Open Thread for July, 2010

Happy Independence Day, everyone!

54 responses to “Open Thread for July, 2010”

  1. Thank you, Mr. Richardson. I wish the same to you.

    Also, maybe a discussion on the hopes that Neil McFarlane (or however you spell it) lives up to his promise to improve bus service! I sure hope so!

  2. I think it is awesome that TriMet provides free service on holidays to mitigate congestion on holidays.

    I wonder out loud weather it would be a good PR move for TriMet to offer free transit service on a particular day, perhaps the foundation of Portland, in a large attempt to get people out of their cars and using public transportation.

    Could this be a move done in tandem with efforts by the Intertwine, the BTA, and the Active Transportation Partnership at Metro to get Portlanders moving? It could be a great annual event. – “Moving Day” anyone? :)

  3. Did anyone else see Dave Lister’s column in the Oregonian dead tree edition today? I was trying to find it online — no luck so far. It doesn’t appear to be posted on

    Basically, Lister was giving “advice” to Neil McFarlane on running a transit system, and showing his near-complete ignorance of the subject. For instance, he claimed that his “well-traveled” friends told him they’d never seen a rail system run on the honor system for fares. A minute or so of research on Google might have revealed to him that the “honor system” is common for rail transit all over the world. He also invoked the usual hysteria about crime and violence on MAX, as though it were a major problem rather than a few scattered incidents blown out of proportion by media sensationalism.

    Of course, Lister (or anyone) can spout off on any topic he wants, but I think it’s a little sad that the Oregonian wastes print space to spread the opinions of someone who is knows almost nothing about his subject. That’s what blogs are for.

  4. To me the most glaring issue is that transit shouldn’t be about development. Would he say the same thing about freeways? If so, we wouldn’t allow shopping centers near interchanges!

  5. Did anyone else see Dave Lister’s column in the Oregonian […] today?
    Yes, you also beat me to posting about it here. My initial thought after reading through the usual rant about fares and crime to get to the rest of the opinion piece was “finally, someone else gets it.”

    For those of you who liked my old “Green Meant Go (unless you rode 74 or 95)” graphic, I’ve had a new one up for a few days.

    And a third TriMet-related thing… something I just have to pass along–seems there’s a site that allows anyone to search public Facebook status updates. Although I will not vouch for what many are using the site for, searching for “TriMet” gives some interesting results:

  6. TriMet is having a joint press conference tomorrow regarding new hybrid bus purchases … I will attempt to capture this on video for PortlandTransport.

  7. Well, we don’t yet know the quantity or type of the buses (40′, artics?), the amount of money involved, etc… so we have to wait until tomorrow to determine an appropriate level of enthusiasm.

  8. There’s an official release online:

    I already curbed my initial enthusiasm when I remembered previous statements by TriMet officials that they were getting a few new buses throughout the next few years (something like 20 a year).

    Not to rain on anybody’s parade, but the truth of the matter is new buses could do one run of the 72 once, then be assigned to other routes, poof, it can still be said that the bus ran on line 72. The other is, what will this announcement mean for those who are stuck riding routes served practically exclusively by un-air-conditioned buses this summer?

    Hopefully, some TriMet and/or federal officials will take up Al’s offer to ride his 67.

    The good news: In the back of my head, I’ve had ideas for what I’d like to see happen over the next few months/years at TriMet. On a low level and small scale, this is along the lines of what I’d hoped for.

    Huh?! 72 is now the second-highest ridership line? That’s news to me. Anyone know what #1 is? 75? 14? 57?

  9. Route 4 – Division/Fessenden at 17,790 weekdays. The concatenated lines got a huge boost in the numbers when they were officially merged in May of last year. 9, 12, 20, & 75 are also over 10,000, but not much. 72 was the only one of these that was not concatenated before the change.

    Jason, what would your concern be about using the new buses elsewhere as long as they’re being used somewhere?

  10. How does TriMet allocate its busses, anyway–especially the “undesirable” ones? It’s frequently alleged that poorer neighborhoods get the crappy busses disproportionately (despite many of the routes through these neighborhoods having excellent ridership).

    I’m not aware of TriMet commenting either way on this–and a deliberate policy of discrimination based on socioeconomic status (especially if it can be shown to correlate with race or another protected class) seems a Stupid Idea. Were I Neal McFarlane, I would decree that any allocation scheme other than “randomly” would require a demonstrated technical justification. (Trying to impress “choice riders” not being such a justification).

    (TriMet seldom places Type 1 MAX trains on the Yellow or Green lines; and has a reason for doing so–the trains often switch designation at PSU, something which is big pain with the manually-operated signboards on the Type 1 trains. Whether or not that is a GOOD reason is another question…)

    TriMet makes of GPS data and such available. Does the data include anything that would allow a third party to determine what model a given bus at a given place is, and analyze, over time, the distribution of different models of bus over the system?

  11. One thought about the hybrid diesels is that they have a reputation of being most efficient on routes with the slowest speeds and highest stop density – like the Prius with better MPG ratings in town rather than on the highway. Maybe routes like the 14 & 15, among others would be better fits. The 72 isn’t bad, though; it’s not a 90-series express.

  12. I wrote:

    I have to admit, in my time as an avid bus rider and photographer; I’ve seen some great bus drivers. But if you put a gun to my head and ordered me to tell you my favorite, after calling you psychotic, I’d have to say part-time operator John Hively.

    He’s not just great to me, he’s great to everyone. He greets everyone with a smile and quick conversation, drives excellently, helps people find where they need to go and knows half of his riders by heart. Including me.

    If you asked me, John should have won best operator of the year for TriMet. And then maybe some national award or two. You see, John supported me in a career I hoped to pursue, writing. And he did it well, too.

    He would ask me to e-mail him manuscripts I had written. Most of the time, they were returned, read and marked with advice a couple weeks later. He’d also loan me books on writing, which I regret to say I still need to finish. He and I would have conversations about writing, friends, family and even if I was just having a bad day and needed someone to talk to. He also is supporting my writing by providing funding for the cost of a membership to the Young Willamette Writers.

    You see, I’ve heard a lot of bad press lately about bus drivers, and it changes our attitude towards them. My hope is that by writing this, you’ll think differently, more positive. Because this bus driver did more than help me love what I do. He changed my life.

    I got:

    Thanks for sharing your great story of John Hively and how much you like him as your operator! I’m not sure right now what we’re going to do with this story, but we would like you to know we will do something with it. We love to hear positive stories about our operators and what they mean to riders.

    What line do you ride/does John drive? How often do you see him? Tell me more about the writing/editing help he’s provided you. I’d like to contact John and talk with him further about how he’s helped you and learn more about his background, but wanted to start with you first.

    Thanks for sharing such a great story with us. I hope we can get some positive news out there about the operators that really make a difference.

    Bekki Witt

    So… that’s good, right?

  13. I think we can safely contain any enthusiasm for TriMet’s announcement later this morning.

    I like how the FTA release is brutally honest:
    Amount: $2,000,000
    Trimet will use the funds toward the planned purchase of 18 hybrid, low-floor, buses for its Frequent Service bus line.
    (Okay, so I added some emphasis.)

    Analysis I totally agree with but didn’t want to say myself on Punkrawker’s Blog:

    How does TriMet allocate its busses, anyway…
    I wasn’t trying to start a sociological perceived-policy gripe, and there are lots of routes that run through low-income and/or high-minority neighborhoods. I think there’s a problem with the fact that TriMet still runs any un-air-conditioned buses.

  14. The idea of US Treasury funds being used to pick up unrecoverable capital costs for hybrid upgrades seems like a reasonable one. Last word (a couple of years ago) was that hybrids added about $200,000 to bus cost and that operators could only expect to save about half that over the vehicle’s life. $2 million for 18 buses means about $111,000 per bus so TriMet should at least break even in the long term.

  15. Well, it wasn’t too long ago that some here were complaining that TriMet would hold well-publicized press events for everything rail, but seldom touted buses. Maybe this represents the start of a change in tone along those lines.

  16. Short answer on the hybrid buses:

    Four will be purchased with this money, and a local match will be required.

    At the press conference, I asked Neil McFarlane about retiring old buses, and he spoke briefly about their evaluation procedure for when to retire a bus, so I followed-up with “will this advance the timetable?” and received a “yes”. We’ll try and get more details in our upcoming interview.

    Video of the press conference will be posted soon.

  17. Scotty –

    The Sheriff brought that up at the TriMet board meeting. Another good question for the interview next week. Now that they’ve gone to the media with this assertion, maybe we can get a breakdown of those statistics — what kinds of crimes, what is the definition of “near” the max line, how much of it has to do with the fact that patrols in the area are due to TriMet’s contribution to hire officers and therefore more incidents are being uncovered, etc.

  18. How does TriMet allocate its busses, anyway–especially the “undesirable” ones? It’s frequently alleged that poorer neighborhoods get the crappy busses disproportionately (despite many of the routes through these neighborhoods having excellent ridership).

    Thats an absolute load of s—.

    The ancient crappy buses are run on the non-frequent service lines, aka the suburban lines. The buses that serve Washington County, West Hills, Lake Oswego and SW Portland are exclusively high floor 20 years old vehicles as are all the rush hour only lines.

  19. ““Let me ask you this then. Why is crime down in every other portion of the county yet it’s increased in this particular microcosm right there at the Town Center?” countered detective Jim Strovink with the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office.”

    If that is the logic, all he needs to do is talk to anyone familiar with crime report data. Reported crimes go up when there are more police in an area. Its not that there is more crime, just more gets caught and reported. This is especially true of drug use – one of the crimes mentioned in the story.

    That said, it would not be entirely unlikely that more people are coming to the area now that there is decent transit connections. I thought that was the point of getting MAX to Clackamas Town Center. More people means more business, but it also often means more crime. You can blame any increase in heart attacks on MAX too.

  20. I have contacted someone with the Clackamas County Sheriff’s office who has promised to get some stats to me, hopefully by Monday.

  21. I was up on NW 23rd yesterday and was surprised to see an old Routemaster double-decker on the street. Turns out it’s new to town: a couple of guys are setting up as a luxury touring service and just started up this month.

    So along with the Kell’s bus, we now have two double-deckers in town.

  22. Scotty, northbound you take regular 71 route to SE 54th/Lincoln, then left 54th, right Hawthorne, left 55th, right Taylor, left 60th and continue on regular route. Southbound you go the reverse. Light traffic, little on-street parking, similar travel time to regular route, short walk from bypassed stops on regular route. The section on 54th even had bus service on it until the mid 1980’s. Jason has a point. NIMBY prevailed here.

  23. Regarding WES problems tomorrow…

    Any rough estimates at what LRT (say, Red Line extension) would have cost between Beaverton and Tualatin in the WES corridor (I assume Wilsonville would be too far away/low density for LRT)?

    Any guesses on ridership?

    Any guesses on route, i.e. all P&W RR RoW? Run partly on Hall Blvd out of Beaverton? Flyovers to Washington Square or Kruse Way? Stations?

  24. This may be one issues where municipal government can help the transit agency: A law giving TriMet the right to drive its busses on any street it feels like (possibly barring those where it would be technically unwise to do so), whether the neighbors like it or not.

  25. Well, Milwaukie MAX is coming in at $1.4 billion (including debt service) for a 7 mile line, including a bridge across the Willamette, and larger-than-usual property acquisition costs (the cash price is closer to $900 million).

    Beaverton to Tualatin is give-or-take 10 miles. It wouldn’t need a fancy new bridge (it would need to span the Tualatin, but that’s a short span over a non-navigable river). It would probably be in the same ballpark.

    Right now TriMet plans to extend the Red Line further west to 185th or so; a Tualatin branch would probably be labelled as something else. Metro planning documents seem to indicate that increased WES service (15 minutes headways, all-day service) is the way to go for the Tualatin/Beaverton corridor; though how that will be paid for (or integrate with P&W freight operations) I’ve no idea.

  26. Al… do you know how little bus drivers get paid in Curitiba?

    While there are advantages to having a local dictator who likes busses (and can turn highways into busways at the stroke of a pen), that approach probably wouldn’t work in Portland.

  27. While there are advantages to having a local dictator who likes busses (and can turn highways into busways at the stroke of a pen), that approach probably wouldn’t work in Portland.

    Well we do have local bureaucrats who like creating bike lanes while other streets turn into “lakes,” as well as running bike lanes through perfectly good transit centers at great inconvenience to the thousands of transit riders using that transit center, so I can’t imagine that someone dictatorially turning streets into busways would be much different; it’s just using a different mode.

    And did I ever mention on here the weird dream I had about 4-5 years ago where the Robert Moses plan was built out in Portland… but as a system of interconnected elevated rail, not a freeway project?!

    In other news, another transit system took a realistic look at the present and future and is going to voters: (hint: it isn’t TriMet)

  28. Our local bureaucrats aren’t “dictators”, however; if you don’t like the additional bike infrastructure, there is an established procedure for opposing it.

    Myself, I consider both bikes and transit to be complementary modes, and both important. Do you think the region is supporting one and neglecting the other–and if so, what should the mix be? (And why? And if I may ask a leading question… are you concerned that bikes-vs-busses is a question of economic justice, and that subsidy of bikes represents a transfer of dollars from the poor to yuppies?)

    Regarding the Pierce Transit initiative–does TriMet have the authority to do the same thing?

  29. “Al… do you know how little bus drivers get paid in Curitiba?”

    Yea I know Scotty but for a third world country it probably aint that bad!
    But that wasn’t the point of the posting that, the point was illustrating a REAL TRANSIT SYSTEM!

    And furthermore my friend, I’d take a benevolent dictator any day of the week over a democracy of morons!

  30. “Our local bureaucrats aren’t “dictators”, however; if you don’t like the additional bike infrastructure, there is an established procedure for opposing it.”

    ~~~>I can think of plenty of people, some of them members of this blog, who would disagree with you.
    When you can get a majority to vote with you, you can become the dictator, which Sam Adams has nicely proven.
    Or a more extreme example, would be the southern legislators that openly opposed integration and had the majority behind them.

    We don’t live in a free country Scotty, you can’t be that deluded can you?

    A culture that worships consumerism should not be confused with a culture that believes in freedom.

    Everyone of us here is a prisoner in some way or the other to the almighty dollar and whoever it is that is signing our checks.

  31. When you can get a majority to vote with you, you can become the dictator.

    Again, I wouldn’t characterize Adams as a “dictator”. He’s acting within the scope of his authority, he was duly elected, and those concerned about his sex scandal had the opportunity to recall him, and failed to do so. I’m not a big fan of Sam either–he’s got all the annoying traits of Vera Katz without some of the advantages she brought to the office, and his tendency for self-aggrandizement rubs me the wrong way; but as far as we know, he’s not taking bribes, engaging in electoral fraud, intimidation, or any of the other hallmarks of big -city political machines elsewhere in the country.

    Simply because a politician renders a decision that you don’t like (and lack veto power over), doesn’t make him or her a “dictator”.

    I’m well aware of the influence of corporate dollars on our political system, and the resulting distortion that results. On the other hand, I find suggestions that “the government is illegitimate because the people are unfit for self-governance” to be extremely troublesome–such arguments are usually the hallmark of despots. And that’s true whether or not such arguments come from the right or the left. And the sort of populism that is strongest today–populism on the right–is not likely to be conducive to building the sort of society you like–the tea partiers despite their railings against Wall Street nonetheless embrace the same sort of policies (austerity, deflation, massive cuts to entitlements) that are presently causing so much suffereing in places like Greece, policies which benefit Wall Street banksters the most.

  32. Re: Pierce Transit

    Check out ORS 267.300 through 267.430. TriMet could levy an income tax (up to 1%), ad valorem (property) tax, etc. but not sales taxes. The agency is required to hold an election for all taxes except the payroll tax. In the latter case, the maximum rate (currently .8%) is set by the legislature and TriMet must apply the tax incrementally over a 10 year period. It’s currently about .68%.

  33. I’m talking about Sam Adams hijacking the sewer money for bike paths.

    If that is not acting like dictator then I don’t know what is.

  34. I figured you were talking about that.

    It’s within his authority to do so. As I’ve said before, the optics on that decision were terrible (it may be a technically sound decision, but unless you know a great deal of the underlying science–or trust the assertions of someone else who does–it looks like a shell game and an underhanded maneuver).

    The thing that astonishes me is that Portland hasn’t had a real competitive mayor’s race in a while–when was the last one, when Bud Clark took down Frank Ivancie? A populist candidate who wasn’t a nutter might do well.

  35. Al, the sewer money isn’t being used for “bike paths”.

    The sewer money is being used for bioswale (stormwater mitigation) projects. What Sam Adams did was priorities these projects to be done earlier on streets which are designated to be bikeways.

    This may have an impact on projects which ought to be done sooner, but it doesn’t add (as far as I know) new projects to the sewer/stormwater agenda and it isn’t exactly a dictatorial fiat.

    I will say that in my opinion Sam overly-extolled this to his detriment, and did not properly frame the issue initially. That allowed the media to run away with a “sewer money taken for bike lanes” mantra which was largely untrue.

    Was to whether you know what a dictator does or does not act like, I’ll leave that to future generations to infer. :-)

    – Bob

  36. Scotty –

    Yes, we need a well-organized, factually correct opposition.

    Democracy does best when there are real choices.

    I like Sam in a lot of ways and he’s done a number of great things for Portland, from his time as a staffer to the current era as mayor.

    But, on principle, nobody should have long-term power unopposed. But instead of focusing entirely on past infidelities (if that) and character (which are valid to an extent), we must also focus on policy and direction. And in this area our mayoral politics have been lacking of late.

  37. Does this have anything to do with the pedestrian/bike trail component, which may require a separate tunnel? Are there property acquisition costs that have suddenly cropped up? (The current ROW is narrow in stretches.)

    I’ll definitely want to be briefed on this at the next streetcar CAC meeting. (The main streetcar CAC gets occasional briefings on the LO proposal, but LO is managed by an entirely different committee which is under Metro rather than the City of Portland).

  38. a lot of money considering a trolley currently runs on the track. cant this be built barebones and more as an improvement of the existing willamette shore trolley?

  39. The current Trolley moves at about 10MPH, and as a heritage vehicle qualifies for all sorts of exemptions from numerous standards. Too slow for transit (I’m not talking average speed including stops, I’m talking about TOP speed). Acceptable for a dinner train, not for commuters trying to get to work.

  40. Bob –

    Metro hopes to have an update on the trail available “soon”. The latest informal word is that they’re looking at an alternative or two that would not require boring a new tunnel but would put at least parts of the trail alignment on 43. Kind of interesting since one of the premises underlying streetcar is that it’s not practical to widen on the highway.

    I asked specifically about acquisition costs for a WSL based trail and was told that they are still unknown and unprojected(?). It seems that Metro is shooting itself in the foot with super-high appraisals for the WSL ROW, making it potentially much more expensive to acquire additional ROW for double tracking streetcar as well as providing for trail.

  41. A trail can fit in a smaller space than an additional lane or two; that said, trails adjacent to highways aren’t the most pleasant things to use.

    And a trail using the highway to avoid tunneling–wouldn’t that require going over the top of the pass?

  42. At the bottom of this page:
    is a link to a two year old trail refinement PDF. The thinking at that time was for a 12 foot trail with two foot buffers on each side and all this to the east of a variable width shoulder. The conception shows motor vehicle lanes at 12 feet.

    The trail would have to accommodate cyclists and pedestrians going in two directions and at varying speeds. Given all the potential conflicts among the trail users, 12 feet doesn’t seem excessive, especially on grades. So that would be a lane, not even counting the buffers.

  43. My whole point is theres not a huge difference between what runs there now and what would run there after $400+ million has been spent. Yeah it would be a better roadbed and all shiny and new but its still a rail vehicle that carries passengers from LO to South Waterfront on a schedule.

    A smaller amount of money could be spent to improve the WST somewhat, but really all it needs are some runs in the morning and afternoon on weekdays year round and lower fares oriented to commuters, and you would have a low cost ‘transit’ option between LO and Portland. Its an easy transfer to the Portland Streetcar in the South Waterfront (especially when they start laying over again at Lowell).

  44. Just thought I’d chime in that there’s a post visible on Openbook (see a previous link I posted above) saying there’s a report in progress regarding fares. This is obviously the first I’ve heard of it.

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