September 30, 2010
The Streetcar re-opened on Monday after a two-week shutdown to install new track in the Pearl District. A very complicated set of switches, crossovers and merges create the new "Northrup Loop".
I'm celebrating because this represents the culmination of advocacy that I've been conducting since the Loop was first proposed shortly after the original alignment opened in 2001.
Back then I was representing NW Portland and wanted to make sure that future routes from NW 23rd to points on the east side would be possible.
Later in the process I was joined by Anne Niles, representing the Pearl District, who advocated for the Northrup Loop as a way to bring transit service further north in the district serving more existing and future residents.
As I joined the System Plan committee, it became even more apparent that flexibility would serve many potential future use scenarios.
So now the Northrup Loop, surrounding the two blocks between Lovejoy and Northrup, NW 10th and 11th, is a reality. The cost of this enhancement was an extra $1M on a $147M project. It was funded half and half by a local improvement district funded by local property owners (including for the first time single family condo owners) matched by Urban Renewal dollars.
For you sports fans, here's a catalog of all the movements it will support.
September 29, 2010
What demographic data sets will we use to compare against Transit Score to assess equity?
The 2000 Census is currently the only complete data set at the census tract level, so we're going to start there. Obviously that's way out of date and we shouldn't reach any strong conclusions based on it.
I was asked in an earlier thread if ACS (American Community Survey) data was available at the tract level and I answered that it was. I was almost right. ACS is based on annual sampling (as opposed to the complete census that happens every 10 years) but features a longer questionnaire and therefore more data items.
In order to accumulate enough data points for areas as small as a census tract (a census tract has about 8,000 people, give or take several thousand), it takes five years of ACS sampling. ACS will release its first 5-year data set in December 2010, so at the point we would switch over and have much more current data. The 5-year data sets will then be updated annually (kind of a moving average) and that would likely be the preferred data set on an ongoing basis.
And on the mapping front, with the help of a KML file from TriMet, we've added the outline of the service district to the map. Our scoring process has finished Clackamas County and has now moved on into Multnomah County.
September 28, 2010
ODOT Director Matt Garrett and WSDOT Secretary Paula Hammond have released their response (PDF, 160K) to the Columbia River Crossing Independent Review Panel recommendations.
Two particularly notable points:
1) They agree to a phased project (i.e., "Uncle! We understand we can't get $3.6B all at once.")
2) They are looking for implementation under a "strong owner" model. No indication of who, or what entity, might be nominated as Czar of the CRC.
Following up on our Transit Equity post yesterday, we've begun grabbing our Transit Scores. It's going to take about 10 days to fill them all in.
But meanwhile we'll show you the work in progress. This map has the census tracts that are complete so far, with the color representing the average Transit Score for the tract (hotter color = better transit). You can watch this fill out over the next few days!
I'm also going to try to generate more of a heat map display (which won't worry about the tract boundaries) - watch for that later...
You can also expect to see our data in tabular form soon as well.
September 27, 2010
There are $19B in applications for the $600M in available TIGER ( Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) II funding. This follows the trend established by TIGER I, which had $60B in applications for $1.5B in funding.
Clearly there is an appetite for alternative transportation projects out there in the country. Let's hope the Federal re-authorization addresses this in a big way.
It will be no surprise to our readers to hear that that there are some in the community who believe that our transit system has become less equitable in recent years as light-rail openings and budget-driven bus cutbacks create a perception of different service for different parts of the community.
But is that accurate? Light rail certainly does not exclusively serve affluent neighborhoods. Can we find a way to get past the anecdotes and accusations and actually quantify who's getting served how well by TriMet?
We have a new tool to help with this. As we discussed last month, Transit Score is now available. It's a new tool, and it may not be perfect, but it gives us an easy-to-comprehend number that's objective (at least it's not derived by anyone with a view about transit operations here in our region).
So how do we propose to make use of Transit Score to answer our equity question? We plan to:
1) Aggregate a Transit Score for every census tract in the TriMet service area (there are 286!).
2) Correlate those tract-level scores with other information about the census tracts like income, ethnicity, density and potentially other factors.
We'll do this whole process in an open way, so anyone who's interested can look over our shoulders and verify our data, or come up with their own alternative analysis.
The rest of this post will be about how we're accomplishing step one - coming up with an aggregated transit score for a census tract.
The approach we're using is to lay down a grid (about 1/4 mile) across each census tract, then use a geocoding service to snap each grid point to the nearest intersection. This keeps us from calculating a transit score for a corn field, and also eliminates redundancy in less dense parts of the street network. Depending on the census tract, we wind up with a half dozen to a couple of hundred points in the tract. An example of such a set of points is shown below.
In the next step, we'll get Transit Scores for each of those points - we have over 11,000 to get - and compute averages for each tract. More about that, and how you can help, tomorrow...
September 24, 2010
Convince your City or County to apply for a good project:
The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) is pleased to announce the availability of $21 million in federal transportation funds for the Fall 2010 application cycle for the newly created Flexible Funds Program.
The Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC) has directed that these funds be made available for Transit, Bicycle, Pedestrian, Transportation Demand Management (TDM), and the planning, research and project development that supports those projects.
Eligible applicants are governmental entities eligible to receive Surface Transportation Program (STP) funds provided to ODOT by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).
The application process is now open and will remain open through November 12, 2010.
For more information about the Flexible Funds Program, directions for preparing an application for project funding, and the application form, please see the links below.
For the Flexible Funds Program Introduction and Directions for completing the Fall 2010 application for project funding see: http://www.odot.state.or.us/forms/odot/highway734/FlexFunds_Directions.doc
For the Flexible Funds Program Application for Project Funding see: http://www.odot.state.or.us/forms/odot/highway734/FlexFunds_App.doc
If you have questions, please contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at 503 986-4226.
Senior Transportation Planner
September 23, 2010
September 22, 2010
At least one source quoted by the Mercury says so.
September 21, 2010
Google Transit drove the creation of GTFS (once named Google Transit Feed Specification, but now known as General Transit Feed Specification), a way for transit agencies to publish their schedule data in an open way, but it has found lots of other uses, and now Microsoft has added it to their Bing maps.
September 20, 2010
Metro's TPAC (Transportation Policy Alternatives Committee) is seeking four new citizen representatives.
This is a fantastic opportunity to learn the details of how transportation works in our region and push and tug a bit to shape it in a better direction. The primary skill requirement is the ability to park yourself in a chair for four hours a month without going crazy.
Metro's Transportation Policy Alternatives Committee (TPAC) is seeking citizens interested in transportation issues to serve on the panel starting January 2011. Four community positions are currently open; three are two-year terms and one is a one-year position intended to fill an upcoming vacancy.
TPAC provides technical input to the Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation (JPACT) that, in turn, makes recommendations on transportation planning issues to the Metro Council.
Citizen members of TPAC are selected through an application, interview and appointment process. Metro staff and council JPACT members will conduct interviews and recommend candidates for the Metro council president to nominate. Candidates nominated by the council president must be confirmed by the Metro council.
Apply online at: http://www.oregonmetro.gov/index.cfm/go/by.web/id=28550 or complete the attached application and return to:
Metro, Council Office
Attn: Kelsey Newell
600 NE Grand Ave.
Portland, OR 97232
Applications are due to Metro on Friday, Oct. 15, 2010 by 5 p.m.
One of my "Holy Grail" quests is to figure out how to put Nextbus-style transit information out in the world inexpensively to encourage transit use. Our Transit Board™ tool is intended to make it dead simple to deliver this in a web browser.
But how to get cheap web browser displays into coffee shops, doctor's offices and other places where people might actually want/use the information?
You may recall that I experimented with the Chumby device. It didn't have a web browser, but I was able to use an RSS reader app to get next arrivals onto its 3.5 inch display. But since that only displayed one arrival at a time, it was not an "in-one-glance" interface. I've been hoping one of the digital photo frame companies would offer a browser - and now it's happened - sort of.
Best Buy is now offering an "Internet Media Display" product in their house brand Insignia line, called the Insignia Infocast for a mere $169.99.
It turns out it runs the Chumby interface, but more significantly the technogear web sites have been abuzz with the fact that it can easily be hacked to run a web browser. So I counted my pennies and headed out to Best Buy on Saturday to grab one.
RSS interface, but now at 8"
The first thing I did was fire up the RSS-based interface I had developed for the original Chumby. It was definitely more readable at 8 inches, but still had the downside of requiring you to watch as it cycled through the arrivals, one every few seconds.
So I followed the relatively simple directions (at least for geeks) and built a USB flash drive to plug into the back of the unit. Up came a web browser!
[BTW - It turns out there is also a browser for the Chumby One, but not my original Chumby, so this could be done in the 3.5 inch form factor as well for $50 less than the 8" Infocast.]
After plugging in a keyboard so I could actually type a URL, I found that Transit Board worked just fine, although the font sizes needed some adjustment. So 10 minutes and a new stylesheet later, I had a working display!
Transit Board in all its glory (keyboard NOT required)
A little more tweaking to USB stick and I was able to get the browser to open up by default to the Transit Board display.
So could this become the ubiquitous tool I've been questing for? It's still a little complex. A location desiring a display would have to:
- Acquire the device
- Power it up and setup the wifi connection via the out-of-the-box Chumby interface (no wired ethernet port - you have to have wifi)
- Build a USB stick (on a PC - 1GB flash drives can be found for about $5)
- Plug it in and reboot!
Obviously step 3 is the killer. Conceivably you could build a web-based tool to automate this (plug in your drive and go to the web site and walk through a wizard), but I suspect a service to do this would be a better approach.
Could Portland Transport put together a package that included the device and configuration? Would on-site setup be required to make it all work?
Who'd want one? Ride Connection has been getting computers from Free Geek and installing Transit Board at some locations. Would this device be a model that could work for them?
Who else might drive this? Anyone want to be an early adopter?
Presumably future hardware with the Chumby interface will be similarly hackable. I wonder what form factors might appear next?
Care to help Portland put a good face forward to attendees at this year's Rail~Volution conference? Here's how:
At RAIL~VOLUTION 2010 -- October 17-21, 2010
This year, Rail~Volution comes to Portland, Oregon. This is a conference for passionate practitioners--people from more than 300 U.S. communities who believe in the role of land use and transit as equal partners in the quest for greater livability and greater communities.
The Concierge Desk at the conference will play an important role in helping the conference run smoothly, and will provide an opportunity for the people who make our region a national leader to be involved. We invite you to be a part of this experience!
Join Us for Rail~Volution 2010 in Portland, OregonWho can be a 'Concierge Desk' Volunteer?
- Local volunteers will staff the Portland Concierge Desk at the 2010 Rail~Volution conference held Sunday, October 17 through Thursday, October 21 at the Portland Hilton and Executive Tower at SW 6th and Taylor, Mezzanine level.
- Each shift is two hours between when and when?
- Booth volunteers will be paired with a TriMet, City of Portland or Metro employee who will help show you the ropes.
What you will do:
- Provide information about the region and how to use our transit system.
- Give directions, make suggestions about where to eat and fun stuff to do.
- Sell mugs, T-shirts and other goodies.
- Meet land use and transportation advocates, planners and visionaries from around the nation.
For more information email Lisa Chow or call 503.962.2428 or email@example.com
September 19, 2010
The panel presentation of Columbia River Crossing alternatives generated by the community was recorded by Portland Community Media and you can catch these upcoming broadcasts on Portland Channel 30 (CityNet):
- Monday 9/20/2010, 5:00pm
- Friday 9/24/2010, 9:30pm
- Sunday 9/26/2010, 8:00am
Metro Councilor Robert Libertry, who organized the panel, also indicates that he will have the video available on his web site at some point in the future.
September 16, 2010
As part of the Portland Plan process, the City will be updating the Central City Plan (the project is being called CC2035).
The Central City is being broken into quadrants, and North/Northeast is being worked on first. Two walks are planned to assess the current situation and opportunities:
N/NEQ Community Walk- Lloyd District
Saturday, September 25, 2010
Link to website: http://www.portlandonline.com/bps/index.cfm?a=317485&c=52841
N/NEQ Community Walk- Lower Albina
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Link to website: http://www.portlandonline.com/bps/index.cfm?a=317485&c=52841
Mayor Adams is being accused of dragging his feet on the City's contribution to the Sellwood Bridge replacement.
But let's step back a bit. Is it the best use of $8M/year of the City's share of increased gas tax revenues to fund a County facility (we'll leave aside the question of whether having the County own the Willamette River bridges is rational or not - that's a question for another post)?
Clearly the Sellwood connection is a vital part of Portland's arterial network. But what are the other options? Given the large percentage of users of this bridge from outside the City and the County I think tolling might be a very good solution to better allocate costs to users. And that would free up $8M/year for other uses like sidewalks, bicycle facilities (or insert your favorite project here).
Some interesting politics in Clark County played out today as the C-Tran board, over the objections of the City of Vancouver, decided to place two measures on the ballot next year, one for existing bus service and one specifically for light rail.
Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt had argued for one combined ballot measure.
September 15, 2010
The panel reviews the alternatives developed by the community.
The audience was a Who's Who of progressive/alternative transportation thinkers, including a number of Portland Transport readers.
I spent last night at the Columbia River Crossing alternatives panel organized by Metro Councilor Robert Liberty.
A large majority of the 14 presentations submitted by the community were supplemental bridge proposals, often coupled with additional investments like fixing the railroad bridge (to avoid the barge S-curve maneuver) or seismic upgrades to the existing bridge structures.
Among the comments by the review panel:
- These proposals represent 21st century thinking compared to the 20th century thinking of the project proposal
- Proposals that could be phased were appreciated, they don't "put all the eggs in one basket"
- The submissions represented "$2M worth of alternatives analysis"
- With regard to retaining the existing structures: "you almost get a free bridge" (because of the avoided demolition costs)
- There is a "dance of traffic between Portland and Vancouver" and we need to figure out a bridge configuration to support that complex dance
- Start tolling now so we can build this project on a "Pay-Go" basis
- The project needs to be balanced for "fiscal equity" with other investments around the region
September 13, 2010
On Friday I attended the Oregon Transportation Summit.
Being a geek, I sat in on the gadget session. One of the more interesting areas was how to detect vehicles at intersections. The traditional technology is the "loop", a wire embedded in the pavement that generates a magnetic field that can detect the metal in a vehicle (including bicycles). Alternatives on display, all generally aimed at removing the requirement for wires in the pavement included:
- Detection by video
- A small, wireless, battery-operated cube (about 1.5 inches) that used the same magnetic approach as a loop, but without the wiring. It also had the interesting ability to generate a "magnetic signature" for each vehicle so you could measure vehicle progress across multiple intersections to measure arterial traffic speeds (a measure of congestion).
- Detection by radar
The common factor for all of these was that they were "IP-based" (i.e., Internet Protocol - they could all talk back to your central control center of the Internet).
There was also an internet-controllable street light controller, so you could dim or turn off streetlights from the control center (the standard technology for street lighting just uses a dumb photocell).
September 10, 2010
Two items of note for the Columbia River Crossing:
1) The City of Vancouver is soliciting qualifications for designers to "help refine a vision and concept for the new open space under the proposed Columbia River Crossing alignment."
2) Metro Councilor Liberty's alternatives panel is next Tuesday, and we're happy to point you to the full set of alternatives submitted by the community (PDF, 7.8M).
Metro Councilor Robert Liberty Convenes Panel Discussion
of Alternatives to Current Columbia River Crossing Proposal
7 to 9 PM Tuesday September 14, 2010
The Columbia River Crossing project is a $2.6 to $3.6 billion proposal to widen I-5, rebuild and replace freeway interchanges and extend light rail between Vancouver and North Portland .
The Columbia River Crossing project in its current form is facing very serious financial and political challenges.
Metro Councilor Robert Liberty believes it is important to begin a community discussion of some alternatives to the current proposal, in the event it is infeasible.
Over the last several months he has solicited suggestions of alternative approaches to the problems which the current CRC is supposed to address. He has asked a panel of experts and community leaders to gather for a group discussion of the merits of these proposals.
The panel discussion will be held on Tuesday, September 14, 2010 from 7 to 9 PM in the Portland Building auditorium, 1120 SW Fifth Avenue in downtown Portland. The location adjoins the transit mall and can be accessed by all TriMet buses and light rail vehicles.
Confirmed panelists are:
· Gary Toth, Senior Director, Transportation Initiatives with the Project for Public Spaces & former Director, Project Planning and Development, New Jersey Department of Transportation
· Mary Nolan, Oregon House Majority Leader
· Chris Girard, President/CEO of Plaid Pantry
· Keith Lawton, transportation consultant; previously Transportation Planner, Metro, Portland, Oregon 1975 - 2004.
September 9, 2010
The Streetcar is going on vacation!
From Sept 13th to 26th, while we build the connection between the existing streetcar tracks in the Pearl to the new tracks coming over the Broadway Bridge, the streetcar will not operate.
The problem is there is nowhere to turn around at the north end of the alignment. This project will actually fix that, it will become possible to go north on 10th, turn around on Northrup and return south on 11th without going to NW 23rd when necessary.
Meanwhile, shuttle buses will serve the streetcar alignment during the shutdown (with a few temporarily re-located stops near the construction zone itself).
For the last 18 months or so, Congressman James Oberstar, chair of the House Transportation Committee and our own Peter DeFazio, chair of the surface transportation subcommittee have been beating up on the White House to get going on the every-six-years transportation reauthorization.
But the President has had other priorities and the result was a decided chill in the air.
Meanwhile, local leaders used the opportunity to get out their transportation funding wish lists.
September 7, 2010
The president's Labor Day stumping included pushing for 'front-loading' the transportation re-authorization with $50B in up-front funding.
T4America is rushing to support the idea, but I'd be happy if the rhetoric were a little less road-centric. Yes, transit and HSR are called out, but the lead is still roads, roads, roads. Any I saw nary a mention of bikes anywhere. The least money, and potentially most transformative, and nowhere to be found... Sigh.
September 3, 2010
Via the SW Trails list serve:
Five PSU graduate students organized as Larke Planning created a report detailing potential options for taking unimproved streets in the City of Portland and upgrading them in ways that are potentially very creative and useful, but less expensive than building a complete street up to City standards. Well worth a read.
September 2, 2010
September 1, 2010
By popular demand...
Listen to the show (mp3, 25.9MB)
Learn about Bike First, a program that works with youngsters and adults who experience difficulty getting past training wheels and onto conventional two-wheelers.
And in the second half hour, we talk with Johnny Olivan of Rejuiced
Bikes, a Portland-based business that builds pedal-powered vehicles of
the most incredible kind.