February 26, 2013
Speaker: B. Starr McMullen, OSU
Topic: Determinants of VMT in Urban Areas: A Panel Study of 87 US. Urban Areas 1982-2009
This paper uses econometric techniques to examine the determinants of vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in a panel study using data from a cross section of 87 U.S. urban areas over the period 1982-2009. We use standard OLS regression as well as two-stage least squares techniques to examine the impact of factors such as population density, lane-miles per capita, per capita income, real fuel cost, transit mileage, and various industry mix variables on VMT. We use a distributed lag model to estimate the long run elasticity of various factors on VMT driven.
Preliminary empirical results show the demand for VMT in urban areas is positively and significantly impacted by lane miles, personal income, and the percent of employment in the construction. Fuel price, transit use and population density are all found to be negatively related to VMT per capita. Consistent with results from earlier studies, we find the long run price elasticity of demand for VMT per capita is approximately five times larger than the short run elasticity.
Holding all factors constant, per capita VMT is found to differ significantly by region with VMT being higher the more western and the larger the population size of an urban area. Finally, we find that the industry mix or the urban area also has a significant impact on driving.
When: Friday, March, 1 12-1 p.m.
Where: PSU Urban Center Building, SW 6th and Mill, Room 204
Portland State University
Fall 2012 Friday Transportation Seminar Series
February 25, 2013
This bill, which authorizes Oregon State bonds to fund construction of the Columbia River Crossing could be voted on by the Oregon House as early as today, and the State Senate later this week. Our correspondent Joe Cortright has been reading closely:
Analysis of HB 2800A
Prepared by Joe Cortright
February 24, 2013
HB 2800A gives ODOT wide latitude to issue bonds without a long-term financial plan in place.
This is still the classic Robert Moses strategy of doing anything to get the project started. ODOT can issue $450 million in bonds backed directly by the highway fund, plus an essentially unlimited amount of bonds backed by toll revenues and federal grants (and backed further by pledges of state highway funds and future federal grants) to get the CRC project started. The treasurer is only given authority to require that ODOT has a financial plan for "the initial phase" of the project.
So under this version of the bill, ODOT can issue an enormous amount of debt, start a portion of the project, and leave it to some later time to figure out how to pay for finishing the project. There is no requirement that the federal government provide the full $850 million the CRC is counting on, or that Washington appropriate or allocate $450 million, and there is no mention of the $400 million in FHWA funding that the CRC has counted on. There is no requirement that the Investment Grade Analysis (due in December 2013) show that tolls will produce any specific dollar amount of funds, much less than $1.3 billion the project's financial plan assumes. These are toothless triggers.
- allows ODOT to pledge future highway funds and federal grants as security on toll bonds, so that if tolls are under-realized, these funds will be tapped.
- allows Washington to "commit" only the amount required to get FTA approval for the transit portion of the project; this could be much less than $450 million
- allows ODOT to issue bonds based only on FTA submitting an application to Congress--not the commitment of any specific dollar amount of funds.
- does not eliminate the sections authorizing of ODOT to buy land and build highways Washington State, the effect of which is to enable ODOT to evade constitutional restrictions on spending gas tax funds on transit.
- HB 2800A's $3.4 billion cost limitation is meaningless: As the Oregonian's "Truth o Meter" observed on February 20, 2013, it is legally unenforceable and ODOT will not walk away from a partly-completed project.
Section by Section Analysis
New Subsection 3: Revised Bond Limit
Second sentence: says intent of Legislature is to "pledge . . . with other security"--Coupled with the unamended provisions in Section 13 that allow a pledge of state highway funds and future federal grants, this again gives a loophole.
Subsection (4) (a) State of Washington Contribution
Still no dollar amount listed
Washington needs only contribute an amount needed to satisfy FTA There are no "requirements" of the finance section in the FEIS. If you mean $450 million, why not say $450 million?
Subsection (4)(b) Federal Transit Administration
Essentially no change: DOT submits an application for $850 million; It should be that Congress or DOT sign or approve a FFGA that commits the feds to $850 million
New Subsection (4)(c) Investment Grade Analysis
No dollar amount is specified. The project finance plan assumes $1.3 billion. The IGA should show that tolling will not produce nearly that amount, and the project would still go forward.
New Subsection (4)(d) Approved Financing Plan
This only requires the Treasurer to find that there is enough money for the "initial phase of the project," as described in the Full Funding Grant Agreement. Since the FFGA has not been created yet, this is completely ambiguous. This allows ODOT to define the initial phase to just be a small portion of the project, and leave un-analyzed and un-funded the amounts necessary to complete the project.
Here's what serious "sideboards" or "triggers" would look like:
- Require specific dollar amounts as minimums from the FTA ($850 million), FHWA ($400 million), State of Washington ($450 million), net proceeds of toll bonds demonstrated by the Investment Grade Analysis ($1.3 billion). These are the amounts specified in the CRC finance plan. If they are not obtained, the State of Oregon is liable for the shortfall.
- Require the committed amounts to be legally obligated--not just "applied for" or "committed"--neither of these terms binds anyone to actually provide the money.
- Require a financial plan for the entire project, and not just the amount needed for some vague and un-defined "initial phase". Once you start the project you will be obligated to finish it--with state money. A financial plan for part of the project is not a financial plan at all.
- There needs to be a specific provision for stating who will pay for cost overruns. ODOT averages 200% cost overruns on its largest projects; Megaproject bridges average 33% cost overruns. There is no provision in the CRC finance plan or this bill saying how cost overruns will be paid for. This should be addressed now.
February 18, 2013
The Oregonian is reporting that the joint legislative committee has passed out a recommendation to provide $450M in bonding authority for the Columbia River Crossing by a margin of 14-2.
My understanding is that this will send the bill to a floor vote in both the House and Senate.
Full disclosure: I was one of the "stakeholders" who got briefed beforehand on the presentation TriMet GM Neil McFarlane gave to the board last week, predicting dire financial straights if TriMet's labor agreement, particularly health benefits, is not modified.
There is clearly a messaging war going on. ATU has an "open letter" to passengers out for circulation (it was published in my neighborhood newspaper, and others), raising claims of many flavors of agency mismanagement and mis-allocation of resources.
As to TriMet's message - this tweet I saw last week pretty much says it all:
Cue complete lack of credibility of #Trimet, again.
What's a poor transit supporter to think? TriMet needs to show its house is in order before it can credibly ask for increases in the payroll tax - an important opportunity to restore bus service. But is the agency bloated as ATU says? Or is the labor agreement the main source of its long term woes?
It seems to me that the entire conversation would benefit from credible independent scrutiny - not just a thorough financial audit, but also benchmarking of the agency's metrics against other well-regarded transit agencies.
But who would we call on to perform this review? The City, County and Metro all have well-respected auditors. But all of those governments, particularly the City and Metro, have strong partnerships with TriMet and may not be perceived as objective.
Would Secretary of State Kate Brown's office be perceived as sufficiently independent? If not, who would?
February 17, 2013
Via Price Tags, the "Pocket Guide to Transportation" (2013 edition - PDF, 4.4M) is now available from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Lots and lots of data for your next transportation trivia night...
The latest report from the Southwest Corridor steering committee is now available, and it is interesting, to say the least: The committee is considering several project options:
- Light rail to Tigard
- Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) to Tigard
- BRT to Tualatin
- BRT to Sherwood Something called "hub and spoke", which appears to involve no major investments in mass-transit, but may involve improvements to local service in the corridor.
In the case of the BRT and LRT options, no choices have been made regarding specific alignment, stops, quality (in terms of keeping transit vehicles away from traffic) of the alignment, or any other such particulars.
And here's the interesting part. The committee has produced an extensive list of improvements to the local street, bikeway, and pedestrian networks which "correlate" with these five options; these are the "bundles". The total price tag of all the projects is many hundreds of million dollars, and doesn't include the cost of building or operating transit improvements; expect that only a subset of these things would be eventually built. Rather, this is a list of possibilities. Not all proposed projects correlate with each transit option. Many of the proposed ideas are things that have long been on planners' wishlists, and would make sense independently of any major transportation improvements.
A note on a somewhat controversial bit of capital project financing: if you can convince the FTA that a project element is part of a transit project, you can get matching funds for it, even if the project element itself sn't transit-related. There were complaints a while back about bikeway improvements along I-205 being included in the Green Line project, even though a parallel bikeway isn't a necessary component of light-rail; specifically it was wondered why "transit" dollars were being spent on something that didn't directly benefit TriMet patrons. Likewise for the CRC funding package--by bundling LRT with the CRC, the FTA's matching contribution will likely be more than it would be if the project were simply expanding LRT across the Columbia on a dedicated transit bridge, with no improvements to the freeway. (This is one big reason that Clark County LRT opponents will not likely get their wish to have a new bridge sans light rail; taking out the MAX doesn't really save any money).
This list is here.
February 14, 2013
Garlynn Woodsong is a planner and a frequent commenter from Portland Transport's early days. He has recently returned to Portland after an assignment in California.
A recent visit to San Diego opened my eyes to another possibility for the reorganization of transit in the Portland region.
Currently, Metro does regional transportation and land use planning, while Tri-Met does regional transit planning (finer grain of detail than Metro), transit project construction and transit operations and maintenance.
In San Diego, SANDAG does regional transportation (including transit) and land use planning, as well as transit capital projects (construction); the transit operators just handle simple service planning, operations and maintenance.
We have previously discussed having Metro perform a wholesale takeover of TriMet, and the pros and cons of this approach.
But, what if Metro were to only take over the TriMet Capital Projects Office and long-rang planning functions, leaving TriMet to handle short-range service planning, operations and maintenance?
This would allow Metro to have a more direct link between long-range planning (coordinating land use and transportation) and the implementation of those plans; it could also handle the funding of those capital projects.
TriMet could then be freed from the political heat involved in capital projects; it could focus on its core strengths of running the regional transit system. Shenanigans involving taking from the TriMet general fund to pay for capital projects would be made more difficult... which would hopefully free up funding to pay for the operations of new lines constructed by Metro.
The two agencies would still need to work as closely together as they do today, especially with regards to find operations funding for new lines, and for projects like system-wide electrification (if something like that were to happen). But, it could be a win-win...
I'm not necessarily advocating for this move; I'm simply putting it out there for discussion of a possibility that I don't think has been thoroughly vetted in this region yet.
On the heels of all the CRC goings-on down in Salem (and in various council chambers in Vancouver and Oregon City), TriMet yesterday tossed a little gasoline in the fire with some dire predictions for transit levels a decade hence. While its outlook for FY14 is essentially flat--no service restorations, no further cuts, depending on how things go; it made the claim that unless further "contract reform" were to take place, it might find itself in the position of only being able to offer 30% of the service hours that are currently offered, in 2025.
Contract reform, of course, being a nice way of saying "pay and benefit cuts for union personnel".
TriMet also noted that without additional funding, no MAX expansions beyond Portland-Milwaukie are likely any time soon. How an expansion of the Yellow Line if and when the CRC is built would be affected is unclear--though most of the new service would be in C-TRAN territory, and the expectation is that such service would be funded by C-TRAN (a prospect which is not greeted warmly by many Clark County residents).
This claim has gotten quite a bit of pushback. ATU 757 now has a new website to contest the agency's PR offensive (if nothing else, it's good to see the union engaging in a little PR of their own; something that was missing under Jonathan Hunt's tenure as union pres). MAX FAQs reprinted a blistering critique of the agency; Al continues his criticism unabated, and OPAL is skeptical (Facebook page). Cascade Policy Institute, which has been making similar claims for years now, has yet to chime in on the day's events, but we expect their indicāvī tibi sic any time now.
So what to make of this?
Heck if we know.
The pension crisis is real...
Ignoring the particulars of TriMet, the "pension crisis" is a real problem. According to estimates, the total of unfunded state and local pension liabilities in the US is nearly $2 trillion. This doesn't include Social Security, Medicare, or private-sector pensions.
A lot of this is driven by a combination of health care costs, Baby Boomer retirements, shrinking tax bases, boondoggles, and financially-unwise actuarial commitments; but many public agencies have long not bothered to fund pension debt, instead paying it out on as a pay-as-you-go basis. In some cases, generous pension were awarded to public employees in lieu of current pay/benefit increases--a political win-win in that employees' effective compensation increases, and administrators don't have to raise taxes or cut services (at the time) to cover it. TriMet's issues are, in many ways, not unique. The City of Portland has $3.3 billion in unfunded pension obligations--a figure that dwarfs TriMet's deficit, though Portland has a bigger tax base to draw from. PERS has been a drain on local government coffers for quite a while, as many retirees are collecting generous benefits awarded during the go-go 1990s, when the fund was making guarantees of 8% annual returns and such.
Whether these benefits are deserved or not is largely irrelevant, as is the question of whether or not current taxpayers should be morally on the hook for debts incurred by prior generations. They represent contractual obligations of the agencies in question--and under current law, the only way for agencies to get out of them is via municipal bankruptcy. (Some cities have gone through Chapter 9--a proceeding where retirees generally do get to take a haircut, as bondholders are generally given first priority). And communities that have large mountains of such debt may face the prospect of a public services death spiral that may accelerate such an outcome--as voters decide to either move to lower-tax locales, and/or refuse to vote for taxes on the grounds that such taxes are no longer paying for public services. The Beaverton School District, for instance, is seeing its PERS payments skyrocket--but hasn't been able to pass an operating levy in recent years--many taxpayers (including many parents with children in the district) object to a higher tax bill without corresponding improvements in service.
In some ways, many local governments will have increasing difficulty without intervention (good or bad) from Uncle Sam. Such intervention could take many forms, including a) further health care reform (particularly reforms that drive down the cost of medical care, and which replace various Cadillac employer plans, something that Obamacare did not do); b) a federal bailout of distressed local governments (Uncle Sam can raise taxes uniformly, and can print money); c) giving retirees a haircut via legislative act (while the states cannot impair contracts via legislation, Congress can). At the present time, there is no political consensus for any of these; OTOH there have been more whispers of inter-generational sniping in national politics--it wouldn't surprise me if in a few years, more and more young political aspirants start demagoguing about transfers of wealth to retirees. Such commentary is already not uncommon on the topic of Social Security, after all.
...but how bad is it really for TriMet?
Back to TriMet. A big problem which the agency has had, for the past few years, is a lack of transparency--which makes it easier for the agency's critics to doubt its official line, or even accuse it of rigging the numbers. It won at the ERB last year by essentially pleading poverty, and claiming that the ATU's offer would devastate it (and its riders); it could be trying to build a public case for another round of cuts in the next contract. Or, there could really be a wolf among the sheep.
Another question for the agency is--how long has it been concerned about the issue? A cynical person might note that TriMet downplayed its financial issues until PMLR funding was secure and construction underway--a good question would be what has changed between 2009 (when the Great Recession was underway, and the financial meltdown of 2008 fresh on everyone's mind) and now. (Other than the occupant of the general manager's chair; four years ago, Neil McFarlane had yet to be promoted).
Another important line of inquiry: what forecasts, economic and population, drive the model? Depending on how one thinks the economy will do in the next ten years, what will happen to the metro area population, what will happen to the price of gas, and how will full implementation of Obamacare affect healthcare costs, may have a big impact on TriMet's finances. Obviously, nobody can predict the future with any certainty, but some of the assumptions I have to question--particularly the assumption that healthcare costs will continue to rise exponentially. Were that to be the case, I would expect that at some point in the near future a political crisis would result, with harsher measures than Obamacare being taken, before the healthcare sector is permitted to swallow the entire economy.
And of course, there is the equity question: Assuming this is all true, who should bear the brunt of this? Taxpayers? Riders? Current operations workers (whom are being targeted with benefit cuts)? Former workers (who, as noted above, are largely untouchable absent a bankruptcy or Federal intervention)? Management and non-operations staff? Vendors, suppliers, and contractors? Right now, most of the cuts have been borne by riders--who are experiencing worse service and higher fares--and by current employees (union and non-union). TriMet has limited power to raise taxes to offset increasing costs.
A few other questions, for thought:
- If some community were to withdraw from TriMet and form their own transit district (like SMART did)--do they get to start fresh with a clean balance sheet? Or would the be required to shoulder a pro-rated share of TriMet's pension obligations? And pursuing that line of questioning to its conclusion--could the agency be whittled down to nothing but a bag of IOUs?
- I wonder who the audience is, for TriMet's remark that future capital projects might be imperilled. For many of the agency's critics, who view such projects (rail in particular) as pork-barrel politics rather than sound expansion, this is would be viewed as a feature and not a bug; I doubt that very many riders or taxpayers place a high priority on future MAX expansion, particularly during an age of relative austerity. That this was explicitly mentioned is a thing that makes you go hmmmm....
- This might be the start of a (long overdue) conversation on just what TriMet's purpose really is, and what goals it should be focusing on. Putting accusations of patronage aside--TriMet is tasked (as part of overall regional strategy) with various things such as reducing greenhouse gasses, social service to various disadvantaged communities (many of whom are expensive to serve), assisting with land use tranformation, and other goals only tangentially related to moving people around the city. While many of these goals are laudible; should TriMet and its limited operational base be serving so many masters, or should deployment of services for reasons other than efficient transport be funded elsewhere?
February 13, 2013
We hope you will join us for the next PSU Friday Transportation Seminar.
Speaker: Dr. Kelly Clifton, PSU
Topic: The Economics of Bicycling
When: Friday February 15, 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
February 12, 2013
From the press release:
February 12, 2013
For immediate release (pdf version attached)
Bipartisan Coalition Forms Against The Columbia River Crossing
Today, progressive and conservative organizations, businesses, and individuals announced the formation of a bipartisan coalition to oppose the current plan for the Columbia River Crossing.
Coalition leaders include: John Charles (President, Cascade Policy Institute), Steve Cole (Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods), Karla Kay Edwards (Director, Americans for Prosperity-Oregon), Mara Gross (Coalition for A Livable Future) and Jason Williams (Oregon Taxpayer Association). Joe Cortright, President and Chief Economist at Impresa Consulting, is providing financial and economic analysis for the Coalition, based on several years of examining CRC traffic and financial projections.
Members of this coalition, called "Stop the CRC: A Bipartisan Coalition For a Responsible Solution," share a broad set of concerns about the current plan for the Columbia River Crossing including, but not limited to:
- The Oregon Legislature is essentially being asked to authorize a blank check for the funding.
- The construction and financing of the CRC will impact the ability to maintain existing roads and bridges throughout Oregon.
- The proposal is based on outdated and incorrect information.
- The CRC will worsen traffic gridlock in other parts of Portland and in residential neighborhoods.
"It is the aim of all members of this coalition to persuade Oregon's 2013 Legislature not to appropriate further funding for this project," said coalition spokespersons Mara Gross and Lindsay Berschauer. "Instead, we encourage legislators to take a step back and engage Oregonians broadly in an effort to develop a more responsible solution that Oregon can afford."
The "Stop the CRC" bipartisan coalition will work to educate citizens and lawmakers on the negative impacts of the current CRC plan on our state and our citizens and to steer the legislature toward a more positive direction. Further details will be announced this week.
February 10, 2013
Sent to my representatives and to committee staff to include in the record for the funding bills:
Representative Greenlick and Senator Steiner Hayward,
As the joint committee begins consideration of funding bills for the Columbia River Crossing (recently renamed the I-5 Bridge Replacement) I am writing to you as my representatives to share my concerns about this project.
Having served on Metro's Transportation Policy Alternatives Committee (TPAC) and Metro Policy Advisory Committee (MPAC) and now on Portland's Planning and Sustainability Commission, I have been a keen observer of our regional transportation system and plans. My belief is that this project took a wrong turn in 2008 when the set of project alternatives was narrowed, and more reasonably scaled approaches comparable to the "Common Sense Alternative" were discarded. Since that time, $100M of additional planning funds have been expended to try to justify those wrong decisions against mounting evidence that a facility of this scale is not needed and likely cannot be financed without grave impacts on other fiscal priorities.
Since 2008 it has become clear that actual traffic in this corridor has decreased in some years (even before the recession) and is certainly not growing on anything like the trajectory that was used to justify the bridge design. And experience in the Seattle area has shown that tolling revenue projections have been overly optimistic. While I would dearly love to see High Capacity Transit extended across the Columbia, why would we build a bridge that is bigger than we need and costs more than we afford?
Through my work on the Planning Commission I have become very familiar with Hayden Island and the aspirations of the community there. This project will impose massive structures on the island, and the "Interim Construction Phase" (possibly all that will ever be built) will frustrate the community's desire for a main street that connects the neighborhoods on either side of the bridge.
In my view the only responsible thing to do is require a Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement and re-examine the faulty choices made in 2008. I urge you to approach construction funding for this project very skeptically. I am also very supportive of Representative Greenlick's legislative efforts to impose sensible conditions on the release of any construction funds, including a Coast Guard permit for the bridge and an investment-grade analysis of tolling revenue.
Thank you for your consideration of this important issue.
February 9, 2013
The legislature has created a joint committee to deal with the funding bills for the Columbia River Crossing (in search of $450M for Oregon's share of the funding). This appears to be designed to expedite getting the bill(s) to the floor of the respective chambers for a quick vote.
The joint committee has scheduled a six hour public hearing for Monday (3-9pm), and project skeptics and opponents are making an effort to get a large turnout.
Whether or not you can make it down, please consider contacting your legislator to make your feelings known. Directions from the Facebook page:
Whether you come or not, please write your legislator:
http://bit.ly/findmylawmaker and CC email@example.com so your comment is entered into the record.
This is crunchtime...
February 6, 2013
Speaker: Gene Hawkins, Texas Transportation Institute
Topic: The Future of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices
When: Friday, February 8 2013, 12-1 p.m.
Where: PSU Urban Center Building, SW 6th and Mill, Room 204
Gene Hawkins' lecture is sponsored by Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium Visiting Scholar Program
Portland State University
Winter 2013 Friday Transportation Seminar Series
Listen to the show (mp3, 26.5MB)
Michelle and Tori talk with Sgt Michael Frome of the Portland Police Bureau, Nick Watkin of Kryptonite Locks and PSU Transportation Options Manager Ian Stude about trends in bike theft, lock quality and techniques, and tips to make it easier to recover your bike if stolen.
February 5, 2013
In an apparent reversal from campaign promises made to environmentalists, Portland mayor Charlie Hales is now supporting the Columbia River Crossing--albeit with a few reservations (he called it a "work in progress that needs more refinement").
Hales also cautioned the anti-LRT petitioners in Clark County that "The CRC without LRT is DOA".
In related news, the Willamette Week reports that folks running the CRC have decided to go forward with asking the Coast Guard to approve a 116' bridge height--higher than the 95' height that was originally specified in the FEIS, but lower than what would be needed by a few industrial river users. The WW also suggests that the Obama Administration may order the USCG to approve the bridge at that height, and that upstream river users have have their concerns mollified with a check.
And finally--the Clackamas County Commission, bless their hearts, is set to pass a resolution opposing the CRC. Prior to the conservative takeover of the county board, the County had previously expressed skepticism over the project; particularly the concern that tolls on the new span would shift more regional traffic onto I-205, a significant part of which passes through Clackamas County.
February 2, 2013
In this morning's Oregonian (in the West Metro community news section of the paper's print edition, which does not yet appear to be posted online), Andrew Theen and Nicole Friedman report on differing visions for Tualatin Valley Highway (OR-8), a major east-west thoroughfare connecting the cities of Beaverton and Hillsboro. The highway--the route of TriMet's 57 bus, and a high-volume stroad which connects the two cities (and bisects the unincorporated community of Aloha), has been the focus of planning activities for the past two years; as leaders try to determine what to do with it. In its current state, TV Highway is a "stroad" beloved by virtually nobody. It is a high-volume, high-speed arterial arterial and significant freight corridor; but one with numerous adjacent uses (mainly to the north, as railroad tracks run parallel to the highway's south side) such as businesses and homes, and numerous at-grade crossings. The question faced by planners is: convert it to a more highway-like state, with features like physical medians, greater access control, and grade separation at key intersections? Or tame the road into more of an urban boulevard, with a lower speed limit, on-street parking, improved pedestrian amenities, and more rather than fewer access points?
On this matter, the two cities at either end of the stretch--Beaverton and Hillsboro--have wildly different visions.
Hillsboro: Pour the concrete
The city of Hillsboro seems to favor a more highway-like approach, at least in the vicinity of the South Hillsboro tract; a major undeveloped tract south of the highway and west of SW 209th, which was recently added to the metro area's Urban Growth Boundary. The city has suggested that the intersection between TV Highway and Cornelius Pass Road, which presently is controlled by a traffic signal, be grade-separated. (Right now, Cornelius Pass ends at TV Highway, but were it extended south it would go right in the middle of the South Hillsboro parcel). Hillsboro is also concerned about north-south movements; as there is a paucity of wide N/S routes between TV Highway and Cornell, particularly west of 185th. (Cornelius Pass and Brockwood Parkway are both high-volume streets north of the MAX line, but two-lane streets south to TV).
The city's comments did address transit; unfortunately the main suggestion there was bus pullouts along the highway--presumably so cars and more easily whiz by without being delayed by a stopped bus.
The city, which has a large industrial base, particularly in its northern quarters, as well as having quite a bit of nearby agriculture, has expressed concern about freight movements before. Hillsboro mayor Jerry Willey recently raised eyebrows when he suggested that the region should take another look at a "Westside Transportation Corridor", which was panned by many critics as a replay of the Westside Bypass freeway proposal shot down in the 1980s. While improvements for freight (including trucking) are a Good Thing; the probably with adding general purpose lanes is that it isn't effective at freeing up room on the road for trucks; instead we know what the road fills up with.
Beaverton: Not so fast
A vastly different point of view comes out of city leaders in Beaverton, who have expressed concern that the proposals will conflict with the city's Civic Plan, particularly with plans to renovate the city's downtown core. Beaverton has also expressed concerns that the project "prioritizes cars and trucks at the expense of pedestrians, cyclists and transit users", according to The Oregonian.
One of the fundamental difficulties with TV Highway is that soon after entering the Beaverton city limits--it turns into Canyon Road, and passes right through Beaverton's downtown core. While Canyon Road is no walker's paradise, either--it's busy, congested at most hours of the day, and dominated by auto-centric land uses (including numerous car lots), disjointed sidewalks, and a generally poor pedestrian environment--it resembles nothing like a highway. And the city's renovation plans would probably make SW Canyon an even less welcoming route for through-commuters and truck drivers. Many such users use SW Murray to US26 as an alternative to slogging through downtown Beaverton--but Murray isn't designed to function as a highway (despite superficially resembling one in places)
What to do?
Obviously, we here at Portland Transport are far more sympathetic to Beaverton's cause than we are to Hillsboro. If Hillsboro wants to expand its road network, it needs to be thinking more N/S rather than E/W; as any expansion of TV Highway will have a negative impact on its neighbor to the east. Of course, widening Cornelius Pass or Brockwood south of Cornell will likely be unpopular among residents, who have already seen expansion projects along both in recent years. This is particularly true south of Baseline, where both streets pass through predominantly residential areas.
But if one operates under the assumption that freight movement is important--and we agree it is--then reducing SOV travel is a great way to accomplish that. Hillsboro, in particular, doesn't have particularly good transit connections (and like its road network, is especially poor N/S). The 57, the 48, and MAX are all major and important E/W corridors, but between Willow Creek and Hillsboro TC, north-south services are missing. Both the 57 and the 48 (which runs along Cornell) are excellent transit corridors (or should be); the 57 has been frequently mentioned as a possibility for BRT treatments in the future. Development of South Hillsboro should include transit connections between it and the MAX, as higher-density developments like what is envisioned there by the city will make things worse for freight if everyone drives and further clogs up TV Highway.
After all--if money is available to build overpasses and pay for maintenance on new roadworks; surely there is money available to put into an endowment to pay for transit operations in a corridor?
February 1, 2013
Is it groundhog day yet? Is it groundhog day yet? Is it groundhog day yet? Is it groundho....
Regardless of whether or not Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow, 'tis time for another open thread.
- Longtime Portland Transport reader, and former TriMet bus driver Al Margulies is the lead plaintiff in a pending class action suit against the agency. The suit alleges that TriMet does not, and has not, adequately compensated drivers for so-called "start-end time"; time spend traveling between the start and end of their shifts, when their last route ends somewhere other than where their first route starts. TriMet is required to pay for this time--drivers remain on the clock until they get back to wherever their shift started. The suit alleges that when runs are late, TriMet pays based on scheduled time rather than actual time, does not adequately keep records to compute actual time, and makes it difficult for undercompensated drivers to make up the difference.
Al has indicated that due to the legal process, he is unable to comment on the specifics of this case.
- Portland mayor Charlie Hales is proposing dropping the YouthPass program, which was a source of some controversy last summer when former mayor Sam Adams strong-armed TriMet to keep the program in place. Apparently, the city's contribution last year was from a one-time revenue source. A petition has been started to keep the program.
- The new Clackamas County Commission is sending a letter to TriMet asking that PMLR stop at the county line; the report hints at further legal difficulties. The letter being drafted doesn't make any demands, apparently--just a polite request. Of course, construction is proceeding in the county as I write this, none of the variants proposed in the FEIS (either the full line or the minimum operable segment) limit themselves to Multnomah County, and Clackamas County has already given TriMet their contribution to the project...
- Metro with an interesting article on suburban transit. Getting suburban commuters out of cars can have significant environmental benefits--but the problem, of course, is that the development patterns in most of Portland's suburbs are car-friendly and transit-hostile, and as a result, transit service outside the core is spotty.