How Do We Get an Antifragile Transit System?

It would appear that the failure of a single surge protector effectively disrupted most MAX trips during the morning rush hour yesterday.

That would seem to be the definition of “fragile” – a small failure has a non-linear (and much amplified) effect on the whole system. I could draw a similar analogy with a car taking out one switchbox bringing down Transit Tracker for a large part of TriMet’s system a few months ago.

I recently read Nassim Taleb’s book Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder. He defines systems in three major buckets:

  • Fragile – small failures have big consequences

  • Resilient – hammer the system, it bounces back
  • Antifragile – assaults on the system actually make the system stronger (think human immune system)

So how could we make our transit system not just resilient, but actually antifragile?

I don’t pretend to know the answer to this, but I hope TriMet will give it some thought.

Before someone takes a (deserved) shot at Streetcar for opening a service with no spare vehicles (definitely fragile), I’ll point out that having reserve vehicles would not make us antifragile, just resilient. How do we get to antifragile?

53 Comments

53 Responses to How Do We Get an Antifragile Transit System?

  1. Nick theoldurbanist
    May 7, 2013 at 10:52 am Link

    Want to make the transit system anti-fragile? Convert the entire MAX system to an open BRT system with dedicated busways.

  2. zefwagner
    May 7, 2013 at 11:02 am Link

    Well, as a first step let’s focus on making the system resilient, shall we? The entire electrical system should have backup systems or generators at the very least. It’s crazy that one problem would bring the whole thing down.

    As far as anti-fragile, that would have to involve a system in place so that if MAX shuts down they instantly double the frequency of the entire bus system, rather than just running shuttles. We have a good enough bus grid system that the goal should be to shift people to that rather than continuing their max routes via shuttles. I don’t know how you could have this anti-fragile system, though, without a massive reserve of both buses and drivers standing by.

  3. Allan
    May 7, 2013 at 11:21 am Link

    Having a network of rails so that we could re-route trains that were getting stuck for any reason is the way to make a network resilient. Right now we have 2 tracks – is the electrification for both directions run through the same circuits? It seems like this might be some low-hanging fruit. Beyond that, being able to run the MAX over a different bridge would be helpful – from what I understand this would require a substantial investment in tracks that we aren’t going to make anytime soon. If streetcar and MAX were the same width we might be able to gain some options here.

  4. Douglas K.
    May 7, 2013 at 11:37 am Link

    I can’t imagine how “anti-fragile” would work in the context of a transit system, beyond replacing (rather than repairing) components or systems that fail with better components or systems that are substantially less prone to fail, or grade-separating segments of MAX that suffer from frequent automobile accident. “Built it better than before to avoid the last problem” would make the system stronger, but might cost a lot of money.

    But maybe Tri-Met could just identify the five worst recurring service problems each year (however “worst” is measured — maybe the number of passengers affected times number of minutes over the course of a year), and fix the ones that Tri-Met can afford to fix in the following year’s budget.

    To the extent that a fix is too expensive due to high capital expenditures, put it aside for later. Every ten years, put a measure before Tri-Met area voters designed to pay for whatever capital improvements are necessary to deal with the ten worst problems identified in the prior decade that were too expensive to fix using the annual budget.

    That should bring about a gradual, long-term improvement in reliability.

  5. Nick theoldurbanist
    May 7, 2013 at 12:00 pm Link

    “As far as anti-fragile, that would have to involve a system in place so that if MAX shuts down they instantly double the frequency of the entire bus system, rather than just running shuttles.”

    >>>> This just makes my point that we should have had an all-bus system in the first place.

    I imagine that the forthcoming Powell-Division BRT will be a lot more “resilient” than the present rail system.

  6. Jim Lee
    May 7, 2013 at 2:36 pm Link

    Jonathan Maus was in NYC during the “Superstorm Sandy” debacle. Water in the tunnels. No power to the traffic signals.

    Needless to say, bicycles proved to be immensely “anti-fragile.”

    But then, as Mort Sahl noted many, many, years ago, New Yorkers are magnificently adept at “living off the land.”

    Me, I’d just hop on one of my 3 fixies and scoot on down the road!

  7. EngineerScotty
    May 7, 2013 at 2:44 pm Link

    The strength of rapid transit (including MAX) is also its weakness. It presents a single point of optimization, allowing larger volumes of passengers to be moved compared to bus service costing a similar amount of money to operate. And it presents a single point of failure.

    The same can often be said about freeways–while traffic jams can occur anywhere, they’re most noticeable when they occur on freeways. If you’re stuck in traffic on a surface street, it is often easier to take an alternate route–particularly in a robust grid.

    I’m not sure how much value is in “anti-fragile” systems–most examples of these that I can think of can and do fail, and often in unexpected ways. The humane immune system, for instance, frequently attacks harmless foreign substances in the body, a phenomenon known as an “allergy”; in some cases this can actually kill people. Or it may attack the body’s own tissues (conditions such as Lupus, also highly unpleasant). In some organisms, the immune system fails to zap mutated cells which then spread and grow, posing risk to the host, a phenomenon known as “cancer”. (Some people’s immune systems do appear to attack and destroy malignancies, others do not…)

    Black markets frequently adapt to attempts by the state to regulate them, but this adaptation frequently leads to the involvement of (or creation of) organized crime.

    Economies frequently are “anti-fragile”, but are prone to herd-behaviors such as bank runs, asset bubbles, panic sell-offs, and other such events.

    All the examples of truly “anti-fragile” systems I can think of are highly-distributed, locally-optimizing systems. In the transit context, this might be the Army of Autonomous Jitneys that libertarians like to blather on about :). In theory, such things could dynamically respond to any outage and provide service where and when people need it more effectively than a fixed-guideway system operating according to a timetable. In practice, the economic incentives aren’t there (Portland lacks the density and labor cost structure to make this work), and even in places where it does make economic sense (generally developing nations), the actual results are less than ideal.

  8. Jeff F
    May 7, 2013 at 3:06 pm Link

    In terms of transit, how do you define “resilient”? As Jim Lee notes, the much-vaunted NYC transit system including the subways was knocked out for days(?). How long between getting hammered and getting back online is the criterion for resilient?

    As near as I can tell, the subways were close to normal operation five days after the system was underwater. I’d call that resilient.

  9. Boris
    May 7, 2013 at 4:14 pm Link

    Fitting trains with small diesel engines/batteries to allow them to bridge sections without catenary power is probably the way to go. The only need to provide enough power to creep slowly to the next powered section of catenary. Putting diesel engines on electric vehicles introduces its own maintenance problems (dirty diesels in clean electrical vehicle shops), but probably something that can be worked through.

  10. EngineerScotty
    May 7, 2013 at 4:26 pm Link

    Maybe TriMet should invest in some portable, rail-borne, diesel-powered generators like the kind that provides power to the Willamette Shore Trolley (a vintage electric streetcar running on unelectrified track) around…

    See this picture.

  11. Carter
    May 7, 2013 at 4:44 pm Link

    There is no need to make the system antifragile. It does not go completely down often enough to make it worth the cost, I’m sure.

    Certainly all of the parts that have to do with the Steel Bridge should be resilient and robust, since it is the bottleneck through which all Max trains run. That section has to be tougher than any other part.

    Trimet should methodically deal with each failure in such a way that it does not fail in that way again.

  12. bjcefola
    May 7, 2013 at 5:15 pm Link

    I don’t think you can put anti-fragility (as opposed to resilience) into anything set in concrete. Where you can do it maybe is in the organic component- people.

    A blunt example of people forming an anti-fragile system is the fourth plane from 9/11. The people on board learned what happened elsewhere and based on that intervened more successfully than any civil or military authorities did on that day. Everyone learned from that example, and in my view that change in doctrine has been at least as effective in discouraging hijackings as any formal security protocols.

    A less drastic example is a protocol at a children’s hospital which provides guidance on how to handle cases based on symptoms. It allows physicians to deviate from the guidance, but they have to document why and outcomes are tracked and analyzed to make the overall guidance more effective. The outcome is less costly treatment and better care.

    What those examples have in common is learning, aggregating experience-based information into knowledge in a timely and practical manner so as to make better decisions. If you want anti-fragility I think that’s where I’d start.

  13. dwainedibbly
    May 7, 2013 at 6:19 pm Link

    Anything is possible. How much do you want to pay or a Max ticket?

  14. Lenny Anderson
    May 7, 2013 at 8:16 pm Link

    The special shuttle bus worked fine for me the other day. Just be sure the maintenance budget is not getting shorted. In the big orgs I have worked for maintenance, especially preventative maintenance, was always the target for bean counters. We love to fund capital projects, but seem to undervalue maintenance of those projects…ask PBOT, ask Parks, ask TriMet.

  15. Erik H.
    May 7, 2013 at 8:48 pm Link

    In the big orgs I have worked for maintenance, especially preventative maintenance, was always the target for bean counters. We love to fund capital projects, but seem to undervalue maintenance of those projects…ask PBOT, ask Parks, ask TriMet

    Or at TriMet, the bus system is always the punching bag as it is nowhere near as sexy as new light rail projects…but when light rail takes the crapper – it’s always a bus that comes to a rescue. However since the bus fleet is already stretched out, that means pulling revenue service buses (and leaving bus riders stranded) to rescue the precious, high-value, first class MAX riders.

    The problem with the MAX system is simply there is a single point of failure, the Steel Bridge. It is an immensely complex bridge on multiple levels – it is a very old lift bridge, owned by Union Pacific. It is increasingly difficult to maintain and repair; it is also seismically fragile and would be one of the first bridges to fail in a major earthquake. If that were to happen, a replacement bridge would easily be at least two or three years out. You then have four different MAX routes, with multiple interlockings and junctions…and all of the associated electrical switch gear, switches, signals, etc. – that are all dependent on both utility power and utility communications. Knock the wrong telephone line down, your signals are dead. A crane whose boom is actually extended can shut the system down in a heartbeat (it’s happened more often than you think).

    And there’s no workaround.

    Buses? Sure, re-route them to the Broadway, or the Burnside. Or any other bridge.

    It’s hardly to say buses are perfect (especially TriMet’s dilapidated bus fleet) but there is no escaping the fact that buses do not have a single point of failure…unless you happened to park all your buses in one place. Which TriMet doesn’t do (there are three garages, and the only time all of the buses are in a garage is between 2:00 and 4:00 AM.)

  16. Oregon Mamacita
    May 7, 2013 at 9:25 pm Link

    Let’s see. one rock closed down the Westside Max last week, and a small component caused the Max to fail this week. Easy to sabotage.

    Now that Portland has decided to discourage the
    private ownership of motor vehicles, instead trying to coerce dependance on easily sabotaged transit, and Avis rent-a-cars, and bikes, we are very fragile.

    Don’t bogart that joint.

  17. Bob R.
    May 7, 2013 at 9:49 pm Link

    OK, I’ll bite.

    What has Portland done “now” to “discourage the private ownership of motor vehicles”, rather than to simply allow people who choose to live in dwellings that aren’t forced to include on-site parking?

    Hint: Speed humps and bike boulevards do not “discourage ownership” but rather discourage driving fast on particular streets. So what else? Last time I checked there wasn’t an “anti-car” surcharge on car sales or anything like that.

    Additionally, what do you suggest, pertaining to the original topic, to help make transit less “fragile”, as Chris asked?

  18. Bob R.
    May 7, 2013 at 9:54 pm Link

    As for “one rock” shutting down MAX, as though that were a unique weakness, why has ODOT invested so much in putting high fences on nearly all freeway overpasses over the past decade or so?

  19. Bob R.
    May 7, 2013 at 9:57 pm Link

    The fragility of Interstate 5, the only practical route for most automobiles and trucks between Portland and Seattle/Vancouver, BC:

    During the past two decades, parts of the interstate have been periodically inundated by floodwaters as a result of area storms. Floods in November 1990, February 1996, December 2007, and January 2009[61] each caused temporary closures of I-5 between the Kelso-Longview and Chehalis-Centralia areas. The causes of this problem, as noted by the United States Army Corps of Engineers, are attributable to “decades of clear-cut logging, modifications of waterways, and destruction of natural flood control features within the Chehalis River basin.”[62]

    The December 3, 2007, flood closed a 20-mile (32 km) section of the interstate for four days. The Washington State Department of Transportation recommended a 440-mile (710 km) detour between Portland and Seattle, by way of I-90, I-82, and I-84, adding 270 miles (430 km) to the 170-mile (270 km) trip.[63][64][65]

    The January 7, 2009 flood closed a 20-mile (32 km) section of the interstate for several days. The Washington State Department of Transportation was unable to offer a detour since all three main east/west passes were also closed due to severe mudslide and avalanche danger.

  20. some guy
    May 7, 2013 at 9:58 pm Link

    Note: the streetcars and MAX are the same width, which is not the limiting factor in using MAX cars on the streetcar tracks; it’s the length of the cars and the turning radius that prevent MAX cars from running on streetcar.

    During pre-revenue service on the NS line, MAX cars were used to some extent for pantograph tracking and clearance testing.

  21. Ron Swaren
    May 7, 2013 at 10:06 pm Link

    Bob. R, my duplex is required to have two off street parking spaces. Why should other multi unit owners be exempt from this requirement?

    There are numerous other things that have made it more difficult to drive in Portland, not just speed bumps and bike lanes. Many streets in the core area now have lanes that disappear, shift over several feet, have specialized signals, share space with metal rails, have bulb curbs and drainage areas intruding into them…..There have been a lot of changes which make it much more difficult to drive—-safely. What the ultimate intended result of these new policies is, is a lot more than simply facilitating active transportation.

    Since I live, too, on a street that definitely has a school zone (Sellwood Middle School) I can attest that PBOT and the Portland police have done absolutely nothing to discourage speeders, at least on my street. Nary a squad car ever in sight, though I’m sure they could issue plenty of tickets, especially since there are three taverns on this street, too. But, of course, in the P.R. of P. evidently there are other “priorities.”

    I’d like to see some PBOT policies that benefit MY view of transportation safety, because I am fed up with the endless stupid decisions emanating from the throne. Mamacita can defend her/his views; but I think there is some truth there, too.

  22. Bob R.
    May 7, 2013 at 10:09 pm Link

    Hello, “Some guy” –

    Actually, Portland Streetcar vehicles can operate on MAX tracks (same rail gauge, same operating voltage), but they are indeed a bit narrower and have a tighter turning radius, so MAX vehicles can’t operate on most of the streetcar alignment. MAX vehicles are also heavier than the streetcar route will accommodate in routine service.

    Along with the narrower vehicles, streetcar platforms are a bit closer to the rails than MAX platforms. Were a streetcar to service MAX stops, there would be a distinct gap between the platform edge and the vehicle doors. Whether this would prevent ramp deployment, I do not know, but it could present a hazard for trapping legs and ankles.

    The narrower vehicle body is why you see a 1 + 2 configuration of seats in the end sections of the streetcars, while MAX vehicles can accommodate 2 + 2 seating.

  23. Bob R.
    May 7, 2013 at 10:15 pm Link

    There are numerous other things that have made it more difficult to drive in Portland, not just speed bumps and bike lanes. Many streets in the core area now have lanes that disappear, shift over several feet, have specialized signals, share space with metal rails, have bulb curbs and drainage areas intruding into them…

    None of these things actively discourage automobile ownership.

    There have been a lot of changes which make it much more difficult to drive—-safely.

    Do you have empirical evidence that Portland streets are less safe as a result of these changes?

    I know of two studies from Albany, Oregon, and Queens, New York that show that bulb curbs in most instances decrease unlawful driver behavior and increase crossing opportunities for pedestrians.

    I am unaware of any drainage areas which “intrude” into a vehicle travel lane. If you are referring to bioswales, those are typically at the side of the road and “intrude” no more than a typical parking space is an “intrusion”. If by chance you’re claiming that a bioswale or curb extension is an intrusion that discourages driving, then you’re also claiming that curbside parking discourages driving. Is that the case?

  24. EngineerScotty
    May 7, 2013 at 10:21 pm Link

    >Bob. R, my duplex is required to have two off street parking spaces. Why should other multi unit owners be exempt from this requirement?

    That is a good question, actually–one could make the argument that this should always be left to the market, rather than regulations.

    >There are numerous other things that have made it more difficult to drive in Portland, not just speed bumps and bike lanes. Many streets in the core area now have lanes that disappear, shift over several feet, have specialized signals, share space with metal rails, have bulb curbs and drainage areas intruding into them…..There have been a lot of changes which make it much more difficult to drive—-safely.

    Most of these things don’t make it difficult to drive safely, they make it difficult to drive fast. Slowing down traffic, on routes where higher speeds are inappropriate, makes things safer for everyone. Including motorists.

    > What the ultimate intended result of these new policies is, is a lot more than simply facilitating active transportation.

    See above. It’s not to make it harder to drive, it’s to discourage speeding. (And some things are there to benefit other modes–but bike lanes are often good for motorists as they make it less likely you’ll be stuck behind a bicycle).

    > Since I live, too, on a street that definitely has a school zone (Sellwood Middle School) I can attest that PBOT and the Portland police have done absolutely nothing to discourage speeders, at least on my street. Nary a squad car ever in sight, though I’m sure they could issue plenty of tickets, especially since there are three taverns on this street, too. But, of course, in the P.R. of P. evidently there are other “priorities.”

    Have you called? PBOT is not responsible for traffic enforcement–their response would be more of the traffic calming techniques you seem to be complaining about above. I have no idea what priorities drive the cop shop.

    > I’d like to see some PBOT policies that benefit MY view of transportation safety, because I am fed up with the endless stupid decisions emanating from the throne. Mamacita can defend her/his views; but I think there is some truth there, too.

    What is your view of transportation safety?

  25. Bob R.
    May 7, 2013 at 10:23 pm Link

    Bob. R, my duplex is required to have two off street parking spaces. Why should other multi unit owners be exempt from this requirement?

    Sorry, I didn’t respond to this first question.

    Can you share (without violating your privacy) approximately where you duplex is located, and what kind of transit it is located near?

    Sensibly, the City of Portland reduces minimum parking requirements when a property is near transit. The strength of this requirement has been debated (it was proposed to and approved by the planning commission to strengthen this requirement, but the City Council did not include it in the final revisions), but essentially if you want to build a medium-sized parking-free development, you need to be located on a decent transit line.

    So the applicability of lower parking minimums has a defined rationale and is reasonably evenly applied.

    That said, there are a number of historic single-family homes and duplexes in my neighborhood which are considered quite desirable (based on market prices) and yet have no off-street parking. Perhaps the unfairness, as applied to your property (again, I don’t know specifically where you are located), is that the city is requiring you to provide off-street parking when previous homebuilders did not need to. Perhaps, therefore, the solution is to reduce restrictions on your property rather than to increase restrictions on others.

  26. Erik H.
    May 7, 2013 at 10:24 pm Link

    The fragility of Interstate 5, the only practical route for most automobiles and trucks between Portland and Seattle/Vancouver, BC:

    Actually automobiles had a number of routes using local (county roads) to get around the flooding; however trucks were not allowed on those roads and were stuck.

    That said – so was the BNSF mainline that also passes through the exact same floodplain (and underneath I-5 at the flooded area). That meant that some 30-40 daily freight trains, and 10 daily Amtrak trains, were also stuck – and there was no viable alternative for many of those trains.

    Go Horizon Air!

  27. Charlie
    May 7, 2013 at 10:31 pm Link

    hmm I think I would argue that trimet, as a whole, is already somewhat “antifragile”, because they can learn and improve. The MAX outage was bad, but they pretty quickly found the problem and will hopefully take steps to prevent it from happening again.

  28. Chris Smith
    May 7, 2013 at 10:34 pm Link

    But will they learn and improve? What is TriMet changing in their electrical system because of yesterday’s failure? If they learned enough to make changes that would isolate such an outage, then that would indeed be a step toward anti-fragility.

  29. Bob R.
    May 7, 2013 at 10:40 pm Link

    Go Horizon Air!

    Indeed. I hope y’all will forgive my frequent commenting these past few minutes, but I’m reminded of two personal anecdotes…

    1. In the “Great flood of ’96”, I was on my way from Corvallis to Seattle when I encountered the I-5 shutdown. It may very well have been true that there were suitable county roads, but 1996 was before widespread consumer GPS device adoption, and the Washington state troopers were simply telling people that there was absolutely no way northbound, no alternates whatsoever. I went to a diner some distance west of the freeway and asked the locals, and was given crude directions to a logging road which would take me to a county road and out to meet Highway 101 which would get me back to just north of Olympia. It was all true, but the logging road was muddy and single-lane and rather scary (creeks flooding over, easily a landslide magnet) – go Dodge Neon! But I made it. If the car had been an inch lower it probably wouldn’t have. But I was younger and more stupider.

    2. There briefly was a regional airline that served towns like Redmond (OR) and Corvallis with connections to Portland called Pacific Air. I was booked one morning to fly from Corvallis and connect in PDX to my main flight on a major airline. I went to bed, bags all packed, prepared to rise at a particular hour and drive the less than 5-minutes to Corvallis Municipal Airport. (In those days, free parking and lax security, great selling features for an airport!). At 4AM I was rousted from my sleep by a phone call from a Pacific Air representative. I was told that their plane had been “destroyed” (not entirely true, thankfully) on the runway in Portland, but that they were sending a rental car to my door and that if I got up and showered and packed in 30 minutes I could just make the drive to make my connection in Portland. I did so and ditched the car in short term parking and told them where it was, and they paid for the whole thing. Now THAT’S resiliency. On the other hand, they went out of business not long after that. Customer service just ain’t what it used to be.

    (P.S.: What happened to the plane was that a United Airlines ground crew member backed a truck into the tail of Pacific Air’s aircraft. Must have been a fun week at the respective insurance companies.)

  30. Bob R.
    May 7, 2013 at 10:51 pm Link

    Just found a city manager’s report from Corvallis in 1994 mentioning the startup of PacificAir and found this gem:

    PacificAir now has a contractor that has begun the site improvements for their terminal which was delivered to the site in early May.

    That is literally true. The “terminal” was a modular office building which was plopped down in the parking lot in an instant. It had front steps, up which you walked and greeted your flight crew with your ticket, and then walked right past the single metal detector (which wasn’t turned on when I was there), and down the back steps and out to your plane. You left your car in “Parking Area Front Steps”.

  31. EngineerScotty
    May 7, 2013 at 10:55 pm Link

    While I never used the Cowvallis Airport for anything… I have memories as a kid of picking up my grandmother from the Salem Airport (she flew up from Medford where my aunt and uncle lived), and then later recognizing its terminal in the movie Wargames

  32. jon
    May 7, 2013 at 10:58 pm Link

    Redundant routes (a network)… maybe Powell-Division should be LRT for this reason as well as others. When the only route is shut down it is not possible to reroute. Even the Mall alignment and Cross Mall alignments downtown have no opportunities to reroute onto the other, say at Pioneer Courthouse, if one stretch has issues. It would be nice if the Banfield line or Steel Bridge had a problem, Blue Line trains could be rerouted down Powell-Division and the new TriMet bridge to keep a major part of the system open.

    The SEPTA subway-surface system has a surface loop around University City/UPenn for when its subway tunnel segment is shut down.

  33. Bob R.
    May 7, 2013 at 11:10 pm Link

    Sorry to disappoint, but the WarGames airport is allegedly Boeing Field. [1][2]

  34. EngineerScotty
    May 7, 2013 at 11:19 pm Link

    The exterior shots are clearly Boeing Field, but the interior of SLE’s terminal as shown in the movie looks just like it did in real life, in the early 80s. Perhaps it’s a re-creation of the terminal…

  35. Doug Klotz
    May 7, 2013 at 11:55 pm Link

    What was interesting to me was the extensive (for a daily newspaper) writing about the technical problems of Steel Bridge, where MAX trains are limited to 5 MPH to protect fragile (UP?) signal equipment on the lift span, and because the rail points at the end of the lift span were wearing out. Isn’t this a matter of replacing worn rail? Didn’t they run streetcars over this same bridge for years in the early part of the 20th Century? Do all bridge lifts involve wear at these points?
    Why are the signal cabinets so fragile? Because they’re electronic instead of electromechanical switches? (Should be the opposite!)
    Should TriMet build a run-around from Holladay, south on the streetcar tracks on Grand (and modify M.L.King tracks for the other direction), and run tracks across the Burnside (or uncover the existing ones), to connect on 5th and 6th?

    Doug Klotz

  36. Douglas K
    May 8, 2013 at 1:24 am Link

    In the past, I have suggested “cloning” the Steel Bridge with a second bridge immediately to the south. The Steel Bridge would carry the Yellow and Green Line; it’s twin to the south would carry Red and Blue.

    My concept of a twin bridge was to eliminate the bottleneck at the heart of the system. But it would be also add resilience: two parallel bridges with separate electrical systems. If the Steel Bridge is out of commission, it would be fairly simple to run Yellow and Green lines on the other bridge and follow the Blue/Red line to 11th Avenue until the Steel is restored, while the Orange line serves the Mall. Schedules would be disrupted, but service would continue.

  37. Oregon Mamacita
    May 8, 2013 at 8:57 am Link

    RE: Discouraging private ownership of cars.

    Well, the Portland Plan says that we should
    “Transform all our neighborhoods into places that provide a safe and healthy environment where all residents can meet their needs by foot, bike and public transit.”

    What about the no-parking apartments? The whole point is to discourage people with cars from moving to Richmond.

    I know that the way I phrase the policy is unflattering, but the truth hurts, huh?

  38. Douglas K
    May 8, 2013 at 9:18 am Link

    I know that the way I phrase the policy is unflattering, but the truth hurts, huh?

    Who knows if the truth hurts in this situation? You haven’t given us any. The way you phrase the policy is not so much “unflattering” as “dead wrong.” There’s a massive gap between “discouraging” private car ownership and “giving people a practical choice to own a car or not.”

    If the City were trying to discourage car ownership, they’d be doing something like creating a massive local auto registration fee, or putting heavy tolls on local streets, or something like that.

  39. Chris I
    May 8, 2013 at 9:20 am Link

    I find it odd that you lump bicycles into the “fragile” aspect of our transit system, and include fossil-fuel dependent automobiles in the resilient category. How many weeks of fuel do we have in our region if our supply lines were suddenly cut off? Were you around for the oil crisis? Do you remember the gas lines?

    http://www.kgw.com/lifestyle/Bikes-can-be-key-part-of–relief-in-Portland-disaster-177487791.html

  40. Chris Smith
    May 8, 2013 at 9:26 am Link

    What about the no-parking apartments? The whole point is to discourage people with cars from moving to Richmond.

    Note that we ALLOW no-parking apartments, we don’t require them. If the market demands the parking, the City is not creating an obstacle to building it. I would put that clearly in the category of “encouragoing” less reliance on cars, not “discouraging” driving. Failing to provide subsidies (which is what parking minimums effectively are) is not the same as regulating against something.

  41. Bob R.
    May 8, 2013 at 9:26 am Link

    I know that the way I phrase the policy is unflattering,

    The way you phrase the policy is factually incorrect. We could actually have a productive discussion if you would accurately portray the policy and then separately state your opinion as to what’s wrong with the policy or how things would be better with a different policy. Instead, we only get opinions that stem from a mischaracterized premise.

  42. Oregon Mamacita
    May 8, 2013 at 10:01 am Link

    Ladies and or Gentlemen,

    Anyone with a degree in philosophy to help me? It’s been years since that university course in logic. [I am not being sarcastic about logic.]

    ” ‘Encouraging’ less reliance on cars, not “discouraging” driving.” ”

    How is “encouraging less reliance on cars” not
    “discouraging reliance on cars.”

    Can I “encourage less” tobacco use while not
    “discouraging” tobacco use?

    “There’s a massive gap between “discouraging” private car ownership and “giving people a practical choice to own a car or not.”

    So, the city gives people “practical choices.”
    What are those practical choices? Only positive?
    Parking lots and bikeways? Extra lanes for cars
    and trucks, and more space for bikes and pedestrians too? Or is it a “zero sum” game?

    Please elaborate on the massive gap between:

    1.discouraging ownership of private motorized vehicles
    and
    2. encouraging city/corporate owned vehicles and non-vehicle (active) transit?

    When I strip away some of the pretty terms and reveal the logical structure of some positions, people get pretty darn uncomfortable.

  43. Bob R.
    May 8, 2013 at 10:10 am Link

    Can I “encourage less” tobacco use while not
    “discouraging” tobacco use?

    The opposite is happening, actually.

    In the case of sans-parking apartments, a few decades ago the city went from a forced auto-use policy (requiring parking minimums regardless of actual market need) to allowing property owners in some areas to freely choose how much auto-use infrastructure to build.

    To borrow your imperfect analogy, it would be like switching from a hypothetical regulation where all private bars MUST have a tobacco vending machine, to one where bar owners could choose whether or not to have an on-site tobacco machine. It is movement from a stance of mandated tobacco dispensaries to optional. That is not “discouraging” tobacco use, but rather encouraging freedom of choice regarding tobacco sales on private property.

  44. Chris Smith
    May 8, 2013 at 10:12 am Link

    Let’s make it simple. The Portland Plan would suggest that as we invest in future transportation infrastructure, the priority for those investments should be walking, biking and transit.

    So we should spend relatively less money on accommodating private single-passenger vehicles in the future. If you call that ‘discouragement’, that’s fine by mean.

    It does not mean we’re going to pass a law saying you’re not allowed to drive.

    We have a complete automobile system – you can safely drive from any address in the City to any other address in the City. That can’t be said about walking, biking or transit. We’re going to focus on helping those modes catch up.

  45. EngineerScotty
    May 8, 2013 at 11:29 am Link

    Also, there is a difference between “discouraging reliance on cars” and “discouraging cars”.

    The former means, essentially, providing options: better transit, bike infrastructure, pedestrian infrastructure.

    The latter means, essentially, trying to make it more difficult to drive.

    The problem is–in a city with limited funding resources, and limited real estate on which to place transportation infrastructure, there’s a zero-sum game at work, and these things may be in conflict. Every foot of road width which is dedicated for transit or bikes or pedestrians, is less space for cars, and vice-versa. Every dollar of public money spent on installing bike lanes or light rail or running busses is (ignoring some of the more complicated details of public funding) one less dollar available for fixing potholes or widening roadways. There’s no question that the percentage of transportation dollars devoted to the automobile, has gone down. In the not-to-recent past, it was close to 100%–and it still is in many other cities, where bus service is viewed as welfare, and bikes and pedestrians are viewed as obstacles to motorists, not equally-deserving users of the street.

    But as Chris says–nobody is proposing banning driving, or anything like that.

    Of course, by your standards–you seem to think that we should discourage biking or other alternate modes. After all, if you prefer an environment where public works dollars are dedicated to auto infrastructure, that’s what the effect will be.

  46. Oregon Mamacita
    May 8, 2013 at 1:23 pm Link

    Mr. Smith:

    No straw men, please. I never said that there would be a ban on driving. Just death by a thousand cuts.

    Please come clean about “deliberate congestion” as a tool in the BPS cabinet.

    When previous posts say that I must live “communally” to stay in SE, and that the city should be in the business of manipulating certain lifestyle decisions like cars, you get into uncomfortable territory. Thus the retreat into group think.

  47. Douglas K.
    May 8, 2013 at 1:45 pm Link

    Please elaborate on the massive gap between:

    1.discouraging ownership of private motorized vehicles
    and
    2. encouraging city/corporate owned vehicles and non-vehicle (active) transit?

    I already did, and I suspect you know that if read my last post. But if you genuinely don’t get it (that is, you’re not under the illusion that you score some kind of debate points by being deliberately obtuse), I’ll take another stab at this.

    Discouraging automobile ownership would involve some kind of policy that intentionally burdens car ownership. It would need to (in some way) punish people for being car owners, or make it unreasonably expensive. No such policy exists in this city, or has ever existed. Indeed, the only place in the United States where car ownership is discouraged is in New York City, and that is not a matter of official policy; it’s a matter of market forces at work. Owning a car when you live in Manhattan becomes a ridiculously expensive indulgence, not because anyone in government made it so, but because there’s just not enough parking space.

    As for “giving people a practical choice to own a car or not” (my other alternative, which wasn’t at all the way that you phrased it) that simply means making public planning and budgeting choices to create a city where getting from point A to point B on a bicycle safely is a reasonable option; where you can walk safely from point A to point B in your neighborhood and where there are useful destinations in walking distance, and where public transit is frequent enough and comprehensive enough to get you from point A to point B in a reasonable time at reasonable cost. None of those things discourage you, or anyone else, from owning a car.

    The absence of walking, biking and transit options, be comparison, encourages automobile ownership — indeed, practically mandates it — by creating a world in the lack of a car makes you a de facto second-class citizen.

    There is no doubt that a fair number of conservatives out there are strongly opposed to choice: they personally like living in detached suburban homes and driving everywhere, and think everyone else should be compelled to live the same way they do by denying the practical choice to do anything else. I’m obviously opposed to that perspective: people who want the automobile-centered life should be free to exercise that choice, but those who want to live in dense, exciting, walkable, bike-friendly mixed-used neighborhoods served by good transit should have that option too.

    Every foot of road width which is dedicated for transit or bikes or pedestrians, is less space for cars, and vice-versa. Every dollar of public money spent on installing bike lanes or light rail or running busses is (ignoring some of the more complicated details of public funding) one less dollar available for fixing potholes or widening roadways.

    Yep. But since not all taxpayers are motorists, and since many of those who are motorists are also choice transit riders, pedestrians and bicyclists at various times, their choices should be respected by not spending 100% of their tax money to support just one mode that they use only part of the time, or sometimes barely at all.

  48. Oregon Mamacita
    May 8, 2013 at 3:09 pm Link

    Off the blog forever due to privacy invasion.

  49. Ron Swaren
    May 8, 2013 at 3:46 pm Link

    Re: controlling speeding.
    Answer: Speeding tickets

    Re: MY view of transportation safety
    Answer: Enforce existing laws—such as: failing to signal (can be very dangerous, esp. on freeway, but I suspect these people are habitual, maybe they will never be caught, but it is a good principal); DUI’s ( I know it is now an underpinning of our fragile, local economy but there should be some revenue to be had); noisy vehicles (which on my street, SE Umatilla, the very Springwater link, is horrificably common and probably correlates loosely with the second point); remind pedestrians they too have an obligation to be careful and can’t just mindless cross the street; enforce and improve bicycle lighting laws and also require helmets, so bikers have a better chance of being seen and protected in the roadway they have agreed, under Oregon law, to share with motor vehicles; going after people who tailgate you, which makes driving within the speedlimit harder to do (again, I have no idea on how the cops would enforce this, but it does bother me b/c I don’t want any more tickets, but there sure are a lot of people who apparently don’t mind them)

    And, yes, I have raised my street’s issues with both the neighborhood association and PBOT. They do say that changes are coming but I am not sure how many years out. The Springwater Trail is supposed to go away—from Umatilla St to the OPRR right of way, but apparently such a simple negotiation (not blaming PBOT) is somehow a Byzantine undertaking.

    Meanwhile, what irks me, is that I view the $300 million Sellwood Bridge project as a massive misdirection, since the traffic load on SE Tacoma Street will inevitable grow despite MLR and a new bridge. Because Clackamas Co. will make up their own minds on what they will do, and there is little Portland or MultCo. Commissioner Kafoury will be able to do to stop it. Thus. I expect more cars through here, with no “realistic” preparation, mostly smoke and mirrors. I am not against the bicycle crowd at all. Just aware that I actually live in the Real World.

    Just a sec; you asked a VERY BIG question……

  50. Ron Swaren
    May 8, 2013 at 3:56 pm Link

    “The problem is–in a city with limited funding resources, and limited real estate on which to place transportation infrastructure, there’s a zero-sum game at work, and these things may be in conflict. Every foot of road width which is dedicated for transit or bikes or pedestrians, is less space for cars, ”

    I just biked down to Oak Grove this morning to see how the reapir on my car was going. On the section from SE Ochoco all the way to Park Ave there was extra space alongside the bikeway, that now is just grass. Some signs would probably have to have the standpoles offset, but there was actually generous room for a full sized bike trail. There is one on the east side of 17th ave—but maybe putting all bikes on one side, with some clear separation from traffic would be safer?

    So there: An instance of a fairly easy objective. PBOT could pick the objectives that are easy to accomplish, and let individuals put up with it when they are not. And stop the meandering traffic lanes that seem to be proliferating in Portlandia.

    I know that isn’t very specific—but is somewhat off the subject anyway.

  51. Ron Swaren
    May 8, 2013 at 4:10 pm Link

    “I recently read Nassim Taleb’s book Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder. He defines systems in three major buckets:

    Fragile – small failures have big consequences
    Resilient – hammer the system, it bounces back
    Antifragile – assaults on the system actually make the system stronger (think human immune system)”

    And then there is also The Voice of Experience.

    BTW, regarding another idea of bike safety: I would prohibit bicyclists from using left turn lanes. :) Why? They are required by Oregon law to stay as close to the right hand as possible (and most try to do this). But then to make a left turn they have to weave across the lane(s) to get to the turning lane. However, as a solution, they could use a crosswalk at the intersection. That is what I do—-at least when there is heavy traffic. I don’t cut in front of the cars; I just pull over and make use of the crosswalk.

    Again, this is somewhat off the subject. The issue of fragility is very big. I would follow Occam’s razor though, which is what most engineers do. “Consider first the simplest solution.”

  52. Chris I
    May 9, 2013 at 6:52 am Link

    The “Copenhagen Left” maneuver you describe is a commonly practiced move. I use it when the auto lanes are too congested or high-speed to safely cross for a left turn. I strongly disagree with your idea to prohibit the use of the turn lane. There are several spots on my daily commute where such a restriction would compromise my safety. T intersections and driveways on high-speed arterials are not compatible with the Copenhagen Left maneuver.

    Cyclist safety is strongly linked to motorist alertness and vehicle speed. I suggest you look there if you want to improve safety.

  53. Ron Swaren
    May 9, 2013 at 8:52 pm Link

    OK, here is an answer to the “fragility” issue. Prefabbed components.

    This is what a lot of the rest of the world is doing. Here unionized labor mitigates against it.
    A lot of the spendy, big transportation projects that local citizens are becoming alarmed about are expensive because they don’t make use of prefabrication. And the same holds true for ideas within the city of Portland. I was aghast at Sam Adams suggestion that we needed to spend $600 million on a bicycle system, and I am aghast at
    projects like the Sellwood bridge. When we already have examples, here, of projects where prefabrication was utilized, and apparently with no complaints from the peds and bikers.

    Our political leaders are apparently not construction people, who often learn how to make do with what they have. So in order to hold down costs on “the system” I would try to figure out where less expensive prefabbed components could work. Big bridges over the water are a fairly obvious sector. But I would also say that bike trail could go through some very rough terrain, using prefabbed sections, instead of using standard roadbuilding techniques. Probably would be less subject to deterioration,too.

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