2012 in review – The Infographic Summary

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 8,400 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 14 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

A Grand Lodge, A Long Transit Ride, A Great Weekend

Over this last weekend I headed out to Forest Grove to Mcmenamins Grand Lodge. It’s a great place to spend a weekend away from everything, with the bonus of actually being reachable by transit. From downtown, take any MAX that goes to either Beaverton Transit Center or Hillsboro and transfer at either of those places to the #57 Bus that goes to Forest Grobe. I prefer to take the MAX for and wait until the end of the line to transfer. It always makes working on a laptop dramatically easier than riding on a bus, thus my main reason on many trips for taking rail over the bus.

Between the soaking pool, which is a great heated pool that is absolutely wonderful during the winter, I started pondering. I ought to spearhead a website that lays out the locations that are close to stops on the light rail, streetcar, WES and bus corridors in the TriMet Service area. However I’d not want to do this alone. If you’d like to volunteer to help me out (don’t worry, we’re only talking about content and helping to find cool places, you don’t have to code or actually create the website) with this let me know. Just enter the things you could provide and I’ll get in touch ASAP.

Cheers – Transit Sleuth

Is TriMet Failing? Could Transit Improve in Portland? Let me know!

I’m just curious where my readers stand. If you could take a few minutes to fill this out and hit submit I’d greatly appreciate it. Also I made the email address empty, but it is just going to me, I’m not selling any of your information and many of you know me. So don’t be alarmed – it would make it easier for me if you did enter your email.

After a week or two I’ll post all of my answers also. Last thing, if you’re from Seattle, Vancouver WA or wherever feel free to fill this out if you keep up with Portland politics. I know some of you do. 😉

I’m in The Boston Globe! Bicycling in Portland Gets Props

A few weeks ago I traveled to Boston. Which had nothing to do with me being part of an article in The Boston Globe, but I was there none the less, riding transit and checking out the bike lanes there in that fine city.

When I returned to Portland, a few days later I was riding down the Stark Street green painted bike lane (PDF) on my way to the Portland Chrome Store. While coming down the bike lane Derrick was taking a photograph of me for the write up (which unfortunately didn’t make it into the article). I stopped and we struck up a conversation with the Portland bike infrastructure manager, Derrick and I. After a good conversation Derrick returned to Boston a few days later and then after a week or so, put together this article “A successful model for urban cycling in Portland, Ore“.

Chinese Railroads Aren’t the Advertised Achievement We’re Sold

I got another email from a train & transit buddy of mine recently. Talking about how the United States has fallen behind in the race to have high speed rail. Now before I leap into what I’m going to say, I want to make it abundantly clear that what we are achieving today, what we’re doing today as a nation is pathetic. I’m talking about 3rd world nation pathetic. While we ride on the backs of technology to carry the country along and any hope of growth, the real industry leaders of railroads, construction and manufacturing have fallen into dormancy. In large part because of the disgraceful behavior of the Government and the politicians pretending they can run and economy and build cities.

Simply, they will not and can never achieve what the US did and the titans of industry accomplished with the help of the American people between 1865 and 1915. I’m not saying everything is hunky dory and lovely from that era, I’m just saying we’ve become absurdly pathetic as a nation. We can’t achieve what we did then, we can’t innovate nor have we proven that we have the insight or drive to create, innovate, build and bring about a better future for everyone. Simply, the United States is absolutely a shadow of what it once was and there is no light at the end of the tunnel. We’re in for an extremely rude awakening that we have taken what our forefathers provided us, and rested heavily on our laurels to our children’s detriment. They are now the one’s, completely ill-prepared, to rebuild that level of achievement and growth. Something that the Chinese or some other country, that is actually less prepared to handle these things, will have to take the reigns anyway.

So let’s talk about a few comparisons, since everyone is so wowed by the Chinese and their railroad. Let’s get a better perspective about what the Chinese are achieving compared with the United States of 1865-1915.

The Chinese, in 50 years have built approximately 65,545 miles of railroad. This has been done with tooling and equipment that they’ve built using designs and technology created by the United States, Europe and other nations. It is technology that we used between 1865-1915, also a 50 year span, to build 129,774 miles of railroad by 1890, with a total of 250,000 miles by 1915. So really, the Chinese have accomplished a mere portion of what the United States did with technology that had to be developed when the US Railroads were being built. Many Chinese Americans also helped to achieve that, because here they innovate and create in ways that just wouldn’t happen in China itself (at least, there has been no evidence to the contrary, new ideas are extremely slow to take hold in mainland China, however a change of Governmental systems seems to do the trick, as Taiwan and Hong Kong have shown without doubt). To put it simply, the freer the market, the greater the achievements  The same can be seen for “free-market” Britain as well as “market driven” TGV, Shinkansen  etc. I could go on about this even more, but suffice it to say at 250,000 miles of railroad, no country on Earth has even come close to the achievements of American entrepreneurs and industrialists during 1865-1915. NOWHERE EVEN CLOSE.

For another comparison, let’s take speeds achieved by the Chinese on their high speed rail. The trains generally, now after several accidents causing dozens of deaths, travel at a safer 187 mph. Which is now, in 2012 the general speed of high speed rail. No real achievement has been made here. The TGV holds the highest speed at record and has areas that operate at higher speeds.

In the US, and I know this isn’t in the 1865-1915 range, but just stay with me for a minute. The New York Central in 1966 achieved 196 mph with the M-497. In the 1940’s the Milwaukee Road ran rail service over 100mph, hitting up to 120 mph for part of the trip. Note, that was the 1940’s. In 1934 the Milwaukee Road had a line running a peak of 103.6 mph, in 1934!

Ok, so those speeds are all great right, but let’s step back again to the years we’re really comparing. In 1905 the Pennsylvania Railroad ran a speed record at 127.2 mph near Crestline, Ohio with an E7sa 4-4-2 Atlantic. This same train was running rail service at 88-90 mph daily at the time. Something that makes the current Chinese rail operations seem not so spectacular, and the modern US rail operations a complete embarrassment. When we look at the averages, things look even better for our forefathers in the 1865-1915 period too, as our modern averages drop horribly low. But let’s not dig into how poorly we do today compared to our forefathers.

Another great thing the Chines have built is this fantastic sprawling train station shown below.

Again, don’t get me wrong. They’ve created an amazing station here. But let’s step back to that 1865-1915 America again just for a second and take a look at Cornelius Vanderbilt’s Grand Central Terminal.  Here are the upper tracks:

The suburban (as in sub-urban) level of the station. (Click for full size image)

The suburban (as in sub-urban) level of the station. (Click for full size image)

Oh yeah, and here’s the OTHER LEVEL of tracks.

The express level. (Again, click on for full size image)

The express level. (Again, click on for full size image)

That’s two decks of train tracks, built in 1913. All underground so it doesn’t block up massive sprawling space like the station shown in China. It was built that way to better service New York at its very core. But wait, that’s not all. Guess what else is under the station. If you said the 42nd street subway you’d be correct! The subway was running as of 1904, with the station finally open for business in 1915.


So what am I really saying by doing this comparison? It’s simple, I’m saying we’re not and should not be trying to compete with the modern Chinese. We should be competing with ourselves. Our own nation has languished and become weaker by the year. Our peak, militarily can be said to have happened in WWII, however our economic powerhouse was created in the span of 1865-1915. What was built then was what enabled us to power our way through WWII, out producing every nation on Earth. It was these years of economic strength that set us up to be able to create the greatest middle class to the world had known. But now we’re too busy fussing and begging the Government to build us out of our debt and misfortune. We’ve become a nation not of doers but of beggars and people subsisting on others. We’re in debt beyond our wildest dreams while we continue to out consume and further plunge into debt. We act like we own houses while we make massive mortgage payments, also known when translated as “death payments”. What we have achieved was basically set into motion in those years, 1865-1915, and we’ve done little to truly progress past that, except to increase our dependence on an unreliable and faulty Government.

What the Chinese have built is commendable, but it isn’t anything that the United States had not already accomplished almost a hundred years ago. It’s just we’ve fallen so far from our peak, our achievements have withered and we’ve forgotten and cared not what we once were as a nation.

The good thing is, the United States may find itself yet. We may find that maybe, just maybe there is another type of grand success and great life to be had. Maybe we don’t have to acheive these things. Maybe the Chinese are merely chasing our own failures while we’re finding our way to different things. I think we’ll still need to build our way out of the current doldrums, but we could still do it. It just won’t be anything like what we achieved in the past.

Simply, our forefathers have seriously kicked our ass, and there’s no way the modern generation, or next few generations are going to reclaim that pedestal. We’re too busy figuring out how to create “social media” empires of pettiness.

…and also, the next entry will be much more positive. I just had to get this written out as I’m tired of how the “Chinese are beating us”, when in reality we’re not being beaten by anyone but ourselves.

Every Time I Feel Bummy About Trimet…

I seem to stumble into the poor plight of King County Metro in Seattle. Recently they started running their BRT routes, or “faux BRT” routes I should say. The D line has run into the gamut of problems, including ridership it just can’t handle. I wish em’ the best, cheers.

Amid what appears to be poor planning and being forced to push the BRT into service while severely cutting other routes in the area, King County is making improvement along the route slowly and steadily. Light priorities are definitely a start, but not the ultimate solution. The ideal, which in traditional Seattle fashion, is 15-20 years away.

Light Rail

This ideal scenario is to build out the Link Light Rail out to West Seattle. However West Seattle is at the bottom of the priority list right now, and Seattle can’t multi-track (not that any city in the US can anymore). The other lines that will complete well before anything even gets legitimately planned for West Seattle include Bellevue, Redmond (maybe), north Seattle (maybe), south of the airport (maybe) and of course the currently being built University District line.

The University District line, which I’m highly confident will change the way Seattle exists in a huge way, connecting three of the core areas of Seattle; downtown, University District, and Capital Hill. This line, part of which exists out to the airport now, should become a huge success at that point. Versus the current situation, in which the light rail is of moderate success and arguable becoming rapidly more successful year over year. They’re seeing much more rapid growth in ridership than originally expected. With double digit percentages year over year. This last month, the Link Light Rail has caught up to the other typical ridership numbers of lines here in the north west.

  • Trimet Blue Line: 54,200
  • Trimet Red Line: 21,700
  • Trimet Green Line: 23,300
  • Trimet Yellow Line: 16,400 < poor poor Yellow Line. 😦
  • Link Light Rail: >= 27,000


As I Wrote This Entry…

I read a few blog entries over on Seattle Transit Blog and oh boy that just reminds me of one big reason why I high tailed it back to Portland after 2 years in Seattle. They’re completely FUBARing their entire transit system slowly but steadily at King County Metro. They’re taking examples time and time again from Portland and implementing them horribly. The only project that looks to be going really well, and it isn’t actually King County Metro, is the Link Light Rail extension to U-District (as I mentioned above). The BRT, the streetcar expansion, and other things all look doomed to be complete catastrophes. Just read that blog entry and comments on Human Transit’s Blog. Seattle is just heading the complete opposite direction of getting itself put together well. It is completely neglecting the core elements of the city that SHOULD have major transit corridors, dedicated lane miles,  and other associated enhancements and pushing in traffic bus service and in traffic streetcar service that is destined to be stuck. Seattle traffic is the only city in the North West (excluding San Francisco if you count it as NW) that has truly bad traffic. With this type of attitude, of not giving dedicated ROW to transit services, that traffic will remain horrible and get worse without a single alternative to it all.

If they keep up, I can imagine in 20-30 years you might see Tacoma, Vancouver BC, and even Portland start to take a lead in growth and population over Seattle. Seattle could literally, stymie its population growth in a significant way if they don’t figure out how to manage their city properly.

…and don’t even get me started on the other city amenities…   :-/