Archive | April, 2008

More VMT Tax Trials

I just finished listening to last week’s presentation on the ODOT trial of a mileage tax and I came away impressed by just how complicated both the study and the means of collecting the info for the tax were. I wonder if the Puget Sound trial was less complicated?

Portland State University
Center for Transportation Studies
Spring 2008 Transportation Seminar Series

Speaker: Matthew Kitchen, Puget Sound Regional Council

Topic: Traffic Study Choices: Findings from a Road Pricing Experiment

When: Friday, April 18, 2008, 12:00-1:30pm

Where: PSU Urban Center Building, SW 6th and Mill, Room 204

Enhancing Public Transit With Wi-Fi

A recent column found by way of Planetizen identifies many of the advantages of providing Wi-Fi Internet access to public transit passengers and provides several brief case studies of transit districts that have implemented wireless networks on their systems. One of the most commonly cited benefits was the ability to enhance the safety of passengers and operators by enabling streaming video from on-board surveillance cameras that can be accessed by dispatch. Many of the agencies mentioned in the column received Homeland Security grants to install their networks.

“Rail and bus companies are using Wi-Fi to entice more passengers to use their service,” said Esme Vos, an intellectual property lawyer based in Amsterdam and founder of

In addition to enhancing the commuter experience, Vos says that Wi-Fi is helping transit operators improve safety and efficiency, by using widespread video surveillance and sophisticated maintenance and diagnostic tracking.

“Streaming surveillance video from wireless cameras on buses to public safety authorities has been very successful for bus operators,” she said.

Jim Baker agrees.

“While offering free Wi-Fi connectivity to passengers is a value-added service that is going to distinguish a public transit operator from its competition, that’s not the main selling point for the operators,” said Baker, CEO of UK-based Moovera Networks, whose company makes gateway devices that deliver broadband connectivity to public transport companies worldwide. “The primary driver is not Wi-Fi for passengers, but Internet connectivity for the vehicle.”

At present, Trimet is planning to offer Wi-Fi on WES. When does Wi-Fi become a priority for MAX and buses? No numbers were offered, but many of those interviewed for the column said they believed ridership increased as a result of offering Wi-Fi, but most of those were for commuter trains or BRT routes. I would suspect that Wi-Fi becomes more appealing to a passenger as the trip length increases. If that were the case – or even if I’m wrong about that – what routes should be at the top of the list to be fitted with wireless Internet access for passengers? Are there routes that you think should be targeted for Wi-Fi in an attempt to boost ridership? Or routes that could use the enhanced security?

Continue reading Enhancing Public Transit With Wi-Fi

Kulongoski Calls for Congestion Pricing as Advocacy Group Launches CRC Alternatives Web Site

Speaking to the Oregon Environmental Council, Governor Kulongoski spoke strongly in support of congestion pricing (in the form of variable tolling at bottleneck points in the system). See Oregonian coverage and commentary by Jeff Mapes.

Interestingly he has slightly altered his rhetoric about the Columbia River Crossing. He spoke of “offsetting” the greenhouse gas emissions of the new bridge.

At the same time, a new web site has appeared:, offering a phased approach of alternatives to the $4.2B proposal.

The organizers of this site are not explicity listed:

As individuals, we have all put our names on letters to the editor, opinion articles, and public testimony, but as a group we have chosen to emphasize not who we are, but what we have to say. We have chosen to let the facts speak for themselves on this site. We hope to see you at the hearings, where we can introduce ourselves in person!

(Yes, I have a pretty good idea who they are – and you’ve read some of their comments here.) One clue is that they have posted local economist Joe Cortright’s testimony to the Portland Planning Commission (PDF, 327K) regarding the bridge.

Joe’s presentation is the best, most concise, argument I’ve seen for the need for a different approach (and includes a preview of the web site).

TriMet buses now feature internal Automated Stop Announcements

From a TriMet press release today:

Buses with internal Automated Stop Announcements (ASA) are now notifying riders where they are along bus routes on seven TriMet bus lines. ASA ensures people who are hearing or sight impaired and those new to transit are informed of upcoming stops, by providing both internal readerboard and voice announcements of major stops along a bus route.

The internal announcements also include information about other transit connections available at stops along the route. External announcements, which were introduced and tested last year, announce which bus line is serving the stop when there are multiple bus lines involved.

(More after the break…)
“Automated Stop Announcements provide greater independence for riders with disabilities as well as be a valuable tool for all riders,” said Fred Hansen, TriMet general manager.” ASA reduces uncertainty over what stop is next and decreases anxiety over missing a stop.”

The system is now being tested on seven lines:

  • 6-Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd
  • 14-Hawthorne
  • 54-Beaverton-Hillsdale Hwy/56-Scholls Ferry Rd
  • 57-TV Hwy/Forest Grove
  • 72-Killingsworth/82nd Ave
  • 75-39th Ave/Lombard
  • 79-Clackamas Town Center

Next steps

By the end of May, these bus lines will be added:

  • 12-Barbur Blvd
  • 12-Sandy Blvd
  • 15-Belmont
  • 15-NW 23rd Ave
  • 20-Burnside/Stark

By the end of 2008, all of the bus routes served by TriMet’s approximately 360 low-floor buses will have the announcements activated.

The system is similar to MAX, which has always had internal and external automated stop announcements. Bringing ASA to buses, however, required considerably more technology than the train announcements. On buses, ASA had to be coordinated with the Bus Dispatch System, using Global Positioning System (GPS). The GPS system and bus odometer let the bus dispatch system know where a bus is on the route and trigger automated announcements as the bus progresses.