Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Final Analysis

For my journal assignment I focused on SMART growth in the Portland metro area, and to be more specific, how transportation in the area hindered or promoted SMART growth. SMART growth in itself is described as the planning that focuses on the city rather than the outlying areas in hopes to hinder the development of unsustainable and harmful dwellings of sprawl that we call the suburbs. From many articles I collected in my journal assignment, I discovered that Portland’s focus in the inner city is on density and building up rather than out. In the Portland area we have a very unique government (Metro), which supports this manner of growth through the development of public transportation, biking and bike ways as well as walking and small dense neighborhoods.
The public transit system of Trimet is a key organization when Portland is mentioned in any conversation. Through the articles that I collected in throughout this term, I came to understand the relation that this organization has to SMART growth. Trimet is continuously expanding their network of bus and light rail transport to accommodate the rising population in Portland. By doing this they are saving many people the effort of driving around town, and thus also making the area more sustainable as this cuts pollution dramatically. Their system does not only appeal to the folks inside the Portland city limits, but also to those in the surrounding area who need to travel here for work or pleasure, again cutting our carbon dioxide emissions. The most important factor that Trimet contributes to SMART growth, however, is that it makes Portland city life more appealing to those who might wish to leave the area for the suburbs. It prevents sprawl by creating an atmosphere that is sustainable and easily traveled, adding to the community vibe that is often missing these suburban settings.
From the articles that I collected, I also discovered that the residents and Metro government in Portland also support the development of biking in the battle against urban sprawl for similar reasons that Trimet has been so valued. The development of things like bike paths and avenues create an environment that people want to live in due to the ease of transport and the sustainability of the region. Although less people bike than ride the Trimet system, the metro government hopes to change that by supporting the development of more bike paths and more riders.
The development of a 20 minute neighborhood (a neighborhood in which you can reach everything you need in a 20 minute walk) is something that you would never find in the suburbs surrounding the Portland area, but inside the Portland city limits they are common place and a tool that is used against the sprawl towards the suburbs. Not only does a 20 minute neighborhood cut down on the CO2 emissions of a car trip to the store (thus creating a more sustainable neighborhood), but more importantly it creates a sense of community. A more dense community is not in any way shape or form a bad thing as developers of the suburbs might tell you, but lets you know and be connected to the stores and people around you. Portland involvement in the development of these walking oriented neighborhoods has hindered sprawl and supported the idea of a dense SMART growth.
Although it might not seem to be the case, from the articles that I presented in my blog, the idea of SMART planning is not present in all the plans of the Portland Metro area. Specifically the gateways to the suburbs such as the 12 lane CRC connecting Vancouver and Portland do nothing else besides support the ease of transportation between the two cities and support a less sustainable way of life. With more people being able to cross this thoroughfare with ease, the idea of living in a cheaper city that is close to Portland is very appealing. Although plans such as this one have yet to come into being, they threaten the sustainability of our area by providing much more traffic and pollution. This example shows that we are not done with the fight against suburbanization. We still have much more work to do in the area of Smart growth.
The articles that I presented in my journal painted a very good picture of Portland in regards to SMART growth. We have succeeded in creating a community that people want to live in through means of public transit, biking, and even walking. Although we have difficulties regarding such things as interstate connections, the draw of the suburbs will always be present, and it is a fact that a city can only hold so many people. Although Portland wants to keep building up instead of out, there will be an eventual limit. For the time being, however, our communities close knit and dense way of life is working to fight this, as we can’t simply give up hope of life without the wasteful suburbs.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Technology and the Art of transport

TriMet offers 'augmented reality' for riders with iPhones
By Joseph Rose, The Oregonian
May 26, 2010, 4:29PM

Not that it eases the pain of today's nickel fare increase and service cuts, but TriMet has just introduced another cool tool to catch the next bus.

Oregon's largest transit agency has hooked up with Junaio to bring information and scheduled to riders using "augmented reality."

By simply pointing their iPhones (yes, an Android version is coming) in a certain direction, the TriMet Channel on the Junaio 2.0 mobile augmented reality platform will round up the nearest transit stops and schedules.

The free service integrates transit data ranging from station locations, bus routes, to estimated arrival times into the TriMet channel on the junaio 2.0 mobile augmented reality platform.

You need at least an iPhone 3GS, which leaves Hard Drive out of the experiment. (We're still puttering away on out two-year-old iPhone 3G, at least for another month).

The app reportedly works by letting you pan around with your phone’s viewfinder and then marking nearby transit stops, distances, and real-time live schedules of upcoming transit.

“Augmented reality intuitively lays out transit information for our riders” says Bibiana McHugh, an IT manager for TriMet. “We are thrilled to have the augmented reality channel as another means of helping our riders get to their destinations.”

Go to the iTunes store to download the app.

Speaking of augmented reality, and fare rates, remember when an all-zones TriMet was just 65 cents in 1978? No?

Well, here's the recent history of TriMet fare increases:

* September 2004 $1.65

* April 2005 $1.70 (specifically for diesel)

* September 2005 $1.80 (5 cents for diesel; 5 cents for cost of doing business)

* January 2006 $1.95 (again, specifically for diesel)

* September 2006 $2.00

* September 2007 $2.05

* September 2008 $2.30

* September 2010 $2.35 (approved today)

-- Joseph Rose, Twitter: pdxcommute

SMART planning still has some work to do.

Commuting to Work in Portland

Despite a decade of rising traffic congestion, the average commute in Portland takes about as long as in San Francisco or Los Angeles 20 years ago.

Average Commute is 24 Minutes

New 2000 U.S.A. census figures show Portland-area residents typically commute 24 minutes to work − a three-minute increase since 1990 but still a shorter journey than in 30 of the nation's 50 top metropolitan areas, including Denver (26 minutes), Seattle (28 minutes) and Atlanta (31 minutes).

Experts say the fact that the numbers don't look worse reflects a natural coping mechanism: Frustrated by traffic, commuters have moved closer to their jobs.

2000 Census Data

The 2000 Census figures are part of the most detailed portrait ever of how people get to work in greater Portland - a region consisting of Multnomah, Clackamas, Washington, Yamhill, Columbia, Marion and Polk counties in Oregon, and Clark County in Washington.

In addition to basic information on race and gender asked of all U.S. residents in April 2000, a 53-question-long form was sent to one in six households. Workers 16 or older were asked their employers' addresses, how they got to work and what time they began their journey. No questions were asked about other trips, such as for shopping or school.

Their answers reveal that:


Portland stood out among a handful of regions where automobiles declined in importance. Bus commuting grew 41 percent, while the numbers of bicycle riders and people working at home each grew 54 percent - well ahead of the 27 percent growth in people driving alone.

Despite that, the region remains as car-dependent as Puget Sound and Southern California. Roughly 73 percent of Portland-area residents drove alone by car or motorcycle - the same as in Los Angeles and one percentage point more than in Seattle.

Walking lost popularity. Metro areas walkers grew by a sluggish 13 percent, with big declines in small towns and outlying areas. The most popular place to walk was Yamhill County where 6.3 percent of commuters hit the sidewalk. The least popular was Clark County with 1.4 percent.

Most Portland residents work in Portland; most suburbanites do not. Consider the major suburbs of Tualatin, Wilsonville and West Linn, where 20 percent to 30 percent of commuters head downtown. By contrast, 74 percent of Portlanders work within the city.

Less than a third of Clark County residents cross the Columbia River to work in Oregon each day. About 2 percent of Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties residents went in the other direction.

In Washington County, an economic engine for the region in the 1990s with 61 percent job growth, the population ballooned 43 percent. Yet residents of the Silicon Forest also had the smallest rise in commuting time.

A key reason: Just 25 percent of Washington County residents work in Portland. The vast majority - more than two-thirds - work in Washington County.

A boom in apartment construction helped. As new rental units outpaced new homes in Hillsboro, rents stayed affordable for tech workers seeking to avoid U.S. 26.

Most Clackamas County residents still leave the county for work each day. In Oregon City, Milwaukie and Molalla, a growing percentage of residents left their city limits for work, and their commute times rose 16 percent, 21 percent and 47 percent, respectively.

By contrast, commuters in Tualatin, Tigard and Hillsboro increasingly stayed within their own city limits, and average commute times in those cities rose 3 percent, 7 percent and 9 percent, respectively.

Texas Transportation Institute 2009 Report

The Texas Transportation Institute publishes their mobility study annually. The Urban Mobility report is considered the most authoritative study of its kind, the Texas report outlines the nation's congestion problem in metro areas.

The 2009 report analyzed traffic congestions for the year 1982-2007. In 2007, congestion in the Portland metro area added 37 hours behind the wheel to motorists' rush-hour trips, a decline of one hour from the 2006 rate. Added together over a longer period, all area motorists experienced 34.4 million hours of delay because of congestion in 2007 − a 21 percent jump from 2002. That's because the average U.S. rush-hour driver still needs 25 percent more time − 29 percent more time in the Portland area for trips than during off-peak times.

The Texas study touts a "travel time index" that has been controversial locally because it doesn't reflect well on Portland. The index compares the time it takes to complete a trip in rush hour to the time it takes in free-flow times. A value of 1.30 indicates a 20-minute free-flow trip takes 26 minutes in rush hour. By that measure, Portland and Seattle tied for the 20th-worst congestion, with a travel time index of 1.29. Los Angeles-Long Beach had the nation's worst, with an index of 1.49.

The average for 90 large urban areas studied is 39.9 million hours of travel delays. For 29 metro areas — like Portland — that are classified as "large," the average is 31.8 million hours.

Other 2009 report findings:


Consider that traffic and congestion normally get worse in the most highly populated metro areas. Portland is the 24th-largest metro area by population, but its 37 hours of delay make it the 34th worst.

And in the 10 years leading up to 2007, the average Portland commuter's delay rose from 35 hours a year to 37. The average for the top 90 metro areas grew from 36 hours a year to 41 hours.

Light Rail Open to Debate

Activists, regional planners and legislators have sparred for a decade about how to address the most visible effect of population growth: traffic congestion. And each camp can find ammunition in the census.

It shows west side light rail between downtown Portland and Hillsboro, which opened four years ago, helped boost the number of rail commuters from about 2,600 in 1990 to 9,100 in April 2000, before the downtown streetcar and airport MAX opened. In neighborhoods lining the tracks, MAX drew 5 percent to 10 percent of commuters.

Critics of the nearly $1 billion west side line say that's a trickle compared to the 800,000 people who drove alone - or the 54,000 who, according to the census, rode the bus. It's also a small portion of all rides on MAX, which average 68,000 per weekday.

"Rail is irrelevant to most people in the region," said John Charles, environmental policy director at the free-market-oriented Cascade Policy Institute in Portland.

But Metro officials say the census greatly undercounts MAX commuters because it asks workers how they "usually" get to work. That leaves out occasional riders. Metro surveys and computer models put one-way commuter trips at 44,000 a day, which would suggest individual commuters number 22,000.

Biking to Work

The Rose City has been judged the most bicycle-friendly place in North America, according to Bicycling magazine in one award and the League of American Bicyclists in another. Portland wins accolades for its extensive bikeways (309 miles of bikeways) and willingness to include cyclists in its master planning. Corvallis, Ashland and Beaverton have been honored as well.

American Automobile Association chapter Oregon/Idaho is the first AAA club in the U.S. to include bicycle service as part of its regular roadside membership benefits package for AAA Plus, Plus RV and Premier members. There is no additional charge for roadside service which applies to all bicycles and tandems, including rental bicycles and bicycle trailers.

September 2006 The average daily summertime bicycle trips across Portland's four busiest cycling bridges have increased by 18 percent over last year. And for the first time that four-bridge total has passed 12,000 daily trips.

The Hawthorne continues to lead with almost double the average daily summertime bicycle traffic of the next-leading bridge, the Broadway. The Hawthorne's average daily count this summer is 5,557 trips compared with the Broadway at 2,856. The four-bridge average daily total is 12,046, up from last year's 10,192.

The counting process: For all but the Burnside Bridge, the city placed automatic traffic counters on the sidewalk bridge paths and left them for up to several days. On the Burnside Bridge alone, which has a roadway bike lane that doesn't lend itself to an automatic bikes-only count, the city stationed a person to tabulate bicycle trips from 4 to 6 p.m. on a weekday.

Portland Ranks First in Nation for Biking to Work

A larger share of Portlanders commute by bicycle than in any other large city in America, eight times the national average, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Census Bureau's annual American Community Survey data showed 6.4 percent told the survey that they bicycled to work in 2008. This makes Portland No. 1 in bicycle commuting among the 30 largest cities in the country. The percentage of walkers and transit users also rose.

Across the Portland metro area, 21,921 people rode bicycles to work. Statewide, 37,582 people pedaled to work.

A little bit of humour from Dan Savage

Commuting Makes People Miserable
Posted by Dan Savage on Tue, Mar 30, 2010 at 3:13 PM

David Brooks in today's NYT:

If the relationship between money and well-being is complicated, the correspondence between personal relationships and happiness is not. The daily activities most associated with happiness are sex, socializing after work and having dinner with others. The daily activity most injurious to happiness is commuting.

Some people can't afford to live closer to where they work, I realize, and many people change jobs frequently and they can't exactly move—which is expensive—every time they land a new gig. And both halves of a couple usually have to work to make ends meet and and the odds that both partners offices or workplaces will be in roughly in the same part of town are slim. But I'll never understand why so many people who do have the option of living closer to work nevertheless choose long, injurious-to-happiness commutes over apartments or homes nearer—ideally within walking distance—of their places of employment.

You might have to sacrifice a little private space—you'll live in a smaller home—or live with a slightly smaller yard or no yard at all. But the time and money you save, to say nothing of the aggravating commute you avoid, more than compensates for those losses. And since living closer to work typically means living in a denser, more urban environment, those slightly less spacious homes are closer to the kinds of public spaces—bars, restaurants, coffee shops, bookstores, parks—that come to feel like additional personal, if not private, space.

And, yes, you do have to buy something if you're going to sit in a bar or a coffee shop—that's what you do with some of the money you're saving on gas.

The crc is loosing steam

Big CRC News: Earl Blumenauer Nixes CRC from Federal Funding Ask.
Posted by Sarah Mirk on Tue, Mar 30, 2010 at 2:56 PM

Now this is a surprise.

Last year Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer asked the federal government to earmark $3 million for the Columbia River Crossing (CRC). This year, the project is conspicuously absent from the Congressman's ask.

Check it out for yourself: compare Blumenauer's 2010 vs. 2011 federal earmark asks on his website.

So does this mean Blumenauer (who declared this weekend at the Rebooting Democracy conference, "I bleed green!") has joined the CRC's chorus of critics?

Reached moments ago for comment, Blumenauer says he did not think giving more federal money for planning the CRC would advance the project significantly. Since 2003, the project has received about $25 million in federal dollars for planning.

"We have helped get tens of millions of dollars of study money, and we're moving forward to the point where we need something more concrete to present," says the congressman. "I think people have some concerns that we've spent a lot of time and money and there isn't yet a regional consensus, a vision or a plan to pay for it. These are thing that after having steered all that federal money to this point, that we would like to have seen." He says that he will consider asking for more federal funding for the project once we get "consensus, a vision and a funding proposal." "There is a great deal of concern about not nipping around the edges and not tossing a million or two toward something that does not move the plan forward. I do feel very strongly that we have a partnership, I want to help it."

In contrast, Blumenauer is asking for $5,000,000 in federal funding for the replacement of the Sellwood Bridge and $2,000,000 for the Oregon Sustainability Center.

Blumenauer explains what's different about the Sellwood Bridge and the CRC. "There is a vision and a funding program for the Sellwood Bridge. It was not easy, but people rolled up their sleeves, it took them several years, but we've got a proposal. That's something that's got a bow on it and it's ready to go."

So what are Earl's personal feelings on the current $2.6-3.6 billion bridge plan? "Between healthcare and trying to deal with how we rebuild and renew this country, one of the things I'm not about to do is wade in and tell local officials what to do. Life is too short."

Original PDX highway map

PDX as an example

Bike Planning: A new bike system could mean a big jump in cycling

by Alan Pittman
Eugene Weekly
May 20, 2010

Portland hatched a plan this year to quadruple the share of people biking and create “a clean, thriving city where bicycling is a main pillar of the transportation system and more than a quarter of all trips are made on bicycles.” Can Eugene do the same?

Using one of the lead consultants that worked on the Portland plan, Eugene kicked off a project this week to create an ambitious new bike and pedestrian transportation plan.
Hundreds of bikes paraded downtown as part of the May 8 Bike Music Festival

“It’s a pretty exciting time to be working on this,” said city bike planner David Roth, citing a potential big boost in federal funding and increased local bike activism.

“I’m very excited,” said Shane Rhodes, manager of the Eugene Safe Routes to Schools program. “If we build a good solid plan and funding to back it up, then we’ll be on a much better path.”

Roth said he’ll take project consultants, including Alta Planning of Portland, on a bike tour this week of Eugene. The city has $149,000 in a grant through ODOT of federal money for the planning work. The project will go public in the fall with a citizen advisory committee, public meetings and website with interactive map to propose improvements. Roth said he expects a completed plan approved by the City Council in about 18 months.

According to the Portland plan, increased biking can transform a city with a host of benefits, including: safer streets, less obesity, less traffic congestion, less global warming, less toxic air pollution, less water pollution, less taxes, less car costs, less crime and a more neighborly, livable, fun and vibrant city. Biking also boosts the economy and jobs through tourism, property value increases, local bike industry, increasing local spending and attracting the “creative class” that’s key to business growth, according to Portland’s 2030 plan.

About 8 percent of commuters in Eugene bike, according to the U.S. Census. Roth said the Eugene plan could include a mode share goal as ambitious as Portland’s 25 percent.

Eugene is one of the top cities in the nation for biking, but the cycling percentage here has not increased since a high point in the 1970s, according to Census numbers.

However, unscientific bike counts at 17 locations last year by the city, showed a 26 percent increase over the year before. “I think it’s on the rise again,” Roth said of biking. “It’s turning into the cool thing to do.”

Portland surveys found that about half of its residents would be interested in biking but don’t for safety concerns. Planners there focused on making a wider range of people feel more safe and comfortable cycling by offering hundreds of miles of new bike boulevards, bike lanes, separated on-street “cycletracks” and off-street bike paths.

A city of Eugene “statement of work” for the planning contractor appears to emphasize bike boulevards over bike lanes. “The city has already completed bike lanes in most locations where they are feasible,” the document states.

The best bike boulevards have pavement painted with large “sharrows,” traffic calming and cyclists sharing road space with cars on low traffic streets, according to the Portland plan.

But emphasizing bike boulevards over bike lanes has been controversial in some cities. If the design does not reduce through car traffic with cyclist-only diverters, many bikers may not feel safer. Also, if the road is already low traffic and safe for cyclists, the official “bike boulevard” designation may not offer much improvement. If the bike boulevard is low traffic because it doesn’t go to the commercial areas where cyclists want to go, it also has less to offer.

“I think bike boulevards are pretty cool,” said Paul Moore, owner of the new Arriving by Bike cycle commuting store. But he said they should be part of a network that includes bike lanes on busier commercial and residential streets. “What I wouldn’t want is bike boulevards to be the end-all solution,” he said. “They don’t really get you where you want to go.”

Moore said he’d like to see the city convert south Willamette Street in front of his store to two lanes with a center turn lane, widened sidewalks and bike lanes. “The situation out here is horrible for cycling.”

Cities in Europe have found bike boulevards less useful and instead focused on separated cycletracks protected by low curbs, parked cars and/or medians to achieve bike mode shares up to 50 percent.

“Optimally, cycletracks are the best,” said Jim Wilcox, director of the BikeLane Coalition.

But cycletracks can cost much more than bike boulevards; Portland estimated as much as six times more per mile. But they didn’t do an estimate of cost per added cyclist.

Cost may be the biggest obstacle to keeping Eugene’s bike plan from gathering dust on a shelf.

The city has not dedicated a regular source of funding for new bike infrastructure and relies instead on occasional federal and state grants, according to Roth.

Lately, the city has been reducing rather than increasing bike funding. The City Council voted two months ago to divert almost all of the limited amount of flexible federal transportation money (STP-U) it could get to road repairs rather than bike and pedestrian safety projects. The city’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) joined the Sustainability Commission in calling for the city to spend all of the several million dollars a year on non-car projects. The city manager’s proposed budget also cut $153,000 from bike path maintenance.

The current regional TransPlan devoted about a billion dollars to cars over 20 years with only about 1 percent of its funding for bikes. The plan included a slight decrease in bike mode share while the region devoted hundreds of millions of dollars to freeway interchanges and bridges. A recent plan update (RTP) spurred a 13 percent increase in driving per capita with a half billion dollars in added capacity to Beltline and other freeways.

The local share of bike funding should increase at least ten-fold, Wilcox said. All the money spent on more and more car projects makes it hard for bikes to compete and is counterproductive, he said. “When we build more infrastructure, we have more people driving, so we build more infrastructure, so we have more people driving.”

Roth said the new Eugene plan will examine possible ways to increase bike funding. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood recently announced a “sea change” in federal funding to “treat walking and bicycling as equals with other transportation modes.” Congressman Peter DeFazio could help Eugene win some of that new funding as chair of the key House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

But even if Eugene had the money, it may lack the political oomph for a bike transformation.

In the 1990s, Eugene had a mayor and three city councilors who regularly cycled to meetings. But now, they all arrive by car. “You don’t have anyone there that’s an advocate,” Moore said.

Right now, the council is spending most of its time working on a plan that appears likely to expand the city’s urban growth boundary to allow more sprawl.

BPAC chairwoman Jennifer Smith called the city’s growth plans “ridiculous” at a meeting last week. She said, “if it becomes more difficult to drive, people will live more compactly. ... The widening of Beltline doesn’t serve that option or the climate policy.”

Roth said the formation of the GEARs bike advocacy group has increased cyclist clout. “Now they’re a pretty big player in how things are done locally.”

But Moore said he’s concerned that GEARs, which formed when a bike advocacy group merged with a recreational riding group, has a diluted mission and less focus on bike advocacy. “We don’t have an advocacy group like the BTA,” he said, referring to Portland’s powerful bike lobby.

Rhodes said the new plan “has the potential to really rally the troops” around bike advocacy.

Eugene’s Sustainability Commission has called for a “complete streets” policy to include bike/ped infrastructure in new projects. But many of the newer road projects the city has completed or is planning, including new roads on the EWEB riverfront project and “multi-way” boulevards on West 11th and Franklin, lack cycletracks or bike lanes. The city has also retreated from building planned bike lanes that involve removing car parking.

Moore faulted the city for not putting bike lanes on the reopened Olive Street downtown. “A mom with kids going to the library, where are they supposed to ride?”

So just how transformative will Eugene’s new bike plan really be? “I’d like to say it will be earth shattering,” said Roth. “At this point, it will be progress.”