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! 😉

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?

I’m Moving, New Home Base: Portland, Secondary San Francisco, Seattle, and Vancouver BC

So I’ve done it, I’ve just switched my home base back to Portland from Seattle. However, I’ll be in Seattle, San Francisco, and Vancouver BC about as often as I was before (ok, slightly less in Seattle). So for those out there thinking, “But Seattle is so great, why leave for Portland?!?!” here’s the lowdown. I enjoyed my time in Seattle but it IS NOT Portland nor is the livability and options the same. Such as…

  • Walkability in Portland is on par with Vancouver BC, both which are vastly superior in walkable locations than San Francisco or Seattle. The distance between any two things in Seattle is easily 2x the distance as key destinations in Portland or Vancouver.
  • I can get to Best Buy, IKEA, Target, and over a dozen other major stores by light rail in Portland. This cannot be done in Seattle. Buying bulk stuff and using light rail to get it home is super easy, doing this on a bus is not.
  • There are literally thousands of food carts, in pods, in Portland. Seattle can’t get its food cart scene off the ground to save the life of the city. I decided again not to keep waiting around.
  • Portland is 10-15 years ahead of Seattle with light rail/high capacity transit construction. Seattle will be paying 2-50x as much as Portland to have a system that will be half the size of Portland’s possibly by 2020 or more realistically 2040 or 2050. It however, is unlikely that Seattle will be able to find the money to do this.
  • Seattle relies so heavily on buses, the city is actually MORE vulnerable to cold extremes than Portland. Portland shuts down during cold, so just imagine that twice as early and twice as long! Not that snow days bother me, and I don’t mind snow days. I just find it somewhat frustrating in Seattle because everything is 2x farther apart, meaning I often do need to get around during the snow.
  • Seattle uses concrete, that becomes uneven, almost everywhere making the roads dangerous for cyclists and extremely rough while riding in the bus or a car. The roadways are actually less maintained than Portland’s (yes, Seattle actually has MORE dirt roads than Portland).
  • Seattle is politically bound by a warring city council and a mayor with too much power and too little impetuous to move forward on things. Again, I’m tired of waiting for Seattle to get things moving forward. In addition, Seattle is held captive to the warring (and often draconian or backwards thinking regions around the city) that don’t want light rail, don’t want livability zoning or livable street designs, want to just pave everything, yadda yadda yadda. Portland has this problem, but it has been put in check years ago. The battle continues, but Seattle’s battle is about 10-15 years away from becoming a “winning battle”. Simply, Seattle could still fall into a “Houston” or “Dallas” complex.
  • There are at least 3x as many breakfast choices, and a much more active (I’d almost say larger) foodie culture in Portland than in Seattle.
  • There are more coffee options, better coffee options, and more availability of coffee shops in Portland than in Seattle. That doesn’t just come from me, I have confirmed this with some of the top brewers in Seattle. They know Portland kicks some serious coffee ass!
  • I actually have to get into a car in Seattle sometimes and sometimes I even have to drive somewhere. This is absolutely unacceptable when there are better logistics capabilities in Vancouver BC, San Francisco, and of course Portland.
  • The tech scene in Portland is actually, albeit smaller, more cohesive, communicative, socially active in person and on Twitter, blogs, and other places.
  • No city I know of has the density of creatives and the messaging, art, advertising accumen, or capabilities as creatives in Portland. People care about what they create in this city and it shows.
  • Portland is basically the mecca of open source software. Linus Torvalds lives in Portland, err, well, Lake Oswego, which still is about the same, and works in the metropolitan area. In addition to that many of the Agile Manifesto signatures come from individuals that live in Portland or nearby in the surrounding state.
  • Portland doesn’t have an airport south of its downtown wrecking neighborhood connections, instead Portland has an airport and a race track separating it form Vancouver Washington – which to me, is just fine.
  • Seattle has more roadways planned than Portland, Seattle’s port is about to be overtaken by Tacoma’s, and Seattle also has a host of other issues that will make it fall even further into a less livable place if they aren’t rectified.
  • The distance between transit options on the west side of the Portland Metro area are often closer than the transit options in the heart of Seattle. I find this horrifying and absurd. Farther out the transit options almost disappear compared to Portland’s options. If anyone knows about Portland’s “west side transit options”, they kind of suck, or to put it more kindly, they’re about average in the nation. It definitely is not similar to the “Portlandia” area.
  • The number of 10-18 minute routes in Seattle are scarce, even more now with the budget cuts. Just as I had suspected though, Seattle has to cut more service than Portland by percentage of budget and riders. Partly because Seattle has to spend about 2x what Portland does to provide transit. I’ll take Portland’s cuts over Seattle’s any day. This is even magnified by the operational efficiency of having light rail over buses.
  • Portland will have light rail to Milwaukee, an east side Streetcar, increased bus service, and other additions to pedestrian and street facilities by the time Seattle finishes ONLY the First Hill Streetcar, the University District Light Rail still won’t be finished by then. Again, I’m not waiting around any longer for Seattle to catch up. I’d be a billion years old by the time they get to the same level as Portland, San Francisco, or Vancouver BC.
  • Voodoo Donuts. Nuff Said’
  • Seattle has the Burke Gilman Trail at 23 miles, Portland has the Springwater Corridor Loop at 40 miles.
  • Seattle has about 30 miles of signed bike routes, and 20 miles of bike lanes, Portland has 202 miles of painted line bike lanes, 46 miles of bike boulevards, 76 miles of paths that are off street and car-free, and several bike boulevards. Yeah, have I mentioned I like to bike? Portland clearly owns bike friendliness by an order of magnitude.
  • Seattle has 2/3 the bike corrals that Portland does, and as above, about one sixth the amount of bike miles, for a city that consumes as much or more physical space as Portland in the metropolitan area. I’m frustrated by this ratio, and the increased risk and danger of cycling in Seattle.

…and the last technical reason of this list…

  • There is about 50 kazillion more transit related things to write about in Portland then there is in Seattle. So maybe, I’ll be able to breath some life back into this blog!

So Emerald City Seattle, I will admit it has been fun, but it’s you not me and I’m back to my Stumptown City Portland. But don’t worry Seattle, I’ll be visiting regularly. 😉

NOTE: Don’t take offense to this, if you do, you should probably involve yourself to fix the city of Seattle. There’s plenty of opportunities to do so. I mean no insult to anyone working toward bettering the city either. I just had to vent/enumerate my issues. As I said, I have absolutely enjoyed my time in Seattle, but there are things I have grown accustomed to, maybe even spoiled by in Portland, that I want back. So I hope no offense is taken, cheers!

Portland Envy by Seattle, It Keeps Going…

I was speaking with a friend about the crime on 3rd between Pine and Pike in Seattle. I’ve seen more violence and read about more violence on that street in the 1.8 years I’ve lived in Seattle than I heard the entire 6+ years I lived in Portland. I can absolutely relate with this article. The crime doers on this street are absolute scum, but the city does nothing to clean up or mitigate these issues except send in cops. If anyone has half a brain they realize that cops only stop a very small amount of actual crime. Maybe 15% or 20% is the somewhere around the official estimate.

This article points out how Seattle should look into a follow the lead of places like Portland, Oregon and San Francisco, California.  I quote from the article,

“Physical changes such as more attractive bus shelters, more landscaping and better signage will help Third Avenue, Scholes said. He points to San Francisco and Portland as two cities that have remade their transit corridors into attractive, pedestrian-friendly streets.

Portland’s ambitious makeover, known as the Portland Mall, renovated or rebuilt 58 downtown blocks and intersections with high-end materials including granite, brick and wrought iron, added 45 new transit shelters, new bike lanes and public art. The price — $220 million — made it one of Portland’s largest public-works projects, said Mary Fetsch, spokeswoman for TriMet, the transit agency for the Portland metropolitan area.

Fetsch said the old bus shelters were dark and provided places to hide. The redesigned bus stops are open, well-lighted canopies with clear sightlines.

“You can see what’s happening on the street now.”

Third Avenue from Pioneer Square to Belltown encompasses about 20 blocks, but the council so far has appropriated just $350,000 for the street improvements and another $177,000 for additional cleaning. (Note: This is far less than the $500k Seattle has spent for zero improvements and only cleaning and policing)

“The city will need to invest much more to significantly improve the corridor and achieve something like what Portland has accomplished,” Scholes said. Still, he says, there’s a limit to what physical changes can do.

“More plantings, more lighting, more trees are great, but if we don’t deal with the drug dealing we haven’t improved the corridor.””

The original article is available here.  All I have to say is, “Seriously Seattle, you’re smack in the middle of some of the best cities in the world (Vancouver BC & Portland), and near enough to San Francisco to not be so behind in matters like this, simply, get your act in gear Ms Emerald City!” Simply put the city really needs to just stop, take a breath, and the city councils, mayors office, and all these groups need to get together to take effective and reason actions against these problems like these other cities have.

I personally worry about many of my friends and family in relation to this type of nonsense. What coward would attack a 60+ year old man taking a picture of Christmas lights. This makes me not want to invite anyone to visit and instead just start packing heat myself. I haven’t had this emotion and reaction since I lived, well over 10 years ago, in the New Orleans area where I actually was shot at before. I didn’t move to the north west to deal with this type of nonsense…

…until later, I sure hope to have a good story later.

San Francisco Shorty

A few months ago I ran down to San Francisco. On the quick adventure (I promise beers to all those I didn’t call! This was literally a crazy fast trip) down to the city I did manage to grab a number of pictures and ride a few modes of transit. I also made a few observations about San Francisco’s state of multi-modalism and livability.

First the Negative Dirty Bits

There are a few things that I observed, that were in evidence the last couple of trips I made too. San Francisco is a fairly dirty city. After walking around for a day, one often finds themselves with a film of dirt & dust. A shower becomes a requirement instead of a nice to have. This is prevalent in almost any major city, but for some reason San Francisco gives the perception that one wouldn’t feel this way, but it does indeed happen.

Automobile reliance is still out of control in this city, and too much preference is given in laying out the city infrastructure. This is done in spite of livability and existing neighborhoods. I’m sure however, that this will continue to decrease since it is not maintainable at current levels of dependence.

Now For the Awesome News

Even though San Francisco has a lot of automobile dependent people, the numbers that are not dependent or completely independent (i.e. car free) have definitely increased. In addition to that the options are steadily increasing in the city.

I finally got to see the distinctive dedicated bike lanes on Market Street, running parallel to auto and streetcar/trolley traffic. This type of multimodal setup is a prime option for city streets. In San Francisco, this change has shown with physical, visual, and statistical evidence that reduction of car trips by setting up roads for multi-model use does indeed improve the livability of an area. I’m sure there are a few curmudgeons here and there disagreeing, but for those that live in the neighborhoods and downtown of San Francisco, I’m betting they’re enjoying this change at this very moment!

Tree lined streets also seem to be popping up along Valencia and others. This is a major improvement for any city. Trees make a world of difference, pure concrete makes streets less appealing to pedestrians. Pure concrete encourages drivers to speed up and become less attentive, increasing fatalities – again, all in evidence by more than one measure.

Another thing besides the bike lanes and tree lined streets San Francisco is doing something else that’s a great idea! They have taken some street parking along the street and turned it into outside seating. This, like the trees, adds an appeal for people to get out of cars (or not arrive in cars in the first place) and be among their fellow citizenry. I got to experience people actually speaking to each other, getting to know their neighbors. Things one will never see in the fast food joints of the American suburbs. Suburbanites may think they hate their neighbors, but when people get together they realize there is a lot more in common than in separation.

San Francisco…

I wanted to write more about this trip, but that just didn’t happen. So instead of writing anything I’m going to just post some of the pictures from the trip. Cheers!  🙂

PCC Streetcar (Click for full size image)

PCC Streetcar (Click for full size image)

Philadelphia Arrow Lines

Philadelphia Arrow Lines