Rocking Transit Websites (…and the bad ones too)

A while back I posted an entry in regards to “How Good is your Transit’s Website?”  Well finally I’m getting around to the follow up.  Here is the basic characteristics I tested on each site.

  • Common Origination A to Common Destination B:  I found two landmark, easy to find, well known places in the primary service area of a transit agency and tried to use their site to find the best routes.  Within this characteristic I measured the following things;  Clicks Necessary, Data Entered, and Accuracy.
  • Weird Origination A to Weird Destination B:  Same as above, but I went out of the way to find places on the very edges of the service zones to see what the sites would give me.
  • Are the schedules easy to find?  I measured the following:  Clicks to find Schedule, Schedule Formats Available (don’t even give me a PDF only option, BAD BAD BAD!).
  • Are the route maps easy to find?  I measured the following:  Clicks to find Route Map, Route Map Formats Available (again, don’t give me a PDF only option!)
  • Are the system maps easy to find, navigate, and read?  I measured the follow:  Clicks to the system map, formats available, options for viewing, printing, and other uses.
  • Good design practice:  This is a simple, eyeball use of the standard left to right reading of the site, keeping clutter to a minimum, and other basic design criteria of a good site.

Site:  TriMet –  Primary Service Area:  Portland, OR

Site:  NJ Transit –  Primary Service Area:  New Jersey (Pretty much the whole state)



DC Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority – and Boston – MBTA –

C-Tran (Just cuz)

Day #12 Back to LA & Balboa

Day #12 actually started at 1:00am as Tony dropped us off in Maricopa for the Sunset Limited.  The Sunset Limited rolls into Maricopa at this crazy early time in this crazy out of the way place.  So he got us out there, and Jo & I loitered about in one of the creepiest Amtrak Stations we’ve ever been in.  Before I continue on about this station, I am going to say a few words in regards to the Sunset Limited.

Sunset Limited

The Sunset Limited, before Amtrak took control of it in the 70s, used to run between  New Orleans and LA.  It might have gone further but I’m not sure, I just know for a fact it, as with all Amtrak’s trains, predates Amtrak operation of the train.  I’m not sure what schedule or anything that train operated on, but it existed so feel free to look it up.

What I do know specifically is that Amtrak’s Sunset Limited leaves 3 times a week from LA.  It takes about 48 hours to travel the great southern expanse of the US from LA to New Orleans.  This is all fine and dandy, however there are some issues with taking this train.

  1. The train is completely unorganized compared to the Coast Starlight, Empire Builder, and I’d suspect the other western US transcontinental trains.  The crew can’t seem to get people on and off, the stations are designed with standard nor any intelligible use for an actual passenger train.
  2. The train only leaves 3 times a week.  This, unfortunately is probably part of a physical limitation from a lack of equipment.  Even though it seems, since the train doesn’t go all the way to Orlando anymore there should be enough.  Whatever the reason, the 3 day departure frequency just sucks.  It makes planning any connections really difficult.
  3. Now this complaint isn’t about the train itself, nor the crew.  The last major complaint I have is about the people that ride this train.  I guess, it brings back my annoyance with the southern USA.  I’ll just suffice it to say that the average IQ went down about 20 points and the educational level ceased to exceed 8th grade.

The Sunset Limited really needs some help in becoming a world class train again.  I didn’t see a ridership problem, the train was technically full and there was approximately another half a train full of people that would detrain and board along the way.  No, the train wasn’t at capacity, but it wasn’t doing any worse at this time than most of the other intercontinental trains.


Now that I’ve explained the issues with the Sunset Limited you’ll understand why the station is rather creepy in Maricopa.  Aside from the fact there are some pretty decrepit, goofy looking creepy people, the station adds to the aura of creepiness by being located in Maricopa.  One can’t see anything in any direction except a gas station down the road.  Everything else surrounding the station is nothing more than pitch black.  Being surrounding by this blackened soot of night we sat waiting for our train with about 60 other people.

We had arrived at 10:00pm after Tony dropped us off.  Fortunately we were full of tasty Cuban Food so all we had to do was chill out and wait.  The time ticked by toward that 1:07am arrival.  Tick tock, tick tock.  We sat with all the creepy folk.  Finally about 12:40am we all headed out as the train arrival was imminent.  When we stepped outside the arrival wasn’t imminent, but it was instead arrived.

She sat there in the darkness with lights off, engine humming, and crew changing out.  The Sunset Limited cars, which couldn’t fit in the station while the engine driver swap occurred, sat upon the tracks in the soot black of the night.  After the engine crew changed out the train pulled ahead about 150 feet or so the first cars could be boarded.

The first few cars on the Sunset Limited were sleeping cars.  On the Sunset Limited there are sleeping cars on the front and rear of the train.  The reason there are sleepers on the front and back is because the Texas Eagle & Sunset Limited are joined together in Texas.  From there they traverse as one train.  Since this train in the past was the Sunset Limited, I stick to calling it just that.

The train finally pulled forward to the coaches where everyone else got on board except Jo and I.  The conductor had informed us a few minutes before that we would board last since we are the only sleeping car passenger boarding in Maricopa.  We waited for these people to board.  Once that was done she pulled forward further, and we boarded the sleeping cars on the end of the train.

Once aboard we quickly sprang into action stowing our luggage and other errata.  Within minutes our car attendant came by and informed us that the dining car would start breakfast at 5:30am.  We passed out at this point, enjoying the rapture of sleep.

What we had neglected to know, or be informed of, was that the psychotic announcer would actually announce breakfast at 5:30am over the intercom.  Addition, we had not realized that our in room intercom was on.  One can easily turn it off if they don’t want to hear the announcements in car, but we had not noticed.  So our oddball, somewhat brash experience on the Sunset Limited route was about to take a turn for the turbo brash.  By our neglect, and the somewhat stupid idea that people get up at 5:30am, the dining car was about to punch us square in the head.


The statement blared over our internal intercom, which in addition was turned up to 10.  It blasted in our room and through the hallways as we slept.  I sat up immediately, knowing this would probably even wake Jo.  Waking Jo at 5:30 am would probably mean half the train & the staff would be given a verbal lashing of a vulgar and immense magnitude.  Being that I now also felt brutalized I reached up with both eyes still closed.  I flailed around trying to find the volume and button to turn this interruptive and brash voice off.  I poked haphazardly still without an eye open and found the control panel above the bed.  Now groping, still unseeing as the dining car attendant made their damnably loud announcement at 5:30am, I worked to find the dial.  Finally I found and flicked the dial.  The blathering voice now disappeared and we only could hear the hallway intercom now.  Still annoying, but silent by comparison.

I couldn’t seem to get the echo of the dining car attendant’s voice out of my head now. I laid there, with my arm still upon the dials letting my now tense muscles relax.  Slowly I moved my arm back to my side, sort of walking my fingers across the window.  I still had a surge of anger in my chest, a screaming in my head, perturbed that we paid extra for sleeping accommodations only to be roughly awoken at 5:30am for breakfast that neither of us wanted.  In addition, only about 5% of the train eats breakfast, and probably about 5% of that 5% actually get up at the blazing insane hour of 5am!

Slowly the calm of sleep came back over me and I passed into a relaxing slumber.  We managed to get another couple hours of sleep before our 1 hr early arrival in Los Angeles.  Still beat flying, still beat the hell out of driving, but jeez it would have been nice to sleep like we had intended.

Regardless of that, we were here, arrived in Los Angeles.

Baggage Stowed

Once we arrived we immediately set out to stow our luggage.  With the luggage stowed in short order the next order of business was breakfast.  Since we were back downtown the decision was to head
to Phillipe’s again.  We headed out the main Union Station entrance and onward toward Phillipe’s.  After a short walk to Phillipe’s we had a great breakfast and still had about 2 hours before our friends would appear in Hollywood that we intended on meeting.  So we had a relaxing post lunch do nothing session in the park nearby.

Back to the Trusty Subway Red Line

Once we were done we set out to meet the married couple.  It was coincidence that we both happened to schedule ourselves to be in LA on Hollywood at the same time.  We boarded the Red Line Subway from Union Station to Hollywood.  Twenty or so minutes later we arrived in Hollywood and rode the escalators to street level.  A block up and across the street we managed to meet up with them and take a slow walk down Hollywood.

After doing the touristy thing, we all grabbed a few photos of random stars and other such things, lunch was in order.  After a short discussion we all decided that the best option would be to jump back on the Red Line and head back downtown to Cole’s for a French Dip.  Jason & Cubers LOVED the French Dips.  Jo & I, of course loving ours too, tore through the sandwiches like the hungry people we were.

Afterwards Jo & I escorted our comrades along the Red Line back to Vine & Hollywood.  They detrained and headed off, we all said our farewells.  Jo & I however adventured onward toward the last stop.  There we detrained and went above ground to find the Orange Line.

Orange Line Cancelled Because It Was Tired

We walked across the street and realized, as I had completely forgotten, that the Orange Line is actually BRT.  Surprised at this Jo gave some resistance to riding at first.  She wasn’t sure about riding around on a bus, being that she was tired.  But we walked across and began to wait for the next bus.  The frequency at this time of day was pretty frequent.  However as we sat, with my own growing weariness, the crowds began growing rapidly coming from the Subway and from the park & ride area.

Before the next bus arrived the seating capacity was already exceeded and it would be standing room only.  We watched the bus become a packed sardine can.  Now both Jo & I had a change of spirit, neither of us wanting to ride a vehicle this packed while we were so tired.  Instead we decided the Red Line was for us and went back into the subterranean expanse to board a Union Station bound Red Line.

Metrolink Run

While we waited I got a room reserved at The Standard there in downtown LA for Thursday night.  We wanted to stay close to Union Station so we would be able to make the train without trying to get up at 5am.  After the last few days we were needing all the sleep we could get.  Once I did that I plotted out how we would get back to Balboa Peninsula for beers, food, and whatever else Mike, Jo, & I might come up with in our nerd minds.  I purchased two tickets for the 6:30pm Metrolink Train.  I informed Jo while she napped in Union Station in one of the comfortable chairs they have in the station.  We concurred that I should go drop the excess luggage off at the hotel by myself so I could make haste.

I jumped down the steps with the luggage headed for The Standard via the Red Line Subway.  I hustled as best I could to get on the Subway Train that sat in the station, but unfortunately I just missed it as I was walking up.  The clock kept ticking, it was already 5:42pm.  I thought to myself, “I should have enough time.”  The next Red Line arrived, which I boarded, and off we went.  5:58pm and I was coming up on 7th.  I immediately pulled out my iPhone and began searching for The Standard.  Being that this was an artsy, modern, friggin’ awesome hotel, it was in a building that was unto itself confusing.  I eventually found it, but the clock read 6:12 when I stepped back on the Subway.

I arrived at Union Station at 6:17pm and immediately made haste toward where Jo sat.  I txt’ed here to tell her to be ready and find out what track the Oceanside Metrolink Train departed on.  Again, luck was not for me tonight, Jo’s phone battery was dead and I was txt’ing for no reason.  In addition to that bad luck, I had gotten off of the Red Line on the part that exits to the Metro Station part of Union Station, which meant I had to cover about 1000ft before I was back into Union Station proper.

I kept my quick pace up walking through the underground track concourse.  I walked into Union Station and immediately looked at the reader board.  I saw track 6b for the “…side” train.  Awesome, Oceanside departure is on track 6b.  I walked over and Jo had the laptop and other stuff out, so we worked together to hurriedly pack everything and head to track 6b.  We set out with the remaining bits of luggage in tow.  We got to track 6b with 3 minutes to spare.  I thought, “Wow, that was cutting it close.”  Jo went walking upstairs, for whatever reason I followed with the luggage.  That was a dumb idea, but hey, I do that sometimes.  We couldn’t fit them all in the train upstairs so I went downstairs with one and found another seat.

I sat down, but felt somewhat odd about something, so to be sure I asked an individual sitting nearby, “this is the train to Oceanside correct?” To which I received the horrible news, “No, this train is to Riverside.”  Immediately it all flooded into my head.  There where two trains on the reader board, a “R… side” and a “O… side”.  It didn’t occur to me that some place would end with “side” just like Oceanside so though there were two trains leaving.  At this point I freaked, ran up stairs, and told Jo we where on the wrong train.  We grabbed all of our stuff and detrained.

I was so ticked I tossed one piece down and had to catch my breath after all this running.  We then started out to try to make it to track 8b.  We had literally one minute, and time was ticking.  We started running toward the concourse area to run below the track and back onto the 8b track to board.  As I ran up the concourse ramp toward the train, with Jo barely 15 feet behind me, the doors on the Metrolink Oceanside South Bound Train closed!

I have NEVER missed a train I intended to catch in my entire life.  I was effectively PISSED OFF!  Yeah, I was enraged.  At that point, I was so tired, it was also effectively everybody’s fault in addition to mine.  I had never planned so poorly, and failed so monumentally.  At this juncture in time I wasn’t sure what to do, I wanted to fall into the ground and melt away.  In my own mind I was tortured by this failure.  How could I, the Transit Sleuth, screw up a train departure so bad as to miss a train?  New York, Chicago, New Orleans, Memphis, Jackson, Washington DC, Eugene, Centralia, Seattle, Edmunds, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Emeryville, Oakland, and more – all these stops, all those schedules, and I haven’t missed any of them.  But today I failed.

WOW.  😦   #fail    Oh My @#$%(@%^!)%#^)!%#^!*)^(*^$(&!#()%!

Alright, Sanity Sets Back in, I failed, call a good reliable friend and just ask to get a ride.  Admit defeat and just get the job done.  I picked up the phone, Jo was perturbed also.  I looked at her for a moment, she provided no solace.  I was being weak in mind so I mustered a phone call, “You Mike, can you go ahead and swing into LA and give us a ride, I royally screwed up the Metrolink Schedule and we don’t have
another train south for some time, which will cause us to miss the transfer to the OCTA bus we need to catch.”, to which I received the reassuring can do attitude of Mr. Mike, “sure man, I’m on my way.”

It is a wonderful thing to know I have reliable, solid, trustworthy friends that will have my back when I screw up.

Train Schedule Screw Ups Get Remedied With The Hooptie

Mike, Jo & I rode back via the ole’ f-ing Interstate in the ole’ amazingly reliable Hooptie.  Hooptie, is the name of Mike’s car.  This beast has been through hurricane Katrina, LA driving, Jacksonville driving, and obviously more than a transcontinental road trip.

We get back to Balboa and after a short break head for something to eat.  The beauty of Balboa is we never drive, we always just walk or bike out on the Peninsula.  This makes for easily one of the most livable communities in America.  The catch is, you better have some money.

With a short walk, not 100% sold on where we were heading, we come across a Sushi Restaurant.  Mike had tried to take us here last week when we were through, so we figured why not, let’s go!

Proper Japanese Style Sushi

We sat down at the Sushi Bar.  The Sushi Chefs, two of them, stood ready and working.  Currently they were serving other customers.  We all looked through the menu, ordered a few beverages and sat somewhat unsure of how to order.  No Mike, Jo, & I are not sushi amateurs.  We know how the typical American sushi joint works.  Mark on the sushi list what you want, hand it to the sushi chef.  Sushi check makes sushi, hand sushi to you on a plate of some type.  Done.

Well that is the American way of getting sushi.  It isn’t the proper or even the Japanese way to get sushi.  In Japan I have heard that our way has influenced their way, but this place was a proper Japanese sushi joint!  The way you order is you simply tell the sushi chef what you want and they make it.  They then place it on a plate in front of you, but not your eating plate.  Assistants on the floor bring you sushi plates that you actually eat off of as the sushi is made.  Sometimes you get a new plate and sometimes you don’t, depending on the sauces and flavor mixes that might occur.  The idea behind all this is simple, the sushi and sashimi must be as pure to what it is derived from as possible.

We all received our drinks.  Jo got a Ramune & Mike & I got a bottle of imported sake to share.  In proper Japanese fashion someone immediately poured each of us a glass of sake.  Throughout the remaining dinner they made sure we did not ever need to pour the sake ourselves.  The goal with this, was that they must be the best hosts as possible.  This establishment held this traditional solidly!

When Mike ordered his sushi the sushi chef made a suggestion.  Another tradition is if you receive a suggestion from the chef you do not turn him down, but maybe only offer slight suggestions about what you do or do not like.  He then crafts a custom arrangement per the special of the day and other options available.  Since I had ordered a few basic options, Unagi, Ebi, and some others I received those almost immediately.  Meanwhile the check kept working on this custom cut of sashimi he was preparing for Mike, and each of us.

Eventually we received this amazing plate of sashimi.  Jo, Mike, & myself were informed by the sushi chef on the proper way to eat this.  Only add a slight bit of wasabi, no soy sauce.  We each tried and were amazed, enthralled with the smooth texture and flawless smooth cuts of fish.  This sashimi, we agreed in solidarity, was the best sashimi we had each ever had in our entire lives.  With a round of cheers, we sipped our sake and slowly ate this delicacy.  The night continued with the chef and each of us telling storied and going back and forth about various things.  He prepared several custom plates of sushi and sashimi for us, finishing with some special chips and finally a home made ice cream.

We all were seriously impressed.  So impressed that the somewhat large bill seemed more than worth it, it seemed a deal!  If anyone is ever out on Balboa, this is absolutely, without doubt, 100%, THE place to get premium sushi with premium proper Japanese style service.

That basically ended our night with a bang!  Amid all our trouble and missed trains, the amazing service and spectacular sushi service left all with a comfortable, satisfied flavor to fall asleep with.  That, was Day #12.

Day #10 & #11 Urban Phoenix

Sunday Night, Monday, and Tuesday Jo and I spent in downtown Phoenix at the San Carlos.  Meeting other people, seeing the wedding, and eating Brazilian in the burbs was all awesome.  But otherwise, the suburbs sucked in so many ways I would have to start another blog about all the ways that suburbs suck.  Economically, environmentally, efficiency, education, and by about every other measure, suburbs truly bring out the mediocrity in humanity.  But really, I digress, it was awesome meeting everyone in burbia and hope they come visit Portland soon so they can be effectively turned away from the soul sucking entrenchment of the burbs’.

So what happened on day #10 & 11, well Jo and I left the suburbs.  We left for the urban life style of downtown Phoenix.  We got some help from Tony (lightrailblogger) and Nick (raillife) to find the elements that allow one to live  without the ever tightening noose of the auto oriented lifestyle.  Out of all the places we went to, these really stuck out in our minds as places that just kick ass!  🙂

Gallo Blanco

Gallo Blanco was amazing.  We actually ended up going back to Gallo Blanco because it rocked so much.  This place is something we honestly did not expect in Phoenix.  Our assumption, especially after all the milling about in the suburbs was suburban food, which rarely breaks from big generic corporate food.  Think Applebee’s, TGI Friday’s, and all that crap.  But this was a slice of sanity, a bit of beauty, taste, elegance, modern, and above all Gallo Blanco was delicious.

The Clarendon Hotel

The Gallo Blanco is located within the Clarendon Hotel.  This hotel has a somewhat grisly history.  A reporter was killed by car bomb by a mafia operative in the parking lot of the building in the 70s.  In one of the hallways they have the descriptive story of what happened.

The Clarendon has a super modern, minimalistic, and artsy.  The hotel was absolutely stunning.  The outer facing of the hotel seems at first glance to be somewhat boring.  With a white and slightly blue striped design the outside is a single face.  Without too many windows facing outwards from the building.  However upon stepping inside the hotel has a liveliness in the central courtyard.  There is a pool with an artsy design to it.  In the center of the L shaped pool there is a multi-colored separation that disconnects the pool ever so slightly from the short part of the L, which is a hot tub of massive size!  The rooms all face from a balcony walkway into this courtyard.

We toured through two of the rooms, the largest and mid-sized room.  The large room had a living room type area with a couch, coffee table, and TV, with the bedroom in the back room.  The windows that faced external to the building and internally toward the pool both had no blinds.  Instead, large pieces of art display over the window on sliders, sort of an industrial design.  These could be pushed aside to view either direction.  The rooms had various amenities one would expect, the difference being they were artfully designed and used modern pieces for the vanity and other parts of the hotel room.  The mid-size room was basically the same styling and amenities, except a bit smaller and under a single space.

Jo and I both decided that upon our next trip, we’d definitely be staying at the Clarendon Hotel on our next trip!

The San Carlos Hotel

We stayed these nights in the San Carlos, which is definitely in the urban core were as The Clarendon is a few stops from the core and a block off from the light rail (which remember, a block in Phoenix is about 4 blocks in Portland).  The San Carlos also has a pool on the roof, which is rad.  Even though it was a nice hotel, one has to be in the mood for a boutique hotel to stay here.  If you are in that mood, I’d definitely suggest it!

Tempe Transit Center & the Bike Cellar

I managed to travel to the Tempe Transit Center twice.  Once myself, and once with Jo and I both gallivanting about.  The first time when I went, I merely took a few photos of various vehicles pulling into and out of the transit center during operations.  Very nice transit center, but this first trip didn’t expose what really makes it unique.

Jo & I went back, on Tuesday, to check out the part that really makes the Tempe Transit Center unique.  The Bike Cellar is located in the transit center building on the ground floor.  The Bike Cellar is this awesome, secure, clean area of the center that is operated for bicyclists to have access to bike parking and showers.  In addition there are lockers, tools, and other services.  In addition the owner even sells bikes if you’re in the market for one.

One of the things I love about the Bike Cellar is that this is a private business run by people that have a real passion for the bicycle lifestyle.  This isn’t some random experiment from some random Government Department.  This I find ideal, real private interest and involvement in connecting and working toward a connected populace that doesn’t involve building massive roads that expand over vast tracts of land.  A beautiful idea!

While speaking to the owners of the Bike Cellar and mentioned that this is something that should absolutely be built in Portland.  After closer thought, there are a few issues to getting something like this built in Portland. 
For one, I’m not sure how TriMet would work with a private business trying to provide a service in a transit center.  In downtown, there just isn’t all that much space, making it difficult to build out something like this.

I send all my wishes of success to the Bike Cellar Crew!  I imagine Tempe can really use a service like that, especially in the summer!

Lux Coffee Bar

I have to mention Lux again.  We returned a couple times over the course of our stay.  In addition we even purchased a half pound of beans ground for our French press.  The Stumptown bean supply had run out on our 8th day and the Lux beans provided a great substitute for the remainder of the trip.  In all honesty, Lux produces beans that could compete in Portland – and that is extremely hard to achieve.

Mill Ave & 3rd Street

The Mill Avenue & 3rd Stop of the light rail system exits directly on Mill Avenue.  Mill Avenue is basically a small block, street level commercial business area.  This area is what one desires and expects of a college area.  Lots of awesome niche restaurants, nick nak stores, custom t-shirst, bars, pubs, and more.  I imagine that this area is bumping on Friday and Saturday nights.

Valley Metro Light Rail

Of course, I have to mention the light rail.  This being one of the major things I wanted to see and check out while in town.  I’d been curious that Phoenix, one of the least …  [big list here]  …cities was going to get light rail.  At first I couldn’t help but think, “oh dear, it will for sure be a complete and object failure, the pro-road Republicans Socialists will surely jump all over this when it bombs out”…  but oh was I wrong.  I started studying as they where finishing up the line and saw that it did have some slight potential, it might just succeed.

Well when the light rail opened it exploded into success.  Running every 10 minutes I believe the average per day has been approximately 30,000 trips.  That measures well against our Blue Line, and TriMet’s Blue Line is a little longer even.  Mind you, Phoenix has a lot more potential for ridership growth.  They often run three car LRV trains, the line can handle more trains during the course of a day, and thus a multiplier over what TriMet’s lines run is fairly high.

Overall, the light rail is absolutely well built, which is surprising for a city like Phoenix.  They do have a few distinct advantages such as the high population (4 mil vs. Portland’s barely 2 mil), and the biggest advantage I see is that the line is built on level, flat, easy to build on ground.

Phoenix in Summary

Overall Phoenix has sprawl, the kind that really should be wiped from the face of the earth and replaced with a market based, intelligently built transit system mixed with automobiles that actually compete with each other.  Instead it is a massive Government subsidized sprawl of Interstates and Highways.  The Feds have dumped so much money into Phoenix and Phoenix has suckled upon the teat, feeding upon this cash flow.  However amid this cursed sprawl and disturbingly soulless expanse of ticky tack housing as far as one can see, the urban center of Phoenix exists.  It is beautiful in some regards even, contrary to some commentary.  Here, slowly, a new birth is taking place for Phoenix.  One with culture and humanity, one with life and opportunity, art and design, and heaven forbid, a break of the ticky tack.

Don’t get me wrong, there is still a lot to do before a place like Phoenix can stand upon the grand enclave that Portland exists in, of art, design, life, opportunity, humanity, and culture that only massively larger cities like Chicago, San Francisco, and New York can currently provide.  But Phoenix finally has the infrastructure groundwork laid to become a great city that can harbor and grow a lifestyle that would have these great traits.  I look forward to visiting again, maybe in just a few months, and definitely over the years I’d like to see how the effort is taking root.

But There’s MORE!

That’s right people, Phoenix is not alone in this effort.  The city’s of Tempe and Mesa are also working diligently to gain a foothold in the creative class, the cultured individual, the high earner urbanite.  Tempe has Mill & 3rd, the Tempe Transit Center, and the growing urban core around these two great examples of development.  One of the first expanses, that I’ve heard at least, is that Mesa will finally connect its downtown soon too.  That will be three core urban areas connected by a good effective, highly ridden light rail system.

My best wishes go out to Phoenix, Tempe, and Mesa in their efforts to turn their cities into a connected, culturally relevant, livable city within the United States.

September Ridership Report w/ New Green Line

Before I get rolling with this entry, the rest of the trip entries ARE coming.  I got slammed with some virus and couldn’t motivate to get out of bed let alone write and process photos.  So the rest should be up by end of day tomorrow!  🙂

TriMet posted the first ridership report including the Green Line today.  So far, 12% increase in MAX ridership.  Kind of a slightly skewed statement since there is an entirely NEW line running.  :p

Anyway, here are the stats.

October 12, 2009  TriMet’s Report Page

MAX weekly trips increased nearly 12%

With the opening of the MAX Green Line, weekly ridership on MAX has increased nearly 12 percent compared to September 2008. The Green Line also averaged 17,000 weekday trips.

MAX (Sept. 13-30, 2009 figures compared to Sept. 2008)
  • Weekly MAX trips increased 11.8 percent to 785,000 trips
  • Weekday MAX trips up 9.8 percent 121,200 trips
  • Weekend trips up 19.1 percent up 179,000 trips
  • Rush hour trips increased 6.7 percent to 36,400 trips
MAX Green Line (Sept. 13-30)
  • Weekday trips totaled 17,000
  • Weekend trips totaled 31,900

Overall, there were 8.3 million trips on buses, MAX and WES trains in September 2009, a 4 percent decline over September 2008. Ridership is impacted by service cuts that took effect this month, the continued recession, double-digit unemployment and lower gas prices that were at record levels last year.

Bus (figures for entire month)
  • Weekly bus trips declined 9.5 percent to 1,202,700 trips
  • Weekday bus trips declined 9.4 percent to 200,700 trips
  • Weekend bus trips declined 10 percent to 199,200 trips
  • Rush hour bus trips were down 14.8 percent to 64,700 trips
  • Weekly WES trips totaled 5,625
  • Weekday/rush hour trips averaged 1,125 boardings.

So what do I get out of all this?  A couple of things which I’ll bullet point.

  • WES ridership is still horrible.  Simply put, it won’t be a success until they can carry at minimum 5x as many as they currently carry.  It is in the projections, but I don’t think it is possible without new equipment, and with new equipment they’ll need even MORE riders to offset the initial cost of this system.  Either which way, it seems to be the one major black mark on TriMet’s list of successes.  In addition, one of the service frequencies was down again today and buses had to bridge the gap.  Does TriMet count the bus bridge as bus ridership or WES ridership?
  • Weekends still amaze me in Portland, the ridership is often higher when I’ve always thought the commuters would bump up the ridership during the week.  However, that is untrue.  Ridership is heavier on the weekends here.  I have some theories, but I’ll elaborate later.
  • Light Rail ridership, with only 4 lines (I’m not going with the silly 5 line idea, it is 4 lines, there are 4 COLORS, not 5) will eventually become the core carrying mode of the entire system.  Even with the currently lower ridership of all lines because of obvious economic reasons (people without money don’t have places to go) the light rail system is posed to see significant ridership gains when employment does begin improvements.  Considering the continued population growth in the area, even with the negative overall economic growth, ridership really only has one direction to go and light rail will carry the majority of those riders.
  • The bus system, albeit being overwhelmed during the high gas price days of 08’ are finally at bearable levels.  The fact is though, when things start to boom again, the bus part of the TriMet System isn’t prepared to handle the growth.  Already, at these almost comfortable ridership levels many of the lines can handle more than a 5-10% ridership growth unlike the light rail which easily could handle a 30-40% growth in weekday ridership, and probably the same in weekend ridership.  Simply put, TriMet’s Bus System needs bulked up appropriately with more options and scalability at key transfer, connection, and feeder line points.

TriMet Multi-Route Wandering

Took the normal route to work this morning, jumping aboard the #9.  Midday Jo and I took a ride on the Green Line MAX from one stop down to another stop, since it was coming.  Saved us about 5 minutes of walking.  After that we rode from Couch & 5th to Pioneer Courthouse, which saved about 10 minutes of walking.

Later in the day, after drinks with friends, I headed over and took a ride out on the Blue Line MAX.  After that I boarded the #77 back down Broadway and into town.  Of course this diversion was just for kicks & because I was conversing with a fellow cohort.

The #77 had a broken heater or something, the bus must have been at least 85 degrees on board.  The regular noisy raspy racket of a diesel engine blanketed the bus with the regular cacophony of sound.  When people spoke, they had to raise their voices to an inappropriate, unfortunately necessary level.  The cell phone user got on the phone and commenced to make even more racket to add to the overall chaos.

I couldn’t help but miss the streetcars of New Orleans.  Even though morbidly hot during the summer, during Fall they where heavenly comfortable.  With the windows down and a smooth coasting motion, the cars stayed a moderate 70-75 degrees.  The humidity almost gave the area a surreal feeling that incurred a heavy relaxation.  Unlike the diesels of buses, the streetcars made almost no sound.  It left one to think freely and gaze upon people passing by.  To look upon the grandeur of the buildings and see the hundreds of years of history.

Portland, has a different kind of and different level of placidness, with no frequent streetcar to compare with.

The frequent streetcar we do have is of a very different nature.  The climate is controlled, in a way, being the doors open all the time.  There are no opening windows.  It also cost 4x as much as the New Orleans Streetcars.  Ours run much less frequently also, at peak reaching about every 12-13 minutes and about 20-30 minutes later in the day.

The streetcar however is very nice.  Often fairly clean, and very smooth.  The turns are a little jerky but that is often what a turn is, jerky.  The ride though, and that brighter appearance make the different though.  I don’t have to hold on to my laptop for dear life.  It simply sits upon my lap.  The ridership on our line seems to be, in general, more genteel than that of many bus routes.  Sometimes there are the entertaining ones, but often it is calm and collected on the streetcar.

With the thoughts of the flanged wheels, I decide to jump off the #77 and board the Streetcar.  In a mere few minutes, I board the next streetcar coming after getting off of the #77.  I’m relieved the wait was only 3 minutes at this hour of the night.

Tonight peaks at about 15 riders, including the volunteer fare inspector.  He’s of course not enabled in the same way the other fare inspectors are, but basically prides (or shames, if you want to be negative) people into buying or not buying tickets.  The irony of course, is that 7 geezerly yuppies (I know, y in yuppies stand for young, but these people weren’t) get on the streetcar and break the calmness of the ride.  They’re boisterous in their middle class uppity zeal.  With a tinge of redneck doltishness they’re asked to pay the fare by the fare inspector.  They all just laugh in their jolly alcoholic doldrums.  None of them pay, instead just laughing it off as the fare inspector gives up and gets off before the fare less zone.  I spurt out, “The fare inspector is here just to encourage honesty…” to which they all continue to laugh about.  Irony being they’re all Republicans, as I notice from various emblems and ramblings.  Strange, the Democrats are fine with abrogating funds via taxes, and Republicans just abrogate funds by not paying.  I guess, again, they’re functionally both the same.

I ride on, with the calmness resumed as they all huddle off of the streetcar toward the MAX.  A few more people get on and we move along smoothly toward south waterfront.  I check my iPhone to see what the ETA is for the #9 I intend to transfer to.  A few moments later a time pulls up, the good trusty #9 is coming soon.  My transfer will only be about 4-5 minutes.  I’m good with that, can’t complain a bit.

All this wondering about, while blogging & writing code makes me wonder what the coming trip will be like.  With that the focus on work I need to do right now comes flooding back into my mind and encourages me to leave this writing.  I decide that it best to do so, and with that I leave the writing to finish the days work.