Krakow – The First Week

I discussed the trip from Portland to Krakow in the previous blog entry, but here’s a few pictures of the trip itself. The trip started out with some familiar sights.

Yello Line Arriving

Yellow Line Arriving

Riding the Yellow Line to transfer to the Red Line Airport MAX

Riding the Yellow Line to transfer to the Red Line Airport MAX

Red Line MAX to the Airport

Red Line MAX to the Airport

That First Flight

That First Flight

Waiting in Chicago (This is the point where my luggage got lost)

Waiting in Chicago (This is the point where my luggage got lost)

The 747-8 that I flew on out of Chicago. Except this picture is in Frankfurt.

The 747-8 that I flew on out of Chicago. Except this picture is in Frankfurt.

CREWBUS in action!

CREWBUS in action!

Krakow from the air

Krakow from the air

Karkow Airport... well, ok, not much of the airport, but I was at the airport at this point.

Karkow Airport… well, ok, not much of the airport, but I was at the airport at this point.

The View Out of the window of My Flat

The View Out of the window of My Flat

The Flat Itself

The Flat Itself

The Old Local Street that leads from the flat to the primary arterial nearby.

The Old Local Street that leads from the flat to the primary arterial nearby.

Here’s the location on Google Maps.

Here’s the bike route into the city core of Krakow.

miejskie przedsińôbiorstwo komunikacyjne s.a. w krakowie

miejskie przedsińôbiorstwo komunikacyjne s.a. w krakowie

I’ve primarily used transit because it is extremely efficient here. Frequencies of trams into the city core come about every 1-4 minutes. The transit authority in Krakow is called the Miejskie Przedsińôbiorstwo Komunikacyjne s.a. w Krakowie¬†(abbreviated as MPK) which basically stands for public transport in Krakow.

Here are a few more pictures from directly near my flat.

Bike Lanes, nope, full on Cycle Tracks EVERYWHERE

Bike Lanes, nope, full on Cycle Tracks EVERYWHERE

Normal at a crossing, tons of cyclists, pedestrians... autos here and there and nearby trams and buses passing by.

Normal at a crossing, tons of cyclists, pedestrians… autos here and there and nearby trams and buses passing by.

One of the fine buses plying the streets

One of the fine buses plying the streets

Some of the new trams in service

Some of the new trams in service

Cyclists at a tram crossing in one of the dozens of transit centers

Cyclists at a tram crossing in one of the dozens of transit centers

I’ll have a full¬†review of many of my observations now that I’m actually on the 3rd week¬†of being in the city. So keep reading, I’ll likely publish that tomorrow.

National Transit Ridership

Cycling at 6% of Commute, Transit at 8% and … Blagh, Blagh, Blagh…

Let’s talk numbers and the real world. I’m going to lay out a few things in this post.

  1. Why the way we measure auto versus cycling versus transit versus walking commutes in metropolitan areas is an absurd, myopic and broken way to set policy around roads and systems in which modes are used on those roadways.
  2. Why the 6% bicycle commuting number is barely the tip of the iceberg of cycling in Portland.
  3. Why measuring commutes for the entire metropolitan area is counter productive for the city of Portland the surrounding cities of Hillsboro, Gresham, Beaverton, Tigard, Milwaukie, and other places in the metro area.

#1 – Measuring The Commute for the Metropolitan Area

The way urban planners, traffic engineers, and others measure the daily commute is usually by modal splits. What that means is each mode is assigned the percentage of the trips taken with that particular mode.

Let me detail the current way this is measured with an example. There are 2,314,554 persons in the metropolitan area of Portland. At the current labor force participation rates in the Portland metropolitan area we can safely assume that about 50% of these persons would be commuting to work. That gives us about 1,157,277 persons traveling to a place of employment and back every day.

Based on the 1,157,277 daily commutes in the metropolitan are of Portland, at 6.1% the area has about 69,436 people cycling to work everyday. Just think about that for a minute, that’s a sizable number of people bicycling. But is this an honest measurement of Portland commuting as a city? Does the metropolitan area really represent the city? Does that 69k+ people represent cyclists in Portland?

A quick side note…

For the¬†actual city or Portland the population is 609,456 with the commuters coming to about 304,728. Here’s a map of¬†the actual city of Portland, note the red outline around the city.

The City Limits of Portland

The City Limits of Portland

I won’t write¬†about these numbers just yet, but I’ll bring them back up further¬†along in this blog entry.

Is Gresham Portland? Is Hillsboro Portland? Is Salem Portland?

Let’s dive in on what exactly the metropolitan area actually is, then we can look at how ridiculous this measurement really is. Here’s a map of the¬†metropolitan area of Portland.

The Metropolitan are of Portland

The Metropolitan are of Portland

Do you see how big that red area is? That is the metropolitan area of Portland. Does this strike you as a bit odd?¬†Based on what is included in that area, the 6% measurement is absolutely amazing. It’s super impressive when the area is, by a huge order, completely suburban and rural areas that happen to all fit inside of this giant metropolitan area. Wikipedia even has a completely stand alone page dedicated to Portland’s metropolitan area (as it does many other metropolitan areas). This is the normal area that many¬†statistics are derived for policy and decision making at¬†federal, state, county (parish), city and even at the neighborhood level sometimes.

The metropolitan area of Portland includes;

  • Vancouver, Washington @ 161,791¬†people
  • Gresham, Oregon @ 105,594¬†people
  • Hillsboro, Oregon @ 91,611 people
  • Beaverton, Oregon @ 89,803 people
  • …and many others.

The 6% number is completely irrelevant, as are any modal splits, based on the metropolitan statistics for each of these cities. Including the city of Portland itself at 609,451 people. So why do we measure at the metropolitan level and then attempt to make quotes and other speculations or even decisions for our city this way?¬†It’s a very valid question considering how often many of the cities surrounding Portland and Portland itself make decisions based on these metropolitan measurements.

There is some use of these statistics that are valid, but time and again they’re brought up to say “the majority of people drive” and “nobody rides bikes” and “barely anybody walks” when that might be true for some auto-dependent neighborhood in Vancouver, Washington but it is absolutely not true for the actual city of Portland. So why hold Portland to the condemnation of the metropolitan area’s statistics? It comes up all the time, people¬†making pro- or anti-biking arguments based on the 6% number. Sometimes people even compare the 6% metropolitan number to the plan to get 25% mode share in Portland (the city) by 2030. Who’s kidding who, we aren’t getting anything positive out of the suburbs in this regard, they’re going to still be polluting the inner city with their commutes and killing each other with their cars by the time Portland gets to 25% mode split.

One last reason to toss this whole metropolitan area focus, especially for the 6% cycling mode split, or the 81% automobile mode split, or whatever number you’re comparing. Let’s get down to the business of the actual communities. Portland is not Gresham, Gresham is not Vancouver, and the others’ are not this or that part of the city. They each have different metrics. But the city of Portland itself has a bicycling mode split for transit that is huge and one for cycling that is also much higher than the metropolitan area. The city of Portland also has a minority use of single occupancy vehicle trips. This might be painful, but give this report and good review. Yup, that’s 43.9% auto use for trips in the CBD. CBD stands for¬†central business district. That’s down from 58.4% in 1994, a pretty damn good improvement. In the CBD transit usage is at 44.5% of trips, up from 33.6% in 1994. These are the types of numbers we actually need to look at to determine goals, not the misleading data of the metropolitan numbers.

#2 РTip of the Iceberg of Bicycle Usage

I’ve¬†talked about the absurdity of following metropolitan numbers in determining policy in Portland, now I’m going to take a stab at this 6% nonsense. The 6% number is great for the metropolitan area, like I was saying, that’s an impressive achievement when you factor in all of the blatantly hostile areas where some of the riders come from. As anyone who rides regularly knows, a bike lane right beside 30mph+ traffic is tantamount to insanity. There is zero comfort when you know one cell phone talking motorists swerves a little and your life is over. The vast majority of our roads and ways to get into and out of the city of Portland area are still these types of roads. There are very few dedicated paths or cycle-tracks that would encourage the mythic 60% “interested” population to jump on a bike and ride into town. Albeit among all of this frustration with the current 6% number being stagnant for several years now, there are a few trends that lead me to believe that this 6% isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Here’s my list of why the 6% number is illegitimate at this point:

  1. The first reason, goes back to the first thing I wrote about in this blog article – metropolitan numbers aren’t representative of the area we’re trying to measure, which notable is the city of Portland, not the metropolitan area. So let’s measure Portland, not Gresham and Hillsboro and the other areas. PBOT and the city have almost zero net impact on how those cities determine and act to improve cycling, so we really¬†should focus more specifically on¬†Portland’s numbers instead of¬†the averaged number across the entire metropolitan area.
  2. Who’s ridden across any of the bridges that have cycling measurements lately? Notice how on Hawthorne this year (2014) the same drop off didn’t occur in cycling commuters during the winter time as in previous years (2013, 2012, 2011, etc)? It looks like, and I’m waiting to get hold of the actual data, that the drop off was only about 10-30% off of the peak summertime commuters instead of the traditional 40-60% drop off! That’s huge. If that is being maintained, it would appear that somehow there are more consistent riders – which wouldn’t show an actual increase, but it would also lead to a ground swell of advocates that are really holding to it. But that leads me to the next observation…
  3. Who rides around on the east side on weekends or during the week? Ever noticed how there are steadily more and more cyclists going about their business on the east side during the day? I did a couple of measurements: 34th and Clinton, 35th and Hawthorne, 35th and Belmont and¬†Going¬†at the 15th Street Diverters. At each of those locations I saw a steady increase in ridership over the year that I was riding¬†across these areas during the day to do business. I’d stop and count for 15 minutes at a set time each day. After the year and numerous measurements I saw an increase of about 15-20% at each intersection. Even though the results weren’t done in a rigorous way, I did follow a scientific approach. Even without the rigor, and doing this out of pure curiosity, I can’t really ignore them since they were consistent over time.

The simple observation is this. Something is happening within the biking movement in Portland, and it isn’t a decreasing bike share of commuters. There is instead a¬†ground swell of advocacy, an increasing¬†frustration with the speed infrastructure is being built and the kind, and there is a growing love of biking among many in the city. They may not be bike commuters yet, but there is a huge percentage of people out there biking in other ways, and the simple fact is we aren’t measuring them, even though they should indeed count!

#3 – Why¬†measuring commutes is … not a good measurement!

I’ll dive straight into these reasons.

  1. Commuting makes up a trip¬†to work and a trip from work. That’s it, two trips. The average household makes 9 trips per day (see references below, there’s tons of data on this). Why is the measurement we use that dictates the vast majority of transportation policy dictated off of trips that only make up 2 our of 9 trips a day for a household? Fortunately in many cities, the cities take it upon themselves to determine what these other trips are and focus on these trips instead of commutes. However much of US policy at a federal, state, and even many cities, is entirely¬†focused on commutes first.
  2. Commutes leave out everybody that’s not in the workforce, which in the Portland metro is hundreds of thousands of people, and even in the city limits of Portland itself is over a hundred thousand people. That means transportation policy dictated by “commuting data” leaves out an absolutely massive percentage of people. Are you a stay at home mom? Generally not included. How about a student in school? Yup, you’re not really included either. How about a retired person or someone looking for a job? Nope, you’re out too. That’s just absurd.
  3. ¬†The ideal commute is not having a commute. We as a society often encourage remote worker situations, which completely removes someone from commuting. However a remote worker still makes the average number of trips based on household data. This means we’re pushing for people to work from home, remove themselves from the commute, but ideally we’d shift away from the daily commute dogma altogether! So why do we use it as¬†the core policy planning and decision making metric? If anything we should take hold of the data from the OTHER trips and work with that data, the 7 instead of the 2. One might say it’s because everybody commutes and it is the easiest and most¬†problematic event of the day – being it causes rush hour. But really, think about that for a minute and¬†why do we still encourage rush hour with such zeal and gusto? If there’s a problem with the game, maybe we need to change the game!

Summary

Data is a fickle thing. There’s a reason the saying, “lies, damned lies, and statistics” exist. Numbers and data can be used to derive solid, intelligent, and wisely built solutions to problems. But they can also be used to do the exact opposite.¬†When we discuss things we need to form real stories and cast out the absurd misinformation that is spread around by using single metrics. Stories need told with multiple¬†measures identifying the full point of view of individuals in society. A single metric never produces an intelligent and well structured system of solutions, it just leaves us behind.

I’d like to see us move forward¬†more in the United States. Understanding the systemic nature of measurements (the Research Center OHAS 2011 summary is a good starting point) and how they interact and work together will help us actually do that. Cheers, and happy number hunting!

References

Sprawling Milwaukie (South of Downtown Milwaukie)

Only 24% of Portlanders Want Suburbs, But 48% are Stuck Living There From Lack of Options!

Recently another article came out¬†via OregonLive, “Most metro-area residents live in suburbs, but wish they didn’t: study“, that actually reflects something interesting about our living style here in Portland. The¬†key measurement I’ve noted is that this article differentiates between town center neighborhood living versus suburban living. This is one of the biggest differentiators that often doesn’t come up between suburban and urban living. You see, town center living is dramatically more comparable to urban living versus suburban living.

Continue reading →

Ballard to Bellevue to Redmond to Seattle to Ballard, Done!

A couple weeks ago Ro and I made a trip to check out the B-Line. The B-Line is the latest BRT type route between Bellevue to Redmond on the east side of Lake Washington (I really don’t want to call it east Seattle, because it isn’t anything like Seattle). We left early in the day boarding the #44 at Ballard & Market Street.

#44, in Diesel Operation (Usually it runs a Trolley Bus)

#44, in Diesel Operation (Usually it runs a Trolley Bus)

The #271 can be seen hiding behind the #49.

The #271 can be seen hiding behind the #49.

From there we rode to the University District and transferred there to the #271.

As we rode the #271 I saw an activity, that when I drove would cause me serious rage and concern over safety. But here on the bus, it was almost endearing to see a fellow rider making good use of their bus riding time. A young lady sat politely in her chair doing some of that fancy make up doing that young ladies do.

An appropriate time to put on makeup.

An appropriate time to put on makeup.

Once we arrived in Bellevue we spent some time to get a bite at Chantanee Thai Restaurant and Bar. After a good meal and some pretty snappy drinks, we headed over to the Bellevue Transit Center to board one of the new B-Line Buses. Behold, before us stood Chad (aka punkrawker of punkrawker4783 videos)! We talked for a bit about the new route. He told me about how part of the line was super busy while the other part was moderately so. After a few minute Ro and I left Chad to go his way and we were off on our way.

B-Line to Redmond

B-Line to Redmond

We boarded the next bus, when it showed as ready. They sit there at the transit center, off with a driver usually standing nearby in preparation for departure. On this day, since it wasn’t a weekday, the frequency was only 15 minutes. This made it really not like BRT. But I wasn’t expecting too much, as BRT is rarely setup the way it is talked about by advocates.

B-Line, Side Shot

B-Line, Side Shot

B-Line to Redmond

B-Line to Redmond

Once aboard we took our seats and enjoyed our departure. We pulled out onto the main street, into traffic, with barely a dedicated lane in site. As expected I thought to myself. But it wasn’t bad. The ride was smooth, as far as buses go, and vastly superior to the ride quality of buses that actually travel most King County Metro Routes. Part of this was the roadway, which is newer than most of the roads in Seattle proper, and part of it was the bus that has better suspension and ride quality.

On our ride we also were entertained by some of the colorful characters of the east side. One guy had a strange cat hat thing on with a girl who, well, simply had odd attire on altogether. But to each their own, it brought a chuckle and props for being different!

Cat Hat

Cat Hat

The east side, I will admit, is a beautiful area with a lot of nature. It is however a massive lifeless suburban sprawl. Everyone has their ticky tacky houses and with cookie cutter restaurants with barely a unique characteristics to the whole place. The only way to tell you’re in the north west is by the trees and natural surroundings here and there, plus the continual spurts of rain every hour or so. Other than that, you might as well be in Texas. The east side, with almost every house, apartment, and building carries an almost triumphant lack of culture and art. But again, this is something I was prepared for. Want art, go downtown to Seattle. Want some grass that you can mow, go to the east side.

The stops along the way, that are dedicated to the B-Line, are pretty neat. They’re just like the A-Line stops for the most part. With the rich red color and simple design.

B-Line Bus Stop

B-Line Bus Stop

I did grab one shot that I thought was just so stereotypical of the east side. The irreverent and disrespectful by their mere existence, H2 Hummer. Not the real Humvee, but no the superficial and fake H2. The thing that only pretends to be a real truck and is by no means even related to a military vehicle in any way other than mockery. The marketing on this sure worked for those of lesser income that have issues with their big truckness of manhood.

East Side Superficialness in Full Effect

East Side Superficialness in Full Effect

When we did get into the small town of Redmond the bus pulled up to the Redmond Transit Center. There we walked to the area that literally has the MOST life of the entire area. The local skate park. Of course, there were some kids there breaking the law while having fun riding their bikes. But as with the respect among young people, everyone was honorably taking their turns at runs on the park. Bicyclists, skooter riders, and skaters alike. It was very chill. Several of the kids were pretty bad ass on those bikes too. I’d hate to see an officer have to enforce the law and bust those kids of biking on the skate park. Something seriously should be done to change those laws – these parks should be available to skaters, skooters, inline skaters, bicyclists, or whatever non-powered fun ridable things someone wants to ride on it.

Here’s a few shots of the dudes riding bikes that were tearing it up good.

Flying High

Flying High

…and another…

Airborne Again

Airborne Again

After a while watching, we grabbed some food and then headed off to the heart of Redmond (which is about 4 square blocks of more ticky tacky, but I won’t go into that). On the way back I grabbed a few more shots of the buses serving the Redmond Transit Center.

Redmond Transit Center - B-Line Buses Queued Up

Redmond Transit Center - B-Line Buses Queued Up

#248 Redmond

#248 Redmond

Bus Stop Sign

Bus Stop Sign

After all that riding, it was time to head back to the cultural heart of this metropolitan area. So we boarded the next #545 bound for Seattle!

Once downtown, with a breath of life back in our souls, we then transferred and rode the trusty #18 back to Ballard.

Ride Complete! ūüôā Cheers!