Portland Meeting w/ The City on Street Deaths, Maintenance and What To Do

Thursday night at 6:30 kicked off a public meeting at the Sunnyside Environmental School. This topic concerns everybody from the motorist who wants better roads and roads to last to the cyclist who wants to be able to ride peacefully down a greenway into work to the pedestrians who would like to walk down the street with their children and not fear that one of them may be killed or maimed by an errant driver. Ok, so a few stats to start this article off. The first are few from this image and derived information (ie, I did some simple math after speaking with one of the street engineers on hand and also others that work for the city, they know this material very well).

Portland General Fund (Click for full size image)

Portland General Fund (Click for full size image)

First thing to note, because it escaped me for about 2 seconds until my friend Tony pointed it out, public safety actually translates to police and fire. So let’s just put that out of our minds as anything that we’re allowed to be “flexible” with. But the real kicker, is we get down to actual road budgets in the general fund. The transportation and parking budget is a mighty whopping 2% at $8.7 million dollars. When it comes to road maintenance and other such things, that isn’t a lot to work with. Now keep in mind there is still the gas tax, which in Portland isn’t a huge amount of money but it adds a few million more. But a lot of that goes to other roads too. ODOT takes a cut, the Feds of course take a cut of gas taxes, etc. The gas tax however is NOT a large amount of money and does NOT fill the gap between needed roadway work and related things. The simple fact is, gas tax plus general budget funds don’t really cover but about 20-30% of our roadways. More on that in a moment. The second image I took is of a little budget pie chart split out.

Pavement System (Click for full size image)

Pavement System (Click for full size image)

Up in the left hand corner (click if you can’t see it in the regular sized image) of the image you’ll see a few stats.

  • 4,827 lane miles in Portland’s road system. (that’s 1 lane that is 1 mile long, it does not include ODOT roads like 82nd, Powell and others, nor does it included Interstates (federal/state/ODOT) or related roads that happen to come into Portland)
  • 1,871 of busy streets. These are basically arterials where there are buses, trucking, etc. These are the arterials, sometimes including neighborhood arterials like Division, Hawthorne and other such extremely busy streets.
  • 2,971 lane miles of neighborhood streets.
  • $5~ about 5 billion in value.
  • 52% of busy streets are in fair or better condition.
  • 46% of neighborhood streets are in fair or better condition.

Simple Math, We’ll Have to Give Up Some Roads Soon

As I spoke with one of the city engineers about this information I asked, “based on the budget or even doubling the budget, how many lane miles can the city of Portland maintain?” He did some quick math in his head. I then confirmed that number based on some extremely conservative estimates the city could maintain about 1300-1500 miles of roads. As shown above on the chart, there are 4,827 lane miles in Portland, which leaves somewhere between 3,327-3,527 that can’t be maintained. Looking at things another way, Portland has enough money to cover most of the maintenance of the busy streets in the city but not the neighborhood streets. The city has 3,327 to 3,527 miles of streets that will continue to fall into disrepair.

But what about the unpaved streets? They measure approximately 60 miles of unpaved streets in the city. Most cities have somewhere around the same to dramatically more unpaved streets than Portland. Many of the streets are short blocks that lead immediately into a paved street, alleviating much connectivity issue. All of the unpaved streets are used rarely by anybody but the people that live on the street or a few others that might pass by. Emphasis on a “few”. So the question really is, “so what about em’?” With that I’m going to drop this point for a few, because while a few people fuss about 60 miles of unpaved streets there are 3,327-3,527 miles that are merely years away from becoming unpaved. Priorities here people, priorities.

So there seems to be some options here that are going to take place no matter what we do. No significant money is going to become available. The feds aren’t exactly swooping in to save the disappearing gas tax revenue. It’s up to the cities, and the only options on the table for streets are to let some of them disappear from the cities list of streets to maintain. In New Orleans I recall seeing those notorious signs “This Street No Longer Maintained”. That sign meant the city of New Orleans was done with that street, it was up to the local community to do anything with it. Most people on the street and surrounding areas were actually fine with that. They didn’t care.

What to do with all these streets we can’t maintain? As road budgets get strained even further there is going to be increasing pressure to abandon the notion that a street must be provided to every single doorstep in America. It just isn’t possible, never was, and never will be.

So the question is, with well over 3,327 miles of of road miles about to be left untouched, why keep wasting them as mere roadways. What should we do with them? Some neighborhoods have even reclaimed low yield streets and planted mid-road gardens, turned them into neighborhood parks and other such wonderful additions. Why not officially start declaring some streets as off the books and let the neighborhoods really, truly take back their streets!

There’s a lot of potential in this issues to reclaim the streets and make our neighborhoods more livable, safer for our families, friends and children and make our city more efficient in the process. What are your ideas for these 3,327 miles of roadway?

NOTE: The Oregonlive also published a wrap up with some good quotes from attendees @ http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2014/02/city_asks_residents_where_do_w.html

Metro Doing a Good Job on Los Angeles Transit

There’s a million reasons why I’ll likely never live in Los Angeles, but I do indeed like to visit. Whenever I visit I don’t stay in some hotel and do the tourist thing. I usually get an airbnb (even though I’ve heard that’s illegal in a number of cities like Los Angeles) or stay with friends in the area of my travels. It’s better, in my opinion, to stay where the heart, passion, art, music and life of a city are versus in some stoic and staid hotel that is disconnected and segmented from the people and life of a city. While amidst the heart of Los Angeles here’s a few observations, thoughts and general adventures from the last few days.

Where Did The Sleuthing Occur?

Some basic geographic context here…

  1.  – Los Angeles Union Station, more below the map.
  2.  – Where I resided in an artist’s loft for the weekend.
  3.  – The Spring Street & Main Street Bike Lanes. The location of the recent battle with the movie industry scouts (yes, they’re idiots and that out of touch with American cities these days) over the green in the green bike lane in the street ruining their shots! Here’s a few choice write ups and videos of the film industry whining away. Contrary to their nonsense, I guess they’ve missed the fact that green bike lanes exist in almost EVERY MAJOR CITY IN THE UNITED STATES NOW! I always knew hollywood was out of touch with the country, little things like this just further prove it.
Los Angeles, Click for actual Google Map.

Los Angeles, Click for actual Google Map.

Riding the Coast Starlight one arrives at Union Station in downtown Los Angeles. This is a beautiful station located just across the street from the original old city of Los Angeles. This old city happens to be a public space and tourist attraction of sorts these days. Union Station is an amazing place, with a large waiting room, an underground tunnel that connects all of the track platforms and over 60,000 passengers a day through the station. It serves several Amtrak, Amtrak California and Metrolink trains along with light rail Gold Line Service with a subway connection to the Red and Purple Lines. The connections in Union Station are great. Being able to get almost anywhere in the Los Angeles area from the station with maybe one transfer.

Light Rail

The light rail of the Metro System is nice, the light rail vehicles (LRVs) are smooth riding, fast accelerating and decelerating, and have good visible for the ride. Beyond that they run most of the light rail lines at bout 10 minute headways, making it very easy to use to go back and forth for errands. Another thing I took note of, at least on the Gold line, is that the cars are well maintained and generally kept clean.

Buses

The metro buses are an extremely wide range of vehicles. From buses that look like they’re dated from the 60s or 70s to extremely modern buses, Metro has them all. Most are kept clean, and the modern sleek BRT style buses operate quickly and frequently. Overall, they’re pretty nice, the frequency is pretty solid and the BRT routes of the Orange and Silver line are exception. I will make the standard complaint about buses that, the ride quality even on these BRT lines isn’t very good compared to the light rail ride quality. I’d still be hard pressed to do anything on the bus besides listen to headphones. Contrary to the light rail, which I routinely read, work on a laptop, listen to headphones or even carry on with fellow passengers. All easier or possible on light rail while much more difficult to impossible while riding the bus.

That’s it for now. In just a few hours I’ll have episode 3 of Transit Sleuth TV up and live, so keep reading and watching. More to come!

References:

A West Side Re-Exploration of Orenco Station & Neighborhood

Paul Peterson @emptefilms & I @transitsleuth went out to Hillsboro to check out how Orenco Neighborhood (town?) has developed. You can read more about Orenco Station via the Wikipedia Page. As described on the wiki page, “is a neighborhood of the city of Hillsboro, Oregon, United States. The planned urban town center was designed as a pedestrian-friendly, high-density community built in conjunction with TriMet’s Westside light rail. It was built on land formerly owned by the Oregon Nursery Company, land home around the turn of the 20th century to Orenco, a company town. During the Great Depression, the company went out of business, and much of the nursery land became vacant until re-development began in 1997. Orenco Station is near the intersection of NW 231st/NW 229th Avenues and Cornell Road, centered on the Orenco Station MAX stop.

There’s also a basic web presence at http://www.orencostation.net/ that provides some current commercial information about the neighborhood.

The stop that anchors the entire neighborhood is simply named the Orenco / Northwest 231st Avenue Stop. The station has a park-and-ride lot with 180 free parking spaces (for 24 hours at a time) and bus connection to line 47-Baseline/Evergreen. The station also includes bike lockers and bike racks. A block north is the site of the Hillsboro Farmer’s Market’s seasonal Sunday marketplace and the core of the Orenco Neighborhood.

Keep reading and subscribe to the blog (RSS) or the video channel, an upcoming episode of Transit Sleuth TV will have more about Orenco and the development there.

Portland’s Milwaukee Light Rail Project – Under Construction, Opening in September 2015

First let’s kick this blog entry off with a few pieces of context, such as:

  • What is the Portland Milwaukee Light Rail Line?
  • Where exactly does it go?
  • How much does it cost and what does that cost actually include?

Answers…

“Opening in 2015, the Portland-Milwaukie light rail transit line will travel 7.3 miles between PSU, inner Southeast Portland, Milwaukie and Oak Grove in north Clackamas County.”

The best place to get information about the Portland Milwaukee Light Rail is to check out the project site. I have a few additional thoughts, pieces of information and other such things here in the post however.

Here’s a quick video intro of what the project is, what it connects and a little more information. It’s a short view.

The other key video to watch, which really gets down into where the line runs in detail and also covers the other things that will be built along with the light rail line.

The total cost of the Portland Milwaukee Light Rail (PMLR) Project is $1,490.35 Million[0]. In a follow up entry I’m going to bring up what exactly we’re getting for this huge chunk of cash. I’ll also do a break out of a few of the light rail stops and what those light rail stops mean to the neighborhoods they’ll serve.

After watching this project progress over the years it still leaves me with a number of questions. Many of these will be answered in due time, but it doesn’t stop me from being extremely curious.

  1. What buses will use the bridge instead of routes like the Ross Island Bridge?
  2. When the buses come across the bridge where do they get on or off on the west side? Will they continue on the new light rail part of the infrastructure on their way to the bus mall?  Will they turn off onto other surface streets in the area and travel in and out of south waterfront that way?
  3. Where’s the best house buying options in the area? Which area will increase in value the quickest? Which values may decrease?

More to come in the near future… cheers, Transit Sleuth.

References
[0] Portland-Milwaukee Light Rail Project Preliminary Engineering Report. Located at FTA: http://www.fta.dot.gov/documents/OR_Portland_Milwaukie_LRT_complete_profile.pdf and local store: Portland Milwaukee Light Rail

On a Positive Note, Take a Route & Have a Beer!

Recently the Willamette Week had a great beer crawl transit + bike + walking routes list put together. Your’s truly made the list! I helped kick off this with the Trimet Route #4! Great list!!

A Grand Lodge, A Long Transit Ride, A Great Weekend

Over this last weekend I headed out to Forest Grove to Mcmenamins Grand Lodge. It’s a great place to spend a weekend away from everything, with the bonus of actually being reachable by transit. From downtown, take any MAX that goes to either Beaverton Transit Center or Hillsboro and transfer at either of those places to the #57 Bus that goes to Forest Grobe. I prefer to take the MAX for and wait until the end of the line to transfer. It always makes working on a laptop dramatically easier than riding on a bus, thus my main reason on many trips for taking rail over the bus.

Between the soaking pool, which is a great heated pool that is absolutely wonderful during the winter, I started pondering. I ought to spearhead a website that lays out the locations that are close to stops on the light rail, streetcar, WES and bus corridors in the TriMet Service area. However I’d not want to do this alone. If you’d like to volunteer to help me out (don’t worry, we’re only talking about content and helping to find cool places, you don’t have to code or actually create the website) with this let me know. Just enter the things you could provide and I’ll get in touch ASAP.

Cheers – Transit Sleuth

Is TriMet Failing? Could Transit Improve in Portland? Let me know!

I’m just curious where my readers stand. If you could take a few minutes to fill this out and hit submit I’d greatly appreciate it. Also I made the email address empty, but it is just going to me, I’m not selling any of your information and many of you know me. So don’t be alarmed – it would make it easier for me if you did enter your email.

After a week or two I’ll post all of my answers also. Last thing, if you’re from Seattle, Vancouver WA or wherever feel free to fill this out if you keep up with Portland politics. I know some of you do. 😉