Author Archive | EngineerScotty

Could Bus Multiple Units (BMU)s bridge the bus-rail divide?

Here at Portland Transport, we (both editors and commenters) frequently like to engage in a bit of technical speculation, hoping for future improvements that will allow transit agencies to do more with less.  There’s lots of talk around here about electric buses, of driverless vehicles, of different vehicle configurations, and even more exotic concepts like Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) and bus/train hybrids.   And it’s a tradition ’round these parts to announce groundbreaking new transit technologies the day following March 31st.  :)

We also discuss the merits of bus vs rail a lot, and the various types thereof:  Local bus vs various grades of Bus Rapid Transit.  Streetcar vs light rail vs heavy rail (high-platform long-consist trains found in many large-city subway systems) vs commuter rail.  Some of these debates can get spirited.

Today, I’m going to discuss some utterly speculative technology that might help bridge the operational gap between large rubber-tired passenger-hauling vehicles running on paved roads (“bus”) and steel-wheeled vehicles running on steel rails.  Since I’m not aware of any existing, well-used name for the technology I’m about to discuss, I shall call it a Bus Multiple Unit (BMU).

More after the jump:

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December 2014 Open Thread

A few items for your consideration:

November 2014 Open Thread

Time to turn the clocks back, start thinking about shopping, and have another Open Thread.

  • Next Tuesday is election day.  If you haven’t voted already, there are many places to drop off ballots around town (it is likely too late for mail; ballots that don’t reach the elections office by the close of the polls on Tuesday are not counted).  Transportation/land use are on the agenda in several races:  Measure 34-221, a proposed motor vehicle surcharge in Washington County to pay for road maintenance; Metro measure 26-120 would continue a 12-year ban on Metro requiring cities to upzone, and the Tualatin mayor’s race includes a candidate who supports the city withdrawing from TriMet (though there are questions as to whether it legally can).
  • Metro is finalizing plans to reduce greenhouse gases.  And speaking of turning back the clock, Clackamas County wants to reduce greenhouse gases by building more roads.  It’s the old theory that reducing congestion improves air quality by reducing engine idling–which is kind of like an alcoholic trying to prevent hangovers by staying drunk all the time.   In case you’re wondering:  This ignores the issue of induced demand–rather than free-flowing roads, you instead get congested highways with more traffic.  Also, electric cars (and many hybrids) don’t idle when stopped.
  • Portland Streetcar recently passed the 20k weekday ridership  threshold (scroll down).
  • A recent bout of TriMet ticket fraud was apparently an inside job.
  • Halloween Night featured far too much carnage on our streets.  Four trick-or-treaters in Vancouver, and two children in Gresham, were seriously injured when struck by cars.  And two people were killed in Vancouver when their car struck a power pole.

Updated 4X: WE HAVE A DEAL! TriMet, ATU 757 ratify contract agreement

Breaking news:  ATU Local 757 has ratified the tentative contract agreement; TriMet’s operators are now operating under a contract (excluding those retroactively imposed by OLRB) for the first time in, seemingly, forever.  The deal is retroactive to November 2012, and expires in November 2016.  The deal will produce savings for the agency of $50M compared to the current collective bargaining agreement; don’t know how it compares to TriMet’s earlier proposals.


 

 

 

 

Terms of the deal have not been announced, but multiple sources are reporting that a tentative deal between TriMet and it’s operators’ union, the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 757, has been struck.

I have not seen any official release or announcement from the ATU; will update this post if I find one.

Terms of the deal, which must be approved by both the TriMet board and the ATU rank and file, have not been disclosed.

After years of acrimony, and bickering over pointless things (on both sides), it’s nice to see a deal struck rather than imposed in arbitration (assuming this gets ratified).  Better employee relations make for better service, if nothing else.

Update:  A statement from the ATU, posted on the “Transit Voice” Facebook account:

TriMet and the Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 757 have reached a tentative labor agreement on a new contract. The parties reached this agreement after 45 sessions with the assistance of State Conciliator Janet Gillman. The agreement sets the terms of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement for four years through November 30, 2016. Additionally it resolves two cases pending before the State Court of Appeals as well as cases pending at the State Employment Relations Board. The agreement is subject to ratification by both the TriMet Board of Directors and the membership of the ATU. The parties bargaining teams will be recommending the details of this agreement soon with their Board and membership.

Update 2:  Someone ATU President Bruce Hansen  appears to have postedleaked the contract terms to a Twitter account.

Update 3:  The authenticity of the Twitter account @BruceHansen11 appears to be in question; indeed, given that the terms of the contract are supposed to be confidential, a leak from ATU management would be unlikely.  A certain former bus driver (and former PT contributor) is not happy with the deal, and appears to believed that the leaked terms are genuine.

Making BRT faster

No, I’m not talking about travel speeds.  As Portland currently has no BRT, there’s nothing to make faster (other than existing local bus service, over which any decent BRT would be an improvement).

Instead, I’m talking about rolling out BRT faster.

Right now, Portland has two BRT (or potential BRT) projects that have advanced passed the line-on-a-map-in-a-planning-document phase:  The Southwest Corridor, and the Powell/Division project.  (There’s also the Fourth Plain BRT in Vancouver, being planned and built by C-TRAN).

A few other ideas have been discussed in significant detail; probably the most prominent of these a proposed BRT line along TV Highway between Beaverton and Forest Grove (or at least Hillsboro).  TV Highway has been the subject of a corridor study  which included BRT as a recommendation (and it’s been on numerous planning maps since), but there is no project to actually build out BRT in the 57 corridor.

Powell/Division’s project timeline calls for it to begin service in 2020.  A firm timeline for the SWC doesn’t exist yet–the start of the DEIS phase has been delayed–but given the scope of the project, we’re looking probably at a decade or more before service opens.  Major capital projects, particularly those that seek Federal funding, simply have long lead times.

But Portland transit riders can benefit from improved bus service today.  (Improved rail service as well, but this article is focused on the bus system).

There’s probably not much to be done about big capital projects–the politics and red tape involved is not likely to go away.  But are there ways to bring BRT on board without large capital outlays?

Some thoughts, after the jump.

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