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City wants feedback on winter storm response

Posted by on January 14th, 2009 at 4:16 pm

Snow scenes from 12-17

Some Portlanders continued to ride bikes
during the storm.
(Photo © J. Maus)

The Mayor’s office has launched a survey to help gather feedback about how they responded to the major storm we had at the end of 2008 (take it online here).

The survey is part of a “snow and ice readiness assessment” that the Mayor’s office has undertaken. It’s obvious the City (and TriMet) was caught off-guard with the storm. After acknowledging the “tireless work” of city employees and citizens, in the introduction to the survey, the Mayor’s office says, “we would like to do better next time”.

In addition to asking where people received information about the storm and how Portlanders would rate the storm response of various bureaus and agencies, the 15 question survey focuses primarily on driving and taking transit.

Unfortunately there is no mention of biking in the survey.

The only non-transit or driving question pertains to pedestrians and asks, “Did you feel safe walking during the storm?” It would have been nice if there was a question that could capture how the biking conditions were and how the City might improve them next time.

I was one of many Portlanders that continued to bike on the snowy and icy streets. It was challenging at times, but overall I found it to be a viable way to get around (not to mention that biking is relatively cheap for taxpayers and the City’s budget — unlike driving cars and/or using TriMet).

Take the survey here.

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31 thoughts on “City wants feedback on winter storm response”

  1. Avatar bahueh says:

    I just took it.
    that is one CRAPTASTIC survey…
    doesn’t actually get to the root of any of the problems or range of solutions…

    who wrote that thing?

  2. Avatar sue says:

    Wow. That really was a horrible survey. Not even a feedback area.

  3. Avatar pabstslut says:

    I agree, it was pretty bad. I liked the part where they asked if you felt safe walking, and all the responses were ‘no’.

  4. Avatar a says:

    we’re still seeing the effects of this storm as there are major routes that haven’t had gravel cleanup yet

    (westside ramp to B’way bridge, as of this morning, for instance)

  5. Avatar RyNO Dan says:

    Despite the survey, I thought the city and trimet did a darned good job during the snowpocolypse, considering the circumstances. Perfection is just not possible, but good-on-them to try to do-it-better.

  6. Avatar Bjorn says:

    City = not bad especially early on although it got worse over time.

    Tri-met = unacceptable. 2/3 of routes closed and they still were unable to run 1 bus per hour on frequent service routes like 12 Sandy even when the streets were clear. Also the max shut downs were ridiculous. Tri-met got caught with their pants down.

    Communication between Tri-met and the City also not very good.

  7. Avatar Nate says:

    WOW! That was the worst survey I have ever taken. If the city is really interested in our feedback, they should let us give it to them.

  8. Avatar velocipede says:

    Yes, truly a terribly-written survey. I couldn’t even specify that I didn’t use chains because I didn’t actually need them given my level of (ahem) driving prowess.

    And, as mentioned, nothing on what it was like to get around by bike. It’s almost as if they don’t even notice we’re here unless we make a bunch of noise (or they’re looking for a scapegoat for their traffic frustrations).

  9. Avatar Joe Blow says:


    I thought they chained up all their busses, even had a news conference, all before the storm. After busses chained up, what else can they do.

    If you can’t drive in the bad weather, what makes you people think anyone else can.

    people need to be realistic. Damn. No one in portland has any idea on how to deal with bad weather. Sheesh! from gravel to unrealistic expectations, get over it, all of you. Move on already!

  10. Avatar jacob says:

    I can’t accurately complete the survey, it’s too car/transit centric, I don’t own a car, and avoid taking public transit when I can (which is most of the time).

    “Boo this man!”

  11. Avatar Lacorota says:

    As mentioned ad nauseum, here, and other forums, the priorities are centric towards anything that burns gas. Safe walking paths didn’t exist.

    Ditto for the leftover gravel. I suspect we’ll see the piles in our bike lanes until it’s washed off by spring rain. Maybe a little bailout money from the feds to clean our paths and sidewalks? Put some of Metro’s lethargic adminstrators and clip-board jockeys on the end of a broom or shovel??

  12. Avatar Machu Picchu says:

    This storm was like a real snowstorm in places where they really get snow. I moved here to get away from a place just like that. In those places, bicycles get put away when it “really snows”. It’s like we’re bitching about how fast the city (and others) get the leaves out of our way in a city of trees.

    Municipal budgets are going down the drain, so enjoy the gravelly bike lane while we still have it. Who knows what Mother Nature and a recession can conspire to.


  13. Avatar jo says:

    @ Joe Blow

    I think much of the criticism directed at TriMet has more to do with their lack of communication than their ability to keep routes open or drive. Many people were stranded, without warning, when routes were shut down.

    As far as the survey, questions 8-10 should reflect something along the line of the following: #8-If you have a car, did you drive anywhere? #9-If replied yes to #8, did you use chains? #10-If replied yes to #8 and no to #9, why? Plus, an option for #10 should be, “side streets not passable, even with chains.” Not to mention, if you answer no to #8, is it b/c you don’t have car?, or b/c you have a car but didn’t drive?

  14. Avatar Zaphod says:

    I didn’t hate the survey. It didn’t mention bikes which is surprising and not good but generally, it’s an ok data collection for transit and cars.

    All surveys have bias. This one probably fell victim of an unseen bias. Suppose the author is a cyclist but is afraid of sliding around in the snow and, while they usually bike, they used transit or other during the storm. They may have thought, “You’d have to be crazy to ride in this stuff.” So they wrote the survey with this as an untested assumption.

    For the rest of us who are maybe not so scared by a bit of snow and maybe have some experience drifting through corners in mud, sand and other loose tread found the snow to be easy and a blast to ride in. That is, when cars weren’t around.

    So we should perhaps forgive for the past trespass of a weak survey but now demand they change it since there were some cyclists who kept on rollin’ either by necessity or choice.

  15. Avatar Daniel F. says:

    I thought they chained up all their busses, even had a news conference, all before the storm. After busses chained up, what else can they do.”

    Not cancel all service on major streets (like BROADWAY for crying out loud), for one.

  16. Avatar cyclist says:

    I’ve really got to disagree with Lacorota (#11), there were plenty of good walking paths, mostly right in the middle of the street because on the worst days the cars weren’t driving much at all. I walked about a mile right down the middle of 17th and had to get out of the way once or twice for a car.

    I grew up in a place that received regular snowfall during the winter, when it snows people are supposed to get out their shovels and dig out their own sidewalks. If there was a lack of walkable paths for pedestrians, the vast majority of the blame has to lay on the owners of business and homes in the area. I’ll take my share of the blame, I didn’t dig out my own walk (I don’t own a shovel)… yet.

  17. Avatar jgadamski says:

    Overall I see movement by PDOT. Recognizing that they probably won’t put workers on overtime to address it, I see movement.

    ODOT is a horse of a different color. My particular issue is the StJohns Bridge. When the bridge was being rebuilt and the possibility of bike lanes on the bridge were discussed, ODOT shot them down even though their own studies show that the bottleneck are at the bride ends, not on the bridge itself. No bike lanes, cyclists must ride on the sidewalks or battle with trucks and road rage on narrow road lanes.

    Currently, the narrow lanes are laden with a carpet of gravel, forcing cyclists and peds to risk slipping onto the roadway. I have notified ODOT twice, and seen no results. US30 ( PDOT owned between sj bridge and NW Thurman..) is swept and rideable.

  18. Avatar Eileen says:

    They honestly need a survey or they are just doing the survey as a PR gesture because they know they royally messed up in their winter storm response?

  19. @cyclist (#16). We dug our own sidewalk every time fresh snow fell. Ours was the only clear section of sidewalk on the block unfortunately. This from a guys that grew up in California.

    I even shoveled a good section of the street one day (PBOT wasn’t ploughing there) in an effort to entice the garbage haulers to show. I’m talking from one curb to the other and the width of our property.

    It was good exercise for the days I missed biking to work.

  20. Avatar Joe says:

    good signs that tell people slower traffic ahead,, slow down please! or just close roads to cars,, 😉 woo walkers
    bikers and others only.. ok im dreaming again..

    had someone drive like 2 feet from my rear wheel as to tell me get out of my way. well this is the safest stop sorry..

    SHARE THE SIDE walk please. 🙂 I won’t run you down.. thank you

    warning please limit auto use today.. hehe

  21. Avatar a says:

    the City’s response was minimal & shameful

    trimet at least got people moving and did so despite the City’s best efforts to ignore the snow

    john lascurettes, good for you! i did the same thing!

    in addition to keeping my walks & driveway clean, the day before the final melt, i cleared the deep pile of mashed potatoes that plows left at the mouth of our side street (that prevented normal-clearance cars from leaving our street). this helped folks get out and about when the main streets were finally melted

    portlanders without shovels?!? how do you tend your urban farm?!?
    clear your sidewalks people!! and do your neighbor’s too if they need a hand…

    there’s no reason we should be stuck at home or in danger walking down the sidewalk

  22. Avatar Stan says:

    Got to give PDOT props for cleaning up the gravel and gunk at the Broadway & NW Lovejoy intersection and down the Broadway ramp. 100% better.

  23. Avatar JE says:

    The City and Tri Met are always “caught off guard” and end every winter promising “to do better next time.” Yet year after year, if it snows I simply put chains on my truck and drive to work past the frozen Max lines and stuck buses.

  24. Avatar AL M says:

    That was great, thanks for that!
    I haven’t seen this survey until now!

  25. Avatar Jesse says:

    When filling out the survey, include comments about bikes within the free text areas. There may not be a field specifically for it, but at least it’s there and maybe people will see it.

  26. Avatar Oliver says:

    I have a 5 mile one way commute. I made it to work every day, to the grocery when I had to, to my local when i needed too (often!) One day right in the very thick of the storm, I even made it from my house to my work in 58 minutes, and that involved walking into downtown from the RQTC.

    The Yellow Line Shuttle was working apparently flawlessly. The big problem seemed to be connections, and I guess I didn’t actually need any.

    One thing I would like to know is why the pedestrian facilites on the Steel Bridge were shut down. There were barricades on the top and gates across the bottom. Denying people the ability to walk out of downtown I think was a mistake, especially given it’s proximity to the RQTC. Anyone know the thoughts behind this decision?

  27. Avatar a says:

    Stan @ #22

    yeah, after posting yesterday about B’way Bridge, this morning I saw they’d cleaned up.

  28. Avatar jim says:

    never did chain up, did carry a shovel though and used it. we had some trips to Salem and back- took much time

  29. Avatar jim says:

    I wish the city had some sidewalk size snowplows for the major coridors, some people walked many miles in the street because the sidewalks were impassible. A city crewmwmber could have gone all the way down a sidewlk like broadway and made a huge difference. It is dangerous to be in the road in the snow as after a while you may be distracted and not notice a car approaching that is barely able to go in a straight line let alone try and weave around a pedestrian. i would put plowing a sidewalk ahead of plowing a street as a priority as most people had the sense not to drive

  30. Avatar KWW says:

    to paraphrase David Chappelle as Rick James, ‘I wish I had 4 hands – so I can give 4 thumbs down’ – to the storm response!

    I believe a large part of the problem, was that Trimet couldn’t get enough drivers to get to work (everyone was stuck to an extent). Late in the storm, I passed the SE bus depot and it was FULL of buses, and staffing HAD to be an issue.

    To an extent it is a management/union issue – workers can only work so many hours by federal/state law.

    I would like to see Trimet publish some metrics on this, it would help people understand the storm response better.

    As for the city? I haven’t got a clue as to why even major arteries were never plowed. Cheapness probably. Piss poor job from a usually great city government…

  31. Avatar TOM says:

    2008 ? 6 years ago and they are asking now ?

    The Mayor’s office has launched a survey to help gather feedback about how they responded to the major storm we had at the end of 2008

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