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 email@example.com—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.
Since the I-5 freeway went in, SW Portland's Lair Hill neighborhood has been cut off from the riverfront, including South Waterfront, the tram, and streetcar. It's been an agonizing situation for the past 50 years: The neighborhood is so close to the Willamette, but the only way to get to the river without a car was to scurry across several busy, dangerous streets.
But this weekend, Mayor Sam Adams cut the ribbon on a long-awaited bike-ped bridge over the freeway. The 700-foot Gibbs Street Bridge was supposed to be built along with the tram, but cost overruns on that project delayed its construction. As of Saturday, it's officially, finally open. This picture Jonathan Maus snapped from the tram during the bridge's final days of construction makes obvious what a big purpose the small bridge serves:
The bridge's final tab came to $13 million, with the vast majority—$10 million—covered by federal funds. The rest of the budget came from the Portland Development Commission (South Waterfront is an urban renewal area) and Portland's citywide system development charges.
One problem with the way many American cities are designed is that if someone doesn't have a car, they have a hard time being able to do basic things like get to work.
A new report from the Brookings Institute (pdf) about unemployment and public transit hit the sad, sad nail on the head about how cities with poor public transportation cut a huge chunk of their population off from job opportunities. This is one part of car ownership we talk a lot about: As employment centers have moved to suburbs (looking at you, Columbia Sportswear), people without cars have had a harder time finding ways to get to work. If you're broke in Chattanooga or you're a Floridian whose car needs $200 worth of repairs, relying on the bus to get to work could mean an hours-long commute or losing your job.
When I was growing up, my parents both drove an hour each way to hated it—the gas cut deeply into our budget and the wasted time to-and-from work meant my brother and I spent most afternoons after school home alone, eating DiGiorno pizza straight from the box. Now, every day as I cross the river, I feel grateful to live in a place where it's easy to bike to work in 15 minutes. It seems obvious, but you shouldn't have to be able to afford a car to get a job in this country.
The study ranks American cities by how possible it is to get to work via public transit. The Portland-Beaverton-Vancouver area ranks in the top 20 cities, with a score that's worse than some surprising places like Honolulu, Denver, and Las Vegas but slightly better than San Francisco and Seattle's. There's big regional differences is how possible it is to get to work without a car. Check it out:
11:50 am / July 12, 2012
Number of people currently standing in line: 17
Approximate wait: UNKNOWN
Extremely Light | Light | Moderate | Heavy | EXTREMELY HEAVY
Just a cute story from TriMet HQ about a Line 45 driver leaping into an act of everyday awesomeness:
A woman in a motorized scooter was crossing Hall Boulevard in a crosswalk near Washington Square about 11:30 am today when she was struck by a car that was turning right. The woman suffered a lower leg injury. Police say her leg was bleeding, but was not severed or partially severed as some media had thought. Two nurses and a paramedic were nearby and came to the aid of the woman, as did a TriMet bus operator. Line 45 operator Jeff Grimes used his belt to put pressure on the artery in the woman’s upper leg, reducing the flow of blood. Police say the woman was transported by ambulance with what appeared to be non-life threatening injuries. Following the incident, Operator Grimes continued on his route.
TriMet didn't quite hold up that bargain in its most recent budget, and so Adams decided to get its board's attention. He pitched a surprise plan that called for raising permit fees for TriMet some 8,000 percent—raising $2 million bucks that he'd then hand back to keep the YouthPass program alive.
Adams' gambit worked. Today, during a scheduled council vote on the fee hike, TriMet's board chairman, Bruce Warner, and others showed up and asked for a 30-day window to reopen discussions. They said they couldn't afford the fee increase—without cutting service even further than they already have, they claim—but offered to re-examine the original handshake deal.
TriMet is "still prepared to honor what I thought was a cost-sharing agreement"—a deal that would have split the $3.5 million cost of the program between school districts, TriMet, and the city, Warner told the council. "If the student pass program is really the issue, please defer this entire ordinance for 30 days to allow us to talk through with your staff, and with you, the mayor, how we can come up with a true agreement."
Adams, along with the rest of council, agreed.
"The reason I have felt compelled to be as hardheaded on this as I have been," he said, was because "I didn't see this in the budget. You took the resources [from canceling the free-rail zone] but you didn't do the second part of the handshake agreement. I'm willing to take 30 days and set this over and talk seriously about this."
The fee hike plan won't come back to council until July 25. It's the second big hammer the city threatened to drop today, only to hold back for more discussion. Asked whether this was a day of "delaying action," Randy Leonard told me it was more about using sticks before carrots: "motivating people" to do "problem-solving."
The YouthPass program, as we reported this spring, has long been a source of tension between Adams and TriMet. The program had received most of its funding—$2.55 million—from state energy tax credits, with Portland Public Schools paying the other $1 million. That worked until the state, facing its own budget mess, pulled the plug. When TriMet wanted to cancel the program for the school year that just ended, Adams lobbied them to keep it alive.
Here is a headline for you:
At a daylong meeting in Vancouver yesterday, the leaders of the Columbia River Crossing project announced that the start of construction would be pushed back another two years as the bridge tries to dig up money. So far, Oregon and Washington have spent $145 million planning the bridge. From The Columbian's report:
[Washington] state's Deputy Transportation Secretary David Dye emphasized the importance of the project, stressing that both Oregon and Washington must commit money soon. Dye chalked up the latest timing setback to "funding realities."
It also puts the project's major construction start time in a place where it's been since 2008: two years away. In 2008, plans for construction were set for 2010, and by 2010, word was construction would start in 2012.
Though its director last year said the idea was "pre-recession" and apparently on hiatus, the Portland Bureau of Transportation today has announced (pdf) that parking meters—one part of a comprehensive "parking management plan" for the area—might soon be popping up in the city's Central Eastside Industrial District.
The plan, written by city planners with help from businesses, is expected to go before Portland City Council next Thursday, June 21. Beyond creating a meter district, the plan also calls for permit parking, with two-hour limits for visitors.
PBOT Director Tom Miller was down on the prospects of metered parking in the Central Eastside last year when the Mercury, amid a series of probing the causes and fallout of PBOT's recent budget troubles, asked him if was still happening. Mayor Sam Adams was more optimistic and appears to have gotten his way.
The $1.3 million average annual operating cost of the new streetcar loop stretching from the Broadway Bridge to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry was supposed to be covered by new parking meters installed around the Central Eastside. But that was a "pre-recession" idea, says Miller: Business owners were set against installing meters, so for now, the meter plan is dead. To make up for the lost revenue, PBOT will be digging deeper into its own pockets.
Mayor Adams says the meter plan will be revised, but that it's not off the table.
For reference, here's a map (pdf) of the Central Eastside. Details about where the permit and meter spots will go weren't released. But they're expected to come out later today, when the city clerk's office posts next week's city council agenda. Now, if only the city would also talk more about market-rate parking...
UNNNGGGHHH!!! The one morning I don't take my bike to work is like the worst commute EVARRRRR!!! Check out some vid from my dash-cam. (Yeah, I have a dash-cam. What of it?)
Okay, fine. This is a Russian dash-cam supercut via Animal NY. Again, what of it?!?
It's official: After eight months of deliberations and negotiations, the TriMet board has formally adopted the 2012-2013 budget it released in the spring. No more fareless square, an across-the-board $2.50 fare, routes cuts, and more (PDF).
Despite OPAL's strong presence at today's board meeting, as well as all other spring meetings, the board failed to adopt any of OPAL's suggested budget measures or put its decision on hold until the next meeting at the end of the month.
Board President Bruce Warner:
"[The budget] reflects the public and the Board's proposal to preserve service and navigate the financial uncertainties ahead."
That's that. Most changes go into effect on September 1.
Just talked with Jon Ostar, OPAL director, about his experience at today's board meeting. His spirits remain high, despite the verdict. "It was successful on many fronts," Ostar says, highlighting the fact that TriMet DID follow OPAL's suggestion to cut back on the mysterious "contingency funds," give $1 million of the pot to a service that discounts tickets to low-income riders. "It's something that's still a huge victory. That's OPAL fighting and winning."
Osta says that over 100 OPAL supporters attended today's TriMet board meeting, leading to over three hours of public testimony. But, in the end, TriMet had the final say. "The board's decision forced us to be more aggressive," says Ostar. As the votes came to a close, clearly not in OPAL's favor, Ostar said OPAL supporters crowded the board floor, shouting in disagreement. "It was just short of physical confrontation."
Victory or not, this shows how passionate Portland bus riders are about their public transportation system. Here are a few more Twitter reactions from peeved riders:
I haven't written much about the I-5 interchange plan and you probably haven't heard about it because the process is slow and complicated. But big things are in the work for the one mile area where the I-5 runs through the Rose Quarter and Albina neighborhood.
That stretch of I-5 has the highest crash rate of any part of the I-5 in Oregon: 472 crashes over the past five years. The freeway and its on-and-off ramps also slice the Rose Quarter off from the rest of the city, making it a not-so-great place to live or open a business. In a plan (pdf) put together by the city and Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), the state will spend years and $400 million to revamp the freeway and surface streets around the Rose Quarter.
A stakeholder group signed off on moving the I-5 interchange plan forward at a key meeting last Thursday, june 7th, but eight out of 18 representatives expressed some or serious concern about the project. Some area residents are frustrated that the long-needed improvements to the surface streets—like the better bike way, pedestrian bridge, and altered traffic flows—can apparently only come coupled with the freeway widening.
Changes to the area would include:
• Widening roughly one mile of I-5 with an auxiliary on-off lane in both directions and shoulders. (cost: $140-150 million)
• "Capping" the freeway where it runs under the Rose Quarter and Broadway/Weidler, building a street-level lid that could be used for a park or buildings.
• Tearing down and rebuilding four freeway overpasses on NE Broadway, NE Weidler, Williams, and Vancouver. (cost of rebuilding the bridges with the lid: $170-190 million)
• Tearing down the freeway overpass on NE Flint.
• Moving the southbound I-5 onramp north one block (from Winning Way to Weidler/Williams).
• Building a two-way cycletrack on North Williams through the area.
• Building a bike/ped bridge from the Rose Quarter over I-5 to the Lloyd District. (cost: $15-20 million)
That all is hard to visualize, so here's a drawing.
I-5 was built in 1966 and traffic on it has doubled in those years to 120,000 cars a day today. ODOT predicts that the project will reduce crashes on the stretch by 30-50 percent. " Neighborhood leaders say the city and state should find some way to improve the neighborhood streets without widening the freeway.
Eliot Neighborhood Land Use Chair Mike Warwick described that situation as "the devil's bargain." He and two others on the stakeholder committee were critical of spending hundreds of millions of dollars and years of heavy duty construction to add one lane and shoulders to a freeway built less than 50 years ago, but they really want the improved neighborhood street connections that ODOT and the city promise will follow the freeway's widening.
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