Upcoming Transit News, Streetcar Price Increase, and Maybe Bike Bits

Ok, probably not bike bits.  I’m just going to stick to riding for a while and not saying anything else about bikes for a bit, especially since people that ride bikes don’t seem to actually READ my blog before rambling on death threats and such.  But woe is me the ever writing transit user.  So yeah, love blogs, hate taxes, on to new topics.

I have a Green Line MAX Preview ride coming up tomorrow, which should be cool.  I believe the idea is we’ll make the loop around the Portland Mall on one of the new MAX LRVs.  Should rock, I’m looking forward to it.  Also Joleen will be joining me after she rides downtown on her bike (yeah, we ride bikes, did I mention that previously?)

More Bike Comments

So any new readers please note that I’m very pro-bike, so don’t get fussy (Argh I couldn’t not comment).  I love cycling, I have since I’ve lived in Mississippi and even after ALL 6 incidents where a motorist has hit me.  All the motorists where at fault btw – just so you know.  Two of those have been here in PDX.  So I know what it is like to be threatened by automobiles.  It’s a little different than being annoyed by a cyclists blowing a stop sign.  A cyclist might get killed, but if you’re driving your greatest threat is the other vehicles (and yourself) on the road, not the cyclist.

Streetcar Bits

Ok, as expected (by me) the new streetcars will be $3.4 Million EACH!  That’s a FULL MILLION above the price of the original cars that where shipped from the other side of the planet.  We get them in country and they just balloon to $3.4 Million each?  I call foul.  People are a fuss about prospective bike taxes, they need to get a fussing about the price of the streetcars.  I want service, I want frequency, I don’t care that they’re spiffy looking new ones.  I WANT MORE STREETCARS but without the obscene stupid price tag.  Take out the twisty parts, buy some smaller ones, do something.  Sam Adams, Fred, and the rest of you guys come on!  GO PRICE SHOPPING  for some streetcars dammit!  204 where purchased recently by our northern Canadian neighbors who are paying significantly less than we are.  If we piggy backed on that order we could get them for almost a million less per car.  In addition we could probably still get something built HERE in America for vastly less money.  What are you guys doing?  Are you ignoring the price tag on these things and just hoping the streetcars will breed like rabbits or something?  Come on!

Bicycles & My 2 Cents

Ok, so a lot of people jumped my case for the ad without even thinking it through.  They didn’t think the ad through nor did they realize they where attacking a bicycle advocate.  So I just want to get a few things straight right off the bat for any current and future readers.

  1. I don’t support bicycle registration, taxes, or any other nonsense of that sort.  Period.  I’ve already written the politicians involved and they’ve been informed of my opinions as well as other politicians that are directly responsible for the area I actually vote in.  I’ve blogged about this in the past, and have debated such many times and even posted pro-cycling blog entries such as my Bike Dedication & Bike Dedication Part 2.
  2. I’m an advocate of closing MORE streets to pedestrian and cycle only traffic.
  3. I’m an advocate to enforce, encourage, and perpetuate that automobile users pay vastly larger sums of their road usage so that competing modes; bicycles, buses, light rail, passenger rail, and anything else can actually compete fairly on a cost & right of way basis.  That would be vastly better than the lopsided mis-configured mess the Government has us setup with these days that leaves us; vulnerable to foreign energy, dependent on the dirtiest sources out there (oil/coal/etc), and ill-prepared for future progress of technologies without massive subsidies and the need for Government involvement in said affairs.  NOT cool.
  4. I’m also an advocate of using general budget or any other funds to build out bicycle, transit, or other modes to more evenly displace less efficient modes of transport (i.e. cars, etc) in urban environments.  Automobiles have had general budget funds dumped into roadways, often dedicated auto only roadways for decades – almost a century, with barely a few percentage points going to any other mode at all.
  5. I’m for laws that hold motorists accountable for actions committed in automobiles as I support laws that do the same for usage of guns, knives, pools, etc.  I name those because combined, they kill fewer children per year than automobiles, yet we have almost no laws governing the irresponsible and excessive use of the automobile on rural, suburban, and especially urban roads.
  6. I’m for realistic zoning laws that encourage development based around not bikes, transit, or other modes, but around people.  Only zone based on bikes, transit, etc once the necessity for easy human movement between development is fulfilled.  The last thing to be considered should be the intrusive automobile.  Portland is a great case of well designed (mostly private sector) zoning, human scales, and above all market based human interactions versus Government sponsored walls of Interstate Concrete and mass scale planning (even though some SOWA type environments allude to the continued attempts at Central Planning).
  7. If I had my way 100% though, I’d not have a single cent of subsidy in any transportation industry though; cycling, auto, transit, passenger rail, airline, or otherwise.  Subsidies do nothing but unbalance the entire flow and demand, allow society of over utilize and underutilize intelligent lifestyles.  It’s really a mess and should be remedied.  The solution, more manipulation of the population however is an unfortunate characteristic of what the last 50+ years of politics has left us with.

Is all of this stuff logical?  Not always.  But it doesn’t matter, point is, I’d go pretty far to create a more bicycle AND transit friendly HUMAN based environment versus the auto centric dehumanized environment most of this country has oriented itself around.  I moved 2400+ miles (as mentioned before for regular readers) back out here to Portland from other parts of the US.  There was a reason I did this, and it wasn’t because ODOT & WADOT want to build a $4.2 Billion dollar bridge across the Columbia River.  It’s for all the exact opposite of those reasons.

So hopefully that lays out this blog’s vantage point and it isn’t mistaken for an anti-bike blog.  Bicyclists by their mere efforts.  I generally won’t be commenting about bicycling much, but hope some of you keep reading and add to the transit discussions that often takes place here.  Thanks!

…and now, back to our normally scheduled topics on transit.

Light Rail Advantages

Recently I wrote a blog entry regarding the advantages of streetcars (pictures added since I published the first entry on streetcars) over other modes of transit, in many ways in regards to buses.  In this entry I'm covering why light rail, the larger than streetcar, more interurban, self powered mode.  Light rail, since it has similar or lower costs to construct than streetcars has a ton of advantages and they are truly legitimate.  With that, here I go…

Legitimate Reason #1

Light rail carries far more people with a mere two car train than either a streetcar or an extended 70' bus.  Even a single car LRV can often carry a dozen or more people than a single 70' bus.  This mere fact alone creates an efficient solution between needing buses for a corridor, bumping up the throughput, and the next step which would be the major leap to high capacity commuter rail or a subway type system.

Legitimate Reason #2

Over the long term, light rail is easily cheaper than buses to carry passengers in any major transportation corridor.  If the ridership on a bus line is peaking out at 10,000-15,000 per day, the move to light rail to handle greater than 15,000 per day.

Legitimate Reason #3

Yes, light rail, like a streetcar system is consistent and thus provides many of the same development bonuses.  Transit oriented development built around the stops create a great living, working, shopping, and learning incentive for people to travel along those points without the need for a car or other less advantageous mode of transport.

Legitimate Reason #4

Light rail is easier to maintain at a high quality ride level than comparable modes like buses, BRT, or otherwise.  This is especially true with buses that share roads with automobiles & trucking.  Trucking does so much damage to roads that buses often equate to horrible ride quality within just a few years of operating in conjunction with trucks on major corridors.  Light rail, simply does not have this issue since it is a dedicated right of way, and even in rare instance of shared right of way it sits upon tracks, not the always deteriorating roadway.  The tracks do deteriorate, but at a much slower rate than roadways.  Some of this could be remedied for buses by better road construction, but that isn't going to happen anytime soon, especially in the United States.

Legitimate Reason #5

Light rail simply costs a TON of money less than comparable bus service over the lifespan of the vehicles.  Over a period of 20 years, light rail operations often will save enough money over comparable bus service to exceed that of the original capital costs of the system!  With the way our inflationary fractional reserve system works it often recoups the original capital cost in savings in an even shorter period of time around 10-15 years.  The money saved after this initial time span grows to exceed 50%.  In Portland the original Blue Line cars & original Blue Line, already provide this level of savings somewhere around 2x cheaper than what comparable bus service would have cost.

…and yes, to all those in disbelief, I’ll have the numbers up soon.  I have a nifty spreadsheet I’ve been crunching numbers on and have been including a ton of data points.

Legitimate Reason #6

Ok, this is the reason I don't like because it is based on "feel" which generally isn't a good way to measure very many things.  Light rail, compared to most modes of transport, is just COOL.  Whatever other magic word you want to use could be applied; COOL, AWESOME, NIFTY, RAD, etc.  When putting in something like this, that needs a ton of political support, it is vastly important to have the cool factor on your side, regardless of how patently absurd it is.

Legitimate Reason #7

Light rail, just like streetcars, use electrical systems instead of diesel engines (most at least) which create a vehicle with less moving parts, and thus easier to maintain.  Over the long term this creates a lower cost of maintenance.

Legitimate Reason #8

Again, as with streetcars, light rail vehicles last a very long time.  Often far longer than most types of buses or even streetcars.  This in turn, again equates to savings over the long term.  More money for operations, additional vehicles, etc.

As always, stay tuned, keep reading and I’ll have the final couple entries in this series of legitimate reasons for mode X up soon.  The next in the series is passenger rail, and after that I will get to the oft misaligned work horse, the bus.

10:07pm Portland Night, Recollections of a Busy Day

This was my day a few weeks back, just a quick reflection of a day's transit use.  Just thought I’d timeline it to see how it panned out via transit.

  1. Got up for work at 5:25am.
  2. Arrived at South East Grind on Powell at 5:55am via #9 Bus.
  3. Hour of work committed to the code base.
  4. 6:55am, Transit Tracker timed arrival, boarded #9 Bus after walking a block down and off to downtown.
  5. Arrived downtown at 7:04am.
  6. Departed for lunch on #9 at 11:42am.
  7. Arrived via #9 for lunch at 11:55am.
  8. Departed for work at 12:40pm, arrived at 1:08pm.  It seemed, someone had ran into something and all of Powell was delayed.
  9. Arrived at office and committed some code to the mother ship.
  10. Departed office and jumped aboard #4 north bound.  5:42pm.
  11. Arrived just north of Burnside, 5:45pm.  Enjoyed a cup of joe at Backspace.
  12. Departed and hopped to a few places with friends, departed at 9:05pm to the office for backpack pickup.
  13. Headed into office, finalized a few last minute things, headed back out to catch the #9 south bound.  Boarded at 10:07pm.  Arrived home at 10:19pm.

It was a good day.  That is all.  Nice 17+ hour day.

NEWS FLASH – Colorado Railcar Lives!

via Al M at Rantings of a Trimet Bus Driver! Colorado Railcar Lives!


To put it simply, US Railcar LLC of Columbus Ohio have acquired the Colorado Railcar DMU & will resume manufacturing.  It looks like US DMU Manufacturing will stay local to the country, more American jobs.  Now maybe Obama can work with the states, cities, etcetera and get some of these running on lines they should be running on!

…per the article,

US Railcar to Resume Production of Former  Colorado Railcar DMU

Private investors affiliated with Value Recovery Group, Inc. (VRG) of Columbus, OH, have acquired the Colorado Railcar DMU and will resume manufacturing this modern domestically produced  passenger train in a new manufacturing facility to be established later this year pending state/local incentives and final round investments.  Assets acquired by US Railcar include the former Colorado Railcar DMU proprietary rights and information, manufacturing documentation, inventory, and other equipment necessary for production.

According to VRG Chairman & CEO Barry H. Fromm, “US Railcar intends to reestablish passenger train production in the United States.”  Currently, passenger trains purchased in the U.S. today are produced by European and Asian suppliers typically importing 40 of content from overseas. “We want to keep American jobs and U.S. public investment at home,” said Fromm.  “There is a major commitment by the Obama Administration and the Congress to make investments in intercity and high-speed rail to promote economic growth and mobility, create jobs, conserve energy and address climate change.  This opens a new era for passenger trains and railcar manufacturing in the United States.”

US Railcar, LLC will be led by Michael P. Pracht, its President & CEO, a rail industry veteran with extensive past experience at two of the world’s leading rail transportation companies, Siemens and Ansaldo.  US Railcar will manufacture both single- and bi-level Diesel Multiple Units (DMUs) which are self-propelled railcars eliminating the need for more costly locomotive-hauled push/pull trains in lower density corridors.  Both platforms are fully compliant with existing Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) safety standards for crashworthiness as established by Department of Transportation and approved for immediate use on the national rail system.

Unlike European & Asian DMUs, the US Railcar DMU can operate in all mixed-mode freight corridors throughout the country without waivers and/or temporal separation agreements currently required for non-compliant foreign platforms.  “There are extraordinary growth opportunities for passenger rail development,” said US Railcar CEO Mike Pracht.  “The US Railcar DMU will enable new cost-effective passenger rail service across a range of corridors and routes, all with a proven, existing equipment platform already in service.” 

The US Railcar DMU was prototyped through a demonstration project in 2002 and is currently the only FRA-compliant DMU operating in revenue service in North America.  Available in both regional and intercity configurations, the US Railcar DMU is uniquely suited for incremental corridor development at speeds from 79-to-90 mph. Platform enhancements currently anticipated include a diesel-electric upgrade, increasing speeds to 125 mph, making this American-made DMU the ideal solution for both mature and emerging passenger rail agencies around the country.

VRG is an asset recovery and management firm that specializes in asset management, advisory and asset recovery services for state and local governments, commercial banks, private investors and several federal agencies, including the FDIC.  VRG also manages a brownfield remediation and redevelopment partnership and serves as consultant to advanced energy programs for state and federal agencies.  More information about Value Recovery Group can be found atwww.valuerecovery.com.”