Clackamas Green Line

After work, just for kicks, I decided to check out how that Green Line Ridership was for the 6:18pm Departure from PSU.  I headed out of office a few minutes before I took up a stand at the north bound Pioneer Square Stop.  There was a Wackenhut Transit Security staffer standing on the platform, who walked by me and directed a guy to stop sitting on the MAX stop curb.  The individual was sitting there, not bothering a soul, with his legs in the street.  I could understand the reasoning, but, the way the security guy said it, “There’s plenty of courthouse you don’t need to sit there” made him out as rather crass.  No smoothness about that action.

A few moments later a beautiful young lady was asking some of the street kids where Satyricon is, which surprisingly none of them knew.  So I asked her as she walked her model self my direction, "did they tell you where it is?" to which she replied, "naw, they didn’t know".  I smiled and gave a quick direction of, “either jump on the MAX coming and get off the third stop from here, or just keep walking”.  She replied with a smile, “oh cool, thanks, but I think I’ll walk I need to walk”.  When she walked away toward Satyricon I was fine with that.  She was, after all, one of those painstakingly beautiful young ladies.

After she waltzed off I boarded the Green Line at 6:20pm.  In short order we began rolling and came to the next stop.  There she boarded and spotted me.  I told her, “you sure didn’t make it very far” with some jest.  She pulled the cranked ear phones thrashing metal from the speaker buds and said, “I know, but do you see what I’m wearing”.  She pulled up her high heeled boots she was wearing and displayed them to me as she walked over.  She sat down and we chatted about the bands that where playing.  Crew (?spelling) and two others.  Local bands, and jeez it made me feel geezerly not knowing what the heck was up with the younger scene.  It seems if it isn’t one of the big metal acts out of Europe I tend not to have a clue as to what a band is.

We rolled on, I pointed out Satyricon to the young lady to which she bounced off, euphoric as to achieving her destination.  Again, we rolled on from there, to the next stop, on through the turn at Union Station and across the cross over and stopped at the light.  There we stopped and waited a moment for the signal to turn.  The Steele Bridge held steady to our left as a Union Pacific freight inched across the bridge.  Her horns starting to blare, causing some of the nearby runners to pay a little more attention.

We pulled up onto the bridge without delay as the signal switched and made it across and into the Rose Quarter.  This was definitely smoother than opening day.  At this point the train started to gain a number of passengers, but barely any where heading to Clackamas.  Most were conversing and I was able to ascertain that about 5-6 people on the car I was on were heading to Clackamas, or along that line.  Everyone else aboard, which numbered about 40 people, were headed somewhere within the Banfield Corridor between Lloyd Center out to Gateway Transit Center.

Clearing the Lloyd Center stop we cruised out at top speed toward 42nd Avenue.  Without a blink we pulled in and gained a half dozen riders and shed about the same.  The time read 6:42pm as we made our way, passing or passing traffic on I-84.  At this time of day, and with the sour job market a factor, there was little traffic along I-84.  The interesting bit is, if one were to do the math, with our three lines carrying passengers, the MAX with its one track was matching the number of people in that 3 lanes of Interstate Traffic.  When in full use, the 3 lanes absolutely carries more than the single lane of light rail traffic, but right the fact was there wasn’t that many people traveling along the corridor.

We pulled into Gateway and there were several officers, passengers, and others loitering about waiting for buses, light rail, or to depart across the way toward the shopping areas.  We got rid of a few passengers but gained an easy 20 at this stop.  That put us up to an easy 55-60 people.

The traffic on I-205 was a slightly different story than the I-84 traffic.  It wasn’t much different, but it was a little lighter along this corridor.  Considering the traffic, general activity, and almost chaos of just 1-2 years ago this lower traffic demand is surreal.

The Green Line LRV Set made it about 1000ft from Gateway and stopped.  It appeared that a fare inspector detrained or maybe he was already there?  I’m not sure, but it was somewhat strange that he was standing there between the LRV Set as we rolled away after stopping.

At the next stop the friendly Mexican Family detrained.  They were smiling and talking in their native language, which always puts my mono-lingual mind at a disadvantage.  I did however pick up a few of the kind words and chit chat they were having among themselves.  It is refreshing to hear conversation like this, calm, caring, among a family.  The one factual bit I had picked up, was that they were headed to Target.

We pulled into the Division Station in a few seconds and on into the Powell Station.  I was going to detrain at the Powell Station, but I decided to head on down and detrain at the Foster Station and jump on a #14, which I would then take and switch to Powell and get a #9 at that point.  Being I have seen the Powell Street Stop before, and its rather long transfer path, I figured it was time to check out the Foster Stop and see how that stop area was shaping up.

I took a walk down to the Lents/Foster stop area, and began my wait for the #14 west bound.  I walked along Foster instead of immediately boarding the waiting #14.  I must admit, this is a super easy and comfortable transfer point with the #14, and #10 if it is there, sit waiting to depart.  Often one can board the bus there and wait inside the bus.  This will be a bonus for people transferring here when it gets cold.

The area has a somewhat small town center feel to it, not sure if it is considered a town center, but sure seems that it is.  There are several shops and such, a bakery around the corner, and a cafe just a block or so down the street from the stop.

The #14 came along in no less than a minute or so of my reaching the first bus stop I came to.  I stepped aboard with one other waiting passenger.  She was a strangely frumpy thing, but smiled with the warmth of a friendly stranger.  By approximately 60th we had about 11 people aboard.  As we pulled into the newly growing and lively 60th street area we gained a few more.

This area, has really surprised me over the last 2 years.  2 Years ago there was barely 1-2 store fronts out of 20+ that had operative businesses.  Now, in the depth of this new depression, this street had maybe 2-3 empty store fronts out of the 20+ that are along this street.  In addition, along the edges of the area, around 63rd running east and 58th running west, store fronts have been rebuilt.  These places now host operating businesses.  Overall it makes for a truly growing and lively area.  Food choices from Vietnamese Bakery to Hawaiian Barbecue.

We rolled by the famous Devil’s Point and onto the transfer point at Powell for the #9.  I strolled off of the bus and over to the 52nd & Powell stop for my transfer point wait time.  I checked via transit tracker to see what the ETA was, which shot me back a 6 minute estimate.  I decided that was fine to just wait, if it had been 10 or more minutes, I’d have pulled the laptop out and continued typing at this very entry.

The homeward bound #9 arrived with one of the regular drivers. 
He nodded as I boarded with my pass, and I walked around the guy continuing to count change for his fare.  I took a seat and whipped the laptop out for this last segment of my trip.

After barely a paragraph or two I found myself in another conversation with a few of the riders.  The topic was of a general nature about what was along this route.  I gladly provided some tidbits about what they where looking for.

Wanderlust quenched I arrived home, and that was my commute home, around about east side Portland.

Dynamic Congestion Based BRT?

The downtown Portland transit mall is sort of like BRT.  It has dedicated right of way solely for use by the buses and light rail.  Outside of the transit mall we have several other places leading into town where the buses break off from traffic and are in bus only lanes.  These lanes work exceptionally well in most places.

Powell Street – Powell Street leading to the Powell and Milwaukee, and from Powell and Milwaukee to about 800ft. before the Ross Island Bridge both have areas of bus only right of way.  The lanes are however not separated by any physical device, and often there are wandering cars or trucks that roll into the lane causing delays and such.

Hawthorne/Madison – Leading up to the Hawthorne Bridge there is a lane for almost the length of Madison that has a bus only lane for certain hours of the day.  I believe it ends at 9:00am, but it also works very effectively against congestion.

I ponder where else there might be places for BRT style break outs like this.  Are there any other routes in the area that could directly benefit from dedicated lanes, or possibly even separated dedicated BRT style right of ways?

Holy Bujeezus a Fare Inspector on the Bus!

While heading home tonight on the #9 at the end of fare-less square a, gasp, fare inspector boarded and checked everyone’s fare.  Of course, as expected everyone on the bus had valid fare.  I think 95% of fare evasion occurs on the MAX, since it is inherently more vulnerable.  The inspector was one of the newer guys for sure, I haven’t seen him before and I think at some point I’ve met every fare inspector on the system that has been working more than 3-4 years.

The fare inspector popping on and off the bus was cool, but what got me writing this entry is pondering what the return on investment is for one form of transport over another.  The obvious answer is simply, it depends.  Measuring transport based solely on one measurement, such as per rider, per mile, per gallon, or otherwise doesn’t really tell one anything about returns.  A person, a town or city, or society gets when people travel by one mode or don’t travel by a particular mode varies depending on too many factors that I won’t even begin to list them.

For instance, New York gains billions by slight changes in subway efficiency or a couple lines being shut down for a few days.  Meanwhile, Portland loses service during the winter for days on end, and it doesn’t cause a blip on anyone’s radar outside of Portland.

Another thought, what happens if a couple major Interstates shutdown.  Let’s say the I-405 shuts down in LA.  The city becomes crippled beyond operation, at least, that segment of LA, which is by far a vast segment of LA.  If one Interstate shuts down like that in New York, barely a word would be mentioned outside the city.  But if part of the subway system is shut down, it would make world news.  Why?  Because in LA the Interstates are the primary mode of transport, in New York the transit is how one gets in and out of that city.

In both cities, one mode over another would obviously add or subtract differing positives and negatives.  If New York had an Interstate cut into its heart, it would probably lose more money than it could ever gain from Interstate access.  But add a Subway, and local values skyrocket and billions are netted just from the ridership.  Do the same in LA and nobody notices.  Just ask an average American about the subways in LA, they probably won’t even know they have one.

Either which way, it makes one ponder what are the best avenues of investment for the Portland area.  Overall I see TriMet & Metro making some good steps in the right direction, but there are some that do concern me.

The Green Line Arrives in Portland

The first thing I saw the morning of Saturday, while waiting for the #9 to arrive was one of the builders of America.  With over 150 years of building America under its belt, one more train rolled by with a double stack cargo container consist.  Union Pacific, silently and ghost like serves the nation without many even knowing they exist.  I couldn’t help but wonder, where are the parades and celebrations for these trains? But I do digress, on to the Green Line!

Kicking Off the Green Line

As planned the Green Line kicked off operations yesterday.  I must say it was a bit smoother than the Yellow Line switch over, I’m guessing they’ve ironed out a bit more of the signals that were operating oddly 2 weeks ago.  So today, Sunday, is now full operations day #1, and tomorrow will be the first day of operations under regular commuter capacity loads.  Yesterday however was probably at the expected 25,000 or so trips taken on the line.

Train #1 – The Politicos Arrive

Our leadership at the FTA, local and otherwise arrived after their Clackamas Town Center kick off earlier.  I guess it was sometime around 10am-ish.  The drum core was playing and the college cheer leading squad was down to cheer as the politicians arrived and proceeded to the speaking platform.

To the left I saw Jason McHuff filming some video of the drum core just before the politicians’ arrival, to the right Jo and Don surveyed the growing crowd.  I stood afar before diving into the Seattle’s Best for a morning coffee.  Sure, it was almost 11am, but I had not had much of the day to wake up yet.

The politicians arrived and started to do their speaking, which led my father, mother, Don, Jo, John, and I to head off for a bit to do something interesting. John ran into one of the "recall Sam Adams" people, and after a minute of hearing the lady’s spiel I butt in to lay down my 2 cents.  We both concurred that the recall effort was mostly grasping at straws, even if successful, vain at best.  In general, if you do or do not support Sam, the effort is a waste of time.  In addition, there is a simple fact to remember, even when they do not intend to, politicians lie.

Back on the events of the day, we continued our trek via streetcar to the Farmer’s Market.  There Jo & Don picked up some kicking Pine State Biscuits.  Pops, mother, John, and I wandered around checking out various market items.  We caught a raggy time band jamming away upon our approach to the market.

After about 30 minutes we headed back to see about catching a Green Line Train to Clackamas.

We walked up just as the first politician’s train was departing.  It left at 11:24am instead of the advertised 11:30am.  I stated simply, “I guess we won’t be catching that ride.”  We waited, a Type-4 Yellow Line LRV set arrived and departed.  The next set arrived was a Type-3 & Type-1.  Some of the crew was bummed that we wouldn’t be able to ride one of the new trains.  I figured we’d be able to jump aboard a Type-4 set at some point so it didn’t bother me too much.

We made decent time heading out of town, with no delays initially.  At each stop as we passed through, people were enjoying the various booths, tents, events, and such.  Overall the mood was ecstatic.  John, who is from the DC area, enjoyed the ride out, as did all our other crew.

Don, who is a navy man who lives in the Philippines also enjoyed the trip.  He’s in town waiting on his ship to depart, and Friday night Jo and I had met him at Clackamas Town Center (the Mall).  He had arrived there by travelling from Swan Island on the #72 the length of the entire route.  He was more than chill with riding the bus, having been all over the world, one usually doesn’t have any issue getting around.  He did quip, “it’s nicer riding the train the distance than the bus”.

After a wander about the mall, a small snippet of eats, we all headed back downtown and off to various directions.  Jo & Don headed to Target off of the I-205 Mall Stop, I headed back downtown, John & Father headed up to the airport by riding the #72 and transferring to the Red Line.

Streetcar Press – It’s all about the information.

While on way out to Clackamas TC I just happened to meet Justin H. Wright, Publisher at Streetcar Press.  We had a nice long conversation while en route to Clackamas Town Center.  Check out some of the materials published over at the Streetcar Press Website.  I’ll definitely have to meet up and discuss some other possible materials that I could contribute to in the future.

Max, Jason.  We Three Transit Amigos

On the way back the Green, Yellow, Blue, and Red had all started to clump a bit in the Banfield Corridor.  This caused a 10 minute delay in arrival back downtown.  Thus I arrived 10 minutes late to meet up with Max Campos and Jason McHuff.

We all boarded up on a Green Line departure for Clackamas TC after a tour through the Pioneer Square exhibits.  Pioneer Square was a great show, with all sorts of booths and even a bus on display in the square.  We eventually made it all the way to Clackamas Town Center, wandered around the booths and such for a few minutes, and then headed back north.

We discussed dozens of different topics including why we were into transit in general.  Max also pointed out many of the different points of data acquisition and other things available via TriMet.  Great trip, great conversation, will absolutely have to have a get together again in the future.  Yes, I will get on that immediately.  Still trying to find the time to setup a meet.

While out at Clackamas Town Center stop I grabbed a few shots of the line waiting to board the MAX heading back downtown.

The lines and crowds were impressive.  I have little doubt TriMet met expectations of 25,000 plus trips made on opening day.  I just wonder now if they’ll be able to blow past my estimates made in my ridership estimates entry.

I do suspect that the mall will provide a great anchor for the MAX Green Line, I also have my doubts about it providing a significant rider count.  It is possible though, as this mall is the first real suburban mall connected via MAX besides Pioneer Place Mall.  This mall will really provide evidence that light rail can attract young riders that are the standard suburban mall bunnies (or whatever you would call them).  If the line garners a high rider count of young people to and from the mall it could provide catalyst for even further expansion of light rail to these types of end points.

Along the ride a few shots of the green line trains.  The Type-4 LRV set display the Green Line with the little green light, dots, or whatever you would call that green square.  The traditional Typee 1-3s all show the Green Line with a standard green banner display across the front and sides of the LRVs.

The following shots of the MAX show a Type-4 headed to City Center, a Type-3 (or 2?) heading to Clackamas Town Center, and a Type-4 headed to PSU.

I did notice that when the LRVs get to Clackamas TC the icon on the Type 4’s goes hot pink and then shows PSU as the next destination.  Some of the arrivals however showed City Center as the destination instead of PSU.  I suspect that may have something to do with the particular train going in or out of service.  If so, that really throws a curve ball in for planning a trip, hope that doesn’t mess up riders.

Another great thing at the Clackamas TC is the storm swales.  These provide a beautiful addition to the stop but also a very functional cleansing of the waste water that runs off of the station.  Something that is desperately needed in and around more parking lots.  The amount of poisonous waste that runs off of parking lots is mind boggling and a simple swale does a great job cleaning up most of it.

After riding the Green Light the exitement of a successful line made me eally hope that TriMet sees much higher ridership numbers than my previous write up suggests.  I just can’t logically expect more until the economy really starts to turn around (or heaven forbid the Government actually fixes some real issues:  i.e. Federal Reserve, Monetary System, Market Policies, etc).

The last shot of the trip I’ll leave readers with is a shot of the storm swale that is at Clackamas TC.  With the drain easily visible under the rocks, one can see how the water will flow into and through the most greenery in the landscape.  Those weeds, as they may appear, serve as the workers of the cleansing process.  What little waste actually leaves the transit aspect (LRVs, rail bed, etc) station will flow into here.  The real work of this storm swale will be to clean up the bus and auto waste product.

Commute?

I’m tempted over the next few weeks to catch a few trips out on my old trusty #9 Bus and catch the Green Line into town.  I would of course do my regular transit sleuthing activity of checking out the ridership stats, and doing some general observations on the efficiency, usefulness, or as I always look forward to, my personal productivity while on the route.

Sunday, A Little Bit More

Jason, Max, and I all discussed a lot about transit tracker and the general state of web services offered by TriMet.  These services enable all sorts of devices and applications.  These apps are awesome.  They are all extremely useful for trip planning, I think all of them are open source, and they didn’t cost the taxpayers a direct penny!  With TriMet offering this data I couldn’t help but wonder when the Green Line would show up as an active transit tracker route.  Well this Sunday it showed up, but also the Mall MAX showed up!  I was stunned, as I didn’t realize it would actually be referred to as an individual route, but it does make logical sense that it would.  To the right I have a shot of the MAX Green Line and Mall Shuttle showing up via the PDX Bus iPhone Application.

Saturday Schedule

My schedule is shaping up to look like this.  Jo and I are jumping on the #9 to head downtown for the Green Line events around 9:36am.  We intend to meet up with my father, mother, my father & my friend John from Washington DC, Navy Don, and anyone else that wants to jump on the 11:30am first departure (or the one right afterward) bound for Clackamas Transit Center.  There will of course be a bunch of politicians there, but I’m not keen on seeing any of them, I’m going to see the vehicles, see the stations, and see the actual LRVs finally in action.

At 3:00pm I expect to be back downtown to meet Max and possibly others at the chess boards at Pioneer Square.  If anyone wants to join me before, around, or whenever I’ll be riding about please do.  I’ll most likely be wandering around with my lady Jo, with her red dyed hair, flower tats, a Canon 40D, and I’ll be looking about with the curiosity of a 4 year old on my face.

Hope to see all out there.