May 2012 Open Thread

A few interesting news items and reminders.

91 responses to “May 2012 Open Thread”

  1. More on Bolt Bus. One-way fare to Seattle is $7, it includes free wi-fi, and each passenger can bring a bike for free. (Thanks to Jonathan Maus and Michael Andersen, who are tweeting on the subject…)

  2. I saw three Bolt-branded buses at the Greyhound station recently; maybe they’re getting ready. Though the article says they will not operate from there, but from on Salmon Street at 6th, which I can see getting a little crowded.

    Also, how many people can get that $7 fare? And you still can’t get up and get something to eat or drink.

  3. I commented on the Bike Portland article about Bolt Bus. I’m wondering how they can claim 6th and Salmon as a bus stop. Will they be leasing this space from the city at the market rate? I have heard stories of Bolt Bus and the Chinatown buses parking illegally, idling on the streets, blocking bike lanes, etc. I hope this isn’t something they are allowed to do here.

    It seems like they would do just fine serving the existing bus station. The advantage of the service is that it is direct to Seattle. It’s scheduled to be faster than Amtrak Cascades.

  4. One-way fare to Seattle is $7

    And I thought the $17 I paid for a Greyhound-proper ticket from Seattle to Portland in March was a good deal… still cheaper and a bit faster than the train.

    And you still can’t get up and get something to eat or drink.

    IMO, the point of traveling by bus is to get to where you’re going, its no-frills service. Most people (including myself) usually eat a meal before the trip and/or take a box of crackers and a drink with them (I do that on the train too, even 7-11 and Plaid are less expensive than the snack car).

  5. BTW, FTW Bolt Bus’ website is currently showing $1 fares for Portland to Seattle and Seattle to Portland May 17th-May 20th. If I weren’t on the other side of the State of Washington, I’d likely take them up on the offer. :)

  6. I’m wondering how they can claim 6th and Salmon as a bus stop

    There’s a designated bus zone there and my guess is that it’s free to use for any bus.

  7. If (and it isn’t confirmed) they’re going to be blocking bike lanes, idling, and creating crowds, then they’re definitely externalizing a lot of their costs. Riders get a cheap fare. Everyone else get a slightly lower quality of life.

    If they’re blocking bike lanes, hopefully the PPD will do something about that.

  8. Everyone else gets an unsubsidized option for PDX-SEA travel. Don’t undervalue that. Cheap links to other cities can help grow the economy, isn’t that what we built all the roads for in the first place?

  9. Unsubsidized? They use the interstate highways, don’t they? How much are they paying for that bus loading zone on Salmon?

  10. It is my understanding that most commercial vehicles get hit with weight-miles taxes that cover their wear & tear on the highways. As for the loading zone, that’s in the noise. If its too busy they’ll do curbside pickup somewhere else, there are plenty of under-utilized loading zones in the central city. I believe the subsidies are in the noise (as in much closer to zero) than other intercity transportation services that are offered. Feel free to back up your claims with some data and I am willing to change my mind

  11. The difference between pickup up curbside, vs at a bus terminal (Greyhound as a perfectly nice terminal at the north end of the transit mall, after all), has interested me.

    Similar bus services in China itself do a multi-point curbside pickup model–at least the one’s I’ve ridden. They pick up at multiple destinations in one city, at curbside (often near a ticket office), drive to another city, and then serve multiple curbside locations there. The advantage over a centralized terminal is easier last-mile travel.

    Greyhound itself has long had a “central station” model; with pickup and dropoff at one location within a city.

    In the US, in some cases, it seems that the impetus for curbside pickup is to avoid terminal usage fees; particularly for fly-by-night operations. Given that a) BoltBus does handle luggage, b) Greyhound owns and operates the existing bus terminal (which has way more capacity than needed, given Greyhound’s numerous service cuts over the years) and thus, one would think, would not incur extra charges for using their own depot, and c) only one local pickup/dropoff location is provided–why not use the existing bus terminal?

    Both are conveniently located downtown, and provide good access to I-5. Is it a desire to segregate the clientele of BoltBus from that of Greyhound?

  12. The reason not to use the Greyhound station is that it is a terribly unpleasant and crime-ridden station that Greyhound has no apparent intention of addressing. I would never use a bus leaving from the Greyhound station, so I’m glad they are doing curbside. I also don’t see the concern with 6th & Salmon. There is not a bus stop there and there is not a bike lane there. If it is a free loading zone, this fits the bill.

  13. My wife has no problem with the local Greyhound station but feels very uncomfortable with the Seattle one.

  14. zefwagner: you’re right about there not being a bike lane. I was thinking of Stark.

  15. We have Megabus here in the midwest and out east. They operate on the same premiss as what it sounds like Bolt Bus is doing. Here in Indy, they pick up right on a curb along the Cultural Trail (a new bike path in downtown) and it can be a struggle if you are riding through when a bus is there. It creates a lot of pedestrian congestion. But the trade off is worth the hardship. Cheap fares from one downtown to another. Streetsblog recently syndicated a post that in NYC, they are looking at finally regulating the curb-side private buses like this, because its created a major congestion issue. But that is the only place I have heard it is a big issue.
    There were some folks here in Indy trying to get the local megabus stop moved so it could benefit some local business as there is really nothing around where the current stop is. But it hasnt changed yet

  16. Metro has just released their draft recommendations for the East Metro Connections Plan. I’ll do some more detailed commentary later, but one transit-related improvement that is called out in the draft is one-seat frequent service along the 181st/182nd corridor between Sandy and Powell. Right now, the street is served by two different bus lines (the 82 and the 87), neither of which are frequent (or even run on weekends), and traversing the full length of the corridor requires a transfer at Rockwood.

    Of course, such recommendations don’t automatically imply funding to operate the line…

  17. Scotty, TriMet is going to combine the 82 and 87 into one all-day route to do precisely that! It was one of the late additions to their budget.

  18. Zef.

    I had thought that was the case, and ’tis a good idea. Of course, the combined line won’t be offering frequent service, yet alone 7-day service.

  19. Speaking of 7 day service, I have yet to definitely see that the rerouted 77 will have weekend service west of the Rose Quarter to the NW District on Everett/Glisan.

  20. Speaking of 7 day service, I have yet to definitely see that the rerouted 77 will have weekend service west of the Rose Quarter to the NW District on Everett/Glisan.

    I posed the question to Schedule Planning and got this response:

    We are crossing the Steel Bridge, will travel on Glisan/Everett and 21st to Thurman to 23rd to Vaughn and then to Montgomery Park. Same hours of service and frequency as we currently have on the line 77.

  21. I had thought that was the case, and ’tis a good idea. Of course, the combined line won’t be offering frequent service, yet alone 7-day service.

    At least it’s a start. Glad the east side is finally gettin’ some love (scanned the plan and didn’t see any mention of the proposed Powell BRT line but hopefully it’s on their radar).

    Speaking of east side, since Powell isn’t the quickest route from Portland to points east of Gresham even though Mt. Hood is signed as one of its destinations, I’m curious if it’s ever been suggested to move US 26 off Powell and instead join 84 to 205 to the current Hwy 212 routing, especially if a version of the Sunrise Corridor ever gets built (I guess Powell could then become Business 26 or something).

  22. Thanks, Jeff, for the info. on the #77. Looks like we’ll also have improvement of evening service on Everett/21st on all days of the week. Just hope the line gets patronized; yield on the current 77 in NW outside of rush hours is pretty poor.

  23. Dan,

    Discussion of building a highway connecting US26 to I-84 have been brewing for a while, but the draft plan as published rules that out, at least for now. The City of Gresham doesn’t want another highway going through their town.

    There’s also been some discussion about widening OR212 and 224. The Sunrise Corridor project would turn OR212/224 to a freeway between I-205 and Rock Creek Junction, and there’s been preliminary analysis of making 212 a four-lane expressway all the way out to US26, but that’s a long way off. However, the desire of Damascus to not urbanize has put a crimp in those plans (no density, no upgraded highway); a more limited project to build a two-lane bypass around Clackamas is scheduled to start construction next year.

  24. Something I haven’t seen mentioned anywhere: TriMet is giving everyone until Dec. 31, 2012 to exchange old tickets at their Pioneer Courthouse Square Office. This is the right thing to do, instead of simply declaring the old tickets worthless (unless you’re a die-hard transit collector).
    BTW, I did happen to use all of mine before they expired.

  25. Back in June of 2012, I covered a Four-Car Type IV MAX Train incident at the NE 60th MAX station.

    I don’t have time right now to listen to the full audio on the YouTube link you provided… is that audio from the same incident, or something more recent? (And at what time index is there a reference to “media”?)

    I’ve been thinking about selling my big TV-news-style camera, as my smaller DSLR-style cameras actually get a better picture. They’ve really improved in recent years. But the big camera gets you into places, and gets you interviews that might otherwise slip away with a “consumer” product. :-)

  26. But the big camera gets you into places, and gets you interviews that might otherwise slip away with a “consumer” product.

    You might be able to counteract that phenomenon by packing a really big lens.

    Which gives you an excuse to go shopping. :)

  27. June of 2012? Holy mother, Bob is time traveling. O.o

    You should see his footage of the new MAX line to West Linn.

  28. Ack… 2010!

    And the light rail line to West Linn takes a strangely circuitous route from Damascus via Colton. :-)

  29. I am not surprised that they are wasting their money on this based on their past actions, but why? The OLCC will crack down if there are problems, this is the system we have. Are there not better things for the City to be doing?

    I have yet to hear a reasonable argument for banning booze carts

  30. I have mixed feelings on this. I think there are two sets of competing values that need to be balanced:

    1) The entrepreneurialism of the carts and the value they add to neighborhood vitality and affordability, which could be enhanced by adding service of alcohol.

    2) The horrible record of OLCC doing any meaningful enforcement around the negative impacts of alcohol service (principally noise, occasionally violence) on the surrounding neighborhood.

    I’m inclined to think City Council is underestimating the former and overestimating the latter, but I don’t blame Council for not relying on OLCC for enforcement on livability issues.

    I think this calls for nuanced balancing, unfortunately we’re getting black and white positions.

  31. I’m assuming that we’re only talking about food carts which serve alcohol as part of a meal; not mobile taverns. Establishments that only serve drink as part of a meal are less likely to contribute to negative impacts such as public drunkenness (and noise and violence) than are bars; and may have one further advantage over a sit-down restaurant: the former will generally serve patrons as many drinks as they want as long as food as ordered at some point during the visit, whereas a mobile food cart that serves alcohol would probably be justified/required in demanding a food purchase with each drink ordered.

    Also, the fact that mobile food carts are fundamentally pedestrian-oriented businesses is also a point in their favor. I’d rather have someone getting drunk and walking home than driving.

  32. Looks like it includes a stop in Seattle. They are beating Amtrak by 30 minutes and offer 2 departure time options.

    How will the border crossing work?

  33. I saw the bolt busses multiple times last week. They still had the Washington, DC * New York * Boston lettering on them. They were in Hillsboro, then I saw them driving down the Sunset into Portland

  34. But the big camera gets you into places, and gets you interviews that might otherwise slip away with a “consumer” product. :-)

    Bob always knew what he was doing!

    I got my incidents confused, somebody told me that the audio of the light rail problem was part of your film.

    I looked at it again, I don’t see how that is possible.

  35. The federal money pipe for MLR seems to be starting, with an $85 million grant being announced by Oregon’s Senate delegation.

    My assumption is that this is the first piece of the full federal funding package, and not some additional (and unexpected) change found under the cushions–though I wouldn’t mind if it were the latter.

  36. The Institute for Transporation and Development Policy (IDTP) recently produced a document for assessing (proposed) Bus Rapid Transit lines, which it calls the BRT Standard. Bus systems are scored on an 100-point scale according to various criteria; those getting 50 points or better are given a Gold, Silver, or Bronze rating. (Those failing to reach 50 are considered to not be BRT).

  37. As a follow-up to the BRT standard–if the Portland Transit Mall were branded as a BRT, it appears it would merit a Bronze rating. (Which is kind of what I expected it would get. Some of the criteria I had to guess at…)

  38. Scotty,

    I tried to guess at what the discarded 5-year-old “BRT” proposal for Highway 43 would have rated. The Alternatives Analysis really didn’t get specific enough to know, but it looks like it might have had difficulty making it to Bronze, if it weren’t disqualified because of the lack of exclusive guideway.

    Let’s hope the next proposed BRT is real.

    It would be great if the SW Corridor ended up being a tunneled BRT with hybrids or low/zero emission vehicles and riders could continue to Sherwood, Tualatin, Wilsonville, LO, Oregon City, etc. without transfers.

    It would be interesting is somebody took the standards and compared existing North American BRT’s.

  39. The “enhanced bus” option certainly wouldn’t have scored 50. The older BRT option might have made it to 50, as it had queue jump lanes, but I kind of doubt it.

    Now, the BRT proposal for the Portland-Milwaukie corridor that got nixed in favor of Milwaukie MAX, probably would have gotten a Silver at minimum. (The proposed Fourth Plain line in Vancouver, alas, looks to be a bronze).

  40. Friday edition of Portland Tribune has an article on Lloyd District subtitled: “Eastside streetcar could spur new residential towers.” The Central Eastside District could be difefrent, though. Do you want a freight train rumbling past when you step out of your condo tower?

  41. Went to Jarrett Walker’s talk last night, and he expressed skepticism about the potential ridership of the Eastside Streetcar, at least until the new bridge opens and MAX connects to it.

    At opening, it will be the only transit service which serves OMSI directly; no connecting services will be available. (I’m ignoring bus lines that may stop on the OR99E viaduct, obviously). It will bisect three major E/W transit corridors south of MAX (Burnside, Belmont/Morrison, and Hawthorne), but the latter two will cross over the (southbound) tracks on an overpass; not conducive to transfers. (A big reason we should consider levelling the Hawthorne and Morrison viaducts, at least east of the freight tracks). MLK and Grand aren’t nice calm neighborhood streets; they are a major state highway. And Ron notes the freight tracks just to the west, and FTM the freeway a few blocks beyond that.

    In 2015, when MLR and the new bridge opens; and the loop is (hopefully) completed; that will change the picture for the Eastside streetcar tremendously–MLR, the 9, the 4, and possibly a few other SE Portland bus lines, will connect with the Streetcar at OMSI and make it a more useful transit service. (Question for Chris–will the bridge be opening to busses or the Streetcar prior to the start of MLR service?)

  42. We’re still trying to scrape together the dollars to connect the streetcar tracks to the new bridge, so it’s probably premature to talk about when we might start service…

  43. Even having MLR and the various bus lines (not to mention the pedestrian/bike access afforded by the new bridge) stopping within walking distance of the Streetcar would be beneficial, even if the Streetcars don’t cross the bridge themselves.

  44. Interesting reporting from India concerning the proposed conversion of a BRT project into general-purpose traffic lanes. Many opponents of the BRT make some rather explicit anti-poor arguments–essentially that because the wealthy are more likely to be driving than riding the bus, and their time is more important than that of poor people, that reserving a lane for transit is wrong-headed.

  45. Supposedly, the 500 series will have vastly different interiors than the 400s, despite being the same basic design otherwise.

  46. Does anyone know how much the Federal share of that will be? 50%? Or maybe more since it’s an interstate freeway?

  47. That Broadway/Weidler plan looks promising (and long overdue), but I’m not sure how effective it’ll be at removing the I-5 bottleneck if they’re going to take a “wait and see” attitude toward addressing the merge/weave situation on I-5 between Broadway and I-84.

    The proposed surface street improvements sure look nice, however.

  48. I would point out that this looks and feels like an ‘urban planner’s- ‘developer’s- wet dream. Finally we’ll make all that land down by the freeway worthwhile. The street reconfigurations could mostly be done by re-purposing the existing structures and the proposed local circulation could probably be accomplished for 10% of the cost – 40-50 million instead of the proposed 400+ million $. What you get for the extra $350 Million is rebuilding a bunch of bridges, a 3rd lane underneath them in each direction and space to build some buildings on over the freeway. You also get alot of construction impacts around the rose quarter. If we are going to spend that money, then lets go for it, but I hope that we have a plan for generating anywhere close to the amount of economic impact that we might hope to get to justify spending a ton of money there. The interchange will be at capacity regardless of these improvements because the demand is basically limited by supply right now, and if supply increased, demand would also.

    I really don’t see much highway improvement out of this project, but maybe the plan simply exists to take the extra load coming down from the CRC when it arrives

  49. I’m surprised that they even bothered with proof of payment on a full fledged rapid transit operation, esp. given the demographics in LA.

  50. Nick,

    I don’t know which “demographics of LA” you are referring to, but it’s worth mentioning that the Red and Purple line subways, which apparently have a fare evasion problem, primarily serve west LA and Hollywood–i.e. the wealthy white parts of town.

  51. According to Bojack, Clackamas County Sheriff Craig Roberts is calling for Clackamas County to renege on the Milwaukie MAX project–mainly because he’s concerned it will impact the funding of his department. Apparently, Clackamas County is planning be paying $1.9M per year for the next 20 years (they’re going to finance the $25M contribution to MLR). A UR district that is expiring next year is reportedly the source of funds. I don’t know what percentage of that $1.9M would otherwise go the the sheriff’s department, but he seems upset about the money.

    Upset enough to make spurious (although rather unsupported) suggestions that Portland gang-bangers are riding MAX into CTC and cause trouble. (The sheriff’s department notes a general rise in crime in the area of the mall since 2009; but doesn’t provide any evidence whatsoever tying this to light rail).

    The good sheriff has beaten this drum before.

    Unfortunately, Sheriff Roberts doesn’t make similar objections to the various road and highway projects on the county’s to-do list–even though scofflaws can just as easily use improved streets to travel to crime scenes, his department is charged with traffic enforcement on county roads (more of which increase the workload of his deputies), and these things also cost the County money that could instead be funding the sheriff’s department.

    But Sheriff Roberts wants you to know that he’s “not against transit”.

  52. So Sheriff Roberts wants the County to break a legally binding contract? Wouldn’t that be, oh I don’t know… illegal? Isn’t he supposed to be upholding the law, not breaking it?

    The hypocracy is mind-boggling.

  53. So Sheriff Roberts wants the County to break a legally binding contract?

    ~~~>Neil Mcfarlane has already broken a legally binding contract-to his employees of all thing.

    Don’ talk about contracts and Trimet to me.

  54. Such a big deal is made out of “walk-ability”, but there are definite problem with it.

    THIS article goes into that.

    Even thought its not about Portland specifically, it applies to Portland.

  55. So walkable neighborhoods are nicer places to live and therefore attract wealthier people. Why is that a problem?

  56. One of the teenagers involved in a beating on the Green Line earlier this year is going to jail, along with her mother who was not involved in the assault but obstructed the police investigation, and has a long prior record.

  57. The WW piece is kind of an eye-opener for someone who occasionally leaves the wonkish blinders on a little too long.

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