February 27, 2009
Note new time slot: 11am - Noon
Let's Celebrate Amazing Cyclists!
Oregon is an amazing place to ride a bike not just because of the work of local and state governments.
Ordinary citizens like you and me have worked tirelessly over the years in their own unique ways to improve the cycling landscape.
Tune in to the KBOO Bike Show in March to learn more about these bike heroes and the upcoming Alice B. Toeclips awards ceremony that will honor their good work. When faced with adversity, why did they keep fighting? Where does the spirit come from? Why do they love bikes?
Tune in and call in to tell us about your bike heroes.
11AM-Noon, Wednesday, March 3rd
KBOO FM 90.7
Streamed live at KBOO.fm
Podcast here later that day
Transportation for America has launched an advocacy campaign for the new transportation reauthorization bill:
As debate opens on the next transportation spending bill, a poll released today by the National Association of Realtors and Transportation for America found that the American people overwhelmingly favor a more diverse and smarter portfolio of investments in public transportation, walking and biking, and strongly prefer to repair and maintain our roads before we build more of them. Nearly a third support expansion and improvement of bus, rail, and other public transportation options as a top national priority, while 16 percent said the same for expanding highways.
Full details here.
February 26, 2009
The Business Journal is reporting on data collected by Inrix, a traffic data provider, that indicates congestion improved in our region between 2007 and 2008, with the region moving from the 21st most-congested metro to 23rd.
February 25, 2009
Coverage of the new 'bi-state' compromise on the Columbia River Crossing in the Oregonian, along with an editorial by the Mayors of Portland and Vancouver.
This one is going to take a LOT of trust.
How do we create pedestrian-friendly mainstreets and 20-minute neighborhoods? At the beginning of the last century Streetcars were the preferred tool, and here in Portland they are again at the beginning of this century here in Portland and increasingly in other U.S. cities.
Of course it is not simply a matter of installing rails in the street - the successes in the Pearl District, the West End and the developing South Waterfront are based on planning, zoning and a combination of public and private investments including Streetcar.
But skeptics continue to ask whether the intense capital cost of Streetcar is necessary to achieve the results:
- At the extreme end of the spectrum, it's been suggested that simply the right mix of streetscape improvements and amenities could be sufficient:
And if it is government investment, could we make such investment without the streetcar component? Could we invest in streetscape improvement, façade improvement programs, development of strategies to create a unique character (or "brand" if you are a marketing person) for a street or neighborhood, public art, civic buildings, etc. and achieve the same results?
- Locally, sometimes Portland Transport contributor Jim Howell has pointed out that blossoming neighborhood main streets like Albert and Mississippi are succeeding only with frequent bus service. But the bones of these neighborhoods formed in Portland's first Streetcar era. Do we have examples where a bus line has created such a neighborhood?
- In Cincinnati, Streetcar opponents have trotted out the Trolley Bus question. Could catenary wires allow a rubber-tired vehicle to bring the same benefits that we're extracting from Streetcar?
So how much investment, and which components, are really necessary to create a 20-minute neighborhood? How could we construct a test (preferably by surveying existing examples) to guide us?
February 24, 2009
I've just finished reading Tom Vanderbilt's Traffic. The key takeaway for me is that safety is not simply a function of engineering, but rather includes a very healthy dose of psychology and behavior, often in very non-intuitive ways.
Perhaps most perverse is the idea that as we add safety features to our roads and vehicles, safety does not increase as much as we expect -- because we promptly begin to rely on this technology and take greater risks...
February 23, 2009
As I have in previous years, I'm hosting a Portland Streetcar table at the BTA's annual Alice B. Toeclips awards dinner (5pm on Saturday March 7th).
I have several (paid for) seats available at the table and would like to offer them to folks interested in promoting comity between cycling and streetcars (there are no actual duties other than enjoying yourself at the event).
Contact me at email@example.com.
A piece from NPR's Weekend Edition explores the safety challenge of pedestrians who are distracted by cell phones, texting or simply listening to MP3 players, including the sad story of a teen whose iPod was so loud he didn't hear the freight train that killed him.
Now I've been know to walk the streets of Portland reading e-mail on my iPhone. Although I try hard to lift my eyes up when I step off a curb, I'm not sure that I could say I'm always 100% as focused as I should be.
And I'm a podcast junky (all forms of transportation and public policy podcasts) so there's frequently an earbud in my ear (although since the spoken word does not demand stereo, I purposefully keep one ear bud-free).
How do we high-bandwidth information consumers stay safe out there?
February 19, 2009
$3.3B per year according to an article in the Business Journal, much of it stemming from energy costs and health effects.
1000 Friends has issued an Action Alert on this.
Meanwhile, Rex Burkholder has sent a letter to the Oregon Transportation Commission (PDF, 86K) on behalf of JPACT, pushing for more collaboration and a greater allocation to metropolitan areas.
Original Post: 2/17/09
As we've previously discussed, ODOT will get about $350M from the federal stimulus bill. About $90M of that will be distributed by formula to cities and counties (we've noted that Metro area governments will get about $33M).
That leaves $260M over which ODOT and the Governor have an unusual amount of discretion. State ODOT revenue is subject to constitutional limitations on gas taxes, restricting use to the right-of-way.
Not so with this $260M (and the local $90M). It can be used much more broadly, including transit and pedestrian projects.
A group of environmental organizations is already gearing up, trying to make sure that this money doesn't just get spent by habit on roads. Here's their letter to the Governor (PDF, 183K).
Stand by, I'm sure we're going to discuss this a lot more...
February 18, 2009
One of the late additions to the stimulus bill was the inclusion of $8B for high speed rail, and item that was voted into a top position on the transition team's public web site.
Assuming this doesn't all get consumed in the NE Corridor (I think there is actually a provision capping the percentage that can be spent there), how would we spend some of these dollars getting a Willamette Valley to BC corridor going?
Stimulus Watch is a volunteer-created web site to allow citizens to rate projects that are candidates for stimulus funds.
Unfortunately, anti-streetcar activists appear to be voting down the Streetcar Loop project.
Please take a moment to register your support for the Loop:
February 17, 2009
And what better example could we follow than this video from New York City (courtesy of Streetfilms), demonstrating a fantastic reclamation of public space.
February 16, 2009
The Metro Council recently adopted a list of High Capacity Transit corridors meriting further study in developing the new regional high capacity transit plan:
Metro Council advances 15 priority areas for possible transit investments
Corridors chosen will help improve region's communities by increasing transportation options
The Metro Council voted today to approve further evaluation of 15 transportation corridors for future investments in light rail, commuter rail, bus rapid transit or rapid streetcar. The corridors are spread throughout the region and will be part of Metro's Regional High Capacity Transit System Plan. The Plan is a 30-year approach to prioritizing investments in new transportation corridors as well as changes to existing corridors, and is being developed as a component of the federally mandated Regional Transportation Plan.
The 15 areas were narrowed from a broad list of 55 proposed corridors, which Metro developed with region-wide engagement from residents, businesses, community organizations and local elected leaders. The HCT corridors are also coordinated with the City of Portland's developing Streetcar System Plan, TriMet's Transit Investment Plan (FY 08), the South Metro Area Regional Transit (SMART) Master Plan and the Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council's HCT plan.
"This region's foresight to plan and then invest in high capacity transit has clearly been a cornerstone of our quality of life," said Metro Councilor Carlotta Collette. "In fact, ridership on the existing regional high capacity transit system has continually increased. The system has helped promote sustainable communities and has improved mobility and accessibility without increasing reliance on single occupancy vehicles."
The corridors selected for further evaluation best fit the criteria of expected ridership, cost, environmental constraints, social equity, transit connectivity, traffic congestion and regional 2040 Growth Concept land uses. Funding and specific modes have not yet been designated for any particular corridor.
The Council also adopted a set of criteria to prioritize the 15 selected corridors. These criteria are based on community, environment, economic and deliverability measures.
A system-wide examination of a regional high capacity transit system was last completed in 1982. This plan has resulted in nearly 90 miles of light rail, commuter rail and streetcar being built and/or planned for construction by 2016.
Metro, the regional government that serves 1.4 million people who live in the 25 cities and three counties of the Portland metropolitan area, provides planning and other services that protect the nature and livability of our region.
Tom Friedman, author of Hot, Flat and Crowded will be giving a free lecture at PSU on March 9th, sponsored by Ecotrust and a host of other organizations. Details here.
February 13, 2009
See TriMet's press release about proposed service cuts:
The cuts include service reductions on all MAX lines, numerous bus lines, and several bus line cancellations.
[Hat tip Jason B. via comments, Jeff F. via email]
The dollars allocated by the House to the New Starts program got dropped in conference committee. The Transport Politic blog has a full comparison.
On the upside, high-speed rail got $8B.
February 12, 2009
TriMet has posted a list of projects eligible for funding from the federal stimulous package. Only about $60 million overall can be spent, so TriMet is asking for public input as to which projects should have the highest priority. According to TriMet, the stimulous money cannot be used for operations (which is sad, because you could completely prevent any service cuts this year while using less than a quarter of the money). Capital projects proposed range from new bus purchases and MAX track heaters to maintenance equipment and pathway lighting.
Check out the whole list and share your personal priorities here, and (of course) with TriMet as well.
For roads and bridges, as reported in the Daily Journal of Commerce.
Based on earlier info presented to TPAC/JPACT, the local impact in our region would be about $33M, split like so:
Clackamas Co. and cities $5.8 Million
Washington Co. and cities $11.5 Million
East Multnomah Co. and cities $2.9 Million
Portland $12.8 Million
February 11, 2009
Loaded Orygun has an interesting post today which delves into some counter-intuitive theories about driver behavior, including how increasing capacity can lead to increased congestion, even at times when other variables like demand are maintained. It then goes on to speculate about the potential connection of those theories to the impacts of the CRC proposal.
Check it out and comment over there.
Obama on the road:
It's imagining new transportation systems. I'd like to see high speed rail where it can be constructed. I would like for us to invest in mass transit because potentially that's energy efficient. And I think people are a lot more open now to thinking regionally...
The days where we're just building sprawl forever, those days are over. I think that Republicans, Democrats, everybody... recognizes that's not a smart way to design communities. So we should be using this money to help spur this sort of innovative thinking when it comes to transportation.
That will make a big difference.
More context on T4America.
On the other hand at another stop on the same day he was extolling the virtues of a freeway project as economic development :-(
Separately, Earl is interviewed on StreetFilms about transportation advocacy and the stimulus.
I have a guest post over on BikePortland.org talking about the opportunities for bikes and streetcar to cooperate (rather than collide).
[comment over there, not here]
February 10, 2009
Portland State University
Center for Transportation Studies
Winter 2009 Transportation Seminar Series
Speaker: Tom Brennan, Principal, Nelson/Nygaard Consulting Associates (http://www.nelsonnygaard.com/)
Topic: Private Sector Role in Reducing Auto Travel: Motives for Innovation?
When: Friday, February 13, 2009, 12:00 - 1:00pm
Where: PSU Urban Center Building, SW 6th and Mill, Room 204
Metro has put a video of the presentation online. Some readers may be particularly interested in the comments on the equity of rail vs. bus investments.
Original Post: 1/22/09
Metro Councilor Robert Liberty would like cordially invite you to Metro's Transportation Speaker Series, featuring Dr. Thomas Sanchez. The title of his speech is "Equity in Regional Transportation," and will be delivered at the Metro Regional Center, Council Chamber at 7:30 p.m. on January 28. The lecture will begin shortly after the scheduled Metro Policy Advisory Committee meeting. Food will be provided. If interested, please RSVP with Jacob Brennan at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (503) 813-7503.
I encourage you to view the attached pdf file (789K) for additional information regarding the event, including Dr. Sanchez's biography. Thank you.
February 9, 2009
Saturday's Oregonian (annoyingly, the article does not appear to be on OregonLive) reports that the steering committee of politicos overseeing the Sellwood Bridge project agreed with the citizens committee and affirmed the choice of a two-lane replacement bridge, compatible with the street network in Sellwood.
Here's the presentation (PDF, 1.6M) given to TriMet's Board of Directors on the topic...
Original Post: 01/28/2009
Earlier today the TriMet Board received a briefing on Fareless Square choices to coincide with the September opening of the Green Line. My understanding is that this is the beginning of a public process that TriMet will be conducting.
While I have not yet seen the presentation materials from the meeting, they were based in part on this consultant's report (PDF, 816K). Based on the report and buzz around town, the smart money is on a recommendation to limit Fareless Square to rail only.
This will set up an interesting choice for Streetcar when the Loop opens in 2011. If Streetcar stays with TriMet fare policy, half the loop would be fareless and half would be a Zone 1-2 fare. This hardly seems equitable and Streetcar is going to have to take a hard look at this.
I'm sure this topic is going to get a LOT of discussion in the next few months. Stay tuned.
February 6, 2009
Here's a not from the Streetsblog network urging folks to call their Senators NOW. There are also efforts going on to specifically strip bike funding...
Senators Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Susan Collins (R-ME) are leading a small group of centrist Senators which, reportedly, is trying to cut the stimulus by about $100 billion. Supposedly, they feel the stimulus is too large. But according to a memo obtained by The Plum Line, they're also adding in some items as well.
According to the memo, they hope to cut $3.4 billion from public transit, but at the same time, are adding in more money for "additional transportation funding." Presumably, if they're cutting transit, that additional funding would go to roads. (It might be airports, I suppose, but I doubt it.)
They're also cutting such items as Head Start, food stamps, child nutrition, firefighters, COPS hiring, NASA, and the CDC, while adding funding for defense operations and procurement.
The Senators reportedly in the room are Ben Nelson (D-NE), Mark Begich (D-AK), Tom Carper (D-DE), John Tester (D-MT), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Evan Bayh (D-IN), Jim Webb (D-VA), Mark Warner (D-VA), Michael Bennett (D-CO), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Mark Udall (D-CO), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Susan Collins (R-ME), Arlen Specter (R-PA), Mel Martinez (R-FL), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and George Voinovich (R-OH). We don't know if all of them support these cuts or not (Carper is a big rail advocate, for example).
This group seemed to be trying to take the mantle of the "responsible" people limiting the stimulus' excess. Of course, many economists think the stimulus is, if anything, not large enough. If it is to shrink, we should cut those items that won't spend the money right away. Those of you in defense can correct me if I'm wrong, but any new defense spending would end up going to projects pretty far down the road. Meanwhile, giving poor families food stamps and hiring more police can be spent right away.
Few people actually believed Collins, Nelson, and the rest of this "gang" were trying to actually be responsible spenders. It's clear, now, that they aren't even trying to make it look that way.
Call your Senators. Especially those of you who live in Virginia.
Let's hope Earl is on the conference committee.
Indications are that TriMet's payroll tax revenue has been strongly impacted by the recession. As a result, TriMet is looking at a 5-8% service reduction.
The upcoming public process around fairless square will also be used to gather public input on these cuts.
Let's hope for a white knight: congressman Oberstar added several hundred million dollars in transit operating funds to the federal stimulus bill. Cross your fingers that it will survive the Senate and the conference committee!
February 5, 2009
We're delighted to announce that we have partnered with Ride Connection to provide Transit Board™ service in a number of senior centers and service locations, including the Multnomah County Aging and Disability Services office in Gresham.
There are many partners who came together to make this location happen, including:
- Ride Connections partners East County U-Ride and RideWise
- Free Geek which provided the computers (Ubuntu Linux and Opera web browser running in kiosk mode for us geeks)
- Multnomah County Aging and Disability Services who hosted the display in their lobby
Portland Transport is happy to play a small part.
Want to see what they're seeing? Here's the Transit Board link for that location.
February 4, 2009
This City of Fairview has added an interesting item to its legislative agenda: requiring an elected board of directors for TriMet.
Listen to the show (mp3, 26.1MB)
An in-depth look at the Idaho stop sign law which effectively turns stop signs into yield signs for cyclists. Can this law work in Oregon? Is it long past due or a potentially dangerous change? Are all vehicles created equal? Join the KBOO Bike Show to join the discussion and hear what the experts have to say about the future of how we not only go, but stop in Oregon.
It turns out that Portland isn't the only place with problems dealing with record snowstorms. Via the International Herald Tribune
Nothing moved. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong. Planes didn't fly, the city's landmark red buses didn't run, trains never showed up, traffic didn't flow, and no one, of course, could find a taxi.
Transit officials had nearly a week to prepare for the widely predicted storm, called the worst in nearly two decades, but they failed to maintain a semblance of normalcy in the capital.
The misery went far beyond London's aged Underground subway system. The capital's airports briefly shut down, with more than 700 flights canceled throughout the day and thousands of passengers stranded. And the city's extensive bus network was completely closed during the morning rush hour because of the snow and ice.
Roadways remained opened but colossal traffic jams developed because of fender benders and more serious accidents.
Mayor Boris Johnson, facing his first major City Hall crisis, conceded the city did not have the snowmoving equipment needed to keep rail and road traffic flowing in the face of the heaviest snowfall in 18 years.
The word on the street is that after some small victories in the House ($3B added to capital funding for transit) there will be another fight in the Senate where various amendments are being proposed to strip transit funds and move them to highways, or to simply add $50B to highways.
Meanwhile the New York Times is underscoring the lack of operating dollars for transit, so that at a time when ridership is up nationwide, transit systems in many cities are cutting service.
Into this mix, the indefatigable Todd Litman has produced a report contrasting the stimulus effects of spending on highways and transit (PDF 372K).
My favorite part of the report is a chart tracking the return on investment for highways over time:
This seems to paint a clear story to me - we have achieved the economic benefit of a fully-built out highway system and every dollar of new capital (not maintenance) faces diminishing returns.
February 3, 2009
Back in June, Portland Mercury reporter Matt Davis and I spent a Sunday checking out ticket machines along the MAX Yellow Line and portions of the original Blue Line. We took along my video camera to document the results.
On that day, we found a number of problems, minor to significant. A complete spreadsheet was produced itemizing the situation at each stop. One of the most interesting finds was that at stations where the two platforms are split by an intersection (most of the Yellow Line, and the Blue Line east of Gateway), a passenger can be highly inconvenienced by following the law: It takes six signalized crossings and a number of minutes to obtain a valid fare if one machine is broken -- potentially leading to missed trains. This provides an incentive for unsafe running and jaywalking.
I've held off on doing a Portland Transport post until I could get a response from TriMet regarding the current state of the ticket machine situation (especially since this reporting was originally done last June). Anecdotally, the situation hasn't improved at my local station, which now has only one machine in total.
If you haven't seen the video, check it out, then read on for TriMet's response:
Mary Fetsch responded to the video and my follow-up questions... here is a summary:
- Responsibility for ticket machines is being moved from the Finance division to Operations.
- The strategy for deploying technicians will change, with an increased emphasis on repairing broken machines.
- The number of qualified technicians able to work on ticket machines should double in the near term, with a long-term goal of tripling to 24 positions.
- Work will be prioritized to maintain at least one working machine per platform, instead of the prior goal which was one per station, prioritized for locations where street crossings are required between platforms.
- Fare equipment failures will signal alarms in the Operations Control center, similar to when there are problems with switches or substations.
- Discussions are underway for alternative means of ticket sales at platforms when machines are down.
The full TriMet response is available after the jump.
Ticket Vending Machines Update
January 27, 2009
- The Fare Equipment Maintenance department has transitioned from Finance into the Operations division. There will be changes in the way that the department is managed, including the allocation of resources and the prioritization of repair work.
- We will deploy fare technicians in a strategic fashion that takes into account the present condition of machines across the system, the time of day and the customer loads. We will better balance the priority of work, focusing on repairs to down machines before preventative maintenance and installation of new equipment.
- We have taken positive steps with our local union to increase the number of technicians who are able to work on fare equipment.
- Eight technicians who were previously qualified to work on fare equipment will go through refresher training and will join the crews currently working on fare equipment. This will result in an immediate increase in technically skilled employees from eight to 16 technicians. Refresher training for these eight individuals will begin by the end of this month. Increasing the number of technicians will significantly increase our ability to respond quickly to down machines and increase the overall reliability of the equipment.
- Our maintenance apprenticeship program is in the process of training new technicians, which will eventually bring the number of qualified technicians to 24 budgeted positions.
- The previous goal of one fully functioning ticket vending machine per station is inadequate. We are now focusing on making at least one fully functioning machine available at each platform. Work will be prioritized at stations where platforms are separated by street crossings.
- Failures of fare equipment will immediately register in the Operations Control Center as system alarms, just like other critical systems such as signals and substations. This will ensure more timely notification of problems and shorter response times for repairing equipment.
- We are in discussions about additional ways to provide ticket sales at platforms where fare equipment is not working.
Some relevant email Q&A occurred after the formal response:
Regarding the standard of one operating machine per platform...
We have typically had the goal of each platform, but our performance wasn't high enough, so for a short term, we focused on stations. With more resources and focus, it will improve.
Q: Does the standard of two working machines per platform imply an effort to install additional machines at some stations where there is currently only one machine per platform, or will the strategy solely be based on better maintenance practices and additional staff?
[The standard is] not adding machines... making machines work better.
In a letter-to-the-editor ("Bridge analysis goes in a circle") published online today, Metro Council President David Bragdon disputes the Oregonian editorial position on the Columbia River Crossing on several points:
- That all the critics are extremists:
But in dismissing that extreme, you have overlooked thoughtful and constructive questions from rational people who are supportive of the project but who -- with good reasons -- view the ODOT/WashDOT projections with caution, especially in regard to size.
- That all the facts are in:
When the two state DOTs (really the highway divisions) are asked about induced demand, they cite the mitigating factors above, which are valid, but they ultimately rest their case on two key statements that are unproven -- and that the two DOTs will not allow to be scrutinized independently.
(Their"peer review," conducted by traffic modelers from unenviable places like Atlanta and Dallas, was not an independent assessment of anything, but simply a confirmation of standard American terminology and methodology.)
The two underpinnings they rely on are, first, the assertion that settlement patterns will not change; and, second, that the toll will dampen demand. Neither of these two assumptions, while somewhat plausible, has been validated.
- And by implication, that 12 lanes is automatically the right answer:
We want this project built, and we want it built in a manner that serves its purpose rather than defeats its purpose.
Portland State University
Center for Transportation Studies
Winter 2009 Transportation Seminar Series
Speaker: Robert DeKoning, President and CEO, Routeware, Inc.
Topic: 21st Century Smart Truck and Smart Back Office Technologies
When: Friday, February 6, 2009. 12:00 - 1:00pm
Where: PSU Urban Center Building, SW 6th and Mill, Room 204
February 2, 2009
Passed on by a reader, here's a Google Maps mashup that will find you a taxi company and estimate the fare for your trip.
Portland is one of a couple of dozen supported cities.
League of Women Voters Presentation on Peak Oil --2/10
Public Invited at 7pm on February 10th
John Kaufmann, Senior Policy Analyst with the Oregon Department of Energy's Conservation Division, will discuss "peak oil" on February 10th at 7pm. The event will be held in the Board Room of the Multnomah County Building, 501 SE Hawthorne Boulevard, Portland. The event is free, and the public is invited to attend.
Peak oil is the premise that world oil production has reached its maximum and will soon begin to decline, with major economic and social implications. Mr. Kaufmann will discuss evidence demonstrating the peak is imminent; alternative forms of energy; the likely impacts of peak oil on society; and possible demand-side solutions, including recommendations from Portland's Peak Oil Task Force.
Mr. Kaufmann has led energy efficiency and renewable energy efforts with the Oregon Department of Energy for 25 years. He was lead staff to the Portland Peak Oil Task Force and the primary author of the report.
Portland Community Media will broadcast the discussion on Channel 30 on Thursday, February 12, at 8 p.m.; Tuesday, February 17, at 1 p.m.; Friday, February 20, at 11 p.m.; and Tuesday, February 24, at 5 p.m.
The discussion is presented by the League of Women Voters of Portland. The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan political organization that encourages informed and active participation in government.