.S. are optimized for racing or the open road, not for commuting. So today's question is could we specify, design and manufacture a "Portland Bicycle" for the commuting market that would have a strong local market AND be an export product for our region?
I'm told we have local bike frame manufacturing (and certainly an active metals industry), so I don't see any inherent obstacles.
Let's start out with the specifications. I know several of the cycloscenti in Portland ride bikes from the Trek Lxxx series, manufactured in Europe as commuting bikes and imported on a limited basis to the U.S. But when I priced one, it was in the $700+ range, way beyond the means of the masses.
So what do we want in a commuting bike for our region? I'll start with two requirements:
1) Usable in street clothes, which means fenders and a chain guard.
2) Fits the standard rack on a TriMet bus (why my recumbent is very dusty).
So what else does the “Portland Bike” require? Weight? Price point? Gearing? Lights? Bells? Whistles? What else?
Contributor Rick Browning is on his way to Japan on a research project (more on this later this week), so we're charging him with bringing back ideas from the east!
Speaking of bikes...
When we launched this site, we were under the impression that we were starting the first transportation-related blog in the region.
But we find that someone got there first, at least for one mode.
Jonathan Maus has been running Bike Portland for a while now, moving it from Oregon Live to its own standalone site in April!
August 1, 2005
Rob Bertini at PSU passes on this press release about funding for the Center for Transportation Studies at PSU (in cooperation with U of O, OSU and OIT - how's that for alphabet soup).
What research questions would Portland Transport readers want CTS to study?
This is only the beginning of news coming out the Federal Transportation Bill (finally being passed two years late!).