Archive | January, 2008

Coming Up on the KBOO Bike Show: the Metal Cowboy

Author Joe Kurmaski, also known as the Metal Cowboy, and his kids will join us in studio to talk about their experience bike touring across the country as a family. We will also discuss a Camp Creative, a new summer camp for kids that the Metal Cowboy will open next summer.

9-10AM, Wednesday, February 6th
KBOO FM 90.7
Streamed live at
Podcast here later that day

Town halls to focus on funding for bridge repairs

Multnomah County has scheduled a series of town hall meetings to present information on the condition of its Willamette River bridges and a proposal to fund their repair.

County Chair Ted Wheeler will share information on the county’s 20-year capital shortfall of $490 million for its six bridges across the Willamette. Bridge repair needs range from replacing or repairing the Sellwood Bridge to safety improvements such as replacing the open steel grating on the Morrison Bridge. The Board of County Commissioners is considering referring a measure for the May ballot that would increase the county vehicle registration fee to raise funds for bridge repairs.

Town halls are scheduled for:

  • Thursday, January 31, 6 – 8 pm, Multnomah County East Building, Sharron Kelley Room, 600 NE 8th St., Gresham
  • Monday, February 4, 6 – 8 pm, Midland Library, 805 SE 122nd Ave., Portland
  • Monday, February 11, 6 – 8 pm, Multnomah Building, Boardroom, 501 SE Hawthorne Blvd., Portland
  • Tuesday, February 19, 6 – 8 pm, North Portland Health Clinic, 9000 N. Lombard Blvd., Portland

The meeting format will include a presentation, an opportunity for the public to ask questions and share comments, and time to view displays on the condition and repair needs of the Willamette River bridges.

Multnomah County’s Willamette River bridges include the Broadway, Burnside, Hawthorne, Morrison, Sauvie Island and Sellwood. The bridges range in age from 50 to 98 years. Each day more than 180,000 vehicles cross the bridges, in addition to an estimated 12,000 bicyclists and thousands of pedestrians.

Contact: Michael Pullen, Public Affairs Office, 503-988-6804

Finding the Choice Riders

This post is a response to some comments on the open suggestions thread that run along the lines of “why are we shafting bus riders by putting all our resources into rail?”

While I’m an enthusiastic supporter of continuing to expand the rail system (because it helps drive the long-term land use pattern that I believe the region needs to achieve for sustainability), I think there is more than a kernel of truth to the complaint.

In fact, there was considerable discussion of this point in a presentation at PSU earlier this year (presentation slides, PDF, 748K).

In a lot of cities, the transit system is for people who for one reason or another, can’t travel by private car. By contrast, in our region, we pride ourselves on the number of ‘choice riders’, people who COULD drive, but choose to use transit. As the presentation suggests (slide 90), if your strategy is to use transit to drive congestion relief (or at least alternatives) and environmental benefits, you want to aggressively go after more choice riders.

And the same presentation also shows that rail passengers have demographic characteristics (race, income) that are a lot more like car drivers than bus riders (slides 75-82).

So it’s a question of goals. If TriMet is being held to objectives that are related to urban form and the overall function of the transportation system, the current set of choices are quite reasonable. If you think TriMet should have more of a social equity mission, then indeed, bus riders could almost certainly be better served.

So where should someone (like me) who thinks TriMet should be serving BOTH missions come out? Well, I’d like to see the operating resources increased, so that we can BOTH exploit the federal capital construction funds that are available AND keep expanding and improving bus service. So I don’t want to stop building rail, but I WOULD like to see buses get more attention.

One policy change that I would like to see immediately would be for TriMet to stop bonding operating income to help provide local match for capital dollars. I think the operating income is much too valuable to use in that way. This is an issue that seldom gets talked about.

So in short, I think we should keep trying to get those choice riders onto transit, but only by growing the pie, not by taking resources away from the riders with few or no choices.

Someone will almost certainly ask how such a policy relates to Streetcar and I will happily admit that Streetcar is almost entirely about choice riders and about congestion and urban form goals, not about social equity (although we have a chance to address the latter as the Streetcar system plan proposes lines outside of the central city). But I would also point out that in general Streetcar has brought resources to the table (Urban Renewal, parking revenues) that are not available for buses, and are incremental to existing transit revenues. Streetcar does consume some TriMet operating revenues, but not at a level that exceeds what would be spent on equivalent bus service in the same areas. Indeed TriMet is being pretty careful to make sure that their funding of Streetcar does not detract from their Light Rail and frequent bus plans.