Hop Fastpass, Getting to the Party

Even though Trimet is seriously late to the party (by almost a decade or more in some ways) with the Hop Fastness, let’s talk about why this is actually a good thing for the area. First, the issues with this form of payment.

Almost every major city in on the west coast has had a card payment system of this type for years now. They however didn’t just magically turn their payment systems on and install things to swipe them on and have them work. Oh no, there are long and storied tales of corruption, delay, and massive failure before they all became successful.

Here’s a few things to read up on ORCA, that’ll give you the lowdown on the many issues the Seattle area transit services fought through.

…and for some serious stories, a little searching and you’ll find a whole host of catastrophe associated with Clipper Card implementation in the Seattle area.

Even Yelp has threads on the matter of Clipper Cards!!!

Here’s the Wikipedia article on Clipper Card.

Los Angeles also has a card, but that’s enough of that. You get the idea, simply put there has been massive issues implementing and getting these interagency cards enabled. Fortunately they’ve done all the research and fought the battles. So hopefully when the Hop Fastpass is put into service Trimet will have a well oiled service offering come online. If Trimet does run into a few minor bumps, just keep in mind the colossal issues the other agencies on the west coast have had!

When I read the recent post on the Trimet Blog I do get excited about the simplified approach to paying fare. In all seriousness, this is the ideal way to handle payments. The card just keeps a certain amount on it, there’s a daily limit, and it just automatically rings up some more funds if it runs low. That way you don’t have to ever fiddle with transfers, reloading cards, fiddling with a phone that has a dying battery, or carrying around a paper ticket that expires! This can really save everybody a ton of time.

There are many other things that this card will enable, and I am looking forward to it. May my sleuthing become even easier and everybody’s fare paying become seamless! 😉

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:

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:

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.

Los Angeles!

Finally got the first trip of a set scheduled. Here’s my plan for sleuthing to the maximum. I’m going to make two trips to Los Angeles, hopefully both will be before the end of the year. The first trip will be later this month, departing on the Coast Starlight on October the 24th. Paul @emptedesign will be going down on this October trip to help me capture some footage. We’ll also be catching up on the Railvolution Conference on the train ride down. Then the next trip will be sometime in November or December. Here’s the break out of mission goals for the two trips so far.

October Coast Starlight Trip

  • We’re going get a Transit Sleuth TV segment put together for the Coast Starlight trip itself.
  • Catch up and put together another Transit Sleuth TV segment on the Railvolution Conference and a wrap up around that.
  • Get video for a secret project and some segment work on Transit Sleuth TV of the transit in action and explore new realms of the city. Prospectively the Gold Line or elsewhere. Got ideas? Send them this way!
  • Catch a commuter train to somewhere. The question is, which one and where to? Where is a good town center along the way, good livability and related things?
  • Find the good food the locals dig. Where is it, where’s the walkable streets that we should tackle?

Later Coast Starlight Trip

  • Catch up with the Wolfpack Hustle and get the lowdown on the rides, packs and hustles. If you’re not aware of this crew in LA, check this out. Keep an eye out for those rockin’ tall bikes!
  • Bike and transit and bike and transit and bike and then bike some more.

So these are coming up…   Transit Sleuth will be sleuthing and the adventures will be on Transit Sleuth TV on a future episode!

Onward to Los Angeles, Santa Ana & Newport Beach

I’m heading down to check out some biking, beaches and a rail trip. Feel free to join me at any point of the trip. I’m aiming to record it, blog it and generally provide a thorough write up of the whole adventure. To start it off, here’s the logistics plans.

Portland Union Station at Night

Portland Union Station at Night

On September 4th I’ll be departing, with bicycle packed and recording gear on hand from Portland Union Station. I’ll be boarding the Coast Starlight south bound to Los Angeles. From Los Angeles I’ll make a transfer to the Pacific Surfliner down to Santa Ana.

Once I arrive in Santa Ana I’l detrain and unpack my bike. Somehow I’ll carry the storing container and other material and roll on from Santa Ana Station down to Newport Beach via the Santa Ana River Trail.

From Santa Ana Rail Station to Newport Beach via the Santa Ana River Trail.

From Santa Ana Rail Station to Newport Beach via the Santa Ana River Trail.

Coast Starlight arriving in Portland.

Coast Starlight arriving in Portland.

Once I arrive I intend to take a few bike trips here and there, which I’ll record some and write about others. I’m working to line up meeting some riders, coders & transit crew while I’m down. So if you’re anywhere in the Los Angeles metro area between the 6th and 10th of September, let me know and we’ll have some grub with a beer, coffee or other beverage of our choice. If you’re up for riding and interested in showing me trails, routes or other crazy cycling bits, definitely ping me about that too, I’m curious where the routes & runs are for the LA, OC and metro area local riders are. If you’re up for a tour about, hit me at @transitsleuth on twitter.

Surlac

Surlac

Upon the return trip I’ll bike back out to the station, whip out the tools and re-pack the bike at the Santa Ana Station and then board an early morning Pacific Surfliner back into Los Angeles. From there back aboard to the north bound Coast Starlight, feet up and kicked back, and the following day I’ll arrive back in Portland, Oregon rested and relaxed.

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.