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?

Thoughts from Oakland on Portland, To 2015!

This last week has been a whole host of madness. I’ve tried to kick off the new year with some solid riding, which I’ve been partly successful at. I’ve also started my planning around activism and advocacy for cycling and transit in Portland. There are a number of projects, but the top three I’m aiming to put effort into are as follows:

  1. I’m working with others to begin citizen observation and video recording of traffic scofflaws. Those that ignore diverters and other traffic control devices are on watch. Think of this as a neighborhood watch but with the prospect of actually pressing charges utilizing citizen citations. Those that endanger others through their actions are officially on notice.
  2. I’m trying to figure out a way, and would love any assistance, at figuring out how the city can crowd fund and allow citizen activists to actually help maintain infrastructure amenities. All of those downtrodden bus stops, MAX stations, and other areas that seem to be in disregard – I’d like to find a way that myself and others can volunteer to help out with these amenities.
  3. I’m starting efforts to organize and sustain more regular rides, both cycling and transit rides, that will culminate in various activities that might include: bonfires, camping, hacking (coding), hardware hacking (building cool stuff that does cool things), and possibly hardware build outs (like hacking bikes and building rigs of various sorts).

No bets yet, I hope I’m successful at all three, but I’ll be happy if I can knock out #1 and one of the other two.

Other Network Building & Learning Efforts

I’m also intending to actually meet, face-to-face, a number of individuals that I’ve been aiming to meet for years in the Portland area. Hopefully if I don’t accomplish the later two of my goals above, I can help others knock out a few of their goals for the coming year in activism and advocacy.

For now, cheers, happy new year, and all that jazz.

Twitter

Let’s Have Hunger Games for Cars!

National Transit Ridership

Cycling at 6% of Commute, Transit at 8% and … Blagh, Blagh, Blagh…

Let’s talk numbers and the real world. I’m going to lay out a few things in this post.

  1. Why the way we measure auto versus cycling versus transit versus walking commutes in metropolitan areas is an absurd, myopic and broken way to set policy around roads and systems in which modes are used on those roadways.
  2. Why the 6% bicycle commuting number is barely the tip of the iceberg of cycling in Portland.
  3. Why measuring commutes for the entire metropolitan area is counter productive for the city of Portland the surrounding cities of Hillsboro, Gresham, Beaverton, Tigard, Milwaukie, and other places in the metro area.

#1 – Measuring The Commute for the Metropolitan Area

The way urban planners, traffic engineers, and others measure the daily commute is usually by modal splits. What that means is each mode is assigned the percentage of the trips taken with that particular mode.

Let me detail the current way this is measured with an example. There are 2,314,554 persons in the metropolitan area of Portland. At the current labor force participation rates in the Portland metropolitan area we can safely assume that about 50% of these persons would be commuting to work. That gives us about 1,157,277 persons traveling to a place of employment and back every day.

Based on the 1,157,277 daily commutes in the metropolitan are of Portland, at 6.1% the area has about 69,436 people cycling to work everyday. Just think about that for a minute, that’s a sizable number of people bicycling. But is this an honest measurement of Portland commuting as a city? Does the metropolitan area really represent the city? Does that 69k+ people represent cyclists in Portland?

A quick side note…

For the actual city or Portland the population is 609,456 with the commuters coming to about 304,728. Here’s a map of the actual city of Portland, note the red outline around the city.

The City Limits of Portland

The City Limits of Portland

I won’t write about these numbers just yet, but I’ll bring them back up further along in this blog entry.

Is Gresham Portland? Is Hillsboro Portland? Is Salem Portland?

Let’s dive in on what exactly the metropolitan area actually is, then we can look at how ridiculous this measurement really is. Here’s a map of the metropolitan area of Portland.

The Metropolitan are of Portland

The Metropolitan are of Portland

Do you see how big that red area is? That is the metropolitan area of Portland. Does this strike you as a bit odd? Based on what is included in that area, the 6% measurement is absolutely amazing. It’s super impressive when the area is, by a huge order, completely suburban and rural areas that happen to all fit inside of this giant metropolitan area. Wikipedia even has a completely stand alone page dedicated to Portland’s metropolitan area (as it does many other metropolitan areas). This is the normal area that many statistics are derived for policy and decision making at federal, state, county (parish), city and even at the neighborhood level sometimes.

The metropolitan area of Portland includes;

  • Vancouver, Washington @ 161,791 people
  • Gresham, Oregon @ 105,594 people
  • Hillsboro, Oregon @ 91,611 people
  • Beaverton, Oregon @ 89,803 people
  • …and many others.

The 6% number is completely irrelevant, as are any modal splits, based on the metropolitan statistics for each of these cities. Including the city of Portland itself at 609,451 people. So why do we measure at the metropolitan level and then attempt to make quotes and other speculations or even decisions for our city this way? It’s a very valid question considering how often many of the cities surrounding Portland and Portland itself make decisions based on these metropolitan measurements.

There is some use of these statistics that are valid, but time and again they’re brought up to say “the majority of people drive” and “nobody rides bikes” and “barely anybody walks” when that might be true for some auto-dependent neighborhood in Vancouver, Washington but it is absolutely not true for the actual city of Portland. So why hold Portland to the condemnation of the metropolitan area’s statistics? It comes up all the time, people making pro- or anti-biking arguments based on the 6% number. Sometimes people even compare the 6% metropolitan number to the plan to get 25% mode share in Portland (the city) by 2030. Who’s kidding who, we aren’t getting anything positive out of the suburbs in this regard, they’re going to still be polluting the inner city with their commutes and killing each other with their cars by the time Portland gets to 25% mode split.

One last reason to toss this whole metropolitan area focus, especially for the 6% cycling mode split, or the 81% automobile mode split, or whatever number you’re comparing. Let’s get down to the business of the actual communities. Portland is not Gresham, Gresham is not Vancouver, and the others’ are not this or that part of the city. They each have different metrics. But the city of Portland itself has a bicycling mode split for transit that is huge and one for cycling that is also much higher than the metropolitan area. The city of Portland also has a minority use of single occupancy vehicle trips. This might be painful, but give this report and good review. Yup, that’s 43.9% auto use for trips in the CBD. CBD stands for central business district. That’s down from 58.4% in 1994, a pretty damn good improvement. In the CBD transit usage is at 44.5% of trips, up from 33.6% in 1994. These are the types of numbers we actually need to look at to determine goals, not the misleading data of the metropolitan numbers.

#2 – Tip of the Iceberg of Bicycle Usage

I’ve talked about the absurdity of following metropolitan numbers in determining policy in Portland, now I’m going to take a stab at this 6% nonsense. The 6% number is great for the metropolitan area, like I was saying, that’s an impressive achievement when you factor in all of the blatantly hostile areas where some of the riders come from. As anyone who rides regularly knows, a bike lane right beside 30mph+ traffic is tantamount to insanity. There is zero comfort when you know one cell phone talking motorists swerves a little and your life is over. The vast majority of our roads and ways to get into and out of the city of Portland area are still these types of roads. There are very few dedicated paths or cycle-tracks that would encourage the mythic 60% “interested” population to jump on a bike and ride into town. Albeit among all of this frustration with the current 6% number being stagnant for several years now, there are a few trends that lead me to believe that this 6% isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Here’s my list of why the 6% number is illegitimate at this point:

  1. The first reason, goes back to the first thing I wrote about in this blog article – metropolitan numbers aren’t representative of the area we’re trying to measure, which notable is the city of Portland, not the metropolitan area. So let’s measure Portland, not Gresham and Hillsboro and the other areas. PBOT and the city have almost zero net impact on how those cities determine and act to improve cycling, so we really should focus more specifically on Portland’s numbers instead of the averaged number across the entire metropolitan area.
  2. Who’s ridden across any of the bridges that have cycling measurements lately? Notice how on Hawthorne this year (2014) the same drop off didn’t occur in cycling commuters during the winter time as in previous years (2013, 2012, 2011, etc)? It looks like, and I’m waiting to get hold of the actual data, that the drop off was only about 10-30% off of the peak summertime commuters instead of the traditional 40-60% drop off! That’s huge. If that is being maintained, it would appear that somehow there are more consistent riders – which wouldn’t show an actual increase, but it would also lead to a ground swell of advocates that are really holding to it. But that leads me to the next observation…
  3. Who rides around on the east side on weekends or during the week? Ever noticed how there are steadily more and more cyclists going about their business on the east side during the day? I did a couple of measurements: 34th and Clinton, 35th and Hawthorne, 35th and Belmont and Going at the 15th Street Diverters. At each of those locations I saw a steady increase in ridership over the year that I was riding across these areas during the day to do business. I’d stop and count for 15 minutes at a set time each day. After the year and numerous measurements I saw an increase of about 15-20% at each intersection. Even though the results weren’t done in a rigorous way, I did follow a scientific approach. Even without the rigor, and doing this out of pure curiosity, I can’t really ignore them since they were consistent over time.

The simple observation is this. Something is happening within the biking movement in Portland, and it isn’t a decreasing bike share of commuters. There is instead a ground swell of advocacy, an increasing frustration with the speed infrastructure is being built and the kind, and there is a growing love of biking among many in the city. They may not be bike commuters yet, but there is a huge percentage of people out there biking in other ways, and the simple fact is we aren’t measuring them, even though they should indeed count!

#3 – Why measuring commutes is … not a good measurement!

I’ll dive straight into these reasons.

  1. Commuting makes up a trip to work and a trip from work. That’s it, two trips. The average household makes 9 trips per day (see references below, there’s tons of data on this). Why is the measurement we use that dictates the vast majority of transportation policy dictated off of trips that only make up 2 our of 9 trips a day for a household? Fortunately in many cities, the cities take it upon themselves to determine what these other trips are and focus on these trips instead of commutes. However much of US policy at a federal, state, and even many cities, is entirely focused on commutes first.
  2. Commutes leave out everybody that’s not in the workforce, which in the Portland metro is hundreds of thousands of people, and even in the city limits of Portland itself is over a hundred thousand people. That means transportation policy dictated by “commuting data” leaves out an absolutely massive percentage of people. Are you a stay at home mom? Generally not included. How about a student in school? Yup, you’re not really included either. How about a retired person or someone looking for a job? Nope, you’re out too. That’s just absurd.
  3.  The ideal commute is not having a commute. We as a society often encourage remote worker situations, which completely removes someone from commuting. However a remote worker still makes the average number of trips based on household data. This means we’re pushing for people to work from home, remove themselves from the commute, but ideally we’d shift away from the daily commute dogma altogether! So why do we use it as the core policy planning and decision making metric? If anything we should take hold of the data from the OTHER trips and work with that data, the 7 instead of the 2. One might say it’s because everybody commutes and it is the easiest and most problematic event of the day – being it causes rush hour. But really, think about that for a minute and why do we still encourage rush hour with such zeal and gusto? If there’s a problem with the game, maybe we need to change the game!

Summary

Data is a fickle thing. There’s a reason the saying, “lies, damned lies, and statistics” exist. Numbers and data can be used to derive solid, intelligent, and wisely built solutions to problems. But they can also be used to do the exact opposite. When we discuss things we need to form real stories and cast out the absurd misinformation that is spread around by using single metrics. Stories need told with multiple measures identifying the full point of view of individuals in society. A single metric never produces an intelligent and well structured system of solutions, it just leaves us behind.

I’d like to see us move forward more in the United States. Understanding the systemic nature of measurements (the Research Center OHAS 2011 summary is a good starting point) and how they interact and work together will help us actually do that. Cheers, and happy number hunting!

References

Where do Jane Jacobs and Wendell Cox Intersect?

I have been pondering lately, there is an intersection at life itself, but where do these two thinkers actually have intersections of thought?

Any ideas? Thoughts? Throw in some comments on anything that pops into your mind and we’ll get a conversation going.

Context: Follow the links for context on who Wendell Cox is and who Jane Jacobs are.

Portland

Tech Helps Build Better Cycling

There’s been a lot of lament about the tech industry and what it does or doesn’t do for a city. I can tell people rest assured, the modern tech company is a huge benefit to cities. Here’s one of the biggest reasons why. They hire people that get active in their tech community, they get active in their local community, and the become active users of transit and cycling at a higher rate than almost any other occupation today. In addition to this the tech industry generally hires people at much higher than median wages, providing a much larger tax base that benefits the rest of society in both higher and lower income brackets.

Portland

Portland

All in all, have a strong tech industry employment base helps a city and its residents in a lot of ways. But what about gentrification you ask? Well remember just because there is correlation that doesn’t mean there is causation, and gentrification is not a cause of the tech industry growing. I’ll have more on this in the future. But real quick I wanted to outline a few companies here in Portland that are leaders in the area when it comes to being great community members. When I say this, I mean in transit use, cycling use, community involvement and city involvement. All of these companies have many people working for them that get active and help out in all sorts of ways.

Elemental Technologies

Trimet did a blog entry a while back titled “Meeting with transit riders at Portland-based startup Elemental Technologies” which has even more information. But here’s a few highlights for the cycling and transit advocates out there.

  • Out of the 91 person team, over 50% use transit and many others cycle into work.
  • The team asked about bus stop spacing, like many of us transit nerds and transit users, we’d like to see them spaced out a bit to cut down on travel time.
  • The Elemental team also asked if the stops will ever be removed downtown to get trip time between Lloyd Center and Goose Hollow down to a more reasonable 10-15 minutes instead of the current 20 minutes. Neil batted this one around and pointed to the fact it would cost a lot to do so. I’m guessing it would actually cost somewhere to the tune of a million or a couple of million to rewire the lights and fix this excessive trip time that currently exists.

New Relic

New Relic got a lot of coverage on their excellent in office, front door bike parking and their dedication to biking as a company. Coverage included “New Relic’s palatial in-office bike parking is Portland’s answer to the Google bus“, “Bikes Are Good for Business: Advocacy on Two Wheels“, and others. Here’s some choice quotes.

  • Asked how many of New Relic’s 180 local employees drive to work, executive assistant and office manager Mary Cameron began ticking off names on her fingers with the help of two colleagues. “Jim drives,” she said. “I think Patrick drives.” They made it to six before getting stuck. “Less than 10,” Cameron concluded.
  • It’s safe to say between transit and cycling, the drivers are in rarity.

Jama Software

Jama Software is another local company here in Portland that has a large percentage of cyclists commuting to and from the offices. This is a home grown (I almost went to work for them when they were just 4 employees!) Portland startup. They now employee well over a hundred people. You can read more about their bicycle amenities and advocacy on the BTA article “Optimizing Efficiency Through Bikes and Software” and the Cool Spaces real estate article “Cool Spaces: Jama Software bangs gong to celebrate new business“.

Note: This is one of many posts I’m going to make on this topic. In the future I’ll connect more of the advocacy and amenities that everybody (not just employees of said tech industry companies) gets to enjoy that comes from these and other Portland tech industry companies.

What Infrastructure Would you Want To See in Oregon and Portland?

I’ve been pondering what ideal wins the infrastructure czars (you know, the Governor of the state, mayor of Portland, Bend, Eugene, Salem and all the other leaders of Oregon) could and should push for these days. With the recent and still ongoing absurdity of the I-5 Bridge to the epic nature of the new bridge in Portland that is Bike, Ped, Bus, Light Rail and Streetcar only bridge, it begs the question. What infrastructure would be awesome to have added to Oregon, and specifically Portland, Eugene, Salem and other such cities and towns? What is reasonable and what would actually be a good return on the effort and investment for the state? What is a good investment to direct a good and effective future path for the state? That’s just the beginning of the questions though, one could write a thick book of endless questions.

But with that in mind, here’s a few I’ve been thinking of just recently.

  1. Rail service enhancement into Vancouver from Portland. Rail service that could be used for, but doesn’t necessarily mean passenger service initially. The bottleneck on either side of the Columbia River is a problem space, however with some solid double tracking, or even triple tracking from Portland north through Vancouver to the Battle Ground area and even out toward Camas we could get some serious benefit from this. Freight could be handled by rail into the city and out of the city more easily, putting intermodal points at locations that better serve Portland and Vancouver instead of so many trucks driving into and out of the cities via interstate. The other notion would be, at some point, with appropriate access real commuter rail service could be offered easily from points north like Battle Ground, Camas, and other locations and have them funnel through Vancouver’s station and into Portland. We’re talking about 15-30 minute commutes. Light rail will never accomplish this, bus service won’t accomplish this, only passenger rail could accomplish this. As the current service, albeit not effective as commuter rail, already serves the corridor from Vancouver to Portland in about13-16 minutes, pending they get a slow order or not. Regardless, for bang for the buck, subsidizing a rail infrastructure expansion here would go far beyond any other motorized infrastructure investment in the area.
  2. Cycle track system, not just a few cycle tracks. Not faux bike infrastructure but real bike infrastructure. Let’s put 20-30 million into it every year for the next decade, then let’s see where we get an truly reevaluate that. For the $200-300 million it would cost to get Portland true bicycle infrastructure on a world class scale similar to Amsterdam, it would easily give us the ability to hit the 25% mark for cycling. This in road bike infrastructure however is a joke to most people, and seriously, it still just exacerbates the more neanderthal drivers to freak out the less assertive cyclists. Very frustrating to see such an opportunity go down the drain. As for that investment, we already know the more cycle oriented parts of town are doing crazy good business, have healthier, happier and more effective citizens then the auto oriented areas – so seriously, we need to get our ass in gear in this regard.
  3. BRT – Bus Rapid Transit needs to be put into play in a number of areas from Eugene to Salem to Portland. BRT would be highly effective in acting as core arterials feeding the existing light rail systems, and as systems feeding directly into the city cores. BRT should be implemented as true BRT, not the faux junk implemented in Seattle, but as dedicated – possible to upgrade to LRT or even heavy rail in the future – with regular 5-7 minute service for more than 10 hours a day. Ideal points to connect in Portland would be Gresham down Powell to downtown Portland, 39th street north and south as a feeder from St Johns out and down to Hollywood and into Milwaukee, and another possible great route would be to setup a core run somehow on Barbur and put some traffic calming into place so motorists stop killing pedestrians and other motorists on that arterial. BRT could play a huge part in future build outs, especially since we need to bulk up ridership with frequency more than “luxury light rail”. Light rail is still needed, but with the completion of the Portland-Milwaukee Light Rail, we’re good for the next 10-20 years for rail infrastructure as our corridor backbone. Let’s get to feeding it as we should to make it easier and faster to use.
  4. My last thought is actually a huge way to spend a little money and over time save millions upon millions. There are untold miles of roads in Portland that we can’t afford to maintain, along with roads in Salem, Eugene and every major city and even more road miles in rural parts of the state. We should designate some of these roads as either toll roads, no longer maintained roads (i.e. close them unless a private entity wants to take responsibility for them) and especially in the city let’s figure out which roads we can cut out, stop maintaining, turn into parks, do turn outs or cut offs to improve neighborhoods and decrease costs or one of another zillion options. Simply, we have too much road infrastructure for a limited budget at the national, state and city and county levels. Let’s scale back appropriately. If motorists want to pay more to have more infrastructure, let’s actually foot the bill instead of continually pawning it off to bonds of various sorts that often end up in foreign hands. Our current road funding models are just insane, let’s budget what we can afford instead of living so far past our means. This would economically, environmentally and socially be logical as well as getting people to face the reality that we’re overbuilt on debt and poorly run infrastructure – we can do better.

That’s my top 4 that ought to have something done sooner than later. I’d love to see what your top choices would be. Leave a comment or three with your thoughts, I’ll put them into a larger write up that might even be put forth to implement. Cheers and happy riding!