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!

Just Daily Portland Trips

A few weeks ago I took a trip around Portland and snagged some photos. I used a varying arrange of modes; streetcar, light rail, bus, bicycle and my own two feet. This is a pretty standard trip that could easily be told in pictures. Which is what I’ll do now, tell the small part of the day along with a respective picture. For all the pictures go here: http://photos.adron.me/Portland-Action/2014-Rolls-On-Up/Bikes-Buses-Streetcars-Car/

Here’s a shot of the streetcar traveling north up MLK. I always like to sit on the right hand side where the two seats face each other. That way I can easily see out the front of the streetcar as we’re rolling along.

Looking Out the Front of the Streetcar (Click for full size image)

Looking Out the Front of the Streetcar (Click for full size image)

I got off near Lloyd Center and snagged a few shots of the light rail trains coming by going east toward Gresham, Clackamas Town Center and the airport and in the other direction those coming into Portland.

Green Line bound for City Center (Click for full size image)

Green Line bound for City Center (Click for full size image)

As things go I saw a number of cyclists among the streets along with the proverbial onslaught of motorists driving their cars.

Cyclists and Motorists (Click for full size image)

Cyclists and Motorists (Click for full size image)

…and then something I see about 1 out of every 7 or 8 trips. Some dipshit motorists that have run into something. In this case someone obviously ran the light and hit the other motorists. Fortunately it appeared that nobody had gotten hurt but I only imagine, everytime I see this sickening situation, how many people might have been killed. In so many places a small negligent act that results in this outcome could have resulted in innocent people being killed. Everything day no less than 13 people, and sometimes as many as 15-20 people are killed by motorists while they simply walk down the street. Sure, one might say callously, that’s a lot number of 300 million people, but consider that this number is about 20-30x higher than in Europe. It really shows that we can indeed reduce these killings. Don’t even get me started on how many motorists other motorists kill, it’s an even higher number at 95-120 people per day and motorists maim another 400-1000 people per day.

Truly unacceptable.

Black Wrecked Car (Click for full size image)

Black Wrecked Car (Click for full size image)

The White Honda Smashed (Click for full size image)

The White Honda Smashed (Click for full size image)

…and more in the near future. Stay safe, think and happy travels. Cheers!

Some More from the Snowpacalypse on Twitter

Before moving to far ahead, here’s a snapshot of transit at 4:29pm, still actually running pretty good going into rush hour.

Status as of 4:29pm on Thursday

Status as of 4:29pm on Thursday

‘A 100 Crashes’ of ‘chaos’. It’s called road infrastructure & auto-dependency dumb ass.

Meanwhile, as usual, the suburbs are definitely failing at this whole snow thing.

Well, except for people on bikes or such. It seems this is the running theme.

One of the only times DALLAS (yes, Dallas) is looking a little like Portland.

Portland Milwaukie Light Rail Bus Planning

In the coming months Trimet is going to be putting together a bus plan for the redundant service along the new corridor. The simple reasoning is that buses cost more to operate over time than light rail, a lot more, and the ideal situation is to get as many people to take the light rail and operate feeder service to get people to the light rail. This is a tricky process, here’s a few of the reasons why:

  • Some bus lines would be more logical, like the #33, the stop in Milwaukie or the last stop of the PMLR line and transfer all passengers to a waiting MAX train. The MAX won’t have traffic to battle, will have an easier and faster ingress trip and egress trip out of the city. Timing the connection with the #33 will be really easy, as the service can now operate as an extension of the light rail service instead of fighting with traffic on McLoughlin (the bulk of its trip between Portland and Milwaukie). So a large part of the #33 route could be canceled, saving millions per decade and putting that money into other bus operations and capital such as the #33 between Oregon City and Milwaukie.
  • Other bus lines get tricky, the #19 for instance will cross over (with its current route) the new MAX at one of the stations. But the route on either side of that serves people that may or may not be going downtown. Beyond that, making connections with the MAX is more difficult because of its less than frequent service and which direction would connect with which MAX? The #19 wouldn’t just be merely an extension, but instead would act largely like a feeder. An example would be, if someone got on in the suburbs, instead of riding the whole route it would be faster to deboard and alight the coming MAX train, that would arrive in town faster and more reliably than the #19 bus would. This route then becomes a question of, “what to do?” Increase service? Leave it untouched? Decrease service between X & Y points, increase service immediately between MAX connection points to enable better connector service?
  • #31 and #32 both come from various parts of the metro area and converge on McLoughlin, again making for a perfect direct connection with the MAX. However both buses are arguably faster during low traffic times and slower during higher traffic times. Both bus routes are generally low ridership, so connecting the transfers to the MAX might behoove costs, but maybe not ridership. It however could have the opposite affect on ridership and increase. Would having the end points connected between Clackamas Town Center (where one of the buses goes) vs. where the other goes be improved if we bumped up service levels and connected it reliably to the MAX line going in? What would be the loss vs. the gain of doing so? Whatever the case, it isn’t smart continuing to run these two routes as is when the MAX line offers a lower cost option than running the bus just for the few riders that do take it along the McLoughlin Corridor – in this case, one would logically try the increased connector service but eliminate the service along McLoughlin into downtown. This would create a two-seat (ie. a transfer is required) ride to downtown but it would make for a dramatically more cost efficient ride if the ridership stays relatively the same on these routes or slightly increases. If it increases dramatically it would still be best to transfer riders to the MAX instead, as more service could be provided overall.

Have you thought much about how the service will change, what might change, or thought about getting involved? If any of these buses are ones you ride you should check out the upcoming bus service planning around the opening of the PMLR line. You can’t wait and expect to make a difference, you have to get involved now! Here’s a list of the lines that will be affected with the opening of the PMLR in 2015 (and possibly sooner even).

  • 9-Powell Blvd
  • 17-Holgate/Broadway
  • 19-Woodstock/Glisan
  • 28-Linwood
  • 29-Lake/Webster Rd
  • 30-Estacada
  • 31-King Rd
  • 32-Oatfield
  • 33-McLoughlin
  • 34-River Rd
  • 35-Macadam/Greeley
  • 36-South Shore
  • 43-Taylors Ferry Rd
  • 66-Marquam Hill/Hollywood
  • 70-12th/NE 33rd Ave
  • 75-Cesar Chavez/Lombard
  • 99-McLoughlin Express
  • 152-Milwaukie

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

Sneak Peak of Some Upcoming Transit Sleuth TV

Currently I’m in Los Angeles sleuthing about. This is a mere 5% of the video I’ve collected so far, a little transit, a few bikes, some trains, a bit of Los Angeles, a sausage and more. Know where the sausage place is, because it was great, totally worth a visit when you’re in LA! So here’s a short sneak peek of upcoming Transit Sleuth TV footage… enjoy! Remember, episode 3 is coming out this Monday at 7:30am.