Archive | July, 2005

With Great Reluctance

Rule # 4 has just been added to the site:

This site HAS a point of view, generally supportive of transit and compact development, and efforts to reduce VMT (vehicles miles travelled) per capita. This is intended to be the general center of the conversation here. While opposing views are welcome, participation that is of a quality or quantity that combines to undermine the purpose of the site may be restricted or refused.

While my democratic (small ‘d’) instincts have held sway to date and comments have been completing unregulated, it has become clear to me that the persistent and vocal participation of anti-transit folks has come to dominate the site, despite polite requests to respect the purpose of the site.

I fear that this is driving away the very people that Portland Transport was constructed to bring together. Accordingly, for at least the next several weeks I am banning the most vocal of the critics, not because I don’t want criticism, but because I want the community to have a chance to come together as was intended.

Those who find they can no longer comment are welcome to e-mail me directly to discuss their status.

Transportation and Economic Development

In today’s tight fiscal environment, governments are seeking ways to generate “economic development” through transportation projects. Many of the flexible funding and state-generated transportation finance programs now focus on economics.

This is a shift. Transportation used to be measured in capacity and funding went to increase movement of cars. In the 1990’s, Portlander’s talked about livability and funded plans and projects to promote that end. Now it’s all economic development.

A major problem is that very little research exists on the topic of economic impacts of transportation investments. More notably, public officials and transportation engineers have no clue where to best place $1 of public transportation dollars to best leverage Return on Investment (ROI) from the private sector.

My favorite transportation project is the removal of the Lovejoy Ramp of the Broadway Bridge. For $20 million this project removed a local truck bridge to open up the entire North Pearl District to over $1 billion in new construction investment. This project used existing utilities and infrastructure to create a huge local economic surge. The emerging South Waterfront is another area, with over $1 billion of planned development on less than $100 million of public investment, including Streetcar.

Perhaps focusing on ROI and Economic Development is not so bad for alternative mode advocates. Consider that foot traffic, not car traffic, is the key to retail business and proximity advantages provided by clustered business districts.

What’s your opinion? Do you have any insight on the hazy issues of ROI and Economic Development? Do you have a favorite project that supports my supposition of alternative mode projects being good for the economy or dare you beg to differ?

Portland Transport Audio – Complex Systems and Lifecycles

No, we’re not starting a podcast (at least not yet).

But we will from time to time point our readers to interesting content we come across in audio form.

This week’s Tech Nation radio program features a fascinating discussion (MP3, about 10MB) with John Thackara on the design of complex systems.

Included is a discussion of lifecycle costs that reaches a surprising conclusion about passenger rail versus air travel.

It movitivated me to order the book.

My Commute: Steve Gutmann

From: Close-in SE Portland

To: Downtown

Bad weather: #14 Hawthorne bus

Good weather: Bicycle (Breezer 7-speed, with wide tires, upright posture and shock absorber seat; designed for the over 50 set…)

Daytime in-town appointments: Walk

Daytime out of town appointments: Flexcar (business account)

Daytime out of town personal errands: Flexcar (personal account)

Monthly cost: negligible. My employer provides me with a TriMet pass and a Flexcar account (for work-related daytime travel). I don’t do many personal errands during the day, so I typically don’t have much of a Flexcar tab.

The bike has internal gearing, so it requires little maintenance. Here’s a summary of my monthly transportation expenses (after buying the bike):

Parking: $0

Gas: $0 (included w/Flexcar’s hourly rate)

Car insurance: $0 (included w/Flexcar’s hourly rate)

Car payment: none

Maintenance: none

Bus pass: $0 (employee benefit)

I lived this way (a bike & a bus pass; no personal car) from when I was 16, until three months ago, when my second daughter was born, and Amanda and I bought our first car. We’re looking forward to selling it once both our girls no longer need car seats.