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TriMet North Central Draft Service Plan

Guest author Cameron Johnson is a regular Portland Transport reader.

This week, in a much smaller time gap than there was between the SW and Eastside plans, TriMet released the North Central Draft Proposal for improved bus service. (North Central means all of NE above Burnside and west of the 205, North Portland, and inner NW). Unlike past plans, there’s no new plan weaving into the proposal as far as rapid transit goes, and the present inner parts of the grid itself is some of the more solid bus service in the city, as is to be expected. Like the other ones, it’s nothing major or capital- reroutings, new routes, schedule improvements, and other basic improvements.

Here’s the short version with the map and cliffnotes. As usual, we’ll go into more detail, and I’ll give my thoughts.

Two new lines have been proposed:

  • Line Y, which starts at some undetermined point in the Southeast side, uses the 20th/21st corridor north to Broadway, takes over line 17’s corridor on 24th/27th to Concordia, and jogs over to Columbia Blvd, looping around 15th, Argyle, and 21st.
  • Line Z, which starts downtown and travels through Rose Quarter TC, MLK, Alberta (taking over the 72), 33rd, and Prescott to Parkrose TC.

These edits have also been proposed:

  • Small edits to lines 4 and 44, where they will no longer serve Lombard in St. Johns between Richmond and St. Louis, and use Ivanhoe instead.
  • Line 6 will wind through Delta Park via Union and Hayden Meadows drive to the MAX station and take I-5 to Jantzen Beach.
  • The line 15 will no longer serve the Industrial Zone, instead reverting to Montgomery Park. It will also take Morrison straight through from 18th to Burnside.
  • Line 16 will not serve Front Avenue, instead winding through Northwest Portland via Station Way, Marshall/Northrup, 14th/16th, Raleigh, Vaughn, through Montgomery Park and through to the Industrial Northwest route before continuing to St. Johns.
  • Line 17 will merge with the 70’s portion of 33rd Avenue, running straight through to Sunderland (eliminating the detour to Riverside Drive.
  • Line 20 is confirmed to be frequent only between 23rd Avenue and Gresham TC.
  • Line 24 will not end at the awkward Emanuel Hospital loop, instead taking the 405 from Williams/Vancouver to the US30 offshoot, NW Wilson/Vaughn, 19th/18th to Providence Park.
  • Line 58 Canyon Road will take Columbia/Jefferson to Naito Parkway, taking it all the way North to Kittridge to end at Yeon/44th.
  • Line 70, having relinquished its 33rd avenue route to line 17, will return to Rose Quarter and merge with both the 85 and the Dry Dock portion of the 72, ending at Basin and Fathom.
  • Line 71 will split from the 122nd Avenue segment and end at Parkrose TC, extending from Cully/Prescott via Cully, Killingsworth, 82nd, Alderwood, Cascade Parkway, St. Helens, Alderwood, 105th, and Sandy to Parkrose TC.
  • Line 72 will no longer detour to Alberta, instead remaining on Killingsworth since the Line Z takes over Alberta. The Dry Dock segment is taken over by the 70, meaning it will always end at Anchor Street.
  • Line 77 will no longer detour to Broadway between 42nd and 47th.
  • They’re also proposing additional service hours on the 4, 15, 20, 72, and 75. Commuter shuttles are being vaguely proposed for Rivergate, Cedar Mill/Northwest Heights, and the East Columbia/Bridgeton neighborhoods. Finally, the Washington Park area will have year round service in an undetermined hybrid of the 63/83.

 

Now, here are my suggestions:

  • Minor but important one: the 77 change eliminating the detour from Halsey to Broadway between 42nd and 47th makes the route a little more efficient, but this detour is only made to serve an apartment complex on Broadway and 45th that houses many senior citizens, making it a very busy stop. Quite like the 4 continuing to serve 7th so it can get a close stop to Goodwill rather than use the new crossing, the 77 has this meander for a reason.
  • I’m not sure I’d have the Prescott route run on MLK, on almost half of an already frequent service line. I guess if you want to connect it to the transit mall, you could, but it seems repetitive. The best move would be to take a left turn onto Albina/Mississippi, adding service to the area and continuing on Mississippi down to the MAX Station and Interstate, providing connectivity to the industrial area, shopping neighborhoods (both Mississippi and Alberta), and the residential Cully neighborhood on Prescott. This also puts it within a stone’s throw of PCC Cascade and Jefferson High School.
  • I don’t think I’d have the 70 take over for the Swan Island route because the nature of the current 85 is that there’s no place for a layover that doesn’t complicate the route immensely due to the looping nature. You’d either have to establish a layover at Basin/Fathom (running the Cutter loop and Dry Dock section both ways) or not lay over at all, and given both the length of the 70 and the areas it serves (narrow, traffic-plagued, railroad-intersecting inner city) that seems implausible. They should run the 85 to the city center (perhaps connecting it with a short line if one can be found). The 70 itself could also link up to the Front Avenue portion of the 16/58, although the connectivity wouldn’t be as valuable as it would be for the 58.
  • I’ve long been a proponent that there shouldn’t be bus service on 27th because of how narrow and dangerous the street is, but the corridor itself is opportune. As far as where it should end south-side, I’d run it down 21st, Gladstone, 28th, Bybee, and into Sellwood. From there, it can meander to Johns Landing/Burlingame via Tacoma/Taylors Ferry, or Milwaukie via 17th/Ochoco. As for the North Side, I’d not end it in the middle of nowhere, rather extend it down Columbia to the Kenton area via Interstate Place, Kilpatrick, Denver, I-5 Looparound, and end it at Delta Park.
  • As for the 24, I’d at least extend it down to Goose Hollow, and potentially combine it with one of the Jefferson routes/downtown only routes, such as the updated 1 Vermont, which could combine by rerouting to Jefferson. It could also be more productive to run the route to Emanuel Hospital still via Vancouver, Graham, and Kerby, before entering the I-405, as well as taking the US30 to Nicolai and looping around Montgomery Park.
  • Ending the 58 at Yeon seems pretty arbitrary- it’s not really anywhere, and it only serves the mostly empty Naito Parkway beforehand. Extending it to St. Johns would fit better- a little redundant, but of an emptier area, and takes riders to a pretty big area of the city while connecting it to the Westside on a relatively quick corridor. Since the 16 would now be winding through slower inner city areas due to the new Northwest Portland routing, it’d also again be the swiftest way to get to St. Johns. I’d also make sure that the 16 goes on the transit mall again, which has hindered the route currently.
  • I’d not reroute the 6 in a complicated roundabout to get to Delta Park. It’s out of the way and serves frontage roads to get to a small portion. I’d use the 8, routing it via Portland Blvd, Vancouver, Schmeer, Denver, Victory/Whitaker, Hayden Meadows, Union, and the I-5 to the Delta Park/Vanport Transit Center stop with the C-Tran layovers. This connects the residential areas of NE Portland to the large shopping centers and connects a third route to C-Tran in the west side. (On the South side, I’d also extend the 8 to Burlingame so it can layover there).
  • In conjunction with the MAX replacing the 33 down McLoughlin, there’s room freed up for the 14 to return to the transit mall instead of the awkward routing it has around Broadway.
  • I much prefer the 71 serving the Cascade area than trying to maneuver the 21 or 87 to it. Even if the Prescott line doesn’t immediately come to fruition I’d extend the 71 from its terminus at Parkrose (since the uncoupling from the 122nd avenue portion is imminent), run it up 105th, Alderwood, St. Helens, Cascade, and up to PDX itself as sort of a supplementary extension along the Red line to the Cascade area.
  • As far as transit facilities, I think a case for a terminus transit center at Pier Park for the 44, 58, 75, 11, and potentially 4 could be a good idea, if there’s an efficient way to serve both Safeway and Pier Park for the 4. Already there’s stops set up and plenty of extra room.
  • Let me know in the comments what you think! It’s interesting that we’ve gotten such an intense look in the last few months at the ideal bus system TriMet has proposed. It still feels like a snowball’s chance in hell sometimes that it’d come to fruition, but the fact that TriMet has a vision seems like a big step up.

More Canadian Double Talls!

Ron Swaren is a regular reader and frequent commenter on Portland Transport

Regional Edmonton, Alberta transit agency Strathcona County Transit purchased 14 double decker buses in 2013 for the Sherwood Park to downtown Edmonton route of approximately 8 miles.

These are the familiar design used in other Canadian cities, the Alexander Dennis Enviro 500, with base manufactured in Scotland, but which for the Snohomish County (WA) agency were completed in California. These are also in service in Ottawa, Victoria and Kelowna, BC.

The 14 double-decker buses were jointly funded through Strathcona County’s Transit reserve ($3.485 M) and the Alberta government’s Basic Municipal Transportation grant ($2.885 M). Edmonton Transit System (I think) was the other financial partner. These buses usually cost $800,000 each—so that would be about $11 million.

According to the county, the buses allow for 37 per cent more seating capacity, 21 per cent more total passenger capacity and are five to 17 per cent more cost effective over the lifetime of the bus.

The buses, which were tested and compared to several other options — including articulated buses, highway buses and conventional buses — will be fully accessible with seating for 80 passengers, according to Strathcona Transit.

Community Transit has claimed as many as 100-110 riders on their similar design ( in the caffeinated Seattle area, hence the nickname “Double Tall.”)

Al Moore, a Strathcona Transit trainer and operator, was interviewed by a local broadcasting company in the accompanying video.

Broaden uses of Oregon Gas Taxes?

Doug Allen retired after 35 years with TriMet Service Planning and Scheduling and belongs to AORTA. He is a long time supporter of good transit and land use planning, and lives in SE Portland.

Senate Joint Resolution 16 would refer a constitutional amendment to Oregon voters in November 2016 that relaxes constraints on the use of motor vehicle revenues. A hearing is tentatively scheduled before the Senate Business and Transportation committee on Monday, March 30, at 1:00 pm.

In brief, this amendment adds to the list of allowable uses: “Surface transportation infrastructure that reduces the traffic burden of, or pollution from, motor vehicles on public highways, roads and streets in this state.”

It covers construction and operation of certain bus, rail, bicycle, and pedestrian facilities, but not aviation or waterway projects.

Follow SJR 16 here: https://olis.leg.state.or.us/liz/2015R1/Measures/Overview/SJR16

Continue Reading →

Fair Voting for Portland’s Street Fee

Tony Jordan is a software engineer by day, but a rabble rouser all of the time. He is particularly interested in seeing Shoupian parking policies in place on Portland’s streets. Tony has a BA in Politics from UC Santa Cruz and serves on the board of the Sunnyside Neighborhood Association as well as on several parking related stakeholder committees.

Since January 2014, Mayor Hales and Commissioner Novick have proposed a variety of ways charge the average Portland resident some amount between 90 and 150 dollars a year for road safety and maintenance.  None of the plans have been particularly popular with the public and it seems likely that any fee passed by council will be referred to the voters.

In the first week of the new year, Novick and Hales floated an “advisory vote” to take place in May 2015.  They will ask voters to choose the most palatable of an array of fee options.  It’s not yet certain what the options will be, but the list will probably include a progressive income tax, a local gas tax, some sort of property tax, and a flat monthly assessment.

With three to six official proposals on the ballot, there’s a good chance we’ll end up with a muddled mess of votes and no clear winner.  Indeed, Novick himself is “not sure a majority can agree on any particular solution” in the election.  Fortunately, there is more than one way to conduct an election and this non-binding hold-your-nose ballot is a perfect opportunity to try a different scheme.

Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) and Approval Voting (AV) are excellent fits for this type of poll.  In each system voters would be allowed to select multiple options from the ballot.  With IRV voters rank selections order of preference, with AV the voter simply selects any item they approve of.  We can avoid the chance of this election providing no real insight into the will of the people by adopting a system which will produce a clear winner.  Under an IRV system the first choices are tallied, if there is no clear winner the worst performing option is thrown out and those votes are given to their respective second choices.  The process continues until a winner is chosen.  AV is even simpler, the most “approved of” option wins, no runoff required.

Neither of these methods is particularly new.  AV has been used for centuries and IRV was devised in 1870 and is used all over the world.  In fact, IRV is used in Portland, Maine for mayoral elections!

Determining a clear winner is important, but perhaps an even better result of using AV or IRV is the ability to put more, and better, ideas on the ballot.  Novick says that a pseudo-gas tax based on income is “the best user fee [he] can come up with after a year.”  Perhaps he should pay a little more attention to his constituents.

Since the first town halls in February of 2014, constructive Portland citizens have proffered hundreds of suggestions on how to set and collect these fees.   PBOT seated three separate committees to brainstorm ideas and there are dozens of threads on blogs such as this full of suggestions.  At a June 2014 town hall, for example, transportation activist Jim Howell proposed a “triple nickel” solution consisting of a 5 cent local gas tax, a 5 cent commercial parking space tax, and a 5 cent per pound annual vehicle registration fee.  For whatever reason, Novick and Hales haven’t promoted compound ideas like these.  Other than a local gas tax, which has problems of it’s own, direct user fees have been notably absent from official proposals.

Let’s try a more fair voting system in May.  Expose the public to some innovative solutions and let us choose the best in a meaningful way.  It can’t be any more frustrating than the process we’ve endured already and perhaps an experience with IRV or AV will lead to their adoption in other elections as well.

Update: As noted in the comments, coverage by the Mercury suggests that one option Council is contemplating is a series of yes/no questions, which would be a form of Approval Voting.

Rethinking I-205 MAX service

An occasional Portland Transport commenter and longtime reader, Nick Schillaci is a world traveler, who has been a foreigner on transit on every continent. He holds a humble BS in Planning and Public Policy from a little-known University of Oregon program, and has been a TriMet rider for decades.

I greatly enjoy both Red and Green lines, and I don’t think we need any radical Green or Red line changes. I would never propose something as radical as to operate both Red and Green trains as the same line all the time. But could service be boosted from blending the Red and Green line trains? There is a lot of color-changing between Red, Blue, and Green lines in the evening, so simplification, frequency, cost savings, consistency, and mobility all come in to play.

Each weekday, between 8pm and midnight, there are 29 trains between Gateway TC and downtown (Blue, Red, and Green). This means there are about 6-7 trains per hour, or an average of about every 8-10 minutes. The Blue line alone operates at frequent service intervals until past 9pm, while the Red and Green lines operate less frequently. The Red line, in fact, ends service among the earliest of all MAX lines, with its last departure from PDX at just around 11:45pm when there are still about 15-20 arrivals at PDX (I’m counting some close calls, so maybe you need 45 -60 minutes to get off the plane, grab bags, and catch the last train comfortably, if it’s on time).

graph2

Extremely high inbound late night frequency aside, notice the redundancy and gaps. Trains at 10:23, 10:30, and 10:33, and then no trains until 10:58. Three trains in ten minutes, then none for 25 minutes.

Blue lines continue just about every thirty minutes through the end of their service, and Green lines, on the other hand, stutter to a halt (most continue east as Blue lines and terminate at Ruby Junction). Green line trains also stop operating relatively early. The Yellow line, for example, has a PSU departure an hour later than the last Green line. So given that very little service would be lost along Green and Red lines due to redundancy and service span of interlining routes, here’s what I’m getting at: evening-only service between PDX and CTCTC. The switches appear to all be there at Gateway for the trains to do such a thing. If you’d like to call it something more unique, why not call it the Purple line.

picture12

Because travel time between Gateway and Beaverton on the Red line takes a whopping 47 minutes (thank you downtown Portland) and travel time on the Green line between Gateway and PSU takes 25 minutes, over an hour and ten minutes is saved for each pair Red and Green lines that don’t continue past Gateway. Of course, this number doubles when they don’t return for a savings of 140 minutes (not counting layovers).

This all matters, because trains operating from Gateway to Downtown and beyond are all redundant service over the Blue and Yellow lines (and eventually Orange). How many riders would be turned off from a possible transfer to downtown? Some riders from the airport already may have to transfer (to go east or south from Gateway, East to Gresham, or beyond Beaverton).

With the time saved, a couple more Blue lines could be added at night to make up for the lack of Red lines continuing (especially since the Red departs Gateway later than the last Blue currently). This plan could also effectively boost Red and Green line service later in the night, with more frequency (a round trip between Clackamas and Airport would take about one hour). With the addition of the Orange line operating as a redundant Portland Mall line, no service needs to be lost through downtown either.