June 30, 2006
Last week I wrote about poor behavior in our common spaces, linking to a particularly nasty experience one reader had on transit.
Here's the flip side. Over at the Daily Score Alan Durning is writing about rediscovering positive interactions (and some negative ones) in the commons, after getting out of his "car-coon".
I can vouch for that. Walking in the central city regularly provides opportunities for chance encounters with friends and acquaintances, interactions that would never happen if I were in a car. I know my life is the richer for it.
See the initial post for the rules and background. Here's the final set of outcomes.
We will know there are housing choices for people of all ages, abilities and incomes when...
June 29, 2006
One of the cool things about settling in NW Portland is that I could tell friends and family back east that I was living a few blocks from the Will Vinton Studios, home of "Claymation" and the California Raisins.
Phil Knight became an investor, and ultimately owner of the studios, changing the name to Laika, Inc. a little while back. Now comes word that Phil has bought 30 acres in Tualatin to build a campus for Laika. So much for the cool factor in Northwest.
But wait! Last week the Oregonian reported that to complete its next project, Laika will be renting more space in Northwest on an interim basis.
Which got me thinking, why does Laika need one of those infamous "shovel ready" industrial sites to do its thing? This is all about computer animation and stop-motion animation. Does that need individual spaces much bigger than a Pearl District condo (well, a penthouse anyway)? Why can't Phil build up instead of out? There's lot of land in the "transition area" in NW Portland (the old Consolidated Freightways site). Why the rush to the burbs? Surely Laika's young creatives would prefer to be in the middle of a happening city scene. And if Joe Cortright's data is correct, they probably live near the city center too. That's a long reverse commute!
So what's with Phil's decision? Is it just habit, an homage to the Nike campus? Does Phil secretly like sprawl and congestion? Is he allergic to city streets?
Let's have some new thinking. After all, if Laika (the dog) could rocket into space, surely Laika (the studio) could rocket into some high-rise offices.
[Deep painful confession: since moving to Oregon in 1988 I have been employed exclusively at offices in suburban campuses, in Beaverton or Wilsonville. However, since 2000, I have primarily been a telecommuter, working from my home office in Northwest Portland and commuting to Wilsonville one day a week by a combination of bike and bus.
Sentimental reminiscence: I can remember when we used to look out the windows at the Tek campus in Wilsonville and see deer licking up the water from the sprinklers on dry August days. It's been many years since that scene, as the nearby land is all subdivisions now. Imagine what that would look like without the UGB.]
See the initial post for the rules and background. Here's the next set of outcomes.
We will know our transportation system is balanced when...
After reviewing all the comments, TriMet has released their complete plan, to go into operation in January of 2007.
- 17 bus lines will run on 3rd and 4th avenues, carrying 85 percent of downtown riders on weekdays.
- 7 bus lines will run on Columbia and Jefferson streets, carrying 6 percent of weekday downtown riders.
- Line 14-Hawthorne will run on SW 2nd Ave and cross the Morrison Bridge before returning to its regular route on SE Hawthorne. Line 14 carries 8 percent of downtown riders.
- Frequent Service on Line 9-Powell will be extended to the Union Station area to connect with Amtrak and Greyhound arrivals and departures. Night service on Powell will be added between SE 98th and Union Station, running every 15 minutes until about 10 p.m., seven days a week.
- Line 77-Broadway/Halsey will be rerouted to run in front of Union Station.
- Line 1-Greeley will become Line 35-Greeley and continue through downtown as Line 35-Macadam. Line 40-Mocks Crest will become Line 44-Mocks Crest and continue through downtown as Line 44-Capitol Hwy.
June 28, 2006
Yes, today is the anniversary of the first post here on Portland Transport. While we didn't go public until the following week, it was a year ago that we first cajoled friends and family to take a peek at this thing we had created - and please leave some comments so visitors would see some activity when the press release went out!
One year later we've posted some impressive numbers (as of the time I'm drafting this):
- 581 posts
- 3950 comments
- 66,000+ visitors
Happy birthday to all our contributors, commenters, and especially the readers, about 400 per day right now.
Many happy returns!
[photo credit to iam4ranny under Creative Commons license]
As an article in last week's Economist (sorry, you probably have to jump through some registration screens to see this) reminds us, it was 50 years ago this month that President Eisenhower signed the bill creating the Interstate Highway System (hanging a carrot of 90% Federal matching funds in front of states).
The impact on our landscape, cities and economy has been tremendous, in both positive and negative ways. The key question is what is the direction for the next 50 years?
See the initial post for the rules and background. Here's the fourth set of outcomes.
We will know we are protecting farms, forest, rivers, streams and natural areas when...
June 27, 2006
Add a new word to your lexicon: geoengineering - the idea of deliberately altering the earth's natural systems (as opposed to the unintended altering humanity has always done).
Today's New York Times features an article (How to Cool a Planet, Maybe) on the idea of massive programs to alter the reflectivity of the atmosphere and the oceans as a counter to the global warming effect of greenhouse gases.
Let's not give up on conservation just yet.
On the other side of the equation, the Supreme Court has just agreed to take up the question of whether the Federal Government should regulate carbon dioxide (greenhouse gas # 1) under the Clean Air Act.
See the initial post for the rules and background. Here's the third set of outcomes.
We will know the region's economy is healthy when...
"Big Look", "New Look", are you confused yet?
The Big Look is the state-wide reexamination of the land use planning system.
The New Look is the regional update of our land use, transportation and investment strategies to help us plan for the 1 million or so new folks who will show up in the next 20 years or so.
Now that we're clear on that, here's an opportunity to influence the Big Look (statewide).
The Oregon Task Force on Land Use Planning invites you to complete a web survey to tell the Task Force what you think about land use issues in Oregon.
In 2005, the Oregon Legislature and Governor Kulongoski established the Oregon Task Force on Land Use Planning (the Big Look). The Task Force is charged with completing a comprehensive review of Oregon's land use planning program and drafting recommendations to submit to the 2009 Legislative Assembly.
To help accomplish this task, the Task Force is conducting an evaluation of Oregon's present land use planning program. One of the Task Force's first steps is to survey Oregonians to identify major land use issues that the Task Force should study. This survey is designed to help the Task Force identify issues of importance to Oregonians.
June 26, 2006
See the initial post for the rules and background. Here's the second set of outcomes.
We will know our land use and transportation infrastructure is efficient when...
My answer: household expenditures on transportation drop to 10% of all household expenditures (currently about 15% in our region).
Friday was the infamous first New Look Regional Forum, which opened with an apology for the $30 registration fee.
Hopefully that's the last to be said of that issue. I was there for about 2/3rds of the forum (sadly I had to leave for a City Club Forum on one of my favorite subjects). I thought the event was well done, with good introductory material, but most of the time spent on exercises in which the participants actually grappled with the hard choices that face the region.
I think the first exercise lends itself well to the blog format, and I'm going to use it as fodder for discussion here this week. It's all about outcomes - how we'll know when our efforts have achieved what we're aiming for.
These are all in the format "We'll know that [insert goal here] when [you provide indicator here]."
So let's begin.
We will know our neighborhoods are safe and stable when:
I'll even provide a first answer:
Every home in the region has a safe and pleasant walking trip to an elementary school and to a park.
What's your outcome/indicator?
I couldn't help noticing quite a convergence at the end of last week. First the National Academy of Science announces that the earth is the hottest it's been in 400 years, and human activity is responsible.
Then we have a flurry of local news:
- New emissions standards for cars in Oregon
- Randy Leonard pushes for an alternative fuels policy for the City of Portland
- The Oregonian Editorial Board jumps in on the side of reason (our side)
- The Business Journal says sustainability is essentially becoming standard business practice
Is Federal energy policy now irrelevant? Can we solve global warming and peak oil with a combination of local policy and enlightened business practices?
June 23, 2006
According to Thursday's Oregonian, a group of business and elected leaders in Yamhill County would like to run a train from Portland through the wine country, perhaps terminating at the Spirit Mountain casino.
Just a few obstacles: buying set of self-propelled rail cars that ODOT is putting up for bid and $20M to make repairs to the existing but unused freight tracks they'd like to use.
I understand Napa Valley has something like this. Would it work in Oregon? No need to worry about driving home after all those tastings!
The NW Parking Association is having their 1st Annual Conference July 30-August 1 in Vancouver USA.
Besides the Poker and Golf there are actually a few interesting-looking sessions including information systems (can you tell how many cars are parked in your structure?) and reducing parking demand by using car-sharing (don't tell Sam Adams, he'll try to bill you).
June 22, 2006
City Council moved forward yesterday on what this activist testified was a "penny-wise and pound-foolish" policy to seek full cost recovery for metered parking spaces from car-sharing companies (of which we have exactly one in Portland at the moment: Flexcar).
The move will also cap the number of parking spaces in meter districts and limits the number of car-sharing companies with access to on-street parking to two.
While Council seemed to legitimately weigh the trade-offs, I think their timing was entirely off. Car-sharing is new enough that this conversation could easily wait several years. As reported on OPB, this is likely to increase hourly rates for Flexcar users by a dollar and may decrease usage of the service.
Technically, Council only authorized administrative rule-making, so there may still be opportunities to moderate this with citizen input. And Council did ask to review the policy again in a year.
By the way, I was gratified that another Portland Transport reader came down to Council to testify!
The Sightline Institute released their 2006 Cascadia Report Card yesterday. This is the third in their series of annual report cards on the health of our greater region (an area containing watersheds in parts of Northern California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, British Columbia and Alaska).
While there is no transportation grade per se, the report card includes a section on energy (energy use is actually leveling off) and this year had a special chapter on sprawl and health (PDF, 359K). It's clear that more compact neighborhoods also enjoyed better health (and less obesity). This is true in all parts of the region, although British Columbia is the clear leader.
There is also a brief Oregon-specific scorecard (PDF, 64K).
My favorite set of graphics compares where a one-mile walk will take you in two Seattle-area neighborhoods. Death to the cul-de-sac!
June 21, 2006
Statewide Planning Goal # 1:
To develop a citizen involvement program that insures the opportunity
for citizens to be involved in all phases of the planning process.
[read the rest of the goal text here (PDF, 12K)]
There seems to be a difference of opinion about what this means in the context of the "Big Look" review of the statewide land use planning system. As reported on OPB 1000 Friends of Oregon Executive Director Bob Stacy and Metro President (and Big Look task force member) David Bragdon seem to have slightly different views about citizen input in the Big Look work plan:
Stacy says the state should be talking to fewer interest groups and instead holding meetings across Oregon. Bragdon counters that not all public involvement is helpful.
David Bragdon: "I think a lot of so-called citizen involvement in Oregon today is actually being dominated by non-representative, self-appointed narrow special interests. I think the task force is really interested in understanding the experience of people who actually doing things in the land-use system or dealing with the system - a lot of whom won't show up at a hearing. So we're trying to get beyond the special interests and get a broader cross-section."
[Disclaimer: I am both a member of 1000 Friends and collaborate with them on projects through the Coalition for a Livable Future. And I was also appointed as a citizen representative on the Metro Policy Advisory Committee by President Bragdon.]
This has an interesting parallel in the "New Look" process at Metro for updating our regional land use and transportation plans. Metro's "Regional Forums" seem to be aimed at the "stakeholder groups" (players in the system) while Metro plans to conduct polling to find out what "average citizens" think.
Taking a cynical view, I might wonder if this translates into two target audiences: groups that might run an initiative campaign against an outcome they don't like and the voters that would vote on such initiatives. A more charitable view is that Metro has recognized that the old paradigms are not working and is trying new techniques.
But what about those citizens who will actually come out and participate in planning processes just for the sake of making their communities better? Are we being squeezed out of the process? Are we assumed to be just another interest group?
I take this a little bit personally, as I have sometimes been characterized as a "professional citizen activist" [although I derive no part of my income from my activism]. I understand that in many planning processes I'm one of the "same old faces" and I applaud Metro's efforts to involve more people, even if only in a representative poll. But still I can't help feeling a little devalued by the discussion that seems to be happening about citizen involvement at both the state and regional levels. After all, those "same old faces" are often the people who have been involved long enough and deeply enough to actually have a informed perspective on the issues.
Does Goal 1 need to be rewritten to deal with the post-Bowling Alone era? Is the traditional citizen involvement process old hat? How do we engage citizens now? Are there "citizens" left out there, or just a public that sees themselves as consumers of government services?
[Shameless plug: I am hosting one of the City Club's Citizen Salons which will feature David Bragdon and Lake Oswego Mayor Judie Hammerstad (another Big Look task force member). Join us for brunch in August and discuss this issue with them directly.]
This has gotten me thinking about how we as members of society interact with each other when we meet in our "commons", the spaces that we share public ownership and use of. The examples that come to mind are not reassuring:
- Harassment and poor hygiene on public transportation
- Aggressive panhandling on our sidewalks
- Road rage on our streets and highways
Shouldn't we expect more of each other, and offer more to each other? Is this degradation of public behavior a function of the increasing gap between rich and poor? A sign of a breakdown in our public safety and/or mental health systems? Something else?
How do we restore some civility to our interactions in the "commons"?
Offer your input into what a pedestrian bridge from the South Waterfront to the Corbett-Terwilliger-Lair Hill neighborhood should look like at a PDOT open house tonight.
Wednesday, June 21, at 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. Portland State University Smith Memorial Student Union – Room 329 1825 SW Broadway
Portland, OR – The Portland Office of Transportation invites residents to view concepts and examples of what the South Waterfront Pedestrian Bridge might look like. Residents are encouraged to provide feedback on this important connection between South Waterfront improvements and the Corbett-Terwilliger-Lair Hill neighborhood.
A public open house is scheduled for Wednesday, June 21, from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m., at Portland State University, in the Smith Memorial Student Union, room 329. The address is 1825 SW Broadway. Participants are encouraged to use public transit – TriMet buses #1, 12, 44, 45, 55, and the Portland Streetcar.
Residents who would like more information about the project may contact project manager Chris Armes with the Office of Transportation at (503) 823-7051 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
June 20, 2006
For those of you who followed our discussion of City policy on use of on-street parking spaces for car-sharing, the proposed policy is on the City Council agenda for 9:30 tomorrow (6/21) time-certain [time certain means it can't start before that time, it will almost certainly start a few minutes later].
Come down and share your views with the Council.
At the bike summit on Saturday, there was an interesting comment in the "Why People Don't Ride" session.
Ghost Bikes scare people.
The white bicycles, placed at locations where riders have been killed are (as I understand it) intended as a combination memorial and reminder to our leaders that we need to make conditions safer.
But the implication from the person making the comment was that they remind people that they can get killed riding a bike.
Yes, I know that it's getting safer every year, and you can get killed riding in a car as well, but the question still remains. In the context of getting more people to ride, in the trade-off between goading improvements in safety and scaring potential riders, are Ghost Bikes a net positive or a net negative?
One of the nice things about the bike summit was the opportunity to make connections. Either putting faces on names that might have just been an e-mail address before, or meeting new people.
One new connection for me was a PSU instructor who is doing a study on how people make commuting choices. He's recruiting for his study, and offering the chance to win a $20 Gift Certificate to Powells.
So if you meet the following criteria:
- Are thinking about riding your bike to work next winter,
- Haven't previously ridden your bike to working during the winter, and
- Don't work for PSU
June 19, 2006
Someone asked in a comment last week what the purpose of the Eastside Transit Analysis project was.
I went hunting for the purpose and need statement to give the full set of project goals but couldn't find it on Metro's web site. I've since gotten the document from Metro (and suggested they put it on the site). This document is critical because it's what the Feds will score us against when we ask for funds. But now I can't find the comment where the question was asked!
So for whomever asked, here is the full document (PDF, 19K). Here's the top-line summary:
The purpose of the Eastside Transit Project is to develop a project that enjoys a high level of public acceptance and community support and will:
- Reduce reliance on the auto for trips to and within the Central City
- Improve Central City transit circulation, capacity, connectivity and local access that facilitates economic development and promotes the vitality of the Central City, and
- Support existing and future streetcar and light rail investments in the region by expanding the system and increasing ridership in a cost-effective manner.
Vancouver will be introducing new bike lockers using pre-paid chip cards. Check out the technology at www.bikelink.org. An EPA grant is helping fund the effort.
The introduction event will be tomorrow (Tuesday, 6/20) at noon at 1300 Franklin St. in Vancouver.
Thanks to Todd Boulanger for the heads up.
The tone of Saturday's Bicycle Summit was set for me when a fellow Portland Transport contributor sat down and said "I hope there won't be a lot of self-congratulatory crap." (You know who you are.)
Of course, there was some celebration of where we've come from and what we've accomplished, but it was also acknowledged that only 3% of trips are by bike, and the focus was definitely looking forward. This was the opportunity to whip up the base to go out and evangelize!
There are no silver bullets, it will take the combination of many efforts and actions to get us to the goal Commissioner Adams articulated, matching Amsterdam's bike mode share of 40%. But my take-away is that there are two major tracks we're going to have to pursue:
- Keep improving the infrastructure. There are still lots of gaps in the system, and we know that the next set of riders are going to prefer calmer, relatively car-free routes. This is the target for the BTA's Boulevards campaign, and I think they're on track. I believe the key element of this effort will be making the places where the bicycle boulevards cross arterial streets as bike-friendly as possible. I hope we'll try a number of different approaches to this, and then replicate the designs that are proven to work - by attracting riders.
- Personal outreach. Whether this looks like the Travel Smart program that PDOT has run in Interstate and is now running in the "NE Hub", or whether it looks like a grass roots "bike buddy" effort with neighbors helping other neighbors get onto a bike and start learning the safe and convenient routes, it's going to be about people talking to people one-on-one and helping them get comfortable and confident in using a bicycle as regular transportation.
I could only attend two of the dozens of break-out sessions. What was your take-away from the summit?
June 16, 2006
Word just in from Commissioner Sam Adams' office that efforts to move the Sauvie Island Bridge to NW Portland to complete a bikeway on Flanders Street over I-405 are being dropped. The Commissioner's office indicates that community response was not sufficient to justify the extra cost of moving the bridge (rather than constructing a smaller-but-to-code new bike/ped bridge).
Translation: private donors did not step up.
I'm sad. It would have been a very cool thing, very much in tune with our community's ethic of reuse in the interests of sustainability.
If you feel strongly, contact Sam ASAP. Preferrably with cash-in-hand.
Last week I railed about the fact that Metro was charging admission to the New Look Regional Forum coming up next Friday.
Apparently pre-registration is strong - approaching 300 (no word on how many of those have requested scholarships as I urged).
So, Metro is now looking for additional facilitators for the small-group sessions that will be one part of the Forum. If you can withhold your opinions sufficiently to be a neutral facilitator, you can earn $100 and a free lunch:
On Friday, June 23rd , Metro will be holding a Regional Forum to hear from the public across the Portland region. We are expecting nearly 300 people to attend, and will be conducting a variety of small group exercises intended to solicit input on desired outcomes and policy priorities for successfully implementing the Metro 2040 Growth Concept.
With close to 300 attendees, we are in need of additional small group facilitators. After talking it over with Metro staff, we thought this might be a great opportunity for planning students, or perhaps freshly minted planning graduates that are interested in regional planning, to get involved in the nuts and bolts of the New Look effort. We can even offer lunch during the workshop and pay $100 per person for the effort.
The time commitment will be the following:
FACILITATOR TRAINING SESSION
Thursday, June 22nd
10:00 am to Noon
NEW LOOK REGIONAL FORUM
Friday, June 23rd
7:30 am to approximately 2:00 pm
The small groups will include elected officials and stakeholders from across the region, and we will be dealing with highly complex issues. We are looking for individuals with a high level of enthusiasm and adaptability, to serve as small group facilitators and to help the Portland region build a bright future.
If you are interested, please contact me no later than Wednesday, June 21st
Aaron M. Abrams
Moore Iacofano Goltsman, Inc. (MIG)
It's a good week for bikes: over 300 people have registered for this weekend's Bicycle Summit (it's not too late to register).
And a new study commissioned by PDOT shows that cycling contributes $63 million annually to Portland's economy. Check out the story at Bike Portland for all the details.
Jerry passes along word that a number of states are creating incentives for plug-in hybrids and asks if Oregon should do the same.
Minnesota and South Carolina Promote Plug-in Hybrids, Alt Fuels
Plug-in hybrid vehicles have received a lot of attention in recent months, and now two states are prepared to pursue the vehicles, once they become readily available. Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty signed a law on May 31st that requires the state to buy plug-in hybrids on a preferred basis when they become available. The law, House File 3718, also encourages Minnesota State University - Mankato to develop flex-fuel plug-in hybrid vehicles, and creates a task force consisting of business, government, and utility representatives to develop a strategy for using and producing such vehicles in Minnesota. As the name implies, plug-in hybrids feature an external power plug and a battery pack large enough to allow the vehicle to travel 20 to 60 miles on battery charge alone. Such vehicles could eliminate the use of gasoline for many commuters, while still allowing the use of fuel on longer trips. See the text of the bill and the press release from the Institute on Local Self-Reliance, a nonprofit organization that promotes sustainable communities.
South Carolina is even more optimistic about the vehicles, as the latest budget includes a $300 sales tax rebate for the purchase of plug-in hybrid vehicles. Since the vehicles won't be commercially available for some time, a more realistic rebate goes to the mechanically inclined, who can earn a $500 sales tax rebate for the purchase of equipment to convert a standard hybrid to a plug-in hybrid. The budget also includes a $300 sales tax rebate for buyers of fuel cell vehicles and an equal, but more pragmatic, sales tax rebate for buyers of flexible-fuel vehicles, which are readily available today. To encourage alternative fuels, the budget also includes incentives of 5 cents per gallon for the sale of E85 (a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline) and B20 (a diesel blend containing 20 percent biodiesel). Finally, individuals and businesses producing biodiesel for their own use can earn tax credits of 20 cents per gallon if they produce it from soybeans and tax credits of 30 cents per gallon if they produce it from feedstocks other than soybeans. To see the budget item, scroll down to section 72.113 in the South Carolina general appropriations bill.
South Carolina also passed a bill last week that includes tax credits for new ethanol or biodiesel production facilities. Facilities placed in service between 2007 and 2009 will earn a tax credit of 20 cents per gallon for the first 5 years of fuel production. In 2014, the tax credit drops to 7.5 cents per gallon. In addition, the legislation includes a tax credit of 25 percent of the cost of equipment for production, distribution, or dispensing of ethanol or biodiesel. Also included in the legislation are tax credits for solar heating and cooling systems and landfill gas systems. See sections 36, 37, and 38 of the bill, S. 1245.
June 15, 2006
There's a great discussion on sidewalks, driver behavior in multiple lane situations and pedestrian safety going on over at Blue Oregon.
Does the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) affect our transportation system? You bet it does - how much we expand the UGB, and where, shapes growth within the boundary. And that drives demand for mobility in different parts of the region.
Which makes City Limits: Walking Portland's Boundary by David Oates an interesting read. It's not so much a planning book as a book about the soul of our region.
Courtesy of City Club of Portland, you have two opportunities to explore this book:
On Saturday, June 24th, City Club's New Leaders Council will host a boundary walk in Hillsboro with Oates and Metro President David Bragdon.
On Monday, June 26th, Citizen's Read, the Club's book group, will discuss the book.
Contact Tim DuRoche at 503-228-7231, ext. 103; email@example.com for info or to sign up for either event.
Hat tip to a reader who pointed me to a three-part series in the Denver Post about toll roads that fail to meet revenue projections.
The series title is "Truth be Tolled."
The consequences include the need to refinance construction bonds, and perhaps more invidiously, an incentive to allow more development so the road fills up and revenue goals are hit!
June 14, 2006
AASHTO, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, is holding a management conference (PDF, 608K) in Portland starting June 25th.
No word yet on whether the National Guard will be called out to defend the city.
A few session topics:
- The Private Sector’s Role in State DOTs
- Managing through Crisis and Change
Seriously, welcome folks, and study what you see carefully.
Hat tip to Jonathan Maus for passing us this info.
Remember the old advertising jingle, "I'd like to buy the world a coke...", well how about a new version: "I'd like to buy the world a bike..."
Here's a success story from the Rogue Valley on getting folks to change their transportation patterns.
In April of 2005, fifteen courageous Rogue Valley citizens committed to giving up their car-dependent lifestyles for a bicycle, a Breezer Bicycle outfitted with full commuter accessories to be exact. Now, one year later, we are seeing the impact that a simple bicycle can have on reducing the number of trips taken by car.
Take Beth Farley for example, Beth lives less than one mile from the Public Library where she works 5 days a week. Beth would drive to work everyday and decided it was time for a new way of life, she applied to the Bike First! program and now bicycles to work everyday, rain or shine. Beth has said that she feels 'absolutely ridiculous' driving to work with such a short trip. For Shauna Farmer, mother of two, using the Burley trailor took getting used to but now her kids profusely object when they are faced with taking a trip by car, they would prefer going by bike and soon her oldest will be joining Shauna on his own bike. And for Don Walton, he accomplished the ultimate goal by selling his car! He has moved closer to work and walks everyday and then uses the Breezer for longer trips.
Of course we do not all succeed when posed with this sort of challenge, but all together 12 of the 15 participants accomplished the Bike First! program goals by reducing more than half of their car trips for a total of 7,819 Vehicle Miles Reduced!
One of the major findings of this program- through all the odometer readings, quarterly phone calls and surveys and the media that would pop up once once in awhile- was that community and family support is key to any bicyclists success. The support Lynn Campbell received from her fellow employees for example, co-workers who themsleves applied for the program, was essential to Lynn sticking with it and she even inspired others to join her. For Mary Ellen Deluca, whose husband has been cycling to work for more than a decade, she was mentored by him each day.
Family planning is also an important factor in this support network...if they are not willing to accommodate new schedules and different ways of getting around, then the chances of sticking with it are slim. For Lorna McIver this was the case, her husband did not want to purchase a bicycle rack for their car and their exchange student refused to walk or cycle to school. A tough situation but she still brought herself to cycling over 400 miles this past year.
Not surpisingly, the proper facilities: bicycle lanes, signage, etc. was a boon for some and a bust for others. A hard lesson that every cyclist learns is what places to avoid due to a lack of these facilities. It took the participants about 3 months before they found a route they could tolerate at a minimum and for a lucky few, enjoy. With or without a 'safe route' the majority became part of the traffic, except their vehicle was a fun, healthy and zero emission way to get around.
I would like to thank Chris and Gwen Haynes, owners of Sims Cycle and Fitness who provided an enormous amount of staff resources and commitment to the program. Also, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance for providing a Bicycle 101 course, the Siskiyou Velo Club for the free membership, Chamonix for the helmet and Specialized for the odometer computer and especially to Joe Breeze for your strong commitment to increasing bicycling world wide.
Looking forward to the Rogue Valley Bike First! 2007!
When do the needs of many trump the rights of an individual?
I had an interesting experience on the #15 bus on Saturday (coming home from watching An Inconvenient Truth). The bus was approaching the (red) light at 18th and Morrison, wanting to make the right turn to get out to Burnside.
There was a cyclist at the light (presumably waiting to go straight through the intersection). The lane is narrow enough that there is no safe way for a bus to pass the cyclist.
The bus driver leaned on his horn with two blasts and the cyclist pretty much hopped out of the lane. The bus turned right on red and we were on our way.
The bus driver's behavior was clearly inappropriate (TriMet, I have the vehicle number and time of day), and the law was on the side of the cyclist to hold the lane, no question.
But... there is a certain utilitarian logic to the idea that a greater good might be achieved if the cyclist yielded his position so 30+ people on the bus could get to their destination a little sooner (and some amount of greenhouse gases could be foregone). Assuming there were a less obnoxious and confrontational way to negotiate the interaction, would there be a moral argument that the cyclist should yield?
[Hey, so I'm feeling a little philosophical.]
June 13, 2006
It almost seems that today's Portland Tribune is only about transportation!
- Discussion of shelters for the new transit mall. Is the business community trying to unshelter the mall? Regular Portland Transport contributor Bob Richardson is quoted.
- New development is cutting off connections in the SW Trail network. This network serves as an alternative to the lack of sidewalks in the area.
- Yes, the proposed NW Parking Structure looks good. But it still tears down a house and puts a 21 foot blank wall 3 feet from another home. Nice architecture can't hide bad planning.
- The alternative to AAA. A new sustainability section in the paper features the Better World Club, an environmentally friendly travel club.
Update: 13 June - The issue is covered in today's Oregonian: "Talk to Metro, but skip the fee", including a URL for this blog.
Speaking of the Regional Transportation Plan Update and Metro's New Look, Metro has scheduled a Regional Forum on Friday, June 23rd to help gather ideas for the simultaneous updates of our regional land use and transportation plans:
This forum will offer an opportunity for you to join other leaders and innovators from throughout the region to take a new look at the critical regional decisions that will shape the livelihoods and lifestyle choices of today's residents and future generations.
Sounds like a great opportunity for citizen participation, doesn't it? Except that Metro wants you to pay $30 for the privilege! I'm reasonably confident this violates Oregon's Open Meeting Law, since this is part of a process that ultimately leads to legislative decisions by JPACT, MPAC and the Metro Council. And even if a sharp lawyer can find a way to say it's not a violation of the letter of the law, it certainly violates the spirit of the law.
As a citizen rep on MPAC, I've been bugging everyone I know at Metro to fix this (and have been joined by other citizens who follow Metro closely). The best we've been able to extract is that Metro will provide 'scholarships' for folks who can't or don't want to pay.
So I propose that we protest. The best way I can think to protest is to participate in droves. To request a scholarship, the process is to e-mail NorrisC@metro.dst.or.us.
Here's the e-mail I sent:
I would like to register for the regional forum. I am philosophically opposed to paying a fee for a citizen involvement event.
While you're at it, you might want to put the Metro Council members on the 'cc' line, as I did:
Let's overwhelm them with protest-by-participation!
Jim Mayer reports in the Monday O that ODOT is ready to roll out its pilot test of a VMT tax system. 280 test subjects will drive around with a GPS device in their car for 10 months.
Discussion of this idea on other blogs has tended to degenerate into a argument around privacy concerns, but according to ODOT the device will only track whether you're in the state and whether you're in an urban area (a hook for some kind of congestion pricing in the future).
I can't help but think that pretty soon we're all going to be walking around with GPS-enabled cell phones letting marketers bombard us with ads based on our location, but somehow the idea of this device freaks people out.
On a similar note, I saw an ad in the Wall Street Journal in which IBM was touting its ability to provide similar technology to enable pay-as-you-drive auto insurance.
June 12, 2006
Last week's Business Journal has a guest column by Bart Eberwein, suggesting that we could generate additional tourism dollars by promoting Oregon as THE cycling state. Here's part of the vision:
Fly into Portland where you are met by a bicycle concierge who helps you assemble your bikes, answers questions about routes, etc., and off you go.
A network of clearly signed, long, winding roads, criss-crossing Oregon. And just about every time you are feeling hungry, there's a bicycle friendly ice cream store, and when you're tired, a B&B.
Come cycle Oregon.
The cover article in this month's Oregon Business magazine is a feature on clean power. Indeed, there are several articles in the issue about alternative energy sources.
More interestingly, on the editorial page, editor Robin Doussard roots for $6/gallon gasoline, on the theory that energy prices need to hurt a lot more to really cause the needed changes in behavior.
In the business press! Does this presage an awakening by businesses?
In the Sunday O, Jim Mayer has an article about the TriMet bus lines that are most consistently late (TriMet defines this as more than 5 minutes behind schedule).
The champion is the #95 I-5 Tigard Express. In fact, all of the worst performing lines are long-haul lines, often expresses, that are most likely to get caught in traffic congestion.
This seems like a very strong argument for the dedicated right-of-way for MAX (presumably Bus-Rapid-Transit with dedicated right of way would enjoy the same benefit). The article offers no solutions, TriMet works to fine-tune schedules to reduce variation, but it's not a game you can win.
I think the better strategy is to put more real-time information in the hands of riders, exactly what we're trying to do with Transit Surfer. Stop having riders rely on schedules, and let them know when the bus is really coming!
June 9, 2006
The Future of our Transportation - Big Ideas and Outcomes
We’ve been hearing from Metro that the Regional Transportation Plan Update just getting underway is going to be different. (See Council President Bragdon’s remarks (PDF, 31K) and Councilor Burkholder’s comments (PDF, 31K) from the April 20th stakeholder forum.) They say the new RTP is going to focus on outcomes. That it’s going to take into account the reality of shrinking federal and state dollars, as well as the wild fluctuations in oil prices that are projected for the future. It’s going to move us away from the laundry list approach to transportation planning and provide us with something different.
We think Metro’s vision of doing the RTP differently is a good thing ... but what does it really mean? How do we break free of business as usual and start thinking about transportation in a completely new way?
One of the most inspiring success stories, I’ve heard about is Bogota’s transportation transformation. Their big idea was to “put people before cars”. What a novel idea! By restricting cars and aggressively investing in bikeways, pedestrian improvements and transit, they transformed the city. One of the outcomes they achieved in a mere six years was a shift from negligible bike use (less than a percent) to 5% of the trips in the city being made by bike. Their weekly car-free days got people of all incomes and walks of life out of their cars and onto buses and sidewalks. These are two incredible outcomes!
The transportation system we created in the 20th century is unsustainable. What are the big ideas that we should consider to transform our system so that it can be more resilient and sustainable? What should the outcomes of the new system be?
PDOT has just released the agenda for the Bike Summit coming up on Saturday, June 17th.
This is a great time to remind everyone to register (it's FREE)!
Here are the details:
PSU Smith Center, June 17, 2006
Plenary I 8:30 am to 9:45 am
A Celebration of our 15 Years of Bicycling Success
Telling the Portland Bike Story
Welcome – Sue Keil, Director, Portland Office of Transportation
Introductions – Portland City Commissioner Sam Adams; Metro Councilor Rex Burkholder; Mia Birk, Alta Planning and Design and former Bicycle Program Manager; Congressman Earl Blumenauer
Workshop Session I 10 am – 11:00 am
- Missing Bikeway Elements in Your Neighborhood I - including downtown
- Business Symposium I - Portland's Bicycle-Related Business Activity
- Getting Kids Back on Bikes - What you can do with your schools and in your neighborhood
- Mountain Cyclists - What is on the horizon for the Portland muddy pedaler
- Organizing For Bikes In Your Neighborhood
- Lobbying for Bicycling Local, State and Federal
- Getting Media for Your Bike Event
- The Bicycling Online Community
Workshop Session II 11:15 – 12:15 pm
- Innovations on Bikeways and Bike Parking Here and Abroad
- Missing Bikeway Elements in Your Neighborhood II - including downtown
- Sharing the Road - Campaigns and strategies
- Business Symposium II - What makes bicycling good for your bottom line
- New Laws for Bikes - What are the latest approaches and ideas
- Who Put the Fun in BikeFun? - Plug in and meet your bikey brethren and sisters
- Why Do People Not Ride – Really - or How to Get My Next Door Neighbor on a Bike
Plenary II – 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm
The Next 20 Years for Bicycling – Going Platinum
Evan Manvel – Executive Director Bicycle Transportation Alliance
Ayleen Crotty – KBOO Bike Show, Filmed By Bike, and ORBikes.com
City of Cycling Copenhagen Video
Portland City Commissioner Sam Adams
1:30 pm Sprockettes Performance on Montgomery St
June 8, 2006
I attended PSU's transportation seminar a few Fridays ago and heard an interesting student presentation on employer provided incentives for transit use (go to the seminar page to download or stream the presentation).
Some of the information was intuitive, e.g., if you give employees a transit pass, they'll use transit more often.
The big insight for me was that there are a set of "soft" incentives that have a big impact, up to a 12% increase in use of transit. These include flex-time, compressed work-week schedules, telecommuting, a "guaranteed ride home" for emergencies and access to a company fleet vehicle for business-required trips during the day (which could b a Flexcar).
Most of these have relatively low expense levels (compared to buying transit passes) but have a big effect on the "I need to drive my car because..." factor for employees (e.g., the need to pay a cab for the guaranteed ride home doesn't happen very often but relieves a worry that might motivate an employee to drive).
There was a transportation panel at last week's Illahee symposium, "Oil Water and Oregon". Of course the gas tax came up. As the gas tax loses buying power to inflation and greater fuel economy, the funds available for maintenance continue to get squeezed.
One panelist opined that the message voters were sending in voting down gas tax increases was that voters didn't want more roads. I'm not sure that's entirely true, I suspect some portion of them just don't want to pay...
But the eye-opener for me was to hear a panelist from ODOT say that they actually have a planning process to look at what facilities they will abandon if they can't maintain all the roads.
I have a hard time imagining that it will ever come to that, but the fact that they feel compelled to think about is pretty sobering.
June 7, 2006
Listen to the show (mp3, 12.6M)
6 Pedalpalooza event organizers join us to tell us about their cool events.
Dropout Bicycle Club
Bikes, Buttes and Bond Measures
Stuff in Vancouver
Urban Adventure League stuff
and much more
A New York filmmaker has put together a great video clip on the paradigm shift moment here in Portland when we rejected the Mt. Hood Freeway. Hat tip to the Shift list for the pointer.
|Defeat of the Mt. Hood Freeway|
After many years of debate and planning for Portland's Mt. Hood Freeway, it was defeated in the 70s and changed Portland for the better in many ways. Camera & editing by Clarence Eckerson Jr.
The City of Portland is trying a new approach to "left turn yield to oncoming traffic":
City of Portland installs new experimental Left-Turn Signal with Flashing Yellow Arrow.
The City of Portland’s Office of Transportation will be activating a new flashing yellow arrow left-turn display at NE 82nd and Tillamook on Tuesday, June 6th at 10:00 AM. Previously, drivers could only turn left on a green arrow like at many other intersections in Portland. Often drivers are annoyed when they see gaps in opposing traffic, but are not able to turn left because of a red arrow. On 82nd Avenue a new flashing yellow arrow will be displayed during the time that opposing through traffic has a green light and drivers will be permitted to turn left after yielding to oncoming traffic and pedestrians. Left turners would still get a green arrow if they are not able turn during the flashing yellow arrow.
“This new flashing yellow indication will reduce delay and frustration for Portland drivers” said Commissioner Sam Adams. Adams continued “From a safety perspective, drivers should make sure they have enough time to turn safely during the flashing yellow arrow. If the gaps are not long enough, then they will eventually get a green arrow.”
The new signal display will consist of a combined steady green arrow / flashing yellow arrow, a steady yellow arrow and a steady red arrow. The green arrow indicates that the left-turning traffic has the right-of-way, and the flashing yellow arrow tells left-turning traffic to first yield to oncoming traffic before turning.
Other future Portland test sites will be at SW Barbur Boulevard and 30th Avenue, and at NE 39th Avenue and I-84. If the flashing yellow arrow improves motorist safety and reduces traffic delay at the test sites, then there may be other locations in Portland where this new type of traffic signal might be installed.
Discussion on some neighborhood list servs is that this could be less safe for pedestrians. Thoughts?
Three great posts yesterday over at the Sightline Institute's Daily Score:
Empty Sidewalks? - Kids aren't walking to school any more
PAYD in Full - Pay as you drive auto insurance
Guilt Tripping - Finding better ways to motivate modal choices
June 6, 2006
Head over to CommissionerSam.com for a discussion of aerial tram operating costs.
An article in today's Tribune on TriMet operations features direct quotes from this blog and further quotes from two of our contributors, identified as such!
Wed. Update: Apparently more than a few people visited after reading the Trib article, we had about 50% more visitors than usual yesterday.
We've discussed the fact that we have a 'congestion' problem with capacity for bikes on MAX and popular bus routes being maxed out.
This week's Business Week, offers one potential solution: commuting on a folding bike that you can take on the train with you. This article seems to focus on the commuter-train riding audience. Would this work on buses or MAX? I see folding bikes from time-to-time around Portland. Are any of our readers using one?
June 5, 2006
On Friday, I had the opportunity to participate in Illahee's Oil, Water and Oregon symposium.
The first keynote address was from Roger Bezdek, who along with Robert L. Hirsch, authored a key analysis of global oil supply.
Bezdek is of the opinion that the only realistic way to replace declining petroleum production will be with other 'liquid fuels', things like oil from shale or tar sands, or coal liquefaction.
While I hope that we can do better than that, moving to more renewable sources, the other part of Bezdek's message that really struck home for me is that to replace petrolium as an energy source, even with a crash program, we need to start 20 years before petroleum production peaks, in order to avoid serious economic disruption. Since the most optimistic estimate is that production will peak not later than 2025 (and the most pessimistic say it happened late last year), there is great urgency to start now.
Bezdek's analysis looks at how long it will take to ramp up production, and issues like the huge investment in today's vehicle fleet, which will take decades to turn over completely.
Whatever you think the solutions are, there are no instant fixes, and we need to get moving!
Friday is the final installment in the Spring series of Friday seminars at PSU.
Jonathan is the guy leading the discussion of transportation information systems for Metro.
Portland State University
Center for Transportation Studies
Spring 2006 Transportation Seminar Series
Speaker: Jonathan Makler, City of Portland and Metro
Topic: Planning for Transportation Operations in the Portland Region
When: Friday, June 9, 2006, 12:00-1:30 pm
Where: 204 Urban Center
June 2, 2006
One of the conundrums of the age of e-commerce is the so-called "last mile" problem, getting a delivery from the local depot to the actual delivery address. In the case of residential deliveries, this has not just VMT impacts, but also impacts on neighborhood livability.
I see Fedex, UPS and DHL trucks on my local street pretty much daily.
Of course, the good old United States Postal Service has been doing the last mile thing for several centuries.
Which brings me to an innovative technique that Amazon.com seems to be using.
If I'm reading the labels on my packages right, Amazon is using one of the delivery companies to get my books to my local post office, then having the postal service deliver them to my home.
This strikes me as a fantastic hybrid solution.
Does anyone know of other similar hybrid delivery schemes? The core concept would seem to be to consolidate shipments with a single 'local' delivery service for the final delivery.
This is a variation on an idea the Dutch were working on when I visited the Netherlands last year - centralized neighborhood delivery depots (possibly automated) where you could go (possibly by bike or on foot) to retrieve your packages - also solving the problem of no one being home to receive the package.
The BTA Blog got it up first, but it's worth cross-posting here.
Transit ridership, roadway congestions and sprawl were among the criteria used in the rankings.
Here's to continuing to build our lead!
June 1, 2006
Yesterday's O had a brief article on the workshop held on Tuesday.
The article focused quite a bit on the trail aspect, which is important (I looked at a bike map to see how I might get to the workshop by bike or a bike/bus combo, and concluded you can't get there!).
But my favorite quote came from Lake Oswego Mayor Judie Hammerstad:
"The federal process we're involved in says you're supposed to look at everything before you make any recommendation, so I'm not supposed to say that streetcars are the answer," Mayor Judie Hammerstad said. "But from what I know today, streetcars are the answer."