January 30, 2013
Back in July of 2010, we covered TriMet's announcement of the purchase of hybrid buses to be evaluated on the Line #72 route.
TriMet has now received those four buses and held an event today to launch them into service. Here's our video providing an overview of TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane's remarks at today's press conference, a look inside and around the bus, and a bit of direct Q&A.
Line #72 riders will be able to catch these buses officially starting tomorrow, January 31st.
Hybrid bus facts from TriMet's flyer handed out today, after the break:
TriMet: State-of-the-art Hybrids
- Four new-generation hybrid buses
- More economical and environmentally friendly to run
- Less emissions, quieter and lower fuel consumption than standard diesel buses
- Tires powered by electric motor with no mechanical link between the diesel engine and the vehicles movement
- Features electrically powered components - requiring less maintenance and longer life-cycles than mechanically powered components, which lowers maintenance costs and improves vehicle uptime and availability
By the numbers
- Estimated to be 20 to 50 percent more fuel efficient than standard diesel buses
- Estimated 6 miles per gallon (standard diesel buses get about 4.4 mpg)
- Estimated fuel savings a year: 2,200 gallons per bus
- Estimated reduction in nitrogen oxides (NOx) emission: 95.5 percent a year
- Estimated reduction in particulate emissions: 95 to 98 percent a year
- "Series" hybrid
- Has both a diesel engine and an electric motor but the diesel engine has no mechanical link to vehicular locomotion (making the tires spin)
- Diesel engine feeds a generator, which in turn provides power to batteries that supply the electric motor; electric motor provides locomotion, making the bus move
- Similar in architect technology to Chevy Volt or Fisker Karma
- Smaller diesel engine; operates at its most optimum RPM (revolutions per minute)
- Same capacity for load (39 seats), drivability and range as TriMet's new 3000 series buses
- Feature electronic cooling system - originally developed for the military, used in NASCAR and pioneered by TriMet in the transit industry. Reduces the load of auxiliary systems on the engine, improving fuel efficiency by five to 10 percent
- Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) technology further scrubs the nitrogen oxides (NOx) emission from the exhaust
- Regenerative braking sends energy to the batteries as bus slows while braking
- Completely assembled in the US (Gillig facilities in Hayward, CA)
- Roughly 60 percent of parts are US made (remainder produced in Europe)
- $3,125,000: Total project cost
- $2.5 million: Clean Fuels Grant from the Federal Transit Administration
- $625,000: TriMet 20% match (required)
- $664,096: cost per hybrid bus (standard diesel bus: $407,768)
- Balance of funds - replacement parts, inspections, training, warranties
- Clean Fuels Grants support emerging clean fuel and advanced propulsion technologies for transit buses and markets for those technologies
- Low floor, vinyl seats, larger windows, brighter LED lighting, lighter interior color scheme, air conditioning
- Longer, more gradual sloped boarding ramp for riders using mobility devices; counterbalanced for easier deployment and retraction
- 42 ft. long; 8.5 ft. wide, minus the mirrors; 11.5 ft. tall (majority of standard TriMet buses are 40.8 ft. long, 8.5 ft. wide and 10.5 ft. tall)
- 31,080 pounds (15 tons) empty (majority of standard TriMet buses weigh 28,320 pounds (14 tons))
January 29, 2013
Speaker: Patrick Singleton (CEE MS Student)
Topic: Pedestrians in Regional Travel Demand Forecasting Models: State-of-the-Practice
When: Friday, February 1 2013, 12-1 p.m.
Where: PSU Urban Center Building, SW 6th and Mill, Room 204
Portland State University
Winter 2013 Friday Transportation Seminar Series
January 28, 2013
A well-balanced discussion of how Bus Rapid Transit stacks up against Light Rail and the corridors where it is under consideration (Southwest Corridor, Powell) as well as a discussion of Eugene's system and its planned extension. Audio (MP3) and text links.
January 27, 2013
This Atlantic Cities article covers some innovative intersection designs that are intended to reduce theoretical conflict points - at least for cars. These don't really seem to be intended for use in urban environments.
Nonetheless, at least one "diverging diamond" example has been built with at least nominal accommodation for pedestrians and cyclists. Chuck Marone (of "Strong Towns" fame) dissects it somewhat mercilessly in this YouTube video:
January 22, 2013
At Friday's PSU Transportation Seminar:
Speaker: Peter Koonce, Portland Office of Transportation
Topic: "Confessions of a Traffic Engineer"
Get an inside look into Portland's Office of Transportation!
January 20, 2013
The president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, hardly a left-wing organization, made a speech calling for an increase in the Federal gas tax, linking it to needed infrastructure projects and distinguishing it as a user fee rather than a tax.
January 19, 2013
Pop Quiz: What makes more sense?
In the recent barrage of emails and press releases from TriMet regarding construction activities for Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail, I have noticed a shift in marketing for the line. The project, officially still called the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Transit Project, has long been unofficially known as the Orange Line, but that always seemed like a placeholder in lieu of an actual study of what would be best for the line. However, in the last month or two the Orange Line designation has been actually used by the agency and appears to be official. At a recent tour I attended of construction activities, the tour guide confirmed that the current plan is to run the Orange Line as a stand-alone line, terminating and turning around at Union Station (see the first map above). This is a disturbing development for reasons I will outline below.
Giving the new light rail line a new color is a serious mistake clearly driven by marketing concerns rather than any consideration of operational efficiency or rider benefit. It appears that TriMet (and perhaps the city of Milwaukie) want the line to have a new color because it increases the visibility of the project compared to simply extending an existing line. The problem is that this seemingly innocuous naming scheme will have negative implications for the high-capacity transit network the public relies on.
The most beneficial and efficient way to operate the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail line would be to treat it as an extension of the Yellow Line (see the second map above). Southbound Yellow trains would run from Expo Center to downtown, continue past Portland State University, and head down to Milwaukie. Northbound trains would run all the way from Milwaukie to Expo Center. There are three main benefits to this form of operation. First, it allows riders to go straight through downtown without having to transfer. Second, it reduces the need for layover space in downtown where it is most scarce.
A good transit network will, whenever possible, allow transit riders to ride through downtown if they live on one side of downtown and work (or have other destinations) on the other side. We have precedence for this through-downtown model in the form of the Red and Blue Lines. Sure, the majority of riders get and on and off downtown, but there are also plenty of people who ride from one side to the other without having to transfer. TriMet also does this with most of the bus lines through downtown, and many people take advantage of this feature. In any case, extending the Yellow Line would create a very strong north-south transit spine to complement the east-west Blue/Red transit spine, whereas an isolated Orange Line would not. We need a network that expands riders' freedom to go to more places, and that means making them as long as is practical and not forcing downtown transfers for no reason.
One reason that most bus lines go through downtown besides rider benefit is the fact that layover space is very limited downtown. Some lines do a "live-loop" downtown and don't have a layover at all, and some other lines layover at Union Station, but there is simply not much space for buses to sit around. For light rail trains, there are a couple turnaround/layover spots: one for the Blue/Red Lines on SW 11th Ave between Yamhill and Morrison (rarely used nowadays), and one at the south end of PSU where the Yellow and Green Lines currently terminate. Other than that, there are a few pullout tracks around Union Station, but these are not as good because they require drivers to switch from one end of the train to the other rather than just turning around.
So one problem with running the Orange Line only as far as Union Station before turning around is that it is not a good place for a layover. TriMet could have trains use the pullout tracks, but it will be more time-consuming and awkward than using a full turnaround space like the ones mentioned above. The other option would be to always live-loop and only do layovers at the other end of the line in Oak Grove. That could work in general, but it leaves less operational flexibility for dealing with inevitable service disruptions or getting trains back on schedule.
Another issue, perhaps minor but still something to think about, is that we have a limited color palette to choose from for transit lines. Why waste Orange frivolously when we don't have to? What if we decide to give Bus Rapid Transit lines colors as well, following the lead of Los Angeles, where they wisely decided to treat light rail and BRT as one integrated network? There really aren't that many colors that are acceptable for transit lines, unless we are excited about the prospect of a Fuchsia Line or Periwinkle Line in our future.
The only possible advantage I can see from running the Orange Line separately is that it would effectively boost frequency on the downtown transit mall by 50%, assuming 15-minute headways on Yellow, Green, and Orange Lines. This would have been a bigger benefit back in the days of the Free Rail Zone, when light rail served double-duty as a downtown circulator. It also isn't much of a boost, going from average 7.5 minute headways to 5 minute headways.
Overall, the benefits of running the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail line as an extension of the Yellow Line seem so obvious that I can only conclude that some combination of marketing and politics has managed to dominate any rational discussion of what is best for the public. I hope this article can jump-start that discussion, because it is not too late to change course and do the right thing. Let's extend the Yellow Line, and save the color Orange for a future line when we really need it.
Zef Wagner is pursuing a Master of Urban and Regional Planning degree at Portland State University, specializing in transportation planning.
January 17, 2013
Ada Louise Huxtable - for many years the architecture critic for the New York Times - passed away recently, and over at Portland Architecture local history expert Dan Hanekow reviews some of her thoughts on Portland.
I would be remiss if I didn't call out this 1970 quote:
"Some day, some American city will discover the Malthusian truth that the greater number of automobiles, the less the city can accommodate them without destroying itself. The downtown that turns itself into a parking lot is spreading its own dissolution. The price for Portland is already alarmingly high. But there are no easy answers, or no American city would be in trouble."
We've made some progress on this in downtown, but the issue still threatens our neighborhoods...
January 14, 2013
As we've discussed, this is the legislative session in which the Columbia River Crossing will either get a commitment for the local share of funding, or will likely die for the lack of it.
MoveOn.org is now hosting a petition to urge Oregon legislators to deny that funding and promote the "Common Sense Alternative."
January 13, 2013
So says this article, looking at the factors that influence access: proximity, mobility and connectivity.
This is why the updated Comprehensive Plan will be so important to our future transportation!
January 10, 2013
From the folks at ThirdBridgeNow.com:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NO funding for CRC!! Oregon State Capitol Steps January 15, 2013
Economic Transportation Alliance commonly known as Third Bridge Now.com works on transportation issues in Oregon and SW Washington with a focus on the economy, safety, and the environment. Has organized a walk and talk to Oregon Legislators to let them know, that the Columbia River Crossing transportation project is a NO GO ON STATE FUNDING. We can do so much better, and we must.
Walk and Talk
Citizens will walk from office to office and let their numerous concerns about the CRC be known to the Governor and Oregon Legislators.
The Oregon Legislators need to hear personally from taxpayers Not to fund the Columbia River Crossing's current project with state money. What is needed is a better process with none of the contractors or transportation employee involved. A Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement is common on transportation projects and must be start to thoroughly study alternatives to develop a constructable project. New circumstances or information necessitate preparation of a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement and the Columbia River Crossing has several of both new information, and new circumstances since 2008.
"Significant new circumstances or information relevant to environmental concerns or substantial changes in the proposed action that are relevant to environmental concerns may necessitate preparation of a supplemental EIS following either the draft or final EIS or the Record of Decision (CEQ NEPA Regulations, 40 C.F.R. § 1502.9(c))." A CITIZEN'S GUIDE TO THE NEPA
On The Steps Of The Oregon State Capitol 900 Court St. NE, Salem, Oregon 97301.
We will be contacting individual elected official's offices from 8 AM to 5PM sharing our concerns about the CRC. Main action will be between 10AM - 3PM (Offices close at 5PM)
CEO Economic Transportation Alliance
Sharon Nasset 503.283.9585 firstname.lastname@example.org
January 5, 2013
Mentioned earlier in the open thread, but today the Oregonian's Joseph Rose is reporting that excessive overtime at TriMet is resulting in severe operator fatigue--a factor which led to an incident in 2011 where a Yellow Line train crashed into the buffers at the Expo Center station. (The driver apparently had dozed off).
Go read the article.
Rose reports that among other things:
- Drivers have been known to work 18 hours or more during a 24 hour period; the average shift length is 9.2 hours.
- One operator worked over 70 hours per week--for the entire year--during the just-ended fiscal year.
- Numerous other incidents, including the crash between an empty bus and a Beaverton railroad signal, have been blamed on fatigue.
- The agency has been threatened with ODOT sanctions with regard to MAX operator scheduling practices.
- ODOT does not regulate bus driver hours, however; and the Federal Government (including the FTA) does not regulate this aspect of transit hardly at all.
There's lots more damning stuff in the article. Go read it.
This is disturbing, obviously, given the agency's public commitment to safety after the 2010 bus accident where a bus making a turn ran over several pedestrians (who had a green signal) in a crosswalk, killing two. The operator in that incident was fired, and many proclaimations about the importance of safety issued forth from Center Street.
How did we get here?
While TriMet and ATU757 are for the most part on bad terms these days, the subject of overtime is one where the agency and at least some of its operators are in agreement.
Drivers--some of them--like overtime. You've no doubt hear the stories of bus drivers making six-figure salaries; this is accomplished by working busloads of overtime, which pays time-and-a-half or possibly even double time. TriMet likes overtime--a huge parts of an operator's compensation is the benefits package, and this is a fixed, per-employee expense (benefits cost the same for full-time employees, regardless of how much OT is worked). The apparent fact that letting a driver work 70 hours/week is apparently cheaper than hiring a second driver to put in half those hours ought to tell you something.
And of course, given the poor relations between the agency and the union, changes to work rules (including limitations on overtime, and/or use of cameras to monitor operators while driving) are unlikely.
Rose's article focuses on the safety problems posed by these operational practices--but it almost seems to be a sign of a bigger problem: the agency, operationally, appears to be stretched too thin. We've all seen, and commented on, declining reliability at TriMet, a double-whammy for riders on top of service cuts. I've seen similar things numerous times in the private sector--a company, faced with financial problems, resorts to budget cuts and layoffs. But frequently, rather than scaling back all aspects of the operation by X% in response to an X% budget shortfall, a business will attempt to "limit the damage" by various means, including:
- Use of overtime to mitigate productivity losses caused by the layoffs--the remaining staff are expected to "pick up the load". This is often worse in the private sector, where the additional workload is uncompensated, particularly for those employees who draw a salary rather than an hourly wage (though in retail, there are many tricks to "encourage" hourly employees to put in some work off the clock).
- Focusing attrition on support staff rather than the "front-line" workers who perform the public-facing or revenue-bearing functions.
- Forgoing risk-mitigation expenses as a luxury that can no longer be afforded, and hoping (and praying) that the shinola doesn't hit the fan.
In the case of TriMet, it appears that in an attempt to preserve service hours, greater cuts were made to functions such as dispatch, maintenance, fare inspection (though here TriMet is making up for lost time), customer service, and anyone else in operations who doesn't drive a bus or train. (There is, of course, the question of capital projects and senior management. Some of these folks are paid by grants that cannot be diverted to operations, but almost certainly not all of them...)
International parking thought leader Donald Shoup ("The High Cost of Free Parking") has offered some thoughts on Portland's debate about apartment buildings with no off-site parking in an op-ed in the Oregonian.
Shoup's ideas are always thought-provoking, but his suggestions here get at a key distinction: car ownership and storage versus car use.
Portland's existing parking permit districts typically provide enforcement from 8AM until the early evening, targeting people who are driving to a district.
Shoup is suggesting permits to regulate overnight parking, which targets the ownership and storage of cars, not where you use them to drive to.
January 3, 2013
Listen to the show (mp3, 26.5MB)
Steph interviews Jonathan Maus of BikePortland.org. Publisher? Journalist? Blogger? Advocate? Or "just a guy" with a media empire...
January 2, 2013
If the major car rental companies feel like they need a car-sharing presence (Hertz and Enterprise already have one), does this signal a shift in how car sharing is perceived?
January 1, 2013
The indefatigable Todd Litman has a guest piece on Planetizen reviewing the many ways we can measure the performance of our transportation systems.
This discussion is an excellent prelude for developing performance measures for Portland's update to our Comprehensive Plan, in which I hope we will find a much better measure than "LOS" (Level of Service), which measures vehicles, not people or economic value.
What measures would you suggest we employ in the next Comp Plan? Perhaps our New Year's resolution should be to find better metrics?