Visit to Jakarta: BRT was a bad idea

I’ve just returned from an Indonesian vacation.  My trip started and ended in Jakarta, and I had a chance to try out their transit system.  I love big cities.  I’ve visited many of them, and I had yet to find one I didn’t have some love for.  I hated Jakarta. Jakarta is a city of […]

Good Idea

Is there anything like this in Seattle?

Crossing the Columbia

Wouldn’t you know it, with gas prices on the up, Clark County residents are driving less frequently into downtown Portland:

Traffic across the Interstate 5 and Interstate 205 bridges, which has gradually ticked upward for most of the past decade, nudged down a fraction in February and dropped 3.3 percent in March, according to preliminary figures from the Oregon Department of Transportation. No figures are out yet for April or May, but those who watch the bridges each day say drives are getting easier.

“My morning commute hasn’t really felt different, but coming home traffic has been lighter,” said Vancouver Heights resident Amanda Brown, 26, who works in downtown Portland and crosses the I-5 bridge each day.

More people are taking the bus as well. C-Tran gave 532,026 rides in March, up 36,500 from the same month a year earlier.

“There seems to be an increase in the number of people taking the train,” said northeast Vancouver resident Marjorie Johnson, 65, who daily drives across the I-205 bridge then takes the Max light rail to work near Portland’s Lloyd Center. “I see new faces every day. We fill the train.”

ODOT and WADOT are currently working on a replacement for the current bridge. The most controversial aspect has been whether or not to leave room for putting light rail on it. Given the current situation, light rail ought to move from “controversial” to “no-brainer.”

Light-Rail in Clark County

It’s outside the Puget Sound, so I haven’t been writing about it much, but the issue of whether or not to put light rail across a new Columbia River bridge down in SW Washington is a contentious one:

It was supposed to be a community forum without staged presentations, one that dealt with funding options for light rail.

But much of the discussion during Wednesday’s forum dealt more with the pros and cons of light rail, with occasional forays into the future price of gasoline and whether ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were being fought for oil or for freedom.

This, incidentally, is why I love writing about transportation issues. It’s something we all encounter every day, and thus something we all have an opinion on. It’s the circulatory system of society — our communal lifeblood.

Of course, this is the very same reason I often hate writing about transportation issues: you can’t talk about them in isolation, and it’s exceedingly easy for a conversation to go… [ahem]…off-track.


Martin says that Portland MAX is not teh awesome!

It’s a fair point. The MAX was build more like a streetcar downtown, which is problematic for longer distances. On the other hand, Seattle’s LINK will have some of the same problems. Only the New York City Subway, with its local and express lines, really avoids this (separating longer-haul commuter rail from the subway helps, too) That was some might fine foresight, those NYCers had.

The Success of MAX

Autopia is starting a series on MAX, Portland’s light rail system.

If You Build It, They Will Come

Portland, OR Edition:

The Overlook, a 30-unit condominium complex at 3990 N. Interstate Ave., is the first along the MAX yellow line to develop with the so-called smart growth ideas in mind.

The concept aims to reduce urban sprawl and preserve the environment by putting people in dense developments that are close to retail services, parks and public transportation. The city of Portland is rezoning Interstate Avenue to emphasize similar buildings.

The tone of the article is a bit odd… is “smart growth” really such a new idea in Portland? I realize they caveat it as “first along the yellow line,” but still… weird. But maybe I don’t understand Portland as well as I think I do.

Portland's Bike Culture

While jerks here in Seattle are abhorrently shooting our bicyclists, Portland (as ever) points the way to a model of bicycle integration, as this NY Times article notes:

Sam Adams, a city commissioner in charge of transportation, joined development officials to help lure the show to Portland. It seemed a natural fit. The city regularly ranks at the top of Bicycling Magazine’s list of the best cycling cities and has the nation’s highest percentage of workers who commute by bike, about 3.5 percent, according to the Census Bureau. Drivers here are largely respectful of riders, and some businesses give up parking spaces to make way for bike racks.

“Our intentions are to be as sustainable a city as possible,” Mr. Adams said. “That means socially, that means environmentally and that means economically. The bike is great on all three of those factors. You just can’t get a better transportation return on your investment than you get with promoting bicycling.”

Light Rail in the West: Neat!

Danny Westneat says light rail is teh awesome and we will totally love it once we get off our collective derriers and start riding:

It didn’t take more than two minutes for me to be impressed. That’s how long I waited to catch my first train in downtown Portland.

In two days of riding the rails, on 14 different trains, the longest I waited for one to come was eight minutes. That was at 11 on a Sunday night.

The longest any of my trains spent stopped at a station was 25 seconds — even when 75 rush-hour commuters tried to board a crowded train at once. I’ve waited much longer for a single rider to get on a Seattle bus, fumbling for change or arguing with the driver.

River-Oriented Transit

Matt Rosenberg at Cascadia Prospectus has a good post laying out the challenges and potential benefits of developing passenger ferry service along the Willamette River in Portland. The basic challenges, though, are universal. The Willamette is nice in that it’s a navigable, North-South river that basically follows the major interstates through the region (or vice-versa). Seattle’s lakes and sounds follow more irregular trajectories.

Nonetheless, the challenges are similar. Money quote:

Getting to and from the dock at each end has to be convenient and quick, or the premise can’t go much further than a seasonal novelty. Marketing campaigns would need to highlight the “portal to portal” time advantage for specific foot ferry routes versus driving and other transit modes, as well. Softer sell “enjoy the ride – skip the traffic” pitches have value, but can only gain traction if travel time comparisons work.

Additionally, the more daily commerce that can be situated in proximity to foot ferry transit nodes – grocery stores, dry cleaners, even day care centers and schools – the greater the appeal.

Thus we see the challenge of going back to the water for our transit needs. In the last 100 years, we’ve begun build away from the water. The downtowns of our newer cities — Bellevue, Kent, etc. — are built near highways. And with good reason: hugging the coast like the Sounder/BNSF does between Everett in Tacoma makes for a long and winding route.