July 2012 Open Thread

We now enter the second half of 2012.

81 responses to “July 2012 Open Thread”

  1. China seems to be investing heavily in electric buses. Apparently the city of Qongjing (pop. 7 million) has just opened up some new charging stations that can recharge either a hybrid or full electric in less than 10 minutes and will eventually have 1000 new buses. A Netherlands city apparently has also started an electric bus system:

  2. Well maybe the CRC people did get what they want out of this Congress. Since the TIFIA program leverages money at a high ratio, if they get any substantial loot from it they can continue to plow ahead—assuming the states also comply. They still have to compete with other projects in the country, but have some heavies pulling for them.(This is not good)

    Project eUpdate
    July 2, 2012
    Congress authorizes Surface Transportation Bill
    Congress has authorized a surface transportation bill that includes continued funding for the Federal Transit Administration New Starts program at current levels, and substantially expands the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan program to $750 million next year and $1 billion in 2014.

    The CRC project is seeking construction funding from three major sources: the federal government, the states of Washington and Oregon and tolling the I-5 bridge.

  3. The direct quote I gave is “Nobody goes to Salem to complain about TriMet.”

    When is the last time OPAL or ATU held a rally in Salem? All the rallys I’m aware of have been here in the region?

    My point was that Salem is removed from the local impacts, which is why the appointment power should be more local.

    Definitely NOT saying everything is fine.

  4. But that article is absurd, unbelievably absurd.

    All of the multi level wasteful duplicating and uselss gubmint agencies are linked and they are all controlled by big business.

    So its no surprise that Metro would spit out the same garbage as Mcfarlane spews out.

    Hey, I told you how i feel about this, give them what they want, A NICE LONG SHUTDOWN OF ALL TRANSIT IN THE GREATER PORTLAND AREA.

    Remember, nobody asked the union members about this arbitration thing, it was done WITHOUT union members permission.
    If Hunt had asked is we would have said HELL NO!

  5. The O’ has several articles covering the proposed coal exporting traffic through our region:

    Full disclosure: I live about a block from the UP line along I-84, and the idea of 1,400 cars of uncovered coal passing my house every day terrifies me. What can we do to prevent or regulate this? While I object to the general idea of exporting coal to China, I think I could stomach it if the exporters are required to use covered cars and make improvements to the tracks they use. We could also earmark the tax proceeds to make rail improvements that would benefit future freight and passenger traffic.

  6. I’d love to suggest an East side MAX Loop. The Powell line has been talked about as if it will be BRT, and not for a long time at that. Instead of having the line reach Gresham, it would be interesting to explore a shorter and cheaper Powell, I-205, I-84 loop.

  7. Is there something wrong with my logic here?

    This should be obvious when you look at what has transpired.
    Trimet decided ,THIS YEAR, to double the contigency budget from $10,000,000 to $20,000,000.

    If they hadn’t done that none of the service cuts and contract nonsense would be irrelevant.


  8. A couple of items:

    * President Obama signs the transportation bill; analysis by Yonah Freemark here.
    * California High-Speed Rail continues to move forward. with Senate passage of a funding bill. The bill previously passed in the state Assembly and awaits Governor Brown’s signature.
    * Politifact Oregon considers some dubious claims made against Measure 3-401, the Clackamas County initiative to block rail funding without a public vote. The Clackamas County Democratic Party claims the bill would cause taxes to rise for county residents (presumably to pay for special elections); a claim which is adjudicated to be false.

  9. Speaking of ATU International head Larry Hanley, it says here he’s spot on in this interview.

    “I think Wisconsin shows,” says Hanley, “that at this moment in time, the right wing and the billionaires who support them have been successful in convincing a significant minority of working people that their interests are tied to falling wages in the public sector.” Hanley adds that Walker’s re-election demonstrates politicians’ success in framing unions as a “special interest,” and “saying there are working people, and then there’s organized labor.” Hanley noted he was particularly surprised by polls showing a substantial minority of union households backing Walker. “We have to – starting with our own members – make sure that people understand that we’re all in this together, we’re not all in this alone…it’s going to be a long process.”

  10. Hanley noted he was particularly surprised by polls showing a substantial minority of union households backing Walker.

    ~~>And this is what Mcfarlanes gambit is based on. He knows how splintered the work force is and now with all the new hires he is convinced that he can break the union. Where we have a very vocal bunch of activists (including myself) the majority don’t even pay attention to any of it. Mcfarlane is probably correct. If he gets the legislature to change the rules,. the transit union in Portland is finished and he will have achieved a Scott Walker success and be heralded as a hero of the conservative movement.

    Of course what do I care, I’m retired from that place.

  11. And regarding the ATLANTIC CITIES POST:

    The ramifications of this stigma stretch far beyond NIMBY name-calling. Localities have responded by pouring funds into more gentrifiable transit systems at the expense of the city bus—even if ridership on subways and light rails represents a relatively boutique market.

    And this is what Portland is all about.

  12. More egg on transit’s face: although 3/4 of metropolitan jobs nationwide are located near transit service, only 27% of the populace can reach these jobs on transit within 90 minutes.

    According to the study, TriMet indeed is failing to provide the service necessary for economic recovery: the region is 8th in coverage (88.7%) but only 16th in access (38.4%).

    Of course, this being Portland Transport, we know the answer is not ‘everyone must buy a car,’ the answer is transit service needs to be more available at the days and times people need to get to jobs.

  13. I don’t buy Jarret’s analysis of the article. It didnt say transit is failing because it doesn’t attract enough white people, its the other way around, transit is failing because it wants the “boutique transit options” over the transit that people (primarily of color) actually do need.

    Transit has been hijacked by capital projects and the atlantic cities article points that out.

    And here is another article to ponder:

    States Already Licking Their Chops Over Newly “Flexible” Bike/Ped Funds | Streetsblog Capitol Hill

  14. And HERE is the real reason that people dont take transit to work, even if it is accessible.

    The problem? Most people don’t live within easy reach of those lines. “The typical job,” author Adie Tomer writes, “is accessible to only about 27 percent of its metropolitan workforce by transit in 90 minutes or less.” Even though millions of people live near transit stops, and even though millions of jobs are near transit stops, those systems don’t line up in a way that allows most people to commute by mass transit in less than 90 minutes.

  15. Al,

    The primary reason that people can’t get to work on transit is because we don’t have density. Our metro areas are full of low density, sprawling areas that are very difficult to serve by transit. You can’t just dump money into frequent service busses that go in all directions, because the ridership won’t be there. You can’t fix this with funding, you fix it with land use.

  16. On average people relocate and/or change jobs every five years. As fuel prices rise, more will give thought to transit options when making choices about work or place of residence. The challenge is the rise in housing prices in close-in neighborhoods that are well served by bus transit. In NYC people pay a lot for very little space in order to be close in; the same can happen here. Farther out where housing is more affordable, light rail actually improves job access, especially if you live within 1/2 mile of a line…a 10 minute walk or less. For example from Gresham on the Blue Line with one transfer to the Swan Island 85 bus you can beat a neighbor who drives to Swan Island. A bus can’t do that alone; you need both bus and rail to make it work. Same with the Green Line from outer SE.
    Job density on Swan Island is what makes the 85 bus viable; Rivergate struggles as it has the same number of jobs in a much greater area.
    Parking is the other key element; free parking on valuable industrial or employment area land is probably the most costly commuter incentive our region offers. When Lloyd District switched from free parking and paid transit to paid parking and subsidized transit passes, mode split shifted significantly to where now as many employees there use transit as drive to work alone.

  17. The primary reason that people can’t get to work on transit is because we don’t have density. Our metro areas are full of low density, sprawling areas that are very difficult to serve by transit. You can’t just dump money into frequent service busses that go in all directions, because the ridership won’t be there. You can’t fix this with funding, you fix it with land use.

    In the 80’s and 90’s we had a transit system that could take people virtually anywhere within the Trimet district. That’s no longer the case since the advent of light rail/streetcar.
    I don’t agree that social engineering is the answer.

  18. For example from Gresham on the Blue Line with one transfer to the Swan Island 85 bus you can beat a neighbor who drives to Swan Island.

    I have never argued the point that MAX blue line is a huge success, because it does what light rail should do. Connect various cities that cannot be accessed via roadways.

    But that is the only light rail system that makes sense. Now if they ever got the thing hooked up to Vancouver that would also make sense.
    And even in your example of the 85 transfer, the 85 does not run that frequently if I remember correctly. So if you miss it or ride when its not in service its no longer an easy connection.

  19. Social engineering works both ways. Guess what happens when the government builds millions of miles of interstates, establishes parking minimums, and businesses supply free parking for employees?

    If the bus system worked better in the 70s and 80s, it was because fewer people could afford cars. If the busses were faster, it was because there was less congestion in our region.

  20. The urban footprint of greater Portland was a lot smaller in the 1970s and 1980s, especially in Washington County. I remember when streets like Hall Boulevard were essentially country roads for significant stretches. Portland has sprawled far less than many other cities, but it still has sprawled, and much of the new construction–especially that built in the 1980s and early 1990s, is not very amenable to transit service.

  21. I remember family drives out to Mount Hood as a child (late 60s/early 70s). From Montavilla, we’d drive east on Glisan — and we’d pass through several miles of farmland before passing through Gresham.

    No longer. Now it’s suburban sprawl all the way out. And bus service in low-density Outer East sucks.

  22. Other regional leaders are rather unhappy about Sam Adam’s threats to fund the YouthPass program by increased fees levied against TriMet.

    Who would have thunk?

  23. TriMet operator Claudeen Hendren, involved in several notable recent incidents involving passengers with children on the 57 bus, is retiring in lieu of termination. After the September 2011 incident, where Hendren asked a woman with a screaming child to leave the bus, she was put on a “zero tolerance” policy.

  24. The last time I tried to get a cab to get home we called several companies but they were all too busy to help us. Portland’s solution is to make the problem worse: http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2012/07/unauthorized_taxis_face_toughe.html

    I know this is mostly a transit blog Chris, but the buses stop running right about the time the bars close and when you miss the last one all of a sudden the only option is a taxi cab and we simply don’t have enough medallions to meet demand. Using city resources to enforce a very profitable monopoly seems like the worst possible solution.

  25. Bjorn,

    This is a TRANSPORT blog, and taxi service is very much on topic. We tend to focus on public transit, but we cover bikes (though mostly deferring to Bike Portland), freight, walking, taxis, aerial trams, and even cars.

    No apology necessary.

  26. According to early reports on Twitter, TriMet has (surprisingly) prevailed in its arbitration against ATU757.

  27. Former ATU757 presidential candidate Tom Horton is hosting an Internet petition calling for the TriMet board to be directly elected by the people within the service district.

    Two caveats: It’s an Internet petition for expressing opinion only, not a legal initiative petition drive, and thus has no legal effect; and it’s targeted towards the governor, who lacks the authority to implement the change requested (it would either take an act of the Legislature, signed by the gov, or a successful ballot initiatve, to change the language of ORS267. I don’t believe a Constitutional amendment is required–a statutory revision would suffice).

    But for those interested, there it is.

  28. Somewhat disturbing ruling out of India: http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/article3609037.ece

    Essentially, after officials in Dehli opened a new BRT service (a bus-only lane), a group of motorists filed a lawsuit against the change–arguing, among other things, that doing so increased traffic congestion on the roadway (a lane was taken from motorists)–and that more-over; motorists are wealthier and more productive citizens (whose time is more valuable) than bus riders, and thus it is unfair and poor public policy to given an exclusive lane to mainly-poor bus users.

    While the case is not entirely disposed of, the court has essentially ruled that the bus lane be open to vehicle traffic as an experiment.

  29. Speaking of MLR, SE Powell Boulevard will be closed this weekend near SE 17th Avenue, as crews demolish the current overpass from 17th onto Powell westbound. Busses using Powell will be detoured during the demolition.

    In addition, northbound 17th will remain closed until next summer between Center and Powell, as the new overcrossing and MLR alignment is built; the northbound 17 and 70 busses will instead run on Center and Milwaukie streets in the interim. Southbound 17th will remain open.

  30. Chris or Scotty:

    In recent weeks, you’ve both mentioned a study pointing out the demand elasticity for streetcar service. Where can someone find that report? Thanks.

  31. Thanks Chris.

    It is an exceptionally interesting memo even if, as you say, it doesn’t have much about streetcar’s demand elasticity.

    Three things that grabbed attention:

    1. That the lines do run primarily through areas with higher than average proportions of minority or low income populations, even though (streetcar influenced?) gentrification is changing the character of some of the tracts.

    2. That the analysis was done in a bit of a vacuum; i.e. that only direct effects of streetcar service and fare changes were highlighted without much consideration of what TriMet and PBOT are doing (at least in part) to come up with subsidies required to operate the loop. (For example: the elimination of the zone system should hit Title VI protected groups disproportionately hard. Would the groups be especially hurt by the new metered parking in the central east side? Etc, etc…)

    3. That there were significant changes to streetcar and TriMet fare structures after the memo was written. It does seem that the changes were significant enough to require a supplementary memo.

    The Portland Streetcar fare page has the September 1 cash ride info but not for passes or advance ticket purchases. It will be interesting.

    Not a can of worms, but grist for more conversation…

  32. This report was written in the context of three possible fares for Streetcare: $1, $1.50 or TriMet 1-2 zone.

    The TriMet fare changes did not come into play until this report was already substantively completed. They had to do a separate Title VI process.

  33. Here’s another tale of the actions of a “broke” public agency:

    On Tuesday at 9:30 AM, I’m on the 2717 (running on the 17-Holgate) as it gets stuck in traffic at Milwaukie and Powell due to a crash on the far side of the Ross Island Bridge.
    As we’re trying to get out of the bus stop pullout and back into the traffic lane, a TriMet cleaning crew truck shows up to clean neither the bus nor the stop, but the bus stop sign.
    I am not making this up! TriMet spends their cleaning budget on that?!

  34. Hi. The company I work for just launched a Kickstarter campaign to create an open source multi-modal trip planner application for the iPhone, to replace the Google Maps app which is being dropped for iOS 6. TriMet’s trip planner application is briefly visible in the video, as the app is built on the same software.


    Not specifically Portland-related, but there’s lots of talk about transit applications here, and TriMet has been promoting free transit data for a long time now.

  35. While returning from a camping trip and driving (TriMet doesn’t offer service to the Great Outdoors, unfortunately) north on I-5 between Salem and Woodburn this evening, I noticed a bus cruising up the freeway, all decked out in TriMet livery.

    Wondering what a TriMet bus would be doing down in Marion County, I took a closer look: it was bus #3017–in other words, one of the newly purchased vehicles, and I assume it was in the process of being delivered. (It had a waybill plastered on the side indicating it was in transit, further suggesting that this was the case).

    While I didn’t get any pictures, it’s good to see that the new busses are coming. (And now that my summer vacationing is done, at least for a few weeks, some new content will likely be coming as well…)

  36. It looks like TriMet and the City of Portland/Portland Streetcar are trying to better define their relationship.

    To the extent that Streetcar is funded by TriMet, TriMet (and the region) need to have greater say in where it runs and how it expands. In particular, partial overlap of bus and streetcar can be problematic if it results in duplicate service, bus changes, or truncations of bus lines and forced transfers. And–the technology needs to be used appropriately; critics of the Streetcar system have a point when they suggest that the technology is being deployed for social reasons (attracting riders uncomfortable with bus) rather than for technical reasons (higher-capacity vehicles, electric/zero-emissions traction, lower operating cost/rider).

  37. Wasn’t the streetcar always about “social reasons” and redevelopment (and I’m not necessairly saying thats a bad thing).

  38. Streetcar was always about placemaking with high-quality mobility being a strong additional benefit.

    I don’t think it was ever really a primary objective to entice people onto transit who wouldn’t ride a bus, although I wouldn’t deny that it happened.

  39. “Expect delays on TriMet tomorrow while President Obama is in town. Details are not disclosed, but the motorcade will travel between PDX and the event at the convention center.”

    But…the MAX…would have been the same distance…wouldn’t it….?

  40. That probably wouldn’t be practical. If the President took the MAX he’d just screw it up worse for transit users, and he’d still have a motorcade traveling to his destination with I imagine all sorts of weaponry, intelligence equipment, etc. And being on rails doesn’t exactly make for the kind of unpredictable routes with contingencies I imagine the Secret Service prefers.

  41. The latest missive from Metro on the SW Corridor is, how shall we say, interesting.

    One juicy tidbit to whet your appetite.

    So is this ultimately a light rail project?

    With costs rising for light rail projects, and federal money for those projects decreasing, it’s looking like light rail – if it is selected for the corridor – would be decades away from construction. Still, Southwest Corridor partners are studying it as a possibility, even if it’s a possibility that will have to wait until 2030 or beyond.

    In the meantime, most of the focus seems to be on smaller-scale improvements – sidewalks, bike lanes and improved access to services nearby residents’ homes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *