Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Saturday, July 28, 2007
Here is a picture of a firetruck and a streetcar. It was pretty cool and they stayed there for a sec while I took a picture. I'm not sure if it was for me, but if it was, thanks!
As with the F-Line, it was a crush load on a lot of the cars I saw. In fact it's so full during the afternoon that it's hard for some folks to get on. They need more operating funding so cars can run more often, because every 12 minutes doesn't quite cut it.
We went on the tram and got a testimonial from a doctor that was a skeptic before she started riding it. She said she wondered why they were spending so much money on it, but now she gets it. Instead of 30 minutes during rush hour to get between patient visits in the South Waterfront and OHSU campus, it now takes her 7. It's no surprise that its won her over. It's apparently won over folks who wanted to bike, but didn't like the hill.
Here is traffic to Lake Oswego, better get that rapid streetcar sooner than later.
And here is a streetcar in the park for good measure. I'll update later as I upload more photos. Enjoy!!!
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
But faced with staff research that showed the upfront savings would be overwhelmed by the higher operating costs of a diesel system, the few board members left who supported going diesel joined their colleagues in voting 13-0 to stick with the current arrangement. The DIA line is expected to be completed in 2014; the Arvada line in 2015.
If that wasn’t enough, 26 speakers led of by Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper unanimously urged the board to back the communities’ choices. No one spoke up for using diesel cars; many of the speakers demanded RTD abandon current plans to use diesel power on two other FasTracks lines, Northwest Rail to Boulder and Longmont, and North Metro to Commerce City and Thornton.
The other two lines should be electric as well. With rising fuel prices causing many of the nation's transit agencies to raise fares, there is no reason to think that this won't continue to happen when they choose diesel. Hopefully what they have learned from these two lines shows up in the other two. They are also going to be saving money on the Union Station by digging a trench for the lines instead of having a subway tunnel.
Monday, July 23, 2007
Sunday, July 22, 2007
Update: Sounder is getting some good ridership as well. Check out Seattle Transit Blog.
Update: You can watch history here. Mark at Flocasts, an old friend of mine from college, is the only one with a video. Thanks for the footage Flo!
Friday, July 20, 2007
Thursday, July 19, 2007
This week they found some emails that they believe suggest that the University and Chamber of Commerce were in cahoots to do a poll. A POLL! Wow that is going to change people's opinions. They didn't question the accuracy of the study but rather if the Chamber used it in the poll. This is ridiculous. But it's like these hypocrites to demand the disclosure that an academic study was going to be used for a poll yet they won't tell anyone how much money they raised for their campaign to take down the tax. If they were to question the study they'd have to look at themselves in the mirror because anti-transit libertarians like to do all their research about transit in the free market by cherry picking sources. The fundamental issue is this, as stated by the University President:
The critics of light rail can't question the facts, so they question the process of anyone whose position is different than their own. They will not be able to refute the fundamental conclusion of Dr. Hauser's study that the cost of transit in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, including buses and light rail, is on average with the cost in other cities.An editorial the next day stated:
If you'll read the April 30 study, you'll have a tough time arguing that its data is partisan. It mostly compiles information from government sources or academic research. It doesn't take a stand for or against the transit tax, concluding only that there's "a need for a comprehensive study" of the impact of light rail transit.So just as I've stated before, it's sour grapes. Commonwealth for the common good, not every man for himself as the local anti's want you to believe.
So I believe experience is the critical factor and those companies with expertise and a track record should be the first choice to make projects on time, on budget and with good quality. Americans would be smart to put these foriegn firms in competition on projects and to study the methods they use, just as these countries studied British and American steel and rail industries a century ago.
But I'm not sure if I agree with him on the post as a whole, just parts. I'd like to see it fleshed out more with links to papers and documents before I accept it as gospel. I'm inclined to think its true, but not sure. There are a lot of factors that lead to construction issues. Stacey Witback is getting really good with the streetcar construction and the time it takes. I will agree that we need to learn more on cost saving measures. There are a lot of things we need to do to keep from gold plating, but the companies doing infrastructure projects here have been doing them a long time and leading the way. But if he's right, then we do need to let foreign companies try and compete if they can do it better. I'm not sure if they would even want to work here under the political conditions of these large projects usually given out to the good ole boy network, but we sure could learn a lot from them.
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
and i am nothing of a builder
but here i dreamt i was an architect
and i built this balustrade
to keep you home, to keep you safe
from the outside world
but the angles and the corners
even though my work is unparalelled
they never seemed to meet
this structure fell about our feet
and we were free to go
The main character in the show is an architect and he had to go into work late one night while his friend Barney (NPH) used his name and profession to score with a woman. Apparently the idea of an architect is appealing to women, at least in the show.
But the reason I posted this was not because architects are related to urban planners but the fact that the singer of this song would be protective of his girl by building her a home. However when it fell over they were free. Personally this reminds me of the suburbs and gated communities in America. Working so hard to pay the bills and not being rewarded is exactly what I believe is happening to the middle class today. No transport options and being forced to live so far away. Also feeling like the answer to crime is to move away to a homogeneous community just makes our communities more segregated and less racially and economically integrated.
In the 50's people left in droves believing the cities unsafe and crowded. This movement from cramped spaces began with the streetcar suburbs and utility expansion available in the mid and late 1800s, however post war suburbia went too far and swang the pendulum past its equilibrium. Today energy usage is too high and an article in the Wall Street Journal Monday stated that we are getting closer to lower oil supply and increasing demand. Perhaps we'll wake up before then, but we'll just have to wait and see. Until then, let's build more transit and livable places so the end game won't be so shocking, and when it comes crashing down we be less bothered by energy supply inconsistencies.
In any event, if you haven't heard the song, check it out.
Monday, July 16, 2007
Four miles per day may not seem like much, but do the math. The Portland metro area has roughly 2 million residents. If Portlanders traveled as much as the typical U.S. metro resident, that would produce 8 million more vehicle miles per day or about 2.9 billion more miles per year. A conservative estimate of the cost of driving is about 40 cents per mile. (At $3 a gallon, 15 cents of this is just the cost of fuel, figured at a fleet average of 20 miles per gallon, which is a generous number for city driving.) All told, the out-of-pocket savings work out to $1.1 billion dollars per year. This works out to about 1.5 percent of all personal income earned in the region in 2005.
This is a good minimum estimate of the aggregate economic benefits—the green dividend—that Portland area residents enjoy as a result of land use planning and related environmental policies. But the benefits don’t stop there. Since Portlanders don’t spend that money on transportation, they have more money to spend on other things. Because so much of what is spent on transportation immediately leaves the state—Oregon makes neither cars nor gasoline—money not spent on transportation gets spent on sectors of the economy that have a much larger local multiplier effect. (Think locally-brewed beer.) According to IRS data, about 73 percent of the retail price of gas (back when it was under $2 a gallon, by the way) and 86 percent of the retail price of cars is the “cost of goods sold,” which immediately leaves the local economy. The $1.1 billion Portlanders don’t spend on car travel translates into $800 million that is not leaving the local region. Because this money gets re-spent in other sectors of the economy, it stimulates local businesses rather than rewarding Exxon or Toyota.Interesting. I wonder how many more cities are going to pick up on this.
A German bus driver threatened to throw a 20-year-old sales clerk off his bus in the southern town of Lindau because he said she was too sexy, a newspaper reported Monday. "Suddenly he stopped the bus," the woman named Debora C. told Bild newspaper. "He opened the door and shouted at me 'Your cleavage is distracting me every time I look into my mirror and I can't concentrate on the traffic. If you don't sit somewhere else, I'm going to have to throw you off the bus.'" The woman, pictured in Bild wearing her snug-fitting summer clothes with the plunging neckline, said she moved to another seat but was humiliated by the bus driver. A spokesman for the bus company defended the driver. "The bus driver is allowed to do that and he did the right thing," the spokesman said. "A bus driver cannot be distracted because it's a danger to the safety of all the passengers."
Sunday, July 15, 2007
A transit mogul, Widener monopolized the street railways of Philadelphia. Starting in 1875, Widener and a partner began buying transit lines, modernizing the horse drawn cars first with cable cars, then with an electric trolley system that required the repaving of the city's streets. By 1895, the system supported 100 passengers a year.What is fascinating about this is how the money was made. Before Widener and a few others pioneered the collection of utilities to operate as one, each line and lighting company were separate in different sections of the city, leading to competition and the need to pay a different fare for each transfer.
But it was these moguls who paved the streets and lit the houses in New York, Chicago and Philadelphia, however through nefarious means. Dubbed syndicates, they were the reason we have the term 'Public Utilities' :
When Thomas A. Edison invented the incandescent light, and when Frank J. Sprague in 1887 constructed the first practicable urban trolley line, in Richmond, Virginia, they liberated forces that powerfully affected not only our social and economic life but our political institutions. These two inventions introduced anew phrase--"Public Utilities." Combined with the great growth and prosperity of the cities they furnished a fruitful opportunity to several particularly famous groups of financial adventurers. They led to the organization of "syndicates" which devoted all their energies, for a quarter of a century, to exploiting city lighting and transportation systems. These syndicates made a business of entering city after city, purchasing the scattered street railway lines and lighting companies, equipping them with electricity, combining them into unified systems, organizing large corporations, and floating huge issues of securities. A single group of six men--Yerkes, Widener, Elkins, Dolan, Whitney, and Ryan--combined the street railways, and in many cases the lighting companies...Charles T. Yerkes was the driving force behind Chicago's street railway and lighting was able to control city and state government officials. However in Philly, he was imprisoned for of all things embezzlement which led him to move to Chicago and opened up the door for a City Official named Peter A.B. Widener.
It was this circumstance in Yerkes's career which impelled him to leave Philadelphia and settle in Chicago where, starting as a small broker, he ultimately acquired sufficient resources and influence to embark in that street railway business at which he had already served an extensive apprenticeship. Under his domination, the Chicago aldermen attained a gravity that made them notorious all over the world. They openly sold Yerkes the use of the streets for cash and constantly blocked the efforts which an infuriated populace made for reform. Yerkes purchased the old street railway lines, lined his pockets by making contracts for their reconstruction, issued large flotations of watered stock, heaped securities upon securities and reorganization upon reorganization and diverted their assets to business in a hundred ingenious ways.Widener stepped up after Yerkes had gotten the previous city treasurer in trouble for the embezzlement. He was also a butcher, which apparently is a pretty big deal for politics.
A successful butcher shop in Philadelphia in those days played about the same part in local politics as did the saloon in New York City. Such a station became the headquarters of political gossip and the meeting ground of a political clique; and so Widener, the son of a poor German bricklayer, rapidly became a political leader in the Twentieth Ward, and soon found his power extending even to Harrisburg.
He also picked up a bond partner in Elkins and the two came into control of Philadelphia's traction organization.
Widener and Elkins, however, not only dominated Philadelphia traction but participated in all of Yerkes's enterprises in Chicago and held an equal interest with Whitney and Ryan in New York. The latter Metropolitan pair, though they confined their interest chiefly to their own city, at times transferred their attention to Chicago. Thus, for nearly thirty years, these five men found their oyster in the transit systems of America's three greatest cities--and, for that matter, in many others also.Later on, the syndicate ended up buying the Broadway Traction Company in New York City. This led to their organization being the first holding company.
This Broadway franchise formed the vertebral column of the New York transit system; with it as a basis, the operators formed the Metropolitan Street Railway Company in 1893, commonly known as the "Metropolitan." They organized also the Metropolitan Traction Company, an organization which enjoys an historic position as the first "holding company" ever created in this country.
It's a fascinating story and the Age of Big Business is definitely a good read and as much as I want to, I can't quite cover it all without just copying and pasting the whole thing.
By that time, the initial space race will be over. Denver, Salt Lake City, and Dallas will each have over 100 miles of rail lines and Tampa will have a small starter line. As my old track coach Bubba used to say, Pick It Up!
- A primary rail line with four main stations: downtown St. Petersburg, the Gateway-Toytown area, West Shore district and downtown Tampa. It would cross the bay on a new structure between the Howard Frankland's two spans. The current bridge was designed with that in mind, although it would be expensive.
- Radiating out from that primary "spine," you'd have "ribs" - railways and express buses to the beaches, Clearwater and the University of South Florida, eventually reaching as far as Brooksville, Lakeland and Sarasota.
- Ferries traveling between downtown St. Petersburg, Tampa, Bradenton and possibly Apollo Beach.
Train, boat and bus fares would cover only a fraction of the costs. Local transit officials think the most realistic way to start paying for these things is to follow the lead of numerous other cities, including Miami and Jacksonville: Ask voters for a half-cent sales tax.
Friday, July 13, 2007
Then I got to thinking, what are the statistics for that bus? What kind of grades can it operate on? How much power is produced by the motor? Then I immediately shot back to when I was a little kid trading Ken Griffey Jr. and Craig Biggio baseball cards. I knew everyone's stats and had them memorized. I also had micro machines and my friends and I liked collecting them. My favorite was the Star Wars A-Wing fighter. I can still tell you that it can go 120 MGLT, faster than any fighter ship in the Star Wars galaxy (At the time of my last guidebook, it might have changed).
But why can't we have transit vehicles portrayed in the same way with stats and figures? Why can't we take a wikipedia entry and make micromachines out of the Siemens Combino or the S70 vehicles (which do not have a wikipedia entry)? There could be old time streetcars as well with Birney Safety Cars in a set with PCCs. Add in some historic buses. The point is that you can give younger folks, and even folks my age a reason to get excited when they see transit. Kids would know all of the streetcar types and would get excited when they saw them in cities. It would also make the city seem more interesting to kids who might never have been exposed to it living in the burbs.
The only reason I know about rapid transit is because my dad and I used to ride BART to the auto show at the Moscone Center during Christmas holiday on our visits to my grandparents house. Pop culture feeds kids cars in the form of hotwheels, power wheels and micro machines, if we want to change views of transit, we have to look at how they get into our sub conscience so early. Perhaps trading cards, perhaps hasbro?
Thursday, July 12, 2007
For developers in New York, parking is the highest and best use for below-grade space and fetches about the same price per square foot as actual living space, which costs much more to develop. According to Miller Samuel, the average parking space costs $165,019, or $1,100 per square foot, close to the average apartment price of $1,107 per square foot. Those are averages, of course. A $200,000 parking space is about $1,333 per square foot.
But I'll make sure I pay the fare, instead of perhaps doing it the more dangerous way as seen below.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Part 1. Local Rail
Part 2. Rapid Transit
It's an interesting series and spawned a lot of discussion when some bus oriented folks tried to spread talking points from some libertarian think tanks including the Cascade Policy Institute. My favorites included the use of Portland's stat sheet to point out that buses were better than rail in operating hours and also someone arguing on behalf of the Bus Riders Union talking points. One person went so far as to say that each LRV costs $12 million which is ridiculous.
In any event i'm going to re-post some excerpts of my comments below...
...More stats from that ridership chart (Portland, 2004) that matter... Lets look at subsidy per rider, .62 cents for rail to $1.20 for bus, the cost per passenger mile (because we are comparing two different service types) .68 cents for bus versus .29 cents per passenger mile for rail and Max carries 41% of the passenger miles!...
...his argument really revolved around the thought that you could replace a whole system with buses, but then you look at how much they cost per passenger mile and staffing those some 6,000 buses would have broken the operating bank...
...So lets look at the cost of buses versus trains in real costs...just vehicles. In 2007 your transit authority buys two LRVs for six million. It carries 464 passengers per two car consist with one driver. 60 foot articulated buses (nothing longer is legal in the US nor should it be if it is on the same streets as cars) carry 90 passengers max. So to carry the load of the LRT you need about 5 buses. Those 5 buses cost about a million each, each need a driver and have to be replaced in 12 years which means in 24 years you have spent 6 million on two LRVs and 10 million on 10 buses not to mention inflation for the 12 year bus replacement. Then, you have the costs of paving the roads, which in the case of the Orange Line in LA are already messed up (photo proof) But no one ever adds those costs in. Nor do they mention that rail attracts 34-43% more riders...
...Let's also look at energy usage...The Department of Energy Oakridge Lab puts out data every year. The most recent shows rail on top again. 4,318 BTU per passenger mile for bus versus an average of 2,978 BTU per passenger mile of any rail (Amtrak, Rapid Transit and Commuter Rail)...
And so on and so forth. Go ahead and check out Kos. If you aren't a diarist over there you might want to sign up so you can take part in the discussions. However it takes a week I believe before you can post because they don't want folks to just make up names and jump on.
Monday, July 9, 2007
It's might be better in the long run. Because we really don't want to have rail in the median of a freeway. It might be cheaper but I'm not sure its so great for urbanism given that the high speeds and winds generated from the freeway. It scares away pedestrians. Denver's line seems to be doing well. But I think if there was a subway through Orinda and Lafayette on BART, they would be much different places.
Sunday, July 8, 2007
But what does this say about the overall consumer culture and our debt? Given that the median balance on the American credit card is $1,900, and 43% of Americans spend more than they earn, does this mean we are slaves to our cars?
According to this MSN Money article, the debt of America outside of our Mortgage is largely tied to non-revolving loans like the ones available for people to buy cars. That's just the capital cost for the car. Now what about operating the thing and roads? In 2005, the average American spends 18% of their income on transportation. Recent research suggests that this fluctuates between the exurbs and transit rich urban core with a difference of up to 16% between the extremes of 25% and 9% respectively.
In my own experience, I drive my car once a week and fill up the tank once a month. I probably wouldn't drive at all if my grandmother didn't live so far from BART. Otherwise I take Muni, BART, or walk. I would say that I'm around the 9% in transportation costs which allows me to pay a bit more in rent than I normally would be able to afford. But I'm also able to save up some money.
So in a consumer based, auto oriented society, we are largely tied to our cars, figuratively and sometimes literally. Over the last 60 years we've been so tied down that even personal finance software doesn't give us a transit choice but to enter it in ourselves. But as we've found out from parking, when given the choice for someone to unbundle, a lot of people will choose the alternative because there is one to choose. Someone gave an analogy recently, and forgive me for stealing it if you're reading but if there is a shelf full of only Pepsi how can you say that no one wanted to buy Coke? The choice wasn't there.
Friday, July 6, 2007
In their 2006 TOD Status Report, RTD-Denver, the local transit authority, reports that...
Some 3,704 residential units, 460,000 square feet of retail, and 300,000 square feet of office space have either been built or are currently under construction...An additional 3,713 residential units, 600 hotel rooms, 440,000 square feet of retail, 860,000 square feet of office space have been proposed. When added to projects at the I-25/Broadway transfer station, these 15 proposed projects have been an estimated value of approximately $1.7 billion.That's a good amount of TOD and I'm sure that some of the completed units have contributed to the elevated ridership.
Thursday, July 5, 2007
Wednesday, July 4, 2007
Every time we walked out of my door I saw my car sitting on the curb and smiled. It's a great liberating feeling to know that I can get around without having to get in the car. I don't have to do the driving meaning i can chat with my sister about how good the movie is without worrying about hitting people while using hand gestures. We could walk to the grocery store and stop in shops along the way that sold wine, cheese, beer, shoes or whatever else. We could also listen to the little kids talking about Star Wars and Pokeman. It's pretty cool, I'm not gonna lie, I just wish everyone had the same options.
Feel Free to post your own transit-oriented Independence Day in the Comments.
Monday, July 2, 2007
Streetcars are cheaper because of their lower infrastructure requirements. Often there is no need to relocat utilities, right of way does not need to be purchased and the stops are smaller and the vehicles more pedestrian oriented. Streetcar stops are also closely spaced if the goal is to be a circulator or short line transport mode. However if a longer distance transit mode that mimics light rail is what you're looking for, but your city is on a budget, the rapid streetcar might be your choice.
Many cities have taken up the mantle of the rapid bus to be their cost effective alternative to light rail, but only do this based on cost, not because its what the citizenry wants. Recent Rapid Bus movements in Oakland, San Francisco, and Charlotte have shown that people really want light rail on a budget but haven't been able to engineer their systems to reduce costs and are therefore left with an inferior transit mode for their stated goals.
But by using streetcars in center lanes with single tracking and passing sidings at stations you can get the same performance as light rail on 10 minute headways. Streetcars aren't single vehicles either. Skoda streetcars have couplers on them as well that would make them multiple car consists. The lighter vehicles are about 66 feet long as opposed to 90 foot LRVs yet you can still get increased passenger capacity and lower infrastructure needs. You can see in the picture below from Skoda.
This fascinating development in value engineering is nothing new and has been rarely used in the United States if at all. A recent extension of the Portland Streetcar to Lake Oswego might be its first test. Literature on the subject has been presented at TRB by Lyndon Henry and has been extensively covered by Light Rail Now! Recent publications including Raise the Hammer in Canada as well as the folks in Kansas City have been looking to this option. This technology and engineering arrangement is a smart way for cities to get rapid transit and build the system they want and can afford, not the system they settle for.