Al Said Phoenix Has No Traffic Problems

Here’s the specific Twitter thread that started all of this, it wasn’t 100% Al but one started from snark and brought to full bore through the might of Twitter.

First off, my immediate response is, “…are you kidding me?” Ok, after I recovered from laughing right out of the chair I was sitting in, I thought “alright, I’ll give Al the benefit of the doubt, cuz Al is actually awesome!” So here’s some of the things I found, which made my falling out of the chair laughing incident all that much more reasonable.

Knowing Each City

Before diving straight into the stats to determine if Phoenix, Arizona actually has traffic problems or not we should get to know the city. In addition to Phoenix, since Al is always giving Portland crap about all sorts of stuff, I figured we’ll follow Portland’s stats for that matter too. So let’s get to know some basic stats about both cities. First we’ll take a look at Phoenix.

Phoenix is located in Arizona consuming 517.948 square miles. The entire metro area consumes 16,573 square miles. Phoenix, it is safe to say, is a sprawling expanse of a city. The city was incorporated on February 5th, 1881. In the 2010 census the population of Phoenix in the city limits was 1,445,632 with a density of 2,797.8 people per square mile. In the metro area of Phoenix there are 4,263,236 people making it the 14th largest metro area and the 6th largest city.

Portland is located in Oregon consuming 145.09 square miles. The entire metro area is 6,684 square miles. Portland, is sprawling in some areas, but dramatically smaller in physical land mass compared to Phoenix. The city was incorporated on February 8th, 1851. In the 2010 census Portland in the city limits had a population of 583,776 with a density of 4,375.1 per square mile. In the full metro area there are 2,289,800 people making it the the 24th largest metro in the country and the 28th largest city.Now, let’s take a look at Portland.

Bring Out The Traffic Stats! First stat. So before I even get into actual delays or anything, let’s talk about the most serious statistic of all.

Traffic Fatalities

How many people are killing each other on the roadways of Phoenix. I’d consider fatalities a number one problem with traffic, specifically auto traffic. So let’s get some insight. Let’s give a look see if Phoenix has traffic problems related to fatalities. The first results made for some mixed answers, at first, looking at the Google results it looked horrible for Phoenix.

Traffic Death results for Phoenix on Google.

Traffic Death results for Phoenix on Google.

Then the first article I pulled up here, talked about traffic fatalities falling.  Only (notice it states ONLY, as if have hundreds killed is a reasonable thing to have occur) 807 were killed in 2009 after dropping from 938 in 2008.  Maybe my laughter wasn’t valid and I had incorrect information. Maybe Phoenix’s plans of highway expansion had made the city safer and my assumptions were incorrect. So far, this is great, the traffic killing was decreasing. But wait, when did Arizona roads deaths increase? In 2011 they increased again to 825 people killed. This was however all state fatalities and not Phoenix fatalities. I kept digging around and then found a jackpot of information about Phoenix Traffic Collisions of 2010. Phoenix in 2010 had 121 fatalities from 108 collisions. However it appears motorcycle fatalities are listed different, that amounts to 19 fatalities, which fortunately is a huge drop over the year before. Then continuing on to see other related fatalities that for some reason aren’t inclusive of the collision stat for some reason, are 49 pedestrians. Of course, another that wasn’t included in the core fatality stat was the 8 cyclists killed by motorists. Go figure, America, home of the “we can’t add up numbers right and stuff” statistician. Either way, I combed through it and think there were some other stats, but am going to go with these numbers for now and dig up Portland’s. Here’s how it looks so far for Phoenix in 2010.

  • Motorists killed by motorists: 121
  • Cyclists killed by motorists: 8
  • Pedestrians killed by motorists: 49
  • Motorcyclists killed by motorists: 19
  • Light Rail Killing Anything: 0
  • Cyclists Killing Anything: 0
  • Pedestrians Killing Anything: 0
  • Motorcyclists killing anything: 0

Now it’s Portland’s turn. I right off found tons of information from Google about bicycle traffic and bicycling in Portland, but almost nothing on the first page of Google results related to traffic wrecks and such even though I was looking for wrecks specifically. This is, considering how Google works, actually a good thing for Portland. I finally found a document on Oregon’s Crash Summary. On page 5 there are Portland stats, putting the fatalities for 2010 at 24. But I knew there probably were other bits, as these statisticians are devilish about the details so I kept digging. It looked like, and I won’t even go into these stats, that statement at over 300 fatalities Oregon has more than it’s share per capita versus Arizona. That doesn’t bode well in a comparison, but we’re again, not comparing the states – there are LOT of other outliers in comparing the two states and how people create traffic in each. So back to Portland itself. I found the bike fatality rate at BikePortland, with the wonderful total of zero. This is fortunately a common stat in Portland and I hope it stays that way and we can keep dropping the numbers for every mode. So digging through another BikePortland entry I finally dug up a stat difference that the Oregon book didn’t seem to account for. One listing was for 26 dead in 2010 and the origin state stat document showed 24. It’s clear however, that the pedestrian deaths are over 50% of all fatalities, all killed by motorists. This is, very unfortunate and shows that motorists, once again should truly have a dramatically onus put on them to drive safe and responsibly, as motorists seem to kill each other and non-motorists far too often. Anyway, the stats for Portland.

  • Motorists killed by motorists: 7  (I’m going with this, I continued searching and this seemed the most consistent stat)
  • Cyclists killed by anything: 0
  • Pedestrians killed by motorists: 15
  • Motorcyclists: 4
  • Light Rail killing a pedestrian: 2
  • Cyclists killing anything: 0
  • Pedestrians killing anything: 0
  • Motorcyclists killing anything: 0

When looking at Phoenix and asking, “does Phoenix have a traffic fatality problem?” compared to the US and compared to Portland. The average fatalities in the United States are 10 per 100k people. In Phoenix it is 10 per 100k.  In Portland that rate is about 4 per 100k. These specific stats are available via the NHTSA Report for 2010.

Results for Phoenix Traffic Fatalities

  • vs. the US Average : No, Phoenix is doing just barely better then the country as a whole.
  • vs. Portland : Yes Phoenix clearly has traffic fatality problems, Phoenix is doing horribly compared to Portland. Portland is 60% below the fatality rate of the United States & Phoenix. A dramatic improvement over the country and the city of Phoenix.

Commute Time

What stat is something that should be compared next? Let’s take a look at average commute time. In Phoenix the average commute time was 25.3 minutes. In Portland the average commute time was 25 minutes.

Results for Phoenix Metro Traffic Commute Times

  • vs. the US Average : No, Phoenix is doing the same as the rest of the country’s average, which is 25.4 minutes.
  • vs. Portland : No, strangely enough, Phoenix isn’t particular doing bad, nor is Portland, we’re just about average.

Now even though it is hard to imagine Phoenix having an urban core, it actually does. The urban core in Phoenix is a traditional grid layout with a growing density. Here’s a map with great information about the commute times. If we take a look at this and look at the urban core, we find that the urban core of Phoenix has a commute time of 19.1 minutes.

Travel Options

This is a pretty easy measurement. What are the modes and travel options in the city? Does Phoenix really have options?

Transit

Phoenix has a transit system that is made up of buses and light rail. The light rail system carries a reasonable number of people. However, when one gets down to the specifics the travel times, frequencies and accessibility (i.e. how far one has to go to transit and how many are with X amount of distance from transit) leaves many Phoenix Citizens without transit as an option. So either way, even though many thousands of citizens in Phoenix can’t even get to a bus or the light rail, we’ll say they can. So from a transit perspective Phoenix has buses and light rail.

Just to recap, Portland has Phoenix handily beat in regards to transit options. With a greater density and frequency of services all around. We have buses, light rail, streetcars, and technically we have commuter rail. Albeit I’m not sure if I’d even count the WES, so we’ll leave it off and just go with the fact that we do have 3 heavily used modes: streetcars, light rail and buses.

In the rest of the country there really isn’t a national assumption of any type of transit. So it’s barely a comparison, any city is going to beat the options you have in the general areas of the country. However, most US cities, especially the size of Phoenix have dramatically more coverage, service, hours of operation and a number of other features and modes than Phoenix does.

Results for Phoenix Metro Transit Options

  • vs. the US average : No, Phoenix has vastly more choices than any rural area.
  • vs. the US urban average: Yes, Phoenix is very limited in modes, with very little coverage compared to the average US city of 4 million people or close to that number.
  • vs. Portland : Yes, Phoenix fails miserably compared to Portland. The ridership, coverage and in other ways Phoenix fails horribly in regard to options.

Cars

How about cars? Do citizens have access to cars? I did a few things to figure this out. First I figured out what the median income is in Phoenix. In 2010 the median income was a fairly sizable $55,054 for Maricopa County, but for the city specifically it’s as low as $43k! It appears that this is dropping these days too. Just for comparison, the US median income in 2010 was about $51k albeit dropping pretty rapidly. By 2012 it was down to about $48-49k, but to keep things conservative and make sure Phoenix has every available change to prove itself to not have traffic problems, we’ll go with $51k. Of course, we have to have a Portland reference in there, which in 2010 the median income was $40k.

Now all of these amounts are actually pretty irrelevant if we don’t know what these things can buy. The median transportation percentage, for these states is both just below 12%. So looking at that, people in Portland spend $4920 per year on transportation and people in Phoenix spend $5160 per year while the US median is $6120. The overall costs of things vary in large degree between Phoenix and Portland and getting a final cost of living comparison is really difficult. It primarily depends on what you want for your money. The same goes for Phoenix versus the rest of the country, but in this comparison we’re just looking at the cost to get around based on medians.

Results for Phoenix Metro Transportation Costs, based on Auto Median Cost

  • vs. the US average : No, Phoenix is actually cheaper than the US average. This is to be expected comparing an urban area with the average American landscape.
  • vs. the US urban average: Yes, Phoenix is more expensive than many of the urban landscapes in the average US city.
  • vs. Portland : Yes, Phoenix is more expensive.

Inter to Intracity Connections

The city of Phoenix has two options for coming or going, you either have to fly, but or auto. There are no other options in or out of the city.

The average US City, especially in the million plus person range, has air, bus, auto and rail transport options on average.

Portland has air, auto, bus and rail but also has river options. Some might say, “nobody takes river transport”, so that’s fine we’ll just leave that off. Which still gives Portland an easy victory in this category over Phoenix.

Results for Phoenix Inter & Intracity Options

  • vs. the US average : No, Phoenix has the standard mode of auto and bus, plus it has air.
  • vs. the US urban average: Yes, Phoenix has less options than the average US city.
  • vs. Portland : Yes, Phoenix also has less travel options out of the city versus Portland.

So you do the math, do the factor, does Phoenix have traffic issues? Hell yes it does. Are they worse than average US traffic issues? Not really, but then of course I’d say anywhere in the US has vastly more traffic issues and commuting concerns than Portland does based on these averages. As for automobile delays (which are extensive for EVERY city) the only real option is the city that provides for real alternatives and livability close to work, home and play. Very few places in the United States actually provide that.

References:

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.

A Few Pieces of Advice

None of these should need to be tweeted. However, I felt inclined to offer some advice on twitter since there had been some pretty poor decisions made by some people today…

Portland, Let’s Take the Streets Back! Do More Have to Get Killed?

It seems, even though I understand a lot about the situation, that ODOT is in favor of maintaining roads as dangerous, anti-pedestrian, anti-cycling and anti-livability paths more reminiscent of 1950’s America than modern day realities. I’ve not been keeping track, because it’s damn depressing, but Bike Portland has been keeping track of one of ODOT’s points of disturbing embarrassment. Disturbing as in, ODOT has been extremely slow to act and thus more people have been killed or injured. Portland’s tax bills keep going up and up trying to manage these killings, wrecks and costs associated with roads ODOT is supposed to be responsible for. ODOT however has no motive or real interest based on their mission statement to work on actually improving these roads, were as the city has a distinctive reason to focus on them – the city’s citizens are being killed, maimed or injured in some serious way. For more information on this insanity…

So what’s the real solution here? Portland (that’s us yo) takes back its streets. That includes 26, 99, SW Barbur and more. We put these streets on a killing diet (street diet or whatever you want to call them). Let’s take Barbur and turn it into a BRT, cycle-track and pedestrian example of how awesome and livable Portland can truly be! Who wants to prospectively work up a proposal for this with me? Because seriously, the SW Corridor is up for a serious redesign and the effort has started, GET INVOLVED!

I Was Asked, “What do you do to fight…?”

What do I do to fight to improve our lives, our communities our city and our society? That was the question, paraphrased. My response,

“I don’t drive, don’t consume any oil products directly and try to minimize air travel and use rail or other means for longer distance trips when possible. Minimizing oil usage is difficult in these times since it has been pushed into the cornerstone of so many daily products: from diapers to the automobile.

I also make a point to support local co-ops that provide freshly grown food within 50-100 miles of where I live. I cook, sometimes eat out and eat foods that aren’t genetically modified. I’m actively involved in groups working to stop lawsuits to eliminate organic foods (Monsanto has tried in numerous states to sue any farmers that don’t use Monsanto’s genetically modified seed). I will work with and help anybody else as I can to stop these types of lawsuits, these absurd notions of “patenting life“, etc.

I stay in reasonable physical condition merely by living healthy, eating well and staying active. I cycle, I walk and generally I live actively. It goes a long way in making a happy life.

I work diligently to promote better lifestyles than the consumption based, debt oriented, auto dependent fiat currency based modes that are currently – for now – prominent in the United States.

I work in community groups to support children being able to ride their bikes to school, to ensure that neighborhoods are built reasonable with walkability – i.e. human beings in mind – so that no matter the limitations at least 99% of the populace can get to a grocery store, to a school, to a nearby park safely without the necessity of a car or other transportation requirement.

I work with economic development groups to align job location (albeit sometimes companies just don’t give a flying hoot) a reasonable distance from where the workforce is. It’s insane to think anybody travels more than 5-10 miles to work. Nobody should have to travel more than 1-3 miles to work. In the coming years, it will become economically, environmentally and emotionally unreasonable to do such things. In addition, if we keep transforming the way we live utilizing what we’ve learned from history – and trying new techniques to live, locate, get to work and other such ideas people in general won’t find it acceptable to travel such egregious distances to work anyway. (Imagine gas at $15 bucks a gallon, reflecting a more realistic unsubsidized cost of exploration, losses, costs, etc, then tack onto that the cost of roadways actually being reflected in tolls and other taxes to maintain them, we leap from a few pennies a mile of direct taxation to about a buck a mile of costs/taxation, etc). Meanwhile transit, biking and walking are all exponentially cheaper, easier to manage and more resilient to these high costs – especially for the general population.

I also produce and attempt to write on a regular basis an effective way to live without all the incredulous waste and servitude of a debt based, auto dependent lifestyle (sometimes here, sometimes elsewhere). In addition to writing I also work with videographers to put together other material that shows how easy it is to live well, without making huge changes. Just by merely thinking through the day better and stepping away from the “regular” lifestyle.

I petition and advocate at Government (because I won’t work for them), I work with companies, especially companies that give a hoot (and there ARE a LOT of them), I work with individuals and I work with my local community neighborhood groups & others to do the above things.

Simply, I try to right the wrongs, educate and improve what we as a society are doing today. All while trying to repair the damage that is already done. I do so through no use of force, only through passion and education. So maybe, if it isn’t my children, somebody’s children can have a better life. Because the immediate next generation (and the millennials) have been handed a lump of coal.

…so that’s what I mean by fighting.”

This all got me thinking. Maybe I should update my manifesto a bit. Thus, an updated Manifesto.

This thinking also got me wondering, what other things could I do? What do you do? How do you squelch the apathy and improve things in your community?

Cheers, Transit Sleuth.

I-5 Bridge Collapse, Update From Amtrak Cascades #516 North Bound

UPDATES 10:24pm

We’ve left our spot and are pulling into the station of Mount Vernon.
There has been a report of no fatalities!  Yaaa!
The Amtrak Crew has been absolutely great, they’ve even brought us extra snacks to tide us over.
ETA into Vancouver is now about 12:30… but being the railroad is practically shut down we’ll see.

UPDATES 1:02am

We finally arrived at Pacific Union Station in Vancouver. That was a trip and a half!  o_O

As it stands now the I-5 Bridge over the Skagit River has collapsed with vehicles, people and the bridge plunging into the river. No news or anything on fatalities, injuries or the like. However one thing is very clear for this train riding individual.

Amtrak Cascades #516 is sitting about a mile south of Mount Vernon with about 200 passengers that can’t get on or off the train (because of laws & such) and can’t get off at Mount Vernon. From what I gather and have been informed of by the Amtrak staff (they’ve been great) is that the railroad bridge is being inspected. Through other means, passengers calling other connected people and via contacts of my own I’ve collected this much information.

  • The Governor is en route (Why I have no idea, it’s not like he’ll hold the bridge up – i.e. that’s a waste of his time)
  • The NTSB I have been informed is on the way.
  • BNSF Dispatch (that thing in Texas) has held us here while the railroad bridge is inspected.
  • Nobody seems to know who is actually inspecting the railroad bridge.
  • WSDOT thinks a truck – oversized load (probably something that should have been on the railroad) hit the bridge and caused it to collapse. However this is not entirely confirmed.
  • No reported fatalities.
  • People & cars are in the river.
  • Boats & rescue is underway.

Here’s how far away from the railroad bridge the Interstate Bridge is…

Distance between I-5 Collapsed Bridge and BNSF Railroad Bridge

Distance between I-5 Collapsed Bridge and BNSF Railroad Bridge

…and here’s where they (BNSF/WSDOT??) forced the train to stop.

Where Amtrak Cascades 516 has been forced to stop.

Where Amtrak Cascades 516 has been forced to stop.

Love how the passenger rail, as always gets creamed while they’re re-routing cars onto redundant infrastructure. It’s a good thing they provide all those massive hand outs to auto drivers and stop the trains so nobody gets confused about where the US’s priorities are.  :-/

 

What Do I Think About The TriMet Performance?

A number of days ago I posted a poll (which if you’d like, I’m still taking feedback and collecting it together). In it I asked a few questions about Trimet, how it is doing as an agency, and a few other simple questions. I’m going to produce a shiny report in the near future with the results, but for now, as previously promised here are my answers.

Name:

Transit Sleuth

Do I think that things could be better in transit for the city of Portland?

Yes

Do I think TriMet is doing a good job as a whole with the revenue they take in and from taxes?

Compared to other transit agencies around the United States, they’re doing one of the best jobs in the United States. Compared to the Canadian cities or even to the United States of the past? I think Trimet is making the exact same mistakes that are forced upon every major US city today. Transit agencies are setup to beg for funding while roadways are setup for automatic subsidies. There’s an obvious and outright discrimination to any mode or thought that a United States Citizen would do anything besides drive. This is reflected in the regulatory and nightmarish transit policies and monopolistic practices that transit agencies are setup with throughout the United States, which also pushes their costs up to often absurd levels. Throw in a heavy dose of monopoly Union control over the agencies, a lack of any clear competitiveness except to beg for money, and transit in the United States is ripe for inefficiencies on a grand scale. Overall though, I find that it could safely be said, that under Government monopoly operations transit is about 20-40% more expensive than private operations. To summarize, do I think we could get more for our tax dollars? No. Do I think we could get more as consumers of a service? History would say yes and I side with history.

Who do I think is responsible for the problems (if you think they have issues) at TriMet?

Let me create a list:

  • The Federal Government and many of the absurd standards and regulations they’ve set on transit. The vast subsidies that control the transportation industry in the United States (which also in many ways has almost destroyed the transit aspect of it) and give little freedom to cities, businesses or individuals to truly setup and operate transit agencies in general.

  • The State has poor management over most of the roadways it controls in Portland. Namely 82nd and Powell are a mess and there is little Portland – even though these are obviously Portland roadways now – have almost zero control over what to do with or how to remedy these massive traffic problems. Trimet, or anyone in the city for that matter, can’t run BRT, light rail, or for that matter many more buses than already run on the street. For this, ODOT shares a large part of responsibility in our transit mess. If they build the monstrous CRC then ODOT will absolutely be responsible for creating one of the largest nightmares in Portland’s history.

  • Portland Leadership (Mayor, etc) is not even attempting to make Trimet run lean. Not that the leadership should, it isn’t technically their responsibility. It is however in their best interest to make Trimet and leaner, cleaner transit machine to improve the livability of citizens in the city. Overall, I blame the leadership at this level only a small bit.

  • PDC, the Portland Development Commission and let’s include the Metro Committee or whatever they’re called has a huge say in how things are developed, what will be developed and how it will be developed in Portland. This inherently bleeds over to Trimet in a large way. I however, happen to agree with the PDC in most cases and actually support it’s existence. I support it for one reason, I’ve seen the opposite of it in other cities and it causes absolute havoc. It is why Portland can act and act quickly, with a clear mission, toward improving livability and other things throughout the city. Many cities in America cannot do this and it shows in  the fact they’ve allowed their downtown cores to be decimated, their suburbs to sprawl for hundreds of square miles, their tax bases to disappear and the cities to almost falter except for the existence of some tall buildings. It is indeed sad. So do I blame the PDC? Yes, but I generally blame them for much of the positive focus and clarity around Trimet’s actions and work with the city to build roads, stops and other amenities that benefit cyclists, pedestrians and dramatically increase safety for both of these peoples. Almost inadvertently auto safety has increased through a byproduct of a lot of these designs.

  • Trimet, we now get to the people that are responsible for the agency itself. At least, responsible for a 90% of everything about the agency. The other part is of course the Union. The union provides Trimet the workforce that drives the buses, MAXs and because they forced the city to use the ATU (Amalgamated Transit Union) labor, the streetcar. The WES is however serviced by the freight railroad that actually owns the track and trackway, the Portland & Western Railroad. Trimet is also largely responsible for many of the issues, and I’ll even admit that they could stand to replace many of the buses that have been neglected over the years. Some of those buses really shouldn’t be on the road anymore, it’s time to recycle them. I also think it is a problem, however it is somewhat small, that Trimet actually manages capital projects, which seems smart and not. The reason it is smart, there is no closer entity to the problems the capital projects will solve than Trimet and why it is not smart, is because Trimet’s main onus of operandi is to run transit services. The operational needs of services provisions should one up the project management of these projects. Fortunately, this is again a small overall problem. In the end, it’s a boost to the overall local economy for the duration of any capital projects, whether roadway, rail or otherwise.

  • ATU Trimet Union is another huge candidate in the overal scheme of things. They have poor leadership (DUIs and other absurd dishonorable actions on their member’s part are more frequent than one would like to admit, I personally have even received, albeit forgave, a death threat from ATU Members). Do I support unions? These days not particularly. Have I supported and are there situations I might support Unions? Yes. Do I support the ATU right now? Not really, they’ve screwed up far more than Trimet has, overreached their bounds, and battled to get the drivers so much that it makes the labor cost for basic transit service fairly unreasonable – but NOT something the drivers shouldn’t deserve and expect – the Union has just gone about it in a horribly inefficient way and setup Trimet so that the only real option is to start fighting them over costs. This is bad for EVERYBODY involved. The Union, its members, the customers of Trimet and the citizens of Portland.

Do you know about, what they’re for, and how the PDC (Portland Development Commission), City of Portland Mayor, Commissioners, City Council, etc work?

Yes. See above. I often get involved when I can and when I find the issue is truly important.

What would be the #1 thing that TriMet – or any entity – in Portland should do to help improve transit in the city?

This list is huge. The biggest win for the United States and especially Trimet could receive is a dramatic and immediate reduction in road subsidies from the Federal Government and a removal of the arbitrary regulations around road building and Interstates. Setting up where money is allocated to cities based on density, number of people and prospective service while reducing the subsidies and zoning encouragement for large sprawl and allow local cities and states dictate how they will build out their infrastructure, systems and related networks. The only large scale infrastructure the Feds have ever accomplished was the Interstate System, which displaced hundreds of thousands of minorities through eminent domain destroying vibrant downtown cores of once majestic cities and then in turn lumping the costs of almost the entire system on the states even though capital outlay was primarily funded through central planning and implemented in an authoritarian way (yes, those of you that are confused, the Interstate System is indeed an example of how Communism and Socialism can work, if that’s what you consider a success).

Simply put, getting the Feds out of our pockets and out of the decision making in Portland would be the greatest boon for cycling, transit and general livability this city could imagine.

The second best thing, which is probably more reasonable, is to expect a more balanced approach to city building. Even though Beaverton, Hillsboro and Gresham don’t pay in remotely close to the amount that Portland proper pays into the transit budget, they should however be built up further around core city center concepts. For the next 5 years, I’d say the metropolitan area should allocate 80% of all funds for transit, livability improvements, bikeways and related funding to the outer city centers (those stated) and the micro-town centers throughout the metropolitan area. I also agree, that bus line amenities and capital outlay and improvements should continue and be a larger part of the city budget. Trimet should focus more on operations around Light Rail and Buses, connecting and getting the frequencies more closely spaced to make the system easier and easier to use. I do NOT think we should lose focus on building out a core backbone in the system with light rail, if anything we should INCREASE spending to get core backbone with LRT and also BRT, but not wimpy piece meal BRT. If we’re going to do BRT half way, I say skip it and sink the capital for light rail now. BRT that isn’t dedicate ROW is a joke. Seattle is proving that for us right now, as I type this, at how poorly and catastrophically bad it can go for a city. Fortunately they’ve spent almost nothing for it (except they’ve had to further cut core services to make sure they could meet their Federal match for it).

Overall, do I think Trimet is doing a bad job? Considering their regulatory, legal and budgetary restrictions, no. Do I think their doing the best job or even close to the best job they could? no.

So there you have it. My two cents, the Transit Sleuth

Yes transit could improve in Portland. Trimet, PDC, the ATU, Portland Leadership, and especially the Federal Government all play a part in the issues that exist with getting better service. Do I blame any single entity entirely, no.

Do I think things will improve over the next 3-5 years? No, primarily because I don’t think the economy will dramatically improve for 3-5 years. However, until the Feds straighten their nonsense out, this 3-5 years could drag on much longer. But time will tell and there is no point on dwelling.

In the end, I hope for improvement. But in the meantime I’ll keep on contributing, being involved and living as best as I can.

Happy riding, cycling and walking! Cheers