My Thinking Place

I jumped aboard the #14 headed into Portland after attending the kick off night of Bar Camp Portland #3.  I decided the bus would be a good spot to finish up some blogging and test out my new Clear USB Wimax Device.  We made the loop into downtown and headed back out Hawthorne in short order.  As always, #14 is well past the average load of bus routes with a solid 30+ people aboard.  Keep in mind, it is 8:00pm and it is this full.  This isn’t rush hour, it’s a regular hour for the #14.  🙂

I immediately started churning through some tech ideas and following up on the weeks training and activities, clarifying what I’d learned and want to keep in memory after this week of training.  However I had to interrupt myself as the short ride to the Fresh Pot on Hawthorne was complete.  I jumped off and continued my written banter (follow for link to my other blog).

After a short while I decided to continue testing out my Clear USB Wimax Device and see about some looping about town.

Earlier Trip and a Clear Disconnection

Earlier in the day I left work after training and boarded the #9.  I had waited a bit up at Momo’s on 10th for some coworkers but I got a txt to head on over to BarCamp and needed to go ahead and run a quick errand before hand.  I sat in the back of the bus, with a clear signal on my Clear, I started surfing the tubes.  However around the lead up and while crossing the Ross Island Bridge I had a 30-45 second disconnect.  This would lead me to believe that this is a hole in coverage right in this area.  I’ll have to see because that is a pretty important area to have coverage.

The Idea Behind My Thinking Place & Why it Becomes My Thinking Place

Riding transit as anyone knows is a great way for me to relax, unwind, do a little coding, and when able to connect to the Internet and really get some things taken care of.  There is nothing so chill as riding around on the bus, or better yet on the MAX, Streetcar, or WES and doing a bit of catch up or fun side projects.  Buses work great, but are sometimes bumpy and I can’t really pull out the laptop, those routes I can’t use for stepping out and doing some thinking.  The routes that are smooth though work well.  The MAX & Streetcar on the other hand are pretty much always smooth and I can ride around aboard those modes and work for hours.  The best though, is the WES.  Unfortunately it has the least efficient route and schedule of anything.  I do still need to go into the office, and the WES is just not in a very usable place.

What else makes transit a great thinking space?  Simply put, I enjoy observing people, learning the psychology and what makes people do what they do.  The only place one can get an honest vertical slice of humanity is on transit, especially in Portland.  There are a few segments of society that won’t ride transit that I can’t observe, but I’ve seen enough of their phobic actions to know their actions and behaviors.  Transit users are interesting to me.  So in addition to getting work done I’m always learning.

What else makes transit a great thinking space?  One never knows when that odd conversation or new idea will pop into ones head while hearing conversations, ramblings, or even the slightly imbalanced person might say something of pure genius.  Transit, and riding around without worrying about crashing into something or someone, using a minimal cost impact mode environmentally and economically just sets me at ease.

All in all it is a great place for a trip about, a random thinking, good thoughts, and general entertainment of sorts.  Really, in the end, I am even when introverted and antisocial, a people person.

Well, that’s the entry for today.  I’m going to try and get back to my regular interview schedule for next week and also have some prospective thought pieces coming up on what would happen if transit ridership in Portland went from sub 10% of the metropolitan area trips up to 15%, 20%, or even 30-40%.  I might even follow that up with or include what would happen if the ridership increased to 60-80% of trips in the area.

Just imagine.  It would be a serious concern to tackle.


  1. "Buses work great, but are sometimes bumpy and I can’t really pull out the laptop, those routes I can’t use for stepping out and doing some thinking. The routes that are smooth though work well. The MAX & Streetcar on the other hand are pretty much always smooth and I can ride around aboard those modes and work for hours. The best though, is the WES."

    So why can’t we fix that — buses can be incredibly smooth (and there are many parts of the Streetcar and MAX lines which aren’t – my wife in particular cannot ride MAX through the tunnel because the trucks hunt so much it makes her sick). There is no reason why the Portland region can’t fix our bus (and the associated roadway network).

    The fact is that asphalt is cheap. It truly is…asphalt is meant to wear down after what, five years? And then get replaced. Good asphalt can last maybe ten years. A residential street that sees no traffic can probably last a lot longer, but keep in mind that a quiet residential street doesn’t have 40,000 pound buses and delivery trucks and fire trucks hammering away at it every 15-30 minutes…it might see that heavy truck once every few days.

    Concrete, on the other hand, lasts for decades. There’s a reason concrete is used on freeways and on major streets – but our region refuses to use it. So…we have streets that wear out…and those who ride buses have to deal with it. (It isn’t such a problem when you’re driving…because, well, you’re driving and (hopefully!) not using a computer.)

    The second part has to do with the buses. They suck! The 1700-1900s (Flxible Metros) have a lot more space between seats so there’s more legroom (and thus more laptop computer room) than the New Flyers. But they have high floors (harder to get in/out of), no air conditioning (a problem in the summer), and they are just worn out. The 1400s are more worn out since they are a bit older than the Flxibles. The New Flyers have the low floors and the A/C, but the low floors have a lot of the floor space taken away by the front wheel wheelwells (which eliminate about five seats) and the area from the low floor-to-high floor transition where you lose a few more seats.

    The hybrids seem to have a better ride…I am not quite sure, I have to wonder if the shock package is adjusted on them. I’ve noticed it with both TriMet’s 2561/2562 buses and up in Seattle, where the hybrids ride so much smoother than the straight-diesels. Riding a D60HF in Seattle is like a bounce-house compared to a DE60LF – and that’s on the notorious 174 Seattle-Federal Way route where it seems SDOT intentionally digs in potholes on the road!

    When you spend $160 million, wonders can be found. But $160 million for a "weekday rush hour only" train that serves little purpose could have built several BRT routes with a new concrete roadway, "Streetcar" style bus stops with oversized shelters, Transit Tracker displays….in short, $160M could have provided seven-day (plus holiday) Frequent Service BRT service on the 9 (Ross Island-Gresham), 12 (Portland-King City), 33 (Milwaukie-Oregon City, with a dedicated bus lane Portland-Milwaukie), 57 (Forest Grove-Beaverton) and 72 (Portland Airport-Clackamas Town Center) lines.

    Imagine your thinking place then 🙂

    (Add your suggestion of those neat Toyota buses, or Sprinters, for neighborhood feeder lines…)


  2. I’m sure TriMet/Portland would have found a way to only get about 1-2 of those lines turned to BRT with a $160 Million. But yeah, Portland should seriously fix the problem.

    For one, on primary routes downtown where buses go – ala the north south mall is correctly done, the east west routes need fixed BADLY!

    As for Powell, 82nd, etc, those roads are pure catastrophes. Examples of REALLY poor planning, incompetence at multiple levels of Government, crime, etc. I mean jeez, 3-4 of the recent shootings over the last year have ALL occurred on 82nd, the design is a safe harbor for questionable activity. There is no human scale, generally speaking its an annoying cluster !@#$ of roads.

    Powell though, and 82nd, for $160 mil could be humanized & have BRT route type ROW setup in a number of areas (not all) and it could be a magnificient example of how to appropriately run BRT for the entire country. The other growth aspects along Powell & 82nd outnumber every project that TriMet/Portland/Metro has on the table. The Milwaukee Light Rail line is a prime example of a decent return, but it is NOTHING in relative comparison to Powell & 82nd getting decent BRT style service.

    …I seriously doubt 82nd gets fixed for another 100 years, especially considering they’re dropping in the green line. As for Powell though, it is there lying fallow waiting for its potential to shine and dozens of BILLIONS of dollars to be invested, density to increase, crime to fall, and thousands of lives bettered.

    …but I guess you, Al, and a few others will just have to keep dreaming for now. 😦

    …how can we inject some of this sensibleness into these entities? That’s what I want to know, it honestly seems impossible.


  3. You have a good point – Portland and the region has literally a blank slate with Powell and 82nd…Powell in particular since ODOT has never upgraded the road east of I-205.

    So much could be done just with streetscaping, installing center medians, pedestrian safety, storefront improvements, bus stop improvements…a fraction of the cost of a MAX line but with so much more impact to clean up that street. 82nd is literally the center of Portand, at least geographically…it shouldn’t be something to be ashamed of.

    Sticking pretty "Avenue of Roses" signs on the road isn’t enough…


  4. "Avenue of Roses" is insulting on so many levels. Meanwhile the city blows 26 Million on the old China Town when 90%+ of the Asian community now lives on 82nd. Maybe they should orient those taxes toward the people it is actually geared toward.

    …we should do a work up of 82nd and Powell as new corridor improvement areas. Toss in a little BRT, a little store improvements (which would go soooo much further than in the Pearlish areas) and Portland would even get the benefit of increased tax revenue probably. Along with the decreased crime, costs associated with such, and other annoyances. 🙂


  5. I too get a lot of thinking done while on the train; even on the bus. I sometimes have to resist the urge to listen to music on my earphones, because I don’t want to miss hearing the random conversations people are having with each other or themselves.


  6. Not to mention that numerous schools are on or near 82nd Avenue…by investing in the schools we already have it will encourage families to stay and grow here in Portland – and not in Beaverton (or having to build new schools in the Pearl and shut down schools elsewhere!)


  7. Hey LP. Thx for reading. Especially like that entry I commented on. Those conversations are gems. 🙂

    Hope you keep reading, got some interesting bits coming in the next few days.


  8. "investing in the schools we already have"

    But the schools aren’t the city’s responsibility. Just like paying for brand-new schools in Beaverton isn’t the responsibility of new housing development that causes them to be needed. Which helps tilt the marketplace from Portland schools to Beaverton and others.


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