April 29, 2012
Portland State University
Center for Transportation Studies
Spring 2012 Transportation Seminar Series
Speaker: Peter Furth (Northeastern University)
Topic: Low-Stress Bicycling and Bike Network Connectivity
When: Friday, May 4th, 12:00 - 1:00 p.m.
Where: PSU Urban Center Building, SW 6th and Mill, Room 204
April 27, 2012
This guest post is by Michael Andersen, editor of Portland Afoot, PDX's 10-minute newsmagazine about buses, bikes & low-car life.
Thanks to the heroic efforts of a handful of volunteers for Bike Walk Vote, there's been quite a bit of attention in this election season to local candidates' positions on bicycling and walking. But the contenders in the May 15 primary haven't had as many chances to go on the record about transit issues.
Inspired by Bike Walk Vote's work, my friend Aaron Brown and I decided to do something about that.
Aaron, a local transportation advocate working at The Intertwine Alliance, rounded up the leading candidates in each council and Metro race and put to each of them a series of questions that we thought would matter to transit riders. Earlier this week, I summarized his findings on Portland Afoot's blog. But we saw a few interesting trends running through all the races, too - and those are what I want to share with Portland Transport.
Streetcar might be in trouble.
Of the three top mayoral candidates, only one is enthusiastic about Streetcar's citywide growth plan. (Guess who.) Presumptive Councilman Steve Novick is downright bearish. Amanda Fritz and Mary Nolan have satisfyingly opposite views: Nolan thinks Streetcar is mostly about transportation, and should expand Lloydward; Fritz thinks it's mostly about densification, and should, if it goes anywhere, leap 80 blocks east to Lents.
TriMet board reform has surprisingly broad support.
Portland Transport host Chris Smith isn't the only guy who wants TriMet leadership appointments moved somehow to the Metro level. Charlie Hales, Amanda Fritz, Jonathan Levine, Steve Novick, Mark White, and Jeri Williams all endorsed the notion.
The most interesting argument against such a change was Mary Nolan's. Nolan said (persuasively, since she was a major transit ally in the state House) that such a move would make the legislature less willing to subsidize TriMet's capital projects.
Everybody says they love YouthPass, though it's not clear that they all understand it.
We asked eight City Council candidates what the city should do about 10,000 PPS high schoolers losing free TriMet passes after this school year. Seven of them answered with a variation on "whatever it takes." (Jefferson Smith even cited YouthPass as a way to make transit more cost-effective, which seemed odd.) Only one council candidate suggested dialing it back: Steve Novick, who said it should be offered only to low-income students.
Two important things it wasn't clear the candidates understood about YouthPass:
- The state requires PPS to give free transportation to about 3,000 of its 13,000 YouthPass-eligible students: the ones who are on free or reduced lunch; who attend their neighborhood high school; and who live more than 1.5 miles from it. When we talk about saving YouthPass, we're already talking mostly about kids in middle-class homes.
- PPS taxpayers are paying for school buses throughout the state, but suburban and rural taxpayers aren't paying for school passes in the PPS district -- even though under the deal negotiated for YouthPass, TriMet is both cheaper and better than yellow buses. This inequity comes from the state level, and stems from the fact that people outside dense urban areas think YouthPass is a handout for PPS. It's not. It's a reflection of the fact that living in a dense urban area is extremely efficient.
The local left may be near consensus around a 'utility model' for road funding.
Bob Stacey and Jefferson Smith, two of Portland's most progressive and wonkiest politicos, both alluded to ditching Oregon's gas tax for a three-part system: a universal road maintenance fee (presumably paid by person or by household); congestion-based tolling, to reduce peak-hour congestion; and a usage fee (presumably paid by the mile or mile-ton).
BRT has some unexpected bedfellows.
I wouldn't have pegged either Stacey or Nolan as politicians who'd give up on light rail to Vancouver. But the Columbia River Crossing might tip their scales.
Both said they'd be willing to accept bus rapid transit as part of a compromise that could scale back the planned expansion of I-5 across the Columbia River.
One last thing.
Finally, I can't resist sharing my favorite moment: Stacey's confession that he sometimes uses the Internet to look at subway porn -- that is, at photos that make Washington Park MAX station look like part of an imaginary Portland subway system.
If I've learned anything from helping assemble this fun, hopefully useful project, it's that every viable local candidate this year is a strong supporter of low-car transportation.
That's because in the Portland we've built, it'd be politically suicidal not to be. In other words, we are the change Ray Polani was waiting for.
The May issue of Portland Afoot is a guide to good places in Portland to fix your bike.
April 26, 2012
Transit service is a painful topic right now, but we might want to take a second to remember that relative to a lot of other places, we're still in a pretty good place (but will never be complacent).
The good folks at WalkScore have released a ranking of major metros by their aggregate TransitScore - and Portland comes in at a very respectable #10 nationally (as reported by GeekWire).
April 23, 2012
TriMet has published its proposed FY13 budget. I'll peruse it a bit more myself later tonight, but a few observations courtesy of OPAL after the jump (sorry, Facebook access required for the OPAL link).
I'm not endorsing any conclusion which may be implied by OPAL; however, these are good questions to be asking.
- Contribution to the Streetcar is $9.3M, prior contribution was $6M. Initial planned contribution was $9.6M, the $300k difference has been portrayed by TriMet as a cut. OPAL seems to regard the Streetcar (and TriMet's contribution thereto) as a luxury item and a waste of money, and appears to skeptical of TriMet getting too much involved in getting into the land-use business, and appears to be opposed to some (if not all) of this subsidy. The increase is due to the upcoming opening of the Eastside Streetcar. TriMet's position is that its funding of the Streetcar is essentially the same amount of money that it would take to provide equivalent bus service on the route.
- OPAL also points out that the agency's contingency fund is $20M rather than $10M. TriMet includes the following comments in the budget (pages 11-12)--apologies if there are any errors, as the budget PDF disallows copy-and-paste, so I'm typing this in by hand:
Budget "best practice" requires the establishment of reserves or "contingency" to provide an entity with a source of funds to provide for unexpected costs. TriMet's FY13 Contingency is $20 million, which represents 1.5% of Total Requirements. Under State law, the use of funds in the Contingency requires a resolution of the TriMet Board before funds can be transferred and expended. If the Contingency Funds are not used in FY13, they become part of the Ending Fund Balance and are available for FY13 cash flow. Given the uncertainties facing TriMet in FY13, including the outcome of a decision by the ERB relating to past union health care costs, uncertainty about future health care costs which result from the labor contract, diesel fuel and the cost of other materials, and the economy, a contingency of 1.5% of total requirements is prudent but very modestThe big question: Should they lose to the union, can TriMet keep service levels the same by consuming the contingency fund (at least for FY13), or will another round of cuts be coming down the pipe?
This level of contingency is expected to provide TriMet with sufficient resources to withstand a modest decline in revenue or modest cost increases compared to budget. Given the uncertainties in the economy and the labor environment, the Contingency is sized to provide sufficient funding for operations in the event of adverse results in the fiscal year.
Now that car2go has been in operation for a few weeks, I've had a chance to use it a handful of times and have some additional observations.
There's also been more than a little chatter on the interwebs among transportation advocates that car2go makes it too convenient to use a car!
In my own use, I found it mostly competing with transit. The cases where I've found myself looking at the iPhone app to find a car are when I've planned to use transit, but the next vehicle is more than 10 minutes away. In one case I did rent a car.
I suspect that if you're already car free (or the member of a one-car household like me, without immediate access to the family vehicle) car2go DOES compete with transit and cycling.
In general, the 'sustainability win' for car sharing is that it makes it more likely that your household will give up a car (or not buy one to start with). From that perspective, I think that having car2go in the mix may very well encourage more folks to go car-lite or car-free.
Don't do this with your car2go
Courtesy of cfarivar [Ceative Commons licence]
The other question I've seen around the net is whether you can take advantage of the small vehicle size and park perpendicular to the curb. The short answer is no, the car2go documentation says not to:
Vehicles parked in curbside spaces must be parallel
parked unless the location specifically requires
perpendicular or angle parking.
April 19, 2012
The statistics are staggering.
- According to a study conducted in the 1990s over a six-year period, over 200 Americans were killed and over 12,000 injured were documented in over ten thousand road rage incidents. These statistics only count documented road rage incidents, where a police report and/or insurance claim was filed; countless other instances of vehicular aggression occur every day on our highways that don't result in a collision or other major incident.
- The city of Portland, likewise, has seen an epidemic of drive-by shootings.
- These incidents, in which a vehicle was used to assault someone (or to assist in the commission of an assault), exclude the vast number of other crimes involving motor vehicles, such as robbers' use of getaway cars, child predators' use of windowless vans, and the tremendous amount of contraband that gets smuggled each and every year on our nation's highways.
- And lets not forget: motor vehicles, and their contents, are frequently the target of thieves themselves.
If you are now shaking your head and muttering to yourself "what a profoundly stupid argument", you'd be absolutely correct.
But such arguments are frequently made earnestly and with a straight face, when the subject is busses and trains instead of cars and trucks.
The great double standard
In the vast majority of circumstances, there seems to be a wide understanding among the public, that general public goods and inanimate objects aren't responsible for their misuse. Shopping malls aren't responsible for shoplifting. "Guns don't kill people, people kill people" is a well-known slogan particularly popular with conservatives. We don't shut down the banking system because crooks might try and launder money there, or disconnect houses from the power grid because someone was caught growing pot in the attic. Al Capone's Louisville slugger wasn't responsible for the fact that he bashed some lowlife's head in with it in The Untouchables. The state DMV, the highway department, and the municipal public works departments that build our roads aren't held responsible for drive-bys or road rage incidents.
Public transit shouldn't be treated any differently when some miscreant abuses it or its facilities. It's a public good. The overwhelming majority of its users are law-abiding citizens who mind their own business. That it occasionally is used by thugs doesn't turn it into a "public bad", any more than road-rage incidents cancel out the usefulness of highways. (There are good reasons to oppose highway construction; but hotheaded drivers aren't one of them).
Transit seemingly is unique in society, as it's one place where people from all walks of life come together and share a common (and frequently combined) space. On the bus or train on any given day, you'll find businessmen, families with children, homeless people, senior citizens, teenagers, drunks, tatted-up twentysomethings--and of many different races and backgrounds. In many other aspects of life, people can choose to segregate themselves with those they feel comfortable around; living in a particular neigbhorhood, sending their kids to a particular school, etc. But transit, FTMP, is an integrated experience. Some people find this disconcerting, others downright threatening.
The same, though, is true of the roads--we don't have different highways for different types of people. However, the differences among us are far less noticeable when we're all locked in moving metal boxes, so it may bother some people less--until they cut off the wrong person on the freeway. But as noted, when road-rage incidents do occur, we seem to write them off more readily--we don't declare that the highways are inherently unsafe, or make unreasonable demands of the authorities such as doubling the size of the highway patrol.
Transit as "cancer"
The arguments I'm objecting to in this post aren't arguments complaining about inadequate security on TriMet. A good argument can be made that TriMet can and should do more to secure its facilities (more on that below); and that the specifically, the agency's decision to react to the recession by scaling back fare inspection in 2009-2011 was a poor choice.
The arguments I'm reacting to instead are the arguments, popular in right-wing media (and among some commentators who should know better), that public transit is inherently dangerous, including to those other than its patrons. In other words, the "crime train" argument--the notion that building MAX to Milwaukie or Vancouver will cause hordes of criminals from Portland's rougher neighborhoods to take the train to these gentle communities to pillage and burn. Many anti-CRC arguments from the 'Couv seem to regard the Columbia River as a giant moat, protecting the fair citizens of Vancouver from Portland's underclass, as if the city's troublemakers don't know how to drive or ride the bus. Often (not always) such arguments are grounded in little more than blatant racism.
This is kind of like blaming the body's circulatory system for the spread of cancer, as malignant cells routinely spread through blood and lymphatic vessels to metastasize elsewhere.
The facts of the matter, though, are different:
- Criminal behavior tends to be a neighborhood phenomenon. Delinquents will frequently cause problems in their own neighborhoods and/or adjoining ones; but wayward teenagers from Rockwood don't go traveling to Council Crest looking for trouble. In general, in places where the streets are unsafe, the transit (and roads) may be unsafe. Out in Beaverton, violent crime on MAX is extremely rare, for instance.
- Many delinquents (and many more professional criminals), are perfectly able to drive and either have access to a car, or the means and motive to steal one. The notion that crime can be quarantined by withdrawing (or not building) public transit is simply laughable. In many cases, reducing transit options will most severely impact the law-abiding poor, who need it to get to their jobs--with the perverse result that more and more people are driven into the underbelly of society.
- A similar argument applies to the bus system. One unusual aspect about transit and political culture in Portland is that the bus system (particularly those bus lines which avoid bad neighborhoods) is often viewed as safer than MAX. In many cities, it's the reverse, as it's assumed that the bus system is the province of the poor and downtrodden, and rail systems are constructed (often passing over or ignoring poor neighborhoods) to serve the transit needs of "nice" middle-class commuters for whom driving is not a realistic option.
In short, the notion that residents of Milwaukie or Vancouver or Tigard need to be concerned about rapid-transit lines suddenly enabling crooks to come visit their towns, is rubbish. If someone in Felony Flats wanted to go burgle a house in Hillsboro, he'd have plenty of ways to get their besides the train. But chances are, a burglar in Felony Flats will find a house on his own street to rob, and burglaries that occur in Hillsboro are committed by criminals who live in Hillsboro.
Recent scholarship on the issue also debunks the notion that adding mass transit causes an increase in crime. According to The Atlantic, a recent study in the Journal of Urban Affairs (abstract; full report is behind a paywall unfortunately) suggests the opposite. In addition, conservative writers Paul M. Weyrich and William S. Lind. debunk this notion in their book Moving Minds: Conservatives and Public Transit (excerpt here). And a study in Brazil indicated that violent crime dropped 50% after the installation of the TransMilenio BRT system.
The security issue
If transit critics making these sorts of argument do have a point, it's on the issue of security. While incidents on transit seem to be overreported, they do occur, and they do contribute to a negative perception of the system. The good news is that transit-related crime frequent is less serious than other types of crime as a whole. One study notes:
The majority of the incidents represent less serious crime and incivilities. A survey of 45 transit agencies showed that 22% (or 8,000 cases) of all reported incidents were of serious nature. Of the serious crime only 2,700 cases were violent (TCRP, 1997). The vast majority of the less serious incidents involve vandalism, disorderly conduct, public drunkenness, theft, and harassment. These affect and intimidate other transit patrons (TCRP, 1997), but tend to be underreported. Robberies, assaults, and batteries represent the majority of the reported serious crime (TCRP, 1997).
As noted above, after the Great Recession (and other factors) made budget cuts necessary in the past several years, one of TriMet's responses was to scale back its fare-inspection activities. TriMet uses the proof-of-payment system on MAX. Many critics of the agency refer to the PoP system as the "honor system"--and while this is technically not correct (an honor system would be a system without any fare enforcement at all), the relative lack of fare inspections made it close enough. Fare evasion on MAX went up, and if you believe the "broken windows theory" of law enforcement, a failure to prevent fare-jumping will lead to breakdown of other social norms, such as restraints on violent or disorderly conduct. This (along with the sequestering of the operator in an enclosed cabin) doubtless contributes to the "MAX is unsafe" meme; whereas bus drivers check fares of those who board, and are in a better position to observe any misbehavior aboard the much smaller vehicle.
TriMet's recent upgrading of its number of fare inspectors, and its lower tolerance for fare evasion, is welcome news. The proposed switch to electronic ticketing in some form, possibly within the decade, should further improve the situation, both by improving the reliability of fare vending (fewer opportunities to use the "broken ticket machine" excuse) and the speed of inspection operations. TriMet GM Neil McFarlane has also discussed plans to better secure some of the suburban stations, possibly including the installation of fare gates to keep unticketed individuals off platforms and discourage loitering.
One interesting aspect of TriMet is its status as a standalone government agency. Unlike most ODOT and municipal public works departments, which are part of a large general-purpose government that also provides police services, particularly traffic enforcement (and where both the transportation and police functions are funded, more or less, from a common revenue stream managed by a common set of elected officials), TriMet is separate--and thus largely responsible for providing its own security. TriMet does not pay any taxes to the municipalities it operates within--nor do municipal governments pay the transit payroll tax for public employees. It has its own transit police force consisting of 62 sworn officers, along with numerous other non-sworn security guards and fare inspectors.
Agencies from other departments, along with fire and EMS personnel, do respond to incidents on TriMet and/or ride on or secure the lines; but in general, municipal police agencies tend to regard TriMet security is outside the scope of their mission, and some (the Clackamas County sheriff's department seems to be a notable example) like to complain about TriMet diverting their officers from other duties. I don't recall OSP or any local law enforcement agencies objecting to a new road on the grounds that it will swamp their patrol divisions.
April 13, 2012
I've harped quite a bit on the importance of understanding TriMet's mission, and so will now ask a related question:
How do we define "success"?
Cascade Policy Institute recently wrote an article claiming that only 7% of attendees at a recent performance of a Cirque du Soleil show at the Expo Center arrived via MAX. Ignoring the methodological issues with the survey that CPI conducted, the implication of the article is that MAX, at least in this case, is a failure in some sense, as it wasn't used for "enough" trips to see the circus. The article doesn't define what percentage of trips would be considered successful.
In the recent thread on the FY13 TriMet budget, two well-known commenters got into a mini-debate on the subject (other topics in the conversation, relevant to the union contract issue but not to this topic, have been excised from the excerpt given here). Lenny wrote:
It would seem to me that if you serve the 25th largest market or thereabouts in the nation, but your number of customers ranks 7th in the nation, you can apply the word "successful" to your enterprise.To which Al responded:
And we shall see just how the ridership statistics per capita levels out when there is no more free ride square and no more unreadable transfers. No matter how you cut the cake Mr Anderson, only 12% of commuters use TRIMET, and that sir, is hardly my version of successful.
Thus, the questions are:
How do we define successful? Is it
- Ridership statistics (percentage of commutes, percentage of other trips, percentage of commuters using transit)?
- Mobility-related statistics (coverage, frequency, speed, reliability, trips-enabled)?
- Financial statistics (farebox recovery ratio, percent subsidy)?
- Environmental statistics (reduction of VMT, emissions measurements, propulsion systems used by transit vehicles)?
- Congestion-related statistics (reductions in highway congestion)? At the risk of prejudicing the discussion; I'll go on the record and state that making the highways more tolerable for motorists should not be a goal for transit, even though many transit dollars are justified on this basis.
- Equity-related statistics (support for the poor and other disadvantaged communities)?
- Economic development/stimulus effects? (Payrolls or jobs created by operations, jobs created by construction activities, ability to win federal funding and other grants, etc)?
- Something else?
And if TriMet is presently not "successul"--how do we get there?
Note: I'm not so much interested in comparing TriMet and the Portland metro area to other cities; top ten lists for transit aren't very useful. I'm interested only in comparing where Portland is today, to where it needs to be.
Portland has announced the schedule for Sunday Parkways this year (its fifth year).
And as in prior years, perhaps even more important this year because of the City budget, the request for fundraising has gone out as well.
Last week I made my contribution of $100 to the "Every Dollar Counts" campaign for Sunday Parkways. I hope many of our readers will join me, at what ever level they can, to support this important community program.
Sunday Parkways not only celebrates all the ways we can get around with a combustion-powered vehicle, it also helps introduce many of our neighbors and neighborhoods to how safe and fun those alternatives can be!
April 12, 2012
The Columbia River Crossing is the project that keeps on giving. Some recent developments and opinions:
- The Columbian reports that the City of Vancouver is blocking a C-Tran public vote on funding for light rail operations - continuing the trend of doing everything possible to avoid confronting actually paying for this bridge.
- Ethan Seltzer points out the shameful avoidance of the Oregon Legislature to set any direction (or limits) on the project.
- Mayoral candidate Jefferson Smith makes a remarkably candid comment on the politics behind the project.
Keep your TV tuned to this channel for periodic updates.
April 11, 2012
Appears to have the same stuff as before, with a few other service notes.
* The 9 will only serve Powell Boulevard. The Northeast segment of the 9 will be combined with the 17. This was previously hinted at, but is now official.
* TriMet will add service on lines 4, 9, 33, 35, 44, 76 and 94.
* The final routing of Line 16 in NW Portland will go along Front Avenue, not Yeon Avenue. It will serve Sauvie Island.
* The Montgomery Park branch of the 15 will be extended into the NW Industrial area.
* A new line, Line 11, will serve the Rivergate industrial area.
A few items flagged as "potential" changes: UPDATE:TriMet has confirmed that these changes will occur; they are no longer "potential".
* The 12 will only run between Tigard TC and Parkrose TC. A new line, Line 21-Sandy/223rd will run between Parkrose and Gresham; the 94 will become an all-day route running between Sherwood and Tigard, and will continue to offer peak-hour express service between Tigard and downtown Portland.
* The 82 and 87 will be combined, and the combined route (the 87-Airport Way/181st) will have all-day service.
Thanks to Cam Johnson for his sharp eye.
UPDATE: The new NW service map is now available from TriMet, here it is.
More details at TriMet's website here.
* Unless TriMet loses (again) to the union, in which case it's time to break out the chainsaws.
Scotty has put out the call for ideas to improve the efficiency of bus service in the Portland region, and I encourage everyone to submit your ideas in the comment thread. I would like to take this opportunity to submit one idea for more efficient bus service: eliminate feeder routes wherever possible by combining them with more useful core bus lines.
The TriMet system has a lot of feeder services. These are generally very short, very indirect, and very infrequent routes that exist entirely to deliver people from their homes to the nearest MAX station or Transit Center. Unlike the major bus routes most people think of like the 14, the 9, or the 72, which serve dense residential areas and multiple destinations, feeder routes serve low-density residential areas and serve very few destinations if any. Instead, they mainly deliver people to a transfer point where they can then go to a destination. Because of this the market for such a route is very limited: people who work downtown 9-5 who can't or won't drive to work and who can deal with lengthy transfers and travel times. No wonder feeder buses get such low ridership: they just aren't that useful!
It is important to note that I am not against relying on connections between transit lines. On the contrary, I wholeheartedly agree with the idea of an interconnected grid relying on connections. However, there is a difference between a route that only exists to force a transfer and a route that exists on its own merits but also allows a transfer. A good bus line should serve multiple markets and appeal to both people who hate to transfer and those who don't mind it.
Many feeder routes were instituted in response to MAX service as a way to feed people into the new light rail system. While this is a laudable goal, I would argue it has largely been a failure. We are running nearly-empty buses every single day just to feed a small number of people onto the MAX trains. TriMet claims they need to get as many people as possible onto MAX because the operating costs are lower, but in the case of people transferring from feeder buses we have to include the extremely high operating costs to get them to MAX in the first place. This is beyond the scope of this post, but a similar issue exists for park-and-rides. Between the cost of building and maintaining the lots and the fact that TriMet inexplicably does not charge for parking, the cost per rider of MAX starts to look a lot higher than the stated numbers.
So what is the alternative? Whenever possible, link up feeder buses to other bus lines in order to create routes that serve multiple destinations rather than serving a single purpose. If this means a major deviation is needed to serve the nearest Transit Center, serious thought should be given to whether the deviation is actually worth it. In many cases, doing this could boost ridership on both lines by linking more destinations together. Where demand is still mismatched, short-route segments can be used effectively to match supply of service to demand.
While there are examples all over the TriMet district, one obvious place to start would be Gateway Transit Center, where several bus routes converge in East Portland to connect with abundant MAX service. To be precise, we have the 15, 19, and 24 coming in from SE and NE Portland, and we have the 22, 23, and 25 from the opposite direction in East Portland. These present clear opportunities to improve service. Here's what I would propose:
Combine the 24 and 22
Here we have two routes that by themselves each perform poorly and don't really serve many functions. By combining these routes, we can have a new route that serves more different kinds of trips and can run far more efficiently. Let's just run through the basics:
- The 24-Fremont runs east-west from Legacy Emanuel Hospital to Gateway Transit Center via Fremont Ave. It is a key part of the grid in the NE, but is not very useful since it was cut off from downtown several years ago and its span of service was reduced. It runs about 25 trips per day in each direction and only operates on weekdays until 7pm. Productivity (according to the TIP) is quite low at only 14.8 boardings/vehicle-hour, down in the bottom 20 of all TriMet bus routes.
- The 22-Parkrose is a feeder bus connecting the area north of I-84 and east of I-205 to Gateway Transit Center. This one surprisingly has higher levels of service than the 24, with a few more trips on weekdays as well as limited service on the weekend. Productivity is higher than the 24 as well (though still low overall), at 21.6 boardings/vehicle-hour.
Combining the 24 and 22 would be fairly easy because their levels of service are about the same on weekdays. Hopefully higher efficiency could be used to extend weekend service to the whole line, but that may not be worth it when we are still waiting for the Frequent Network to be restored.
The new 24/22 would work well from a geometric standpoint, essentially acting as the Fremont-Shaver line in the grid despite the major deviation down to Gateway Transit Center. In this case the deviation is forced by the imposition of Rocky Butte and I-205, so it can be forgiven.
An interesting alternative would be to run the 24 east on Fremont but then cut north on Cully to Killingsworth and Parkrose Transit Center on the way to East Portland. This would be a quicker path and would give the Cully neighborhood's main street its own bus line. With available funding long-term, the eastern end of this line could turn onto 148th and run north-south, fixing the large gap in the East Portland grid.
Finally, I would also recommend extending the 24 on the west end a small distance to at least reach the Rose Quarter Transit Center. It is strange that it ends at the hospital rather than continuing to such a nearby opportunity for connections. Ideally the line would be extended downtown once again or at least combined with a N Portland line for greater utility.
Connect the 19 with the 23 and 25
Basic info again:
- The 19-Woodstock/Glisan runs from Woodstock through Sellwood to Downtown, then crosses back over the river to run on Glisan all the way to Gateway Transit Center. It is pretty frequent at about 60 trips per weekday (far fewer on weekends) and is fairly productive at 29.6 boardings/vehicle-hour.
- The 23-San Rafael is a feeder bus that winds its way from Sandy & 148th to Gateway Transit Center through a mess of suburban-style residential areas just south of I-84. It has very low levels of service, running only 12 trips per day on weekdays only. Productivity is 13.7 boardings/vehicle-hour.
- The 25-Glisan/Rockwood is another short feeder line that connects Rockwood MAX station with Gateway Transit Center via Glisan. This line is notable for running about 5 blocks parallel to the MAX Blue Line for its entire length. This appears to limit its attractiveness, as it only runs 12 trips per day on weekdays only and productivity is only 15.6 boardings/vehicle-hour. The 25 is deservedly brought up often by transit wonks as a poster child for inefficient and useless bus service.
These are trickier to combine due to such different levels of demand, but keep in mind that all the people who currently do not ride the 23 and 25 because they don't want to transfer to get downtown will suddenly have a relatively fast one-seat ride. This should boost ridership quite a bit.
The 19 could do two short-routes, one on the current 23 and one on the 25. This would roughly mean 15-minute frequency on the core route in NE Portland and hourly frequency on each of the tails. I can't tell if the math quite works out without knowing the details of TriMet layover policies, but it seems like something could be worked out.
There is also a lot of merit for simply eliminating the 23 (since the 77 arguably serves that area adequately) and concentrating on the 25 since it runs on Glisan and is the more natural extension. The 25 portion could also be made more useful by combining with the 82 down 182nd Ave, which runs the same number of trips per day.
Zef Wagner is pursuing a Master of Urban and Regional Planning degree at Portland State University with a specialization in transportation planning.
April 10, 2012
Last month, Zef covered in detail TriMet's proposed service changes to both NE and NW Portland. (He also had some additional thoughts on the cuts as a whole over at Portland Afoot, see also here). Zef is unfamiliar with Washington County, so we agreed that I would do the article about the proposed changes affecting Beaverton and Hillsboro instead.
Here is TriMet's map of the proposed service changes; click on the thumbnail for a full-sized edition:
The major cuts can be summarized as follows:
- The 67-Jenkins/158th will no longer run to Beaverton Transit Center; instead it will end at the 158th/Merlo MAX station. Some stops on SW Jenkins will lose bus service. (I assume it will be renamed something else, such as the 67-158th/Bethany)
- The 89-Tanasbourne will cease to exist; its function will be taken over by the 48-Cornell and the 47-Baseline/Evergreen, which instead of ending at Willow Creek Transit Center, will continue to Sunset TC. The 48 will take the southern leg of the 89 (staying on Cornell) whereas the 47 will serve NW Bronson and NW Oak Hills. Both routes will run between downtown Hillsboro and Sunset TC, bypassing Willow Creek entirely. The combined 48 will have seven day service (as did the old 89; previously the 48 did not run on Sundays); the 47 will continue to have weekday-only service (in essence, the Bronson and Oak Hills deviations will lose weekend service).
If there's a theme that links these proposed changes to the northeast changes, it could be the concept of building the grid. One of the best topologies for transit is the high-frequency grid, where a network of lines in a rectangular grid pattern serve in area in a fashion similar to blocks in a street grid. Assuming that parallel routes are adequately spaced (so that patrons can walk to either a N/S line or an E/W line, assuming the grid is aligned with the cardinal directions), it is theoretically possible to make any trip with only a single transfer.
In areas with sparse transit coverage, however, the best transit topology is the pulse or star topology. In this arrangement, transit lines run between a small set of transfer points (generally corresponding to "transit centers" in TriMet terminology), with timed transfers occurring at these nodes, and bus lines scheduled to converge upon the nodes at the same time. This is the best way to make low-frequency services which require transfers work. One drawback with the pulse network is it produces redundant service around the nodes, limiting the geographical area which can be covered with a certain number of service hours.
In NE Portland, the network is mostly a grid; but Rose Quarter TC contains a few pulse elements. In particular, the 73 and the 70 both deviate west to terminate at the TC; the new routing removes this deviation. As the combined 70 intersects with MAX, which runs at five-minute headways in this part of town, and there are plenty of other frequent-service lines in the inner city, this isn't really a problem.
In Washington County, the TriMet network is more pulse-like. Other than MAX and the 57 (and unofficially, the 76/78 multiplex between Beaverton TC and Washington Square), none of the routes are frequent service. Most of the bus routes run between transit centers, and some circulator routes (such as the 53) serve the same TC at both ends. The transit centers of note in the Beaverton area are Sunset, Beaverton, Willow Creek, and Washington Square.
Both of the proposed service changes, on the surface, represent a migration away from a pulse network to a grid. In order to save service hours, deviations of bus lines from their nominal route to the nearest TC are being eliminated. Is this a good thing?
The good news is that the new 48 will be a far stronger line than either the old 48 or the 89. Cornell Road is--or ought to be--an excellent transit corridor; one that by rights should perform better than TV Highway. Among the destinations along the corridor are the county seat, two full-service hospitals (and a third to open next year), several Intel facilities, the county fairgrounds, Hillsboro Airport, the Orenco development, the Tanasbourne development, OHSU's Washington County complex, numerous major retail destinations, a Krispy Kreme, the Cedar Mill neighborhood (and the Science Park industrial complex), and the Peterkort development. With a line providing seven-day service the length of the corridor, I predict that the line will prosper.
The route of the 47 is not a strong corridor; on the other hand. It's new route will be rather serpentine. The western half (serving Evergreen Parkway, then dropping down at Orenco to Baseline) isn't too bad, but east of Tanasbourne, the line is weak--redundant with the 48 other than a few deviations. I wonder if it might have been better to create a new northern line out of this and the 50.
The truncation of the 67, as it stands, is unfortunate. Unlike the 47/48/89 and 70/73 combos, where disconnected feeder routes were combined into stronger corridors, there isn't a southern line to connect the 67 to--it will simply stop at the Merlo MAX station (a weak stop that gets frequent mention when the subject of closing MAX stations comes up). In the comments for the bus savings article, I suggested a way to extend the 67 down to Tigard, combining it with fragments of the 92 and 45; a simpler combination with just the 92 to Washington Square might be possible as well.
There is one major caveat with all this grid-giddiness. In the enthusiastic discussion of grids above, the word "grid" was necessarily preceded by the qualifier "high frequency". For grids to be an effective transit topology, they have to be frequent--30 minute or so headways at worst. (They also have to be available whenever the transit system is running--for TriMet, that means seven days a week). Timed connections in a grid are pretty much impossible, so the connectivity that makes grids work depends on frequency. A grid of busses that comes once an hour isn't going to cut it. Unfortunately, if current service levels on the affected lines are an indication, the Washington County grid may leave something to be desired.
If TriMet's adaptation of a grid topology represents a commitment to improved service frequencies when more operating funds becomes available; this is probably a good time as any to make the change. Nobody will complain if frequency is added in the future; but it's hard to make these sorts of changes in good times. If, on the other hand, the changes are only about the appearance of quality transit, then not so much. Only time will tell.
If TriMet is committed to building a grid in Beaverton (along with Gresham, Beaverton is probably the most transit-friendly of cities not named Portland in the TriMet service district), there's a few other changes it might consider:
- Rather than ending the 48 at Sunset TC, continue it along Barnes Road to downtown, replacing the 20. The 20-Burnside/Stark is one of the longest lines in the system, and it shortlines downtown anyway (many mid-day busses turn around at JELD-WEN Field rather than continuing over the West Hills); I think it would be useful to have the western terminus of the 20 be downtown, and have the 48 run between the Transit Mall and Hillsboro.
- Of course, if you do that, than you need a new line to serve Cedar Hills Boulevard. A new line, which leaves BTC heading north on Cedar Hills, serving the Cedar Hllls and Peterkort neighborhoods, and possibly heading west on Burton/Oak Hills or West Union (and possibly replacing the eastern half of the new 47) would be beneficial
- Another option for serving the Oak Hills neighborhood would be for the 62, rather than turning east on Cornell and heading to Sunset TC, to head west on Science Park Drive and then north on NW 143rd for a spell. Or, the 62 (which runs half-hourly) could simply turn around at Cedar Mill, and the service hours currently used to get between Sunset TC and Murray Blvd could be spread out over the entire Cornell corridor to improve frequency on the 48.
- One other suggestion: If TriMet ever finds the budget to upgrade the 59-Walker/Park Way to more than just peak hour service, connecting it to the western half of the 47 makes more sense.
Perhaps the most distinguishing characteristic of the car2go car-sharing system that debuted in Portland last week is one-way rentals.
One-way trips imply a very different parking model than the incumbent Zipcar. Zipcars have reserved spaces (for which Zipcar pays the City - at least for those in on-street meter zones). You have to end each trip back in the the reserved space. In-between you're responsible for parking just as you would be with your own car.
But since car2go vehicles have no 'home space', they've cut a deal with the City. You can park in any legal on-street parking space, even in metered, time-restricted or permit zones (you are restricted from purpose-limited spaces, so you can't park in loading zones or carpool-only spaces for example). Here's the master permit the City issued (PDF, 19K).
[The City and car2go do ask you to avoid parking in half-hour or shorter time-restricted zones, but the permit does not actually enforce this.]
For this privilege car2go pays the City $1,009 per vehicle per year, an amount calculated as the sum of five area parking permits and an estimate of parking meter usage. car2go collects GPS data that will be used to calibrate the meter usage. The permit is up for renewal after six months and can be adjusted.
It seems to me that this unique set of privileges could make car2go disproportionally attractive for some types of trips. Parking in a meter zone without paying seems attractive, as would being able to ignore resident-only restrictions (I wonder if we'll begin seeing all 250 cars showing up at Timbers games?).
On the other hand, there does have to be a space available to park in...
What do you think? Does the park-anywhere capability make you more interested in using car2go?
Are there unintended consequences that could arise from this - or are they mitigated by the idea that the vehicles won't sit still for very long, and should be rented quickly by someone who will take them somewhere else?
Or am I just a complete wonk for even being interested in this...?
April 9, 2012
Portland State University
Center for Transportation Studies
Spring 2012 Transportation Seminar Series
Speaker: Ben Stabler (Parsons Brinckerhoff)
Topic: Activity & Transportation Models: An Introduction for Non-Modelers
When: Friday, April 13, 12:00 - 1:00 p.m.
Where: PSU Urban Center Building, SW 6th and Mill, Room 204
Note: This seminar is part of a thematic series this term. Visit http://otrec.us/events/entry/spring_2012_transportation_seminar_series for information about upcoming seminars as well as archived webcasts of previous ones.
April 8, 2012
Last week, Portland Transport hosted an article on the subject of potential savings which could be realized by closing MAX stations and making the MAX line(s) more efficient. This article was prompted by GM Neil McFarlane's comments in our recent interview series, particularly the first part which discussed the recent service cuts. Chris, who conducted the interview, noted that budget crises are an opportune time to make politically-difficult but operationally-beneficial service reconfigurations, and indeed, some of the service changes (such as combining the 73 and the 70 on the east side, and combining the 47/48 and the 89 in Washington County) are of that sort.
Continuing along that same line, in this thread we invite readers to make additional suggestions of how service can be tweaked to improve operational efficiency. We're not looking for a list of which lines can be cut altogether (though feel free to make suggestions which do reduce service)--instead we're looking for suggestions on how lines can be combined or re-routed to make service more efficient, and perhaps serve more people at the same time. We're also limiting this discussion to the bus system--the trains go where they go, and major capital projects are out of scope for this discussion (minor improvements such as the need to install bus stops on new streets are OK). Keep in mind budget constraints as well--while we'd all like to see frequent service on the 35, the 76, and numerous other routes which deserve it--one of the assumptions is a financially-constrained budget. (Otherwise we wouldn't have the opportunity to propose reconfigurations of this sort).
I'll lead off the discussion with a suggestion, after the jump.
Suggestion: Combine the 58, 63, and 83.
The 58/Canyon Road bus travels between Beaverton Transit Center and downtown Portland. Leaving BTC, it travels east on Canyon Road to the Sylvan interchange, then takes US26 to just before the tunnel, and then exits to Goose Hollow. After serving the Goose Hollow MAX station, it continues east on SW Columbia to SW 4th, turning around and heading west on SW Jefferson, and then back to Beaverton TC via the same route. The line only lays over at Beaverton; its eastward run is immediately followed by its return trip.
The one-way journey is scheduled to take about 20 minutes during off-peak hours, and up to 30 minutes during the peak. The line is in the bottom 20% of reliability among TriMet routes, only being on time 80% of the time--and given that it travels for several miles on the Sunset Highway, this should not be surprising. (The TriMet reliability data I've linked to unfortunately treats on-time as a binary condition; were one to examine weighted reliability, in which busses that are extremely late are given a proportionately greater penalty, I suspect that the 58 would do worse--simply because getting stuck in US26 traffic is a common occurrence).
The line runs at approximately 30 minute headways during weekdays, with 20 minute service during the peeks, and is generally served by two busses, with a third running during the peaks. The line is very efficient with regards to how much time it spends in revenue operation vs waiting (not having much recovery time, unfortunately, is also bad for reliability).
The 63-Washington Park/Arlington Heights and 83-Washington Park Loop routes run between JELD-WEN Field and the Oregon Zoo. It also serves other destinations in Washington Park such as the Rose Garden and Japanese Gardens. A one-way journey on the 63 takes 12-14 minutes. The bus runs hourly on weekdays and does not run on weekends. A single bus provides the service. The 63 is one of the most reliable routes on TriMet's schedule, arriving on time 91% of the time. Unfortunately, it's inefficient, as it spends most of its time (slightly over half) parked. It's a great route to have if you're a bus driver with loads of seniority--other than the part about having to haul a bus up SW Salmon and Park--but it its present configuration, it's not terribly efficient. It's useless as an end-to-end route, as both ends of the route are on the MAX line. The more tourist-oriented 83 is a seasonal bus that only runs in the summer months; however, it does provides weekend service during the months when it runs. It also takes a slightly different route through the park on its westbound journey, traveling up Kingston Drive rather than Fairview Boulevard. (Both bus lines use Fairview heading east).
Why combine them? Reliability and efficiency.
The 58 suffers greatly from being stuck in traffic on US 26, and while on the freeway, it can't pick up or drop off passengers. But if instead of using US 26, it took Canyon Court to the Zoo, served the Zoo and neighboring attractions, and then took the route of the 63 down the hill--continuing downtown via SW Salmon and SW Taylor, rather than turning at JELD-WEN Field, the following benefits would be achieved:
- The reliability of the route would no doubt improve, by avoiding the Sunset Highway; the cost would be a few additional minutes of scheduled trip time.
- Service through Washington Park would improve dramatically, as the line would run on weekends year round, and by redeploying the service hours of the 63, the combined line could run at near 25-minute headways on weekdays, and close to 15 minute headways during peak hours if a fourth bus is placed in service on the route.
- No need to park and layover a bus near JELD-WEN Field. (I'm assuming that the 63 doesn't presently interline with some other route).
- Washington Park Riders would be able to reach both the Transit Mall and Beaverton TC without transferring.
The main disadvantages to this are:
- A slightly longer scheduled commute for Beaverton riders heading downtown (or the reverse).
- The round trip time of the combined 58 would no longer fit into an hour--you can probably expect a one-way trip time of 35-40 minutes during peak hours--a problem if you consider clockface scheduling to be important. (The current 58 doesn't have a clockface schedule, though the 63 does).
- If there is interlining going on that I'm not aware of--particularly at the downtown end of the routes--it might mess up the analysis.
The proposal eliminates two inefficient practices--freeway-running busses (which are unreliable and unable to pick up or drop of riders while on the freeway--given that MAX is in the same corridor, I'm not sure express-like services are all that necessary), and weak circulators that are mostly-redundant with parallel rapid transit.
The floor is yours
If you want to comment on the above, feel free; but the above proposal is intended only to get the ball rolling, not to be the primary subject of this post. Don't feel the need to be as detailed as the above. But as the saying goes in politics--never let a good crisis go to waste--so we look forward to your suggestions as to how TriMet can reconfigure its bus system to improve service overall.
April 7, 2012
We've talked about this phenomenon before, but last week, while I was busy with other distractions (like the City budget), the Frontier Group released a report documenting the trends. Sightline has already done a thorough story, so I'll direct you there.
April 6, 2012
No April Fools this time, just news that TriMet has proposed a resolution for the Board of Directors, to authorize a procurement of new Type 5 LRT vehicles, from Siemens. And no, they won't really consist of 40' busses tethered to flatbed railcars, as cool as that might sound. :)
Siemens, who manufactures the Type 2, Type 3, and Type 4 railcars presently used by MAX, was one of three entities bidding on the prior Request for Proposal; another was a joint venture between Stadler Rail, a Swiss railcar manufacturer, and OIW/United Streetcar. The third bidder was CAF USA, a US subsidiary of Spanish manufacturer CAF. Siemens had the strongest technical bid, and came in at a median price ($73.8M). For comparison, OIW had a median technical score, but demanded the highest price of $76.2M. CAF had the lowest bid ($69.7M) but also the lowest technical score.
Regarding the question of whether or not the OIW bid may have been preferable due to its local nature, especially given that the difference between the two bids was only $2.4M (and both bids were below the budgetary price in the project plans), TriMet noted in the resolution that:
While TriMet recognizes that the Project provides the opportunity to bring local jobs to the Portland area, federal regulations prohibit local preference as an evaluation criteria in the RFP. The Siemens contract price is $8 million below the Engineer's estimate and well within TriMet's budget for this contract.
The good news for OIW is that it didn't get blown out of the water on technical evaluation; and did better than one of the established railcar manufacturers bidding on the deal. On the other hand, had OIW won the bid, it might have not gotten much design knowledge it would have gotten out of the deal, as I'm certain that Stadler engineers and not OIW engineers would be leading the design work--OIW's role was in large part to permit Stadler, which currently doesn't have any US assembly plants of its own, to gain access to the US market, specifically the bulk of FTA-funded projects subject to Buy America requirements.
Hat tip to Michael Andersen at Portland Afoot.
April 5, 2012
Longtime and frequent commenter Lenny Anderson pens an op-ed in the Oregonian on how riders can improve transit service. (Hint: Find more riders).
Which brings me to a few thoughts on how best to serve Swan Island.
A big problem with serving it is that it's essentially a dead end. More accurately, it's two dead ends, one being the actual "island" itself (which is now a peninsula, and has been for almost a century, though it original was an island before a land reclamation project connected it to the mainland), the other is the industrial site nestled between the Swan Island lagoon and the bluffs. Even more accurately, it's three dead-ends, as the mainland side is cut in half by the railroad tracks, with the easternmost part of the industrial area only accessible via the Leverman Street overpass.
Dead ends are hard for bus service to serve, unless they are a really strong anchor. Right now, two bus lines go into Swan Island--the 85 pretty much exists only to serve it, serving the "mainland" side, and the 72 provides peak hour service to the "island" side.
What if a pair of bike/ped/transit-only bridges were constructed? I'm assuming the affected neighborhoods in Overlook and Portsmouth would oppose anything that could be used by trucks, so I'm assuming green bridges here. (I'm not assuming any need for rail; just busses). One bridge (bridge #1) would connect Overlook to Swan Island, running between N Willamette somewhere between N Killingsworth and N Rosa Parks (extending off of Rosa Parks would probably be the best place), down to Cutler Circle; the other (Bridge #2) would connect N Basin Drive, cross over the railroad tracks, and connect to N. Willamette just south of the UP campus.
With these bridges, the 72, rather than going S on Greeley to Going, could instead head north on Greeley, west down Bridge #1, to Cutler to Leverman, south on Basin, then west on Going and ending on the peninsula as currently done. The 85, rather then turning around at N Basin, could use Bridge #2 and serve UP and St. Johns, possibly even connecting with the Marine Drive bus (presently the 16).
Other useful service reconfigurations may well be possible with one (or both) of these bridges in place.
I was asked by the Portland Tribune to provide perspective on TriMet's current situation, as were a number of other people and organizations in the community and they all run in today's paper on the opinion page. Here's what I shared (the title I submitted was "Four prescriptions for a sustainable TriMet"):
TriMet finds itself in a very challenging budget situation. While there may be some debate around which of many painful choices are required to balance the budget, there is no painless way out in this moment.
But we, TriMet's community, should not miss the opportunity to learn from the current situation and make some long-term changes to avoid being in this situation again.
Here are four ideas to make TriMet more resilient:
- Balance capital construction with stable operating capacity -- The Regional Transportation Plan has several aspirations for transit, all worthy: "Expand high-capacity transit, expand frequent service transit, improve local service transit, support expanded commuter rail."
Recently we have expanded high-capacity transit and commuter rail at the expense of frequent and local service. We may not have intended it, but we are failing in our aspirations because we overcommitted operating revenue based on forecasts that were not accurate.
It may be true that the Great Recession could not have been predicted, but TriMet was already depleted in 2008. As a region, we need to pace the construction of transit capital projects and maintain adequate operating reserves for a prudent range of economic assumptions. As keeper of the Regional Transportation Plan, Metro must exercise oversight of TriMet's long-term finance plan to assure that we can meet our goals for all parts of the transit network.
- Reach a sustainable labor agreement -- TriMet and ATU must negotiate a labor agreement that is fair to employees with competitive wages and benefits yet which does not diminish the ability to operate the transit system. The current agreement, which allows someone to join the agency at 45, then retire at 55 with lifetime health care, threatens to turn TriMet into a health care provider rather than a transit service.
Both entities negotiated to this state of affairs, and they need to work together to resolve it. If they cannot, then the community, and if necessary the Legislature, must be ready to assist them.
- Provide accountable governance -- TriMet board members, appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate, have little accountability to citizens in their service district. This has fostered distance and distrust during tough decisions. The appointment authority for TriMet's board should be shifted to the regionally elected Metro president and council. This is a less radical step than asking Metro to exercise its authority to take over TriMet.
And while we're at it, let's increase the requirement that only one member of the board be a regular transit rider to place that qualification on a majority of the board members.
- Give riders a seat at the table -- TriMet has advisory committees for its budget, for accessible transit and for all its major capital projects, but does not have a general-purpose advisory committee for users of its system. TriMet should institute a standing rider advisory committee and populate it with independent voices from its user community.
TriMet must have an ongoing dialogue with its riders. This will foster a healthier discussion when hard choices need to be made.
If our community can implement these common sense reforms, TriMet can continue its legacy as one of the nation's best transit systems.
It's National Walk to Work Day, part of Oregon Health Week. Details from the Willamette Pedestrian Coalition:
Portland Celebrates a Healthy Economy with Walk to Work Day Portland, Ore. - As part of Oregon Public Health Week, the Willamette Pedestrian Coalition and partners invite the walkers and workers of Portland to meet at one of four locations on the morning of Friday, April 6th, and walk to City Hall for light breakfast and games. "This event is an opportunity to highlight walking as an important part of Portland's commuting culture," said WPC's Executive Director, Steph Routh. "Whether it's walking to work or walking to the bus to work, many people rely on walking for their daily commute." "Walking is great recreational exercise, and walking for a purpose - like to work, school, or the grocery store - is a great way to squeeze some physical activity into a busy schedule," remarked Heidi Guenin, Transportation Policy Coordinator for Upstream Public Health. Participants will meet up at any of the four following locations before heading to City Hall:
In addition to the Willamette Pedestrian Coalition, the following partners and sponsors have helped make Walk to Work Day happen: Bicycle Transportation Alliance, Bob's Red Mill, the Intertwine, Lloyd TMA, Kaiser Permanente, KEEN Footwear, Portland Bureau of Transportation, Oregon Public Health Institute, Organics to You, South Waterfront Community Relations, Stumptown Coffee, Sunshine Dairy Foods, Swan Island TMA, TriMet, and Upstream Public Health. "I'm walking to promote healthy streets for all citizens, walkers, bikers and car drivers," said Rob Sadowsky, who is ED of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance and who will be leading the walk from 34th & SE Belmont. "Plus, walking is the perfect form of transportation." Why walk to work? Employees who exercise regularly have lower health care costs and less absenteeism. The United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reports many benefits to walking.
- Stumptown Coffee, 34th & SE Belmont - meet 7:15am, walk 7:30am
- 26th & SE Clinton - meet 7:30am, walk 7:45am
- Leftbank Building (240 N. Broadway) - meet 7:30am, walk 7:45am
- Lower MacLeay Park - meet 7:15am, walk 7:30am
National Walk to Work Day is held the first Friday of April in the USA, a tradition that began in 2004.
- Walking to work saves employers between 6% and 32% in health care costs per year.
- Physically fit people are absent an average of two fewer days per year than people who are not physically fit.
- Walking to work allows employees to save time by combining transportation with exercise.
- Employees who walk to work arrive less stressed and more alert than those who drive alone. Happier employees tend to stay with their employers longer than stressed workers. (http://aspe.hhs.gov/health/reports/physicalactivity/physicalactivity.pdf)
- Event RSVP form: http://bit.ly/GEREHV
- About National Walk to Work Day: http://walking.about.com/od/pedestrians/p/walktoworkday.htm
- Oregon Public Health Week: http://www.nphw.org/events/calendar/OR
April 4, 2012
The next public vote on the Columbia River Crossing will occur on April 12th at Metro.
Metro will take up an amendment to their Land Use Final Order (LUFO) required because of the appeal filed by project opponents.
The LUFO, you may recall, is the magical bit of authority the Legislature gave to Metro that allows them to approve a freeway as part of a light rail project.
The only point on which the appellants prevailed was that Metro attempted to approve a project outside its district boundaries, in this case the stretch of river between the edge of Hayden Island (where Metro's authority ends) and the middle of the river where the boundary between the states is.
Perhaps the most interesting assertion in the documents for the amendment is that for this little gap of river (which IS within the City of Portland city limits) the City of Portland has already provided land use approval by adoption of the Regional Transportation Plan and city Transportation System Plan (you can find that assertion in a letter from TriMet at the very end of the staff report [PDF, 1.7M]), italics mine:
To respond to LUBA's remand, the Council must amend the 2011 CRC LUFO to elminate those light rail and highway improvements located outside the UGB. This letter requests that the Council do so. (As the Council has noted, those improvements had previously received land use approval when the Council and the City of Portland, respectively, adopted the 2035 Regional Transportation Plan and the Portland Transportation System Plan.)
That strikes me as a considerable reach, and I hope some smart lawyer is looking at it.
Listen to the show (mp3, 26.7MB)
Interviewing professional drivers, including Ralph Kerbs from TriMet; Jackson Cafazzo who drives a taxi for Radio Cab; and Zach Wiley who drives a truck for the US Postal Service.
April 3, 2012
Bike Walk Vote, a local political action committee focused on active transportation, has an event coming up this Wednesday night called 4/4 Forward: Candidate Meet-Up & Campaign Kick-Off Party. The party will take place 7-9pm on April 4th at Crank Bicycles (2725 SE Ash St in Portland) and will be a chance for the public to meet the candidates for Mayor, City Council, Metro Council, and Washington County Commissioner that Bike Walk Vote has endorsed. It should be an interesting and fun opportunity to hear candidates' views on active transportation and learn more about the organization.
During our discussion with TriMet GM Neil McFarlane, posted last week, one of the ideas discussed was whether operational savings could be generated by closing some MAX stops. We were challenged to generate some ideas here.
So here it goes. What MAX stops would you close in the interests of improving travel time and reducing operating costs? Please discuss what constituencies would be impacted and what the service alternatives to meet their needs are.
April 2, 2012
car2go launched in Portland officially this past weekend.
The signal feature of the system is one-way, reservationless trips.
As I mentioned previously, I'm now a member of three car-sharing systems. Here's how I'm thinking about using them:
car2go - I think this will probably compete for trips with relatively spontaneous mode choices, where I probably would have been deciding between bike and and transit in the past. Now I'll have a 3rd choice, particularly when I'm carrying something heavy or bulky or when the weather is not great.
Zipcar - when I need certainty for arriving somewhere at a specific time. For example, when I have to demo our one of our larger Transit Appliance units, I often find myself making a Zipcar reservation.
Getaround (where you are renting someone else's car) - I think I would primarily use this for trips that are planned well in advance (it takes some arranging to get access to the car) and probably for longer trips where the usually lower rates will matter. In practice, I'm likely to use this very infrequently since I can effectively do this already within my household (my partner makes me buy gas for her car, but doesn't charge me an hourly fee!).
One of the things that fascinates me about car2go is the "park anywhere legal" (almost) aspect of the system. I'm do some additional research on this and will post about it in more depth later.
The other thing that fascinates the policy and technology geek in me is how the cars will disperse based on use and the technology to track them.
I saw my first car in the wild on Sunday morning while going to breakfast on N. Mississippi. On Sunday morning the map on car2go's site showed a pretty good dispersal of cars in the core of the City. There are also several smart phone apps for the same kind of search.
For nearly a year, the Morrison Bridge has been closed to westbound traffic so contractors could replace its hazardous steel-grate surface. The project, which was meant to end last November but was plagued by delays, not only disrupted life for auto commuters but also forced the westbound 15 bus to detour south to the Hawthorne Bridge. This awkward detour disrupted one of the busiest bus lines in Portland, so it is very welcome news that with work on the bridge finally completed the 15 is once again crossing the Morrison Bridge. According to TriMet's press release, this should save about 5 minutes on each westbound trip.
To me, this detour served to highlight the importance of running bus lines on the most direct path possible, with a minimum of turns and deviations. This idea is intuitive, but the routing of the 15 during this last year really makes clear how absurdly convoluted bus routes can become. As you can see on the map below, the combination of the detour and the existing eastbound Salmon alignment meant the 15 essentially performed a figure-eight maneuver. The westbound bus went south to the Hawthorne Bridge before going north on 2nd up to Washington, while the eastbound bus went (and will continue to go) south to Salmon before going north on 2nd up to the Morrison Bridge. Not only was this clearly an insane route, it caused delays from extra turns and was very confusing for anyone along 2nd Ave forced to watch buses pass them by.
Because of the detour the westbound 15 lost the benefit of SE Morrison's peak-hour bus lane, had to make four extra turns, and had to endure interminable congestion- and lift-related delays on the Hawthorne. All that is thankfully now over, but what about the 15 going eastbound? It will continue to run on Salmon, continue to force riders to deal with a five-block wide couplet, and continue to make extra turns that cause delay. The new map, while an improvement, doesn't really look much better than the old one. As TriMet promises to make their system more efficient to help deal with a budget crisis, perhaps now is time to finally deal with this problem.
So how did the 15 end up like this, anyway? Well, I asked TriMet and here is their response:
Line 15-Belmont/NW 23rd Ave. was called Line 21-Mt. Tabor in the 1970's and 1980's. It used to travel up Washington, south on 11th, circulate through PSU, then east on Salmon, north on 2nd Ave., and east over the Morrison Bridge. Once MAX opened, Line 21-Mt. Tabor was renamed Line 15 and it started serving NW Portland. On its return from NW Portland, Line 15 traveled east on Yamhill, south on 11th, and east on Salmon to 2nd and then to the Morrison Bridge. The current route is a slight modification, but still maintains the historical service on Salmon and 2nd Ave. TriMet does not use Alder St. because it is not classified as a Transit Street by the City of Portland.
It seems clear that the Washington-Salmon routing the 15 still uses is an artifact from the old 21, which was intended to be a meandering shuttle bus focusing on geographic coverage rather than efficiency. Not only does this not fit with the 15's role today, it is actually a fallacious concept. As Jarrett Walker of Human Transit recently noted, a wide transit couplet does not really increase coverage at all. Since everyone needs to access both directions of a transit line, any benefit from being closer to one direction is cancelled out by the longer walk to access the other direction.
So how do we fix the 15? The obvious solution is to run it eastbound on Alder from W Burnside & 18th all the way to the Morrison Bridge. This would be a simple straight shot and would never be more than one block from the westbound 15. This solution has been suggested many times over the years but never seems to happen. Here's what General Manager Neil McFarlane had to say on the issue in our recent interview:
Well, that's a really excellent question, and it probably goes to more history than I have, about why these routes are on these particular streets they have. I do know that the 15 that we're talking about here, the number 15 line, also serves the Goose Hollow station (sic). Well, there's a lot of transferring that goes on between the 15 bus line and the MAX line, and so then... once you get that far, where you're really providing a close transfer connection to the westside portion of the MAX line, then Salmon is about the first street you get to that heads east, so that's one notion. And, you know the other consideration I think we've got is that Alder is a pretty busy street, a lot of businesses, a lot of parking, it's kind of an onramp to the bridge, at one end, so I think there'd have to be a little bit of research and study as to whether or not it's worthy of really looking at. I'll ask Service Planning the question again, if they'll actually look at that.
The first point, that the current routing is needed to allow a transfer to MAX, is not persuasive. Alder & 17th is only one block from westbound MAX and two blocks from eastbound MAX, and people would also no longer have to cross 18th to transfer.
The second point, that Alder is a busy street with a lot of businesses and parking, is probably the real reason this idea has never taken off. After all, remember that TriMet can't even use Alder if they want to because it is not been designated a Transit Street by the City of Portland. Presumably the city has its reasons, but that doesn't mean they are good reasons. Yes, Alder does have a lot of businesses, but then so do most downtown streets. Yes, Alder does have a block of loading bays for Macy's, but would that really stop a bus from using the street? Yes, Alder has parking, but so does Washington a block away, where parking and bus stops are both accommodated just fine. Alder would only have to lose a few spaces for shelters.
His final point, that Alder connects with the Morrison Bridge and experiences congestion, has the most merit. Because cars queue up to cross the Morrison and access I-5, it is possible that travel times would be longer with an Alder routing given current conditions. However, this problem could be solved or mitigated using the same treatment found on the other side of the river: a peak-only bus lane (with queue jump) that reverts back to parking in the off-peak. This would obviously require political courage on the part of the City of Portland to implement, but I think it would be worth it, and a powerful statement that transit should receive priority.
One other reason I have heard people give for keeping the bus on Salmon is simply that there are already shelters on that street and people in the area are accustomed to having a bus available, albeit in only one direction. To that I respond that any number of other buses could use Salmon if necessary. I would propose running the 14 westbound on Main all the way to 12th, where it would turn around and take Salmon eastbound before cutting over to Madison. Another option would be to use Taylor and Salmon as a couplet all the way to 18th. Either way, this would have the effect of also fixing the 14, which currently turns around halfway through downtown, preventing transfers with the streetcar and limiting its coverage.
Zef Wagner is pursuing a Master of Urban and Regional Planning degree at Portland State University with a specialization in transportation planning.
April 1, 2012
In response to criticism that it is underfunding its bus system in favor of rail, TriMet has announced plans to cancel a prior solicitation for rolling stock as part of the Portland-Milwaukie project. Instead of purchasing conventional light-rail EMUs (Electric Multiple Units), the agency instead intends to partner with Oregon Iron Works to build a novel bus-rail hybrid, a design it calls a "railbus".
The new vehicles, which will also be known as Type 5 vehicles internally, will consist of articulated electric-powered flatbed cars, with room for one 40' TriMet bus to be parked on each articulated section--two busses per car, or up to four busses in a typical 2-car consist. "Once again, TriMet is a leader in coming up with innovative transit solutions", said general manager Neil McFarlane at an April 1 press conference announcing the new vehicle technology. A picture of the prototype vehicle, taken at the Oregon Iron Works test track in Clackamas, is as follows:
According to TrIMet, once railbus technology matures, it may be possible for this vehicle configuration to support branching, providing both the advantages of rail and of bus rapid transit (BRT). For example, rather than requiring Line 33 passengers to transfer to MAX at Milwaukie, in the future it may be possible for the northbound 33 to simply pull into the Lake Road station, drive onto one of the flatbed sections, and continue its journey to downtown Portland on rails, obviating the need for a transfer.
A few issues remain to be worked out with the technology, which is expected to be ready for the Milwaukie-Portland line's planned 2015 opening. The prototype vehicle is not yet ADA-compliant, as even low-floor busses have boarding height issues when mounted on railcars. And the proposal has drawn some fire with ATU Local 757, which is demanding that each bus which is part of a Type 5 train nonetheless have a driver on board, whereas TriMet insists that one operator per train is sufficient.
Still, the agency has high hopes for the technology. "Just as the Portland Streetcar launched a revolution in urban design last decade, we believe that the Type 5 railbus will continue Portland's leadership".
It's the first of the month, that month being April, so a new open thread is, well, open.
To get things started:
- A coding error may have added to the controversy of Milwaukie MAX, when a Milwaukie councilman was accused of having a conflict of interest with regard to the project.
- The City of Portland is looking for residents to fill advisory committees for its Comprehensive Plan
- Metro has a new searchable historical database.
- Michael Andersen on food carts.
- A queue jump signal for bicycles.
- TriMet introduces a new vehicle. :)