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

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

Portland’s MAX Red Line

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

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

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

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

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

Time for Some Data!

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

Airport Station
Stop ID: 10579 On 1694 Off 1635

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

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

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

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

The Trimet Rail System. Click for a larger image.

The Trimet Rail System. Click for a larger image.

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

Why Mention This?

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

My Bets for Denver

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

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

References:

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

Time to Up Our Game Portland

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

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

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

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

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

Portland is starting to fall behind.

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

Portland is starting to fall behind.

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

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

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

Portland is starting to fall behind. But solutions await.

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

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

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

Cuz’ The Northwest is Rocking the Cycling and Seattle is Starting to Lead the Pack!

Recently Seattle stepped up its game even more. Not only is a streetcar line soon to open between King Street Station, First Hill and Capital Hill but also a cycle track is going in on Broadway. I knew all about the streetcar line going in but holy moly I’d no idea they were getting a cycle track too. A trip will be scheduled and I’ll be aiming to bring some of the cycle track and streetcar action to you via Transit Sleuth TV once they’re both open! Here’s a sneak peek via Streetsblog.

The streetcar system is connecting three major points in Seattle, this is going to be a pretty big deal. Here’s a summary of the four places. For more official information about the streetcar service, check out Seattle Streetcar.

King Street Station @ Pioneer Square area to Chinatown then thru First Hill & Capital Hill

King Street Station is the Amtrak Station that has recently been returned to it’s proper magnificent glory of yesteryear. In some ways it is also the northern terminus for Sounder commuter rail service from Tacoma and the southern terminus for Sounder service to Everett. It’s a gorgeous station, worth a trip by itself. There are a number of other things in the Pioneer Square area of downtown Seattle that are worth checking out. This area along with King Street Station is basically the southern terminus of the line. The line then traverses part of the International District (or still commonly referred to as Chinatown in Seattle) and then turns in the First Hill area. It continues through the First Hill area and into Capital Hill, which is one of the dense urban areas of the city where music, art and livability thrive. It also is partly rooted to the future Link Light Rail Station for Capital Hill. This connection point is poised to be one of the busiest areas of the city in the coming years, easily transforming the very vibrancy and life of Seattle.

The Broadway Cycletrack

If there is a sure fire way to avoid streetcar tracks on a bike, it’s to have a cycle track right next to them! Seattle has planned for this and the Broadway Street segment is going to have just that. Here’s a cross cut view of the cycle track next to the streetcar and road traffic on Broadway.

Seattle Transportation Department also has more information about cycletracks going in around Seattle along with some information about ones elsewhere.

Detroit, More Grass Roots to Show Us How To Do It!

So Detroit has been notorious for hitting the bottom of the barrel. In large part because so many people that should have cared, gave up and surrendered the city. Also because the city was run inappropriately. The list of issues, concerns, screw ups, racism, discrimination, spite, infighting, bad culture, car dependency and other things that have sunk this once great city is long. Extremely long. One thing that is becoming apparent though, and if the citizens of the once great city have anything to do about it, is that the city has life and that life intends to live well. It intends to give the city a rebirth of sorts.

Of course, there are a number of completely idiotic things that the city is doing, such as taking money to expand an interstate. Note, the city is at about 600k people versus the 2+ million the infrastructure is designed for. However, as I was saying, even in spite of these completely insane moves that are further sinking the city government, the city’s people are breathing new life into things that truly matter. Here’s a video of some of the cycling community taking to the streets for critical mass, to help out kids and provide after school activities and more. It’s a very heart lifting video.

Also, if that isn’t enough, Detroit has lit off one very unique bus company too. (I previously posted this some months ago, but it’s worth mentioning again!)