Oh Dear, The Traffic is Horrible

[RANT ON]

Ok, I officially gave someone gruff for this recently.  I’ll lay it out simple and fast.  If you are late because of traffic, you are still late and it is your fault.  Don’t blame the inanimate progression of induced demand that has left you stuck because you where ill-prepared to understand or navigate your way to you destination.

Sure, sometimes it is hard to plan around, but you still need to plan around it.  You need to be prepared.  When you’re late because of traffic you should state, “I didn’t prepare well for the traffic on the trip”.  Instead of, “oh the traffic was horrible” as if suggesting it is everyone else’s fault.  Shut up and take it like a smart person, realize when you screwed up and get to work, get to wherever you’re going and don’t shrug off the responsibility.

Better yet, if you don’t want to deal with traffic, take transit.  The travel times are vastly more reliable than automobile travel times through traffic.  Even though transit is often in traffic, it often doesn’t run through the main arterials (like I-5 & I-84 in PDX) and in key choke points buses often have dedicated turn offs and light rail has dedicated ROW.  So get off the idea that somehow you should shirk responsibility for being late because of traffic.

If you want an even more reliable mode of transport than driving and transit, ride a bike.  I’m not kidding, get off your lazy butt and ride a bike.  Don’t feed me some crap about, “it’s rainy” or “it’s dirty” or “I might get sweaty” or blagh blagh blagh.  There are ways to fix 90% of the sorry excuses to not bike.

Last but not least, if you want the most reliable mode of transport – WALK.  Again, no weak & pathetic excuses about “I live too far away” or “But my feet hurt” or “but I don’t have walking shoes”.  Again, I don’t care.  Get to work, show up on time when other people need you to be there.  If you live too far away, again, that’s your fault and a bad choice might I add, if you’re feet hurt you probably need to walk a LOT more, if you don’t have shoes, GO BUY SOME!!  Either way, there is no excuse.

It is YOUR FAULT and YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to show up on time.

[RANT OFF]

Thanks, this has been a public announcement of common sense by the Transit Sleuth.

Transit & Passenger Rail News Bits

CATS survey: “LRT riders not former bus users”

“North Carolina’s Charlotte Area Transit System Thursday disclosed survey results finding that 72% of Lynx LRT riders are new to public transportation and hadn’t used buses before. Among those riders surveyed who previously had traveled by means other than a single-occupant vehicle, 21% of Lynx passengers previously rode a bus, while another 6% either used a CATS vanpool or another form of carpooling.”

http://www.railwayage.com/breaking-news/cats-survey-lrt-riders-not-former-bus-users.html

There are a couple deductions that can be made here and they link back to the previous entry of how to increase transit ridership.  The first observation is that light rail installations continue to do what they’re famous for, handling existing bus ridership, while drastically increasing ridership by gaining new riders.  In the case of the CATS System 72% of new riders are brand new to public transport.  In almost every area light rail is installed, this happens.

Now some might say, “wait a second, they had crappy bus lines before…”  and yadda yadda yadda.  Actually, Charlotte had some pretty decent bus lines, that where fairly timely.  They even had a FREE line downtown that ran about every 5 minutes.  None of them garnered as much ridership, even remotely, compared to the light rail.

However

In Seattle though, the light rail has a much greater reputation to outshine.  The reason is simple.  Seattle has an amazing bus system.  For the light rail there to shine as brightly and outclass the bus lines in ridership it will have to carry a seriously HUGE number of people.  So far, it is off to an average start.  It looks like, even there, the light rail by middle of 2010 will do what the other light rail systems around the country have done.  Carry more, quicker, and more efficiently than the pre-existing bus lines.

Costs – Was it Worth It?

One of the other things though, that comes with light rail is the initial capital costs that are massive.  In the case of Seattle they’ve set new records for highest cost per mile.  One reason though, is that they dug a tunnel, laid new track in an existing tunnel, and about half the entire line is raised above ground – and mighty high might I add.  This raises the question why and what for?

This is also somewhat simple.  They wanted to the light rail to stand between buses and commuter rails.  They didn’t start running it to compete with buses or replace them, nor to take the place of commuter rail, but instead to complement the systems.  The light rail is an arterial service.  None of the bus lines are setup similar to the light rail.  The buses that exist within the system are either express, or locals.  Both of which again, act in different ways and for different purposes than the light rail or the commuter rail.

In every case the idea is to gain ridership that otherwise wouldn’t touch transit.  Light rail does that, so does regular and timely (most of the time) bus service.  These are two things Seattle has.

Portland Bus Service

Portland is different from Charlotte and Seattle in major ways.  Different population size, different geographic relief, and of course different politics in each location.  Portland has many advantages and some disadvantages as each city has.  Portland’s bus system is oriented toward local runs.  Only a handful of bus routes in Portland exist as express routes and none of them exist as high capacity bus routes as some do in Seattle.

In some ways, Portland bus service is very similar to that in Seattle and in many ways it is not.  It was first to gain many of the benefits and ridership benefits of transit tracker and other such tools.  Seattle took ages to catch on with their own system.  Portland has been noted for better and more readable stops (ya know, the ones that are marked), and an easier system to understand from a scheduling and rider point of view.  However Seattle often has more frequency on a lot of routes, more bus options, and above all has a VASTLY cleaner bus system.

One thing Portland has definitely done is gain massive ridership with light rail that otherwise would not have been made with mere bus improvements, and highly unlikely even with BRT.  Seattle is only now catching up with their own light rail system, and paying dearly for it (many x what Portland has paid per mile for ours, tunnel included).  Seattle has many opportunities for growth along their line as Portland has had along ours.  However Seattle also has opportunities to not make some of the stupid mistakes we’ve made here in Portland (like the stupid turn around at Sunset Transit Center or some of the other nonsense).

But as with all the parts I describe here in Seattle, Portland, and Charlotte one thing is constant, each city has major advantages over other cities to attract talent than cities without it.  On a per capita basis I can rest assured that these cities, even through and after the recession/depression we’re currently in, will maintain a more educated, talented, and capable populace than other cities of their respective size that don’t have a structured, well managed, and mixed mode transit system.  Matter of fact every major city that has livability and increasingly capable population segments and technologically advanced workforces have and continue to invest in having elaborate and capable transit systems.  Case in point, Sacramento, Dallas, and other similar cities.

So what are the next steps?  Some might say enough is enough, it doesn’t do enough for us so stop building light rail.  However more tend to say that they love it and want more.  In poll after poll people say they want high quality transit options.  Time and again, high quality tends to garner significant ridership increases.

Even though I don’t agree with every move TriMet, Metro, Sound Transit, or CATS makes I do believe they need to stay the course.  Even though I somewhat agree that more focus needs to be made to help people realize buses aren’t low quality or low class transportation.  But by all means we shouldn’t waste ourselves trying to convince a society that will only be shown by example.  Continually building primary arterials with high quality transit as back bones, with buses, streetcars, and other modes to provide local trips is the way to do it.  With just a mere double digit percentile of the population using transit in Seattle and Portland, it makes these two cities world class and well known.  Charlotte with the newly mixed modes available, is quickly moving toward a world class status of its own.  As ridership gains more ground over the coming years, these cities will stand even brighter in the world spotlight of American cities while those cities that don’t build out, will fade and dim any hope they have to compete.

So I say, stay the course.  That is all.

How Good is Your Transit’s Website?

I do a lot of web development work.  One of the things I’ve always noticed, which has bothered me, is how horrible most transit websites are.  So I’ve put together a list and am hoping I can get some feedback from users.  Once I get the user feedback I’m going to roll together a report of actual usability on each of the sites compared to each other.  With that said, here’s the list.

The following sites are more specific, not to general transit, but to a specific company or line.

Slamming Transit Ridership

Aside from the fact the economy has less people going to work than it has in a long long time, it seems TriMet’s ridership stats aren’t getting any love from other angles either.  Gas prices haven’t resumed their highs of last year (which wouldn’t really make sense anyway, about $3.00 a gallon is economically reasonable).  Overall, juts not a whole lot of inner city reasons to travel.

With that bus ridership saw double digit ridership decreases, while MAX saw high single digit decreases.  Overall, it seems the MAX & bus lines continue a running decrease from the highs of last year, but the overall trend year over year is still up.  These slight bounces down in ridership just put ridership closer to the average upwards trending that TriMet has seen over the last decade.  I guess next month we’ll probably see a continued ongoing dip of between 5-15% for buses & MAX, while WES ridership will remain at a low of 1100-1300 for weekday boarding.

July ridership report

8.5 million trips taken in July

For the month of July, there were 8.5 million trips, down 8 percent from July 2008. Ridership is impacted by the recession, double-digit unemployment and lower gas prices that were at records levels last year. All ridership categories were down and figures below are compared to July 2008:

Bus, MAX & WES
  • Weekly trips were 1,907,350, down 8.8 percent
  • Weekday trips were 308,300, down 9.6 percent
  • Weekend trips were 365,700, down 5.4 percent
  • Rush hour trips were 92,130, down 14.3 percent
Bus
  • Weekly bus trips were 1,172,100, down 10.3 percent
  • Weekday bus trips were 193,800, down 11.2 percent
  • Weekend bus trips were 203,100, down 5.7 percent
  • Rush hour bus trips were 58,800, down 17.3 percent
MAX
  • Weekly MAX trips were 729,600, down 7 percent
  • Weekday MAX trips were 113,400, down 7.6 percent
  • Weekend MAX trips were 162,600, down 5 percent
  • Rush hour trips were 32,200, down 11.5 percent
WES (weekday rush hour service)
  • Weekly WES trips totaled 5,650
  • Weekday trips averaged 1,130 boardings.

A few things I would like to point out.  The MAX during rush hour carries 32,200 people into town.  The equivalent of a 4+ lane Interstate in the space of only 2 lanes (i.e. 2 tracks).  No other Interstate, including the 4 lanes of I-84, the 4 lanes of Hwy 26, the 6 lanes of I-5 south or the 4/6 lanes of I-5 north carry that many people in and out of downtown.  That statistic, 32,200 is without the Green line being open or the Yellow line using the north south mall tracks.  When the other line is running and the Yellow line flows the alternate way we could very well see this number grow dramatically.  I look forward to those numbers.

The buses, also bring in more than any particular major arterial all while not requiring ROW (right of way), nor significantly impacting any traffic flow.  A major bang for the buck.  The entire TriMet system cost less than it would cost to put a new 8+ lane Interstate into town (the minimum it would take to flow this number of trips into and out of the city).  With that, and operations covered at about 57% on average (75% if MAX only) I’m feeling pretty good about my tax dollars being spent via TriMet.  I know however, there is more to do and more improvements to be made.

A Lead Up To Better Transit Ridership

I got to thinking, a lot of ridership on transit, regardless of what seems to be at the root of the conversation, has nothing to do with the actual vehicle.  A large part of it has to do with the ease of use, flexibility, and other criteria.  Sure people like light rail, some go gaga over streetcars, and some hold out their passion for buses, but in the end if there is no vehicle when you want to, need to, or whimsically need to go where you are going you don’t ride transit.

So where does that leave us?  The question is simple, what criteria must be met in order to attain higher ridership?

Some of the current systems, features, and usability requirements for attracting ridership are obvious;

  • Timely:  A vehicle has to be frequent enough on a route to gain ridership.  If one can’t get to and from their origin and destination in a reasonable time then that really puts a damper on increasing ridership.
  • On-Schedule: Even more than frequent, a vehicle has to be on time.  If it doesn’t show up, then what is one supposed to do?  Hold it on faith that the vehicle might show up?  It doesn’t build up motivation to take transit if the vehicle doesn’t arrive when the promised arrival time is.

Thinking Out of The Transit Box

The other things that have really bumped up the ridership for a lot of routes, enabling people to schedule around routes that might have untimely or slightly off-schedule runs, is GPS based tracking.  TriMet (did it first – props), New Jersey Transit, King County Metro (Seattle), MUNI, and others now all have this tracking ability.  It has mitigated loosing ridership and has gained an untold number of riders.

Another feature that has bumped up ridership in certain areas is wireless Internet access.  On the Sound Transit System between Seattle and points north and south, the Sounder Trains have wireless access.  One can watch any train of the day go by packed with patrons, dozens of them working away on the laptops at the tables or even in their laps.  On the express buses Sound Transit has also had wireless for some time, which attracts a lot of the Microsoft, Boeing, and other technology workers.

These two features have attracted increases in transit ridership that otherwise, would not have been made.  But what else could transit agencies do to really gain ridership?  Especially today, with the financing difficulties, what could be done on the cheap.  GPS tracking isn’t too pricy nor is Internet access, but in today’s tight market its difficult even for these amenities to be purchased?

Please comment with any ideas you might have, I’d love to really get some new and inventive ideas out to the brass to implement.  In a following post I’ll have a collected set of ideas, plus will have some existing ideas and how to make them better (such as website enhancements).

Low Cost Transit Floods City With Crime

I’ve been sick and tired of these crap statistics that do not have factual correlations being drawn in society.  One of the big fluff stories that has come up time and time again, especially here in Portland, is that light rail brings crime to an area.  The other, more general assertion is that transit brings crime to an area.  Fact is, there is no cause based correlation to be drawn between the two.  Other indicators are what actually ties to crime.

Take for instance the top 100 least safe cities.  I’ve included a list below in case you don’t follow the link.  I’ve scoured each, curious myself, to see if any of these cities has light rail.  Out of these areas the only city that sort of has light rail is Trenton, part of a line.  Strange thing is, all the crime existed before they got the light rail.  It is also 83rd on the list.  Distinctly, one of the cities that is NOT ON THE LIST, is Portland.  Because our crime rate doesn’t even rate on cities with serious crime.  Hopefully it stays that way.

Point being, saying light rail, or transit in general, promotes or provides crime increases to an area is simply not true.  You want to figure out where crime is you have to look at other indicators or you’ll merely be lying to yourself.  For now, enjoy this list of least safe cities, and I’ll be back later with more top city lists and some correlations, with and without causation to discuss what’s up, and what isn’t.  Media be warned, I’m watching your BS – try to keep it straight.

Top 100 Least Safe Cities (www.city-data.com)

  1. Markham, Illinois (2484.9)
  2. East St. Louis, Illinois (2173.9)
  3. Washington Park, Illinois (2132.8)
  4. Hammond, Louisiana (1771.6)
  5. Ocean City, Maryland (1452.9)
  6. Florida City, Florida (1412.3)
  7. Emeryville, California (1344.9)
  8. Lancaster, South Carolina (1338.6)
  9. Wildwood, New Jersey (1315.6)
  10. St. Louis, Missouri (1307.8)
  11. Palatka, Florida (1283.5)
  12. Anniston, Alabama (1282.4)
  13. Atlanta, Georgia (1235.6)
  14. Denham Springs, Louisiana (1184.3)
  15. Gallup, New Mexico (1155.7)
  16. Atlantic City, New Jersey (1155.4)
  17. Fairfield, Alabama (1144.5)
  18. Muskegon Heights, Michigan (1128.8)
  19. Fort Myers, Florida (1127.5)
  20. Salisbury, Maryland (1122.5)
  21. South Tucson, Arizona (1119.7)
  22. Riviera Beach, Florida (1109.6)
  23. Prichard, Alabama (1108.3)
  24. Fort Pierce, Florida (1105.2)
  25. Lumberton, North Carolina (1096.6)
  26. Cocoa, Florida (1092.4)
  27. Lake City, South Carolina (1084.0)
  28. Moss Point, Mississippi (1079.6)
  29. Hapeville, Georgia (1069.4)
  30. Detroit, Michigan (1067.2)
  31. Tampa, Florida (1067.0)
  32. Irvington, New Jersey (1059.8)
  33. Belen, New Mexico (1051.0)
  34. Tukwila, Washington (1049.7)
  35. Benton Harbor, Michigan (1046.0)
  36. East Chicago, Indiana (1045.1)
  37. Hartsville, South Carolina (1029.1)
  38. Baltimore, Maryland (1025.1)
  39. Branson, Missouri (1025.0)
  40. Homestead, Florida (1020.8)
  41. Asbury Park, New Jersey (1009.5)
  42. Chattanooga, Tennessee (1008.6)
  43. Douglas, Georgia (1008.4)
  44. Orlando, Florida (995.4)
  45. Brunswick, Georgia (985.5)
  46. Camden, New Jersey (982.4)
  47. Lake City, Florida (976.9)
  48. Pigeon Forge, Tennessee (976.2)
  49. Panama City Beach, Florida (975.1)
  50. Quincy, Florida (969.1)
  51. Kansas City, Missouri (968.0)
  52. Centreville, Illinois (967.4)
  53. Broadview, Illinois (966.8)
  54. Kings Mountain, North Carolina (964.8)
  55. Selma, North Carolina (956.8)
  56. West Columbia, South Carolina (952.4)
  57. Los Lunas, New Mexico (950.5)
  58. Memphis, Tennessee (948.5)
  59. Miami Beach, Florida (941.1)
  60. West Palm Beach, Florida (939.9)
  61. College Park, Georgia (932.2)
  62. Miami, Florida (920.3)
  63. Paris, Texas (917.2)
  64. Florence, South Carolina (914.8)
  65. Blytheville, Arkansas (914.6)
  66. Smithfield, North Carolina (913.4)
  67. Portsmouth, Ohio (912.8)
  68. Dayton, Ohio (912.1)
  69. Dade City, Florida (911.2)
  70. Daytona Beach, Florida (909.9)
  71. Forrest City, Arkansas (904.1)
  72. Commerce, California (902.5)
  73. Monroe, Louisiana (892.3)
  74. East Orange, New Jersey (887.5)
  75. Jackson, Mississippi (887.1)
  76. Trumann, Arkansas (886.1)
  77. Leesburg, Florida (880.5)
  78. Ripley, Tennessee (878.9)
  79. Belle Glade, Florida (877.5)
  80. Plaquemine, Louisiana (877.2)
  81. Flint, Michigan (876.5)
  82. Duquesne, Pennsylvania (873.4)
  83. Trenton, New Jersey (872.0)
  84. Desert Hot Springs, California (865.2)
  85. Moultrie, Georgia (863.9)
  86. Battle Creek, Michigan (863.7)
  87. Springfield, Massachusetts (860.1)
  88. Dunn, North Carolina (859.3)
  89. Sanford, Florida (857.8)
  90. Richmond, Virginia (857.0)
  91. Waynesboro, Georgia (850.8)
  92. Orange, New Jersey (850.1)
  93. Wilmington, North Carolina (849.9)
  94. Dallas, Texas (849.3)
  95. Spartanburg, South Carolina (847.9)
  96. Pontoon Beach, Illinois (845.9)
  97. Shelby, North Carolina (839.6)
  98. Live Oak, Florida (835.7)
  99. Gastonia, North Carolina (833.4)
  100. Hillsborough, North Carolina (832.8)

 

 

How Best to Improve Transit in Portland, Bus Studies

I’ve been scoping out various Portland routes, as has my girl Jo as she heads out via transit to work and such.  Here are some of the observations about the routes, what could be done to improve them and how they work great already.

#9 Powell/27th Saratoga – This is our main bus route into downtown Portland and pretty much the main connector to every other route we might also take somewhere.

  • The Bad:  This route is in desperate need of increased capacity during the rush hours.  Also the bunching that occurs causes the capacity to go down as the buses don’t always arrive in good consistent timings.  This route would be the prime route to bump up to light rail next.  I would strongly encourage Portland & TriMet to make this line a priority.  The development, ridership, and increased positive views TriMet could get from riders if this line was improved would be vast.  Technically, it is probably a better option for light rail than the current Milwaukee Light Rail effort.
  • The Good:  The bus line is a frequent service line, which during rush hours has about a dozen buses come by per hour giving us some great service in those hours.  The line also runs late into the night and the last bus into and out of downtown swings by around 1am.  The route as it exists is extremely useful and has huge ridership counts.
  • Route Summary:  As soon as possible bump the service levels between downtown and the I-205 stretch of the #9 route to light rail.  Just skip BRT, the LRT would immediately gain ridership far beyond what would be attained by BRT.  In addition the development potential for this route is great for BRT, and massive for LRT.  If light rail connected to the Green Line and into PSU & downtown it would most likely become the most ridden line in the city.  I’d bet a few grand on that easy.

#4 Division/Fessenden – This is our secondary route into and out of downtown, and to the lively Division Street stores and restaurants.

  • The Good:  There are literally over a hundred destinations along Division that this bus stops at between the east bank of the Willamette and 82nd.  In addition this bus cuts through downtown and heads north through the Rose Quarter and up along Mississippi, cutting across the Yellow Line MAX, and even further.  I’d have to say, this bus is connected to more cool stuff in Portland than any other route in the city, hand down!  The #4 also is a frequent service bus, but starts cutting out much earlier than the #9 and besides the rush hour, is not as heavily ridden after about 9pm.  Altogether though, it is an awesome route.
  • The Bad:  This is another route that could use larger buses during rush hour.  There really isn’t the space to place light rail or even BRT, that should be left to Powell & the #9 route.  However larger buses that could almost double the capacity, some dedicated ROW along some stretches, and better express type service to downtown along this route from 60th, 82nd, and beyond would do wonders for this route.  From riding it appears about 10% of the riders, especially during rush hour, are traveling form the far reaches of the route to downtown.  About 20% of the riders are close in and ride downtown and about 70% of the riders are in between short hops between 39th and Gresham.  Extremely hard to manage.
  • Route Summary:  Bump up to longer buses, maintain the same frequency and reduce bunching to eliminate unneeded runs.

Anyone else have any major routes they would like to see service fixed on.  Better yet, any props you want to send to TriMet for excellent service on a particular route or props to a driver or drivers on a route?  Let me know and we can work up some joint entries for cross posting.