Great Eight Open Thread

The Great Eight in the NCAA tourney are now set, the Final Four will be decided by Sunday. Time for another Open Thread.

  • Oregon Business encourages greater private-sector (and public/private) participation in transit.
  • The population of the Portland/Vancouver MSA (Metropolitan Statistical Area) is now estimated to be 2.35M.  (Note:  The “MSA” is defined to include all of Multnomah, Clackamas, Washington, Columbia, Yamhill, Clark, and Skamania counties, so it’s considerably bigger than the contiguous urbanized area on both sides of the river).
  • TriMet is starting to add new 30′ buses for its routes in the West Hills.   The agency is also extending Line 8 to MLK Jr. where it can connect with the 6.
  • Washington County and Hillsboro considering some welcome road improvements.
  • The C-TRAN BRT line for Fourth Plain Boulevard has a new nameThe Vine.

42 responses to “Great Eight Open Thread”

  1. As long as TriMet is getting newer buses, increasing frequency, changing some routes, etc., there is an issue which I think they need to start preparing the public for now; the repair of switches, crossovers, expansion joints, etc. in the Rose Quarter/Steel Bridge area. They have hinted that this needs to be done and we all know it is true. The disaster that happened when work took place at 11th Avenue will be vastly greater if preparations are not made and promoted to the public well in advance. Poor handling of this could cause a Public Relations and Logisical nightmare.

  2. TriMet is running training buses from the transit mall all the way over Tilikum crossing today. Already saw one car follow a bus onto the bus lane on Lincoln between 2nd and Naito. Thankfully not onto the overpass down to S. Waterfront. Why doesn’t TriMet use colored paint to better mark the lanes? Or even the transit mall for that matter.

    • Colored paint won’t stop idiot drivers from occupying the bus only lanes as illustrated in NYC. What is needed is strict camera enforcement with $100 or greater fines along with complete separation from general traffic lanes.

    • I don’t think any color paint would make any difference. I often see a car turning left up Burnside up the transit mall where are all kinds of markings on the pavement plus “NO LEFT TURN – EXCEPT BUS”. Most of the time people are texting or talking on cell phones. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen drivers turn left onto 10th off of Burnside in front of Powells. Always texting, cell phone or totally clueless.

  3. I think TriMet screwed up on the new Type 5 Max vehicles, from what I’ve seen. Too many of the seats face rearward. Mrs Dibbly gets motion sick if she can’t face forward, and there are a lot of people like that. (Sitting sideways at least she can pivot towards the front.)

    • The new Type 5 vehicles are great because the seats actually face the doors now as opposed to away from them – much better for security. Bringing back the longitudinal seating layout in the middle of the railcars is also a big improvement over those useless transverse seats in the Type 4s that were apparently made for amputees.

      • Hopefully the floors have a finish that’s easy to clean vomit off of. When Mrs Dibbly gets motion sick, it’s ugly!

        Good point about seats facing the doors.

    • How can there be too many seats facing “rearward”? The train cars are bi-directional, so there should be the same amount of seats facing forward on any given trip as there are those facing backward.

  4. Some adjustments to line 15 as a result of the Morrison Bridge being closed to heavy vehicles (including buses):

    Condensed version:
    * 15 will use the Hawthorne Bridge instead of the Morrison bridge; this will add about 10 minutes to trips.
    * During the closure, the 15 will no longer serve Adventist Medical Center. Eastbound 15s will use the I-205 collector distributor ramps to go from Washington/Stark to Glisan, then directly to Gateway TC.
    * A temporary new line, the 115/Cherry Blossom Loop, will provide service from Gateway to Adventist, the Main Street stop on the Green Line, etc.

  5. Amazing, but C-Trans BRT line will not connect to the MAX Yellow Line as the 44 Limited does. It will require an extra transfer. I guess the bridge would kill reliability.
    Time for the 105 to connect to MAX at Delta/Vanport and turn back north up to Salmon Creek.

    • The Vine was planned to connect to MAX at Clark College (and to even use the MAX ROW through downtown Vancouver)–not doing the CRC obviously puts a dent in those plans. But you’re probably right; running BRT across the Interstate Bridge is probably not wise.

      • Scotty,

        With some priority treatments at both ends the Vine might be reliable enough even crossing the bridge. The southbound fix is easy-peasy. Dedicate the second lane from the east curb as transit only south of Seventh Avenue and give the buses priority on Washington at Sixth and Fifth Avenues. Then widen the southbound on-ramp to two lanes with a divider and make the rightmost lane bus only. Move the ramp meter lights on the loop from SR 14 back about forty feet to the west and merge the bus lane only lane into that lane just beyond the lights. Hold the light on bus approach of course.

        That should make southbound travel reliable enough for BRT schedule keeping, especially since there will be some recovery time at Delta Park.

        Northbound is more expensive, but not terribly so. The big problem obviously would be obviously getting Oregon to co-operate.

        The northbound on-ramp from Victory Boulevard is constricted by the overcrossing of the northbound Marine Drive off ramp, but north of there it widens enough that jerks frequently pass cars queued for the merge on the right. From the point at which the underpass from Denver joins the Victory on-ramp create a right hand bus-only lane (and ENFORCE IT WITH CAMERAS!!!) that continues until the on-ramp reaches the same elevation as the Marine Drive off-ramp. At that point put a slight “zig” in the Jersey barrier separating the two roadways and gradually move the off-ramp to the right about six feet. Fill the created space with the bus-only lane which would gradually separate from the on-ramp until it is far enough over to the right in order to start the Jersey barrier again. There would then be two Jersey barriers, one between the bus lane and the (somewhat narrowed) on-ramp and one between the bus lane and the existing northbound Marine Drive off-ramp.

        Continue this between-two-barriers bus lane north to the left of the westbound loop of the off-ramp under Marine Drive but don’t follow the loop to the right. Instead, continue straight ahead to a merge with the northbound on-ramp loop from Marine Drive. Move the ramp lights back a bit and hold the lights on a bus approach to ensure that the bus gets reliable merge priority.

        That puts the bus in the Hayden Island northbound off-ramp where it wants to be for the loop through the island with relatively little traffic.

        Now, leaving Jantzen Beach is probably the most expensive part. It would require building an inner lane in the access loop and moving the ramp meter lights back to the east forty to fifty feet. The sidewalk and (sort of) bike lane under the bridge in the eastbound lane of the south half of Hayden Island Drive would have to be removed in order to push the new lane back to Center Avenue. I know that would not be popular with cyclists. But there is adequate room along the eastbound lane of the other half of Hayden Island Drive for a bike facility, and MUCH less traffic there. Cyclists who want to access the walkway on the bridge usually use the tunnel anyway since it’s shorter than the sort-of bikeway along the street.

        I know, I know, “All this money just for buses!!!!????” To which I say “YES!” It’s not THAT much money and the improvement in bus reliability and the increase in ridership that will result will benefit drivers too.

        To the objection that “well in ten years or less MAX will doubtless be on Jantzen Beach and those ramps will be wasted” I would say, “No, they won’t”. The one leaving Jantzen Beach would be needed if the bus intercept occurred on the island anyway. The ramp change in the Victory/Denver on-ramp is only to the Jersey barrier and a 1/10 of a mile or so of new roadway under Marine Drive. Even if MAX gets to Jantzen Beach in 2021 say (I very much doubt it could be done any sooner than that) these ramp changes could be in place NEXT YEAR and the low cost one at Delta Park would give five years of significant bus priority improvements. It’s worth the five or ten million dollars for that section, even for five years.

  6. Is this the answer to short distance airline connections AND high speed passenger rail? It looks somewhat strange, but could go city center to city center.(Don’t make any jokes, please)

    • No jokes are needed Ron. This monster can’t go “city center to city center” because it would need such a huge terminal. Real city centers can’t devote several football fields to a landing strip for a huge blimp. Even though it’s only the size of a football field, it can’t just land in one among a bunch of large buildings; it would have to have unoccupied buffers on all sides because it might be buffeted by the wind.

      And then of course it has a “headway” problem. Since it could conceivably carry many airliners’ worth of passengers, it wouldn’t have to run very often. Who wants to wait twelve hours for a 100 mile per hour flight?

      It’s not even that great a revolution for freight, because of its limited lifting capacity. Fifty tons is just twice what a 40′ container can carry. It’s a hell of a lot of aircraft for two containers’ worth of lift.

      • Actually, at fifty tons’ lift, it wouldn’t carry any more people than a “stretch” B747 or A380 so the headway problem is not applicable.

        The 100 mph tops is, though. Folks are not going to go through Security Theater® for a trip only somewhat faster than their car.

          • Not really. The point of an airship is that it is lighter than air. Apparently this one is not actually lighter than air, only 40% of its lift is buoyancy. The rest is standard Bernoulli lift because of the arched upper surface.

      • I’m reminded that when the Empire State Building was constructed, the spire was intended to be a mooring mast for dirigibles, and the 103rd floor (one level above the 102nd floor observation deck) was to be a landing area where passengers could board by gangplank. The builders thought it would be a great idea for travelers to be able to go directly to and from midtown by dirigible. Apparently they weren’t entirely clear on the concept of “wind.”

        • +1

          Not to mention the acrophobes among us (ME……!) would be um-er “hesitant” to “walk the gangplank” 103 floors up.

  7. A.
    As you know the 44 Limited does not serve Hayden Island, but goes straight to and from MAX at Delta/Vanport. I’ll assume the same would be the case for the BRT line. I trust your excellent suggestions have gone to C-Tran planners! Turning the BRT line around in downtown Vancouver is bizarre.
    Now if we could get the 105 to turn around at MAX and forget downtown Portland! It could run every 15 minutes all day with no problem with the service hours saved by that move.

    • Lenny,

      I’m not sure there is enough traffic between downtown, 99th Street T/C and the Salmon Creek Park’N’Ride to make fifteen minute headways worthwhile. And if you have fifteen minute headways on the 105 AND the Vine crossing the river you either have two buses every fifteen minutes matching the MAX schedule or one bus every seven or eight minutes which has a wait for the northbound or southbound MAX.

      There’s a place for express service between Vancouver and Portland. The 105 has by far the greatest ridership south of the Seventh Avenue stop. People are willing to pay a good price for good service.

  8. Downtown to downtown express service makes sense, but there needs to be Limited service down the I-5 corridor from Salmon Creek that links to MAX at Delta/Vanport, similar to the 44L…which sadly will be going away!
    I’ve noted this many times, but cannot forget my surprise when the consultants for the Governors’ I-5 TF presented destination information for Clark county commuters. More than half were going to destinations in N and NE PDX!…not to downtown Portland.

    • We have the 71 which live loops downtown. I and I think most people would be perfectly happy to have it go to Delta Park. Very few people are on the 105 north of 99th Street TC. That’s partly because it doesn’t go to the University or hospital and the bus to them connects at 99th Street instead of the Park N Ride.

      That’s primarily because there is no connection to the south from there except the express buses and the all-way-round-Robin Hood’s-barn #9.

  9. A tragedy in the Tacoma area, as a concrete slab falls from a freeway construction project onto a road passing under the freeway, crushing a passing vehicle and killing the family of three inside.

    While the incident remains under investigation–and while I don’t want to rile Wells up too much–is there any doubt out there that the Washington State Department of Transportation is one of the most incompetent public works agencies in the country? Compared to them, ODOT (which has its own issues, certainly) is a model of professionalism and best practice.

    • This is why we need a federal government lead in designing transportation infrastructure that is both affordable and safe. Yes the National Laboratories and certain other agencies do this to a degree, but I think we also need a construction technology bias applied to transportation issues. I think there could be mass production of components—with verified quality control—to construct what will probably always be roadways.

      By that I am referring to standard bridge and overpass designs, standard walkways, standard railings—so that the cost is predictable, regardless of what jurisdiction these are assembled in. And so the quality and durability is predictable, too. Building these things in place is expensive—which is probably a big reason why the CRC project resulted in such high estimates. We should also have advances in roadway pavement, via nationally funded research, to bring both construction and maintenance costs down and to improve longevity.

      In this specific situation concrete— favored both by highway contractors and engineers and by certain organized labor groups—is more prone to this type of failure. (But, obviously from the big collapse on the Skagit bridge two years ago, steel in a high corrosion area has big problems, too. From what I gather ODOT built the Alsea Bay bridge in 1992 with added corrosion resistance, so you would think there would be further advances by now.) But what is the federal government doing for us, instead of making such worthwhile and cost efficient investments in applied research towards better roadways?

      A lot of stupidity, IMO.

  10. This is very interesting for those who can see the advantage of an East County Bridge, or who simply believe that good bridge design doesn’t have to be horrendously expensive or complicated. Very RedNeck-named company, Flat Iron Construction, based out of Longmont Colorado, completed this in 2011, bridging Lake Champlain between New York and Vermont. Although it is only two lanes and not as high as what the Columbia River would require, Flat Iron built a very elegant metal through arch design and did it under the allotted time as well. In this case they also prefabbed the main span and barged it into place. Prefabrication—the way to go! For—–$75 million:

    • Ron,

      I don’t think anybody is saying it can’t happen. I can’t speak for the others, but I think it shouldn’t happen. It’s just one more knife in the back of the regional plan.

    • I don’t understand the people who think an east county bridge would be a good idea. How many people REALLY need to get from Troutdale to Camas? The real need is for increased capacity between Portland and Vancouver, and grade-separated HCT (not just additional buses sitting in traffic) needs to be a part of that.

      • FYI, a bridge between two cities ALSO means that a number of other communities are connected, actually as far as the routes extend. Now you know.

      • If money was no object, sure. Why not have 5 or 6 more bridges over the Columbia? With limited funds available though, we have to prioritize and invest where the demand is. And connecting East Multnomah County to Camas-Washougal is most definitely NOT the most pressing transportation need in the Metro area. It’s not even the 9th or 10th most pressing need. So why would you want to spend hundreds of millions of dollars there? It makes no sense at all.

        • The reasons I cite the Lk. Champlain example:
          1. It could be a model anywhere. We seem to have a lot of poobah bridge afficiandos, bloviating about signature designs presumably regarding their “legacy.” This project is good food for thought, because for under $100 million they came up with a design that few people would complain about, assuming the justification was there.
          2. Powerful Washington politicians have advanced ideas that are far more costly and utilize plain-Jane stock modern freeway designs. This is an alternative.
          3. Someday an East Clark County bridge will be important. Better to get some practical yet affordable alternatives out there.
          4. A west side bridge is needed—-like right now. If we can avoid the legacy, signature poobah notions that would interject mostly their ego into this process, then we could accomplish a lot more. I have been advocating mass production of a stock bridge design—killing two birds with one stone. So far, this is the nicest design that also could be mass produced. Arch type of construction can have many of the same components whether they are underarch, through arch, tied arch, or as with the Champlain Bridge–modified tied network arch.
          5. The expansion of employment opportunities is greatest in the Beaverton Hillsboro area, and it is time that the adults had a discussion of the implications of that, thank you.
          6. This is the open thread and topics are discussed randomly. That would even include ones that are not “the 9th or 10th most pressing need.”
          7. Highway transport is so much more adaptable to innovation that this anachronistic “light rail.” I frequently reference articles from among the hundreds of breakthrough technologies that pertain to surface transport vehicles and which will provide vastly superior alternatives as those technologies become commonplace. With light rail trains, unto you change the basic concrete ties, metal rails, overhead wires, support posts it’s all going to be pretty much the same technology and also costly to improve.

          There could be some advances in light rail technology, such as powerplants that are energy efficeint and low carbon. I was impressed with Ottawa’s original light rail concept, the O Train. But when you commit to an elaborate design, such as with our present electrified power system, any future improvements are just adding a lot of extra costs.

          Like they say “A rut is a grave with the ends knocked out.”

          • I agree with you and like your logic of additional bridges over the Columbia. Look at it this way. If you were to apply the logic of a single bridge only concept, it falls apart as soon as you look at the Willamette. Using the same logic, the St. Johns, Sellwood and most of the downtown bridges would have never been built. Look how much we value the St. Johns yet if you were to build it today, you would get the same arguments for why to not build it as you are getting for the Camas bridge. More bridges disperse the traffic and provide a balanced transportation network.

            • Maybe you don’t mean it this way, Ron–but to suggest that those who disagree with you on policy are not “adults”, as though only your choices make sense and other positions are manifestly frivolous, is a bit uncharitable.

              While the tendency of a certain former mayor to prattle on about “iconic designs” and such was annoying in a time of austerity– those of us who oppose building more highway capacity generally have good reasons for doing so that extend well beyond Portlandia chic.

        • Easy solution to “limited funds”: toll every bridge, including those already here. Have the tolls collected and managed by a Columbia Bridge Authority. Let the authority used combined tolling to construct all bridges needed, and then maintain them in perpetuity.

          Alternative: leave I-205 toll-free as the shunpike bridge, and everyone who wants to dodge tolls can sit in traffic. Build a new freeway bridge next to the existing Interstate Bridge and toll it, then rehab the Interstate Bridge for transit and arterial traffic and toll that too. Then keep adding new tolled bridges as traffic demands. As long as the tolls aren’t too step, many (perhaps most) people will decide the time-money trade-off doesn’t warrant going out of their way to get stuck in traffic on 205.

          • I’d be fine with this. Tolls would serve to limit development in north Clark County almost as well as would congestion. Not as well, but probably well enough.

            • continuing.

              It would add a certain future cost of about $2,000 in constant dollars per year for the life of the facility which would add about $60,000 to the total lifetime costs of a home in north Clark County versus an existing one in Oregon.

          • Last month, while returning from a family vacation to Vancouver BC, I noticed that “Lexus lanes” were being built on I-405 between Lynwood and Kirkland, WA: Lanes that are tolled, physically separated from the I-405 mainline, and intended to give commuters who wish to, a faster ride in.

            One problem with adding such lanes is that simply putting them on a chokepoint (such as a bridge) may not work well, as their approaches may become clogged with congestion; you need such lanes to be long.

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