September 30, 2012
Apparently so, according to a staff report (PDF, 151K) prepared for the Private for-Hire Transportation Board and City Council.
But as that report, and the accompanying recommendations for industry reform document (PDF, 39K), indicate being a taxi driver is apparently only one step up from indentured servitude. Among the challenges for drivers:
- Drivers are treated as independent contractors rather than employees
- Cab companies charge an exorbitant series of fees to drivers beyond the use of the vehicle
- Hotel and restaurant valets demand to be paid by drivers for fares
- A loophole in insurance regulation means that drivers don't have medical coverage if injured in a crash
It sounds like change may be in the wind...
September 26, 2012
It's fall, which means that Metro is seeking citizen applicants to serve on the Transportation Policy Advisory Committee. There are four openings.
According to Metro:
TPAC is an advisory committee that reviews regional plans and federally funded transportation projects across the three-county Portland area. It advises local and regional leaders on transportation spending priorities as well as policies related to transportation, such as efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions and create communities with easy access to public transit. It also recommends needs and opportunities for involving the public in transportation matters.
An essential responsibility of TPAC is to advise the Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation, JPACT, a panel of elected officials and transportation agency executives that controls federal transportation spending in the Portland area. TPAC also advises the Metro Council, which reviews and must approve all major JPACT actions.
Application materials are available here.
September 24, 2012
Maybe we'll now have to rename it the mobility appliance, but you can now show the nearest car2go vehicles on your transit appliance.
If you'd like to add this to your configuration, get in touch!
Now when are we getting bike sharing, and will it have a web service?
September 23, 2012
Disclaimer: Zef Wagner is currently a Service Planning and Scheduling Intern at TriMet. The views expressed on this website are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views, plans, or policies of TriMet.
On this opening week of the new Portland Streetcar Central Loop comes news from Seattle, where their South Lake Union Streetcar just announced an agreement with Amazon worth an astonishing $5.5 million over 10 years in capital and operating assistance.
Amazon, already a major employer occupying several buildings in the newly-developed South Lake Union neighborhood north of downtown Seattle, is planning to build 3 new skyscraper office buildings in the area to expand their operations. This massive investment in land use (on lots occupied by surface parking lots for the last several decades) is matched by a massive investment in transportation. In addition to sidewalk and bike improvements in the area, Amazon has agreed to buy an additional streetcar vehicle and pay for operating expenses to allow for 10-minute all-day frequency, up from a paltry 15-minute frequency today.
For those unfamiliar, Seattle Streetcar is very similar to Portland Streetcar, which makes sense since they used our line as a model. They use the same vehicles, both run mostly in mixed traffic, both go very slowly over short distances, and both have been controversial due to concerns about bike safety and cost efficiency. More importantly, both have been used as an explicit way to encourage development. In the case of Portland, the streetcar is often touted as being the main investment that brought about the Pearl District. In Seattle, the streetcar was sold as a way to stimulate development in South Lake Union.
While I am skeptical that the Pearl would not have developed without the streetcar (considering the whole area is within easy walking distance of downtown and the transit mall), in the case of Seattle I am more convinced that it had a role. Most of the development in South Lake Union has taken the form of major employment like the Amazon campus, the Fred Hutch cancer center, and a plethora of biotech companies. There has been some mixed-use development as well, but the cluster of large employers is what really may have depended on a high-quality and high-capacity transit link with downtown to get their employees to work. There was already a bus line to South Lake Union, but streetcars are able to hold more people (mostly because they have fewer seats) and I'm willing to buy that Amazon and biotech employees might have a touch of rail bias.
It seems to me that South Lake Union may be a more compelling guide for what the Central Loop could accomplish in the Central Eastside, as opposed to looking at the Pearl District. The Central Loop and Seattle Streetcar have many similarities, after all. When Seattle Streetcar started, it was derided as a streetcar to nowhere, and lack of operational funding has led to disappointing frequency for such a short transit line. The Central Loop is somewhat similar--while it doesn't really go "nowhere," it does spend much of its time in the Central Eastside along sparsely developed parcels and running on a high-speed, traffic-heavy highway. Not only that, but it takes the most circuitous possible route between downtown and Central Eastside, duplicates a couple bus lines (the 6 and 17) for some segments, and there are many more direct bus alternatives across the river. Frequency is especially disappointing--due to a lack of funding and delays in new vehicle production, we will be stuck with 18-minute frequency for awhile, and probably can only hope for 15-minute frequency in the near future.
However, with all these similarities, Seattle Streetcar may represent a glimmer of hope for the Central Loop. If Portland can put its energy into attracting some major employers to develop new headquarters and operations on the Central Eastside along Grand and MLK, we can probably expect higher ridership on the streetcar and eventually, hopefully, we will get our own Amazon that is willing to pay for better service that we can all benefit from.
My worry with the Central Eastside is that the city will just assume the streetcar will do all the work, without doing all the other things needed to create a new commercial district. This effort will require more upzoning (we should be allowing skyscrapers, not the piddly 5 to 8 story buildings allowed under current zoning), an expansion of developable area (currently limited to the blocks immediately adjacent to MLK and Grand), major parking reform (metered parking, parking management, parking limits, etc), more signals and better pedestrian crossings, and more development incentives. We should also work toward getting an exclusive lane for the streetcar in the future. Most highways in Portland are 4 or 6 lanes wide, so why does 99E through the Central Eastside need 8 lanes?
In general, the point is that this should be an aggressive effort to expand downtown across the river, not a modest attempt to get a few mixed-use apartment buildings built right along the streetcar. We need to focus on major employment right along the line, perhaps with some mix of affordable housing and smaller businesses on the outlying parcels. If we don't get this right, we are going to be stuck with a shiny new streetcar line (the most expensive ever built, in fact) that runs infrequently and carries few passengers.
Yonah Freemark at the Transport Politic recently wrote an article on this very subject. I agree with the general sentiment of the article, although I think he is off the mark in assuming that the current zoning here is adequate, or that Portland is making enough of an effort to really attract development to the Central Eastside. He even acknowledges that our streetcar is "absurdly slow," yet still assumes it will have some kind of dramatic impact on development. If we see major redevelopment in the area, it will be because of an increase in zoned FAR, development incentives, major investments in streetscape and traffic improvements beyond just a mixed-traffic streetcar, and increased bus service across the river.
One response to my call for major employment to be the focus may be that we need to nurture the small, artisan industries sprouting up on the Central Eastside. That is entirely appropriate, and it makes sense to keep certain areas protected for light industrial use. Everything west of 3rd Ave, for example, makes sense as light industrial since it has the UP rail line and is stuck underneath viaducts and the freeway. The area south of Hawthorne also makes sense, since it is outside the core of the area. However, we should recognize that much of the Central Eastside is underutilized and car-oriented, filled with empty buildings, vacant lots, drive-through fast food restaurants, auto shops, and parking. We should also recognize that if we spent $100 million to build a streetcar line to promote redevelopment, we can't also say that existing uses have to be wholly protected.
There is a larger question here of what we think the highest and best use of prime central city land should be. The area from 6th to 12th contains many fine businesses, but preserving it as low-density industrial when there is so much redevelopment potential in that area is a waste. Keeping it industrial condemns the Grand/MLK corridor to feeling like a small, isolated swath of urbanity rather than a cohesive part of the rest of inner SE. Take a walk from Stark &12th to Stark & Grand and you will see how disconnected the neighborhoods feel and how unpleasant it is to travel by foot. We should seize this opportunity to connect our residential neighborhoods to the river.
There is also a question of balance between small and large businesses. Many Portlanders I talk to are very proud of how we nurture and support small businesses and start-ups, but it seems like few people in this city recognize the value that large companies can bring. They obviously help to form a solid economic foundation in terms of jobs and income (after all, those small businesses need customers with disposable income), but what people often forget about are the direct public benefits like the Amazon deal. Large employers have a major stake in the city and can actually see direct financial benefit to making investments in the city in terms of attracting a quality workforce. They not only make transportation and land use investments and pay taxes, they also tend to be philanthropic, sponsoring city events and projects. I for one hope that Portland can use the Central Loop as an opportunity to attract some similarly deep-pocketed company that can be a partner in making this city a better place.
Lest this get lost in the hoopla surrounding the opening of the Streetcar Loop, please note that the Oregon Iron Works/United Streetcar prototype vehicle is now certified for revenue service and in operation on the streets of Portland!
For those who have forgotten the history of this vehicle, it was procured with a grant from the Federal Transit Administration to jump start manufacturing in this country, and then a further grant was obtained to replace the Skoda propulsion system with a made-in-USA Rockwell system.
Enjoy riding it! Portland now has an 11-car fleet, which will expand rapidly as more United Streetcar vehicles arrive this fall.
September 22, 2012
I honor of the opening of the Streetcar Loop line today, Portland Transport has created a new version of our Transit Board display application that is intended for locations that are on one or both of our streetcar lines, and where streetcar would be the primary transit option (this app does not show MAX or buses). It uses a much more visually rich display format, including iconic photography of the termini of each line.
The first example of this display is at the Streetcar Bistro, which also opened today! Go see it at the corner of NW 11th and Northrup (which is well served by both streetcar lines).
It's opening day!
I'll shortly be leaving for OMSI for the speechifying for the new Streetcar Loop line, officially know as the "CL" line (Central Loop).
If you want to know when to catch the new train, your options are a little bit limited today, but getting better quickly. Local app developers have to translate between the NextBus web service and TriMet's nomenclature and schedules. And we're all busy with our conversions right now!
Our own Transit Appliance system is up-to-date (and indeed, later this weekend, I'll announce a new display format to celebrate the new line). And TriMet's Transit Tracker has the new line integrated.
PDXBus' Andy Wallace made a heroic effort to get a revision in the app store in time, but didn't make it because of some incomplete information coming from NextBus - but he's rushing to catch up.
My Transit Surfer mobile app (I may be the only user left) will require a significant overhaul to work with the new line, it may be a few weeks.
Other apps will probably catch up at different rates.
If you're looking for real time arrivals on your phone today for the CL line, TriMet's mobile version of Transit Tracker (http://m.trimet.org) is your best bet!
September 20, 2012
Just in time for this weekend's opening of the Streetcar Loop, this video is a joint production of Portland Streetcar, TriMet, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance and the Willamette Pedestrian Coalition.
It provides advice on modal conflicts of all kinds, with a focus on bikes and streetcars. Nicely done!
September 19, 2012
We reported recently on Portland's venture into parklets (repurposed on-street parking spaces). Now researchers at UCLA have released a comprehensive how-to guide (PDF, 9M), covering everything from policy to permit fees to design types!
September 18, 2012
Guest contributor Allan Rudwick is chair of the Eliot Neighborhood Association
Editor's note: As a member of the Planning and Sustainability Commission I will be voting on this plan in the next few weeks. Publishing this guest post should not be construed as an indication of my views on the plan - but simply as part of Portland Transport's ongoing mission to foster discussion - Chris
The I-5 Broadway interchange is the most congested one in the freeway loop and it was recommended for further study during the freeway loop study a few years ago. The idea was that this 2-lane section of I-5 is a bottleneck and being good highway engineers, ODOT staff need to try and relieve this bottleneck.
The proposal calls for 2 major pieces:
- Widening I-5 between I-405 and I-84 to 3 lanes in each direction
- A substantial, minimally intrusive reconfiguration of the street grid around the intersection
The street grid in question is to an urban designer and a transportation planner non-optimal. The problems with the existing configuration are:
- Presently we have a 5-legged intersection at Vancouver, the I-5 southbound off-ramp and N Broadway
- A lot of congestion in the 'box' - Broadway, Weidler, Vancouver and Williams
- The most dangerous intersection in the city for bikes at Flint/Wheeler/Broadway
- All of the traffic exiting I-5 southbound heading eastbound (80% of the traffic) must go on Vancouver, and all of the traffic from NE Broadway to I-5 southbound must also use this stretch, causing unnecessary backups and additionally bringing a fire-hose of cars through the Rose quarter on NE Wheeler before it heads onto I-5 SB or I-84 eastbound.
- This section of I-5 has the highest crash rate in Oregon and we need to do something about it.
The proposed solution solves all but problem (a) and I'll give it a maybe for problem (e) and does so without substantial property impacts - only 2 structures will be removed for this process and they aren't the sort that the community has invested a lot of time or energy into. This project has gone through extensive public process and the outcomes have been blessed with a number of community leaders in the area. In addition to solving these problems, the proposal adds a bike/pedestrian crossing between N Winning way and NE Clackamas St further stitching the urban fabric back together across I-5.
Model project/process = all is good right?
There were a couple of assumptions that went into this process that I don't agree with.
- We (ODOT) need to widen this section of I-5 no matter the cost (~$150-250 Million) to add another lane and shoulders.
- No improvements outside the I-405 to I-84 area would be considered.
Other Projects that might ease congestion at Broadway
Having constraints on the process is very helpful to a project. However, these assumptions that led us to our proposed solution may not be the best assumptions to make. Let's zoom out for a second. Why is this section so congested? Is this intersection truly the only way that NE and parts of SE Portland should be accessed? There are some spots where ramps could be added to spread out some of the exiting traffic away from this intersection. Adding a pair of ramps on I-84 east of the split would reduce the load on the Broadway/Weidler interchange.
Adding a pair of ramps north of the interchange could also reduce the demand for the Broadway interchange:
Removing the ramps is a non-starter although it would significantly reduce the congestion (and move it elsewhere).
Removing and Rebuilding Bridges Not Technically Necessary
The other thing that was not studied in this process was the fact that adding lanes to I-5 is not technically required to create the local street improvements that are proposed. We would lose the lid over I-5, full-width lanes, and the Hancock/Dixon connection would be replaced with a Flint/Dixon connection, but building this project on the existing structures with substantially lower cost and construction delays is physically possible. Creating the 4-lane English-style onramps onto I-5 on N Williams might require removing the sidewalks from the bridge, but other than that, the structures are physically capable of being reconfigured with a bit of paint and concrete. My back-of-the-envelope calculation says that this would save $250-350 Million of the projected $400 Million project.
- Removal of the Flint/Wheeler/Broadway intersection
- Less traffic right next to the rose garden allowing for a more urban place with parking and amenities, the ability to cross the road more easily.
- Connectivity across I-5 between Clackamas/N Winning Way
- To do the project at substantially lower cost
- No streetcar disruption (or minimized)
- Significantly less construction impact
- Flint-Dixon connection instead of Hancock/Dixon connection (preferred by Eliot Neighborhood Association)
- You are not as locked into the configurations - because not as much money has been spent future improvements would not be precluded to the same extent as they would after spending $400 Million
- The Lid- 1 full and several partial developable blocks of land on top of I-5
- Full width sidewalks in a few places
- The ability to leverage as much Federal Highway $ for urban amenities
- Urban place-making abilities around the interchange in several small locations
- The Hancock - Dixon connection- which has some potential for useful space on the overcrossing.
More Project Information: http://www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/article/406037
September 13, 2012
To the commercial van that right-hooked me a couple of weeks ago on Barbur Blvd. as I was passing the northbound freeway ramp at Terwilliger:
- The vehicle going straight (me) has the right of way.
- I was able to just barely turn inside you. If my bar end mirror scratched your paint, I'm very sorry...
To the woman who ran the red light on Naito at speed on Tuesday as the Bicycle Advisory Committee was turning in front of you on our central city tour:
- I was far enough back in the pack that I wasn't really at risk.
- I'm glad our lead riders were pretty nimble...
To the gentleman in the Pearl today who began parallel parking next to Jameson Square, only to suddenly pull out and zip across the street into an angled space:
- My brake pads are apparently in pretty good shape.
- I'm pretty sure that's an illegal movement...
I hope that you'll all understand that when I advocate for protected bikeways on busy streets, it's nothing personal, it's just that YOU'RE NOT PAYING ATTENTION.
Disclaimer: Zef Wagner is currently a Service Planning and Scheduling Intern at TriMet. The views expressed on this website are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views, plans, or policies of TriMet.
Since TriMet's decision to overhaul its fare system, most attention has understandably focused on the elimination of zones (including the Free Rail Zone) and the sizable increase in adult fares. Former 2-zone transit riders will be especially hard hit, as they will now pay $2.50 per trip or $100 for a monthly pass. While the overall fare hike deserves to be at the center of the discussion, one aspect of the fare overhaul that has not received much attention or analysis is TriMet's decision to offer a day pass at twice the normal fare--something virtually unheard of in the public transit world. I think the new day pass is a very interesting experiment that could have substantial benefits, assuming enough people realize it exists.
So how is the new day pass an improvement from the old day pass? The old day pass was $5 for all riders, even youth and honored citizens. This means that for adults paying the 2-zone fare of $2.10, a $5 day pass only made sense for someone taking at least 3 separate trips in a single day. For youth and honored citizens, the $5 day pass made no sense whatsoever.
Another problem is that people rarely know at the beginning of the day whether or not they will make more than 2 trips. For a commuter, the first 2 trips are simply part of the commute, and are therefore predictable. Trips after that, like trips to the store or to an event, are less likely to be planned out ahead of time. This put riders in the tough position of predicting the likelihood that a day pass would be worth it ahead of time. Suffice to say, the old day pass never sold very well.
The new day pass is just twice the normal fare, for all fare groups. The adult day pass is $5, the youth day pass is $3.35, and the honored citizen day pass is $2. This is a huge change that makes the day pass much more attractive. Essentially, there is no reason for a regular 2-way transit commuter to not buy a day pass. There is no need to predict whether or not you are likely to take transit on your lunch break or in the evening, since all those extra trips will be free with the day pass. Youth and honored citizens will finally have a day pass that also makes sense for them, and will especially benefit for a couple reasons: they are more likely to be casual users of transit (so a monthly pass might not make sense), and they are more likely to use transit for multiple purposes besides just getting to and from work.
I am not aware of any other major transit agency that offers a day pass for twice the normal fare, so this qualifies as a major experiment that other agencies should watch closely. Many agencies don't even offer a day pass at all. Of those who do, standard practice is to do what TriMet did previously and offer a day pass at slightly less than 3 times the normal fare. The thinking here is that anything less would undercut the sale of monthly passes and lead to a loss of potential fare revenue from those extra trips. There are a couple problems with this line of thinking:
- Many people do not buy monthly passes for perfectly good reasons. Maybe they only work or go to school part-time, or maybe they are living paycheck to paycheck. TriMet has responded to the latter situation by offering 7-day and 14-day passes, but for the former there is really no substitute for the flexibility of a day pass. There are also a growing number of people who are multi-modal travelers--in other words, they want to have the flexibility to take transit or ride a bike or walk or use a car-share depending on the day. Again, day passes make more sense for this growing group of people.
- There is a whole lot of excess capacity (meaning empty seats) on transit vehicles during off-peak hours, especially in the evening. This means the marginal cost of serving an additional rider during those hours is generally zero. In a situation like that, it makes sense to offer a product that essentially encourages people to use that excess capacity. TriMet may not see extra revenue from those trips, but it will most likely see a ridership increase during typically low-ridership hours.
The day pass also offers another potential benefit in the form of faster passenger loading at stops. Who among us hasn't sat in a bus and cursed the people paying cash as they get on? Anything that encourages the use of tickets and passes over cash can substantially decrease dwell times and speed up the bus system. If enough people choose to buy the new day passes it could speed up boarding by quite a bit, especially in the afternoon hours. Unvalidated day passes are available to buy in stores (although not from the ticket machines at MAX stations for some reason), but most people will probably just pay $5 in the morning to get a day pass from the driver. Even paying with a $5 bill should take less time than the current scrounging for change, and then in the afternoon and evening people will just have to show their pass.
A final point I think is worth mentioning is that with the new day pass, TriMet is virtually offering a pay-as-you-go alternative to the 30-day pass. The 30-day pass costs $100, which means that it pays for itself after 20 days of round-trip travel. Any extra days of travel are free. In a span of 30 days, there are 20-22 workdays. This means that buying day passes for each day is pretty much equivalent to buying a 30-day pass, as long as you don't plan on traveling extra days (like weekends or holidays). This brings an unprecedented level of flexibility to a system that has long made life easier for heavy users as opposed to more casual users.
Let's say you work or go to school part-time, but think you might want to use transit on some other days as well for other purposes. Or maybe you work full-time, and commute by bike in good weather, but want to have that transit option when the weather is nasty. Normally, you would have to go through an internal debate over whether a monthly pass is worth the cost, and you would probably end up choosing to pay with cash or tickets on a per-trip basis. Now, there is no need for that debate because the day pass is practically designed for you.
Now, the big question is whether anyone will actually use the thing. The day pass has been irrelevant (except for tourism) for so long that people may not realize it exists or that it may actually make sense now to use on a regular basis. I hope the day pass gets enough of a marketing push that people really know what it is and what it means. If enough people adopt the day pass, it could become a model system that no longer relies nearly so much on monthly passes, but instead allows the flexibility we need in an unpredictable world.
I have noticed a couple things I would change based on observing the new system over the last couple weeks. First, I've noticed that drivers end up pulling out a hole puncher and punching the transfer every time someone buys a day pass. Why not punch a whole bunch of them ahead of time? Then they could be handed out a lot more quickly. The cost of those tiny slips of paper has to be miniscule, so it's not a big deal if some go unsold.
Second, it really doesn't make sense to not sell unvalidated day passes from the ticket machines at MAX stations. If someone visits for a weekend, they should be able to buy all their day passes at once, not buy each one separately each day. Given that there is no 3-day or weekend pass offered, this would be the next best thing. This point is actually personal, since a friend of mine last weekend actually ended up wasting $5 by buying two day passes in this way. The machines do not make clear at all that the day passes are only good for the current day--this should be fixed.
What would really improve the day pass would be the long-awaited electronic fare system that TriMet still plans to implement one day. With an electronic fare card pre-loaded with money, TriMet could simply charge $2.50 for the first trip, another $2.50 for the second trip, then $0 for each trip thereafter in a single day. There would be no need to even predict ahead of time whether you need the day pass. This could even extend to monthly passes, so that you pay as you go until you reach the monthly limit, then the rest of the trips are free. The ORCA system in Seattle unfortunately still does not do this, although with their expensive day pass it hardly matters. Such a true pay-as-you-go system would be a true game-changer, and I hope TriMet would consider it in the future. The new day pass is an encouraging step in that direction, and I hope people take advantage of it.
September 12, 2012
It appears that the Pinot-Casino Highway (sometimes known as the Newberg-Dundee Bypass, which broke ground last week, although construction does not start until next year) has attracted legal opposition opposing the construction--albeit from an unusual place.
Phase 1 of the project (which will likely be signed as an extension of OR18) runs from an intersection with OR219 south of of Newberg, near Springbok and Wilsonville Roads, to an intersection with OR99W just west of Dundee (you can see a map of phase 1 here). The "full" project calls for a four-lane
freewayexpressway (ODOT doesn't like to call their divided limited-access highways "freeways", for some reason) from the bottom of Rex Hill (northeast of Newberg) to the present intersection of OR18 and OR99W just north of Dayton; but there's not enough money to build that, so a "Phase 1" project, with the truncated alignment, was approved as part of the 2009 Jobs and Transportation (JTA) Act, in which various highway-projects were goosed with stimulus money.
The plaintiff in the lawsuit, a local builder named Mart Storm, suggests that the truncated alignment is useless, and that a longer alignment is necessary to relieve congestion in the Newberg/Dundee corridor. Such "independent utility" arguments have been successfully used before to kill off projects with stunted first phases (the West Eugene Parkway is a recent local example)--if a project is broken into phases, federal law requires that the first phase have "independent utility"--in other words, be useful as a standalone project. The purpose of this is to prevent back-loading of the useful parts of a project into subsequent phases, essentially forcing them to be built. (If phase 2 turns out to be useless or not cost-effective, it can simply not be built).
Typically, "independently utility" arguments are often deployed by environmentalists or others looking to kill a project outright.
Looking at Phase 1 of this project--it appears that Mr. Storm has a point--except he's arging at the wrong end of the project. Storm owns property near Fulquartz Landing Road that would be condemned in order to build the full project (producing a windfall for him), but which is not necessary for the first phase--he is claiming that the failure to run to Fulquartz Landing (a half-mile further south) is "unacceptable". Storm insists that he is only looking out for the good motorists and residents of the Newberg-Dundee area, and not his own pocketbook. While I'm not a civil engineer, the difference between the Fulquartz Landing terminus and the planned terminus at Niederberger Road is (as far as I can tell) not much. He might have a better argument were the other alternative a full extension to McDougal Junction (the current eastern end of OR18), where ODOT ultimately plans to build a full interchange keeping OR18 and OR99W traffic flows separate.
Mr Storm's concerns notwithstanding the real problem with Phase 1 is at the other end. The planned eastern terminus of the bypass at OR219, without any connection back to OR99W, will force tons of traffic onto Springbok Road, a local street in Newberg. Either that, or onto Wilsonville Road (and thence to I-5 in Wilsonville), which ought to annoy Clackamas County greatly. As Phase 1 includes no intersections or interchanges other than the termini, for Portland traffic to use the bypass at all, they will have to find some way to get between the eastern terminus and 99W. The project does include some improvements to Springbok Road (which is currently a narrow two-lane collector), but nothing that will enable it to handle high volumes of freight traffic, not to mention the throng of Portlanders looking to go wine-tasting, gambling, or beachcombing, that makes traffic on OR99W so miserable in the first place.
This is the sort of situation that the independent utility requirement is designed to avoid--a partially completed project making things worse rather than not better, and creating a situation where completion of Phase 2 becomes a necessity rather than an option for the future.
September 10, 2012
In a recent article on 82nd Avenue, the subject of jurisdictional transfers came up. Many streets and highways in the Portland area are managed and operated by ODOT, and in some cases this is inappropriate. (There are several other locally-managed roads for which ODOT ownership might be more appropriate). This article takes a look at some possibilities.
First, a few preliminaries. Unlike many states, which have a single numbering system for their state highways (posted route numbers); the state of Oregon has two numbering systems.
- Route numbers are the numbers posted on highway shields. Three types exist in Oregon (at the state level; some counties and the US Forest Service also assign numeric route numbers to their roads; these are not relevant to this article)--Interstate highways (I-5, I-84), US Highways (US26, US101), and Oregon highways (OR217, OR99E). While the first two are planned according to nationwide strategies and assigned numbers by various federal agencies, the actual pavement is owned and maintained by ODOT.
- ODOT Highway numbers. These are rarely noticed by motorists (they are part of the small print on some mile markers). All ODOT-maintained roads are assigned an ODOT highway number, which is generally only used internally, and not published prominently on signs or on maps. (A few exceptions exist). The ODOT highway numbers are frequently different than the route numbers, though in some cases they are the same.
An important point: Many roads which are assigned route numbers are NOT ODOT-maintained highways, and there are a few ODOT highways without visible route numbers. Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway is signed OR10, but the portions of it in Multnomah County are no longer maintained by the state. On the other hand, Hall Boulevard and Boones Ferry Road south of Washington Square down to Wilsonville, are actually a state highway (#141) even though you won't see any route signs for this. In the past ten years, ODOT has been assigning route numbers to unsigned state highways at the direction of the Legislature; a local example of this occurring is the Wilsonville-Hubbard Highway, which used to be unsigned and is now OR-551.
With that in mind, when it is suggested below that a highway is transferred from ODOT to local jurisdiction, it is not being proposed that the route number be dropped; these are useful for wayfinding. That said, many obsolete former highways have lost their route numbers as they transformed into local streets. Borland Road and Willamette Drive between Tualatin and West Linn used to be part of OR212, but the road was transferred to Clackamas County and the designation dropped after the construction of I-205 made it obsolete as a highway.
In general, it is my belief that the following types of roads should be kept (or placed) in ODOT jurisdiction:
- Freeways and expressways
- Other highways, particularly of regional importance.
- Important freight corridors
Roads that function primarily as local arterials, in general, should be under local jurisdiction. A particular class of route that I believe should be transferred is highways obsoleted by freeways. Borland Road, Sandy Boulevard, and Interstate Avenue are examples of such which have already been converted to local jurisdiction and now function as local arterials. However, many other freeway-adjacent highways still are highways.
With that in mind...
Roads to transfer to local jurisdiction.
In no particular order...
- Hall/Boones Ferry. As mentioned above, SW Boones Ferry between Wilsonville and Durham, and SW Hall through Tigard, ending at Progress, is technically a state highway. Out of all the freeway-adjacent highways, this is by far the most anachronistic, as it doesn't function as a highway at all. There is no advantage to keeping this route on ODOT's rolls.
- Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway. As noted above, this is only a state highway between OR217 and the Portland city limits, at which point it becomes a city street. The rest of OR10 east of OR217 should likewise be transferred off the state rolls, with Washington County the likely recipient. The fact that the Portland part was already turned over undermines the rationale for the rest of it.
- Scholls Ferry Road. I'm referring to the segment between Progress and Raleigh Hills, with is generally a 2-3 lane arterial through residential neighborhoods. OR210 west of Progress should remain a state highway, as it serves much regional and freight traffic. It's worth noting that the stretch of Scholls Ferry between Raleigh Hills and Sylvan once also was a state highway, but was abandoned long ago.
- Barbur Boulevard. Here's the big one--the entire stretch of Barbur Boulevard from downtown to the Tigard interchange just west of PCC-Sylvania. South of there, where OR99W gets called the "Pacific Highway", ODOT maintenance should remain in force; but north of there Barbur lies within close proximity to I-5, but still is expected to function as a highway.
- SE 82nd Avenue. Here's another example of a former highway being obsoleted by a nearby freeway. Barbur still is built, kinda, to highway design standards. 82nd, OTOH, has much higher density along it, and functions as a highway not at all, with I-205 running ten blocks or so to the east. Other than short snippets near the airport and around the OR224 interchange, 82nd should become a city street.
- MLK and Grand. This last one is probably the most controversial on the list, as OR99E still functions significantly as a highway--but the stretch downtown and through Northeast Portland is also obsoleted by a nearby freeway--in this case, I-5. McLoughlin Boulevard should remain in the state system, and the northernmost stretch of MLK north of Columbia should remain as state highways, but between the Ross Island Bridge and Columbia, MLK and Grand should be permitted to function as city streets.
Roads to ADD to the state highway system.
There are a few streets which might be useful additions to the state highway system, given their regional and/or freight importance. If nothing else, these could be part of jurisdictional swaps, where the state and various localities exchanges roadways with each other. Among these.
- Edy Road/Tualatin Sherwood Road. This road, which connects OR99W in the Six Corners area of Sherwood to Interstate 5, is a major corridor for freight traffic, and a popular alternative to 99W for inbound traffic. The idea of turning this into a state highway might be obsoleted by the proposed I5-99W Connector project, but that project has been in limbo for three years now, as Clackamas County strenuously wants to avoid any spillover traffic; making TSH a state highway might be a fallback position.
- Roy Rogers Road. Continuing north from Six Corners, Roy Rogers Road is a high-speed, two-lane highway that connects Sherwood with South Beaverton, ending at Scholls Ferry Road just west of Progress Ridge. Of course, the northern terminus of this route is part of the South Cooper Mountain UGB expansion area (and a smaller UGB expansion southwest of Bull Mountain is also adjacent to Roy Rogers Road), so that needs to be taken into effect.
- Cornelius Pass Road. I'm speaking mainly of the stretch between US30 and US26, possibly extending as far south as Cornell; but this part of Cornelius Pass also functions as a major regional freight route. South of Cornell, Cornelius Pass serves as a local arterial, which would not be an appropriate highway.
One more realignment
Dan w did a guest post on this, but the current routing of US30 Bypass along N Lombard, is a big mess. For one thing, it's questionable whether or not US30 needs a bypass in the first place--this is a historical relic from the time when the US30 mainline was Sandy-Burnside-18th/19th-Vaughn-St. Helens Road. With the current routing via the Banfield Freeway, the Fremont Bridge, and NW Yeon, there's no need for a "bypass"--let alone one that travels on 3-lane surface streets through residential neighborhoods.
For most of the stretch of Killingsworth/Lombard, the obvious thing is to shift the highway designation to Columbia Boulevard, which is a designated freight route. Doing so might permit transit improvements to the 72 and 75, if nothing else. The problem is, is that there really isn't any good connection between the Saint Johns Bridge and Columbia Boulevard, which is a big reason that additional crossings of the Willamette in North Portland are often proposed.
But regardless of that, transferring Lombard/Killingsworth to local jurisdiction, and making Columbia a state highway, at least out to Portland Road, makes some sense.
Bonus trivia: Did you know that Portland Road between Columbia and Marine, as well as Marine Drive east of their to I-5, is also a state highway? It's known by ODOT as the "Swift Highway", and is designated as OR120. Given that this route is mostly useless, it's one that ODOT has declined to post route markers for, but Google Maps tells all...
September 7, 2012
This is a guest post from regular contributor Ron Swaren. Anyone who wishes to submit a guest post is welcome to contact the moderators and we will be happy to assist you.
Community Transit of Snohomish County, Wahington (north of Seattle) inaugurated its fleet of 23 "Double-Tall" express buses in March, 2011. The passenger capacity is equivalent to articulated buses (77 seated), but they perform much better in slippery conditions, and can shift weight in the rear axle. The length of 42 feet takes up less road space and was requested by the City of Seattle. Martin Mungia, information director for Community Transit, stated that while the number of passengers is typically about 40, a couple times a week they fill up to 100-110 riders.
There are two main routes using the double-talls (they are switched to other routes during the day): the 402 to Lynnwood , and the 405 to Edmonds Park and Ride. Technical data on the double-talls is available at this page.
They make one or two stops at Park and Ride lots in the suburban communities, take I-5 into Seattle, and make 5-7 stops downtown. Mr. Mungia also pointed out that the height of the vehicles --approx. 14 feet--provides desirable advertising space that is more visible, thus bringing in more revenue. Community Transit may purchase more vehicles in the future if economic conditions become more favorable. The cost of $850,000 per vehicle was higher than normal buses, but they think these will prove to be good investments over time.
The initial investment of $23 million was 88 percent covered by grants, substantially from WDOT "Regional Mobility Program" and by federal stimulus money. Alexander Dennis Co. based in Scotland, opened an assembly plant in Southern California where final assembly was accomplished, thus qualifying the buses under "Buy America" requirements. Similar vehicles are also being used in Victoria and Kelowna, BC.
September 5, 2012
It looks at the very specific needs of different groups. For example, at Hacienda, a housing development in NE Portland, bicycle theft is a big issue. So secure storage is a barrier.
At New Columbia, the issue was keeping bikes in good repair. That's why it was a special pleasure to attend the grand opening of New Columbia's "Bike Hub" tonight. The hub is a project of the Community Cycling Center and a variety of public and private organizations, including the Portland Development Commission. The structure itself was a design-build project done by college students (a joint program including PNCA) in just a few weeks.
In addition to the basic repair shed, the project also includes a bicycle-themed sculpture. And at tonight's festivities there was an open-air repair clinic.
Here's to keeping those bikes working!
Listen to the show (mp3, 26.5MB)
The Reve Tour ladies who rode each stage Tour de France this year a day before the pros. We hear about their experiences as women taking on an insurmountable challenge. We also take an in-depth look at the state of women's cycling as a sport with Sarai Snyder of Cyclofemme/Girl-Bike-Love and Kristy Scrymgeour, Team Owner for the professional women's cycling team, Specialized-Lululemon.
Another guest post by frequent reader and commenter dan w. We wish to remind readers that we are happy to run guest posts--simply email submissions to one of the moderators--ES.
Serving the Rivergate Industrial District, Portland Airport and a plethora of other
industrial/employment centers, the Columbia Corridor--aka Bypass 30 and its parallel routes--is a vital freight and commuter corridor but isn't always on the collective radar. Indeed, this study dating back to pre-Y2K days is one of the few documents I could find that focus on this corridor. The document defines Columbia Corridor as extending between Rivergate and Troutdale, but for my proposal outlined below I'm focusing on the section between Rivergate and I-205.
After the jump....
Mostly utilizing existing ROW, rerouting Bypass 30 onto this newly upgraded corridor would help relieve pressure on congested I-84 (freight rail improvements as outlined by local and state proposals are also a key component but I opted not to include them on my map). Also, while current bus service only runs along a few segments of the corridor, BRT or something similar along its entire length has the potential to serve countless employers. It can connect with the Red and Yellow MAX lines and various bus routes including 6, 70, 72 and 75.
Phase 1 should be relatively inexpensive and low-impact to implement (assuming a full freeway isn't the chosen option). One option is an expressway, which is a combination of at-grade and grade-separated interchanges (think Hwy 224 between McLoughlin and I-205). In fact, several grade-separated facilities already exist on this corridor, and frontage roads and driveway consolidations along various stretches should also help with traffic flow. The key is to not have implementation of the corridor be so disruptive that it ends up eliminating huge chunks of the industrial facilities to which we're trying to improve access.
Option A - NE Lombard to MLK (includes new ROW between Lombard Pl and MLK/ Columbia intersection)
Option B - Columbia Blvd to MLK
Option A - MLK to Marine Dr to N. Lombard
Option B - Columbia Blvd (includes new ROW to the north between Portland Rd and Upland Dr to skirt residential area) to N. Burgard
Although it tacks a couple of extra miles onto the corridor, I prefer Option A for the west segment because: 1) It generally avoids residential areas, 2) MLK between I-5 and Columbia is already pretty much limited access, 3) unlike Option B, a full interchange already exists at I-5, and 4) it offers direct access to my proposed Columbia River bridge.
Both east segment options have their advantages, but I'd prefer to have BRT run on Columbia rather than Lombard because it would directly serve more employers.
Phase 2.... Here comes the fun expensive part. Inspired by others' posts on this blog, this part of the proposal calls for the corridor to connect to new bridges over the Willamette and Columbia, the latter being a third-bridge CRC alternative.
September 1, 2012
As the kids get ready to head back to school, YouthPasses in hand, it's time for a new Open Thread.
- Your last reminder: New routes and fares take effect this weekend.
- Jarrett Walker reminisces on the 30th anniversary of Portland's transit grid; and Zef follows up here.
- Clackamas County votes on requiring citizen approval for rail spending on September 18. County officials insist that the initiative cannot apply to MLR; petitioners disagree and are now circulating another petition to target MLR more specifically.
- Eastside Streetcar opens September 22. If there are any technical difficulties, Chris has promised to help push. :)
- Next month, the Oregon Symphony, as part of their Kids Series of concerts, will host a performance by the Pacific Youth Choir and Dance West entitled "Trains, Trams, Trolleys and more", featuring renditions of numerous transportation-themed pieces from various eras. Where else can you hear "Flight of the Valkyries" and "Bicycle Built for Two" on the same bill?