Is it Time for Barbur to Get Some Love?

The Tribune (or one of its affiliated neighborhood papers) looks at potential investments on Barbur.

114 Comments

114 Responses to Is it Time for Barbur to Get Some Love?

  1. EngineerScotty
    August 5, 2009 at 8:05 am Link

    It does seem to me that Step One in anything is to turn Barbur north of the Tigard interchange (at I-5) over to city or county jurisdiction; this stretch doesn’t really function anymore as a regional through route, and OTOT maintenance isn’t appropriate. (By the same token, I can think of lots of city and county maintained streets; Tualatin-Sherwood and Roy Rogers, to name two, which might be better usefully added to the state highway system). South of the I-5 interchange, 99W should remain a state highway for now; though if the 99W/I-5 connector is built, then through traffic might be routed there instead.

    (At this point, it is useful to remind people that being a “state highway” or under ODOT jurisdiction, is largely orthogonal to being assigned a highway number; Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway, for instance, is signed as OR10 but is no longer maintained by ODOT; and there are stretches of Hall Boulevard in Tigard and Tualatin which are still maintained by ODOT–a state of affairs which dates back to before the construction of OR217, when Hall functioned as the primary connector between Beaverton and Tualatin, and which is pointless today).

  2. Lenny Anderson
    August 5, 2009 at 1:45 pm Link

    No question Barbur needs HCT, which means a dedicated right of way for transit vehicles of some kind. Let the analysis begin. I’ll place my bet on light rail being the winner on data alone; add SW residents wanting the quality service that every other corridor will only help push that option along. I can see a tunnel under OHSU and Hillsdale emerging somewhere near Burlingame where the “Boulevard” is wide and ugly. I think the Metro HCT maps showed this as well. Meanwhile put some artics with signal pre-emtion on the 12 line as a place holder.

  3. EngineerScotty
    August 5, 2009 at 2:26 pm Link

    Is a tunnel under OHSU feasible, given the delicate microsurgeries which reportedly go on there (and complicated the design of the Tram?)

    It would be nice, I guess, if there were a good connection between the PAT and an OHSU MAX station.

    Besides OHSU, there are several other destinations “close” to the route which are potentially worth serving with MAX, but which wouldn’t be well-served by the line sticking to Barbur–PCC Sylvania, and Washington Square. I’d love to see the current Washington Square TC, and the little park-and-ride stuck between Scholls Ferry and 217, combined and moved somewhere near the front of the mall (perhaps near the old theater); partly in anticipation of a MAX line coming down 217 one day.

  4. JeffF
    August 5, 2009 at 3:17 pm Link

    EngineerScotty Says: Is a tunnel under OHSU feasible, given the delicate microsurgeries which reportedly go on there (and complicated the design of the Tram?)

    I get the distinct impression that long-term plans for OHSU will have them moving a great deal of their work down to the South Waterfront. There may not be a lot of microsurgeries on the Hill 10 years down the line.

  5. Douglas K.
    August 5, 2009 at 3:53 pm Link

    I don’t see a lot of value to a tunnel under OHSU. The major reason for it would be an underground MAX station serving OHSU directly. But you could get very nearly the same benefit with a stop on Barbur and a cable car/funicular railway from Barbur to OHSU, right under the Tram.

  6. Wells
    August 5, 2009 at 7:09 pm Link

    The route option through the Barbur corridor I favored awhile back was a spur from SW Lincoln onto Front Ave, keep and use the bridge above Arthur, through Corbett, then follow either Barbur or a short tunnel down to I-5.

    Two stations, one near the Ross Island ‘spagetti ramps’ which would be demolished and replaced with a sensible grid arrangement, and a station near Bancroft. At Burlingame, an I-5 alignment would return to Barbur level just past Bertha for a station there.

    I’m not sure about the Barbur alignment. The in-street speed limit may detract from the objective. So, I’d still favor a further I-5 alignment to Capitol Hill with a station there and another near Multnomah.

    That’s about as far as I got. From SW Lincoln that’s about 5.2 miles and 5 stations. When the line got to Tigard, I railroad it right through the hilltop porn shop.

  7. jon
    August 5, 2009 at 7:17 pm Link

    Besides OHSU, there are several other destinations “close” to the route which are potentially worth serving with MAX, but which wouldn’t be well-served by the line sticking to Barbur–PCC Sylvania, and Washington Square. I’d love to see the current Washington Square TC, and the little park-and-ride stuck between Scholls Ferry and 217, combined and moved somewhere near the front of the mall (perhaps near the old theater); partly in anticipation of a MAX line coming down 217 one day.

    also multnomah village… i’d like to see this possible ohsu-hillsdale tunnel option consider hitting multnomah village then emerging from the tunnel on barbur near the barbur tc

  8. Wells
    August 6, 2009 at 9:14 am Link

    Barbur Blvd through Tigard is such a nightmare, day-long hoards of speeding traffic bordered by commercial drek all the way. In this segment, I’d go for a complete redesign of Barbur using ’eminent domain’ to condemn parking lot property. De-frickin-pave.

    The sidewalk arrangement along Barbur there is impossible. There’s no fixing it. I’d look for a radical makeover to reduce the number of driveway entrance curb cuts with a semi-isolated light rail alignment. Highway strip mall commercial development pattern is horrible. McLaughlin Blvd between Oak Grove and Gladstone could be rebuilt the same way with light rail.

    Oh well, whatever…

  9. dan w
    August 6, 2009 at 1:55 pm Link

    As someone who lives not too far from Barbur TC, I agree it’s time this corridor got some long overdue attention. I’m not sold on a HCT tunnel under OHSU, however. A cheaper alternative might be to somehow run the line through South Waterfront (perhaps deviating from Barbur near the Hwy 10 interchange), and have it connnect with Milwaukie MAX and the Tram.

  10. Lenny Anderson
    August 6, 2009 at 2:10 pm Link

    I think Multnomah Village would just as soon stay off any main line HCT. Washington Square should be a stop on a upgraded WES, which should have been a MAX line all along. The End-station for the Barbur HCT maybe should be Kruse Woods via Tigard, rather than running on out 99W.
    I like the use of old Front Avenue extension, now Naito, but we do need a stop that really serves Pill Hill. My guess is getting a right of way along Barbur between Naito and Burlingame might cost as much as a tunnel thru the hills under OHSU and Hillsdale. Lots of possibilities.

  11. al m
    August 6, 2009 at 2:15 pm Link

    I love the way you guys:

    THINK BIG!

  12. EngineerScotty
    August 6, 2009 at 3:09 pm Link

    Another possibility might be Portland-Tigard TC-Tualatin, with eventual extension to Wilsonville. I’m not entirely sure a Sherwood-Tigard MAX line makes much sense; especially since much of it would likely be going through industrial areas (along Tualatin/Sherwood) or along a section of 99W outside the UGB. The current stretch of 99W southwest of downtown Tigard isn’t terribly well-suited for TOD, unfortunately.

    That route would make the Beaverton/Tualatin WES alternative much easier to do.

    Service to Washington Square is probably doable–depending on how much neighborhood opposition is in Metzger. But the mall is a more useful destination than pretty much any place along Barbur….

  13. Nick tholdurbanist
    August 6, 2009 at 7:55 pm Link

    “I love the way you guys:

    THINK BIG!”

    >>>> Al, I call this kind of thinking RAILFAN FANTASIES.
    Experienced much of the same thing while living in NYC.

  14. Bob R.
    August 6, 2009 at 9:01 pm Link

    I call this kind of thinking RAILFAN FANTASIES. Experienced much of the same thing while living in NYC.

    Right. It’s a well known fact that most NYC residents just loathe their rail system and wish that busways had been developed instead.

  15. Bob R.
    August 6, 2009 at 9:58 pm Link

    Incidentally, NYC Mayor Bloomberg is proposing making all crosstown buses free, because collection of fares on the buses is slowing them down — unlike the fantasy rail system where fare collection is separate from boarding.

    http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/08/03/bloomberg-calls-for-free-crosstown-buses/?hp

  16. Nick theoldurbanist
    August 6, 2009 at 10:20 pm Link

    “Right. It’s a well known fact that most NYC residents just loathe their rail system and wish that busways had been developed instead.”

    >>>> Except that in NYC with its density and volumes, rail is the most appropriate mode for many travel corridors. So the ‘railfan fantasies’ don’t seem as bizarre there.

    Here in Portland, the ‘hobbyists’ are sticking us (and fantasize about sticking us with even more) with a mode that is entirely inappropriate for the region, and horribly designed and operated, to boot.

  17. Bob R.
    August 7, 2009 at 12:13 am Link

    Except that in NYC with its density and volumes, rail is the most appropriate mode for many travel corridors. So the ‘railfan fantasies’ don’t seem as bizarre there.

    But you label them fantasies nonetheless, even though they are most appropriate?

  18. EngineerScotty
    August 7, 2009 at 9:54 am Link

    To add more infomation Bob’s comment on Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal:

    In Manhattan, the subway lines generally run north/south, connecting the residential areas uptown (to the north) with the central business district downtown (to the south). N/S is primary the direction of travel on the island.

    Few subway lines run east/west; instead numerous crosstown bus lines travel in the east/west direction.

    Research has shown that most users of crosstown busses are subway users with transfers–folks who live on a different subway line than they work, and who then use the bus to reach their final destination. Essentially, they already ride the busses for free. The number of fare-paying riders (who aren’t transferring to or from the subway) apparently doesn’t justify the costs of fare collection.

    Of course, if the busses do become truly free, will there be an (unexpected) increase in ridership? Possibly.

    Another interesting blog which is covering this, and other NYC transit proposals, is Yonah Freemark’s The Transport Politic, here.

  19. Wells
    August 7, 2009 at 10:47 am Link

    TheOldUrbanist says: “Here in Portland, the ‘hobbyists’ are sticking us with a mode that is entirely inappropriate for the region, and horribly designed and operated, to boot.”

    The MAX system works better than the NYC subway and better than Bay Area BART and DC Metro in the main objective of reducing traffic congestion. Those systems have many times the number of MAX riders, but Portland is a more walkable city.

    MAX is an excellent system, one of the best, and its regional growth plan is inspirationally logical. The nation will continue being awed by Portland’s success and its plans for regional growth.

    I question some of the streetcar expansion routes, and whether Powell Blvd is a suitable MAX alignment. The land-use and development side of the equation (land-use = transport) is more complicated.

  20. Benjamin B
    August 7, 2009 at 1:42 pm Link

    Just some musings: If a tunnel is in the works I have a sneaking suspicion that the planned “Hillsdale Triangle” redevelopment will include a underground stop (or at least be near an above-ground stop). If they look into other options (and intend to not sacrifice traffic lanes on Barbur) some sort of ROW exists in the former vicinity of SW Slavin rd, in-between Barbur and I-5. However if they were serious about this routing I would guess that the project would be coupled with the upcoming Iowa St. Viaduct replacement. If routing through John’s landing is considered (SW MacAdam/Williamette Shoreline/etc) they could traverse I-5 at Brier, or possibly built a new overpass in the area under the Terwilliger overpass and other highway interchanges (currently this is part of one of the SW urban trails).

  21. Dave H
    August 7, 2009 at 1:59 pm Link

    Those systems have many times the number of MAX riders, but Portland is a more walkable city.

    Really? NYC and San Francisco are the top two cities according to Walkscore.com, and from personal experience I’d have to agree. BART serves a much more regional purpose than our MAX system does so far, and MUNI (including LRT) is geared for use within the city limits. Some areas outside SF may not be as walkable, but Vancouver isn’t so walkable (to compare to PDX) either.

    I’d compare BART to a high speed solution between Portland, Eugene, Salem and points in between before I’d compare it to MAX though.

    I am curious why MAX isn’t right for this region. LRT has been decided to be appropriate for San Diego, Phoenix, Sacramento, Denver, Salt Lake City, San Jose, Houston, Minneapolis and more. Why not Portland?

  22. Wells
    August 7, 2009 at 7:50 pm Link

    Crossing the street in San Francisco and Washington DC, you take your life in your hands. These cities and NYC have horrible traffic. Oh sure, they have a few pedestrian spots set aside to impress tourists and bilk locals with over-priced entertainment. And to get from one of these somewhat pedestrian-oriented hotspots to another is simplest driving.

    BART compares to MAX in the spacing of stations and how their lengths of line reach suburban areas. BART runs 10-car trainsets during rush hours and reduces their length to 4-car trainsets off rush hours. Clearly, BART is positioned to guide regional growth, so that ridership will eventually even out and make running 4-car trainsets all day long feasible.

    A rail line between Portland, Salem, Albany, Eugene and points between is a much different animal. Its stations are spaced many miles apart. There is lower ridership demand and need for service frequency. Non-electrified Amtrak Talgo trainsets could run more daily service with track upgrades, or, we could whine about electrified trainsets and get nuthin.

  23. Nick theoldurbanist
    August 7, 2009 at 10:16 pm Link

    “The MAX system works better than the NYC subway…

    >>>> Come on, you REALLY REALLY have to be kidding!!
    I grew up on the NYC system, developed my interest in transit from it, and have 50+ YEARS of experience riding it.
    I also happen to know that entire system very well.

    Now I have 8+ years of riding Trimet. NO WAY, JOSE!

    I’ll have to remember your audacious statement next month when I’m crawling through downtown and over the Steel Bridge, with four lines interlocking at grade level.

    “MAX is an excellent system, one of the best, and its regional growth plan is inspirationally logical. The nation will continue being awed by Portland’s success and its plans for regional growth.”

    >>>> Having ridden transit systems in a number of cities during my lifetime, I happen to think that Portland’s rail system is one of the WORST and most retrogressive. Let’s see how awed the rest of the country will be when the MAX system finally chokes on itself.

  24. EngineerScotty
    August 7, 2009 at 10:25 pm Link

    It seems, Nick, that you are advocating for improvements to MAX, not that it’s a bad system that ought to be scrapped.

    After all, if a system has issues because its infrastructure is insufficient to handle the traffic demand, the usual response is to improve it. There are lots of ways that the Steel Bridge bottleneck could be improved–closing the bridge to vehicle traffic, adding an inner eastside line connecting OMSI to the Rose Quarter, or by moving the whole shebang underground.

    There’s lots of congestion on all four inbound freeways during rush hour. By your logic, the freeway system in Portland is therefore a failure and I-5, I-84, and US-26 should be closed down.

    At any rate, comparing the NYC subway system with a LRT is an apples-and-oranges compare.

  25. Wells
    August 8, 2009 at 10:24 am Link

    Look OldUrbanist, saying MAX is “worst” and “retrogressive” means nothing. I made a somewhat comprehensive argument by relating how traffic problems are better solved with the MAX system than NYC, Bay Area and Washington DC.

    I agreed that DC Metro, BART and NYC subway carry more people than MAX (they also make long trips faster), but they haven’t made the surface streets anywhere near as pedestrian-friendly as Portland. It looks like you’re not concerned with transit systems that serve needs other than yours.

  26. Dave H
    August 8, 2009 at 12:34 pm Link

    I agreed that DC Metro, BART and NYC subway carry more people than MAX (they also make long trips faster), but they haven’t made the surface streets anywhere near as pedestrian-friendly as Portland. It looks like you’re not concerned with transit systems that serve needs other than yours.

    I just don’t understand how MAX has made things more pedestrian-friendly than the SF area BART/MUNI options? Other than some of the suburban areas (outside San Francisco) I’d say that Portland is a bit less pedestrian-friendly, since SF has a much denser grid of buses, more frequent service on a lot of routes, as well as a lot more sections that are grade-separated than the MAX.

    Maybe if you’re counting Concord or Dublin as part of San Francisco, but then we should be counting Vancouver and Wilsonville as part of Portland.

  27. Bob R.
    August 8, 2009 at 12:39 pm Link

    I’ve been to SF many times, and I think the perception of it being less walkable than Portland stems from the nature of the streetscape there… the main streets (especially in South of Market) are quite wide, and the distances between signals are quite long. This creates a “raceway” effect where no arterial ever _seems_ calmer than our own Broadway/Weidler couplet.

    In the older, hilly neighborhoods, the streets are narrower and have less traffic, but can still seem more like NW 23rd than NW Northrup.

    Even so, one is more likely to be able to cross NW 23rd mid-block at a given time of day than one is able to cross, say, Castro St. at a similar time of day.

    But, it’s very difficult to make an apples-to-apples comparison between these cities… I think we’re mainly going to bring our subjective anecdotal judgements to this.

  28. EngineerScotty
    August 8, 2009 at 12:41 pm Link

    Both downtown SF and downtown PDX are very convenient cities to walk in. One advantage PDX has is Fareless Square; use of the Muni in downtown SF requires a fare, even for short trips.

  29. Wells
    August 8, 2009 at 2:13 pm Link

    Bob nailed it – SF streets are wider thus average traffic speed there is faster than in Portland. MAX dedicates some streets to transit, but on Market Street in SF, even with the streetcar line, the traffic is calamatous.

    Portland’s design philosophy is counter-intuitive, but it works. By taking space away from roads for transit and pedestrians, traffic slows to speeds that make it easier to walk. Motorists come to learn that it’s easier to park and walk and take transit more.

    Transit advocates who pontificate for subways and fast trains end up with a worse transit system. It’s counter-intuitive.

  30. Dave H
    August 8, 2009 at 3:12 pm Link

    Even so, one is more likely to be able to cross NW 23rd mid-block at a given time of day than one is able to cross, say, Castro St. at a similar time of day.

    I’ve actually stayed with family in an apartment on Castro, and was pleasantly surprised by how walkable the neighborhood was. Mid-block might be difficult since south of Market there are stop signs, rather the lights queuing up the cars, but at an intersection wasn’t a problem at all.

    I agree it’s difficult to compare the two cities, since a big factor of walkable to me is how easy transit is to use and access, as well as what I can access just on foot. Faster moving traffic doesn’t make a street less walkable to me, as long as safe places are provided to cross.

    Driving in San Fran is much worse than Portland, but that’s part of why I just don’t drive in SF unless I have to.

    Transit advocates who pontificate for subways and fast trains end up with a worse transit system. It’s counter-intuitive.

    Subways serve a different purpose. I’d prefer to move the Blue line underground from the Lloyd Center to the west side, and keep the Red on the surface. The MAX downtown is nice for trips within downtown, but a pain if you want to go across downtown.

  31. Wells
    August 8, 2009 at 5:50 pm Link

    Dave writes, “I’d prefer the Blue line underground from Lloyd Center to the west side, and keep the Red on the surface. The MAX downtown is nice for trips within downtown, but a pain if you want to go across downtown.”

    I hear ya. I had a letter published in the Tribune awhile back opposing the subway on the basis of regional land-use planning guidelines. It’s basic argument: If MAX blue line was a subway through downtown, this would set up a travel pattern that grows beyond MAX ability to handle. The real problem with cross-county traffic are land-use and development patterns that first encourage and ultimately require cross-county travel.

    Both westside and eastside must develop their local economies so that cross-county commuting and general travel is much less necessary. Thus, demanding a fast train ends up with a worse transit system. Nevermind the cost and impact of building a subway and stations.

  32. Dave H
    August 8, 2009 at 9:03 pm Link

    Both westside and eastside must develop their local economies so that cross-county commuting and general travel is much less necessary. Thus, demanding a fast train ends up with a worse transit system. Nevermind the cost and impact of building a subway and stations.

    It won’t happen. People get married who have career in different areas, thus we have to accommodate transportation through the region. Would you really encourage my friend who lives on the west side, where her husband rides his bike to work, to move out or give up a job she’s had for 6 years for something closer? It’s a bad idea to take a job closer, and this is a common situation. I know people who commute from Tigard to Vancouver, Vancouver to Tualatin, and Tualatin to Gresham for this exact reason.

    MAX should move people to where they need to go, and if the Blue is removed from the downtown/Lloyd surface tracks it can expand past 2 car sets, I believe. (Please let me know if that’s wrong, just something I’ve read here before.)

  33. EngineerScotty
    August 8, 2009 at 9:22 pm Link

    There are some unique destinations, reachable by MAX, not located downtown. The zoo and the rest of Washington Park is on the westside; the airport is on the eastside. Certainly, more 20-minute neighborhoods would be nice; but there will a need for trips outside no matter what.

    If we were to split the Blue and Red lines between underground and surface routes through downtown, I’d actually think the Red going underground would make a bit more sense. My hunch is that the biggest source of cross-town trips are between Washington County and PDX, not Washington County and anything east of Gateway.

  34. Nick theoldurbanist
    August 9, 2009 at 12:52 pm Link

    Wells said: “It looks like you’re not concerned with transit systems that serve needs other than yours.”

    >>>> And it looks like YOU’RE concerned with transit that serves your railfan hobby instead of the general riding public.

    Putting my ‘needs’ aside, most of the same complaints that I make about transit here echo what I’ve heard over the years from many other people, including some on this very blog.

  35. Nick theoldurbanist
    August 9, 2009 at 1:07 pm Link

    Bob R. said: “Right. It’s a well known fact that most NYC residents just loathe their rail system and wish that busways had been developed instead.”

    >>>> Bob, be prepared to partially eat your words. When living in New York, I knew a good number of people who detested and/or would not ride the subways. I mean, some NEVER took the subway anywhere.

    One guy in my office used to pay double to ride an express bus to Wall St. every day from Bensonhurst in Brooklyn. He said it was the civilized way to travel! A number of other people, esp. women, would ride the buses in Manhattan, even though it sometimes take eons to get someplace, or take cabs home to Queens at night.

    However, I agree that rail is indispensable in NYC, as opposed to Portland, which would much better off without it.

  36. Bob R.
    August 9, 2009 at 4:53 pm Link

    Bob, be prepared to partially eat your words.

    Nope, that’s why I said “most”. I’m sure there’s some people in NYC for whom the subway is not the right option, for whatever reasons. Doesn’t change my point at all.

    However, I agree that rail is indispensable in NYC

    Well, then don’t dismiss rail in NYC as being the product of “railfan fantasies”.

  37. Jason McHuff
    August 9, 2009 at 4:53 pm Link

    If anyone thinks the NYC subway is bad now, go back to the 1970s and 1980s.

  38. Bob R.
    August 9, 2009 at 4:55 pm Link

    And it looks like YOU’RE concerned with transit that serves your railfan hobby instead of the general riding public.

    This is the problem I find with nearly all of your posts: Rather than discuss specific facts, you instead dismiss people who disagree with you about the role of rail in Portland as “railfan hobbyists”.

  39. Nick theoldurbanist
    August 9, 2009 at 10:15 pm Link

    This is the problem I find with nearly all of your posts: Rather than discuss specific facts, you instead dismiss people who disagree with you about the role of rail in Portland as “railfan hobbyists.”

    >>>> So you are conveniently ignoring all of the ‘specific’ things I have said in past discussions? Well, here’s a new specific fact for you:
    When the Green Line opens, the best possible headway on the Yellow Line will be every 15 minutes (due to 4 interlocking services), EVEN IN RUSH HOUR! And I’m just waiting for the new schedules to see what the new running time from Expo to Pioneer Sq. is going to be.

    Looks like the folks on Interstate are getting screwed AGAIN by rail, compared to the frequencies they had on the #5 bus, loss of local bus stops, and additional transfers. So now we have a new rail line (Green) shafting the riders on another RAIL line.

    And don’t even get me started on what’s been done to bus system with the new mall, the most egregious example being the #14 bus.

  40. Nick theoldurbanist
    August 9, 2009 at 10:26 pm Link

    “I am curious why MAX isn’t right for this region. LRT has been decided to be appropriate for San Diego, Phoenix, Sacramento, Denver, Salt Lake City, San Jose, Houston, Minneapolis and more. Why not Portland?”

    >>>> D-E-N-S-I-T-Y. Portland ain’t got it (Seattle seems to have much more of it in places). That why busways and BRT would have been much much better here. As for the other cities, I would have to actually live there for a while before passing judgment.

  41. Bob R.
    August 9, 2009 at 10:55 pm Link

    So you are conveniently ignoring all of the ‘specific’ things I have said in past discussions?

    Nope, just pointing out your derisiveness.

    Well, here’s a new specific fact for you:

    Thanks, now we’re getting somewhere.

    For your homework, and since you’ve accused me of ignoring your past statements, how about not ignoring some of mine? Like the dozens of times over a period of years here where I’ve pointed out the bottleneck at the Rose Quarter and with the Steel Bridge? Or the public testimony I’ve given about this in various forums?

    If you didn’t spend so much time painting people with a broad brush, you might find areas of agreement and potential cooperation.

    (Incidentally, I doubt that any genuine “railfan fantasy” would have MAX compromised to the extent that it is in the Rose Quarter.)

    Now, where is the source for the claim about 15-min minimum headways for the Yellow Line? I’d love to read more about that.

  42. EngineerScotty
    August 9, 2009 at 11:29 pm Link

    What is the minimum headway (or maximum frequency) for trains to cross the Steel Bridge anyway?

    Nick might be multiplying that number by four to arrive at headways for the Yellow Line, under the (reasonable) simplifying assumption that one out of every four trains crossing the bridge is a Yellow train.

    Is, in fact, the Yellow Line service frequency being reduced in Rush Hour? If so, is it due to limited capacity on the Steel, or to some other reason (limited operating budget, etc)? Last I checked the timetables at Tri-Met, they had not been updated to reflect the new services going online.

    At any rate, complaining about “railfans” is silly and unproductive.

    Regarding density, Portland is denser than many of the cities you mention. Seattle is an interesting case, as it is highly constrained by geography. You’ll note that they just opened a brand new LRT line, though.

    It seems to me that your complaint about MAX is that it acts like a local service downtown, whereas many other LRTs (including Seattle’s new line) act more like traditional metros, with longer stopping distances. This complaint is certainly a valid one; however I doubt you’ll find that tearing down MAX and replacing it with more busses is a viable solution.

  43. Nick theoldurbanist
    August 10, 2009 at 8:46 am Link

    “Is, in fact, the Yellow Line service frequency being reduced in Rush Hour? If so, is it due to limited capacity on the Steel, or to some other reason (limited operating budget, etc)? Last I checked the timetables at Tri-Met, they had not been updated to reflect the new services going online.”

    >>>> THEY ARE NOW: http://trimet.org/alerts/190-maxyellowline-sept09.htm

    MORE ‘RAIL’ PROGRESS IN PORTLAND: best headway I can see is a few 14’s. I’ll be back on this.

  44. Lenny Anderson
    August 10, 2009 at 9:03 am Link

    Nick, for once, is correct. The Yellow Line goes to 15 minutes all day, but with all double car trains (which have 4 times the capacity of a bus).
    He must be the only north Portland resident who misses the old 5 bus…what a circus. More than twice as many riders on the Yellow Line today, which will double again when it gets to Vancouver.
    And Interstate Avenue has never looked so good.

  45. Bob R.
    August 10, 2009 at 9:33 am Link

    Yes, it goes to 15 minutes, but is it because of the financially-motivated service cuts, or is it because of a specific technical limitation of the Rose Quarter and Steel Bridge which dicates a maximum number of trains per hour?

  46. Bob R.
    August 10, 2009 at 9:52 am Link

    While searching for anything official about Steel Bridge / Rose Quarter train capacity, I found this document from 2003 at Metro:

    Downtown Amendment to the South Corridor SDEIS – Executive Summary

    On page “5-8” (page 8 of the PDF):

    The Portland Mall and the Cross Mall alignments generally provide buses and light rail vehicles, respectively, with a relatively reliable operating environment by providing a high level of exclusive operating right-of-way for transit vehicles. However, both the Portland Mall and the Cross Mall alignments have theoretical and practical capacity limitations that, if exceeded, can result in a deterioration of speed and reliability for the transit vehicles and patrons utilizing the facilities. In the year 2020, combined light rail train volumes of the Red, Blue, Yellow and Green lines would equal 33 trains per hour in the peak direction during the peak periods, exceeding the Cross Mall alignment’s functional capacity of 27 trains per hour. Without an additional light rail alignment within the Downtown Portland Segment, the system’s light rail travel times and reliability would tend to degrade over the next two decades, resulting in increasing operating costs and decreasing transit ridership.

    (The above paragraph is attempting to justify why light rail on the transit mall was needed, to lessen the burden of transit traffic on just the one original cross-mall alignment.)

    Elsewhere in the document, it is argued that if the mall tracks were not built, operational reliability would begin to degrade at 28 trains per hour in the peak direction.

    Well, 28 trains per hour is a train every 2.14 minutes, which means all 4 lines (blue, red, green, yellow) could run equally at 8.6 minute headways. Or, assuming some slop in the system and a 3-minute cycle time to the traffic lights in the Rose Quarter, every train could run equally at 12 minute headways. (If you allocate more trains per hour to one line, such as the Blue Line, you have to take away from one of the others.)

    So, the question is: After September, are the Blue/Red trains so frequent that they are squeezing out the Yellow Line, or will there be room for restoring Yellow Line service frequencies?

    Bonus question: If the Yellow Line really is permanently constrained to 15-minute headways, does this alter assumptions made by CRC planners?

  47. Nick theoldurbanist
    August 10, 2009 at 10:09 am Link

    “So, the question is: After September, are the Blue/Red trains so frequent that they are squeezing out the Yellow Line, or will there be room for restoring Yellow Line service frequencies?.”

    >>>> They are allocating more slots to the Blue Line, so it looks like the other 3 lines are being held to 15 minute headways.

  48. JeffF
    August 10, 2009 at 10:15 am Link

    Bob R.: So, the question is: After September, are the Blue/Red trains so frequent that they are squeezing out the Yellow Line, or will there be room for restoring Yellow Line service frequencies?

    No. Yes. Changes to the Yellow Line schedule were entirely budget-oriented, and had nothing to do with capacity over the bridge.

    Prior to the decision to cut service, both Yellow and Green lines were scheduled with higher frequencies, so the bridge clearly wasn’t a factor, at least at that level.

  49. Bob R.
    August 10, 2009 at 10:32 am Link

    so it looks like the other 3 lines are being held to 15 minute headways.

    It may “look” that way, but is it true? I was hoping, since you originally made such a strong and absolute statement, that you were basing your remarks on something substantive.

  50. EngineerScotty
    August 10, 2009 at 10:39 am Link

    One interesting question… if the CRC, or some other bridge with MAX tracks on it, is built ‘cross the Columbia, and the Yellow Line starts seeing ‘Couv commuters on it–might there be capacity problems in the future, requiring shorter headways on Interstate? If the Yellow is running full 2-car trains every fifteen minutes, the only way to add further capacity is to run more trains.

    Of course, this gets to one area of transit planning when the needs of the rider (short wait times) and the agency (low operating cost) come into conflict. Nick misses, apparently, the bus service that the Yellow Line replaced, which I gather ran at more frequent headways than fifteen minutes. Not being a train, the #5 bus wasn’t subject to rail capacity limitations on the Steel Bridge crossing, or any other point bottleneck; though its performance was impacted by traffic in general.

    Jarrett Walker at http://www.humantransit.org has blogged on this topic a bit. Short headways (we’ll ignore the vehicle choice) are more beneficial for the user, as they translate to shorter wait times, especially for frequent services which don’t really keep to a schedule. Larger vehicles running less frequently are beneficial to Tri-Met, as it requires paying fewer drivers–one of the big advantages of a MAX train is it can hold as many passengers as 4 40′ busses. (MAX has many other advantages as well, but they aren’t relevant here).

    Some people don’t mind the extra average wait time associated with a longer headway, but some get REALLY annoyed by it. Especially during rush hour, and the bus/train pulls into your stop, and is already crushloaded, and you have to wait for the next one.

  51. JeffF
    August 10, 2009 at 10:44 am Link

    EngineerScotty Says: Some people don’t mind the extra average wait time associated with a longer headway, but some get REALLY annoyed by it. Especially during rush hour, and the bus/train pulls into your stop, and is already crushloaded, and you have to wait for the next one.

    Complaints from Yellow Line riders have been consistently focused on overloaded trains, not frequency, even when the changes to service were announced.

  52. EngineerScotty
    August 10, 2009 at 10:55 am Link

    Looking at the Tri-Met schedules:

    *Yellow trains pass through the RQTC every fifteen minutes like clockwork.

    * Blue trains are highly dense; between the hours of 6:30 and 8:30 AM on weekdays, TWENTY in-service Blue trains pull through RQTC; that’s an average headway of six minutes. A couple of these are trains which “turn yellow” reaching Rose Quarter, and head north on Interstate. (As there are no service depots on the yellow line; this is probably a better alternative than deadheading trains to Interstate).

    * Red line trains run every 15 minutes through RTQC; though a few of those red trains “turn blue” at gateway but are nonetheless listed on the Red timetable. (Since the Red doesn’t go anywhere that the Blue doesn’t heading westbound, I don’t consider this a problem).

    * Green line trains run at approximately 15 minute headways as well; though a few variable gaps. Green trains don’t appear to “change color”, at least not through the morning rush, some Blue trains probably turn green in the morning as they run from the yard in Gresham into service.

    So, Nick is correct in that Blue trains run at a higher frequency than the other colors. However, as noted above, many blue trains are trains which change colors, either to provide extended Westside service, or to permit Yellow Line trains to be brought into service.

    *

  53. EngineerScotty
    August 10, 2009 at 11:02 am Link

    That’s the sort of problem a transit agency wants to have. Which brings us to the next question–if Yellow trains are crush-loaded in rush hour, is this driving away riders (causing them to use other forms of transportation, including the bus), or are they just sucking it up and effectively “distributing the load” over a longer rush period (either coming in later, or earlier, to avoid the peak usage)?

    If overloaded trains are turning people away from transit in any significant number, then service cuts (on MAX) are probably a false economy. One nice thing about MAX is it (nearly) pays its operating costs from the farebox. If Tri-Met restored more Yellow service, could it expect an increase in riders, or would it simply just change the commuting patterns of existing riders?

    Don’t MAX trains, especially full ones, essentially pay for themselves from the farebox–or at least are close to break-even?

  54. Nick theoldurbanist
    August 10, 2009 at 11:05 am Link

    “Prior to the decision to cut service, both Yellow and Green lines were scheduled with higher frequencies, so the bridge clearly wasn’t a factor, at least at that level.”

    >>>> My understanding is that the cuts made here applied to off-hour services. Can you document that G & Y were originally scheduled for higher levels during rush hours?

  55. Matthew
    August 10, 2009 at 11:09 am Link

    Nick makes a lot of sense. I mean, look at the bus schedules. Clearly the roads are too congested, and that is why we are reducing “15 minutes” headways to 17 minutes during off peak hours. It must be cause the buses are sitting around in traffic and they don’t have enough buses to run every 15 minutes, cause you know, the traffic is so bad during off peak hours.

    (For the record: The Yellow line is designed for a train every 5 minutes, or 12 of the 33 trains over the bridge. Gateway Transit Center is designed for a train every 3 minutes, or 20 of the 33 trains, which just happens to be 12 trains on Blue, (every 5 minutes,) plus 4 trains on Red and Green (every 15 minutes,) almost like they designed it for that or something. That gives a total of 32 trains over the bridge an hour, and the bridge can handle 33. (Where the other train comes from, I don’t know, maybe it turns around at Rose Quarter.) The Red and Green are spurs, the Yellow and Blue are the main N/S and E/W, so they are designed to handle the bulk of the traffic.)

  56. EngineerScotty
    August 10, 2009 at 11:18 am Link

    Right now, the bottleneck for Tri-Met appears to be the number of drivers it can afford to pay; not infrastructure or rolling stock.

  57. Lenny Anderson
    August 10, 2009 at 11:56 am Link

    I once heard that the Steel bridge can handle a train every 90 seconds each way, so there would seem to be room for more trips.
    The biggest complaint on the Yellow Line is the single car trains which can be over full.
    In September all Yellow Line trains will be doubles, and peak hour headways will go from 12 to 15 minutes, so its a net gain in capacity.

  58. JeffF
    August 10, 2009 at 12:03 pm Link

    EngineerScotty Says: *Yellow trains pass through the RQTC every fifteen minutes like clockwork.

    Can we assume you’re talking about the new schedules? Because there is an easy enough comparison to make online (just use the left-hand column at Expo) and look at the current span from 6:16 to 8:14 am. The new schedule has trains pulling out (like clockwork) every 15 minutes through the same period.

    * Blue trains are highly dense; between the hours of 6:30 and 8:30 AM on weekdays, TWENTY in-service Blue trains pull through RQTC; that’s an average headway of six minutes. A couple of these are trains which “turn yellow” reaching Rose Quarter, and head north on Interstate. (As there are no service depots on the yellow line; this is probably a better alternative than deadheading trains to Interstate).

    Technically, the Yellow Line trains are “yellow” from the time they pull out of Ruby Junction and don’t “turn yellow”, they just turn up into the Yellow ROW. Red Line trains “turning blue” are even more unusual–in fact, I don’t know where you get this at all. There are Red Line trains that actually begin (and end) at the Elmonica facility.

  59. EngineerScotty
    August 10, 2009 at 12:18 pm Link

    I am referring to the new Yellow Line schedule, not the current schedule.

    The Red Line schedule has several trains, indicated with an X, which according to the footnotes below, become blue line trains upon reaching Gateway TC. Most such trains are in the evening (and I suspect that they are indeed trains returning to Elmonica), with a few during morning rush. Whether such trains actually change their banner, I don’t know.

  60. JeffF
    August 10, 2009 at 12:34 pm Link

    Gotcha. The combined MAX schedules can be a nightmare to sort out and the arcana of interlined trains is worse.

  61. EngrScotty
    August 10, 2009 at 12:55 pm Link

    When the “Orange Line” (which everyone assumes will be a yellow line extension) opens, it will pass right by the front door of Tri-Met’s 17th avenue bus facility. Will Tri-Met be adding a third railyard there (or somewhere else along the line)? Doing so might make yellow line operations more efficient (no more need for trains out to Ruby); and unlike Ruby, it’s located close to freight rail.

  62. JeffF
    August 10, 2009 at 1:04 pm Link

    EngrScotty Says: When the “Orange Line” (which everyone assumes will be a yellow line extension) opens, it will pass right by the front door of Tri-Met’s 17th avenue bus facility. Will Tri-Met be adding a third railyard there (or somewhere else along the line)? Doing so might make yellow line operations more efficient (no more need for trains out to Ruby); and unlike Ruby, it’s located close to freight rail.

    The most recent answer I’ve gotten to the question of the Orange Line is that it will not be interlined at all–something to do with schedule conflicts with the Yellow Line.

    The plan is to expand Ruby Junction, and there will actually be considerably less land available around the Center St. garage. Can’t keep the railroads straight, but I believe it’s Union Pacific, and they intend to move a central facility to the yards in the Holgate/17th Avenue area. The old railhouse that currently houses antique trains is coming down to make room, in fact.

  63. Nick theoldurbanist
    August 10, 2009 at 1:26 pm Link

    “Nick makes a lot of sense. I mean, look at the bus schedules. Clearly the roads are too congested, and that is why we are reducing “15 minutes” headways to 17 minutes during off peak hours. It must be cause the buses are sitting around in traffic and they don’t have enough buses to run every 15 minutes, cause you know, the traffic is so bad during off peak hours..”

    >>>> Sorry, Matthew, but your analogy makes no sense at all. Steel Bridge arrangement has definite capacity bottlenecks by virtue of its switching set-up.

  64. Bob R.
    August 10, 2009 at 1:29 pm Link

    Sorry, Matthew, but your analogy makes no sense at all. Steel Bridge arrangement has definite capacity bottlenecks by virtue of its switching set-up.

    Yes, but Nick, it would be nice if you could back up your original claim that the Yellow Line is being cut back to 15 minutes because of those capacity constraints and the imminent opening of the Green Line.

    Thus far, any documentation we’ve been able to come up with shows there is sufficient capacity for more frequent Yellow Line trains at this time.

    What documentation do you have to support your claim?

  65. Nick theoldurbanist
    August 10, 2009 at 1:36 pm Link

    “I once heard that the Steel bridge can handle a train every 90 seconds each way, so there would seem to be room for more trips.”

    >>>> Maybe theoretically, with no crossing over and merging with other rail lines, as well as intersecting with buses. Dwell times at the Rose Quarter stations also slow things down

    THE POINT I WANT TO MAKE is that this discussion/debate should be completely unnecessary, as a busway/BRT system (instead of rail) could handle the Steel Bridge with very few problems. After all, numerous bus lines were converging on the Steel Bridge for eons before 1986, the year MAX opened. Admit it, buses are just that much more nimble.

  66. EngineerScotty
    August 10, 2009 at 1:46 pm Link

    Nick;

    1) It takes four busses to replace one trainset. While the bridge can certainly handle that (the lower capacity of rail infrastucture is due to the nature of rail signalling), who’s gonna pay for all those extra bus drivers?

    2) Busses, as presently configured by Tri-Met, have longer dwell times at stops than trains. This isn’t an inherent property of busses, obviously–but busses presently operate on a pay-as-you-board principle, rather than proof-of-payment as are the trains; thus take longer to board.

    But, as has been explained–the Steel Bridge is presently not the bottleneck in the system. The biggest (infrastructure) bottleneck in the system–the downown MAX alignment between the bridge and Goose Hollow–has been dealt with by the new Transit Mall line. Nowadays, the main bottleneck is operational funding, not physical capacity.

    A bus-only system would be in FAR worse shape in the current economic climate.

  67. Bob R.
    August 10, 2009 at 1:52 pm Link

    A bus-only system would be in FAR worse shape in the current economic climate.

    Indeed, we’ve seen similar painful service cuts in the region (C-TRAN) and around the state (Cherriots, LTD) in systems which have no rail component.

  68. EngineerScotty
    August 10, 2009 at 2:00 pm Link

    Bob,

    Do you have, or can you point me to, current cost data for the various modes Tri-Met operates? I seem to remember reading that MAX does–or at least did–pay for itself (meaning pay for its operational costs); whereas busses require a subsidy to operate even when running at full capacity.

    Of course, neither C-TRAN, Cherriots, or LTD is attempting to run low-ridership commuter rail on FRA-regulated freight tracks not owned by the transit authority… which probably cancels out the financial benefits of MAX. :)

  69. Nick theoldurbanist
    August 10, 2009 at 2:03 pm Link

    “Yes, but Nick, it would be nice if you could back up your original claim that the Yellow Line is being cut back to 15 minutes because of those capacity constraints and the imminent opening of the Green Line.”

    >>>> All right, let’s do a little piece of analysis here. Forget 2.14 minute intervals; this is not the NYC subway.The best one can do here is 3 minutes between trains, due to street running, intersecting with other rail/bus lines around RQ, station dwell times, etc. We have had long threads on this blog or on Usenet in the past about this MAX capacity problem downtown in general

    Take a 15 minute rush hour period – there are five 3 minute slots available. Thus,

    2 Blue, 1 Red, 1 Green, and 1 Yellow.

    Increasing service for one hurts one of the others. It is apparent that Tri-Met wants/needs greater frequencies for the Blue Line than the others. Maintaining capacity on the East-West trunk line is why Jim Howell’s AORTA (which is a ‘railfan’ organization) went to the FTA to block construction of rail on the new transit mall.

    You see, even though I don’t particularly like MAX, I gave a good deal of thought to this capacity problem before this thread started.

    P.S. It seems that they did stick a couple of ‘fourteens’ in though for Yellow!

  70. Bob R.
    August 10, 2009 at 2:13 pm Link

    Station dwell times would have little to do with the Yellow Line, as it sits at a different station than the Blue/Red/Green lines.

    Further, the Yellow moves on a different phase of the traffic signal system, so even if it is true that there is a 3-minute limitation on throughput for the original alignment, it doesn’t necessarily preclude Yellow Line movements being interspersed among those.

    Maintaining capacity on the East-West trunk line is why Jim Howell’s AORTA (which is a ‘railfan’ organization) went to the FTA to block construction of rail on the new transit mall.

    Yes, but even AORTA’s documenatation asserts a higher capacity than you are.

    See this letter from March 8, 2006:

    Excerpt:

    According to Chapter 2 of the South Corridor FEIS, in the year 2025, with the Green Line and Mall
    alignment operational, 12 Blue, 4 Red, 6 Yellow, and 8 Green trains are proposed to operate in the peak
    hour. (See Attachment B). Therefore 30 trains will be operating westbound across the Steel Bridge in the
    pm peak hour, the maximum that this bridge can handle.

  71. Bob R.
    August 10, 2009 at 2:19 pm Link

    Do you have, or can you point me to, current cost data for the various modes Tri-Met operates?

    It’s in summary form here:
    http://www.trimet.org/pdfs/publications/trimetridership.pdf

    FY’08 MAX light rail operating costs per boarding ride were $1.76, with a Fare Recovery to Operating Costs Ratio of 51.8%.

    (Reasons why a cost of $1.76 is not fully covered by fares: Fareless square boardings, transfers, discounted monthly passes, etc.)

  72. EngineerScotty
    August 10, 2009 at 2:21 pm Link

    It will be interesting to see what actually happens when the Green opens; if there are significant capacity-related service issues–or if things will run smoothly.

    And as far as AORTA is concerned–who cares? Their suit to block the transit mall rail wasn’t very successful, apparently. And they’re a private lobbying organization–entitled to their say, certainly, and capable of making noise–but they don’t speak for Tri-Met or anybody else at the table.

    At any rate, I think you’ll find agreement here that the current Steel Bridge crossing is an issue for further MAX expansion; though not for present operation or for the Green Line. One day, we’ll probably have to spend the bucks to dig a subway tunnel downtown, or some other grade-separated solution, if we want to further expand service to the north and east quadrants of the city. (Fortunately, the next projects “in the pipe” after Milwaukie MAX–the Powell and Barbur corridors, won’t use the Steel Bridge).

  73. EngineerScotty
    August 10, 2009 at 2:40 pm Link

    Interesting.

    If there is a transfer, how is the transfer allocated? Are bus-to-train transfers (rider buys a bus ticket and uses a transfer to board MAX) credited to the bus, whereas train-to-bus tranfers (user buys a MAX ticket and uses the ticket to board the bus) credited to MAX?

    How does that ratio compare to busses and the Streetcar? (I’m scared to ask about WES…)

  74. Matthew
    August 10, 2009 at 2:44 pm Link

    >>>> All right, let’s do a little piece of analysis here. Forget 2.14 minute intervals; this is not the NYC subway.The best one can do here is 3 minutes between trains, due to street running, intersecting with other rail/bus lines around RQ, station dwell times, etc.

    We all know you can’t put an unlimited number of buses down a line without them holding each other up, either, so there is a capacity limit there too. And the bus drivers aren’t bicycle racers, so they probably aren’t used to being that close together in the first place. The best they can probably do is 17 minutes. Clearly we all know that, I mean, just look at the schedule!

  75. Bob R.
    August 10, 2009 at 2:46 pm Link

    I’m scared to ask about WES…

    Ask away! :-) We can learn as much, if not more, from problem projects as we can learn from successful ones.

  76. R A Fontes
    August 10, 2009 at 3:25 pm Link

    Update to cost/revenue data from June 2009 Monthly Performance Report (available upon request, but TriMet doesn’t seem to be used to a lot of requests for “internal” reports)

    Cost per train/vehicle hour;per boarding ride:
    MAX – $320.76;$2.21
    WES – $927.43;$17.52
    bus – $99.38;$3.18
    (streetcar – approximately $135/hr. as per email from Portland Streetcar)

    systemwide passenger revenue:average originating fare – $1.113 or 25.28% of pro rata system cost.

    Approximate maximum capacities:
    MAX type 4 – 344 per 2 unit train
    WES – 443 (see note) for DMU + trailer
    40′ bus – 60
    streetcar – 120

    note: The WES figures are from TriMet staff and include 139 DMU standing and 146 trailer standing. The vehicles would have to undergo major cabin modification (i.e. FRA acceptable stanchions, grab bars, straps, etc.) to accommodate these numbers.

    The report does not break down passenger revenue in terms of originating fares collect by service, but ~$1.11 does not break even for any of them. Break even points in originating rides/hour would be:
    MAX – 289
    WES – 834
    bus – 90
    streetcar – 122 (if streetcar had TriMet fare structure)

    So, full MAX trains would have the best chance of coming out ahead and WES the worst. Since these figures are per vehicle hour, lines which have high turnover (i.e. people constantly getting on and off [circulators]) as well as very short runs (such as the Jackson Park section of line 8) would have a much better chance of breaking even than long commuter runs such as 90 series lines.

    One thing about WES: according to the Spring ridership report, the service seems to have a disproportionately high service hour to revenue hour ratio, which may be partially responsible for its abominable costs. Maybe they have to do a lot of jockeying between morning and afternoon commutes.

  77. EngineerScotty
    August 10, 2009 at 3:44 pm Link

    Thanks, Ron! (Where do you submit requests–just email the webmaster?)

    The two services whose break-even ridership levels is at or near their capacity are MAX, and the streetcar (again, ignoring its fare structure); obviously that assumes each ride is an originating ride and not a transfer. Bus service doesn’t even come close, and neither does WES.

    When computing costs for a mode, how are energy costs allocated? The reason I ask is that the operating cost/mile for MAX has gone up noticeably since the figures I had seen previously ($220 per mile is a figure I remember from a couple years ago). Where did the increase come from? My suspicion is that Tri-Met is amortizing its god-awful fuel hedge contract (which requires it to by diesel at above-market prices) across all modes, including electrified rail. I don’t think electricity prices have jumped that much in recent years, at least not compared to the price fluctuations of petroleum.

  78. R A Fontes
    August 10, 2009 at 5:09 pm Link

    Yeah, I went through the regular customer service people. They forwarded the requests to others in specialized (not p.r.) staff areas who actually emailed the reports.

    The June report had an included quarterly report section regarding energy use:

    bus – 37.5 passenger miles/gallon of diesel
    MAX – 2.8 passenger miles/kWh

    I couldn’t find any comparable data for WES.

    One conversion table gives 3,413 BTU/kWh and 138,690 Btu/gallon diesel. The very big problem in trying to compare the two is in finding the energy costs in delivery to the two types of transit. Electricity generation/transmission typically loses about 2/3rds of the energy consumed in production, but is very efficiently used in MAX. The energy costs for diesel can be much less, but as the report shows, it’s not nearly as efficient as MAX. Even so, a full bus beats an empty MAX train every time.

  79. Lenny Anderson
    August 11, 2009 at 8:51 am Link

    What complicates things even more at the Rose Quarter is the traffic lights for motor vehicles on Interstate & Multnomah…I’m told the most complex in the City. The original South/North proposal had a grade separation between trains and motor vehicles. Maybe that is the project that is needed to allow more trains.

  80. EngineerScotty
    August 11, 2009 at 9:15 am Link

    I still like the idea of putting a new full-fledged transit center in the area; including the present Tri-Met stop, as well as a relocated Amtrak facility and greyhound station. Reportedly, Amtrak wouldn’t mind at all not having to cross the Steel Bridge to reach their terminal.

    Use the present Union Station for an art gallery or museum or something else like that.

  81. Douglas K.
    August 11, 2009 at 9:55 am Link

    All we really need to do to eliminate the Steel Bridge bottleneck is to close the Steel Bridge to cars and put in two more LRT tracks. It would require some reconstruction work at each end, but picture this:

    Two north-south lines (call them Yellow and Orange), both serving Vancouver and running down the transit mall, with one traveling south to Milwaukie and the other down Barbur. They use the two northern tracks on the Steel Bridge. Each could have six-minute peak-hour headways.

    Three east-west lines (Red, Blue and Green) running along the Banfield and crossing the Steel Bridge on the two southern tracks, then continuing through downtown on Morrison. Green goes to Beaverton; Red to Willow Creek; Blue to Hillsboro. Put the Blue on six-minute headways, and the Red and Green lines could run every twelve minutes.

    The Steel Bridge bottleneck would vanish. The N/S and E/W lines wouldn’t cross. No need to worry about the Green Line having to move into north/south or east/west traffic. If there’s any bottleneck in the system, it would be at Gateway going westbound, where trains would occasionally stack up while trying to space out to one train along the Banfield every three minutes.

    I agree that there should be a combined Amtrak/Greyhound station at Rose Quarter, to take advantage of the fantastic level of Tri-Met bus and rail coverage there. As for re-using Union Station, it would make a great public market.

  82. R A Fontes
    August 11, 2009 at 10:06 am Link

    Wow!

  83. EngineerScotty
    August 11, 2009 at 10:18 am Link

    There might be a bottleneck as well near Pioneer Square, where the E/W and N/S lines actually cross.

    Of course, one of the westbound lines would turn south in Beaverton, and run down to Wilsonville. (And you left out Powell Boulevard).

  84. Den
    August 11, 2009 at 11:24 am Link

    if I have to give up beautiful old union station for some brutal steel and glass “modern” garbage I will be extremely saddened and disappointed. If it is built out of bricks and wood and up to 19th century standards of excellence, then I would agree to the move without strong reservations.

    On the other hand, I couldn’t agree more about closing the steel bridge to cars and adding more tracks.

  85. Dave H
    August 11, 2009 at 11:45 am Link

    On the other hand, I couldn’t agree more about closing the steel bridge to cars and adding more tracks.

    I’d be worried about the effect the extra traffic would have on NW Lovejoy and the Streetcar though. Burnside is a pain to drive on, so I’d guess that a lot of traffic would move north to the Broadway bridge to access the Pearl and NW.

  86. EngineerScotty
    August 11, 2009 at 12:09 pm Link

    Would it be feasible (from a traffic operations point of view) to have four sets of tracks across the Steel, but still permit autos to cross it?

    One problem is that Naito Parkway doesn’t have convenient access to either the Broadway or the Burnside bridges. I don’t know if the Naito-Steel Bridge-Interstate Ave traffic movement is that important any more, but the Steel services a purpose that isn’t well served by other bridges.

  87. Bob R.
    August 11, 2009 at 12:17 pm Link

    Burnside is a pain to drive on

    *cough* Couplet *cough*

  88. Nick theoldurbanist
    August 11, 2009 at 12:35 pm Link

    “According to Chapter 2 of the South Corridor FEIS, in the year 2025, with the Green Line and Mall alignment operational, 12 Blue, 4 Red, 6 Yellow, and 8 Green trains are proposed to operate in the peak hour. (See Attachment B). Therefore 30 trains will be operating westbound across the Steel Bridge in the pm peak hour, the maximum that this bridge can handle.”

    >>>> Tsk, tsk, Bob, you did it again: conveniently omitting facts that don’t suit your argument. Please note the following, ALSO in AORTA’s letter of 2006:

    “Today, the Rose Quarter interlocking is at its effective freeflow capacity. By building delays into the schedules to produce queuing at that junction, which will
    increase travel times, the capacity of the current configuration may be pushed somewhat higher.
    However, the 30 trains per hour envisioned for the year 2025 may come at the expense of significant
    delays, and are likely the practical limit.”

    You keep saying that Yellow can be scheduled for closer headways. Theoretically true, but at the expense of another service (like Blue), and/or with big delays. And why did you fail to mention AORTA’s statement about delays?
    After all, Mr. Howell was instrument in creation of the MAX monster, and should know better than anyone else about its functioning.

    I stand by my assertion that the best Yellow can do now is 15 minutes. 30 trains an hour is not practical.

  89. Nick theoldurbanist
    August 11, 2009 at 12:46 pm Link

    Anytime you get tired about discussing the Steel Bridge, we an always talk about how the #14 bus has had its downtown distribution trashed by the lastest Portland rail ‘progress.’

    One of the best bus lines, too.

  90. EngineerScotty
    August 11, 2009 at 12:51 pm Link

    I suspect that one reason Powell Boulevard is getting sized up for a LRT line is to reduce the need for services on the Blue and Green lines. A Powell Line is obviously something that won’t happen for Quite A Long Time, but some fraction of Blue trains coming in from Gresham could be assigned a new color, diverted south along the current Green, and then use the Powell corridor to get downtown. The Green line itself could then use the current I-205 tracks from CTC to Powell, the new alignment inbound, and end at Union Station.

    (A dumb question–is there any interchange capability between the Morrison/Yamhill tracks, and the 5th/6th tracks, at Pioneer Square? Could MAX trains make the corner if tracks were provided? If so, the Green might also be productively routed west into Beaverton).

  91. Bob R.
    August 11, 2009 at 12:58 pm Link

    Tsk, tsk, Bob, you did it again: conveniently omitting facts that don’t suit your argument.

    Gee, I guess I should have provided a link to the full letter, published right here on this web site. And I should have clearly labelled the excerpt I posted as an “excerpt”, so people would know it was not a quote of the full text.

    Oh wait, I did.

    Then there’s the pesky fact that the sentence, “However, the 30 trains per hour envisioned for the year 2025 may come at the expense of significant delays, and are likely the practical limit.” does not contradict my argument about _current_ capacity in _any_ way.

    Tsk tsk indeed.

    Oh, since you’re so inclined to toss around accusations of ignoring other people’s arguments, please see what I wrote about this very topic, in response to this very letter, in March 2006:

    My #1 concern about any expansion of MAX has been the Steel Bridge and the interlocking. I’ve brought it up at meeting after meeting (and in multiple comments on this blog), but Steel Bridge improvements or replacement never seem to be on the table.

    That was my full and complete comment, first comment in the thread.

    Now that you are aware of it, please do not omit or ignore it in the future. Thank you.

  92. Bob R.
    August 11, 2009 at 1:01 pm Link

    is there any interchange capability between the Morrison/Yamhill tracks

    There is no current interchange capability.

    Given the side of the street that the trains run on, it might be possible to make the turn from southbound on 6th to westbound on Morrison, or northbound on 5th to eastbound on Yamhill, for example, but it would be very, very tight, and the actual switch trackwork would be right in the middle of a platform stop, which may make the whole thing impossible given the height and proximity of platform edges.

    It would definitely be a question for engineers intimately associated with the project, not sure if one can tell at-a-glance.

  93. Bob R.
    August 11, 2009 at 1:03 pm Link

    Anytime you get tired about discussing the Steel Bridge, we an always talk about how the #14 bus has had its downtown distribution trashed by the lastest Portland rail ‘progress.’

    Although the decision to reroute the #14 was concurrent with the mall process, I’m not aware of a technical reason as to why #14 buses could not be operated on the mall today.

    (Here we come to the same issue: You seem to be blaming rail for other decisions you don’t agree with. The individual decisions may not be the right ones, but where is the evidence that they were made _because_ of rail?)

  94. JeffF
    August 11, 2009 at 1:11 pm Link

    Bob R. Says:

    is there any interchange capability between the Morrison/Yamhill tracks

    There is no current interchange capability.

    I think the most probable point of interchange is actually in the Rose Quarter, where it would be very simple.

  95. JeffF
    August 11, 2009 at 1:15 pm Link

    Bob R. Says: Burnside is a pain to drive on *cough* Couplet *cough*

    I can’t remember any discussion here about the eastside Burnside couplet, which is imminent.

    In re: Steel Bridge, it wasn’t that long ago that the Steel Bridge was closed to autos for weeks (or was it months?) and I don’t remember hearing much about any traffic problems as a result.

  96. EngineerScotty
    August 11, 2009 at 1:19 pm Link

    I’m wondering specifically about a train coming from PSU from the south to turn west and head to Beaverton, or vice versa.

    And Bob–don’t trains run NORTHBOUND on 6th and SOUTHBOUND on 5th? Having them run in the opposite diretion from the rest of the traffic would be kinda bizarre–and would give Nick something legit to complain about. :)

    Ah, well. Build the dang subway already. :)

  97. EngineerScotty
    August 11, 2009 at 1:26 pm Link

    To kibbitz on #14–mall capacity does seem to be an issue; and the presence of trains there, in that case, will displace some busses. (Subway!) This may well be aggravated by the fact that there is now a continuous auto lane, whereas prior to the rebuild, many blocks were bus-only. (Subway!)

  98. JeffF
    August 11, 2009 at 1:39 pm Link

    EngineerScotty Says: I’m wondering specifically about a train coming from PSU from the south to turn west and head to Beaverton, or vice versa.

    Same answer applies: Rose Quarter. The train would travel down to Union Station, across the bridge and into the pocket track, then reverse and switch to the Blue/Red line track. They just don’t do right-angle turns.

  99. EngineerScotty
    August 11, 2009 at 1:48 pm Link

    MAX comes pretty close when it turns from Yamhill north onto 1st. That said, given the traffic needs on the Mall, it probably wouldn’t work there.

    Subway. :)

  100. Bob R.
    August 11, 2009 at 1:48 pm Link

    don’t trains run NORTHBOUND on 6th and SOUTHBOUND on 5th?

    Not in my perfect little world that you people keep ruining. :-)

  101. Bob R.
    August 11, 2009 at 1:49 pm Link

    I can’t remember any discussion here about the eastside Burnside couplet, which is imminent.

    There’s been discussion in the past about the couplet as a whole, or the westside. The eastside portion has garnered far less controversy, and was split off as a separate project and given the go-ahead.

    Imminent is the correct term: I just received an email today about a groundbreaking ceremony tomorrow.

  102. EngineerScotty
    August 11, 2009 at 1:51 pm Link

    Its OK, Bob. Its part of the grand conspiracy to Europeanize Portland that the Transit Mall is laid out British-style.

    So when does the congestion zone go online? :)

  103. Bob R.
    August 11, 2009 at 1:53 pm Link

    MAX comes pretty close when it turns from Yamhill north onto 1st. That said, given the traffic needs on the Mall, it probably wouldn’t work there.

    In the past, I have proposed extending the Morrison/Yamhill couplet to a turning track and station in Waterfront Park.

    This would allow for additional westside service to downtown, without needing to use the Steel Bridge. This would increase westside capacity a tad (the downtown grid timing is still an upper-bound limit).

    You could either run Blue Line trains and just call them “City Center” runs, or if that is too confusing, use a new color. (Or, imagine another future westside spur route, such as on the WES alignment, which is a new color, merges with the current MAX system in Beaverton, and terminates downtown in Waterfront Park.)

    I think such a turning track would also make for a convenient staging area for special events, and as a place to link up with bus bridges in the event of bridge lifts or other interruptions, even if a new full-time route is not used.

  104. EngineerScotty
    August 11, 2009 at 1:57 pm Link

    The couplet will be an excellent idea.

    Now they just need to build the Couch Street Bridge, so we can have additional bike, pedestrian, and transit lanes across the Willamette. Make it a lift bridge (which can better support sturdier transit decks than a bascule bridge like the Burnside). Two lanes of auto traffic (westbound only), and two transit lanes for busses and rail, one in each direction.

    Convert the westbound lanes of the Burnside to full-time pedestrian and cyclist use, and station masseuses on each end of the bridge (licensed therapists, not the other sort) to give passing cyclists massages if they choose; funded by an increase in the gas tax.

    :)

  105. Bob R.
    August 11, 2009 at 2:12 pm Link

    to give passing cyclists massages if they choose;

    Obama’s “massage panels” will make it mandatory.

    OK, enough joking around (at least for me) for awhile.

  106. Bob R.
    August 11, 2009 at 2:13 pm Link

    In seriousness, although I support the full couplet, it would make a lot more sense with a Couch St. Bridge. I’ve wondered, though, if it wouldn’t be appropriate to at least visually replicate or honor the appearance of the Burnside… a tower-supported lift span might dominate the historic structure, given the proximity.

  107. JeffF
    August 11, 2009 at 2:14 pm Link

    Bob R.: Imminent is the correct term: I just received an email today about a groundbreaking ceremony tomorrow.

    Wow. The excitement builds!

    You know what excites me (seriously) about this project is the end of that horrible damn intersection at 12th/Sandy/Burnside. Yay!!!

  108. Ron Swaren
    August 11, 2009 at 2:17 pm Link

    I have a question on RA Fontes’ figures:
    When one calculates the costs for MAX rides, wouldn’t they be factoring in the costs of the Eastside and Westside MAX routes, WHEN THEY WERE BUILT? which doesn’t give you any indication of what those breakeven ridership figures would be, given the present and likely future construction costs.

    Sure the Gresham MAX was completed for $18 million per mile—which with present $2.30 ticket prices has a much more reasonable payback schedule than any of today’s planning, when costs are going towards 10X that figure. And I KNOW Tri Met is not going to go to $20 tickets!

    A pro-light rail person can cite all of the payback statistics they want—but if they are based on construction costs 20 or 30 years ago they are not going to show a reasonable projection for today’s costs.

    So when you say that the breakeven point in rides per hour is 834 for WES, yet only 289 for MAX, it will likely be much higher for any new MAX lines that will cost far more to build than the earlier routes. At least from projections they will cost far more. And I suppose that is why WES has a much higher breakeven point.

    Is the breakeven riders per hour number for all MAX lines, as a system? And is that the breakeven just for operating costs or for total cost? And how many hours a day do any of those lines carry that number of passengers? Also are they figuring the route operating as is, or for a full 24 hours per day? I know the MAX system carries probably a hechuva lot more people during commuting times as at other times.

  109. EngineerScotty
    August 11, 2009 at 2:35 pm Link

    I believe the costs are only operating costs–mainly payroll, fuel, maintenance, administrative, and depreciation.

    Capital costs–the purchase price of rolling stock, and the construction cost for rails, platforms, catenaries, and other physical infrastructure, isn’t included in the operating csts. This isn’t unreasonable (it’s standard accounting practice); furthermore, capital costs have access to funding sources (government grants, bonded debt) that cannot be used for operating costs.

    The operating costs probably DO include (and should if they don’t) depreciation–the lost in value of a capital asset over time. Busses generally last 15 years before they need replacement, rail vehicles double that. Fixed infrastructure generally has even longer depreciation schedules than does machinery–land doesn’t depreciate hardly at all. And the cost basis of the physical infrastructure might well be significantly less than the construction cost.

  110. EngineerScotty
    August 11, 2009 at 2:50 pm Link

    To further the above discussion, the “breakeven cost” doesn’t cover the issue of construction costs, at all–and isn’t intended to. Tri-Met doesn’t pay for its operational costs at the farebox, and isn’t likely to any time soon; let alone any construction costs. But it doesn’t matter; construction costs are not funded from Tri-Met’s operating budget.

    Tri-met gets operating money from several sources: a) fares, including purchase of passes; b) payroll taxes levied on employers within its service district; c) a special tax on businesses within Fareless Square, and d) advertising on busses and trains.

    The “breakeven point” concerns whether or not a vehicle or service actually generates money from operations (a and d above, primarily a, as d is a small drop in the bucket), or whether the cost to operate for that vehicle or service exceeds revenues generated.

    MAX trains, running fully loaded, can make Tri-Met money; assuming sufficient numbers of passengers did not transfer. Probably some rush-hour services are profitable, but MAX in the aggregate is not; as the trains run at times when they are nearly empty, and many users do transfer. No bus service is profitable at current fare levels.

    Should Tri-Met be required to be profitable? Probably not; as the service provides a public good, I have no problem with the fact that a small chunk of my salary goes to the agency. (Its a payroll tax, so it won’t show up on your paystub or W-2). But given that Tri-Met services require a subsidy to operate; this has the result that reduced tax revenues mean service cuts.

    Bes
    ides–when will taxpayers “break even” on construction of the Glenn Jackson bridge (or the rest of I-205), which cost hundreds of millions to build, and hasn’t collected a dime in tolls?

    The

  111. R A Fontes
    August 11, 2009 at 6:48 pm Link

    Scotty’s right: the costs involved are operational only.

    The costs for all services would be both higher and closer together if capital costs were included.

    The federal government’s assistance to local transit agencies (like highway construction) is biased towards capital costs. It makes sense for TriMet to go for relatively high capital/low operating cost (at least on a per ride basis) systems to take advantage of FTA programs. So TriMet’s numbers show relatively low costs per ride on MAX compared with bus.

    WES is an exception. Maybe TriMet is trying to put as positive a face as possible on WES to keep in good stead with the FTA for future projects. Let’s hope that they work out better than WES.

    I disagree with Scotty in that bus services can be profitable with the current fare structure – at least in theory and only concerning operational costs. It just requires high turnover or short runs. For example, the trip from downtown to OHSU on the 8 (Jackson Park) takes less than half an hour. Less than 45 people (i.e. seats full, five standees) would pass break-even.

  112. EngineerScotty
    August 11, 2009 at 8:47 pm Link

    Is depreciation included? (For those unfamiliar with the accounting, the cost to acquire an asset is typically not booked as an expense, but once acquired, the depreciation of its value over its useful life is booked as an expense).

  113. Jon
    August 11, 2009 at 8:57 pm Link

    “12 Blue, 4 Red, 6 Yellow, and 8 Green trains”
    sounds like this clearly shows the hierarchy of the 4 MAX lines. you could also see it during the big snowstorms last winter when the red and yellow went to bus and the blue stayed as rail.

    – douglas k.: i like very much your steel bridge proposal, appears to solve the steel bridge bottleneck problem very well.

    – i agree the new #14 routing downtown is terrible, it would be a lot better if the 14 at least ran a few blocks further west from its current sw broadway terminus to allow an easy transfer to the streetcar and preferably run all the way to goose hollow MAX. in fact if it did this i would consider it better than when it ran to union station as it would hit the MAX and streetcar lines and provide better service to a part of downtown that is underserved.

    – i know powell isnt even officially announced as a future HCT line but what are some speculative thoughts with this line? for some reason i had thought this was going to be BRT, how would LRT or BRT even really fit on powell boulevard? is an elevated alignment possible? where would we likely see stations other than the obvious 39th and 82nd?

    – engineer scotty: a couch street bridge would completely ruin two of the best cast irons left in portland, the blagen and bickel (u of o) blocks

    – the canada line in vancouver bc that opens in less than a week is supposed to break even or be profitable. it is automated so it has no operator labor costs for each train in service which i’m assuming plays a major part in its farebox recovery (combined with being a fast high volume line.

  114. R A Fontes
    August 11, 2009 at 9:03 pm Link

    The June report doesn’t specify whether depreciation is included in operating expenses. Anybody know a TriMet accountant?

Leave a Reply

By posting a comment, you are granting a license to Portland Transport for your comment. Please refer to The Rules.