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BikePortland Podcast: Dude, where’s my bike share?

Posted by on November 15th, 2013 at 11:44 am

I’m excited to share this month’s podcast! But before we get into the topic of discussion, I want to point out a few changes: It’s now officially called the BikePortland Podcast; we’ve updated the logo; and you can now find our stream via Soundcloud. And next month, we’ve got an even bigger change in store when take a step up in recording quality thanks to our friends at Sprocket Studios who’ve agreed to host us.

Now, on to the podcast…

This month, Lily Karabaic (producer), Michael Andersen (director) and I delve into Portland Bike Share. As our long-time readers know, Portland has been planning for bike share since 2006. Yes, it was eight years ago when then Transportation Commissioner Sam Adams first got excited about the idea and pledged to launch a system in Portland. Back then, it was all about being the first major U.S. city to have such a system.

Since then of course, bike share has become a common mode of public transit and it seems like every major city (and even some minor ones) except Portland have a system in place. What gives? Why are we still waiting for it? Will it even be that big a deal? Will smaller-scale, peer-to-peer systems beat PBOT to the punch? Listen to what Lily, Michael and I have to say about those topics and much more…

Note from Michael: At one point I say that Citibank spent “what, $6 million for five years” to sponsor New York’s Citi Bike. It’s more like $8.2 million for each of five years. Still a pretty terrific bargain.

— You can download and subscribe to our podcast via iTunes, or listen to it via a direct link. If you’ve missed a past episode, browse the archives. If you’d like to sponsor an upcoming episode, contact Jonathan Maus at (503) 706-8804 or if you have feedback, drop us a line at podcast@bikeportland.org.

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  • Josh G November 15, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    Thanks… Soundcloud makes streaming much easier for non ITune-ers than just opening M4A file.

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  • Zed November 15, 2013 at 2:25 pm

    I think you would do well to collaborate with the Sprocket Podcast.

    They have done many bike related podcasts. I believe he even interviewed some of your Bike Portland crew before, too.

    I’m all about seeing mashups.

    http://www.thepodcasthost.com/thesprocketpodcast/

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  • Max November 15, 2013 at 2:40 pm

    I think you guys missed the boat on this — the argument about east Portland isn’t “if we can’t have it everywhere, we should have it nowhere” or “maybe we should build (something that doesn’t work) ONLY in East Portland”. The issue is that East Portland (or even just east of say SE 52nd ave) has been neglected to such a degree that often even the most basic of infrastructure — the curb/paved road — is still missing. Or maybe it’s a sidewalk for a kid to walk to school on (http://bikeportland.org/2013/03/01/east-portland-fatality-puts-heat-on-citys-paving-priority-83597).

    So the REAL issue is “how can we justify spending public money to upgrade bicycling to v8.0 for the ‘already haves’ when the ‘have nots’ are not even at ‘v1.0′ yet?”

    This is the story of Portland that nobody wants to talk about; and the degree that people turn a blind eye to this is almost comical. That’s precisely what happened on Vancouver/Williams — “What does a bike lane have to do with racism?” The “two sides of Portland” was the topic of the “State of the Reunion” podcast when they came to town (http://stateofthereunion.com/portland-or-a-tale-of-two-cities/). They saw this issue, but your average progressive Portlander probably does not. Very telling is the very end, when the host asks everyone “Do you feel included?” and all of the young white people said “Yes” and all of the non-white people said (paraphrasing) “I make myself included”.

    In a sense, the merging of Portland Afoot is another example of this — we’re taking news coverage away from something that was already lacking (public transportation, walking) and shifting those resources over to something that already has excellent coverage (bicycling). The excellent coverage is largely due to BikePortland.org itself.

    Obviously Jonathan and Michael, you are not obligated to be crusaders for equity or cover any specific topics (in the same sense that I am not obligated to plant vegetables in my backyard). This blog should be (is) what you want it to be; and I think that’s great. Still, I feel like it’s important to me to state where the need is, even if (for whatever, if any, reason) it does not garner the media coverage that it should.

    BTW: Yes Jonathan, you do not completely ignore East Portland – I see 5 stories tagged “East Portland” for 2013, 0 for 2012, and 9 for 2011. But what percentage is that? 1%?

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    • Anne Hawley November 15, 2013 at 4:05 pm

      I feel like some of this issue was articulated at Wednesday’s City Club panel discussion at VeloCult. Mychal Tetteh of the Community Cycling Center zeroed in on it pretty specifically. It was the first time I’d heard the problem put so clearly–basically that “we” (those present at VeloCult, and presumably the privileged bicycle-riding, close-in-living segment that “we” represent) live in a very different world not only from the rest of the US, but even from most of Portland.

      I came away from the discussion feeling overwhelmed at the sheer magnitude of the inequities, but it was enlightening.

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      • spare_wheel November 15, 2013 at 11:11 pm

        a city club panel that required pre-registration and a “suggested” donation.

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        • Anne Hawley November 17, 2013 at 10:24 am

          As I understood it, the “donation” was for pizza. I went, I bought a drink, I attended, the end.

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      • Oregon Mamacita November 16, 2013 at 9:55 am

        I sure respect your open minded comment- mucho integrity. A willingness to shift one’s opinion with new facts is very rare- we all tend to cling to our beliefs. Myself included. Keep reflecting and sharing.

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    • Michael Andersen (News Editor) November 15, 2013 at 6:00 pm

      Max, great critique.

      First of all, there has been and continues to be lots of racism and other stupid, destructive inequalities in the way Portland (like too many cities) divvies up resources including transportation infrastructure. I highly recommend that SOTRU podcast to every Portlander as a good way to learn more about this and get some hope for the potential that we can all do better to live together.

      Bike sharing systems don’t currently serve everyone equally; we’ve covered that problem somewhat. We covered it on Wednesday, for example.
      http://bikeportland.org/2013/11/13/bill-would-make-bike-sharing-benefits-tax-deductible-but-theres-a-catch-97035

      I don’t think it’s anywhere close to accurate, though, to call biking in downtown Portland “v8.0.” I think we’re the first ones to admit that it’s better to bike in the central city than in East Portland, and that this is both awful and dumb. But if biking in the central city were so amazing, then tens of thousands more people would be doing so, especially people who can’t spring for a car or a TriMet pass without major sacrifices. And by doing so, they’d be improving the region for everyone, reducing the cost of getting more and cheaper homes in the urban core (due to lower parking and road costs), making the central city safer and cleaner for the thousands of low-income Portlanders who currently live there and making the whole economy more prosperous and efficient.

      Meanwhile, we have projects such as the one described in the link below, which will cost the public TEN TIMES as much as our bikeshare launch to make a few blocks of road that aren’t even congested worse for everyone, all in the name of postponing by a couple decades the inevitable day when people will need to use something other than their car to get around central Beaverton.
      http://bikeportland.org/2013/11/15/priority-check-washington-county-will-spend-21-million-highway-improvement-project-97184

      I’m glad you feel compelled to urge us to cover biking more outside the central city. You’re right that we could do more, and we don’t have to sacrifice reader interest to do so: The Foster plan, for example, affects many thousands of East Portlanders and our reporting on it has been some of our most popular infrastructure coverage of the year. Calls for us to do more stuff that doesn’t happen to be on either Jonathan’s commute (from Rosa Parks) or mine (from NE 65th) are essential and always welcome. Please keep reminding us to do so. I cover low-car transportation because my main professional interest is local policy that breaks the poverty cycle, and I think better urban transportation is one of the most obvious, achievable, relatively painless ways to do so. I’m always always always looking for interesting stories that advance this.

      But I hope you’re also compelled to spread the word that the region’s continued prioritization of urban auto traffic speeds and low-cost auto parking, as manifested by projects like the one above, is way way crazier than creating a central-city bike sharing system that’s been proven to increase transit ridership, transform public attitudes about biking and serve thousands of people every day at minimal cost.

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      • Max November 16, 2013 at 4:22 pm

        I think bike share is a tough sell because it’s very public; and when you have something flashy & new you’re going to have lots of opinions. Highway/roadway projects do not have this “flashiness”, so perhaps that is why they do not commonly come under scrutiny.

        Still, I think it’s hard to justify spending even $2M (or whatever it costs), when the average street in Brentwood Darlington (which is hardly “East Portland”) still lacks even a basic curb. Do you think those folks, who are currently pushing their stroller down the middle of the street, are going to weigh in positively for Bike Share?

        This is what I mean when I say “v8.0″ vs “v1.0″. Sure downtown cycling could be improved, but what is the acceptable disparity level?

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        • anon1q2w3e4r5t November 16, 2013 at 9:49 pm

          “Still, I think it’s hard to justify spending even $2M (or whatever it costs), when the average street in Brentwood Darlington (which is hardly “East Portland”) still lacks even a basic curb. Do you think those folks, who are currently pushing their stroller down the middle of the street, are going to weigh in positively for Bike Share?”

          ^^^^THIS!

          Bike sharing = public convenience
          Bicycle/pedestrian infrastructure = public safety

          Why are we squandering public money on convenience?

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          • davemess November 18, 2013 at 9:58 am

            Except that most of it ISN’T public money (and much of it that is is supposed a loan).

            (and I live in Brentwood Darlington)

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            • anon1q2w3e4r5t November 18, 2013 at 11:15 am

              http://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/387774

              ^^^ under, “Who’s paying for it?”, says other wise.

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              • Alan 1.0 November 18, 2013 at 1:55 pm

                That says:

                “Regional leaders approved the use of federal transportation funds in 2011 to help start Portland bike share. Private sponsorships and revenue from bike share memberships and user fees will cover remaining costs for the bike share system.”

                So, I gather you are objecting to the part where Portlanders get returns of dollars on the penny?

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                • anon1q2w3e4r5t November 18, 2013 at 2:28 pm

                  Public safety > Public convenience

                  …then we’ll discuss the point you’re trying to make.

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                • Alan 1.0 November 18, 2013 at 3:10 pm

                  My point was just trying to clarify your point, which you haven’t done.

                  Putting more bikes on the street makes streets safe for everybody, so I guess you’ve come around on bikeshare, finally.

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                • davemess November 18, 2013 at 6:33 pm

                  Anon, what does that even meet? Answering a question with another question definitely doesn’t make your point any clearer?

                  Did you miss the article this last week of the pretty impressive safety record of NYC’s bikeshare?

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                • anon1q2w3e4r5t November 19, 2013 at 11:21 am

                  Alan 1.0,

                  No, I am absolutely against bike sharing. I made my point clear: public safety > public convenience.

                  And, my response to you regarding the safety of bike sharing can be read here:

                  http://bikeportland.org/2013/07/05/guess-what-nycs-bike-share-system-is-popular-and-working-well-89689#comment-4241291

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                • davemess November 19, 2013 at 12:16 pm

                  Anon, your logic is fatally flawed. If there is the same number of bike-related deaths after bike share (that increases ridership), than biking actually has been made safe per capita. The same deaths with more riders.

                  This isn’t a zero sum game and there a plethora of other benefits to bike share besides “public safety”.

                  So your solution to increasing public safety is to limit access to bikes?

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              • anon1q2w3e4r5t November 19, 2013 at 11:49 am

                daveness,

                Public safety comes before public convenience. Did you not read Max’s comment above? A snippet of what he said: “…those folks, who are currently pushing their stroller down the middle of the street…”. You completely turn a blind eye to the people living in an area without proper pedestrian infrastructure in order to satisfy your appetite for convenience. A convenience, which btw, will hamper the long-term goals of the livable streets/city community.

                Also, to add to my response:

                http://bikeportland.org/2013/07/05/guess-what-nycs-bike-share-system-is-popular-and-working-well-89689#comment-4241291

                Furthermore, every Friday Streetsblogs NYC (www.streetsblog.org) posts a list of fatalities on the streets of NYC. When the “pretty impressive safety record” of NYC’s bike sharing program significantly curbs the number of fatalities on that list, then we can talk.

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                • davemess November 19, 2013 at 2:10 pm

                  You really don’t know how to debate very well do you? You simply reiterate your point and don’t address anything anyone else says. That’s a strategy not likely to convert many to your side.

                  So less cars and more bikes on the streets will “hamper the long-term goals of the livable streets/city community”?

                  So a good percentage of the funding for bike share will come from public funding. Some of it will come from federal funds, which maybe might have been appropriated in some way to other areas of Portland or Oregon, but most likely wouldn’t. So what is bike share taking away from the city again? You’re trying to mix apples and oranges, that bike share is directly taking away money earmarked for sidewalks. That’s simply not the case.

                  Again i’ll reiterate: if cycling has increased in NYC as a result of bike share and the cycling-related deaths have stayed the same, then cycling has actually become safer in NYC.

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                • anon1q2w3e4r5t November 20, 2013 at 9:16 am

                  daveness,

                  Look at the timestamps of my 2 posts that you recently replied to. I’m not reiterating, my comments are being unnecessarily being held from view until the moderators approve them.

                  Anyways, how can I debate with an irrational person?

                  READ FIRST:

                  http://bikeportland.org/2011/08/16/as-opposition-grows-supporters-defend-bike-share-funding-decision-57732

                  PBOT specifically requested funding (public money) for bike sharing instead of requesting funding for basic safety infrastructure (sidewalks). There are people who do not have sidewalks to walk on RIGHT NOW and have to resort to walking on the streets. In essence, you, BTA, and all other bike sharing supporters in Portland are saying who cares about those people, we want our convenience now! Oh, and for what it’s worth, our convenience MAY also, SOME TIME IN THE FUTURE, provide additional benefits such as making our streets safer.

                  to be continued….

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                • davemess November 20, 2013 at 2:57 pm

                  I’m starting to think this is wsbob, based on continued misspelling of my name.

                  You posted a 2.5 year old page, with dead links. Is the current potential funding for bike share still the same? Was this money actually allotted to bikeshare back then?
                  You can say what you want about neighborhoods lacking sidewalks, I live in one, and have been a proponent for them for a while. The sad truth is that the city has stated that it is (unjustly in my mind) up to the homeowner to pay for a sidewalk or paved street in front of their house. If you can show me where there is documentation showing that federal funding for bikeshare won out of adding new sidewalks in Portland, I would love to see it. The link you posted shows a Barbur project (which I can see being important, and still being debated currently), Foster project (which is currently being pretty well funded and actually doesn’t really add any new sidewalk sections where none currently exist), and undefined “East Portland’ projects.

                  You can call me irrational all you want. I’ve ridden bikeshare in other cities and think it would be a great addition to Portland. Will it fix all our problems? Of course not. Do I wish it was entirely privately funded? Yes. Do I think it’s a project solely based on “convenience”, as you keep stating? Nope (and do you define buses as “convenience”? If the current plan for stations holds up, bikeshare won’t even directly effect me, as I live in one of the neighborhoods with “those people”. That doesn’t mean I don’t think it’s a worthwhile idea.

                  Clearly we’re not going to change each other’s minds, so I’ll just end it there.

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                • anon1q2w3e4r5t November 21, 2013 at 10:47 am

                  daveMESS!

                  No, I’m not wsbob, but maybe that person also has a super high-res screen that makes text really small, and that’s why we’ve misspelled your name.

                  I have another reply to you coming after this one (it’s going to be good), but for now you can read the following:

                  http://bikeportland.org/2011/12/08/equity-concerns-raised-as-metro-approves-bike-share-funding-63345

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) November 15, 2013 at 6:41 pm

      Max,

      Thanks for the feedback. A few of my thoughts.

      First, we only touched on the East Portland equity issue briefly, as that wasn’t the topic of this podcast. Also, the idea that East Portland has been neglected, transportation-wise — especially compared to downtown — just doesn’t hold water as of late. In the past several years, since Mayor Adams committed to East Portland, millions in active transportation infrastructure — sidewalks, bike lanes, transit improvements, road diets, new crossings, and so on — have been spent in east Portland. Meanwhile, the central city has had just a pittance. I’m not saying East Portland is on part with inner n’hoods. Far from it. But let’s be careful with the narrative in light of recent changes in policy and investment.

      PBOT is aware of this fact as well, which is why they are now starting to look at downtown investments, like the $6 million grant for downtown bike paths and of course, bike share.

      As for the amount of coverage we give east Portland. Michael made some points about that… Another is that this is a daily bike news site… and there simply isn’t as much bike news in east Portland.

      And you’re right. My business is not a non-profit advocacy group looking to spread bicycling to all parts of the city. My business is to create and then sell information. That being said, your final paragraph that attempts to make a point about how few stories there are on east Portland is misguided for not just the reason I pointed out in the paragraph above… But because my story tags are sort of a big, incomplete mess. I assure you there are more east Portland stories in my archives than just the ones you can find in the tags.

      Thanks again for your comment. Like Michael said, we appreciate being told what readers want and where we might be overlooking something.

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    • Oregon Mamacita November 16, 2013 at 9:19 am

      Now Max. don’t give them too hard a time. Bike Portland recently acknowledged the Hispanic working class with a moving missive re: don’t blow the leaves in my bike lane. On Portland Transport, Chris. S. had a touching plea that the owners of a bakery on Division: don’t let your employees hog the bike racks. So there is great sensitivity to those outside the magic zip codes, who may not have a Thule rack on the Subaru.

      Actually, you have one of the best posts explaining why people in East Portland are tired of years of neglect. Go on Division St now- they are investing millions in bioswales on every corner, whereas deep SE has unpaved roads.

      The request for someone on SE 127 and Mill to finance a bike share outside of Nordstrom’s is a shockingly selfish request. Stop making it.

      No ration person would believe the city when they say they intend to do right by any area of SE not coveted by developers. Seeing the dollars lavished on DE Division is proof that the word “equity” is hollow in Portland.

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      • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) November 16, 2013 at 5:00 pm

        Might be worth mentioning that PBOT has promised that Portland Bike Share won’t use any public dollars. The start-up funding was secured with a federal grant that would not have paid for east portland sidewalks and the rest of the funds are expected to come from corporate sponsorship.

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        • anon1q2w3e4r5t November 16, 2013 at 9:02 pm

          So, where does the money from a federal grant come from?

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          • Chris I November 18, 2013 at 7:22 am

            The feds won’t give you money to rebuild streets and add sidewalks in east Portland. If you want to destroy east Portland neighborhoods by building and widening freeways, you can get millions of federal dollars.

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        • Oregon Mamacita November 17, 2013 at 8:59 am

          Jonathan, the funds for bike share are coming from tax payers. The grant money from the Feds could have been used for another active transportation project, one that could have benefited Gasteway or Lents or Rockwood. So I stand by my critique of bike share outside of Nordstroms. Let Nordies pay for it.

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  • davemess November 15, 2013 at 4:51 pm

    Lily really hit the nail on the head with the fact that bikeshare can really bring down barriers to cycling, like theft and maintenance (specifically in East PDX). I envision bike share working SO well in tandem with the green line. I mean who wouldn’t want to have a bike to ride to the MAX and back?

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    • Nick Falbo November 16, 2013 at 11:29 am

      One of the challenges of bringing bike share outside of the city center is the traditional requirement that stations are distributed densely around an area. You can’t just put one bike share kiosk at a green line station, you need to provide dozens of stations in the surrounding neighborhoods. This is why it doesn’t work.

      But I wonder if there *is* an approach that could work farther out. Could you dot a high quality commercial bikeway corridor with stations every 5 or 10 blocks, rather than try to do full district coverage? It would almost work and look more like a streetcar line.

      Imaging a great cycle track running along Outer Sandy, or Foster, or 82nd, and now imagine highly visible bike share stations every 5-10 blocks. I could absolutely see the surrounding neighbors hop on those bikes, cruise up the low stress bikeway and park a mile up to get to their stores. But to make this work we need to be building facilities that are much better than bike lanes.

      (Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not express the views or opinions of my employer)

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      • davemess November 18, 2013 at 10:02 am

        Nick, has anyone actually tried this to say definitely that it doesn’t work? I think there are enough population/commerce centers within a few miles of the green line to at least make this somewhat feasible (even just putting in a dozen stations in the area).

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        • Alan 1.0 November 18, 2013 at 1:40 pm

          I think it was Minneapolis where they first tried a more widely spaced kiosk structure out into less dense neighborhoods. The uptake was poor, bike distribution wasn’t working well and the system was failing. They re-deployed the kiosks closer together, pulling them into the downtown core, and the system took off. I may have some details wrong but I think that’s the case that’s usually cited. Whether other models could be made to work in other circumstances is still an open question but in a make-or-break decision I understand why they’d go with a proven strategy.

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          • davemess November 18, 2013 at 6:36 pm

            Well maybe they have redistributed again. I was in Minneapolis in May and used Nice Ride, and it was pretty farfetched at points. I was actually almost entirely able to ride if from downtown back to the airport (which were in tandem with their light rail line (and a pretty nice bike path).

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  • Andy K November 19, 2013 at 8:54 am

    Great job on the podcast. I don’t agree with all your points, but the format, sound quality, and podcast length are all awesome!

    I wish TriMet would take over the BikeShare program and subsidize the hell out of it, because it can’t sustain itself IMO. They have the infrastructure/ROW to do it.

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    • davemess November 19, 2013 at 12:18 pm

      Andy this is actually a decent idea. In Minneapolis I was amazed at how it almost felt like bike share and their transit system seemed pitted against each other. None of the bike share kiosks were on any of the transit maps. Seems like they could work so well together. I know they are run by different entities (and maybe competition between the two and the worry of loss of ridership drives the disconnect), but seems like their could be some overlap for the benefit of the community (and definitely for out of town folks like myself who didn’t know the area at all).

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