Archive | Transportation Planning

A reminder: Transfers Need Frequency

In the recent SW Corridor thread, the prospect of a LRT line connecting Tigard TC with Washington Square and/or Beaverton TC came up.  Such a thing is outside the scope of the SW Corridor project as currently defined, but might well be a longer-term project for the metro area.  One specific question that came up for such a hypothetical prospect is the question of whether an LRT line in the corridor would follow the freight tracks as does WES, and require transfers (at Hall/Nimbus, or possibly Scholls Ferry) to reach the Washington Square Mall (and its rather busy transit center, as well as a park-and-right near the mall), or serve the mall directly via flyover tracks (something not feasible with WES).

Commentor Anandakos thought such a direct connection was necessary:

Agreed, except that it must serve Washington Square without a street crossing. It can be open air (though covered would be better), but a MAX line must cross 217 both north and south of Washington Square to make it work.  People would laugh if Tri-Met proposed spending half a billion dollars extending the Red Line to Wilsonville and bypassed Washington Square. Rightly.

Commenter Wells thought Anandakos was being a bit dogmatic.

Transit agencies (and advocates) must leave the ‘one size fits all’ thinking behind. The first sacred cow to go should be one-seat ride. No major transit system can work optimally without dedicated transfers. The original Interstate MAX S/N line was routed along I-5 from Going to Lombard taking out 110 homes and apartments. Interstate MAX fortunately evolved. Seattle planning agencies produce hypnotically grandiose designs and disappointing outcomes. Seattle Metro is the worst bus system I’ve ever seen.

While I tend to view Washington Square as an important-enough destination to get its own MAX stop, were such a line built (and I’d be tempted to further route the line up Hall Boulveard, rather than bypassing whole swaths of south-central Beaverton), Wells does have a point here:  Modern transit networks do depend on transfers.  You can’t have bus lines connecting everywhere with everywhere, and you especially can’t have that with trains.

But here’s the rub, though:  Transfers either need to be synchronized (as with a “pulse” at a transit center–something that works best in smaller, low-traffic cities), or connecting services need to be frequent.  As it is, 76/78 is nearly “frequent” in the corridor…but WES itself is not.

A big reason why the cuts to the high-frequency grid in 2009 and 2012, were so devastating to the quality of TriMet service, was not that the average wait to catch a bus along, say, SE Hawthorne went up from 7 1/2 minutes to 10 minutes.  The devastating thing is that riders who wanted to transfer to another bus (say the 75 or the 71) found that these transfers now took a lot longer time.  Grids require high frequency to work.  You can’t time transfers at all the connections in a grid, and grids abandon common transfer points in favor of a more efficient network of parallel routes–so to make transfers tolerable, the connecting services must be frequent.

Of course, this analysis may not apply in Washington County, particularly Tigard, where there is neither high-frequency service (only the 12/94 and 76/78) nor anything resembling a grid.  The street network there is poorly-suited towards a mesh topology, and the lower density makes it all but impossible for everyone to have a bus stop within walking distance.  In such an environment, use of transit centers (and structuring transfers so most of them occur at transit centers) makes more sense, and having major trunk lines (such as any expansion of MAX in the area) serve those transit centers ought to be viewed as an obvious step.

TriMet to start bus service planning/outreach in SE and around Milwaukie MAX

Title says it all.  TriMet is now starting its planning and public outreach activities in preparation of the opening of Portland-Milwaukie MAX next year, and is looking for public input, particularly on the question of how bus service should be reorganized around PMLR.  A set of guidelines for the process can be found here.  The SE quadrant will also be the focus of broader Service Enhancement Planning (SEP) activities in 2015.  (This calendar year, the focus will be in the SW quadrant, in harmony with the SW Corridor).

But back to the SE.  The things noted in the guidelines look appropriate to me; major issues being considered include:

  • Minimizing duplicative bus service following the general Portland-Milwaukie alignment
  • Limiting the number of bus lines that end in downtown Milwaukie. Instead, some north-south lines could connect with east-west lines to create longer routes.
  • Moving three bus lines onto the new light rail bridge, allowing these lines to avoid traffic congestion on and around the Ross Island Bridge

Some thoughts after the jump.

Continue Reading →

A Little Wonkery From One of Our Own

The PSU Winter Transportation Seminar Series kicks off with a panel of student presentations, including one from Portland Transport contributor Zef Wagner:

Speakers: Nick Foster, Christopher Muhs and Zef Wagner, Portland State University
Topics: Evaluating Driver and Pedestrian Behaviors at Enhanced Multilane Midblock Pedestrian Crossings: Case Studies in Portland, OR — Bicycling is Different: Built Environment Relationships to Nonwork Travel — Benefit-Cost Evaluation Method for Transit Stop Removal
When: Friday, January 10, 2014, 12-1 p.m.
Where: PSU Urban Center Building, SW 6th and Mill, Room 204
Abstracts: Abstracts for each of these topics can be found here.

Portland State University
Winter 2014 Transportation Seminars

New Year’s Resolution: Honest Traffic Forecasts

Via Sightline:

No, that’s not my resolution, it’s one I’m proposing for Federal and State DOTs.

The State Smart Transportation Initiative has looked at 61 years of traffic forecasts and found that in all 61 cases, actual VMT was less than the forecast. This graph makes the case for reforming the forecasting process in the starkest terms possible:


Locally, we know that ODOT has done the same with projections for the Columbia River Crossing, sticking to a curve with a slope that’s been been demonstrated to be wrong each year since the projection was made (even before the projection was included in the EIS for the project).

So how about it, DOTs? For 2014 can we all resolve to acknowledge reality in our forecasting?

More Work on Replacing LOS

We continue to look for alternatives to the dreaded, auto-oriented “Level of Service” as the way to measure the performance of our streets…

PSU Transportation Seminar:

Speaker: Shaun Quayle, Kittelson & Associates, Inc.
Topic: Piloting Portland’s MultiModal Arterial Performance System
When: Friday, November 22, 2013, 12-1 p.m.
Where: PSU Urban Center Building, SW 6th and Mill, Room 204
Summary: Shaun will present on the recently completed pilot demonstration of multimodal arterial performance measures for the Portland metro region, as part of the larger regional concept of operations. Treatments include a permanent bike count station on the Springwater Trail, permanent truck classification stations, Bluetooth travel time stations, as well as leveraging existing transit and signal controller data to paint a picture of the collective modal transportation system.