Denver, Los Angeles, Seattle and Portland, What Was First?

Portland was first, again, as usual it seems. What was it first for? Well, the list isn’t short, but what I’m talking about today is the MAX connection from downtown to the airport. I just read a summary of news tidbits on The Source titled Transportation Headlines for Wednesday, November 27th. The segment that caught my attention was the Denver East Corridor Rail line to the airport that pointed to the Streetsblog Article complaining about LA’s airport connector that is under construction.

Portland’s MAX Red Line

MAX Red Line, Click for Trimet's Page on the Red Line.

MAX Red Line, Click for Trimet’s Page on the Red Line.

In Portland the MAX Red Line opened in 2001 on the very unfortunate date of September 10th. The next day being September 11th 2001 really put the airport out of commission. For weeks after the opening date the line barely carried a soul to the airport, for obvious reasons. The entire place was closed after the world trade center twin towers came down in New York City. The world mourned the event and the Red Line suffered because of it, just as we all did.

However, as the city, the country and people got back to the business of day to day activities and the airport re-opened the line bustled with riders. Between 1990 and 2008 the airport had gone from six million passengers through the airport (flying) to over 13 million. 2020 projects are that it will easily surpass that, likely in the 20+ million range. The four stops of the Red Line however do not serve just the airport, and the length of the route serves many other stops with a huge number of riders. For those stops it doubles the service along the Banfield Corridor with the Blue Line all the way out to Beaverton. There is even talk of enabling it to double service even further out toward the edge of Beaverton or even going a little ways into Hillsboro. Time will tell for those changes though.

Why do I bring that up? Because the Red Line serves far more than just the airport, and even a bulk of the ridership isn’t even airport bound. The ridership for the two stops before the airport stop have boomed as retail has exploded around them. An Ikea opened, and along with a number of other retail options. These options benefit from a number of things including Oregon’s lack of a sales tax, creating a situation of thousands of Washington residents driving across the I-205 bridge to shop there. Many of these people drive across that same bridge in the morning commute and board the Red Line at the Parkrose/Sumner Transit Center stop. Some even sneak in and park at the Cascades stop (even though that’s retail parking for the businesses there, we know motorists rarely care nor know they’re not supposed to do that). Overall, all those stops in between the airport and where the line resumes service with the Blue Line (and now the Green Line too matter of fact) on the Banfield Corridor are hugely important.

Time for Some Data!

In 2010 I found some data Michael Anderson had gotten from Trimet for ons and offs. This is the counter data that all MAX trains have that count boardings and detrainings from the MAX Light Rail Vehicles (LRVs) at each stop. Remember this is 2010, ridership is up over 10% since 2010. So even correcting for the +-1% for data reading mistakes or anything like that, this data is a conservative look into what ridership is today in 2013.

Airport Station
Stop ID: 10579 On 1694 Off 1635

Mt Hood Avenue MAX Station
Stop ID: 10576 On 50 Off 253
Stop ID: 10577 On 252 Off 54

Cascades MAX Station has about 450 on and 450 off. Keep in mind, this was in 2010 when most of the retail wasn’t even open yet.
Stop ID: 10575 On 402 Off 46
Stop ID: 10574 On 43 Off 411

Parkrose/Sumner TC MAX Station, MAX Rides on and off only. There’s over a thousand on and a thousand leaving the station everyday, just on the Red Line.
Stop ID: 10572 On 113 Off 926
Stop ID: 10573 On 962 Off 134

The line is technically 5.5 miles long. This accounts for the Red Line segment that is entirely new, between Gateway TC and the PDX Airport. It was finished and opened for public ridership on September 10th, 2001. Here’s a map of the line, running from the airport to Beaverton today. When it originally opened it terminated downtown on the turnaround from the original Blue line that ran from Gresham to Portland. Now the turnaround isn’t used as an active turnaround, but as an area for train extras. The terminus is now on the middle track at Beaverton Transit Center.

The Trimet Rail System. Click for a larger image.

The Trimet Rail System. Click for a larger image.

Here’s some other stats of significance. The Red Line was the first train to plane service on the west coast. It was built through a public-private partnership, nothing seen like this for many decades (think pre-1950 when most transportation was nationalized). The funding split was Trimet general fund at 36%, Bechtel/Cascade Station Development Company, LLC at 23%, Port of Portland (for the airport) at 23% and the City of Portland at 18%. No federal dollars or new local taxes were used. This is of significant note, as with Federal dollars it would have likely taken 5-10 years longer to build, if it was even able to be completed then. Federal involvement always makes things dramatically more difficult to get shovels in the ground.

Why Mention This?

Well it seems, since the line was opened Seattle has open their Link Light Rail service from downtown Seattle to the airport. It serves about 22k people per day last I checked, which I’m betting it is up to about 28-32k per day now. It’s been a while since I checked. Los Angeles and Denver are about to join the ranks of cities in the United States west of the Mississippi to offer train to plane service. There has been some debate whether LA’s connector will be worth the investment and if Denver’s isn’t’ a better example.

My Bets for Denver

What I’m betting, contrary to the article fussing for a direct connection to downtown Los Angeles, is that most of the ridership for the Denver line will not actually originate at the airport. Almost all of the ridership I bet ends up being commuters in and out of the city from the 5 intermediary stops along the line. In addition, if empirical data is any proof, then most of the airport ridership will actually be local workers at the airport and not travelers going to flights. However, I counter that to some degree. So here’s my bullet point bets for the Denver line. This bet I’m making based on assumptions of what service will be and what ridership will be from 2016 when it opens until about 2020. After that, all bets are off.  😉

  1. Most of the riders will be commuters riding from the 5 intermediary stops into and out of Denver. More precisely riders originating from and to the 5 intermediary stops of: 38th and Blake, 40th and Colorado, Central Park, Peoria and Airport (rd/dr) and 40th will exceed 51% of all riders.
  2. A large percentage of the riders for the airport (into the actual final stop of the airport, not the Airport St & 40th stop) will be airport workers. I’ll estimate that at least ~12%. I wouldn’t bet against someone betting on 30-40% of the riders being workers at the airport. Ideally of course, only about 2-5% of the riders would be airport workers, as one would hope the rider count on the train will be very high.
  3. It will for the first 10 years be a significantly higher cost per ride then the light rail or bus service in the area. Over the 20-30 year period it will drop below thanks to inflationary cost changes and over a 30+ year it will drop below or be maintained at about the cost per ride of light rail and bus service. Pending of course we still even get around this way in 10-30 years from now. We might just use transporters and aircraft may be irrelevant.  😉

References:

I’d Promised Someone Ages Ago a Video From San Francisco

Episode 4: “Portland Milwaukie Light Rail, The Winter Rain & The Wreck”

http://vimeo.com/adronhall/pmlr

I’ll be producing more on the Portland Milwaukie Light Rail in the coming months, breaking out information about the new bike routes, light rail, pedestrian paths and all the improvements around the project. One of these days I’ll do a price break out so all the light rail haters can realize that a large bulk of the costs are actually for rebuilding the roadways in and around the light rail line. But until then, enjoy and happy travels!

A New Transit Sleuth TV, Sort Of…

I’m making a few changes to the upcoming Transit Sleuth TV Episodes (check out here for the current episodes).

1. Single Segments…

The episodes are going to simply be divided into their individual segments. Instead of one episode being 3 segments, or however many I’ve decided on in the past, I’ll be producing one segment per episode. These segments will still be 2 minutes to 10 minutes, with the average being somewhere around 3-5 minutes usually.

2. Released As Produced…

As each segment is produced I’ll release it, so no more 3 week waits between episodes. It might be a little bumpy at first, but there will likely be a new segment released every Sunday. There might be an extra one here or there, so be sure to subscribe to the Transit Sleuth TV Channel or just follow the Transit Sleuth blog right here (look in the upper right hand side of the blog for the follow button, then you’ll get an email delivered with every new blog entry and segment when it is released).

3. Transit Sleuth Crew…

The Transit Sleuth Crew has formed to produce larger scale productions. No, we’re still not going to produce any movie quality episodes (yet, unless you know some studios or something that are interested). But myself and several other individuals are aiming to produce some “what if” segments that are hopefully going to rock your socks! …oh, and be super entertaining too.  🙂

So, subscribe on the vimeo channel here and stay tuned for more of Portland’s very own Transit Sleuth TV.

Cheers, The Sleuth

 

Transit on Tap, It’s Kind of Like Transit Beer, But Different

Ages ago I kicked off a series of meetups called Transit Beer. Those were fun, but it wasn’t anything official, with no real plan other then to get together with people who were passionate about solutions for transit. It often just ended up being a bunch of people sitting around having a good time with a slightly to much focus on bitching about things we can’t actually influence or change. There however is a new event in town, with meetups, and it has been dubbed Transit on Tap. The first meeting is described as,

“As the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Transit Project Bridge takes shape over the Willamette River, Portland-area residents are starting to consider how the multimodal investments from this light rail line will create new travel options between Southeast Portland, the South Waterfront and Downtown Portland.

Join TriMet staff Dave Unsworth and DeeAnn Sandberg for a detailed discussion on how this project and the new bridge might transform how we get around in these inner Southeast and Southwest neighborhoods.”

The meetup is schedule for December 3rd, a Tuesday from 5-7pm at Green Dragon. Considering that I intend to live very close to the PMLR I will be using it and the rerouted buses over the new bridge on a regular basis. In addition to that I imagine I will be biking over that bridge even more. Considering this fact I’m definitely interested in what the discussion will be about. It sounds like it should be a good meetup, I’m putting it on the schedule, are you?

Some of the future meetups are already scheduled, two for January. One on transit and climate change, the second out in Tigard discussing BRT. It sounds like a good series, I hope to meet many of you there.

Time to Up Our Game Portland

Vancouver BC went from zero miles of cycle tracks just a few years ago, to dozens and dozens of miles. They now cover all of downtown.

Seattle is now building cycle tracks, bikeways, trails and bike lanes like mad. Almost like their light rail, it seems they’ve jumped into the game really late and realized they’re vital to maintaining and growing their urban core and holding onto people and businesses that drive the Seattle economy.

San Francisco, also now building cycle tracks and bike lanes all over the place. Again, a bit late in many ways but better late than never.

Meanwhile, the biking capital of the United States is in a holding pattern around taking real leaps forward in progress. Portland, Oregon is in desperate need to a true step forward. Yes, we have 6% of the entire metropolitan area cycling, we have almost 30-35% of all trips in the inner urban core taken by bicycle. But we have a host of problems because our bicycling is driven more out of a revolutionary culture of changing things for the better, increasing livability and sustainable living than any actual investment in infrastructure.

Portland’s cycling infrastructure, except for all of 2 or 3 streets, has shared roads. There is only two cycle tracks, one on Multnomah Avenue and one by PSU. Both are often parked on and blocked. When I say often, I mean 2-4 times per week. Often at the worst times, such as during rush hour. Multnomah Avenue is so poorly marked in one segment that it almost always has cars parked on it except on the clearest days. We also have a lot of bike lanes, which are pleasant enough for brave cyclists, but it doesn’t encourage those with children and many others to really mix with traffic out of fear and threats from motorists.

Portland is starting to fall behind.

On several of the bike lanes, such as near Chipotle where the streetcar turns one lady blatantly parked in the bike lane. When I asked if she knew it was a bike lane, I received a strident, dismissive and aggressive, “yeah I know that!” almost as if to say “screw off”. I stated, “well, you could get a ticket, even by me which would see you in court.” Maybe next time the more effective solution would be to bust a window and ride on. It seems like solutions like that would be better since nobody seems to really want to stand up and say what a warped, perverse, self-righteous entitlement motorists like this tend to have.

Portland is starting to fall behind.

All of this is truly frustrating. I’m however, far from depleted of energy, far form demotivated and if anything, this type of disrespectful obliviousness that endangers lives, shows disrespect toward one another’s fellow Portlanders just encourages me to do something about it. But one might ask, what the hell is the solution?

Well, I don’t have a billion dollars to give the city to build real cycle tracks. But I’d bet there is motivation to do something about it! There are others out there and I intend to begin rallying riders to get something done about it.

To summarize, I intend to see some cycle tracks get built in Portland sooner than later. I intend to make it a priority that we don’t end up with more dead and buried because motorists get their entitlement because “cyclists run red lights” and other such nefarious absurdities. Red herrings don’t save anybody’s lives, and it’s about time that we wrapped our heads around this issue and started taking some real action.

Portland is starting to fall behind. But solutions await.

What do we need? That’s simple, it’s absurdly simple.

  • The cycle tracks (the two of them) that exist now need real bollards, real separations. Not some petty separation that is covered up with a light dusting of leaves or debris. These separations can be at grade but would be best raised, when that can’t happen there should be physical obstacles to vehicles running across and into cyclists, pedestrians and others that traverse the sides of the roads. Already this year in Portland over a dozen people; children, young people in their early 20s and even elderly have all been killed by motorists. Some of the motorists were drunk, most were just driving along obliviously as happens far to often. None of these people however should have been killed. Almost all of the motorists have received no charges. Only two, apparently drunk individuals, have actually received charges. The fact that we could have prevented this from happening, arguably even prevented the drunk fools form killing people, is disheartening. Let’s get this fixed.
  • There needs to be cycle tracks implemented along every major corridor into the city. Bike boulevards are wonderful, but as arterials get congested with more auto traffic (from more cars traveling down arterials) the bike boulevards handle the run off of cars, making the street dangerous for residents and of course for cyclists. Simply, every existing boulevard should have a comparable route with a cycle track on it and there should be additional blockages to prevent speeding motorists from using these as secondary arterials. This isn’t even so much something for cyclists, as it is something to protect the schools, the residents and the children that live in these neighborhoods.
  • The cycle *highways* as some have called them are starting to form. These are a great stride forward, but not only a stride forward they are the way forward. The increase in business and activity along these corridors will continue to make malls and suburban development seem like the most absurdly idiotic thing that it is. So this, this one space, we are actually moving forward on. We however as a city could be expanding our efforts around this – cycle-tracks, or highways, as they’re sometimes called should be expanded to travel into every major corridor in the city. Cycle-tracks should funnel into them, bike lanes should funnel into them, and other routes should funnel into these prospective cycle havens. The prospects of increased business, activity, social gathering and community involvement increase dramatically with all of these corridors.

In the future I’ll add a few blogging bits about how to create better hubs of biking, transit, pedestrian and living areas in the city. Hopefully I’ll have a few ideas of how to prevent gentrification screwing over people too. So this is a start. We’ve still got a long way to go to make this city everything it should be. Join in the effort, I’ll see you there.

Chevrolet Tries In Vain to be Cool!

…and fails pretty bad. There are sites like Buzzfeed that go on about goofy pictures and everything. It puts a laugh on a few zillion faces a day. Recently however I noticed one of the “feed” items was a blatant advertisement from Chevrolet focusing on how lame one’s carpool is. I will admit, I’m stoked they’re suggesting people carpool. Sadly, it seems that’s a rarity except maybe in places like Seattle.

Some of the pictures and labels kind of bug me. First reason is because Chevrolet isn’t actually being very funny. Second is because they really think very little of their customers or people that aren’t their customers. Another is the ongoing assumption that Chevrolet has that anybody in their customer knows or understand anything about public transit or alternates besides being dependent on one of their cars. So let’s take a look at a few of these pictures that Chevrolet thinks is hilarious through their disingenious use of a buzzfeed article.

Being they’ve taken a picture of the busiest Japanese Subway station, one of the busiest in the world and labeled it “you think public transit sounds exciting!” Here’s my simple response to Chevrolet about this particular image/animated gif.

First off, being that I’m not cowering in one of your subpar cages – I mean automobiles – and I’m out there with the community it is rather exciting thank you. I’ve met people I never would have otherwise. I’ve met people outside of my racial group (which automobiles tend to limit because you hide away from ever speaking to anybody outside of your circles). I’ve met others that have very unique lifestyles compared to mine. I met and was able to help out Jared one day because he was super short on a few bucks, and I knew he actually needed it because I know Jared now. I know the smiling lady, if not by name, by the friendly hellos we greet each other with when we are boarding the same bus. I know the hipster fixie rider who likes to skip the uphill. So yeah, the public transit is sweet. I’m not hiding away in one of your crappy cars, so thanks for pointing that out.

…but alas, why is that funny? Oh yeah, because you’re being condescending and treating transit users as if they’re second class citizens and lesser than your “auto dependent” users.

Then there is the next picture about pooping. Ya know, cuz’ that’s ALWAYS so freakin’ hilarious! Again, followed by my immediate thought and response.

So I guess add to the array of reasons to speed Chevy, Smoky and the Bandit wasn’t enough. Jeezum, could you pick a lamer, ancient and more recessively inane thing to post as an excuse for speeding.

Genius. Oh wait, no, the opposite of genius. Stupid.

The last image didn’t bother me so much as actually gross me out. Mainly because I see the result of fast food everyday. I’ve eaten the non-food crap they sell maybe a few times this last year now. I’m impressed by how they still sucker everybody they do into eating the shit. But hey, it isn’t particularly dishonest, the population makes an active decision.

So I only really have one response to the image titled “Every single one of your cupholders has fast cups in them”. No, no wait. I’ve got a few comments.

  1. Holy moly that is just sad.
  2. Stop eating that shit people. For your sake and everybody else’s.
  3. Clean up your car, have more respect for your things. Jeez.
  4. Wendy’s?  Well, I guess at least it isn’t McDonalds… but when comparing a pile of crap to a pile of crap it isn’t much of a stretch.

Anyway, it isn’t so much the behaviors they’r eattempting to make fun of. Those are mostly sad. What really irks me about the car companies these days, especially Chevrolet in this situation, is they’re dramatic increase in disingenous advertising. Attempting to make things just appear as user generated content or otherwise. By mere action belittling and assuming idiocy on part of the consumer. Maybe it’s my desire to not treat people like idiots, to encourage people to do better, or a number of other characteristics that I have that would never allow me to push such an advertising campaign. There’s a million other ads that are legit, honest and straight forward. For example, regardless of the shadiness of whatever companies…  at least their ads are well put together and not a disingenuous mess.

…and…

…and…

Anyway. Chevrolet, just forget it. You’re cars are lame, the population has voted more than once. The company had to be bailed out even in spite of buyers deciding against your cars. Way to impose yourself on the population. Shame on ya, an embarrassment for all Americans.