Transit Chairs, Stops, Green Line, and Wanderlust

The Green Line MAX opens tomorrow in Portland in the celebration will be had all along the line.  My estimate might just be off, but I’m not ruling my estimate out just yet!  The excitement is definitely brimming downtown, with coworkers, businesses, and others talking about it regularly.  I hear strangers talking at the sidewalk tables as they sit and enjoy lunch along the new transit mall, I hear them out at the Dinerante (spelling?), people in passing, or people outright asking me, “when is it starting to run?”  People see the trains out and the fervor just keeps growing.

I walked to my normal station stop where I depart work, 5th & Taylor to wait for the arrival of the #9 south bound.  I took a load off in one of the new seats at the stop.  I must say, if one sits properly the seats are comfortable.  If someone is fat, wants to slouch, is excessively tall (+6.4), then the seats might be rather uncomfortable, but for the healthy average builds of Portland they’ll be spot on.  The see through windows are, I must say, very nice.  I no longer feel the necessity to extend my neck out around the corners of the shelters as I did at the old stops.  The old stops having huge blind spots, makes any person that has some street smarts wary of those that sit in or around the corners.  Especially later in the evening when the rat punks, transients, bum kids, and other miscellaneous miscreants start loitering about.

After a 2 minute wait the #9 pulled up on time and I boarded, grabbed a seat and off we went.  Traffic wasn’t too bad on the road going onto the Ross Island Bridge today, but let me tell you about those really smart Interstates!  The Interstates where packed like a parking lot.  Traffic I suspect moved at a creeping 15-20mph, far past the capacity constraints of the lanes available.

Even though the Interstates where packed the Light Rail Vehicles of the Yellow, Blue, and Red Line rolled along on flange wheels uninterrupted.  One could see that each train was packed, as where all the buses.  These 3 lines, were easily moving people in and out of downtown, contrary to the Interstate Counterparts.  The dedicated right of way was paying dividends for the LRVs.  The buses pushed in and out of downtown too, smoothly through the mall without hindrance.  Some buses ran into a little congestion once leaving the transit mall, but not too often.  Today, traffic was moving smoothly except for the standard Interstate catastrophe.

As we rode onto the Ross Island, one could even see the streetcar departing from south waterfront with a respectable number of passengers.  It zipped under the bridge as we rolled above.  As we rolled onto Powell the traffic flowed smoothly still.  I was relieved to have had a short 10 minute commute.  Often the afternoon commute the #9 runs into stiff congestion through the curves leading up to the Ross Island Bridge, but today was a nice exception.

I felt the urge to wander aimlessly and watch this flow of traffic unfold, but conserving my time got the best of me.  I got off the bus at 21st & Powell and noticed something strange.  No less than 15 people between the downtown stop and here were going barefoot.  I still have no idea, finishing this entry, why in the world on a hot and toasty day like this there were a dozen plus people barefoot.  No correlation between them, one girl looked like she was just out of school for the day, one guy looked the part of a punker, one guy looked the part of the “bro”, another girl looked like she was a metal head.

Another commute, another oddity noticed in Portland, no shortage of strangely interesting bits.  Tomorrow, the Green Line.

Green Line Thoughts & Ridership Estimates

Jo and I recently went out to the Clackamas Town Center Mall.  Partly just to do it, partly because one can buy really cheap ladies shoes, and Jo wanted some shoes.  So off we went. 

While we where out there I wondered off into thought when we boarded out north bound #72 bus.  This is the mother load of all bus routes in Portland.  With ridership higher than any other route it has a frequency as low as every few minutes during peak hours, and still every 15 or so minutes during the slowest hours.  Riders are often so crammed onto the buses, for so many hours of service, that the dramatically subsidized fares often turn a net operational profit for this bus line.  Considering the paltry amount that a fare represents of the overall cost of operations, this bares a rather amazing value return for TriMet.

Near the #72, running parallel for the busiest stretch of the route, runs the new Green Line.  The Green Line has higher capacity, solely because it is using Light Rail Vehicles while the #72 route is limited to 40’ buses.  The #72 along this part of the route follows 82nd Street (or Avenue, not sure what it is actually dubbed).  The Green Line follows about 10 or so blocks away near Interstate 205.

[In the image I’ve made the Green Line…  green (imagine that!) and the #72 line dotted dark blue]

These parallel routes have the potential to garner more ridership than any other area of TriMet’s System.  Currently I suspect, but am not sure, that the Blue Line Light Rail System holds the crown of highest ridership.  It sits easily within the 25-30k count during a weekday,making it easily the busiest Light Rail Line in the entire North Western United States.  Seattle’s Sound Transit however works diligently to build up their light rail system, prospectively surpassing TriMet’s Blue Line with their first line.

All this led me to wondering a commonly asked question among transit aficionados in Portland and even in other areas of the country that pay heed to Portland’s System.  Will the Green Line take any ridership from the current #72 Route as configured?

My Current Estimates

My current estimate is, if it does take some of the current ridership, it will only amount to 3-6% of it.  I suspect 40% of the Green Line’s Ridership will be new to the corridor, and possibly half of that 50% (20% of total ridership) will be completely new to transit.  These new riders will most likely be drivers who will now park at the park & rides along the Green Line Route to come into downtown or points along the route leading into downtown.

I also suspect that first year ridership, with the economy in the doldrums and the primary rider (*) base being heavily affected by the downturned economy, could be as low as 7000k per day along the corridor.  About half of what the #72 Route currently carries in a day.  However as things play out in the economy, I would suspect ridership to climb, dare I say skyrocket, to within 13-14k within 1-2 years of the opening of the line.  This pending, we at least hold steady with 0-1% growth over the next year or two.  Looking at the US economic history, this should be easy to attain, so I’m going with the estimation the Green Line will at least achieve the 13-14k per day by 2011, possibly as late as 2012.

I wouldn’t expect the Green Line Route to surpass the 13-14k estimate until the area increases the density of residents by about 20% over what it is now or gas prices surpass $3.50 per gallon.  Both of these things will most likely pass around 2013 or 2014, pushing the ridership higher, but at first I wouldn’t suspect too much.  With the looming elephant in the room of massive inflation. Corrective taxation for the overzealous administrations (not excluding the current one) will see a continually falling value in the dollar while seeing incomes not keep pace with valuation needed to maintain cost of living.  Parity will be almost impossible to maintain, which later in the next decade will make ridership increase even more.  Mostly out of monetary necessity than choice by riders.  However I can imagine that the next decade will see a dramatic change in attitudes of people, I doubt any significant change will occur until about 2017-2018 at the earliest, and suspect real change to start around 2020”ish”.

However, depending on the attractiveness of this alignment being rail versus bus, a fair number of preferred riders could be attained.  Currently I would be surprised for this to amount to more than 1-2k rides per day, but TriMet routes have surprised me in the past.

Anyone else have any hard guesses/estimates for the Green Line Route?

The Rattling New Buses, Take a Queue from the Type 4’s

[Rant On]

I took a ride out to Gresham on the #4 recently, just to take a ride about town.  The bus serving the frequency I got on today was one of the new buses.  I have an official complain about these new buses.

TriMet recently purchased three new types of vehicles;  New Buses, New LRVs, and the WES DMUs.  The DMUs are beautiful, very quiet, ride smoother than anything in the entire TriMet system, and as for ride, are just unmatched.  The new LRVs are also smoother than any other LRV in use on the system, smoother than any bus ride also, and generally as comfortable as one would expect a public transit rail vehicle would be.

But the buses, where did TriMet get these buses?  These things are already a complete catastrophe.  I’ve had to get off of buses about 15 times the entire time I’ve been riding TriMet over the years.  3 of those occurrences have ALL BEEN IN THE LAST 3 MONTHS on NEW BUSES!  What gives?

In addition to the issues just described, it appears these new buses are low quality inside, with fewer amenities than the last series of low floor buses.  The inside rattle horribly when the bus accelerates up to speed.  Now, I don’t know about everyone else, but I seem to notice buses accelerate and decelerate a LOT.  This of course means the new buses are pretty much rattle all the time.  This makes these new buses very frustrating to work on (which, buses generally are more frustrating to work on, but the new ones just have a +2 to frustrate now).

Transmissions, let me tell you about the transmissions on the new buses.  Alright, one of the 3 broken down new buses I’ve been on broke down because of the transmission.  But it isn’t the first new bus I had been on that had a massive kick during gear shifting.  When a bus lurches that hard core, it isn’t uncomfortable, is is DANGEROUS.  Those goofy old folks, or those silly young kids, that just stand up at whimsical times would easily be tossed into something.  As any bus driver knows, there isn’t a lot of soft things to fall onto on a bus, which means the driver and the injured passenger are going to have a headache to deal with if a young kid or old fogies gets tossed onto the floor, metal pole, hard plastic seat, or some other hard spot on the bus.

So the new buses have all of these issues, but what really just ticks me off, is the nanny state nonsense with non-opening windows.  I don’t care if some idiot stick their arm out the window and gets it torn completely off.  What I care about is that I have enough responsibility and discipline to enjoy the wonderful breeze of a cool day while riding the bus.  Why I should be punished by some punk idiot eludes me.  Sure, maybe single plane windows are cheaper, but I don’t care about that either.  Don’t order as many buses, but give me windows that open for the love of sensibleness.

I do have a shining bright spot in all this complaint.  At least the new buses have amazing air conditioners!  Not sure if that has been part of the problem in reliability, but at least THAT works.

Solutions?

I’m not sure what realistic solution TriMet could take with the situation as it is.  If a regular citizen bought a car from Toyota, Ford, or even GM, they’d have the lemon law kick in by now and get their money back or a new car.  Hell, most car dealers wouldn’t even deal with the lemon law, they just hand someone a new car before that mess even starts (emphasis on USUALLY, some resist – like GM & Ford of the past).

My Solution

If I where in charge, I’d demand an immediate repair of every single new bus, transmission replacements, or even if it where necessary new buses that are designed differently.

[Rant Off]

So really, after all that ranting, is there even a possible solution to all this?  I really don’t want to hear the rattling racket of these new buses for the next 15-20 years.  Does TriMet have other options that are reasonable that could be completed in the next few months, years, or soon?  My personal option is starting to look like it is time to move back to the ole’ streetcar route downtown.  I’ve kind of wanted to get back closer in anyway, so this might be one of the catalysts to do so.  Living downtown I rarely have to use any transit except the MAX, the streetcar being merely optional downtown.

Well, we shall see over the coming months.  I’ll be riding the #9 for at least 6 more months.  So TriMet ops, if you read this, please do me a favor and don’t put any new buses on the #9 route!  🙂   I’ll love ya for it (or buy ya a beer – feel free to contact me and name your beer)