July 31, 2009
Over at Human Transit they're looking a transit stop signage in detail. Good and bad marks for some of TriMet's efforts.
July 30, 2009
Coverage by the Business Journal.
Good news for local governments looking for money for potholes. Bad news for environmentalists.
It appears that the anti-tax folks have been bought off by the Newberg-Dundee bypass funding in the bill (one of the reasons to cry). I heard some early rumblings that some environmental organizations might try to refer this, but I have not heard anything about this recently, so I'm assuming we'll just cry in our beer.
Oh, and expect the Transportation Commission to quietly allocate $30M from this for Columbia River Crossing funding.
July 29, 2009
This August the Bike Show will get down and dirty exploring why mountain biking could make or break Portland's cycling future and what some folks are trying to do about it. From Forest Park trail usage to the Gateway Green, the fight for more trails is heating up this summer. Join us to find out why.
11AM-Noon, Wednesday, August 5th
KBOO FM 90.7
Streamed live at KBOO.fm
Podcast here later that day
July 28, 2009
As you know, from time to time I mention online polls that the Business Journal is conducting. My experience is that their audience leans a bit to the right of the general population here in the Portland metro area.
Which is why it was gratifying to see that their poll supported Light Rail on Barbur and Powell with 56% support.
July 27, 2009
On a cycling vacation in Italy a few years ago (OK, more years than I would care to admit) I encountered the lovely cultural institution of cyclists shouting "Forza!" (pronounced "fortza") at each other (typically from someone coming down a hill to someone heading up the hill). It translates as "fortitude" or "strength".
That was my immediate reaction to Joe Cortright's op-ed piece in the Sunday Oregonian, once again laying out the plain economics of the Columbia River Crossing.
The Oregonian editorial board has an anemic response on Monday, suggesting the two Governors need to intervene since the Congressional delegations in both states are keeping their distance from this stinker.
July 24, 2009
Thursday's O had a front page story on the $65M that has already gone into Columbia River Crossing planning, likely to rise to $100M within the next year ($30M of that coming from ODOT funds). The article goes on to look at potential cost reductions for the project given the diminishing likelihood of full funding.
If nothing else, you should check out the wonderful graphic accompanying the story - the graphic itself drew commentary on the O's commuting blog.
Meanwhile, the project is pursing its tolling options, the funding source it is increasingly appearing to rely on. The project has launched a separate tolling web site, which outlines six tolling scenarios, the most aggressive being variable tolling at rates up to $8.00 (in 2006 dollars - how much is that now?).
July 23, 2009
A transcript and audio file of House Transportation Chair James Oberstar discussing transportation policy.
July 22, 2009
In the form of an opinion piece on the Oregonian's online opinion page (and reference in the print edition) which also got linked from the Oregonian's commuting blog.
The four key points of the manifesto:
The Transit Riders Union advocates four things: Save Fareless Square, halt the cuts to bus service, elect the TriMet board of directors, and do an honest, systemic evaluation of TriMet's management practices, including a thorough and transparent budget analysis.
July 21, 2009
For my fellow geeks:
July 20, 2009
I worked a 3-hour volunteer shift at Sunday Parkways and was struck by both the diversity and quantity of folks I saw out there. And even at the top of the hill where I was stationed, almost everyone had a smile on their face.
I even ran into a leader from the Portland Freight Advisory Committee who told me she had not been on a bike in 20 years. Good for her!
But I wonder if there were not almost too many folks out there? Another blogger complained that there were so many bikes that it was hard to be a pedestrian.
Could this event go the way of Bridge Pedal and choke on its own success?
Perhaps the answer is to do them every Sunday, and take the pressure off just three days a year!
Via the OTRAN list:
METRO COUNCIL PRESIDENT DAVID BRAGDON
PORTLAND, OREGON REGION
BEFORE THE US SENATE COMMITTEE ON
ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC WORKS
TUESDAY, JULY 14, 2009
"ADDRESSING CLIMATE CHANGE THROUGH LAND USE AND TRANSPORTATION POLICY IN THE PORTLAND, OREGON REGION"
Madam Chair, Members of the Committee, I am David Bragdon, President of the Metro Council, the popularly-elected metropolitan planning organization in the Portland, Oregon region.
Our 1.4 million residents are typical Americans. We get a few more inches of rain, our consumption of beer is in the upper quartile, and we recycle more of our garbage than most Americans do, but we're roughly average in most other statistical respects. Like most Americans, most Oregonians get around by car.
Yet, there is evidence that our greenhouse gas emissions are stable or
being reduced. If in many ways we are typical Americans, how is it
that in this one important way we are trending in a different direction than the rest of the country?
We think there are two key reasons: First, although most people get around the Portland area by car, we are not forced to do so, and many of us can take advantage of other choices: a good transit network and the ability to bike or walk.
Because of those choices, transit ridership grew at twice the rate of population growth between 1990 and 2000 and by more than 13 percent last year. And, people in the Portland region are seven times more likely to commute by bike.
The second difference is that although we drive, we simply drive less.
There's a reason why: we don't have to drive as much. We take care of more of our needs - work, shopping, entertainment - closer to home than people can do in regions where jobs and housing are dispersed farther apart.
Our regional strategy originally was developed to save money, revitalize existing neighborhoods, reduce air pollution, and preserve agricultural lands. Fortunately, it has become a strategy against climate change as well.
There are three simple elements to the strategy:
* One: An Urban Growth Boundary prevents wasteful urban sprawl. Rather than spending tax dollars extending new roads, water, sewers and other services farther out, we make more efficient use of existing development and infrastructure.
* Two: We use a variety of tools to concentrate development, particularly around transit lines, and to encourage neighborhoods which have a mixture of uses.
* Three: While continuing to invest in and maintain roads, we used a combination of state, local and federal funds to construct more than 60 miles of light rail and to operate an extensive bus network. We also invested in lanes and trails to accommodate thousands of commuters on bikes, who otherwise would be in cars at far greater expense to the taxpayer and themselves.
The results of this strategy are starting to show:
* We are growing more compact: Nationally the land consumed for suburbanization outstrips the growth in population by a factor of two or three. The Portland area is consuming new land at a rate equal to or less than the rate of population growth.
* We are the 24th most populous metro area in the nation, but rank 8th in transit ridership per capita. Bike usage has grown three-fold across our major downtown bridges in a decade, and the Brookings Institute ranked us the 5th most walkable region in the nation.
* The Portland region's per capita vehicle miles traveled has been trending downward for more than a decade. Also, our average trip length is shrinking. As a result, according to the Texas Transportation Institute's Urban Mobility Report, the impact of congestion per motorist is far less than in other metro areas and less than our size would suggest.
* Our population drives 20 percent less per day than people in other large metro areas, which means, according to CEOs for Cities, about $1.1 Billion a year in savings on fuel, auto maintenance, insurance and other costs.
Our experience offers two lessons for our fellow Americans:
First, our nation cannot successfully address climate change without reforming our transportation system. And second, we cannot successfully reform our transportation system without improving the way our communities are designed, and reducing the need for people to drive. We can't simply reform the "supply" of transportation; we have to reduce "demand" - and the way our communities are laid out is a major determinant of demand.
Changing fuels and reducing emissions from vehicles are good efforts as far as they go, but they will not get us the change we need unless we also reduce miles traveled.
Which brings me to how this committee can help.
Since Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton proposed construction of canals, the federal role in transportation has been hotly debated.
One thing not debatable is that whether it was President Lincoln signing the Pacific Railroad Act of 1862 or President Eisenhower signing the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, the federal influence on transportation is far-reaching.
Even though zoning is a local matter, mid-Twentieth Century federal policy to fund new road 4 and sewer and water infrastructure and facilitate home mortgages shaped the auto-oriented land use pattern now prevalent in localities throughout the country. Those development patterns were not produced by a free market, but are the result of implicit and explicit federal, state and local expenditures and regulations. Your committee has the chance to reshape those influences for the next fifty years.
This committee is uniquely situated to address climate change through transportation reform. Just as Senator Moynihan and this Committee used the 1990 update of the Clean Air Act to create aspirations for the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991, you can use climate change legislation to set goals which can be addressed in the upcoming transportation authorization.
Take full advantage of this opportunity:
1. Link the planning requirements of the pending climate change bill to the planning requirements of the upcoming transportation bill. In our region, we are already undertaking to model the greenhouse gas impact of transportation projects.
2. Link your Highway Bill to the Transit Bill which will emerge from the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee. Use the transit bill to essentially create carbon off-sets for the highway bill.
3. Reduce administrative obstacles that prevent localities from using Surface Transportation Program funds for non-highway uses, and overhaul the federally- mandated design standards which often require the most expensively engineered solutions.
4. Include an aggressive program to address metropolitan mobility in the transportation bill. Urban regions provide the nation's biggest opportunity for reductions in transportation-related greenhouse gases - give them the tools to do so.
The Americans of the Portland region will do our part for our country, but we need the Senate's leadership. Thank you for the opportunity to participate today.
July 17, 2009
I like to think of myself as sort of the "loyal opposition" for TriMet - in agreement with their mission and supportive of their efforts in general, but pushing them to do a better job, and not afraid to point it out when I think they've made a mistake.
But today I'm an unabashed fan. TriMet has just recently published a new list of all the 3rd party applications that use their open data on schedules and arrivals. They've gotten some good notices on the Mercury and Oregonian blogs.
TriMet is the national leader among transit agencies on opening up their data, and this was reflected by the fact that they were the prototype implementation of Google Transit.
I'm happy to have played a small part in suggesting to senior management a few years ago that they open up their data - and demoed to them a web app I had written for my Treo by screen-scraping their Transit Tracker. This eventually became Transit Surfer, using first TriMet's SOAP API, then later their REST API.
Clearly there was already motion (and a great technical staff) inside TriMet in the direction of openness, but senior management embraced the idea of leveraging 3rd party developers by making the data open. Many transit agencies charge for this data (much as Metro does for it's GIS data, cough, cough).
So congratulations to TriMet for being an early adopter of the open data mindset, and well-deserved kudos on the results!
July 16, 2009
The Business Journal would like to know if you support Light Rail on Powell and Barbur. Let them know how you feel.
Our next "Sunday Parkways" event is coming up in NE Portland on Sunday and I'm looking forward to riding the 7-mile loop with my partner (who almost never cycles, but enjoyed the last event) and my step-daughter, who is back from college for the summer.
The event is still looking for volunteers, specifically "Intersection Superheroes" who staff each intersection along the route and when necessary manage and escort cars that need to get through for local access.
I've committed to a 1:30 to 4:30pm shift and I'd like some company! Is there a group of Portland Transport regulars who would like to join me? The organizers tell me that can give us a contiguous stretch along the route to manager.
Who's up for it? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
July 15, 2009
Back when I was a citizen representative on MPAC, my favorite question to ask as we were starting the current update of the regional transportation and land use plans (they should be done in a year or three) was:
"What can we do to make our region resilient against rising energy costs and climate change?"
Apparently I was not alone. There is now a book on the topic (I just put it on hold at the library). From the review, one of the topic areas:
"Sustainable Transport City: Cities, neighborhoods, and regions will be designed to use energy sparingly by offering walkable, transit-oriented options supplemented by electric vehicles."
July 14, 2009
A few weeks ago I attended a presentation on the Open Street Map project. It's essentially the open source equivalent of Google Maps, where community members go out with GPS units (an iPhone will do) and map key feature (streets, buildings, etc.). This is often done in "mapping parties", community events where many people go out and do this for a few hours, then reconvene and socialize.
The project benefits from publicly available base data (in the U.S. that means the Federal-goverment-supplies Tiger data). They'll use any data that can be freely redistributed without restriction (which sadly, does NOT include all the lovely data over at Metro).
Since the presentation, I've been wondered what our community could go out and map that would enhance our transportation choices. The street network is pretty well filled-in, so what could we add? Here are a few ideas:
- Every cab stand
- The amenity level of every bus stop (I suspect TriMet has this but they don't expose it, they only publish the GPS coordinates)
- Every Zipcar location (again, Zipcar clearly has it, but is it available for 3rd party apps to use?)
- ALL bike parking (the City is planning to generate this for corrals and other major facilities, but it won't be available for a year - but I'll be we could get every single staple in the region
If we could find a bicycle trip-planner that would employ the data, I'm sure the bike community could provide a detailed assessment of the bike-ability of every single street segment in the region.
I'm sure creative people can come up with more ideas. What are yours?
And just because it's cool, here's an animation showing all the data that was added to the project in 2008:
July 13, 2009
Should I add a 'Broadband' entry over in the list of modal categories? According to this article telecommuting is a mode of its own.
July 10, 2009
Yesterday the Metro Council approved a plan that ranks 16 potential High Capacity Transit corridors.
Included in the 'near term' category are corridors on Barbur, Powell and paralleling Highway 217.
July 9, 2009
We've always heard that the Celts were thrifty. Apparently what Ryannair did for air travel in Europe the Mega Bus enterprise has started doing likewise for surface travel. And now it is also operating in three major population centers in the United States with internet fares for inter-city travel. They even offer lottery type promotions for the prize of a one dollar fare---via the Internet of course.
MegaBus---in keeping with thrifty operations--operates double-decker buses with a total passenger capacity of 81. Apparently some versions carry up to 94 passengers. A typical long distance passenger bus in the US carries 50 passengers
MegaBus (owned by Stagecoach Group, Ltd) cites three attractions for the economically, eco-conscious traveler:
-More than six times more fuel-efficient than easyJet
-Produces seven times less CO2 emissions
-Offers cheaper fares for budget travellers
Mega Bus's US operations (by Coach, USA) has three main regions of service:
1.Began in Chicago, in March 2006, with daily routes to Milwaukee, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Cleveland, St. Louis, Ann Arbor, Columbus, Louisville, Toledo, Detroit, Kansas City and Minneapolis.
2.On August 8, 2007, Megabus introduced service to the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Diego, and Tempe, Arizona
3.On May 30, 2008, Megabus began service from a hub in New York City, with service to Atlantic City, Baltimore, Boston, Buffalo , Philadelphia, Toronto, and Washington, D.C.
But Oregon is not an area of high density corridors connecting numerous large population centers. So would MegaBus, or something similar work?
My thought is that a mix of daytime and overnight service using a double decker format could break even. True, we don't have a large number of higly populated cities. But what we do have is a fewer number of routes---and plenty of recreational destinations along the way. For example there might not be a lot of travelers chomping at the bit to go from Portland to Klamath Falls, via US Hwys 26 and 97. But there are a number of popular recreation destinations---popular with hikers and bicyclers in the summer and skiers and snowshoers in the winter. Along the mentioned route are: Mt. Hood, Kahneeta and Warm Springs, Billy Chinook Reservoir, Redmond, Bend, Century Drive, SunRiver, Metolius River. Bachelor Butte, Wickiup Reservoir, Oregon Cascades Recreation Area, La Pine. Mt Thiessen wildeness area, Sprague River, Crater Lake National Park, Upper Klamath Lake, and Klamath Falls, of course.
An Oregon Coast route is practically a no-brainer. And the I-5 route, of course.
On more remote destinations--such as to Ontario or Burns or the Wallowas---- an overnight service with sleeping capacity could work. Simply spacing seats about thirty percent further apart will allow them to recline fully. Another option would be to have seats facing each other that also fold down into a bench, when the table is lifted out of the way. I have also thought about the possibility of sleeping compartments: It would seem that a two level design would open up possibilities. (Being alert for "camp robbers" could become necessary at night, and I would not leave valuables anywhere that isn't secured..... And no playing of old Eagles hits, late at night, either) If you wanted to attract recreational travelers adequate storage for a bit more gear would be requisite. This would be an opportunity for the carless to get somewhere fun and for recreationalists to leave the car at home.
We're still waiting for the check from the Federal Transit Administration (amazing how the bureaucrats can keeping you hanging even after the Secretary says he's giving you $75M), but City Council today authorized contracts for the two long lead-time items for the Streetcar Loop.
Now on order: 6 shiny new streetcar vehicles from Oregon Iron Works and rail from the one mill in Austria that rolls the form of T-rail that we prefer (yes, we're trying to figure out how to get an Oregon vendor for it).
For the first time ever, the Texas Transportation Institute is reporting that traffic congestion has decreased for two years in a row.
I wish this pointed to some amazing change in American behavior, but of course it's a product of our economic situation (and gas prices, more so last year than this year).
July 8, 2009
Not more than a few hours after yesterday's post suggesting animation as a weapon against the Columbia River Crossing, this link came across my transom:
They're by Nick Falbo, who did the great Google Earth material on the CRC a few months ago.
I love the creativity of our community. Keep 'em coming!
July 7, 2009
What's the single highest capacity road lane in the country? The Lincoln Tunnel bus lane during morning commute in New York City.
This clip by Streetfilms advocating for more dedicated transit capacity in NYC's tunnels is a terrific example of using (mostly) animation coupled with some video as an advocacy tool.
Anyone out there have the skills to create to create a similar piece explaining the perils and pitfalls of the Columbia River Crossing?
July 6, 2009
The release of the City-wide Streetcar System Plan provoked some discussion in other venues in the blogosphere. Here is one of the more interesting ones at Human Transit.
Lost in the hubub last week around Light Rail and Streetcar, here's an interesting suggestion made by the Congressman: replenish the Highway Trust Fund with a transfer tax on crude oil securities.
July 5, 2009
Part 2 features excerpts of speeches by TriMet General Manager Fred Hansen, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR-3), as well as a rare cab-view while the train is in motion.
July 3, 2009
The Green Line expansion of the MAX Light Rail system from Downtown Portland to Clackamas Town Center will open later this summer. On June 30th, a "First Ride" preview event occurred where a couple of hundred individuals including a number of public officials rode the route.
Part 1 features interviews with TriMet General Manager Fred Hansen, Councilor Greg Chaimov (City of Milwaukie), Representative David Wu (D-OR), and TriMet Director for Capital Projects Neil McFarlane.
July 2, 2009
Video of yesterday's streetcar unveiling, with short interviews with Rep. DeFazio and Rep. Blumenauer. In particular, I asked both representatives about funding opportunities for improving transit access in existing corridors which are not slated for streetcar or light rail projects.
A forty-five day public comment period began yesterday on the Streetcar System Plan, leading to a Planning Commission hearing on August 14th and City Council consideration in September.
The plan, a 20-50 year vision of where Streetcars might run in Portland, has been 20 months in the making, with work by staff, a System Advisory Committee, neighborhood-based district working groups and several rounds of open houses and public surveys.
As a member of the System Advisory Committee I feel very good about the Streetcar network that is being recommended. The network would extend, mostly on the east side of the Willamette, out Sandy to the NE and Hawthorne/Belmont to Foster to the SE. Major N/S connections would exist on 82nd and 122nd, and branches would go North to St. Johns and perhaps South to the Sellwood Bridge (connecting to the Lake Oswego line).
In my mind, the interesting question is: which links to build first?
The plan identifies a core network, mostly in inner NE and SE Portland that based on traditional planning would probably make sense as the first step in building out a system.
But many on the System Advisory Committee and some of the district working groups members are wondering if the the traditional thought process is the best approach?
Developing the 'inner' network, while likely creating a great transit experience and development opportunities, would largely reinforce what are already existing relatively good land use patterns.
It would also reinforce the idea that public investment happens downtown and in the inner east side, not in Portland's more far-flung neighborhoods.
Could Streetcar be applied in North Portland (a proposed corridor would run from St. John's to the Yellow Line MAX on Lombard) or in outer East Portland (perhaps from Lents to the Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhood) to create vibrant pedestrian-friendly main streets and foster private investment in more sustainable development patterns?
An early goal established by the System Advisory Committee was equity, it's hard to see how building a network from the center out delivers on that goal.
There's no question that building from the edges in is much more challenging. The Portland Plan would need to supply land-use plans that would respond to Streetcar as a catalyst, and new approaches to funding would need to be developed. Tools like urban renewal that work at the center of the City are unlikely to be mainstays at the edges.
I hope the next few months will be an opportunity for a vibrant discussion on where public investment in Streetcar can bring the greatest short- and long-term benefit to Portland.
July 1, 2009
I attended my second 'first ride' in two days as Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood visited Portland for the first passenger trip on the first made-in-USA Streetcar in 60 years. Our congressional delegation effused over job creation, sustainability and mom and apple pie in front of the vehicle built by Oregon Iron Works.
A full photo roll after the jump.
The vehicle is expected to enter revenue service on Portland's streets in early July.
Charlie Hales may not have been the father of the Portland Streetcar, but he was certainly the mid-wife.
Secretary LaHood called Portland the "Capital of Transportation, Capital of Sustainability, Capital of Streetcars!
Listen to the show (mp3, 27.8MB)
Sara and Elly host a conversation about bicycle justice, with lawyer Bob Mionske, author of Cycling and the Law and social worker Meghan Sinnott. Mionske discusses the biases against bicycling inherent in law enforcement, the court system and the written law. Sinnott talks about barriers in both mobility and justice for society's neediest.