April 28, 2006
I started thinking about this post following the Regional Transportation Plan scoping workshop that occurred last week, which others have written about. But it really jelled for me yesterday after another workshop with Metro's panel of economic advisers (engaged to help validate the models for the 20 year forecasts).
During the breakout session for the RTP workshop, I pushed for the idea of using scenario analysis to evaluate potential transportation system designs. What kind of transportation network would be optimal if gas is at $5/gallon? $10/gallon? Or if we decide we need to cap the output of greenhouse gases, what kind of transportation system would work best?
Sensitivity analysis is the process of looking at a variety of inputs and the scenarios they create, then comparing these to work back to how those inputs affect the outcomes that we care about. So we could do a sensitivity analysis for how our region's economy and livability vary with varying energy costs.
[By the way, the current assumption set for the regional models has oil settling back to $35-40/barrel, before going back to a curve where it rises more or less at the rate of inflation. Does this make anyone else very nervous?]
The concept I brought up in yesterday's workshop is resilience, which is the idea of minimizing our sensitivity to certain scenarios. If we agree on a set of desirable outcomes (robust economy, maintaining air quality, providing open spaces, just as examples), how can we design the land use and transportation system for our region to maximize these outcomes against different external forces (like energy costs or climate changes)? I hope we can build a 'resilient' region that helps defend us against what the economists called 'abrupt changes' (a major earthquake, or the shutdown of the gulf stream, is an 'abrupt change').
What do you think would make our region more resilient against potential external forces for the next 20-50 years?
April 27, 2006
BTA Policy Director (and Portland Transport contributor) Scott Bricker addresses the Columbia River Crossing task force
The task force reviews crossing options
It was a busy meeting for the Columbia River Task Force last night. Their task was to vote on the crossing and transit components to move forward to the next round of analysis. They didn't get very far. Concerns were raised about the level of outreach in the public comment process (indeed, Portland Transport's comments, submitted by the deadline on the comment cards handed out at the open houses, didn't make it into the packet mailed to task force members - in fact, no comments submitted after the open houses were available to the task force before this decision making meeting) and other objections to task force process were raised.
The task force did make a couple of decisions. They narrowed the arterial bridge options to RC-23, the single option recommended by staff. The logic was that this option was sufficiently broad to allow a number of arterial configurations to be studied, but some task force members expressed concern that having a single arterial option would limit the number of non-freeway configurations that would be studied in later phases of the project.
They also eliminated all the '3rd corridor' options, on the basis that they didn't serve the project 'Purpose and Need'. But before this vote, several Clark County representatives expressed the need to move forward new corridor options, and apparently the SW Washington Regional Transportation Council (RTC) is in the process of advancing a proposal separate from the CRC process.
The meeting was already 30 minutes over schedule when they adjourned, leaving the rest of the decisions to the next meeting.
April 26, 2006
All of us who think and care about urban form owe a huge debt to Jane Jacobs. The following is from the CLF newsletter:
Jane Jacobs (1916-2006) was an urban writer and activist who championed new, community-based approaches to planning for over 40 years. Her 1961 treatise, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, became perhaps the most influential American text about the inner workings and failings of cities, inspiring generations of urban planners and activists.
Jane Jacobs passed away yesterday at the age of 89. To read more about Jane and her numerous contributions
please visit : http://www.pps.org/info/bulletin/jane_jacobs or http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/26/books/26jacobs.html?_r=1&oref=slogin
For those of us concerned that transportation is a major factor in climate change, over at News for Neighbors, their online candidates debate is focusing on Global Warming at the moment.
The Columbia River Crossing Task Force meets this afternoon to review the public input on selection of project components to move into the next phase, the Environmental Impact Statement analysis. Our discussion last week has been submitted to the public comment record leading up to this meeting.
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Task Force Meeting
Oregon Association of Minority Entrepreneurs
4134 N Vancouver Avenue, Portland, Oregon
TriMet lines 6 or 40
The idea behind Traveler Information is to give people the information they need before or during their trip to help plan the trip, choose the mode, adapt to congestion, pick alternate routes, etc. All in the service of a more efficient trip and better user experience (and maybe even reduction in undesirable outcomes, like air pollution from idling vehicles stuck in traffic jams).
So here's the question. What kind of Traveler Information would you like to see? How can we use and communicate information to transform travel behavior here in our region?
April 25, 2006
As part of the introduction to last week's workshop scoping out the process or updating the Regional Transportation Plan, Metro President David Bragdon gave a history lesson, recounting how the way in which the nation has paid for its transportation infrastructure has varied greatly over history, going through phases roughly every fifty years. The suggestion of course is that they era of the federal gas tax and highway trust fund, started in the 50's by Eisenhower to build the Interstate Highway System is getting long in the tooth.
While Bragdon did not have a formal printed verison of his remarks, he was kind enough to share his speaking notes, reproduced here:
Regional Transportation Workshop
April 20, 2006
This is an historic morning – and to prove the validity of that cliché in this instance, let’s start with a little history.
Government investment in transportation has been shaping our economy and our communities for centuries, but the form, paradigms and assumptions of that investment changes every 50 years or so.
It is rare that one paradigm of investment lasts longer than 50 years, and there’s lots of evidence that we are at the end of such a cycle right now.
Some generations have risen to these transitions and some have not. Some places have adapted to these transitions and thrived and some places have not. This morning is the beginning of the test of whether we recognize change and adapt to it or not.
Start with the post-revolutionary period: Alexander Hamilton (look at the $10 bill): “internal improvements” like canals and national roads and harbors, to be funded by the tariff. Or the Gallatin Plan of 1808 to open the Midwest, and make the U.S. an international economy. These were visionary plans, and were partly implemented. But time passed and that funding source, the tariff, ran its course. By the 1820s there was a void left by federal inaction, only partly filled by some selective state action like Dewitt Clinton’s Erie Canal. There was also significant technological change in the wings in the form of the railway.
After decades of slumber, federal financing took another quantum leap in the mid 19th Century -- again after a major political realignment (the Civil War) -- with the introduction of land grants to subsidize railway expansion. Again, a new idea and a new technology – one with profound consequences for our economy; things that had not been thought of before.
But that paradigm (land grants), after shaping our nation, also ran its course and died.
Move to 20th Century, especially with the political realignments under Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Roosevelt: more totally new paradigms of public finance and new technology, unlike what went before, both caused by, and causing major changes in our society. This led to a quantum leap, especially after World War II: creation of the interstate system and the federal gas tax highway trust fund, somewhere around 1956 (hmm, exactly fifty years ago . . .are we sensing a pattern….?).
Here’s the point for us this morning: that paradigm shift in the 1950s created the world we live in today, particularly the dispersal of suburbanization. I cannot stress this point too much: what we are living in today is the product of those investment tools, and assumptions and objectives of that last major shift – one that occurred when Dwight Eisenhower was President.
Let me be more direct: until this morning, every Regional Transportation Plan has been implicitly conditioned by the fundamental assumptions of 50 years ago.
What were some of those assumptions and conditions?
- Oil at that time was around $13 per barrel. (Did anyone happen to hear on the radio what it is this morning? $72);
- Most of our oil came from places like Oklahoma and Texas – only perhaps a quarter of our supply came from overseas, from docile sources largely under American and western European control;
- The United States had a growing heavy manufacturing base, pent up demand and expanding industry in the post-depression, post-war period. We needed new stuff;
- The federal government had just appropriated $25 billion (in 1956 dollars) to build 40,000 miles of new roads;
- Most importantly to shaping metropolitan transportation planning, the new paradigm offered states 90 cents of federal money for every 10 cents a state spent on interstate highways. Actually, for Oregon, for various reasons related to timber lands, it was 8 state cents for 92 federal cents.
Look at it this way: for eight cents on the dollar, Oregon could buy Interstate 5 from the California border to the Columbia River and Interstate 84 from Portland to Idaho! Who could resist at prices like that? Roads for less than one-tenth their construction cost, and oil at $13 a barrel!
And until this morning, that’s still an ingrained assumption that has underlain much of our transportation decision-making in this country.
In our region, somewhat ironically, our decision-making today is further distorted by the habits created by what was actually a great decision in 1974 -- the cancellation of the so-called “Mt. Hood Freeway,” which freed up $550 million (in 1974 dollars) for other projects. The misconception is that the money that would have built the Mt Hood Freeway (which, actually, was just a link between the Marquam Bridge and Lents), instead was used to build light rail to Gresham. I say this is a misconception because in fact, less than half of the money was used on light rail. There was enough left over to completely rebuild the Banfield Highway and 220 other road projects regionwide (the Highway 26 and 217 Interchanges done in the 1980s, for example, were done with Mt. Hood Freeway money, as were overpasses as far away as eastern and southern Oregon).
The cancellation of those monstrous urban freeways created a huge pot of federal “trade-in” money – remember, it was $550 million in 1974 dollars! – that the region lived off of for nearly two decades. The City of Portland, controlling most of those funds, bought peace around the JPACT table for years by passing out more funds (largely to the suburbs) than could have been used within the city limits of Portland.
That was a wise choice: cancel two huge, disastrous projects and instead do hundreds of better, smaller (and not so small) ones that made more sense for our region. Unfortunately, that pot also conditioned us to a revenue stream that was thought to be typical when in fact it was an aberration. All our engineering, planning, decision-making, and expectations were built on an expectation that this aberration was actually normal.
It would be as if for 30 years I continued to calculate my annual, regular household budget – my food budget, my clothing budget, my rent or mortgage – based on the income from one big inheritance I had received from my uncle back in 1974 – an inheritance that he had accumulated as a result of an investment he had made in Washington, DC in 1956. The problem is we have now spent that inheritance and they are not making any new deals in Washington.
It has now been 50 years since 1956. More than 30 since 1974. Yet we are still doing regional transportation plans with essentially the expectations we used back then.
Until this morning.
Signs would say we are on the verge of another shift, judging by all the usual indicators that marked prior shifts:
- As with the tariff and the land grants in their day, there is evidence that our major national tool has run its course: financial prospects for the Federal Trust Fund are dire. When JPACT members met with Senator Gordon Smith in February, he predicted the Federal Highway Trust Fund will be broke by 2010 – though in fact the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office says it may be 2009.
- As happened in the late 19th Century and again in the mid-20th Century, our society and economy are changing -- post-industrialization, etc. The United States is now a mature economy, with existing assets to maintain, not a 1950s economy trying to catch up with pent-up demand from the war years. Rather than tens of thousands of miles of highways that need to be built, we have hundreds of thousands of miles that need to be maintained – and aren’t being.
- As happened in the late 19th Century and again in the mid-20th Century, the world is changing around us.
- As happened between Hamilton and Lincoln, and as happened between the two Roosevelts, we have a brain-dead federal government, disengaged from any investment strategy at all.
History shows us that every 50 years or so, when all those factors converge, we have:
- Exhaustion of existing funding paradigms;
- Rapid technological change;
- Economic upheaval based on global factors;
- Social transformation domestically;
- Federal detachment.
And when all those factors converge, then an entirely new way of thinking about (and investing in) transportation emerges. Some generations rise to the occasion and are part of that emergence, but some do not. Alexander Hamilton did; Franklin Pierce did not. Abraham Lincoln did; Herbert Hoover did not.
Often the response has to occur not in Washington, DC, but at the local or state or regional level – New York State stepped up and built the Erie Canal in the 1820s when the federal government would not. And partly as a result, New York State outperformed most of the rest of the nation for the ensuing decades; California stepped up and built highways in the 1950s, ahead of the federal curve, and it outperformed the rest of the nation for the following decades. That is not to say we should build canals today the way New Yorkers did in the 1820s, or highways today the way Californians did in the 1950s – rather, it is to say that those places had a vision and invested and thrived; while other states which did not invest during those eras lagged.
That is what today is about: whether or not our region is going to be in the forefront of recognizing new realities and investing accordingly, or whether we are going to live in the past and be left behind.
If we adapt to new fiscal and social and economic realities – and develop a new approach to transportation that is consistent with the tools and aspirations of the 21st Century – then our region is positioned to prosper.
To get us started with that challenge and explain what we are going to do this morning, we have an excellent chair of JPACT -- I am proud to introduce my colleague Councilor Rex Burkholder.
A week or so ago, there was a small blurb in the Tribune that the Federal Transit Administration had rejected AORTA's call for an independent review of the Transit Mall LRT project.
Portland Transport requested a copy of the FTA response from TriMet. Here's a scan of the letter (PDF 1.1M). Cutting to the bottom line:
We have not seen any compelling justification in your recent letters that would cause us to ask the Metro Council to reconsider the planning decisions they have made, change the design parameters that TriMet is now using to complete their final design for the I-205/Portland Mall project or cause FTA to supplement the completed environmental review process or its New Starts project evaluation.
April 24, 2006
Friday's Tribune reported on a recommendation from a TriMet advisory committee suggesting that it might be time to terminate fareless square.
There seem to be a number of factors at play here:
- TriMet is squeezed to pay for operating costs for the new Green Line, and could use the extra fare revenue.
- The City of Portland is finding it difficult to pay its share of the subsidy for fareless square. With gas tax revenues declining, the other funding source for PDOT, parking meter revenues, it getting asked to pay for more things.
- Some believe fareless square is linked to undesirable street behavior (drug dealing, panhandling, etc.) downtown and in the Lloyd District (as well as undesirable behavior on the transit vehicles).
I'm curious what readers think about that last point. In some ways it seems very classist. I'm also interested in thoughts on the theory that fareless square has served its purpose in changing the culture of how the region thinks about transit. Would that cultural change persist even if fareless square went away?
An alternate idea I have heard floated is to retain fareless square on rail, since after the mall alignment opens in 2009 there will be good north-south rail connections on 5th/6th and 10th/11th, while ending fareless service on buses, since only small parts of each bus line operate in fareless square. What do people think about that?
Last Thursday Metro held a workshop to begin scoping the process for updating the Regional Transportation Plan. A number of Portland Transport contributors participated, and you'll be reading a number of perspectives on the update over the next few days.
Last Thursday Metro convened 100 leaders and local politicians to kick off the Regional Transportation Plan update process. Metro President David Bragdon and Councilor Burkholder reflected backwards and discussed the coming of a new era of transportation and public works. They talked about finite resources – both financial and natural.
Next they held a facilitated input process. We sat around tables while facilitators prompted us for general themes that would help guide the two-year long planning process; they asked for methods by which Metro could public comment.
I heard two primary themes among participants: 'bang for the buck' and 'outcomes based'. Ironically these are two of the things that transportation engineers do worst. I’ll illustrate by example:
Circle-peg and Square-hole
If I said “boy the freeway is congested” a highway engineering would add a lane; however once built the congestion would not be eased. Many transportation academics believe that you literally cannot build your way out of traffic congestion, it’s a low bang for the buck and lacks desired outcomes.
Square-peg and Square-hole.
If I said “boy the freeway is congested” an economists would add a pricing system where the price increases with congestion and therefore easing congestion. While perhaps politically difficult, from a resourse and result standpoint it achieves the objective while raising resources, a great bang.
As it goes I am encouraged by this trend. I believe that bicycle, pedestrian, transit, and other non-auto investments are the way of the future, a great bang for the limited public buck and clearly moves us towards desired outcomes of improved economy, livability, and efficient transportation systems.
For those of you who missed Portland Transport contributor Rick Browning's presentation of his research on Japanese Streetscapes, you're in luck. Rick is giving pretty much the same presentation in a couple of other venues:
SE Uplift (neighborhood coalition) - 3534 SE Main 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
Call Steve Hoyt at 503/232-0010 x321 for more info. This is a free lecture.
PSU Campus, Neuberger Hall, Room 238
2 to 4 PM
Rick will be presenting to an alternative transportation class. Email Scott Cohen at firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.
If you happen to catch Rick at one of these events, be sure to remind him how much we'd like to put all his photos and sketches up on Portland Transport!
April 21, 2006
We had a robust discussion here several months ago about the Cost of Congestion report.
Now, local economist Joe Cortright has penciled out his perspective. Joe is perhaps best known for his The Young and the Restless report looking at what influences young, highly educated workers in the choice of cities and regions to live in. Much of Joe's work is about the engine of innovation driving our economy.
Joe's commentary, entitled "30 seconds over Portland" reaches the conclusion that the $6B (yes, Billion) in investment suggested in the report, would yield 30 seconds of time savings on the average trip.
OK, this may not be directly a transportation issue (actually, for me it is, since my primary mode of commuting is telecommuting), but anyone who uses the blogosphere should be concerned about this.
One of the basic guiding principals that has made the Internet successful is that all packets are equal (this is sometimes expressed by saying that all the intelligence in the network is at the edges, the middle is dumb and transparent). The idea is that everyone's content moves on an equal basis. You may opt to pay for a different sized pipe at the edge, but in the middle, everyone is equal.
Several large telecom providers are asking congress to change that model. Moveon has a petition opposing this, which I have signed on to, and I urge all of you to do so as well.
Subject: Congress is selling out the Internet
Do you buy books online, use Google, or download to an Ipod? These activities will be hurt if Congress passes a radical law that gives giant corporations more control over the Internet.
Internet providers like AT&T and Verizon are lobbying Congress hard to gut Network Neutrality, the Internet's First Amendment. Net Neutrality prevents AT&T from choosing which websites open most easily for you based on which site pays AT&T more. Amazon.com doesn't have to outbid Barnes & Noble for the right to work more properly on your computer.
Politicians don't think we are paying attention to this issue. Many of them take campaign checks from big telecom companies and are on the verge of selling out to people like AT&T's CEO, who openly says, "The internet can't be free."
The free and open Internet is under siege--can you sign this petition letting your member of Congress know you support preserving Network Neutrality? Click here:
A list of all the ways you might be affected by Net Neutrality is located on the bottom of this link: http://civic.moveon.org/alerts/savetheinternet.html
The official announcement is out.
Plan on being at the PSU Smith Center from 8:30 to 1:30 on Saturday, June 17th.
Workshops will include:
- Portland's I Share the Road campaign
- Innovations in Bikeways Here and Abroad
- Who Put the Fun in Bike Fun? From Breakfast on the Bridges to Pedalpalooza
- New Laws for Bikes - What Strategies are on the Horizon
- Why Do People Not Ride - Really (or How to Get My Next Door Neighbor/Co-worker/Friend on a Bike)
There's an interesting post over at CommissionerSam.com guest written by Paul Smith, the new head of the planning section in PDOT.
He talks about the gripe of some drivers about "all the money that goes to cyclists". Paul then goes on to look at the actual portion of the PDOT budget focused on cycling, and how it compares to other modes.
Head over there to read and comment.
April 20, 2006
Help Metro implement the Drive Less/Save More program:
Temporary, part-time, 20 to 30 hours per week
Much has been debated about the Portland Aerial Tram project. Yesterday, the City Council, in a close vote, endorsed continuing construction of the tram and committed more city money from various sources to the project.
Interestingly, just hours earlier, passengers on a tram in New York were being evacuated from a stalled system via crane and maintenance carriage. The time from initial failure to rescue completion was about 12 hours, and an investigation into the causes and procedures followed is ongoing.
Regardless of one's position on the Portland tram, I think the New York system may provide some insights on what to expect in terms of performance and in terms of the potential for failure. I think it is fair to ask PATI what safeguards are incorporated in the Portland design which would prevent, or at least lessen the severity of, a New York style failure.
Here's a link to a New York Times article on the subject:
- Bob R.
We've discussed before the idea that zoning may be a cause of sprawl.
This Friday the weekly PSU transportation seminar will focus in on the connections between zoning and transportation:
Portland State University Center for Transportation Studies Spring 2006 Transportation Seminar Series
Topic: Zoned Out: Regulation, Markets, and Choices in Transportation and Metropolitan Land Use
Speaker: Jonathan Levine, Chair and Associate Professor of Urban + Regional Planning, University of Michigan
When: Friday, April 21, 2006, 12:00-1:30 pm
Where: 204 Urban Center (www.pdx.edu/map.html)
The search for solutions to urban sprawl, congestion, and pollution has inspired a wealth of alternatives, including smart growth, New Urbanism, and transit-oriented development. Since 1970, researchers have sought to assess such alternatives by evaluating their transportation benefits. Implicit in research efforts, however, has been the presumption that, for these options to be given serious consideration as part of policy reform, science has to prove they will reduce auto use and increase transit, walking, or other physical activity. Zoned Out argues that the debate about transportation and land use planning in the United States has been distorted by a myth – the myth that urban sprawl is the result of a free market. According to this myth, low-density, auto-dependent development dominates U.S. metropolitan areas simply because that is what Americans prefer.
This seminar confronts the free market myth by pointing out that land development is already one of the most regulated sectors of the U.S. economy. Noting that local governments use their regulatory powers to lower densities, segregate different types of land uses, and mandate large roadways and parking lots, it argues that the design template for urban sprawl is written into the land-use regulations of thousands of municipalities nationwide. These regulations and the skewed thinking that underlies current debate mean that policy innovation, market forces, and the compact-development alternatives they might produce are often “zoned out” of metropolitan areas. When people believe that current land-use development is governed by a free market, any proposal for policy reform is seen as a market intervention and a limitation on consumer choice, and any proposal carries a high burden of scientific proof that it will be effective. By contrast, a recognition of the role of regulation in constraining current options should change this burden of proof and the way in which transportation and land-use innovations are debated.
Ever wanted to be a Transportation Demand Management Specialist?
April 19, 2006
I'm about to close comments on the Columbia River Crossing Week posts, so I can bundle them up and submit them for the record. If you'd like to keep discussing the items, do so here.
|TR-10||Magnetic Levitation Railway||F||F||F|
|TR-13||Personal Rapid Transit||F||F||F|
- Maglev Trains
- Personal Rapid Transit
- People Movers
Staff reject them. I'm actually sorry to see Ferries crossed off the list, but I appreciate the argument that the slowest bus can get from downtown Vancouver to downtown Portland faster than the fastest ferry. There's just too much out of direction travel.
This is the last batch of projects for CRC week here at Portland Transport. You can comment for the rest of the day. At midnight we'll cut off comments and collect them all to submit for the public record.
Comments have been closed and will be submitted to the project public record. If you have additional thoughts, please comment on the open thread for this purpose.
|RC-15||New Corridor Plus I-5 Widening||P||F||P||F||F||F||F|
|RC-16||I-605 (New Western Highway)||F||F||F||F||F||F||F|
|RC-17||New Eastern Crossing||F||F||F||F||F||F||F|
|RC-21||33rd Ave Crossing||F||F||F||F||F||F||F|
Described on pages 5-14 to 5-23 (PDF, 482K) of the report (PDF 3.3M) these are all some variation on putting the additional traffic somewhere else. In most cases (except for the I-205 improvements scenario), in a new corridor. A new corridor would open up new land for development and quite likely encourage sprawl and more auto-dependence, so I'm happy that staff is not recommending moving these forward.
Comments have been closed and will be submitted to the project public record. If you have additional thoughts, please comment on the open thread for this purpose.
April 18, 2006
|TR-1||Express Bus in General Purpose Lanes||P||P||P|
|TR-2||Express Bus in Managed Lanes||P||P||P|
|TR-3||Bus Rapid Transit Lite||P||P||P|
|TR-4||Bus Rapid Transit||P||P||P|
The report (PDF 3.3M) offers four different configurations of bus options (on pages 4-2 to 4-4, PDF, 134K) and recommends that all four be studied. They basically differ in the amount and configuration of dedicated facilities for the buses. I can't quibble, they're all options that should be studied (even if I am a rail fan).
Comments have been closed and will be submitted to the project public record. If you have additional thoughts, please comment on the open thread for this purpose.
|TR-7||High Speed Rail||F||F||P||P||P||P||F|
The conclusion is not to include high speed rail because it doesn't serve regional needs. That's sort of like saying we should never have built PDX because it doesn't do much for travel to Salem.
Building a new crossing without including right-of-way for high speed rail would be criminal, and a clear statement that we plan to have inter-city travel remain auto-dependent.
Columbia River Crossing Tunnel
|RC-13||Tunnel to Supplement I-5||P||P||P||P||P||P||P|
The idea is to have a tunnel that goes underground somewhere before Marine Drive and surfaces around Mill Plain Blvd., bypassing Hayden Island.
Staff gives this a thumbs up a supplement to the existing bridge, but thumbs down as a replacement, on the basis that it doesn't provide local access within the Bridge Influence Area (or provide transit or bike connections in the BIA for that matter).
From an auto-reliance point of view, I suspect it's in the same league as the supplemental bridges.
April 17, 2006
A special section in this morning's Wall Street Journal predicts that by 2020 there will be 1 Billion cars in service worldwide. While the section has articles on hybrids, alternative fuels, congestion management, and recycling of vehicles, I did not see any prominent discussion of either peak oil or global warming (in fairness, I didn't come close to reading every word of every article).
Click image for a full-size view of the proposed bridge modifications
AORTA’s critique of the Columbia River Crossing Draft Components Step A Screening Report (March 22, 2006)
The report claims the Non-Freeway Multi-Modal Columbia River Crossing (Figure 5-23) failed component screening questions Q.1, Q.3, Q.4 and Q.6, assumes “it is not feasible to raise the existing I-5 Bridges” and recommends dropping commuter rail from further consideration. We disagree. Following is our rebuttal.
Non-Freeway Multi-Modal Columbia River Crossing
Question 1: Does the Component increase Vehicular Capacity or Decrease Vehicle Demand within the Bridge Influence Area?
Yes, the multi-modal bridge meets both of these requirements. The freeway bridges would gain another through lane each way because they would no longer have to accommodate the acceleration lanes from the northbound and southbound approach ramps. As long as the main stem of the freeway remains at six lanes, there will be no need for additional freeway lanes across the river.
The multi-modal bridge will add three to five additional lanes across the river for local and southbound freeway access traffic. It also will carry light rail, which would significantly reduce vehicle demand.
Out of direction travel is not a major issue. The local access provided Hayden Island would more than offset the additional few minutes that will be required to travel to and from I-5 north through the Marine Drive Interchange.
Commuter rail, in concert with light rail would further reduce vehicle demand. See later comments regarding commuter rail.
Question 3: Does the Component Improve Freight Mobility Within the BIA?
Yes. Local access and light rail improve freight mobility by providing desirable alternatives for commuters, thus reducing congestion for trucks.
In addition, improvements to the freight rail infrastructure that are needed and planned within the bridge influence area will reduce rail freight congestion, thus reducing the demand on motor freight. The assumption expressed in the report that the rate of growth for motor freight will be faster than rail freight is probably inaccurate given increasing fuel costs and the government finally recognizing that investment in railroad infrastructure is in the public interest. For example, Oregon will invest $100 million in the next few years on non-highway transportation infrastructure through the Connect Oregon Plan.
Question 4: Does the Component Improve Safety and Decrease Vulnerability to Incidents within the BIA?
Yes. In addition to reducing traffic demand it improves freeway geometry, reduces the number of closely spaced ramps and lengthens weave distances. The grade and vertical sight distance can be improved at the north end of the bridge by eliminating the lift span and raising the trusses. The tight southbound on ramp from downtown Vancouver and SR 14 is eliminated by routing this traffic over the multi-modal bridge on a separate auxiliary lane. Both Hayden Island ramps to and from I-5 north are eliminated providing longer, safer weaves on Hayden Island. Greater northbound capacity is provided from Marine Drive by adding another lane on the Portland Harbor Bridge.
Shoulder standards required for new structures by the FHWA are not possible on the existing bridge structures, but these are not new structures. Shoulders on the Marquam Bridge do not meet current standards either and it should be noted that the cross section of a possible tunnel, illustrated in this report, shows substandard shoulders.
The geometry of the freeway north of the bridge can be modified or speed standards reduced if sight lines don’t meet 70MPH freeway standards in this segment.
Question 6: Does the Component Reduce Seismic Risk of the Columbia River Crossing?
Yes. Eliminating the lift towers and the heavy counter weights greatly reduce the seismic risk. In addition, the piers could be further stabilized with additional peripheral piling and the trusses could be more securely anchored to the piers. We suspect the cost of seismic upgrading would be insignificant compared to the cost of a new bridge or tunnel.
It is curious that in the report, this option (RC-22) failed this component but options RC-7 through RC-13 that retained the existing bridges with their vulnerable towers passed with an “Unknown (insufficient information)” rating.
Feasibility of raising existing Bridges
Raising both of the bridges is feasible. The northbound bridge was raised to match the “hump” in the southbound bridge constructed in the 1950s. Although not explained in the report, we suspect the alleged reasons have to do with navigational clearances.
Currently, most commercial river traffic forgoes the lift span in favor of the “hump” despite the need to make a ‘S’ turn maneuver between the highway and railroad bridges. It has been strongly recommended by the barge and rail companies that federal funds be invested in the railroad bridge by replacing the existing swing span with a wider lift span that would align with the “hump”. This change may occur before the commencement of this highway project.
If the long span (#5 on the attached diagram) could be raised high enough to meet the Coast Guard’s clearance requirements for essential river traffic, the main channel could then be moved south and the lift spans decommissioned. The bridge raising option should not be eliminated prior to this determination.
The Non-Freeway Multi-Modal Bridge we propose does not depend upon raising the existing bridges or eliminating the lift spans. However, if the lift spans are not eliminated, the new bridge would also need a lift span aligned with them.
Commuter rail operating on existing regional rail tracks would greatly improve public transit service in the Bridge Influence Area. The stated claim that it would be infeasible to integrate with the existing bus and rail network is absurd. Throughout the world, commuter rail stations become hubs for local transit systems allowing seamless access to and from destinations far beyond the train stations which are not just park and ride lots.
We acknowledge that commuter rail was not recommended in the “I-5 Rail Capacity Study” (Feb. 2003). This conclusion was based on a cursory commuter rail analysis done by ODOT of only one rather ambitious commuter rail scenario, which assumed that the freight rail infrastructure in the Influence Area would experience only modest incremental upgrades. A more conservative phased development of commuter rail, combined with a more aggressive freight rail infrastructure improvement plan, was never studied or vetted.
For example, peak hour commuter rail service between Ridgefield and Union Station in the Amtrak corridor is feasible if combined with the incremental improvements and grade separation of the UPRR and BNSF rail lines at N. Portland Junction recommended in the Rail Capacity Report. Such rail infrastructure improvements are practical to accomplish within the time frame of the I-5 project, especially now that there is growing cooperation between the Class I railroads and state and local governments to share in the cost of rail improvements.
|RC-19||Arterial Crossing without I-5 Improvements||F||P||F||F||P||F||F|
|RC-22||Non-Freeway Multi-Modal Crossing||F||P||F||F||P||F||F|
|RC-23||Arterial Crossing with I-5 Improvements||P||P||P||P||P||P||P|
Multi-modal non-Freeway Columbia River Crossing - click image for larger view
The staff analysis seems to amount to: well, that's nice, but unless you do freeway improvements as well, you don't meet the purpose and need of the project. Here's the direct quote:
It does not significantly increase vehicular capacity or reduce travel demand along I-5. It results in out-of-direction travel within the Bridge Influence Area.
It seems to me that given that 24% of the traffic on I-5 in one direction (and 38% in the other) is local to the Bridge Influence Area, you could do a lot of good by taking that traffic off I-5 so that the capacity is available for longer through trips (particularly freight).
If freeway improvements are the basic ante, then I also find it odd that there is no component coupling the multi-modal bridge with freeway improvements - exclusion by project pairing?
And I suspect this is the road-based project component most likely to add real connectivity with the least impact on overall auto-reliance in the region.
I would personally like to see the staff recommendation on this overridden by the task force.
From Columbia River Crossing screening report.
Staff recommend further consideration of Light Rail and Streetcar, but not Commuter Rail or Heavy Rail. The rationale is that current rail lines will be too congested with freight and Amtrak to have capacity for Commuter Rail and that either would be too difficult to connect with existing transit service.
Expect something in response to this from AORTA...
My view is that any of these would be a help to reducing SOV dependence.
April 16, 2006
|RC-7||Supplemental Bridge, Downstream, Low-level, Movable||P||P||P||P||P||P||P|
|RC-8||Supplemental Bridge, Upstream, Low-level, Movable||P||P||P||P||P||P||P|
|RC-9||Supplemental Bridge, Downstream, Mid-level||P||P||P||P||P||P||P|
|RC-10||Supplemental Bridge, Upstream, Mid-level||P||P||P||F||P||P||F|
|RC-11||Supplemental Bridge, Downstream, High-level||P||P||P||F||P||P||F|
|RC-12||Supplemental Bridge, Upstream, High-level||P||P||P||F||P||P||F|
The second batch of projects to discuss are the supplemental freeway bridge concepts. Like the replacement bridges, they could be located either immediately east or west of the existing bridges, and come in three height variations: Low (65 foot verical clearance), Medium (110 foot vertical clearance) or High (130 foot vertical clearance).
You can find detailed descriptions on pages 5-5 to 5-7 and 5-11 to 5-12 (PDF 279K) from the screening report (PDF 3.3M).
The Low variations would not allow clearance for all river traffic, so they would require some kind of movable span.
In the supplemental scenario, one or both of the existing I-5 bridges would remain in service. What I find interesting about this assumption, is that the analysis does not say what would need to be done to the existing bridges to keep them in service - while in the muti-modal supplemental bridge (RC-22) to be discussed later, there is considerable discussion of how hard it is to retrofit the existing bridges. Hmmm...
As with the replacement bridges, the High versions have airspace problems. In this case, the upstream Mid-level bridge also has an airspace problem since its high point would need to align with the high point on the existing bridges.
To our supplemental question about how these options impact reliance on SOV automobilies, I think the answer is the same as for the replacement bridges: it depends on how you manage the lanes.
|RC-1||Replacement Bridge, Downstream, Low-level, Movable||P||P||P||P||P||P||P|
|RC-2||Replacement Bridge, Upstream, Low-level, Movable||P||P||P||P||P||P||P|
|RC-3||Replacement Bridge, Downstream, Mid-level||P||P||P||P||P||P||P|
|RC-4||Replacement Bridge, Upstream, Mid-level||P||P||P||P||P||P||P|
|RC-5||Replacement Bridge, Downstream, High-level||P||P||P||F||P||P||F|
|RC-6||Replacement Bridge, Upstream, High-level||P||P||P||F||P||P||F|
The first batch of projects to discuss are the replacement freeway bridge concepts. They could be located either immediately east or west of the existing bridges, and come in three height variations: Low (65 foot verical clearance), Medium (110 foot vertical clearance) or High (130 foot vertical clearance).
You can find detailed descriptions on pages 5-3 to 5-5 and 5-10 (PDF 318K) from the screening report (PDF 3.3M).
The Low variations would not allow clearance for all river traffic, so they would require some kind of movable span.
The Medium variations have sufficient clearance that they do not require a movable span. Given this, it's not clear what advantages the High variations provide, which is probably just as well, as staff has recommended against them due to interference with the airspace for Pearson Air Park and possibly PDX.
On to our supplemental question: will this design help reduce reliance on SOV automobilies? That would depend to a large degree on the lane configurations. How much is given over to HOV lanes or dedicated transit lanes, bus or Light Rail (we can assume the bike and ped facilities will be built to current standards)? If the number of unmanaged lanes is increased, we're simply encouraging more people to commute from Vancouver to Portland, which will not help with SOV reliance.
Here we go! We're going to dive into a detailed discussion of the Columbia River Crossing options that are under consideration to advance into the Environmental Impact Statement phase of the study process.
We'll be looking at each of the 37 different components (split into about 10 different groups). Staff has evaluated each of these based on six questions (only the first two apply to transit projects):
Q1. Does the component increase vehicular capacity or decrease vehicular demand within the Bridge Influence
Q2. Does the component improve transit performance within the Bridge Influence Area?
Q3. Does the component improve freight mobility within the Bridge Influence Area?
Q4. Does the component improve safety and decrease vulnerability to incidents within the Bridge Influence
Q5. Does the component improve bicycle and pedestrian mobility within the Bridge Influence Area?
Q6. Does the component reduce seismic risk of the I-5 Columbia River crossing?
You are welcome to agree or disagree with the staff assessment on each of these, or suggest why these are the wrong criteria to apply.
I'm also going to suggest a criterion that I think is missing from the list above. In the spirit of Oregon's Transportation Planning Rule:
Q7. Does the component reduce reliance on a single mode of transportation (i.e., single-occupancy automobiles)?
The comment period from last week's open houses continues through April 20th. So comments on the posts in this series will be open until until the end of the day on the 19th (Wednesday). At the end of the day, I will close the comments and submit the whole bundle to the project team to be included in the public record from the open houses.
The first group of components will be posted in a few hours. Have at it!
City Club's Friday Forum this week (April 21st) will feature Jane Lubchenco, Distinguished Professor of Zoology and Wayne & Gladys Valley Professor of Marine Biology at Oregon State University on "Climate Change and its Implications for Oregon".
During 2005 and the first three months of 2006, a striking sequence of new scientific findings were made about climate change. These major findings, reported in the peer-reviewed scientific literature, suggest that the physical consequences of climate change are not only quite real, but are happening faster than most scientists anticipated.
Scientific information about the causes and consequences of global warming provides a useful starting point for action to fight global warming. Portland has long been a leader among U.S. cities in reducing its greenhouse gas emissions, but the Governor's Advisory Group on Global Warming identifies additional options for citizens, businesses, the city and the state to significantly reduce emissions.
As we prepare for Earth Day 2006, please join us on April 21 to hear from OSU’s Jane Lubchenco, who will summarize these new findings in non-technical terms, giving special attention to likely changes in the Pacific Northwest.
This week's Friday Forum, which is open to the public, will be held at the Governor Hotel (614 S.W. 11th Ave.). Doors will open at 11:30 a.m.; the program begins at 12:15 p.m. and concludes at 1:15 p.m. Luncheon tickets are $16 for City Club members and up to two guests, $20 for nonmembers. Lunch reservations can be made online at http://www.pdxcityclub.org/forums-events/friday-forums.php or by calling 503-228-7231, ext. 103, by 2 p.m. Wednesday, April 19, 2006 (members only may call the members' reservation message line at 503-241-9242). A limited number of coffee/tea tickets are $5 at the door. General seating, also available at the door, is free for members, $5 for nonmembers.
April 15, 2006
Luke Tonachel will be speaking on "Addicted to Oil: Clever Ways to Kick the Habit"
Tuesday, April 18, 7 to 8pm, Flavia Salon on the Marylhurst Campus
The talk is FREE. So is parking.
Refreshments will be served.
Luke Tonachel works on transportation energy issues for the Natural Resources Defense Council. Mr. Tonachel’s work focuses on reducing U.S. oil dependence through policies that promote advanced vehicle technologies and cleaner, more sustainable fuels. He co-authored Securing America: Solving Our Oil Dependence Through Innovation and is a core member of the Break The Chain Campaign to reduce America’s dependence on oil and reduce global warming pollution from vehicles. Prior to coming to NRDC, Mr. Tonachel worked in the private sector and served as an officer in the Navy, including managing nuclear propulsion plant and shipboard operations on a navy cruiser. Mr. Tonachel also has a Master’s degree in Public Policy from the University of California at Berkeley.
For additional information, call 503-699-6275, or email email@example.com
April 14, 2006
I still think this project has cool shirts.
Thumbs up or down on the staff recommendation for possible project elements.
Columbia River creation myth featuring Muskrat and Coyote.
Last night I attended the Columbia River Crossing open house at Hayden Island (one was also held the prior evening in Vancouver).
The key output of this phase of public comment is to influence the project components that go forward in the Environmental Impact Statement process.
There are actually 23 separate crossing elements and 14 transit elements under consideration. Some have been recommended by the staff, others not.
I propose to use this blog as an extension of the public comment process. Starting this weekend and over the course of the next week or so, I will post each of the 37 project elements (probably putting them in some logical groups), along with the staff scoring, and we'll discuss them.
At the end of the process, I'll submit all of the discussion and comments to be part of the public input for the process.
For those of you who want to get a head start, the various elements are described in the screening report (PDF, 3.3M) from the March 22nd task force meeting.
Yesterday was a big travel day: from home to Wilsonville, back up to Hayden Island for the Columbia Crossing Open House and then to the Lloyd District for a economic development presentation.
All accomplished by bike and bike-on-transit. But not without some challenges.
Catching the #96 down to Wilsonville, three of us wheeled up our bikes at the first stop on the line to catch the last bus of the morning. I suggested that the last rider to arrive ask the driver if he could put his bike in the wheelchair spot - I have been told the driver has discretion, but have never seen an official TriMet policy on this. The driver said it was not allowed, and my fellow passenger had to lock his bike up to the fence next to the Greyhound station.
I used the Yellow Line both ways to Hayden Island. On each train there was a single low-floor car, so there were 4 bike hooks. For at least part of each trip, there were five bikes. Fortunately in that case the riders were able to stand with their bikes.
We definitely have a bikes-on-transit capacity problem! TriMet, are you listening?
Public invited to Sellwood Bridge briefing
A major planning effort for the Sellwood Bridge will be explained to the public on Monday, April 17 from 5:00 pm to 6:30 pm at the Portland French School, 6318 SW Corbett Avenue.
Multnomah County has secured funds to begin planning work for a long-term solution to the serious structural and design problems of the 80-year-old Sellwood Bridge. At the briefing, county project staff will share details about:
- Current condition of the bridge
- Short-term strategy to keep the bridge in service
- Planning for a long-term solution that begins this spring
- How the public can be involved, including the role of a Community Task Force
County Commissioner Maria Rojo de Steffey, whose district includes the bridge, will introduce the presentation. The briefing is one of many county staff have been holding with community groups to identify initial public concerns about the bridge project and recruit volunteers for the Community Task Force. Individuals interested in serving on the task force are asked to complete an application form and return it to Multnomah County. Call 503-988-6804 to request an application.
April 13, 2006
I've been banging the drum lately that citizens should get involved very early in policy development to have maximum impact, so they're not left asking "when did that decision get made?" Well, here's a golden opportunity.
The Metro Council has been saying that this update to the Regional Transportation Plan will be different - we're going to stop deluding ourselves by having a "preferred system" made up of projects that cost 3 times what we actually have to spend. That means making some hard choices and really thinking about the transportation system we're going to live with for the next 20 years.
So what kind of citizen input process do we want to use to make this choices? I have the opportunity (because of my MPAC membership) to participate in a workshop next week to scope the RTP process. What kind of outreach should we be doing and what kinds of discussions should we be having with the region to do this right?
I want to hear your ideas!
Long-time readers will be familiar with frequent references to the radio program Smart City, out of Memphis (I listen to the podcast religiously).
Well, Carol Coletta, the host, is in Portland today for two events, and I can hardly wait:
Event # 1
"Catalyzing Investments in Centers: A Conversation with Local Innovators"
Thursday, April 13
Metro Council Chamber
600 NE Grand Ave., Portland
A reminder to join us for the second in the 2006 series of Get Centered! brown bag lunch discussions. This roundtable discussion will be moderated by Carol Coletta, host and producer of the nationally-syndicated public radio show, Smart City, and President and CEO of CEO's for Cities, a national organization dedicated to improving urban competitiveness.
Ms. Coletta will facilitate a conversation with some of the Metro region's own urban innovators, a diverse group of entrepreneurs and creative risk-takers investing in projects and businesses that make mixed-use centers and main streets thrive. The lunchtime discussion will focus on the key ingredients necessary for our region's town centers to become dynamic urban communities - vibrant places for people to live, work, and play.
Kevin Cavenaugh, TENpod
Stuart Emmons, Emmons Architecture
Rudy Kadlub, Costa Pacific
Ginger Metcalf, Identity Clark County
Randy Rapaport, Rapaport Development Co.
Don Rood, Felt Hat
Event # 2
Please plan on joining us for the final presentation in the Metro Council Economic Development Speaker Series.
Carol Coletta, host and producer of the nationally-syndicated public radio show, Smart City, and President and CEO of CEOs for Cities, a national organization dedicated to improving urban competitiveness, will speak to: "Nothing Ventured, Everything Lost: Of Innovation, Civic Leadership, and Bold Ideas"
Thursday, April 13, 2006 at the Liberty Northwest Center at 7 p.m.
April 12, 2006
A few months ago, a pedestrian was tragically killed on NW 23rd not far from my home. The immediate response from the neighborhood was to ask for lower speed limits and striped crosswalks at all intersections.
The Tribune reported yesterday that the business association has withdrawn their support for the crosswalks. Apparently they are concerned that this would force parking removal at the corners.
There are a couple of aspects of this that I want to explore:
1) I think we could figure out how to provide crosswalks without changing the parking, and we should separate the issues.
2) There is a real safety problem at the corners because of the visibility issues created by the parked cars. I'm teaching my 16-year-old step-daughter to drive, and skill #1 to get off our block is to learn to look between and through the windows of parked cars to see if it's safe to turn out onto NW 23rd. Removing parking is one solution, but probably not a popular one to any group in the neighborhood. Another option would be to enforce the existing regulations that prohibit tall vehicles within a certain distance of the corner (kudos to anyone who can find the code section for me).
How do other neighborhoods feel about this problem and potential solutions?
Hat tip to Craig Bollen for passing this along from Yahoo News. I also caught a short version on the KOIN news last night.
Woman, 82, Gets Ticket for Slow Crossing
LOS ANGELES - An 82-year-old woman received a $114 ticket for taking too long to cross a street. Mayvis Coyle said she began shuffling with her cane across Foothill Boulevard in the San Fernando Valley when the light was green, but was unable to make it to the other side before it turned red.
She said the motorcycle officer who ticketed her on Feb. 15 told her she was obstructing traffic.
"I think it's completely outrageous," said Coyle, who described herself as a Cherokee medicine woman. "He treated me like a 6-year-old, like I don't know what I'm doing."
Los Angeles police Sgt. Mike Zaboski of the Valley Traffic Division said police are cracking down on people who improperly cross streets because pedestrian accidents are above normal. He said he could not comment on Coyle's ticket other than to say that it is her word against that of the citing officer, identified only as Officer Kelly.
"I'd rather not have angry pedestrians," Zaboski said. "But I'd rather have them be alive."
Others, however, supported Coyle's contention that the light in question doesn't give people enough time to cross the busy, five-lane boulevard.
"I can go halfway, then the light changes," said Edith Krause, 78, who uses an electric cart because she has difficulty walking.
On Friday, the light changed too quickly even for high school students to make it across without running. It went from green to red in 20 seconds.
Councilwoman Wendy Greuel said she has asked transportation officials to figure out how to accommodate elderly people.
"We should look at those areas with predominantly seniors and accommodate their needs in intersections" she said.
After all the discussion here about the Columbia River Crossing project, I hope everyone will take the time to come to one of the open houses coming up in April. I'll probably be at the Thursday session. It's important that all the comments get put on the record [we haven't been able to convince them to append Portland Transport's database to the record yet :-)].
Date: Wednesday, April 12, 2006
Time: 4:30 – 7:30 p.m.
Place: Hudson’s Bay High School
1206 E. Reserve Street
Date: Thursday, April 13, 2006
Time: 4:30 – 7:30 p.m.
Place: Red Lion Inn - Jantzen Beach
909 N. Hayden Island Drive
Drop in anytime between 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. Enjoy free refreshments while you tour the exhibits and talk with Columbia River Crossing team members. Storytelling at 4:45 and 6:00 p.m.; project presentations at 5:30 and 6:30 p.m.
For more information, call Columbia River Crossing(CRC) at 1-866-396-2726, e-mail CRC at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit CRC online at www.columbiarivercrossing.org.
April 11, 2006
Friday's Oregonian reports that Beaverton has outlined a list of road improvements Wal-Mart would need to fund to meet standards for its proposed Cedar Hills location.
The list includes some 16 off-site improvements. Wal-Mart seems happy with the list even though no one has added up the price tag yet. Some of the items include:
- A new westbound lane on Southwest Barnes Road between Baltic Avenue and the Oregon 217 intersection.
- Extension of the northbound right turn lane on the Oregon 217 ramp to Barnes Road.
- A new traffic signal at the intersection of Southwest Cedar Hills Boulevard and the eastbound on- and off-ramps of U.S. 26.
- Widening Barnes Road to two through lanes plus a bicycle lane in each direction between Cedar Hills Boulevard and 117th Avenue.
- Widening Cedar Hills Boulevard north of Barnes Road to add a lane in each direction.
- Widening to add a northbound lane on Cedar Hills Boulevard between the westbound off-ramp from U.S. 26 and Barnes Road.
- Contributing toward a future underpass for pedestrians and bicyclists under the westbound on-ramp to U.S. 26 from Cedar Hills Boulevard.
Wal-Mart opponents argue that no set of improvements can effectively deal with the 7,400 daily trips the store will generate.
Which prompts me to ask the question, if we accept that big box retail must go somewhere (and I know that not everyone would agree with the supposition), where in the transportation network does it belong?
Friday's Transportation Seminar at PSU will focus on "Optimal Mass Transit Subsidies." (12-1:30pm, 4/14, 204 Urban Center)
Here's the abstract:
This paper, co-authored with Ian W.H. Parry, derives formulas for the welfare effects of reforming subsidies for peak and off-peak urban rail and bus fares, and applies them to the metropolitan areas of Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, and London. The model accounts for congestion, pollution, oil dependence, and accident externalities associated with automobiles and each transit mode. It also accounts for scale economies in transit supply, costs of accessing and waiting for transit service, crowding costs, pre-existing fuel taxes, and the transit agency’s adjustment of frequency, vehicle size, and route network in response to changes in demand. We find that in almost all cases existing subsidies – which typically exceed 50% of operating costs – are either about right, or possibly too low, across bus and rail, peak and off-peak period, in the three cities.
OK, maybe a little academic, but still interesting. Unfortunately I won't be able to attend, I'm committed to help at the City Club's Republican Gubernatorial debate that day. Perhaps a reader would like to provide a report on the seminar?
April 10, 2006
CJ Grimes works as a community health care organizer with Service Employees International Union, Local 49 on the Make Health Care Work Campaign (MHCW). MHCW is a coalition of health care advocates, front line caregivers and consumers working to give the community a guaranteed voice in regional health care planning. You can contact CJ directly at email@example.com.
What on earth does transportation have to do with health care? There’s the obvious: physical exercise and cutting down on pollution make healthier people and communities. Is there a deeper connection?
Recently, an older man took the Max out to Beaverton. There was obviously something wrong with him. When asked if he needed help, he wanted to know which stop on the line was the St. Vincent’s Medical Center stop. He said he was very ill and was trying to get to the emergency room. He could not walk the distance from the Max to the hospital, so someone ended up driving him there.
How do we get to our medical facilities when we are sick or seeking preventative care? Where are these facilities located? What is being done to ensure that the current and projected hospital infrastructure reflects our current and projected transportation infrastructure? Since 50% of the $5 billion that flows through Oregon hospitals yearly comes from our tax dollars, shouldn’t we have a say in planning for our communities’ health needs?
Recently, Legacy built a hospital in Salmon Creek. There was no discussion of what impact that would have on the transportation needs of the region, and as a result, the public and the hospital corporation had to spend unanticipated millions to shore up the roads surrounding the hospital. Providence wants to build a hospital out near Happy Valley, miles away from any city center in an area without any proposed light rail. Shouldn’t our health care infrastructure reflect our transportation infrastructure and our long term regional plans?
The Make Health Care Work Plan has a solution: you and I. We should have a say in community health care planning, (especially since we are the ones footing the bill). Here’s the three-step solution:
- Metro convenes a Community Health Care Needs Board comprised of citizens from all parts of the metropolitan area, representing those who consume health care, those who purchase health care and frontline caregivers who provide health care.
- The Board creates a Comprehensive Community Health Plan to objectively assess the regional health care needs of our communities.
- The Board would prepare a Health Care Impact Statement each time new facilities are built or expanded, or existing facilities are closed, to hold hospitals accountable to our health and transportation needs.
Hospitals are necessary and important parts of our communities. We go there to heal, when we or someone we know is sick or hurt, and when we are celebrating new life in our families. Many of us go there to work – in fact hospital systems are some of the biggest employers in the Portland area.
Hospitals are important parts of our lives and our economy, so we invest heavily in them as taxpayers and patients. We want to make sure that health care planning happens with our input—and now we have a chance to ensure a regional health care delivery system that makes sense for all of us. Make Health Care Work. For more information, please go to MakeHealthCareWork.org or call 503.236.7850.
Todd passes on this info from Springwise.
SpotScout claims to be the world’s first mobile exchange marketplace for parking spots, connecting parking spaces with drivers that are desperately seeking them.
Urban planners estimate that as much as 80 percent of traffic on some city streets comes from motorists aimlessly circling blocks in search of a place to park. Which is why a number of cities have launched online parking reservation services in recent years, making information available about available spots in parking lots and public garages.
SpotScout takes it one step further, by not only offering real-time availability information to spot-seekers, but also allowing private, home parking space owners to make their spot available to other motorists. These 'SpotCasters' set their asking price and the time they wish to make their space(s) available, and can instantly place the information on SpotScout's network for others to see. Both reservations and payment take place online or via web-enabled mobile phones.
Those of you who have read trendwatching.com's latest trend briefing will immediately recognize that SpotScout cleverly caters to infolust – consumers' insatiable desire for relevant information, wherever and whenever. SpotCasting could also be a nice side-business for minipreneurs, who can monetize sleeping assets by not only offering their own space, but coordinating availability of other private parking spaces on their block. With the owners' permission, of course.
SpotScout will launch in Boston and New York any day now. So if you'd like to jump in this space on a larger scale, send a message to bizdev@SpotScout.com and start up a partnership in a parking-starved city near you.
April 7, 2006
A few weeks ago I tried to answer the question of when was the decision to put Light Rail on the Transit Mall was really made.
I opined that these were continuous processes rather than discrete events (the adoption of a Locally Preferred Alternative is the discrete decision, but the consensus building along the way is far from discrete).
There was a signpost in yesterday's Oregonian marking a milestone in another such process. A brief blurb in the "in Portland" section (too brief to make it to the web apparently) mentions a discussion in the North Macadam URAC (Urban Renewal Advisory Committee) about where the Milwaukie Light Rail line should cross the Willamette.
The current Locally Preferred Alternative is the so-called "Caruthers Crossing", running from OMSI to the vicinity of RiverPlace. But there will be an opportunity to reassess this as the Milwaukie line goes through its next phase of planning.
The URAC is interested in advancing the idea of putting the crossing closer to the Ross Island Bridge, where it could serve the South Waterfront area. Development interests in that area will now try to flex their muscles to push for more service for their area.
On the other side will be OMSI and interests in the Central Eastside, who want to make sure LRT serves their area. They'll be joined by Eastside Streetcar advocates (including yours truly) who want to use the Caruthers Crossing to get Streetcar back across the river.
In the middle is TriMet, who will be trying to figure out what configuration has the greatest ridership to help justify the application for Federal Funds.
So citizens, please pay attention and participate in the open houses and hearings. This is where these kinds of decisions get made!
While serving on the PDOT budget advisory committee, I heard strong suggestions that PDOT could be more efficient by outsourcing some of its functions to the private sector.
Well, ODOT went that way at the beginning of the decade, and Jim Mayer reports on an audit of the results in yesterday's Oregonian. The conclusion: ODOT may have paid as much as 20% more for engineering than it would have cost internally. Apparently ODOT just wasn't prepared to manage that large a change.
In the private sector we've learned that outsourcing only works if you manage it very carefully. Apparently government is learning the same lession.
April 6, 2006
20/20 Vision is organizing a series of conferences this year to highlight the dangers of oil dependence and explore alternatives.
Portland's event is this Saturday at PSU.
Over at News4Neighbors, they're conducting an 'online debate' for the City Council and County Commission candidates, and are soliciting more questions.
How about suggesting some transportation questions? And please, let's be more creative than asking about the Tram :-)
Once again my obsession with reading the "web only" murmurs in Willamette Week turns up a transportation article, this time about my favorite system, Portland Streetcar.
The fare collection activity is in part a response to the coverage in the Trib a few weeks back.
So here's the challenge: most of the Streetcar line is in fareless square, and even in the areas that are not, many riders have a TriMet transfer, monthly pass or Streetcar annual pass. Actual farebox collections are only on the order of $100K per year or so. Making an effort to inspect fares will almost certainly cost more than the incremental revenue it will generate.
But the public perception that other people are getting away with something free is a problem, and so is the perception that the public purse is being ripped off.
So, how about a little advice - what should Streetcar do?
- Hang an 'honor system' sign next to the ticket machines
- Put a permanent 'out of order sign' on the ticket machines
- Hire a squad of knee-breaking fare inspectors to monitor every trip
- Do spot checks to communicate that someone is in fact paying attention, but not so often that it breaks the budget
April 5, 2006
Trash Mountain Boys in the KBOO studio
Listen to the show (mp3, 12.0M)
Hosts Sara and Ayleen celebrate the artistic side of local bike culture with live music by the bike band the Trash Mountain Boys and guest Joe Biel from Microcosm Publishing. Joe has been distributing his zines by bike since 1996 and helps distribute bike- themed zines, stickers and patches.
The KBOO Bike Show wouldn't be possible without the contributions of bike enthusiasts like you. 80% of KBOO's funding comes from listeners. Help give bikers a louder and more powerful voice! Make a contribution of *any amount* to KBOO today during the Spring membership drive. Call 503 232 8818 or go to KBOO.fm.
Sara and Ayleen thank you, from the bottom of our bikey hearts (and that's deep)!
April 4, 2006
TriMet e-mailed their list yesterday with a message about a new visualization of the combined bus/LRT operation on the Transit Mall. Check it our here.
The primary arguments for putting light rail on the mall are that it is has been planned for a long time, is needed to increase capacity, provides access to Portland State and enables a connection to a future light rail corridor to Milwaukie.
All of these arguments are flawed. Unlike the OHSU Tram project, there is still time to change it before major costs have been incurred.
Just because light rail on the mall has been in the downtown plan since the 1970s does not mean it is still a good idea. No one at that time would have guessed that light rail would be carrying 95,000 passengers a day, almost a third of all TriMet’s passengers. If it weren’t for light rail, the Banfield and Sunset freeways would both need another lane each way to handle peak-hour traffic. Light rail has become a significant high-capacity regional system. It has the latent capacity of another two freeway lanes if it is not saddled with more slow downtown operations.
Although it is slow, especially for those traveling through downtown, the existing downtown alignment probably has the capacity for another 20 years of growth if all 30 trains an hour (the maximum capacity of the Steel Bridge and the Banfield segment) can operate through to the westside. North/south light rail will need another corridor.
An eastside north/south route, possibly in the Water Avenue corridor, should be considered. Light rail must do a better job of attracting non-downtown trips if it is to have a significant impact on reducing freeway congestion. This more direct route for the Yellow Line would be faster and attract more passengers than if it is diverted downtown over the Steel Bridge and back again over a new bridge south of downtown. It also would be less costly to build and operate.
Given the serious traffic congestion in the McLoughlin Blvd/I-5 corridor, this faster Yellow Line alignment is needed as soon as possible, along with an extension north to Hayden Island. In the future, the line should be extended north to Clark County and south to Oregon City, establishing a north-south and east-west high-capacity rail system as an effective alternative to freeway commuting.
Transfers between north/south and east/west trains would not be a significant deterrent to downtown-bound commuters if frequent service, a quality transfer environment and sufficient capacity were provided. Rail systems throughout the world require many passengers to transfer to reach their destinations. As an example, in Toronto, passengers on the heavily used Bloor-Danforth cross-town line must transfer to the Younge-University-Spadina Lines to go to or from downtown.
To avoid traffic snarls and slow running through the Rose Quarter area, the Yellow Line could be elevated with a station over the existing east/west tracks. Transferring passengers could be provided safe indoor escalator access between train platforms. A similar covered station would also be needed at the Hawthorne Bridge ramps in order to provide direct connections to all of the Hawthorne Bridge bus routes and a future streetcar line.
Improved bus service on the transit mall would provide better circulator service than would light rail. Buses currently provide good access during weekday business hours but not evenings and weekends. During those times, bus service is sporadic and infrequent. Few people, except those waiting for these buses, have any reason to be there. The mall lacks residential development and has a concentration of sterile institutional buildings that close at the end of the business day. Businesses like restaurants and retail shops, which attract clientele, do not stay open because of the lack of customer access.
Denver has a downtown bus-only transit mall serving its retail core. It is a dynamic people-friendly place, day and night, weekdays and weekends. Its street furniture is comfortable and useful, inviting friendly social interaction. The free bus service is frequent (every two to five minutes). Its electric hybrid buses have low floors and four wide doors, allowing quick boarding and deboarding.
Here in Portland, we could add electric shuttle buses similar to Denver’s on the mall from PSU past Union Station all the way to the Pearl District. Shuttle buses are better than trains for transporting people within the downtown area because they can run more frequently, are compatible with the existing buses and can make more stops closer to people’s destinations. They would compliment the service now provided by the cross-town light rail lines, downtown bus routes and the Portland Streetcar. They could be quiet, pollution-free electric trolley buses maintained, serviced and stored beneath I-405 adjacent to the Portland Trolley facilities.
In the future, the overhead power system could be extended up Marquam Hill, replacing the noisy diesel bus service to OHSU with trolley buses. If buses on other routes were equipped with diesel-electric hybrid power and retractable trolley poles, the overhead wires could also provide them with power, allowing them to turn off their engines while operating on the mall.
It is still not too late. Besides the advantages described above, the mall project would be far less costly and disruptive to construct, cost less to operate and would attract more ridership than the current proposal.
April 3, 2006
You can download an MP3 (20.5M) of last Friday's City Club program on the Cost of Congestion Report, including the first question from yours truly.
Why don't more people ride the bus? That's a question Otis White took up in this week's episode of Smart City, for which he is a regular contributor. You can find the piece about 22 minutes into the show (MP3, 19.3M).
White covers some of the class issues (middle class people ride rail but not buses - thankfully not completely true here in Portland). But he also cites an interesting study by Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris from UCLA about why women don't ride: lots of bus stops feel unsafe.
The report's conclusions would also seem to indicate that the same issues would depress women traveling as pedestrians. The suggested mitigations:
- Better maintain built environment (the "broken windows" theory)
- Get more "eyes on the street"
- Remove negative land uses (adult book stores, etc. - more of a challenge in Oregon