Post Tax Open Thread

OK, it’s a full week since the Ides of April, but another open thread for everyone.

  •  Portland has legalized (for now) uber and Lyft.  One condition placed on uber and Lyft drivers is a city business license.  Taxi drivers and cab companies are, naturally, unhappy.
  • TriMet toots its horn about service increases leading to ridership increases.  (And conversely, service decreases lead to ridership decreases).  This pattern is well-known within transit circles, but tends to be lost on some decision makers (and transit critics) who view transit demand as inelastic.  (Though if you scale back service to the point that you’re only getting those who are poor and desparate, it does become inelastic).
  • The SW Corridor team with some detailed analysis of the PCC-Sylvania area.  And TriMet has extended its feedback deadline for the Southwest Service Enhancement Plan Refined Draft Vision to the 27th.
  • In further evidence that the Lake Oswego Streetcar is dead–funding allocated to it (nearly $6M) is being re-allocated to other transit projects:  namely Powell/Division, the SW Corridor, and upgrades to keep the excursion trolley on the right-of-way in operation.
  • Joseph Rose of The Oregonian is now taking votes for the Portland area’s worst bus stop.
  • Funding issues puts Amtrak Cascades service south of Portland in jeopardy.

31 responses to “Post Tax Open Thread”

  1. Regarding the “worst bus stop” poll. There are nine choices, but one is a generic category: any stop with the “leaner” benches.

    Eight others are specific stops:

    * One in SE Portland
    * One in Troutdale
    * FOUR in Southwest Portland
    * One in Aloha
    * One in Hillsboro

    That so many bad bus stops are in outer Southwest, a place that was evidently colonized before the invention of the sidewalk, is not a big surprise.

  2. Okey-dokey, back to the SW Corridor. What happens if the light rail option is chosen, a cost estimate is arrived at and then another MLR situation happens, to wit: the original estimate increases 250 percent?

    Saw charts D1-D9. What does this have to do with moving people that need a ride?

    One last note: What about the 14, 500 jobs building the MLR?
    (Source: US DOT) “According to TriMet, more than 14,500 jobs are expected to be created during construction of the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Project, which includes construction of 10 new stations and a new transit bridge over the Willamette River to facilitate the 7.3-mile expansion of light rail service from Portland State University, across the river and into Milwaukie and north Clackamas County.”

  3. On March 17, the Lake Oswego city council made consideration of a Willamette Shoreline ROW based trail one of six city goals. A couple of elected officials from two jurisdictions both believe that some on the consortium which owns the ROW would be reluctant to lose the option to one day run rail service on it. So we might see something like a trail guaranteed for a long enough period to justify acquisition and construction costs, but not something which would be promised forever.

    The original project citizens panel LOPAC voted 10 to 9 to have streetcar on Macadam, terminating no farther south than Nevada, and to use the ROW for a trail. The project Alternatives Analysis came out with an estimate of $7.4 million to build a ROW trail and about $60 million if forced off by streetcar. The latter has now jumped to $223 million year-of-expenditure dollars for 2033-2040 in the RTP project list. So even with the necessity of buying trail rights on those sections of ROW which currently are exclusive rail use, it would still cost a tiny fraction of Metro’s estimate.

  4. I hope the Lake Oswego streetcar is resurrected at some point, but with a better and cheaper project than the one that was previously proposed. There was never any point in building the line that was proposed, when it was actually slower than the bus.

    I wonder if there would be ridership to justify a “MAX Purple Line” rapid streetcar … Tri-Met branded extra-long streetcars running on stations a half mile or more apart on average, and mostly running on single track, with enough double-track stations/segments to allow reliable 10-12 minute headways.

    • I’ve beaten this dead horse before, but I think a PMLR extension/branch back across the Willamette would make more sense. The river is much narrower there and not navigable by larger boats; a new bridge would be far cheaper and less of a Big Deal than Tilikum Crossing.

      Of course, politically it probably wouldn’t fly, at least not for a good long time.

      The Johns Landing neighborhood makes good sense for Streetcar service–possibly with the 35 routed up Corbett if Macadam gets too slow. LO itself could support a LRT stop. A big problem is that Dunthorpe is neither sufficiently dense nor sufficiently developable, nor contains destination amenities, to merit mass transit unless passing through. If it doesn’t get served, it’s far less of a loss.

      There’s also the long-standing proposal for Streetcar across the new Sellwood Bridge. Even though the bridge won’t quite be Streetcar Ready™, and I don’t consider this project a high priority for funding, it would be more consistent with the values and purpose of the Streetcar system and its chosen technology (and an entirely-within-Portland project, and thus free of Clackamas County politics).

      • It should just go down about to OPB, single track on the existing ROW, with a couple of short double track sections for meeting. I recognize the objections people would have to the overhead, and that’s a serious problem. But it would enormously improve their ease of access to interesting parts of downtown.

      • I’m favoring BRT for the Southwest corridor, mainly because the WES corridor could/should evolve into LRT. The Barbur Blvd bus ride is a scenic favorite that won’t improve with LRT. WES trains could relocate to a perhaps 20-minute operation between Lake Oswego and Milwaukie on the existing RR bridge.

  5. It seems like the Tacoma Street and 99 area would be a good place for urban renewal. It is picturesque and halfway between Sellwood business district and Milwaukie—so each within walking distance. Johnson Creek could be a greenway that connects them. If you had commercial spaces on the lower levels, residences would be above the noise of 99. Of course there is the UP, as a noisemaker……The advantage would be affordability. High rise construction is not comparatively expensive in the burbs. Latin America has about a thousand times as many highrises as Portland. A lot of them affordable.

  6. Up in Seattle at yesterday’s SoundTransit meeting, the staff axed any grade separated transit inside the city. There is no chance for Ballard to UW, the options for Ballard-Downtown are to be at grade except for right downtown and are tied to Link to West Seattle which is ruinously expensive for not much ridership.

    Read here if you’re interested.

    It’s clear that Seattle has the same problem of a hinterland that hates it as Portland does. Fortunately, Oregon has a true regional government that’s at least in part directly elected rather than the pasted-together flim-flam of representatives from other governments that is the SoundTransit board.

  7. Due to ongoing shenanigans with the Morrison Bridge, TriMet has been detoured the #15 bus to the Hawthorne Bridge. Interestingly, due to the increased trip time from the detour, the end of the route near Gateway will be modified and a separate loop circulator, #115-Cherry Blossom Loop, will provide service between Gateway and Portland Adventist Medical Center.

    Read more and see map here:

  8. So Florida Variable Tolls Increasing from $10.50 to $14.00 because too many motorists are using it and creating congested conditions.

    A few years ago I was involved in a discussion on this site about whether or not tolls – including variable tolls – would discourage driving. My position was that they would not; though many others felt the opposite.

    This article from the Ft. Lauderdale paper discusses the problem. The maximum $10.50 toll rate on a six-mile stretch of I-95 just north of Miami is not able to provide the free flow conditions payers expect because too many motorists are using the lanes. The maximum rate is about to increase to $14.00. The issue for policymakers in Florida is that they now believe that the lanes do not reduce vehicle trips.

    After the initial success, the state programmed major investments in variable toll lanes (called “Express Lanes” or “managed Lanes” in FL) throughout the state (Orlando, Tampa as well as So. Florida), and are now constructing managed lanes on I-95 in Ft. Lauderdale and programming to construct more north to Palm Beach County.

    Like tolled lanes elsewhere, the lanes are used by a general cross-section of the local social/economic population, and not concentrated in any one trip type. So much for economic theory.

    • The goal of express lanes is to divert trips to other routes, not to reduce trips, or is it? I would guess that some % of trips are not going to go away. I would guess that when folks choose where to live, over time this toll will affect housing location choices. Maybe they could use the tolls to fund some other option other than driving?

      • Allan,

        I’m not sure the goal is to divert trips to other routes; it’s to give those who are willing to pay a reliable transit time. That’s why they’re variable; when a lane gets too congested, ramp up the toll. There is always some elasticity of true “demand”.

        Now if transit vehicles are allowed to use them free of toll, they can definitely have the ancillary benefit of speeding the trips of transit users. But I very much — very much — doubt that’s a consideration in Florida.

        • Oh, and, the real reason for the tolls is to be able to increase capacity. With the implosion of gas tax revenues, selling bonds and paying for them with tolls in increasingly the only method by which to fund capital expansion.

      • Oh, and I forgot; your last sentence is exactly what the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District does (hereafter known as “GGBHTD” to avoid a repetitive stress injury). The tolls on the bridge fund the “GG” buses to and from Marin and Sonoma counties.

        Tolls on the Port Authority bridges and tunnels fund the operation of the PATH trans-Hudson subway.

  9. To answer Anandakos question above, transit, school buses, vanpools, carpools, and hybrid vehicles are permitted to use the Express Lanes free of charge.

    • Allowing hybrids to use the lane with a single driver is probably a big part of the problem. I saw a Hummer H2 Hybrid today… Hybrids do not deserve special treatment.

  10. Streetsblog USA is reporting that a new BRT line connecting Hartford and New Britain has passed its ridership expectations in just over a month.

    It looks like much of the line travels along a freight railroad, but they went all out in making sure the service was high quality.

    I wonder if the Portland area could use this as an example. There is the proposed HCT along TV highway, and if that project was combined with a WES replacement, it could link up to the SWC which might be BRT.

    • What do you mean by “a WES replacement?” Are you proposing to rip up the tracks on which WES runs and build a busway? The tracks are still active. Or are you proposing to build a roadway on both sides of the existing trackway (one direction per side)?

      • I imagine Jack means a BRT line that serves the Beaverton-Tualatin (or Wilsonville, if one wants to continue into SMART territory) corridor; not necessarily a BRT line running parallel to (let alone replacing) the P&W tracks on which WES runs.

        • Scotty,

          I don’t know. He’s directly comparing the BRT line in Connecticut which runs on an abandoned rail right of way with a replacement for WES. He specifically says “I wonder if the Portland area could use this as an example.”

          That sounds to me like he’s advocating replacement of the WES trackage with a BRT facility.

          • Sorry for the confusion, I was trying to finish that before I lost the signal in the Zoo tunnel.

            Similar to the Northern part of the CTfastrak line, I would have the bus lines run parallel to the P&W tracks. I was talking about replacing the WES service, not the tracks themselves (with the possible exception of the Lombard to BTC section).

            WES is a really nice ride, but I find it hard to justify the expense for what we get. I would be more inclined to keep it if, for example, it went down to Salem, and ran throughout the day.

            I think there would be several benefits of a BRT line along that corridor.

            * It would be able to run shorter headways.
            * It would be able to run throughout the day, not just rush hour.
            * It could deviate from the P&W RoW to serve Washington Square, Progress, and the Lincoln center business park.
            * Similar to the CTfastrak, other bus lines could make use of the dedicated lanes.

            I really hope that metro is looking at the long term regional transportation, and use that to decide what service the SWC is going to be. If it were possible to create a really strong BRT network, I would gladly have the SWC be BRT over LRT.

            • OK, so you ARE proposing to use the P&W right of way, presumably with a lane on each side.

              Remember to add the $400 million or whatever it was the Feds gave Tri-Met for rebuilding the P&W rail structure.

            • @ Anandakos

              Yes I’m aware of the unanticipated cost overruns on WES. To be frank, I think that WES was flawed from the start (suburb to suburb, only during rush hour). It seems that it will be hard (if not impossible) to fix those flaws. Extending down to Salem would be incredibly expensive, and would likely require TriMet to hand off the program to another agency. The most likely candidate would be ODOT, and I doubt the state wants another passenger rail program to be responsible for, considering the disappointing ridership on the Cascades. If an extension isn’t possible, perhaps having all day service would provide increased ridership? The trouble with that of course, is that P&W would be restricted to evenings and weekends, which I doubt they would accept.

              So if WES cannot be fixed (or not fixed easily) is it not worth speculating on what could better serve our transit network? Once the SWC is in place, there’s going to be a gap in our all day, frequent, high capacity transit connecting Tigard and Beaverton.

  11. RE: SW Corridor BRT v LRT:
    How much room for improvement in the future is there going to be in a light rail line as opposed to some type of bus transit and what would the comparative costs be?

    It seems that light rail–as it is built here—invariably relies upon electricity transmitted over who-knows- how- many cantenary wire posts, and a standardized rail gauge. Even though the ROWS are owned, you couldn’t really have much bigger vehicles. Perhaps, longer ones on certain routes. To add any new mileage, you would still have to put in the same power system and same type of track.

    When I read people’s ideas for other improvements, such as a downtown subway, those usually turn out to be fairly expensive projects.

    Buses, however, are making rapid generational changes. In China they already have city wide services that are all electric. The US has at least one company, Proterra, trying to establish itself as a major player with electric power. In Japan, Toyota is focusing on hydrogen power as their Next Big Thing so it may be only a matter of time before that is utilized on public transit. And there are innovations taking place in heavy truck power plants, too. You have to remember how big the market is for these applications is, and that is why innovation will proceed quickly, once the CEO’s determine there is profit to be made via new technology—or the governments require it.

    How about discussing noise pollution as a downside risk of transit vehicles, and advocating progress on that factor? This is where better motive technology could come in: a quieter power plant than the diesel. I doubt that there is much room to progress on the steel wheel on steel track noise problem of LRT. The advantages of LRT is lots of room and reliable schedules, but I don’t think these are insurmountable hurdles in road vehicles. 20 years from now LRT will have the same basic configuration and also high capital investment. Buses may be radically different—except for having to travel on a roadway, that is also used by many other vehicles.

  12. Correct me if wrong, the Miller Cycle combines variable low/high compression through a supercharger and variable valve timing to achieve fuel economy gains. Such complex engines aren’t needed when combined with a generator/motor in an EV drivetrain to achieve an effective 110mpg.

    We are behind on bus technology. The 2 electric buses now on trial are merely ‘converted’ standard bus coaches designed for freeway speeds, fully loaded. We need a paratransit van fleet conversion, low-floor for seniors and disabled patrons who also need reduced emissions of a hybrid drivetrain. These type of vans manuever neighborhood and boulevard routes better than the standard 40′ freeway bus. They would also operate on private routes. We should not buy another 1970’s model GM or Ford fleet paratransit van. They’ve been obsolete at least 15 years.

    Convert WES to LRT. Operate WES DMU’s between Milwaukie and Lake Oswego. BRT via Sylvan Campus to Tigard/King City.

    • Wells, I’m sure that the electric drive technology will have extraordinary gains, as innovations originate from points all over the globe. I keep thinking that electric powertrains would certainly be enough to push a vehicle downhill, and provide the bulk of power to cruise on the flat—leaving uphill and starting from a dead stop as the main challenges. And just because the Audi version of the Miller cycle may use gasoline, I don’t know if that means every version would have to. Maybe CNG?

      I found that a Quebec company, TM4, Inc., has come up with a new design electric motor—with the rotor to the outside—thus apparently deriving a lot more torque than the typical configuration. Apparently they have partnered with a Chinese company to produce all-electric buses, including a 143 passenger articulated. (Not sure that we would want that)

      Regarding public transit vehicles perhaps the future would hold some hybridized electric power train that has 10 percent of the pollution output of today’s diesel engines. I just put that post up, to show that even in ICE engines there can be innovation. And because I think public transit will probably evolve towards hybridized drives, that is why I have suggested that Tri Met should support a Western Arterial route, because with a Columbia River main channel bridge, there would be plenty of opportunity to harvest renewable power from the river current. And that could be said of an upstream bridge in the Camas Troutdale area, too.

      In respect to the SW Corridor, if light rail is chosen aren’t we more or less stuck with the technology as it is? It seems like the revolutionary breakthroughs are going on in other types of transport. Maybe I’m wrong,but is there actually that much room for innovation in LRT?

      • The Miller Cycle can’t achieve even half the effective mpg as a plug-in hybrid with a simpler ICE. The complex Miller Cycle isn’t necessary. Moreover, a lot of new technology is based on electric drive – emergency braking, collision avoidance, speed controls, etc. Miller Cycle alone is obsolete.

        Seniors and disabled need a low-floor paratransit van model for easy boarding and low emission drivetrain. All-battery paratransit vans have a limited range yet travel routes with fewer recharging sites. Thus, plug-in hybrid is the more practical EV drivetrain for paratransit vans.

        I saw one of the new 30′ shorty low-floor buses at Gateway recently. 35′ models too with hybrid drivetrain will become a common standard. The high-floor rear seating can be low-floor with hybrid and leave room for a 3rd door.
        Denver’s 16th Street Shuttle buses are all low-floor, 4-doors, and a 4-cylinder Toyota engine on CNG, rather noisy, but low emission.

  13. Top two tech-of-the-week developments, IMO anyways.

    A new metal magnesium foam alloy with ‘hollow nanoshperes’ that make it floatable. Could help keep ships from sinking? Maybe also swimming cars:

    An electric bike using sodium ion batteries, instead of lithium ion (or lead acid, as many do now, making them much heavier). According to the article :”Using sodium instead of lithium in a battery is attractive because it could potentially be much less expensive (~30% less) and safer, and it would be more environmentally benign.”

    But this development may have the most potential for changing mass transit powerplant tech. The external rotor electric motor, already in use in China. Developed by Quebec’ers.

    and will be used in this pilot project in Montreal, Ca.

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