April 27, 2011
At the center of many of the debates concerning TriMet's future plans, and how transit dollars (both capital and operating) ought to be spent, are a fundamental pair of questions:
- How important is attracting new riders to the system--both in general, and in the specific case of wooing motorists out of automobiles?
- How much should this factor play in the region's planning?
The Fabled New Rider
Throughout the transportation planning industry, and especially in transit, the ability of a new or enhanced service to attract new riders is considered a key performance metric. Many federal funding schemes, such as New Starts, apply cost-effectiveness criteria in selecting projects for funding, and a key parameter used in evaluating cost-effectiveness is new ridership. On the surface, this seems reasonable: one of the key reasons for capital improvement in transit systems is improved service, and the ultimate purpose of transit is to move people. Given that for many potential users, transit demand is elastic (a better ride will attract more riders), ranking projects based on additional ridership is a reasonable way to approximate service improvement. There are other reasons for spending money on capital projects that aren't directly related to ridership, such as operational efficiency, but many of the technical criteria by which transit can be evaluated (throughput, capacity, reliability) correlate rather directly with perceived service quality--and thus should be reflected in ridership totals.
Ridership (and new ridership) is also used in ex-post-facto evaluations and analyses of transit projects and modes. A recent post here at Portland Transport, Can We Intersect the Politics of Bikes and the Politics of Thrift, contained the following factoid:
Regional spending per new commuter, 1995-2010: bike/ped $5,538, auto $18,072, transit $84,790. Yes, read that again. http://bit.ly/fvszwaHere, the cost-effectiveness of different modes are compared, with the metric of cost per new user being used. (And yes, the transit number needs to improve).
New ridership is important for other reasons as well. When the new riders are shifting from automobiles, resulting in cars being left in garages, there are numerous benefits--less congestion, less greenhouse gases emitted, less energy consumed. Regional policy considers environmental outcomes to be important, and actively seeks to encourage commuters to leave the keys at home and use transit (or human-powered transportation instead)--capital projects thus consider environmental outcomes in their analysis criteria and rate them highly.
Another reason for a transit agency to desire additional riders is to broaden its base of political support. Many transit agencies around the country operate on a subsistence basis, and are caught in a vicious cycle that works like this:
- Transit is underfunded.
- Transit agency can only afford to provide bare-bones service that is slow, infrequent, and unreliable. (And often crowded due to a low capacity resulting from a lack of frequency).
- Transit is only used by the desperate or dedicated--service quality is so poor that anyone with the ability to use something else, will.
- Transit is therefore widely viewed as a signifier of poverty, and something which stigmatizes its users. It also may be viewed as a form of "welfare", or become associated with crime or other social pathologies that go along with poverty--causing the whole enterprise to be viewed with contempt.
- Transit garners little political support
- Transit is underfunded.
Transit which attracts so-called "choice riders", on the other hand, is able to avoid this cycle. To the extent that transit is viewed as a public good, rather than a social service, it can attract broader political support, be better-funded, be able to offer more attractive service, draw more riders, and further upgrade its standing. Roads, despite their numerous drawbacks, benefit from a presumption of public good--nobody complains when the roads are empty at 2AM, or blames highways for causing crime when ruffians use them to get around. Even in the Portland metro area, a significant number of residents view transit as a needless expense rather than an essential service.
And the last reason I'll give is probably the most obvious: More riders mean more farebox revenue. The marginal cost of an additional rider on a bus or train with empty seats is almost nil. Things get a bit more dicey when transit approaches crush loads, as an excessive number of passengers can severely impact dwell times at stops, and if you add enough passengers you may need to add additional capacity--but in general, each empty vehicle starts out well in the red, and each fare-paying passenger on board pushes it closer to the black.
Given all of that, it's not hard to see why increasing the ridership basis--which means attracting additional riders to the system--is considered a goal of paramount importance.
Easier said than done
Given that, how does a transit agency attract new riders? We'll focus on parameters that are within the purview of transit agencies in this article--actions to make driving more inconvenient or expensive will also shift people to transit, but we'll not consider those. Many of these items are more fleshed-out here, but here's a brief summary of how transit can be made more attractive.
Among the possibilities:
- Expand where transit goes. There are many neighborhoods in the Portland metro area in which the only realistic way to reach transit is to drive to a park-and-ride--a tolerable solution for the daily commute, but not for many other types of trips.
- Expand service hours. Likewise, TriMet has far too many services which only run five or six days a week--ruling out the service for many types of trips. Weekday schedules, in particular, are incompatible with many retail jobs, and retail workers earning low wages are more likely to be transit users.
- Improve performance and reliability. Transit riders don't ride transit because they like the bus or train; they do so because they have a desire to get somewhere else--so the lesser amount of time spent riding or waiting, the better. And in many cases, riders have schedules of their own to keep, so reliability is important as well.
- Reduce cost. The higher the fares, the lower the demand for the service. Basic economics. And it's important to note that auto ownership is dominated by fixed costs--many costs associated with driving (insurance, license fees, and for consumer autos, depreciation) don't vary with distance driven. For someone who has an auto waiting in the garage, the car is often cheaper than the bus, especially for short trips.
- Ensure sufficient capacity. It is annoying, and discouraging, to be waiting for a bus and see one drive by, so loaded to the gills that the driver won't stop unless someone rings the bell to get off. It's equally annoying to get to a park and ride or other multimodal transfer point and find no place to park; or no room to take your bike on board. Being unable to complete a journey due to insufficient capacity--especially if the journey is partially started--is frustrating, and if it happens regularly, will cause people to abandon the system.
- Make it easier to ride. Transit use, especially for casual users, has many barriers. Ticketing is often confusing; route maps and timetables difficult to understand. Ticket machines malfunction. Platforms are hard to reach or are too far to walk (this is an important concern for limited-mobility passengers). Removing obstacles to transit use will attract riders.
- Improve safety and security. People are less likely to use transit (or engage in other endeavors) if they think that doing so increases their chances of being mugged, harassed, or injured in an accident. Transit gets a lot of bad press here, much (though not all) of it undeserved--and many perceptions of (perceived) security spring from cultural prejudice, unfortunately. But a system which is viewed as unsafe will not attract riders.
- Make it pleasant to rideWhen transit offers an unpleasant experience, this too discourages riders. Causes of unpleasantness include poor climate control, a rough ride (especially if you need to stand), excessive noise or fumes, uncomfortable seating, and overcrowding. Likewise, certain amenities may improve the rider experience. Transit offers one significant advantage over driving--you can use the time for other things besides operating a vehicle. But this advantage can be easily negated if you're packed like a sardine on a crushloaded train.
- Make it "cool" to ride. Here, "cool" is shorthand for a whole lot of personal foibles or itches that need scratching. It could refer to self-actualization (thinking transit is cool because of environmental outcomes), social status (avoiding the bus because you believe it signifies poverty), and numerous other things which are highly personal. Some of the conditions for "coolness" (or as NY transit blogger Cap'n Transit calls it, glamour) are things that its bad public policy to encourage--but regardless, someone who thinks that a given transit service is "uncool" is unlikely to ride, no matter its technical qualities.
The big difficulty, of course, is that advancing on all of these fronts is difficult with a fixed budget. There are only so many vehicle-hours available in a given service week. If TriMet spreads them out over a wider geographic area and/or expands service hours--then frequencies need to go down. Increase frequency here, cut frequency there. Providing service which is both optimal and equitable is hard.
So what's the problem?
Given all of that, one might think that transit riders and activists would be eager to support initiatives to attract new users to the system. And indeed, TriMet is engaged in many programs which attempt to do just that (or at least purport to). But in some circles, there seems to be a backlash.
TriMet has several initiatives to advance the perceived quality of service, including bus replacement programs, support for TransitTracker and similar applications, and an increased security presence at trouble spots on the system. Recent budget cuts have had an opposite effect, with reduced service hours, canceled lines, and significant reductions in fare inspection.
But the biggest and most visible part of the region's attempts to improve transit service is via development and construction of rapid transit. Quite a few riders are unhappy about this. And there are many good reasons why.
Rapid transit technologies, including (though certainly not limited to) light rail, offer significant advantages to their users over mixed-traffic bus service, including faster travel times and more reliable schedules. Rail has comfort advantages over bus--trains are bigger inside, don't have to deal with potholes or rutted streets and the bouncy suspensions required to safely navigate public roads, or pull over to curbside stops and "kneel" to reach curbs. Likewise, electric traction has advantages over combustion-powered engines--no fumes, no jerky transmissions, quieter motors. And rapid transit technologies, especially rail, support far higher passenger capacities than can local bus (or streetcar) service. Many users consider rail to be a premium service over similarly-configured bus lines. As noted in a prior post ridership estimates for the Milwaukie MAX project were 33% higher for light rail than they were for a BRT solution of similar quality, and it was a major reason for the selection of light rail.
Yet a vocal portion of TriMet's ridership opposes MAX expansion, and many other proposed capital projects. While many objections are given (some of which, such as concerns over transit workers' jobs and allegations of pork-barrel projects, won't be further discussed in this article), a common theme seems to be that TriMet is spending most of its money trying to attract new riders, when it should be improving the lot of existing ones. Many existing riders would rather see money spent on improving existing services in the system core, or providing basic service to areas where none presently exists, rather than building expensive rail lines out to suburban park-and-rides. In some ways, TriMet acts like telecom companies offering teaser rates to new subscribers, while insisting that loyal customers pay full price (unfortunately, rewarding loyal customers with higher prices is a time-honored tradition in business). TriMet is hardly unique--transit agencies over the world have the bad habit of segmenting their ridership into "choice" and "dependent" riders, and then focusing energy on the former while taking the latter for granted.
Objections along this line include:
- New light-rail lines are alleged to dilute existing service. While TriMet doesn't go about reducing service hours on non-redundant bus lines to provide operating revenue for MAX--the new services nonetheless need to be funded. And when revenue goes down, such as during a recession, all services are affected somewhat--it's not hard to juxtapose the two events and conclude that TriMet is reducing bus service to pay for MAX. The opening of the Green Line, which occurred right in the middle of the Great Recession, provides an example--many users of the system were calling for TriMet to delay the Green Line's opening and divert its funding to preserve existing services.
- Existing bus riders resent the idea that one justification for the expense of rail is to attract riders who won't use a bus. This is a tricky one to deal with--but there is a certain portion of the public who consider busses low class or otherwise undesirable--and thus won't ride them, no matter how good the service--but who are willing to ride trains. And at least part of the allure of light rail is that it attracts these riders to the system. Many existing users, especially bus riders, find this an objectionable endorsement of unenlightened social attitudes; that the region should have no part of--especially when in many cases, bus technology (including bus rapid transit) can do a similar job for less money. To further this argument--if peak oil is really coming, expensive gasoline is likely to "cure" these retrograde attitudes in all but the wealthy, so why spend the extra money for rail?
- Concerns about transit oriented development and "placemaking" agendas. To planners concerned with long-range environmental and land use goals, TOD can be a powerful tool, in that it adds to the supply of transit-convenient housing stock, permitting a higher quality of service to more residents. To existing riders who don't live in the TODs (or nearby) and don't want to move (or are unable to do so), the notion of building transit lines to serve new development (whether as part of the transit project, or lines running through greenfields or brownfields) rather than to existing neighborhoods, is viewed as particularly obnoxious. It's one thing to try and attract new customers where they live; its another to supply transit to places where nobody lives (yet). This is especially a concern in a glutted housing market, with lots of vacant real estate. (TOD makes more sense if there is a true need for additional housing; better to have it transit-friendly than otherwise).
Other technical objections to rail (or rail as implemented in Portland) also arise:
- A belief that rail should be reserved for capacity issues. One of the most important technical advantages rail has over bus is capacity--train cars are bigger than busses, and trains can consist of multiple cars. When you need to move large volumes of people along a corridor (with stops along the way), rail does the job more effectively. (One can get high levels of throughput with the "freeway of busses", but that model breaks down when you have to stop somewhere). But dedicated rail lines which only see trains on fifteen minute headways, even at peak hours (and TriMet has several of these), are seen by many to be a waste of money--it is often argued that rail shouldn't be built until the number of busses needed to serve a corridor reaches a tipping point.
- Skepticism to mid-tier services. Mid-tier (or "class B") services--where transit is moved out of mixed traffic, but still integrated with the urban environment rather than grade-separated, are a big part of Portland's reputation in North American planning circles. Prior to the opening of MAX, most US transit agencies with rail systems ran mixed traffic ("class C") bus service, coupled with fully grade-separated ("class A") rail. Portland famously defied that conventional wisdom and ran surface rail lines through the middle of downtown, and down the medians of urban boulevards, providing service that is faster and more reliable than the bus, but nowhere near as speedy as traditional subway systems. Some users consider this a mistake, and believe that if we're going to spend money on rapid transit it should be "done right" and be grade-separated and fast.
- Concerns about service re-organization. This is another tricky one to deal with. Rapid transit invariably involves service reorganizations. Busses may be converted from downtown service to feeder service. Local-stop service parallel to the rapid line may decrease in frequency or vanish altogether. Express bus service in the corridor is generally canceled. A bus stop in front of someone's apartment may be replaced by a train station half a mile away. And if the frequency/speed of the new transit service isn't significantly better than the old local service, the net quality of service may well be worse than before. This is especially true for riders who use the system in off-peak hours, when local bus service isn't as slow due to fewer boardings/disembarkings and less traffic.
On the other hand...
In defense of TriMet, there are several things forcing its hand.
- Many sources of federal funding are only available for capital projects. The US government has, for more than a decade had a policy against funding operations--reportedly out of concern that operational subsidies would be used to give pay-raises to transit workers, not to expand or improve service. (For some reason, the same concern doesn't seem to exist about construction wages...) Given that, its no wonder that TriMet has a focus on capital projects--like Dillinger's justification for robbing banks, that's where the money is. That said, it would be nice IMHO if there were a greater focus on spending capital dollars to improve the efficiency of operations, as opposed to using operating revenue to back bonds to pay for capital projects.
- Suburban political pressure. TriMet gets quite a bit of its funding from suburban communities--particularly in jobs-rich Washington County, and many of these communities want better transit service. (Some, such as Tualatin and Sherwood, presently have lousy service). Many of the region's poor, who need transit, live in the suburbs. And unfortunately, land use patterns in the suburbs are not transit friendly (and many who live there like it this way). Several suburban areas which haven't gotten what they want have left TriMet over the years, or are threatening to. And its these communities where a disproportionate number of the won't-ride-the-bus crowd lives. Given that--a mixture of light rail lines to the suburbs, coupled with upzoning/TOD along the lines and a few park-and-rides, is a useful solution--especially where there's a well-traveled bus corridor. And the existing suburban MAX lines have been quite successful at getting suburbanites to use transit.
- Mandatory goals. Getting back to the lead; many of the regions environmental goals have force of law--TriMet, Metro, and the other agencies involved in planning, are required to act in furtherance of things like increased transit mode share, decreased pollution, and such--like it or not, TriMet is more than just a transit agency. And these goals, like TriMet's funding, are regional in scope--the region can't depend on the city of Portland being green in every way it can, if other parts of the region continue to promote auto use. So getting people out of their cars is a fundamental concern, and transit is a big part of that. Given that the stick is politically difficult to wield, the region is left with carrots.
Thoughts? Is the region's transit planning too fixated on attracting new riders to the system, and ignoring the needs of existing users? What mixture of improving existing service for established users vs trying to attract the hard-to-get ones is appropriate?
Spencer Boomhower has another terrific video illustrating Columbia River Crossing issues. This one outlines the "Common Sense Alternative" developed by George Crandall and Jim Howell. See it after the jump.
April 26, 2011
I had always understood "NEV" to stand for Neighborhood Electric Vehicle, but...
Portland State University
Center for Transportation Studies
Spring 2011 Transportation Seminar Series
Speaker: Jianhong Ye, Portland State University
Topic: New Energy Vehicles (NEV) Demonstration in China
When: Friday, April 29, 2011, 12:00 - 1:00pm
Where: PSU Urban Center Building, SW 6th and Mill, Room 204
April 25, 2011
It's an interesting time for the Columbia River Crossing in Salem, a venue where the Legislature as yet to EVER take a vote on this project. Perhaps that time will come soon. On tap this week:
- The Governors of Oregon and Washington are about to announce a bridge type selection and a plan for keeping the project on schedule
- Legislative leadership is apparently concerned that HJM 22, a resolution calling for Federal spending on the CRC (while not committing any local dollars), may not have have support on the House floor, so it is being shuttled from committee to committee at the moment.
- The Washington Legislature is preparing to commit another $25M to the project. They had also contributed the most recent $25M, so they will now be looking for an Oregon match of $50M. Will ODOT go to the Legislature for this, or will they take it from their existing budget, at the expense of other projects in the state?
- Steve Duin shares the concerns of two legislators who also happen to be CPAs
April 22, 2011
While we avoided a government shutdown a few weeks ago, it seems clear that the 2012 Federal budget is going to involve some heavy cost-cutting. And infrastructure dollars have been getting harder and harder to find at the local level for some time.
So I'd like to suggest that we consider promoting cycling as a "do more with less" strategy. Portland has demonstrated that if we build it (good cycling infrastructure), they WILL come.
And cycling infrastructure is some of the cheapest infrastructure available. Portland Afoot computed this very interesting comparison (via Twitter):
Regional spending per new commuter, 1995-2010: bike/ped $5,538, auto $18,072, transit $84,790. Yes, read that again. http://bit.ly/fvszwa
So can we get policy makers to shift a greater share of transportation investment toward bikes in this time of thrift?
I tried out that idea when Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood was in Portland last month for a BTA event and asked him a question about whether we could hope for a Federal program that would match bicycle expenditures they way New Starts does for transit. He bluntly told me it wasn't going to happen any time soon. Congressman Peter DeFazio jumped in and made it clear that the battle now is to defend existing programs.
And that point is not lost on me. As the Transport Politic reports, the budget proposed by Chairman Ryan would completely eliminate the New Starts program that funds both light rail and streetcar construction (hint: urban districts are almost exclusively "D").
But is it all pure politics, or is there some room to insert rationality and make the argument for delivery inexpensive mobility via bicycle infrastructure?
How would you frame the message?
[And to avoid being misconstrued, let me be very clear that I am not in any way advocating a reduction in transit funding.]
April 21, 2011
Back in February, we took a look at the future of commuter rail in the Portland area. One corridor which was examined in detail is the Beaverton-Wilsonville corridor, which has been identified by Metro as a "near term priority corridor" for high capacity transit. The corridor is presently served by the WES line, as well as by TriMet's 76, 78, and 96 busses, and the 2X line of SMART. However, none of these lines provides adequate rapid transit service. Only the 76 and 78, both local bus lines, run seven days a week. The portion of the system where 76 and 78 overlap, between Beaverton and Tigard, has near-frequent service on weekdays, but the quality of the service offering drops off considerably south of Tigard. Clearly, the current service in the corridor isn't where planners would like it to be.
But how to improve it?
The current thinking
The Regional Transportation Plan has called for WES service to be expanded to 15-minute all-day service, but given the steep operating cost of WES, and the need for the Portland and Western to move freight on the tracks, this may have difficulties as well.
The detailed analysis contained in the evaluation report (see pp 157-159 for the summary) included the following comments:
Given the recent opening of the WES commuter rail line, this corridor is unique to all other corridors considered in this analysis. Upgrading WES to 15/15 headway in 2035, consistent with the existing RTP financially constrained system plan, would require significant capital investment. There are significant physical challenges to upgrading WES to light rail or all-day, high frequency service. Freight rail will continue to operate in this corridor for the foreseeable future, requiring any significant update (to 15 minute or better all day service) to be constructed on a separate two-track line. Modeling of this corridor shows that travel demand is high and that an HCT investment on the corridor segments between Washington Square and Bonita are among the highest segments of any corridor modeled in this HCT System Plan. Other options for serving these segments should be explored in planning and design phases of the two Regional Priority corridors identified in this Plan - Corridor 11 (Portland to Sherwood via Barber) and Corridor 29 (Clackamas Town Center to Washington Square via RR ROW [Lake Oswego]).
Commuter rail is assumed to be the primary mode for this corridor. The highest demand
segments of the corridor could be developed as part of the regional light rail system using light rail as discussed in the Corridor 11 and Corridor 29 summaries.
The first obvious question: If you are going to building two additional dedicated tracks for transit service; tracks which will be separate from freight operations--why would you choose commuter rail over light rail? Even if you were to maintain long stop spacing, similar to what WES offers today, I have a hard time thinking of any technical reasons why operation of WES-style commuter trains over dedicated tracks would pose any advantages over light rail vehicles. The whole point of WES-style vehicles is they can run on existing active freight lines; but the downside is that they are subject to FRA regulations, which are demonstrably unfriendly to transit operations. And the Beaverton/Wilsonville corridor would benefit from additional stops along the way, particularly at places like Bridgeport and Washington Square, where the current tracks don't go but a new light rail line could.
Light rail lines along this corridor could also through-run to Portland or Hillsboro along the existing Westside tracks, or switch to the Southwest Corridor, if the latter is built as LRT.
But the downside of doing this is the cost: Right now, adding two additional tracks in the corridor is pegged to cost about $1.9 billion--and given that this is a planning estimate, I suspect it's on the low side. The corridor is nearly twice as long as Milwaukie-Portland, and while such a project wouldn't include any bridges on the scale of the OMSI-SoWa crossing, one crossing of the Tualatin would be needed.
But the presence of existing rail service on the corridor may make another option--bus rapid transit of some sort--a (politically) viable alternative.
The bus/rail gap
Much has been written about the so-called bus/rail debate, in which the merits of busses vs trains in transit applications are widely discussed. As an abstract debate, it easily tends to devolve into an argument of platitudes, and strong pro-bus or pro-rail positions are frequently proxies for arguments about other values not having much to do with transit performance. That said, there are some applications where one technology may be better suited than the other.
For a cost-constrained system, especially where capital funds are limited, BRT has definite advantages. BRT systems generally cost less than equivalent rail systems, and at the lower end, can cost a lot less. The cost savings come from several areas:
- "Difficult" parts of a corridor can often be dealt with by limited stretches of mixed-traffic running and bus lanes/busways can often be utilized by local bus services as well as by rapid services. Trains, on the other hand, require dedicated infrastructure wherever they go.
- If the political will exists to convert general purpose auto lanes to exclusive bus use, significant increases in transit performance can be had at little cost; and the improved running times will help the operational bottom line, while making the service more attractive. However, if such conversions are not politically possible (which is often the case), then BRT will either require construction of a dedicated right of way (and thus be more expensive to build, with costs approaching rail), or require significant running in mixed traffic (and thus be slower and less reliable).
- Roadbeds are cheaper to install then rail lines. A railbed capable of supporting LRT vehicles must be built to far stronger standards than one that needs to support busses (or streetcars, for that matter), and frequently requires relocation of utilities under the right-of-way. Train traffic can damage long runs of pipes underneath, and repairs to utilities located under rails may require taking the rails out of service. Busses do not pose a threat to utilities and can more easily detour should maintenance be required. On the downside, busses are notoriously hard on pavement.
- It's far easier to mix express and local services with busses--all are needed are passing lanes at platforms. Rail generally requires additional lines, or complex networks of pullouts and switches, to support an express service on the same corridor as a local.
BRT has several issues, however, which work against it.
- Higher operating cost per passenger on high capacity lines. Trains can simply haul more people per driver than can busses; the individual vehicles are larger, and they can be entrained. This is only an advantage when you need the capacity. A MAX train costs about twice as much to operate per hour than a 40' bus does; but can hold 4-5 times the passengers. A full MAX train is far more efficient from an operational point of view than the equivalent number of busses; but an 1/4 full MAX train is not.
- Bus is frequently seen as less prestigious than rail by politicians--this consideration is perhaps more important than it ought to be, but it is real. After the North-South MAX line was defeated in the 1990s, BRT was examined for the Milwaukie corridor--only to have the city of Milwaukie insist that rail be put back on the table. (A discussion on the merits of BRT in the Milwaukie corridor is here, and many old Metro documents can be found here). The annals of transit development are filled with stories of activists and officials whining about how a neighboring community got "better" transit infrastructure. (When the Gold Line light rail opened in East LA last year, many locals complained bitterly that they didn't get a subway like the west side got).
- One of the most difficult objections, however, is the some-people-just-won't-ride-a-bus argument. It's a difficult topic, as it generally lies within the realm of psychology and culture (and can hit on some politically sensitive subjects such as race and class, that we won't get into in this article); not within science or engineering. But there is some evidence that--regardless of the merits of this position--this gap is real; and that rail projects can expect higher ridership than equivalent bus lines. This is an important factor for an agency which sees improving ridership as a goal, whether for environmental reasons (getting more people out of cars) or for reasons of funding or prestige. Rail critics often argue that agencies shouldn't worry about attracting finicky patrons, and should focus instead on those patrons who don't mind the bus. For better or worse, though, TriMet cares about ridership, and the South Metro SDEIS claimed that light rail would attract 33% more riders than the top-grade BRT solution considered (with an exclusive right-of-way for busses). That said, the SDEIS projections for both modes far exceed the current FEIS ridership projections for Milwaukie MAX, so the figures might be taken with a grain of salt.
- Rail also seems to be more attractive to developers. Whether or not this should be a consideration for rapid transit service is also a major question--a good argument can be made that if the developers aren't contributing to a project's funding, through a Local Improvement District, urban renewal, or provision of land (such as Bechtel's involvement on the Red Line), etc.--that their concerns ought to be irrelevant. Like it or not, real estate interests have significant influence on policymakers, however.
TriMet has considered BRT for several projects in its history--the original MAX line was originally visioned as a busway, and the history of MLR is indicated above. However, it has never built any. Some allege an institutional bias against bus for rapid transit applications; some go further than that in their criticism.
But the Beaverton/Wilsonville corridor provides some unique opportunities.
The westside opportunity
Given these issues, BRT projects--particularly to the suburbs, where municipal governments compete for prestige and residents are more likely to be adverse to riding the bus (and developers leery of projects where proximity to bus service is a feature)--often come with several strikes against them. However, the WES corridor may be a promising one for the technology for several reasons.
- Existing rail service in the corridor--WES. The presence of WES helps to address both the political prestige problem and the folks-won't-ride-the-bus problem. Those who won't ride the bus can ride the train (patrons who are bus-averse are more likely to only consider using transit for their daily commute, which is when WES runs); and the local governments involved already have a "prestigious" rail project running their jurisdictions, and thus far less room to complain about not getting another.
- Likewise, a BRT line is more easily positioned as a complement to WES--a project widely viewed as a failure--allowing regional leaders to save face more than they would were a MAX line built instead.
- Improved bus service would make WES more attractive for another reason--it would give those who work late (and might miss the last train) a more attractive fallback position.
- BRT could continue to run on the 76 corridor, albeit with somewhat greater stop spacing, but still serving many important destinations that WES does not stop at.
- With WES taking care of the peak loads on the corridor, the residual capacity needs might well be in the operational "sweet spot" of bus service rather than rail service.
In many ways, a BRT service in the corridor would be an excellent complement to the existing WES service, without the need to engage in a costly and difficult expansion thereof. And anything would likely be a competitive offering given the terrible traffic situation in the corridor--a while back, ODOT actually considered closing all the ramps on OR217 during rush hour so traffic could move more swiftly between US26 and I-5. Widening of 217 has been discussed--but the numerous closely-spaced interchanges make any improvements of the freeway an expensive proposition.
BRT wasn't really considered as an option by the HCT plan, however. The evaluation process used in the HCT plan treated all proposed corridors as MAX lines (this was done to have apples-to-apples comparisons; several corridors are not recommended for light rail by the report, but may be suitable for other modes). The Beaverton/Wilsonville corridor was identified as suitable for rail; the possibility of a combination of commuter rail and BRT was not addressed.
What should it look like?
We'll ignore the choice of bus or rail (and what flavor) for now, and look instead at service parameters, such as "how fast should it go"? and "where should it go?" (Another important question is "how often should it run"; however, I'll ignore this question for now as I suspect any solution will be constrained by operating costs and not by line capacity).
The two questions, unfortunately, are not independent--a line that serves dense neighborhoods (particularly existing ones) is likely to be slower than a greenfield line, unless the community is willing to spend the money for things like grade separation. A line that is designed for speed will (by necessity) stop less often and be less-well integrated into neighborhoods--surface rail down city streets, even in medians, simply can't run at 55MPH.
This is demonstrated by this table. While bus and rail are capable of similar speeds, all else being equal, high-speed transit (of any mode) requires that vehicles stop less often--and reliability requires that the number and duration of stops be predictable. The fastest services will only stop at platforms (class A); slower services may need to stop at a fixed number of crossings as well (class B); and services that run in mixed traffic may have to stop arbitrarily often, making them slow and unreliable.
The first question, then, is "how fast"? For now, we'll limit our discussion to the Beaverton/Tualatin segment, as that segment is entirely urbanized, and all within TriMet's service territory. The existing service, WES, is fast--covering the ~9 mile rail distance from Beaverton to Tualatin in 17 minutes, and the full 14.7 mile route to Wilsonville in 27. Over the length of the run, it averages over 30MPH, which is very fast for transit. However, the average distance between stops is about 3.7 miles. On the other end of the service spectrum, the existing #76 bus (which only runs to Tualatin) offers travel times between Beaverton and Tualatin that range from 35 minutes during off-peak hours, to up to 45 minutes during rush hour. The distance of the route the bus takes is closer to 10.5 miles It takes about 32 minutes to drive the route taken by the bus, and 15 minutes (assuming no congestion) to use the freeway.
Doing faster than WES, while remaining useful, is not likely to happen. Marginal improvements could be had by vehicles not subject to FRA regulations, but the amount of savings are somewhat minimal, so we'll consider 17 minutes a lower bound. Likewise, anything desiring to be "rapid transit" ought to be able to easily beat peak local bus service, and be comparable to off-peak service (empty busses that don't have to stop can go faster, however)--I'll arbitrarily set 37 minutes as an upper bound.
With 17 minutes offering a lower bound on the possible travel time, and ~35 minutes offering a reasonable offer bound
The route from Tualatin to Beaverton is somewhat diagonal, and the street network generally offers poor northwest-southeast connectivity in the region--with most major streets not headed to Portland being disjointed. The Tualatin River provides a barrier as well, as does the freight line, the freeway, and Fanno Creek. The main corridors where one could put a transit line are the freight line, I-5 and OR217, and Boones Ferry/Hall Boulevard. Grade-separated light rail (or BRT) would be most at home on the first two, though the 217 corridor in particular is narrow and might be problematic to expand.
The present 76 bus runs on the Hall/Boones Ferry corridor, other than a diversion to Greenburg Road between Tigard TC and Washington Square. This corridor hits all the major transit destinations, as well as serving numerous concentrations of apartments. Putting grade separation along Hall or Boones Ferry probably would be problematic, and disruptive to existing uses, but these roads could accommodate a surface line, particularly the stretch of Hall north/west of Washington Square.
With all that in mind, here are five alternatives to consider, each offering different tradeoffs between cost and reliability, speed, and accessibility.
The 17-minute solution. Build a Class A (grade-separated; possibly with grade crossings guarded by gates) light rail line on a 2-track ROW from Tualatin TC, serving Durham/Bridgeport, Tigard TC, Washington Square, Denney/Allen, and Beaverton TC. (Actually, this line might follow the freeway across Canyon, and intersect with the existing MAX line near the big curve east of Beaverton TC and south of Sunset TC, with trains serving Sunset instead of Beaverton and continuing to Portland). This idea has two more stops than WES, but I'm making the assumption that the smaller and faster LRT vehicles can make up for it with better acceleration characteristics than the heavy DMUs used for WES.
The 22-minute solution. The same as the 17, but with more stops. To the list I would add a 72nd Avenue stop (near Carmen Drive), a Bonita Road stop, a Greenburg/Tiedeman stop, and either put back the Hall/Nimbus stop or add a Griffith Park/Farmington Road stop. Average stop distance would be right about a mile--similar to the Green Line south of Gateway.
The 30-minute solution. This would look a lot like the first two solutions south of Washington Square, with perhaps an additional stop or two (South Durham, just north of the river, is one possibility; a stop serving the Tigard Library might be another). But rather than following the WES line/freeway route into Beaverton, it would then run at grade in the median of Hall Boulevard, likely with a dedicated structure for crossing OR217 and Scholls Ferry Road (and the existing rail line), descending into the Hall Boulevard median near Nimbus--with stops at Nimbus, Greenway, Denney, Allen, and 5th. The tricky part is the routing through downtown Beaverton--Hall splits into a couplet north of Allen, and runs for half a mile through a residential neighborhood--there's no place to put train tracks without blocking somebody's driveway. There's also limited space to widen Hall or Watson (and likely to be lots of resistance to converting existing traffic or parking lanes to rail, and a need for a grade-separated crossing of the freight line along Farmington.
The 35-minute solutionThe thirty-five minute solution is a good quality class B+ BRT line, largely running in the same route as the existing #76. But it has to be good-quality BRT (class B+), with an exclusive right-of-way and signal priority throughout. Exceptions might be made for downtown Beaverton, due to similar issues with the existing street grid. At Beaverton TC, a bus-only extension of Millikan Way could connect Hall/Watson to the existing BTC bus entrance, and special care would also be needed for bottlenecks around Washington Square and the crossing of 99W in Tigard. Hall and Durham south of Tigard TC might be tricky as well--these are three lane roads at present, and technically a state highway. (Given that Hall Boulevard no longer serves a significant regional purpose, a jurisdiction swap may be in order). Stop spacings could be a little closer than the light rail line, but not much.
The 40 minute solution. This is outside of the range specified above, but an EmX-style solution, with some exclusive lanes and some signal priority, could probably do the journey reliably in under 40 minutes or so--perhaps faster is some capital is spent to get around the worst bottlenecks. This may not seem like a big gain over the 45 minutes the local bus takes (and the greater stop spacing may annoy existing patrons who get a longer walk), but the reliability increase if it is done right is probably just as important as the speed. Stop spacings can be shorter, increasing the chances stops can be skipped. Reliability is one factor that so far has been glossed over, but it's very important--if riders have to plan for the worst-case likely delay, that is often little better than a longer (but reliable) trip. And reliable services can have shorter turnaround times, permitting higher frequencies (another important issue not considered in this article).
For both BRT solutions, it is assumed that vehicles optimized for faster boarding (offboard/POP fare collection, multiple doors) are used.
Beyond the corridor
The above ignores extension of the line into Wilsonville, as well as service within Tualatin. The 76, after serving Tualatin Station, acts like a local circulator, serving the transit-friendly part of the city (roughly the square between the river, Boones Ferry, Mohawk, and SW 65th), with Meridian Park Hospital, an important transit destination, lying on the eastern edge of the square. But service to Wilsonville is also desirable. Right now, there is no transit service between Tualatin and Wilsonville on Sundays, and only the SMART 2X running on Saturdays. WES and the 96 provide service on weekdays. Seven-day service into Wilsonville would be beneficial, assuming a deal could be worked out with the city (it would permit the city to discontinue the 2X line). There are four reasonable corridors for such a line: The existing WES line (which passes on the edge of urbanized Tualatin, and may have growth potential), SW Boones Ferry (which passes through existing sprawl), I-5 (which has all the issues with freeway-running transit), and 65th, which partially lies outside the UGB (and is presently rural).
There's also the question of some of the other corridors considered by the HCT plan, including the proposed Clackamas/Washington Square line and the Southwest Corridor. It may be possible that a partial solution is done involving one of these two (i.e. MAX from Beaverton to Washington Square/Tigard and then east to Lake Oswego and Milwaukie; or MAX from Portland to Tigard to Tualatin). Both of these projects are in the long term planning horizon, though.
Finally, there's the possibility of extending service on the corridor north from Beaverton. The Sunset/Cornell Corridor is flagged as an important HCT corridor, and if a BRT solution is done, further upgrades north to Bethany or Cedar Hills might make sense. (I'm sure Al wouldn't mind seeing the 67, for instance, getting a service upgrade, connecting BTC to PCC Rock Creek--even though this doesn't appear to be on planning radar. And adding BRT infrastructure to SW Jenkins would have the additional benefit of speeding up the journeys of busses deadheading to Merlo Garage--right now, Jenkins is frequently a parking lot between the Nike campus and 158th; in both directions).
Disclosure: I should note, in the interests of full disclosure, that my wife and I own a house near Hall Boulevard in Beaverton--some of the routings discussed do pass within several blocks.
April 20, 2011
Well, at least to the White House web site.
I suspect this is the first time that video from a gathering I was at made it to such an august location on the internet... goose bumps over the "vision thing".
April 19, 2011
The Lake Oswego City Council has voted 4-3 to move the LO Transit project forward with conditions. Yea votes were Mayor Hoffman, Council President Tierney, Councilor Jordan, and Councilor Moncrieff. Nay votes were Councilors Kehoe, Gudman, and Olsen. Also approved was a resolution to have an advisory vote on the ballot by May 2012.
Tonight, at 6PM, the Lake Oswego City Council will meet to consider (among other business) the Lake Oswego Transit project. Agenda here, full meeting packet here, recorded citizen comments here, here, here, and here.
The proceedings can be watched online here.
For the launch of our first big-screen appliance (36 inches in this case) we're trying to be a little more serious - so we went to Portland State University. Pictured here is Dr. Chris Monsere standing next to our flat screen appliance, which is displayed through a window in the ITS (Intelligent Transportation Systems) Lab on the 3rd floor of the PSU Engineering Building (1930 SW 4th Ave for those of you who want to go gawk). Our thanks to Dr. Monsere who provided both the space and the display itself.
Eventually the unit will move down to the lobby, probably with a bigger screen. For now I'm happy to have it associated with anything that includes "Intelligent" in the name.
You can't really read the display through the window glare in the photo, so to see what it looks like, check after the jump.
April 18, 2011
This should be right on point for the "Healthy Connected Neighborhoods" strategy in the Portland Plan:
Portland State University
Center for Transportation Studies
Spring 2011 Transportation Seminar Series
Speaker: Jimmy Kagan, Institute for Natural Resources
Topic: Integrating Transportation and Environmental Planning
Abstract: This seminar describes the results of a recently completed research project for the Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP), related to capacity enhancements, as well as ongoing research underway to test the results of this research and to address economic and environmental benefits to progressive approaches to mitigation.
The SHRP 2 CO6 project was designed to provide transportation practitioners with guidance, tools and methods for conducting an integrated transportation planning process - utilizing an ecosystem approach to decision-making that improves and expedites transportation planning and project delivery. To do this, the research team developed a nine-step Integrated Eco-Logical Conservation and Transportation Planning Framework ("the Framework"), that addresses the partnership building as well as the technical and scientific aspects of an this integrated, ecosystem approach to transportation decision making advocated by Eco-Logical: an Ecosystem Approach to Developing Infrastructure Projects, and more recent refinements to watershed permitting and strategic habitat conservation planning.
The seminar will briefly outline the problem statement and the early but critical step of partnership building and process changes. The majority of the talk will focus on utilizing an ecosystem approach to the assessment of cumulative effects and alternatives, changes needed to develop regulatory assurances, and potential methods for developing and implementing progressive mitigation approaches. It will also include a brief discussion of ways to evaluate the economic and ecological outcomes of alternatives approaches, which reflect the costs and benefits of these approaches.
Link to: Eco-Logical: an Ecosystem Approach to Developing Infrastructure Projects
When: Friday, April 22, 2011, 12:00 - 1:00pm
Where: PSU Urban Center Building, SW 6th and Mill, Room 204
One of the more pernicious ways to influence a public debate is to keep repeating believable sound bites until they become received wisdom. Joe Cortright did a particularly nice job last week of knocking down a couple of those bits of received wisdom for the Columbia River Crossing. This letter is addressed to Bernie Bottomly, a government affairs official with the Portland Business Alliance:
Several colleagues have sent me a copy of a document that you emailed earlier today to people interested in the Columbia River Crossing.
I know that the Portland Business Alliance would want to adhere to the highest possible standards of accuracy in presenting information to legislators and to the public in making decisions about this proposed investment.
In that vein, I think there are two factual errors in the first page of your attachment "A Request from Oregon's Business Community" that you will want to correct.
"Highest Incidence of Crashes"
On page 1, under "Safety" you claim:
"Currently, the I-5 Columbia River Bridges have the highest incidence of crashes of any highway segment in the state of Oregon."
This isn't correct. The Oregon Department of Transportation prepares very detailed data on accident rates on every segment of state maintained roadway. The I-5 bridges actually have lower accident rates--expressed in crashes per million vehicle miles--than either the Fremont or the Marquam Bridges.
In 2009 there were 102 accidents in the Interstate Bridge area (defined as I-5 between Lombard Street and the Washington State Line), according to ODOT's 2009 Crash Rate Tables, page 30. The Marquam and Fremont bridges have higher crash rates than the Interstate Bridges:
- Fremont 1.53 crashes per million vehicle miles
- Marquam 0.90 crashes per million vehicle miles
- Interstate 0.88 crashes per million vehicle miles
The number of crashes on I-5 in the vicinity of the Interstate Bridges is not significantly different from other busy freeway interchange areas in Portland. Similar stretches of urban freeway have higher accident totals. According to ODOT
- US 26/Sunset, (Sylvan to I-405) 3.05 miles long, 230 crashes
- I-405/Stadium, (Entire length) 4.25 miles long, 131 crashes
- I-5/Interstate Bridge, (Lombard to state line) 2.94 miles long, 102 crashes
You will find all of these statistics at the ODOT website:
In addition, most of Highway 26 (Powell Boulevard) and nearly all of Highways 99W and 99E through the City of Portland have higher crash rates than the Interstate Bridges.
"Most Significant Bottleneck on Interstate 5"
In the first paragraph, you claim:
"The bridges are currently the most significant bottleneck on Interstate 5 between the Canadian border and Mexico."
That's actually not true. There is a national ranking of bottlenecks, prepared by Inrix, the leading provider of real time traffic data, which uses GPS data from commercial fleets to measure travel speeds throughout the nation. Five segments of I-5 through Los Angeles rank among the top 100 bottlenecks nationally, at number 26, 40, 62, 76 and 91. These, not the Interstate Bridges, are the "most significant bottleneck" on I-5 between Canada and Mexico.
The I-5 Interstate bridges rank far behind all of the Los Angeles bottlenecks on I-5, and are not even among the top 100 bottlenecks in the nation. According to Inrix, the I-5 Interstate bridges are the 214th worst bottleneck on the interstate freeway system. You can read all of the Inrix ratings on their website.
In the interests of fairness and accuracy, I trust that you will undertake to correct these errors in this document.
And finally, I would point out, if we want to do something about crashes on I-5, and eliminating bottlenecks, there are much better options that spending upwards of $4 billion on the proposed Columbia River Crossing. Upgrading the downstream railroad bridge could virtually eliminate the need for I-5 bridge lifts (a key cause of crashes). Better access management at Hayden Island would reduce crashes, too. And unfortunately, while a 10 or 12 lane bridge across the Columbia might ease congestion there, it is likely to simply shift the bottleneck further south to the Rose Quarter, where I-5 narrows to two lanes in each direction.
Of course, as you know, there are many other issues regarding the CRC on which we reach different conclusions. I've tried to be quite explicit and careful in marshaling facts and evidence to support these conclusions. For your reference, and for those who may not have seen Impresa's work, I attach my latest analysis of CRC questions to this email.
April 17, 2011
Over the past few days, I've been working on a new post on the Beaverton/Wilsonville Corridor, currently served by WES, and wondering what options might work to provide service for it in the future. One of the efforts of that column was a table comparing the performance of several different types of transit technologies, to help inform debates on the subject. The table appears to be sufficiently useful to merit a standalone post.
The table lists quite a few transit lines (or segments thereof), along with key attributes. Many of the examples are from Portland or elsewhere in the Northwest, but a few are taken from other parts of the world. The attributes focused on are those which most directly affect transit speed--the characteristics of the right of way (how exclusive is it), and the stop spacing. Some rather interesting systems are included on the list. The list is sorted by average speed, without regard to technology.
|Line/service||ROW type||Distance (mi)||Time (min)||Speed (mi/h)||Stops en route||Distance/stop (mi)||Payment||Comments|
|Shanghai TransRapid||Class A rail||19 (30.5 km)||8.16||139||1||19||Maglev train|
|Sounder North (Everett-Seattle)||Class A rail||51||59||51.9||3||17||Commuter rail|
|Adelaide O-Bahn Busway||Class A guided bus||7.5 (12km)||13||35||2||3.75||Onboard||Interesting concept--a busway (used by regular busses) that "guides" busses along route|
|Munich S1, Airport-Hauptbahnhof||Class A rail||25.3 (40.3 km)||45||33.7||13||1.9||Platform||S-Bahn|
|LACMTA Red Line||Class A Rail||16.4||30||32.8||13||1.26||Platform|
|WES||Class A commuter rail||14.7||27||32.7||4||3.7||Onboard|
|Sounder South (Tacoma-Seattle)||Class A rail||31||59||31.8||6||5.1||Commuter rail|
|Seattle Monorail||Class A rail||1||2||30||1||1||Platform|
|Brisbane South East Busway||Class A bus||10 (16.5km)||23||26||9||1.1||Onboard||Fully grade-separated BRT system|
|Bay Area Rapid Transit (Richmond-Daly City)||Class A rail||23||53||26||18||1.27||Platform|
|Martin Luther King Jr. East Busway, Pittsburgh PA||Class A bus||9.1||22||24.8||8||1.1||Onboard|
|MAX (CTC-Gateway)||Class A light rail||6.5||16||24.4||8||0.8||POP|
|Swift BRT (Community Transit) Everett, WA-Shoreline, WA||Class B/C+ bus||16.7||42||23.9||11||1.5||Platform|
|C-Tran Route 105||Class C express bus||15.4||40||23.1||4||3.85||Onboard|
|Canada Line||Class A rail||9 (15km)||25||21.6||12||0.75||POP||Driverless metro|
|LA Metro Orange Line||Class B bus||14||42||20||13||1.1||POP||BRT with exclusive ROW, signallized grade crossings|
|TriMet Line 12, Sherwood-downtown||Class C bus||15.2||49||18.6||Many||~0.15||Onboard|
|Las Vegas Monorail||Class A rail||3.9||13||18||6||0.65||Platform|
|MAX (Rose Quarter-Denver Ave||Class B+ light rail||4.2||15||16.8||7||0.6||POP|
|UTA MAX, Magna-Salt Lake||Class B/C+ bus||11.5||41||16.8||13||0.9||POP||Need to include at least one of the BRT systems in the US called "MAX". Being upgraded to class B throughout.|
|EmX Green Line (Eugene-Springfield||Class B/C bus||4||15||16||10||0.4||POP||Some exclusive ROW, some mixed traffic|
|TransLink (Vancouver) 99B Line||Class C||8.1 (13km)||33||14.7||12||0.65||POP||Mixed traffic BRT|
|San Francisco Cable Cars Powell/Hyde Line||Class C rail||4.3||18||14.3||28||0.15||Onboard|
|Bus 76 (Beaverton-Tualatin)||Class C bus||10.5||45 peak||14 (peak)||Many||~0.15 (750')||Onboard|
|Strasbourg Tram line A||Class B rail||7.5 (12.5km)||32||14||21||0.35||POP|
|TriMet Line 9, Powell TC-Downtown||Class C bus||7||33||12.7||Many||~0.15||Onboard|
|Los Angeles Metro Rapid||Class C+ Bus||18.4||90||12.3||22||0.84||POP||Mixed-traffic bus w/signal priority|
|Portland Aerial Tram||Class A aerial tram||0.6||3||12||1||0.6||Onboard||Payment only collected going uphill|
|Greater Cleveland RTA Healthline||Class B+/C+ bus||6.8||40||10.2||33||0.2||POP|
|MAX (Rose Quarter-Goose Hollow)||Class B- light rail||2.8||18||9.3||10||0.3 (1500')||POP|
|Muni F Market & Wharves Streetcar||Class B Rail||5||35||8.6||32||0.15||POP|
|Portland Streetcar, SoWa-23rd||Class C rail||3.9||35||6.9||25||0.16||POP||1/2 of current loop|
A few notes:
- Generally, peak-hour times are used for services where that matters.
Service classes are defined as follows, inspired by this Human Transit post. In general:
- Class A services are those that only need stop at stations. This can refer to grade-separated lines (els or subways) or lines where the transit vehicle has absolute priority at grade crossings, and other vehicles (and pedestrians) are kept away from the route other than at well-marked, well-guarded points. An example of the latter is MAX in Beaverton.
- Class B services are those where transit may need to stop at crossings, but has an exclusive lane otherwise. A + is added for signal priority (which is different from the absolute priority above), a - if the line is in close proximity to parallel auto traffic or pedestrian environments.
- Class C services run in mixed traffic; a + is earned for those with signal priority or other enhancements
Rather than say anything more, I instead simply present the above table as is, and ask readers to draw their own conclusions below.
April 15, 2011
I saw an interesting article in Business Week over the weekend, about Megabus, the largest of a set of companys providing city-to-city bus service in the mid-West and on the East Coast (similar in some ways to the "Chinatown buses" that go between New York and Boston).
It's an interesting model, based on low prices (at least for some passengers), high amenities (WiFi!) and convenience (service from curbside locations).
The article suggests it could be an alternative to High Speed Rail.
As far as I can tell, there's no West Coast equivalent. Could this work in the Eugene to Vancouver, BC corridor? Portland to San Francisco?
April 14, 2011
Portland's own Dave Brooks describes how it works on yesterday's Think Out Loud program (mp3 6.1M).
Reconnecting America has an analysis of the impact on transportation alternatives from the budget deal.
TriMet may be sweating Portland-to-Milwaukie Light Rail. This could also raise some questions about the Light Rail component of the Columbia Crossing.
April 13, 2011
TriMet has proposed 2012 budget.
Good news: No service cuts; and instead there will be some service restorations (though it doesn't appear to be going back to pre-recession levels).
Bad news: A 5c fare increase for adults. $4 increase in the price of a monthly adult pass. LIFT paratransit service also going up in price.
Good news: 55 busses to be purchased.
Semi-bad news: Diesel is getting more expensive, thus TriMet's fuel budget is going up. (OTOH, some of us consider this to be not-so-bad news...)
For details, click the link. Unfortunately, it only goes to a summary page--not to any place where the actual budget can be downloaded, but there you have it...
April 12, 2011
Columbia River Crossing skeptic and fellow traveler Joe Cortright reports that Friday at 1pm the House Transportation and Economic Development Committee has a scheduled work session on HJM 22, the resolution supporting Federal funding for the CRC, a measure that many fear will be used as justification for ODOT to divert existing state funds into the project away from other projects. Here is Joe's response to the committee (PDF).
Joe also reports that a "gut and stuff" maneuver is expected on HB 2158, which as written directs ODOT to study the importance of Oregon's Interstate bridges. In a "gut and stuff" the content of a bill is replaced with something related (i.e., still about the CRC) but completely different. This hearing is at 1pm Wednesday.
Watch your legislature at work.
Portland State University
Center for Transportation Studies
Spring 2011 Transportation Seminar Series
Speaker: Nancy Boyd (CRC project director for Washington), Frank Green, P.E., CRC structural engineering manager
Topic: Columbia River Crossing Bridge Design Debrief
When: Friday, April 15, 2011, 12:00 - 1:00pm
Where: PSU Urban Center Building, SW 6th and Mill, Room 204
Cascadia Times now has their 9-part examination of the Columbia River Crossing online.
April 11, 2011
Our go-to device for our nascent Transit Appliance project has been the Insignia Infocast, a version of the Chumby platform marketed by Best Buy.
Sadly Best Buy has discontinued the Infocast.
But the good news is that we have a new contender, the Chumby 8, by Chumby Industries. It's slightly more expensive ($199) but we received our first Chumby 8 last week and were gratified to find that it was 100% software-compatible with everything we've developed to date.
So we're on a path to a rollout with Chumby 8s (stay tuned). Meanwhile, we have one last Infocast test unit in our inventory, and we'd like to move it out.
So here's the one-time opportunity: we'll provide a fully configured Infocast Transit Appliance, installed at your location (in the greater Portland area - you provide the network connection, wired or wifi) for $150 - a price not likely to be seen again soon.
First come, first served! Who'd like to seize the opportunity?
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
April 10, 2011
I spent some fun time this afternoon at the Pedal Nation bike show at the Convention Center.
I had noted some tweets yesterday about overflowing bike parking outside, even though event parking had been added. Here's what I found today, outside the front door and inside the parking structure where bike parking is also provided:
This is not a new issue, BikePortland has covered it before.
I realize that I'm an outlier - since I attend many Metro meetings at the Convention Center and have a motivation to learn where the parking is that a casual event goer might now. But the I find the inside parking very convenient, and of course it's out the elements.
Is this just a question of the Convention Center needing to provide some way-finding, or is there a psychology of bike parking that users always want to be near the front door?
April 6, 2011
Listen to the show (mp3, 25.4MB)
Michelle and Tori talk with a range of cycling leaders from around the country including:
- Randy Neufield, National advocate with the SRAM Cycling Fund
- Timothy Papandreou, Deputy Director of Transportation Planning for the Sustainable Streets Division of San Francisco's Municipal Transit Agency
- Charles Gandy, Mobility Coordinator, City of Long Beach
- Yvonne Bambrick, founding Director of the Toronto Cyclists' Union
- Caroline Samponaro, Director of Bicycle Advocacy for Transportation Alternatives, NYC
- Neil Trembley, trail and bicycle advocate in Minneapolis
- Scott Robinson, Transportation Planner with the City of Bloomington, IN
Gabe Klein, former director of the DC Department of Transportation will be giving not one, but two seminars at PSU on Friday. Both will be webcast:
Portland State University Center for Transportation Studies Spring 2011 Transportation Seminar Series
Speaker: Gabe Klein, Former Director of Washington, DC Department of Transportation
Topic: The Past, Present and Future of Personal Urban Transportation
Abstract: Transportation expert Gabe Klein, former Director of the District Department of Transportation (Washington, DC), Co-Founder of On-the-Fly, and former Regional VP of ZipCar, will be speaking about the future of urban transportation and quality of life. 85% of US citizens live in urban metropolitan areas. People are moving back to the urban cores, and what were once suburbs are now looking more like small cities or urban villages themselves. Given the inevitable demographic and geographic population shifts over the next 30 years, what is transportation going to look like in 2020? 2030? How will we manage the change? Gabe will talk about macro and micro policy and market trends, such as access vs. ownership, the commoditization of transportation, landuse, bicycle/pedestrian shifts, and technology affecting consumer choice.
When: Friday, April 8, 2011, 12:00 - 1:00pm
Where: PSU Urban Center Building, SW 6th and Mill, Room 204
Transportation expert Gabe Klein, former Director of the District Department of Transportation (Washington, DC), Co-Founder of On-the-Fly, and former Regional VP of ZipCar, will share lessons learned from the launch of Capital Bikeshare in Washington, D.C. He will be joined by Alison Cohen (Alta Bike Share).
What: Lessons Learned from Capital Bike Share
When: Friday, April 8, 2011, 3:00 p.m - 4:00 p.m.
Where: Portland State University, Intelligent Transportation Systems Laboratory (Room 315 of the Engineering Building, 1930 SW Fourth Ave)
Who: The event is open to the public. The room holds approximately 50 on a first-come-first-served basis.
Webcast: A live webcast will be available. Windows Media Player required. The webcast will also be archived and available later via otrec.us
Mr. Klein is visiting Oregon as part of the UO Sustainable Cities Initiative's Expert in Residence program and OTREC's Visiting Scholars Program. He is spending Wednesday in Eugene, meeting with faculty, students and local partners, touring Eugene by bike and BRT, and giving a a public lecture as part of the LiveMove Speaker Series (5:30 p.m., Eugene Electric Station). On Thursday, is he visiting Salem where UO's Sustainable City Year is focusing its efforts in 2010-11. In Portland on Friday, Mr. Klein is meeting with students in the morning and then presenting a public lecture as part of Portland State University's weekly transportation seminar series (Noon, PSU Urban Center room 204 and on the web).
Event flier: http://www.ibpi.usp.pdx.edu/media/BikeShareFlier.pdf
April 5, 2011
That's what the Columbian reports the Washington Legislature would like to study: some kind of public-private partnership, with the Columbia River Crossing being one of four projects for consideration (the others are in the Sound area).
As Joe Cortright points out, that probably means a private party charging even higher tolls than already contemplated.
Peter DeFazio once described this as "outsourcing our political will."
April 4, 2011
Here's a Streetfilm about the BRT system in Guangzhou, China.
The system has a number of attributes worth emulating:
- Pre-boarding payment - ala Curitiba
- Direct routing - buses enter and leave the BRT corridor
- Bicycle facilities constructed in coordination with the transit corridor
- A bike share system integrated with the transit system
- An integrated payment card
Definitely worth watching.
April 1, 2011
To celebrate the first day of April, I'm proud to announce that the editorial staff of Portland Transport has decided to confirm that (as certain skeptics have long suspected), we really are railfans. As such, we've decided to rename this blog Portland Trainspot, and our new mission will be the posting of pictures of MAX, WES, and Streetcar rolling stock. To start off our new mission, here is a picture of cars 101 and 240, taken at Beaverton Transit Center (and ruthlessly cribbed from Wikipedia).
Getting back to reality, a few other notes:
- On the topic of fares and such, Joseph Rose of The Oregonian has a front-page article on the reduction of fare inspectors on the TriMet system, and a corresponding rise in crime. Rose also writes a followup article on his blog.
- On a related topic, more cameras are coming to MAX stations in town.
- The feds have put their seal of approval on the Milwaukie MAX FEIS, allowing TriMet to commence with final design. Construction on the new bridge will start this summer.
- In a recent guest editorial at The Oregonian, electric trolleybusses are proposed for Portland.
- In Part 3 of his recent interview, Neil McFarlane addressed the issue--noting that he is in favor of electric-powered busses, though suggesting that advances in technology soon may make wireless electric busses a more practical solution in the coming years.
- Two big votes upcoming on the LO Streetcar, as the Lake Oswego and Portland city councils make decisions on the project. Vote in LO is expected to be a squeaker (but the project is expected to pass), the vote in Portland will likely be broadly in support.
But of course, this is the open thread, so feel free to talk about anything transit-related that you like.