Petitioning for Bus Service Restorations

OPAL (Organizing People, Activating Leaders) is running an online petition drive requesting that TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane prioritize discretionary funds toward restoration of bus service over other uses:

TriMet has cut 200,000 hours (over 15%) of transit service in the last two years. These cuts result in a heavier burden on the growing number of people who depend on public transportation. We experience longer wait times, overcrowding, and missed connections. Diminishing service is a barrier to accessing jobs, education, recreation, housing and health. We ask TriMet’s General Manager Neil McFarlane to adopt a policy to use all discretionary funds to restore transit service first, until all 200,000 hours are restored.

TriMet has declared that restoring frequent service is their top priority, when resources permit. The current TriMet position is that restoring cuts will take over 10 years – beyond 2020 – this is inadequate and unjust. We urge Neil McFarlane to support the transit dependent community by each year recommending a budget that directs all discretionary funds to restore transit service, guided by a transparent methodology that takes into account the needs of transit-dependent riders.

We appreciate TriMet’s new efforts to engage more meaningfully with environmental justice communities, including OPAL and our Bus Riders Unite community group. We are disappointed however in the lack of transparency and accountability measures. We urge TriMet’s GM McFarlane to use his authority to restore transit first.

75 Comments

75 Responses to Petitioning for Bus Service Restorations

  1. Joseph E
    August 3, 2011 at 11:22 pm Link

    Trimet needs to restore 15 minute headways to all of the “frequent” bus routes. 17 minute headways are insane; they make it almost impossible to remember the schedule. And 20 minutes between buses is NOT frequent.

    Jarrett, at Human Transit, wrote about the problems with 17 minute headways:
    http://www.humantransit.org/2009/11/portland-counting-by-17.html

  2. Ron Swaren
    August 4, 2011 at 7:55 am Link

    Many of my neighbors and I petitioned Tri-Met to CUT their late night service, which runs down our residential street. Now the latest bus is 11:00 pm. They could cut it to 10:00 pm, IMO.

    Until Tri Met is able to solve their noise pollution problems (Electric buses, such as the lighter weight stainless steel bus, designed during the Bush administration, anyone?
    http://portlandtransport.com/archives/2009/04/bus_of_the_futu.html) I think many sleepless Portland residents would welcome a reduction of late night service, especially on little used routes.

  3. EngineerScotty
    August 4, 2011 at 9:22 am Link

    Really, Ron?

    I live near the intersection of two bus lines. I do hear the busses going down the street all the time, but they are FAR from the noisiest thing on the road. There are many trucks, hot rods, motorbikes, and other vehicles which are far noisier–not to mention the occasional wild party.

    To single out busses seems strange.

  4. Chris I
    August 4, 2011 at 9:30 am Link

    Ron,

    Do you petition your neighbor with the lifted F350 diesel to not drive after 10pm as well? Or the Civic driving teen down the street?

  5. Aaron G
    August 4, 2011 at 9:39 am Link

    And I thought the only thing keeping TriMet from running later at/all night was money. Never considered there are people that have fought against later service period.

    I really hate sleeping at a customer’s site and waiting for the morning buses after I’ve worked too late on something.

  6. Ron Swaren
    August 4, 2011 at 10:23 am Link

    “To single out busses seems strange.”

    Unfortunately, there isn’t a representational board for:
    1. 1 AM bar hoppers, between the Acropolis, Sellwood Inn and Black Cat, with noisy exhausts or motorcycles.
    2. Neighborhood delivery trucks that use our street at all hours because it is wide.
    3. People who don’t care if their exhaust system is functioning properly and noise is within legal limits.

    The Ti-Met board was easy to go to. And actually PDOT has said they are considering some restrictions on this street since it is currently the neighborhood link for the Springwater Trail. If I want to bring up something with Tri Met that affects my neighborhood, I think that’s my business. There should be some fair turnabout for putting up with their noisy bus all day from 6am to 11 pm.

    Now, do you care to speak to the issue of noise pollution in general?

  7. R A Fontes
    August 4, 2011 at 7:49 pm Link

    Has anyone noticed that, if everything goes according to plan and in the 10 years that it’s supposed to take to get Frequent Service back to where it was three years ago, our transit network will add:
    1. Eastside streetcar loop
    2. Milwaukie MLR, and
    3. Lake Oswego streetcar extension?

    Which of those is fulfilling such an incredible need that it’s worth the degradation in service that we’re now enjoying?

  8. jim karlock
    August 4, 2011 at 9:16 pm Link

    How about all that Trimet money going into financing light rail?

    Maybe that should have been used to keep up bus service for needy people, instead of building LRT in a vain attempt to attract yuppies out of their BMWs.

    Thanks
    JK

  9. EngineerScotty
    August 4, 2011 at 9:53 pm Link

    Ain’t too many BMW-driving yuppies down in Milwaukie, last I checked.

  10. Bob R.
    August 4, 2011 at 10:09 pm Link

    Fortunately light rail is about far more than just BMW owners and yuppies. (What does the libertarian perspective have against marketing to BMW-owners and yuppies, among others, anyway? If you’re going to have discretionary public services, why not make them appealing to multiple markets?)

  11. Ron Swaren
    August 4, 2011 at 10:43 pm Link

    “Ain’t too many BMW-driving yuppies down in Milwaukie, last I checked.”

    Very true. Except when you get along the river side all the way down to Gladstone, or east of town along Kellogg Creek. And then there’s alot of plain ol’ everyday folks who like to drive more expensive cars, too.

  12. jim karlock
    August 4, 2011 at 11:19 pm Link

    Bob R. Says: Fortunately light rail is about far more than just BMW owners and yuppies.
    JK: LRT is partly an attempt to attract more upper income people. “Choice riders.”

    Bob R. Says: What does the libertarian perspective have against marketing to BMW-owners and yuppies, among others, anyway?
    JK: Nothing. UNLESS it is marketing 80% taxpayer subsidized service to well off people.

    Bob R. Says: If you’re going to have discretionary public services, why not make them appealing to multiple markets?
    JK: Please justify taxpayer subsidized transportation for the NON needy? Especially one that is much more expensive than driving and wastes energy compared to the latest new car standards which will mostly convert the car fleet years before the in-effecint LRT trains wear out and MIGHT be replaced with something more efficient.

    Thanks
    JK

  13. Bob R.
    August 4, 2011 at 11:33 pm Link

    Ahh, here we go with another bus-vs-rail debate.

    A group rightfully brings up the point that bus service needs to be improved, and someone inevitably tries to put haves-and-have-nots against each other by pulling out the “yuppie” card. Inverse class warfare?

    Please justify taxpayer subsidized transportation for the NON needy?

    Tip 1: If it serves everyone, including the needy, the more the merrier. The more riders, the less subsidy required. The more “choice” riders (i.e., those who might choose to take an automobile without the alternative), the fewer cars on the roads in the way of all those other BMW-driving yuppies.

    Tip 2: Roads are also subsidized, and yuppies also drive on them.

    Especially one that is much more expensive than driving and wastes energy compared to the latest new car standards

    The “latest new car standards” don’t apply to the entire fleet and will take years to phase in. (And electric rail transit is more efficient than buses). But if you’re asking me if I’d like to see subsidies and regulations (like those that go to energy-efficient cars) to improve transit efficiency, yes, I’m all for improving transit energy efficiency.

    years before the in-effecint LRT trains wear out

    “Inefficient”

    Yes, LRT trains do last a very long time, far longer than buses, that’s one of their advantages.

    Outfit the substations with energy storage solutions to augment regenerative braking, and the existing trains will be even more efficient. Add solar and wind energy inputs, even better.

    (Electric cars are wonderful and will eventually make up a larger portion of the automotive fleet, but it will take quite a long time to supplant internal combustion, about as long as the lifespan of an LRT vehicle.)

  14. Bob R.
    August 4, 2011 at 11:38 pm Link

    “Except when you get along the river side all the way down to Gladstone”

    Hey now, I grew up down there. (River Forest Rd. in Oak Grove).

    We had a Granada. (That’s a Ford for you young folk.)

    I was just down in that area Tuesday and Wednesday. Didn’t see any BMWs. Plenty of pickups, including an aging Volkswagen diesel that put out a cloud larger than 100 TriMet buses on a bad day, and plenty of vehicles which I’m willing to bet represented a typical cross section of manufacturers as seen around our entire metro area. (Excluding the executive parking row at Nike, of course.)

    Now can we get back to the merits of OPAL’s complaint?

  15. zefwagner
    August 5, 2011 at 12:05 am Link

    One thing to keep in mind in the MAX/streetcar vs bus debate is that MAX and the Streetcar have benefited from federal money that is generally not available for bus service. So at least a portion of that money could only go to rail (or maybe Bus Rapid Transit). It seems pretty clear that the era of high federal spending on transportation is coming to an end, and will not return for quite some time. This may result in a renewed focus on bus service as a more locally-affordable solution.

    Secondly, there is a difference between capital costs and operating costs. It is often easier to sell the public on paying taxes for a big capital project than for simply operating the system. This is because it is more tangible and exciting, and also because there is a perception that transit riders should “pay their way” in higher fares (which doesn’t really work). This bias also favors rail, which has higher capital costs but lower operating costs. This is a case of managing public perception. Trimet needs to really get out there with a funding package and system redesign that gets people excited about a really functional bus system. Make the frequent network frequent again! Fix the gaps in the grid! Wider stop spacing, signal priority, and queue jumps to boost speed and reliability! Present a package of improvements in addition to just boosting service hours, and really sell the thing.

    MAX makes people mad because it costs a lot while serving a relatively small population, whereas the bus system serves a lot more people and could serve even more. If MAX worked better as a transit spine with bus feeders, that would be one thing, but building in the highway makes that almost impossible. Any bus route ends up being faster than connecting to MAX. If more people could live near MAX, that would also make it more useful to more people. Again, highway right-of-way is a curse. The Yellow and new Orange lines might at least do better in that sense.

    You see the same problem with BART in the bay area of California. It is similar to MAX except it at least gets much higher speeds due to total grade separation. It still is mostly good only for traveling long distances between suburbs and cities. So naturally the in-city people resent the money that goes to BART, just as Portland residents understandably wish the bus system got more money. Trimet has done a whole lot to help suburban commuters, but is dropping the ball on intra-city mobility.

  16. Ron Swaren
    August 5, 2011 at 6:16 am Link

    (And electric rail transit is more efficient than buses).

    As pointed out to you, there are a lot of other downsides to a transit vehicle than operating cost alone.
    Some cities have done pretty well with their light rail systems. As I pointed out a few weeks ago, Ottawa, Ca put one in for $5 million per mile.
    But you could buy a whole fleet of buses for just one mile of new MAX track.

    One thing to keep in mind in the MAX/streetcar vs bus debate is that MAX and the Streetcar have benefited from federal money that is generally not available for bus service.

    In fact Everett, WA got their entire fleet of 100-passenger express buses for about the cost of three blocks of a new Portland MAX line. Which was 90 percent paid for by federal and state grants. And they change the routes as need be during the day, to improve the efficiency. Will a MAX train do that?

    The hybrid Volvo buses that London is implementing also have an advantage in reducing noise pollution, since they operate electrically at lower speeds (Now 12 mph, hopefully they will improve that). A bus can be repowered with a non-polluting power plant when they are available, which they will be.

    Oh well, maybe I should just tune out this blog for five years. By then you will be wrestling with extending MAX to Oregon City and will have formed new citizens committees, expended hours upon hours debating the subject, held numerous public meetings and spent taxpayer money on informational materials.

    Or you could just extend the bus line to Oregon City.

  17. Bob R.
    August 5, 2011 at 8:39 am Link

    As I pointed out a few weeks ago, Ottawa, Ca put one in for $5 million per mile.

    A few weeks ago you were referring to the Ottawa O-Tran, which is not light rail at all. It’s much more like WES. The original low-cost line you’re referring to was only 5 miles and had 3 vehicles.

    By comparison, WES, which replaced much of the existing rail, cost $11.3 million per mile.

    It should be noted that over the years, proposals to expand the O-Tran starter line to a longer route and change to electrified trams (light rail, subway portions) have been as high as $780 million to $1bn.

    Ottawa isn’t doing some kind of secret low-cost light rail development that TriMet is somehow keeping from us.

    In fact Everett, WA got their entire fleet of 100-passenger express buses for about the cost of three blocks of a new Portland MAX line.

    Express buses are a completely different type of service, serving a different customer base than either local bus, BRT, or LRT. Each has a role to play.

    That’s what’s so disappointing about these bus vs. rail debates — wild comparisons are made that aren’t apples-to-apples.

    In any case, I don’t think you’re referring to express buses for Everett, I think you’re referring to “Swift BRT”. It cost $29 million to implement, but they were able to take advantage of 7 miles of transit-only lanes, and reconfigure local streets to eliminate most cars from right lanes in the business district (except when accessing driveways and right-turns).

    Portland doesn’t have a network of transit only lanes on highways, so you’d have to include the costs of upgrades in any similar Portland-area BRT project.

    Looking at Milwaukie light rail, for example, if you changed the project to BRT, you’d still have the property acquisition costs along 17th and the cost of the new bridge. (The new bridge isn’t just for rail, it will serve existing bus routes too.)

    I’m not sure where you get the idea that $29M is the cost of “3 blocks of a new Portland MAX line”. The most recent comparison, the downtown segment of the Green Line, which rebuilt the entire Transit Mall and then some, including new facilities for buses as well, the addition of a through lane for private vehicles, new parking and loading zone bays, sidewalk rehabilitation, new traffic lights and signage, cost about $68M per “track mile” including all street work — along all the blocks of mall and the additional blocks connecting to the Steel Bridge.

    3 Portland blocks, including roads, are about 700ft. 700ft is .133 miles. At $68million/mile, that works out to $9M, not $29M.

    It’s great to look to other cities for inspiration and for methods of cost containment. But let’s not confuse types of service when making declarations about Portland’s LRT lines, and let’s not ignore the costs of other existing infrastructure required by those systems in other cities.

    Oh well, maybe I should just tune out this blog for five years. By then you will be wrestling with …

    … the continued existence of apples-to-oranges comparisons. :-)

  18. EngineerScotty
    August 5, 2011 at 9:40 am Link

    It should be noted that “this blog” doesn’t form committees of any sort. Some of the folks here (like Chris) serve on various boards and commissions, and others (like yours truly) cast stones from outside the glass house; but Portland Transport isn’t affiliated with any of the local agencies responsible for transport or land-use planning.

  19. AL M
    August 5, 2011 at 12:35 pm Link

    If you listen closely to his holiness’s COMMENTS what you plainly hear is 1% increase per year for 10 years.

    That means he will restore 10% of the previous service in 10 years.

    10% is not 100%

    ERGO; There is absolutely no plan to increase any bus service, except during the commute hours.

    This agency has made a decision, long before the “great recession”(sic) to change its mission from an exemplary bus service which reached all over the district to a rail network which operates basically during work day hours.

    We on the west side (aka “Trimet’s forgotten and abused”) were seeing bus service cut back year after year after year, before the banks starting strangling the population.

    All the while this agency continues employing “luxury” bureaucrats such as ‘safety directors’, ‘cultural competency directors’, ‘diversity directors’,and underwriting construction projects costing billions of dollars.

    The bus service is truly in shambles, its just they have done a wonderful job hiding that fact.
    The buses are really falling apart, its a major problem.

    Trimet is operating for the benefit of the developers, its obvious. It’s no long truly a transit district, it just pretends to be. They wont upgrade the fare system (but they will employ fascist tactics to enforce the unenforceable), they have put bus replacement on the very last spot in its priorities, morale is at an all time low, riders are getting stranded more and more, its sad, I see it and hear about it.

    I have loads of respect for OPAL and what they are trying to do. But they have about as much effect on the outcomes as I do, which is Z-E-R-O!

    And they advocate for a powerless population. These people may have cell phones, but they don’t have I-Phones, nor do they have high speed internet at home, they might not even have a computer, they are so busy working they have no chance of getting involved in the process.
    They are invisible, except for people that are working with them. And all they have is OPAL and it’s dedicated small band of activists trying to turn Goliath around.

    It ain’t gonna happen, but at least they are trying.

    “Try and fail, but don’t fail to try.”

  20. Bob R.
    August 5, 2011 at 12:51 pm Link

    I tried to listen to Neil’s comments in the linked video but it kept getting interrupted by text commentary.

    In any case, I took Neil’s comments to mean that bus service hours would be increased by about 1% per year. Not as in 1% of 100% of cuts restored, but as in 1% growth over current service each year, which makes a lot more sense.

    And Safety Directors aren’t a “luxury”.

    The bus service is truly in shambles, its just they have done a wonderful job hiding that fact. The buses are really falling apart, its a major problem.

    So well-hidden by TriMet, in fact, that you can find the bus purchase authorization on TriMet’s Web Site (PDF). Oops, they’d better take that down.

  21. AL M
    August 5, 2011 at 1:07 pm Link

    And Safety Directors aren’t a “luxury”.

    I say it is! They already have plenty of people in the training department!
    Futhermore, I completely disagree that our culture is unsafe!
    One person f***ed up big time in 42 years and all of a sudden we have a defective safety culture. WRONG!

    So well-hidden by TriMet, in fact, that you can find the bus purchase authorization

    Better late than never Bob!

  22. zefwagner
    August 5, 2011 at 1:12 pm Link

    It seems like Portland needs an advocacy group for transit that is not a low-income group like OPAL or a radical leftist group like the so-called Transit Rider’s Union. Portland needs a group that represents middle-class moderates who just want more transportation choices. Washington has a great statewide organization based in Seattle called Transportation Choices Coalition that does just that. Seattle also has the Seattle Transit Blog, which is a lot like this blog but is also a registered non-profit with an editorial board. They make endorsements and engage in some advocacy. Maybe Portland Transport could evolve into that kind of organization.

  23. AL M
    August 5, 2011 at 1:14 pm Link

    Maybe Portland Transport could evolve into that kind of organization.

    Nope, these guys are big time streetcar fanatics.

  24. Bob R.
    August 5, 2011 at 1:36 pm Link

    PortlandTransport is organized as a nonprofit, but perhaps the organization of a purely transit advocacy organization is best left to a different entity. Then we can cover it and argue about it. :-)

  25. Bob R.
    August 5, 2011 at 1:37 pm Link

    Nope, these guys are big time streetcar fanatics.

    Don’t forget “freeloading pedal pushers” and “car haters”.

  26. AL M
    August 5, 2011 at 2:26 pm Link

    Don’t forget “freeloading pedal pushers” and “car haters”.

    Your words not mine Bob.
    You guys clearly are a “streetcar lobby” are you not?

    That’s your right, and your lobby is highly effective.

    I don’t need to remind you that the streetcars are duplicating already existing services, which of course are the bus.

    But bus service is not “sexy” so won’t attract “development”, hence the streetcar concept. And its a concept that has taken hold around the country.

    But to my eyes, and the eyes of organizations like OPAL, this is an elitist hijacking of scarce transit resources that should be used for people that need transit not people that need condo’s.

    Put me on the Opal side of the argument.

  27. Bob R.
    August 5, 2011 at 3:05 pm Link

    Your words not mine Bob.

    Not my words either. Those are the words of various critics who either don’t like the blend of ideas that are represented here (or misinterpret them), or think that the various bloggers here represent some kind of lock-step chorus. “Fanatic” fits easily with those.

    You guys clearly are a “streetcar lobby” are you not?

    Streetcar supportive, yes. But I’ll bet you that projects that Chris thinks are a good idea are different from my view, and different from Scotty’s view. I’m pretty sure there different from Dave H., who is not formally a Portland Transport member but has helped on several video projects. A “lobby”, well, I’ll leave that to your opinion. It’s not an opinion I share.

    I’m on the Streetcar CAC, but as I’ve publicly stated, I believe the CAC’s role is to be community advocates and give input on operations and projects, not as boosters. Scotty isn’t involved in any streetcar-related groups. Chris serves on the Portland Streetcar board, he can speak about his own role.

    But you’re operating under the false perception that to be “pro streetcar” is to be “anti-bus”.

    You may recall that I spent over a year trying to either save the original transit mall bus shelters, or to have the new ones provide equal space, amenities and protection from the elements. Does that make me “Bus Shelter Lobby” too?

    What about the winning video I produced for the American Public Transport Associations “Dump the Pump” challenge? It was filmed in St. Johns, nowhere near MAX or streetcars, and featured TriMet buses in the background. Seems “pro-bus” to me. But probably perceived by some as “anti-car”.

    And I’ll remind you that this thread started because Scotty did a post highlighting what OPAL is doing.

    Sheesh.

  28. EngineerScotty
    August 5, 2011 at 3:18 pm Link

    Actually, this post was written by Chris, not by me.

  29. Bob R.
    August 5, 2011 at 3:28 pm Link

    Even better.

  30. Ron Swaren
    August 5, 2011 at 3:54 pm Link

    Bob,
    Community Transit (Everett WA) has quoted 23 million as the cost of the double tall service. Swift is another, probably overlapping, CT bus service.

    They travel on I-5. That makes them express.

    Your $68 million per mile doesn’t square with Tri-Mets projections of future lines. But you could be right and Tri Met wrong. I don’t have a prejudice either way; I’m just examining the numbers. And if you are going to subtract the cost of the new bridge, subtract most of that in figuring the length of the route. You can’t figure the downtown mall in the length, either. So it’s 1.2 billion then, divided by about 6.7 mi (I didn’t know they were going as far as Park Av). For future routes one could also factor in the economists’ equation of predictable overruns if you want to get technical. So whose figure is closer?

    True, some type of lane designation is an added cost. So are scores of other factors. Neither you nor I have time to figure all of those. However, I will try to follow the Community Transit plan and have already asked them for figures. Maybe it will be a FAILURE in the long run. It’s just a hypothesis at this point. Hopefully I am not the only person thinking of it.

    Whatever the “customer base” in Everett is may be an apple compared to Portland’s orange. Still their system is worthy of consideration and other cities have implemented similar services.

    If you ever saw photos or videos of the O-line it looks a lot more like light rail than like WES.

    Those are the words of various critics who either don’t like the blend of ideas that are represented here (or misinterpret them), or think that the various bloggers here represent some kind of lock-step chorus. “Fanatic” fits easily with those.

    Some of those critics have blasted apart certain premises organic to the local mass transit vision. I think you are presuming too much.

  31. Bob R.
    August 5, 2011 at 5:48 pm Link

    Your $68 million per mile doesn’t square with Tri-Mets projections of future lines.

    It squares perfectly with actual money spent on an actual project, and is the most appropriate because you used “blocks” as a unit, and that was what it cost to put light rail in along urban blocks. I provided a link.

    If you ever saw photos or videos of the O-line it looks a lot more like light rail than like WES.

    I saw the photos. It looks like a stretched WES. Diesel unit on heavy rail tracks. Nice red color. My assessment stands.

    I think you are presuming too much.

    What a lovely double-standard you’re proposing there. Someone gets to use the “fanatic” label, and when I push back, I’m being presumptuous.

    So now I’m an anti-bus, streetcar fanatic, lobbyist (“bike lobby” and “streetcar lobby”) and I’m also presumptuous. Terrific. What next? I’ll throw Gay Mafia in there just for seasoning.

  32. Bob R.
    August 5, 2011 at 6:01 pm Link

    “Elitist”. I forgot to include “Elitist”. Hardly forgivable for someone of my breeding and stature.

  33. ryan
    August 5, 2011 at 7:18 pm Link

    As a poor person who is transit dependent I would like to say that OPAL does not speak for me. I like the streetcars, they should be used when there is enough demand to warrant the increased capacity. Also when it makes sense when comparing short-run to long-run costs.

    Don’t see why it has to be either-or. Use each as appropriate…

  34. Erik H.
    August 5, 2011 at 8:54 pm Link

    Ron Swaren: Some cities have done pretty well with their light rail systems. As I pointed out a few weeks ago, Ottawa, Ca put one in for $5 million per mile.

    Bob R.: A few weeks ago you were referring to the Ottawa O-Tran, which is not light rail at all. It’s much more like WES. The original low-cost line you’re referring to was only 5 miles and had 3 vehicles.

    Ron Swaren: I saw the photos. It looks like a stretched WES. Diesel unit on heavy rail tracks. Nice red color. My assessment stands.

    The Ottawa O-Train is often described as “Diesel Light Rail”, along with the NJ Transit’s “River Line”, North County Transit District’s “Sprinter”, and a line under construction in Denver.

    They share characteristics of both light rail AND commuter rail lines, but typically their route and stations are more like a light rail line than a commuter rail line.

    The Ottawa O-Train uses a vehicle known as the Bombardier Talent, which is used in a number of countries and best known as the Deutsche Bahn class 643 and class 644. DB uses the Talent trainsets in medium-distance local/commuter trains outside of S-Bahn operations.

    The NCTD (north of San Diego) Sprinter, which I have personally ridden, uses a competing vehicle known as the Siemens Desiro. The Desiro is also used by numerous national railroad systems and is DB’s Class 642. The two vehicles are quite similar in appearance and function.

    NJ Transit’s River Line uses a vehicle built by Stadler which looks much more like a Siemens S70 LRV; except that the center articulation unit houses the diesel engine and generator rather than additional seating.

    NCTD, like light rail, has stations about every mile or so apart and typically operates within a suburban environment (in fact it does not even go to San Diego; one must transfer at Oceanside to a Coaster commuter rail train to go south to San Diego; or a Metrolink commuter rail train to go north to Los Angeles, or an Amtrak Pacific Surfliner train.) Most stops have frequent bus connections and the Oceanside station also has connections with Greyhound and OCTA buses in addition to the variety of rail services.

    Unlike light rail, these trains are on the national rail network and thus share tracks with freight trains (as does WES). However, because these European spec DMUs do not meet the FRA crashworthiness standard, they must operate with an FRA waiver and typically require time-of-day separation with freight trains. (Ottawa’s O-Train, of course, is in Canada and not subject to FRA regulation but is subject to Transport Canada regulation whose rail regulations are very similar to the FRA. That said, Transport Canada also allowed the O-Train to operate with a single Operator as opposed to an Engineer and Conductor required in the U.S.)

    Like light rail, these European spec DMUs also use the same coupling system used by most light rail systems (including MAX) and thus cannot be coupled to a conventional North American train. Also like light rail they tend to operate with full-day, frequent schedules (i.e. every 15, 20, 30 minutes).

    WES…well, WES is very much in a category of its own. It calls itself “commuter rail” but does a poor job at the conventional definition of commuter rail which connects suburbs to a central city – usually at a main train station. It operates bi-directionally unlike most commuter rail systems, uses DMUs in a single-car configuration unlike most commuter rail systems, and with the exception of Wilsonville travels within an greatly developed suburban area that makes it more like light rail. WES also uses an American spec vehicle, but functionally speaking there is little difference between a Colorado Railcar DMU and a Siemens Desiro or a Bombardier Talent. They all exist to transport passengers in a short-to-medium distance (for public transit) role of between 10 and 50 miles.

  35. Erik H.
    August 5, 2011 at 8:58 pm Link

    So well-hidden by TriMet, in fact, that you can find the bus purchase authorization on TriMet’s Web Site (PDF). Oops, they’d better take that down.

    The purchase of the new buses does not absolve the fact that the current state of TriMet’s bus fleet is hardly acceptable of a transit system of its stature and size; further the appropriation for new buses is too little, too late: half of TriMet’s buses are beyond the 12 year mark for federal funding eligibility (at 80-90% federal funding). It is inexplicable as to why TriMet refuses to obtain what is probably the easiest federal grant funding known to man to have a modern bus system that attracts and grows ridership.

    For the record, the 2000 series New Flyer D40LFs and 2100 series Gillig Phantoms were purchased and delivered in 1997. That makes those buses 11 years old – TriMet should have a replacement lined up for delivery next year. We’ll be lucky if we can manage to replace the 1400s that were delivered in 1990 – while maintaining the 1600s delivered in the same year, as well as the 1700s, 1800s and 1900s delivered between 1992 and 1995.

  36. Erik H.
    August 5, 2011 at 9:05 pm Link

    One thing to keep in mind in the MAX/streetcar vs bus debate is that MAX and the Streetcar have benefited from federal money that is generally not available for bus service. So at least a portion of that money could only go to rail (or maybe Bus Rapid Transit).

    Unfortunately that is simply not true.

    The Federal Transit Administration routinely funds replacement buses once a transit bus is 12 years of age. The federal funding for a new bus is typically 80 to 90% of the full cost.

    Seattle’s King County Metro got a sweetheart deal a few years ago, purchasing 260 New Flyer DE60LF diesel-electric hybrid, articulated buses – the feds not only covered the 90% of the cost of a regular diesel bus, but 100% of the cost difference between the diesel and the hybrid model.

    Why TriMet refuses to seek out and obtain this federal funding for bus replacements is downright absurd and baffling. The hybrid bus technology is well accepted by transit districts all across North American and Europe – while New York and Seattle are national leaders in the deployment of hybrid buses that have lower operating and maintenance costs (less fuel consumption, less wear-and-tear, and a longer life) – TriMet, for some reason, eschews the technology claiming it can get the same benefit by using a “mini-hybrid”, “NASCAR-inspired” electric fan grid.

    For some reason, I’m apt to believe the dozens of transit agencies buying the actual hybrid buses, versus TriMet (and not many others) who buy these electric fans to put on only a small portion of the fleet. And frankly I have to question whether these fans do more harm than good – as it seems only TriMet has problems with overheated buses when it is warmer than 75 degrees outside while other transit agencies, using the same identical New Flyer D40LF, in much hotter ambient temperatures, don’t have the same overheating problems that sideline buses left and right.

  37. Erik H.
    August 5, 2011 at 9:21 pm Link

    Ron Swaren: In fact Everett, WA got their entire fleet of 100-passenger express buses for about the cost of three blocks of a new Portland MAX line.

    Bob R.: Express buses are a completely different type of service, serving a different customer base than either local bus, BRT, or LRT. Each has a role to play. That’s what’s so disappointing about these bus vs. rail debates — wild comparisons are made that aren’t apples-to-apples.

    Actually this question is quite relevant and unfortunately one individual who seems to despise the “bus versus rail debate” yet can only respond in an angry fashion continues to fuel this unnecessary fire.

    The fact is that 100 buses were purchased, as Ron S. said, for “about the cost of three blocks of light rail”. These 100 buses are standard Alexander Dennis Enviro500 double-deck buses.

    The same bus, mind you, that is used by Transport for London. You know, that big capital city of the United Kingdom?

    True. Community Transit uses them primarily as express buses between Everett and Seattle. Just as Community Transit uses New Flyer D60LFs as express buses; but King County Metro uses those same D60LFs as local buses, as LTD uses the DE60LF for both local service as well as for its EmX bus rapid transit system. King County Metro uses Gillig Phantoms in express service as does C-Tran; while TriMet uses the exact same bus in local service.

    We aren’t talking about putting a MCI G4500 (a long-haul motorcoach used by Greyhound) on the 9-Powell bus. We’re talking about a public transit spec bus. The only real difference is that “commuter coaches” typically have a different seat specification, and might replace the overhead light and ad-card fixture with luggage racks, possibly with reading lights (not unlike an Amtrak train or an aircraft). That’s it. The rest of the bus – the body, frame, engine – is identical.

    A typical New Flyer D40LF, or a Gillig Low Floor bus, is about $425,000 these days. Remember – the feds will pick up 80 to 90 percent of that cost. If TriMet got its act together and replaced its 250 oldest buses, it would have a total price tag of $106,250,000. TriMet would locally pay about $21,250,000 (and that money would almost certainly come from Metro and the State of Oregon.) That investment, albeit good for about 12-15 years (the lifespan of the bus) would provide adequate, reliable service for anyone in the TriMet service district from Forest Grove to Troutdale and from Sauvie Island to Clackamas Community College. Sure, no developers would benefit, and politicans wouldn’t really have a good photo opportunity, but for the folks that need and use public transit, or that want to use public transit – such would be a welcome investment compared to the fleet of ancient, scrapyard worthy vehicles that are part of North America’s least reliable, least fuel efficient, most polluting, and oldest bus fleet of any major North American transit agency.

    That said…buses have another benefit that TriMet fails to take advantage of – right-sizing the vehicle. Not every route needs a 40 foot bus (here’s looking at you, 84-Kelso/Boring). King County Metro has done a great job of buying a wide range of vehicles from small cutaway buses and vans, up to 60 foot articulated buses. They even have a small fleet of 30 foot Gillig Phantoms that are only 96 inches wide rather than the common 102 inch wide vehicle making them more suitable for neighborhood routes. The Daimler/Mercedes/Freightliner Sprinter has proven to be an excellent platform for light transit use – not to mention incredibly fuel efficient, getting over three times the fuel economy as a larger transit bus. That makes a huge difference on routes whose peak ridership might only be 20 or 25 riders. TriMet’s only use of the Sprinter has been as a MAX maintenance van.

    Light rail absolutely has its purpose and place. So does commuter rail, heavy rail, subway…but so does the lowly, workhorse, old standby bus. It’s sad that certain individuals, when it comes to actually talking about buses, resorts to angry attacks complaining about the debate – rather than actually presenting a rational discussion in how to improve transit for everyone. Portland has had its spotlight on rail investment. It’s time that the bus system gets its fair share of investment – it’s long overdue, badly needed, and TriMet owes it to its citizenship as to why TriMet simply refuses to invest in the bus system. We had an opportunity to invest in the bus system by using stimulus funds to build bus stops, bus shelters and sidewalks – that would improve neighborhoods and put all sorts of people back to work. Instead, we spent the money on garages, roofs, air conditioning systems, and cross-government subsidies. We have bike-and-ride facilities that have been failures, while bus riders continue to stand on the side of a busy road with no safe place to stand to wait for their bus; the bus stop lacks any meaningful bus information; shelters are lacking at seven out of eight bus stops (Transport for London has installed bus shelters at 50% of their bus stops.) Why is it so difficult to have a rational, meaningful discussion as to why our bus system is not a world class system and why we can’t simply invest it in?

  38. Bob R.
    August 5, 2011 at 10:44 pm Link

    yet can only respond in an angry fashion continues to fuel this unnecessary fire.

    It’s customary to respond in an angry fashion when one’s personal integrity is assailed rather than having a discussion based on the facts.

    The fact is that 100 buses were purchased, as Ron S. said, for “about the cost of three blocks of light rail”.

    No, that’s not the fact.

    The same bus, mind you, that is used by Transport for London. You know, that big capital city of the United Kingdom?

    Yes, I do know, because right here at Portland Transit, just in the past couple of months, we had an entire article and discussion thread dedicated to bus technologies.

    But since we’re all “streetcar fanatics”, obviously this was a conspiratorial ruse to deflect attention from our true evil nature.

    Light rail absolutely has its purpose and place. So does commuter rail, heavy rail, subway…but so does the lowly, workhorse, old standby bus.

    Nobody here has ever, ever said otherwise.

    Why is it so difficult to have a rational, meaningful discussion

    I don’t know. You were doing pretty well in your first 3 out of 4 comments today.

    Strangely, this reminds me of the time when another regular commenter suggested that we had an agenda against TriMet and were trying to paint TriMet in a negative light regarding safety and buses.

    Just can’t catch a break with some people.

  39. zefwagner
    August 5, 2011 at 10:58 pm Link

    I heartily agree with all the comments about the need for newer and better buses! I knew that the feds helped pay for new buses, but I was unaware to what extent and assumed Trimet was taking advantage of that. If they are pursuing capital funds for rail but not for buses, that is a clear case of mode bias over rational planning. A rail system can’t function well without an equally functional bus system.

    I too am baffled by the absence of hybrid or electric buses in Trimet’s fleet. The hybrid 60′ buses in Seattle are a pleasure to ride in, don’t pollute nearly as much, and of course saves on fuel costs (which I gather has been an issue for Trimet). The electric trolleys are even better. Sure, they are more essential in Seattle due to the hills, but Vancouver, BC, is pretty flat and they have a great trolleybus network. Overall Trimet’s bus fleet is pretty embarrassing when compared to a lot of North American cities.

    I don’t agree with the lame charges that the streetcars are somehow sucking bus money away. Portland has one measly streetcar, with an extension on the way. Very little in the way of bus operations could be funded with that amount of money. Streetcar also do in fact promote more development than a similar bus line. Maybe that shouldn’t be the case, but it is. If the extension can bring Pearl-district-level development to the area just east of the river, that would be worth the cost. Portland needs density close to downtown and the close-in SE is the best place for it.

    I would be very wary of any further streetcar extensions on established corridors like Belmont or Hawthorne, however. Those bus lines need to be made very frequent and densities need to increase–then if capacity is an issue or if development is lagging, that would be the time to build a streetcar.

    It seems clear that MAX and WES are more responsible for taking away funds that could go to bus modernization. As far as operations go, Trimet will probably never care all that much about the bus system until the board is elected directly or made up of elected members. Metro could use its authority to take over Trimet, or use Sound Transit’s system where the board is mostly comprised of city mayors and councilmembers throughout the region.

  40. zefwagner
    August 5, 2011 at 11:08 pm Link

    By the way, I just moved to Portland from Seattle and I am fascinated by the way the transit systems contrast! Overall I have to say Portland is not measuring up to its reputation as a top transit city. The amount of rail is impressive, but the functionality is not. The “grid” design of the bus system is impressive, but again, the functionality is lacking. This leads me to the conclusion that Portland has great potential for transit, but has a long way to go. It is our job to argue about and push for better practices, not to argue about modes all the time!

    This blog clearly favors multiple modes–the question is that of appropriate modes to various corridors, and balance between those corridors. The question of whether Milwaukie Light Rail is taking money that could go to bus service throughout the city is not really about bus vs. rail–it is about whether we should spend a lot of money on one corridor between Milwaukie and downtown, or spend money on small improvements throughout Portland itself.

    It occurs to me that Trimet could use some subarea equity. Although it has been problematic and controversial in the Seattle area, it does at least guarantee that each part of the taxing districts gets new service from each funding package.

  41. Ron Swaren
    August 6, 2011 at 1:33 pm Link

    I rode the Portland Streetcar from OHSU to the Central Library about six weeks ago. Slower than molasses. So I don’t know why anything else could not compete with it, even a horse drawn carriage like we used to have. Bring back the horse drawn trolleys!!

    I agree with increasing transit ridership (so there, Bob R.) but we could observe what other cities are doing, and perhaps there are other ways. I think people are actually pretty reasonable and I doubt that it would take huge incentives to see them opt for public transit.

    The capacity of the Everett Double Talls is 100, but they bought (using only $2.2 million local money) 23 such buses. And I will hold off on any ringing endorsement until we see what the success of that endeavor is. In METRO’s draft proposal for new MAX lines, a lot of the proposed routes have already been tabled, but I don’t see why a express bus that can serve a suburban community and then get on a freeway to Portland would not work well. Examples: Troutdale/Fairview, Tualatin/Sherwood, Vancouver, Wilsonville, Tigard. I don’t think METRO is going to pursue the S. perimeter route with MAX, and not the Powell Bv, route either. How about express buses?

  42. Chris I
    August 6, 2011 at 2:12 pm Link

    Ron,

    The main difference between Seattle and Portland when it comes to express busses, is the fact that they have HOV lanes on every major freeway. This allows express busses to be fairly competitive with light and commuter rail. We only have one short stretch of freeway with HOV lanes, in one direction.

    Express services in our area will just be stuck in traffic with everyone else. Personally, I think that all of the freeways in our area need to have HOV lanes, but I don’t see that happening any time soon.

  43. Ron Swaren
    August 6, 2011 at 2:34 pm Link

    If that’s the main difference it shouldn’t cost too much to change. And it would only need to be done on some atretches. The fact that our N. bound 1-5 hov lane runs all the way to the state border is only coincidental. Other people here have mentioned boarding times as a factor. There are a lot of variables; I’m just tossing out ideas.

    However, this thread is about restoring cuts in services. We submiited 12 letters to the Tri Met board asking them to cut only three runs out of the entire day on the bus running on our street which had virtually no one on board at late hours. Tri Met was looking for cuts to make. It took a year, but Done Deal.

    While I believe that Portlanders are generally supportive of mass transit, there are a lot of finer points such as cost effectiveness, number of riders v cost of service, and in our case whether we wanted disturbed sleep and actual, costly health problems that go with it. The bus was going by less than twenty feet in front of some recently built townhouses. And it is really the low pitched drone afterward that is most difficult. Now this is where an electric bus could help.

    FYI, The US National Laboratories and agencies like NASA (in aerospace) have been plodding ahead with cost-effective research, no matter who is in office. Why scrap their research and go for broke with multi billion dollar solutions when ones for a few million exist?

    There are a lot of smaller Oregon communities where electric buses could get cheap power. And putting in a atreetcar line would cost ten times as much as an adequate bus service. Not to even get into what Portland style light rail would cost. That’s true in Washington and BC, too. The Oregon Coast has plenty of wind potential, as do places like Fargo North Dakota. The SW has solar potential. Even though the technology to make these energy sources cost effective isn’t available right now it’s coming. And hybrid buses are already in use, elsewhere.

    Is Portland a leader or not? I guess not.

  44. al m
    August 6, 2011 at 9:52 pm Link

    Portland has had its spotlight on rail investment. It’s time that the bus system gets its fair share of investment – it’s long overdue, badly needed, and TriMet owes it to its citizenship as to why TriMet simply refuses to invest in the bus system.

    Couldn’t have said it better myself Bob!

  45. zefwagner
    August 6, 2011 at 9:54 pm Link

    Portland certainly is not a leader in bus technology. Electric trolleybuses and hybrid-electric buses may cost more upfront, but they use mostly clean NW electricity, produced by local utilities, rather than diesel fuel with all the environmental destruction and air pollution that comes with it. Not to mention the noise issue!

  46. Erik H.
    August 6, 2011 at 10:12 pm Link

    I don’t agree with the lame charges that the streetcars are somehow sucking bus money away.

    It seems clear that MAX and WES are more responsible for taking away funds that could go to bus modernization.

    At the end of the day, we have a nice little organization called Metro that somehow gets a superpower to decide how much of our regional transportation dollars get spent. They decide major projects and how federal funds should be distributed.

    Routinely and repeatedly, Metro refuses to allocate funds for bus projects. Bus stop improvements? Nope. New buses? No. New bus routes? Forget it.

    But, mention the word “rail” and Metro salivates like a lion eyeballing a herd of lesser animals ready for a good hearty dinner to last a few days. Streetcar? Absolutely. Light rail? Why not? WES? Let’s do it.

    The result is that folks in towns like Troutdale, Forest Grove, Cornelius, Tualatin, Sherwood, Tigard, Oregon City, Gladstone and West Linn, who share this pot of money, are forced to get little to nothing while much of the funds go to a select few projects. The Streetcar is hardly an “regional” project – it serves downtown Portland. That’s it.

    The #12 bus, in comparison, serves two counties (Multnomah and Washington) and nine cities (Sherwood, Tualatin, King City, Tigard, Portland, Fairview, Wood Village, Troutdale and Gresham – and you could even argue that Maywood Park benefits from the #12 line as well.) For a single bus line, that’s more communities served than the entire MAX, Streetcar and WES system – combined! (Albeit, MAX and WES serve Clackamas County, but barely – two MAX Green Line stations and less than two route miles; one WES station and 1.7 route miles.)

    The investment spent on the Streetcar absolutely had a direct impact on regional funding that could have been spent on new replacement buses or even new bus routes, but instead the focus was on a streetcar line to benefit the developers – thus the term “Developer-Oriented Transit”. Nevermind that the entire Streetcar service area is already well served by buses; and in fact a circulator bus route could have been implemented – even using an electric bus (which has been done in several cities and college campuses). There’s tram-way systems in Europe and in particular France that use rubber-tire tram vehicles, and one city in fact uses a tram that is virtually identical to the Disneyland Parking Lot tram (yet is used as a public transit vehicle, not a theme park “attraction”.) Unfortunately for those of us dependent upon the bus system here in Portland, the powers-that-be decided to put all the eggs in the basket of the Streetcar, and since then we’ve had nothing but erratic bus improvements. One of Fred Hansen’s goals when coming onboard as the GM of TriMet was to even out the bus capital replacement project – instead of purchasing 100 or 200 buses at a time (which is a financial strain), to order smaller lots of buses each year. That actually made a lot of sense.

    However, with increasing funding demands for light rail (in particular the Red and Yellow Lines) and the Streetcar – there wasn’t enough money to go around, and buses got the axe. When the money is back – TriMet kept going with its love affair with rail – the Green Line and WES, and buses again took a back seat; as did several additional Streetcar extensions. TriMet is now embarking on a new MAX line and is heavily involved in yet another Streetcar line…yet, TriMet is failing to replace its entire fleet of buses over 12 years of age (which is any bus numbered in the 1400 through 1900 series, and the 2000 and 2100 series are 11 years of age and should have vehicles on order for replacement within the next one or two years.) TriMet needs to replace 300 buses, yet will only replace about 50 of them.

  47. zefwagner
    August 6, 2011 at 11:34 pm Link

    I would agree with pretty much everything you say–there does seem to be a pretty intense mode bias on the part of Metro and Trimet. However, your dismissal of “Development-Oriented Transit” as something that only benefits developers? Wrong! More density near downtown benefits all the people who will move into those buildings, it benefits the whole city by building up instead of out, and it redevelops decaying parts of the city.

    Development-Oriented Transit is what all the original streetcar lines (later replaced by buses) were about. Back then developers actually built the streetcars themselves as a way to lure people to live there. If the streetcar was an integral piece of the Pearl District coming into existence, it was worth it. Maybe a high-quality bus would have had the same effect, but somehow I doubt it.

    MAX is different. It mainly serves suburban commuters using park and rides, thus it may actually encourage more sprawl. It also, as you say, takes resources from long-haul bus routes that could serve a wider swath of suburbia. Your attitude that MAX and the streetcar are somehow the same just because they are both rail is just another form of mode bias. They serve completely different functions. It seems to me that the streetcar has had a profoundly positive effect, while MAX is a lot more mixed. I would like to see some money go towards streetcars or high-quality bus service with a focus on future development, but also fund existing lines serving existing demand. That would be a balanced approach. What you advocate would only serve existing demand.

  48. Erik H.
    August 6, 2011 at 11:59 pm Link

    However, your dismissal of “Development-Oriented Transit” as something that only benefits developers? Wrong! More density near downtown benefits all the people who will move into those buildings, it benefits the whole city by building up instead of out

    But how does it benefit existing residents who live in existing homes?

    It doesn’t. It reallocates service from existing areas to newly developing, central areas. So it benefits new residents – at the same time, disbenefits existing transit users.

    I would like to see some money go towards streetcars or high-quality bus service with a focus on future development, but also fund existing lines serving existing demand. That would be a balanced approach. What you advocate would only serve existing demand.

    In an ideal world, we’d have a lot of things. Unfortunately we don’t live in an ideal world. I don’t favor benefiting developers over citizens. Developers don’t vote and pay taxes, citizens do. And I do not favor government saying “Let’s benefit non-existing, but potential citizens, over existing, taxpaying citizens.” I don’t have an obligation or need to subsidize a newcomer to town. It may be selfish but my taxes are paid because I benefit from the services. Not to subscribe to a Ponzi scheme where my taxes pay off someone else…and I end up the loser.

    Downtown may have benefitted from the Streetcar – fine. But I fail to see why I am the one paying for it in terms of financial as well as loss of service, while downtown Portland developers have been beneficiaries of various tax breaks and incentives, further increasing my tax burden. Surely if downtown Portland benefits – downtown Portland can use that increased property tax value to create their own streetcar system, while leaving unscathed the regional bus system that I have come to depend upon. I simply cannot afford to live in downtown Portland and thus must live where I can afford to do so; I am not going to sacrifice my personal livability by living in a tiny, cramped studio while trying to raise a family, and send my older son to a school several miles away (as opposed to 250 feet away from our house right now) and pay twice as much for day care for my younger daughter as I pay now (yes, I’ve looked downtown because I work downtown). It is not too much to ask for decent transit options from the suburbs – three out of four Metro residents live in the suburbs, and the ongoing “Portland versus Suburbs” debate is just as old and tiring as the “Bus versus Rail” debate. The suburbs aren’t going away so why not just accept it and provide decent transit – including decent bus service? A downtown resident can surely be asked to walk several blocks in lieu of another streetcar line – after all, I walk 1900 feet from my front door to my bus stop, or the equivalent of nine and a half Portland city blocks. Where’s my Streetcar?

  49. Chris I
    August 7, 2011 at 9:17 am Link

    Eric,

    You can have your streetcar, you just need to move. Don’t fault Metro and Trimet for your commuting options. You chose to live in a car-centric community. I was able to purchase a house within walking distance to the I-84 max corridor, and 6 bus lines, for around $200k. The trade-off? It’s a small, two bedroom house. I could have gone for a 4 bedroom in the suburbs for that much, but I wanted access to transit and bike facilities. I don’t complain to the city about the size or age of my house, or the taxes in Portland, because it was necessary to get the transit access I wanted. We all make decisions, you need to live with yours.

  50. EngineerScotty
    August 7, 2011 at 10:00 am Link

    An interesting question, of course, is what level of service TriMet should provide to the suburbs–and how. For instance, the city of Tualatin, other than the core are (a square roughly from the WES stop at the NW corner, to Meridian Park in the SE), is quite low-density, and difficult to serve well. TriMet could provide more regular bus service on thoroughfares like Boones Ferry or Borland (any service at all on the latter would be an improvement), but the population of the catchment area along those streets (the number of people living within reasonable walking distance of the line) is quite small. Tualatin has neither high density nor high concentrations of the poor; the two factors which best drive ridership–so any service outside the core of Tualatin is, pretty much be definition, social service transit. (Of course, through service to Wilsonville or West Linn might use these streets, but that’s another matter).

    Nor is it constructive to complain about suburban tax dollars being used to subsidize urban transit. The opposite occurs when it comes to highway construction, after all–and in balance, suburbia probably comes out ahead.

    WRT the Disney parking lot trams–are you referring to those centipede-like things with the cramped open-air bench seats? Those vehicles, at least as configured at Disneyland, don’t strike me as suitable for general public transit; the Disney trams are a good solution for moving large volumes of people between two points, but not so much for multi-stop lines.

  51. ws
    August 7, 2011 at 10:36 am Link

    Someone in the burbs cannot truly complain about having to walk far for a bus stop, but they do have a good point about bus services that are being cut left and right and the prioritization of TriMet’s dollar.

  52. zefwagner
    August 7, 2011 at 11:45 am Link

    I completely disagree with the idea that we should only do what benefits existing residents and do nothing for future residents. After all, existing residents get to vote–future residents do not. They are a disenfranchised group, essentially, so it’s government’s job to act in their stead. Planners need to take into account current resident’s concerns, but also need to imagine what will benefit people in the future. We can’t just respond to and reinforce existing suburban settlement patters, we also have to get more people into the urban core. Ultimately, I’m a lot more concerned about the people who would love to live in central Portland but can’t, than about people who already are fortunate enough to be here. And I certainly don’t have much sympathy for people who choose to live in low-density suburbia but still expect frequent bus service! The math just doesn’t work, sorry.

  53. al m
    August 7, 2011 at 1:05 pm Link

    I think working within the “existing” framework is valid.
    All this “for the future” is nothing but speculation, and this speculation costs the existing.

    Furthermore, and Scott has brought this up in other posts, TRIMET has this HUGE unfunded liability problem. Yet the expansion of TRIMET continues unfettered, with no end in sight apparently.

    I think it reasonable to point out that to continue to expand a bankrupt government agency is a recipe for disaster.

    And if the worst case scenario does indeed arrive, and with the Republican control of the federal government, its not a far fetched theory,
    the very existence of Trimet is at stake.

    Nobody is against rail, but what we are against is decimating the existing for the speculative future only because the money is available today to build rail.

    Trimet has no business building one more damn thing until it can restore what it has cut.

    It has no business hiring high priced bureaucrats to go around to meetings.

    Portland was supposed to be different in transit
    philosophy.

    The rail fixation is nuts given the size of this city and the fact that it is costing precious bus service. It’s a well known fact that the bus service is the most important part of transit to the poor and working class. It’s been cut and cut and cut.

    There is absolutely no transit equity in this service area even though they pretend they are so wonderful here.

  54. zefwagner
    August 7, 2011 at 1:48 pm Link

    I agree, but I still don’t understand how the streetcar is lumped in with MAX here! The Streetcar uses some Trimet money but is mostly a combination of state, federal, and LID money that would not go toward bus service anyway. The amount of local money is paltry compared to MAX. Is the streetcar really an “expansion” of Trimet, or just a reallocation of resources? If there was no downtown streetcar, a bus would probably end up running that route, correct? And the eastside streetcar will replace the number 6 bus. Streetcars have lower operating costs than buses, so I fail to see how they are “taking” resources from the bus system.

    I completely agree that bus service needs to be restored and enhanced, and that light rail expansions should be put on hold until that happens. The streetcar uses different funding sources, including funds raised by the developers themselves and from the rise in property tax. Drawing more people to live in the inner city actually makes transit more efficient as well since more people are closer to where they work and more people live near a bus stop.

  55. R A Fontes
    August 7, 2011 at 2:52 pm Link

    While the lion’s share of the original streetcar segment capital costs were covered by Portland parking bonds, a LID, and URA tax increment financing, newer extensions tend more to use financing that would be available to TriMet projects. For example, about half of the Eastside Loop capital costs are from FTA funds, and planners are hoping for 60% for the Lake Oswego extension.

    The rub comes with operating costs. TriMet paid about 3/5ths of fiscal ’10 streetcar ops, or about $3.2 million. The final shoe hasn’t dropped on the Eastside loop, but last I read, the minimum will be another $1 million annually. TriMet is plannng over $3 million for the LO extension, but not before FY ’19. Each million pays for more than 10,000 hours of bus ops, and that’s before farebox revenue which becomes a fractional multiplier, providing even more service.

    The current streetcar service doesn’t have quite the same multiplier effect because its riders contribute less than 10% of ops. The Eastside Loop may change the ratios, but we’ll have to wait. Most of it will be outside of the FRZ, but it might take a while for ridership to develop enough to bring farebox revenue closer to the TriMet average.

    BTW, it costs roughly half again as much to operate a streetcar as a bus. So it’s only more economical to run when there’s more than a full busload on board. When you get a situation like the proposed LO extension where it’s so much slower than the bus it would replace, you need more than two busloads on board streetcar to make economic sense.

  56. zefwagner
    August 7, 2011 at 4:12 pm Link

    Thank you for the details. You are assuming the FTA would have provided the same funding for bus purchases…I’m not sure that’s the case. Anyway, I would say the eastside loop is worth it if it attracts a lot of redevelopment in the area just east of the river, currently mostly cars and warehouses. That could be another great, dense neighborhood, and could even have some employment centers to act as an extension of downtown.

    The Lake Oswego streetcar seems like a terrible idea. Serving a small commuter population in an area that is relatively isolated, with nothing much in between? Sounds like a job for express buses, not a streetcar. Just because the ROW is available doesn’t mean this is a good use of funds. That project should either be cancelled, or operations should be funded by Lake Oswego either directly or through very high fares.

    Where are you getting your operating costs? How can that be true? They each use one driver, but the streetcar uses electricity rather than gas, and the streetcar will last much longer than a bus. I would guess wear and tear is less as well. Everything I’ve read suggests streetcar are always cheaper to operate. In any case, I’ve never seen the Portland Streetcar less than packed with people–it seems to do just fine attracting ridership.

  57. AL M
    August 7, 2011 at 4:42 pm Link

    We have to start getting creative when it comes to transportation and its infrastructure.

    One place that does it right is HONG KONG

  58. AL M
    August 7, 2011 at 5:04 pm Link

    And I have no idea how the streetcar loop is supposed to REPLACE the route 6 bus.

    Route 6 covers much more territory than the streetcar will.

    It’s not going to replace anything, just another duplication, like the NW Streetcar does.

  59. zefwagner
    August 7, 2011 at 8:59 pm Link

    It obviously would replace the entire part of the 6 that is downtown and on the eastside up to Broadway. Some new route would cover the northern part and would probably continue south by a different route. Maybe it could finally fix the 30-block gap in north-south routes in the inner SE?

  60. zefwagner
    August 7, 2011 at 9:00 pm Link

    It obviously would replace the entire part of the 6 that is downtown and on the eastside up to Broadway. Some new route would cover the northern part and would probably continue south by a different route. Maybe it could finally fix the 30-block gap in north-south routes in the inner SE?

  61. R A Fontes
    August 7, 2011 at 9:47 pm Link

    A couple of years ago, PSI told me that their operating cost was $135 per hour. At the time, TriMet’s bus was about $90.

    I don’t have a breakdown of either PSI’s or TriMet’s ops costs, but streetcars weigh almost 32 tons, more than twice as much as a 40′ bus. They can carry more than 13 tons, again more than twice as much as buses. Their costs should include track and signal maintenance which are not concerns in bus ops.

    FWIW, TriMet monthly ops report has current data for bus, MAX, & WES. Disregarding the last as a unique species, MAX ops costs tend to run roughly 2 1/2+ to 1 compared with bus. Both just have one operator. The latest report (June ’11) has MAX at $286.89 per hour and bus at $99.05, or almost 3 to 1. Given streetcar’s weight and capacity, it makes sense that its ops costs be between bus and MAX.

  62. Reza
    August 8, 2011 at 12:04 pm Link

    The 6 is likely to be supplanted by the streetcar south of Broadway, and instead will take an alternative route (most likely the Steel Bridge) to serve the 5th/6th transit mall. While this would be a benefit to MLK commuters who have a quicker commute to downtown, people who catch the bus along Columbia/Jefferson will lose this service unless TriMet implements other changes to make up for the loss of the 6. In the CEID, those who want to commute to downtown will have to catch one of the east-west bus routes.

  63. zefwagner
    August 8, 2011 at 1:54 pm Link

    I’m not sure what the benefit is of Columbia/Jefferson anyway. First of all, several commuter routes will still operate on that corridor. Anyone living in Goose Hollow is close enough to downtown and MAX to walk anyway. Another option would be to run the 14 down that corridor (the 14’s short turnaround downtown always seems weird to me).

    Your last sentence is kind of weird. People in the CEID could take a bus straight across, but given frequencies, bridge congestion, etc, it will make more sense to take the streetcar (assuming it is extended across the new transit bridge). Sure, it is farther in terms of distance, but for anyone in the CEID going to PSU, for example, it would be better than taking the 14 or the 15.

  64. Aaron G
    August 8, 2011 at 2:42 pm Link

    Well, I’d miss the 6 going down Columbia/Jefferson, it’s only a block away from me compared to a slightly longer walk to 5th/6th, but the change wouldn’t be so terrible. But for someone out in Goose Hollow, it’d be a real loss. As long as my quick one-seat ride to MLK north of where the streetcar will end is still available I’ll be happy. I think that’s a pretty universal feeling. Now, if I found out I’m supposed to take the streetcar across, then grab a bus up MLK, turning my 20 minute ride into probably a 45 minute one, I might have some problems.

  65. zefwagner
    August 8, 2011 at 3:33 pm Link

    I don’t think they would truncate the 6 completely and force a transfer unless frequency was much higher than they are now. There is too much demand for downtown from people up north.

  66. Jason Barbour
    August 8, 2011 at 10:11 pm Link

    An idea being floated by TriMet a few years ago was to combine the 6-MLK north of the Streetcar loop with the 70-12th Ave (despite reliability issues with the portion of the route on I-5 between N. Portland and Hayden Island and the railroad crossing at 12th just north of Powell). I don’t remember if the Columbia/Jefferson corridor portion of the route was outlined (which is also served by the 58-Canyon Rd. and several other routes). Received an e-mail shortly thereafter that plans were being put on hold until the Streetcar opening got closer.

  67. zefwagner
    August 8, 2011 at 11:09 pm Link

    That would actually work really well! The 70 right now seems like a weird route, just ending there at the Rose Quarter TC without going any farther north. The 70 and 6 combined would offer transfers to both MAX and the streetcar, meaning connections to downtown would be pretty painless. Thankfully the streetcar is using the Broadway Bridge rather than adding to the Steel Bridge bottleneck.

    By the way, can anyone tell me how it’s possible that the 19 and the 70 are only a block apart parallel for quite a ways? That’s insane! Combine them on one road! Silly Trimet…

  68. zefwagner
    August 8, 2011 at 11:12 pm Link

    It also seems like that part of the 6 on Hayden Island would be truncated when the Yellow Line is extended, no?

  69. zefwagner
    August 8, 2011 at 11:17 pm Link

    Hold on, why doesn’t the 70 just stay on Milwaukie Ave all the way from Powell on south, and interline with the 19 most of that way? I’ve never ridden it, but according to Google Maps that part of SE 17th Ave is nothing but huge parking lots. Doesn’t look like much in the way of transit trip generators.

  70. Reza
    August 9, 2011 at 8:16 am Link

    @zefwagner:

    Taking the streetcar to downtown from CEID would be a long, circuitous trip that wouldn’t really get you where you need to go. Considering the CBD is pretty much between Morrison and Hawthorne bridges and centered on the transit mall, taking the streetcar to 10th/11th via South Waterfront or the Pearl is not so useful for most commuters. PSU is a different story, however, if you are near Burnside and MLK, the 12 or 19 are better options to get there than the streetcar.

    Re: Sellwood, I always thought that the area could use more direct service to downtown, and I don’t know how interlining it with the 6 would solve that problem. I don’t see much demand for going to Near Northeast via the CEID compared to the transit mall. As it is now, one must walk to Bybee and Milwaukie if they live south of there to catch the 19 bus if they want a one-seat ride to downtown.

    And I always found the 19 and 70 routing on Milwaukie and 17th to be pretty nonsensical as well. Once Milwaukie MAX is built I can only assume that the 70 and 17 will be routed onto Milwaukie south of Powell Blvd.

  71. Jeff F
    August 9, 2011 at 8:47 am Link

    I’ve never ridden it, but according to Google Maps that part of SE 17th Ave is nothing but huge parking lots. Doesn’t look like much in the way of transit trip generators.

    Ride it some day. It’s not a coincidence it stops at TriMet Center St garage and offices, especially the garage.

  72. Aaron
    August 9, 2011 at 12:03 pm Link

    An idea being floated by TriMet a few years ago was to combine the 6-MLK north of the Streetcar loop with the 70-12th Ave (despite reliability issues with the portion of the route on I-5 between N. Portland and Hayden Island and the railroad crossing at 12th just north of Powell).

    I remember this proposal… and as I told TriMet at the time, it’s a horrible idea. It would force transfers for nearly everyone who rides the 6 north of Broadway, either to streetcar to continue trips down MLK, or to other lines to go downtown or to PSU.

    It might look tidy on the map, but it would decrease — not enhance — the overall usability of the system.

  73. zefwagner
    August 9, 2011 at 11:57 pm Link

    Aaron, I have to disagree. Crosstown routes are an essential component of any good transit system. Right now the 70 is oddly truncated at the Rose Quarter rather than continuing north, and it would be ridiculous to have the 6 overlap with the streetcar. A combined route would be an awesome crosstown route, enabling people in the SE to get to the NE and vice versa. Some people right along NE MLK would lose their one-seat ride downtown, but they would gain direct service to the current 70 route. Transfers to get downtown would be extremely easy and plentiful: lets see, the options are Streetcar, MAX (Green, Blue, and Red), 9, 12, 19, 20, 15, 14. Seems like enough combined frequency to not cause much difficulty. Just fire up Google Maps and it will tell you which one to transfer to with the least wait time.

  74. Jason Barbour
    August 10, 2011 at 4:09 am Link

    I remember this proposal… and as I told TriMet at the time, it’s a horrible idea.
    It wouldn’t surprise me if that’s what nearly everyone said.
    The other, older idea was to combine the 73 with the 70.
    The other problem is (and I realize zefwagner probably doesn’t know this) is the number of routes that have been truncated over the last few years, especially in NE Portland. 24 used to be the 33-Freemont and interlined with 33-McLoughlin, and 73 used to be 10-33rd Ave and interlined with the 10-Harold. Oh, and before the transit mall reconstruction late last decade, the 14 went to Union Station. These are just some of the eliminations.

  75. Chris I
    August 10, 2011 at 6:55 am Link

    Some people just don’t like change.

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