Midsummer Night’s Open Thread

Been out of town, and been watching a little sporting event down in Brazil.  Now that that’s over, ’tis time for another open thread.

  • The Powell/Division project is starting to heat up.  A series of outreach meeting will occur in the next couple of weeks, and a few new documents are available.
  • Was in Seattle last week.  While there are parts of Seattle transportation planning that I’m happy not to see replicated here (such as the boring machine stuck below the harbor), I was constantly impressed by the amount of exclusive bus lanes, both on freeways and on surface streets.
  • Beaverton’s planning for the South Cooper Mountain area is also being promoted to the public.  Transit isn’t on the agenda directly, but the proposed street network includes several new arterial routes over Cooper Mountain, making bus service through the area potentially easier.
  • C-TRAN budgets $6.7M in matching funds for the Fourth Plain BRT project; the project (which unfortunately will be mixed-traffic BRT) will start construction next year, and open in 2016.   One interesting question:  The project has long assumed that the CRC and Yellow Line extension would get built, as of now, that’s not happening.
  • Some area freeways going high-tech.
  • Next week, the new SunLink streetcar line in Tuscon, AZ opens, featuring 8 new vehicles from Oregon Iron Works.

62 responses to “Midsummer Night’s Open Thread”

  1. “Tucson.” It’s interesting that they are starting up in the absolute worst of the summer heat, given that MAX becomes somewhat less reliable when it gets slightly warm here.

    • Yeah, I always invert the “s” and the “c”. I hadn’t thought about the difficulties of rail in warm weather, though I expect it’s more variation in temperature, rather than absolute temperature, that’s the problem.

  2. Scotty, good point suggesting that temperature variation being more significant than absolutes. Two things:

    1. According to the Weather Channel website Tucson has more variable temperatures than Portland – daily or annual; average or extreme:


    2. Like Portland, Tucson is using a simple suspension system rather than a catenary (like MAX) for the streetcar’s overhead wire.

    Does that combination mean that Tucson is more likely than Portland to see temperature related problems than us?

    • Given that it’s a mixed-traffic streetcar that likely won’t be running very fast, I’m not sure this is a big deal. MAX has to run at 60MPH or so in stretches, PSC is lucky if it gets over 30MPH.

      How often does Portland Streetcar suffer problems due to heat-related power failures?

  3. I don’t understand the goal of the fancy signs on 217.

    The main reason signs like this work is when people can choose alternatives. You’re driving along and you see that there is a delay so you can adjust your route.

    But on 217 there is no real viable way to adjust your route – there are no realistic alternatives…

    So the signs are just fancy ways of telling you that you’re going to be late…

    • The travel time signs pretty much just let you know if you’re in a little localized traffic jam that won’t impact your overall trip time or a big one with lots of delay. Previously, you had no way of knowing how big that traffic jam is.

      However, most of the traffic doesn’t actually continue straight through between I-5 and US26, most drivers enter or exit somewhere within the corridor. If you know there’s a huge traffic jam, a few drivers might have alternate routes to their destinations. For example, perhaps they can take the Scholls Ferry exist take Hall Blvd into Beaverton. Certainly this won’t work for every trip, but will help some which in turn will help everyone else.

    • I’m always amazing that more people don’t utilize the real-time traffic feature on the google maps app. I always check it before leaving my house. Probably saves me hours every year.

    • A few questions…

      1. In future updates to the TIP do you think Tri-Met should focus it’s bus orders on aquiring articulated or double decker busses? The RTC in Las Vegas have such busses in their fleet http://www.rtcsnv.com. The artix are from Wright Streetcar Inc. & are 100% low floor without the need for flipout ramps. The double deckers are from Alexander Denis & come in three sizes – 40′, 42′ & 45′. Like the Wright Streetcars, they are designed for step on & step off without ramps. The 45′ bus can seat 81 & stand another 27 making them ideal for the high volume lines like the 72.

      2. Speaking of the streetcar, once the Central Loop is completed are there plans to enlarge it further? It would be interesting to see if there could be lines on such streets as Sandy Boulevard or SE 82nd Avenue.

  4. There is currently no ‘next’ streetcar corridor under study. The Portland Plan suggests we should evaluate two corridors within five years (and we’re already two years into that).

    • It’s a bit surprising that Tri-Met is as behind the curve on electronic fare colection considering the foward thinking policies implimented elsewhere such as TOD for inner city revitalization. http://www.prestocard.ca is one example of the types of tap cards in use across the globe. in the Pacific Northwest, you have http://www.orcacard.com in metro Seattle – wich needs to be tied to the card that Tri-Met will use since there’s a large number of travelers between both cities.

      • TriMet seems to be taking the view that the contactless smart card is a technological dead end, and that smartphones (particularly with NFC) are the best way to handle this stuff, with magnetic cards (cheap, ubiquitous technology) a far superior method to paper to handle riders who can’t or won’t use a smartphone or similar device for ticket sales.

        • I think you inverted two statements. The magnetic cards are the ones on the way out & the tap cards are replacing them. Everything else stands.

      • TriMet deliberately waited for “open payment” technology to advance so that they would not have to invest in their own proprietary (and expensive) system like Orcacard.

        • The MTA here in the NYC area has taken a similar view for it’s upcoming fare payment system , but it’s not panning out as NFC hasn’t been widely accepted. Also the banks have been slow to adopt open source payment beyond Chicago’s Ventra http://www.ventrachicago.com.

          • Dave,

            Not really when you figgure out all the elements that go into electronic fare colection. What makes these systems seme so costly is the grifting by the contractors that are tasked to put these systems together & ensure they work propperly. That’s what didn’t happen to Ventra in Chicago – costs kept rising as it was being designed & was plagued with problems for at least a year after installation was completed.

            Most North American transit systems with tap & go payment have products from Cubic Transportation Systems of San Diego http://www.cubic.com. This includes… TAP in Los Angeles, Clipper in the Bay area, Ventra in Chicagoland, Go Card in the twin Cities, Charlie Card in Boston, Breeze in Atlanta & Smartrip/ Charm Card in the DC/ Baltimore area.

            • I’ve used TAP in LA and SmartCard in DC and been impressed with the ease and overall clarity of the systems. When one buys a card in DC it’s a little confusing, but adding fare is a very rapid snap, although you can only add enough inside the station to get out of it. Don’t know why that is.

              To me the cell phone thing is elitist and smacks of tech fanboi weeniedom.

            • Well, given that you can buy coffee at Starbucks with your phone, why not pay for your transit trip?

              Both Cricket (CDMA) and T-Mobile (GSM) nowadays have contract-free smartphone plans for $40/month (500Mb of data), and a basic Android device that costs $30. You can probably pick up a decent used Android device for cheaper than that. That still is too expensive for some people, but the prices for smartphone use are coming down, down, down.

            • Two things Anandakos ,

              1. Since Smartrip & TAP are technicly the same card, you might be able to use them interchangeably. I met someone who told me he was able to use his Breeze card on WMATA. 2. WMATA’s Metrorail fares are based on distance, therefore if your fare is greater than your remaining ballence you may need to add cash value on to it – although you are allowed to exit with a negative ballence up to $4.95. Just remember to replenish before you use it again http://www.taptogo.com & http://www.smartrip.com.

            • Sean,

              My statement about add fare was pretty unclear. I said “inside the station” but I should have said “inside the fare turnstiles”. I didn’t know that they let you exit with a balance due.

              I bet they’d stop that practice if tourists caught on….

            • Anandakos,

              I knew what you ment, thhat’s why I added the aditional detail.

              I’ve taken some time over the past few years to study the various & upcoming transit technologies including smartcards & audio visual systems such as http://www.transitv.com of Orlando& http://www.cleverdevices.com of Plainview NY. Both companies manufacture products for bus tracking & automatic stop anouncements amung other things.

            • Scotty,

              Isn’t Starbuck’s infested with Tech fanboi’s? QED…. ;-)

              Lord know I’m not for a “roll-your-own” solution for Portland. But Tri-Met needs something between single-use paper tickets dispensed by pretty unreliable machines and ‘Droid images.

            • “But Tri-Met needs something between single-use paper tickets dispensed by pretty unreliable machines and ‘Droid images.”

              TriMet’s proposal is about more than just phones. I’m not sure where people are getting the idea that the system will be phone-only, unless they’re confusing it with the current mobile solution, which is run by an outside vendor and cost TriMet no up-front money.

              Here’s TriMet’s web page on the topic:

              Right there at the top it states:

              You’ll be able to use any or all of the following: A fare card available from neighborhood grocery stores, as well as convenience stores and pharmacies … Your smartphone via mobile ticketing or your mobile wallet using Near Field Communications (NFC) … Your own credit/debit card including American Express, Discover, MasterCard, and Visa contactless smart cards

              It should be noted that because the value is not store on the card itself, TriMet claims that losing your card will not lose the value. Just register a different card with your account. ORCA offers value transferability with lost/replaced cards, but they claim a 10-day waiting period before a balance is transferred after you first receive your replacement card.

  5. I’m all for extending Streetcar to Hollywood via NE Boadway (and Weidler at least to 24th); maybe even thru Hollywood to the Providence Medical complex around 47th.
    More intense residential development is already happening with room for lots more between the Broadway Bridge and Hollywood.
    A “E/W” line could be added to the CL and N/S lines that would be a nice supplement to the existing bus service (17, 77 and 70) which cover only parts of the alignment.
    Broadway to 24th is too wide, too fast, and could use some calming, and with Streetcar on the left side, there is plenty of room for better bike facilities on the right side, at least to 24th.
    Local businesses…Fred Meyer, New Seasons, Lloyd Center, Providence, etc. would have to take the lead and put some $ on the table for things to happen. I believe that local neighborhood groups, Sullivan’s Gulch, Irvington, Grant Park are open to this; not sure how the Hollywood Boosters feel about it. They often sound like they yearn for a return to the 50’s.
    Note that I am a member of the Portland Streetcar CAC

  6. Lenny, that would be a great extension, what a part of town with tons of potential to grow smart. Broadway could become lined with vibrant mixed-use five story buildings, and the SC would certainly calm it down the right amount. Put in a real separated bike promenade and we have a world-class boulevard !

  7. Clark County voters will now get to vote on the first phase of the Madore Motorway. The PDF document describing the bridge is worth a read, even though 2/3 of it is a sales brochure for the bridge architect looking at the project; the remaining third as an interesting–if disturbing–back of the envelope look at Madore’s vision for East Clark County.

    • I’m not sure why you’re dismissing it so quickly. The idea of a bridge in that location is valid and would provide relief to I-205. More connections to Clark County is a good thing. Plus, a lot of folks who work in the Airport way area do live in Vancouver.

      Having said all this, I doubt Oregon will contribute anything to the project, and it’s not a replacement for the CRC project. Plus, the bridge is ugly and looks like a baby 205 bridge.

      • In an environment of ample funding, an arterial-arterial connection connecting 181st on the Oregon side with 192nd on the Washington side, does make sense.

        But if I had $800M to throw around on infrastructure, would I build that project? I doubt it would even make my Top Ten.

        The more disturbing thing seems to be Madore’s belief/intent in constructing a whole network of highways in east Clark County, including extension/widening of 192nd north into Fischers Landing.

        And of course, the fact that this whole proposal was floated without any participation from anybody, it seems, but the Clark County Commission, makes one wonder if this is a serious proposal, or just a way of raising a middle finger at the socialist liberals on the Vancouver City Council. :)

        • This is why the CRC never got built. It’s not on your Top 10 but I would bet it would be on the top 10 list of many folks living up north. The lack of consensus between the two states ends up with nothing getting done.

          • Actually, I consider an improved crossing of the Columbia near downtown Vancouver to be a high priority–the devil, though, is in the details.

            One side of the river was unable to accept the other side’s condition for supporting the project, thus it did not get done.

            Madore’s project probably will fail for similar reasons, assuming it even gets that far. (It also suffers from the problem that it looks to all observers to be the pet project of one particular politician, rather than an identified high-priority need resulting from the many planning activities that have gone on over the years).

            And it strikes me as more than a bit unseemly to have a contracting company involved in trying to sell a project so early in the game. Some folks complain about an overly tight relationship between TriMet/Metro and various local engineering firms that do much of the MAX design work, but when 2/3 of a planning/outreach document consists of advertising for a construction company, that’s just plain ridiculous.

        • Scotty,

          Such a bridge “makes sense” only to Washington users. How many people will commute north to Vancouver from Oregon (even after Banfield and Integra move there)? The non-truck northbound traffic on I-205 is a small fraction of the southbound volume. How much of that relatively small usage originates east of I-205? Surely an even smaller number. Those from west of I-205 will just use the existing bridge since it is freeway all the way to the 192nd ramps on SR14.

          So this bridge will almost exclusively benefit Washington users. We should pay for it entirely if it is built. Oregon can make a small contribution in the form of expansion of NE 162nd if it wants to do so.

          So far as “Madore’s belief/intent in constructing a whole network of highways in east Clark County” it looks to me like the only sign of that is the 2008 Regional Transportation Council’s options document. I think we can assume that the inclusion means Madore thinks one or more of those options is/are (a) good idea(s), but he didn’t come up with them, the RTC which at that time had two Democrats representing Clark County did.

          It looks dangerously deluded to me, also. Bye bye rural Clark County. Bye bye blueberries. Hello San Diego.

          • “non-truck northbound traffic in the morning (or of course to a lesser degree southbound in the afternoon”.

          • Most of the growth in Clark County is coming from areas north and east of 205.There is a reason why traffic on the 205 bridge continues to grow.

            I think the bridge is a great idea in trying to decentralize clark county traffic coming into Oregon.

            It’s not a alternative to the CRC. I get that. And I’m not fond of the idea that a single contractor wants to design/build it without an open bid process. But having more crossings across the river is a rational solution. Looks what happens in Portland when the Marquam and Fremont back up? People look for alternatives using any of the other bridges.

            • Dave,

              If you’re on board with Clark County voters paying for it in toto and paying everyone who owns property north of Burnside and east of 82nd $10,000 for the loss of value of their property from the resultant “escape” congestion, then sure, build the suckers.

            • paying everyone who owns property north of Burnside and east of 82nd $10,000 for the loss of value of their property from the resultant “escape” congestion, then sure, build the suckers.

              What the heck is wrong with you??? If you want to debate it, fine, I’m open to a respectable conversation…. but don’t leave me such a passive aggressive comment.

            • No bridge will be built without the buy-in of all the relevant government agencies involve. (At a minimum, the states of Oregon and Washington have to agree; both could, if needed, jam it down the throat of any municipalities that objected).

              Right now, nobody besides Clark County seems remotely interested in this idea. Part of the reason is that the relevant agencies, particularly the state DOTs and the local planning agencies like Metro on the Oregon side and SWRTC on the Washington side, have been doing all sorts of long-term planning, and this proposal is simply not part of their long-term plans; in general, new projects need to be vetted through the existing planning processes.

              Ans while paying a large number of Portland residents $10k as a lump-sum compensation for congestion is probably not gonna fly–Anandakos has a point that were this built, additional congestion on the Oregon side–at minimum, I-84 between NE 181st or so and I-205–would become an issue.

              OTOH, bus service from Rockwood to Fishers Landing might be useful–that said, a direct bus line to an area often considered to be a bit of a slum might not go over well north of the Columbia.

            • Thanks, Scotty.

              Dave, I agree it was a rather flippant response, but it gets to the heart of the problem: ANY rubber tired capacity expansion over the Columbia benefits no one except Clark County commuters.

              No one,

              The “off-peak” capacity of the two existing bridges is more than ample for any possible future expansion of employment in Clark County and for any conceivable future level of freight and true interstate travel traffic (e.g. between points north of Woodland and south of Woodburn).

              Since we are the sole beneficiaries we should pay for it, either by tolls or tax levies.

            • I agree that a new clark county bridge at this point mostly benefits Clark County. But what this proposal got me thinking more about is what the region would look like if there a series of lets say 5 or 6 bridges in various areas linking Clark County to Oregon. Would traffic be dispersed? Would we have way more bike riders? Would the economy be different some how? Could it benefit Oregon?

              Today the bridges are all freeway based and terrible to walk or ride a bike on but would things look different if over time Clark County was just as connected as the communities along the Willamette are keeping in mind that the three worst bridges over the river are the freeway spans (Marquam, Fremont, and Abernathy).

            • What if a bridge were built–a drawbridge?

              That could be done much more cheaply; a drawbridge is less likely to get freeway treatment (the current Interstate bridge notwithstanding), and would probably be better for bikes and peds without the grades needed to elevate bridge traffic above the navigation channel.

            • Look, I’ll be honest. I don’t want Clark County to grow. At least, not the way it is envisioned in that RTC document that Commissioner Madore included. And most assuredly not in the way it has been growing east of I-205.

              I like it the way it is. There are certainly ares within the existing urban planning boundary which can be in-filled. We’ve had quite a bit of that here in Hazel Dell and it hasn’t ruined the area (it’s pretty hard to cross Hazel Dell Avenue on foot now, but that’s about all the damage. And some of the increased density has been good. There are more and better stores to serve the people living here.

              But that document showing loop arterials NORTH of Battleground is insane and terrifying. Essentially tripling the developed area of the county is a crime undertaken to pander to a bunch of clueless Californians and Arizonans fleeing the sprawl they themselves plastered all over those states.

            • It would nice to see Fischer’s Landing start to grow upwards a bit, rather than just sprawling out into the countryside.

            • Scotty,

              Agreed on Fischer’s. It’s inside the Vancouver and Camas city limits so it can certainly densify. The primary block to that right now is how relatively new everything is. The houses are mostly fairly large and new enough to have lots of bathrooms and family rooms. So there’s a high cost to demolition that has to be paid out of the profits from the replacement usages.

              Those profits aren’t there yet.

            • I wasn’t talking about tearing down the existing housing stock–even in Portland, that generally isn’t happening. I’m talking more about a) not expanding the urban footprint any further, and Washington land-use laws do not provide the same restraints to such that Oregon’s do; and b) building higher-density housing along major corridors like 164th or Mill Plain. My suspicion is that a) current zoning regs make that difficult, and b) there’s little demand for such housing–other than at the low end–out in East Clark County.

              Probably the only “destination” amenity (by which I mean something that can’t be found within easy reach of any urban neighborhood–an amenity which would cause someone to move there instead of a similar suburban neighborhood) is Columbia Tech Center. Other than that, Fischer’s Landing’s value proposition is the typical suburban value proposition: inexpensive detached single-family housing, ample roads and parking, etc. Fischer’s Landing (and other points in Clark County) also offer the added value of larger lots, generally, and better-funded schools. But it suffers from an especially long commute to the economic engine of the metro area, which requires crossing not one but two major rivers to reach. There’s little demand to build apartments in a garden-variety suburb–again, except at the low end, a market that the community likely would prefer to exclude.

              If CTC were to become a major industrial hub (it is growing, but pales in comparison to Washington County), then there might be increased density pressure there, just as there is in Washington County. (Many four-story apartment buildings–the highest you can get away with using wood-frame construction–are now being built along the MAX line in Beaverton; and no, they aren’t slum housing for the poor).

            • I could not agree more strongly on your wish to control the urban boundary and regrets that it’s not more strongly defined here.

              But the truth is, other than north of Mill Plain up to 18th between 164th/162nd and the power line ROW and the two quarry holes (Mill Plain and the active one along the freeway), there really isn’t much land left west of 192nd and south of 18th. To densify Fischer’s Landing much will require some demolition.

            • Although the 192nd proposal seems to be a made in Madoreheaven plan for Clark Co. motorists (what else could it be?) the other side of the coin is that the Commissioners were doing their job and put this out to a vote. 192nd bridge came back the winner—by a nose over a “toll free west county bridge”–so said commissioners can say they are simply proceeding upon a plebiscite.

              Although I agree that this plan makes little sense, in an ironic way it does. The solution would be to gather enough “no” votes when this proposal comes up again this November. Or else, argue before a judge that the ballot choices were unrealistic, in that all proposals were only “toll free.”

              While I doubt that this would have much inherent support in Oregon, many of the same special interests that supported the CRC would also be for this one.

  8. We’re vilifying East Clark County but I’m not sure how much different it is in density than any of the other Portland suburbs. Hillsboro, Tigard, Tualatin, Lake Oswego, Milwaukie, Oregon City, Wilsonville, and all others are no different. Beaverton and Gresham are more dense but that’s mostly due to all the lower income apartments that have been jammed in there.

    • Dave,

      You are somewhat right about the similarities in some Oregon suburbs to east Clark County. There is much more effective control on sprawl in Oregon than in Washington; the GMA in Oregon has more and sharper teeth than its equivalent in Washington. There are folks in Oregon who don’t like it, true, but as the law stands now Tiger Mountain can’t be splattered mindlessly with McMansions like the hill between East Vancouver and Camas has been.

      In any case, we’re talking about bridges across the Columbia for which Oregon is being asked to pay half the cost so that Clark County commuters can have better access to Oregon. Now I know all about the whining up here about Oregon Income Taxes from Clark County being a huge unjustified revenue stream for Oregon. But the truth is that jobs are fungible, and unless some gifted Clark Countian is a chip designer for Intel or another semiconductor firm or a cancer researcher at OHSU that job can exactly as easily be filled by an Oregonian paying taxes at the same rate.

      I personally think we have a nicer lifestyle in Clark County than over in Oregon, although for intellectual stimulation we’re hicks by comparison. So if people have chosen the more rural lifestyle of Clark County let’s not wreck it by paving it over.

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