The MAX is popular in Portland, but light rail projects are very controversial in the city's suburbs. Vancouver, Washington, weighed a proposal that was crucial to funding the Columbia River Crossing project: Voters were asked to approve a small sales tax hike raising $2 million annually to cover operating costs for the bridge's light rail link planned between Portland and Vancouver. Instead, the tax was soundly rejected. Federal and local legislators have repeatedly said that the CRC will not be built if it doesn't include light rail.
Scrambling for a Plan B, the CRC project proposed raising the money from other sources, including cutting bus routes planned to run over the bridge, adding a surcharge on transit tickets, and charging for parking at Park and Ride stations.
Meanwhile, Clackamas voted in two anti-"Portland creep" conservative candidates to the county commission last week, both of whom have promised to oppose the already-under-construction Portland-Milwaukie light rail line. In September, Clackamas voted heavily in favor of an measure that forces a county-wide vote on public light rail decisions—likely killing any future rail lines in Clackamas, if the current political environment holds.
...and of course, it takes place in England. Can you seriously imagine one of those dipshit Vancouverites in their Dodge Ram 4X4s being as logical and pleasant as these Brits? No, you cannot, "my friend." Because I would just end up kissing them.
Ladies, a note from us he-men: We're kind of tired of driving you around in our very manly 4X4 Dodge Rams (because we like to RAM things, ya know?), and have decided you need a car of your very own. THAT'S RIGHT, we've reversed our previous decision on "women drivers" and think you are ready to get behind the pink wheel of your very own pink car. So we called the Japanese, told them to design a car for women, and voila!
THE HONDA "SHE'S"
Isn't it... oh, what's that word you females use? "ADORABLE"? And we know you're gonna love it for the following reasons (from LifeInc.):
1) It's pink. Just like your vaginas.
2) Its windshield is "designed to block skin-wrinkling ultraviolet rays," and a "Plasmaculture" climate control system was installed to improve "skin quality." Because no one will like you when you're old.
3) It has a pink key!
This is coming to TriMet:
The ad is being run by a group called the American Freedom Defense Initiative (please take a moment to laugh at their logo), a far-right group affiliated with Stop Islamization of America, who have also bought bus ads in New York telling Islamic Americans to reject their religion.
The current "savage" ads are running all over the country, supposedly in response to the factual pro-Palestinian ad proclaiming UN's count of Palestinian refugees. It's worth point out that many Jewish groups aren't happy the Freedom Defense Initiative new race-baiting ads.
TriMet has long-feared a situation just like this. Until 2009, the transit agency banned political ads from its buses and trains. But they were sued by Oregon's Kaluk Tribe and the ACLU, who argued that TriMet's refusal to run an ad about a salmon-and-dam debate violated free speech rights. When Washington DC's transit agency refused to run the "savage" ads last month, the American Freedom Defense Initiative filed suit against them, on similar grounds to the free speech argument that won the Karuk's salmon a spot on TriMet.
In the Oregon case, the court determined that TriMet can't pick and choose what sort of ads to run—it has to take everything or nothing. If it takes nothing, TriMet would lose out on its $4.8 million annual ad contract.
However, I wonder whether these ads could lead to any of Portland's Palestinian-immigrant population to file a civil rights violation complaint against TriMet on the grounds that riding a bus adorned with a banner calling them a "savage" would subject them to discrimination. Just a thought.
The software that runs TriMet's TransitTracker app—allowing riders to get realtime information on when trains will actually arrive—will likely be down for two to three weeks thanks to some asshole who crashed their car into Transit Tracker's nerve center. Or, as TriMet says it:
A single-automobile crash at the Rose Quarter Transit Center on Thursday, Oct. 4 destroyed key communication equipment for the MAX system, disrupting TransitTracker. The equipment feeds train tracking information to the TransitTracker system. For MAX, a device in the rails sends information to the TransitTracker system when a train passes over it so the system generates a prediction on when the train should reach specific stops. Since the crash, TransitTracker for MAX trains systemwide can only show scheduled arrival times. The crash itself did not involve TriMet.
Until the connector is fixed, TriMet will only have scheduled times available, so if a train is running late, you'll never know. UPDATE: Just to clarify, Transit Tracker is broken for the MAX, but should still be working for buses. Also, I was joking about the "asshole" part. The person who crashed is most likely a very good person.
A 19-year-old is in jail today after allegedly stabbing a TriMet driver on the 33 bus line to Oregon City last night.
According to the Oregon City police, the suspect, Austin William Vanhagen, was talking on his cell phone on the bus at around 11pm and then began randomly shouting loud racial slurs. The bus driver, who was African American, pulled over the rig and the suspect got off the bus. The driver closed the bus door, but Vanhagen allegedly pried it back open again and stabbed the bus driver in the stomach. Three passengers rushed to his aid, two of whom also sustained stab wounds and one of whom was bitten before they were able to hold down the stabber.
This afternoon, retired driver Al Marguiles posted the audio of a breathless bus driver describing the attack over the TriMet scanner—listen to it to get an insight on how absolutely scary this incident was.
TriMet announced today that the driver, who requested to remain unnamed, underwent surgery this morning. His condition is unknown. Good luck to him and the passengers who rushed to help him.
This all makes our recent round-up of true tales of TriMet terror look like, um, a pretty good time in comparison.
5:50 - 6:50 SassparillaLearn more about the fest here.
6:05 - 7:05 MC Rose
6:20 - 7:20 The Ocean Floor
6:40 - 7:40 New Pioneers
7:00 - 8:00 Edna Vasquez
7:20 - 8:20 What Hearts
7:40 - 8:40 BÉisbol
7:50 - 8:50 Au Dunes
8:10 - 9:10 Vikesh Kapoor
8:30 - 9:30 Cloudy October
8:50 - 9:50 Josh & Mer
9:10 - 10:10 Charts
9:30 - 10:30 Classical Revolution PDX
With an afterparty 9 pm-midnight at Union/Pine (525 SE Pine):
9:00 Jeffrey Jerusalem
10:00 Sun Angle
11:00 Dana Buoy
People who drive pickup trucks—especially those huge 4X4s—ARE... THE... WORST. They are terrible people who exert their terribleness on everyone else... especially when they are driving. So if you have one of these trucks, please watch the following British PSA against road rage, starring a bunch of adorable cockney children in toy cars. (People who drive trucks would probably strangle these children. That's how terrible they are.)
Always uncensored TriMet bus driver Dan Christensen has a ridiculous story up on his blog about a night on a bus bound for Clackamas Town Center. It involves a drunk guy, some youths, and a "your mom" joke and is a good view into just a piece of the shit that TriMet drivers have to negotiate on a daily basis. The post starts off rather rambly, so scroll down to the "TriMet Disclosure" section.
Here's a snippet:
What follows is not Trimet policy but a story of how I solved one of these bouts of racial stupidity. It may not have been the Trimet way; it may not have been the smartest way; but it did work. I made my goal: everyone got where they were going without trouble.
“What are you looking at?”
That phrase is a warning sign that trouble is on the way. It’s like passing a road sign that says:
“What are you looking at?” Exit 2 miles
“Yelling Match” 5 miles
“Racial Slur” 7 Miles
“Fist Fight” 10 Miles
Over the years, you learn is that once people take that exit you have to work doubly hard to get back on to “Normal Highway.” So it’s best to never let things veer off that way.
h/t to Portland Afoot!
Here in Portland, people have a... well... complicated relationship with TriMet. However, maybe it would be less complicated if TriMet was more like the "Midtraffik" bus system in Denmark! According to this commercial, they are REALLY doing something right!
While TriMet has raised its fare to a flat rate of $2.50 citywide, it's worth noting that the fare increase was not created equal.
People who routinely bought two-zone fares with $2.10 in cash, for example, face a 19 percent fare hike while people who bought all-zone fares for $2.40 are only seeing their spending jump 4 percent.
And, as you would expect, who buys what kind of ticket varies by race and income. Part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that bans public transit agencies from discriminating against low-income people and minority groups. Because of that law, TriMet had to do a big, wonky report over how the fare increase and service reductions would affect different populations.
The moderately incomprehensible chart below shows how the group with the highest concentration of low-income riders and people of color (two-zone ticket buyers who pay with cash) have the second-steepest fare increase:
The report called out this steep cash fare hike as a possible discriminatory impact.
TriMet's fare increase and bus route changes kicked in last week and while many riders might not have noticed the tweaks to 20 bus lines, the Woodlawn neighborhood says a change to the #8 bus has made their business triangle on NE Dekum a "nightmare."
The #8 used to go all the way out to Jubitz in North Portland, but now the end of the line is at Woodlawn Park, which is right next to the area's upstart strip of businesses that includes the Firehouse restaurant, Good Neighbor Pizza, and Woodlawn Coffee and Pastry. Now, neighbors and business owners say three buses at a time stack up next to the park, creating a choke point on NE Dekum and generating noise and air pollution as they idle, before circling the block around Firehouse to restart the route.
"It's quickly turning into a nightmare," says Firehouse owner Matthew Busetto, who met with a TriMet representative on Friday about the neighborhood issues for a meeting that he described as "ridiculous" and completely unhelpful. "We're in the height of our patio seating season and we counted 16 buses rolling by an hour." Busetto says the only notification he received of the change was when TriMet called to ask if 4-5 drivers a day could stop in to use his bathroom. He said sure, but has actually had 8-10 drivers stopping in daily, he says, adding that TriMet didn't tell him the route was dead-ending next to his restaurant. "I feel misled. To lay a pollution and safety issue on us without any notice is terrible."
It's interesting to keep in mind amid all the reporting on gas prices climbing—we're actually doing a solid job of driving less. Of course, the downside of that is less people buying gas means our gas-tax-dependent city transportation budget will be in trouble unless we increase the gas tax in the future or find some better funding method.
GOOD: It promotes dense development! Rolling past the giant parking lots and empty land along NE MLK and Grand, it's obvious how much potential the inner eastside has to become much denser. Arguably the main goal of the streetcar is to promote dense development, offering carfree transportation to people living, working, or visiting the central city. An 800-unit apartment building is currently in the works to be built on an entire city block near the Lloyd Center, for example, and the streetcar could be a great way for those residents to commute downtown (though why they wouldn't take the MAX, which is only a few blocks away, is beyond me).
BAD: Not so good as actual transportation! The streetcar is slow. There's no two ways about it. The eastside loop will clock in at 32 minutes to get from NW 9th and Lovejoy to OMSI, which is five minutes longer than the trip would take on current public transit, twice as long as it would take to bike (according to Google Maps), and about nine minutes shorter than it would take to walk the same distance. Plus, the trains are only going to arrive once every 18 minutes. It's a workable system for people who can't walk or bike or who have the schedule dialed in, but even then, the bus is faster.
As the group strolled around the bus mall, their signs drew applause from riders waiting for the MAX. "Fuck the $5 day pass!" jeered a street kid decamped near Pioneer Square.
While TriMet is in dire straits with its budget, OPAL says the transit agency doesn't need to patch its budget hole by cutting service. In May, the group released an alternative budget that only slightly reduces service and only raises fares 15 cents. In their alternative budget, the group suggests making up the budget difference by reducing a planned increase in payments to the Portland Streetcar, charging people for Park and Ride spaces, and giving a smaller amount of money to TriMet's contingency fund. As it is, TriMet is staging its eleventh fare hike in ten years.
"We hope this is not the new normal," says OPAL organizer Jared Franz. "We think the reason they cut service and raise fares it that it's the easy thing to do. There's not enough resistance."
Amid the celebrations, no one is slated to sound a low, sad death knell for Portland's less-loved rail line: The Free Rail Zone is dead as of September 1st. No more parking in the Lloyd Center and taking the train for free to downtown, no more hopping on in Old Town and riding to Portland State, no more encouraging tourists to take the train over the river without needing to buy a ticket. This has been a long time coming, but after 37 years, Fareless Square is dead. Goodbye, friend, you were good to us.
Let us welcome instead the new era of "Go Anywhere Fares" (somehow, "Citywide 19 Percent More Expensive Fare" didn't have the same chipper ring to it). Starting September 1st, it will cost $2.50 to take the bus or train anywhere in the city, making public transit the only thing that is more expensive in Portland than in New York.
Here's some great news for anyone who walks and/or bicycles in Portland. At a press conference up in Northeast this morning, Mayor Sam Adams, State Senators Ginny Burdick and Jackie Dingfelder, and ex-State Representative Ben Cannon unveiled the city's first 20 mph speed limit sign.
The fanfare came two days after Portland City Council a new Bureau of Transportation plan to lower speed limits from 25 mph to 20 mph on some 70 miles of eligible "neighborhood greenway" streets. Permission to pursue the reduced limits was on high the city's wish list during the 2011 legislative session in Salem.
Why is that a big deal? Maybe because of this.
Check out BikePortland's coverage from last month for even more stats—and diagrams—on safety.
And if you want to see which streets near your house will soon be a bit more safe, the agenda packet from Wednesday's council meeting has a larger (and actually legible) version of the map right here (pdf).
In a nondescript hangar at Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave Desert, a team of aerospace engineers has been putting the finishing touches on a lightning-quick experimental aircraft designed to fly above the Pacific Ocean at 3,600 mph. A passenger aircraft traveling at that speed could fly from Los Angeles to New York in 46 minutes.
Or, you know, about 4 hours and 46 minutes once you figure in all the other bullshit that's involved in flying these days.
But, whatever. The era when consumers believed that advances in aviation technology would soon have us all flying at supersonic (let alone hypersonic) speeds has long since passed. Modern aircraft may be more fuel efficient than 40 years ago, but they don't fly much faster.
Personally, rather than investing in hypersonic aircraft that most Americans will never fly, I'd rather see my tax dollars go into building a high-speed rail system. But maybe that's just me.
Google has been running their self-driving car beta tests for a total of 300,000 miles now, and they have not yet had an accident, according to The Atlantic.
This technology is still at its very early stages and 300,000 miles is not all that big of a sample. According to a "cursory" analysis by Bryant Walker Smith of Stanford Law School, "Google's cars would need to drive themselves (by themselves) more than 725,000 representative miles without incident for us to say with 99 percent confidence that they crash less frequently than conventional cars. If we look only at fatal crashes, this minimum skyrockets to 300 million miles." We're still a long way away from there.
As someone who hates driving, I love the idea of self-driving cars. And it's pretty easy for me to imagine an America two or three generations from now in which every car is electric and self-driving. It's practically privatized public transit!
Ever wanted to squeeze $300 from the rapidly desiccating corpse of print media? THEN READ ON!
If you haven't already submitted 300 terror-filled words to our True Tales of TriMet Terror contest, now's pretty much your last chance—the contest ends at noon. So get squeezing.
YES, THE TRAM COUNTS.
When will the I-5 bridge between Portland and Vancouver be unsafe to drive over? It should be a simple question, but when the politics of the new $3.6 billion Columbia River Crossing project come in, it's not. Part of the justification for replacing the bridge with an expensive new span is that the current bridge is unsafe and could collapse.
Environmentalist Evan Manvel, who's worked to stop the freeway expansion project through the group Coalition for a Livable Future, noted on Friday that an old report on the ODOT website said the bridge could last 60 years. When he tweeted at ODOT about the report, they first chastised him, then pulled down the report because it's apparently inaccurate. Here's the exchange:
The Columbian newspaper talked about the issue with ODOT spokesman Don Hamilton, who says the report was pulled because it's inaccurate, not because the state highway agency is trying to rewrite the past to match up with its current messaging, as Manvel alleges. From the article: "The bridge today is safe," says Hamilton. "Whether it can stand the demands of the future and hold up to the congestion, hold up to the safety issues, and hold up to the demand issues that are going to be there is different. Keeping a bridge functioning is not the same as fixing the problems that are associated with it."
We're creeping up on the deadline for the Mercury's True Tales of TriMet Terror contest—when one
lucky unlucky I guess it depends on how you look at it reader will win $300 for sharing their most horrific amusing horrifically amusing tale of a TriMet expedition gone awry! We've received some pretty good entries so far (and one that was super racist!), but I've only seen one that truly turned my stomach—which means if you've got a great TriMet story, you've still got a good shot at that $300! Send your story to firstname.lastname@example.org—see below for details. Deadline is THIS WEDNESDAY AT NOON. Get to it.
TriMet is in budget trouble and one place it's looking for extra revenue is from the pockets of fare jumpers. Citations for riders caught without fare have increased nine-fold in the past year.
This is due both to TriMet bringing on more fare inspectors last summer and a July 2011 policy switch from "educating" riders without fares to telling officers to more often opt for citations. It's up to the enforcement officers to decide what to do with someone they find without fares: they can give the person a warning, write them a $175 ticket, or exclude them from the system for 90 days. Though it doesn't show up in the stats below, transit officers can also call the police, who can arrest people who've been excluded from the system.
Here are the crackdown stats:
SEPTEMBER 2010—JUNE 2011
SEPTEMBER 2011—JUNE 2012
Citations: 18, 621
I haven't heard back yet from TriMet on how much this increase in citations has netted the agency, but Portland Afoot reported in 2010 that TriMet makes 16 cents off of every $1 citation it issues. If that's still valid, then for the $3.26 million worth of citations it has issued in the past year, TriMet will have brought in about $521,000. TriMet's most recent budget made $12 million in cuts.
Update 7/27! TriMet confirms that they've brought in $327,017 in revenue from citations in the past year. That's a 115 percent increase in collection over the previous year, but since they've issued 19,841 citations in that time, they agency is still only profiting about $16.50 for each $175 ticket written.
UPDATE! ODOT just announced that they won't be closing I-5 this weekend because the thunderstorms have led to wet pavement that screws up the repaving process. Here'e the new closure schedule:
11 p.m. Friday, July 27 to 5 a.m. Monday, July 30: I-5 southbound will close
11 p.m. Friday, Aug. 3 to 5 a.m. Monday, Aug. 6: I-5 southbound will close
11 p.m. Friday, Aug. 17 to 5 a.m. Monday, Aug. 20: I-5 northbound will close
However! Now it turns out the Broadway Bridge will be closed Sunday morning for an entirely unrelated reason: The filming of a Leverage episode. The Broadway will be closed to all traffic—including bikes and pedestrians—from 5am to 10am.
The Powell closure still stands. /end update
Two major roads in the middle of Portland are closed this weekend: I-5 southbound is closed for a mile for a repaving that's costing $1.3 million and SE Powell is closed to all traffic between 17th Avenue and 21st Avenue as crews demolish the 17th Avenue overpass in preparation for the new MAX line in the area. Both are closed from Friday night through early Monday morning.
Last weekend, ODOT's handling of the I-5 closure caused a... hmm, how would you say this? A total traffic clusterfuck. So here is your official warning:
A one-mile stretch of Interstate 5 southbound between the Fremont Bridge and the Marquam Bridge will close again this weekend from 11 p.m. Friday, July 20 to 5 a.m. Monday, July 23.
Drivers should avoid I-5 south and adjacent freeways or plan to experience significant delays. Travelers heading south of Portland can also use Interstate 205.
Motorists southbound on I-5 should use Interstate 405 as a detour. Motorists heading for Interstate 84 should use I-405 to I-5 north. Local traffic to the Rose Quarter from I-5 south, though, can use the Rose Quarter off-ramp (exit 302A). Through traffic on I-5 should avoid the Rose Quarter off-ramp.
Here are some places where you can purchase a bicycle for the occasion.
With last month's hastily approved 30-day negotiating window about to close, TriMet and Mayor Sam Adams' office this morning announced a new deal to preserve free bus and rail trips for Portland Public School students.
The deal—which Adams obtained after threatening TriMet with steep fee hikes that he would use, in turn, to pay for the passes on his own—means the transit agency will now have to give up $1.8 million in fair revenue to keep the its Youth Pass program running. Portland will chip in $200,000 and PPS will spend close to $1 million of its own cash.
It's something of a victory for Adams, criticized in some corners for playing hardball with TriMet. Adams insisted his office and TriMet management had agreed to a handshake deal in which the city wouldn't raise a stink over the demise of the equally vital Free-Rail Zone downtown and out to Lloyd Center so long as TriMet plowed those savings into keeping the Youth Pass program alive.
It's not exactly clear yet where each agency will come up with the extra money. I'm still waiting to hear back from TriMet, which by far is taking the biggest hit. Update 1:05 PM: TriMet spokeswoman Mary Fetsch says TriMet is "looking for internal savings to cover the loss in fare revenue," and not, I'm inferring, more service cuts.
The Oregonian has posted a copy of the agreement, which it says is headed to city council next Wednesday. The deal runs through the school year that ends next June. And according to a statement sent out by Adams's office and TriMet, the city, the schools, and the transit agency are all supposed to team up and press Salem for a more permanent solution to the weird fact that PPS kids are the only ones in the state who don't have a yellow bus.
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