Mall Expansion, Green Line, & Bitching

As with all things, people will complain and a few will love it.  There is always something to complain about.  I admit, even I have complained about the Bus Mall design that is getting its final touches put on in downtown Portland.  I have to however, withdraw my original skepticism.  I think it is actually going to work much better than I originally anticipated.  I also admit, yeah, I’m often a bit more skeptical than I ought to be.


There are problems that will occur and I know the number one complaint already.  By my estimation and what I’ve heard so far is, “the bus doesn’t stop enough downtown”.  I’ve looked, and yeah, the stops are farther and fewer, for MAX and bus, but there is a reason.  TriMet is trying to fix the other huge and common complaint, “It takes 22 friggin’ minutes to get across downtown!”, and turn it into a more reasonable 15 minutes or so.  With the stops as they are, the future Milwaukee line and all the mall buses will finally be able to get through town in a much more reasonable time than the common complaint of 20+ minutes.

The Good Stuff

I’ve noticed, with the buses back in the more centrally located mall most people will see a few minutes knocked off of their walk to the office.  In addition to that many will see another few minutes knocked off of their actual bus commute, depending on how deep into downtown they have to come.

The MAX will also add a highly visible, more “out of town” friendly way to haul business cohorts and such around town.  The question is, will it stay that way.  The Yellow Line is commonly known as one of the less friendly MAX Trains.  Hopefully TriMet & Portland PD can keep it cleaned up and attractive along the new mall.  If so, the potential ridership of Green and Yellow is massive.

Problems & Good Green

I’ve recently rode out along the Green Line to Clackamas Town Center.  It raised a few questions.

  1. Why is the transit center located so far from the Mall?  Is it for the easy Interstate access?  I thought the point was to connect “town centers” with high throughput lines like the MAX.  This does the entirely opposite thing and encourages sprawl, so why?
  2. What is the intended TOD along the Green Line?  So far it appears there is an extreme minimum space to use for TOD, especially with 82nd already lined with business and life, of course, auto based business and such.
  3. If the ridership is 20-30k per day, where is this expected to come from?

Shortchanged, WES Stalls Again, The T Driver t-bones Riders in Boston

From TriMet, “Due to mechanical problems with one WES train, several trips this morning are being served by shuttle bus. The 7:49 a.m. trip north from Wilsonville and the 6:56 a.m. and 8:26 a.m. trips south from BTC will be served by bus. Buses will stop at all WES stations. Riders should plan to add 10 to 20 minutes to their commute.”

We have crap trains (it seems to be turning out) and Boston has crap drivers txting away.  It appears there needs to be some serious enforcement over phone usage while driving.  I still see it done by TriMet bus drivers here in Portland.  I haven't however seen a MAX operator doing it fortunately.  We already have the dozens dead on the commuter rail incident last year in California and we still have idiots running around as if it wouldn't happen to them.  I hope these occurrences don't increase.

Seriously though, I hate that transit agencies are made to have their own police to fight crime, it isn’t their job.  But hiring the appropriate personnel that will do their job and not be complete idiots as this driver was IS the agencies and authorities jobs!

Unlinked Passenger Trips Per Capita (2006)

This report from the Federal Transit Administration shows some interesting information which I’ll use in a coming blog entry.  With that in mind I’ve posted it here.  Portland is at #7 in this list, which amounts to TriMet basically.  The really shocking thing though, is the massive drop off after the top 5.  I also find it somewhat shocking how much lower San Francisco is than New York in trips per capita.  The last bit I’ll mention is how amazed I am that Honolulu, Hawaii is in the top 5!  I wasn’t aware they even had a notable transit system, but this could be because of other underlying facts, such as that it is an island.  The original Excel Spreadsheet can be downloaded by right clicking and selecting save as.

New York-Newark, NY-NJ-CT 3,353 17,799,861 3,556.9 199.8
San Francisco-Oakland, CA 527 3,228,605 420.2 130.1
Washington, DC-VA-MD 1,157 3,933,920 461.0 117.2
Honolulu, HI 154 718,182 71.7 99.8
Boston, MA-NH-RI 1,736 4,032,484 386.7 95.9
Chicago, IL-IN 2,123 8,307,904 610.7 73.5
Portland, OR-WA 474 1,583,138 107.5 67.9
Philadelphia, PA-NJ-DE-MD 1,800 5,149,079 342.0 66.4
Seattle, WA 954 2,712,205 168.6 62.2
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA 1,668 11,789,487 700.4 59.4
Baltimore, MD 683 2,076,354 108.5 52.3
Las Vegas, NV 286 1,314,357 67.7 51.5
Denver-Aurora, CO 499 1,984,889 86.6 43.6
Salt Lake City, UT 231 887,650 38.6 43.5
Atlanta, GA 1,963 3,499,840 148.5 42.4
Pittsburgh, PA 852 1,753,136 71.7 40.9
Cleveland, OH 647 1,786,647 70.2 39.3
Austin, TX 318 901,920 35.4 39.2
Milwaukee, WI 487 1,308,913 50.7 38.7
Madison, WI 114 329,533 12.3 37.3
San Diego, CA 782 2,674,436 96.1 35.9
Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN 894 2,388,593 85.2 35.7
Miami, FL 1,116 4,919,036 162.7 33.1
San Antonio, TX 408 1,327,554 42.7 32.1
San Juan, PR 892 2,216,616 71.1 32.1
Reno, NV 119 303,689 9.0 29.5
Charlotte, NC-SC 435 758,927 21.2 27.9
Spokane, WA-ID 143 334,858 9.1 27.1
Houston, TX 1,295 3,822,509 102.5 26.8
San Jose, CA 260 1,538,312 40.9 26.6
Syracuse, NY 180 402,267 10.5 26.1
St. Louis, MO-IL 829 2,077,662 52.3 25.2
Sacramento, CA 369 1,393,498 3
Tucson, AZ 291 720,425 17.8 24.7
Buffalo, NY 367 976,703 23.8 24.3
Albany, NY 284 558,947 12.9 23.0
Phoenix-Mesa, AZ 799 2,907,049 64.3 22.1
Orlando, FL 453 1,157,431 25.3 21.9
Fresno, CA 139 554,923 11.9 21.5
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX 1,407 4,145,659 86.0 20.7
Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN 672 1,503,262 29.3 19.5
Hartford, CT 469 851,535 16.3 19.2
El Paso, TX-NM 219 674,801 12.4 18.4
Dayton, OH 324 703,444 12.9 18.3
Rochester, NY 295 694,396 12.6 18.2
Providence, RI-MA 504 1,174,548 21.2 18.0
Richmond, VA 437 818,836 14.3 17.5
Louisville, KY-IN 391 863,582 15.0 17.4
Springfield, MA-CT 309 573,610 9.9 17.3
Virginia Beach, VA 527 1,394,439 24.0 17.2
Bakersfield, CA 110 396,125 6.6 16.6
New Haven, CT 285 531,314 8.8 16.5
Riverside-San Bernardino, CA 439 1,506,816 22.7 15.1
Stockton, CA 74 313,392 4.7 14.9
Albuquerque, NM 224 598,191 8.8 14.6
Flint, MI 231 365,096 5.3 14.6
Grand Rapids, MI 257 539,080 7.5 13.8
Columbus, OH 398 1,133,193 15.0 13.2
Jacksonville, FL 411 882,295 11.7 13.2
Detroit, MI 1,262 3,903,377 51.3 13.1
Toledo, OH-MI 202 503,008 6.2 12.4
Oxnard, CA 76 337,591 4.2 12.4
Akron, OH 308 570,215 7.0 12.3
Des Moines, IA 140 370,505 4.5 12.2
Tampa-St. Petersburg, FL 802 2,062,339 24.9 12.1
Memphis, TN-MS-AR 400 972,091 11.7 12.1
Modesto, CA 86 310,945 3.7 12.0
Scranton, PA 159 385,237 4.6 11.8
Concord, CA 176 552,624 6.4 11.6
Bridgeport-Stamford, CT-NY 465 888,890 10.1 11.4
Kansas City, MO-KS 584 1,361,744 15.2 11.2
Raleigh, NC 320 541,527 5.9 10.9
New Orleans, LA 198 1,009,283 10.7 10.6
Nashville-Davidson, TN 431 749,935 7.9 10.5
Allentown-Bethlehem, PA-NJ 290 576,408 5.6 9.7
Baton Rouge, LA 281 479,019 4.6 9.6
Cape Coral, FL 192 329,757 3.1 9.3
Chattanooga, TN-GA 290 343,509 3.1 9.0
Indianapolis, IN 553 1,218,919 10.0 8.2
Knoxville, TN 339 419,830 3.4 8.2
Worcester, MA-CT 250 429,882 3.4 8.0
Colorado Springs, CO 197 466,122 3.5 7.5
Lancaster, PA 199 323,554 2.3 7.3
Sarasota-Bradenton, FL 270 559,229 3.9 6.9
Harrisburg, PA 208 362,782 2.5 6.8
Little Rock, AR 206 360,331 2.4 6.7
Charleston-North Charleston, SC 231 423,410 2.8 6.5
Omaha, NE-IA 226 626,623 3.9 6.3
Columbia, SC 269 420,537 2.5 6.1
Birmingham, AL 392 663,615 3.7 5.5
Poughkeepsie-Newburgh, NY 265 351,982 1.9 5.5
Wichita, KS 179 422,301 2.3 5.5
Tulsa, OK 261 558,329 2.7 4.8
Youngstown, OH-PA 228 417,437 1.7 4.2
Oklahoma City, OK 322 747,003 2.9 3.9
Pensacola, FL-AL 219 323,783 1.2 3.8
Palm Bay-Melbourne, FL 220 393,289 1.5 3.8
Mobile, AL 211 317,605 0.9 3.0
Augusta-Richmond County, GA-SC 232 335,630 1.0 2.8
McAllen, TX 314 523,144 0.06 0.11

National Train Day Tripping

Morning #9 Bus to Union Station

I boarded, the bus appeared to be about 2-3 minutes late, which was odd.  It wasn’t tracking with the transit tracker system and just showed the scheduled arrival time instead.  Kind of par for the course since I’m going to get on a train that leaves on time.

The last stop before the bridge a lady boarded with her dog.  Mind you not a service dog but just the pet.  News to anyone that drags their pet around with them everywhere.  Keep in mind, we humans are odd like that and place emotions, thoughts, and ideals on animals that they have no knowledge or thought of to have.  On that note an animal isn’t promised a service to ride.  Your animal is NOT allowed on transit.  Just because you think he doesn’t bite or what doesn’t mean squat, so please when riding transit step out of your little dog universe and realize you’ll be around a lot of people.  They’re not really allowed in Target, or a million other places.  They’re also not allowed in places that serve food.  People, please realize that Portland is no being progressive, nor intelligent about the lackluster standards around where you can bring you animal.  People worry about stupid things like guns, more dog attacks have occurred in this city than gun attacks.  So seriously, think about this and keep it in context.  Portlanders’ are spoiled about pet ownership.

When this rider boarded she got a polite lesson about the fact her regular dog can’t just board transit.  I love seeing driver’s take charge of their jobs and not be the standard lump of a human sitting in the seat.  It is contagious and makes me have pride in what the driver is doing.

When we arrived at PSU one rider walked up, didn’t notify the driver, and got off to retrieve his bike.  The rider paused for a moment before jumping in front of the bus which almost gave the driver time, if he had not been noting who was going where he might have hit the guy.  Fortunately for the cyclist the driver had been paying attention.  He gave the guy a friendly scolding (yeah, it does seem possibly to get a friendly scolding) about notifying the operator so they wouldn’t accidentally take off, with the guy stepping in front of the bus.  The cyclist seemed to understand, but hey, it is early and people tend to be a bit dense on an early Saturday morning.

Amtrak Cascades #500

Arrived at Union Station.  There was a bustle of activity for National Train Day already.  In the station stood one of the Great Northern’s Empire Builder cars and beyond that the Cascades #500 stood ready for departure already.  It must have had a good run from Eugene to get here that early.  I didn’t see steam engine #4449 yet.  It theoretically is supposed to be here today.  A boys choir was also singing in the station and tables where being setup in the side wing.  As always, for #500 there was a huge line of people already standing, getting their ticket seat assignment from the conductor & assistant.

As the clock ticked toward departure time and the ticketed passengers where given seating assignments, I did my normal non-line standing sit in a seat routine.  I just wait until the last minute, stand up and grab a seat assignment, and then sit down, then wait again before boarding.  This whole routine of standing up while waiting to get on the train is asinine and I sure wish Amtrak would modernize the process.  Even though, on a day like this it doesn’t bother me in the remote, I get to ride on a train and that is what I’m here for.

When I headed out to the train I did see the #4449, the Empire Builder car, and also two Union Pacific cars.  Looks like the day should be a blast for Union Station.

Within 2-3 minutes I had joined a conversation with a couple of people heading to Centralia.  They where en route for a family meetup.  We talked about the old Pionneer that run from Denver to Portland, and joined the train that heads to Chicago once it arrives in Denver.  It was a split train kind of like the Empire Builder.

The train smoothly rolled out of Union Station toward Seattle.  Passing through the north pearl really made me ponder what the area would look like in a few years.  Post recession and a few years back into solid growth the area is planned to really boom.  The local economy and business demand downtown will however dictate how that really goes.  Beautiful area and I’m sure it will get even better after a bit of clean up and such of the industrial warehouse area.  We rolled into Vancouver and I had to bid farewell for this route of my trip.  As always the crew rocked (Even Ray, who wasn’t technically being crew, just heading down line), Amtrak even amid my Union complaints, has a very jovial crew on the Cascades and I am always stoked to board one of the trains bound along this corridor!

OMG, WTF, The Bike Just Left Without Me!!!!

Ok, it wasn’t my bike, but a guy with a bike on the Amtrak Train was standing waiting to get his bike off of the baggage car and the train up and left!  I was shocked, but not too surprised.  The crew of the train had been having a bit of an issue with seating and was continuing to have some communication issues.  This though, really baffled me, someone had obviously and SERIOUSLY dropped the ball for this customer.  After writing the above blurb about the great Cascades Crews I was really kind of bummed to see this happen for this guy.  Fortunately he seemed calm and collected, unlike some customers who just freak out about things like this.  Staying calm will get things done a lot faster than freaking out about it.  Hopefully they toss the bike onto a south bound train and get it back to the station ASAP.  Totally unacceptable but hopefully it can be rectified with some calm and collected, quick communication.  Get that guy back on his bike and hopefully keep him a happy customer.

Downtown Vancouver

Father met me at the train station in Vancouver.  Upon arrival he was standing talking with a guy he just met named Ben.  We both chatted a bit and I passed around some of my Transit Sleuth Business Cards (always trying to get new readers, so hey, pass the word around – always good to expand the transit & transport conversation).

At this juncture we headed to downtown to grab some breakfast at Dulins in downtown Vancouver.  It is located at the cross streets of McLoughlin and Main.  We had a tasty breakfast where I met a Carolina southerner named Duane.  He jams in a band called Lincoln’s Beard, so check that out.  Interesting music, so it’s worth the time, so go now, right now, and go check it out.

Amtrak Cascades #501

After a solid breakfast and chat with the station attendant about the lost bike, we boarded the #501 south bound to PDX.  The train was almost on time, only 4 minutes behind.  The bike, just to give readers a bit of closure, was going to be turned up route.  What had happened was rooted in the seating fiasco that had started in Portland.  No one had told the station attendant that there was a bike to retrieve, so he had not gone to retrieve a bike.  Go figure, again, this is a management problem.  Being the consultant I am I see this issue for exactly what it is.  Amtrak management screws up by not providing the tools and means to communicate that the employees need.  The Union fails to allow the employees to do these things, for rather idiotic reasoning.  So what Amtrak and the union ends up with is a demoralized employee, a frustrated crew, and a perturbed passenger and a misplaced bike.  If m
anagement would and could do their job, the politicians would shut up and get out of the way, and the union would stop demanding absurd stupid working conditions (I’ll elaborate later) the employees could be proud and run a train exponentially better.  Overall I’m having a blast on National Train Day, just seeing and running about, however I just have to point out this goof up.

We pulled into Portland in short order and on time.  Which means we had zero delays and also where able to run full all the way into the station.  Usually it takes a solid 20 minutes to get through the yard and into the station, but today we rolled right through at full allowed speed.  I believe we did it in about 13-14 minutes flat.

Father and I then walked about Old Town/Chinatown and checked out various places, picked up a real sugar imported Coca-Cola at Floyd’s Coffee Shop.  Walked back to the station while enjoying our real sugar beverages and I saw him off on the north bound #506 (I didn’t see Erik, where were ya?).  I walked about and visited the TriMet, AORTA/NARP Booth, and did some chatting.  Then I headed back out for my home bound journey.  I took the scenic route from the station;  #77, MAX Red Line, #75, and then #9 back home.  All in all, a great National Train Day.

National Train Day

I’m going to jump a train across the rivers and travel from Portland to Vancouver and back in the morning.  Figured I should get in at least one round trip this Saturday since it is train day and 4x the points!  🙂

If anyone is in area and interested, swing down and take a ride with me, introduce yourself.  I’ll be sure to interview you next!  I’ll also have the interviews coming again by end of week.  I needed a little break from the blogging to catch back up with life, but I’m almost caught up, so hang on the information will be flying again real soon.

Also coming up are those analysis of transit rider increases.  So be sure to throw your two cents into those when I get them up.  It should be fertile ground for some good debate.  Think TriMet could handle the load?  How about the MTA, PATH, CTA, or other agencies?  What about LA’s agencies or San Francisco’s?