Portland Meeting w/ The City on Street Deaths, Maintenance and What To Do

Thursday night at 6:30 kicked off a public meeting at the Sunnyside Environmental School. This topic concerns everybody from the motorist who wants better roads and roads to last to the cyclist who wants to be able to ride peacefully down a greenway into work to the pedestrians who would like to walk down the street with their children and not fear that one of them may be killed or maimed by an errant driver. Ok, so a few stats to start this article off. The first are few from this image and derived information (ie, I did some simple math after speaking with one of the street engineers on hand and also others that work for the city, they know this material very well).

Portland General Fund (Click for full size image)

Portland General Fund (Click for full size image)

First thing to note, because it escaped me for about 2 seconds until my friend Tony pointed it out, public safety actually translates to police and fire. So let’s just put that out of our minds as anything that we’re allowed to be “flexible” with. But the real kicker, is we get down to actual road budgets in the general fund. The transportation and parking budget is a mighty whopping 2% at $8.7 million dollars. When it comes to road maintenance and other such things, that isn’t a lot to work with. Now keep in mind there is still the gas tax, which in Portland isn’t a huge amount of money but it adds a few million more. But a lot of that goes to other roads too. ODOT takes a cut, the Feds of course take a cut of gas taxes, etc. The gas tax however is NOT a large amount of money and does NOT fill the gap between needed roadway work and related things. The simple fact is, gas tax plus general budget funds don’t really cover but about 20-30% of our roadways. More on that in a moment. The second image I took is of a little budget pie chart split out.

Pavement System (Click for full size image)

Pavement System (Click for full size image)

Up in the left hand corner (click if you can’t see it in the regular sized image) of the image you’ll see a few stats.

  • 4,827 lane miles in Portland’s road system. (that’s 1 lane that is 1 mile long, it does not include ODOT roads like 82nd, Powell and others, nor does it included Interstates (federal/state/ODOT) or related roads that happen to come into Portland)
  • 1,871 of busy streets. These are basically arterials where there are buses, trucking, etc. These are the arterials, sometimes including neighborhood arterials like Division, Hawthorne and other such extremely busy streets.
  • 2,971 lane miles of neighborhood streets.
  • $5~ about 5 billion in value.
  • 52% of busy streets are in fair or better condition.
  • 46% of neighborhood streets are in fair or better condition.

Simple Math, We’ll Have to Give Up Some Roads Soon

As I spoke with one of the city engineers about this information I asked, “based on the budget or even doubling the budget, how many lane miles can the city of Portland maintain?” He did some quick math in his head. I then confirmed that number based on some extremely conservative estimates the city could maintain about 1300-1500 miles of roads. As shown above on the chart, there are 4,827 lane miles in Portland, which leaves somewhere between 3,327-3,527 that can’t be maintained. Looking at things another way, Portland has enough money to cover most of the maintenance of the busy streets in the city but not the neighborhood streets. The city has 3,327 to 3,527 miles of streets that will continue to fall into disrepair.

But what about the unpaved streets? They measure approximately 60 miles of unpaved streets in the city. Most cities have somewhere around the same to dramatically more unpaved streets than Portland. Many of the streets are short blocks that lead immediately into a paved street, alleviating much connectivity issue. All of the unpaved streets are used rarely by anybody but the people that live on the street or a few others that might pass by. Emphasis on a “few”. So the question really is, “so what about em’?” With that I’m going to drop this point for a few, because while a few people fuss about 60 miles of unpaved streets there are 3,327-3,527 miles that are merely years away from becoming unpaved. Priorities here people, priorities.

So there seems to be some options here that are going to take place no matter what we do. No significant money is going to become available. The feds aren’t exactly swooping in to save the disappearing gas tax revenue. It’s up to the cities, and the only options on the table for streets are to let some of them disappear from the cities list of streets to maintain. In New Orleans I recall seeing those notorious signs “This Street No Longer Maintained”. That sign meant the city of New Orleans was done with that street, it was up to the local community to do anything with it. Most people on the street and surrounding areas were actually fine with that. They didn’t care.

What to do with all these streets we can’t maintain? As road budgets get strained even further there is going to be increasing pressure to abandon the notion that a street must be provided to every single doorstep in America. It just isn’t possible, never was, and never will be.

So the question is, with well over 3,327 miles of of road miles about to be left untouched, why keep wasting them as mere roadways. What should we do with them? Some neighborhoods have even reclaimed low yield streets and planted mid-road gardens, turned them into neighborhood parks and other such wonderful additions. Why not officially start declaring some streets as off the books and let the neighborhoods really, truly take back their streets!

There’s a lot of potential in this issues to reclaim the streets and make our neighborhoods more livable, safer for our families, friends and children and make our city more efficient in the process. What are your ideas for these 3,327 miles of roadway?

NOTE: The Oregonlive also published a wrap up with some good quotes from attendees @ http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2014/02/city_asks_residents_where_do_w.html

Ride To… Downtown Portland on Trimet Bus #6 – AKA Why Stereotypes Are Wrong

Boarded the #6 today. Another one of those days were life countermands stereatypes. Not that stereotypes are any good except as a joke (which I suppose that’s where they’re used most of the time anyway). I walked straight to the back of the bus for the last seat. The last seat is was center of bus between two people.

Stereotypes

As the bus pulled away from the Alberta and MLK stop an average person would assume many things. An average American might assume that I’m poor. An average person might assume that everybody on this bus is poor or close to below the poverty income. They might assume that the younger individuals are from broken homes and that the older folk are almost destitute. The average American might think that half the bus smokes pot. Average Americans would probably judge this bus to be full of uneducated individuals, that probaby didn’t attend high school.

Out of all those stereotypes about transit users there is one that’s true. It’s a fact about all of the population of the United States however, not just transit riders. Can you guess which one it is? Keep reading, I’ll let you in on that trivia in a bit. For all the other stereotypes the average American is wrong. Horribly, embarrassingly wrong. Let’s take a dive into this bus full of people and who they are.

You might ask how I know who these people are. Well, that’s easy. I talk to all of these people. I talk to my neighbors and the people in my community. Transit and urban living give a person, including myself, the maximum potential to connect with communities and have true transformative positive effect on society. It is the most dynamic, open minded, inclusive way to live in the United States. After all, the country is a melting pot, and the reason it is a melting pot is because of the cities and urban lifestyles.

Bus Demographics

This bus today, the 6 that arrives at the Convention Center transfer point at 9:45am, is full of a total melting pot of people. Even for white Portland it’s a diverse group of interesting, intelligent, educated and educating people. Here’s the break out.

Over the course of my trip 49 people got on and 58 people got off. 12 people were still on board when I got off. Doing a little math, double checking, and having sat on the back of the bus where I can see everybody and count like an obsessive compulsive, that totals 70 total riders that I saw while on the bus. The on and off occurred at many stops along the way, with the biggest exodus (11 people) from the bus to transfer to the MAX at Convention Center.

The bus was approximately 37 people of Western European descent (that’s caucasion), there were 13 black, 10 asian, 8 of mexican & South American descent and the last few I could tell. There were 37 men and 33 women.

As far as I could verify from people I know, identification hanging lazily at their side and other means I attained some other information about these riders. Several were heading to school, some to college and some to trade schools. Many of the riders were headed to work. However the bulk of people were out running their daily errands. It was about a 55% to 45% split between people out taking care of the daily life necessities and 45% heading off to business of some sort.

The other measurement, I know because I know the stats on Trimet ridership in Portland, is that over 60% of these people are riders that could have driven in an automobile but elected not to. They instead chose not to, for a multitude of reasons. Even though I didn’t get to talk to every single one of these people riding the bus I could tell, just by activities some of these reasons.

Reasons to Take Transit

Music: The number of people with earphones or headphones hit a peak of 16 people during the short commute in this morning. Those people could be seen enjoying their music, sometimes with heads bobbing back and forth a bit. Some scrolling through changing songs. But all of them were enjoying the opportunity to listen to music and just relax, sit back and not focus on anything but the music.

TV / Movie: One person was finishing up Shrek with their child. Yup, this parent was able to sit with a headphone splitter and watched the movie with their young girl. Both were polite, obivously the child being raised well, as they laughed the covered their mouths and looked at each other. Smiling and holding in an outright burst of laughter. The smile were contagious though and some of the people sitting behind them were giggling silently too while the commute progressed.

Another two people talked, while looking at each other and paying attention to a complex topic. They discussed how some type of architectural structure would work and after a moment pulled out some blue prints on an iPad and commenced to discuss and work through their discussion. They continued to gain more and more understanding as they worked through various floors and designs.

Another odd number, 5 total, had their laptops out and were working through a number of things. One person I could tell was working with office documents, another was writing some JavaScript code for a website they were building, and the others were beyond my perview. I only could see that the laptops were out and they were typing away with their keyboards.

Last metric, most of the people on the bus are employed above poverty line, and more than 30% are employed above median income (that’s more than 40ish thousand a year these days). In Portland, a little math will tell you this by simple looking at the demographics, looking at who takes transit, and the minimum amount of what percentage of what incomes are riding the bus. The math comes out pretty good and shows that the vast majority of riders are not poor, nor are they limited to only transit. They could be using other means, but indeed choose to make transit their mode.

Stereotypes Are Often Misinformed

Just like racism, sexism and other such absurd stereotypes that belittle and estrange people. So do stereotypes about people that take transit. The average American that might assume the bus is full of poor people, would be wrong. The stereotype that people are from broken homes, destitute or otherwise, also terribly wrong. Uneducated, lower than average IQ and a host of other stereotypes. All wrong.

The simple fact is, the average American assumption about transit is just wrong. In summary, the average American is wrong. So stop being average, take some transit, learn about your city and get out and among the people that keep this country ticking.

Oh, and the one thing you can assume though, is that the majority of people in this nation have actually tried pot. So besides enjoying your city, go ahead, light it up. Ya know, if you have the freedom to. We all will again eventually. 😉

Cheers, Transit Sleuth

From U-Haul to You-Haul

I’m going, how about anybody else? If so, I’ll see you at…

HOW TO MOVE BY BIKE presented by Steph Routh

Moving to a new home is often considered one of life’s top 10 most stressful events, but it doesn’t have to be! Add bikes, have fun. Bike moves transform a task traditionally filled with untold drudgery into a stuff parade and a housewarming party. In Portland and beyond, moving by bike has become a growing movement.

Steph Routh has participated in 67 bike moves to date and is author of the book “How to Move by Bike.” She is also the Mayor of Hopscotch Town, a consulting and small publishing firm that inspires and celebrates fun, lovable places for everyone. You can find her on the web at hopscotchtown.com and follow her on Twitter @stephrouth.

*Special bonus opportunity – join Steph at “I <Heart> Cargo Bikes” on Thursday, Feb. 13th, hosted by Splendid Cycles, 407 SE Ivon St. Kids activities from 3-5 pm, reception 5-7 pm.*

Bicycle Lunch and Learn
Thursday, February 20th, 12 to 1 pm
City Hall, 1221 SW 4th Ave, 2nd Floor -Lovejoy Room
(bring your lunch!)

US Oil Imports Falling

It was reported just today that oil imports are falling in the United States. I might add, it’s about damn time. After years of cold war nonsense, illogical Government manipulation from subsidies for exploration to dictatorial control about where we are or are not allowed to buy oil from the resource has been poorly utilized and poorly brought to market.

Today when I read the USA Today article on falling oil imports. The article brings up a single point as to why our imports are dropping, which is “Experts largely credit new drilling techniques that have unearthed vast troves of previously inaccessible oil embedded in shale deposits in states such as North Dakota and Texas“. This again, brings up my frustration with so called experts. Especially experts that are likely some oil company employee spouting off how everything is fine and dandy. Well, here’s a few major reasons why imports have decreased and why we’re able to use more oil locally.

The first one, just to cover the bases, is the huge sacrifice the country is putting into shale derived oil. Even though we’re ruining massive volumes of drinkable water to mine this oil, it’s increased the amount of oil we’re producing in country by a fair bit. But that brings up the other huge reason why we’re able to use this new oil and decrease our imports. Let’s talk about all of these reasons, that combined, are making as much or more of a difference than the new shale oil we’re getting.

Driving is down by a large enough percentage that fuel usage has decreased across the nation. This isn’t a mere blip on the radar anymore either. As “US Driving Continues to Decrease“, dramatically “Study: Fewer Young People Getting Driver’s License” and some posit why “Fewer Teenagers Have Driver’s Licenses … Because of Gas Prices and the Internet?” but have no evidence. We know though that driving has decreased and continues to decrease. This started happening before the Great Recession and continues today.

Meanwhile more and more continue to move into urban cores, closer in suburbs and places that don’t require 100% auto-dependence. Some places of course, are still a disgrace to intelligence or intelligent lifestyle options like Houston, Texas or Phoenix, Arizona. However even those places have seen dramatic market demand for more livable, walkable, bicycle and transit friendly lifestyles. Albeit they’re orders of magnitude more difficult to attain in those cities. However others have seen a skyrocketing increase in demand; San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles even and many many others.

So why has our oil imports decreased? Sure, we’re producing a little more oil in country, albeit at great cost (shale oil is NOT cheap), but we’re also starting to live in a much more intelligent way than we have the last 50 plus years.

Here’s to hoping the United States continues to improve in this way.

Some More from the Snowpacalypse on Twitter

Before moving to far ahead, here’s a snapshot of transit at 4:29pm, still actually running pretty good going into rush hour.

Status as of 4:29pm on Thursday

Status as of 4:29pm on Thursday

‘A 100 Crashes’ of ‘chaos’. It’s called road infrastructure & auto-dependency dumb ass.

Meanwhile, as usual, the suburbs are definitely failing at this whole snow thing.

Well, except for people on bikes or such. It seems this is the running theme.

One of the only times DALLAS (yes, Dallas) is looking a little like Portland.

Snow Twitter!

Just a few of the photos from twitterverse from 2014’s #snowpacalypse in Portland.

Form his secrete lair, Al Marguiles watches the snow come down.

LOLz auto dependency.

The Mercury is getting delivered. What’s your excuse?

Photoshoppers unite!

…and sner!!!!

WHITEFISH, MONTANA VIA BIKES, TRAINS IN PICTURES “rail yard by the station”

Whitefish Station (Click for Full Size Image)

Whitefish Station (Click for Full Size Image)