Portland’s Better Blocks Broadway

Here’s a short review I did of the redesign. The bus island was something that really shows in this city how these should be implemented. Well designed and well built, we should have these as standard on almost all major roads with bus stops so there isn’t the existing conflict.

Transit Projects: Faux BRT – A Summary of the Situation

Previously written about here.

There are two projects that are either being built or are in the works. There’s the Trimet Powell & Division Corridor BRT Project and north of Portland in Vancouver there is the Fourth Plain “The Vine” BRT Project that is being built right now.

What is BRT? BRT, or Bus Rapid Transit, is bus service over dedicated lanes. This service is generally provided with higher capacity buses that are 60 feet long or longer. Think of current light rail service in downtown Portland it’s basically similar to that, just with buses. The buses run in these dedicated lanes, people pay fare off of the buses at the stations, they have light precedence, and that way the buses are able to move along much quicker than traditional bus service.

The two “BRT” projects I mention above are neither BRT nor regular bus service, but instead a mix of traditional bus service and BRT. The bus service for The Vine and Trimet’s current project will include 60 foot long buses, payment at the stations, but beyond that will have no real features that would make BRT. Thus the reason I labeled the service “Faux BRT”.

Bus Service Improvements : The Current Situation

Even though these lines won’t be real BRT, the good thing is that both of the lines are pretty dramatic improvements over what currently exists. Right now both routes have regular, frequent stop, local bus service style operation. That means they stop about every other block, which makes them timely or efficient if you need to only go a short, very short distance. Otherwise they quickly double, triple, or quadruple the time it takes to simply bike or driver the same distance.

In the case of The Vine in Vancouver, the route will travel along Fourth Plain from downtown Vancouver to Westfield Mall. The route currently has two routes that serve the bulk of the corridor: the Ctran #4 & #44 routes. The #44 is an express bus that currently travels from Delta Park in Portland (the second to last stop of the MAX Yellow Line) and goes to Westfield Mall and past it onward to some other key points. The #4 goes from Delta Park, the same MAX stop, through downtown Vancouver, and onward along Fourth Plain until it reaches the Westfield Mall.

In the case of the Powell/Division Corridor, there are two buses that run this primary corridor right now too: the Trimet #4 & #9 routes. The #4 actually starts far north of Portland in St Johns, travels all the way south into downtown Portland, then back across the Hawthorne Bridge, then over to Division and onward until Gresham. Almost 15 miles form downtown Portland to Gresham, and the #9 completes a similar route, except on Powell.

The Ctran #4 and #44 are low ridership lines compared to the #4 and #9 in Portland. Which will make the ridership of The Vine interesting. Ctran intends to remove or significantly alter or curtail #4 and #44 service when The Vine starts running. The Trimet #4 and #9 lines are actually high ridership lines. Trimet doesn’t intend to entirely cancel either of these lines, but the intent that the ridership that currently uses the #4 and #9 routes in this corridor will likely switch to the new service to get downtown.

Predictions

In both cases the new service will reduce the overall costs for Ctran and Trimet to carry passengers in the corridor while making way for decreased trip time and a potential ability to carry far more passengers than can currently be carried with existing service. The current estimates, from yours truly Transit Sleuth, is that The Vine will like get about 8-10k rider trips per day. The Powell/Division Corridor Service will likely see upwards of 15k passenger trips or more per day and likely climb well past that once it has been operating for several months and people get used to the frequency and faster travel times.

A Major Concern for “The Vine”

There is one other caveat of The Vine, which might be a major sticking point. This bus service improvement actually curtails service in downtown Vancouver, while replacing the #4 and #44 bus. The #4 and #44 bus currently goes to Delta Park, which is one of the top destinations for all of Ctran ridership. The Vine cuts out Delta Park, which could cause a significant time increase and prospectively drop that 8-10k riders a day down significantly. I personally would suggest that Ctran and Trimet both need to figure out how to insure that the riders can get to Delta Park with one trip – one more transfer is unacceptable. Already the vast majority of riders on the #4 and #44 are going to Delta Park specifically for a transfer to the MAX Yellow Line, so adding another transfer would make an already time consuming & rough trip into a relatively unbearable one for the majority of riders.

So that’s my quick review of the situation. More to come on this topic later.

Transit Header Images

I’ve just cut up a bunch of header images and just thought I’d post them. Any favorites? The next round I’ll aim for a few buses since this primarily came out of my MAX photos from the last 8 years.

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Just Stats from November 9th – November 25th & Commute Notes

So far out of the last two weeks and three days, I’ve commuted to the Orchards office north of Vancouver, Washington for a total of 6 days. Two trips occurred before that, and were both entirely transit and Lyft. So here’s the stats so far.

Day 1
To: Yellow Line MAX / Ctran 4 Route / Lyft
From: Lyft / Yellow Line MAX

Day 2 (1st Day on the job) November 9th
To: Yellow Line MAX / Ctran 44 Route / Ctran 7 Route
From: Ctran 7 Route / Ctran 4 Route / Yellow Line MAX

Day 3 November 10th
To: Yellow Line MAX / Ctran 44 Route / Bike
From: Bike

Day 4 November 11th
To: Yellow Line MAX / Ctran 44 Route / Bike
From: Bike / Ctran 44 Route (Wrong Way) / Ctran 4 Route / Yellow Line MAX

Day 5 November 24th
To: Yellow Line MAX / Ctran 44 Route / Bike
From: Bike / Ctran 44 Route / Yellow Line MAX

Day 6 November 25th
To: Yellow Line MAX / Ctran 44 Route / Bike
From: Bike / Ctran 44 Route / Yellow Line MAX

Notes:

All of the Ctran drivers have been excellent. They’ve offered several cyclists the opportunity to come onto the bus when the front rack is full too. They wait for people running for the bus and overall don’t seem to sweat getting off schedule. Of course, there’s a good and very bad side to disregarding the schedule.

Speaking of schedules, departures from end points – as one would expect – are on time +-1 minute. Catching the 44 back to the MAX has a schedule that is entirely useless. Not a single time so far has it arrived at Westfield Mall even close to on time. Usually somewhere around 8-14 minutes late, or in one case the bus just didn’t show up entirely. Leaving the MAX Delta Park Station (the end point) for the 44 and 4, they almost always leave on time. The 4 however takes 20+ minutes longer then the 44, which makes it all but ridiculous for me to take it.

The MAX has actually been the most timely out of all the routes. Which is somewhat odd, because out of all the trips, the MAX has been late by 6+ minutes in the morning on 4 of my 6 trips so far. Fortunately the transfer from the MAX to the 44 is 8 minutes or so, thus the tardiness of 6 minutes means I only have to wait about 2 minutes before the 44 departs. If the transfer is botched, that means I’ll be waiting 30+ minutes for the next 44 or boarding a 4 and taking an additional 20+ minutes in my commute.

Another big plus, is my entire commute I get to work on things that relate to my job. Which means, in essence, my entire commute counts toward getting the job done – I’m very fortunate and have worked hard to put myself into a situation like this. If I were to drive it would mean I’d entirely lose the commute time and it would be wasted time. Instead I commute on the MAX and bus which gives me time to read, write code, work on documentation or other assorted things I need to get done. To put it simply, this commute actually works really well for me. I’m intrigued to learn more about it and see what comes of the changes when The Vine is put into place.

Vantucky Suffers Vantucky Traffic, but So Does Portland, Maybe Provide a Fix?

Get em’ trained. We know one thing about the many morning commutes in the Portland metro. The worst one is from Vancouver, Washington over the I-5 Bridge into Portland. Traffic is always backed up for miles adding 20-40 minutes depending on where people commute from. Currently this is three lanes of packed interstate roadway. There is no way around it in a car without taking a 20-60 minute detour. Of course, that detour also depends heavily on how the traffic congestion is.

Except… there could be an easy fix for thousands of the commuters…

One lane should be made a toll road or “congestion” based lane for transit, taxis, and related high capacity vehicles. However, Vancouver has failed to enable something like that to be setup. They’ve also failed to get any other reasonable options started, such as true BRT or otherwise. Simply put, everybody suffers because of the selfishness of the SOV motorist.

The current SOV motorist can’t blame freight, because freight has shifted most of their movements outside of the morning rush hour on this route. Aside from that, freight isn’t a significant cause of congestion at all, but their business sure suffers from it. The SOV motorist can’t blame transit, there’s not enough buses traveling over the bridge to block a single lane let alone block all those greedy SOV motorists. If anything the few buses going over the I-5 Bridge average about 10-20 people, which is 10x to 20x the capacity of the same space used for 1-2 SOV that a motorist might drive. You can’t blame cyclists, there isn’t even any dedicated cycling infrastructure on the I-5 Bridge at all. Maybe it’s the pedestrians. There are sidewalks, maybe if we converted the sidewalks to car lanes for 2 foot wide cars? Oh, nope, that’s not the point of blame either. So who’s the blame? It’s all down to one root cause; suburbanite SOV motorists. They are the vast majority clogging up the interstate every morning going into Portland. They are their own curse, and everyone else’s curse too. I could go on, but I think the point is fairly evident for anybody with a small amount of functional gray matter in their brain.

So why let them keep messing it up for everybody? Why let their selfishness delay and clog up all the others that are willing to take alternate routes or modes? Here’s a real prospective solution.

Get a true, honest to goodness, BRT that runs from the Community College (i.e. what is going to be The Vine, except make it REAL BRT) to the Yellow Line at the least. A better scenario would be an HOV lane from the Community College in Vancouver directly to the heart of at least downtown to the bus mall. That would be highly ideal. Implementation cost would be for stops and getting 60 foot buses and running them every 5-10 minutes throughout most of the day. Having a dedicated lane from the Clark Community College to downtown Portland wouldn’t be an added cost, it’d just delay those that refuse to take alternate modes.

After that build out whatever else needs to be built out. Until we make strides on some real transporation option, all the (theoretically) tax-evading suburbanites in Vancouver are just going to continue to pollute, kill, maim, injure, and clog up the roads through irresponsible motor-car usage required by their auto-dependency. Something ought to be done to alleviate the suffering of those who would do right by others and jump on the bus instead. It’s really unfair to them, and even in some odd way, to the SOV motorist.

Simply put, everybody would win if we had some serious and dedicated transit options across I-5 from Vancouver to Portland.

References: SOV stands for Single Occupant Vehicle, an automobile that only has one occupant in the vehicle.

Portland Transportation Political Contemplations

I’m sitting in San Francisco right now. Thankful that Portland doesn’t have these political problems or transportation nightmares to deal with. However we have other things that are just as important and dear to our Portland hearts as any of San Francisco’s great political issues.

Warning: There is a free use of language and there are sections that quote data, which may ruffle your features and the safe place you feel you may be in society. I do not apologize at all for that, get over yourself instead. Cheers!

Biking

Biking in Portland has run into a number of issues. From losing its mojo, to losing our bike capital status (or just the sign), to things just generally going wrong. For me, I feel like enough Portlanders have travelled and seen real bicycle cities, and as the news and stories of these great worldly cities comes back it makes any US city look like a transportation catastrophe. It only takes a trip to Amsterdam, Copenhagen, even Krakow (Pt 1, Pt 2), or one of hundreds of European cities to see a system that truly works in comparison to any of the cluster-fucks we call cities in America. San Francisco is a joke, New York putters along, Boston is piddly, and even great Portland seems like biking is merely an afterthought. Everything is focused on the mighty automobile everywhere, fuck anybody and everybody else the moment they step from their iron cage of plastic comfort.

However, amidst and in spite of all this, biking in Portland is still basically as good as it gets in the United States for any major city (there is still Davis, but that’s another story for another time). Seattle is quickly closing the gap, San Francisco – if its mayor would get a spine – would and could likely close the gap, and other places like New York City and even relatively unknown cities like Indianapolis are also closing the gap. Simply put, making bicycling a distant second class citizen to the automobile is hot in America. That’s what I want to talk about here, about Portland, and about making it a truly first class mode in America. How do we do this?

First step isn’t to make driving harder, the first step is to make cycling easy for the 8-90 audience. Grandma that just rocked her 90th birthday should be perfectly safe biking, and not just be safe but feel safe. The same goes for a mother or father letting their 8 year old child go barreling down the street on a bike. Right now, we aren’t even close yet on the “feel” part. Sure, statistically the city of Portland is one of the safest places in America to cycle. It is after all safer to cycle than it is to be in that iron and plastic cage called an automobile. (In turn, note for idiots claiming it’s dangerous to bike a child to school, it is in fact MORE dangerous to drive a child to school in an automobile, matter of fact you endanger your own child AND others even more – so parents don’t even get on that bullshit high horse – those bikey parents are kicking your ass on responsibility and such. If anything ALL parents should give those parents driving their children around a stern eyeing for selling us all short and doing us all a disfavor while endangering everyone, but I digress… another topic for another day)

To make biking this safe, there needs to be real cycle-tracks and protected bike routes (NOT paint PBOT, come on, this is NOT fooling anybody into feeling safe, the uptick is barely a 10% difference on the numbers (just bike commuters), we need a 10% uptick on ALL the numbers (i.e. all commuters)). When I talk about cycle-tracks and bike routes I mean things like this.

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Bike lane, seperated from the road, and the bus doesn’t merge onto the cyclists… note it is boarding passengers at this moment.

There is no need for the bus & cyclists conflict that Trimet forces on us all. It forces us to play the leapfrog nonsense all over the place, when in reality the city and Trimet should work toward better bus stops that allow cyclists to go inside the stop and remove the conflict altogether. Our city and transit officials do us all a disservice by not useing KNOWN SOLUTIONS to resolve this issue. Here’s a prime example of how to build a bike lane & bus stop together that prevents conflicts.

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There are many articles on the matter as it’s as easy to implement as a bus stop with a sign!  Here in Holland (Amsterdam), the British get iteven Seattle gets it (it’s an article about St Paul with a picture of a Seattle bus stop), and of course we actually understand this in Portland too, here’s two of the bus stops that do it right (out of the thousands of stops we have about 3 that I know of that get it right, get it safe, and remove the conflict)

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The SW Gaines and Moody Streetcar Stop. Done right.

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Aerial via of the Hawthorne Bridge (Madison St side) stop that was recently redone to be designed correctly. Conflicts massively reduced now.

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Google Streetview of the same bridge stop. It’s simple, crude, but very fucntional.

Other examples of what cycle tracks and related infrastructure should look like if we intend for the 8-80 (or 8-90) crowd to actually partake. If we want to see 30-40 or even 50% of trips in the city taken by bike, here’s what we need to see for infrastructure.

This shows bike routes, cycle-tracks, and other infrastructure mixing in suburban environments, urban environments, and amidst transit, pedestrians, and more. Below are a few more of seperated infrastructure, clear paths, and related bicycling options as seen in Amsterdam.

It’s easy to do, it is not a complicated thing. We, in Portland as Portlanders, can do this but we have to actually do the work. We have to fight for and get this put into the standard way we build infrastructure. Bicycle infrastructre needs to stop being some secondary modal option and be a priority premier choice that it is.

Transit

The second thing we need to get straight in Portland is a double edged sword. Transit is expensive (often as expensive as buying everybody private automobiles) but for an urban environment is generally worth the expenditure in every way. It pollutes the air less, doesn’t require thousands upon thousands of square feet for parking or multi-story parking garages wasting space in the urban core, and the list of benefits continues. There are however a list of benefits that US transit doesn’t benefit from that it should, that much of our European counterpart cities do benefit from. Let’s talk about how to remedy that for Portland. I won’t talk about how Europeans do it, just how we can fix it up spiffy in Portland. These are a few, and the most high priority, of the items Trimet and the city of Portlland need to work on.

Transit Priority & Reliability

This is a huge issue I have and I know about every single other rider in the system has right now. Buses and trains simply do not show up on time, or simply do not show up. On top of that they’re often randomly delayed throughout the day. Buses of course have little that can be done to fix their timeliness, as they’re held to the whim of the automobile and the selfish single occupant vehicle being operated by the single motorist. The trains are often delayed these days because of reasons ranging from “it broke down” to “something flooded because the drain wasn’t cleared” to “ugh, we’ve no idea what’s going on”.

The later excuses are unacceptable, but also giving priority to automobiles over transit is also just as unacceptable. Honestly, giving priority to automobiles over transit isn’t just unacceptable, it’s downright ignorant and stupid. We can do better and should do better. So this boils down to two major solutions that need implemented.

  1. The MAX infrastructure needs brought up to a good state of repair. Once it is brought up to a good state of repair, the MAX System should be held to at least a 95% of better on time arrival.
  2. The bus system should have more lanes and light priority to circumvent the cluster-fuck called automobile dependence. Transit users (and anybody else) not in a car shouldn’t suffer because of the massive number of selfish SOV motorists out there clogging up the roadway. We can’t continue to build or prioritize these people.

Frequency and Connectivity

Currently the frequent service routes in Portland run every 15 minutes, and some routes during a very narrow band of time (re: rush hours) run at a greater frequency than 15 minutes. We need to fund better frequency than that if we want to actually provide a real alternate and realistic option for people to stop being SOV motorists. Currently, I can’t even blame about half of them, selfish or not it is there only choice because transit simply isn’t frequent or reliable enough to utilize right now. This absolutely must change if people are to be expected to change their horrible auto-dependent habits.

We can and should do this, it’ll take some funding, albeit a very small amount, espeically if Trimet will ever get it’s coordination and funding straightened out. A small 0.001% or 0.002% addition to what they currently collect on the income tax would likely be enough to bump up almost every single major route that is currently at 15 minute frequencies to 7-10 minute headways instead. This would be huge for ridership and efficiency. However I will admit, before this can be done we have to do something about the reliability of vehicles arriving on time based on the current scheduling. Currently it does no good to add frequencies if everything will just get bunched up.

The later part of increasing frequency and connectivity is getting that connectivity done right. This is something that should and could be improved dramatically by insuring better transfers and in some cases, reducing transfers by extending, enabling more coverage in routes that already exist. Transfers decrease ridership in a huge way, nobody likes to transfer, especially with our current transfers which are usually ridiculously bad. Especially from routes that are not frequent. If need be some routes should hold, to insure that the connectivity with freuencies 20 minutes or more don’t get disconnected. Those are the transfers, that when they fail to meet, end up making another SOV motorist instead of a transit rider. We need these to complete, every single time they need to complete.

Connecting Towns & Neighborhood Cores

Discover_the_Southwest_Corridor_Plan_comment_map___MetroTigard, Beaverton, Gresham, Hillsboro, and other town cores are connected (some of this is in the works for the southwest and the Powell & Division Corridor). However many neighborhood cores are not connected yet. We still need these core areas to have reasonable transfer points and criss-crossed transit service connecting them.

 

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Take for example Alberta, it has great service from the 72, that connects in a somewhat reasonable way to the 8, 17, 75, and some others. However Alberta Street is under threat of losing the 72 and the 72 instead going down Killingsworth. Compounding this horrible idea is that the bus stops for the 72 are enhanced, beautiful, and artfully rebuilt transit stops. This would be a horrible loss for Alberta Street. The 72 should stay in place and if anything, Killingsworth should just get some of it’s own service.

Some of the many other things are covered pretty well on Trimet’s Website. Most are not resolving the major issues listed above, but instead great ideas for what they can do with what they have. That’s great, but we need to push for better transit solutions if we’re really expecting to clean up Portland, provide a better future for the children of today, or if we’re just fine with shit standards and just above sub-par baselines that US Cities tend to have. I think we can do better, dramatically better, and I’m going to pushing for such in any and every way that I can. I hope to meet and see you all out there pushing for a better future for Portland (and its surrounding metro area – re: Hillsboro, Gresham, Beaverton, Tigard, Vancouver, etc)

In closing, if we want to really improve our city and decreases our auto-dependency and increase our standard of living, the options are simple:

  1. Make biking a top tier modal option. No more second class citizen nonsense.
  2. Improve transit priority to top tier mode, and give priority to it over other modes – let it move more people in a timely way.
  3. Make transit reliable and frequent with reasonable and numerous connections.

That’s it, three major changes.  Cheers!

…and of course, I’d love to know if you’ve any other ideas of what should be fixed. Also anything about what can be fixed with what we have at our disposal today, how can we push Trimet and Portland to have better transit and biking service and infrastructure?

Boarding Behavior, Bonkers, and How-to for Transit Usage in Cascadia

I was riding the Yellow Line as it changed to an Orange Line one morning. It reminded me of something. One of the thigns in Portland, and largely the Cascadia region peoples, among transit systems is the poor boarding behavior of bus and light rail riders. Here’s a quick sitrep of the dumb stuff we Portanders, Seattleits, Vancouverites, Vantuckians (Vancouver USA).

Boarding

The first problem is boarding. We Cascadians seem to forget, almost entirely, that mass needs to be displaced from a space before other mass can take that space. So what do we do that shows are complete obliviousness to this reality? We all clump around the entrances of the bus or the light rail vehicles as they arrive for boarding and deboarding. It doesn’t matter if there is one door, four or six doors.

The way this happens is people walk up and surround the door. You might ask, “Why is this a problem, they have to board?” Well yeah, they do need to board, but first people should exit – or displace themselves from the vehicle – before more people board that vehicle. It’s simple physics people, and we often fail miserably. Don’t block people from exiting, we are good at it, but stop doing this dear Cascadians. In the end, it’ll help us all.

Ride Clumping

The next thing that the Cascadian people do is board and them clump by the door they board. I don’t understand this effect, except I do, but I don’t understand why we humans can’t resolve it more easily or resolve it through experience. Most of us Cascadians riding transit are experienced riders. We know how the system or systems work but we still clump near the doors. We often just stand instead of sitting, then we look around confused and dazed while we’re all stuck near the doors shoulder to shoulder while the mid-section of the bus or the light rail vehicles have plenty of space. Even worse, we’re all clumped while there are available seats to sit in.

So let me lay this one out bluntly. Here’s what you do when you board a transit vehicle.

  1. Shutup and sit the down. This should be the easiest thing ever, but just work on it, because obviously it is hard for some reason.
  2. If you can’t sit down, then move away from the doors and stand there. Also shutup.
  3. If people are clumped, move through them to the open area and stand (or sit if they’ve neglected the seats). Then shutup.

If we Cascadians can pull this off we will all do dramatically better when riding transit. We’ll have more space, easier flows and easier movement on and off vehicles. If we get good enough we might even have faster service! Shockers!!!

Cheers,
Transit Sleuth