June 29, 2012
This guest post is by Portland Transport reader dan w. We are always happy to publish well-written, topical guest posts; contact myself, Chris, or Bob if you are interested.--ES
The idea of putting MAX underground through downtown Portland has been around for some time, and I've had a concept for a MAX subway that, with the help of an ancient version of CorelDraw, I finally sketched out recently. It's inspired in part by a basic concept I vaguely remember from an long-ago Tribune or Oregonian article (it could have been something proposed by Jim Howell's group but I'm not sure) that I've fleshed out in my head over the years.
In addition to hopefully alleviating the speed and capacity constraints of the current system, my concept has all lines serving the same small group of "core" stations (e.g., Union Station, PSU) and can allow for buses to share the tunnel with trains a la Seattle. Of course, the current fiscal climate will likely relegate underground MAX to "pipe dream" status for decades to come (maybe Subway Sandwiches can sponsor the stations? [dodges rotten tomatoes])
Click on the map for a higher-resolution version.
June 28, 2012
Sick of those ticket machines? TriMet's working with a local company on an app to buy your ticket...
June 27, 2012
click map to view full size
I propose it traverse the central city on the east side and south waterfront thus avoiding the slow downtown operation that plagues the Blue and Red Lines, and serves OHSU with a deep tunnel station similar to the one at the zoo.
Note: Building a tunnel for light rail is not necessarily more expensive than building it on the surface. Land values can drive the cost of surface construction to great heights. The 2.9-mile Robertson light rail tunnel through the West Hills, with one subway station, opened in 1998 at a cost of $184 million. That underground work would be about $290 million or $100 million a-mile in today's dollars. Compare this to the 7.3-mile Milwaukie Line, now under construction above ground, costing $1.5 billion or $200 million a-mile.
Following is a brief description and map of the line.
Segment 1 - Rose Quarter to OMSI
This 1.7-mile segment could run on the surface along Water Avenue or on a structure above the UP Railroad tracks on First Avenue. It should have three intermediate stations at the bridgeheads for connections to all the eastside bus lines that cross the Willamette.
Segment 2 - River Crossing
This segment, with a new platform adjacent the OMSI MAX Station, shares the new Willamette River Bridge and South Waterfront Station with the Orange Line.
Segment 3 - Marquam Hill Tunnel
This 2.8 mile-long tunnel would have an east portal immediately west of the South Waterfront Station and a west portal at Burlingame. It would have a deep station to serve "Pill Hill" and a Hillsdale Station to provide a connection to the frequent bus lines on Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway.
Segment 4 - Burlingame to Tigard Transit Center
This 4.2-mile segment could run on the surface along I-5 and Barbur Blvd. It could have three or four stations. They would be at Burlingame, the Barbur Transit Center, and one at SW 72nd and Barbur Blvd. The line would enter the WES right of way at the Tigard Transit Center. An alternate alignment could be in a tunnel between The Barbur and Tigard Transit Centers with a subway station at PCC Sylvania.
Segment 5 - Tigard to Tualatin
The possibility of adding a 3.8-mile section of electrified track in the Portland and Western and WES rights of way in order to extend MAX south to Tualatin should be considered. MAX could possibly share the WES platforms.
June 25, 2012
In a move which apparently came as a complete surprise, Portland mayor Sam Adams has proposed levying/hiking various fees on TriMet, related to things like benches and shelters. The amount of the proposed fee hike is 8000%, or about $2M; intended to cover the cost of the YouthPass program, which was cut by TriMet in the latest round of budget cuts, after the Oregon Legislature last year stopped funding for the program. State funding ended in 2011, and TriMet has been subsidizing the program for the past half-year.
TriMet reports that it was caught off guard by the measure, and is studying its options.
Thoughts after the jump:
I'll be blunt. This is an outrageous maneuver by the City of Portland, for many reasons. The YouthPass program is highly defensible, and ought to be funded somehow; but this is NOT the way to do it--a power-play like this has the potential to be incredibly damaging to regional co-operation in the future. Whether or not the city of Portland will follow through with this, or this is just a negotiating ploy, remains to be seen. It's interesting to note that the item was put on the "consent agenda" for Wednesday's city council meeting (the consent agenda is for routine and uncontroversial matters to be passed in one motion, without having to waste time to consider and vote on each one individually). This means that either it has unanimous support of the City Council--which would surprise me, especially for an acrimonious proposal such as this one--or Adams is bluffing.
- The immediate reason: The City is taking on the wrong target. If the mayor really wants to play hardball on this issue, he ought to go after the source of the problem: the state Legislature, which ended its support for the program in 2011, but which continues to subsidize suburban yellow bus service. Mayor Adams (and Portland Public Schools) could easily make a credible threat to Salem: Restore YouthPass funding, or PPS will replace it with yellow bus service, which the state is required to support under Oregon law. YouthPass is cheaper to operate than equivalent levels of yellow bus service, so restoring YouthPass funding would cost taxpayers less than having to support yellow busses in Portland. Of course the Legislature could try and exempt Portland from the yellow bus subsidy--screwing over PPS seems to be a popular past-time in Salem--but the optics would look far worse (including to those who don't care much about public transit) than the current state of affairs.
- Where does Portland think TriMet will get the $2M? Unlike some transit advocates outside of government, who seem to think that TriMet is hiding the ball with its budget crisis (and cutting service in preference to cutting various alleged items of pork-barrel spending), the City of Portland likely has far better visibility into TriMet's finances. Either it know where the bodies are buried (to paraphrase Norma Paulus), in which case it ought to be forthcoming about this, or it knows that there aren't any (and perhaps doesn't care). In addition, it's entirely fair to point out that a good portion of TriMet's operational commitments are on capital projects that Portland has either championed, or operates outright (such as the Streetcar).
- If Portland gets away with this move--and especially if this results in service cuts outside of Portland--who's next? If TriMet further cuts suburban service, will suburban communities then respond with retaliatory fees of their own, or threaten to withdraw altogether? Could this lead to an end to regional transit service, as each city looks to operate their own agencies (or not), lest a dime of "their" tax moneys subsidize so much as a revenue-minute of service outside of their borders--with crosstown trips requiring paid transfers at every municipal boundary, with little co-operation on matters like schedules?
- The last time TriMet was subject to a power play of this sort, depending on what rumors you believe, the result was WES. (Washington County, with its strong industrial base and relatively low number of service hours, likely subsidizes the agency with payroll tax revenues collected within).
Even OPAL, which has been sharply critical of TriMet over the years, has come to the agency's defense on this issue, which Jonathan Ostar called "concerning". Regardless, this sort of power play can't be good news. Local governments around the country have been suffering under the combined weight of loss of federal support, decreased tax revenues due to the recession, increasing pension and healthcare expenditures, and increasing levels of anti-government activism. Many of these wounds are self-inflicted, but have been building up for a long time. If the response of governments to the funding crises is going to be to try and screw each other over, nobody is going to win (except perhaps the Brothers Koch and their ilk), and everybody is going to lose--in particular, those who depend on the government for their education, transportation, or other vital services.
Hat tip to Al M, who got there first in the open thread.
Last week was a bit busy, and I didn't have time to comment on the new Metro Safety Report.
Jonathan has an excellent write-up over a BikePortland, so I won't try to rehash it here. But the bottom line is that the cost of crashes is greater than the cost of congestion...
June 21, 2012
Sarah Mirk has an interesting piece in this week's Mercury in which she talks about the proposed parking plan for the Central Eastside (including some metering, which of course, everyone loves).
But the fascinating part is the amount of parking that exists in the district. She documents 400+ parking lots with 14,000+ spaces. Only 8% of that is open to the public, and 40% of it is vacant at peak hours. What a wasted resource! And then we fight over the available on-street parking.
Some of this is a function of a societal attitude that parking (which is VERY expensive to build, and chews up a tremendous amount of valuable real estate) must be free. Any time we take an expensive commodity and treat it like it doesn't cost anything, there are bound to be negative effects.
But some of this is the result of zoning. The zoning code defines parking in a lot of zones to be 'accessory' to the main use - i.e., I can park in the medical office parking lot if I'm going to the medical office, but they are NOT free to rent spaces (even if they have an excess) to a neighboring business.
In part that's to regulate nuisances (I wouldn't like it if the apartment building next to my house rented their extra spaces to the restaurant around the corner that's open until 3am - I don't want the light and noise when I'm trying to sleep - on the other hand my partner would love it if they could rent her a space). But in a primarily commercial/industrial district like the Central East Side, nuisances should be very manageable.
Since I sit on the Planning and Sustainability Commission and actually have the opportunity to do something about this as we update the Comprehensive Plan, how should we start thinking about parking? What kind of policies should we pursue in shaping our "Healthy Connected City" (that's a Portland Plan reference for those of you who left your copy in your other briefcase)?
June 19, 2012
One of our correspondents attending the meeting at the Columbia River Crossing oversight committee at the Oregon Legislature reports that WSDOT officials said multiple times that construction would start at the "end of 2014".
While it was not acknowledged as such, that represents a year delay in previously communicated schedules.
Scotty recently had a great discussion about the importance of the Purpose and Need statement for a project.
Last week, the steering committee for the SW Corridor Plan met to discuss the draft Purpose and Need statement for the project. Here's the agenda packet (PDF 4M) for that meeting. It contains both the draft Purpose and Need (beginning on p. 10) and a "Statement of Problems, Constraints, and Opportunities" document (p. 15).
Here's the draft purpose:
The purpose of the SW Corridor Transit Alternatives Analysis is to identify a safe and reliable high capacity transit project that will support the land use planning strategies being developed by the cities of Portland, Tigard, Tualatin and Sherwood and serve the existing and projected travel markets in the corridor while connecting regional centers, town centers, local activity centers and the central city. The identified project will advance applicable federal, state, regional, local and the SW Corridor communities' land use, transportation, economic development, environmental and health plans and policies.
The identified project will promote the continued success and creation of healthy and more vibrant communities in the SW Corridor in a financially responsive and environmentally sensitive manner.
This is followed by two pages of "needs", which I'll let you all read yourselves.
I like that it leads with supporting land use strategies and puts mobility after that. If I were going to change anything, I'd probably work to include active transportation in the purpose. It's mentioned about halfway through the needs, but my vision of the corridor is one in which people can walk, bike, take transit and drive safely through the entire length of the corridor. I'd love if that could be articulated right up front!
One slightly startling line from the constraints document:
"OR-99W serves as an important relief valve for I-5, with signals designed to absorb I-5 traffic when incidents or construction occur."
I wonder if that comes as a surprise to the signals engineers in Portland? It seems like we could probably do better for daily users of Barbur if we didn't operate it in a fashion optimized for a handful of days each year.
So what's your take on the draft? What are we missing that could come back to haunt us in five to ten years?
June 17, 2012
And they'd like the Legislature to fix it.
"Binding arbitration is a high-stakes game of chance that could produce a terrible result for TriMet and the people who rely upon its services. It's also unnecessary. The Legislature made an enormous blunder in 2007, when it voted in strongly bipartisan fashion to treat transportation workers like police officers and firefighters by forbidding them to strike. While public transportation is a very important public service, and while transit workers deserved to be compensated fairly for their work, getting a ride isn't a life-or-death matter on par with, say, being stuck in a burning house."
June 15, 2012
A Portland Transport reader (who may identify himself in the comments if he wishes to) emailed in the following question:
Now that I know PortlandTransport has a whole stable of contributors, I am wondering if any of you may know the skinny on line 84. The other day I was looking at the TriMet map, and noticed line 84 which seemingly goes into the middle of nowhere. Today I rode MAX out and took the whole line 84 loop. It indeed, for almost it's entire length, goes through areas that would normally not even be considered for transit. It's western end - while still in Gresham - it hits some good spots but very quickly is out in the countryside and rural area.
The ridership on this line can't possibly be high, although there were 3 people (counting me) on the 3:06pm loop that I rode - we dropped one off at a fruit company and picked one up at an intersection in the middle of nowhere with nothing much at all in sight...
Why does this line exist? Is there some sort of really strong transit lobby out there which has kept this one going? It seems like we cut services in places where there are tons of riders - yet this line literally is a drive in the countryside. The bus was at highway speeds almost the whole time. It was very pleasant for sure - yet not necessarily a good ROI I would imagine.
Does this exist simply to keep those areas inside the payroll-tax paying boundaries of the Tri-Met service area?
Thanks for any insight...
Discussion after the jump.
There are several reasons why TriMet (or any agency) may wish to run a service that is seldom ridden, some of which are mentioned by the reader:
- To extend the boundaries of the taxing district, and/or justify tax collection within an area.
- Because of political pressure to provide service to a given area
- To increase the "coverage area" of the system, which makes the system more useful overall (due to network effects), even though a particular segment may be underutilized.
- To provide service to some targeted population, often for equity reasons
- To provide a connection to some other service.
- For historical reasons--existing transit lines develop communities who use and/or depend on them; for this reason transit planning is seldom done de novo. Even if cancelling a low-performing service in order to move the busses elsewhere makes sense from a maximum utility point of view, in practice transit agencies will continue to run them to avoid disrupting the lives of existing riders.
Portland Transport has previously asked similar questions about low-ridden lines, such as some of the lines serving the West Hills. The line discussed by the reader, the 84 Kelso-Boring, is a rural line which, as its name suggests, serves the communities of Kelso and Boring southeast of Gresham. The line runs as two separate segments which are interleaved through the day, one to Kelso and one to Boring. There's only three runs per day on each leg, and no service on weekends. The line is one of the least-ridden in the system, with only 100 weekly boardings on average.
Part of the line (the Boring segment) will be discontinued in the future, as Boring is withdrawing from TriMet. It's unlikely that either the truncation of the line or the loss of Boring payroll tax will have a significant impact on TriMet's finances, given the limited service on the line and the mostly-rural nature of the route. I do not know specifically which of the stated reasons justifies the current routing of the 84.
The 84 is interesting for one other reason. It's Kelso leg comes very close to the city of Sandy, but doesn't quite reach it. The City of Sandy operates its own transit service (Sandy Area Metro) which provides local service along US26 through Sandy itself, and connecting service to TriMet both in Gresham and in Estacada, as well as the Mountain Express line between Sandy and Rhododendron. SAM's Estacada-Gresham line uses US26 between the two cities (and runs half-hourly on weekdays). The upcoming cancellation of the Boring line may permit some rethinking of this; if jurisdictional and other issues can be settled, it might be nice to have one connecting route between the cities serving the existing communities along the 84 routing, rather than two parallel routes, one which doesn't reach Sandy and the other which only travels on the highway. Whether TriMet or SAM should be running this is an interesting question--as SAM is a city agency rather than as a standalone transit district, it doesn't have any tax base outside the city limits. On the other hand, as a small-town transit operation it has far lower overhead than TriMet does.
June 14, 2012
This is the first deployment of a new release of our flat screen distribution, and the new release supports WiFi, which simplifies a lot of installations.
Thanks to PBOT's Peter Koonce and his team for sponsoring the project and coordinating the installation, and to the Bureau of Technology Services for their support. And special thanks to Mayor Adams for saying "Make it so..."!
This week Apple made some waves by announcing that in the next release of software for the iPhone, iPad, et al they would replace the Google-based mapping utilities with their own.
But then a few smarter folks noticed that while the Google toolset has transit information built in, Apple's would not (third party apps can apparently provide transit information, but city-by-city, not globally).
June 13, 2012
As noted in the Open Thread, TriMet's board approved the agency's Fiscal Year 2013 budget at today's board meeting, a somewhat controversial proposal that included the abolition of Free Rail Zone, a fare hike and a flattening of the fare structure, and another round of service cuts. The good folks at OPAL were out in force, advocating for their alternate budget which included (as the big ticket items) a significant reduction in TriMet's Streetcar subsidy, and a far smaller contingency plan.
I have my concerns with the OPAL proposal--in particular, reducing the contingency fund does not strike me as wise, given the uncertainty around TriMet's labor situation. Were the contingency fund to be reduced and then TriMet to lose, an additional $5M or more in service cuts would have to be imposed. If TriMet prevails, the money not spent this year can be used to offset necessary cuts next year, or even restore service. And a good argument can be made that the Streetcar contribution represents a contractual obligation of TriMet that can't be cut. (Whether this was a wise idea in the first place is another matter, but that's water under the bridge).
However, TriMet would be wise to treat presenters at its board meetings with greater respect, even if it ultimately rejects their advice. The agency seems to have developed an affinity for procedural shenanigans to cut off debate that they don't want to hear, such as trying to exclude the OPAL proposal from consideration as it wasn't on the agenda. Perhaps its the case that the board made up its mind long ago, feels that further discussion of the matter is a waste of everybody's time, and is only holding a public forum due to the requirements of open meetings law--but this no way to run a railroad. The people of OPAL are TriMet's friends and customers. Unlike some others who show up and testify at TriMet board meetings, OPAL wants to improve the agency and its service, not undermine and/or abolish it.
With that in mind, some longer-term advice for the agency. Some of this is stuff I've written before, but it bears repeating.
Constrain capital projects
Notice that I'm not saying "stop" or "embargo" or "moratorium". "Constrain" is a less restrictive term. But there are specific issues--real and perceived--with parts of the region's capital spending on transit--which have caused some critics of the agency to regard all capital spending as suspect.
Major capital projects ought to be subject to the following conditions.
- To the extent that projects depend on either TriMet's operating revenue and/or bonding authority, they ought to have a positive return on investment. Buying new busses is an example of an obvious win--it's far more cost effective to keep a fleet within its service life than it is to scrape along with busses that break down all the time, may not have parts available, and lack modern amenities (or need to use wheelchair lifts for ADA compliance). This is even true if the agency has to borrow money to buy the vehicles.
- Conversely, if a project is funded mostly or solely from grant monies, be very mindful of what strings may be attached to those grants, particularly if the service is not expected to serve a great number of riders. Many FTA grants for new capital projects require continuous operation of the service for a long period of time, which reduces the agency's ability to respond to downturns or other adverse conditions. And if the project is a boondoggle--a certain Washington County commuter rail line comes to mind--this can be an expensive mistake to make. If TriMet is to make service commitments, it should ensure that it is on routes/corridors where it expects to need to provide that service. A key objection to the Streetcar subsidy is that TriMet might choose to reduce service on the Streetcar corridors to implement budget cuts, on the grounds that it's a lower-priority service, but is prevented from doing so and thus has to cut bone instead.
- Projects should not result in reduced or less attractive transit service for the majority of affected users. This doesn't mean that routes should never be reconfigured, but adverse effect should be minimized--particularly loss of service altogether, loss of service span, or significant reductions in speed or frequency. If one-seat rides are replaced with transfers, then the transfers ought to be timed or frequent.
- Projects that are being primarily for reasons other than improving transit service or efficiency (such as economic development, garnering Federal grants, land use/placemaking, or improving environmental outcomes), in particular, need to be done in such a way to avoid adverse effects on existing transit service and customers. Many elected officials, not charged with operating TriMet, seem to like leveraging the agency for FTA grants. While this often has a net benefit for the overall economy--FTA grants are essentially "free money"--the political sponsors of these programs may not always be mindful of the potential impacts on those who depend on the service. In the worst cases, they may not care--they may not have transit riders as part of their constituency (or riders may be constituents who can be easily marginalized). As the transit provider, TriMet needs to act as gatekeeper to ensure that it projects are in the best interests of the riders that it is charged to serve. TriMet, first and foremost, is in the transportation business, and its primary focus needs to be getting people from A to B.
More transparency, please
This should go without saying, but sunlight is the best disinfectant. Anywhere there's a black box, there will be people wondering what is hiding inside the box. Other than Human Resources data or information concerning ongoing negotiations, bids, etc.--there's very little information at TriMet that merits secrecy. TriMet is not the State Department; nor is it a public corporation that needs to keep trade secrets safe from competitors. As much internal planning, forecasting, and other data as possible should be made public--and "made public" ought to include "downloadable from the Internet". This includes things like primary source data for published reports, so others can check the agency's work. No need to spend money on fancy web infrastructure--simply putting this up on an FTP site will suffice; those of use in the activist/journalist business will be happy to assist with cataloging and arranging the interesting stuff.
A Culture of Ridership
This topic heading may sound too buzz-wordy (management-speak is full of platitudes about cultures of this or that), but it's an important point, and one that it can be argued, subsumes all the others made in this article: TriMet needs to focus on its riders. Period. Not on being a conduit for federal funds. Not on transit oriented development. Not on technology. TriMet needs to focus on ridership and service. Other goals may be important, particularly environmental outcomes (and transit plays a big part in this!) but these are things that TriMet should not be the owner of. TriMet needs to own transit--that, and nothing else, is its raison d'etre.
And if necessary, TriMet needs to have a management structure which reinforces that. Right now, the TriMet board answers to the governor, meaning there's a loss of focus on the needs of the Portland metro area. And the board has long consisted of business and political leaders, often with little or no transit knowledge. While many of these folks are certainly competent in their fields, it isn't a stretch to suggest that many are appointed in large part due to their connections, their status as "community pillars", and the overall gravitas of their resumes, not because of specific qualifications in the field of public transit or an ability to represent the interests of riders. And in some cases, the appointment may give rise to the appearance of a conflict of interest, such as is the case when real estate interests find themselves seated on the board.
And this, if I may make the suggestion, is an area where OPAL and other rider advocates may help. Metro seems to not be interested in taking over TriMet (though they have legal authority to do so), and legislative changes to TriMet's organization structure are likewise not on the radar. If an agency which truly represents the interests of riders is the goal, then governance which is congruent with that goal would be a highly beneficial thing.
June 12, 2012
It would appear the bloom is off the rose: "We are thus at a point where all of the options are bad."
Obviously we're not celebrating. But I'd like to underscore a couple of points:
1) We're not going to do anything that compromises the safety, quality or reliability of the new vehicles. If that means waiting, we'll wait for delivery.
2) We're going to open the Loop on time on September 22nd. If necessary I'll be out there helping push. Worst case it means we'll run every vehicle in our current fleet with no spares (we've done it before - our maintenance people are amazing), but we will have service.
For every single opening Streetcar has had, vehicle delivery has been the gating item. This opening will be no different. But on the whole, if I have sit around drumming my fingers waiting for vehicles, I'd much prefer it be for vehicles that bring local jobs.
And one point in the article is not quite accurate:
But United Streetcar has yet to manufacture a single vehicle...
In fact United Streetcar has built a vehicle, under the prototype contract. I've ridden on it!
It's not in revenue service yet, but it is out on the Loop route on the east side, being tested.
See you on the 22nd!
Vancouver, B.C., is experimenting with the "V-pole", a compact pole that combines street lighting with other functions like telecomm, parking paystations, electric vehicle charging and a host of other possibilities.
Should we try it here?
June 9, 2012
Laura Bollen-Lopez of The Oregonian reports that ODOT is planning to test a new Vehicle Mileage Tax (VMT) program in the fall. VMT is a tax levied on the number of miles a vehicle drives, independent of fuel consumption, weight, or other factors which are captured (somewhat) by fuel taxes or weight-mile taxes. The pilot project, which will involve automobiles driven by various public officials in Salem, involves various tracking devices which would be installed in cars. One option includes a GPS-powered device that would only charge for miles driven on public roads in the state; out-of-state miles and miles driven on private property would not count. Another device, without GPS, would simply detect car movement and charge based on that (presumably at a lower rate; it's not clear whether the unit counts miles if the car is towed). An earlier pilot program met with some resistance, in large part due to privacy issues. To address that this time, commercial hardware is being used rather than government-provided devices.
The stated purpose of the program is to respond to the loss of fuel tax revenue brought about by higher-efficiency automobiles, particularly hybrids and EVs. Fuel tax revenue has gone down, both because of greater vehicle efficiency, and also because people are driving less, for various reasons. While I don't consider either a problem, it's not hard to see why officials in charge of road-building might consider it to be an issue--building and maintaining roads is expensive, and not getting cheaper.
My main thoughts and concerns about this, after the jump:
- My biggest concern is that it might discourage the adoption of EVs and hybrids. While I would prefer a greater shift away from driving altogether, there are people who need to use cars. Much of our built-up infrastructure is transit-hostile, many places aren't served at all, and many trips (such as freight shipments or deliveries) aren't appropriate for a bus or train (or a bicycle). To the extent that these trips are made in fuel-efficient and/or low-emission vehicles, this is a good thing.
Tax policy needs to separate two concepts--construction and maintenance of roads and highways, and the environmental damage and other externalities caused by burning fossil fuels. EVs and gas-powered autos (in the same weight class) ought to pay at the same rate for the former; but zero-emission vehicles should not have to contribute to the latter, and low-emission vehicles should be charged less than gas-guzzlers. A system which fails to account for this, and which simply attempts to treat EVs as equivalent to fuel-burning vehicles for revenue purposes, is flawed.
- The privacy issues are still a concern. From a civil-liberties perspective, I don't care so much who makes the device (the private sector is perfectly capable of infringing on people's liberties), I care about what can be done with the data that is collected. A necessary step would be legislation to put the data collected by government-mandated VMT hardware out of the reach of police, prosecutors, and the courts (other than as necessary to enforce collection of the tax)--much as the network of cameras that ODOT has installed to monitor traffic on the state's highways are off-limits to law enforcement.
- What safeguards are in place to ensure that VMT tracking hardware is not disabled or removed from automobiles? Odometer-tampering is presently not a common problem, though currently the odometer only has an effect on a vehicle's resale value--devices used in revenue collection are more likely to be messed with by cheaters.
- It appears that the amendment to the Oregon Constitution which bans fuel taxes being used for anything other than "construction, reconstruction, improvement, repair, maintenance, operation and use of public highways, roads, streets and roadside rest areas" would likely apply to a VMT as well. One other application of this technology, particularly the GPS-enhanced versions, might be the levying of local congestion charges--though whether this is consistent with the Constitutional provision is a good question. My suspicion is that so long the revenue is used for the intended purposes set forth in the state constitution, it doesn't matter if it's collected by a VMT, including one which has a time component. Local cities in Oregon are permitted to levy additional fuel taxes of 1¢-3¢ per gallon--giving them the right to likewise charge additional VMT would be a big win if local-government general fund monies dedicated towards roads could be replaced with charges borne directly by road users.
June 8, 2012
The paper behind this presentation is now available (PDF, 6.3M).
Original Post: 5/10/12
Last week's PSU Transportation Seminar was particularly thought-provoking.
Peter Furth of Northeastern University has developed a quantitative analysis methodology for evaluating the comfort level of links in a bicycle network (or put another way, how bike-friendly any given street is).
It aligns in many ways with the ideas in Portland's Bicycle Master Plan, but adds a lot of rigor to the analysis.
I particularly like that tool identifies the networks that are comfortable for users of different skill/comfortable levels, starting with a child traveling alone as the base level.
June 6, 2012
Listen to the show (mp3, 27.1MB)
This month the bike show hosts Ellee Thalheimer, author of Cycling Sojourner, the first cycle-tour guide to the state of Oregon, as well as Matt Picio, co-founder of Cycle Wild, a group that's mission is "to connect people with nature via the bicycle" and who organize free cycle trips in the Portland "rideshed." We'll be talking with them about how you can start your own bike adventures this summer, and possibly be getting some reports in from tourists on the road right now!
June 5, 2012
A metro study group has released a list of proposals for improving mobility/access in the TV Highway corridor. The list operates on the assumption that TV Highway will continue to function as an urban boulevard, and will not be converted into a more expressway-like facility, as Washington County planners had envisioned in earlier times.
Some transit-related highlights:
- Improved frequency on the 57.
- Bus stop improvements in the area, particularly on the 57.
- Signal priority for the 57 as it travels down TV Highway.
- A new N/S bus line, in the vicinity of SW Century Boulevard, which would serve South Hillsboro and provide a connection to MAX
- Further study of high-capacity transit in the TV Highway corridor (a route often mentioned for BRT)
One proposed transit idea not considered was parallel transit service on streets such as Blanton (which runs a few blocks south of TV Highway) or Alexander (a few blocks north). These specific streets would be undesirable transit corridors IMHO, simply because they are so close (within a few blocks) of TV Highway itself.
A couple other notes. The report makes reference to a Westside Transit Enhancement Study being jointly developed by TriMet and the city of Hillsboro, though there doesn't appear to be any material published online as a result of this effort. Hillsboro does have updated planning documents on the proposed South Hillsboro development (which would presumably be the anchor for the proposed N/S bus line), and the city's most recent TSP update is also interesting reading.
Via @pauldreher and @humantransit
Professor Eric Dumbaugh of Florida Atlantic University has found a POSITIVE correlation between levels of travel delay and per capita GPD in major metros.
That's right, it would appear that cities with more congestion have greater economic output per person. Go figure...
June 3, 2012
If so, PBOT and Streetcar would like your help on evaluating the service conditions:
The Portland Bureau of Transportation and Portland Streetcar are performing some research on our vehicles and how we are serving the needs of the community that uses mobility devises. We are recruiting people of all ages that use crutches, walkers, wheel chairs (both manual and electric) and scooters. We will be testing on June 26th and 27th. Please help us recruit by sharing this information with your communities. People that are interested are encouraged to call or email me to schedule a time volunteer. As a small token of our appreciation, volunteers that complete the evaluation of our bridgeplates will be provided with a $25 gift certificate for a local retailer. Thank you so very much.
Shoshanah E. Oppenheim
Portland Bureau of Transportation
1120 SW 5th Ave, Suite 800
Portland, Oregon 97204
June 1, 2012
Summertime is almost upon us.
- Clackamas County is trying to figure out how to pay for its Milwaukie MAX contribution. As noted previously, the sheriff would rather they didn't.
- The excellent Strong Towns blog takes a few whacks at the civil engineering profession
- The Portland Mercury considers the anti "Portland Creep" movement in Clackamas County.
- Metro with an update on the regional trails program, and a grand opening ceremony this Saturday for the "Trolley Trail" along the former Portland Traction streetcar line between Milwaukie and Gladstone.
- The concept of a westside bypass gets a bit of discussion from local politicos, most of whom think such a project remains unlikely.
- Former state labor commissioner and GOP stalwart Jack Roberts compares the CRC to the Mount Hood Freeway, at least in terms of its import on the upcoming Portland mayoral runoff between Charlie Hales and Jefferson Smith.
- OPAL will be hosting an event on bus rider organizing as part of its First Friday series.
- Portland Afoot will soon be publishing interviews with three candidates to replace Jon Hunt as the president of ATU Local 757.
Have at it!