March 30, 2007
Parking guru Donald Shoup has an op-ed piece in yesterday's NY Times suggesting that 30% of traffic in city centers may be circling looking for parking...
A newspaper review of the introduction of technology similar to the Hong Kong "Octopus" cards.
Could we do it here? Where would we put the readers on MAX and Streetcar?
The good news is we have a relatively small number of transit providers to integrate. Portland has already rolled out smart cards for the parking pay stations, so we have the beginning of a technology base.
March 29, 2007
Forget CAR talk, we've got BIKE talk.
Get all your techie questions answered with Bike Gallery service manager Brett Flemming live on the air.
Ayleen and Tori host.
9-10AM, Wednesday, April 4th
KBOO FM 90.7
Streamed live at KBOO.fm
Podcast here later that day
March 28, 2007
The subcommittee's proposal for using the existing bridges for Northbound traffic while putting transit and southbound traffic on a new bridge was approved by the full Columbia River Crossing task force last night (Oregonian coverage).
So this will be studied in the EIS along with the big bridge and no build options.
Does this provide enough fodder to force looking a real options?
An interesting piece in the Daily Journal of Commerce yesterday ("State leaders draw roadmap for transportation reform") contains musings from Rex Burkholder and Senate Transportation Chair Rick Metsger among others.
Statewide, “we spend a lot of money on transportation each year, and we don’t really evaluate it in any way more than how many cars go through an intersection,” Rex Burkholder, a councilor with the regional government Metro, said.
With limited dollars available to manage the system, many question the state’s current plan to invest billions in projects that offer just one payback – a few minutes saved on the morning commute.
Instead, a new system of incremental targeted investments would, for the most part, replace massive road projects. Over the next 20 years or more, Metro expects the existing statewide system to expand no more than 5 percent.
There is also talk of local road fees as a potential funding mechanism.
WESTPORT - Federal Highway Administration officials yesterday urged state lawmakers to install highway tolls that charge motorists different rates based on peak and off-peak hours.
March 27, 2007
Things are looking up for Milwaukie LRT. According to the Daily Journal of Commerce, the $250 requested from the State (from Lottery bonds) for the project is included in the co-chairs' budget.
The Connect Oregon 2 program is also in the budget.
“There are two key investments we’re proposing,” Rep. Mary Nolan, D-Portland and co-chair of the joint Ways and Means committee said, “subject to the whole deliberative procedure.”
Included in the $15.3 billion budget for the state’s general fund and lottery fund in 2007 to 2009, was the proposed $100 million ConnectOregon 2 multimodal transportation funding package.
The lottery-bond-backed transportation package comes on the heels of the $100 million ConnectOregon package passed by the 2005 Legislature for aviation, rail, transit, and marine infrastructure.
The $250 million Milwaukie light rail project also received an official nod from the co-chairs for lottery-backed bonds slated for 2009 to 2011.
The City of Portland has been exploring the idea of a rental bike system along the lines of those found in may European cities (see the excellent coverage at BikePortland.org).
In Saturday's O, Anna Griffin explores the funding implications. In Europe, the programs typically include a lot of display advertising which helps underwrite the costs. That probably won't fly here in Portland where we tend to try to avoid visual advertising clutter. So do we make up the difference with higher rental rates, government subsidies, or ... ?
One question I'm interested in is whether the rentals would be one-way or round-trip (i.e., do you have to return the bike at the place where you rented it, or can you return it at any of the kiosks in the system). I don't see this called out in the RFP. I think a one-way system would be much more useful.
March 26, 2007
The Portland Business Alliance and Oregon Business Council have release a statewide version of the Cost of Congestion study. I haven't found an online version yet, but according to the coverage (DJC, Trib, O), the pitch is for $350M from the legislature this session (presumably that's just the beginning) to help fund projects that would provide travel time savings amounting to $1.7B annually.
Senate Transportation Committee Chair Rick Metsger is a little more subdued. He's proposing a license plate fee increase that would raise about $200M.
The O jumps on the bandwagon Sunday with an editorial ("Step on it, Oregon") that makes it clear, this is about reliable truck travel.
So when will we adopt policy that gives trucks priority over SOVs on existing facilities?
Friday's Trib notes that the task force committee working on a "mid-range" alternative for the Columbia River Crossing will wrap up its work today on a supplemental bridge proposal.
A more exciting idea in the same issue is Jim Howell's opinion piece that High Capacity Transit (read Light Rail) could shoulder much of the capacity demands. Jim points to the other Vancouver for an example of how this was done successfully.
March 23, 2007
Courtesy of Richard "Creative Class" Florida, it's official:
Metropolitan areas where hybrids are most popular
Rank Metropolitan Area Hybrids per 1000 Households*
- Portland, OR 11.19
- San Francisco, CA 8.76
- Monterey, CA 6.83
- Santa Barbara, CA 6.08
- Los Angeles 5.60
- Bend, OR 5.35
- Washington, DC 5.06
- San Diego 5.00
- Charlottesville, VA 4.87
- Eugene 4.64
- Seattle 4.26
- Honolulu 3.86
- Eureka 3.67
- Sacramento 3.66
- Denver 3.50
*2006 Registrations (December 2006 YTD)
March 22, 2007
A nice piece in the Trib about efforts for the Streetcar Loop and Milwaukie Light Rail projects to partner, rather than compete, on raising funds.
After all, we're going to share a bridge - it hardly pays to be shooting at each other :-)
According to the Daily Journal of Commerce, a committee is looking at long term plans for where high capacity transit would make sense in Clark County.
Through a series of public meetings, the Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council will work with a steering committee of policymakers and a citizens’ advisory task force to identify the best high-capacity modes to serve the region’s most-traveled transportation corridors.
The potential for economic development along the travel corridors, the cost of the projects and land-use compatibility will be considered for each of the modes along at least four major corridors: Interstate 5 South, Interstate 205 South, state Route 500 West and state Route 14 West.
March 21, 2007
Ron (who has a storied history of civic involvement in Portland, including being a leader in Riverfront for People) has a nice opinion piece yesterday's O about changing the direction of the Columbia River Crossing project.
A few months ago I wrote about discussion initiated in Commissioner Adams' Transportation Operations Steering Committee to clear non-injury accidents from our freeways faster as one relatively inexpensive way to reduce congestion.
Yesterday in the Trib we read about initial implementation steps for this policy.
That's a pretty fast translation of policy to action in the transportation realm!
This video interview is from Streetsblog. It's a nice summary of Shoup's theses in six minutes.
March 20, 2007
The "Stern Report", a policy document providing advice to the British government on climate change has gotten a fair amount of notice in the press lately.
A very similar document published in January, the Eddington Report, has not drawn as much attention, but as it focuses on transportation policy, should be very interesting to readers of this blog. The report was jointly commissioned by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for Transport in the UK (the U.S. equivalents would be the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Transportation).
I've only read the executive summary, but it's still an impressive piece of research.
Sir Rod reaches the same conclusion that the "Cost of Congestion" study does, that transpotation is vital to the economy, and that investing in transport will be important. But he also reaches some conclusions that go in a different direction:
- That transportation infrastructure is largely built out, so we're looking at incremental improvements
- That the first and most important thing to do is add pricing to the system, attaching prices both to congestion and carbon footprint
- That many small projects are going to have more impact than a few large projects (note that scale is relative here - by "large" I think he means things like the Trans Texas Tollway)
Sit down and have a good read...
Apparently after the transit system was privatized in a Chinese town, the operator doubled fares. The result: rioting.
Still want to privatize TriMet?
Hat tip to Ellie Blue.
Yesterday we passed 10,000 comments in the history of the blog.
Way to go readers!
March 19, 2007
Well, I suppose it was inevitable. This system creates a marketplace, accessed via cell phone, for available parking spaces.
Here's an interesting piece on the reasons we don't see congestion pricing in use. Here are the top-line bullets:
- No One Cares (congestion is not so bad that we can't live with it)
- Equity Considerations (congestion pricing is regressive)
- Congestion Pricing Suffers from a Mismatch Between Economic and Political Efficiency (economists don't call the political shots)
- Congestion Pricing Lacks a Powerful Advocate
An interesting read...
March 16, 2007
Following up on our earlier discussion on whether Al Gore is walking is talk, Portland Transport contributor Rick Browning recently sent this letter to the editor of the NY Times questioning whether it's about how you get there or how far there is...
To the Editor,
Environmental activist Bill McKibben's custom home in rural Ripton, VT is no doubt a lovely place to live ("Renewing a Call to Act Against Climate Change" National Report, March 14). But location [preceding word in italics] of energy efficient houses like Mr. McKibben's does matter. I have taken his hybrid Honda Civic into account, yet still - assuming a 45 week a year job and a 20 mile roundtrip, at least 1,350 pounds of carbon goes into the atmosphere every year that Mr. McKibben drives to his job at Middlebury college.
As Mr. McKibben is quoted as saying, if mainstream scientific predictions about global warming are accurate, time is indeed short and "Changing lightbulbs isn't enough". Note to environmentalists - neither is getting a hybrid. Perpetuating lifestyles that require us to drive for everything guarantees we will fail in our quest to halt global warming.
Richard D. Browning, AIA
Perhaps further than you thought. A new study suggests that the distance people will walk to transit (generally assumed to be 1/4 mile or so) may be less a function of distance than of the obstacles they find along the way.
- Pedestrians walk farther to access light rail stations than commonly assumed, with a mean distance of about a half-mile rather than the prevailing notion of a quarter to a third of a mile.
- Pedestrians say that their primary concern in choosing a route is minimizing time and distance.
- Secondary factors influencing route choice are safety and, to a lesser extent, attractiveness of the route, sidewalk quality, and the absence of long waits at traffic lights.
- Pedestrians vary considerably in how accurately they estimate the distance of their walks.
Hat tip to Bob Richardson for the pointer to the study.
March 15, 2007
An interesting pilot in Amersterdam moves freight on the city's tram (Streetcar) network.
Apparently one of the keys is separate sidings for loading/unloading.
Could it work here? For example, could Intel get product to PDX along with Light Rail corridor?
The American Public Transportation Association reported that transit ridership on US systems is at its highest levels since 1957, having increased for the last three consecutive years. Light, heavy, and commuter rail, respectively, led the increase.
March 14, 2007
An editorial piece in the Hartford Courant suggests that the Public is getting the short end of the deal.
Guest poster Terry Parker is a regular commenter here on Portland Transport
Recently a commentary appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle that was reprinted in March 7th edition of The Oregonian titled: “For Gore, it’s as I say, not as I spew”. Is this Al Gore’s very own incontinent truth about global warming and energy consumption?
The commentary questions the sincerity of Gore and other affluent notable people who champion environmental causes. It states “rich people burn a lot of energy”, suggesting affluent spokespeople do not walk their own talk. As an example, the Gores spend $30,000 a year on energy in their “suburban” Nashville home and burned 221,000 kilowatt-hours last year, about 20 times the national average. Even if cut by 50%, that would be ten times the amount of energy an average family uses.
The commentary also identifies Senator Dianne Feinstein and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, both as advocates for environmental causes, both owners of multiple SUVs (Arnold likes Hummers), and both for their use of private planes
Here in Oregon, Governor Kulongoski as of lately has been championing many energy and environmental bills winding their way through the state legislature. However he is chauffeured around the state in a big state owned Lincoln that is often accompanied by a full sized SUV, and resides in a Governor’s Mansion, a rather large dwelling, that is some distance from the Governor’s Office in the State Capital Building.
Is it fair to say that being affluent, and in many cases a public figure like a politician, a movie star or a corporate mogul can simply claim by purchasing energy credits or green power, that it offsets their indulgence of energy use, and makes their footprint on the environment just vanish?
Should the affluent show true personal leadership by being the first to cutback on their own energy consumption thereby reducing that smoke without mirrors? Not every choice people make is going to be the most energy efficient. That is part of diversity, and a normal part of personal interests and lifestyles. However, making self-sacrifices should be the absolute norm for anyone that is pushing for laws that expect other people to make sacrifices.
The question also must be asked, if the wealthy and affluent people in this country - the people who have seemingly unlimited resources to indulge in excess energy consumption - significantly cut back on personal energy use, to the point of near average energy consumption for individuals and families, how would that affect energy supply to the rest of the country?
March 13, 2007
An article in today's Trib drills down on TIF (tax increment) funding for the proposed Streetcar Loop.
The target is $31M of the $70M of local match coming out of 4 urban renewal districts.
This is not a secret, Sam Adams testified to this effect in from of PDC more than 6 months ago.
But it raises an issue worth talking about: are transportation investments significant economic development drivers? In my mind the answer is clearly yes (and ironically, the "Cost of Congestion" study woujld butress my point).
Back in 2001, when the legislature, once again, could not find a way to convince voters that raising the gas tax to keep pace with inflation might be a good idea, they instead created the Road User Fee Task Force (RUFTF - I'm still trying to figure out how that is pronounced).
One of the outputs of that task force is a pilot program to test how we might collect information for a mileage-based tax, as opposed to a per-gallon tax. The advantage of a mileage-based fee being that it is not eroded as fuel efficiency improves. The pilot currently under way is not about policy (i.e., how to set pricing) but about the technology. On Friday I had a chance to attend an ODOT demo of how the information is collected (at the gas pump). Here's the photo tour.
A few other points. The rush hour charge is not really a substitute for congestion pricing. For example the system cannot tell if you're on a freeway or a local street (perhaps with different software?). It's really there just to show that time/location based pricing is technically feasible.
Of course, I asked the big brother question. The ODOT folks tell me the data logger in the car only logs the category of location you're in, not coordinates. I then asked if they would allow independent verification of the system to satisfy citizens that was true. They said they would (I don't know if that's official ODOT policy).
The purpose of this pilot, which has about 260 participants and runs for a few more months, is really to prove out the data collection technology, which it seems to have done. Policy choices come later...
March 12, 2007
From the NY Times, Google has its own transit service (registration required).
Interesting that here, the business community's reaction to congestion is to ask for billions in public investment, while in the Bay Area, the reaction is to create a new employment perk.
Via Planetizen: The Morality of Biofuels
"Last September, Lester Brown, the president of the Earth Policy Institute wrote in a Washington Post opinion piece that the amount of grain needed to make enough ethanol to fill a 25-gallon SUV tank 'would feed one person for a full year. If the United States converted its entire grain harvest into ethanol, it would satisfy less than 16 percent of its automotive needs.' Brown said the ongoing ethanol boom in the U.S. was 'setting the stage for an epic competition. In a narrow sense, it is one between the world's supermarkets and its service stations.' More broadly, 'it is a battle between the world's 800 million automobile owners, who want to maintain their mobility, and the world's two billion poorest people, who simply want to survive.'
March 9, 2007
According to the Daily Journal of Commerce, the Jubitz Travel Center on Tuesday became the first truck stop in Oregon to sell B20 biodiesel.
The retail and commercial fuel station, located east of Interstate 5 near exit 307 in Portland, has transitioned all of its retail diesel pumps to the 20 percent biodiesel blend four months ahead of a July 1 start for the city of Portland’s renewable fuels mandate.
The mandate, passed last year by the Portland City Council, will require all fuel sold within the city limits to contain at least 5 percent biodiesel and 10 percent ethanol by July 1.
“While it may be early in terms of a widespread adoption, it’s clear that in the future B5 and B20 will be part of the fuel landscape, so we wanted to broaden our product offering,” said Mark Gram, vice president and chief financial officer of Jubitz.
So the private sector took government intervention and turned it into a market opportunity...
A picture is worth a thousand words.
March 8, 2007
The Coalition for a Livable Future is seeking nominations for its 2007 Robert L. Liberty Regional Leadership Award. The Regional Leadership Award recognizes and rewards leaders who have made outstanding contributions to the livability of the Portland-Vancouver metropolitan region during the past year. Community members are invited to nominate an individual who has demonstrated initiative and creative leadership for community health and vitality, social justice and/or environmental protection in our region during the past year. The award will be presented at this year's Regional Livability Summit on April 19, 2007.
The deadline for nominations is March 19, 2007.
The Award is named after Robert L. Liberty in recognition of his outstanding service to the citizens of the Portland metropolitan region, and to the protection of community livability. In past years the Regional Leadership Award has been presented to Diana Lobo, Damascus area citizen leader; Jim Labbe, Urban Conservationist for the Audubon Society; and Jeri Sundvall, Executive Director of Environmental Justice Action Group. All have been tireless advocates for protecting and improving the region’s quality of life, and ensuring that all our region’s residents have the opportunity to live in healthy and sustainable communities.
To submit a nomination for the award, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org that includes your name and contact information, your nominee's name and contact information, and 500 words or less describing why this nominee should receive the Regional Leadership Award. To download complete nomination information, visit:
The title in the Daily Journal of Commerce says it all "Milwaukie light rail gets back on track."
For the third time in nearly 10 years, the regional government Metro has revived its plans to build a light-rail line from Portland to Milwaukie.
And as part of the decision that no one will ever quite know when it was made, the center of gravity for the crossing continues to move south:
Included in the updated plan is a proposal that would link the new light-rail line with the Portland Streetcar and Portland Aerial Tram on the South Waterfront development. Such a plan would move the original alignment further south of the Marquam Bridge and closer to Oregon Health & Science University's Center for Health & Healing.
"When this was first studied, South Waterfront didn't exist," said Olivia Clark, executive director of TriMet, the regional transportation authority. The proposed new alignment, she said, "is reflecting changing times in terms of what's happening in development."
Did Olivia get a promotion? Fred better watch out :-)
CRC Task Force subcommittee to identify a fourth alternative
The Columbia River Crossing Task Force unanimously accepted the staff recommendation to advance three alternatives into the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) process and appointed a subcommittee to identify a possible fourth alternative.
The subcommittee will work to develop a viable fourth alternative that aspires to meet the goals and needs of the Columbia River Crossing project and maximizes the utility of the existing bridges. The Task Force will discuss the subcommittee findings at the March 27 Task Force meeting.
4th Alternative Subcommittee Members
Metro Councilor Rex Burkholder, Co-Chair
Clark County Commissioner Steve Stuart, Co-Chair
Jeff Hamm, C-TRAN
Fred Hansen, TriMet
Dean Lookingbill, SW Washington Regional Transportation Council
Tom Zelenka, Schnitzer Group
Scot Walstra, Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce
Walter Valenta, Bridgeton Neighborhood
Hal Dengerink , CRC Task Force Co-Chair, ex-officio subcommittee member
Henry Hewitt, CRC Task Force Co-Chair, ex-officio subcommittee member
4th Alternative Task Force Subcommittee Meeting Schedule
Monday, March 12, 2007
2:30 – 4:30 p.m.
Monday, March 19, 2007
8:00 – 11:00 a.m.
Monday, March 26, 2007
8:00 – 11:00 a.m.
Former Hayden Island Yacht Club
12050 N. Jantzen Drive
TriMet Bus #6
All subcommittee meetings are open to the public. Public testimony will not be taken during the meetings, but comment forms will be available and public comment is encouraged by email, mail, fax or phone. Comments received by the Wednesday after a subcommittee meeting will be collected and distributed to the subcommittee members by the end of the week before the next meeting.
March 7, 2007
Listen to the show (mp3, 12.4M)
This month's program features Natalie Ramsland, a bicycle frame builder who runs SweetPea Bicycles, a company that makes bike custom frames especially fitted for women. Ayleen reflects on her recent trip to Japan.
Even as I was seething at the Oregonian over their Burnside editorial, another article was warming my heart. There was a great story (with photo) of a group of Cleveland High School students who regularly cycle to school from their Mount Tabor neighborhood.
If also of us did what we could, like this group of students, a lot of our transpotation challenges would be easier.
March 6, 2007
I must say, the update of the Regional Transportation Plan is turning into quite the little contretemps. A few weeks back the Federal Highway Administration made it clear they thought Metro was departing planet earth.
Now apparently, it's ODOT's turn. As reported in the Tribune (scroll to the lower part of the piece) ODOT distributed a letter (PDF, 87K) at JPACT last week reminding Metro that only ODOT gets to set standards for state highways and that the progression of congestion in the Metro area is a problem:
Businesses outside and inside the Portland-Metro region cannot move their freight through, around or out of the region in an efficient manner with a significant adverse impact on the Oregon economy.
Further deterioration of the State System is not acceptable.
Stuart Foster (chair of the Oregon Transportation Commission) seems to be quite excited.
The interesting thing is that I don't see the RTP as an endorsement of congestion. It is rather a description of a strategy for connectivity that is less focused on freeways, in part because freeways are subject to the 'triple convergence' phenomenon of induced demand. Metro is looking for a better way.
Change is hard. But that doesn't make it wrong.
Interestingly, change may apparently be harder for transportation officials than land use officials. The Metro Policy Advisory Committee (primarily focused on land use) voted to 'endorse' the RTP policy chapter, while JPACT (focused exclusively on transportation) used the weaker language of 'accepting' it. We'll have to see which version the Metro Council uses in their resolution...
Yesterday the Oregonian, not content to take on the Burnside/Couch project on its merits, attempted to conflate it with the current electoral debate about Portland's form of government.
I've published my rebuttal over at Blue Oregon in the more political context over there.
OK, maybe a few more than a few.
It's time to take number two child out on the college-check-out cruise. So I'll be away from Portland for about a week, and to help keep the conversation here at Portland Transport going, it would be great to have a few guest posts in the can.
So if you have something you've been burning to talk about, now is the time. Just shoot a message to webmaster@...
There it is on the agenda for Portland City Council on Wednesday:
205 TIME CERTAIN: 10:15 AM – Accept the report of the City of Portland Peak Oil Task Force (Report introduced by Commissioner Saltzman)
March 5, 2007
According to the Business Journal poll, more than half of all respondents don't always feel safe on MAX or buses. Since this appears relatively unrelated to actual crime stats, what could TriMet be doing to make people feel more comfortable?
According to Friday's Daily Journal of Commerce, two bills with tax credits and incentives have cleared the House and are headed for the Senate.
There's a follow-up this morning.
The title of Friday's article in the Trib says it all. They ask where the money to pay for the CRC is going to come from, and where we might find funding for other transportation projects in the region.
The critical question is probably whether business leaders and elected officials can get together on a common agenda to pitch to voters. That's part of what the "Cost of Congestion" study was intended to lay the groundwork for.
My question is whether the agenda they could agree on is really the right one for the future of our region.
March 2, 2007
This month's program will feature Natalie Ramsland, a bicycle frame builder who runs SweetPea Bicycles, a company that makes bike custom frames especially fitted for women.
Ayleen will reflect on her recent trip to Japan.
Hosts Sara and Ayleen
9-10AM, Wednesday, March 7th
KBOO FM 90.7
Streamed live at KBOO.fm
Podcast here later that day
"Three through lanes" (in each direction) is the mantra of the Columbia River Crossing project and the I-5 partnership.
But if we need a reminder that the appetite for lanes is insatiable, look no further than yesterday's USA Today for a roll call of the mega-projects. Phoenix is sure that if they can just take I-10 from 14 lanes to 24, their congestion will go away.
the USA's latest giant superhighway proposal designed to ease the kind of gridlock that some planners say could stunt economic growth.
Sounds an awful lot like the local "cost of congestion" argument.
March 1, 2007
OK, I will cop to a guilty pleasure. On Mondays I read the "Back Seat" (commuting) column in the Oregonian.
Not because I expect to learn anything about transportation policy, but because I sometimes enjoy the sophomoric wit. But mainly because I get to see what people are asking about. Monday's letter was very scary:
Stop signs: At downtown intersections, should drivers stop to allow pedestrians to cross?
My wife says that drivers are obligated only if there is a marked crosswalk. I say that pedestrians at any intersection should be given the right of way.
R.L. West Linn
Our intrepid columnist quotes ORS correctly that crosswalks exist at all intersections, whether marked or unmarked.
But I'm not sure I'll be strolling around West Linn anytime soon. A good argument for refresher tests when renewing your driver's license.
A reader pointed out to me that Google has a custom search engine tool that lets you define specific web sites to be searched. He wondered if we couldn't create a custom search engine for Portland Transport.
I find the idea intriguing, but it seems to me we could go a couple of ways. We could pull together local transportation-oriented sites and create a regional tool.
Or we could gather the best of transportation policy sites worldwide and have a policy-oriented tool.
Either way, this would be a collaborative project, with contributors adding points to sites of value.
What do you think? Would you use such a tool? What flavor would appeal to your needs?
Libby Tucker has a nice little piece in yesterday's Daily Journal of Commerce, appreciating Portland's bridges, and Sharon Wood Wortman whose Portland Bridge Book helps us remember their history.