Saturday, June 30, 2007
21 years ago nothing was certain. However, the Portland region banded together to decide on their future. In 1986 Portland Tri-Met had 162,500 average weekday boardings, 19,600 on rail and the rest on bus. Fast forward to 2006, we see that 307,200 rides with 99,000 of those rides coming from rail. The May ridership for Portland was 110,000 average weekday boardings. What is important is that this rail push has saved gobs of cash. With a 72 cent required boost from Tri-Met versus a $1.92 for bus, you can see why the investment has paid off. 23% of Portland's operating cost is for rail yet rail makes up 32% of the ridership.
The vision of the original Lutraq plan and the network of rail lines and city centers is being quietly implemented all the time. Expected next week is an FFGA from the federal government for the I-205 Light Rail Line. Planning is underway for the Streetcar to Lake Oswego and Milwaukie Max. This plan shows that when cities put their will and collective mind into doing something it can get done. The expansion of Portland's system can be replicated but it takes time and planning. Hopefully more cities will wake up and realize the cost savings as well as quality of life improvements brought by this way of doing things.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
A proposal to have 1:1 parking ratio in the city outside of downtown among other provisions. Just about the dumbest idea I've ever seen or heard of. Idiocy knows no bounds. Here are some other crazy provisions from a the comments...
The ordinance does NOT leave the recent C-3 (downtown) parking controls as is. In fact, it guts them. And it doesn't gut just the recent changes. It guts the fundamental controls that have existed in downtown for decades, and were the core of the City's renowned 1985 Downtown Plan, on which the Financial District we know today was built. The biggest change is not just the residential controls. The biggest, and most drastic change is the complete elimination of the limitation on commuter parking for commercial (office) buildings. The initiative would more allow (via changes to Section 151.1) more than 650% of the commuter parking currently allowed downtown! Where 100 spaces are now allowed, this initative would allow 667 spaces! This is a fact, and the math is simple:
The current controls place an absolute parking maximum equivalent to 7% of the gross floor area of an office building. 500,000 sf office = 35,000 sf parking = 100 parking spaces. Under the initative, a builder could build up to one space for every 750 square feet of office space. 500,000 sf office = 667 spaces. The words drastic and dramatic don't even begin to capture the magnitude of this change for downtown. The entire downtown has been built on a limited parking model, and only because of that reason (and only) the commute to downtown SF has the highest share of commuters taking transit outside of lower manhattan.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
So for places like San Francisco and New York, it isn't a question of does transit work or not, its how much more should we invest in to make it better than it already is. On the other side of the pale are these road oriented communities which are fighting hard to get transit off the ground such as Charlotte and Milwaukee. The road folks know they have a slight chance to kill transit in these places so they are throwing the kitchen sink because they are the last front in the road wars. The Anti's fight hard but in order to beat them back like we have for the last few decades we must not back down from their constant barrage of misinformation and misdirection.
An article in Newsweek suggests that politics is as I mentioned before, a visceral decision that leaves behind rational thought and that progressive minded folks shouldn't back down from a good fight. I see this as an ideological fight and when we get the chance we should sock it to the opposition Karl Rove style. Frame the issues in the most passionate way possible and set up decision makers with the facts they need to beat back the opposition. A mix of options and a vision for how all modes will work together. Cars are not the answer to everything. This is how we win.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Today we have lost another friend to the track community. J. Fred Duckett was an amazing announcer. He knew everything about the sport and always had a smile on his face. His booming voice could be heard blocks from the stadium and I can vividly remember him announcing the Texas Relays, the Kingwood Relays and specifically the State Track Meet. It's sad to know that the familiar voice that I grew up around on the track will not be there anymore. I got a chance to thank him after a race once, I told him I appreciated his knowledge and his announcing. I'd like to thank you one last time J. Fred. You will be missed. Rest In Peace.
Monday, June 25, 2007
The coolest thing about going down there a few weekends ago was that I got to see how the track was going in. Since I'd never seen it before I thought it was pretty cool to see all of the industrial sized C clamps and spacers keeping the tracks an even distance apart over a heavy concrete base.
Sunday, June 24, 2007
Trucks keep ratcheting up the prices because of labor and fuel and wanting to impose 3 tractor trailer units per truck. Meanwhile BNSF is increasing the train length by the equivalent of almost 240 trucks! Come on America, get this crap straight!! Move it to the rails, get the intermodal really cooking, and get those centers to truly be distribution points! Rock on BNSF, Congrats on a successful 10,000 ft. train move!This is rather amazing and it shows the efficiency of rail over rubber tired alternatives. I wonder how much benefit we would get from electrifying just this one route which has 10,000 ft trains and using alternative energy. There should be a national study to look at the environmental benefits of such a move as well as a cost-benefit ratio. Has this already been done? Some cold hard numbers always help.
Friday, June 22, 2007
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Day 1. Density is LA's Undoing... Seriously...thats what Rob says. In fact he even makes the old basketball trash talk, you can't stop me, you can only hope to contain me.
Day 2. A Greener American Dream... let us hope this is what happens. Although Rob B. Makes a fool of himself when he argues that basically we should just let inertia take us where it will.
Day 3. Mass Transit... Rob argues for PRT while Gloria Ohland argues for housing choices. I'm glad she reframed the issue on him. The transit doesn't work because it doesn't address sprawl attitude is getting tired. If there were better, cheaper technologies out there, then wouldn't we be using them now? I mean just today we pushed the gas standards up to 35 mpg by 2020. While incredibly weak, we're been letting the auto industry get away with murder by babying them. Toyota isn't going under. I want moving sidewalks and those speed tubes from Futurama, but they aren't coming as long as the auto and concrete lobbies are in Washington. And right now the most efficient way to move people on a per passenger mile basis, and most fuel efficient is rail.
Day 4. It's Coming Soon...
I would do more commentary but really i'm just annoyed that people think like this. And really, if you don't know that sprawl is bad by now, then you might never get it. Is anyone else tired of the inertia and the same old arguments about the free market. Well if the free market worked the way the libertarians wanted it to, we would have transit and we wouldn't have ridiculous sprawling suburbs. If anyone gets a chance, they should check out Jonathan Levine's book, Zoned Out. It puts all that junk to rest, at least in my mind.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
So when I got a comment about not doing my homework on San Francisco I was a bit incensed, especially because it was an anonymous troll and I feel like I pay pretty close attention to what is going on around the country. They were bound to get to my little corner of the blogosphere at some point but lets cut to the chase. Oakland will always think of itself as less than San Francisco, and this BRT plan shows it. The fact of the matter is that even though San Francisco is planning BRT too, that doesn't make Oakland or AC Transit cooler. In fact it makes AC Transit look even worse because San Francisco's BRT line on Geary is going to be rail ready. What do I mean when I say that? Well according to the SFMTA site, rail ready means the following...
In the AC Transit EIS, it states that Light Rail is a long term goal in the corridor. Long term probably means next century.
The center-running bus rapid transit alternative will be designed to the physical dimensions required to accommodate a light rail vehicle. The Geary BRT Study will also determine the costs and feasibility of implementing a more extensive definition of rail-ready, which aims to minimize future construction impacts if resources become available to convert the bus rapid transit project to light rail. This definition would potentially include installing the rails and sub-surface electrical work, relocating utilities, and building longer platforms to accommodate light rail vehicles during the initial BRT construction.
It was chosen as the mode for the Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA), with the understanding that LRT service would be considered the long-term goal in the corridor.and
The BRT transitway and stations would be designed for future conversion to LRT service. Placement and configuration of BRT facilities would be consistent with requirements for upgrading the BRT transitway to an LRT guideway and extending the low-platform BRT stations to serve up to two lowfloor light rail vehicles. No timeline or program for such a conversion has been established.
On the other side of the bay, the local advocates at Rescue Muni are pushing for a rather speedy timeline for transformation including putting the rails in immediately.
Therefore, we support a BRT project that is "Rail-Ready" or ready for easy conversion to rail when funding for that project can be secured. We also support aggressively pursuing rail along the Geary Corridor...Put the rails in now! Another requirement of "Rail-Ready" BRT is to lay the rails now. It is our understanding that rails can sit for many years without harm to their functionality. And when it comes to rapid transit projects, the rails aren't the main cost of the project. Again, if we don't put rails in now, the bus lanes will have to be torn out and reconstructed, creating a mess.So if you think that AC Transit is a forward thinking organization that doesn't think of themselves as just a bus company you would be wrong. I believe their intent is to never improve to rail. A lot of people are getting suckered into this plan because its the best they can do at the moment and because its cheap. Since when did this country not want to do things right the first time? While I think that BRT in general is a sham, the guys at Rescue Muni and the SFMTA know that their constituents want rail and are going to get it to them as fast as possible, on the other hand AC Transit runs a bus system that believes they are operating for just the poor, so they are going to give them poor service. I predict super high operating costs for these corridors because lets face it, with all those drivers in all those buses, thats gonna cost a lot of money.
Monday, June 18, 2007
Hat Tip N Judah Chronicles
Sunday, June 17, 2007
While the dogpatch survived the earthquake in 1906, I would be worried about this area in future earthquakes given its closeness to the bay and its susceptibility to liquefaction. Map of liquefaction susceptibility here. But what is interesting is what they do to deal with the issue. Below is a picture of some of the Mission Bay redevelopment along the Third Street Light Rail Line. On the other side of the fence you can see some of the pylons coming out of the ground. Well those where hammered down there by huge machines to the bedrock to stabilize the building so they would be less susceptible to the liquefaction.
You can also see in the next picture the huge machines that hammer the pylons down into the subsoil and the many cranes which dot the skyline. I apologize for the blurriness of the picture.
On another note, I drove by an old metal scrapyard where I found a few dead Muni buses. The 38 and 38x buses will be replaced with LRVs just like the streetcar was once replaced by the bus. All things are circular and I think these pictures are an indication of that, given that we saw many pictures of streetcars in the scrapyards after the transit holocaust of the 50s and 60s. Hopefully this is a scene that will be seen more often as we replace bus routes with more efficient rail lines.
Later this week I'll show some pictures of the new LRV repair and maintenance facility.
Friday, June 15, 2007
With energy prices high and likely to go higher in the years ahead, it would make sense for the nation to embrace a transportation policy that puts a premium on energy efficiency. Transportation, along with electrical power generation, is the country's biggest consumer of fossil and renewable fuels. So what is the most fuel-efficient form of transportation available in the U.S. today?Now if only the government actually paid attention to its own research.
Believe it or not, it's Amtrak. According to a recent study published by the U.S. Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Amtrak uses less energy per passenger mile than cars, airlines or even subways and commuter rail systems. In fact, the relative disadvantage of commercial airlines and cars is particularly pronounced - both use more than one-fifth more energy per passenger mile than Amtrak's trains.
Thursday, June 14, 2007
We already see ideas for either capping or submerging freeways and this might be a way to just leave them as they are while using the air above them as buildable space. And to make sure that the freeway isn't an eyesore from street level, there should be shops or housing wrapping the sides of it.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
H/T Think Progress and TPM
Sunday, June 10, 2007
Its hard for me to take his 'poor me' shtick seriously when he rails against alternatives to his plight. In fact, it makes me wonder if he actually knows what the heck he is talking about. If not rail or transit, then how is he going to reduce the cost of transportation. Is it more wars? It certainly isn't with toll roads or hybrid technology. A recent publication by the Brookings Institute and the Center for Transit Oriented Development states that families who live in transit rich neighborhoods pay less than 10% of their incomes on transportation. This doesn't mean they stop driving, it just means they are less dependent on the car for every life movement. In sprawling areas, this cost escalates to 25%. For a family making $35,000 that is over $5000 back in their pockets each year. That's a real tax break for working families that could be created by investments in transportation alternatives. His Prius solution is only a savings of $1560, but that could be negated if toll roads continue to proliferate. Also not included is the cost of auto ownership in general.
So if Austin is going to have an honest discussion about issues facing the region including affordability, then there needs to be more information and action on alternatives to the automobile. Complaining about gas prices just doesn't tear at my heartstrings anymore, because Mr. Wear like many others, have dug their own hole.
Saturday, June 9, 2007
It’s funny but I think the advertisements for Apple’s IPod are fairly accurate. Especially in
Now with the IPod, we can have thousands of songs in a device that is the same size of our wallet, allowing us to listen to whatever we want to, whenever we want to. But while the IPod can be hooked up to the car, it seems to be more useful from a transportation standpoint to walkable transit oriented neighborhoods. When you get out of a car the radio turns off or there is a tape transition, but when you leave a train or bus, the music continues on kind of like a soundtrack to your life.
In my opinion, it’s this soundtrack quality that can give transit a bonus versus the car. There are many songs that if I play them in my car they bring back memories. Specific places on a road from Austin to Houston when I would drive home for Christmas or Thanksgiving are imagined in my head when I listen to the particular song I like to play on that stretch of road. Since I had a CD changer in my trunk and not the front deck I would even pull the car over to switch CDs if the one I wanted for that certain section of road was not available in the changer.
Now I’m finding that I’m having similar experiences with transit and my Ipod. However instead of just in the car, I have it for walking around the city, places along bus routes and inside of department stores. It even allows me to drown out the awful music at say the Gap or other places where they try to match the brand with music types. Well what if I want to shop in the Gap or Target listening to some metal or opera? They wouldn’t play those over the speakers but with the great equalizer we can.
There might be some drawbacks including awareness of your surroundings that might lead to some unfortunate altercations with automobiles or with the less desirable and under discussed elements of city life. There is always an issue of being social as well; shutting people out by just having headphones on is easy. But if anything, the great equalizer is incredibly more social than say an automobile. People in their own pods of space cut off from having to deal with social situations has led to rises in the instances of road rage however I’ve never heard of anything called Pod Rage. It might exist but from what I’ve seen, people are generally passive when bumped into with their IPod versus people bumped into who don’t have one on.
There is a serious issue that should be discussed as well with regards to hearing though. I know I’m guilty of listening to my IPod much louder than I should if I’m in a subway to drown out the external noise. However this could lead to long term hearing damage and such is said your eardrums are like lobsters, once their cooked there is no going back. I’m thinking about whether I should get noise canceling headphones or just read with earplugs which might be a soundtrack setback.
But with all that being said, I see the Ipod and MP3 players in general as a great transportation equalizer. You can create a soundtrack of songs you like but now it won’t apply to just your car but rather memories and experiences of life in general.
Friday, June 8, 2007
1. The EIR even says there will be a low change from automobile drivers to transit riders
2. It provides no energy consumption reduction
3. Will poach riders from BART
4. It keeps advertising BRT as "rail like" even though its not.
5. The EIR doesn't address the impact of 51 buses vs light rail on greenhouse gases
I don't agree with him that parking is such a big deal. It's not free folks. I also think that taking a lane for transit is good. Finally cars will play second best to transit.
This is enough to just be ridiculous. I don't know why folks like the Sierra Club or TALC are supporting this. There is no good reason to other than to give up on your environmental principles for transit mode that is hemorrhaging riders in the third world. Are we serious in this country about carbon? Are we serious about global warming? This is a huge waste of money. This is a reason why the East Bay will always be second rate. They will always play second fiddle to San Francisco. The poor shouldn't be relegated to second rate transit.
If they were smart about it they could do a rapid streetcar with passing lanes at stations that allow 1o minute headways. The streetcars would have their own lanes and attract way more riders and developement. The travel times would be better as well attracting even more riders on a smooth ride.
The fundamental problem with this is that it's exactly what has caused congestion in the first place, letting everyone believe that they are free to have a piece of road at any time without any congestion. In fact some wish that it was in the constitution. Well where is the logic in that? If we look at nature and floods we see what happens when too much water wants to be all in one place. And so it should come as no surprise if everyone took geology or physical geography some time in high school that this would happen. Yet we keep building one mode of transportation. It's kind of like putting concrete at the bottom of a river to channel it. None of it seeps in to the ground just like cars magically get through traffic. And it seems to me that building all of these transitways for buses just encourages more cars. They might have 2 more people in the but its still a car. It's still VMT and pollution and sprawl.
But if you give people a choice they will take it. But it can't be a half cocked choice. Buses in freeway medians in Houston have shown that they only attract so many riders. I have a theory that it's because they travel in the middle of a freeway. Transit is a pedestrian oriented mode. Freeways are not pedestrian oriented. This is another reason why Houston's 5 transit ways garner about 43,000 riders a day while Portland's Max and Streetcar with 5 lines is over 100,000. Per day. It's why the San Diego Trolley is over 100,000 per day. Network and pedestrian orientation are what drives transit, and more freeways amplifies the inhumanities of single occupancy vehicles. 100,000 people in cars is no small amount of extra concrete for roads and parking spaces.
No one was meant to be that selfish every day of their lives. Yes you can be selfish sometimes. I know I am. I drive to my Gramma's house. She lives in the suburbs where the bus stops running at 3:30pm. It's 3 miles from the BART station and while sometimes I walk, some days i just don't have the extra 2 hours to spare (BART is lame in that they won't let bikes on rush hour trains). But everywhere else I walk or take transit whether it's a bus or a train. Tonight I went to concert by taking the J Church to the 45 Union Bus. Powered by alternative energy from Hydro, $1.50, no parking, no hassle. It's the power of networks and human scale quality transit which it seems some of the highway and HOV people miss.
I saw someone somewhere say that the Blue Line in Chicago which has 12 trains per hour could be replaced with an hov lane and 100 buses per hour and this would be revolutionary. I'm not sure what that person was smoking, but it must be bad stuff.
Wednesday, June 6, 2007
I would like to make a request to Muni as well. Please put a shelter at my stop on 24th and Church. And a map would be nice. You would think that a handicapped accessible stop on a Muni Metro line would at least have a map and perhaps nextbus. Now that would be great!
Tuesday, June 5, 2007
This is an unprecedented event. NO CYCLONE has ever entered the Gulf of Oman. And there are no custom 'storm surge' models available for that area. This forecast is based on my experience and subjective analysis of the seabed slope and storm surge interaction with the sea floor. Considering the region has never experienced a hurricane, let alone a strong one it is highly unlikely the loading facilities or platforms were constructed to withstand the forces - both wave action and wind force - that they will experience. Significant, damage will occur. How much long term damage, and the volumes associated with it - can not be determined at this time.So what does this mean for Transit? Another good question is what does this mean for Dubai and the reclaimed urban projects like the palm islands. Given that we don't know what this will do to gas prices, it might be really bad or mild. If its really bad we'll see a spike in gas prices and transit ridership. If its mild there will most likely be a bullet dodged.
What is a good libertarian argument without a discussion about their preferred mode of transportation. If there was no such thing as zoning in Houston, then there would also not be any requirements on property. But instead we find that a one bedroom apartment has a 1.33 space parking requirement which of course lead to larger parking lots or garages costing developers lots of money. If it were a true free market issue, parking space construction would be left up to the market, yet its not. A report done by the EPA found that parking requirements were a big reason why TOD in Midtown has failed to take off. Another reason seems to stem from the fact that land owners think their land is worth much more than it really is and have been unwilling to part with it feeling like a high rise is their eventual destiny.
Monday, June 4, 2007
Let us consider the space race instead. Our best and brightest put men in space and on the moon using pencils, paper and slide rules. This was and continues to be a great engineering feat by our aerospace industry. We do not need commercial flights out of our little airport, we need a rail system to our big airport. A statewide rail system, a national system of bullet trains and light rail - let's get the big three automakers, aerospace, everyone involved. And like the trans-continental railroad, in some aspects, our government should pay for it and not expect to make a profit and not give it away to big business.
This may upset the oil magnates and the innovation of hydro-electric power will come off the back burner. Put Americans to work, put veterans to work, put documented immigrants to work. I want to ride the train to work, to play, to school, and to the airport.
Sunday, June 3, 2007
Friday, June 1, 2007
Did you read that like I read that? $2.22 per gallon of subsidization for the road. And this isn't from some liberal think tank or a transit fanatic saying it, it's the organization that builds and collects taxes for them. And this is just the subsidy for the road, not the oil itself! So when simplistic folks from the Reason foundation propose building roads to relieve all congestion, you ask them who is going to be paying for that, or you shut them down with some good research on how much it will really cost versus your transit alternative. It seems to me that even more so now, rail looks even better than ever when it comes to cost effectiveness.
The decision to build a road is a permanent commitment to the traveling public. Not only will a road be built, but it must also be routinely maintained and reconstructed when necessary, meaning no road is ever truly “paid for.” Until recently, when TxDOT built or expanded a road, no methodology existed to determine the extent to which this work would be paid off through revenues.
The Asset Value Index, was developed to compare the full 40-year life-cycle costs to the revenues attributable to a given road corridor or section. The shorthand version calculates how much gasoline is consumed on a roadway and how much gas tax revenue that generates.
The Asset Value Index is the ratio of the total expected revenues divided by the total expected costs. If the ratio is 0.60, the road will produce revenues to meet 60 percent of its costs; it would be “paid for” only if the ratio were 1.00, when the revenues met 100 percent of costs. Another way of describing this is to do a “tax gap” analysis, which shows how much the state fuel tax would have to be on that given corridor for the ratio for revenues to match costs.
Applying this methodology, revealed that no road pays for itself in gas taxes and fees. For example, in Houston, the 15 miles of SH 99 from I-10 to US 290 will cost $1 billion to build and maintain over its lifetime, while only generating $162 million in gas taxes. That gives a tax gap ratio of .16, which means that the real gas tax rate people would need to pay on this segment of road to completely pay for it would be $2.22 per gallon.
Thanks to Andrew for the link.