November 30, 2005
It's a worldwide online conversation (a chat room on steroids?) comprised of six forums, including one titled "Humanity, the Future of our Cities". There's also a forum on Environmental Sustainability. The Forums run December 1st-3rd. I think it will start late in the evening Thursday, Pacific Time.
While there is not a specific forum on transportation, I can't imagine that the "Future of Cities" and "Sustainability" forums can ignore transportation. I intend to check it out, if only to see how the Internet is used in this way. They expect thousands of participants.
One of the most striking things we saw in the Netherlands was whole families traveling together by bike. Perhaps the most touching scene, which we saw several times, was a parent riding side-by-side with a younger child, with a hand outstretched on the child's shoulder to guide him or her.
While unfortunately I didn't get any photos of that scene, I did get a number with mothers transporting younger children by bike, plus bikes outfitted for that purpose.
November 29, 2005
Head over to Bike Portland to get clued in on two important opportunities for public input on bike-related issues. I'm particularly enthused about the idea of a waterfront bike connection from the Eastbank Esplanade to Cathedral Park.
Sometime early this morning (I didn't stay up to watch), we passed 20,000 visitors since Portland Transport was launched this summer. Here are a few other statistics to mark this occassion:
- 1,000+ visitors per week
- 194 Posts
- 1,400 Comments
It's that last number that makes me believe the site is a success. We have achieved our goal of creating a place where citizens and advocates for many different modes of transportation can come together to discuss our vision and help shape common goals.
To help propel Portland Transport into the future, we have taken another step, incorporating as a non-profit. Portland Transport has been an Oregon non-profit corporation since late October, and we are in the process of seeking 501(c)(3) status. This phase of our evolution will allow us to offer services and resources on the site that would be difficult without corporate status - we hope to announce one of these services later this week. But it does involve some costs (not the least of which is paying our attorney for the incorporation - even though she is generously doing most of the work pro-bono).
So we are now asking for your financial support to help with these costs and to cover our modest monthly operating costs. We're adding a PayPal contributions button to the site, and would appreciate your support, even in small amounts. Part of the requirement to convince the IRS we deserve 501(c)(3) status is to show that we have a base of contributors, and this isn't just a personal hobby for a few of us!
Thank you for your involvement in making Portland Transport the great site that it is, and thank you in advance for your future support.
A while back, I referenced some interviews with John Thackara, author of In the Bubble. I've since had a chance to read the book.
The focus of the book is the importance of design in a world as complex as ours. He has an interesting perspective on the problems of our world, perhaps best illustrated by the chapter titles:
A few insights from the book:
- When you look at total lifecycle costs, high speed rail is not significantly less energy-intensive than airlines. But equally, the growth of airline use at current rates is clearly not sustainable.
- Faster is not always better, illustrated by a quote about trams (streetcars) from Michael Douglas, an Australian designer: "Tramways curiously run against the grain of industrial logic. Travelling back and forth, day in and day out, tramways help us encounter and learn about small things of value whilst participating in the larger choreography of a city's metabolism."
November 28, 2005
When Gordon Price spoke at the PSU Traffic and Transportation Class a few weeks ago, he illustrated some fundamental problems with the way society thinks about its transportation choices. Here are three illustrations.
Where does the money go?
What's the largest capital investment in transportation we make as a society?
I ventured that it was the Interstate Highway System.
Gordon's answer: our cars. Our collective vehicle fleet is a much larger investment than all the roads and transit systems put together. We readily plunk down $20,000 for a car, but argue bitterly about an increase in gas taxes or registration fees that might cost each of us $100 per year.
Gordon presented a series of slides with six assumptions he believes most people make about the road network. This assumptions guide our day-to-day behavior but clearly have only a loose conneion with reality:
1) The private sector builds vehicles, the government builds the roads.
2) As we buy more cars, the government will build more roads (a place to drive our car is an entitlement).
3) There's always room for one more car (congestion is the government's fault - not the result of our individual choices).
4) The road is our commons (ugh!).
5) The next trip is free (as long as the gas tank isn't empty, you don't have to pull out your wallet to start the car).
6) The car should not be constrained by other cars (when is the last time you saw a car ad with more than one car in it?).
What we expect of our politicians
Gordon's accumulated understanding of what we expect our politicians:
- Widen the highways, build the bridges
- Mitigate the impacts on neighbourhoods
- Respect the environment
- Fund an alternative transit system
- Increase taxes and user charges
- Do it fast enough and often enough to keep the traffic moving
And we get frustrated with our politicians when they can't deliver...
You knew it was coming. My obsession with crosswalks had to include some snaps of pedestrian crossings in the Netherlands. So here they are...
This is a quiet street alongside a canal in Amsterdam. Every 100 feet or so there is a ped crossing like this. The stripes are brick version of the triangle "shark's teeth" that mean "yield" in the Netherlands.
This is the tram boarding area outside the Amsterdam Central railway station. Do you know where you should cross the tram tracks?
This crossing is on the outskirts of Utrecht. Note that the "shark's teeth" face the red bike lane as well, indicating that the bikes also need to yield to peds.
November 27, 2005
Jerry Schneider passes along a pointer to a story about some Chinese cities outlawing electric bicycles. Apparently they're congesting the roads for cars.
The CBA (Chinese Bicycle Association - wouldn't BTA love that membership base) is appealing.
The banner story in today's Oregonian is "Detour looms on how we pay for roads". Writer James Mayer catalogs the decline in gas tax buying power and an accompanying chart shows three potential toll roads: Newberg-Dundee bypass, a new lane on I-205 from Tualatin to Oregon City and the Sunrise Corridor in Clackamas County.
More detailed stories on page A8 (apparently not online) discuss Macquarie Infrastructure Group, the Australian company in discussion with ODOT about these projects. They're the company that acquired a 99-year lease on the Chicago Skyway to operate it as a toll road.
Tolls ranging from $0.50 to $3.50 for various alternatives on these projects are discussed. One issue raised is whether you need to toll parallel routes to make the program effective. For example, would you need to toll Highway 99 to make the Newberg-Dundee bypass work?
Portland Transport contributors Robert Liberty and Rob Zako are quoted in the pieces.
November 26, 2005
We've reorganized the sidebar on the home page, hoping to make it easier to navigate our categories with a new pull-down menu. Perhaps we should just be more disciplined and have fewer categories, but...
There's also a new section that hopes to make it easier to subscribe to Portland Transport via a variety of RSS reader services.
And we've added a new category for our Netherlands trip so that you can look in one place for all of our notes on the experience (18 posts and we're not done with our notes yet).
November 25, 2005
In this morning's Oregonian, James Mayer writes about the draft of the Oregon Transportation Plan.
He highlights the gap, about $1B per year, between the revenue available, and the transportation needs outlined in the report.
But since this is the first update in the 25-year plan since 1992, clearly we all need to pay attention!
Last Thursday I dropped in to the PSU/PDOT Traffic and Transportation Class to hear Gordon Price. I've heard Gordon a couple of times, but it's been at least five years since the last time.
It was well worth it, and fodder for at least a couple of posts. Gordon spent the first part of his presentation talking about Peak Oil.
He showed the usual graphs that we're all familiar with by now, but then went on to characterize it as an 'out of context' problem. That is, it represents a change so fundamental that we don't have the context to evaluate it in. We really don't know how to think about it, so we don't, for example, include it in our transportation planning processes.
He compared it to the Native Americans in the Northwest seeing the first ship with Europeans arrive. They had no way to judge what the impacts on their society would be, or how to react. Nonetheless, the impact was crucial.
This is appropos to the update that will start next year to the Regional Transportation Plan (RTP). Will we be able to wrap our minds around the concept of Peak Oil sufficiently to make some choices based on it in the plan update? Or will we keep our heads in the sand?
On the optimistic side, Gordon mentioned some signs that another out-of-context problem, Global Warming, is beginning to attract some serious thought. His home town of Vancouver, B.C., will host the 2010 Winter Olympics. Organizers are beginning to ask the out-of-context question: will there be snow?
November 23, 2005
I'm happy to report that City Council adopted a resolution this morning with a new concept that has the support of representatives of all the modes. The solution, arrived at after intensive discussions between PDOT and stakeholders over the last several weeks, has two prominent features:
1) To accomodate the narrow envelope where the Streetcar track slab can be placed (it's constrained between a sewer line, gas line and high-pressure water main) the curb lines were altered, resulting in a 10-foot sidewalk on the west side of the street, mitigated by expanding the sidewalk on the east side to 15 feet. This shift, in combination with some lane width tweaking, allows the preferred placement of the bike lane on the right, while still preserving parking.
2) To avoid the "Lovejoy problem" of running the bike lane through the Streetcar stop, the lane will actually run around the platform to the right and will be much more clearly indicated as a travel lane, and should be clearer to both bikes and pedestrians.
Here's a full cross-section diagram (PDF 137K).
I'd like to thank everyone who kept hammering at this to make sure we did not get a substandard solution, and particularly Commissioner Adams for his leadership on this (and Tom Miller, Sam's chief of staff for his personal involvement).
As I testified at Council this morning, this is a harginger of a systematic conflict between right-side bike lanes and right-side running rail transit. While in Europe we saw many examples of center-running streetcars, center-running has challenges with pedestrian and ADA issues. If Portland is going to simultaneously seek Platinum status and expand its rail transit system, we're going to need to work out systematic design solutions to these conflicts.
I just finished reading an article in this month's Wired magazine that provides the techno-optimistic perspective on peak oil.
The article suggests that a number of alternative energy sources will become available as oil hits higher price points.
If reading Kunstler (which will be featured in the City Club Citizens Read book club next month) is too depressing, this is just the pill you need to take. Of course I'm not sure all their projections are realistic. Here are a few:
- Liquification of Natural Gas into diesel fuel (seems to neglect the fact that Natural Gas is on a peak curve as well).
- Liquification of Coal into gasoline
- Extraction of Oil from Tar Sands (Gordon Price mentioned this one as well - since the tar sands are in Canada - but neither address the issue of the energy you have to put in to get the petroleum out)
My own belief is that reality is somewhere in between, and that the race will be to see whether a combination of conservation and alternatives can kick in before large-scale disruptions in society occur due to cost and lack of oil.
November 22, 2005
One of the powerful impressions I brought home from Amsterdam was that no one wears a bicycle helmet.
The message that sends is that cycling is a safe activity.
Does our culture's insistence on helmets send the opposite message? Should I stop wearing my helmet to symbolize my conviction that cycling is a safe mode of transportation for everyday use? I know one Metro Councilor who has taken this approach (and another who wears his helmet assiduously).
On the other hand, we don't have the infrastructure or culture that the Netherlands has.
Not one who leaps to judgement, I decided to experiment. On my bike/bus commute to work, I left the helmet home for a couple of trips.
My first reaction is that this let me wear a hat instead, which was much more helpful with current weather.
And most of the time I felt pretty comfortable.
But on the stretch of my commute that takes me down Barbur Blvd, I felt a little exposed, particularly on one rainy, dark late afternoon when I knew I wasn't as visible to the drivers (yes, I have lights).
So here's my tenative conclusion: when I'm just riding around the central city or on neighborhood streets, I'm going to give myself permission to leave the helmet at home.
If my trip is going to involve mingling with arterial traffic however, I'm going to wear my helmet.
What do you think, should I have my head examined?
November 21, 2005
Since I reflected on road diets in my last post, let me share these photos from the recent Netherlands trip. My guess is that this road may once have had more auto lanes and went on a road diet at some point.
With this post I'm also experimenting with a different way to display photos from Flickr, so I may be tweaking a bit.
This street had a slip lane carved out of it. It was primarily used as a bicycle lane. Cars were 'allowed' to use it (including accessing parking), but they did not get priority.
I was in a meeting a few weeks ago and heard the term "Road Diet" to describe reducing the auto capacity of a road. I found it quite curious (and a little humorous). Serendipitously I was reviewing the archive of webcasts for the PSU Transportation Seminar Series and came across a presentation specifically on the topic (video stream) by Jennifer Rosales, a traffic engineer in the local office of Parsons Brinckerhoff.
For those who don't want to watch the whole presentation, the slides are available in PDF form (1.5M).
I also found this web-formatted image at Urban Cartography
The classic formula for a road diet is to take a four-lane road and reconfigure it as one lane in each direction, a center turn lane, and bike lanes in each direction. Jennifer's research suggests that this treatment can be successful on streets with 20,000 average daily trips or less.
One of her case studies is 4th Plain Boulevard in Vancouver. In addition to improving mobility for bikes, she found that the street was perceived as safer and activity on the street increased. She was able to measure increased sales for businesses on the street during a period when the general district was experiencing a downturn in business.
Further, no diversion of traffic onto other streets was observed!
Have you got a street you'd like to put on a diet?
November 18, 2005
“What does happiness have to do with transportation?” you may ask. I will tell you but first bear with me for a description of a new paradigm for public policy outlined by London School of Economics professor in his new book entitled "Happiness."
It may be hard to believe that there was a time when cost effectiveness and efficiency were not the underpinning and often smothering values in public policy debates. The radicals of the American and French Revolutions as well as town fathers and mothers throughout the world wouldn't recognize these economic terms. They spoke in high flown language about "pursuit of happiness" and "self evident truths" or in more homely words of common good and taking care of each other. What these policy paradigms rested on was a shared value system--that community or public actions and investments derived from and were used to respond to conditions and trends affecting the well-being of citizens.
Their answer to the question of whether people would benefit, or be better off, as the result of communal action was based on whether people would consider themselves happier or more satisfied because of the public action.
Under the influence of the dismal science, economics, asking whether people would be happier as a result of a policy change, tax levy or project has disappeared from conversation. Even considered weird and immeasurable.
While cost benefit analysis offers reassuringly precise numbers, does measuring results solely in financial terms really lead to better policy making? If the aggregate income level of a country or city rises, are all its people necessarily better off? If the purpose of government is to meet the needs and desires of its citizens, shouldn't we be asking them what makes them happy?
International studies on this subject show surprisingly high similarities among people worldwide as to what they care about and what makes them happy. Ranked from high to low, time with friends and family comes first, followed by economic security, meaningful work and health. Countries with extensive social welfare support and shorter workweeks have the happiest citizens (Scandinavia, Switzerland, etc) while countries with less social welfare and longer work weeks have less happy citizens, even if their incomes are much higher (US and UK). Layard lays out the development of new, statistically valid means of measuring the public's levels of satisfaction that are surprisingly fine-grained and could be used to as guides for decision-making.
(This is a short summary of the thesis of the book. I recommend all policy wonks to read it for yourself.)
The implications for transportation planning ("finally," you say) derive from the findings that what makes people happiest is time with friends and family and what makes them least happy is commuting (US study). In fact, what makes us happiest is sex, the most direct contact with another person, followed by being with friends and then by time with the family. Yet the survey respondents spent only 0.2 hours a day having sex while they spent 1.6 hours average doing what they disliked the most, commuting.
If we really want to meet the most basic of human values, enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, to increase satisfaction with our lives, then we should be designing our cities and making transportation investments in order to:
- reduce the need to commute to work,
- make those commutes as sociable as possible (mass transit and walkable streets increase our chance to interact with people: SOV's are inherently isolating), and
- give people more time in their day to do the things that make them happiest, which is spending time with family and friends.
We already know that these strategies help reduce travel and put more money in our pockets thereby addressing another major factor in happiness (economic security), "Happiness" argues that we should bring the discussion back to values and what furthers the public good as experienced by people in their lives and not rely on precise but not so meaningful economic indicators as measures of successful public policy.
(Northwest Environment Watch follows this issue as part of their obsession with measuring what counts. Intriguing posts on this blog.)
November 17, 2005
Former Vancouver, B.C. City Councilor Gordon Price will address the PSU/PDOT Traffic and Transportation class tonight and the public is invited:
The Portland Office of Transportation's "Traffic & Transportation" course invites you to join the class for an evening!
Gordon Price, adjunct professor in the School of Community and Regional Planning at the University of British Columbia and former member of the Vancouver BC City Council, will make a presentation on the effective integration of transportation in high-density environments, with emphasis on land use. Gordon is an engaging speaker with great insights into the transportation/land-use connection.
November 17, 6:40
PSU, Shattuck Hall 112
The Portland Traffic & Transportation course is a 10-week course offered by PDOT and PSU, and is geared toward neighborhood activists and those interested in learning more about how transportation works in the Portland region. You can find out more about the class, and view the syllabus on line at http://www.portlandonline.com/transportation/index.cfm?c=35727.
One of the unique bicycle features in the Netherlands is that traffic circles ('rotaries' if you grew up on the east coast like I did) have a separate lane for bikes. Concrete islands help regulate the flow of autos to avoid conflicts with bikes.
The best part? Cyclists have priority in the traffic circles. Our delegation from Portland enjoyed this so much that we get kept circling for the joy of it. It was only after 3 circuits that we realized that we were preventing any cars from entering or exiting the circle. Oops...
November 16, 2005
It's not every day that you get to read a master's these about your favorite transportation project.
So I settled down over the weekend with a cold beverage and all 210 pages of University of Calgary student Tom Gardiner's thesis: Understanding Perceptions of the Portland Streetcar System. Even better, Tom's thesis focuses in on my neighborhood in NW Portland (since unlike the Pearl, the NW District was an established neighborhood long before the [modern] Streetcar came along - so perceptions of changes can be assessed).
This tome was not a surprise. I visited with Tom on a couple of occasions while he was here in Portland doing the research. He even mentions me in the acknowledgements (I'm blushing).
Tom surveyed both residents and retailers about their impressions of the Streetcar. I'm sure you'll all be shocked to hear that the overall impressions are very positive.
What I found most interesting is where there were divergent opinions. Here are a few of the highlights:
- Most participants felt that the Streetcar had no impact on traffic. However, some felt that getting stuck behind a Streetcar slowed things down. Others felt that this was useful traffic calming. [We did in fact design the Lovejoy Street flow to use the Streetcar as a traffic calming tool.]
- There were some negative comments about parking, with some respondents complaining of losing a few spaces due to the platforms, and others concerned that the Streetcar exacerbated the 'park and hide' behavior of downtown commuters who park the neighborhood.
- Residents were more likely than retailers to believe that Streetcar was impacting the land uses in the neighborhood. There was some belief that new retail on 23rd north of Lovejoy and on Thurman was driven in part by the Streetcar.
- Only a minority of respondents felt that Streetcar was causing an increase in density in the neighborhood (the survey was done before the Vaux Condos were under construction).
Tom suggests a number of recommendations for consideration in future development:
1) Configure tracks with pullouts so that cars can pass Streetcars loading at platforms.
2) Increase speed by spacing stops more widely apart and use signal preemption to get the vehicles through intersections more quickly [we already do the latter at some intersections, including NW 23rd and Lovejoy].
3) More fare monitoring to increase the percentage of passengers who actually pay outside fare-less square.
4) Work on affordable housing to offset gentrification the Streetcar may be promoting.
5) Do a parking study [I won't even start on that one!]
I wonder what Tom's PhD research will be about?
We had the opportunity to spend about two hours with Chief Smoorenburg during our visit to Amsterdam (the chief's HQ was outside Utrecht, a one hour train ride, 30 minute tram ride and 20 minute walk from Amsterdam). The Chief is responsible for traffic enforcement for the county surrounding Utrecht.
That's PDOT bicycle coordinator Roger Geller (left) and BTA Executive Director Evan Manvel with the Chief.
Perhaps the first thing that we noted was that the Chief's unit had 80 officers for an area with 1.1M residents. By way of comparison, Commander Bill Sinnott tells me that Portland, with a population of about 550,000, has 46 officers in the Traffic Division. So the resource levels are not radically different relative to population.
The secret to why accident rates in the Netherlands are much lower than the U.S. must lie somewhere else.
So with 25-40% of trips made by bicycle, where does the Chief focus his enforcement resources? On cars. That's still where he believes the biggest potential reduction in accidents will come from.
But what about the bikes - do they run red lights? Yes, I'm afraid it's a worldwide phenomenon [which I do not condone]. Of course, the stats on that may be different than in the U.S., since there are virtually no stop signs to run. During our time in Amsterdam we saw all of about three stops signs. Short of a traffic light, yield is the general way of dealing with conflicting traffic streams. This seems to make both cars and bikes pay more attention - and perhaps more respect - to each other.
Another eye-opener was the Chief's response to complaints about speeding. When they are requested to do speed enforcement on a street, they first analyze the engineering of the street. If they conclude that the street is designed for a higher speed than the posted limit, they won't try to bring the speeds down by enforcement - they turn the issue over to the transportation department to fix the road instead!
November 15, 2005
A couple of changes on the site to note. First, we've upgraded to Movable Type version 3.2. The biggest impact should be coping with comment and trackback spam. This should not be very visible to users, as we have been policing it diligently, but it will be less effort now for us to stay on top of this.
The other change is in the home page. With more photos on the site, I noticed that loading times for the home page were very long. I have made a modification so that only the first few posts show the full post. The remainder show an excerpt (which won't have graphics) and a link to the full post.
We're also playing with a new metrics package, Measure Map which we were invited to alpha test. It's letting us get more texture on how people are using the site than Site Meter does. I especially like being able to see what search queries folks use to find us.
As always, we welcome your feedback on how the site is working for you.
Sometimes the parallels are just eerie. In the Netherlands a major safety campaign was under way to get cyclists to have proper lights. They even had cops handing out lights. Sound familiar?
The difference I noticed with a lot of 'programs' like this in the Netherlands is that they get a lot of promotion - posters, etc. We don't seem to do promotion on the same kind of scale here.
November 14, 2005
Commissioner Adams held a "Round Table" discussion with the stakeholder group and Mayor Potter today.
The new element in the mix was the Bureau of Planning assessment of the project.
The objective of the meeting was to define criteria for deciding whether the couplet is the appropriate approach. Sam asked us to provide feedback on an initial set of criteria his office had drafted. He plans to have PDOT, BOP and PDC then sit down to agree on scoring against the criteria.
While I continue to be frustrated with this process, I have to give Sam credit. He's the policy wonk's policy wonk, diving into the details and reviewing the policy options very publicly. This is not unlike what he did with the lobbyist registration proposal when it first met negative feedback (of course, that initiative hasn't passed Council yet either).
Next step is a Council worksession, maybe next week.
The Mayor didn't open his mouth until the end when he thanked everyone and said he was still listening and had more questions than answers. He did say however that a decision would be reached, that this wouldn't hang out there forever.
The first national conference of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil-USA was held this weekend in Denver. I went for two reasons: first, this conference was sponsored by Denver Mayor Hickenlooper and included as attendees bankers, oil and gas company executives, as well as other elected officials; and, second, it included specific discussion of potential municipal responses to the challenge of peak oil.
Peak oil simply describes the point in time when oil production starts to decline. In the US, this happened in the mid seventies. There is debate whether this has happened or when it will happen globally but all agree that this will occur within the next 30 or so years at the latest. Does this mean oil will disappear? No. It does mean that oil (and natural gas, too) will become more and more expensive. It is clear that in a country that consumes 25% of the world's oil (with 5% of the population), there will be major shocks to our economy and major changes needed in how we move, where we get our food and other goods from and in how our cities need to be designed.
Along with the expected presentations from academics and analysts of the oil and gas fields like Matt Simmons a surprise was Representative Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD), a self-described conservative ("but not an idiot") farmer with a PhD in physiology. Rep. Bartlett presented a strong, science-based argument that any resource subject to exponential growth in demand will run out. He called for an "Apollo-like" effort to understand the issue, educate the public and take action to "land" society with enough fuel remaining to avoid a crash. He compares our society to people who have inherited a fortune from their parents and are busy spending the capital to enjoy the high life. Unfortunately, the bills are coming due and the bank is about empty.
Perhaps the best summary of the issue is was given by Roger Bezdek, lead researcher for the latest US Government report on this issue who characterized this as an imminent and permanent shortage of liquid fuels. This report looks at other potential sources such as oil sands, bio-fuels, liquid natural gas and concludes that whatever we can wring out of these new sources will be too little, too late and in the end just as non-renewable as oil.
We rely so much on this high density, lightweight, easily transportable energy source. The US uses 2/3 of its oil for transportation. Of course, we will never "run out of oil", but we will run out of cheap oil. Will it really matter that there is gasoline in the pumps if it costs $10 a gallon?
The two questions I had were: “Is this real?” Answer: “All too real.” And “What should I as an elected official responsible for long-term health of this community be doing to prepare for this?”
The pessimists--or maybe utopians--called for a back-to-the-land movement where we all become farmers or artisans, abandon the city and somehow remove 5 billion people from the earth. They may be right. But will their message be able to move the majority to support substantial policy changes or result in survivalist or fatalist reaction? (attitudes I've witnessed at Portland's own Peak Oil gatherings.
The optimists--or fools as the case may be, counting myself—are searching for community responses that reflect shared values of Americans, who are overwhelmingly urban and integrated into the modern, specialized economy. I shared strategies that have had success in Portland in providing alternatives to driving and reducing how much people drive (Vehicle miles traveled per capita have actually fallen, greenhouse gas emissions are at 1990 levels, transit use is rising faster than car use, etc). Some of these strategies include: Jobs and services near housing, preservation of farmland near cities with urban Growth boundaries, concentrating development in walkable centers, light rail transit (energy intensive but not liquid fuel dependent), sidewalks and bike lanes, wireless networks. While not enough—after all, with population growth, total miles traveled are still increasing—they do point the way, in a way that may be more acceptable to citizens and therefore more likely to be adopted. Other interesting initiatives include switching industrial and residential heat production to other energy sources, petroleum audits of everything from garbage bags to firefighter suits to garbage truck propulsion to energy awareness curriculums for schoolchildren. Portland is once again seen as leading the pack. Unsettling given the scale of the problem.
What does a Permanent Liquid Fuel Shortage mean for transportation? Is it wise to build new freeways when they may not be useful in a few short years? Do we put $1 billion into new Columbia River Crossing (again, a light rail connection would make sense)? Do we deepen the Columbia River Channel when the cost of shipping goods from Asia overcomes the cost advantage of cheap labor? Why worry about a Truck Freight Master Plan in Portland?
This spring, the Illahee Institute’s environmental issue lecture series will focus on oil and water. I will be working with them to create a community discussion of the looming energy shortage and am looking for your participation Illahee.org. Metro is about to begin broad community engagement on the region’s long range physical form (an update of the 50-year vision incorporated in the 2040 Plan and the transportation system to serve that form (a major update of the 20-year Regional Transportation Plan).
Energy consumption and potential disruptions in supply and price must be addressed in both.
November 11, 2005
Over at BikePortland.org, Jonathan reports on a conflict brewing between streetcars and bikes in the new South Waterfront development.
As a multimodal alternative transportation advocate, it pains me greatly to see two modes that I love in conflict with each other. I serve as chair of the Portland Streetcar Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) and as regular readers know, care deeply and write frequently here about cycling issues.
The conflict stems from trying to make too many things happen in a small space. While many have expressed dismay that we couldn't get this right "on the blank slate of a new signature development" the reality is more complex. The two streets in this area, Bond and Moody, are not new. There is critical infrastructure, dating back to the '60s, already in place, including a high-pressure water main in Moody.
Another part of the puzzle is that the 'middle section' of South Waterfront is developing first - the northern section continues to be operated as a barge plant by Zidell Marine. This has forced the streetcar into single-track operation between RiverPlace and Gibbs, and forces two-way traffic on a key block of Moody street (otherwise Moody and Bond operate as a coupled set of one-way streets).
The tragedy is not the conflict - this was inevitable - but rather that the information did not surface until very late in the design process. As someone with a foot in multiple constituencies, I don't find it useful to point fingers, but the bicycle community certainly has a right to be very concerned that after having a compromise design at Lovejoy and 13th on the original streetcar alignment, here we are again being forced into serious compromises.
I agree with Jonathan that the left- (or perhaps more accurately middle-) running bike lane is not an acceptable solution, and I will be working hard with all the stakeholders to find a better solution in the midst of schedule pressures to get these streets built this fall.
Looking to the future, we clearly need to do better. Part of this is a matter of organizational linkages, part is a matter a design vocabulary. I have already secured agreement from Commissioner Adams' Office to appoint representatives of both the bicycle and pedestrian advocacy communities to the Streetcar CAC so that the right questions can be asked sooner and more frequently.
But if we think about how we design streets in Portland, we ask the right side of the street to do a lot of things. We load buses there, we paint bike lanes there, and we board streetcars there. We are painfully learning that at least the last two seem to have systematic conflicts.
Having just returned from Europe - where the design vocabulary includes streetcars in the center of the street - it's clear that there are other solutions to these problems. But they have their own trade-offs, and as a community we need to grapple with these. It behooves both rail and bicycle advocates to work together to do this.
The common goal is to reduce dependence on single-occupancy automobiles, and the less time we spend arguing with each other, the more effective we can be at our common goal.
November 10, 2005
Christine posted these comments in response to an earlier thread about our time in the Netherlands. I thought they merited their own post!
It's interesting reading you comments about the Dutch bike and car situation in the Netherlands. I'm Dutch and recently moved to Portland.
A few comments:
You have to understand that there is one big, very basic difference in the bike infrastructure in the Netherlands and the USA, and that is the state of mind.
Everyone you'll see driving a car in Holland has started out driving a bike as his/her only way of transportation. -EVERYONE- needs to learn to ride a bike when you're 3-4 years old. Reason for this is that there are no school buses, no parents who drive you to school. As a 4 y.o going to pre-school you will of course sit on the back of you mom's or dad's bike or ride you're own bike accompanied by one of your parents.
Most children at 6 - 7 y.o will ride their bike alone to school. I'm sure you have seen the large groups of kids when school is out, riding bikes in groups, sometimes very dangerous 3 or 4 next to each other taking up a lot of space on the road.
On the contrary to the US it's not common in Holland to have 2 cars in a family. Most families will have 1 car that serves for transportation for long distances.
Driving permit age is 18 in Holland, until that age you either ride your bike or ride your scooter(from age 16 and you'll need a permit too).
You'll see a lot of young moms riding bikes with a small child on the front on a bike in a child seat, sometimes even a child on the back as well and even have 2 shopping bags with groceries on the bike.
For pics see:
Very popular the last few years are the 'fietskar' (bike cart) to transport the kids, groceries, dog etc.
For pics see:
Luggage or groceries: http://www.fietskarren.nl/Groepen/bagagekarren.htm
Seats for toddlers to place in the carts: http://www.fietskarren.nl/Eind-pag/Accessoires/schelpen.htm
As you can see from the prices, they are expensive, reason for this is that they have to be extremely safe and sturdy and are subject to very strict regulations. http://www.fietskar.com/kinderkarren.htm
The first choice of transportation in Holland is a bike, cars would be second. Towns were build with a infrastructure for bikes in place from the start. Cars came later, on the contrary to the US where infrastructure of a town or city is build for cars from the start.
Holland is a very small country with a lot of people living and working(approx 18 million) if all people who are legally allowed to drive a car also would drive there would be no space to live anymore. Car pooling(sharing) is very much promoted, employers (or the tax system) only reimburse public transport as commute cost where driving your car to work would have to be paid by yourself.
Families with children, having a one salary income are still very much the norm, one of the parents will stay at home. Part-time work for parents is also very much standard, a lot of alternative ways of work sharing will be created like 'duo-baan' (dual-job) where you will share a job with a colleague who will work half of the full time position. All of this is heavily subsidized and promoted by the government with child day care etc, because of this it's less common to have 2 cars simply because the budget wouldn't allow it.
Holland did have it's share of car industry, which ended somewhere in the 80's. (Opel, DAF) However, it's not the industry that decides how the country is governed and developed, on the contrary to the US, but the people, for the people. Politicians do not depend on contributions from the industry for their elections as this would only cloud the way they would govern.
So the biking situation in Holland is something that is heavily embedded in your upbringing, it's part of your life like driving everywhere by car is embedded in the US way of life.
Unfortunately for people living on a limited income or wanting to downscale, being without a car in the US is nearly unthinkable while being without a car in Holland is a common situation and does not have to be disruptive.
Feel free to ask me anything you want about the biking in Holland. I, like many other kids rode my bike to school all the way through University, rode my bike with child in front and shopping bags and cartons with milk on the back, in rain, snow and ice storms. ;-) Raised a bike riding child. So I think I qualify as an experienced bike person ;-)
I must say that living in Portland now I feel seriously limited in my movements, I'm not free to go anywhere, anytime I like to as it's not safe to ride my (Dutch) bike here and we only have one car at the moment that my husband needs to commute to his job and to be honest, doing my shopping on my bike would get me strange looks from others ;-)
While in the Netherlands we had two different conversations about freight. The first was with Amsterdam city planners and is the focus of this post. The second was with a freight forwarder and a representative of the Holland International Distribution Council (a trade association) and will be covered in a later post.
In the dense urban environment in Amsterdam, planners have a number of goals for freight distribution:
- improve accessibility be reducing the number of vehicles
- reduce 'delivery nuisance' for residents and road users
- increase loading rates
- reduce vehicle kilometers (and therefore fuel use)
- net neutral effect on economic health
Some of the techniques for doing this:
- Require vehicles be at least 80% loaded before starting delivery trips
- Limit length of delivery vehicles to 10 meters
- Create age and environmental standards for vehicles
They report that it's working, without negative impacts on the economy.
Amsterdam is developing additional concepts to streamline urban deliveries:
- A "city box", a container that is one-third the size of a standard container, but can be bundled in triplets as a standard container for rail or sea shipments
- Neighborhood package delivery stations, where you can securely retrieve your package, avoiding the need for a delivery directly to your door
- Programs to cluster deliveries for nearby retailers (e.g., the drugstore and the hardware store get a consolidated delivery, avoiding extra delivery trips)
Yesterday the Portland Planning Commission formally recommended the Freight Master Plan to City Council.
But the recommendation did not come without qualification. Some of the issues the Planning Commission discussed:
- What's the impact of peak oil on this plan? (no answer other than that the issue is not covered by the City Transportation System Plan)
- Could Transportation Demand Management be better integrated into the plan (answer - the City has a separate TDM plan)
- Higher reliance on trucks over rail due to underinvestment in rail infrastructure (answer - rail right-of-way is owned by private companies, not under control of public sector)
- The Portland Freight Committee that oversaw the plan development lacks representation from other stakeholders (answer - a number of open houses were held to gather broad input)
- Once again the status of the Central Eastside Industrial District was debated. Should it remain a broadly defined freight district, or is more nuance appropriate? (answer - work on this during the Central City Transportation Management Plan update)
The final motion recommending the plan says it all - Commissioner Larry Hilderbrand moved that the plan be forwarded as the "Portland Truck Freight Master Plan."
Tell it like it is, Larry.
November 9, 2005
From the Seattle PI:
The latter is signficant for our region as $50M of the gas tax in jeopardy goes to fund design work on the Columbia Crossing project.
Today the results for the Interstate TravelSmart program were announced, including a 9% reduction in auto trips among the targeted households.
Most efforts to change people's transportation choices involve infrastructure - building rail lines, adding buses, striping bike lanes.
TravelSmart is different - it's all about education and personal touch.
This approach has been used successfully in Europe and Australia, and a small scale pilot was done here in Portland in the Hillsdale neighborhood in 2002. The idea is simple: people would use alternate modes more if they were just educated about their choices.
The Interstate project involved contacting over 14,000 people along the new MAX line and offering them information on how to make choices to increase walking, biking and transit use. If they didn't want the info - no problem - they were left alone. If they did, it was delivered by bicycle!
The target group was then surveyed to see how their transportation choices changed. A control group who were not contacted was also surveyed for comparison.
No surprise - transit use was up for both groups. But the TravelSmart group saw much greater changes, as the chart illustrates.
Much more detail is available at www.GettingAroundPortland.org.
So why aren't we doing this in EVERY neighborhood?
November 8, 2005
The top line: BOP thinks a couplet is not the way to go on the west side.
I think the report actually raises some important issues, including the need for stronger planning of placemaking along the 'link' section (2nd to Park) and the need for stronger analysis and planning for linkages with the districts emerging along Burnside.
But of course, that begs the question: where was BOP with this analysis during the two 18 month planning processes we have already conducted? The plan could have been greatly strengthened if we had had the benefit of this level of analysis and thought during the process, rather than applying that effort as second guessing afterwards.
As to some of the recommendations in the analysis:
"Burnside ... is one of the city's few distinctively 'big city streets' ..."
I think we could do without the kind of distinction that makes pedestrians avoid the street!
"Some reduction of capacity on Burnside might not be a bad thing."
Gil, where were you when I was trying to remove one eastbound lane between NW 23rd and NW 15th?
The plan proposes intersection treatments and additional signalized crossings at 8th, Park and 9th as an alternative to the couplet. This does NOT provide a comprehensive answer to the left turn question.
It even goes on to suggest widening sidewalks by:
"...reducing the existing 11-foot travel lanes to 10 feet ..."
Now astute readers will remember that the Freight Committee has bitterly opposed similar narrowing from the freeway to NW 23rd. This suggestion seems calculated to draw opposition to the central segment.
Indeed the capacity reduction suggestion is certain to draw opposition from PBA's "portals" sub-committee, whose mission to to guard access to the central retail core. During the stakeholder process, PDOT was clear that the project could not reduce capacity. This restriction was a major motivator for the couplet, as it allowed traffic to be calmed and made compatible with pedestrians without reducing the capacity.
If I were feeling cynical - and since it's almost midnight I'm tending in that direction - I might suggest that this report was intended to introduce a degree of uncertainty and doubt, and draw two important groups into opposition to the plan. Possibly a way to effectively kill the plan without having to come out in direct opposition?
But read the report - I will certainly be reading it again - and form your own opinion.
We're back in Portland and going over our notes and photos, which will surely prove a rich source of posts for many weeks to come.
One theme we've already discussed is the prevalence of bike parking in the Netherlands. Here are some very concrete (pun intended) examples from the town of Apeldoorn.
There is an eerie parallel. Here at home, a densifying urban environment means we convert surface lots (for autos) to structures, in the best case underground structures. Well, exactly the same thing is happening in the Netherlands, but for bike parking.
Pictured here is new underground bike parking under construction at the Apeldoorn rail station (that's Portland Bike Coordinator Roger Geller snapping a picture, and Apeldoorn's Bike Coordinator explaining the project). Parking will be one Euro per day.
In the center of Apeldoorn we encountered what is probably the most beautiful bike parking structure I've ever seen. It's a very striking two story building (including a translucent glass wall on one side) with two-level bike parking.
One level is on the ground, the other over your head. There is a very clever mechanism that drops from the ceiling. You then attach two hooks - show here - to your bike, and then your bike is hoisted up to the ceiling! And parking here is free!
Our bike racks here in Portland feel so prosaic now...
November 7, 2005
Yesterday's Oregonian included a cover story on the pressures to find sufficiently large sites for new schools in growing districts.
The story included an aerial photo of the 64-acre Tualatin High School and the presented the debate for small school sites versus the current pattern of very large sites with playing fields, parking, etc.
There is no question that as a fan of compact development, I'd rather see smaller sites - every school I ever attended had at least two stories - located in neighborhoods rather than on the periphery.
What I was most struck by in the story was the amount of space on the Tualatin site devoted to parking. There is now an assumption that high school juniors and seniors are going to drive themselves to school. I can't help contrast this to our recent experience in the Netherlands, where we learned that students cannot get a driver's license before they are 18. They have the option for getting a license for a low-power scooter at 16. How much of the land in Tualatin could we save if that parking were replaced by bicycle and scooter parking?
November 4, 2005
Riding trams in the Netherlands this week, I have been struck by the number of ways to buy a fare:
1) On most trains in Amsterdam there is a conduction in a booth selling tickets. I am told that conductors were only recently added back to trains, in part to make customers feel more secure.
2) Lacking a conductor, you either buy your ticket from the driver or from a fare machine, which is just as dumbfounding as the one found on Portland's streetcars.
3) 24-hour and 72-hour passes are available if you're going to be doing a lot of riding.
4) In Rotterdam, they are about to replace this system with a stored-value card that you swipe on entry and again on exit. This is presented as a way to prevent fare evaders (who are also associated with problematic behavior on the car). A side benefit is getting a better understanding of route usage and transfers, leading to better service planning. However, since the cards are identified to an individual user, the local government has also gone to great pains to assure citizens that their individual movement will not be tracked...
5) There is a national fare card, called a "strippen cart" (strip card) that has multiple sections that can be validated. It can be used in multiple cities and is sold at a slight discount. If you are taking a longer trip, you have to validate multiple strips on the ticket.
The fare for a one-zone trip in Amsterdam is Euro 1.60, a bit more than TriMet's all-zone fare. It's only good for an hour, compared to TriMet's 1 hour, 45 minutes. So we don't have too bad a deal in Portland comparatively.
I am told that tram operations are funded 50% from the farebox and 50% by subsidy from the national government (we could only wish!). I have heard numbers for capital subsidy from the national government of 80% to 95%.
Portland Transport is packing up and getting ready to head home. I don't know if I'll get another post out before we board the plane, but you can definitely count on more in coming weeks as we go through our notes and photos when we get home!
November 3, 2005
These two pictures, besides demonstrating my incompetence at photo composition, show an approach sometimes used in the Netherlands. This is a street in Utrecht.
The non-auto portion of the pavement is broken up into three zones. A bike lane is closest to the auto lanes. And the sidewalk of course is against the buildings.
What's interesting here is the middle segment. It feels a lot like sidewalk, but it is also available for use as a loading zone. Utility poles and street furniture can also go in this zone.
Frankly, it feels a little strange to me, but it's a pragmatic solution to make the street workable for all its functions, and proof that the Dutch deliver workable bike lanes in a variety of environments. Of course, it also requires a lot of available right-of-way.
And yes, that's the Portland delegation milling around. Kind of like herding cats.
A few days ago I shared a photo of a local shopping street served by trams here in Amsterdam. I've compiled a set of photos of trams running on different types of streets and the variety of design treatments used. Different solutions seem to work well for different needs.
Local Shopping Street
- Peds own the outside of the street, but there are no curbs
- Bikes, cars, trams share the center
Interestingly, trams run a single track, breaking out to two tracks at the platforms (I've seen up to four trams - two in each direction - in the platform area!).
Minor Traffic Street
- Cars and trams share the center
- Bikes get a striped lane on the outside
This is similar to the arrangement being suggested in Portland if the Streetcar crosses the Broadway Bridge to run on Broadway and Weidler. Perhaps 10th and 11th should have been designed this way.
Major Traffic Street
- Dedicated right-of-way in center of street
- Bikes and peds share the split-level sidewalk with bikes on the inside (in the picture, one of the peds is actually walking in the bike lane).
This might be an interesting approach to MLK/Grand if we could get agreement to remove auto lanes (I'm not sure the East Side - or ODOT - is ready for that discussion).
As a bonus, I've included a picture (click on the Flickr link) of a grass track where the tram runs outside of the street right-of-way. We've seen this in Prague as well and have been teasing the Streetcar staff about looking for opportunities to do this in Portland.
November 2, 2005
One of the ironies of our busy agenda here in Amsterdam is that we're spending so much time going to meetings and criss-crossing the country on the national railway that we have not had time to get on a bike and ride.
That got fixed today when we visited Apeldoorn and Grongingen.
Apeldoorn is a bedroom community in the center of the country with good access to the rail network. It has about 150,000 population and is working hard to sustain its livability as it grows. The motto of its transportation department is "Milieu, Mobiliteit en Openbare ruimte" (Environment, Mobility and Public Spaces).
Their strategy for maintaining livability includes:
1) Creating a car-free center during much of the day
2) Implementing 30kph zones for much of the city
3) Providing an excellent bicycle network
4) Bus lines within 600 meter of anywhere in the city (there is no tram)
5) Upgrading capacity on the ring road around the city, and requiring cars moving from one quadrant of the city to another to use the ring road.
6) Providing parking at 5 points on the periphery of the car free zone (park and walk)
So complete access to all parts of the city by car is preserved, but other modes clearly get priority in the densest parts of the city.
I was able to tour the core area by bike (a one-speed model with coaster brakes). Since I am not yet skilled at taking photos while riding, I don't have a lot to show. The odd bike rack has a fold down flap that keeps the rain off your saddle! Our host, Wim Mulder is in the red jacket.
Groningen is a similar story at a larger scale. It's a university town of about 180,000 (think Eugene on steriods) that has also closed its center to cars. Here's a presentation on Groningen from the Car Free Cities Conference.
We were able to tour on bike for about two hours (in heavy rain). Some of the notable things we saw:
- An IKEA store near the center of the city (a departure from IKEA's usual strategy) easily accessible by bike
- A rotary that gives priority to bikes
- A drawbridge with a flying bypass span that allows peds and bikes to cross even when the draw span is up
My impressions actually riding under the circumstances:
- astonishment at how often the bike has the right-of-way
- a great respect for the amount of skill required to ride in this environment
Even at 9 mph or so, the sheer volume of bikes around you requires that you understand who has priority and ride with great awareness.
A particularly tricky maneauver is a signal phase in which cars are held and bikes get a green in all four directions. So as you exit the intersection you have to be careful of bicycle cross-traffic!
Children go through annual bicycle training weeks at school, not unlike our Driver's Ed. Young children are usually seen accompanied by a parent who will keep a steadying hand on the child's shoulder while riding to guide them.
Again, a strong conclusion is that it's about culture as much as infrastructure!
One of the fascinating things about cycling here in Amsterdam and the rest of the country is that they have this incredible volume of cycling yet very low accident counts compared to our country.
The planners believe there are several factors involved (wearing helmets is not one of them - nobody does for city riding). I'll discuss other factors in future posts, but today's topic is speed.
A primary safety tool has been the establishment of 30 kilometer-per-hour zones (30 kph) for cars. That's about 18 miles-per-hour. You can pretty much figure that in an environment where bikes are expected to share a lane with cars, the speed will be no higher than 30 kph.
This is important, because at 30 kph, the chances of surviving a bike/car collision (ditto ped/car collisions) are MUCH better than at 25 or 30 mph, the U.S. norm for neighborhood streets. Also, at the lower speed drivers, bikes and peds have more reaction time to avoid a collision.
These zones are so prevalent in city centers that they are often not even signed with a number (I had to hunt for one for a photo). More often there is a physical or visual transition like the slight ramp shown here. The space is very well delineated by bollards or differing paving.
I find this very interesting compared to my experience as a neighborhood transportation chair in Portland. Neighbors would often complain to me that a street was too fast to be safe. PDOT would come out and do speed checks and report that it was fine. But this missed two points:
1) 25 mph is NOT safe enough. 18 mph would be MUCH safer.
2) Traffic operations folks look for the 85 percentile speed. That means they say the street is OK when 15% of the folks are going over the limit.
Couple this with the fact that the police won't ticket you unless you're going at least 10 mph over the limit, and no wonder parents don't think streets are safe for their kids.
I have been told (perhaps some reader can confirm this) that the City except in specific circumstances is prohibited from marking streets for lower than 25 mph by state law.
Maybe it's time to lobby Salem for some changes in that law!
Listen to the show (mp3, 12.8M)
Sara recounts her bikey travels in Europe and features interviews with European bike advocates.
An update on the struggles of NYC Critical Mass.
November 1, 2005
A short break from writing about policy to talk about our experience here in Amsterdam. I couldn't resist taking this photo for Commissioner Dan Saltzman. It's the perfect urban development - transportable, green-roof, residential - do you think we can get it LEED certified?
It's actually just a block from our Amsterdam HQ. Portland Transport (myself and my partner Staci) are sharing an apartment for the week with the BTA delegation. The apartment is in the middle of the canal belt and I can't imagine a better location. It's a vibrant urban location with great access to transit, restaurants and culture. And just a brisk walk or quick tram ride to the central railway station to facilitate our visits to other cities.
The only downside I can think of is that the staircases in the apartment (it's on three floors) are so steep they are more like stepladders than stairs. I can testify the BTA Exec. Dir. Evan Manvel makes a resounding thump when he falls down a flight of stairs (no worries, he's uninjured).
Back to policy later today...
When the planners in Amsterdam identified the critical factors in making cycling work on a large scale, parking was one of the key bullets. When you think about the amount of parking for 40% of all trips being made by bike, the numbers are staggering as the photos here illustrate. Bike parking must be provided at home, at work, at key transportation points (rail stations) and where people shop.
The Amsterdam Central railyway station has a bike parking structure floating in the harbor with three spiral levels. In Utrecht, we were in a room with 3,000 bikes and plans were underway to remodel to create space for 15,000 bikes in the station vicinity.
Parking also factors into the auto side of the equation. Amsterdam caps downtown auto parking, helping incentivize other modes. Rotterdam, more of a commercial city, has taken a different approach, working to make the city accessible by all modes, but using pricing to balance auto parking with other modes (i.e., auto parking is relatively expensive).
When I try to apply this thinking to Portland, there are some obvious disconnects. Union Station is NOT a good analog to the Amsterdam Central station. But the addition of bike parking at PDX is a good step in the right direction.
Perhaps more relevant is bike parking near transit stations. While bikes on bus and MAX are a good idea, they simply don't scale to the kinds of volumes we see here. So we would need parking for hundreds (not tens) of bikes at key transit centers and MAX stations. Any ideas on what this might look like in Portland's urban fabric?
Correspondent Rick Browning, recently back from Japan, is now in South Florida helping his mother recover from Hurricane Wilma.
Gaia has literally as well as figuratively clouted the car! Trees smash cars! See photos.
S. Florida culture and "city" planning (no real city here) is MY CAR = MY LIFE. You can go nowhere, you can do nothing, you are nobody without your car. Woke up at 5 this morning and thought I could run over and get gas at nearby station "beating the crowd".... Oh no, was I ever dreaming.
Line in the 5 AM dark already 1/4 mile long and growing fast, police to prevent fistfights. People had slept in their cars. No lights, no engines running, conserve that precious stuff in the tank. Long dark line in the dark - a static funeral procession for the Age of Oil. This is civilization in meltdown. Everyone is waiting 5 hours or more for gas.
Must have it, no matter what. [Note this was 3 days ago - lines are much shorter now, but many stations still closed]
I find that in S. Florida the very non-rectilinear and very non-connected layout of suburbs has made the disaster worse. Because many suburbs are mazes with few points of connection to primary street systems much additional driving must be done in a post-Wilma environment where gas is in short supply. Also, the length of drive distance is increased, using more gas and time and creating more traffic jams. Finally, trees and other storm debris can bottle up an entire suburban enclave by blocking a single roadway in or out.
A non-rectilinear system of roads with many points of connection, such as may be found in Japan would probably function OK, but this post-storm situation certainly suggests that rectilinear grids with many connection points are perhaps best in a wide scale disaster.
For same reason, you often have to drive literally miles of indirect travel to get home. When you have to wait in line 5 hours for gas (and you better hope the police are there to maintain order) driving the extra miles hurts bad. Not to mention the 10 miles for groceries, the 20 miles to your job, the 15 miles to school... on and on and no gas.
Also seeing "chaos theory" traffic control in action. Most intersections still have no signals, we are talking 4 lanes w/dual turn pockets on all 4 legs folks. It is working - maybe better than you would expect - but each trip is an endless stop and go misery with long lines at major intersections and many, many idling engines
So once again - the car culture and what it has spawned looks pretty stupid right now. Gaia one, S. Florida zero. Never travel without your bike (but I did, alas). Maybe in 2030 it will look like this everyday?
This Portlander wants to go home.