Bus Advantages

I started a series of modal advantages a number of days ago. This entry is kicking those back off. The last entries covered light rail for the light rail fan kids, streetcars for the streetcar fan kids, and now it is down to the buses.  Without further adou, I'll jump right into these work horses of transit authorities across the world.

Legitimate Reason #1 – Existing Infrastructure

Because Governments have spent the last 100 years pouring trillions of dollars into roadways across the planet (the the adoring love of every automobile manufacturer), it doesn't need to be mentioned but I will, there are millions of miles of roadways on the planet.  Because of this buses often are the least expensive by an order of magnitude in capital startup costs.  Rarely are the costs of the roads ever connected to buses.  So with a mere couple million dollars a city can have a bus line with a decent frequency and amiable service levels.

Legitimate Reason #2 – Flexible Remote Routes

Buses can carry a reasonable amount of people, and make connecting remote locations more economically reasonable than running any sort of rail to remote locations.  The higher long range cost is overshadowed when it comes to lower ridership routes, where a minimal fluctuating system is needed.  The only tangible mode that can operate on routes that are distant and highly fluctuating are buses, and sometimes in really low ridership routes, vans.  But I'm sticking to buses right now, since most countries won't utilize vans as a mode of transport within a transit authority.

Legitimate Reason #3 – EXTREME Flexibility

Again, because of the vast investment in roads, if one is blocked, buses can go around.  If there is a wreck, buses can go an alternate route.  If a bridge is out, buses can go over another bridge.  If there is a car parked a couple of feet too far into the road, a bus can simply go around.  What happens if ridership drops to unreasonable levels, you can cancel the bus line and the road can still be used by autos, bikes, and even foot traffic.

Legitimate Reason #4 – Choices in Vehicles

Buses come in multiple options.  40' buses, extended buses, intercity buses, urban buses, luxery buses, etc.  In today's day and age, if you want choice in options, the bus provides that in droves.  Since infrastructure costs are often mitigated by general budgets and taxes, buses are seen as an efficient mode of transport and the market centers more on this mode than any other.

Legitimate Reason #5 – Acting Starters for High Volume Routes

Buses can also play a relatively new role, as a primary corridor mode on dedicated right of way.  This slightly newer technique, per the light rail transit nomenclature is referred to as bus rapid transit, or BRT.  BRT has been used as a starter system predating a light rail line, handling the initial years when an area is unsure of the need for higher volume light rail capacity, but knowing a higher volume dedicated corridor is needed.  In this service, buses often range from 40', to the more common 60' buses.  BRT is an inexpensive way to create a dedicated right of way when the future is uncertain, because this leaves the corridor in a position to transition to road only use by other vehicles without the rail investment being made that usually requires greater capital funding usually ranging 2-5x as much.

So that's the list I have, which I'm sure there are readers who could add another dozen points.  These however, are the main, obvious and outstanding points of advantage for any bus system.

Sound Transit Link Light Rail Trip

Alright. Here’s the logistics.  I’ve got tix for Amtrak Cascades #500 up on the 26th of this month and returning on Amtrak Cascades #509.  So get your tickets ASAP (Amtrak is the hot ticket these days) for the trip up.  Here’s some of my ideas of what I’m planning to check out, photograph (hopefully videograph? Paul?  Up for it?).

Upon arrival we’ll ride into the tunnel and take the first LRV back south toward Tukwilla.  We’ll ride all the way through while keeping an eye out.  On our return trip we can catch a stop or two and explore the surroundings for video, photos, and some lunch/dinner.  One thought it to stop at Othello Station and pick up some Pho.  Otherwise I am really up for whatever, even a complete alternate logistics situation.  So shoot me an e-mail, leave a comment, let me know if you can make it or not – or just show up for train #500 the morning of Sunday the 26th.

Cheers to the flanged wheel venture.

Sound Transit Link Light Rail Adventure

Transit Beer/Meetup is off the table for now, at least until a month or two.  However, Sound Transit is opening the light rail on the 18th of this month.  I’m not real keen on opening day for things like this, as usually there are a bunch of bureaucrats and propaganda littered about everywhere.  So what I was thinking was a trip up the week after.  Either on the 25th or 26th.  The 25th is a Saturday and the 26th, obviously, a Sunday.

So who do I have for takers, and is there a preference for which day?  Leave a comment and let me know if you’re interested.

TriMet Green Line

On the note of Portland’s Light Rail openings, does anyone want to come and film/video the opening along the green line?  I was thinking we could actually explore and find close by, amenities, bars, and other cool places that would be of interest to go to.  …which we may not find and we can document that to information the Portland Citizenry!  :)   This all of course will have to occur at the Green Line’s opening in September, but no reason not to start planning for a get together.

Please leave me some comments and I’ll start organizing said events and meet ups.

WES Truck Accident?

Any word on the big headline at www.trimet.org?

“WES Service Disruption

Due to an truck accident affecting the Grahams Ferry bridge in Tualatin, all WES trips for the morning commute on Thursday, July 9, will be served by shuttle buses. Trains are not able to travel along the tracks because of damage caused by the accident. Shuttle buses will serve all stops between Wilsonville and Beaverton Transit Center starting with the first trip from Wilsonville at 5:19 a.m. Riders should plan to add about 20 minutes to their commute. WES service is expected to be on schedule for the afternoon commute.

Updated: 4:26 a.m., Thu. Jul. 9, 2009”

I’d sure love some extra information if anyone has it.

UPDATE:  It was really NOT the WES this time.  A truck peeled back its top running into the trestle the WES goes over.  Truck 0, Trestle 1.  It boils down to massive truck driver #FAIL 

Green Line Preview Ride on Mall

Today I got to take a preview ride on the new mall on one of the new MAX LRVs.  Here are a few of my initial observations.


The new MAX LRVs are wicked smooth riding.  The braking, seating positions, and the rear (middle?) bubble positions are awesome.  They make for some great views from the ride.  In addition to the seating and better braking for a smoother ride, when sitting near the front or rear one can actually see out of the cab now!  So seeing where one is going or has been when in those seating positions is possible.  This just strikes me as a rather awesome new feature.  I like to be able to see out the front of the vehicle.  The image to the left is of the rear vestibule area of the lead LRV of our two car LRV train.  Click the image to check out the larger available image  (along with the others).

When boarding they had a "Not In Service" displayed on the reader boards.  This is the first time I’ve ever gotten to ride a MAX while the reader boards displayed the not in service message.

The spacing of the stops I really like.  It is a vast improvement over the cramped spacing of the previous bus mall & current Yamhill & Morrison Street stops.  We where able to make the whole loop and take a break at the turnaround in 30 minutes.  So the length of the mall was easily covered in about 10 minutes, and I’m thinking operations will enable an 8 minute cross town trip.  If the rest of the MAX line through town was setup this way, we could get a cross town commute of about 16-18 minutes instead of the current 22+ from Lloyd Center to Goose Hollow.  If I ever have to make that commute again, I’d sure appreciate 16-18 minutes versus 22+ minutes.  That 4-6 minutes really starts to add up over the course of a week.

The serpentine approach really doesn’t seem to be causing anywhere near as much confusion or problems as I originally had imagined.  If anything, with the train & buses in operation the idiot auto drivers actually pay more attention.  After hours when the frequencies increase and the mall is often empty, drivers just end up all over the lanes without regard for where they’re supposed to drive.  I guess, one really can’t expect more from American drivers, Portlanders or not.  Simple fact is, drivers are intolerably unobservant on average.


Yup, even on the first preview ride we already have a bicyclist aboard!  In actuality probably 30% of the riders on this first ride ALL came to the preview ride on bikes.  Most had locked up their rides nearby instead of bringing them on board.

The Ride

We started out at the information store on 6th & Alder.  After everyone met up the group walked down to the 6th & Burnside stop to entrain.  Once everyone go planted in a seat and checked out the new LRV we had our announcer start providing us some information about the new mall line.  She started off with the tidbit of 1.8 miles of track on the mall, and continued while everyone listened and talked.  She might have just thought we weren’t!  😉

To the right is an image from the tail end of the train with fellow riders Gabriel Amadeus Tiller, and Jo looking away to ignore the camera.  Several other familiar faces where along to enjoy the ride too.  If you follow me on Twitter you’ve probably seen my tweet, if not, get signed up.

First we headed north toward the train station and slowed at each stop, as if in service.  I grabbed the following shot from the clean clear window, which you can see a slight glimmer of.  It is truly awesome to be able to get to the train station via MAX now.  Every major mode of intercity transport is now connected via light rail.  Train & Plane, the city is now set.  🙂

As we made our turn to head back south I grabbed two photos of the inside sharp twist of the LRVs.  The first here is looking to the front of the train and the second is looking to the back.  I must say, I think these are the sharpest turns in the system, I could be wrong but jeez, they are sharp.

This second image with Reid hiding in the turn of the MAX, is of the rear of the LRV set.  Through the window you can see the rear LRV twisting sharply through the turn.

We rolled on steady after that as a jovial camaraderie was had by all.  With keen observations taking place by the riders one could see the interest and excitement.  The rear seats where immediately taken up by a happy quartet of individuals, which grew into a group carrying on with smiles among the entire rear vestibule.

We made our way back to Burnside, past Backspace (grabbed a shot of that later, take a look at the images toward the end of the blog entry).  After that short bit we rolled through and uphill to the southern turnaround.  There we all stopped for a short breather, I mean, we where all with bated breath from the excitement of being some of the first to ride the new MAX.  Dibs right!

While heading south we also came to a stop and waited beside our little flanged wheel brethren the streetcar.

After the short ride back north to our departing stop, we all detrained with the giddiness of a kid with their first lego toy.  I think everyone was pretty stoked after our little foray.  After that it was time to hit the carts on 5th.  Below are a few more shots I caught while walking about.

A angle focus shot of the LRV.