The Resilience of the 20-minute Neighborhood

While the TV is showing cars slipping and sliding all over Portland (as someone who lived the first 27 years of his life in New England, I can’t help a chuckle over what one inch of snow does to this city), I’m finding life here in my neighborhood relatively calm.

Yesterday I was able to walk (albeit a little carefully) to two markets and a video store to stock up for two family dinners and some entertainment. And today coffee and lunch were no problem. My telecommuting work life didn’t change (except that as our offices in Wilsonville were officially closed, my whole department was telecommuting along with me).

So perhaps the idea of a 20-minute neighborhood isn’t just about reducing auto-dependency and promoting more active living, but also has a few other advantages…

16 responses to “The Resilience of the 20-minute Neighborhood”

  1. I certainly agree! Here in the Woodstock neighborhood I regularly walk everywhere. Snow is just another of the charming changes to look at, like the multi-colored Maple trees of a few months back. Of course I sometimes get the urge to visit that Mexican restaurant that’s a little too far to walk to, but it will still be there when the streets are safer.

  2. Your point about everyone in Wilsonville Telecommuting while the offices were shut down, brings up a major reason for companies to consider allowing their employees to Telecommute. If you have a program in place then your company is able to sustain operations, even if no one can get to the building! This is key for many businesses, especially now when cash flow is so critical. How long would your company have lasted if they didn’t have a plan in place? Most companies can additionaly pay for the cost of their programs in the added benefits they receive.

    Brandon Dempsey

  3. Another storm related story on the news tonight talked about all the people in the emergency rooms. One lady interviewed had decided not to drive and take transit. In walking the distance from the transit stop to her workplace, she slipped on the icy street and broke her arm. The point is, just being able to walk somewhere can be dangerous too!

    As for transit, it has been unreliable in many cases. On Taylors Ferry Road, one bus ended up in somebody’s front yard, and that caused two other busses to get stuck. Max to the Airport was shut down last night and passengers using Max today had to be shuttled by bus to the Gateway Transit Center. Several years ago in similar conditions ago when I coming home from Hillsboro, a bus was sideways on West Burnside blocking traffic in both directions – just several of many examples transit not working.

    As a person whom skied for almost ten years and at that time had studded snow tires on my car for going to the mountains as many as three times a week, I only had to chain up twice – once to get the last quarter mile up to Mt Hood Meadows, and once to get out of the parking lot after digging out my car that was almost covered with drifting snow. Personally I feel safer in my own car as long as it is equipped for the conditions.

  4. Its also a good reason to have (and use) transit. People whose only real choice is driving can get stuck (whether at home or along the way) in bad weather because they’re not good in it, vs people who take transit often get delayed at most and have a professional operator to rely on.

  5. Depending on transit…

    According to TriMet’s website AND posted timetables at stops:

    94-Sherwood/Pacific Highway: “For snow/ice detours, visit or call 503-238-RIDE (7433). No express service. All stops served on Pacific Highway and Barbur.” (emphasis added).

    So, when I called upon TriMet, why was I passed up by a 94 inbound on Monday morning, and then that evening I had a 12 Operator change his sign to “Drop-Off Only” (despite having room for at least 10, 15 standees on his bus), the following 12 bus was crushed, and having to board a 94, who didn’t run local and I had to transfer to a 12 at Barbur Blvd. TC?

    Today I rode an inbound 92 (which made all 54/56 stops – caused a 20 minute delay but this was anticipated, and since the 56 was crushed we were able to pick up many passengers who would have otherwise been left behind) but the outbound 94 did not make 12 line stops (again, as per the published timetable both at and at bus stops) and had a 30 minute wait before THREE 12 buses showed up all at once (while a crowd gathered at Barbur Blvd. TC).

    Thanks to TriMet’s unpredictability and failure to follow it’s own PUBLISHED timetables, tomorrow I’m going to drive since not going into work is not an option for me. Thanks, Fred Hansen.

  6. Today: A 3 minute walk to the Prescott Street light rail station in North Portland. 15 minutes to downtown. 4 minute wait for the Blue line train to Beaverton (from Pioneer Courthouse Square). 18 minutes to Beaverton to work (caught up on some reading). A lot better than being in a car. A lot better than being on a bus. I am one of the lucky ones. a fully built transit system would add more lucky ones to the mix.

  7. Dan Haneckow Says: a fully built transit system would add more lucky ones to the mix.
    JK: But, are you willing to pay the full cost of a “fully built transit system”, which I presume means rail, as a bus system does not require “building.”

    Your full cost per ride is five times the current fees because 80% of the actual cost is paid by taxpayers. Your full share, at the fair box, would be about $10 per trip each way.
    Unfortunately many transit users think they have a right to a ride paid mainly by others.


  8. I think you’ll find that Erik’s main point is that there is a spectrum of improvements that can be made between what we have today and dedicated rail — improving bus service on key existing routes would help people a lot, irrespective of the next major high-capacity project.

  9. Quick question: Did TriMet actually say that it was putting the no-express mode on Line 94 into affect? If not, I would not expect Line 94 to make local stops.

    Also, Transit Tracker is now showing distance instead of time for some arrivals. For example, check out the PCC Sylvania stop (which actually isn’t being served).

  10. Quick question: Did TriMet actually say that it was putting the no-express mode on Line 94 into affect? If not, I would not expect Line 94 to make local stops.

    It’s presented in a confusing manner and I would hope to see clearer information in future. The text that Erik quoted should have said something like “when on a snow route. . . ” the 94 will make all stops, but because a “snow route” invariably indicates either a change from the normal route or a truncated route, it wasn’t used here (and other instances) because the 94 travels along the normal route. The problem is that bus operators need to be told it’s a “snow route” or they won’t treat it as such, even though there are “snow/ice conditions.” And, in my own personal opinion, it should have been treated as a snow route.

    TransitTracker is using distance for routes in which the vehicle is so far off its schedule (easily an hour or more) that the information would be nonsensical. It’s as though the bus had been lapped and was on its 2nd trip inbound when it should have been on its 3rd or 4th. It’s useless information at that point, but the fact that the bus is headed your way and is 2.4 miles away–that’s useful information.

  11. 2nd trip inbound when it should have been on its 3rd or 4th

    That reminds me of a time when I took the 83-Park Blocks and both Transit Tracker and the operators display were giving out-of-wack times. The problem was that there was a detour on another part of the route and (I’m guessing) the system couldn’t comprehend that the bus had actually completed (what it could, considering the detour) a trip.

    Overall, is the problem that Transit Tracker is tied to the schedule, and calculates arrivals by checking how late the bus is? And when its giving distances, does it actually virtually look down the street/route for the next bus, irregardless of schedule?

    Also, it would be nice if TriMet made real-time maps like Seattle’s and Portland Streetcar’s publicly available, so that riders can play armchair dispatcher or, more seriously, gain the most confidence possible that their bus is coming.

  12. Jeff F. wrote: The text that Erik quoted should have said something like “when on a snow route. . . “

    There is no snow route for the 12/94.

    Meanwhile, The Oregonian reported that 96 buses (which were operating on a snow route – Barbur to 72nd Avenue instead of I-5) WERE making regular line 12 stops on Barbur; and I was on a 92 that although was not on a snow route (from Hillsdale, Bertha to Barbur instead of Capitol to Barbur) made all local 54/56 stops on Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway (part of the regular route).

    So whether or not a snow route is a non-issue; usually snow routes don’t have designated stops.

    As for a “fully built transit system”…how would MAX help me? How about just operating the transit system that we have, the way it’s supposed to work? Why do we have to build a whole new system just because some high-up TriMet manager isn’t doing his job right?

  13. Erik Halstead:

    There is no snow route for the 12/94.

    Ah, but there is, which is what I was trying to explain. It’s not called a snow route publicly (so far) because it doesn’t work like other snow routes–it stays on the same roads but its behavior changes. But not all snow routes are identified publicly by that term, which is why you believe that they don’t have designated stops.

    There may or may not have been an instruction to operators on those routes to make pickups. It’s also possible that this is being done at the initiative of individual operators.

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