The Commuter’s Story

I hear all sorts of stories in Seattle.  Compared to Portland the commute seems to be much more of an effort for a lot of people in Seattle.  Some people it is as easy as Portland, others have the nightmare of the hour or longer commute.

It always seemed, and I’ll admit a slightly skewed perspective, that the city dwelling urbanites of Portland had no qualms at all with their commute.  As a matter of fact most of the urban dwellers loved their commute of 5 minutes, 10, or maybe even 20 minutes.  The suburbanites, with their life draining, fun sucking drives of 30+ minutes often complained to no end.  However being an urbanite while I lived in Portland I rarely heard about these people’s commuting misery.  Then of course, even at 30 minutes most Portlanders really don’t have anything to complain about.  Portland really does, as a fact, have a super easy commute with pretty low commute times.  Unless of course someone decides they want misery and lives 40 miles out from the city, but I digress.

Seattle is different though, as a start the place is massive in comparison to Portland.  Seattle seems a bit more like other cities I’ve lived in from a geographic perspective.  The one massive difference is the relief, i.e. hills everywhere.  This changes the perspective of those driving a large degree, namely in the speed equation.  People in Seattle do not drive anywhere near as fast as people in other cities I’ve lived in (excluding Portland, which also drives slow slow).

Another huge difference is the town center areas and primary thoroughfares leave pedestrians with a more auto-centric design to large parts of the city.  This alters the perception of people coming into and out of areas during their commute.  The average anxiety increases dramatically in road environments like this.  To me, I find it entertaining as I take a very anthropological approach to watching people during their commutes.  To put it simply, their misery at the hands of their own decisions I find laughable and entertaining.  In the end, it is their fault that this is such a problem.

A Nice Day for a Commute

Today the sky is without light, except for the ambient glow of the white overcast sky.  The rain is falling slowly and in spurts over certain parts of the city.  The drivers ply their directions into and out of downtown, looking around with the extra franticness that rain incurs.  Being the north west pedestrians still walk around with barely a notice of the drizzle or grey skies.  The buses still roll in and de-bus their hundreds upon hundreds of passengers.  3rd, 4th, and the other streets where egress takes places are full of transit commuters pouring out and onward to work.

I love it.  To me this is beautiful.  The flow of people, the meaning of their intent, the mastery of their day.  Modern humanity.  Some may see despair or slavery to the corporate machine, I see knowledge, security, and passion where it truly is.

On the bus I board, the #545 bound for Redmond, I already know the faces but not the names.  I get the friendly smiles and cursory glances of familiarity among the driver and fellow riders.  It is a warm feeling to have that basic familiarity with those around me.  At some point I will probably know some of their names as random conversations turn into actual meaningful discussions.  The banter rolls away and actual communication takes place.

As we roll up into the hills, to what I suppose is Capital Hill, we poke along at a very slow pace.  It’s always nice compared to the chaotic racket when driving down the Interstate.  It makes me wonder how many people are actually aware of the noise pollution high speed (30+ mph) thoroughfares have.  The noise is often very overbearing, as anyone that has ever lived by a highway or major road can probably verify.

The commute rolls on, rain and dreary overcast, and I have a grand smile on my face while I observe the world around me.  Transit, with the plush seats and comfortable ride, provides the ultimate platform for doing just that.


TriMet: MAX rail trips climb, bus trips tumble in January

In January, the Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon (TriMet) registered 7.9 million rail and bus trips, down 2.6 percent compared with January 2009 ridership.

The weak economy and a double-digit unemployment rate continue to impact ridership, primarily bus trips, TriMet officials said in a prepared statement.

In January, weekly trips declined 0.9 percent to 2 million; weekday trips dropped 0.8 percent to 321,600; weekend trips decreased 1.2 percent to 314,300; and rush-hour trips fell 2.1 percent to 104,000.

On the MAX light-rail system, weekly trips rose 11.4 percent to 716,500; weekday trips increased 11.2 percent to 116,700; weekend trips jumped 12.5 percent to 132,800; and rush-hour trips went up 9.6 percent to 35,500.

Meanwhile, the WES commuter-rail line averaged 6,150 weekly trips and 1,230 weekday/rush-hour trips in January.

Is that an increase over the previous month’s WES ridership?  I could have sworn it was only at about 5k last month.  Either way, this is kind of more of the assumed and expected results.  Rail up w/ the new lines and bus ridership down since TriMet is cutting ENTIRE LINES.  I hope people are not assuming things with these results.  That would be unfortunate, which leads me to believe that they probably are.

My Latest, Transit Blogging Vacation

Obviously, there has been a dirge of posts.  I am on transit blogging vacation for a while and will return at some point in the future.  Currently I’m kind of thinking through my approach for the blog right now.  If anyone has any thoughts, ideas, or bits they would like to know about related to transit just feel free to comment or get in touch.

Thanks – Adron – A.K.A. Transit Sleuth

Ok, Seriously, All You “Let’s Make it Free People”

I was watching the Video of the Transit Rider’s Union Meeting and the topic of making transit free.

I have one basic serious question, as this suggestion just seems absurd from a million different perspectives.  The largest issue though is simply,

Where is the money going to come from to maintain the little bit of transit we have if the fare is removed?

I have some other questions that aren’t as pivotal as that single question.

The new induced demand, at least in Portland that free transit would provide, how is that going to be met?  Technically there doesn’t seem to actually be a way to do this, physically.

Where Am I Going? The Transit Oddities.

First off, just look at these awesome Google Transit Maps. I’ve got a few thoughts below though.

Trip Part I,+Beaverton,+OR+97006+(Old+Chicago+Beaverton)&geocode=FfiRtgIdug6w-Cn_9iH7BAqVVDFmjDzH0HHJeg%3BFaXQtgIdQ0Gt-CGwq0PDEsA3gil3mSadQQ-VVDFmjiOSkVWLjA&hl=en&mra=ls&dirflg=r&date=12%2F8%2F09&time=4:50pm&ttype=arr&noexp=0&noal=0&sort=&tline=&sll=45.51777,-122.775112&sspn=0.200629,0.297318&ie=UTF8&t=h&start=2&ll=45.51777,-122.775112&spn=0.055196,0.19098&output=embed
View Larger Map

Trip Part II,+Hillsboro,+OR&hl=en&geocode=FaXQtgIdQ0Gt-Cl3mSadQQ-VVDFmjiOSkVWLjA%3BFYD0tgIdkAKt-CnHdWHQXw-VVDEdSneJbSBXhg&dirflg=r&date=12%2F08%2F09&time=6:00pm&ttype=arr&noexp=0&noal=0&sort=&tline=&sll=45.540143,-122.870793&sspn=0.025069,0.029397&ie=UTF8&t=h&start=0&ll=45.54015,-122.871753&spn=0.008851,0.019054&output=embed
View Larger Map

Trip Part III,+Hillsboro,+OR&daddr=222+SW+Harrison+St,+Portland,+OR+97201&geocode=FYD0tgIdkAKt-CnHdWHQXw-VVDEdSneJbSBXhg%3BFQ9ttgId1w-w-ClVhZT0EwqVVDEBFnIIry1dqg&hl=en&dirflg=r&date=12%2F8%2F09&time=8:00pm&ttype=dep&noexp=0&noal=0&sort=&tline=&sll=45.509937,-122.778085&sspn=0.200657,0.235176&ie=UTF8&t=h&start=0&ll=45.511328,-122.779397&spn=0.066497,0.205143&output=embed
View Larger Map

Ok, there are a few issues with TriMet‘s Bus System, and 90% of those issues are on the west side. That’s what I want to discuss and these maps show so well.

First off, the central business district and east of Portland pretty much have the touted “best transit” system that TriMet often calls itself.  However, the west side has barely a mediocre system, and in many places is completely disconnected from any mode except automobile.

West Side Core Transit

The core of the west side consists of the MAX, #57, and basically the #12.  Beyond that, there are some infrequent routes, feeders, and split service bus routes (ala the #56 & #54, the #76 & #78, etc).  The easiest areas to get to, from downtown, are areas directly along the MAX.  This is also the only timely route to take from anywhere east of the “west hills” (for those not from the area, that is the big green slice on the maps above just barely to the west of downtown).  What other routes are effective from an east to west side transport perspective?

Besides MAX, West Side Routes

Gas Hits $4.35, Finally Pays Full Road Costs

In fact, the subsidy ratio (or, in the case of roads, the "Asset Value Index") for TXDOT's infrastructure makes Amtrak's taxpayer-supported needs absolutely pale in comparison! It is estimated that gasoline taxes would need to be six times higher than they are today just to bring revenue in line with expenditures.

In other words, the average cost of one gallon of gasoline in Dallas would instantly jump from today's approximate of $2.50 (for regular grade) to an outrageous $4.35!

Finally, it seems some organization has published some truth, along with the appropriately made factual correlations.  I found this beauty written up in the Progressive Railroading Journal’s Website, written by Garl B. Latham titled “Do Roads Pay for Themselves?”.  Now, in addition to me being able to show, in simple math terms why roads don’t cover their cost anymore than other modes, I have this actual DOT report that backs up the obvious fact.  Roads are heavily subsidized.

Now of course, at this point, since we can all finally agree all modes are subsidized at heavy levels we can step back and determine if that is a good thing or a bad thing.  My take, is varied, dependent of course on what we as a society are actually trying to achieve.

As far as subsidies are concerned, what are others take on these expenditures?  Should policy be to selectively encourage more efficient usage based on environmental concerns?  Should policy be made to reduce overall subsidy so that the end user foots the bill relative to actual usage?  Should policy be made to actually equalize subsidy regardless of any particular condition; environmental, economic, or otherwise?

I’m betting somebody has some great ideas out there, it’s just a matter of getting them implemented.  ; )