Hot as Heck Open Thread

Not the thread, the weather.

95 responses to “Hot as Heck Open Thread”

  1. A small correction on the parking proposal: new permit zones could be created in residentially-zones areas (including multi-family residential zoning, not just single family).

    The distinction is between housing in commercial and mixed-use zones, and housing in residential zones. A lot of the densest housing has recently been developed in mixed-use and commercial zones.

  2. Seattle buses:

    London is instituting electric buses and testing electric double decker ones, also. Quebec company TM4 has developed a high torque electric motor that can be refitted in place of a diesel engine and transmission; and they have sold 250 units to a Chinese manufacturer and locally to their school system. Also can be used in local delivery vehicles.The next innovations are coming in long lasting batteries. After that reduction in vehicle weight so that the battery charge lasts longer. These can then service suburban routes.

  3. Saw a City of Portland vehicle driving erratically on the transit mall on Friday. Anyone know where I’d report that? I emailed the fleet manager to ask, and he has not responded.

  4. We need to have a county wide discussion of the proposal by MultCo Kremlin to spend $500 million on the Burnside Bridge. This is just another CRC mentality type of project, basically doing nothing more than wasting money. Reaction of structures in any earthquake is hard to predict—and even more so if it is a rare m9 event, that could be centered hundreds of miles from here. A lot of seismic engineering that has been done in the last thirty years, will probably get redone when they discover it is useless for real world conditions. So why spend such a fortune based upon conjecture?

    • ODOT should divert all of their capacity expansion spending to safety and earthquake retrofit projects. This region is ridiculously unprepared for this type of event.

      You need to research this more, and look at what happened to Japan. The earthquake we will see is going to be very similar.

      • Chris, I worked in seismic upgrade. In fact I worked on the I-5 Lake Wash. Ship Canal Bridge in Seattle. It’s often a fool’s errand. And what was the Nisqually quake rated at?: 6.8 to 7.1? Of course the old unreinforced masonry from 1890 would fall apart; the mortar has deteriorated. And that also means that in M9 events those building would fail even if they were reinforced.

        I worked on the remodel of the old Laurelhurst retirement home—bought for Nityanandu Inst.—and we “reinforced” the framing with sheet metal straps, as per the engineer. How does that stop old brick walls from collapsing? Fortunately, with our bridges we have much sturdier construction. Henny-penny critics throw snark at the I-5 bridges saying “they will fall into the river.” The only glaring weakness is the extended concrete columns from the piers. And the fact that the bridge now has a crown in it—acting like a bowstring.

        If we are in the CENTER of an M9 quake the ground can permanently relocate up or down—and all seismic preparation is toast anyway. The likely scenario is an M9 quake OFF THE COAST—and maybe around Bandon–with it diminished to m6 level by the time Portland is involved. Henny-penny critics say the whole 700 mile fault zone could rupture. Is that all in one day? That’s nonsense. SCIENCE says the most likely location is the Southern OR Coast. Recorded history has not had any 700 mile long rupture. Usually more like 50 miles. This is planet earth, with quirks and anomalies—not some mathematical equation.

        Finally, Seismic tech WILL improve, so why not buy the time? Likely a lot of the seismic upgrade we HAVE done already will be obsolete in the near future. And darn, we didn’t even get to try it out!

  5. So Car2Go is cutting service to poorer parts of town? That seems like a simple business decision. They’ve said that the areas being cut were where less than 10% of all trips started or ended, so that just seems like they’re just targeting having vehicles available for the people who use them the most and provide most of the revenue.

  6. An interesting CityLab article looking at some of the potential uses for electronic fare cards.

    While I don’t think TriMet’s efare system will become integrated across as many transit types, it’s interesting to think about what else could be incorporated into the system in the future. For example, the long proposed bike-share system would be a good choice. Car-sharing could be another. It would make a lot of sense to lower the barriers for alternative transit. By having all modes under one system, it would be easier for people to use multiple transit types on a single trip.

  7. A fire is (as I write this) destroying a Pacific and Western rail trestle in Sherwood,

    According to longtime commenter Erik Halstead, who knows a thing or two about local freight operations, this won’t have a significant impact on service, as there are no current shippers in Sherwood, and the Rex Hill segment of the line between Sherwood and Newberg hasn’t been used in quite a while.

    • I wonder if P&W is planning on rebuilding it? If not, I wonder if the Rex Hill route could be turned into a trail of some sort.

      • I’ve got a friend in Sherwood who uses the Rex Hill line as a trail today, apparently confident that the chances of encountering a train are zero. But if the line west of the Tualatin industrial area are presently only used as railcar storage, a rails-to-trails conversion would make sense.

        Presently, the cities of Wilsonville, Sherwood, and Tualatin are planning something called the Tonquin Ice Age Trail, really a trail network, providing trail links between the three cities, also including connections to the Westside Trail (via a future ped/bike bridge across the Tualatin near King City) and the Fanno Creek Trail.

        A westward extension to Newberg via the Rex Hill rail grade would be a great idea. And one drawback of the proposed trail is that it offers a very indirect route between Tualatin and Sherwood. (An obvious solution is a trail along Tualatin Road between Cipole and downtown Tualatin).

        • I see little to no reason why P&W is going to spend several million dollars to replace a bridge they essentially don’t use. They already made that mistake reopening the line to Astoria, only to see their repairs re-washed out and not a single revenue freight car moved. P&W also has other unused assets that are a drain – the branch to Dallas, for example.

          Frankly – I believe that turning this unused railroad into a bike path would be an excellent idea, connecting downtown Sherwood with George Fox College in Newberg (thus not requiring rebuilding the burned trestle). It protects the right-of-way for future use as a railroad should population growth in Yamhill County warrant it (but not for many decades.) It gets bikes off 99W and onto a much easier grade, making it far more easier to get between the two cities without a heart attack inducing hill climb suitable for only the most active cyclists.

          The population in Newberg (and McMinnville) don’t support commuter rail/light rail/any type of rail passenger service, and too many trips would extend beyond the rail system, making a strong transit system at both ends a necessity. Unfortunately, that doesn’t exist, and there’s absolutely zero interest by anyone to increase bus transit service anywhere, so what good is a train from nowhere, to nowhere, that requires a car at both ends?

  8. My post on a solution for connecting Marquam Hill to any SW corridor route did not show up.

    But here is another item. Even though I was mocked for writing that there would soon be abundant alternatives available for people to drive w/o using fossil fuels (and we have two years to go in my prediction) electric vehicles are taking hold. I saw a BMW electric on SE 12th on Monday. This article says Ford Focus electric owners WILL NOT switch back.

    Green Car Reports
    Stephen Edelstein
    August 11, 2015

    Fully nine out of 10 electric-car drivers say they won’t go back to cars with internal-combustion engines, according to a new Ford survey.

    The results included responses from 10,000 drivers of both battery-electric cars and plug-in hybrids.

    It found that 92 percent of battery-electric drivers, and 94 percent of plug-in hybrid drivers, plan to purchase another plug-in car as their next vehicle.

    • Yes indeedy, 90% of EV drivers don’t want to go back to petrol power. But, um, er, isn’t there rather a high level of self-selection bias in that sample group?

      Also you neglected to ask the 98.45% of drivers who don’t drive an EV or hybrid whether they want to switch back to gasoline.

      Ooops, forgot. They’re already using gasoline. At least most of them are.

      • I happen to know quite a bit about electric automobiles. They are definitely going to replace fuel automobiles.

        I just took a short 150-mile (and 150 miles back) road trip in mine. They’re just so much nicer than gasoline cars that they WILL become predominant over gas cars; really, battery price is the only thing stopping them so far, and Musk is building the Gigafactory to change that.

        — electric cars do absolutely nothing about road congestion, except to make it somewhat more comfortable to sit still (since there’s no “idling”). So they’re no substitute for MASS transportation in busy, congested cities.
        — electric cars are pretty slow for really long road trips, due to the need to charge. Long road trips suck in any case because nobody likes driving for hours upon hours upon hours. So they’re no substitute for intercity rail, either.

  9. Here is a solution for the Marquam Hill to SW Corridor connection.
    1, Put wind and solar generation equipment on a high spot, maybe on top of a building.
    2. Get small shuttle buses, use the TM4 external rotor motor to refit from diesels.
    3. Wait until the battery technology has reached a new level. Probably within 5 years.
    4. Also use regenerative braking technology for charging.
    5. Run these at ten minute headways from the downtown transit mall.

    What’s not to like about this proposal?

    • getting stuck in traffic coming down the hill is the one problem. However perhaps a long queue-jumper could be installed for transit.

      • My life on earth is not to solve everyone’s minor frustration. I think many people are getting fed up with Tri Mets GROSS mismanagement and incompetence, especially when you see what other transit agencies can do with much proportionally less money. And also there is a general resentment building against government workers, and their perks—the same way that some people in our society resent police and the privileges they employ while carrying out their job. What is TriMet actually getting done for the huge budget they have?

        I try to forward helpful ideas. But one can never solve everyone’s issues.

        • Which agencies are those?

          The agencies I’ve seen you often praise (Snohomish Transit, Kitsap Transit) are smaller-scale agencies providing basic-level service to smaller service areas. Generally, they are less cost effective than TriMet on a per-rider budget basis–which is not surprising, because they are smaller agencies! (And thus apples/oranges comparisons).

          Surely, you’re not suggesting that TriMet slash service until they provide an equivalent level of service to, e.g. Kitsap Transit (most buses run hourly, no Sunday service).

          Is it your view that TriMet’s operational subsidy (from payroll taxes) should be reduced, and the difference refunded to taxpayers? Or should TriMet change its operational investment priorities?

          • Actually I do suggest that TriMet re analyze its capital investment model, as I know that running huge 700,000 dollar buses carrying only a handful of passengers is NOT cost effective. If it is going to be an innovator then we should observe what emerging technologies will make both the capital investment (rolling stock, maintenance and administrative facilities, real estate purchases and/or development, and public information services) AND operational expenses (salaries, benefits,R&D and public relations strategies, administrative personnel, maintenance personnel) far more payer friendly and altogether less of a subsidized burden.

            I’ve even suggested on here that the best model may even be a totally fareless system, that attracts the optimum number of riders, yet still holds those above costs down. While suburban transit models may not have the high end property tax payers that the METRO region does, they often have equivalent corporate taxpayers—and the average Joeblow would be equivalently impacted.

            Maybe you missed some of my articles on how other big cities, up to an including London England with over ten times the population of Portland, have inaugurated successful strategies—b/c I noticed they didn’t seem to draw the level of commentary typical to the conventional Portland transportation issue whiners.

    • Then you’re not connecting to the SW Corridor, you’re connecting to Downtown. And there’s already a FS bus making that run, the #8. So really, what’s changed with your “solution” besides investing in new bus technology? Why even bother with building the SW Corridor if it’s not going to connect to Marquam Hill?

      Maybe you’ve never had to sit in traffic going up and down the hill, or maybe it doesn’t bother you to waste 10-15 minutes each way doing so. But for most people working or visiting Pill Hill, it’s a major time drain. One of the primary reasons for building the SW Corridor in the first place was to increase accessibility to the hill, but now it seems that goal was jettisoned in favor of rebuilding the entire Naito Parkway and/or Barbur Blvd ROWs. If that’s what Metro wants to focus on, then they need to find a high speed, high capacity way to get people up and down the hill from wherever the station is eventually located.

      • The OHSU faction is only one piece of the puzzle. They have already gotten their way on other decisions, and as far as investment goes—-WTH don’t you question the way OHSU investors have made into the one percenters with the investment on South Waterfront? [Moderator: Personally-directed remark removed–ES].

        • There are good questions to ask as to the good faith of OHSU management.

          There aren’t good reasons, however, to hurl invective at others. Civility, please.

        • I’m not sure what “one percenters” has to do with anything, or why I, personally, need to monitor how OHSU invests their money, but that OHSU “faction” employs more people and generates more trips than most of the rest of the SW Corridor put together. So it’s not just one piece of the puzzle, it’s about 1/3 -1/2 of the entire puzzle. Telling them to fend for themselves because you don’t agree with the way they conduct business is extremely myopic.

          Also, I disagree with the assertion that OHSU has said “no” to a tunnel option. The fact that they have vibration sensitive equipment that requires some mitigation during the construction process is not the same as “not wanting a tunnel”. Sensitive equipment can easily be isolated, and the ongoing construction already taking place on the hill obviously hasn’t been abated. This is most likely a political decision on Metro’s part because a lot of people perceive a tunnel as being the “gold-plated” option and they’re afraid of an anti-rail backlash. A backlash, I might add, which is grossly exagerated by sensationalist media and is unsustainable given our exploding growth and almost a million new residents in the next couple of decades. We can’t keep people mobile by cramming more buses and cars onto the streets, no matter how technologically advanced they are.

    • I have another solution.

      Tell OHSU and the VA that their location is unsustainable, and they need to move.

      There is no logical reason why an entire reason needs to focus millions of dollars building a transit system to such a ridiculous location for a major medical center, that has just one two-lane, hopelessly congested road to it.

      They have said they don’t want the tunnel…maybe OHSU and the VA should form their own transit network to get people on/off the tunnel, and let TriMet focus on regional transport. The OHSU and VA both run their own buses (OHSU to the Waterfront Campus and several downtown buildings; the VA to the Vancouver campus) so they can clearly run more.

      Same with PCC Sylvania – they chose to put a campus out of the way on top of a hill – let them run their own shuttle busses. I see no reason they can’t run a bus to the Barbur TC and Tigard TC, in addition to their extensive inter-campus shuttle buses and the bus that runs from Sylvania to PSU (effectively competing with TriMet). Lewis & Clark figured out how to run buses. TriMet’s job is not to cater and provide VIP shuttle service to a few select, out-of-the-way, non-taxpaying entities. Nor is TriMet’s job to redevelop Barbur Boulevard. If the City of Portland wants to do that, the City can figure that out all on its own – TriMet’s job needs to be 100% focused solely on public transit – not on catering to developers and special interests.

      • Where should the VA, OHSU, and PCC move to? Are they able to stay centrally located, or would you want them to save money by moving away from the center of the region’s population?

        What funds would you allocate to move them, and at what cost to providing services? Should PCC and OHSU jack up rates, and the VA cut service to pay for these moves? Is there another funding source for moving major employers that I’m just not aware of?

        Or to run more of their own buses, how do you propose they pay for that? Should they start a volunteer version of Uber, find new funding sources, or cut services to make up the cost difference?

        Should TriMet also cut service to Swan Island, since the companies located there could move or provide better transit service on their own? Why does Daimler need a handout like bus service? Why didn’t they build their new HQ downtown?

        • Marquam Hill was donated to OHSU (then called something else) by Philip Marquam, a local developer, politician, and rail magnate. (There is an old rumor that he bought the site, sight unseen, to build a railway depot; though in fact he had a homestead on the hill long before he got into the railroad business).

          Business on Swan Island need areas zoned for heavy industry, and many of them need deepwater river access–moving to Hillsboro is not an option.

          PCC Sylvania was probaby a case of cheap land as well.

          Any of these things would cost tens of millions of dollars, if not hundreds, to relocate.

          In general, transit agencies should serve destinations where they are–even though some are difficult to serve well.

          • I think it would be several to tens of BILLIONS of dollars to relocate 4 major hospitals, a major medical university, and a major community college campus. But you’re right, you can’t plan transit around where you WISH the riders were, you have to provide it to where they actually are. That’s like saying if people and businesses in SW Portland and Tigard/Tualatin want HCT, they should all move to areas of town that already have MAX service. That’s just not realistic.

          • In general, transit agencies should serve destinations where they are–even though some are difficult to serve well.

            That was pretty much my point. Moving locations to serve transit instead of moving transit to serve locations seems silly.

      • “let them run their own shuttle busses [sic]”

        Since “them” are a part of the Oregon State Government, “them” is “us”. From which of our pockets the funds to run those shuttle buses comes is only of interest if you’re one of those emetic “union busters” who hates Tri-Met.

        Are you a “union buster”?

    • Another possibility: build a second aerial tram, this time from OHSU’s 9th floor to PSU at/near 6th and Lincoln. The cost should be comparable to the tram already built ($60 to $70 million) since the distance involved is roughly the same. A tram link like that would facilitate greater direct collaboration between PSU and OHSU, so if OHSU and PSU see advantages to that kind of relationship, they could pick up part of the cost. A tram would let OHSU staff, students, and patients commute via multiple MAX and bus lines, as well as both streetcar routes.

      I wonder if two tram cars would be able to handle that much traffic, though. Or if they could be built larger than the existing cars, allowing them to carry more than 78 passengers at a time.

      • A gondola might work, but a tram, like the one to SoWA, is permanently constrained by its two-and-only-two cars technology.

      • I think any aerial transportation solution from 6th & Lincoln (or anywhere on the PSU campus) would be a non-starter for several reasons. First, you’d be passing directly in front of the Terwilliger Plaza and invading the privacy of hundreds of senior citizens, who have plenty of time on their hands to fight such a proposal tooth and nail. Second, there’s no clear path to OHSU’s 9th floor without taking out dozens of trees in Terwilliger Park. Next, it’s unlikely that a path over Duniway Park would be allowed. And finally, it wouldn’t be able to stay within existing ROWs like the tram over Gibbs Street did.

        • A PSU-OHSU aerial tram or gondola might be a non-starter for any number of budgetary or technical reasons, but I’m pretty sure NIMBYism by neighbors or concerns about the topping of a few trees wouldn’t be much of an obstacle. Even if a tram couldn’t be built entirely in the Sixth Avenue ROW, it would require the condemnation of air rights over just five properties — a drop in the bucket in the budget of a sixty million dollar project. I see no real issue with having it travel over Duniway Park or the Terwilliger Parkway; if the City of Portland supports the project (and it wouldn’t go forward otherwise), the City will simply grant that right-of-way.

          • Maybe OHSU should have a parking structure at some point that is easy to access from the road system and then a shuttle bus to the hill. I agree that there are a lot of SOV’s of the workforce trying to get up Terwiliger to Marquam Hill—at some hours, which are probably not coincidental to the time when clients are also trying to get there :).

            Therefore putting more facilities up there increases this problem. However, it does create an opportunity to make collective transit more cost effective. Let’s see some civic spirit from those well paid and tenured health workers!

            The bigwigs are rolling in dough, anyway.

  10. The TM4 Direct Drive electric power train can be retrofitted on other heavier vehicles, like local delivery trucks. Quebec is using them on schoolbuses even now. So Lenny Anderson can stop fretting so much about how highways have been a bad experience. You can always move if you don’t like it. Unlike diesel engines, they can just shut off when the vehicle is not accelerating, so I guess even traffic jams would not be as bad. I also like the noise pollution reduction, a subject I do not see discussed very much.

    • I’ve explained this elsewhere. Electric cars and trucks are great for pollution, but they do absolutely nothing about congestion. Sure, people will be able to breathe while stuck in traffic jams, but if they actually want to get through a “traffic jam” quickly, they’ll have to get on a train!

      Right tool for the right job. Autos are great for rural areas, but terrible for urban areas.

      • Not true. Complete electrification will facilitate ‘smart’ congestion mitigation via sensors and electronic controls. Besides it’s foolish think that a growing metropolitan area does not need to address its roadway capacity. I agree with the train thing and was an original supporter of the MAX thing and against proliferating freeways.

        Every dog has its day, though.

        • I remember a study from about ten years ago that showed computer models could gain up to 40% more throughput from existing roadways by having networked cars. Things that are unsafe with humans operating vehicles can be much safer when all the cars electronically communicate.

          • Dave,

            That’s very true. Sadly, the very people who need to participate in automated, co-operative road management are the very ones who are least likely to do so. Do you really think that guy who passes you on the right in an exit then jumps in front of you are the white point is going to sit in a robocar scrupulously observing all of the Rules of the Road?

            If people really did share them as in RoboUber instead of driving and parking them, they would be a way to use the existing road structure much more efficiently. Dense clusters of employment would be possible with far less group infrastructure (e.g. high capacity transit).

            But I just don’t think that the guys with Rebel flags and “truck nuts” are going to agree. They are right that Americans LOVE them some cars. Verdad!

            So we need to keep making improvements which are separated from roadways, so they’re not limited by the capacity issues and random crashes — I got backed into by a guy trying to flee from rear-ending two other cars seven hours ago — that roadways are heir to.

      • Well, I keep saying that the Western Arterial route—-with a double tied arch main channel bridge and a large pier center in the Columbia does one thing among others that it does, too. It could have underwater turbine generators that would harvest the river currents (most of the year) for electrically powered buses. Both transit agencies could use this too. And it would be very innovative. Plus, with both battery efficiency increasing, and transit vehicle mass decreasing, electric power would become more feasible. And green, quiet non polluting transit vehicles would attract more riders.

        And, a bridge between Camas and Troutdale, where the Columbia is fairly narrow could have turbine generation for electric buses from those towns to main connections: Gresham MAX station for example. Or down WA Hwy 14 to the Couve.

  11. OHSU is actually moving some of its functions to the new Riverside campus served by Streetcar and soon MAX and three bus lines. I can believe there is not a financially and technically feasible way to connect a HCT station on Barbur or even Naito to the Hill campus.

  12. Did anyone else notice that Google Maps in Transit View is now showing the Orange Line and the finished Central Loop? There’s no arrival times for the Orange Line stops, and it looks like buses have stayed as they actually run so far.

    I guess it’s a month away, so they may as well get ready.

  13. I was out on the I-5 for a total of about ten hours this week, with my “Western Arterial Hwy” signs. I’m sure many thousands of vehicle operators saw the message. Yet I still see certain folks on discussion forums bring up the I-605 idea.

    Probably Couverite Vantuckians!!! This idea is “the Western Interstate Industrial Hwy”—a concept more similar to Hwy 99E or even Marginal Way in Seattle. With underwater power generation capabilities for the coming electric road transit vehicles! And a path that overwhelmingly reduces GHG emissions from what they would be if we do nothing. And built using long lasting modern steel components, with the new long lasting, low maintenance concrete road beds AND the very latest SEISMIC ISOLATION TECH, which you won’t get in concrete structures…. Such as this city is fond of putting up everywhere..

    • I’m not opposed to a West Side Bypass, but I’m not really sure that it’s the best investment of state money. If the low estimates I’ve seen are even close I’d rather just upgrade as many existing roads as possible for the same amount of money.

      Investing in 217 and TV Hwy would probably be a better use of funds than a brand new freeway.

      • A “West Side bypass” would be very expensive. The Western Arterial I described would actually upgrade some routes–even though it does need some sizable structures. But—–Cornelius Pass Rd. is being “upgraded” even as we speak; N. Marine Dr and Columbia Bv. are upgraded already.
        Fruit Valley Rd. exists now, and already has upgraded connections to E-W arterials. Bliss Rd. is an “upgraded” route, too.

        The West Side Bypass concept would be a minimum of $10 billion dollars and hugely disruptive; probably more like $20 billion, accompanied with disruptive impact.The western arterial route ( or western interstate industrial highway) would be under $2 billion, if handled right. And it would provide shorter, cyclable connections between four important areas.

    • My usual question to Westside Bypass proponents (especially to those suggesting the Southern leg)?

      Which part of Hillsboro should be bulldozed?

      • I’m against this Southern Leg. Here’s the deal, Engineer Scotty:
        Politicians are inherently self serving schemers: Adding more people adds more supporters to their agenda. And I’m not going to argue with anyone who says that Mayor Willey has some motives or agenda for entertaining the idea of a west side bypass.

        This is also very similar to the way that Commissioner Madore started calling for an “eastside Columbia river bridge” because his voting base wants that. It is not a priority and I actually visited METRO and said I didn’t think we needed any 192nd Ave bridge project. And of course we also got the “highway builders” from Florida to come up here and give us a proposal. guaranteed to not cost more (yeah right!)

        But Portland also does this self serving schemer thing, for their own interests too. Is it surprising that Charlie Hales was the Homebuilders’ lobbyist? Of course now we have new homes popping up by the thousands. And…unlike Pearl condos–they are largely non union built. Nonetheless, this provides an enlarged tax base so Portland politicos can carry forth their (ill-informed) political agenda.

        The real crux is that both these—conservative AND liberal–schemes work to produce inflation. Terrible inflation, and overcrowding and congestion and accidents, too. But since it is impossible to halt all of this runaway growth, we should try to manage it intelligently. This would include better transit, better alternatives and better roadways also, where needed. Having a 3/4 complete Ring Road of the METRO area is kind of silly. We do have infrastructure in the SW quadrant—so a Southwest bypass should not be needed. It is just a dream of certain types.
        But having an uncompleted loop—when SW Washington happenings are beyond the practical control of Oregon officials anyways–which doesn’t have any connection between our NW area and SW Washington–is a glaring omission.

        And if we don’t have it, we will get all sorts of money wasting proposals to put band aids on the problem. Not real solutions.

  14. Here you go (this is red meat for the ultra geek types on here); The public transportation vehicle of the future–may actually BE the battery at the same time. For instances, the trams going up to Pill Hill could just BE batteries molded into the egg shape they have now;

  15. What’s needed is a bridge over the Willamette connecting Oak Grove and Lake Oswego extending via Country Club or the RR ROW to Kruse Woods and 217. A nice project for the road enthusiasts in Clackamas county! Then ODOT can close half of the on/off ramps on 217 so it actually works as a freeway with local traffic shifting onto Hall, etc.
    As I posted before, I am OK with a connection between Cornelius Pass Road and N. Columbia Blvd with another Willamette River bridge and tunnel thru Forest Park (toll), IF the Marquam Bridge and I-5 between I-405 and I-84 are REMOVED!

    • Thanks for saying that and I hate it, too! I was honestly thinking about your statements today, about freeways being like an open sewer, as I was observing the mess on I-5. But until interstate freight transport gets back on the rails, we are stuck with stinky, smelly, loud and DANGEROUS trucks on the highway, plowing through our fir city.

      And actually those people who work in the trucking industry? Don’t they have some responsibility for encouraging the mess that we have? Like they say “birds of a feather, flock together.” I’m glad that in my career I not only built new structures, which sometimes sadly removed old ones, as the South Auditorium urban renewal did. But I also worked on preservation projects—-PORTLAND CITY HALL for one! That was for Artek Contracting. I also bought a home that is part of the preservation effort of “Old Portland” and has added value to the tax rolls in Portland.

      Now, if the rail advocates would accomplish the relocation of interstate fright to the rails it might be a big help. I think it would at least stop the increase of stinky, smelly trucks. But since they aren’t shouldn’t we at least shift some of the burden out of North Portland, and actually help save those companies some money so they can make our economy boom? Which seems to be what the local politicos want the most.

      • If you want to build a three-lane (for breakdowns) truck and bus-only connection between I-5 to the north and Washington County I doubt anybody — except the million or so private car owners in the region who would demand to use it — would object.

        But that’s not what it would be: the Highwaymen never build SMALL new highways. Nope; they build BIG new highways. And all the reasonable arguments one might marshal will not stop that.

        Look, Intel is in trouble; the stock says so and the market is uncannily prescient, at least about widely traded individual companies. The PC is waning and Microsoft seems to want to turn it into a non-mobile mobile phone rather than a business tool. Intel is having the very devil of a time breaking the Arm-monopoly in mobile devices. They’ve got a cloud hosting service; whoop-te-doo. So does every up and coming tech entrepreneur. And the down and going ones, too.

        So why would Oregon invest even $2 billion dollars to escort folks from North Clark County to jobs in Hillsboro? Especially when the incumbents will be complaining about paying Oregon taxes every day they turn up.

        No; there are far more pressing roadway needs in Oregon than a Boondocks Boulevard to Fruit Valley Road.

        • ” the Highwaymen never build SMALL new highways. “

          OK, I give up then. I guess we will have an 8 lane, canyon like freeway but it will only be two miles long. Going from nowhere to nowhere. And then your prescience will be vindicated.

          Look, I hear naysayers, on all sides—declaring “Your idea will cost tens of billions, so let’s do something else! Something that’s do-able!”

          This “something else” always happens to be some little idea that has germinated either from the “I-605 is the only real solution, we should have had that twenty years ago.” group or the “Annnyyy new roadway will automatically lead to more, since it gives SOV’s just one more green light!” group.

          You know what? I think people in this region are a heck of a lot smarter than either of those.

    • From the Technical Memo….


      The analysis found that, on the basis of cost and schedule, constructing a bored light rail tunnel connection to PCC Sylvania would provide a more efficient approach than the cut?and?cover tunnel considered by the Steering Committee in July 2015. In addition, a bored tunnel alignment may provide the most direct route connecting Barbur, PCC Sylvania and the Tigard Triangle, thus providing slightly improved travel times compared to a cut?and?cover tunnel. While a bored tunnel would result in property and traffic impacts, those impacts would be substantially less than from a cut?and?cover tunnel construction approach.
      Given the challenges posed by a cut?and?cover tunnel—including difficulties with maintaining access and mitigating construction impacts to existing properties, the complex sequence of construction and engineering risk due to the depth of proposed tunnel—the analysis demonstrates that a bored tunnel connection PCC Sylvania is feasible and may be preferred.”

      Those construction impacts that they mention for the cut and cover tunnel at PCC would also apply to a surface alignment along Barbur from Downtown to Burlingame. But the impacts would be even MORE profound because the steep slopes along that alignment are going to require massively expensive geotechnical engineering solutions.

      How soon before they start to scrutinize the ACTUAL costs and feasibility of a surface alignment along Barbur versus a bored tunnel under Marquam Hill? I still maintain that the tunnel will be more cost effective and FAR less disruptive than rebuilding the entire length of Barbur.

  16. While preparing for a SW corridor meeting last month (and on a whim) I went through some of TriMet’s rider data to find out whether the Yellow Line could be operated less expensively if it were transformed into BRT. It can — no huge surprise as its costs per ride have been consistently about the same as the most efficient regular bus routes. One thing about the Yellow Line that stands out is the fact that it pretty much stays at four trips per hour per direction, without extra trips during commute hours.

    The Red and Green Lines are operated similarly. So, if four trains per hour are adequate for peak commutes, isn’t there at least the possibility that they’re providing excess capacity off-peak? Maybe they’re running with excess capacity, too. Could they be operated more efficiently as BRT? The answers are yes.

    The Blue Line carries about 60,000 riders each weekday. It actually does have extra runs during the commute. It also would be more efficient to run it as BRT, at least with 60′ buses. This was a very big surprise. Among other things, it turns out that the Red Line parasitizes the Blue, with about 2/3rds of Red trips completely on Blue alignment.

    Anyway, I submitted an Op-Ed proposing upgrading MAX to BRT to the O last week, which they kindly posted Saturday—
    —and printed Sunday.

    Comments appreciated – all the way from “yawn” to “this guy’s delusional”

      • Faster – not subject to all the special speed restrictions of LRT such as on the Steel Bridge

        More frequent – smaller vehicles

        More reliable – one bus has a problem, others can go around

        Hot days not a operational problem

        Single seat service off-line possible

        Far more robust in dealing with earthquakes or other disasters

        Higher capacity – more riders per hour per direction – (not per vehicle or train)


        When we get past the hype, what are LRT’s advantages?

        I’ll accept that rail can possibly be more attractive than BRT to choice riders, but we’ve never had top-of-the-line BRT in the US, and MAX ridership has fallen while TriMet bus ridership has risen over the past year.

        Also, LRT does use electricity and buses aren’t quite there yet when it comes to heavy duty service over long distances.

        So, on balance, BRT on the MAX alignment really could be a significant upgrade.

        • I’m gonna go with “delusional”‘ and here’s why.

          Where have you EVER seen cities taking perfectly good high capacity rail transit and converting it to buses? Nowhere, because it NEVER happens. Precisely because it is a downgrade in service. And paving over active rail beds to accommodate buses, besides being unbelievably regressive and short-sighted, would be very expensive to do.

          Also, since when is running 2-3 times as many buses (versus trains), with 2-3 times more operators, going to be less expensive? I’m baffled that you would think so. Especially since it appears you’re somehow involved with the planning of the SW Corridor. As a SW Portland resident, that’s scary to me, to think that this is the kind of rationale that’s going into the planning of such an important link in our mass transit system.

          How on Earth can you say that we have “too much” capacity on MAX? There’s gonna be close to a million new residents in the metro area within the next couple of decades, and you want to REMOVE high capacity rail transit?!?! Holy cow!!!

          • Thanks, Aaron Hall, I really appreciate you bringing out specific points for discussion:

            1. Where has “perfectly good” high capacity rail been converted to buses? The rail-to-bus conversion has been a major ongoing process – and problem – for over a century, including here in Portland. The most memorable one that I witnessed was the conversion of the Key System transbay rail to buses in 1958. AC transit still runs popular buses following the old rail lines 57 years later, even though BART provides faster heavy rail service.

            Its a little trouble replying to your point because “perfectly good” is undefined. If MAX LRT really was perfect in every measurable way then there would be no point replacing it. It’s not.

            2. Yes, paving over the MAX alignments would be very expensive, (but a lot cheaper than tunneling under downtown Portland if we ever needed to go to three- or four-car trains.) So the question really is one of payback times or how long it would take to break even. Converting the Yellow Line would be relatively cheap and have a short payback time. With the Robertson Tunnel and high ridership, converting the Westside lines would be the opposite.

            3. It costs TriMet about three times as much per hour to run a MAX train as a bus. (See the Annual Performance Report— )
            —Light rail has very high fixed maintenance costs for the rail bed, the power system, and the signaling system that would not apply to BRT. BRT would still have station maintenance costs and its own ROW maintenance, but they would be much less than that for LRT.

            So there’s a large ‘Goldilocks Zone’ for LRT from about three bus loads of passengers up through its capacity. The problem is that MAX ridership is so low that it’s short of the zone’s threshold and costs more per passenger than if it were BRT.

            4. My involvement with the SW Corridor is strictly as an interested citizen and have no special influence or connections.

            5. By “excess capacity” I meant that TriMet is running far more trains than are needed to provide capacity for existing riders. The rationales for this are perfectly legitimate. Again, there just aren’t enough riders to justify current service levels.

            Running four trains per hour to provide frequent service on the G, R, & Y lines is costly and demand is weak. Running G & R lines west of Gateway instead of forcing transfers to the Blue Line provides a much higher level of service. It’s wonderful for those who can take advantage, costly for the rest of us, and simply does not have enough ridership to be more efficient as LRT than BRT.

            6. With its two-car limit, MAX LRT does not have anywhere near the capacity for growth as would BRT. According to the Transit Capacity Manual, a perfectly designed two-car LRT system would pretty much max out at about 15,000 riders per hour per direction. MAX has a series of built-in limitations and can carry far fewer than that, even if management is ever able to increase speeds on the Steel Bridge. Well designed BRT systems in the US could accommodate upwards of 30,000 riders per hour per direction. The system in Bogota, using three-section, double-articulated buses has a maximum capacity of 45,000.

            Again, I can accept that rail has a subjective appeal to some people and that LRT uses electricity. But excepting those two, how exactly would MAX going to the faster, more frequent, cheaper, more reliable, more flexible, more robust, and higher capacity service that BRT could provide not be an upgrade?

            • A couple of things:

              1) It would most likely be silly to convert existing MAX lines to rubber-tire operation, especially if one doesn’t dismantle the entire system. Many of the fixed costs of LRT are **fixed**–you pay them if you are running ten trains or fifty.

              2) That said, many of Portland’s MAX lines (any cotor other than Blue, at present) operate at the edge of where rail makes sense from an operational perspective. A rail service that only runs 4 trains/hour, even at peak loads (and drops to 2 tph during daylight hours at times), is one that could be bustituted without costing a lot more money.

              3) For year 2013 (not sure if TriMet’s fiscal year, or some other reporting boundary), here’s some raw stats for operating costs for LRT and fixed-route bus. (Excluding WES and Lift):

              Light rail:

              Operating expenses: $99.3M
              Revenue miles: 7.7M car miles, ~3.9M train-miles
              Revenue hours: 528.1k car-hours, ~264k train-hours

              Cost per revenue train-mile: $25.5/mile
              Cost per revenue train-hour: $376.1/hour

              Bus: $239.1M
              Revenue miles: 19.1M:
              Revenue hours: 1.62M
              Cost per revenue mile: $12.5
              Cost per revenue hour: $147.6

              Basically, MAX costs twice as much to operate per vehicle mile (defining a vehicle as a train, not a single car) as does bus, and about 2.5x as much on a per-hour basis. MAX trains generally travel faster than buses. So RA is reasonably correct that a 15 minute train service could be replaced by a bus service at twice the frequency (I say “reasonably” because a proper accounting would be more detailed than this back-of-the-envelope analysis).

              Of course, such a service would have half the passenger capacity of the current 15-minute, 2-car MAX service. One could augment the peaks with additional buses, but that would reduce the cost savings, and a bus service would “max out” more quickly than rail.

    • I’d be interested to see the cost vs benefits of making the portions of MAX that already exist able to carry rubber or steel wheels. It would allow bus bridges to operate around crashes while still being similar speeds as the normal MAX and it would allow all new routes to be created.

      A route serving Halsey east of Gateway Transit Center that could use the MAX ROW to act as an express bus, or on Division east of I-205 sharing the Green Line to Downtown, or from TV Hwy that used the MAX ROW from Beaverton Transit Center to downtown would be fairly interesting options. Plus there’s the obvious option of expanding direct service via the Yellow Line corridor to Vancouver without needing to put down any tracks in Vancouver.

      It would even allow for 24/7 service if buses could also run the existing MAX routes without needing to run trains 24/7 since the buses could detour around maintenance of the tracks or overhead wires.

      I doubt it would happen anytime soon, but it’s an interesting thing to think about in the long term.

  17. Thank you, too, Scotty for bringing up specifics.

    Who knows what conversion costs would be or how long it would take to break even. Still, payback time would be shortest for Yellow, perhaps a little longer for Red & Green, longer still for eastside Blue, etc. Why couldn’t Yellow be done first? It’s more of a stand-alone operation, and Orange could just as easily become Green – or anything else on the Steel Bridge.

    I used the basic Transit Capacity Manual formula for calculating the number of buses required to replace existing LRT, relying on Spring 2015 passenger census & route ridership reports, June 2015 Monthly Performance Report (full version), and the current schedule. The cost per operating hour from the MPR over the last year shows a 3.19 ratio of LRT to bus for TriMet which is significantly higher than that reported in the FTA 2013 data that appear to be your source. FTA uses revenue hours where TriMet also offers vehicle hours data. I also guesstimated BRT hourly costs at 1.15 times TriMet’s existing bus hourly costs to account for 60′ vehicles and other BRT costs, based primarily on Lane Transit District’s BRT-bus hourly cost ratio as reported by the FTA.

    We can get into more detail if anybody would really want it, but the bottom line is that with current ridership, we’d save about $27 million annually on the entire MAX system not including Orange which, barring a miracle, would add another $5 to $10 million to the savings. Obviously, the savings would go down or even disappear if ridership dramatically rises. But come on, it’s been 29 years! The savings go up another $10 to $15 million when TriMet (if it hasn’t gone belly up) adopts autonomous operations. At that point, no two-car LRT operation would offer a cost advantage over BRT.

    Unlike hourly operating costs, relative costs per mile between TriMet’s existing bus (or streetcar, for that matter) and LRT are not relevant because of all the handicaps forced on regular street services-i.e. single-door loading, paying on board, stops every few hundred feet, general lack of signal priority, no exclusive separated ROW, etc. The only two cities in the FTA report which have both LRT and BRT are Cleveland and Los Angeles, and both show lower BRT costs per passenger mile than LRT.

    What would constitute “Maxing out”? How could BRT with a 30,000-plus riders per hour per direction potential capacity possibly max out before LRT – especially a two-car LRT? And if we ever do get anywhere near 20,000 riders/hour/direction, we should start seriously talking about heavy rail like BART or New York’s subway.

    P.S. Scotty, there was no reply button on your comment, maybe because you’re a site manager?

    • The lack of a reply button is due to a limit on how deeply comments may be nested; it’s nothing to do with me having admin privileges.

      At any rate… my figures are from the 2013 National Transit Database, so I consider them to be accurate. They may be out-of-date; also use of revenue hours vs vehicle hours would further advantage rail because TriMet’s operational practice is to avoid deadheading trains as much as possible (they generally enter revenue service at the first stop after leaving Ruby or Merlo) whereas buses deadhead all over the place.

      A few other thoughts, though:

      * Comparing the theoretical capacity of BRT with the actual capacity of MAX as currently implemented, is not a fair comparison. 45000 pph corresponds to 300-400 buses per hour, even assuming large double-artics that can hold 150 passengers; even the Transit Mall (which is designed to handle large numbers of vehicles) would probably be jammed with that much bus traffic. In general, for a linear transit corridor where all vehicles serve all stops, if you have headways shorter than 2 minutes you are asking for trouble, and bunching become unavoidable. With 2-minute headways, and large buses with 150 passenger capacities, that works out to 4500 people per hour per direction, a load that MAX (with its 2-car limit) can handle in its sleep. (10 trains per hour will do it).

      The commonly-tossed figure of 30000 pphpd often refers to the XBL (Exclusive Bus Lane) of the Lincoln Tunnel between New Jersey and Manhattan. Said tunnel does handle this capacity during the peaks, but there are no stops in the tunnel. On the Manhattan side is the Port Authority Bus Terminal, a bus station that can rival some airports for passenger capacity, on the Jersey side buses fan out in all directions. Calling the XBL a “BRT” is stretching it somewhat.

      Generally, really high-capacity corridors (greater than 20000 pphpd), particularly linear ones, will require high-frequency rail with long consists, not light rail.

      * Currently, the limit on TriMet’s operations is not physical capacity of the infrastructure (except for the Steel Bridge bottleneck, a looming issue), it’s the operating budget. As demand for ridership grows, it’s rail that scales better by this metric, not bus. BRT works best at the lower-end of the curve, when you don’t have enough demand to fill railcars, but you do have enough to fill a bus. But if your agency has trouble running 8 buses per hour, it will have more trouble with 30.

      * One problem MAX has had, in recent years, is maintenance issues, as much of the equipment and infrastructure gets old. TriMet has been working on its maintenance backlog (much of it incurred during the Great Recession). A new system with new vehicles would not have as much maintenance headaches during its first decade of operation.

      * The other big problem with MAX is that with the Green Line, at least, they put tracks where they had a right-of-way, not where they had demand. The I-205 segment is largely redundant with the 72, and not any faster than the 14 or the 4 or any of the other inbound buses. Running it at half-hour headways didn’t make it an attractive service, either.

      I would have no objection whatsoever to the SWC becoming (high-quality) BRT, actually. The topology of SW Portland is a good fit for BRT, particulary past PCC-Sylvania. I’ve actually wondered about buses on the Yellow Line–not because of any issues with the Yellow itself, but instead for a potential merger with The Vine (C-TRAN’s forthcoming BRT line down Fourth Plain) should a new bridge across the Columbia get built. The Green Line would be a problematic corridor regardless of the technology chosen. Metro did consider BRT for the Orange Line, but decided on LRT instead–part of the reason was lower projected demand for BRT (though I expect the “rail bias” is smaller now than it was a decade ago, when the planning was done), part was political pressure from Milwaukie (this was before Obama got elected, and Tea Party groups started organizing against anything that liberals like, including mass transit).

      • Except for a couple of points, there’s no argument here.

        Stop-skipping and express operations would be vital to success and growth capability of BRT, and be key advantages over LRT. Giving MAX alignment station-bypass capability could be the most expensive part of the conversion. With current and foreseeable demand, it might be necessary only to provide this along the Blue Line between Gateway and some point west of Beaverton. With a few exceptions, that’s not much of a problem between Lloyd Center and Goose Hollow. Where the ROW is restricted, we might need two-level stations, elevating (say) eastbound traffic in the vicinity of stations. The cost of bypassing the Washington Park station might be prohibitive.

        We agree that it’s not the busway; it’s the stations which limit capacity. The busiest stop on the mall at this moment may be 5th & Pine which has more than 60 buses per hour scheduled at peak. Many of these are Milwaukie bound which will disappear in a few weeks. So bunching really shouldn’t be a problem with one-minute headways as long as stations have an adequate number of berths and bypassing is possible. Even with their greater capacity, 60′ BRT vehicles should have much shorter dwell times than current 40′ buses due to fare prepayment and all-door loading. I assumed design loads of 40 passengers on 60′ buses, or about 50% of working capacity, based on the loads of route 4 & 72 buses. That would work out to about 35 buses during the peak hour for the combined Blue & Red lines at current demand, leaving lots of room for growth.

        However, long-term strong growth in transit demand is not inevitable. A recent report released by the OECD, “Urban Mobility System Upgrade”—
        — a case study of the potential of AV’s in Lisbon, suggests that regular bus service would disappear and that HCT might, but was not guaranteed to be part of the future transportation picture. Imagine a world of drastically reduced transit ridership where TriMet would have to treat each and every million dollars as if they actually mattered. I really believe that a MAX based BRT just might save TriMet if the transition is completed before a major ridership drop.

        • Self-driving cars will be accompanied by self-driving buses and trains, one would suppose. Dense areas that have capacity issues with cars will still have capacity issues.

          The infrastructure abilities that self-driving cars have over manually-driven cars are:

          * Ability to park elsewhere than near the destination of the rider
          * More efficient and reliable operations, particularly on highways where platooning might be possible.

          The first might actually undo the advantages of the second, as cars deadheading to a remote parking location will add to traffic.

          The other advantage self-driving autos give over manually-driven autos is that the passenger can do something other than drive–an oft-cited reason for switching to transit in the last decade is the ability to do Other Stuff on the way to work and back.

          Other than the issues I mentioned above, AVs still consume road space, and still require far more energy per passenger than does mass transit. I suspect that they will augment it more than replace it,

          • I hope very much that “Self-driving cars will be accompanied by self-driving buses and trains…” and believe that the future for transit in mid-sized metro areas is absolutely dependent on that outcome. So is the premise that BRT ops will eventually be cheaper than two-car MAX trains at any load factor. There are pitfalls:

            1. According to APTA, there are only about 70,000 transit buses and 2,000 LRT vehicles in the entire country. It’s a tiny market. AV systems will have to do a lot more and be even more thoroughly checked out on transit vehicles than on private cars. So we can expect AV costs for transit to be a lot higher than for cars. For the same reasons, the availability of autonomous transit vehicles is likely to lag that of personal AV’s.

            2. We can expect that transit operators will already have lost at least some riders to shared car-based AV’s (Uber AV’s?) before they make the decision or are even able to convert to AV based transit vehicles, not just because of employee push-back. That permanent ridership drop, even if relatively small, would put transit agencies in much more difficult financial situations than they would otherwise be.

            3. When Congress gets wind of a permanent citizen exodus from transit – again, even if relatively small – the availability of federal funding for the transition to AV based transit would be threatened.

            Future transportation is likely to depend a lot more on carpooling than it does now. There are an awful lot of empty seats in cars and pickups traveling on roads and streets—a real waste. Why isn’t Metro giving more than lip-service to bring back carpooling as a normal way of doing things?

            • There’s lots of unknowns, certainly. A few other points to consider.

              * AVs might make public transit (or more parts of it) into a profitable venture, rather than something that fares only pay a quarter of the costs for. (A big reason most transit agencies are public is precisely that–they cost money, rather than make money, but provide a public good: same as the highway department, same as the fire department). That might be bad for TriMet and its budget and organizational prestige, not necessarily for transit.

              * The success of transit (public or private) will depend, as it does today, on the density of the urban form. If people (especially people with money) desire to live in dense urban areas, there will be a demand (and thus a political constiuency) for transit. If AVs or some other technology produce a shift back to the ‘burbs, transit will struggle. Congress is an important actor, but the behavior of Congress isn’t as neat as you imagine.

              * Metro does give more than “lip service” to car-pooling, yet whenever anything is proposed which actually as teeth (increased parking charges, conversion to HOV lanes, etc.) there is immense pushback from the motoring public, many of whom believe the State owes them a congestion-free commute every morning and afternoon.

              *Adding AV technology to rail is probably the easiest thing there is–many existing systems are already in use, and some of them date back three decades. The new innovation will be adding AV technology to surface rail–where the computer has to watch for pedestrians and crossing vehicles, rather than being able to assume that trains have the tracks to themselves, as is the case on SkyTrain or the DC Metro.

            • At any rate–if TriMet were to come across several hundreds of millions of dollars, or even a billion or two: would I spend it on paving over the tracks on the various branch lines?

              No; I’d convert other existing bus lines to BRT (of some flavor), where it makes sense. 82nd. Sandy. 122nd. MLK to the north. Hall Boulevard. TV Highway. Lombard/Killingsworth.

              Or, I’d fix the Steel Bridge bottleneck, and eliminate the main capacity constraint in the system.

              Conversion of existing LRT services to BRT–which would require taking the line in question out of service for a long while–would be something I’d consider only if and when AV technology was something available at the time (as opposed to a speculative future investment), and/or when the line was approaching the end of its useful service life, and needed major overhaul or replacement anyway. Under the current economic conditions of transit, it would make little sense.

            • Scotty,

              You’re a gentleman, for sure. Proposing that existing LRT lines be scrapped and the investment abandoned because each individual vehicle costs more to operate than any bus — none of which has the capacity of a single light rail car and doesn’t last as long — is the height of folly.

              For R.A. Fontes to equate the paving over of a reserved right of way system like MAX with the replacement of the low volume street rail systems which were scrapped in the ’30’s and ’40’s — the predecessor of POBS, NOT modern “LRT” — is egregious enough a misrepresentation to scream “pre-determined agenda”. I for one am no gentleman and will call him on it.

              I have particularly noticed the ease with which he calls for the elimination the MAX system then pooh-pooh’s the effect that might have on the Bus Mall by waving away the buses headed to Milwaukie “which will be gone in a few weeks”.

              Hellooooo. “Gone in a few weeks” because of Milwaukie MAX!

              And finally, to the issue of carpooling: it’s PLUMMETING as a percentage of trips taken nationally, and Metro can’t do a damn thing about it. It doesn’t work for modern “you’re chained to your desk you pitiful drone!” jobs, because Bill can’t be certain that Kathy who drove today won’t be working until 8 PM tonight, and Kathy hears that Jane’s kid is sick so she won’t be driving tomorrow.

              It only works for shift workers who live near one another, preferably with a spouse to care for the kids.


              Now if people would do like the folks in Birmingham during the bus boycott and trust one another, ride sharing could do an ENORMOUS job reducing air pollution, energy consumption and traffic congestion. But people just won’t do that. People might smoke, or they smell like it, Or they jabber non-stop. Religion comes up and the car does a cartoon explosion. There are lots of reasons it wouldn’t work.

              I for one wouldn’t want to share with most R’s. Jokes about “shooting the President” tire me VERY quickly,

              And anyway, public transit offers all of the benefits of voluntary random ride-sharing. Yes, complete with the hassles, but in the vast majority of instances they’re pretty meaningless.

            • Scotty,

              You did catch me unawares in that prioritization was not a concern.

              It would be worth it to put a new BRT at the head of the queue if it met ITDP standards (projected to have at least 10,000 riders per direction per day, for example) and if it were designed as a Gold – or at least Silver – level project. We’ve been doing a major disservice in this country with a bunch of 2nd and 3rd rate projects and pinning a BRT label on them.

              My main transit concerns over the past four years are that TriMet would not survive the transition to a world of AV’s, that Metro’s heavy reliance on transit would put its credibility in jeopardy, and that we’d find ourselves in a road building frenzy on steroids. TriMet’s process for the next ten payroll tax rate increases has not been encouraging. The district finds it all too easy to raise tax rates and too hard to fix problems (WES, the Phil Knight pass, “system costs” {i.e. overhead} creep, etc.)

            • The main concern for TriMet (or other well-supported transit agencies), is that some new-fangled technology will

              a) attract large numbers of middle-class (or higher) people away from transit
              b) thereby reducing the political support (and funding) of transit agencies
              c) but fail to meet the mobility needs of the poor or other groups who presently depend on public transit to get around.

              This is, of course, what happened when the automobile replaced private streetcar and rail systems back in the early-mid 20th centuries. Streetcars and interurbans went from essential services to afterthoughts, and the private companies running them went out of business. (I’ll ignore the various Roger Rabbit conspiracy theories out there). Public transit agencies, including TriMet, arose to pick up the slack, but for a long time in this country, transit was thought of as welfare and treated accordingly. (And still is in many places).

              With regard to autonomous vehicles, none of these things are happening today, because AVs aren’t in production yet.

              Of course, various gadgetbahns also run the risk of harming transit by:

              d) gadetbahn purveyors seeking public funding, and doing so by attacking (and trying to divert) public transit funding streams; we see this often with peddlers of Personal Rapid Transit.
              e) various (mostly right-wing) transit opponents and concern trolls holding up gadgetbahn as a reason that transit funding should be withdrawn. Here, AVs might impact transit–the Randall O’Tooles of the world have been furiously beating this drum for some time now, proposing that AV technology a decade out is grounds to disinvest in transit now (“Your Investment May Be Obsolete”).
              And finally,
              f) People who support transit adapting position e) above, calling for transit agencies to pre-emptively (and speculatively) put themselves on diets, to better prepare for some future famine; much like a battered spouse (excuse the possibly-offensive analogy) wondering what she might do better to avoid being beaten.

              With all due respect, the suggestion that TriMet needs to fundamentally alter its investment strategy now in due to speculation of what Google or other vendors might deliver in a decade, and the political fallout thereof, is at best category f above, and at worst, concern trolling. If automatic buses make LRT obsolete, then is the time to discuss replacing LRT. But we’re nowhere near that day.

            • And reliance on AV’s won’t lead to a “road building frenzy on steroids?” Sure, they can drive closer together by warning each other what they’re about to do. Great!

              But they still take a finite amount of road space. Less is better, no doubt. But without high capacity vehicles central cities simply can’t function to their highest potential. The radial cities of Texas work (temporarily) because the jobs are spread out on the three ring roads. That’s a design which is simply impossible here with our topography,

              Also, there’s too much land lost to parking, and most structured parking systems will not be able to accommodate many more AV’s than they do conventional cars, even if they’re all SmartCar size. The roadway layout within them is too inflexible.

            • Scotty,

              A slightly different take on AV’s and transit:

              In its 2013 study of Ann Arbor, the Columbia University Earth Institute anticipated the Google car and its equivalent, stating that total costs for such vehicles would eventually come down to 15 cents per mile. Even at several times that, shared electric low speed vehicles would be a very attractive alternative to transit for anyone who can get access to a phone, offering usually cheaper, almost always faster, safer, and far more convenient service. For those that need demand response service, but don’t need driver assistance, they’d be a godsend, available 24/7, usually within seconds of a phone call.

              If the future looks all like that, it won’t be just the relatively well off abandoning transit, it will be people from every class, especially for shorter trips. That would mean even less support for transit than your vision would suggest.

              Yes, there are things that TriMet could be doing to put itself in a better position with respect to AV’s. My main criticism with the district is that they don’t have a contingency plan or have even bothered discussing one.

              We disagree on the need for taking at least some action now. What happens when transit takes a permanent 20% ridership hit? How about 40%? 60%? 80% is not out of the question. What do you think will be the reaction of the good folks at Fitch or Moody’s who do credit ratings? Will the payroll tax survive?

              While it would be great if TriMet built up a contingency fund to carry it through the transition period, there are still other things the district could do that would help it face the challenge but still make sense even if AV’s were not a factor: work harder at eliminating waste and direct expenditures into services and systems that would thrive in a world with AV’s.

              Replacing a few hundred buses and rail vehicles during commute hours with 10’s of thousands of AV’s, often running without any passengers, really doesn’t seem to be a good idea.

            • Parking is an interesting issue with AV’s because they don’t need to park anywhere near the user. There’s also the Car2Go idea for them, where rather than urban area residents owning a own car they just rent one for as long as they need it, then it drives to the next renter. If nobody wants to rent the car it can just go find a parking spot to sleep in until it’s needed.

              It wouldn’t need to stay as just two seaters, since on popular routes you could have various sized vehicles dispatched to cover different routes at discounted rates.

              It also holds an implication for TriMet (or competition that might arise) where they can route different sized vehicles on various routes and have them dynamically adjust to the route they’re most needed on any given day.

              Car2Go could offer discounted ride shares if someone within X feet of your pickup zone wanted a ride within Y feet of your destination and was willing to wait Z minutes for you to be ready for example. It’s not exactly transit, but with AVs it seems that there are lots of possibilities for how they could disrupt transportation in all kinds of unexpected ways.

              And that doesn’t even scratch the surface of how many jobs could completely go away. Who needs pizza delivery, postal carriers, FedEx delivery people, truck drivers, bus drivers, train conductors, etc if fully automatic vehicles are something the average household can afford? You can just have your car pick up your packages, pizza, groceries, etc.

              And if cars the average American can afford are safe enough to be let loose on the roads do we really need anyone working in warehouses stocking shelves or bagging up groceries and taking them to the waiting AV’s?

              Driving a car is the most dangerous things that most Americans do on a regular basis, so if that can be fully automated it really opens the doors to a lot more questions than just transit. If a car can drive itself lots of other things will be able to be done without human interaction. It’ll be very interesting to see what happens, and transportation will probably change in ways nobody would ever think of.

            • If we’re going to be speculative–

              how about automated shopping-cart-sized vehicles for delivery of pizzas and groceries and such? It’s a major waste of energy to send a one-ton automobile (and most cars weigh well more than that) to deliver one pound of pizza or one gallon of milk. (Or to drive one’s personal auto to pick up a pizza from the local take and bake).

              Right now there isn’t any such infrastructure for those things–they likely would not be street-legal, but as motorized contraptions, unwelcome on side walks or bike lanes as well. But these might be a better alternative to drones, if for no other reason than a lack of need to expend energy opposing gravity.

              Getting back to AVs that are auto-sized–if AV availability increases automobile use, I’m not sure that is a good thing. That will, of course, increase congestion, and while a large AV fleet may do better than a large fleet of manual automobiles (better packing, fewer collisions, etc), AVs will still be subject to the same geometry and physics of large hunks of metal travelling at high speeds. Too many of them on the road, and they get in each other’s way.

              As far as a “permanent” reduction in TriMet’s ridership–nothing is permanent, and who knows what will happen. Global warming refugees might flock to Portland; we might be the new tropical paradise when SoCal turns into Mad Max territory. Ridership will go up. Or the Big One might hit, be as big as the New Yorker things, and major portions of the local economy might decide to relocate rather than wait for the region to rebuild, with a big downturn in population. Ridership will go down. There’s no contingency planning that can do anything more than amoleriate catastrophe of this sort. Personally, if you think you have a way to reduce expenses without impacting service–I’d rather spend the money saved on more service, not on hoarding cash (large cash hoards get looted by politicians) or on rebating money to taxpayers. No good deed goes unpunished and all that.

              Besides–we just had a (non-permanent, of course) major reduction in TriMet’s funding, during the Great Recession. It wasn’t 20%, but it wasn’t peanuts; the agency survived. If the political class decides to do TriMet in, though, TriMet can’t do much about it. It’s a non-sovereign entity, entirely a creature of state law, and its existence does depend on the good graces of the State of Oregon.

              There is a difference between having an emergency radio, some rations, batteries, and fresh water stored away; and locking yourself in a concrete bunker awaiting for World War III/the Zombie Apocalypes/End Times.

            • Automated shopping carts could make sense, but if a family is going to only buy one autonomous vehicle at a time one that can carry the whole family, or at least one or two commuters in addition to groceries and/or pizza makes more sense.

              If Car2Go (for example) evolves in the right way maybe it’ll become a situation where you choose a 2 seater (for a low price), a 5 seat car (for a moderate price) or a cargo van (for a higher price) depending on what you need to move in a trip.

              We could speculate all day long, and that’s pretty much my point. Who knows what economic model will work out? Maybe things move more in the vending machine direction, we lose all driving related jobs as well as other sectors that area easily automated, we end up having a massive of revolution and millions die in the war against the machines. It’s farfetched, but I suppose it could happen.

              It’s also possible that automation slowly creeps into our lives and we barely notice it happened until it’s done. Twenty years ago the idea of ordering pizza from a computer was a punchline. Now it’s so normal that companies are finding ways to try making it novel again.

              The only thing that seems certain is that there’s no way anyone will predict exactly what will happen, so we may as well plan for what we’re pretty sure we can expect.

  18. TriMet has released the September schedule changes, including the Orange Line schedule.

    Interesting to note: There will be a new “291-Orange Night Bus” that will make a few late night runs following (or paralleling) the Orange Line. The last Orange Line *train* will leave Union Station at ~11PM. The 291 will then make two trips at 11:35PM and 12:45AM.

    • I wonder if that is practical for the other MAX lines, or if that depends on the fact that a) City Center garage is located directly on the Orange Line route, but b) it does not handle trains, and Orange trains need to go to Ruby for storage.

    • Interesting that the Orange Line southbound scheduled trip times are consistently 3 minutes faster than northbound. I wonder why? (24 minutes northbound from Park Ave to PSU, 21 minutes southbound from PSU to Park Ave, if I’m reading correctly.)

      • I’m seeing 22 minutes southbound on weekdays. Northbound, the route is a bit longer since trains must travel an extra 2 blocks to reach the stopping point at PSU South.

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