Commute Interview #005 – Mark Coleman

The next interviewee that I communicated with was Mark Coleman.  I'll jump right into the interview, but then will cover a few more bits of information about Mark & his work before jumping into the statistics.

1. What is your occupation?  What exactly does the occupation entail?

I am an artist and professional photographer. My job entails photographing people (mostly), both in the studio and on location. I spend a lot of time manipulating images as well.

2. How long have you been in the occupation?

Professionally, since 1982. I'm self employed doing only art and photography.

3. What city & state do you live in?

Portland, OR.

…the nitty gritty commute.

1. What mode (car, bike, foot, boat, airplane, train, airship, etc) of transport do you use for getting to and from work?

I sold my car nine months ago and am a bike commuter. In situations where I must transport large equipment, I rent a Zip car.

2. How long does each leg of your commute take? 

Since I am a freelancer, it varies. It was generally about eight miles one way, until I moved closer to the city. Now it's about three to four miles, so it takes about twenty five minutes.

If you don't commute, how much time do you spend getting to and from your desk or place of work?

Not sure I understand this one. I walk upstairs and I'm at work. Takes maybe six seconds.

3. How do you pass the time while commuting or traveling?  Read, write, compute, chat, other?

I am guilty of listening to rather loud modern progressive rock (which I prefer to call Nuovo Metal) on my i-pod.

4. If you had your choice, what mode would you take?

If I could fly like a bird, that'd be ideal. If not, I absolutely love biking.

5. If there was one thing you could change about your commute, what would it be?

There would be no cars.

6. If gas went up to $5.00 a gallon, how would that change your commute?

It wouldn't at all. I have no idea how much gas costs now, and that makes me happy.

Ok, now after the interview, let's jump into some of the awesomeness that is Mark Coleman.  First off, if you don't know or have not met Mark, ping him via Twitter @Kram, or just get out in the social realm that is geek Portland & you'll probably get a chance to meet him.

A little more web presence:  Check out Mark at the following places on the inter-tubewebs.  🙂

Main Site:  http://markcolman.com

Check out the shot of his with the Red Hot Chili Peppers (image to the right) for a great taste of the work Mark puts together.

In addition, if you want to learn more about photography and other such things, check out his videos on via markcolman.tv.

Mark has the 2nd most preferred commute around so far, a bicycle ride.  Out of the hundreds of interview responses I’ve had the happiest two types of commuters are telecommuters and second is bicycle commuters.

While transit riders and auto drivers become lethargic, bicycle riders get out there and save money and above all are vastly more healthy than other commuters.  It would be nice to see more ground swell of support for this type of commuting.  In many parts of the country kids ride bikes, adults get fat and drive.  In Portland, everyone does everything, so there isn’t such a negative connotation to the concept of bike commuter.  This leaves me with a question, what else could we do to support bicycle commuters around the country?

Now for the maths & stats.

Commuting Interview Statistics

  • Occupations: Software Developer, Software Architect, QA Analyst/Graphic Design/Swiss Army Knife/Rock Star, Multimedia Journalist, Photographer
  • Prospective Mode Trip Count:
    • Walk: 1
    • Bike: 2
    • Bus: 2
    • Streetcar: 1
    • Automobile: 1
    • Light Rail: 1  (Phoenix Valley Metro x1)
  • Cities:  Portland (OR) x3, Vancouver (WA), Phoenix (AZ)
  • Commute Activities:
    • Podcasts: 2
    • RSS Feeds: 1
    • Blackberry: 1
    • Music: 1
    • E-mail, Txt, Twitter, Moblog: 1
  • Commute Times:
    • Total For Everyone:  295 minutes door to door.
    • Average Commute:  59 minutes door to door.
  • Commute Changes:
    • Make it shorter: 1
    • Nothing: 1
    • No cars: 1
    • Wifi on Light Rail: 1
  • $5.00 Commute Changes:
    • Nothing:  3
    • Bus Pass Would Increase: 1
    • Would help decide about what to do with the car:  1  (by getting rid of it)
  • Total Interviews Published: 5
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Commute Interview #004 – Tony Arranaga

Car free commuter, light rail riding, multi-media journalist extraordinaire Tony Arranaga is Friday’s commuting interview interviewee.  I met Tony via the ole’ Internet’s inter-tubes by reading his blog, Light Rail Blogger, and was glued.  I had covered a bit of the opening day ceremony of Phoenix’s light rail opening, of course, I was here in the light rail running Portland.  After reading Tony’s blog though, I was reassured to know that at least somebody in Phoenix was going to help kick start that city’s life again.  Make sure to give a read to Tony’s blog to keep up with how the City of Phoenix is doing with its new Valley Metro Light Rail.  His latest entry covers his recent weekend using the light rail in his kickin’ media style.

Below is one of  Tony’s videos that is definitely a great production.  I dug it and I’m betting you might too, give it a watch, then read up on Tony’s Interview.

…and now for the interview goodness.

1. What is your occupation?  What exactly does the occupation entail?

I’m a multi-media journalist, researching, reporting, and presenting breaking news stories for television and the web

2. How long have you been in the occupation?

Almost 15 years.

3. What city & state do you live in?

Phoenix, Arizona

…and now for Tony’s media rich commuting nitty gritty…

1. What mode (car, bike, foot, boat, airplane, train, airship, etc) of transport do you use for getting to and from work?

I use our new light rail system to commute to work.  I’m experimenting with car-free lifestyle, but sometimes I run late to work so unfortunately I fall under the category "car-lite".  Either way, my car spends most of the time sitting in the garage collecting dust.  I’m trying to decided whether to give up my vehicle altogether.

2. How long does each leg of your commute take?  If you don’t commute, how much time do you spend getting to and from your desk or place of work?

Depending on what time of day/day of week, my commute can take anywhere from 40 minutes to 50 minutes one way.  Same average for the return trip.

3. How do you pass the time while commuting or traveling?  Read, write, compute, chat, other?

This is where my ADD kicks in.  I’ll multi task between email, text, and twitter.  Sometimes I’ll moblog.

4. If you had your choice, what mode would you take?

Light rail.  I LOVE IT!!  I don’t like driving now that I’ve experienced mass transit on a consistent basis.

5. If there was one thing you could change about your commute, what would it be?

Free Wi-Fi on the train!  And longer hours of operation.  (11pm = trains start heading back to the yard.)

6. If gas went up to $5.00 a gallon, how would that change your commute?

The price probably wouldn’t change my commute, but would help me decide what to do with my car.

So Tony, when you read this, I have a few follow up questions for ya.  Feel free to leave a comment, or just post the answers via a blog entry on your Light Rail Blogger Blog.

  1. What exactly is “mobloging”?
  2. Do you travel clean from one end to the other of the light rail system, it seems a long time 40-50 minutes each way?
  3. On your blog, you’ve busted your bus commuting cherry, how does riding the bus compare to the light rail?  Ride quality, work usable, timeliness, schedule frequency, etc…?
  4. So when I get down to Phoenix in October“ish” time frame where are we gonna eat?  Sound’s like Portland’s is a good place.  🙂

Thanks again for answering all of my questions!  Keep up the blogging, I’m digging it.  Now for the regular interview stats.

Commuting Interview Statistics

  • Occupations: Software Developer, Software Architect, QA Analyst/Graphic Design/Swiss Army Knife/Rock Star, Multimedia Journalist
  • Prospective Mode Trip Count:
    • Walk: 1
    • Bike: 1
    • Bus: 2
    • Streetcar: 1
    • Automobile: 1
    • Light Rail: 1  (Phoenix Valley Metro x1)
  • Cities:  Portland (OR) x2, Vancouver (WA), Phoenix (AZ)
  • Commute Activities:
    • Podcasts: 2
    • RSS Feeds: 1
    • Blackberry: 1
    • Music: 1
    • E-mail, Txt, Twitter, Moblog: 1
  • Commute Times:
    • Total For Everyone:  245 minutes door to door.
    • Average Commute:  61.25 minutes door to door.
  • Commute Changes:
    • Make it shorter: 1
    • Nothing: 1
    • Wifi on Light Rail: 1
  • $5.00 Commute Changes:
    • Nothing:  2
    • Bus Pass Would Increase: 1
    • Would help decide about what to do with the car:  1  (by getting rid of it)
  • Total Interviews Published: 4

While We Argue Roads and Bridges

While our representatives continue to put themselves in a position to run and maintain our roads and bridges, real progress is made among the freight railroads.  Progress that would not be taking place if they where nationalized.  You can put a safe bet on that!

BNSF has decreased transit times by 12 hrs during 2008, significantly increasing their capabilities for freight movements.  More can be read on Railway Track & Structures news feed.  Also if you find it interesting, the major progress many of the freight companies make, go check out their respective sites and look for news feeds (These are just the Class Is, there are many more).

  • BNSF – Burlington Northern Santa Fe
  • UP – Union Pacific
  • NS – Norfolk Southern
  • CSX – God only knows what this stands for, if anyone knows I’d be keen to find out.
  • KCS – Kansas City Southern

IF anyone from NS reads this, PLEASE fix your HTML.  The menues are horribly screwed up in multiple browsers.  Approximately 40% of your web traffic is not going to see a respective site.

Commute Interview #003 – Kiisu

…and now for a commuting interview from a rock star!  Welcome Kiisu to the Transit Sleuth Blog.  Kiisu is the string slinging guitar player in The Oblik.  If you’re ever in the mood for a good show check them out.

1. What is your occupation?  What exactly does the occupation entail?

Daytime bill payer: QA Analyst/Graphic Design/Swiss Army Knife for financial software industry.  BugSmashing PrettyMaking Random Utility Person.
Nights/weekends etc: Rockstar

2. How long have you been in the occupation?

1 Year at the day job slaving for the man making someone else slightly more wealthy.  I’ve always been a rock star.

3. What city & state do you live in?

Portland, Or.

…and now for the rockers commute…

1. What mode (car, bike, foot, boat, airplane, train, airship, etc) of transport do you use for getting to and from work?

hobo urine ridden public transportation aka Trimet Bus.

2. How long does each leg of your commute take?  If you don’t commute, how much time do you spend getting to and from your desk or place of work?

Around an hour to/from.  No transfers.  I actually take the slightly longer commute to avoid transfers and to avoid some of the less than savory passengers. 

3. How do you pass the time while commuting or traveling?  Read, write, compute, chat, other?

Listen to music, read, plot evil & stare blankly out the window.  I ignore people on the bus as I have little interest in socializing with fellow passengers.

4. If you had your choice, what mode would you take?

I’m impulsive so I have to provide multiple methods of transportation that I would prefer to bus.
In no particular order:

  • 1974 Ferrari Dino All Black on a curvy road with no traffic. 
    Teleportation Device of some sort.
  • Personal Helicopter with a copilot so I could parachute out and land on the roof of the building.  This would require that I someday learn how to parachute and that I could actually land on the roof of the building and survive.
  • Some kind of fully armed military dune buggy or mad max style post-apocalyptic vehicle.
    These only apply if I don’t have to try and find parking, trying to park a personal teleportation device is a real hassle these days.

5. If there was one thing you could change about your commute, what would it be?

Shorter commute, less hobo urine.

6. If gas went up to $5.00 a gallon, how would that change your commute?

My work would probably have to spend more money on my bus pass, more people would be riding the bus and it would be more crowded with more stench of hobo urine.

Commuting Interview Statistics

  • Occupations: Software Developer, Software Architect, QA Analyst/Graphic Design/Swiss Army Knife/Rock Star
  • Prospective Mode Trip Count:
    • Walk: 1
    • Bike: 1
    • Bus: 2
    • Streetcar: 1
    • Automobile: 1
  • Cities:  Portland (OR) x2, Vancouver (WA)
  • Commute Activities:
    • Podcasts: 2
    • RSS Feeds: 1
    • Blackberry: 1
    • Music: 1
  • Commute Times:
    • Total For Everyone:  135 minutes door to door.
    • Average Commute:  45 minutes door to door.
  • Commute Changes:
    • Make it shorter: 1
    • Nothing: 1
  • $5.00 Commute Changes:
    • Nothing:  2
    • Bus Pass Would Increase: 1
  • Total Interviews Published: 3

How Do We Get MAX LRVs Now?

I took a trip out to the west side this weekend and noticed that this track segment shown in these images is gone.  These tracks where used for the first DMU demo, for getting the light rail vehicles onto the west side from what I understand, and generally have been used for storage and such.  Now I know, there isn’t much economic use for them, except now I wonder how TriMet will get the LRVs onto the MAX network now?

Maybe I’m wrong about this whole situation and they don’t use these tracks, but last I talked to someone about this spur they did.  So if they don’t use this spur, what do they use?  How do they do this?  I really want to know.

Speaking of which, this brings me to another topic.  What is the shipping policy on these vehicles?  After seeing the streetcars arrive by 18-wheeler I was disturbed at the excess cost and ridiculous use of the mode.  It wasn’t like a hurricane rescue where…  OH WAIT!  Norfolk Southern actually ended up delivering THOUSANDS of trailers to the hurricane area after Katrina.  So really, what is the excuse to use one of the most polluting, expensive, illogical modes of freight to get the streetcars to Portland?

Fortunately the DMUs for WES where delivered here, shocker, by freight rail carrier!  The MAX LRVs though, I though, where delivered by freight rail too, but if they’re delivered by heavy weight 18-wheeler I am going to honestly be disgusted.  TriMet, Portland Streetcar, City of Portland, Metro, and these entities need to be responsible, and be held responsible by the people when they do things like this.  We need a solid, powerful, and active watch dog group to nail these entities when they do dumb things like this.

So back to the line in question.  Was it really worth tearing up this line?  What purpose does tearing it up have?  It shouldn’t have taken but a measly half mil to keep in service or something.  Now, the line is probably permanently gone.  If the area ever need ROW for anything, a road or otherwise, its out of the question.  I’m not a fan of decimating ROW like this as it has come back to bite us time and time again.  Hopefully there are some answers hiding somewhere out there.

A right of way a trail does not make.

High Speed Rail from Portland to Seattle, San Francisco to Los Angeles, …etcetera, etcetera…

Out of all the areas in the north west Portland to Seattle and even on up to Vancouver, British Columbia seem like a great corridor to run high speed rail (HSR).  Obama has now pledged HSR for the country, on a massive scale.  Obama’s plan, or support of the plan that has existed for years, is written up on The New York Times, US News, ABC, CNN, Wall Street Journal, and well pretty much every news outlet on the planet.  I decided I’d take a look at the map and give my two cents on the various lines.

 

This is an area where many train aficionados and I start to disagree.  I am first and foremost pro-economically intelligent infrastructure.  The economic viability is often more or just as important as how technologically capable and environmentally clean a resource is.  High speed rail is definitely one of the top items in the list of options.  It by far is superior to pretty much anything else available for distances of this sort.  So let me lay into each section a bit.

Since I live in the north west, I’ll tackle that first.  south of Portland is an absolute 100% waste of money economically.  The density and number of people is just not available yet.  Maybe in 30-40 years there might be reasonable density, but right now it is a mere pipe dream.  If one where to read what I wrote back in October of 2006, “Market Demand Cascades Service – ROUGH DRAFT” I point out how things could be achieved through private company means, or at least with MINIMAL Government tax and spend.  I threw in a bunch of non-high speed corridor service too, which is what would be ideal for the Eugene to Portland stretch of the corridor.  Between Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver (BC) high speed rail is almost ideal.  Seattle definitely has the population, and Portland is most likely high enough to reasonable have high speed service between the cities.  If we look at airline service between the cities there is the potential.  However it would absolutely decimate air travel in that corridor.  For this reason I’d be rather unhappy to see all those private sector jobs go away and be replaced with public sector jobs, which is what looks like would happen under the current plan.

In California I’ve written on that in the past too, and it is absolutely worth the money.  If you’re curious about how far this effort is along, go check out the Interactive Rail Map on the www.cahighspeedrail.ca.gov site.

Now the Texas corridors are completely whacked.  There needs to be a triangle, not the weird connections to Little Rock and such.  That’s just absurdly stupid, there isn’t enough people to put in a few cars let alone a high speed train service.  The same, unfortunately goes for New Orleans being connected to anything.  If New Orleans did get connected, it needs to be connected directly to Atlanta, and that city absolutely should be connected with the north east, DC, etc.  Florida on the other hand may be able to use HSR, but it is highly unlikely at this juncture.  Maybe in 20-30 years in might be validated.  The only place that seems to have the density is Miami.  Tampa probably wouldn’t bode so well, Orlando is a sprawling catastrophe of a city, which would probably garner a very low ridership.  Jacksonville and Miami however, if connected along the FEC corridor, would be ideal.  Those cities are cities that would do business and actually have decent passenger counts if for any other reason because they could be connected to the north east, and the north east would provide a large passenger count.

One of the other stretches I’m hard pressed to support is the stretch out to Kansas City.  My response to that is simply, “you have got to be kidding”.  Does KC even have a million people in the city yet?  Maybe in the metropolitan area?  St Louis absolutely, just because it would be reasonable and easily used service into and out of Chicago.

To really summarize, it amounts to this.  Expand the north east corridor down in North Carolina and into Georgia to connect Atlanta.  Expand it another way straight down toward Jacksonville, Florida and on down to Miami.  Forget all that snaking back and forth though.  I wouldn’t even mess with trying to connect South Carolina’s capital.  Create a regular slower speed service to the HSR service would be a better idea.  Otherwise it isn’t worth the time cost for the meager ridership it would provide.  Besides that northern and eastern stretches absolutely get Chicago connected to the surrounding cities.  Cali & the north west, as mentioned, should be connected minus Eugene.

So that’s my 2 cents on the various sections.  Now for some other thoughts…

New Sprawling Expanses

Would high speed rail enable more sprawl further from cities?  What would it do to the core of cities?  Transit system in urban areas help keep a city compact and more human oriented instead of pavement and auto oriented.  The key to keeping sprawl in check is to create real and honest town centers around these train stations that have real and viable urban transit.  If they’re nothing but massive park and ride stops like airports are, we’ll have absolutely zero positive impact from high speed rail.  If we don’t build intelligently around these centers, there is zero reason to build high speed rail and the money would be better spent increasing airport throughput and building new airports.  That might sound sickening to some, or awesome to others, but it is the simple fact.  The high speed rail lines can NOT be park and ride type stations.

Unconnected USA

So what about all the other areas of the country?  Considering that the VAST majority of riders and payments would be retrieved from citizens in the areas connected, really the whole “don’t tax me” complaint is moot.  On that note I’m stepping right into what a more valid issue might be.  What about all those unconnected areas?  Denver?  Phoenix?  I’d say the later might not be a valid place to live by the time high speed rail arrives, but regardless, it’s still a curious thought to wonder what would happen to these cities if these others receive high speed rail service.  Just the mere connection of these cities with HSR and the decreased necessity to drive while experiencing a much more comfortable, safe, and economically and environmentally reasonable choice of travel will make a huge impact.  But these other bustling cities will all of a sudden become even more of a haven for anti-urban, pro-sprawl, pro-acre lot houses that the drain on the surrounding land, surrou
nding cities (that may be 100s of miles away) could be horrifying detrimental.  If this system starts to be built, we shall see I suppose.

Real Costs

Another thing that is not mentioned in very many of the write ups is the fact that this isn’t going to be built with the $8,000,000,000 or $13,000,000,000 dollars that has been made available.  The real cost of a network like what is shown is probably a lot closer to $1,000,000,000,000 (That’s 1 trillion btw).  The original rail system of over 225k miles was built primarily by the private industry and privately funded, cost over $12,000,000,000 in today’s dollars and did NOT have the inefficiencies or lackluster investment of public dollars.  A few of the transcontinental lines got some tax dollars, but even that was of negligible help in the grand scheme of things.  There is a historically relevant item to measure here, what we got for private money is absolutely different than what we get for public money.  The public money buys less, provides lower service, and will probably become a boondoggle as the motive interests of people working under the public funding regime are absolutely not motivated as private funding regimes.  Operations of course become and entirely new topic, but of similar issue to this cost concern.  Amtrak if run under the same funding, staffing, and employee efficiencies of Virgin Rail (yeah, I’m using them as an example again) would be profitable (yeah profitable) to the tune of $50-300 Million per year!  That’s more than enough money to start paying on the needed repairs that the passenger system needs, and to start purchasing equipment for increased and more frequent service.  Instead though, it maintains a public funding stance and is by all means, a very poor service by any measure against buses or airlines in this country.  Both of the later receive vastly lower subsidies than Amtrak.

Closing Thoughts

I think it is a grand and good idea.  I however think there are major and very possible barriers to this getting built.  There has to be more private interest and more prospective private funding and investments by are cities and people.  I’ll put it simply, without a drastic increase in private input by citizens and especially companies for financing and operations this is truly a non-starter.  Looking at the 30+ years of Amtrak operations and such lead me to see that high speed rail without these things would be the most expensive and costly form of transportation America has ever alighted upon.  As I’ve said, America NEEDS and should WANT high speed rail, but we should do it in a truly American way and make sure that it is funded, operated, and properly implemented to meet actual and necessary market demand.  Otherwise, it is mere fool’s folly to even dream of such a thing.

So far though, Obama seems to be no fool, and is prepared to encourage and push for this private involvement that I make mention of.  In that vein, hats of Mr. President, and keep up the good work.

Commute Interview #002 – Bryan Stearns

Meet Bryan Stearns.  For more information on Bryan check out his blog Self-Amusement Park, see his LinkedIn, or twit him up at @bryanstearns.

First a few questions about what Bryan does, that creates the commute.

1. What is your occupation?  What exactly does the occupation entail?

I'm a Software Architect for Paydici Corp., a Portland-based startup; I'm working on architecture and implementation of their primary web application.

2. How long have you been in the occupation?

Slightly more than a week; prior to this, I was an independent web application development consultant.

3. What city & state do you live in?

Portland, OR

Now for the commuting nitty gritty.

1. What mode (car, bike, foot, boat, airplane, train, airship, etc) of transport do you use for getting to and from work?

I'm fond of telecommuting, so not going to work (or having the option to work in a local coffee shop) is the best answer. However, as a new employee, I'm spending more time in the office in downtown Portland; we live in the Pearl so the trip to work involves various combinations of Streetcar, walking, and the #17 bus.

I biked to work one day last week – once the weather improves, biking will be my primary mode.

2. How long does each leg of your commute take?

Roughly:
5 minute walk + 10-minute bus, or
10 minute streetcar + 10 minutes walking, or
10 minute bike ride.

3. How do you pass the time while commuting?  Read, write, compute, chat, other?

Listening to podcasts on my phone while on transit or walking. Pedaling while biking 🙂

4. If you had your choice, what mode would you take?

I'm quite happy with the options I've got, if I have to commute at all.

5. If there was one thing you could change about your commute, what would it be?

Nothing: Anything I'd change would improve my use of transit by reducing my walking, which is less healthy than what I've got now.

6. If gas went up to $5.00 a gallon, how would that change your commute?

Fewer cars on the road interfering with my walking & transit? (Hm, might increase calls to eliminate Fareless Square, though…)

As promised after the first interview, here's a tally of the statistics so far.  🙂

Commuting Interview Statistics

  • Occupations:  Software Developer, Software Architect
  • Prospective Mode Trip Count:
    • Walk: 1
    • Bike: 1
    • Bus: 1
    • Streetcar: 1
    • Automobile: 1
  • Cities:  Portland (OR), Vancouver (WA)
  • Commute Activities:
    • Podcasts:  2
    • RSS Feeds:  1
    • Blackberry:  1
  • Commute Times:
    • Total For Everyone:  Morning 75 minutes door to door.
    • Average Commute:  Morning 37.5 minutes door to door.
  • Commute Changes:
    • Make it shorter:  1
    • Nothing:  1
  • $5.00 Commute Changes:
    • Nothing:  2