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!

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.

A Few Not So Great Shots of the Snow

…with of course a transit focused emphasis.  🙂

A Little Bit of Commentary

So almost every single bus line is either shut down, on snow routes, or almost non-operational.  Same thing happened to TriMet when it snowed and they got slammed for it.  A few people in the community even ranted and raved about how TriMet had done a horrible job keeping the buses running.  They noted that “Seattle didn’t have this problem and Seattle does way more to keep the buses running”.  I can officially say that is not the case.  The simple fact is, “BUSSES CAN’T RUN DURING THE SNOW!?!?!?!!!!”

Meanwhile in the reality of the realm of physics and serious infrastructure, Sounder and Link Light Rail are running just fine.  There was a small delay on a Sounder run this evening.  Thousands of people used this non-auto, non-bus based transport to get home without interruption or “alternate routes”.  In inclement weather (which it seems we’ll be getting more and more of over the next century) rail absolutely rules.  Rubber on road is an absolutely inferior technology for this type of situation.  Also to add, the streetcar in Tacoma and Seattle are running without interruption.  Seriously, American cities desperately need more rail.  Not BRT, not extended buses, not all wheel drive buses, but rail.  Hard care, large scale, massive infrastructure with trains and light rail on rail.  It doesn’t stop during snow, heat, or otherwise.  It is only minimally hampered in all but the most harsh weather.  But I digress, on to more winter wonderland fun…

…with two last links…

Some news about all the snow on the Capital Hill

…and some sledding/luging down Denny.