May 2013 Open Thread

Welcome to the merry month of May. Lots of stuff going on right now, here’s just a sampling:

  • We direct your attention to the fourth year of our interview series with Neil McFarlane. A total of four parts will be published: (Part 1, Part 2 are now available, Part 3 and Part 4 forthcoming).
  • We also direct your attention to Zef Wagner’s piece on the Lombard Re-Imagined effort; a project to tame what is one of North Portland’s most important streets (and one that is still, unfortunately, officially designated as a truck bypass…)
  • Labor relations between TriMet and the ATU are once again, not off to a good start, as a “ground rules” meeting last Friday ended abruptly, partly over which media entities might be entitled to cover the negotiations. ATU’s take here, TriMet hasn’t published a press release on the subject yet.
  • ODOT is considering variable speed limit signs for area freeways.
  • Things are getting hot and heavy with the Columbia River Crossing, as Mayor Hales threatens to nix the project if the Washington Legislature doesn’t approve funding. Hales, Oregon governor Kitzhaber, and Washington governor Jay Inslee are all on record stating that light rail is a “non-negotiable” component of the project; with the Republicans in the Washington State Senate insisting that the project be built without it. Two years ago, we compared the project’s complicated politics to squaring the circle; we’ll see if this game of legislative chicken gets resolved in the next month or so, or not.
  • TriMet would have you read APTA’s periodic Transit Savings Report, as well as wanting you to know that proximity to public transportation significantly improves a home’s value.
  • Metro is revising the Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) again, and wants your input.

87 responses to “May 2013 Open Thread”

  1. From a TriMet bulletin sent just now to local media, expect more on TriMet’s web site soon:

    TriMet appeals for the public’s help after two large rocks end up on the MAX tracks in Beaverton

    Transit Police Division now investigating rock incident

    TriMet and the Transit Police Division want to find the person or persons responsible for an incident that damaged a MAX train this morning, May 2. At about 5 a.m. a Blue Line train heading into the Millikan Way MAX station ran over a large rock that was in the eastbound trackway. A hydraulic line on one of the train’s cars was damaged and the train had to be removed from service.

    On closer inspection two large rocks were found that were about 12 inches in diameter, bigger than a standard bowling ball which is about 8.5 inches in diameter. The area is close to the Murray Boulevard overpass that the MAX tracks go under. There is safety fencing on the overpass above the tracks.

    “I have asked the Transit Police Division to investigate this incident, and when the person or persons responsible are found they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” said TriMet Safety and Security Executive Harry Saporta. “We do suspect foul play because a train went through that area earlier without incident.”

    If anyone has information that would help the investigation, you are asked to call 503-238-RIDE (7433). TriMet is releasing photos of one rock that appears to be intact, a second rock hit by the train and the damaged hydraulic line. No damage estimate is available at this time.

  2. An interesting tidbit from the TriMet press release about the ticket machines…

    Among the improvements, we’ve sped up ticket processing and eliminated one bug we called “screen freeze”, where the transaction just timed out. The TVM was then down until a technician on site fixed the error.

    This sounds very much like the method which we discovered could quite easily accidentally (or intentionally) “kill” a ticket vending machine back in 2009 (!) in our “Fare is Fair?” video, jointly produced with the Portland Mercury. We reported how to reproduce the bug to TriMet at the time.

    That was four years ago. Of course, the press release could be referring to a different but similar-sounding bug.

    (On a more positive note, I now weigh approx. 30lbs less than I did at the time of my appearance in that video. This should reduce TriMet’s fuel expenses ever so slightly.)

  3. In the 12 years that I’ve lived in Portland, I’ve never bought a ticket from one of those machines – I just don’t trust them. In my wallet are a bunch of 10-trip tickets that I buy from my Freddy’s just to use for MAX.

    An occasional ticket validator may not work, but there are 2 of them on each platform.

  4. Transcripts for part 2 of our interview with Neil McFarlane are now posted. (Click on the link, refresh your browser cache if necessary, it’s right below the video).

  5. TriMet has recently published a draft of the 2014-2018 CAMIP (Capital Asset Management and Investment Program) 5-year plan.

    I’ll be doing an article soon that covers this in more detail, along with other topics, but this is worth examining ahead of time. Of particular interest to riders is the “New/Improved Service” section, starting on page 165, which contains the following tidbits:

    * Powell/Division BRT–according to this document, serious work will begin this July, and this could open as early as 2016. According to the description, “BRT service with new, dedicated buses implemented under Very Small Starts federal program. This will be a limited stop, all day service, with distinctive branding and customer information, providing faster service along an existing Frequent Service Bus corridor. Project includes shelters, stop improvements, new buses
    dedicated to the service, and targeted transit priority treatments. Corridor Study to determine alignment and treatment details begins July, 2013.
    Concept schedule: Begin corridor study July, 2013. LPA summer, 2014. Apply for Very Small Starts, Fall 2014. Design/Engineering and start procurement of vehicles 2015. Construction 2016.”

    * A project to improve the pedestrian environment on Barbur Boulevard/99W–this appears to be mainly an ODOT/municipal government project, not a TriMet project, but a possible outcome of the SW Corridor: “Improve bus stops, construct sidewalks, enhance crossings, install signal priority and transit operation improvements on and connecting to Barbur-99W between Portland and Sherwood. Specifically, the project would build bus stop landing pads and shelters and connect bus stops to sidewalks. Rapid flash beacons would be installed to improve safety at non-signalized crossings. Signal priority and operational treatments would decrease travel times. Pedestrian network and connections to transit and regional trails would be improved in Tigard & Tualatin.”

    * A safety project in the Cornell/Evergreen/229th corridor, and a similar project along TV Highway.

  6. So, today is the day the TriMet system went crazy. I imagine the sheer mindbogglery of the Steel Bridge shutdown, et al, would inspire a good topic of discussion. This is perhaps the biggest TriMet shutdown this side of the new decade. Pretty crazy.

  7. Supposedly Joseph Rose is working on an article on this, which likely will be on tomorrow’s front page. (He’s written this so far, though I expect more to be on folks doorsteps tomorrow morn). And, it’s rather obviously an electrical problem. And the Steel Bridge is a bottleneck and a choke point for the entire system.

    But yeah, its a mess out there.

  8. Rose now tweets that TriMet has “identified the cause of the power outage”, and expects service to be restored later this evening. Will be interesting to hear what it was–your standard hot-day-everyone-has-the-AC-on substation shutdown, or something else?

  9. A somewhat minor annoyance, I suppose (while we’re on the topic)–there seem to be quite a few transit activists on twitter who are enjoying this. If you’re of the view that TriMet’s problems are personnel-related and can be solved with a management change, and a few more Really Bad Days on Transit will cause such to occur–I can understand the schadenfreude. That said–the cynical side of me doubts that it will occur (and if it does, new management won’t be significantly different from old, having been appointed by the same folks)–and meanwhile, people are stuck in the mess, trying to get home.

    Latest from Rose: Broken surge protector.

  10. A somewhat minor annoyance, I suppose (while we’re on the topic)–there seem to be quite a few transit activists on twitter who are enjoying this. If you’re of the view that TriMet’s problems are personnel-related and can be solved with a management change, and a few more Really Bad Days on Transit will cause such to occur–I can understand the schadenfreude. That said–the cynical side of me doubts that it will occur (and if it does, new management won’t be significantly different from old, having been appointed by the same folks)–and meanwhile, people are stuck in the mess, trying to get home.

    Latest from Rose: Broken surge protector.

  11. I just found the whole thing an unpleasant clusterfuzz. It knocked my MAXes and buses out of whack today. :- I personally prefer for the commute to be easier on riders, not when it’s harder. The whole thing was a disaster.

  12. I was on the way in when they started announcing delays. Fortunately I was in no hurry, so I got off at the Convention Center, walked over to Grand, and rode the Streetcar in via the scenic route. But if I’d been trying to keep a schedule I’d have been pretty ticked off.

  13. Re: Reason takes on zoning laws:
    I don’t know about how the various political views relate to homeownership.

    I do know, however, that my parents were able to build their own home in the Portland suburbs, with some help from family members, and gain a financial toehold. Minimal as it was. I also joined many others who migrated into the urban core in search of a home renovation opportunity and a different lifestyle than the ‘burbs.

    But for all intents and purposes it is impossible for anyone to build their own home in a “new urbanist” environment. You are stuck with choosing from one of the corporate builders.

    Portland has had a healthy balance of choices. But increased population would do nothing but push the competition for any land left within the city practically beyond the reach of any owner-builder types. So to do that, you would have to go out of the city.

  14. It’s nearly impossible to build a home in a new urbanist development for the same reason you can’t build you own home in any other development. New urbanism isn’t the issue; large scale development by corporate builders is the problem. (That and homeowners associations micromanaging every little design or decoration decision you make, right down to paint color.)

    There’s no intrinsic reason why principles of new urbanism couldn’t be applied to a “build your own” development: the city plats small lots amidst a walkable street grid with shopping and dining allowed close by, and allows any property owner who wishes to build a duplex or triplex so they can lease out the spare units for income, and just put a few basic constraints (like setbacks, “minimum front porch size” and “no snout houses”) on the design.

    But you go into any environment created by a corporate developer, then … no, built-your-own won’t be an option.

  15. Douglas K. have you seen any owner builder projects in the Portland central city lately? Very few, I’m sure.

  16. It may not be the same as building on virgin land, but there is no shortage of aging single family homes one could gut and rebuild as one sees fit (historic preservation districts excluded).

  17. I see small homes going up in Montavilla. No, it’s not the city center, but you can still squeeze a small home onto a subdivided large lot, and build it however you like (within legal limits, of course). And there are still a modest number of large lots that could be split to allow a second house.

  18. I’ll add my own anecdotes: In 2011 we almost bought an older home on Haven Ave. in N. Portland (near Lombard). The lot next door was vacant and had just been purchased by a private owner who proceeded to build a custom home for themselves.

    We are currently remodeling our own 100+ year old home, much as bjcefola suggests. Most of the “gutting” was done by decades of renters prior to us purchasing the place in 2002.

    Our neighbor across the street using nearly all his own labor has constructed an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) which he will be renting out as an apartment.

    I have seen and toured several other ADU projects in my area, that seems to be where the action is happening in my neighborhood in terms of building something from scratch without first destroying something else. In fact, the city is currently providing dramatically reduced fees to homeowners wanting to do ADU projects.

    There have also been a smattering of teardowns to build larger single-family homes, but those are being done by a builder who specializes in such projects rather than individual homeowners.

    In any case, it is clearly quite possible if you have the skills (or can learn, boy have we learned!) for a single owner to permit, build, and live in a home within the city limits of Portland.

  19. A couple news items:

    OPAL is encouraging attendance at the East Portland Community Prioritization Meeting next Tuesday, May 14, to discuss bus stop improvements in East Portland.

    Meeting details:

    Tuesday, May 14th
    at The Rosewood Initiative
    16126 SE Stark Street
    (MAX Blue Line and Bus Line #20)

    And, Governor Kitzhaber has appointed IBEW Local 48 lobbyist Joe Esmonde to the TriMet board. The board has been without a labor representative since Lynn Lehrbach’s term expired. Since he’s an electrician, I wonder if we can get him to see about those surge protectors… :) (H/T to Portland Afoot).

  20. I think the trend on Portland property values is well estabished by now, In the 1980’s I found a west hills lot overlooking the Ross Island Br. for 25,000 (but didn’t buy it :( ) Lately I have seen a west hills lot for $99,000, but right above US 26 (yuck), Then you have to calculate in geotech fees, now, and Portlands high permit costs.

    I saw a lot on Mt Tabor—-$250,000. Show me how someone could go from being a renter to building there?. Unless you have a big trust fund.

    I guess someone could buy an inner city lot, and then possibly with rezoning or in a multi-unit zone, build a plex then sell some units. My, aren’t we getting creative now?

    And even if there are still affordable lots for the owner-builder now, I doubt that after another building boom there will be scarcely any, except ones that require expensive geotech engineering.

    I don’t buy your argument that the density trend will allow affordable, non corporate owner builders, at least under traditional conditions. Basically Portlanders are being squeezed into being corporate climbers or permanent renters.

  21. @Ron,

    Portland is growing up, literally as well as figuratively. It’s becoming a big city; people want to come here and live. For the three years from the beginning of 2010 through the end of 2012, Portland had one of the highest population increases for a city in the country, even with 11% unemployment.

    But physically speaking, the city can’t grow larger; it’s hemmed in by Gresham to the east, Beaverton to the west, and various Clackamas County cities to the south.

    Gresham is too far from the tech corridor to attract many people, Clackamas County doesn’t want growth, and Washington County is getting filled up as well.

    So the result is higher prices for land, which of course means higher prices for existing dwellings and new ones as well. It’s just that simple.

    Perhaps the political direction of the region will change, and Metro will dramatically expand the UGB so that more single-family homes can be built out on the Washington County plains. I doubt it, but it might happen.

    Barring that, land prices will continue to rise.

  22. Even expanding the UGB will have little or no impact on land values in Portland. Real estate prices are all about location. People living in Portland, particularly near the core, are paying a premium because they want to live in those neighborhoods. Opening up more land far from the core won’t have much of an impact on Portland prices. It would put a bit of downward pressure on real estate near the expansion area, but I doubt there would be much impact elsewhere in the region.

  23. @Douglas K,
    I’m not trying to argue with whether the UGB should be expanded or not. I’m just saying that our priorities have been getting way out of kilter and the upshot is that Portland will not be affordable. But with “equity” policies, I’m sure liberal politicians will try to rectify this—–and in the wrong way.

    Our inner southeast transportation problems are not going away—-even with spending close to $2 billion dollars between the MLR and the Sellwood Bridge Project. As soon as Clackamas County decides they want to allow more housing developments, and there are new job opportunities in downtown Portland and the Silicon Forest, the influx of surface traffic will resume. I probably wouldn’t say this if METRO had come up with an actual strategy for connecting all the way to Oregon City with mass transit that we could pay for. But they didn’t.

    And with the other bright idea of having higher densities by whatever means, I’m sure prices will continue spiraling upwards, making entry homeownership more difficult.

  24. Dense cities aren’t the place to live if you want cheap “entry” homeownership. Auto-based development requires continual expansion of roads and highways and conversion of farmland to low-density housing. Your housing will stay “affordable”, but the ever-increasing average commute distances will get more and more expensive. Many people here are making the choice to build up on small lots, or downsize their living space so they can have shorter-distance commutes.

    As someone that made an “entry” homeownership purchase 3 years ago in the Hollywood neighborhood, I understand where you are coming from. I could have bought a house twice the size in better condition out in Gresham, but I wanted to live in a walkable neighborhood. My wife and I are taking the money we save by sharing a car and driving less, and pouring it back into the house via remodeling and upgrades. I prefer to work on my house than sit in my car on I-84 every day.

  25. Ron, density means more housing supply. More housing supply means lower costs and more choices. Even if one doesn’t like apartments other people do, and when those other people move in they leave open other housing that one might find more desirable. What’s not to like?

  26. Chris I; The reason the “entry” term is used is because people moving to a larger stake in homeownership conventionally do it with the nest egg they get from a smaller home. This, at least gives them enough of a down payment. But, maybe some people are fortunate enough to have a trust fund and can plunk down 100g’s for that nice home in Laurelhurst. It’s just a technical term.

    bjcefola: I see you are a “financial analyst.” So you should know the difference between micro-economic and macro economics. More people means more demand, in the macro economy. And there have been only two main downward cycles on Portland real estate in our time. The 1980’s and 2007. I am not that knowledgaeable of the history of rent prices, but I would think they would be close. Prices have dropped or stabilized in Portland when people were exiting because there was major unemployment.

    As far as the transportation issues, I’m just looking at the bottom line, at least in my neighborhood. We have a corridor that is used by suburbanites, too. And I don’t see how recent policies are going to solve that. There’s been a lot of PR noise, but whether the bottom line has changed—it doesn’t look like it.

  27. Ron, just because a quantity is increasing long term doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences from how fast or slowly it grows. For instance the Consumer Price Index increased in 56 of the last 57 years, yet there was still a pretty big difference between inflation in the 70’s (7.9%) vs. the last 10 years (2.3%). Likewise, there are significant differences between housing going up at 2.8% as it has in Portland since 2000 vs. 1.4% a year as it has in Dallas. That may not seem like much, but median income in Portland only grew at 2.3% so that is the difference between housing getting relatively more expensive versus relatively cheaper. And note Dallas maintained low housing cost despite much higher population growth than Portland, both in absolute numbers and in percentage growth. Slice it how you want, supply effects price.

    I can’t speak for where you live or how your bottom line would be changed by growth. I can tell you where I live growth would be a major improvement. My “main street” is little more than an extended highway ramp with traffic routinely moving 35mph plus (except when it’s jammed). That makes it a great place to drive through, but not such a great place to actually be. Growth would bring more people, more amenities, and more life. It would make it a place and not just a street.

    That street already has the negatives of a main street- bus and truck noise, emergency vehicle sirens, pan handlers and street drinkers. What’s wrong with encouraging the positives?

  28. I was referring to SE Tacoma St. I am in support of the neighborhood assoc. move to limit it to two lanes…I never have sided with Clackamas Co. peoples’ view that it should be a highway. However, I would have rehabbed the bridge and used the money saved for an underground route (below Tacoma St) for through traffic, which is simply bound to increase. The Milwaukie MAX, I don’t think, will be chosen as an option enough, once Clackams Co. starts growing again, to ward off traffic increases. There should have been an overall plan to have a satisfactory mass transit all the way to Oregon City, and probably out some of the major east west routes.

    Plus we need a bridge at Lake Oswego, but now the window of opportunity, IMO, is gone.

    That’s just my opinion.

  29. @Ron Swaren,

    This is a very cool bus; adding layover recharging to hybrids is a great idea where the layover is long enough and parking is reliable. The bus has most of the benefits of trolley buses without the expense (and controversy) of the overhead.

  30. I am new to the form, but I wanted to suggest my option for the SW Corridor.
    Here is my suggestion for the SW Corridor line

    My choice would be Light Rail over Bus Rapid Transit. My plan is to build a Y instead of a single line.

    Here is my plan.

    1.Reroute the Green line at the Steel bridge and follow the route used by the Red, and Blue line. The Green line would end on SW 11th Ave. at the old turn around.
    2.Build a tunnel under OHSU as proposed
    3.Build the line following SW Barber Blvd to Tigard.
    4.At Crossroads, diverge another line south towards PCC. This line would ultimately go to Tualatin.
    5.The new line (the Brown line) would run from Tualatin to Portland (Union Station).
    6.The Yellow line would be extended from Portland to Tigard.

    This plan would get 2 lines built for the cost of one. It would serve more riders. The busy OHSU station would be served by 2 lines (Yellow and Brown). In this alignment WES would be connect with MAX at three points (Beaverton-Red/Blue, Tigard-Yellow, and Tualatin-Brown).

    Let me know what you think of the idea.

  31. @Scott,

    Why would you take the Green Line off the Transit Mall just to turn around at the library? Having one of the I-84 lines serve PSU is a big plus.

    Will this plan come to pass? Obviously Metro and Tri-Met will decide in the coming couple of years. My feeling is “Not likely.” It’s a lot of in a very sparsely developed corridor.

  32. I’m skeptical about extending MAX to Tualatin. What route? What stops? Where’s the ridership going to come from? I can see a MAX line serving OHSU, PCC, Tigard TC and Washington Square because I can picture both a route (including tunneling) and identify trip generators. But what’s south of Tigard to generate rides? Bridgeport Village, maybe? Anything else?

  33. There are several potential trip generators south of Tigard (Kruse Way, Bridgeport/Lower Boones Ferry, Tualatin) but you don’t need to complicate operations with a Y configuration. Just turn south from Tigard TC.

    I’m not sure what moving the Green line back to Morrison/Yamhill accomplishes since 5th and 6th have much better station spacing and serves PSU, one of the biggest trip generators in the city.

    Also, why Brown? Yellow and Brown together has a rather unsavory connotation. Stick with primary and secondary colors.

  34. I think, if anything, the green and red lines need to switch, so we can have Airport riders can have a more direct link to downtown and we have a SE/SW route in the city, which we currently don’t. Any SW corridor building could branch off the Red Line. As for the line itself, I definitely think it’s complicated considering the layout of SW Portland and the low rate of frequency of the bus and network. I don’t advocate for spending way more than we’d have to on a MAX, but if anything we’d be smarter adapting the WES corridor to light rail with a segue to Washington Square, or at least find a low cost, less obstructive way to place MAX between Beaverton and Tigard. Then, I supposeThe SW corridor would go to Tigard and veer to Kruse and then Tualatin, which I believe is a good idea just judging the ridership of the 76, which I can attest to often being packed, even on weekends. In addition, like mentioned above, there are a lot of large destinations that could be reached in Tualatin. Kruse Parkway, Bridgeport Village, Downtown Tualatin and Meridian Park are a good set. Tualatin is also an active commuter destination, with two busy park and rides and one of the most frequent expresses in the city.

  35. I wanted to follow up on my thread.

    Based on Metro’s website for the SW Corridor plan:

    I thought that I had come up with a better way to “connect the dots”.

    I am in favor of tunneling. OHSU and PCC.

    Here is where I would make the stops: Along the Brown line (South to North) Tualatin, Durham, Upper Bridgeport, Western Kruise Way, PCC, Crossroads(Junction point), Capital Hill, SW 13, Hillsdale, OHSU, and connect with the existing system. Along the Yellow line (West to East): Downtown Tigard, SW 72nd (Triangle 1), and Crossroads (Joins with Brown line).

    I picked the Brown line just because we need another color to use to identify the new line. I am up for whatever color Trimet wants to use.

    The reason I thought that the Green line needed to be rerouted was because of the number of routes using the line: Yellow, Green, Orange, and Brown. I thought a balanced 3 east/west lines and 3 north/south lines evened out the imbalance.

    My plan does have the flaw of crossing into Clackamas County, but I’m hoping that problem will resolve itself.

    I just wanting to toss out my suggestions and see if it gain any traction.
    Thanks for reading and making comments.


  36. @Scott,

    So you’re assuming a through-route from the existing Yellow Line to Tigard TC? That would mean one option for the Green Line would be through routing to Milwaukie with the Orange Line. That’s pretty sub-optimal; someone wanting to go from Clackamas TC to one of the Orange line stations would probably just ride a bus across south Portland.

    Preferably, the Green would go Southwest to Tualatin on the “Brown” and the Orange would end downtown. So just call it the Green Line all the way.

    The net result is just three vehicles on the Transit Mall every 15 minute cycle period.

    You don’t need more than the Red and Blue lines for the small distance between Tenth and Second Avenues. If a train’s not in sight, people will just walk. The mall is much longer and has more activity centers.

    Of course this assumes a two trains per cycle headway on this line and it simply doesn’t need that level of service. Better to extend the Red Line down past Washington Square to Tigard and call it good. It’s a “two-fer” and gets you out from under the horrid costs of WES.

    The only savior WES might have is as a connection to some future HSR service.

    Anyway, it’s not going to happen: the planners have already telegraphed that the “Locally Preferred Alternative” is BRT.

  37. I was looking at the Willamette Shore Trolley site and it says that when the service resumes next summer, the line will no longer go to Portland, but will only go from Lake Oswego to Riverwood. “All trips from Lake Oswego terminate at the Red Electric Steps in Riverwood.”

    Anyone know anything about the reasons for that? (If it was covered on this site, I don’t remember it.) And where exactly are the “Red Electric Steps in Riverwood”? I can’t find any reference to them outside of the WST site.

  38. SW Riverwood Rd., near where Military Rd. intersects with Rte. 43, opposite Elk Rock.

  39. The primary reason is that a portion of the tracks are being ripped up for Sellwood Bridge construction. I don’t know if the bridge replacement includes funding for reinstalling the tracks on a modified ROW.

    IIRC, there are also needed repairs elsewhere on the ROW.

  40. I’d like to see the Sellwood Bridge segment of tracks rebuilt as double-tracking around a trolley station. In the future, it would be nice to have the option to run two Vintage Trolleys on the WST at once, passing each other at the Sellwood Bridge.

  41. I would have approached the whole SE/Sellwood/Westshore line area differently than what is being done:
    Built the Westshore streetcar line, with a station at the west end of the Sellwood Bridge, just rebuilt the bridge (not replace the bridge), and extend a spur to Milwaukie. This would have provided rail transit to Milwaukie, w/o the MAX, really stimulated the Sellwood neighborhood, and saved costs on the bridge ( I believe several hundred tons could have been eliminated from the deck structure, even when you include wider walkways). Between the construction of a station, improved Highway 43 interchange and new approaches the ground movement would have been stabilized.

    Then I would have run more buses on SE McLoughlin all the way to Oregon City. And had an underground two lane expressway beneath SE Tacoma St, because traffic is only going to increase, markedly, over the coming years.

    But I guess there is not much that can be done now. The Sellwood neighborhood (I served on the board for a couple of years) is going to be fighting cut-through traffic forever, as Clackamas County grows and people continue to commute to either downtown Portland, or to points on the westside. The current Sellwood bridge plan will definitely accomodate cyclists, but I think thee is a larger equation which has been ignored. Because the Milwaukie MAX passes through so much area that is low density, and doesn’t go to Oregon City, how much use will it actually get? The inner SE area, north of Holgate, could have been very easily served by bicycle paths and bus transit.

  42. TriMet recovers money from the insurance company of the driver who crashed onto the tracks at Sunset TC a few months back, damaging the overhead caternary and taking westside MAX out of service for most of the day.

  43. 83 MPH around a 30 MPH curve. I was wondering how you could end up there. good thing the MAX wasn’t in service at that time

  44. Whether it matters is debatable–but TriMet got a split decision from Clackamas County voters in today’s election returns. In a county-wide vote, voters objected to using county resources to support the PMLR project, 57%-43% according to returns published as I write this. Of course, TriMet’s position is that the county is obligated to perform on its contracts with TriMet, and that today’s vote is essentially advisory.

    However, voters in the North Clackamas Parks and Recreation District passed a measure which would give voter approval for the district to exchange a portion of the Trolley Trail from River Road in Milwaukie to Park Avenue in Oak Grove, along the PMLR right-of-way, with TriMet.

  45. I have been fairly impressed with the fuel economy of new cars recently, but given how much gas has increased, it is still underwhelming. So many people are still purchasing very large, inefficient vehicles. A few people are really going for it with the hybrids and electric cars, but this is the exception, not the rule. The averages reflect this:

    In 2003, when gas was $1.50/gallon, the average new car got 29.5mpg. Now, with gas at $3.50 to $4.00, the average is just 35.6. At around 15,000 miles per year on average, your driver in 2003 would be spending $763 a year on gas. That same driver now with a new “average” car would be spending nearly $1600. Adjusted for inflation, the 2003 dollars are roughly $935, so we’re looking at a huge increase in transportation energy spending.

    Not good enough.

  46. “In 2003, when gas was $1.50/gallon, the average new car got 29.5mpg. Now, with gas at $3.50 to $4.00, the average is just 35.6”

    But compressed natural gas is equivalent of 1.50 per gallon. Honda has a CNG car. But right now natural gas is very cheap, but has been expensive in the past. But that Honda sounds very tempting. Gasoline could hit 300 percent of the NG cost!

    As far as adoption of fuel efficient vehicles, there is no correlation to speak of, between conservative views and selection of fuel-efficient cars. I see a lot of tradespeople (like my union members) who might be liberal in their thinking, but driving big noisy, diesel pickups, when probably a van would better serve them. I was a union member and a contractor and always found it better to keep my goods out of the rain, especially if I was doing finish work.
    And a lot of military, or retired military, are kind of nerdish (into electronics and computers) and drive economical cars..

    When transportation advocates go after a segment of the population as being SOV freaks, or gas guzzlers, I hope we can avoid political labels.

  47. You see a lot of big diesel pickups in the trade industries because we have been giving incentives them for years. There has been an absurd tax writeoff for these large “business vehicles” that contractors have been taking advantage of. Vehicle licensing should be based on vehicle weight, and gas taxes need to be higher. That combined with elimination of the business writeoff for vehicles over a certain gross weight will fix the problem. The economic realities of driving these monsters around will drive the market to correct itself. The driving force behind these trucks are typically not business needs, but rather personal ones.


    Here’s a video of the 261 mpg Volkswagen. While there are now 40 models of cars with mpg in the 40 mpg range, a lot of the economy cars (Nissan versa, saturn, ford focus, etc)of the last five years haven’t been that great (30-35) and my thought is that people thought they would be saving money, but when all is added in, it costs less to drive an older car that is not “high mpg.” And I guess people have their reasons for driving bigger cars, although the Ford Fusion seems to be pretty good. I rented a Toyota Camry a few weeks ago that got 42 mpg, hwy.. In comparison the tinny little Yaris only got 33.

    In Europe Ford has a diesel version Fiesta that gets somewhere around 60 mpg. If they combined this with a PHEV, I think I would want one. The diesel Chevy Cruze coming this fall is rated at 46 highway mpg. Again, why don’t they make hybrid versions of these fuel efficient diesels?

  49. Ending the mileage deduction–or reducing it significantly (or basing/limiting it on the odometer or the age of the vehicle)–might go a long way. If you have a fully-paid-for vehicle, fully-depreciated vehicle, you can still take the mileage deduction ($0.55 per mile for 2012, IIRC) on business miles, and almost come out ahead, as the value of the deduction includes a significant depreciation component.

  50. I’m sure a 100 mpg. car is achievable now, even with safety standards. I was just reading about an English sports cars in the 1960’s that weighed only 1100 lbs. Part of the difficulty with new battery powered cars is that you are still pushing a lot of weight. I’ll bet they could be made safer with spring steel cages in the frame ( a 1920’s car had spring steel bumpers) composite materials and nano materials. Once the weight is down, incredible breakthroughs will take place in battery technology, which are already under way. Green Car Congress has regular updates. I think the final hurdle may be something as mundane as how much current can be passed through any standard wiring, without overheating. Maybe solid conductive parts would be the answer. I’m sure the labs will come up with something.

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