A New Day of Transit Sleuthing

As I Ride the Yellow Line and think about things I need to get done, one thought resounds as I hack away on the light rail. The air conditioning blowing on a hot day like this is nice, the thought of the 190+ blog entries that sit in my queue incomplete because I’ve been somewhat demoralized about so many things related to transit and other matters as of the last few years. Even though transit, bicycling, low car options and other life improving realities exist in Portland, New York, Seattle and so many other places in the US, it seems sometimes like meager and nonexistent progress. The vast majority (albeit shrinking) of Americans still are not just auto-users, but auto-dependent. In other words, just to live and sustain their lives in any way they must have an operational car at almost every hour of the day. Without it they would suffer immensely.

These people in America, the vast majority, have this one vast single point of failure that the nation spends hundreds of billions of dollars (excluding any military expenditures) on to make it as pain free and easy as possible. Yes, that’s hundreds of billions per year. With that it just seems that the nation is hopelessly spiraling toward a future of ongoing problems related to the automobile and no solutions in sight.

But I’ve stepped back recently and started to look at the progress we do have for what it is. Progress in a long story of resolving the massive catastrophe that is auto-dependence. Portland is still, albeit some steam being lost in the last 2-3 years, moving forward as a leader, if not the leader in alternate modes of transportation and increasing options for everybody. The city, when compared to other cities in the country is doing a spectacular job still!

With that thought I realized I really ought to get back to doing what I really love to do, which is blogging the movement forward that Portland is regularly making. Not just Portland though, all of Cascadia with a few notes on other places I visit. I enjoy, so I really ought to get back to it. I just have to endeavor to avoid the negatives that come with following these topics to closely at the political level. For in the politics, there’s a whole metric shit ton of horrible politics based on fear, uncertainty, doubt and an altogether feeling of loss and failure. I’m impressed to this day that some can move forward through the process with all the workings against making progress. To them, I commend them on their efforts.

With that, I make this as the day I officially resume blogging. It won’t be everyday, but I’ll see what I can do. After all, I have over 190+ blog entries that I just need to wrap up!

Cheers, have a safe trip and enjoy the ride (everybody on all the modes)!

Today Marks a Very Decisive Day For Me…

I’ve decided to pursue very specific actions in reflection of the current actions of certain people in the United States. At the same time to prepare myself to make the final decision for myself in the coming few years.

A simple declaration with far reaching implication for myself and for Transit Sleuth. I will maintain updates here on the site. Until then, time to get working on preparing for those choices.

Proposed Additions to Trimet Service and Modifications

This last week Trimet released information regarding what bus service will look like that serves the new Portland Milwaukee Light Rail line area of operations. There are several specific bus lines that will have some added service enhancements and changes to the routes: 9, 17, 28, 31, 32, 33, 34 and 99.

Here’s a little cut of what the current routes look like and the area they cover.

Current Route Service Area. Click for full size image.

Current Route Service Area. Click for full size image.

One thing to note, is that all routes are to maintain frequency service levels. So if it is a 15 minute frequency or a 30 minute frequency, we can expect it to stay at those service levels. The differences in almost every route is an increase in net area of service, and slight alterations to the route that will make the service more reliable. Here’s a map of the proposed changes.

The Proposed Routes. Click for full size image.

The Proposed Routes. Click for full size image.

Out of all the changes there are two that will be the biggest changes of all. One I had no idea about and the other I’ve been looking forward to since initial discussions of this line many years ago.

Tilikum Bridge Changes

The Tilikum Bridge is the first transit, cycling and pedestrian only bridge in the city (probably in the United States west of the Mississippi I’d suspect, but I’d love to be corrected about that). The bridge is interconnecting many different points of transportation and hubs on both sides of the river. On the west side of the river it will connect to OHSU and the south waterfront, interconnect the streetcar, several bus routes and also connect the buses and light rail to the Lincoln Street Harbor Structure.

By funneling many of the buses onto the harbor structure and across the Tilikum Bridge Trimet will be making the bus routes dramatically more reliable and also increasing their speed into downtown. With the general frequency of each of these routes there may be some morning congestion between the MAX, #9 and #17 buses but overall the #9 and #17 will be much better off than trying to ply the streets with auto traffic across the Ross Island Bridge.

The #28 Does What?!?

The other change, which I’d not even realized was on the table, and I’ll admit complete ignorance about the route, is the #28. Honestly, I didn’t even know Trimet had a #28 route. So if anybody has any thoughts on this route I’d love to read them.

On that note, since I’m completely uninformed and have zero experience with this bus I intend to, in the coming next week or two, go and ride the bus for it’s entire current length. Likely during rush hour, but maybe in the middle of the day, I don’t know as I’ve no idea about its schedule either. So thoughts or if you’re interested in riding, let me know and we’ll take a trip together to sleuth out this route.

Trimet’s Complete List of Changes So Far

Here’s the complete list of changes so far. Trimet is still looking for input to determine the best changes and ways to serve the customers along these routes. So if you have any contention with this list or would like to see any other changes, get in touch with them at any of these meetings or communication means.

  • Line 9-Powell
    • Maintain existing frequency, days and hours of service.
    • The proposed routing change would shift the line from the Ross Island Bridge to the new Tilikum Crossing and then connect to the Downtown Portland Transit Mall.
    • Riders can transfer to the MAX Orange Line at OMSI/SE Water Ave, South Waterfront/SW Moody Ave or Lincoln St/SW 3rd Ave stations, plus all stations on the Downtown Portland Transit Mall.
  • Line 17-Holgate (no change to Broadway leg)
    • Maintain existing frequency, days and hours of service.
    • The proposed routing change would shift the line from the Ross Island Bridge to the new Tilikum Crossing and then connect to the Downtown Portland Transit Mall.
    • Riders can transfer to the new MAX Orange Line at five stations: SE 17th Ave & Holgate, SE 17th Ave & Rhine St, OMSI/SE Water Ave, South Waterfront/SW Moody Ave or Lincoln St/SW 3rd Ave stations, plus all stations on the Downtown Portland Transit Mall.
  • Line 28-Linwood
    • Maintain existing days and hours of service (weekdays about 6 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.).
    • Increase frequency from about every 70 minutes to about every 35 minutes.
    • New route into Downtown Milwaukie via Linwood Avenue, Johnson Creek Boulevard, Tacoma Street, and Main Street (including service to Milwaukie Park & Ride); continue south from SE Jackson Street as Line 34.
    • Riders can transfer to the new MAX Orange Line at SE Tacoma St/Johnson Creek or Milwaukie/Main St stations.
  • Line 31-King Rd
    • Maintain existing frequency, days and hours of service.
    • Maintain existing route to Downtown Milwaukie, where route would turn around.
    • Riders can transfer to the MAX Orange Line at Milwaukie/Main St Station (about a five-block walk from SE Jackson Street).
  • Line 32-Oatfield
    • Maintain existing frequency, days and hours of service.
    • Maintain existing route to Downtown Milwaukie, where route would turn around.
    • Riders can transfer to the MAX Orange Line at Milwaukie/Main St Station.
  • Line 33-McLoughlin
    • Maintain existing frequency, days and hours of service.
    • Maintain existing route to Downtown Milwaukie, where route would turn around.
    • Riders can transfer to the MAX Orange Line at SE Park Ave and Milwaukie/Main St stations.
  • Line 34-River Rd
    • Maintain existing days and hours of service (about 6 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.).
    • Increase frequency from about every 70 minutes to about every 35 minutes.
    • The routing between Oregon City to Downtown Milwaukie remains the same, and the line continues service north from SE Jackson Street as Line 28-Linwood. Line 28 would serve the Milwaukie Park & Ride, SE Tacoma/Johnson Creek Park & Ride and Clackamas Town Center.
    • Riders can transfer to the new MAX Orange Line at Milwaukie/Main St Station or at SE Tacoma St/Johnson Creek Station via Line 28.
  • Line 99-McLoughlin Express
    • Maintain existing frequency for the weekday rush-hour only service.
    • The proposal would add service from Downtown to the south during the morning commute and from the south to Downtown during the afternoon commute. Service in both directions during weekday rush hour runs between about 5:30 a.m. until 8:45 a.m. and 3 p.m. until 7 p.m.
    • New route into Downtown Portland via Sellwood Bridge with limited stops on Tacoma Street, Macadam Boulevard and Corbett Street to existing route on the Downtown Portland Transit Mall. The route change would occur when the Sellwood Bridge is open to bus traffic. In the meantime, interim routing is being reviewed.
    • Transfer to MAX Orange Line at SE Park Ave, Milwaukie/Main St or SE Tacoma St/Johnson Creek stations, plus stations on the Downtown Portland Transit Mall.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be looking into these routes more and will have a few opinions and thoughts about it. Overall, this route, the bus changes, the amenity additions along the entire route and more are the biggest win for the Portland area in a number of years.

What Infrastructure Would you Want To See in Oregon and Portland?

I’ve been pondering what ideal wins the infrastructure czars (you know, the Governor of the state, mayor of Portland, Bend, Eugene, Salem and all the other leaders of Oregon) could and should push for these days. With the recent and still ongoing absurdity of the I-5 Bridge to the epic nature of the new bridge in Portland that is Bike, Ped, Bus, Light Rail and Streetcar only bridge, it begs the question. What infrastructure would be awesome to have added to Oregon, and specifically Portland, Eugene, Salem and other such cities and towns? What is reasonable and what would actually be a good return on the effort and investment for the state? What is a good investment to direct a good and effective future path for the state? That’s just the beginning of the questions though, one could write a thick book of endless questions.

But with that in mind, here’s a few I’ve been thinking of just recently.

  1. Rail service enhancement into Vancouver from Portland. Rail service that could be used for, but doesn’t necessarily mean passenger service initially. The bottleneck on either side of the Columbia River is a problem space, however with some solid double tracking, or even triple tracking from Portland north through Vancouver to the Battle Ground area and even out toward Camas we could get some serious benefit from this. Freight could be handled by rail into the city and out of the city more easily, putting intermodal points at locations that better serve Portland and Vancouver instead of so many trucks driving into and out of the cities via interstate. The other notion would be, at some point, with appropriate access real commuter rail service could be offered easily from points north like Battle Ground, Camas, and other locations and have them funnel through Vancouver’s station and into Portland. We’re talking about 15-30 minute commutes. Light rail will never accomplish this, bus service won’t accomplish this, only passenger rail could accomplish this. As the current service, albeit not effective as commuter rail, already serves the corridor from Vancouver to Portland in about13-16 minutes, pending they get a slow order or not. Regardless, for bang for the buck, subsidizing a rail infrastructure expansion here would go far beyond any other motorized infrastructure investment in the area.
  2. Cycle track system, not just a few cycle tracks. Not faux bike infrastructure but real bike infrastructure. Let’s put 20-30 million into it every year for the next decade, then let’s see where we get an truly reevaluate that. For the $200-300 million it would cost to get Portland true bicycle infrastructure on a world class scale similar to Amsterdam, it would easily give us the ability to hit the 25% mark for cycling. This in road bike infrastructure however is a joke to most people, and seriously, it still just exacerbates the more neanderthal drivers to freak out the less assertive cyclists. Very frustrating to see such an opportunity go down the drain. As for that investment, we already know the more cycle oriented parts of town are doing crazy good business, have healthier, happier and more effective citizens then the auto oriented areas – so seriously, we need to get our ass in gear in this regard.
  3. BRT – Bus Rapid Transit needs to be put into play in a number of areas from Eugene to Salem to Portland. BRT would be highly effective in acting as core arterials feeding the existing light rail systems, and as systems feeding directly into the city cores. BRT should be implemented as true BRT, not the faux junk implemented in Seattle, but as dedicated – possible to upgrade to LRT or even heavy rail in the future – with regular 5-7 minute service for more than 10 hours a day. Ideal points to connect in Portland would be Gresham down Powell to downtown Portland, 39th street north and south as a feeder from St Johns out and down to Hollywood and into Milwaukee, and another possible great route would be to setup a core run somehow on Barbur and put some traffic calming into place so motorists stop killing pedestrians and other motorists on that arterial. BRT could play a huge part in future build outs, especially since we need to bulk up ridership with frequency more than “luxury light rail”. Light rail is still needed, but with the completion of the Portland-Milwaukee Light Rail, we’re good for the next 10-20 years for rail infrastructure as our corridor backbone. Let’s get to feeding it as we should to make it easier and faster to use.
  4. My last thought is actually a huge way to spend a little money and over time save millions upon millions. There are untold miles of roads in Portland that we can’t afford to maintain, along with roads in Salem, Eugene and every major city and even more road miles in rural parts of the state. We should designate some of these roads as either toll roads, no longer maintained roads (i.e. close them unless a private entity wants to take responsibility for them) and especially in the city let’s figure out which roads we can cut out, stop maintaining, turn into parks, do turn outs or cut offs to improve neighborhoods and decrease costs or one of another zillion options. Simply, we have too much road infrastructure for a limited budget at the national, state and city and county levels. Let’s scale back appropriately. If motorists want to pay more to have more infrastructure, let’s actually foot the bill instead of continually pawning it off to bonds of various sorts that often end up in foreign hands. Our current road funding models are just insane, let’s budget what we can afford instead of living so far past our means. This would economically, environmentally and socially be logical as well as getting people to face the reality that we’re overbuilt on debt and poorly run infrastructure – we can do better.

That’s my top 4 that ought to have something done sooner than later. I’d love to see what your top choices would be. Leave a comment or three with your thoughts, I’ll put them into a larger write up that might even be put forth to implement. Cheers and happy riding!

Maimed, Dismembered or Otherwise Injured

A lot is written about the 35k, give or take 5k per year that die needlessly from automobile wrecks throughout the United States. We are one of the more dangerous countries to drive or be around drivers in. Of those numbers 5k, give or take 1-2k, die needlessly while walking down the street and being impaled, smashed or otherwise killed by errant motorists. But there is an even bigger number out there, that number is the people who have been maimed*, dismembered* and now live with a permanent disability because of an errant motorist.

In the NHTSA Fact Sheets (linked below) the year 2012 alone, there were 184k recorded injuries, a 2 percent increase over 2011. In 2012 this was one of the leading causes of injure to 15-20 year olds (and a leading cause of death). There were more people injured by motorists in the United States than killed and injured combined from combat and operations in Afghanistan and Iraq in the last 5 years. Of these injuries the average insurance cost for treatment skyrockets to about.

The CDC points to a cost of $14k average per incident for bodily injury. That’s well beyond the basic average wreck that only claims damage to property (the car) of about $3-4k.

In the NHTSA “Not in Traffic Surveillance” the number of injuries hit an average of 91k per year between 2008 and 2011. It’s easy to make an educated guess and assume, the injuries still are very close to 91k per year today. These injuries are caused by absolutely irresponsible motorists, by not braking appropriately and rolling into or over people, a large number of people just walking away from their car without insuring it is stopped. The number of injuries from this behavior are enormous for the simple ease of preventing it.

For all of the deaths, related injuries and their respective costs, the numbers are staggering. Oregon is hit with a cost of $422 Million per year. This doesn’t even include the indirectly related costs that are often just as high. Washington hits a mighty $665 Million. These two states, which I included because I commonly point out how much better these states do than the other states, still do very poorly in these categories. Those are some serious numbers to think about, on top of this whole mess we call our transportation system in the United States.

So how does Washington and Oregon measure up compared to other advanced nations like the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, England or Germany? I’ll take a look at that data in the near future. Cheers, and seriously, be careful out there and have some respect for that motor vehicle you’re around, controlling or parking.

References & Definitions:

Meetings, Starting the Day and Trimet Bus #4

Overall, I have an odd day compared to many people. I don’t go to a specific office, nor location, but often to many different locations. I do this so that I can go to the people that I need to meet. I don’t use a car, that would make this style of life a rather unfortunate and morbid business. Not to say I haven’t experienced this lifestyle with a car, I have, and know it’s an unfortunate and morbid business because of that. In great luck and fortune I’ve been able to work my life into living and working this way. It’s a great benefit to myself and also a great benefit to those that I work with.

Today I had a number of places to go to throughout the city of Portland. One in the north eastern part of the city, one meeting in the south easy and one in downtown. Each of these meetings was business related, but also personal, for each of the people I’d be going to meet are friends. Again, one more thing to work towards in life, work and live in and around friends. It beats the hell out of working and living around mere acquaintances and enemies.

Another key to this day, each meeting was spaced perfectly. I wouldn’t need to hurry between each meeting so I could use a more relaxed and slower form of transportation. I decided it was going to be a transit only day. Usually, when there are a lot of meetings I use the fastest mode for city transportation, the bicycle. Yes, that’s right, and don’t even get me started, the bicycle is easily the fastest way to get around in any urban landscape. The automobile has to be one of the slowest (along with NYC buses). With that key bit of information ascertained I was off.

I started the day in north east Portland near Alberta street. Walking down the street on this cool brisk day my first ride was going to be the westward bound #72 Bus. The first meeting just a short 8 minute ride away at Coffee House Five at Albina and Killingsworth. The #72 is a great bus, usually arriving much more often than a freqent service bus (this by Trimet’s definition is every 15 minutes). Usually the #72, as with any non-dedicated right of way running transportation, gets bunched at times. Everything from traffic lights to people crossing the street throw a wrench in the scheduling, so the #72 is sometimes running in clumps of 5, 7 or some short variance between buses. Today was no exception. As I walked to the stop a bus drove by. But as I arrived at the stop another #72 arrived which I boarded.

Westward the bus rolled. The short distance was covered in not 8, but 7 minutes. Yes, I timed it because I tend to count everything. I strolled into Coffee House Five. Inside the regular chill crew was slinging the rounds. A cappuccino here and a macchiato there. It’s a consistent shop with a precocious vibe. Something that’s pleasant considering the onslaught of “San Francisco” vibe style coffee shops invading our Portland vibe these days. I enjoyed my cap and a standard boring bagel and cream cheese. After my meeting I walked across the street and waiting two minutes for the arrival of the south bound #4 heading into Portland.

The bus pulled up and she and I left for Portland.

Conversations Overheard

I pulled out my laptop, as I do, to write this blog entry and other material related to other things. While sitting in the raised rear seat by the back door of the bus a lady joined me. I went on with my typing and into the trip a ways she received a phone call. That phone call was rather interesting, and went something like this.


…  [the other person talking]

“Yes, funny thing, I’m on the bus and I dropped off the car to get detailed. It’s actually a lot easier to just leave the car and take the bus into town, it only takes about 15 minutes.”

… [other person asking why she even brought the car down]

“Oh, I wanted to get it detailed. But usually I drive and then just park it somewhere to come into town. No really, it’s far easier than trying to park and figure out what is close to where I’m trying to go.”

… [other person realizes, yes, that this is obviously true, then says something about coming into town]

“Yeah, since it would take only 30 minutes to get into the city just take the bus.”

… [says something about the MAX]

“Oh yeah, that would actually be faster to get there [referring to Lloyd Center] and then you can just take the MAX or bus over to the city.”

… [says farewell, thanks and something else]

“See ya later.”

Then she turns to me and asks if Couch is closer to this or the next stop. I tell her the first stop we’re coming to is pretty close by one block. She then decides to get off there.

It just strikes me interesting when people make this realization, that there is little reason to drive into downtown Portland and that it is indeed, actually a bad idea. Just go to a park and ride or otherwise and do everybody and yourself a favor, leave the car outside of downtown.

Willamette Crossing

The bus went through downtown, turned onto the southern part of the #4 route toward Gresham and left downtown via the Hawthorne Bridge. I looked south toward the new bridge construction for the transit, bike and pedestrian only bridge. It’s a gorgeous structure that will eventually be immensely useful. I can only imagine what the final through count on that bridge will be when the buses, light rail, cycle and pedestrians are rolling across it daily.

Onward up Division the bus rolled, I eventually got off near 50th, close to where my next meeting would be and decided I’d hang out at Stumptown for a few. In I went and wrapped this blog entry up…   happy transiting all, regardless of your mode; feet, hull, wheel or wing.