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.

Tactical Urbanism, 18-Wheeler Drives into Streetcar…

Recently I was curious about one of the streetcar disappearances  To put it more simply, why did it say “technical problem” on the reader board with no known streetcar arriving or operating. Streetcars and electrical motors that power the streetcars are some of the most reliable, capable, powerful and long lasting components that humanity has ever put in a motorized vehicle. So why had the street had “technical problems” again? It seemed this happens on a somewhat frequent basis, contrary to the fact that the streetcars (and most electrical rail vehicles) are some of the most reliable vehicles on earth!

I passed this thought back of my mind. I was on my bike, it didn’t matter to me or prevent me from doing the things I needed to do at that very moment. So I continued onward, unobstructed. Then a few nights later I stumbled across this blog entry by Hart Noecker “Veloprovo: Flower Petals and Parklet Fun – Round One” (read his blog entry, as it contains a lot of great info that pertains to the rest of my blog entry). I then find this video and pictures of why the streetcar was out of service!

…and the pictures…

18-Wheeler smashed into Streetcar

18-Wheeler smashed into Streetcar

Smashed up Streetcar

Smashed up Streetcar

…and keep this in mind. This is EXACTLY why I took this photo a few mornings ago and labeled as I did. Some might have thought, “oh you’re such a jokester…” but no, seriously. The majority of incidents in Portland over the last decade have been almost entirely related to trucks killing cyclists. Sure there is the errant car, but considering trucking is a small percentage of traffic (7-15% depending on day, hour, etc) but contribute to about 50-80% of fatalities for the year…  that’s pretty messed up.

Murder Wheels of 18-Wheeler

Murder Wheels of 18-Wheeler

I wrote this “murder wheels” somewhat tongue in cheek. But in reality, more than a few people have been crushed by large trucks in Portland. The fact  is that in the last decade pedestrians, drivers, cyclists, children & others have all been killed by these big trucks – and often because of this very inability they have to NOT be able to maneuver  Many of these trucks do NOT even need to come downtown. Many of them are NOT actually even delivering something to downtown. They’re risking everybody’s lives. Entire cities, vastly bigger and more active than Portland exist that do NOT allow these trucks. Instead the focus in those cities is on people and what people actually want and need. What we don’t need is these massive trucks traversing downtown.

In this case above that Hart captured, how much damage is that? I’d bet it is somewhere between 10-25k dollars of repair damage to the individual streetcar, the truck also didn’t make its delivery, is probably a $1000 loss, it stopped traffic which could have caused somewhere between 5-20k in delay costs, and the riders that couldn’t travel, probably several thousand in revenue for the streetcar and even more in loss effort and revenue for local businesses. Overall, it was easily a quarter of a million dollars when one thinks of the holistic problem that occurred because someone couldn’t handle their truck.

How much has to come out of the city budget now? What would have happened if someone was on a bike when that driver screwed up like they did and smashed into the streetcar? I’ll tell you what would have happend. Your son, or daughter, mother or father, grandpa or grandma, whomever was on that bike would be dead. D. E. A. D. Horrible enough for you yet? Well, I got to feeling a little bit better by watching the exasperated and exuberant Jason Roberts. He actually helped to fix a part of Dallas. Yup, that’s right. A city that is known for being wretched on so many levels, unlivable in many place and downright inhumane by most civilized nation’s standards. But he helped to start bringing livability back into a neighborhood.

The simple fact is, we shouldn’t be putting up with things like massive trucks charging around downtown. We can live better, safer and healthier without this nonsense. If Robert can do it in Dallas, Texas we can sure as hell fix this issue in Portland! As Robert says, SHOW UP!!! Per Hart’s blog entry, come help with tactical urban parklets! Until next time, I’m off to sleuth up some more history, more ideas & plan the next move towards better living.


Transit Sleuth

After the Pacific Surfliner – Adventures in Los Angeles via Metro Gold Line

A short summary…

After a trip to Santa Barbara for a business meeting I headed back to Los Angeles on the 1:50pm departure of the Pacific Surfliner from Goleta, California. While waiting the Coast Starlight tore by at 79mph, which was pretty cool.

After the trip back to Los Angeles, upon arriving at Los Angeles Union Station I started walking from there to my hotel I’m staying at. However at the cross roads of 1st & Alameda I decided to cross back to the Metro Gold Line Little Tokyo Arts District Station and ride north to Pasadena. I traversed the ramp and swiped my transit Tap Card.

Once upon the Gold Line I actually went the wrong way first, but simply took a walk around and then boarded the next train going the right direction. Here’s a montage video of the trip to Pasadena.

…that’s it for now.

Proper Portland Brew, Transport & Week Kick Off



Boston, Portland’s Sister City?

Recently I took a trip over to the north east coast with my girl. We had a great trip visiting Conneticut, with our flight in and out of Boston. We used a mix of transit while in Boston to connect from the airport to the intercity bus to Hartford. Where we then bummed a ride with my girl’s folks. Overall it was a great trip, but this is my Transit Sleuth Blog, so enough about all that, let’s talk about hard core transit in Boston and how bad ass Boston is.

I’m generally pretty hard to impress when it comes down to transit. Portland does OK, San Francisco does OK, but the cities that really get me are usually the hard core operators like Chicago, New York or Vancouver, British Columbia. Well, Boston has officially entered those ranks of amazing cities. When it comes to removing that noose of automobile ownership and really getting down to important ideals, livability and effective transit and biking options.

Boston Transit Options

Two lines we took that are built out subway style heavy rail, included the Red and Orange Lines. Both of these lines were clean, are practically spotless by American standards, and amazingly well run. The lines were also smooth, without much jarring, and during rush hour I was still able to easily board and de-train in the inner core of the city.

Boston’s subways are cleaner, seemingly faster, and better rides than other comparable systems in cities like New York (MTA has notorious bumpy subway trains, they’re still not as bumpy and jarring as busses, but for a train they’re ridiculous) or Chicago. They’re also very easy to ride. The signage is good and getting around is simple, even when I wasn’t paying attention. The calls for each stop were clear and easy to hear (by comparison, there’s always room for improvement) which was a pleasant break from the standard mumbling on some systems.

The another rail mode option, as Portlanders, San Franciscans and Seattleites would now know, is light rail. I believe in Boston they refer to these as Streetcars however, but I’m not 100% sure. The Green Line was the main line we rode on, getting from North End to the Northeast College area. These trains were driven like a bat out of hell, jarring a bit in the turns, but fast and extremely efficient with solid ridership. The Green Line even splits into three separate segments as it exits the inner core of the city. This line, as the orange and red, was also technically a subway.

Which speaking of, the Silver Line is a bus line, that is underground that runs directly from the airport. This line is technically BRT the way it is intended to be built. However, Boston just refers to it as part of their subway system. There is a lot of contention about the quality of service of the Silver Line versus real rapid transit lines like the other subway lines, since Bostonians were originally promised a light rail line. It appears, after some research on wikipedia and digging through state records that they botched up the construction estimates and planning during the epic big dig failure.

On any of these lines, albeit during rush hour, we never waited for more than 90 seconds, with most of the trains we transferred from or to we had zero wait time. We literally walked onto the platform and onto the train. A transit rider’s dream transfer!


I’m aiming to have a part II to this article regarding the biking options and other parts of the MBTA and Boston’s Transit & biking options. Stay tuned!

Average American Lifestyle, What’s Your Excuse?

I’ve left the rat race of the car driving, fast food eating, sprawl living, Nintendo/Xbox/Playstation playing, boob tube watching day to day – or what millions in America call life – and even though there shouldn’t be excuses for living so poorly, I’m collecting what people have heard. So, what have YOU heard people say as an excuse for not living better? For not taking transit or riding a bike to take care of more things in their life? What about for eating fast food, what’s the excuse there?

Please leave comments and such!  Cheers!

Yup... rat race racing...

Yup… rat race racing…

Amazon (Yeah, Amazon.com) is Buying 4th Streetcar & Increasing Service in Seattle

The private sector has stepped in, if there is any more proof needed that streetcars rock, you need look no further than this. Amazon is buying a 4th streetcar to up the service near the South Lake Union area in Seattle. This is the area where their primary headquarters is located.

I’m sure I’ll have more on this later, just had to bring it up now for future reference!

To those streetcar haters, yes indeed, they’re buying a streetcar. They’re not increasing the bus service around campus because people ride and want to ride the streetcar and not the bus (even though some do indeed ride the bus too). Amazon is working to build a vibrant center around their headquarters – not just some hollow soul less building like other big software companies do in the Seattle area. They’ve brought more life and helped more with economic recovery in a huge way. I could go on for hours about how awesome this is, and how more moves like this should be encouraged. But for now, happy riding!