Archive | December, 2007

Rob Zako for OTC!

Occasional Portland Transport contributor and state-wide transportation advocate (Rob is the organizer of the Otran e-mail list) Rob Zako has applied for one of the two open positions on the Oregon Transportation Commission.

I will be writing to Governor Kulongoski to recommend Rob, and I would urge other Portland Transport readers to do the same. Here’s the contact point:

Executive Appointments
Office of the Governor
900 Court Street NE, Room 160
Salem, OR 97301-4047
Fax: (503) 378-6827

For more information about executive appointments, contact:

Assistant: Pamela Estes
Phone: (503) 378-3123

Main Person: Nancy Goss-Duran
Phone: (503) 378-8471


Some of the points I will be making in my letter and that you may wish to reinforce:

  • Rob understands the connection between transportation and land use
  • Rob is committed to addressing climate change
  • Rob has a state-wide point of view (he is based out of Eugene)

Here is some additional info from Rob:

I suggest you do two related things:

1) Communicate NOW with Governor Kulongoski that you expect his efforts around transportation package to be integrated with efforts around land use and especialliy climate change, and that we need The New Direction for Oregon.

2) Indicate what candidate(s) for the OTC understand these issues and their interconnections and can help guide Oregon into a changing and uncertain future.


P.S. Someone else suggested the following descriptions could be helpful:
•Good listener
•Critical thinker
•Excellent strategist
•Commitment to consensus
•Awareness of pressing problems
•Understands the linkages between issues
•Ability to bridge traditional political boundaries
•Excellent at identifying creative solutions to vexing problems

Double Decking

A guest post from regular commenter Garlynn Woodsong:

Recently, we have discussed the testing in San Francisco of a double-decker bus, which will then move on to Las Vegas, NV to go into full service as a part of the fleet serving their Deuce line. Tri-Met is currently running its fleet on B5 biodiesel, and plans to ramp up the percentage of biodiesel in the mix as more supplies become available from local production. Tri-Met is also currently testing/running some hybrid-electric buses on some of its lines.

What I’d like to cover in this post is the possibility of introducing hybrid, double-decked buses to Tri-Met’s fleet. Apparently, London has already ordered them, and they will enter revenue service there in a couple of years.

Not only would they provide additional capacity per driver, they would have lower emissions — hybrid buses generally tend to post about 30% lower emissions (or 30% better fuel economy, if you prefer), resulting in a 15% decrease in operating cost. Combining this with the lower operating cost per rider of a double-decker bus, and some real money-saving could be possible! Running such a bus on biodiesel would further reduce its emissions.

There could also be more room for bikes, using hooks inside the bus. Some new low-floor, double-decker buses (such as this one) have as many as 78 seats on the two-door model, with 31 downstairs and 47 upstairs. It might be possible to not only put a 2-bike rack on the front of such a bus, but also include MAX-style vertical bicycle hooks on the inside of the vehicle for a few more bicycles by removing seats/taking multiple advantage of the wheelchair area (making it into a more flex-space zone to accommodate either wheelchairs, bicycles, luggage or standees, depending on conditions — with of course wheelchairs always having the option to pre-empt any other use).

Clearance, however, would be an issue. Not every route would be eligible for a double-decker bus. A hybrid double-decker bus is likely to be between 13.5 and 14.5 feet in height. With a vertical clearance of only 13 feet, the Broadway Bridge would thus be off-limits to such buses. With a vertical clearance of 15.7 feet, however, the Hawthorne Bridge would be fair game!!

Introducing such buses on the 14-Hawthorne might therefore be feasible — though, of course, we would only want to see this as an interim step on the way to a streetcar line on that particular route — right Bob R? Similarly, double-decker buses would likely be feasible for routes such as the 20 and the 12 that cross the Burnside and other bridges with no vertical clearance issues. Some vertical clearance issues might present themselves due to low overhanging trees on some routes, especially near bus stops that don’t have curb extensions, but these would need to be evaluated on a route-by-route basis.

Certainly, Vancouver, B.C. is another West Coast city that is running double-decker buses successfully, as a way to cost-efficiently add capacity on their trunkline routes running radially out from their downtown.

Some drivers from Hong Kong have reported hauling crush loads of over 200 people on double-decker buses in service in that city. I remember riding the 19-Woodstock, years ago when it was served by the 200-series buses, and the driver declared that our run regularly had over 100 people at the height of its crush load. This suggests that it is possible to almost double the capacity of the bus by adding a second level and going double-decker — which is amazing, when you account for the space lost by the stairwell! (Granted, folks in Hong Kong are likely to be slightly smaller than folks in Portland, so we might never see 200 people actually fitting into a crush load on a bus here, unless it was on a bus serving an after-school run…)

As Tri-Met searches for ways to squeeze more capacity out of its limited operational budget, I suggest that running double-decker buses might be a way to achieve the goal of more passengers per driver. Articulated buses are not likely to make a re-appearance in Portland, and not every bus route that has capacity issues can be converted to a streetcar line. For those lines that don’t have vertical clearance issues, going double-decker would seem to be a worthwhile proposition. And as the technology becomes more widely available to do so, it would make sense for these double-decker buses, like all new buses that Tri-Met orders, to also be hybrid-electric (like the 800 new series-hybrid buses that New York City has ordered, featured in this article).


Wright Eclipse Gemini Double-decker bus

Wright Bus most similar to an Electrocity, the hybrid-electric double-decker bus currently being tested in London

Sellwood Transportation Projects

The Sellwood neighborhood has been in the news several times recently with regards to transportation issues. The bridge committee recently recommended four bridge designs and four alignments for further study. Theresa Pucik, the vice chairwoman of the Sellwood-Moreland Improvement League, was quoted in the Clackamas Review recently decrying the planned location of the Bybee Blvd MAX station, citing safety concerns due to the lack of visibility and accessibility from nearby streets and likening it to the NE 82nd Avenue stop. Now Sellwood is in the news again, and although there has been no formal proposal, this time in a piece titled “Transit plans take long road,” the Portland Tribune reports that the possibility of a streetcar may be complicating two other projects in the area with regional implications.

The idea of extending the Portland streetcar to Sellwood is complicating two significant transportation projects – dealing with the aging Sellwood Bridge and creating a transit line between Portland and Lake Oswego.

No one has formally proposed building a new Sellwood streetcar line.

But city transportation Commissioner Sam Adams is interested in extending the streetcar service throughout Portland and believes the Southeast Portland neighborhood of Sellwood might be a good candidate, along with such east-side areas as Hollywood and Hawthorne.

However, in spite of stating that there are “complications,” it goes on to say:

This is not yet much of a concern for the Sellwood Project Advisory Group, a panel of regional elected and transportation officials working on the project to repair or replace the bridge.


Despite the large number of remaining options, a streetcar line could theoretically be included on all of the designs under study, said Mike Pullen, a spokesman for Multnomah County, which owns the bridge.

Pullen said that because a streetcar weighs only as much as a large truck, the rehabilitated or replacement bridge would not have to be strengthened beyond current thinking. And because no stops would be required on the bridge, the line could be run within the existing two-lane width.

“We’re not actually planning for it, but there’s nothing we’ve done yet that would prevent it,” Pullen said.

Complications, indeed. The article goes on to mention that the streetcar/enhanced bus options for Highway 43 were recommended for further study, but makes no mention of specifically how the not-yet-proposed Sellwood streetcar is complicating that project beyond a vague “those working on the Sellwood Bridge and the Portland-to-Lake Oswego transit project are trying to avoid making any decisions that would preclude a new Sellwood streetcar line.”


The committee also agreed to study two designs for a separate bridge for pedestrians and bicyclists: cable-stayed and stress ribbon. No cost estimates are yet available for such a bridge.

There has been quite a lot of talk going on lately about Sellwood. What suggestions do you have for Sellwood’s transportation future? Should we be considering an east-west one-way couplet between 99E and the infamous bridge? Should the bridge alignment remain on Tacoma Street? What type of streetcar route would really help Sellwood businesses and residents? Should said streetcar cross the river to tie in to the proposed Portland-Lake Oswego line to the future Portland-Milwaukie MAX? Or perhaps along Bybee out to the Reed College area? How do we best address perceived safety concerns for the Bybee Blvd or even the Tacoma Street MAX station?

Continue reading Transit plans take long road