December 29, 2006
One of the pieces of feedback from the Reader Survey was a request to have a place to make suggestions for subjects for future posts. So here it is. Add your comment at any time for a topic suggestion.
There will be a slight makeover of the home page soon (related to other feedback from the survey), and a link to this post will live in the sidebar.
Let's hear your thoughts!
New KBOO Bike Show Collective member Tori Bortman will host with Ayleen. They will interview Jonathan Maus from BikePortland.org, the world's most popular bike blog.
9-10AM, Wednesday, January 3rd
KBOO FM 90.7
Streamed live at KBOO.fm
Podcast here later that day
December 28, 2006
The Lake Oswego transit alternatives analysis hasn't settled on a mode yet, but if Streetcar comes up as the winner, there are going to be some interesting choices for how to terminate the alignment.
In any case, the Streetcar will help spur development in the Foothills district between Highway 43 and the Willamette. There are also plans for a modest park-and-ride in all the scenarios.
The real question is where and how to use Streetcar to spur redevelopment in the existing core of the City.
As we've discussed, the staff recommendation (PDF, 1.8M) for the Environmental Impact Statement phase of the analysis of the Columbia River Crossing product is to look at two options (in addtion to the "no build" do nothing option which is required by Federal rules): Replacement Freeway Bridge with Light Rail and Replacement Freeway Bridge with Bus Rapid Transit.
The task force has scheduled two open houses for public input on this recommendation before the task force finalizes the options to be analyzed in more detail in the EIS:
January 17, 2007
5:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.
Battle Ground Police Department
507 SW 1st St.
Battle Ground, WA
Saturday, January 20, 2007
9:30 a.m. - 1 p.m.
Lincoln Elementary School
4200 NW Daniels St., Vancouver
Thursday, January 25, 2007
4:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.
Oregon Association of Minority Entrepreneurs (OAME)
4134 N Vancouver Ave., Portland
As we did for the last major narrowing exercise, Portland Transport will offer an online discussion of the options. Stay tuned.
December 27, 2006
As I've discussed the need for a sustainable funding source, several people have inquired about what it costs to keep Portland Transport operating. So here's the breakdown. We have recurring costs on both a monthly cycle and an annual cycle.
There's good news on the hosting front: reader John Beaston from Easystreet has indicated that Easystreet would be willing to provide complimentary hosting. Early in the new year we'll be looking at the specs on their hosting package to make sure it matches up with our needs (which are pretty basic: Perl, PHP, MySQL).
Feedburner provides enhanced RSS service and statistics for our our three RSS feeds: the main posts feed, the comments feed and the KBOO Bike Show podcast.
Libsyn is a specialty hosting system for podcasts. The two big benefits are unlimited disk space (you pay by the amount you upload per month, not how much total content you have) and specialty statistics that make sense for podcasts.
Site Meter provides basic stats for the site.
You'll notice my bias for measurement. As a professional web marketer since 1995, I have a strong preference to be able to measure what's going on :-)
We also have about $250 in annual costs, which include domain name registration (portlandtransport.com, tsrf.us), a Flickr account, a couple of state filing fees required for non-profits and about $100 for legal services related to our non-profit status.
So taking out the hosting costs and amortizing the annual expenses, that works out to about $45/mo to keep Portland Transport running.
So a couple of obvious observations:
- It would be cheaper not to be a non-profit
- It would cost less with less measurement
I've already talked about my bias for measurement (costs about $20/mo). So why take on the expenses of being a non-profit versus just running this as a hobby out of my own pocket? Several reasons:
- I really hope that Portland Transport is bigger than just one person, and I also hope that someday I'm not necessarily the driving force. A non-profit provides a structure that allows for succession.
- If we take the transit tools much further, having a non-profit structure to own the intellectual property is a good thing.
So that's full disclosure on where the money goes. My current thinking about funding sources is:
- Seek a sponsor for the Bike Show podcast (I'm currently in discussions about how this fits KBOO's policies)
- Run something like Google Ads on the site
- See if there are some applications for our transit tools that might generate some revenue
The feedback from the survey was useful in terms of validating that minimally intrusive ads or sponsorships don't give people a lot of heartburn.
If anyone has other creative funding ideas, I'm all ears!
Rex passed along this link to a piece by Richard Branson about Virgin's efforts to reduce their carbon output.
December 26, 2006
Tuesday's Trib features a lead editorial supporting tolling on a replacement Columbia River Crossing bridge. The letters to the editor are all in response to the special issue on transportation.
The procrastinating is over, I've finally compiled the results from the reader survey. There were 128 total responses, 68 from folks who have left comments, 60 from folks who read but don't comment (aka "lurkers").
Most of you read the blog the old fashioned way, scanning the home page for new posts or glancing at the recent comments section of the sidebar. But almost a third of you subscribe to our RSS feed, although the comments feed is not very popular.
It seems to me that this is an unsolved technology problem in the blogosphere, how to easily follow comments on posts you're interested in, while not being buried in comments from other posts. What kind of strategies do you employ for this?
|How do you read Portland Transport?||All||Commenters||Lurkers|
|I check the home page for new posts||69.8%||64.2%||76.3%|
|I scan the recent comments section||26.2%||32.8%||18.6%|
|I subscribe to the RSS feed for new posts||33.3%||38.8%||27.1%|
|I subscribe to the RSS feed for comments||3.2%||4.5%||1.7%|
Folks seem to be generally pleased with the volume of content on the site.
|How do you feel about the frequency of new posts on the site (usually 2-4 per day)?||All||Commenters||Lurkers|
|Slow down - I can't keep up||1.6%||1.5%||1.7%|
|Give me more, I can't get enough||12.7%||14.9%||10.2%|
The idea of a transportation calendar seems to be popular. Look for more on this in the new year.
|We're considering adding several kinds of content to the site. Check those that would be of interest:||All||Commenters||Lurkers|
|Listings for transportation jobs||41.7%||34.5%||51.1%|
|A calendar of transportation-related meetings||84.5%||89.7%||77.8%|
|Lists of operational announcements||57.3%||51.7%||64.4%|
The question of what, if anything, to do about contrarians was one of the major questions I wanted answered in doing this survey. Early in the life of Portland Transport I actually banned several people, because I was getting feedback that we were scaring away folks from reading and participating. This went against my basis instincts for civic participation and I'm delighted that the community is strong enough that the healthy debate is apparently strengthening the conversation.
|We have a few regular readers who are skeptics about alternative transportation. How do you feel about their participation?||All||Commenters||Lurkers|
|Hey, they have a right to free speech too.||27.5%||29.7%||25.0%|
|They help us keep our arguments sharp.||51.7%||45.3%||58.9%|
|They detract from the site experience and distract the conversation.||20.8%||25.0%||16.1%|
It appears that you're fairly tolerant about a small amount of commercialism to keep the site going. There was a question in the feedback about what it costs to run the organization and I'll do a post about that sometime in the future, after I wrap up the year-end financials. And I'll keep the appeals for the donate button to a minimum :-)
|While our expenses are minimal, we're still trying to find a sustainable funding model. Check those you would support:||All||Commenters||Lurkers|
|More appeals to hit the donation button||36.0%||39.7%||32.1%|
|Ads on the site||73.9%||74.1%||73.6%|
|Sponsorships for specific sections of content||63.1%||69.0%||56.6%|
The demographics are interesting. We would appear to hit the sweet spot for the "creative class" (educated 25-35 year-olds), but primarily the male half of the creative class. So what's the turn-off about transportation policy for women?
|How old are you?||All||Commenters||Lurkers|
|24 or younger||8.3%||7.8%||8.8%|
|55 or older||7.4%||10.9%||3.5%|
|What's the higest level of education you have achieved?||All||Commenters||Lurkers|
|School of Hard Knocks||1.7%||1.6%||1.8%|
|High School Diploma||17.4%||21.9%||12.3%|
Most of you have a web browser in your phone, but only half of you know how to use it! I wonder if that's going to change over time as more web-based services get targetted at cell phones?
|We're interested in your cell phone capabilities for our transit tools. Please check all that apply:||All||Commenters||Lurkers|
|I don't have a cell phone.||24.2%||21.2%||27.9%|
|My cell phone has a web browser.||60.0%||55.8%||65.1%|
|I know how to use the web browser in my cell phone.||30.5%||36.5%||23.3%|
|My cell phone has GPS auto-location||13.7%||17.3%||9.3%|
I have not tried to tabulate the responses about other blogs that you read, but you read a lot of them! BikePortland.org got the most mentions, but there was an incredible variety.
Here are all the 'open feedback' responses, unedited. Thanks to everyone who participated in the survey!
|About the 'trolls' . . . I really don't mind when their comments are actually directed at the matter under discussion. I think their failure to follow the 'rules' was in part responsible for the less than expected success of the rtp exercise.|
|Be more inclusive and more open to a transportation model for all - not just self directed toward the anti-car - pro traffic congestion political drone. Why not keep an open mind to include all modes of transportation. To not do so is selfish and discriminates against the needs of most residents of the city.|
|Certain voices do tend to dominate the discussion in the forums, frequently without adding anything new. By using your site to harp the same opinions (which the majority of Portlanders probably don't believe in judging by our elected officials) the tend to drown out the discussion. Perhaps if certain people dominate a discussion with the same arguments over and over again start deleting the offending posts, and state why you did it. It is after all your blog and you can frame the debate. There is nothing wrong with dissent, but it gets tiresome when your interesting site is used as a soapbox for the rhetoric of a few throwbacks who seem to have time to blog 24-hours a day.|
|Concerning question #6 - the skeptics do have the right to free speech, and they do help us keep our arguments sharp, but often I find their comments uneducated, demoralizing, negative, and unproductive. They seem to only come to this site to prove the concept of alternative transportation wrong, regardless of the reasoning, information, or 'facts' they use to support their arguments.|
|Debate with skeptics is important, but becomes redudant at times. Not sure how to structure it, but perhaps their best arguments could be collected in one place, along with the relevant counter-arguments (in favor of 'alternative' transportation). Someone coming in new could read the points & counter-points in an organized fashion, not repeated throughout multiple posts.|
|Definitely don't go banning anyone, I get as much out of the opinions of those I disagree with than out of others.|
|For question #6 I wanted to choose more than one answer. I believe all three would better fit how I feel about those in opposition to your posts. That said, I think you do a great job getting folks back on point and reminding those who attack opinions to keep names out of it when replying. I don't know how to improve the experience...you are doing a fantastic job so far...|
|funding: bikeportland had a raffle for a donated bike. perhaps a similar stunt might work for portland transport? raffle for a tri-met yearly bus pass, perhaps? an on-site library of transportation resources and contacts could be useful. images and videos of portland area transport (could be hosted physically on youtube or other such sites) could add a lot of value, both to individual posts & comments, & to the site as a whole. perhaps adding video news clip components to some posts? see john dvorac's rant on this topic for more: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1759,2064319,00.asp|
|Great site overall. The format can be a little hard to read -- in terms of distinguishing who made what comment, when. Also, I keep track of the site through the sidebar links on BikePortland, so it would be easier for me to choose which articles to check out if the headlines were more descriptive. As far as the pro-car faction, they're fine, but it bothers me that a lot of other commenters get sucked reactively into their arguments rather than making original and/or relevant points. The car/not car argument isn't the only one out there or even the most important one. In general, keep up the great work!|
|Hey Chris. EasyStreet would comp you the web space if that would help. -John Beaston|
|how about columns from prominent shakers like Rick Gustafson???|
|I don't have thoughts for improvements at this time. I enjoy the site, it's informative rather than rabble-rousing tone, and its commitment to forms of transportation that are alternatives to the automobile.|
|I enjoy the site, it might be nice to widen the circle of posters a bit, perhaps covering other aspects of transportation in the city like perspectives from people that make their living as automobile drivers, or having guest news curators.|
|I just started reading since the Trib article, but I think it's a good blog and I'm looking forward to continuing to read it!|
|I know this probably isn't feasible given time constraints, but I think you could improve the site by going out and getting a story once a week (rather than waiting for a report by the Portland Tribune, Oregonian etc). As a for instance: go out and interview the guy who owns the Portland Traction rail line (the one that runs next to the Springwater Corridor Trail on the Willamette), ask him about his proposed plan to fill in the Sellwood Gap by swapping his right of way for a parcel of land by Oaks Park. Or sit down and interview Sam Adams concerning whatever transportation issues you're interested in. My point is that if you're involved in the making of the news I think you'll see your traffic increase. Regardless, it's a great site, keep up the good work.|
|I usually access your site via the Oregon Blogwire that appears at the right-hand side of Blueoregon - lured over by an interesting title. At times the content that I find when I follow one of those links is sparse - a one sentence announcement of an event, for example. I'd rather see only full length articles with opinion and news. Leave the one liners for another section of your blog (perhaps the calendar mentioned in a previous question).|
|I'm just curious, how much does the site cost? Why is a funding model necessary? I spend about 9 bucks a month for databases, development tools, web servers, multiple domain DNS and a bunch more. I mean, no doubt it'd be kewl if one could just sit around and blog for a living but I don't know if the above items are worth asking about. Just do em' or not. Ads, donations, or whatever.|
|Keep balance with all transportation modes. Make pragmatism a key part of any discussion.|
|Keep up the great work!|
|Lose the trolls or at least allow them to be handled in a more assertive manner.|
|love it, except for jim karlock and his ever-repetitive cronies: the only reason i checked the third option on #6.|
|More of a 'forum' layout rather than a 'blog' layout - it currently is really tough to find a comment from someone when you want to find it.|
|More visual content would be a nice way to bring some of the discussions to life.|
|re #6. there's quite a difference between a 'troll' and someone trying to genuinely ask questions or raise alternative views. so... I think trolls detract from the site experience and I think that intelligent, informed skeptics help us keep our arguments sharp and offer real-world views on subjects that are too often discussed in a vacuum. And they all have the right to free speech, but that certainly doesn't require you to run every comment someone makes!|
|re 7: something more like google ads that might at least pull up something related to the content, NOT the 'hot horny singles' ads that seem to be the default at so many sites. Maybe amazon or powells links for transportation related books.|
|Thanks for running the site, and please keep it up. I've commented only a couple times, but I read the site almost daily. It's a great way to stay abreast of transportation plans in the area, and it's nice to hear opinions that differ from what's presented in the traditional media sources. One suggestion: might you consider some type of Q&A or topic suggestion method? It seems that there's a lot of knowledge concentrated at this site, and I find myself occasionally thinking of questions and not knowing where to ask them. Your site might be ideal for that. Just a thought. And don't hesitate to put ads on the site. You need to pay the bills. Most regular internet users are quite good at ignoring them anyway.|
|Thanks for the great site. I really appreciate the ability to discuss issues with people who are interested in them. I've been a long time reader and semi-frequent commenter. About the 'trolls:' I haven't read the comments much lately because of a few people who keep ranting about the same things over and over. There are two or three people who are anti everything and somehow always bring the subject back to how they think bicyclists or whoever should pay tolls. These people have gone way past the point of intelligent debate and make it so nobody can have a good conversation. I know I've visited the site less because of it. These people need to be banned or their comments deleted because it just ruins the whole thing. That's my opinion. Thanks, Isaac|
|The site is Portland Transport, not Portland Mass Transit, so I feel there's nothing wrong with people who are for balanced or car-favoring concepts. There's nothing wrong with a little healthy discussion and better understanding of all sides of an issue.|
|There are trolls, and there skeptics. Differentiate appropriately. No sense is preaching to the choir, IMHO, so non-consenting views should not be discouraged.|
|Threaded commenting would be very helpful.|
|When there is a real need for LUTRAQ thinkers to be present in Clackamas County, there's a void and the County Commissioners continue on their merry way to do the same ole/same ole, as does the business community--sprawl mentality. Certainly, its easier to develop raw land when there are plenty of resources available. Now, with the Pleasant Valley CIP $$ limitations and funding issues, all of a sudden the irrational exuberance for growth got cold and our movers and shakers are complaining that we are not getting enough support from our state and federal government. Few acknowledge that the well is dry. So I am hopeful that LUTRAC'ers will be more visible at public meetings. But its certainly necessary that these sorts of concerns come within (the county politics). Outsiders (such as 1000 Friends) have not been welcome at the table.|
|Wow - you do an incredible job. Can't thank you enough for getting exposure to these important issues.|
Two different readers forwarded me links to this train/bus hybrid vehicle being introduced by JR Hokkaido. On of them was Adron, who blogged about it at his site.
So it seems to me that we now have a variety of design choices for transit system, divided along several dimensions:
Dedicated right-of-way (e.g., LRT, BRT) versus operation in traffic (Streetcar, Bus).
Fixed guideway (rails, catenary wires, dedicated busway) versus re-routability, either temporarily (around congestion) or permanently (re-routing to respond to changes in demand).
Electric versus hydrocarbons (and hybrids thereof).
This particular vehicle blurs all the boundaries, but it seems to me that the design questions remain:
When do we used fixed guideways as a place-making tool?
When do invest in dedicated right-of-way so that transit can avoid traffic congestion?
When do we use self-powered vehicles versus those dependent on a catenary system?
I think I'm getting a headache :-)
December 22, 2006
Here's wishing the entire Portland Transport family a happy, merry and blessed holiday season!
We'll be taking it slow here over the holiday break. We'll be back with new posts on Tuesday, but the pace will probably be a little slower than usual, then we'll roar back in the new year.
One holiday promise however: I do commit to finally get the reader survey results typed up so we can collectively look ourselves in the mirror here at the end of the year...
And speaking of the end of the year, for those of you looking for the those last few tax deductions, the donate button on the home page will be open 7x24 for your philanthropic convenience :-)
Cheers, and be safe out there on whatever mode of transport you're using!
This week's Smart City radio program focuses on getting local.
In the lead story, Steven Johnson talks about the value of "local experts" who know the details and history of a place. He also talks about an interesting web site he helped found, outside.in. It's a blog aggregator that aggregates on the basis of your local neighborhood. I checked out my neighorhood and was pleasantly surprised to find several Portland Transport posts in the mix.
Later in the show, Jackie Grimshaw from the Center for Neighborhood Technology (a Chicago advocacy organization) talks about the value of location efficiency.
The highlighted class project from this year's Portland Traffic and Transportation Class is from Nellie Korn. You can read Nellie's full presentation here (PDF, 1.5M). Below are a few featured slides. I selected Nellie's presentation to highlight because it both had a succinct problem statement and recommended solution, and because the policy and politics of implementing the solution seemed well thought out.
The classic neighborhood transportation conflict: an environment dominated by cars detracts from other other modes and from the neighborhood as a whole.
Nellie's answer is a classic road diet, although she's figured out that she's going to need a different label to sell it.
Nellie is going to push PDOT with its own data. Traffic has declined on this segment of 39th to the point where it would fall within the suggested volume limits for a road diet.
Nellie has done a great job of articulating benefits for a variety of user groups. This is important to help build a coalition to move a project forward!
December 21, 2006
On January 1, Portland Streetcar will roll out a new fare policy: Streetcar tickets will be good all day.
We've discussed the perception that a 1-2 zone fare for a few stops on the Streetcar outside fareless square is a tough value proposition. This move is intended to help that issue. At a minimum you'll be able to get your round trip out of one ticket purchase.
TriMet transfers will also be valid all day on Streetcar.
However, the reverse is not true, a Streetcar ticket is only good for the usual two-hour transfer window on TriMet. This keeps Streetcar tickets compatible with the rest of the TriMet fare structure. The "deal" is only on Streetcar.
The other January 1 change is that the Streetcar annual pass will go up to $100/year. Still a bargain in my opinion.
CO2, i.e., Connect Oregon 2, the expected follow-on from Governor Kulongoski to his $100M lottery-funded transportation package from last session, is apparently only the beginning in the minds of some regional leaders.
The Daily Journal of Commerce is reporting that business and government leaders are looking for a broader transportation package from the next legislature.
This week's Business Journal Poll asks whether sustainability is good for Oregon's economy.
Vote your convictions!
December 20, 2006
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure to be part of the panel providing feedback on student presentations at the PSU/City of Portland Traffic and Transporation Class (a training ground for transportation activists that yours truly is an alumnus of).
Under an agreement with the class organizers, Portland Transport is the official online respository for these presentations. So here is this year's crop, with the exception of one presentation that I will feature later in the week.
- Thomas Rousculp would like to make a short portion of Ankeny Street downtown car-free (PDF, 794K), at least part of the time
- Erica Bjerning want to improve bike safety on Foster Road (PDF, 294K) by implementing a streetscape plan that's on the books but not yet funded
- Dan Clark would create a new class of bicycle boulevards (PDF, 4.8M - Dan needs to work on brevity) in NE Portland to improve bicycle and pedestrian safety and re-energize neighborhood streets.
- Joyce Casey wants to lower speed limits (PDF, 1.6M) on her stretch of SW Boones Ferry Rd. (but will it make a difference if the street isn't re-engineered?).
- Andrew Neerman and Jason Powers would like to add a bike/ped bridge over Sullivan's Gulch at 7th Ave. (PDF, 3.4M) (will folks who want an auto bridge there block the idea?)
- Michelle Debalak wants to drive sustainability at PDOT (PDF, 411K) from the inside out.
Stay tuned for the featured presentation!
I had some free time yesterday afternoon (12/19/2006), so I visited both endpoints of the tram to check it out in operation. (I am not an OHSU employee, so I did not try to board.)
The first thing I noticed was just how quiet the Tram actually is... you could not hear the cables or pulleys operating over the noise of other construction going on in the area. After construction winds down, it will be interesting to hear if the tram is audible above ambient traffic noise.
I watched the upper landing from about 12:00-12:30 and the lower landing from about 1:15 to 1:30.
A tram was departing every 5 minutes, and I counted no fewer than 10 people boarding each departure (or deboarding each arrival), with the largest crowd being 18 people. The tram is open to just OHSU employees at this time, and I imagine that a good number of these boardings were folks checking out the tram on their lunch hour, but still, the ridership is encouraging. Given a median boarding of 14 persons at each terminus, departing every 5 minutes, that means that ridership was at a rate of 336 per hour during the time that I observed the tram. The official initial forecast of 1,500+ per day seems plausible.
At the lower platform, I chatted with one of the tram operators for awhile... she certainly loves her job and was happy to answer questions. (Unfortunately I have forgotten her name.)
We talked about the recent windstorm and she said that she was working that day and that the peak winds experienced by the tram were 45mph; she barely felt it on-board, however some of the passengers who were not used to the tram did reach for the railings during heavy gusts. She said that she didn't really get a sense of just how windy it was until her break time when she would step off at ground level and feel the wind outside.
There are two operators (one per tram car), and a third staff person (a shift supervisor?) rotates through operator duties so that the main operators can get breaks, lunches, etc. There are two full shifts per day.
Over on the Commissioner Sam blog a few days ago, a debate opened up about ventilation, air conditioning, etc. I ask the operator about this and she told me that there are multiple fans in each tram car, but no air conditioning. I asked about people being stuck in the cars should the backup drive systems fail, and she said that even when the drive systems and main power are down, there is a backup generator at the lower landing which provides power to the cabins for lights, controls, fans, etc. Whether the fans will be sufficient in hot weather is still up for debate, at least until summer I guess.
The operator told me that they are still running a bit slow as they ramp up to full operations, with the complete trip now taking over 3 minutes, and they will soon ramp up speed to achieve the normal operating time of 2min, 40sec.
After the flip, my "not packed in like sardines" arguments and "cost per passenger mile" estimates...
Numbers, numbers, numbers...
Over on the CommissionerSam blog, I made some estimates about capacity, cost per ride and cost per passenger mile. In the hope that those estimates will be of interest to PortlandTransport readers, I am reposting them here:
First, the complaint has been leveled by some folks that tram passengers will be packed in "like sardines" and will expire from heat combined with cramped conditions...
The interior floor of a tram cabin is over 200 sq. ft, with a published maximum passenger capacity of 78 persons, plus the operator, for a total of 79 people.
At maximum load, that leaves about 2.5 sq. ft. per person. The Portland Streetcar's published maximum load puts it at about 2.4 sq. ft. per person.
However, given a typical full load for a MAX train or bus (which have more seats per sq. ft. than the streetcar or the tram), 3.5 sq. ft per person is more typical.
If we apply the 3.5 sq. ft. minimum space per person to the tram cabin, we get 56 passengers plus the operator.
Now, let's assume for a moment that people won't want to ride the tram if they feel like "sardines", and that many people will want to cluster around the windows, etc., making some areas tighter and some looser. Let's use a generous 5 sq. ft. minimum space per person instead. That would give us comfortable room for about 40 people.
The tram is physically capable of making a journey every 5 minutes. Let's assume though that sometimes things don't operate efficiently, people take longer to board than predicted, etc., and that the trams depart every 10 minutes. (UPDATE: Based on my direct observations on 12/19/2006, Tram passengers have no problem with quickly boarding/deboarding and the trams consistently depart on time, but I've left my original 10 minute figure in place here to prove a point.)
Let us further assume that given all the artificial constraints and concessions I've given tram performance here, that "capacity" crowds of 40 per car only show up during 4 peak hours and that during the remaining 12 or so hours only 10 per car show up.
Given all of the artificial limitations and concessions that I've made here to avoid packing people in like "sardines" (where's the oil?), let's add up the capacities:
4 peak hours * 6 trips * 40 persons per direction = 960 persons per direction at peak hours (240/hour).
12 off-peak hours * 6 trips * 10 persons per direction = 720 persons per direction (60/hour).
That adds up to a daily ridership of 3,360 (1,680 per direction.)
Well, guess what, predicted ridership for the tram is only 1,500/day initially, ramping up to 5,500/day by 2030.
So, even assuming A) trams run at only half their design frequency and B) people only allow themselves to fill a car to half of the maximum capacity (now we're operating at 1/4 capacity), the tram STILL has a capacity of about 3X the opening year ridership prediction, and comes well within the ballpark of the predicted ridership decades from now.
To really get "sardine" status at peak hour, operating at design maximums, you'd have to move 7,488 people over 4 peak hours. If the tram is ever _that_ popular, people won't be cursing it, they'll be clamouring for another one to be built.
(And no, I don't think it will ever be that popular. The point is that the only way to really get "sardines" is if the tram is wildly over-successful.)
(The following has been edited a bit since the original posting, but the numbers are the same)
JK asked: Care to do cost per passenger mile?
In a staff post on CommissionerSam.com, it was stated that "In today’s dollars the annual life cycle cost of the tram is estimated at $2,735,200 of which the City’s share is $409,280."
I am going to assume a median ridership somewhere between 1,500 (opening day) and 5,500 (2030), say about 4,000. Note that the tram lifecycle is supposedly 50 years, so if they do hit 5,500 by 2030 and continue to hold that another 25+ years, the median will be much higher and therefore the cost per passenger mile much lower.
The tram travels 3,300 feet, which is .625 miles.
Assuming the ridership at 4,000, daily and weekend, that's 1,460,000 annual rides.
Divide an annual cost of $2,735,200 by 1,460,000 annual rides, and you get a cost per ride of $1.87 per ride. Divide that again by .625 miles and your cost per passenger mile is: $2.99.
But is that a fair comparison? The tram creates a new, much shorter route between Point A and Point B. Should the cost be expressed in terms of tram passenger-miles, or in terms of comparison to the alternative, which would be buses weaving indirectly up the hill?
Google Maps gives directions from "SW Moody Ave & SW Gibbs St." to "SW Sam Jackson Park Rd & SW Campus Dr" as a distance of 1.9 miles.
The tram is replacing a surface route of 1.9 miles with an aerial route of .625 miles. If you calculate the cost per passenger mile with 1.9 miles, you get a result of 98 cents per passenger mile.
The tram journey will take 2 minutes, 40 seconds. A journey by shuttle bus in traffic, with about 10 traffic lights and several major intersections, would take considerably longer, perhaps 15 minutes. The time savings has to be worth something, too.
Here's a dilema: you'd like to use biodiesel in all your equipment, but you don't own it all.
That leads to the question that rental equipment companies are now apparently faced with (according to an article in the Daily Journal of Commerce): what to do when your rental customer asks if he can use B99?
December 19, 2006
As reported in the Daily Journal of Commerce, a new study from the Port of Portland predicts that freight volumes will double in 30 years.
Just to keep things in perspective, Metro's projections show that even with increased truck freight, trucks will still be a single-digit percentage of vehicles on the road.
Let's not take our eyes off of the main chance: single-occupancy vehicles.
The Sunday O had an article about the trials and travails of trying to import the European SMART Car into the U.S (part 2 from Monday).
But meanwhile, reader Miles Hochstein has documented one here already!
Can anyone tell us the story of how he got it here?
The local political blogs had a transportation focus in the last couple of days:
Blue Oregon has posts on Rex' op-ed and Peter DeFazio's skepticism about privately-owned toll roads.
December 18, 2006
Gregg's comeback is that we should set "audacious goals" for transportation.
Hmmm... should our transportation goals be audacious? Or should our transportation goals be modest and our land use goals audacious? Or some combination thereof?
Original Post: 12/12/06
"Every penny we spend on transportation is wasted."
-- Oregonian, November 27, 2006
Whoops! Did I say that? I guess it's a fine line between provoking constructive debate and confusing people.
Admittedly, my remarks probably did more of the latter. If I have offended any of the committed, hard working transportation engineers, planners and construction crews, or my fellow policy makers and transportation advocates, I am truly sorry.
The point I was trying to make is that travel isn't free. We need to see it as a cost to avoid or minimize. In this region, government's annual tab is about $600 million. But even that is dwarfed by how much average families spend to own and operate the cars they need -- more than $6 billion a year -- ten times what the government spends.
So as we map out our transportation future, there are two ways we can get people to where they need to go and keep commerce moving reliably, and save us all time and money. One, design our communities so that people can perform everyday tasks without having to travel as far. After all, only one in five trips is work related. Two, provide more choices to get around efficiently: safe, appealing sidewalks, bike lanes, and good transit, all so that people can choose something other than sitting in traffic jams.
Granted, many people still live far away from where they need to go on a daily basis. And for others, circumstances change: jobs may move further away or kids change schools. But this shouldn't force people to leave houses and neighborhoods they like. We'll all still take weekend trips and have to run errands in the car. Freight will still move on trucks.
Rest assured, I recognize we will need to invest in new roads as well as maintain the ones we've got so that car travel and business commerce remains viable.
But as we grow, we owe it to ourselves to build more old-fashioned neighborhoods like the one I live in, with jobs and stores close to home, good, reliable transit, and streets safe to walk and bike along -- so that people have the freedom to live less expensive, less transportation-intensive lives. That not only equates to more time doing the things we value, like spending time with friends and family, but it's also a direct benefit for those who still need to make daily car trips and for time-critical truck deliveries and business travel, because our roads will be less congested.
Last week we explored the focus group results from the Columbia Crossing task force.
At the end of the week, the quantitative results from the task force polling came out. The Oregonian covered these, focusing on the fact that the results from Clark County are more favorably disposed to Light Rail than in the past.
Here are the full poll results (PDF, 348K). There are lots of interesting tidbits in here, but I want to focus in on the questions about tolls on p. 12.
The tolling question was asked three different ways.
Tolling as a congestion management tool only garnered 35% support.
Tolling as a way to get more predictable travel times did only slightly better, at 36%.
Only when tolling was presented strictly as a way to fund construction, with a lower toll for maintenance after construction was paid off did support for tolling reach a majority (51%).
Note that there was no mention of tolling on I-205 as well.
I've been harping on the theme of access vs. mobility lately.
There's a nice blog post out of Houston that puts this idea in stark relief, using London as an example.
Part of the equation is that if you have good access via proximity, the speed of your mobility is less important. That's why the fact that our Streetcar is slow is not a critical issue (not that we shouldn't keep working on making it faster).
If we have limited public dollars to invest in infrastructure, this begs the question: can we get more bang for our buck by investing in access (denser, mixed use neighborhoods and lower-cost mobility like Streetcars) or in faster, more expensive mobility (e.g., a new lane on I-205)?
In a recent interview in the Daily Journal of Commerce on the topic of place-making, Metro President David Bragdon is quoted on how expensive it will be to provide transportation infrastructure to new communities on the edge of the region like Bethany and Damascus. How does that contrast with investments to make our regional and town centers denser (i.e., provide more access)?
SPUR, a civic/planning organization in San Franciso has recently recognized TriMet's Productivity Improvement Program (PIP), and urged their local transit agency to undertake a similar program.
Hat tip to reader Garlynn Woodsong for the link.
December 15, 2006
Metro has recently produced an interesting little document by the title "Profile of the Regional Freight Transportation System." The Daily Journal of Commerce has a brief piece today on the trends this report discusses.
Unfortunately it's still in draft form and therefore not on Metro's web site. I'll be sure to post a link when it becomes final.
The document is being used to inform both the Regional Transportation Plan update and the recently formed freight task force.
But one table in the document caught my eye. It lists a number of characteristics of different modes of freight. Here's an excerpted version:
Of course, Truck freight is the fastest growing mode by far, and it has the worst (save air) energy and emissions impacts. Some of this is due to lack of investment in rail, some is due to business factors like e-commerce and just-in-time inventory management. But it speaks to a national policy failure in allowing the environmental factors to be externalized rather that included in the actual costs of using these modes.
And by the way, even after truck freight doubles, trucks will still be a single-digit percentage of all the vehicles on the road. Let's not take our eye off the key challenge: SOVs.
There's been a sea change at the Federal Transit Administration.
After the FTA created a preliminary set of rules for the Small Starts program (the program that Earl Blumenaur and other congressional leaders designed for Streetcars) that strongly favor bus projects, the new FTA Administrator, James Simpson, was just shocked to learn that no Streetcar projects had been submitted to the program. A number of bus projects were submitted, but most were relatively poor performers (Eugene's BRT program being an exception).
Anyway, with Simpson now in charge, our region has been encouraged to submit a Streetcar project. Given that the same prompting is probably being given to other regions, the brakes are off and we're moving as quickly as possible to submit a Project Development application for the Streetcar Loop.
One small problem - the development work for this was supposed to take until about June, and that work was to determine if we had the resources to make it all the way to OMSI or would stop the first construction phase shorter, either at Oregon St. or Morrison St.
Due to the acceleration, the steering committee of elected officials that oversees both The Loop and the Lake Oswego analysis debated the issue today and gave the tentative direction to make the stretch to OMSI. While this is not "irrevocable" as Commissioner Sam Adams pointed out, it's unlikely that new information would be available to better inform the choice before the application is actually submitted in January.
Why is this rolling the dice? If we submit for OMSI and later decide that we only have the resources for a shorter segment (and under the terms of the workplan adopted by the steering committee, "having the resources" includes understanding and getting agreement on how any such allocation affects other projects, including Milwaukie LRT), we might be required by FTA to withdraw our application and resubmit a new application for the shorter segment. This potentially loses us our place in line in the Federal process. Worst case that could mean losing one or two years on the project.
I'll be biting my nails, excitedly...
For those of you following the Lake Oswego process, the steering committee also took two actions on that project, eliminating River Transit from consideration (at the recommendation of the project's citizen committee) and also removing consideration of placing Streeting on Highway 43 south of the Sellwood Bridge (putting Streetcar in the street in John's Landing - as an alternative to using the Willamette Shorline right-of-way there - is still under study).
Jay Lyman and Linda Mullen address a fiesty group of Portland Transport readers.
About 10 hearty Portland Transport stalwarts braved rain and high winds to meet at Wynne's last night. After about 30 minutes of socializing we heard a presentation from Jay Lyman, head of the consultant team for the Columbia River Cross (accompanied by Linda Mullen from the project's communication team).
Jay gamely fielded questions for almost 90 minutes. I'd like to express my thanks to Jay and Linda for their braving the weather and the questions.
I learned quite a bit from the presentation, but a couple of things stand out:
- While the new bridge may improve congestion between peak periods, Jay made it clear that the southbound morning commute from Clark County to Portland will not be any faster after the bridge is built than it is now during the AM peak.
- As we've discussed here before, it's never too early to get involved in policy development. Many of the key parameters for this project (e.g., 3 through lanes in each direction) were spelled out in the I-5 Partnership process, several years ago.
Linda asked me to point out that the CRC has a podcast (mp3, 6.4M). Check it out.
I'd like to thank the readers who made it to the event, and solicit their feedback about how useful it is. I'd also like to thank those who intended to come, but were restrained by the weather.
December 14, 2006
The Columbia Crossing project recently completed a round of focus groups with folks from both the Oregon and Washington sides of the river. It's not on the project web site, but after hearing a summary at TPAC, I was able to obtain a copy of the focus group report and scan it (PDF 574K).
Keeping in mind that focus groups are a qualitative research tool, not a quantitative one, it's still interesting to see that people seem to have a good grasp of some of the issues (ramp design and spacing creates a lot of the safety problems) and a very positive attitude toward transit as part of the solution set. There's also some healthy skepticism about costs.
Yesterday's O covers the report from Macquarie Infrastructure Group on finances for the Newberg-Dundee Bypass.
The core package would require $3.50 tolls on both the bypass and 99W, plus an up-front investment of $150M by the State. Local residents would get a discount, paying $1.00 to use the bypass (the article does not explicitly say, but seems to imply that residents could use 99W for free).
Alternately, ODOT could skip the up-front investment if tolls go up to $5.00.
Another option would be to vary the tolls by time of day. The peak-hour toll would be just over $6.10.
"It's hard for me to sense how people are going to react to this," said Yamhill County Commissioner Leslie Lewis, who said she prefers putting tolls on just the bypass. "Clearly, they reacted badly to tolling the entire corridor. Whether this will have any public acceptability, I don't know."
It's also unclear where ODOT would get the $150M.
The Daily Journal of Commerce had a piece on business opposition to the couplet a few days ago.
It contained an interesting contrast: Gerding/Edlen reiterated its opposition, while Greg Goodman indicated his support.
The interesting part is that Gerding is partnering with Goodman on a new tower next to Jake's, just off Burnside.
December 13, 2006
A reminder that we'll gather tomorrow night (Thursday, December 14th) from 6-8pm at Wynne's, 2002 SE Division St. for the first ever face-to-face meeting of the Portland Transport Commuity.
The location is just across the street from the New Seasons market on Division. Here's a Google Maps link.
The program for the evening will include a presentation from and Q&A with Columbia River Crossing staff representatives. I'll then review the results of our reader survey (look for details here on the site next week) and perhaps we can talk about future directions for Portland Transport while we socialize.
The event will be in a private party room at Wynne's. Food and drink are available on a no-host basis (except that I've got the first round, so be sure to be on time!).
Update: Oregonian coverage of the forum
I had a chance to sit through most of the tolling panel yesterday (I had to leave before the last group of speakers to get to another commitment).
The program was organized by the Cascadia Center of the Discovery Institute, an organization I was not previously familier with (not to be confused with the Cascade Policy Institute, which had representatives in the audience).
There were a few perspectives that were new to me.
One speaker suggested that perhaps we should move to a model of having "basic access" (local streets and transit) be "free", funded by fuel taxes, but fund the freeway network by tolling.
Another suggested that what users were really paying for with tolls is reliability: knowing you can get from point A to point B in a certain amount of time.
The packet handed out to attendees included an abridged version of this paper titled "Travel Value Pricing". One of the interesting conclusions was that you should price your roads to optimize the performance of the whole network, not just individual corridors.
The kind of city-center congestion pricing implemented in London was also discussed. The Stockholm example was discussed in some detail. The experience was about a 25% reduction in auto trips. This split into about 3 equal portions:
- 1/3 mode-shifted to transit
- 1/3 time-shifted out of the congestion pricing period
- 1/3 went away in a phenomenon described as "trip consolidation" where multiple trips were combined into one (not unlike what Metro is encouraging in the "Drive Less, Save More" program)
The discussion of cordon pricing also included impacts on local businesses. The London case is somewhat confused, as there were other economic factors going on, but in Singapore and several Nordic countries the experience was that retail sales were neutral or improved. The suggested mechanism is that removing auto trips increases "footfall" as folks shifting to transit, carpools, etc. now have to walk past retail establishments as part of their overall commute trip.
I'm looking foward to watching Jim Karlock's recording of the balance of the forum that I missed.
Clearly there's a lot of knowledge/experience out there that our region needs to absorb as we look at tolling policy options.
The word came through yesterday afternoon that Earl Blumenaur will be moving to the House Ways and Means Committee. This means he has to give up his Transportation Committee seat.
At the same time, the Democratic Caucus says they are going to strip earmarks from the omnibus spending bill for the balance of the year.
What does this mean for transportation funding here in the Portland region? Possibly some short term disruption, but ultimately I think it's for the best. I would hope for rational rules for competitive programs for transportation spending, and I'm confident our region can generate projects that score well on good criteria.
The other news is that Peter Defazio appears headed for the chairmanship of the Surface Transportation sub-Committee.
December 12, 2006
A little whilte ago, the Daily Journal of Commerce ran a "conversation" with Tad Savinar, who is working on the streetscape design for the Transit Mall. The core of the conversation is the idea of looking at the Transit Mall in micro-increments, a single block face, or even a single store front.
Savinar was kind enough to sit down with me and go through his design notebook, which also exists in PowerPoint form. Here are a few of the sketches and ideas from the notebook.
If every transportation project in the City had this level of thought going into the placemaking aspects of the project, I'm sure we'd have an even more vibrant City.
Keep up the good work, Tad.
It's must have been a pretty light news day, because Friday the Oregonian had an editorial about TriMet's ticket machines.
The gripes about reliability are real, but I had to laugh, because TriMet's machines are 10 times better than Streetcar's (we were ordering so few that we couldn't interest a supplier with technology more modern than the Soviet Brutalist models we have on the vehicles now). Streetcar should be able to do much better when we order the next fleet for the Loop.
But at core the editorial is right, we have to do our best to make using transit easy, and ticket machines are just one of the many small barriers we need to keep working on eliminating.
December 11, 2006
The article highlights Jim's contributions to everything from Waterfront Park to keeping the idea of Light Rail alive to Washington County Commuter Rail.
Jim is one of our community's treasures, and I hope we'll have his wisdom for a long, long time.
According to the Trib, last week when the Columbia River Crossing staff gave the Metro Council an update, they indicated that tolls would be a required financing tool (amouts TBD) and that it might be necessary to toll I-205 across the Columbia as well.
The Business Journal is reporting that ground has been broken for an Ethanol plant in in Longview.
Production is still 18 months away.
Time to buy Oregon corn futures?
December 8, 2006
The cover article in today's Trib ("Streetcar planning calls for patience") seems to suggest that Streetcar is going too fast!
For the record, I don't think we need to slow down, all I'm concerned about is that our Streetcar lines are well-planned and that every potential community has the opportunity to make their case for their position in line based on the merits, not just on political expediency or the the clout of particular interests (on the other hand, the ability of those interests to contribute $$$ to construction and operation and in turn leverage land use or economic development gains for the community is a real factor that goes into the merits discussion).
Nor do I think Streetcar is "magic pixie dust." Streetcar works in conjunction with other land use and transportation strategies, which is why it's important that future lines be well planned.
But I do think Streetcar is transformative. Even as some voices at Metro are advising patience, I think Streetcar could actually be one of the key tools to make the Centers that Metro is pushing so hard for happen.
And to the continued debate about Streetcar draining operating funds from buses or LRT, let me say it one more time: the problem is that we have an inadequate level of funding for transit operations in our region. Let's grow the pie, not argue about the size of the slices!
We have a venue. The first ever Portland Transport face-to-face gathering will happen at 6pm on Thursday, December 14th at Wynne's, at 20th and SE Division. (That's 2002 SE Division, 97202 for those of you who want to plug in to Google Maps).
We'll have a private room and no-host access to the menu and bar. The CRC folks are confirmed and after their session we'll discuss the Portland Transport community (I'll have the survey results by then) and socialize.
See you all next week! First round is on me.
Hat tip to reader Elly Blue who pointed us to this essay on an interesting plan for integrating intercity buses and urban transit from the UK.
Maybe we should move the bus station to the Rose Quarter to be near the intersection of I-5 and I-84?
I got the notice for next week's JPACT Meeting (7:30am on the 14th, see the agenda and packet).
This is one worth paying attention to, they're looking at regional priorities for earmarks in the next federal transportation bill, and policy parameters for the final culling of the MTIP project list.
There's also a review of focus group findings from the Columbia River Crossing. I caught that presentation at TPAC last week and will have a separate post soon on the report.
I know it's VERY early in the morning, but it should still be great entertainment.
December 7, 2006
In a number of recent discussions, the idea of a Hawthorne Streetcar has come up. This was especially the case in Tuesday's "Burnside-Couch Couplet" thread.
I think there is sufficient interest to get local interested parties together (transportation advocates, Hawthorne-area businesses, residents, taxpayers, bicycle and pedestrian activists, and even pure motorists (Hi, Terry)) to try and pitch a plan. This group could choose to push directly for a project, or simply to get this project studied, included, and prioritized in a regional transportation plan.
I'd offer to form such a group myself, as I am very interested in the idea of a Hawthorne Streetcar. However, I have a number of commitments already, and I do not live in the corridor (although I visit friends there and shop there a lot)... to have the best credibility, the group should organize from within the corridor.
What I can offer, however, is a bit of technical/IT support: For other companies and organizations I have created web sites with forums, membership management, email discussion lists, newsletter/article management, etc. I have taken the liberty of registering the domain "hawthornestreetcar.org" (nothing there just yet), and I can quickly set up a community web site like this one I did for the Rose City Park neighborhood: http://www.rcpna.org/
Will this be sufficient to entice potential organizers to come forward? Can our heroes coalesce into a force for good? Stay tuned... contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to help move this along.
- Bob R.
Apparently there are rail buffs in the Czech Republic as well as in Portland. Some of them are snapping pictures of our next three Streetcars as they travel around the streets of Ostrava during their burn-in. (More photos here.)
They've come a long way since I first saw them, but the cars are badly overdue. They should have been here last summer, in time for the Gibbs opening. It's still an open question whether they will make it here in time to help carry the load to the Tram public opening in late January.
The current plan is to expedite their shipment by sending them to Baltimore (rather than through the canal), then truck them across the country to Porltand.
The Daily Journal of Commerce is reporting that some environmental groups are not buying into the idea that "coal gasification combined cycle (IGCC) power plants" are a good idea. Apparently a couple of these plants are on the boards in Washington State.
How clean is coal?
IGCC plants – based on a new energy technology that produces and burns a synthetic natural gas made from coal – emit less mercury, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides than traditional pulverized coal plants and provide for the possibility of carbon capture and storage to reduce global warming pollution.
But the environmental groups are not so sure:
“From the Northwest’s perspective we think that energy efficiency and renewable energy are the resources that should be developed first in meeting the local communities’ needs,” said Nancy Hirsh, policy director for the Northwest Energy Coalition.
December 6, 2006
Listen to the show (mp3, 12.3M)
Linda Ginenthal from Transportation Options talks about the new See & Be Seen campaign. Plus some of the theme song contest entries and talk about tips for winter riding, including how to keep your spirits up.
The Cascadia Center/Discovery Institute
Hosted by Identity Clark County and the Portland Business Alliance
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
12:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.
EB Hamilton Hall at the Historic Reserve
Discovery Institute's Cascadia Center is pleased to co-sponsor with Microsoft another forum as part of our Transportation & Technology Series--this time in Vancouver, WA. The forum is hosted by Identity Clark County and the Portland Business Alliance.
Local and national tolling experts will join a panel of local leaders on national and worldwide tolling trends and practices, and explore the future of tolling in the Northwest. Featured speakers include:
Kamran Khan, Wilbur Smith, Chicago
Jack Opiola, Booz Allen Hamilton, London
Kary Witt, Golden Gate Bridge Authority, San Francisco
Harold Worrall, Fmr. Dir. Orlando-Orange County Expressway, Florida
Don Forbes, HNTB, Salt Lake City
Fred Cummings, TransLink, Golden Ears Bridge Project, Vancouver, BC
The event will be held from 12:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, December 12, at the EB Hamilton Hall, located in the former Red Cross building at the Historic Reserve, 605 Barnes Road, Vancouver, WA.
The forum is free and open to the public. A no-host reception will follow.
To register, please contact Kathy Davis at 360.695.4116 or email email@example.com.
Space is limited - RSVP now!
Streetsblog is reporting that there is now public opinion research that shows potential support for some form of congestion pricing.
A follow-up post talks about the political opposition, apparently organized by the parking garage operators.
December 5, 2006
It seems to be the worst kept secret in Portland, since Sam has run this past every conceivable stakeholder, but here's what he will announce at his press conference in a little over an hour (the Trib put it up on their web site last night):
- He will recommend to his Council colleagues that the West Burnside couplet extend from 2nd to 19th, effectively overriding the resistance of the Archdiocese that had previously limited the couplet proposal to 15th.
- Sam will propose that Burnside should have a Streetcar from 12th/Sandy on the east side to NW 24th on the west side, and possibly that Streetcar should extend to Hollywood (via Sandy) at some point in the future.
- The new Streetcar line will have to come after the Streetcar Loop project and the LO Streetcar project (if it gets greenlighted). And ultimately the priority of this Streetcar segment will need to be determined by the city-wide rail plan process that PDOT is starting.
- The couplet can be built without, or before, the Streetcar. They are essentially separate, divisible projects, but part of Sam's overall vision for the corridor.
I heartily applaud the result of the long wait for this recommendation. The politics of this seem to be that if Sam had to tell the folks at the Henry they need to accept the traffic on Couch, it would go down a lot better if the Catholic Church wasn't getting a pass on the same issue. I expect that the Archdiocese will continue to oppose the project. It's less clear to me if Gerding/Edlen and/or the Henry will.
I'm heading out the door for the press conference where all this becomes official...
A little bit ago, a reader passed on this link to Streetsblog, about the great cycling environment in Copenhagen.
While this isn't news, there are a couple of interesting insights.
First, that Copenhagen, unlike Amsterdam, did not have an historic base of cyclists, but turned to cycling as a mode very consciously.
Second, that the emphasis on cycling has had very positive benefits on the entire transportation system (particularly on safety) and the urban environment in general.
December 4, 2006
-- Survey is now closed. Thanks! --
As of this past weekend, our reader survey had 73 responses, which I think is great.
About 60% of the responses are from folks who comment on the site, and we know that they're only about 10% of our visitors.
So you, yah, you quiet folks in back, please take a moment and fill out the survey.
The management thanks you.
One of the sub-themes running through the Trib's ReThinking Portland issue on transportation is the role and appropriateness of the Eastside Streetcar project (AKA the Streetcar Loop) and competition between Streetcar and other transit modes.
Nick Budnick swears to me that he wasn't trying to stir up a feud between TriMet and Streetcar (OK, I believe you, Nick) but the casual reader might draw some inferences given coverage of a TriMet internal memo questioning TriMet's role in the Loop project and another internal document showing that Fred Hansen removed a comment about "Streetcar's political muscle" from remarks to the Streetcar Board. And then there are references to political leaders representing Milwaukie expressing concern about the project being in competition with the Milwaukie Light Rail project.
And, oh yeah, a headline saying "East-side streetcar sparks TriMet concern" (I know, another editor probably wrote the headline).
So let me tackle the issue head-on. I think Streetcar and TriMet have been and continue to be great partners.
Are there some issues? You bet. But they come out of core issues in our transportation challenges, not out of any relationship issues between the two organizations. Here are some of those issues:
- The two different objectives of providing access versus providing mobility (which I discussed in my original post on the Trib issue).
- The lack of a regional rail plan - while some may say that Streetcar is being opportunistic, the Trib coverage also points out that TriMet has been somewhat opportunistic in packaging whatever rail project they think they have the best shot of getting federal funding for.
- The very real limits on the buying power of the payroll tax that funds transit operations in our region.
For the original Streetcar alignment, the case was easier. If Streetcar had not been built, TriMet would have needed to provide new service to the Pearl district. Giving Streetcar operations funding in lieu of that new service was not a stretch (at least in hindsight).
That's not as strong an argument for the east side. There is some (if not great) north-south service on MLK/Grand and excellent east-west service across all the bridges). The rationale for the Streetcar Loop is two-fold:
- Create the kind of places where people can live, work and recreate with much less need for a car. The Lloyd District and the MLK/Grand corridor are rife with opportunities for these kinds of places, WITHOUT "Pearl-izing" the rest of the Central Eastside.
- Provide a core central city loop that becomes the anchor for spokes out into the neighborhoods and connections to town centers.
In fact, TriMet's Fred Hansen understands this perfectly. He has been a very articulate spokesman to the Federal Transit Administration about the value of "the trip not taken" as Streetcar makes the case why federal funding should not depend entirely on mobility measures.
Indeed, you can go back to the Trib special issue and see this issue spelled out concretely in one of the graphics. It spells out how the type of environment dictates out much you are likely to use your car. Which environment has the least driving? Mixed use development with good transit - exactly the kind of environment that Streetcar creates.
So is the purpose of the payroll tax - and TriMet - the provision of transit mobility? Or is it the reduction of miles driven in single-occupancy vehicles?
That's the question that's up for discussion, mobility or access - not TriMet or Streetcar. Let's answer that question with a strong regional plans for transportation (including a comprehensive rail plan) and land use. The implementation tools should then be a lot clearer.
My preference is to create access as often as possible, but also to provide mobility where access is not an efficient answer.
Last week over at the Daily Score, Alan Durning had an interesting essay on being able to rent some of the cars he sees parked on his street.
But this whimsy leads to a serious discussion of how much of our society's capital we tie up in both our vehicle fleet and the real estate we park that fleet on.
I just read some background material for the RTP update that indicates we have five parking spaces (at a cost of perhaps $600-$1200 per year each) for each car.
Surely we can deploy our resources with a higher rate of return for all of us?
December 1, 2006
Pedestrian Networking Group
WHAT: Quarterly informal networking sessions with pedestrian activists and walking enthusiasts.
WHY: The purpose of these gatherings is for those interested in pedestrian issues to get together to share information and ideas, ask questions, and strengthen Portland's walking community.
WHERE: Broadway Conference Room on the 9th floor of the Portland Building (1120 SW 5th Avenue).
WHEN: Thursdays, noon - 1 p.m. February 8, 2007; May 10, 2007; August 9, 2007; November 8, 2007; February 14, 2008
Feel free to bring your lunch. Please forward this invitation to others who might be interested.
Sponsored by the City of Portland Office of Transportation and Pedestrian Advisory Committee For more information contact Caitlin McCollum, 503-823-5831
One of our region's claims to fame has been a slight decline in Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) per capita. In most places in our country the trendline is decidely in the other direction.
But now Reuters is reporting (via CNN) that last year (2005 vs. 2004) per capita VMT went down NATIONALLY, by about 1%.
Pundits are attributing the decline to a combination of high gas prices (apparently, there IS elasticity in demand for gas) and demographic shifts (our population continues to age, and older drivers drive less).
A small ray of hope!
A reader passed on a link to an article in Dwell magazine (for those not familiar, the magazine covers modern architecture with a hip sort of spin).
The article covers transportation in the West in general, but if you make your way all the way to page 3, you'll find the insight that in Portland, you can make your way from the airport, to dowtown, all the way out to farmland (Sauvie Island in this case) all on transit.
Let's hear it for SB 100 (pre-M37 that is).
I'm told that the print version of the article (I haven't seen it yet) has an excellent picture of our Streetcar.