The Case for Stop Consolidation

Zef Wagner is recently relocated from Seattle to Portland and will be contributing occasionally and sharing his fresh-eyed perspective of Portland – Chris

The Problem

Most people take it as a given that local bus service is slow and often unreliable, while light rail is fast and very reliable. This is great news for those who have easy access to the MAX system, but for those who depend on a bus for their daily commute it results in frustration and resentment. While a bus in mixed traffic can never approach the performance of grade-separated rail, there many ways to improve the quality of bus service in order to narrow that gap. The most obvious answer is to increase bus frequency, but the economic downturn has forced TriMet to reduce frequency across the board, and it will most likely take many years before the funding is available to restore this lost service. Therefore any improvements in the short term will have to involve getting more and better service from existing resources.

The Solution

So what is the number one way we can improve frequency, speed, and reliability in our bus system? The answer is…wider stop spacing! In most of the world the standard for stop spacing for local bus service is closer to a quarter-mile, or around 1300 feet, while most North American bus routes stop about every 2 blocks, or around 600 feet. Why is there such a disparity? Human Transit has done a great job examining this issue, but the short answer is that American transit agencies tend to value coverage over speed and reliability. Another factor may be the legacy of the streetcar system, which was mainly built to compete with walking rather than with driving.

The accepted standard for walking distance is that most people are willing to walk a quarter-mile to get to a local bus service. If you wanted to give everyone access to only one bus stop, you would space stops every half-mile, but this would result in large coverage gaps at the halfway point between stops. Quarter-mile spacing is generally ideal because the entire corridor gets complete coverage, but overlap is kept at a minimum. Closer spacing might make sense in very dense areas like downtown, but most areas of Portland concentrate housing and employment density in narrow strips along corridors like Hawthorne, Division, or Alberta. This “corridor” density means that buses with wider stop spacing would still reach most of the people and destinations, while providing a dramatically better service.

What’s so great about wide stop spacing?

First, it increases the speed of the bus line, making it more competitive with driving for more trips. Second, it improves reliability, since every stop is an opportunity for unexpected delays that may cause the bus to get off schedule. Third, it improves frequency by allowing each vehicle and operator to make more runs in the same time period. As a simple example, if a bus route normally takes 60 minutes but stop consolidation brings it down to 50 minutes, then in 6 hours each bus can make 7 trips instead of 6. This is great way for us to get more frequency now without having to wait for additional funding.

What about the issue of access? While it is true that any stop consolidation will result in some people having to walk farther to reach the nearest stop, people are generally willing to walk farther to access high-quality transit. For example, the standard for grade-separated rail or Bus Rapid Transit is for stations to be spaced between a half-mile and a mile from each other. The additional speed, reliability, and frequency gives riders confidence that a long walk will not be followed by a long wait and a slow trip. This same principle should apply to local bus service with quarter-mile stop spacing. Most people in the supposedly “lost” coverage area will be willing to walk farther for superior service.

Have other transit agencies done this?

Other transit agencies on the west coast are leading the way on this issue. King County Metro in Seattle has been engaged in stop consolidation on their busiest routes for quite some time. They have been slowly moving toward a quarter-mile average stop spacing and have seen little local opposition. In fact, a survey of 60,000 residents of Seattle’s Rainier Valley showed that 93% approved of spacing bus stops 3 or 4 blocks apart rather than 1 or 2. San Francisco’s Muni has an ambitious plan for stop consolidation which they estimated could save or reinvest $5 million per year (or 2% of service) by eliminating 1 in 10 stops systemwide. Unfortunately that plan has been delayed due to lack of staff time and loud opposition from bus stop constituencies. It is notable that King County Metro chose to focus on surveys of entire transit-dependent communities and found widespread support, while Muni listened to a vocal minority that was not necessarily representative.

What now?

So what can TriMet do right now? First, they can revise their stop guidelines from the current range of 780-1000 feet to a range of 1000-1300 feet. Second, they should change their current practice of having closer stop spacing in all dense areas and focus instead on the shape of the density. It makes sense to have closer stops in areas with broad swathes of density, like the Pearl District, but on arterials like Hawthorne where the density is only concentrated along the corridor itself, wider stop spacing is more effective. Third, TriMet should follow the lead of Metro in Seattle and engage in a route-by-route stop consolidation program, making sure to work with neighborhoods to identify the most productive and useful stops to keep in service.

With massive service cuts behind us and higher fares ahead of us, bus riders are feeling shut out by TriMet and are starting to organize through groups like OPAL to advocate for more bus service. Stop consolidation would be an easy way for TriMet to immediately deliver better service with existing dollars and would send a powerful signal to bus riders that they have not been forgotten. Bus advocates would do well to push TriMet towards short-term, practical improvements such as stop consolidation while also working toward a long-term funding solution for regional transit.

97 Comments

97 Responses to The Case for Stop Consolidation

  1. EngineerScotty
    September 1, 2011 at 9:25 pm Link

    Sounds good. One further suggestion is that stop spacing improvement works best when coupled with other right-of-way improvements, such as signal priority or bus lanes. (I won’t say “bus rapid transit”, but if you prefer to think of it as that, be my guest). The point is to minimize the number of times the bus has to stop–both scheduled stops (to pick up passengers) and unscheduled stops (for traffic lights or behind stopped traffic).

    One other thing: This improvement works best on denser routes where few stops are skipped. On low-usage routes, many (if not most) stops are skipped on a given run, and there’s little point in not having more closely-spaced stops–or as is done on rural routes such as the 84, permitting the bus to stop anywhere it is safe to do so.

  2. zefwagner
    September 1, 2011 at 10:59 pm Link

    Thanks, Scotty, you make great points. This post was mainly inspired by often riding the 15 from Belmont/39th to downtown. It stops every 2 blocks, very few stops are ever skipped, plus there is a lengthy detour due to Morrison Bridge construction (now set to last into next year). It is the polar opposite of rapid transit, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

  3. Nick
    September 1, 2011 at 11:49 pm Link

    TriMet has already streamlined many routes, which is great… time to eliminate half the stops in downtown on the MAX! (beating a dead horse).

  4. zefwagner
    September 2, 2011 at 12:16 am Link

    I agree, the blue/red MAX through downtown is badly in need of an overhaul. I would argue for the elimination of at least one stop in the Lloyd District area–right now there are 4 stops very close to each other, which makes the trip incredibly slow for anyone trying to get farther east. This is supposed to be rapid transit!

  5. jim karlock
    September 2, 2011 at 2:17 am Link

    zefw: the economic downturn has forced TriMet to reduce frequency across the board
    jk: AND all the money Trimet spent moving bus riders to light rail.

    zefw: The accepted standard for walking distance is that most people are willing to walk a quarter-mile to get to a local bus service
    jk: You are trading off longer walks for faster trips, but ignore that those competitive cars have an average walking distance from the utility room to the garage, or the front door to curb. You are making buses even less competitive in terms of walking distance. This can be a really BIG problem for the frail, the aged and the handicapped. Are these people expendable in a vain effort to be competitive with cars? And why is a service that is 80% subsidized trying to compete with cars?

    zefw: While it is true that any stop consolidation will result in some people having to walk farther to reach the nearest stop, people are generally willing to walk farther to access high-quality transit.
    jk: That additional walking cancels out part of the time saving.

    Did anyone consider a service improvement that would reduce wait times:
    Put ticket vending machines at transit stops. Not the spendy crap at the MAX stations, but like the parking payment stations sprouting all over Portland. (You know, the ones subject to the FBI investigation of corruption at PDOT/PBOT)

    You could also speed up service by eliminating the load/unload time of bike racks.

    But the deeper question is why try to be competitive with cars?
    What is the social good of getting people out of low cost, low energy, fast small cars and onto transit which uses more energy, costs more and is slower? This is even true in the big cities! See: portlandfacts.com/top10bus.html and portlandfacts.com/commutetime.html

    The only thing I can see being accomplished is to make commute times longer and more expensive, thusly reducing people’s standard of living. Is the that goal, or am I missing something here?

    Thanks
    JK

  6. Alex Reed
    September 2, 2011 at 6:43 am Link

    I am in full support of this!

    The obvious complaint against increasing stop distance is, “What about people who have difficulty walking?” TriMet already runs LIFT service for the disabled.

    I don’t have a solution for those folks who aren’t officially “disabled” but still have trouble walking or are officially “disabled” but find LIFT service less convenient than normal TriMet service. I guess all I’d say is, TriMet can’t be all things to all people.

  7. R A Fontes
    September 2, 2011 at 8:25 am Link

    If the stops are 1/4 mile apart, then nobody would find themselves walking more than an extra 1/8 of a mile (660 feet) compared with a current stop. That’s about three minutes for an “average” walker. Since the mean extra distance would presumably be half of that, then the average rider would be walking something like an extra three minutes on a round trip. If the average in-vehicle time is reduced by even a little more than that on a round trip, then riders come out ahead.

    TriMet makes unofficial drop-offs on request at night. As part of stop consolidation, why not extend that to pick-ups and drop-offs at all hours for those with physical difficulties? Such a program could require prior agreement between TriMet and riders specifying flag stop locations, minimum distances from regular stops, and special signaling devices (perhaps as simple as a highly reflective international orange card) to attract bus operators’ attention.

  8. EngineerScotty
    September 2, 2011 at 8:37 am Link

    Another alternative is to run “rapid” routes (which stop infrequently) separate from “local” routes. LACMTA does this, with red rapids (which stop infrequently, and have limited signal priority at intersections) and orange locals; a scheme that seems to work.

  9. zefwagner
    September 2, 2011 at 8:43 am Link

    Remember folks, don’t feed our resident troll!

    We should keep in mind that the worst part of taking the bus is actually waiting at the stop itself. Walking, especially in nice neighborhoods, can be pleasant and of course is good exercise, so I think the reason people are only willing to walk short distances has everything to do with the fear of waiting at the stop. Someone who happily walks for 30 minutes in the park every day still does not want to risk walking 10 minutes to a bus stop, only to wait for another 10 minutes for the bus to show up. So anything that can increase reliability and frequency will lessen the chance of a long wait at the stop, and people will be willing to walk farther.

  10. zefwagner
    September 2, 2011 at 8:48 am Link

    Good point, Scotty! It is strange that TriMet does not run any “Limited” routes. Many Metro routes in Seattle are limited-stop, although they use the term express for both true express and limited-stop. It is a great way to relieve crowding, especially in peak times. They have the boarding data to see where the crowded stops are, so they could certainly do this. I don’t know if the data shows it wouldn’t be effective, or if it’s just not a concept that TriMet has really considered.

  11. John D
    September 2, 2011 at 8:54 am Link

    I agree that we Tri-Met could consolidate a lot of bus stops.

    While the 1 route is mostly peak only, it travels by my place. In the space of a block and a half there is not one, not two, not three, but four bus stops for this route.

    In addition just a block and a half away is a stop for the 44 and 45 and a couple of blocks the stops for the 54 and 56. Why is so many stops needed on the 1?

    I think we could all point to our regular routes and pick out where stops could be consolidated.

  12. John D
    September 2, 2011 at 9:00 am Link

    In previous post I need did not mean to say we TriMet since I do not work for them.

    I am also a recent transplant having lived in such cities as Salt Lake, Spokane, and Los Angeles and think every agency has this problem in one shape or another. It is probably more apparent here in Portland we our short blocks.

  13. Cora Potter
    September 2, 2011 at 9:37 am Link

    Please keep in mind that you have to weigh any time/cost savings of stop consolidation with providing adequate mitigation for people with barriers to accessing transit stops (disabilities, cognitive barriers that require clear landmarks, etc).

    Shuffling these riders off to LIFT is not a cost effective solution. The average LIFT ride costs nearly $30 (one way). Even with a conditional eligibility system, you run the risk of increasing costs to the point that you might actually end up with more operating funding deficits than gains. In addition, while LIFT is a complimentary service, meant to be comparable in timing and experience for the consumer, there are tolerances to the system built in and a LIFT trip is usually longer, less direct and less convenient in that it requires an advance reservation. The ability to access the fixed route system is usually the least restrictive and most convenient means of travel for people with disabilities who can reasonably access a transit stop.

    When you raise the bar for reasonable access by spacing stops at .25 mile, or 4 blocks or greater, you start significantly limiting what a person with barriers to walking or cognitive barriers can accomplish and make it far more of a challenge for them to reach a stop in a reasonable amount of time, or with a reasonable amount of challenge. The difference between walking one block in the cold and rain vs. walking three blocks in the cold and rain can present a huge challenge to a person who can not walk at a 3 mile per hour pace, and is more sensitive to cold temperatures due to normal aging.

    So – just keep in mind that wider stop placement, particularly for bus service, will exclude a segment of the population from accessing fixed route. You need to weigh the gains in convenience for people who have few or no barriers to accessing transit with the social and financial costs of excluding the people who do experience barriers to access. My personal opinion is that everyone loses when older adults and people with disabilities are excluded from fixed route by design. You might gain 3 minutes and the sense that you’re getting somewhere faster – is that really worth service cuts on other bus lines to offset the increased costs for ADA paratransit? Is it really worth socially isolating people with disabilities? And, with the aging of the population, we really need to start taking the needs of older adults seriously and not constantly tune our system to serve just the needs of commuters.

  14. Douglas K.
    September 2, 2011 at 10:35 am Link

    I think one issue with not running “Rapid” service like LA is that very few (if any) lines have the ridership to justify what would be nearly doubling the buses and drivers on a given route. LA can get away with it because they have a large and relatively dense population.

    A “rapid” overlay on line 72 might work, but I don’t know how many other routes (if any) would qualify.

    As for wider stop spacing, I’m all for it. They’ve actually done it on line 19 in my neighborhood — there are fewer stops along Glisan than there used to be. It should be possible to space them even wider.

  15. EngineerScotty
    September 2, 2011 at 10:45 am Link

    I’m not suggest doubling service (though that would be a good thing, TriMet lacks money to pay for it), but conversion of some busses to rapids–focusing on the frequent busses for now. If, hypothetically, a line that currently has 4 bph has two of them turned to rapid service, and doing so permits a few additional runs per day, then the net quality of service on the line goes up, but those who have trouble with getting to a more distant stop can still wait for a local.

    Introducing rapid service will make easier further improvements, such as reintroduction of articulated busses–not necessary for capacity, but for faster boarding times (sorry, Ron, but double-deckers are probably not an option in this role for that reason). A roadblock to using longer busses is that you need longer stops, but artics on limited-stop service only would be easier to accomodate.

  16. zefwagner
    September 2, 2011 at 10:56 am Link

    Cora, I completely disagree with the premise that fixed-route transit is in any way an appropriate way to serve people with severe mobility challenges. You could not design a worse system for disabled people! We currently have a system that doesn’t function well for anyone because it is trying to serve as both a real transportation system and as a social service. We need to split these functions to a greater degree.

    If someone has mobility problems, the answer is door-to-door service, not making sure the bus stop is slightly closer. The ideal form of transportation for a disabled person is the automobile, but as many disabled people can’t drive or can’t afford to, we have invented paratransit. Paratransit may cost more per rider, but that’s fine because it is a social service. It is also largely funded through grants, so it generally does not take away bus service. Other options include taxi vouchers and shuttle service like Seattle’s DART routes (basically a paratransit vehicle makes regular hourly runs through a neighborhood and can deviate to pick up people who call in anywhere in the area–it works very well and is faster than paratransit). Also keep in mind that paratransit becomes more cost-effective as more people use it, just like any bus. So getting more people who need it to utilize paratransit will partially cover the cost.

    The primary reason we have a poorly functioning public transit system in the US is precisely because we have decided to treat it as a social service tool rather than to increase mobility. This is especially true for bus service. Meanwhile, rail is usually optimized for commuters with mobility in mind. So we end up with this class system where buses are for the poor and transit-dependent, while rail is for the wealthier “choice” riders. I believe this is a bad system.

    Fixed-route buses, by the laws of geometry, work best when they run in a straight line, collecting large groups of people along the way. Meandering, mostly-empty buses are all too often the norm. As a social service we should provide paratransit for people with severe mobility issues. It may cost more, but it also doesn’t negatively impact all the other transit users.

    Imagine we didn’t have a transit system and I asked you to come up with the best way to provide mobility to disabled people. Would you say door-to-door service is better, or running buses on major arterials where most disabled people don’t actually live? The first option is obviously the right answer. Even if it’s more expensive, it’s worth it because we have an obligation to help mobility-impaired people get around.

    On the other hand, if I asked you to design a transit system to move the most number of people with the least amount of money, you would put frequent buses on the main arterials, where they would pick up large numbers of people at each stop. The bus doesn’t have to meander around the neighborhood, because people are willing to do part of the work themselves by walking to the stop. Especially in dense areas, this can be end up being a lot of people.

    I would certainly never want to exclude anyone. I’m glad that buses have space reserved for the elderly and disabled, and hope we move to having more low-floor buses. However, the basic geometry of a fixed-route suggests that it can only serve some areas and not others. Unless we are willing to forcibly relocate all disabled people so that they live right along the route, it will never serve everyone. That’s why door-to-door service is the only appropriate solution for people who really can’t manage to walk or wheel themselves a quarter-mile.

  17. zefwagner
    September 2, 2011 at 11:04 am Link

    It occurs to me that one problem with limited-stop service is that you need space for buses to pass each other. You really need a passing lane that is easy for the bus to access. That said, there are plenty of 4-lane arterials where this could be done, as long as congestion wasn’t too terrible.

    You make good points about articulated buses, Scotty. A benefit to having fewer stops is that TriMet could concentrate resources on making those stops have better amenities and longer platforms that could accommodate 60′ buses. Limited-stop service usually draws more riders (because it is a superior service), so more capacity would be needed to reduce the number of folks having to stand.

    Double decker buses are awesome, but really work best for long-distance express routes. Dwell times are higher, so you don’t want many stops, plus people care more about comfy seats and view when they going a long distance. Community Transit north of Seattle has started using them on several commuter routes, while London has mostly stopped using them on local city routes.

  18. EngineerScotty
    September 2, 2011 at 11:22 am Link

    The only time an express would need to pass a local is when the latter is at a stop not served by the former. Many of the stops in town are out of the traffic mainline, so this isn’t a problem even on streets with a single lane per direction.

  19. zefwagner
    September 2, 2011 at 11:28 am Link

    True, although over time I would hope TriMet builds more bus bulbs on the busiest bus lines so that buses don’t have to pull out of traffic at all.

  20. Douglas K.
    September 2, 2011 at 11:46 am Link

    I think 72 would be a good line to experiment with. It runs on 6-10 minute headways weekdays and 10 minute headways on Saturday. Conceivably, you could run 5 “rapid” buses per hour on 10-12 minute headways (15 minutes in the evening), augmented by “local” service on 15-20 minute headways (30 minutes in the evening). It might require adding one or two buses per hour, but given the level of ridership the 72 gets, Tri-Met could probably justify that.

    LA solves the problem of limited/local passing by putting the stops on opposite sides of the street. Typically, the local stops at the corner just before the light, and the limited stops across the street after the light. It shouldn’t be that hard to set up designated “Rapid” stops with basic bus shelters and signage right across the street from the existing bus stops at major intersections, and then gradually augment the stations with better shelters, ticket machines, and another amenities to help create MAX-like “rapid” system.

  21. AL M
    September 2, 2011 at 1:05 pm Link

    My opinion on this matter is that there are plenty of examples where this could be implemented on the system. How much time would it actually save is questionable however.

    And there are a pretty large % of riders who are disabled in one form or another, and adding walking distance for them would be problematic.

    My solution to speeding up the bus service, simplify the fare collection system!

    You have no idea how much time is wasted dealing with fares and fare problems.

  22. hh
    September 2, 2011 at 1:08 pm Link

    Bus 31 has Limited runs during rush hours. I love to take them. It is much quicker and more pleasant than regular bus runs. I wish it can be done all day long. There are few certain lines with limited run options.

  23. AL M
    September 2, 2011 at 1:10 pm Link

    BTW, I do not agree with the following:

    Most people take it as a given that local bus service is slow and often unreliable, while light rail is fast and very reliable.

    When the rail goes down, THE WHOLE THING GOES DOWN!

    Buses have to be brought in to pull the weight.

    Also the rail is vulnerable to natural disasters, the recent hurricane in the east showed that it was the buses that were reliable, maybe slow, but at least you got there.

  24. jim karlock
    September 2, 2011 at 1:13 pm Link

    zefwagner Says: Remember folks, don’t feed our resident troll!

    JK: I assume you mean me! Well if you don’t like to hear about the real world from me, how about from Cora. Or do you consider her a troll to because she disagrees with you?

    Cora Potter Says:
    Please keep in mind that you have to weigh any time/cost savings of stop consolidation with providing adequate mitigation for people with barriers to accessing transit stops (disabilities, cognitive barriers that require clear landmarks, etc).

    Shuffling these riders off to LIFT is not a cost effective solution. The average LIFT ride costs nearly $30 (one way). Even with a conditional eligibility system, you run the risk of increasing costs to the point that you might actually end up with more operating funding deficits than gains.

    JK: Well said.

    But don’t forget that transit is still more costly and consumes more energy (and therefore emits more CO2) than small cars.

    Thanks
    JK

  25. zefwagner
    September 2, 2011 at 1:52 pm Link

    Just to spell it out, JK is a troll and Cora is not.

    JK, at a very basic level, does not believe transit is a good idea whatsoever, yet he frequently comments on a pro-transit blog. This is no different than if I, as a pretty liberal person, decided to constantly comment on an openly conservative website or blog in an attempt to dominate the conversation and prevent useful discussion. JK fits any common definition of a troll for this reason.

    Cora, on the other hand, understands the value of transit in general, but is concerned that my proposal would negatively impact certain riders. That is a perfectly legitimate issue to bring up in this discussion. I happen to think her position is misguided, but that is a normal part of debate. We share the basic desire for good transit, but we disagree on what that means exactly or how to get there. That’s fine!

    I would also argue that JK violates basic commenting etiquette by refuting statements line-by-line. Rather than adding to the conversation, his whole purpose is to shut down and refute everything someone else has said. It invites the other person to respond in the same way. This leads to the internet equivalent of a shouting match. Many comment threads end up being a giant back-and-forth of “is so! is not!”

    Anyway, thank you to Cora for the thoughtful remarks, and as for JK I repeat my advice to simply ignore anything he writes.

  26. zefwagner
    September 2, 2011 at 2:01 pm Link

    Al, I completely agree about the fare system! I will probably write a post on this topic soon. Buses are the only form of public transit that require the riders to pay the driver. It is a pretty ridiculous system that is the number one reason for slow boarding. Proof-of-payment is a much better way to go, but it does require a big investment in ticket machines and ultimately a smart card system. For this post I was focusing on what TriMet could do right now with limited funds to improve bus operations.

    TriMet should also eliminate the confusing zone system and start charging fares based on the service levels. One-way peak express buses are not only more expensive to operate, they are actually providing a superior experience that most people would be willing to pay more for. They are also oriented to commuters who by definition have jobs. If they charged more for “premium” buses they could probably lower fares for the workhorse buses used by lower-income people.

  27. EngineerScotty
    September 2, 2011 at 2:11 pm Link

    Meta-discussions as to who is a “troll” and who is not, aren’t terribly appropriate. That said, if you think a particular user is engage in behaviors such as making dubious claims or repeating discredited arguments, the best course of action to ignore him/her.

    Readers should not feel the need to publicly object to anything posted here which is disagreeable to them (lest some misty-eyed lurker be deceived)–the best way to deal with alleged trolls is to not feed them. In a forum such as this, silence does not and should not indicate consent or agreement–it should mean silence–in other words, nothing. It’s perfectly safe to let foolish or questionable arguments stand without a response–most readers will be able to identify the horse manure by its stench, and don’t need a big sign with bod lettering labeling it as such to figure out what it is.

    Trolls or other disagreeable users only come to dominate threads if and when people engage them.

  28. EngineerScotty
    September 2, 2011 at 2:21 pm Link

    Zef,

    TriMet runs very few express routes–essentially, the four 9X routes (the 92 to Murrayhill, the 94 to Sherwood, the 96 to N. Wilsonville, and the 99 to Oregon City). These lines don’t provide any nicer service (other than not stopping as frequently) than the local routes. E/W express busses were gotten rid of a long time ago when MAX went in. C-Tran does run numerous “premium” express routes between points in Portland and points in Vancouver–and does charge a higher fare for these services than they do for local bus service.

    The 99 will be truncated when MLR opens; and I’d happily see it replaced with a limited-stop equivalent to the 33 that runs all the time and not just during peaks. The 94 will likely have a similar fate if and when the SW Corridor gets built. The other two express lines serve corridors where there is no direct local equivalent (the 92 is essentially a local in Beaverton, but then running as express to downtown after leaving Washington Square)–a state of affairs I consider most unfortunate.

  29. Jason McHuff
    September 2, 2011 at 2:46 pm Link

    My idea of the ideal service is a frequent (every 10-15 mins) limited-stop service combined with an occasional (e.g. every 30 mins) service that provides curb service within the corridor. People would have the choice of a service that is frequent and fast but may require walking or a service that brings them directly to/from their closest curb but requires a reservation, longer wait and probably a longer ride (to serve others en route).

    One issue with Portland’s short blocks is that there’s more places per distance that people might come onto the route. If blocks were 400 feet long, 800 foot stop spacing would mean that people coming from only 50% of the cross streets would have to walk along the route to get to a stop, but with 200 foot blocks (ignoring extra street crossings) 800 foot spacing would mean that 75% of the access points would not have stops.

  30. jim karlock
    September 2, 2011 at 4:14 pm Link

    zefwagner Says: This is no different than if I, as a pretty liberal person, decided to constantly comment on an openly conservative website or blog
    JK: You should. You and the conservatives would both learn. You see, both sides in many of these debates have problems getting all the facts. That is the value of reading both conservative & liberal sources. And engaging in discussions/debates. I use both sides for leads to facts that I verify before believing them (that way the quality of the initial lead does not matter – I check their sources for real data.)

    zefwagner Says: in an attempt to dominate the conversation and prevent useful discussion. JK fits any common definition of a troll for this reason.
    JK: Since when is providing accurate information being a troll. Most people call this engaging in a conversation.

    zefwagner Says: Cora, on the other hand, understands the value of transit in general, but is concerned that my proposal would negatively impact certain riders.
    JK: How is that different than what you criticized me for? Except I have the actual numbers on transit’s weaknesses and that should be a starting point for adjusting transit’s role to match reality. For instance the cost and energy consumption problems might be fixed by allowing jitneys and deregulating taxi fares. Both proposals are still mass transit, but potentially provide better service to all. That proposal probably has a better chance of attracting people out of their cars, than making people walk further to a bus stop. Certainly they have a big potential for better service to the frail, aged and handicapped.

    But, maybe, as you said, I don’t appreciate the value of transit. Why don’t you explain the value of our present transit system compared to deregulating taxis, allowing jitneys and other competition to Trimet’s monopoly.

    zefwagner Says: I would also argue that JK violates basic commenting etiquette by refuting statements line-by-line. Rather than adding to the conversation, his whole purpose is to shut down and refute everything someone else has said.
    JK: I would also argue that Wagner violates ethics by labeling me a troll and advising people to ignore my facts which are well researched and referenced to credible sources at DebunkingPortland.com. He also violates this forum’s rule against assigning motives to poster’s comments.

    zefwagner Says: It invites the other person to respond in the same way. This leads to the internet equivalent of a shouting match.
    JK: Point by point is how meaningful discussion proceed, instead of tossing generalities around and engaging in “is so! is not!”. When both sides look at the facts, the conversation rapidly becomes rational and settled.

    For a start why don’t you present some data on how well those longer stop spacings are working in places where they implemented them. Perhaps Cora (& myself) are wrong. You can settle it in a few words with references to quality research.

    Thanks
    JK

  31. zefwagner
    September 2, 2011 at 4:42 pm Link

    I also like the idea of combining limited-stop with local-stop as an alternative. That is how Swift BRT works in Snohomish County, WA. They have a less-frequent local service, and then Swift runs the same route but only stops once per mile! It also features off-board fare payment and all-door boarding.

    An interesting question for TriMet is whether a corridor like Interstate would have been better served by spacing the Yellow Line MAX stops a mile apart instead of a half-mile apart, but keeping a local bus service as well. That way people along the route would have more transit access, while MAX could go a lot faster. The way it is now, the Yellow Line will not be very attractive to people in Vancouver if it is extended. Just something to think about.

    Regardless of whether a limited-stop service is overlaid on a local route, I still think local-stop routes should adopt an average quarter-mile spacing. That is the world standard and it works just fine–it’s mostly only the US that has stubbornly stuck to extremely short stop spacing.

  32. EngineerScotty
    September 2, 2011 at 4:54 pm Link

    JK,

    Longer stop spacings (300m and more) are commonplace in much of the world. They “work” fine, in that the services there are well-patronized; whether you think this is because the resulting quality of bus service is better or because the corresponding quality of auto infrastructure is worse, I’ll let you decide. Also, BRT-ish treatments (bus lanes and such) are more common abroad than in the US.

    This is true in both places like HK, where bus companies are private, and Europe, where they are public.

  33. jim karlock
    September 2, 2011 at 5:07 pm Link

    This is true in both places like HK, where bus companies are private, and Europe, where they are public.
    Of course we are much different than HK and Europe. And just because they do it, dose not mean it would work here. Hence my call for data from the companies that have done it here.

    thanks
    JK

  34. Jeff F
    September 2, 2011 at 5:19 pm Link

    How does one quantify “working” or “better” in terms of stop spacing? One would first have to determine whether speed is “better” than convenience and to whom.

  35. EngineerScotty
    September 2, 2011 at 5:33 pm Link

    If you can get an apples-to-apples study to measure transit patronage before and after, that’s one way–and certainly, adding BRT treatments to lines improves patronage.

    Here’s a link to a study in Boston; and here is another more recent paper. (Both are behind paywalls, unfortunately, but you can read the abstracts).

  36. Erik H.
    September 2, 2011 at 7:57 pm Link

    Much of the problem with stop spacing has to do with basic pedestrian access.

    While TriMet has spent millions upon millions of dollars in pedestrian improvements in and around MAX and WES stations, and the Streetcar system also included many pedestrian improvements, the bus system sees pedestrian improvements as a distinct process that is removed from the transit portion of the equation.

    In fact, I possess a letter from Fred Hansen basically stating that TriMet couldn’t do anything about transit access at my former bus stop (within Portland city limits) because it wasn’t his job. Yet, TriMet had no problem paying for overhead lighting on the ODOT owned, operated and maintained I-205 bike path, or the various pathways around the Tigard and Tualatin WES stops, or the various pedestrian enhancements around eastside MAX stops (especially more recently at Rockwood and the new Gresham Civic Drive station.)

    If there’s no sidewalk to get to a bus stop, it in itself is a disincentive to use transit. No matter what the distance is…if there is a bus stop in front of your own home but there’s no safe place to wait for the bus, you aren’t going to ride the bus. And so many TriMet bus stops are located quite literally in driveways, in intersections, and in drainage ditches – for a city the size of Portland it’s a disgrace and unacceptable – yet, it’s allowed. Why? Because of the ignorance of how the bus system works and how to improve it.

    I don’t care if the bus stop is 200 feet away, 500 feet away, 1,000 feet away or more. If I can’t get to it safely I’m not going to use it. (For the record, here in my “ex-urban” community of Tigard that has actual sidewalks unlike my former neighborhood in Portland city limits, I walk 1,900 feet from my house to my bus stop – all entirely using sidewalks and one pedestrian traffic signal. And another 1,200 feet at work. And at my stop in Tigard there are several people who access it that are mobility impaired.)

    You can change the stop spacing all you want…but if the stops themselves are of poor quality, it doesn’t matter if the bus just drives down the road at less than 1 MPH with the door wide open. You MUST improve the stops. TriMet spends a lot of time and effort with its MAX and WES stops, even to spending money on art and landscapers. Bus riders deserve the same amount of attention to detail about their stops too – we all pay the same fare, we all deserve the same service. (And frankly, TriMet can stop the art program and lay off its landscapers.)

  37. Cora Potter
    September 2, 2011 at 7:59 pm Link

    Zef – just in case you weren’t aware, I am a transportation planner that works specifically in the field of paratransit and transportation services for older adults and people with disabilities. My job is essentially to figure out ways to create as much door-to-door and fixed route access as possible for these populations with funding sources that have been flat or declining for over a decade.

    While 5310 grants fund some paratransit (mostly for the capital purchase of the vehicles), along with New Freedom Funds and other bits and pieces of state funding, the available funds is not nearly enough to cover the cost or meet the demand for service. TriMet still funds a great deal of their LIFT service with general funds.

    It isn’t appropriate to segregate people to ADA service for the convenience of commuters. I could easily make the argument that commuters should suck it up and vanpool if they want to get somewhere faster than they can on fixed route.

    Are there some people who are disabled that could never reasonably access fixed route – yes. And, that is the purpose of ADA paratransit. ADA service is not meant to move people off of fixed route because the extra minute it takes for them to board, or closer stops is inconvenient for people that want to get from A to B faster.

    And, shifting people from paratransit dependence to fixed route presents significant cost savings. Just the handful of folks we train to use fixed route, (that would otherwise be using LIFT) at my place of employment saves TriMet nearly 4 million dollars a year. And – they’re much happier and able to live fuller lives as a result. You might call this a social service – I call it allowing people who were previously made invisible to participate in society and achieve their full potential.

    I agree some heavy commuter lines should have a better mobility focus. For example, the line 72 would be much better with limited stops. But, in order to do that, you need to put a local fixed route circulator option on 82nd – like say a streetcar – which would allow the many older adults and people with disabilities that currently use the 72 to use local service and allow the 72 to function more like it was originally designed to function – as a way to get workers to and from the industrial areas at Swan Island, Columbia Blvd and Clackamas.

  38. Jason McHuff
    September 2, 2011 at 9:54 pm Link

    the Streetcar system also included many pedestrian improvements

    How much of those were funded by the developers, urban renewal or the city, vs funded by TriMet?

    ODOT owned, operated and maintained I-205 bike path

    You mean the one The Oregon Department of Transportation contributed
    $2,500,000 ARRA funds, or 82% of the [lighting] project’s cost
    to?

    especially more recently at Rockwood and the new Gresham Civic Drive station.

    How much of that was paid for by Gresham vs by TriMet?

    But can pedestrian access cause issues with stop spacing? Yes. It’s hard to walk down a road to a farther away bus stop when there’s no good place to walk.

  39. EngineerScotty
    September 2, 2011 at 10:00 pm Link

    WRT the lack of sidewalks in many older Portland neighborhoods, I think your beef is with the city and not with TriMet. It’s the city of Portland which has had the longstanding policy that neighborhoods who want sidewalks need to pay for them–a shortsighted policy which encourages auto-dependent sprawl. One of the best things that the city could do to reduce vehicle dependency is to spring for more sidewalks–many neighborhoods are too poor to pay for infrastructure, and many others are happy to have streets-without-sidewalks and use cars for everything.

  40. zefwagner
    September 2, 2011 at 11:30 pm Link

    Cora, I really appreciate your comments and the work you do. I definitely did not mean to suggest I favor pushing more people to use paratransit. On the contrary, if someone is able to access a bus stop, they should take the bus! What I dispute is the notion that quarter-mile spacing would be a significant barrier. If someone has mobility issues, but is able to go 2 blocks to a bus stop, then that person most likely can go 4 blocks as well. Will it take longer? Yes. Will it be harder? Yes. But in return they will get better service, and so will everyone else. Very few people will be right at the edge where 2 blocks makes a difference. If someone can’t go another block or two, maybe paratransit is a better solution. I just don’t think we can continue to have a transit system that is optimized for a tiny percentage of the population at the expense of everyone else.

    Think about it this way: The disabled and elderly are a small but significant percentage of the population. Only a percentage of disabled and elderly people actually have mobility issues (plenty of older folks are very mobile, and plenty of people have electric wheelchairs). A small percentage of that percentage would actually have to go farther after a stop consolidation. A smaller percentage of that would not be willing or able to go the extra distance, especially with improved service. An even smaller percentage do not have the ability to move closer to a stop. We’re talking about an extremely tiny number of people that would actually be affected by this! Should we design a transit system for them, or the other 99.9%?

    I think it actually doesn’t give people much credit to think that another few hundred feet will drive huge numbers of people to paratransit. People adapt, and they might prefer the knowledge that after that extra walking, the bus will be faster and more reliable. Other folks here make a very good point that Portland has a long way to go to improve stops and transit access like sidewalks and crossings, but that is simply a related issue. Whether or not stop consolidation happens, we need better transit access.

  41. jim karlock
    September 3, 2011 at 12:21 am Link

    I think it actually doesn’t give people much credit to think that another few hundred feet will drive huge numbers of people to paratransit. People adapt, and they might prefer the knowledge that after that extra walking, the bus will be faster and more reliable.
    Do you have any data or studies to support your claim that people will adapt? (They might start driving like many did after the West side MAX opened because it was slower than the discontinued express bus.)

    If not, you are suggesting experimenting on people. The frail, aged and handicapped at that.

    Thanks
    JK

  42. Aaron G
    September 3, 2011 at 1:13 am Link

    When the rail goes down, THE WHOLE THING GOES DOWN!

    Except, as you say, if the trains are really down, you still get where you’re going on the MAX system because you’ve got the slower-but-OK bus vehicles as a backup. When everything is working, I find that the rail tends to be on-time much more than buses. They typically come when they’re supposed to like clockwork, and I never get passed up by a train. I’ve yet to actually get to use a backup bus (except for back when the Streetcar was down for scheduled work, I guess).

    It isn’t appropriate to segregate people to ADA service for the convenience of commuters. I could easily make the argument that commuters should suck it up and vanpool if they want to get somewhere faster than they can on fixed route.

    ADA service is not meant to move people off of fixed route because the extra minute it takes for them to board, or closer stops is inconvenient for people that want to get from A to B faster.

    Doesn’t everyone want to get from A to point B quickly? Why is this commuters vs. the disabled? Disabled people use TriMet to commute and plenty of non-handicapped aren’t really commuters. I don’t think anyone likes having their time wasted, no matter where they’re going.

    I find it hard to believe shifting people from LIFT to fixed route service could really improve things for them unless LIFT is really bad at what it does or they were misusing it in the first place.

  43. jim karlock
    September 3, 2011 at 3:16 am Link

    you still get where you’re going on the MAX system because you’ve got the slower-but-OK bus vehicles as a backup.
    Where do these backup buses come from?
    1. Held in reserve.
    2. Taken from bus routes (and therefore delay bus riders)?
    3. other.

    Thanks
    JK

  44. Jeff F
    September 3, 2011 at 8:31 am Link

    Aaron G:

    I find it hard to believe shifting people from LIFT to fixed route service could really improve things for them unless LIFT is really bad at what it does or they were misusing it in the first place.

    As Cora pointed out, paratransit trips are extremely expensive, far more than fixed route. Applicant numbers have been skyrocketing.

    In large part, shifting people from LIFT to fixed route (for at least some of their trips) is about whether those individuals can be taught how to make use of buses.

    As you wrote, disabled people do use TriMet to commute. Some are intimidated and apply for LIFT because it’s so much simpler to use. LIFT is intended for those who really cannot use fixed route. “Shifting” others makes those resources more available for the most in need.

  45. ryan
    September 3, 2011 at 12:38 pm Link

    “And why is a service that is 80% subsidized trying to compete with cars?”

    Cars are also massively subsidized. That’s the way infrastructure works.

    “What is the social good of getting people out of low cost, low energy, fast small cars and onto transit which uses more energy, costs more and is slower? This is even true in the big cities! See: portlandfacts.com/top10bus.html and portlandfacts.com/commutetime.html”

    Cars are expensive, high energy, and frequently get stuck in traffic. Your site is poorly researched and extremely biased.

    “Is the that goal, or am I missing something here?”

    Perhaps you could again regale us about the joys of driving long distances to shop at non-Portland Walmarts with wide parking spaces to buy canned food.

  46. Wells
    September 3, 2011 at 1:25 pm Link

    What can TriMet do right now is revise their stop guidelines from current 780-1000′ to a higher range of 1000-1300′. Also change their current practice of closer stop spacing in dense areas. Focus instead on the shape of the density. Stop Consolidation.
    =
    Have closer stops in areas of broad swaths of density/diversity {note: add diversity} like the Pearl District. On arterials like Hawthorne where density is concentrated on a (discontinuous?) corridor, wider stop spacing is more effective(?)
    =
    Follow Metro (leaders?) in Seattle {don’t ignore serious errors}. Engage a route-by-route stop consolidation program ‘discussion’. Make sure to work WITH neighborhoods. Identify the most productive useful stops to keep in service.
    =
    With massive service cuts behind and higher fares ahead of us, many bus riders feel shut out by TriMet and organize through groups like OPAL as their advocate for more & better bus service.
    {good for them}
    =
    Stop Consolidation ‘could’ be an easy way for TriMet to immediately deliver better service with existing dollars. Stop Consolidation ‘would’ send a good signal to bus riders as not forgotten.
    =
    Bus advocates would do well gently urging TriMet towards short-term practical improvements such as stop consolidation, while working on the long-term funding solution for Portland regional transit. {PRT?} copy that?

    Editting. Its what i do Zef. My lengthy conclusion on engineering expertice places Seattle dead last or close to the bottom in that professional field & business practice. Fellow engineers are wise to question Seattle recommendations where little merit is evidenced; such as their DBT tunnel & Mercer West. These TWO absolutely unacceptable designs for highway and neighborhood streets must be stopped! Many professionals vehemently oppose the DBT. Another 45% are adamantly against on the grounds of Poor Engineering, High Risk, various Waste of Resources, Low Productivity in other Sectors of Economy, etc, even a poor park design for AlaskanWay. As designed it doesn’t achieve habitat restoration whatsoever. I fear seattlers are wrongly misled.

    I like Mayor Mike and his crew a LOT. They deserve, they need, support from accomplished transit designers & analyists like Zef. Stop the DBT. Stop the MercerWest. Redo “AlaskanWayVille” design. Seattle engineers are incompetent. The DBT is a Collosal mistake. Terrible mistake. Obviously reckless, rank ignorance of options wilfully neglected by media.
    Correographed Information-Misinformation.
    Information restricted. Studies rigged.

    This harsh warning is for the good Seattle people. Lots of respectable professional people agree with this harsh critical position. The DBT & MercerWest are guaranteed total failures. AlaskanWayVille so far is crummy designwork altogether mostly so far.
    Mayor Mcginn is your man.
    Stand up for him now not later.

  47. Robert
    September 3, 2011 at 1:53 pm Link

    TriMet does have one “limited” route that I can think of, the 9L that runs from downtown to Gresham and is described as “Limited trip: On SE Powell, stops only at Milwaukie, 26th, Cesar E Chavez Blvd, 52nd, 62nd, 69th, 82nd, 92nd, 98th then all stops to Gresham Transit Center.” It departs downtown a little after 5 on weekdays.

  48. jim karlock
    September 3, 2011 at 2:26 pm Link

    ryan Says: Cars are also massively subsidized. That’s the way infrastructure works.
    JK: Cars pay their own way and return money to government. I have shown you the data time after time and you apparently agree, because you have NEVER shown data to counter my claims. All you are doing is engaging is “is so, is not”. Again, show us some credible data, instead of wasting our time!

    ryan Says: Your site is poorly researched and extremely biased.
    JK: Please cite some examples to justify this accusation or retract it. Please confine your examples to the subject at hand: Car energy, cost and subsidies compared to transit. Provide data from and links to credible sources.

    ryan Says: Perhaps you could again regale us about the joys of driving long distances to shop at non-Portland Walmarts with wide parking spaces to buy canned food.
    JK: I already have – do I have to repeat everything for you?

    Thanks
    JK

  49. Aaron Hall
    September 3, 2011 at 3:26 pm Link

    Wells, I believe the correct word for people from Seattle is “Seattlites”, not “Seattlers”.

  50. Aaron Hall
    September 3, 2011 at 3:37 pm Link

    With regards to stop spacing, I agree, the average distance should be raised to 1000-1300 feet (or 4-5 Portland blocks). It’s 20 blocks/mile in the gridded areas of east and close-in west side neighborhoods. That’s just 1 minute of walking per block. You’d be adding at most about a minute of walking in most circumstances. A small price to pay for speedier bus service and likely an overall time saver in the long run for the riders on most routes.

  51. AL M
    September 3, 2011 at 8:31 pm Link

    A small price to pay for speedier bus service and likely an overall time saver in the long run for the riders on most routes.

    ~~~>I’ve been following this conversation and am quite curious,how many people commenting on the post actually use the bus everyday?

    The reason I ask that is because if you were using the bus everyday I bet you would not be so quick to support this notion of more distance between stops.

    Now I agree that there are many stops within the Trimet system that are ridiculously close together, and that needs to be changed.

    But 1000 feet? No WAY!

    The beauty of the bus, which makes its completely different from the light rail, is that it is convenient!

    Remember the winter? Who wants to walk 4 blocks or more to the bus stop?

    I don’t care about engineering & planners, I care about actual people that use the bus.

    My bet is that 9 out of 10 riders, who use the bus service daily, would be against this proposal.

    More frequent bus service is the only answer, not less convenience.

    This country and government do not support mass transit, it’s supports the killing machine and the stock market.

    Until ‘we’ get our priorities straight we can forget about decent transit in this country of ours.

    Don’t hold your collective breaths.

    (END OF RANT)

    My opinions are mine alone.

  52. Juke
    September 3, 2011 at 9:15 pm Link

    I know this might be too confusing for new riders to implement, but would a skip stop system work?

  53. Aaron Hall
    September 3, 2011 at 10:25 pm Link

    Skip stop? … no. That would be too confusing for ALL riders, not just new ones.

    And of course, 10 out of 10 riders want bus stops as close to their front door as possible, but you can’t have stops on every block. The point is to figure out what is a reasonable distance between stops that maximizes efficiency without sacrificing convenience. I don’t think 1000 feet is a big distance considering you’d be within 500 feet of a stop wherever you are on the line. That’s 2 blocks!! Hardly inconvenient.

    No, I’m not riding the bus everyday because I work at home now, but I’ve commuted on the 35 and the 9 Powell before and I’d do so again if I need to commute in the future. I’m very familiar with the day-to-day reality of using TriMet, as are (I’m guessing) most people on this site. And yes, I WOULD walk an extra block or two if it meant quicker and more reliable service.

    That said, of course I’d want a bus stop within a block of my front door. If you’re riding the bus, who wouldn’t?

  54. jim karlock
    September 4, 2011 at 2:40 am Link

    AL M The beauty of the bus, which makes its completely different from the light rail, is that it is convenient!
    JK: Also flexible.
    * It can go around a stalled bus.

    * The rest of the fleet can still operate when one runs out of energy (ie: not subject to power failures)

    * It can be cheaply re-routed when demand changes.

    * It does not require a 30 year commitment to any particular route.

    * It shares its right of way with other users, keeping costs down.

    * It is powered by petroleum instead of Coal, Uranium, salmon and bald eagles.

    Thanks
    JK

  55. Jason McHuff
    September 4, 2011 at 12:16 pm Link

    * It can be cheaply re-routed when demand changes.

    How often does that happen in major corridors?

    * It does not require a 30 year commitment to any particular route.

    Many (now-)bus routes haven’t changed in a lot longer time.

    * It shares its right of way with other users, keeping costs down.

    And gets stuck behind those other users.

    * It is powered by petroleum instead of Coal

    How is that better? How much coal is imported vs oil? Where does the pollution of each get released?

    Uranium, salmon and bald eagles.

    How so? Are they feeding them into the furnaces or whatever? If you actually mean that they are getting harmed in the process, how much actually are and (regarding fish) what would be the net impact of large dam removal (after all the sediment gets released and end of any flood protection, barging, irrigation water, etc)?

    What if there’s other good ways to produce electricity (that would need to be done centrally)?

    Also, how many buses would it take to haul, say, the 12,000+ rides taken each way through the westside tunnel (including 2,000 in just the peak hour)?

  56. Jason McHuff
    September 4, 2011 at 12:17 pm Link

    * It can be cheaply re-routed when demand changes.

    How often does that happen in major corridors?

    * It does not require a 30 year commitment to any particular route.

    Many (now-)bus routes haven’t changed in a lot longer time.

    * It shares its right of way with other users, keeping costs down.

    And gets stuck behind those other users.

    * It is powered by petroleum instead of Coal

    How is that better? How much coal is imported vs oil? Where does the pollution of each get released?

    Uranium, salmon and bald eagles.

    How so? Are they feeding them into the furnaces or whatever? If you actually mean that they are getting harmed in the process, how much actually are and (regarding fish) what would be the net impact of large dam removal (after all the sediment gets released and end of any flood protection, barging, irrigation water, etc)?

    What if there’s other good ways to produce electricity (that would need to be done centrally)?

    Also, how many buses would it take to haul, say, the 12,000+ rides taken each way through the westside tunnel (including 2,000 in just the peak hour)?

  57. EngineerScotty
    September 4, 2011 at 9:44 pm Link

    Jarrett Walker at Human Transit has done a followup to this article, focusing on the points raised by Cora above.

  58. jim karlock
    September 4, 2011 at 10:21 pm Link

    Jason McHuff Says: * It shares its right of way with other users, keeping costs down.
    And gets stuck behind those other users.
    JK: And rail sets stuck behind stalled trains and electricity outages.

    Jason McHuff Says: What if there’s other good ways to produce electricity (that would need to be done centrally)?
    JK: Care to name one! To be clear, the ways to produce reliable utility scale electricity are thermal plants and hydro. None other are known.

    Jason McHuff Says: Also, how many buses would it take to haul, say, the 12,000+ rides taken each way through the westside tunnel
    JK: About two hours of a three lane freeway with cars. Or 235 40′ buses with 51 people each would do it. That is only ten buses/hr over 24 hrs or 15/hr over 16 hrs (One every 12 min per lane).

    Jason McHuff Says: (including 2,000 in just the peak hour)?
    JK: About one lane of freeway of cars. Or 40 buses. Over three lanes that is13 buses per lane per hr. (one every 5 min) – not enough to even notice on the freeway. But we spent a BILLION dollars moving those people out ov buses onto light rail.

    Thanks
    JK

  59. zefwagner
    September 4, 2011 at 11:37 pm Link

    To Al’s point, I don’t own a car and use the bus as my primary form of transportation. I am arguing for wider stop spacing even though it would mean I personally would have to walk 2 more blocks to access the closest bus stop. Given the benefits I write about above, I am willing to deal with the additional 2 minutes of walking time. I would say that pretty much every transit planner I have met uses transit as their primary mode of transportation, for what it’s worth.

    I hope everyone has gone over to Human Transit to read Jarrett’s discussion of access. I really like his point that many European transit systems have fewer stops but also invest a lot more in those stops. Perhaps with fewer stops to maintain, TriMet could pour more resources into making the remaining ones higher quality and easier to access. As others have discussed in these comments, the City of Portland and TriMet need to work together to improve crossings and sidewalks, rather than each of them saying it is the other agency’s problem.

  60. Jeff F
    September 5, 2011 at 8:07 am Link

    As others have discussed in these comments, the City of Portland and TriMet need to work together to improve crossings and sidewalks, rather than each of them saying it is the other agency’s problem.

    Not just City of Portland, obviously. But your good idea was the subject of this document.

  61. zefwagner
    September 5, 2011 at 8:33 am Link

    The reason I say Portland is because I’m specifically referring to stop consolidation, which is most important in Portland. Most suburban routes that don’t pick up people at most stops wouldn’t benefit from this, whereas routes like the 15 or the 72 (that stop constantly) would. I’m sure there are a few suburban routes that might benefit, but it’s not my area of experience.

  62. Jason McHuff
    September 5, 2011 at 12:09 pm Link

    And rail sets stuck behind stalled trains

    That could be solved by having more cross-over tracks, allowing trains to bypass a broken-down one by sharing the track that is used for the other direction.

    And what is the trip time variation/on-time performance of bus routes vs. rail lines? What’s the overall reliability of each?

    Or 40 buses

    How much more would that cost per passenger capacity and over a 40-year lifetime (trains can carry a lot more riders per operator and last a lot longer than buses)? And doesn’t every little bit of road capacity help (or hurt)?

    a BILLION dollars moving those people out ov buses onto light rail.

    How much is that over the many decades that the infrastructure can last? How many of the rail riders actually formerly rode the bus routes?

    And, again, how is localized pollution in an area of heavy population better? How practical would it really be to remove the dams?

  63. jim karlock
    September 5, 2011 at 1:48 pm Link

    Jason McHuff Says: JK: BILLION dollars moving those people out ov buses onto light rail.
    How much is that over the many decades that the infrastructure can last?
    JK: 1 billion x 8% = $80 million per year. That is the federal standard. Divide by 360 and you get $222,000 per day. Distribute that among your 24,000 riders (your number above) and you get $9 per trip in just amortized costs. Now add Trimets operating cost to that and you are well over $10 per boarding. A similar car trip costs under $2 for a similar trip length (all costs included)

    Jason McHuff Says: How many of the rail riders actually formerly rode the bus routes?
    JK: About 2/3 by most counts. Some say that when you count those who quit riding transit when Trimet cancelled their express buses, there were no new transit riders.

    Thanks
    JK

  64. AL M
    September 5, 2011 at 2:28 pm Link

    To Al’s point, I don’t own a car and use the bus as my primary form of transportation. I am arguing for wider stop spacing even though it would mean I personally would have to walk 2 more blocks to access the closest bus stop.

    ~~~>You ride the bus every day so your point of view is valid. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe most riders would agree with you.

    To the bigger point, this country needs to get serious about transit in general.

    Buses are the integral transit mode in most of the world, especially the undeveloped world where money is at a premium and governments don’t have the luxury of boondoggle spending.

    I am on the “conservative” side of the transit debate, although I do not consider myself a “conservative”.

    Actually I have no use for the label conservative/liberal at all, its just one more way of splitting people into competing with each other.

    Back to the topic:

    The route I currently drive would not be a candidate for your spacing argument, they are already spaced way out, maybe they could dump some of the downtown stops, that would surely speed up the 58 route. Actually, now that you got me thinking about it, it’s a damn good idea!

  65. Aaron Hall
    September 5, 2011 at 2:59 pm Link

    Al, I agree that buses are vital to any city’s mass transit system, but that doesn’t make rail transit a boondoggle. Any more than interstate freeways are boondoggles. That a loaded word that opponents of ANY project love to throw around. And I also agree that the US spends way too little on mass transit given the percentage of our population that lives in urban areas.

    However, you say that because I don’t ride (or drive) the bus everyday, my opinion is less valid than somebody who does. The door swings both ways on that argument. Since you don’t ride MAX everyday, does that make your point of view on rail transit invalid? According to you, yes. Or since you don’t drive over the Interstate Bridge everyday, your opinion on the CRC means nothing? Or the Sellwood Bridge? Or the “fill-in-the-blank” project?

  66. EngineerScotty
    September 5, 2011 at 3:08 pm Link

    Al,

    A little off topic, but since you’re driving the 58–I’ve got a question for you.

    What would you think about combining the 58 and the 52 (adjusting the schedules on both lines so they match)? Right now, there are a LOT of lines which end at Beaverton TC, but the only thing which is through-routed at Beaverton is MAX. 58 and 52 both approach BTC from opposite directions, and the total run time of both routes (in one direction) is less than an hour. 52 is a little more frequent than 58, but schedules are similar.

  67. Jason McHuff
    September 5, 2011 at 9:07 pm Link

    Distribute that among your 24,000 riders (your number above)

    Between downtown Portland (west of where the original line ended) and Hillsboro, about 32,000 rides are taken, if you’re talking about the full line. Many rides are just within Beaverton/Hillsboro. And that number could always increase in the future.

    A similar car trip costs under $2 for a similar trip length (all costs included)

    Generally all the parking I’ve seen in the downtown Portland area has cost well more than that, often around $10 for a full day. So, I get much more even before considering travel expenses.

    Plus, the train is probably going to run whether an individual rides it or not, so someone deciding to ride isn’t going to create more costs for TriMet.

    Some say that when you count those who quit riding transit when Trimet cancelled their express buses, there were no new transit riders.

    How many rides were taken to/from/around the westside in 1997 vs today? How does that compare to other areas of similar population growth?

    And, again, how would it be better to have increased localized pollution in an area of heavy population? How is that better than having the dams continue to generate electricity?

  68. Jeff F
    September 5, 2011 at 9:48 pm Link

    Some say that when you count those who quit riding transit when Trimet cancelled their express buses, there were no new transit riders.

    “Some say” is a cheesy way to add weight to an argument by inflating the number of people who hold the same opinion.

    Which express buses were canceled to make room for light rail? Do you have to reach back to 1985 for an answer?

  69. jim karlock
    September 5, 2011 at 10:10 pm Link

    Jason McHuff Says: Generally all the parking I’ve seen in the downtown Portland area has cost well more than that, often around $10 for a full day. So, I get much more even before considering travel expenses.
    JK: Ok, so now you are arguing that the primary function of MAX is to export parking from downtown! Maybe we should de-densigy downtown to allow more parking, instead of spending a $BILLION on exportiong parking spaces AND billions densifying downtown.

    Jason McHuff Says: How many rides were taken to/from/around the westside in 1997 vs today? How does that compare to other areas of similar population growth?
    JK: Feel free to get the numbers.

    Jeff F Says: Which express buses were canceled to make room for light rail? Do you have to reach back to 1985 for an answer?
    JK: Nope.
    Oregonian, The (Portland, OR) – Thursday, October 29, 1998 : “Line 89, which Tri-Met altered to eliminate downtown service once westside light rail opened in September. “

    Also:
    Oregonian, The (Portland, OR) – Thursday, October 29, 1998 : “The new calculation of 416 new riders represents more than a 10 percent increase in morning peak-hour transit users, up from an estimated 3,500 before the MAX opening to 3,916 after the opening, by the critics own count. “

    So it looks like 3500 of those 3916 riders were former bus riders, so it looks like only 11% were new transit users.

    Thanks
    JK

  70. Jason McHuff
    September 6, 2011 at 11:38 am Link

    Ok, so now you are arguing that the primary function of MAX is to export parking from downtown!

    No, I am saying that someone who takes transit to downtown (or somewhere else) does not need parking once they get there. And many people can walk, bike, take a bus, get dropped off, etc to get to MAX.

    we should de-densigy downtown

    So are you saying the government should tell people to do that?

    billions densifying downtown

    How much of that was spent by private sector on their own desire, and how much of it would have been spent anyways (even if somewhere else)?

    morning peak-hour transit users

    MAX doesn’t just run then (and in the evening). It runs all day, every day. That same Oregonian article says that “Tri-Met…attracted 1,773 new bus and rail riders in the westside corridor.” Furthermore, that was less than two months after the line opened. Many people take longer to make decision to ride (maybe needing to move to somewhere where riding is feasible).

    And during the PM peak period, TriMet was able to go from 67 downtown-to-westside bus trips (14 onLine 57, 5 on Line 58, 7 on Line 59, 4 on Line 60, 11 on Line 88, 9 on Line 89, 8 on Line 91, 9 on Line 94) to just about 20 train trips.

  71. Jeff F
    September 6, 2011 at 1:30 pm Link

    Oregonian, The (Portland, OR) – Thursday, October 29, 1998 : “Line 89, which Tri-Met altered to eliminate downtown service once westside light rail opened in September. “

    Line 89? That’s it? Seriously, that hardly qualifies even as one express route.

  72. jim karlock
    September 6, 2011 at 2:01 pm Link

    Jason McHuff Says: JK: we should de-densigy downtown
    So are you saying the government should tell people to do that?
    JK: Nope. Just cut off the corporate welfare to the downtown crowd. The rest will take care of itself.

    Jason McHuff Says: JK: billions densifying downtown
    How much of that was spent by private sector on their own desire, and how much of it would have been spent anyways (even if somewhere else)?
    JK: Lets cut off the corporate welfare to downtown and see.

    Thanks
    JK

  73. Ron Swaren
    September 6, 2011 at 4:30 pm Link

    Introducing rapid service will make easier further improvements, such as reintroduction of articulated busses–not necessary for capacity, but for faster boarding times (sorry, Ron, but double-deckers are probably not an option in this role for that reason). A roadblock to using longer busses is that you need longer stops, but artics on limited-stop service only would be easier to accomodate.

    I don’t know why that would be such a problem on express routes. Instead of running a MAX to Sherwood, what about picking Sherwood and Tualatin passengers together on one bus and expressing them into DT Portland? You wouldn’t need a lot of stops—and just run regular buses during non-peak hours. Maybe a third city could be added later—or change the route for more efficiency. It is a bus, remember?

    I would like to see Everett’s in action. Other cities that have started the DD service are: Toronto, Ottawa, Victoria and Kelowna Ca, San Luis Obispo, Las Vegas, UC Davis, all in CA or NV.. London’s newest designs have three boarding entrances: I don’t know what that leaves the passenger capacity at. Berlins DD buses supposedly have 128 capacity.

    I imagine there will be people who think of ways to introduce rapid boarding to buses. And frankly I don’t care if the route takes an extra five or ten minutes.

  74. zefwagner
    September 6, 2011 at 5:38 pm Link

    As much as I love MAX, it seems like now might be the time for TriMet to be more strategic in its capital investments. Federal money will probably me a lot more scarce in the coming years, plus TriMet has been borrowing a lot of future operating money to pay capital expenses.

    Various forms of BRT are a great way to invest in a high-demand corridor in a way that mimics light rail, but with lower initial costs. As ridership grows over time, TriMet can decide if light rail is a necessary upgrade.

    I think Swift up in the Snohomish County, WA is a great model. It stops once per mile (with an underlying local bus), stops automatically at each station, uses off-board payment and all-door boarding with random fare inspection, has signal priority at most intersections, and has a BAT lane for most of its length. It uses really nice articulated buses that have fewer seats (thus more total capacity and ease of movement) than normal buses, and 3 cool bike racks inside each bus. They made the bike racks themselves, and they work quite well and only take up 3 seats worth of space.

    RapidRide in Seattle is another model. It uses similar buses, although the bike racks are on the front like normal. It stops about every quarter-mile to a half-mile, and uses off-board payment only at the busiest stops (called stations, with extra amenities). At normal stops, people pay the driver to get a proof-of-purchase. RapidRide generally has some signal priority but not much in the way of lane priority.

    The Rapid concept in LA is not really a full-on BRT concept, but on the other hand would be really easy to implement on busy routes in Portland. As many have mentioned, the 72 would be a good candidate. As TriMet’s finances improve, that kind of dual-service might be a better way to go than my proposal for general stop consolidation. Again, my idea was meant to be something TriMet can do without needing additional resources.

    The SW corridor would be a great place to test out BRT concepts rather than rushing into light rail as the default solution. I’m not too familiar with the area. Is Barbur wide enough to give buses any lane priority? It seems from google maps that it is mostly 4 lanes, which would preclude any BAT lanes. Even without lane priority a limited-stop bus like a RapidRide could work. I’m sure other major corridors in the SW could accommodate BRT to a greater degree.

    Another place would be Vancouver, assuming they reject the Yellow Line extension. A BRT line could connect to the Yellow Line, or could take a different route like MLK. Express buses would obviously continue in either scenario, as it serves a different market.

    Another obvious choice would be Powell in the SE, which is in the long-range plans for light rail but probably won’t be “in line” for that kind of investment for awhile. BRT investment could really invigorate that sad highway, and there is lots of infill TOD opportunities on all those terrible city-owned parking strips all along the road.

  75. EngineerScotty
    September 6, 2011 at 6:05 pm Link

    Zef,

    You might consider this post from a few months ago on the subject of BRT to Vancouver. To make a long story short; C-TRAN is considering a BRT line along Fourth Plain Boulevard (subject to voter approval); and presently runs TONS of express busses between Portland and Vancouver. The article considers extending BRT (probably operated by C-TRAN) into Portland itself–the main technical issue is where to put a BRT line.

  76. Ron Swaren
    September 6, 2011 at 7:11 pm Link

    On articulated versus double decker;

    You do want to attract new riders don’t you? Even with a defacto munchkin level upstairs that could be a winner. Attract the munchkins while they’re young—who knows? maybe it will become a fad. Put some Austin Powers posters up there instead of the diversity propaganda.

  77. Aaron Hall
    September 7, 2011 at 1:05 am Link

    Ron: Diversity propaganda? Not sure what you’re trying to say there. And while I’m ambivalent about double deckers, do we really want our mass transit to be a “fad”? If they’re functionally superior to other buses, that’s fine. But I’m not sure that they are. I get a “cool and trendy” impression when I see them in travel posters.

    Zef: Barbur is not wide enough to give buses “lane priority”. Whatever is built in that corridor will need to be additional capacity that doesn’t take lanes away from the current Barbur high traffic volumes. Also, there really is no “other” major corridor from downtown to Tigard. Barbur/I-5 is it.

  78. Aaron Hall
    September 7, 2011 at 1:43 am Link

    Jason and Jeff: Please, please, please don’t feed the troll. I’m really sick of reading fabricated statistics from somebody who thinks we should “de-densify downtown so we can allow more parking”. You can’t reason with somebody THAT irrational.

  79. Michael, Portland Afoot
    September 7, 2011 at 8:21 am Link

    Awesome post, Zef.

    On JK: I almost never agree with Jim or bother to read folks’ debates with him, but I do read and appreciate his initial objections. It’s useful exercise and I don’t consider him a troll.

    Small point, Ron: I don’t see TriMet’s signs as diversity propaganda, but as safety and behavioral propaganda that makes an effort to respect diversity by featuring multicolored cartoon characters.

  80. EngineerScotty
    September 7, 2011 at 8:28 am Link

    While some may consider a “kids section” on a bus to be a good idea, especially if it provides some level of noise isolation–there are plenty of safety reasons why kids should ride with their parents, and not in an upstairs funhouse. :) Also, it would slow down disembarking times were it to become necessary for kids and their folks to rendezvous prior to getting off the bus.

  81. Douglas K.
    September 7, 2011 at 9:41 am Link

    What about adding a few double-decker streetcars? Is there sufficient overhead clearance under the wires?

    It’s not like speed is much of a priority with Portland Streetcar, at least the way the system is currently designed. And I experience standing-room-only crowds on the current streetcars quite often, so there may be a need for more seats. If Oregon Iron Works could build a couple and test them here, there might actually be a market for them elsewhere.

  82. Chris I
    September 7, 2011 at 11:25 am Link

    Do those exist anywhere? The overhead power system takes up a lot of space. I have seen multi-level EMUs for commuter rail, but I believe those lines have higher clearance.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C4%8CD_Class_471

    A bit ugly, too. Might ruin the streetcar’s cred.

  83. Steve B
    September 7, 2011 at 11:27 am Link

    Yes! I think the great compromise here is to develop express stops that skip every third stop or so, and run those at peak times to help longer-distance transit commuters home more quickly.

  84. Ron Swaren
    September 7, 2011 at 11:32 am Link

    While some may consider a “kids section” on a bus to be a good idea, especially if it provides some level of noise isolation–there are plenty of safety reasons why kids should ride with their parents, and not in an upstairs funhouse. :) Also, it would slow down disembarking times were it to become necessary for kids and their folks to rendezvous prior to getting off the bus.
    You didn’t think I meant the Austin Power stuff seriously, did you, I;m not sure he is in fashion anymore anyway. I was just truing to segue between the DD buses and pop culture, evocations of London…and well… you know…

    A lot of moms are short, too. Who said anything about a “funhouse?” Why don’t we watch for evidence from the cities I mentioned on how their DD services are working out? If it is true that children and shorter people going to an upper level happens and becomes a safety concern that is a valid objection. The last thing TriMet needs is more control headaches.

    OTOH there is a belief that DD’s attract a greater number of riders. Better farebox revenue would go a ways to solving other problems. And I am not against the articulated buses, either, Whatever works.

  85. EngineerScotty
    September 7, 2011 at 1:17 pm Link

    OTOH there is a belief that DD’s attract a greater number of riders. Better farebox revenue would go a ways to solving other problems. And I am not against the articulated buses, either, Whatever works.

    There is a belief? I know lots of folks believe it–including you–but is there any empirical evidence that double-deckers attract more ridership than articulated busses of equivalent capacity? Particularly if one excludes tourists who may regard DD busses as a novelty while visting London, but will likely see the novelty value wear off if using them for a daily commute?

    I’m not saying there’s no difference–I don’t know; there aren’t many places where one can conduct controlled experiments on this sort of thing, and a quick Google search didn’t produce any reasonable scholarship on the issue. I can think of practical and comfort advantages for both configurations, some of which have been discussed already.

  86. Ron Swaren
    September 7, 2011 at 1:46 pm Link

    There are news story that revel in the initial popularity. Does this sustain in the long run? That is why observing and following what happens with them in the cities I mentioned would be helpful. Are you just trying to argue; It sounds like it.

  87. Aaron Hall
    September 7, 2011 at 3:12 pm Link

    Ron: You yourself admit you don’t know whether the novelty wears off and how ridership on DDs compares to regular or articulated buses. That’s the point, it hasn’t been proven to increase ridership or speed up service versus a more conventional bus.

    Yes, of course we’d want to observe the cities where they’re implementing it, but it sounds like you just want to jump in head first. I just don’t see how DDs are any better functionally than regular or articulated buses. Let’s see how well they do in other cities (besides London and Hong Kong) before we jump on that bandwagon.

  88. Jeff F
    September 7, 2011 at 5:39 pm Link

    Aaron Hall: Let’s see how well they do in other cities (besides London and Hong Kong) before we jump on that bandwagon.

    Just as a point of reference, double deckers are not limited to London and Hong Kong. I saw them in several cities in the UK, from Glasgow to Plymouth (where they were in very cheery pastel colors).

    Looks like at least one mfg is unveiling new models at APTA next month. http://preview.tinyurl.com/3nkhg9j

    As to how they’re “better” than standard or articulated buses, they hold more passengers than the former and have a smaller wheelbase than the latter. They’re not a novelty item, although they would obviously have that appeal in the US simply because they’re new. Others here have mentioned problems with loading and unloading times, but a alternative design includes an extra set of doors.

  89. John D
    September 7, 2011 at 8:39 pm Link

    First to Al: Yes I take the bus every single day, usually multiple bus routes and MAX and I have no problem with expanding bus stop spacing.

    Yes its nice getting off the bus after a long day at work on my feet and walking across the street right to my place, but if I have to walk a little oh well I will live. In fact most of us probably could use a little more walking.

    Now on to the topic of Double Deckers. The late RTD in Los Angeles was the first “modern” transit system to start using DD’s I believe. They bought two Neoplans then bought another 20 or so a few years later.

    Not too many years after the second batched arrived RTD announced that they would standardize to 40 foot buses (never 100% happened), and one of the reasons sighted for getting rid of the double deckers was the buses and trees had one too many disagreements.

    In addition only a select couple of routes could use them because of height restrictions. I know the ones that Vegas and Community Transit bought are lower but they are still tall.

  90. Juke
    September 7, 2011 at 11:23 pm Link

    People, people, we can all be happy.

  91. Aaron Hall
    September 8, 2011 at 3:17 am Link

    Yes, I understand the size difference and the different capacities. And I used London and HK as the most popular examples. My point is, how is it better to have 2 DDs holding 75 people each versus 3 standard buses holding 50 people each? (those numbers are examples only, actual capacities will vary depending on make and model).

    John brings up a good point about trees, but those can be easily trimmed and wouldn’t preclude using DDs here.

  92. Ron Swaren
    September 8, 2011 at 8:47 am Link

    Like I said we can observe Toronto, Ottawa and Everett to see how well received their new DD services are. No rush is there?

    My thought on the DD’s was basically as an alternative to MAX. Usually those main thoroughfares don’t have so many trees, although around here you never know. Trees are planted where they shouldn’t even be, and then they break up the sidewalks, leading to expensive repairs. I’m sure the trees planted in Portland are badly needed though—-since we only have a few billion around the NW anyway.

    I guess the passenger capacity of a DD is more typically 90-100, although some cities, like Berlin, apparently have ways to pack more people in. I bet DD buses would have worked just fine on Interstate Avenue—and then you could park them during the slow hours. Interstate Line is never going to Vancouver, anyway. Not until we find that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Interstate DD service probably would have cost $30 million instead of $350 million and could—with almost zero effort—include a loop through the terminal 6 area.
    Everett received federal and state grants totaling 90 percent of the capital costs of the vehicles.
    And then there are the new MAX lines being proposed.
    But….what’s ten billion dollars?

  93. Aaron G
    September 8, 2011 at 1:16 pm Link

    My point is, how is it better to have 2 DDs holding 75 people each versus 3 standard buses holding 50 people each?

    Two bus drivers instead of three, shouldn’t they cost less money?

  94. Aaron Hall
    September 8, 2011 at 5:04 pm Link

    That’s true, but only when you’re operating at full capacity (during peak hours). Otherwise you’re paying more to run a bigger bus that’s half empty.

  95. zefwagner
    September 8, 2011 at 6:03 pm Link

    Wow, I didn’t think this would turn into a debate on double-decker buses! I think double-decker buses are most effective on proven express routes that have crowding problems. They should be express (or at least limited-stop) because dwell time is certainly higher. They need to have guaranteed ridership, because the vehicles are bigger and cost more to operate. Express routes are also good because a lot of the value of sitting up top is for the view, which is not really worth much if the trip is short. They also can only run on certain routes due to trees and overpasses and overhead wire. In most cases, articulated buses would be a better solution, but on certain crowded express routes (especially if you are worried about losing street parking), double-deckers could be good.

  96. EngineerScotty
    September 8, 2011 at 6:13 pm Link

    Zef,

    Plenty of DD busses come in under 14′–in other words, they’re no taller than a semi.

  97. Ron Swaren
    September 9, 2011 at 9:03 am Link

    For what its worth (I’m honestly not trying to influence the discussion ) here is an article of the new London buses that are replacing the DD Routemasters. But the articulated buses are tried and true and I’m sure no one is going to fall down the stairs.

Leave a Reply

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