October 30, 2006
I had the opportunity to attend a breakfast meeting on Friday, convened by Gail Achterman, a member of the Oregon Transportation Commission. The subject of the meeting was Intelligent Transportation Systems, the whole concept of getting more capacity from our roads and transportation system by using information technology for better coordination and communication.
The headline speaker was Rick Capka, the Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration (in town for the AASHTO meeting). Perhaps the biggest surprise of the day was hearing Capka describe the cordon pricing in London and Stockholm as successful!
A presentation by Fred Hansen of TriMet put a whole new perspective on the "cost of congestion" for me. TriMet buses are traveling on average about 1.5 mph slower now than they were 10 years ago. This means TriMet spends about 10% more to provide essentially the same service. This gives TriMet a lot of incentive to look for opportunities (like being able to hold a green light long enough for the bus to get through) to make the system operate more productively.
Perhaps the slickest technology described was the combination of scales built into highway roadbeds with transponders that allow trucks to "weigh-in" for the weight-mile tax without stopping.
The background presentation for the meeting is available on Metro's web site.
October 30, 2006 12:10 PM
Bob R. Says:
When Fred Hansen told you that buses were moving slower today, what context did he give you? Was this analysis done on a per-route basis? (For example, does Barbur Blvd run slower than before), or was it a system-wide average for bus routes?
The reason I ask this is because if the figure is a system-wide bus average, you would expect this to happen to some extent even without changes in congestion... as some faster-moving popular bus lines get replaced by light rail corridors, the remaining bus lines could have a slower average overall.
- Bob R.
October 30, 2006 12:31 PM
Paul Edgar Says:
Smarter Roads, integrated and managed with Intelligent Transportation Systems using new IT methods offers real benefits and a 30:1 payoff.
In this report "Metropolitan Mobility The Smart Way" on page 6 on "Traffic Signal Cordination" showed that just retiming 150 intersections, helped smooth congestion and saves an estimated $3 million in gas purchases and reduced carbon dioxide emmissions by 169,000 tons each year.
That is a Big-Deal!
Just think what the benfits could be to everyone living within the immediate area of the I-5 corridor or driving the I-5 corridor in north Portland where we have 135,000 incidents of travel each day in LOS congestion conditions of "F" for approximately 7-hours per day with the problems getting worse every day.
What is the cost in gas and how many extra ton's of toxic emmissions are we going to rain down on all of the citizens of Portland before we identify a permanent fix, real solutions to this unreasonable levels of congestion found in the I-5 corridor going through Portland. It is our big transportation gorilla in our closet.
Getting Light Rail extending into Vancouver/Clark County and in conjunction with new land use policies that encourage new high density "Transit Center" housing is needed as part of the long term solutions to I-5 corridor congestion.
Light Rail into Vancouver/Clark County provides little or NO-SHORT-RELIEF to the current I-5 congestion problems that is compounding everyday.
Demographic profiles in the past of the citizens of Clark County have reflected that no-more then 2% of the commuters in the I-5 corridor could use a Light Rail Transit "MAX" System to get to their place of emplyment in a reasonably acceptable manner.
We need new alternate corridors to the I-5 corridor that expand north/south interstate capacity or we keep on killing the people and businesses effected, the people who are the real stakeholders of the corridor.
A 2 and 3-lane I-5 corridor is inadequate to the demands and real needs.
We must address this problem and building a new wide replacement CRC/Interstate Bridge will only make the problems of congestion in the I-5 corridor through Portland even worse by inducing more traffic into the corridor.
October 30, 2006 1:42 PM
Chris Smith Says:
Was this analysis done on a per-route basis?
Fred was at pains to say that it was an average "where apples-to-apples comparisons were available."
So take it as directional, not as a precise number.
October 30, 2006 8:51 PM
Erik Halstead Says:
ITS is already here; the question is whether it's being used to its fullest potential.
I remember, long long ago, when Beaverton was one of the first cities to receive computerized traffic signal controllers.
Unfortunately, in Beaverton today, one traffic signal can't talk to another traffic signal (except for at the Highway 217 ramps), and thus you get "hurry up to the next red light" syndrome instead of a smooth flow of traffic; and there is no communication vehicle to advise motorists of how to get around stalled traffic (Should I take Farmington or Canyon? Should I take 217 to 26, stay on Canyon to 26, or take Beaverton-Hillsdale into downtown?).
Of course, busses are subject to the same traffic difficulties, and get stuck in the same traffic. LRV isn't the solution; after all local routes (like 53 Arctic-Allen and 88 Hart/198th) can't be easily duplicated by LRV or even BRT. The best that can be done are queue-jumper signals, which require a dedicated bus lane at the signal. But when the signal is so backed up, the bus can't even get to the queue-jumper lane.
October 31, 2006 10:08 AM
Terry Parker Says:
What I have noticed over the last couple of days is that TriMet seems to be running their busses like bananas, in bunches, specifically on 82nd and 39th Avenues.
PDOT however must take responsibility for some of the increased transit times. On any PDOT project there are always components about slowing traffic down. Well the curb extensions, traffic calming devices and the reduction of posted speeds to 20 MPH on streets like Fremont are all working to create considerably more congestion, including slowing down busses. The fact is TriMet is its own worst enemy. When a bus stops in a travel lane or at a curb extension blocking other traffic to pick up passengers, it adds to the congestion of the entire street, including coming back to bite transit service by slowing down the next bus to come along. This also helps to create the banana effect.
October 31, 2006 12:52 PM
Jason McHuff Says:
I'd argue that if buses are well-spaced (and I admit that they aren't always) any congestion caused by curb extensions would be gone by the time the next bus came.
And it is hard to keep buses well-spaced on high-volume corridors, especially 82nd Ave. If a bus gets just a minute or two late, it can start picking up riders that should be taking the next bus, which makes it more late, etc. You can add to this the fact that both the 39th & 82nd routes are long.
Also, a portion of the slower bus speeds could be because of higher passenger volumes.
October 31, 2006 1:33 PM
Chris Smith Says:
In fact Fred talked about the 'bus clumping' problem, and identified ITS as one of the potential solutions (if you can give the front bus an advantage at signals, it can start to build up a lead again - ideally you'd starting 'helping' it as soon as it got behind schedule.
For those who may not be familiar with the pathology of the phenomenon, what happens is that if a bus falls behind schedule enough, it starts picking up passengers that would normally be on the bus behind it. This actually speeds things up for the next bus, as it's picking up fewer passengers. Eventually, the 2nd bus catches up and they're on top of each other until the end of the run.
October 31, 2006 3:12 PM
Lenny Anderson Says:
Actually bus stops at curb extensions helps to speed buses along as they do not have to wait to get back into traffic. Motor vehicles may be delayed, but they can choose another route. Slower speeds should trump travel time in any event, so that people of all ages and abilities can feel and be safer on transit and commercial streets.
October 31, 2006 3:52 PM
Terry Parker Says:
A “I'd argue that if buses are well-spaced”
B Sunday evening Oct. 29: three southbound on NE 82nd Avenue running within five blocks of each other. Monday mid-day Oct. 30: Two southbound 39th Avenue busses both stopping at SE 39th and Holgate.
A “Actually bus stops at curb extensions helps to speed buses along as they do not have to wait to get back into traffic.”
B. When busses stopping at curb extensions slow down the entire street, it slows down the busses too.
A “Motor vehicles may be delayed, but they can choose another route.”
B And they often do – right through residential neighborhoods on neighborhood streets. I have done it myself many times to avoid stopping every few blocks when the bus does.
A “Slower speeds should trump travel time in any event.”
B This added time is extremely costly to business. Deliveries take longer to make, more fuel is consumed by both cars and trucks and people in jobs that require driving spend more time behind the wheel. All this adds to inflation and to the costs of living in Portland. PDOT should be more concerned about keeping traffic flowing rather than slowing traffic down and allowing busses to block travel lanes when stopping for passengers.
November 1, 2006 9:26 AM
Lenny Anderson Says:
Sorry, safety of pedestrians and transit riders trumps travel time. Its time for us to slow things down...our lives are worth it.
November 1, 2006 10:13 AM
Terry Parker Says:
Curb extensions only give the false illusion of being safe. By narrowing the distance to cross a street, curb extensions place pedestrians closer to moving traffic and wild bicycle riders, and create conditions whereby large trucks must now drive over the sidewalks when making turns. Curb extensions are anything but a safety enhancement.
As far as slowing things down, how slow is too slow and still makes economic sense? If safety trumps all other issues, then bicycles should be limited to no faster than 5 MPH on all public streets and legal to ride on sidewalks so they do not run over pedestrians, and so they can yield to other vehicles, including commercial vehicles instead of having special signing, striping and blue painted street treatments to protect their safety.
November 1, 2006 11:10 AM
Bob R. Says:
Someone else already pointed out to you a study done in Albany of curb extensions that showed an increase in safety (defined in terms of the percentage of vehicles stopping for waiting pedestrians.)
Your comparison to bicycles is false - unless you wish to ignore Newton's laws. F=MA and all that. A bicycle simply does not cause the kind of damage or injury that a car does at equivalent speed.
I'd much rather be clipped by a 250lb bike+rider doing 15mph than a 3500lb automobile doing 15mph.
Automobiles, pedestrians, and bicycles can get along fine when the infrastructure balance is correct. For a good Oregon example, check out downtown Corvallis which features a state-highway couplet, plenty of curb extensions, plenty of bike lanes, and has a healthy, vibrant pedestrian environment along its recently redeveloped waterfront featuring raised intersections that function similar to speed "humps" but have less negative impact on drivers because they are located at natural slowing/stopping locations.
- Bob R.
November 1, 2006 11:12 AM
Bob R. Says:
(Apologies for the massive run-on sentence up there!)
November 1, 2006 12:29 PM
Ron Swaren Says:
Maybe we could learn from Corvallis, or any other localities that have reduced traffic hassles, without aggravating drivers to an extreme. The latter, IMHO, doesn't promote safety.
For example, In lieu of curb extensions to just require a new multistory building to "clip" its first floor corner at an intersection, ain't no big deal. That setback diagonal line can free up lots of space and can also provide a cover from the rain. Powell's has an example at NW 11th and Couch.
Reducing speed limits could accomplish the same goal that annoying traffic calming devices do. If my average speed on a street with speed bumps becomes 15 miles an hour, why not post the speed at that designation? There could be "reminders" embedded into the pavement, comparable to the reflective lane markers on highways. You still sense that there is a defined margin there--your front suspension just doesn't suffer. A universal signal (does anyone ever forget the sensation of running onto the shoulder on freeways that have the embedded pattern?) would eventually become a recognized signal to slow down. I realize that a sharp bump gets even the most scurillous offenders--Is it necessary that otherwise responsible people put up with added annoyances? I don't remember the "raised intersections" but maybe that would be a better idea.
Having been run down by a bicycle on a sidewalk(with about a 75 lb rider @ 10 mph) I can assure you that a 200lb rider would do a lot of damage. So we should encourage lots of alternate trails and paths; I do believe they are a very sound investment. (In earlier posts I have covered how bicycle routes could be cost-effectively incorporated into traffic planning, even in inclement regions) But maybe there is some mass transit fat that could be cut out and thus free up some funds. How, I really don't know, but I don't believe that the expensive dedicated ROW systems, like MAX, are necessarily penciling out.
Not to neglect commuter rail, but we must be able to come up with a more cost-effective way to do it.
Just a thought, would anyone object to an enlarged bicyle path, that could also accomodate all-electric vehicles? E.G.Downtown to Sandy via the Springwater Trail--all electrically.
November 1, 2006 12:40 PM
Bob R. Says:
Regarding raised intersections, the examples in Corvallis are all along 1st street on the waterfront, and if I recall correctly are all at stop signs. Much less impact on suspensions than mid-block humps.
Simply posting speed limits does not work (but maybe more reminders, as you state, would), but engineering a street for the intended resulting speed DOES work. Another example are some recently redeveloped streets in Newport where cars operate on cobblestone at-grade with sidewalks/pedestrians and park between street furnishings such as lamp posts and sign posts. Sounds scary when you read it in print, but works quite well in reality. I never saw a speeding driver on the street in question (in front of the Sylvia Beach Hotel) when I was there.
Regarding the Springwater Trail and electric vehicles, I would be open to the idea if it were limited to NEV's (Neighborhood Electric Vehicles) which are smaller than traditional automobiles and speed-limited. There is already a strict legal definition of what constitutes an NEV. However, if significantly higher capital costs were a result of this (due to carrying heavier, wider vehicles than bikes), it probably wouldn't be worth it.
- Bob R.
November 1, 2006 12:43 PM
Lenny Anderson Says:
My experience of speed bumps, curb extensions and traffic circles in my neighborhood is that IF you are driving the speed limit, they have no effect. I.e. only folks who are speeding notice them. As it should be.