Washington Passes $8.4 Billion Transportation Bill

Here’s a quick blurb on this transportation package in Washington. It looks like, sounds like, reads like the Washington Democrats have voted in to throw down $450 million match for the I5 Columbia River Crossing in spite of heavy local contention on the Portland and Vancouver sides of the bridge. It appears that the politicians in both Oregon and Washington give no care to those residents in these cities.

The CRC wreck continues to move forward. It’s starting to get to the point of, who’s going to pay for the massive overruns that are starting to take shape. Remember the bridge needs redesigned to meet Coast¬†Guard¬†height restrictions, it’s going to limit overall height which will close down businesses along the Columbia up river. Beyond those two immediate things Oregon has not established an actual funding source for the bridge or setup actual bonds or other mechanisms. In other words, the politicians in Oregon have spent money they don’t have in any budget, the politicians in Washington have completely disregarded Vancovuerites and of course have no vested interest in Portland form this perspective.

None of them seem to be paying attention to the future, nor the fact that traffic hasn’t increased on this stretch of interstate or the fact that 70% of traffic congestion is caused by local traffic. In other words, EVERY logical solution to this is to build an arterial bridge and let local traffic travel on it instead of being forced to funnel into the I-5 corridor.

Why is this simple solution such an insanely hard thing for these politicians to wrap their head around? It seems someone with some deep pockets and serious intent to build the bridge – broke as it is – keeps pulling the strings of the politician puppets. Just sad. ¬†ūüė¶

My Two Cents of What’s Happening

The Republicans are in favor of just paving a massive bridge across the Columbia River. A few of them have even suggested BRT, albeit they know how BRT works out (i.e. it usually doesn’t get funded and when it does it’s shoved into traffic anyway).

What this is starting to shape up like, in a twist of irony, is Oregon is supporting the bridge to get light rail and Washington is supporting it to get light rail, in spite of and against the will of the sprawling areas’¬†Vancouver¬†citizens. The irony is that Vancouver’s state – Washington – is in favor of light rail, the biggest sticking point for Vancouverites.

In Oregon, we’ve actually got a number of the features we demanded were must haves; safer and better pedestrian and bike access, light rail into downtown Vancouver and on to the College, reduced overall lanes and slowly decreased scope to fix all these other ingress points on the Interstate.

Overall, Portland and Oregon as a whole have gained a lot of things we wanted. However the biggest problem is that it is still unwanted by the overall communities it affects the most, it doesn’t actually provide real traffic congestion relief (and even if it did, induced demand would fix that in short order). The bridge is largely unfinanced which will fall on the backs of our children. The trend is also AGAINST increased car ownership, it’s actually dropping, and Portland is a leader in that dropping demand. Building this thing is against the trend that is occurring.

Overall, it seems like Oregon and Washington politicians are blinded by the desire to get light rail built and find it acceptable to sink us into massive debt by building an Interstate that is entirely unfunded, even with the tolls for Washington Commuters coming into Portland.

Overall, things are whack for the CRC.

The Ongoing CRC Cluster Failure

So I was reading through some articles and somehow I’ve missed this one. It appears the politicians haven’t paid any attention to the state treasurer. The House & Senate didn’t say a thing to the state treasurer who testified that many problems still exist. To quote Wheeler,

“The project costs haven’t been nailed down,” Wheeler said. “There are a lot of question marks, including whether the federal funds will materialize. We’re concerned about the governance model if the tolls don’t pan out. The Coast Guard hasn’t signed off on the height yet, so we don’t know what revisions will be necessary.”

When asked if he’s given a seal of approval to the bridge,

“No, we have not.”

So it really makes me wonder what nonsense the pro-CRC crowd keeps chirping on about. They must seriously be well funded to have pro-CRC people shilling out on a Facebook Page and other presence points on the Internet (when obviously the PEOPLE of the area don’t want the thing).

To throw in another quote about the legislature, they seem to be aiming for union & business support, they’re obviously not asking the citizenry (who until recently has found it odd that this thing was still alive as a project).

“The Oregon Treasury deals in investment-grade analysis, the Legislature in superficial votes that curry favor with unions and the project’s supporters in the business community.”

Then in regards to the Governor. It just keeps becoming an even larger political boondoggle.

“The governor? He’s in bed with the wrong crowd.”

Then later on, a real summary quote,

“Let’s be glad the Legislature, so easily cowed or bought off, has moved on, clearing the way for a more aggressive review in Washington state and more thorough analysis by the Oregon Treasury.”

“When it comes to doing our job,” Wheeler said, “so that if we issue bonds, we have certainty that the bondholders will be paid back and the taxpayers won’t be at risk, that requires a deeper analysis than what the legislative process prescribes.”

So I guess Wheeler is looking out for the state. The political leaders recently elected to the legislature in Oregon sure as hell aren’t paying attention to those they represent.

Portland’s Light Rail Advocates

There are a number of people types when it comes to light rail in Portland. I’ve set out to put together a view of those types. First off, I’ll describe the two types I find myself fitting into.

Backbone Advocates” – Ideal: Light Rail is a great arterial back bone for a transit system.

These advocates see light rail as a great core service provider for moderate to heavy use lines. They’re often likely to want light rail (LRT) over bus rapid transit (BRT) in almost every scenario. The key reason, is because growth can congregate around light rail far better than almost every other bus option. A backbone advocate is also dramatically less likely to use a bus over or in lieu of light rail.

Cycling Transit Advocates” – Ideal: Light Rail are useful, buses are a pain, I’d rather just bike.

Ok, this category I fall into a lot. Buses are effectively useless and dangerous to cyclists. More so than the tracks in the street. Buses have been the vehicles that have killed almost a dozen of cyclists over the last decade. Many of them children, 5-12 years old. Beyond that, the bus carries two cycles at the most. None of the bus drivers barely know a thing about placing cycles on board. So effectively a bus carries 2 cycles, light rail – a one car train – can carry 4 on racks, and almost a total of 4-6 in between the entrances in the open area for a grand total of 8-10 per car. Most light rail runs with 2 cars, giving a total of 16-20 bikes per train. Buses can’t even remotely touch this. The last fact is simple – streetcars and light rail don’t merge onto you when you’re biking.¬†That makes the rail based streetcar or light rail option the only real transit option for cyclists.

Derp Advocates” – Ideal: Light rail is nifty, I like the way it looks.

These advocates love light rail. They’re not sure they know why they like light rail, but they like it. They like how it feels and they feel X, Y or Z about it but usually can’t back up any of those reasons. These are the people that vote for light rail, and want it because it’s green or it looks pretty or some other non-functional, not really true reason to want light rail, but they love it anyway. These advocates are useful for their votes for light rail, but politically they’re as¬†detrimental¬†to light rail as any other thing someone may advocate for. Basically these advocates are the urbanized version of a dumb red neck that thinks the highways are part of the free-market.

Numbers Advocate” – Ideal: I can statistically prove why light rail is the superior option.

These advocates don’t care about passion or how one feels about something, they’re here to prove everybody else wrong and those that oppose light rail just can’t do simple math. They’re often harsh and introverted to the extreme. These advocates are huge political help when light rail comes up against the “it’s too expensive” or “it doesn’t carry enough people” or whatever other nonsense someone comes up with. These advocates are the ones who do analysis on every single thing they can find. Very useful for bringing up the argument of what light rail really does for a city, but not someone to advocate in front of the camera.

Car Hater Advocate” – Ideal: It aint a car, build it. End of story.

This advocate is simple. Sometimes a cyclist, sometimes a curmudgeon, or whatever they may be they are against anything car related. They often have a host of reasons, all very legitimate, but something society just can’t face no matter how true they are. This advocate doesn’t care how expensive a line gets, doesn’t care if it messes up existing traffic, and only cares about getting the line built. These advocates are politically damaging but often bring with them a number of other staunch advocates in the above categories.

Common (Wo)Man Advocates” – Ideal: I’ve analyzed what data I could find, looked at the benefits and negatives and this seems like a great option.

These advocates are the most important, politically and for ridership reasons. They are the people who will be the core ridership of the line and also will make a line politically feasible or not by discussing and carrying on conversation to build political momentum for a line. They may come to community meetings, they may not, but they’ll be talking about light rail at coffee shops, in the office, over the water cooler and anywhere else the topic comes up. They’ll talk about the pros and cons of the line and say they lean toward building light rail and riding light rail.

I Hate Traffic Light Rail Advocate” – Ideal: If they build other stuff for other people to ride on then I won’t have to deal with as much traffic when I drive.

This is the hypocrite, yet very important ally in the battle to get light rail transit systems built. These advocates, albeit horribly misguided in their notions of what does or doesn’t create traffic, are key in winning votes to get light rail built. Even with the facts around human behavior and induced demand, these advocates have some odd idea that transit will resolve the idiocy and failure of auto dependent roadways.

Summary

So this is kind of the bullet list of light rail advocates. Are there others? What’s your take? In a subsequent entry I’ll post the light rail haters list. It’ll follow the same basic premise. If you have any suggestions for those, let me know your feedback on that too, it’d be much appreciated! ¬†ūüėČ

I’m Sitting There Looking at a Dog and Then BOOM, I’m Shredding on a Surly 1×1 Custom

I boarded the #72 heading west at 7th and Alberta. A nice enough day, not cold, but by no means warm. I rode out and got off at the Killingsworth & Interstate Ave intersection to transfer to the MAX Yellow Line. There I took the MAX one stop to one of my favorite coffee shops, Arbor Lodge (If you’re curious, check out my previous blog entry). While sitting there sipping on my coffee this dog and I started a contest, looking at each other.

The Dog's Gaze

The Dog’s Gaze

He sat chilling in the car outside just looking, waiting and ready to go. There in front of him sat some bikes on the sidewalk. As cyclists went by he looked longingly at them freely traveling around and people walking about. The dog’s driver came out after getting a cup of coffee and he became¬†exceedingly¬†happy. I thought, “heh, that dog is reminding me, staring at those bikes that I need to get that second ride so that when my brother arrives in a few weeks, we’ve got wheels to roll on”.

Some of you might think, “why not rent a bike, there are plenty in Portland”. Well, my brother and I grew up riding. We didn’t just ride bikes like most kids, we rode hard. We rode really hard, breaking frames, handlebars, rims, shredding tires and in the process sometimes ourselves. We loved riding, and one things we haven’t whimsically tossed aside is our penchant to live live hard and fast, and to its fullest! We’ve never been inclined to half ass something or have something be mediocre.

So when he comes to town, we’ll have proper bikes, for a proper ride. We’ll have no qualms hitting the trails or hitting the street, dive into some hard twisting roads or whatever might be before us. Because when we ride, we don’t intend to have fear step in front of us for some piddly threatening, we’d just as well smash it asunder as we always have in the past. This way, picking up a second quality bike insures we have the appropriate rides ready, maintained, tuned and rolling for our tour about town.

With that, I decided to walk around the corner as soon as I took lunch, I’d walk around the corner to Revolver Bikes. If they had the bike I’d scoped out a few days earlier I’d pick it up. As with any bike shop, I’d gone in, chit chatted with some of the crew in the shop to determine if they were knowledgeable, friendly and the regular criteria of a shop I’d be interested in coming back to after I purchased a bike from them. Well, they came off as a great team with a fair select of trail, BMC, track and other bikes. But more importantly, in addition to their jovial chit chat & good knowledge, was the nice custom parts they’d assembled on several of the bike setups. Both BMX rides & street, trail and others looked good. So I was sold, lunch arrived and I walked over.

Fortunately for me, the bike I’d seen and wanted was there. I walked in and tossed them my messenger bag & ID as collateral and went for a ride. The bike rode well, just as they’d set it up. A few tweaks probably would help over time but for the moment it was excellent. Except for one thing. The original pedals were plasticy wierdness. Not as grippy as I wanted. When I rolled back into the shop I immediately checked out some options they had on hand. Ended up with a sick pair of pedals with removable pins, excellent grip and thin and wide. Just right for my stomper feet.

No Brooks Saddle, but all the other bits are just right!

No Brooks Saddle, but all the other bits are just right!

With that, I paid, mounted up and headed into town. A short 4.3 Kilometers later I’d arrived and gave a little urban break in session to it. The only question left in my mind, is what’s my new bike’s nick name?

Proper Portland Brew, Transport & Week Kick Off

Mmmmm

Mmmmm