Commute Interview #007 – Tyler Stricka

Alright, it is time to get the interviews rolling again!  First in line is a tech community illuminati Tyler Stricka.  This guy does some great work for McAffee Software.  You can check out his portfolio and such.  Seriously, go check out his site it is an impressive array of graphics and design work!  Also Tyler is an avid Twitterer, so feel free to jump online for a tweet or two via @tylersticka.  Two of his pieces are shown to the right, click either of them to check out full size images on his site of the graphics.

Now, on to the interview.

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

I'm a designer, artist, speaker and educator, currently employed full-time at McAfee. I help create web experiences, iconography and identity work in digital and traditional media.

2. How long have you been in the occupation?

Part-time since 2002, full-time since 2007.

3. What city & state do you live in?

Hillsboro, Oregon.

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?

Car. I may relocate soon within walking distance, which would be a lot more fun.

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?

Ten to fifteen minutes, depending on traffic.

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

I listen to music, and the occasional podcast. I love reading, but I can't surrender my vision while commuting.

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

Walking or train; either lets me be contemplative during my journey in ways driving can't match.

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

Less of it! And crazy stoplights on Cornell Road don't help much.

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

Unfortunately, I'm just far enough away for biking to be inconvenient and strenuous, but just close enough that the impact on my gas bill wouldn't be incredibly severe. I wouldn't like it, but I'd probably maintain my current regiment.

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: 2
    • Light Rail: 1  (Phoenix Valley Metro x1)
  • Cities:  Portland (OR) x4, Vancouver (WA), Phoenix (AZ)
  • Commute Activities:
    • Podcasts: 3
    • RSS Feeds: 1
    • Blackberry: 1
    • Music: 1
    • E-mail, Txt, Twitter, Moblog: 1
  • Commute Times:
    • Total For Everyone:  325 minutes door to door.
    • Average Commute:  54 minutes door to door.
  • Commute Changes:
    • Make it shorter: 2
    • Nothing: 1
    • No cars: 1
    • Wifi on Light Rail: 1
  • $5.00 Commute Changes:
    • Nothing:  4
    • Bus Pass Would Increase: 1
    • Would help decide about what to do with the car:  1  (by getting rid of it)
  • Total Interviews Published: 7

Cincinnati Streetcar Comes to Visit Portland Streetcar

Cincinnati officials have hopes of building a $128 million streetcar line in the city and are coming to Portland to check our system out.  It makes me wonder if they’ll get to actually hear both sides of the coin, the positives and negatives of the system.  I fear as systems are built around the country there will continue to be the skewed view of the transit planners and the extremely skewed view of the anti-transit pro-roads people.  It seems the middle ground of logical infrastructure will remain the distinct characteristic of America’s past and not our future.

So if any Cincinnati Streetcar people want some more thoughts, from an informed individual, you guys should shoot me an e-mail.  I also could speak distinctly to the conservative base that holds sway in the Cincinnati area.  Good luck to ole’ Cincinnati on getting something that works for them, I sure hope they do it well informed.  I can guarantee Cincinnati one thing, they will NOT see the level of development Portland has, so that skewed view hopefully won’t cloud the decisions for that city.  After all, Cincinnati seriously needs some help on a number of fronts.  Portland, by comparison, has made no mistakes.

WTF TriMet?

Downtown Portland, on SW Columbia and Jefferson there is
some road construction going on.

This started on Monday / Tuesday (July 6 / 7), however
coordination within TriMet has been AWFUL!

If you look at the "Service Alerts" there has been
no mention of any interruption, detour, stop closures, temporary stop setup of
any kind for any busses (let alone the construction zone downtown.)

When I first encountered this on Tuesday, my normal stop was
closed, nice yellow sign on the pole saying it was closed and even with a
start/stop date on it.  So, I walked up the street a couple of blocks to
the other bus stop, got on the bus and the driver was looking down the road and
she was like "What the hell is this?" (Commenting on the ripped up

Turns out TriMet didn't even tell their DRIVERS this was happening. 
She had no extra instructions on what stops would be closed, what temporary
stops were setup (And there was at least 1) or any information on the

Additionally, TriMet didn't coordinate with the City on the
setup of the temporary stops…The one we encountered on 3rd (or was it 4th?)
didn't have the parking blocked off.  There was a dozen or so people
standing waiting for their bus (4 or so buses serve that one stop) and cars are
parked on the side of the road, so the Bus is now blocking the lane letting
people load.  Road is already under construction with intermittent areas
where the right lane is blocked, which means traffic is already congested and
now it gets worse because the bus can't pull off to the side to load passengers.

Now, to add insult to injury…I was ready to put a large
part of the blame on Portland not coordinating with TriMet on construction
projects and how they would affect TriMet until I didn't a little digging on
WHAT the construction was…

According to this site:

The construction in question is (and I quote…)

Bus pad work should bring minor
impacts to SW Columbia, Jefferson 

An additional piece of TriMet’s
downtown stimulus work involves placing concrete bus pads at the bus stops on
SW Columbia and SW Jefferson to reduce on-going preventive maintenance at these
locations and improve rider experience.  Work will begin this week with
grinding of the asphalt at the affected stops.  During construction of the
pads, alternate stops will be closed to riders and motorists can expect traffic
to be reduced to a single lane at spot locations during off-peak hours. 
Work will move counter to traffic flow beginning on Columbia and proceeding to
SW Jefferson Street.

Which lead me to this page on TriMet's site:

Which, under Active and completed project, lists
"Improvements and repairs of downtown streets and bus stops." Which
is a link…that leads you to a 404 Error page.

Way to go TriMet!!!

Advantages, The Four Part Series is Done

I finished the series so though, might as well make an entry that references each for easy access.  Here's the four entries that make up the series.

  1. Bus Advantages – The Work Horse of the Transit Industry
  2. Light Rail Advantages – The Sexy Intermediary Between Bus & Heavy Rail
  3. Heavy Passenger Rail Advantages – The King of People Moving
  4. Streetcar Advantages – The Slick Fun Rides on the Streetcars

Heavy Rail (Intercity & Commuter Passenger) Advantages

Going with the previous two entries here are some reasons why heavy rail options really take the lead when vast volumes of people are trying to move through a corridor of travel.  The North East Corridor comes to mind as a prime example.  Even the most ardent supporters of auto, pro-bus, or other forms of transport can’t argue against the efficiency of rail when this volume of passengers are concerned.  With Amtrak, New Jersey Transit, and numerous other transit agencies running trains in and out of the major cities one can expect to see trains every 2-5 minutes, or even every minute during heavy travel times, in this corridor.

Legitimate Reason #1:  Heavy rail passenger volume can't be touched by any other mode of transport.  In addition the speed it attains is very high for such volume, often higher than automotive transport which usually leads other modes.  But the number one reason heavy rail leads the pack is the ability to achieve volumes in excess of 50,000 and some volumes as high as 70,000 riders per hour.

Legitimate Reason #2:  Heavy rail is generally the cheapest thing going once total costs are considered.  This is absolutely true for high volumes, but even for low volumes rail often offers a low price point per rider.  When extremely low volumes achieved, often that does not validate commuter unless their is existing track that is already usable without upgrades.

The WES is an example of economically unreasonable commuter rail.  TriMet will need to achieve over a 400% increase if the WES is to achieve the same price parity as bus service in the corridor running the same passenger count.  Approximately 800% within the next 2-3 years to achieve the same price parity as light rail service per passenger.  That is based solely on operations.

On the other side of the spectrum, the Sounder Commuter Rail Operations in Seattle is approximately 30-35% more economically efficient than bus service.  In other words, it costs 30-35% less to carry a single passenger via the Sounder versus their similar bus service.

Another prime example of passenger rail service that is successful, yet has low volumes is the Cascades rail service between Portland and Seattle.  Above rail operations are almost break even (one more frequency is needed).  The service operates at approximately 25-30% less than comparable bus service operations.

Legitimate Reason #3:  This one can be argued, but with a great deal of absurdity.  Passenger rail is almost always the most comfortable, smooth riding, fastest, efficient mode of transport to carry passengers – low or high volume.  Now mind you, the privately operated buses on the east coast and some other cities, that offer real space and amenities close to passenger rail often do provide a similar level of comfort, but those services are rare.  Almost all passenger trains in the US though offer 2×2 seating, sometimes 2×1 seating, wide aisles, the ability to walk about while in transit, and other amenities of this grade.

The other reasons include almost all of the ones I’ve outlined in the previous entries for streetcars and light rail.