July 31, 2006
This month on the KBOO Bike Show the topic is major weight loss.
Sara and Ayleen will interview Aaron Adam and Mike Rasmussen about how becoming regular cyclists has allowed them to loose significant weight, and what that journey has been like for them.
9-10AM, Wednesday, August 2nd
KBOO FM 90.7
Streamed live at KBOO.fm
Podcast here later that day
I love the Audi ad for car-free day. Can you imagine GM doing something like that?
Taking a "Big Look" at Transportation and Land Use Planning in Oregon - Call To Action
Previously, I explained that there are two transportation and land use programs at work in Oregon: the regulatory program many worry about and the follow-the-money program that matters more.
As Alex Marshall puts it in How Cities Work: Suburbs, Sprawl, and the Roads Not Taken, "It's a simple rule: How we get around determines how we live. But it's a rule we still haven't grasped. Transportation determines the form of our places."
What makes sense and what can we do?
To begin with, is important to recognize that the Metro area is integrating transportation and land use planning and investments as well as anywhere in the country. The New Look at regional choices and the Regional Transportation Plan update are both promising efforts.
But the Portland area isn't an island cut off from the rest of the state. The Portland area will likely need to absorb roughly 1 million of the 2 million additional Oregonians expected in the next 35 years. Moreover, the Portland metro area must compete with other parts of the state for scarce transportation investments, for example, directed to the Damascus area. The fortunes of Portland are tied to the rest of the state.
We simply can't afford to have the left hand planning one thing while the right hand is investing in something else. We must view planning and investing together, just as we must view transportation and land use together.
Here are four simple things to do:
- Contact the "Big Look" Task Force: Tell them they should look at the effects of transportation and other public investments, as much as land use planning regulations, on how Oregon develops.
- Contact the Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC): Tell them what Alex Marshall said: "It's a simple rule: How we get around determines how we live. But it's a rule we still haven't grasped. Transportation determines the form of our places." Tell them to push ODOT to invest in ways that better support the Statewide Planning Goals.
- Contact the Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC): They are accepting comments on the draft Oregon Transportation Plan (OTP) through August 14, 2006. Tell them the $3 billion they invest every biennium affects how the state develops and that they have a responsibility for land use every bit as much as LCDC does. Remind them that in August 1995 former Governor John Kitzhaber directed ODOT to transform itself into a "growth management agency."
- Contact Governor Ted Kulongoski, Senate President Peter Courtney and House Speaker Karen Minnis: Tell them to call on the "Big Look" Task Force they appointed to take a big look at our future, one that looks not only at how the state regulates but as importantly how the state invests.
For example, what if the State eliminated all planning requirements but provided funding for planning and awarded public investments only to communities who planned well? Such an idea would turn the land use program from one viewed by some jurisdictions as a state unfunded mandate into one viewed as an opportunity to obtain state investments. This isn't necessarily a serious idea, but does provide food for thought about what is possible.
Unfortunately, the truth is that probably little is possible if we wait for the current elected leaders to lead. The Governor and Legislature established the "Big Look" Task Force, in part, because they themselves have been unable to agree on how to reform the land use planning program or to implement Measure 37 in a sensible manner. As for the Task Force, in May they adopted a 3-year work plan that appears to be more of a "little look" at what have been the "rubs" in the land use planning program than a "Big Look" at what kind of future Oregonians want and how to best get there. Recently, the Task Force selected six key issues they intend to focus on. Issue #5 is on target: "How should Oregon's system of infrastructure, finance, and governance influence land use?"
But the Task Force might have a hard time answering the question, "How can the State of Oregon best work with local governments, the private sector and the public to achieve that kind of future Oregonians want?", if it doesn't take the time to first ask, "Why do Oregonians enjoy living and working in Oregon?" and "What kind of future do Oregonians want to have for themselves and future generations?"
If we want positive change, we need to come together to figure that out and eventually our elected leaders will follow. The best thing you can do right now is:
- Participate in Envision Oregon: Oregonians are already starting to come together to envision the kind of Oregon we want to have and how to best get there. Join me and 300 other citizens who have already pre-registered for the next town hall forum to discuss the future of Oregon on Thursday, August 3, 2006 in Portland from 5:30 pm to 8:45 pm. The event is free and a light supper will be served to those who come early.
Citizens coming together to envision the future won't make Oregon a better place overnight. But as Margaret Mead once said, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
July 28, 2006
At a meeting Tuesday of the Steering Committee overseeing both the Eastside Streetcar project and the Willamette Shoreline analysis, a few things got clearer.
The Lake Oswego Project Advisory Committee (LOPAC in Metro-speak) had recommended a dog's breakfast of options for further review:
- 2 River Transit options
- 3 Streetcar options (in the current rail right-of-way, on Highway 43 and a hybrid of the two)
- 2 Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) options
- Several variations on trail options using pieces of the riverside Greenway, the rail right-of-way and other potential paths
- And finally, the no-build (do nothing) option
In addition the Metro Council sent word that it would like to see analysis of using the rail bridge between Lake O and Milwaukie to serve Lake Oswego via some kind of connection to Milwaukie Light Rail (it was noted that the bridge could not support a catenary system as long as it was still being used for freight, so some kind of self-propelled vehicle would be required).
While the Steering Committee did not formally kill any of the options it did ask that staff not spend any further time analyzing River Transit until LOPAC had the opportunity to review the three prior studies (all of which said it doesn't pencil). They also similarly de-emphasized the BRT option that would go over Terwilliger and back to Macadam via Boones Ferry and Taylors Ferry (apparently as an attempt to avoid the congestion on Highway 43). And it was agreed that Metro would use its own staff to look at the rail bridge to Milwaukie.
So it looks to me like the detailed analysis will be between BRT on 43 and some variation of the Streetcar routing (and the no-build option), with either being complemented by a multi-use trail.
Google Mobile has just added real-time traffic data to their mobile maps service. It says data is available for 30 cities. But since my Treo is not one of the supported devices, I can't tell if this includes Portland.
Taking a "Big Look" at Transportation and Land Use in Oregon - Introduction
Senate Bill 82 established the Oregon Task Force on Land Use Planning (OTFLUP), commonly known as the "Big Look" Task Force, to study Oregon's land use planning program and make recommendations to the 2007 and 2009 legislatures.
But which land use program should the Task Force look at: the one people worry about or the one that matters?
The program many worry about is Oregon's regulatory land use program, the one Governor Tom McCall established in 1973 with Senate Bill 100. The Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD) plays a big role in the regulatory program. DLCD's budget for the 2005–2007 biennium is $18 million. Through Goal 12 (Transportation) and the Transportation Planning Rule (TPR), the regulatory program requires the State, metropolitan areas, counties and cities to adopt transportation system plans (TSPs) that "establish a coordinated network of transportation facilities adequate to serve state, regional and local transportation needs." As a result, governments spend a lot of time developing TSPs. Planning for the future makes sense, right?
But the program that matters more is the follow-the-money land use program—the one Deep Throat would point us to. The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) plays a big role in the follow-the-money program. ODOT's budget for the 2005–2007 biennium is $2.9 billion, i.e., roughly 160 times as much as DLCD's. An additional $661 million is passed through to other agencies, counties and cities. The state transportation portion of the follow-the-money program is embodied in the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP). The basic, albeit unstated, goal of the follow-the-money program is for jurisdictions to get as much money as they can for their projects. The rules aren't always clear, but participants talk about "horse trading." Special interest lobbyists play a significant, if often hidden, role.
In truth, both programs are important, but the follow-the-money program matters more than the regulatory program. Large sums of money trump weakly-enforced regulations, and larger agencies dominate smaller ones.
For example, the Damascus/Boring Concept Plan developed by elected officials, citizens and technical experts envisions how this part of Clackamas County can develop as the newest addition to the Portland metro area. But the plans will turn into reality only if there is funding to build the new streets and other public facilities and services necessarily to support the development that is planned.
For example, the Newberg-Dundee Bypass around the existing Highway 99W southwest of the Portland metro area has been "planned" for decades in the sense that the TSPs for Yamhill County, Newberg and Dundee list this as a desirable project. But Yamhill County, Newberg and Dundee have nowhere near the $300+ million needed to build this project. (For that matter, neither does the State, which is now considering allowing a private Australian firm to build the bypass as a toll road.)
For example, Bend is one of the fastest-growing metropolitan area in the nation. With all that new development, you'd expect Bend to be building new local streets like crazy. In fact, Bend doesn't get enough money from the follow-the-money program (and other sources) to build enough new local streets to meet the demand. Predictably, some of that new traffic is clogging up the state highway bypass intended for through traffic.
All around the state, local jurisdictions are "planning" to build transportation projects far in excess of the money they—or the state—can reasonably expect to have. According to the draft Oregon Transportation Plan (OTP):
"In 2004 dollars the transportation needs analysis found more than a $1.3 billion per year gap in the funding needed to adequately maintain and expand the publicly funded transportation modes."
Goal 12 and the TPR notwithstanding, local jurisdictions have no meaningful ability to "plan" projects they have no money to build. But real development, as is occurring in Bend and elsewhere, is depending on these "planned" projects. This kind of "planning" makes little sense, right?
Alex Marshall explains in How Cities Work: Suburbs, Sprawl, and the Roads Not Taken:
"The structure of a human settlement rests on a three-legged stool of politics, economics and transportation. … If we seek to change our world, it's these interconnected levers that must be pulled. … Of these, transportation is the most visible and active in shaping a place. It's a simple rule: How we get around determines how we live. But it's a rule we still haven't grasped. Transportation determines the form of our places."
In other words, the follow-the-money transportation program determines not only the shape of our transportation system but to a great extent the shape of our communities. If we are interested in how Oregon grows, we should take a "Big Look" at the follow-the-money program even more than the regulatory program. We should take a look at investment policy as much as regulatory policy.
Monday, I will talk about what makes sense and what we can do.
July 27, 2006
Yesterday's Oregonian had a nice piece in the Science section about the ITS (Intelligent Transportation Systems) lab at PSU.
The head of planning at Metro once called the lab "our region's transportation think tank."
Another competitive advantage for our region! Keep thinking, folks.
The consortium behind the "Drive Less Save More" has enhanced its web site with a bunch of new services:
- Driving cost calculator
- Driving tips
- Trip chaining list generator
- Gas price tracker
- Real-time traffic information
- Traffic alert services
- Ridesharing and carpooling resources
- Online public transit resources for Oregon and SW Washington
- Bus and MAX route listings from TriMet’s Trip Planner
- Real-time bus and MAX arrivals with TriMet’s Transit Tracker™
- Online biking and walking resources
Update 27 July 2006:
With OSCON in full swing on Wednesday, I think I understand the motivation for the signs. Bikes were locked to everything in site, including the benches. I sent an e-mail to the OCC manager suggesting signage near the racks out front referencing the bike parking in the garage.
Original Post 24 July 2006:
Last night I went over to the convention center to pick up my registration for OSCON, and saw this sign attached to a bench outside.
Now it's not that I think folks should be locking bikes to the benches. But don't you think they could at least direct people to the hidden bike parking in the garage?
July 26, 2006
This morning's Oregonian previewed today's Council vote on extending Streetcar to Lowell St., the southern end of the current South Waterfront development area.
I am told the Council voted 4-0. So next year about this time we'll be celebrating another opening!
One of the amazing things about this particular extension is that the local property owners contributed about 3 times more to the LID (as a percentage of project cost) than the prior parts of the alignment.
The BTA is asking for participation in a survey to help design a strategy for developing bike boulevards that people who don’t cycle today will use.
So even if you only have a dusty bike down in the basement (or are just thinking about buying a bike), please share your perspective.
Last week's episode of Smart City (mp3, 23.6M) talks about sprawl and urbanism (the segment leads off the show). A few of the key ideas:
- Sprawl has been driven by a combination of zoning (trying to separate uses - keep the slaughterhouse away from my house) and Federal subsidies for things like the Interstate Highway System. Changing Federal funding and the information economy break this paradigm.
- Sprawl is also driven by a rational seeking of elbow room and affordability.
- Urbanism - the ability to live in vibrant urban neighborhoods - is now an amenity that people will pay top dollar for.
- The premium pricing for places like the Pearl may be a function of their relative scarcity - if we had a lot more high density urban neighborhoods, they might be more affordable.
According to an article in the Daily Journal of Commerce, siting of biofuel plants is complicated by how they should be treated under state land use law. Currently, Exclusive Farm Use zones may not allow these plants.
Two recent items of note: over at carbusters.org, they're sponsoring a design competition for reuse of spaces currently dedicated to autos.
And at BikePortland.org, new contributor Elly Blue is calling for more temporary street closures to help envision how our communities could work with fewer cars.
July 25, 2006
From the Critical Mass list via SHIFT:
- July 25, 1896 - 6,000 bicycle parade down Market Street, San Francisco, in demand for good roads (be careful what you ask for)
- July 25, 1997 - 6,000 bicycle parade takes over San Francisco (corrupt Mayor, police attack with mass media uproar conveniently masking major transportation scandals)
- July 25, 2003 - Bike Summer NYC * New York is tasting the nectar (Still battling for the right to ride)
This comment showed up on our discussion of a possible Wine Train:
I live in Mt Hood, Oregon and would like to work with folks interested in getting rail transport between Hood River (maybe also the Dalles) and Portland, who is working on this? How can I help?Is this workable?
It seems that a total overhaul of rail rights needs to happen so that passenger trains have priority use of the rails, instead of always having to stop and wait for freight cars. Can't the freight cars run around a passenger schedule as in other countries? Thanks!
Yesterday's Oregonian reports that the City Auditor has told PDOT it's not spending its road maintence dollars as effectively as possible. It's the old adage: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Apparently PDOT is spending so much resource rebuilding the really bad roads that it underspends keeping the new ones from deteriorating.
The economics of this were extensively discussed by the PDOT Budget Advisory Committee. In some ways the challenge is understandable: the public gripes about a failed street. It's visually obvious (more so when you drive over it). On the flip side, the optimal maintenance schedule for a good street calls for resealing it before it has visually degraded - so the public wants to know why you're "wasting" money on perfectly good streets.
On the other hand, I have to wonder a little bit about the culture of the Bureau of Maintenance. These are dig and pave kinds of folks, the same folks whose responses skewed the PDOT stakeholder survey with some very negative numbers for things like bike lanes.
This week's Business Week has an article ("Can't Stop Guzzling") that suggests that higher gas prices are NOT reducing driving, except perhaps among lower income drivers. The Oregonian's Jim Mayer finds the same effect looking at vacation travel in Oregon.
One theory I've heard before is that changes in driving behavior will only occur if there are very sudden and dramatic increases in price - slow changes will just "boil the frog to death" slowly.
Which calls into question the idea that market mechanisms will cope with Peak Oil. If we don't get behavior changes until we have dramatic scarcities, the adjustment is going to be very painful.
Portland City Council is reviewing a number of its tax abatement programs. In fact, there is now a moratorium on the multi-unit housing abatement.
The abatement for Transit-Oriented Develop is also being reviewed, but is still available. In fact, the eligible areas have been expanded to include more Light Rail stations.
The TOD program is not under a moratorium. It is currently available in light rail station areas (not Interstate) outside the Central City, the Gateway Regional Center, the Hollywood and Lents Town Centers, and the Northwest plan district. It is, however, a very similar program and is included in this review.
On June 27th, the Planning Commission approved the staff proposal for changes to the TOD program boundaries to include all light rail station outside the Central City (Interstate and I-205), as well as MLK, and portions of Sandy and Foster. They also approved some updates to the public benefits list and approval process. The program will be brought before the City Council later this summer.
For more information about the proposed changes to the TOD Tax Exemption, as well as the resolution to extend the NMUH Tax Exemption program visit http://www.pdc.us/housing_serv/hsg_development/multi-lta.asp.
July 24, 2006
I can't think of a better way to celebrate a multi-modal city! Here are the particulars from Sara Stout:
After many months of planning and three weeks of painting, the Share the Road Mural on SE Hawthorne Blvd. is now almost finished! We will be working on the final touches during the next few day's heat-wave and will be celebrating the completion of this project next week!
Please join us next Wednesday, July 26th from 6-9pm at the Hawthorne Auto Clinic (4307 SE Hawthrone Blvd.) for a mural dedication party. There will be live music, Central American Fritanga style food and a big "Share the Road" mural to check-out.
Some early mural painting photos and some backround information about our project are posted on the Bike Portland Blog (thanks Jonathan!).
Having missed the premiere event, I got a chance to see "Who Killed The Electric Car?" on Friday and came away both depressed by way our democracy can conspire to suppress innovation, but also optimistic about the strong advocacy that continues for the technologies involved.
Sunday's Oregonian followed up with a nice piece by Jim Mayer on electric vehicles, including the factoid that 216 electric vehicles are registered in Oregon. Are any of them being driven by our readers? If so, I'd love to hear about the specific experiences you're having with them.
July 21, 2006
It's been a great week for Portland Streetcar:
- On Wednesday the Oregon Transportation Commission awarded $2.1M of Connect Oregon funds to cap off the funding plan for the Lowell Extension.
- On Thursday the Metro Council unanimously adopted the Locally Preferred Alternative for the Eastside Streetcar, completing a sweep of unanimous votes from local governments and launching the detailed design process and work on developing an application for Federal funding.
- Today we celebrate Streetcar's fifth birthday and 10,000,000th rider.
Meeky passes on a link to an article in yesterday's Wall Street Journal (unfortunately it requires a login) about states raising speed limits to as high as 80 mph. Here's a partial sample:
States around the country, including Texas and Michigan, have recently increased speed limits on hundreds of miles of interstate highways and freeways. Other states are expected to follow soon.
Near Detroit, drivers long confronted by signs telling them to go no more than 55 miles per hour or 65 mph are seeing new signs with 70 mph speed limits. By November, cruising at 70 mph will be allowed on nearly 200 miles of road, including parts of Interstate 75 and M-59, a major suburban route. Texas has begun erecting 80 mph signs along 521 miles of I-10 and I-20 in 10 rural western counties, giving them the highest speed limit in the U.S. In September, Virginia is likely to boost the speed limit on I-85 near the North Carolina border to 70 mph from 65 mph.
Driving faster may get people to their destinations more quickly, but it can also add to the rising cost of owning a car. The Department of Energy estimates that every five miles per hour a person drives above 60 mph costs an extra 20 cents a gallon, for a fuel-efficiency loss of 7% to 23%, depending on the type of car and gas. That's because higher speeds increase aerodynamic drag on a car, requiring more horsepower. Over a year, it costs roughly an additional $180 in gas to drive 75 mph instead of 60 mph, according to the Environmental and Energy Study Institute, which promotes energy efficiency and renewable energy.
This is unreal - and a logical outcome of designing highways for higher speeds than are (or were) legally allowed, to protect the builders from lawsuits.
Notice the "people drive that fast anyway" argument.
The one that really frosts me, "...and many drivers are now protected by front and side airbags." So what about those who don't have them? Or peds and cyclists (which do exist on these roads)? Guess they're just (soon to be) chopped liver.
The awful outcome of this is, of course, the possibility that "It isn't clear if the urge to increase speed limits on interstates will trickle down to smaller roads and streets, usually controlled by local officials." - where there are more peds and cyclists.
July 20, 2006
Just because it made me smile. Hat tip to Miles for the pointer.
Just in time for the fifth birthday celebration for Portland Streetcar, word just in that the Oregon Transportation Commission has awarded $2.1M from Connect Oregon to the Lowell St. extension. This should cap the funding plan for the extension and insure the opening of another segment in about a year.
Connect Oregon is a $100M State program intended to complement the OTIA programs benefiting roads and bridges in the last few legislative sessions. Looking at the awards list, freight and transit are big winners.
Via the SHIFT list.
Ooh la la.It's Sunday morning. The sun banks higher. The breeze is sultry. You inhale the swooning perfume of the linden blossoms.Read the whole article here.
You think: a crisp, new book would be nice. And then a latte.
So you swipe your bike card through the kiosk nearby, dislodging one of these fine steeds, with their cherry red wheel guards and handy, dandy bike baskets on the front.
You scoot down to Nicholas Hoare, stashing your bike at the kiosk on Front St. You pick up a copy of Londonstani, running your hand across its smooth cover.
You return to the bike kiosk, swipe again, and head up to College St. For the latte. You engage with the city and your surroundings.
Flexcar, are you listening? Anyone up for a field trip to Lyons to check it out?
July 19, 2006
The Oregonian transportation reporter, Jim Mayer, posed this question about the Columbia River Crossing project as a comment to another post. I thought it was interesting enough to elevate to its own post.
It will be interesting to look closely at the TDM-only alternative to see how it performs. Is it really possible to achieve as much congestion relief with tolling as with any of the build options? Or if not, is the difference worth $2 billion? Same goes for the arterial-only alternative, which the staff tried again to kill off at the last task force meeting. I would be interested in any expert opinion about the fairness of the study methods used to evaluate these two lower-cost options.Who's got an answer for Jim?
An article in yesterday's Trib about the Central Eastside urban renewal district quoted Sam Adams saying that additional funds were needed to lock in affordable housing in the face of the gentrification that would be created by the Streetcar and other improvements. This was part of his justification for increasing the maximum indebtedness of the district beyond the amount recommended by an advisory committee.
So today's question is whether it is possible to do high qualify (e.g., rail) transit investments without triggering gentrification that drives out current residents?
Update 19 Jul 2006
A little more data on this. According a post at Price Tags, British Columbia is actually reducing its VMT (it's actually KMT up there).
Original Post 17 Jul 2006
Even the folks suggesting we consider spending an extra $6B on transportation tell us that congestion can only be slowed, not reversed.
Jim Howell passes on this link to data that suggests commuting times in Vancouver, B.C. have decreased. Even the transit folks can't offer an explanation. But maybe there's hope!
July 18, 2006
Update 18 July 2006:
This morning's Tribune has an interview with the filmmaker and word that the film's regular run starts on Friday at the Fox theater.
Update 07 July 2006:
Perhaps it's too early to declare the death of the electric car. Here are a whole range of indicators that it may be coming back:
- Metro is about to join an organization called the Plug-In Partners that promotes plugging your hybrid car into the grid (or non-grid electric sources) to recharge overnight, trying to avoid gasoline use entirely on short daily trips.
- A reader passes along a link to a new startup working on electric vehicles.
- At the City Hall art show last night, I met a gentleman working on builidng electric-assist bikes. We already know electric bikes are huge in China and I think they could be here too (think about a zero-emissions Vespa).
Original Post 03 July 2006:
WHO KILLED THE ELECTRIC CAR? chronicles the life and mysterious death of the GM EV1, examining its cultural and economic ripple effects, and how they reverberated through the halls of government and big business. It explains why America can’t break it’s addiction to gasoline. It’s a story everyone who owns an automobile should see.
There will be a benefit preview screening of WHO KILLED THE ELECTRIC CAR? with Director, Chris Paine on Wednesday, July 12 at 7:00 at the Hollywood Theatre, 4122 NE Sandy Blvd. Admission is $10 and advance tickets are available on-line at www.hollywoodtheatre.org/calendar/, or at the door. Proceeds benefit Livable Place.
Yesterday afternoon Sam Adams and the consultant team presented the results of the traffic modeling of various alternatives for West Burnside St. from the river to NW 24th to "key stakeholders" (which included some property owners who had never been near the Stakeholder Committee process!).
While there are no conclusions, there is some narrowing of options. Note that ONLY traffic modeling data was presented, so we do not yet have data for how these options do on pedestrian safety and other key criteria for the project.
- The couplet still scores best on a number of bases!
- The 'truncated couplet' (i.e., force some of the traffic back to Burnside before it goes by the Henry) does reasonably well, but still sends 800 cars per hour past the Brewery Blocks (I think that surprised the Henry representative).
- Options that narrow Burnside to 3 lanes east of I-405 tend to gridlock Northwest, Goose Hollow, and/or the Pearl.
- Dropping to 2 westbound lanes and 1 eastbound lane WEST of I-405 (the option I'm rooting for in that area) did reasonably well.
- Worst of all options was the so-called 5/4/3, which would add an extra 10 minutes to the 9 minute trip from the river to NW 23rd (compared to the couplet, which shaves a number of minutes off the trip).
More data will be presented to the full stakeholder committee (the one that's been at this for four years), but I'm betting in the end the Commissioner will bring forward some variation of the couplet.
Here's an example of the traffic diversion diagrams. This one is for the 1/1/1 option (one lane in each direction with a center turn lane).
[Hint: red = bad]
A reader passes along this link to an article in construction industry trade magazine about the Columbia Crossing. Two key points in the article:
- Inclusion of transit in the bi-state agreement
- Streamlined bi-state process to advance the project more quickly
July 17, 2006
It's been five years since a parade led the first convoy of Streetcars from PSU out onto the rails with passenger service.
On Friday, Commissioner Sam Adams will lead a party that will celebrate:
- 5 years of successful Streetcar operation
- Streetcar's 10,000,000th passenger
- Regional adoption of the Locally Preferred Alternative for bringing Streetcar to the east side of the Willamette
- The opening later this Fall of the extension to SW Gibbs St.
Come join us on Friday, July 21st at 10:30 at the East Bank Saloon (one of the potential termini for the initial construction segment to the Eastside), 727 SE Grand Avenue.
Gordon Price, the urban guru/former Vancouver, B.C. City Councilor, has finally started a blog. It's already programmed into my RSS reader.
For those of you who may not have been familiar Price Tags, Gordon's e-mail/PDF newsletter, his insights are not to be missed.
July 14, 2006
Yesterday morning at JPACT, discussion of Eastside Streetcar chewed up almost the whole meeting (Sam Adams' resolution about Hayden Island used the rest). The rest of the agenda got pushed out to August.
In the end, the committee unanimously endorsed Metro Council adoption of the Locally Preferred Alternative, but not before a number of neighborhood activists from Brooklyn and Sellwood/Moreland reminded the committee how important South Corridor (aka Milwaukie) Light Rail is.
Milwaukie Mayor Jim Bernard made the same point.
My own testimony was to the effect that we are fortunate as a region to have so many good transit projects in the pipeline, and we should be working to expand the available sources of operations funding.
The point was also made by several members that we need to have a better long-term plan for regional rail expansion. There is some hope that this will come out of the RTP Update.
Last stop on the Streetcar LPA tour coming up next Thursday at the Metro Council.
Thursday's Oregonian featured two stories about transportation getting tangled up in land use decisions.
First, Sam Adams has proposed a moratorium on large commercial development on Hayden Island to protect the river crossing. City Council needs to give 45 days notice before taking such a vote and Sam collected a resolution of support for starting the notice period from the Columbia River Crossing Task Force. Sam got a similar resolution from JPACT on Thursday.
Of course, this would also have the effect of stalling development of a Wal-Mart, Sam's favorite employer, on the island.
The front page describes the legal battle between the City of Portland and SK Northwest over a greenway trail connecting the Eastbank Esplanade with the Springwater Trail. The applicability of a local case that went all the way to the Supreme Court (Dolan v. Tigard) is being debated.
This story was originally broken by BikePortland.org, which got no love or credit in the Oregonian story.
Burnside project manager Bill Hoffman visited with the NW District Association transportation committee last week at their request to give an update on the Burnside project.
As previously reported, the project is now modeling a new set of alternatives. Bill indicated that the results would be communicated at two meetings later this month:
July 17th for "key" stakeholders (not sure who else is on the list)
July 26th for the full Stakeholder Advisory Committee
I have invitations to both meetings and you can expect word on the results of the modeling to appear here after the first meeting.
Bill did give one small hint into the results: the 2 west/one east option for the area west of I-405 is performing better than the 1/1/1 option (one lane in each direction and a center turning lane). This was my prediction and I pushed Commissioner Adams to get the 2/1 option into the modeling. Still unrevealed however is the amount of diversion of traffic into the neighborhoods that any 3 lane option creates compared to the 4-lane configuration that exists today.
July 13, 2006
Yesterday the Portland Development Commission got their briefing on the Locally Preferred Alternative for Eastside Streetcar (the tour of local governments continues - this morning JPACT will review the LPA and make a recommendation to the finally adopting body, the Metro Council).
Transportation Commissioner Sam Adams led off the discussion and after reviewing the benefits Streetcar has delivered on the west side (including catalyzing $2.4B of private investment) didn't mince words: "I'm hear to advocate with you for $25 Million from across four urban renewal areas: Convention Center, Central Eastside, River District and Downtown Waterfront." Sam went on to be clear that part of the reason City Council raised the maximum indebtedness on the Central Eastside district $16M more than PDC recommended was to help make sure there were funds for both the Burnside/Couch couplet and the Streetcar.
By the way, the reason two west side districts are listed is that one effect of the Eastside Streetcar, which will run from PSU or RiverPlace to at least the Lloyd District and ultimately to OMSI and then back across the river, is that it will double the frequency of Streetcar in downtown and the Pearl District.
The three PDC commissioners (two seats are currently vacant) seemed to get the message. Chair Rosenbaum asked what budget years the funds needed to be planned for (he also asked when we would know if the Federal money wasn't going to happen so the URA funds could be reprogrammed for other uses - Sam didn't have an immediate answer but agreed to figure that out).
The answer to the Chair's question is that the funds would need to be commited before we apply for the Federal funds, probably in about a year.
Over at the SHIFT list, they're looking for volunteers to help organize a car free day:
This email is to gauge interest in a committee, working group, task force, or what have you with the purpose of promoting car-free projects in Portland.
Particular tasks might include (with the first two items probably being priorities):
- Throwing another Car Free Day street fair in September, or maybe something more block-partyish. There was a group working on this that threw great parties for two years running, but new blood is needed if it's going to happen again this year.
- Promoting and enabling ever more street closures. The permit process for this is not impossible, but pretty daunting and involves a fair amount of effort, logistics, and diplomacy, and could be much more common with a strong source of encouragement and advice. Possible groups we might approach for this: Last Thurs on Alberta; neighborhood street fairs big and small; Peacock Lane (imagine a car-free night to view their xmas lights); individuals and businesses who want to have block parties.
- Taking over parking spots for parks, turning streets into living rooms, etc.
- Going after that elusive world record for number of simultaneous block parties in one city
- Advocating for a future Car Free Day where all of Portland is free from private car traffic for a day
- General advocacy and promoting carfreeness. I also have some unformed ideas about taking on transit issues, but that's a whole different kettle of fish.
Is this the sort of thing anyone else is itching to do? If so, drop me a line. If enough people are interested, we could try to meet up and talk about it sometime the week after next -- maybe the 24th or 25th (Monday or Tuesday), in the evening, so also let me know your availability.
Feel free to pass this on to one and all.
If you're interested, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll pass it on to Elly.
July 12, 2006
Just received this media advisory:
Electric Vehicles to Exhibit at Portland Premiere
WHAT: The Oregon Electric Vehicle Association (OEVA) will be exhibiting four vehicles at the Portland Premier of the Sony Pictures Classics’ film, Who Killed the Electric Car? Vehicles being exhibited include White Zombie [www.plasmaboyracing.com], the world’s fastest ‘Street legal electric car,’ and a 1921 Milburn electric. The Milburn Light Electric Company of Toledo, Ohio [www.milburn.us/history.htm], was purchased by General Motors in 1923 and ceased operations shortly thereafter. From 1892 to 1912, electric vehicles were the main means of transportation. The vehicle exhibit is free and open to the public. Tickets for the premiere screening of Who Killed the Electric Car?, [www.whokilledtheelectriccar.com] followed by a Q&A session with the filmmaker Chris Paine are $10 and available through the event host, Livable Place, at [www.livableplace.org].
WHEN: Wednesday, July 12th, Car Exhibit 6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m., Premiere 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
WHERE: Hollywood Theatre.
WHO: Electric-vehicle experts will be on hand to answer questions.
Just for the record, I am NOT crossing my fingers for an earthquake to take care of the Eastbank Freeway.
July 11, 2006
The thesis is that much of our congestion is simply too expensive to fix.
There are also alternative estimates of the cost of congestion (hint: not so high).
And very interestingly, there's an estimate that suggests the annual cost of auto accidents may far exceed the cost of congestion.
"Cost of Safety" anyone?
Folks who complained about Portland's new parking paystations removing the chance to find a meter with time left on it (instead you drive away with your extra time on your window and can use it at another parking space) may consider themselves lucky.
Jerry passes on this article about a technology to reset those meters to zero when you drive away!
Not so sci-fi. The developer of the controversial parking structure proposed just off NW 23rd has indicated that the spaces will have loop detectors so signage outside the structure can display the number of available spaces.
July 10, 2006
The strategy is two-fold:
- Reduce growth in truck traffic
- Reduce current freight rail congestion that is slowing passenger trains
Any chance of getting similarly enlightened thinking on this side of the Columbia?
Hmmm... There seems to be a mini-trend going on. On Friday, a biodiesel plant in Idaho exploded, killing one worker.
In late June, a fire destroyed a biodiesel site in rural Clackamas County.
I can almost hear some intrepid legislator thinking, "boy, we better regulate these things." The question is, will it be someone who really wants to make sure this fledgling industry gets off the ground safely, or will it be a shill for the petroleum industry trying to strangle it?
Released by the City on Friday:
CITY OF PORTLAND ANNOUNCES PEAK OIL TASK FORCE
Eleven citizens to provide recommendations for responding to rising oil prices and diminishing supplies
Portland, Ore-Commissioner Dan Saltzman today announced the members of the City of Portland's Peak Oil Task Force, a citizen advisory group that will provide recommendations to City Council on appropriate responses to uncertainties in the supply and affordability of oil.
"I'm pleased to announce this group of citizen leaders who have offered to contribute their valuable effort and expertise," said Commissioner Saltzman.
The Task Force will be comprised of the following individuals:
Richard BennerCollectively, the members of the Task Force bring expertise in transportation, land use, business, the food system, building energy use, sociology, and economically disadvantaged populations. Candidates were selected for their ability to bring a multi-disciplinary, systems approach to the issues and for their commitment to seeking solutions that benefit the community as a whole.
The Task Force is intended to identify key short-term and long-term vulnerabilities and develop recommendations for addressing these. The Task Force is expected produce a set of options and recommendations to City Council about how Portland can best prepare for constraints on the supply and affordability of oil. The recommendations will also address how to educate the public about this issue.
City Council adopted a resolution on May 10, 2006 establishing the Peak Oil Task Force, which is expected to complete its work by early 2007. The Peak Oil Task Force will hold its first meeting in mid-July. Details about the initial meeting and future work of the Task Force will be posted at www.sustainableportland.org.
July 7, 2006
Rail transit is regularly criticized, including by some commenters on this site, as cost-ineffective with respect to buses or other modes, particularly with respect to reducing congestion..
VTPI has recently produced an overview of the literature on the benefits of trail transit (PDF, 36K).
July 6, 2006
Update: 06 July 2006:
The tour continues - yesterday Portland City Council unanimously approved the locally preferred alternative. But apparently the Milwaukie delegation had visited earlier with their "don't forget us" message. Commissioner Adams pledged to work to make both projects happen.
Update: 30 June 2006:
The tour of local governments to approve the Eastside Streetcar alignment stopped at the TriMet Board this week. As reported in the O, the focus of this event was a group from Milwaukie that reminded the board that South Corridor Light Rail was an existing priority.
Fair enough. It seems to me the issue is that we have more appetite (and maybe more capital dollars - if we leverage Federal funds effectively) for transit than we have the operating dollars to run. TriMet's payroll tax only goes so far. Perhaps we need to have a serious conversation in the region about other sources for transit operating dollars?
Original post 6 June 2006:
The effort to get the Streetcar across the Broadway Bridge and down to OMSI got a little closer yesterday as a steering committee of local elected officials unanimously adopted a "locally preferred alternative."
Over the next month, local governments around the region will review and likely adopt the recommendation:
Terminus: OMSI, with a first construction phase to Oregon Street (more on this below)
Alignment: Broadway/Weidler, 7th & Grand through the Lloyd District, MLK/Grand through the Central Eastside
This sets up an effort over the next year to assemble the necessary local match to apply to the Feds for 50% of the capital funding. A 20-year local commitment of operating funds will also be a prerequisite to the federal application and may be the hardest part of the work over the next year.
The interim recommendation to Oregon Street (the edge of the Lloyd District) could be amended to go further south by the time the federal application is filed if the City of Portland can get a traffic operations plan for MLK/Grand worked out, along with resolving some other issues, in the next six months or so.
There are still lots of hurdles, including an effort by the House of Representatives to de-fund the program we intend to apply for, and the likelihood that the Federal Transit Administration will write rules for the program that are much more favorable to buses than streetcars, but hey, nobody said it would be easy!
The big breakthrough here is the consensus to use MLK/Grand. At the beginning of the process there was a lot of pressure to use an alignment further east in the Central Eastside, perhaps creating conditions for a wholesale change in land uses there. The local advisory group in the district unanimously supported the MLK/Grand alignment, so that question is behind us.
Update: an article in today's Tribune makes it clear why the discussion of operating funds for Eastside Streetcar will be a challenge. Rising fuel prices and costs of the I-205/Portland Mall line are putting the squeeze on TriMet's ability to fund new service (TriMet has traditionally provided 2/3rds of Streetcar's operating budget).
Over the weekend, we made some significant changes to our Transit Surfer tool. Previously, we had three different interfaces, one for desktop browsers, one for PDAs with HTML browsers, and one for cell phones with WAP/WML browsers.
The WAP version has been the weakest, with poor navigation tools.
We've scrapped that approach and moved to a newer standard xhtml/mobile, which is widely supported. It may not work with a few older phones, but I think it will work with those that have been showing up in our log files.
A side benefit is a simpler URL: tsrf.us. So please check it out on your phones and let us know how it works.
July 5, 2006
Update 5 July 2006:
Just got a press release: looks like the Challenge is having a kick-off event tomorrow (July 6) at 11am at Pioneer Courthouse Square with the Mayor and other dignitaries.
Original Post 4 July 2006:
A piece in this morning's Trib profiles one family participating in a program sponsored by Flexcar, TriMet, the Bike Gallery, Amtrak, the City, County and State to encourage folks to try life without a car for a month.
Some participants are blogging their experiences.
Listen to the show (mp3, 12.6M)
Sara is joined by guest host Tim Calvert (of tall-bike commuting fame) and guests Carie and Allan Cougar - who tell us all about their recent month-long bike trip through Laos with their 2 yr. old cougar cub, Cody Wyoming.
And in celebration of Portland's ongoing campaign and the mural project that is currently being painted on SE Hawthorne Blvd - We take calls on the subject of: SHARING THE ROAD.
The MBTA will put this in service for weekend trips from Boston to popular recreational destinations.
Perhaps we could hook one on to the Wine Train?
July 4, 2006
Update 4 July 2006:
Original Post 22 June 2006:
Sara will interview bike touring experts Carie and Allan Folz about their expedition to Laos, on a tandem, with their 2-year-old son Cody.
July 3, 2006
From an e-mail blast from TriMet:
We want your opinion! TriMet, Metro and the City of Portland are building a new website to provide the public with timely information about the Portland Mall Light Rail construction project beginning in January 2007. Please help us make the site as useful as possible by taking this brief survey. http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.asp?u=553612090047
July 1, 2006
This week's Economist includes an article datelined Portland that talks about a threat to bicycle messengers: electronic document transmission.