Gas prices? What gas prices?
The great gasoline plunge of late 2014 hasn’t cut the rate of Portlanders biking to work, at least not in 2015.
In fact, drive-alone commuting among Portland residents hit a modern-day low last year — the fifth such record in six years — and public transit commuting jumped to a modern high of 13.4 percent.
Thursday’s data was the first to reveal whether the recent gas price drop has reduced bike commuting nationwide.
That’s according to the Census Bureau’s annual commuting estimates, released Thursday.
The number of low-car Portland households, those with more adults than autos, was stable for the fifth year in a row. At least 24 percent of all Portland households remain in this category, and they account for 49 percent of household growth since 2005.
Bicycle commuting surged in many U.S. cities, most dramatically in Portland, during the gas price spike of the 2000s. More recently, the drop in gas prices has led to a rebound in driving. Thursday’s data was the first to reveal whether that shift had also reduced bike commuting.
That’s good news, Portland Transportation Director Leah Treat said in an emailed statement Wednesday.
“Portland is growing, but our roadway space is not,” she wrote. “If we want to avoid choking on congestion, we have to reduce our reliance on single occupancy vehicles. That’s why I am heartened by these latest Census numbers.”
Bike commuting rates hold steady nationwide
Portland’s estimated bike-commuting rate was 7 percent in 2015, statistically equivalent to the 7.2 percent estimate from 2014.
That makes it nearly certain that the 2014 surge in bike commuting — 5,000 new commuters, ending a five-year plateau — was no polling fluke.
Also in 2015, Portland’s bike-commuting gender balance ticked closer to parity, reaching 37 percent female. The national figure is 29 percent. Portland’s ratio was 29 percent in 2005 and has been trending mostly upward since.
Elsewhere in the country, bike commuting rates were mostly stable in 2015. Nationally, they remained at 0.6 percent, continuing a four-year plateau.
What might be called the “Big Five” bike commuting cities — Portland, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Washington and Seattle — all held more or less steady. Of that group Minneapolis saw the biggest uptick, cracking 5 percent biking for the first time.
Among the nation’s biggest cities, Chicago continues to show the steadiest growth. Powered by major bike infrastructure investments, the city (which happens to be Treat’s previous employer) doubled bike-commute rates over the last decade and is up to an estimated 1.8 percent bike commuting.
New York City and Los Angeles both posted 1.2 percent in 2015, continuing their plateaus of the last few years.
Driving hits a new low thanks to public transit rebound
Thursday’s figures brought TriMet some of its best news in 10 years.
Portland’s regional transit agency has had a rough decade. First, the new Yellow and Green MAX lines delivered no large payoff in ridership; later, an 11 percent service cut during the Great Recession sent wait times upward, especially at bus stops.
In Portland, transit commuting slipped to a long-term low of 11.1 percent in 2012. Until today, it seemed as if that might have been the start of an indefinite downward shift.
But things seems to have turned around in 2015, at least among Portland commuters. An estimated 13.4 percent of Portlanders got to work by mass transit last year, well up from an average 11.8 percent over the previous five years. If the trend holds, it’d bring mass transit commuting back to 2005 levels.
Thanks to the transit increase and to a smaller rise in foot commuting, Portland’s drive-alone commuting rate slid to 57.2 percent, probably its lowest level in decades.
Alan Lehto, TriMet’s director of planning and policy, said Wednesday that he wasn’t sure what had driven the apparent rise in transit commuting by Portland residents.
“There’s not one obvious thing to point to,” he said. “We’ve clearly made some improvements in service throughout the city.”
TriMet service finally surpassed its 2009 levels this year, Lehto said. But he said most of those bus frequency improvements were midday, not during rush hours.
Oddly, though, he said it’s midday TriMet service that seems to be struggling most for riders lately.
“Our overall system annual ridership is pretty much the same this year as it was last year, and it’s been running in the same range the last few years,” Lehto said.
Lehto said the agency is “doing some more analysis” to study its current ridership strengths and weaknesses.
This is a sign that Portland policy is working – but a course change is being planned anyway
Portlanders’ continuing decline in driving to work, in the face of a strong economy and falling gas prices, follows decades of investments by the state and city in non-car transportation like bikes, buses and light rail.
At every level, Portlanders have elected politicians who say they support lower driving rates, especially within the city.
Thursday’s Census figures are the latest sign that this is working. Each of the last eight years, drive-alone rates have fallen by eight-tenths of a percentage point on average. If that continues, by 2025 less than half of Portland commuters will drive alone.
But the state and city are currently planning a major investment in driving.
The agencies are beginning a push toward funding what would be the biggest freeway capacity expansion within Portland city limits in many years: new lanes on Interstate 5 at the Rose Quarter.
A major goal of that $350 million project, of course, is to make it easier for more people to drive on Portland’s freeways during rush hours.
The Rose Quarter freeway widening might wind up as a piece of a possible transportation bill under discussion for 2017. It’s also possible that Measure 97, the corporate sales tax on November’s ballot, could accidentally send the state transportation department enough new money that it wouldn’t need to ask for a gas tax hike.
In any case, Treat focused her statement Wednesday on helping people escape congestion without setting aside more urban space for driving.
“Portlanders continue to get out of their cars and into alternative modes of transportation,” she said. “At PBOT we will continue to do our part to support these important trends. We will continue to work on initiatives like Biketown, the Central City Multimodal Project, making freight delivery more efficient and Vision Zero to make it easier and safer for Portlanders to get from place to place.”
— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – email@example.com
BikePortland is supported by the community (that means you!). Please become a subscriber or make a donation today.
Michael Andersen was news editor of BikePortland.org from 2013 to 2016 and still pops up occasionally.
Welcome back to BikePortland, Michael!
I missed the wonk at BP!
On one hand, I get why they want to do something with I-5 near the Rose Quarter as they are part of an expressway that transports people and goods from Canada to Mexico. Both directions, but especially SB have a nutty mixing pattern that is both dangerous and consistently fouls up traffic.
Even though these both serve as choke points, there are other choke points nearby so I’m not convinced people will actually save time after the improvements. It sounds like some of the project will bring some safety and quality issues to the area, but for that kind of dough, I think more/better things can be done. Given how messed up flows are now, it’s going to be downright comical for the many years during construction.
Given how many improvements there have been in the past decade, talk of bringing mass transit level back to 2005 levels is truly unimpressive. I buy a pass just to support mass transit, but frankly regret it every time I use it (once every few months) because it’s such a miserable experience. I imagine the only reason many people use it is because driving sucks even more and they don’t feel cycling is an issue for whatever reason.
Likewise, our cycling numbers are disappointing. They may look nice compared to a few other cities, but our distances here are shorter, the terrain is easier, and the weather is nicer (except SF). It doesn’t surprise me that our bike commuting numbers aren’t gas price dependent because it doesn’t really matter if you only have a few miles.
What the data really show is how much people want to drive, no matter how bad the actual experience is.
You gave the reason why driving isn’t dropping off, it’s all relative. Shorter distances, easier terrain and nicer weather make driving easier as well. Compare commute times in Portland to other cities and this area isn’t that horrible to drive. I know people who drive 40 minutes just to catch the train in Connecticut into NYC. And as many have bemoaned Portland is becoming a city of transplants, where in relative terms is head and shoulders above where they came from for affordability and commute times. Not so much for those who have been here longer.
through I-5 traffic is supposed to use I-205…
and yeah, I take the bus because drivers suck… traffic happens, but it’s the attitude of the drivers in traffic that made me stop driving all the time…
Yeah, I never understood the argument that through-freight needs I-5. Why not go around the city and save the hassle? To encourage this, ODOT really should just switch the numeric designation so that I-5 is routed over I-205 instead. It would require some cooperation with WSDOT, though.
Many do take 205, though that route is consistently hopeless as well. I doubt switching the numeric designation would make a difference because people will take whatever works better.
One area we totally agree on is the need for more frequent transit service and that transit only lanes are a good idea. If transit is fast and easy to use — i.e. readily available so you don’t have to plan around it — it becomes a very effective option.
USA sucks when it comes to transit. In Communist USSR, the Moscow metro at many stations ran every 2 minutes and every minute at rush hour on the ring line. You couldn’t even clear the platform before the next train came in. And BTW, these trains were full. Here’s a shot I took in Kievskaya station in the fall of 1991 (immediately after the collapse) after a train unloaded. Note that all these people are in motion — they are not waiting and their escalators are much faster than ours. http://photos.alptown.com/images/Russia.1991.ChasPik.jpg
In communist Russia transit takes you! –likely Yakov smirnoff quote
Beat me to that!
Oh, but didn’t you hear? The solution is to just keep building additional ring freeways. That’s what the folks up in Vancouver are saying, at least. Oh, and they don’t want light rail.
what about light rail in a ring like HyperLoop?
In Phoenix, AZ, they have three beltways – AZ 101, 202, and 303. The last one is furthest out from downtown. They have yet to be 100% finished, but their existence just makes the expansion of the metro area worse. Dallas/Fort Worth is expanding westward at a rapid pace. Transit has a hard time keeping up since they don’t have an urban growth boundary law like Oregon does. Not to mention school districts…they have to find a way to get new schools built to serve these ever expanding suburban developments.
Well it’s not like they don’t have enough water to support all that new development.
That’s the solution to how to make more land available for development, create new places to build big box stores, expand the sales tax base.
It’s transportation policy only in a sense of using the department to make money for others, much like forestry policy is based on how best to make money cutting trees.
Problem: we’re a big town or a small city, whatever you want to call it. Moscow is a very large city = pop. of almost 12 mil.
That’s why their transit works. We’re trying to play with the big boys/girls and it’s not the same. We’re like 5 year olds, and Moscow is in College.
As a rule, long distance trucks use the bypasses around cities, 205 or 405 in our case instead of staying on the main interstate. But with modern technology I would think you would take the route that your routing software (WAZE for example) advises you to go as that would be the fastest route.
205 was a good alternative when there was a truck stop in Wilsonville. You could hit it before taking 205 around Portland north bound and hit it after taking 205 around Portland southbound.
Back in 1996 they were building out that interchange with longer on ramps and changing the design to remove left turns to get access to I-5 to accommodate the truck traffic more efficiently. And then before the construction was completed, the truck stop closed down and the property was sold, it is now Costco.
Just the removal of that truck stop made Jubitz in North Portland the only viable truck stop on the north south run in the area. That made 205 a bypass without the services needed by the truckers.
There’s a truck stop at exit 278, 10 miles south of Wilsonville. You seem to know more about this than I, but I can’t imagine 10 miles makes any difference to a trucker driving hundreds of miles.
On the other hand, there’s a fancy new electronic freeway sign a few miles south of the I-205 NB split, telling motorists exactly how long it will take them to get to the I-5/205 junction north of Vancouver. One needn’t even look at Waze, they simply see which commute is currently shorter and go that route. I suspect the bulk of truck through-traffic on I-5 is there simply because it’s at that point a similar (it has a major mileage (fuel) advantage) or shorter time for them.
Makes sense on the surface of “why” the numbering started back in the days of paper maps and slide rulers…but with GPS and such …not really sure the WAZE/ Tom2 etc would prioritize my route to I-5 vs. I-205 if all other variables were help constant. So would it matter anymore?
Most of the traffic on I-5 is not through traffic. If you look at the southbound traffic volumes on I-5, they increase as one moves south from the Columbia River. That means that I-5 is being used for commuting to downtown, further south on I-5 and west on US 26 from traffic originating in north Portland.
There are 54,000 Clark County (Washington) residents who work in Oregon, but that doesn’t come close to accounting for all the traffic using I-5 and I-205. There is no single predominate cause of the traffic other than all of us collectively.
This is true, but we can blame people that choose to live further away. A 2-car family in Vancouver with 30 mile round trip commutes is definitely contributing to traffic more than the 1-car 10 mile round trip commute family in inner SE.
Chris and others – an open invitation: come out with me to sit on the Evergreen Blvd overdressing (while its still sunny) to count the Oregon plates crossing the Interstate Bridge…you would be surprised at all the OR plates starting their daily trips overhear in WA.
Our inner city neighbourhoods are getting flooded again by Portland’s housing [price] refugees. They almost always keep their Portland jobs after the move. And this current wave does not seem to be turning in their OR plates for WA…
They are living in Vancouver, and registering their cars in Oregon to avoid taxes. I’m not surprised.
You’d only be able to do that until your next registration is due. You’d have to put down current WA address and have your plates reassigned. Tax evasion would only work during the immediate move and the duration between the next registration.
No. Your neighbors can also complain. There was an article about it in the O last year. The culprit was cop or sheriff’s deputy.
From a commuting point of view, this is true.
However, there is already not enough housing close in and what is available is simply too expensive for many people. Also, especially in a multi income household, it is often not possible to live adjacent to everyones’ workplaces. Add to that how often people wind up looking for new work, and it’s clear that longer commutes are a reality that must be accommodated.
it is not possible because we massively subsidize single family homes financially and via zoning. remove those subsidies and we could carpet our cities with affordable housing as single family home prices and land prices plummet.
Why would the price of single family houses plummet as they became rarer?
hundreds of billions of dollars are spent on tax credits, tax subsidies, and even outright gifts to generally wealthy loan/homeowners. trillions in government subsidy or underwriting has been allocated towards lowering borrowing costs and propping up the corrupt new and used house lending. what do you think would happen to prices if this enormous big government largesse were to disappear?
The cost of buying a house would stay the same without tax credits. Significantly reducing the number of houses would drive the cost higher, with all the benefits flowing to current owners.
Please provide examples of how we “massively subsidize single family homes financially and via zoning.”
The only financial subsidy I can think of is the deductibility of mortgage interest and property taxes, but that is NOT peculiar to single-family dwellings. It works for condos, too.
Most of the zoning requirements actually push prices up. Side yards versus no-setbacks. Minimum lot size. Maximum height. Garages and off-street parking. Minimum window area. Ingress and egress. Minimum insulation requirements, etc.
I don’t follow your argument that we subsidize single-family dwellings through either financial incentives or zoning.
Those tax breaks apply to any owner-occupied residential property, not just single-family houses, no?
I think a fairer statement would be that we encourage property ownership by giving tax breaks on the purchase of a primary residence, in whatever physical form that takes. It’s not clear to me that this is a bad thing, but I’m open to the possibility that it is.
on a lower priced home, u are better off just taking standard deduction, so you don’t get benefit of mortgage interest deduction…so only the evil wealthy people benefit (boo). BUT, u can only deduct interest on 170k/yr.
there is a subsidy there, but I disagree it benefits the super wealthy (boo..wealthy people)…who i think largely here just pay cash for their homes. someone who can find a 600-800k home close in prob does get some marginal benefit
(sorry) above it should say you can only deduct interest on a 1mm mortgage, and even that gets whittled away once your income is >175k…so there is benefit, but its not some dastardly home run for the 1%ers
The mortgage interest tax credit and capital gains tax credit apply to one single owner-occupied single family home.
You can’t get a mortgage tax credit for a condo?
a condo would be eligible but they are an endangered species these days.
So my statement still stands, with the possible proviso that it doesn’t apply to rental properties where the owner lives in a unit (but in some cases it might; I’m not sure).
Our tax system provides incentives for people to own their own housing, regardless of what form it takes. This is a long-standing clear-eyed policy decision. That incentive is NOT limited to single family houses.
i agree that our tax system subsidizes wealthy people who can afford to own a home. this long-standing policy decisions that favors wealthy people at the expense of less wealthy people and also favors housing scarcity and economic inequality.
PS: condos make up a tiny fraction of owned homes.
It also subsidizes lower and middle income people who want to buy a house or condo; the benefit is capped and is not fully available to those buying very expensive property (i.e. “wealthy people”). Property ownership has long been seen as a way for middle class people to improve their economic situation.
There is no reason to think that buying a house or condo would be easier, or that property would be “more available” without the deduction.
For the record, I would abolish the deduction (as part of a more comprehensive tax overhaul), but not for the reasons you state here, which are not convincing.
the benefit never phases out and wealthy people benefit immensely (with only a miniscule reduction in their deduction):
yep, pure abuse of the interstate system, which was supposed to have very few exits and only connected cities to other distant cities and wasn’t supposed to allow multiple on/off ramps in one city where you could use it locally to commute…
I thought everyone here gets their knickers in a twist when people commute through residential areas. If decent through options are not provided, guess what people will do?
The freeways are actually a good way to move cars efficiently and safely because of the separation and access control. Yes it’s wasteful to bottleneck through traffic, but you also need multiple ramps or much better local highways (which would essentially replicate freeway design.) We should have dedicated through (bypass/express) lanes and/or more HOV lanes rather than just striping 3-4 lanes and letting people race. The problems of through vs local traffic, passing and speeding can all be solved within the current pavement while also discouraging or preventing cut-through traffic on surface streets. We just need people to act in their collective best interests (good luck) or leaders who lead.
I’m not disagreeing with your observation about how the interstate system is used. But it is a good way of getting large trucks around.
This is interesting to me in the week when I have been considering stopping riding my bike except for short neighborhood trips.
The congestion and driving has gotten much worse. On a recent 6-mile trip I was almost right hooked 4 times, each time by a driver on a phone who yelled at me for being on the road. And I have never once seen anyone get pulled over for using their phone in the car.
I’m also tired of being used as a buffer to protect parked cars from the drivers going 40 mph just inches to my left.
IMO, the thing that would improve conditions for cyclists the most is NOT more green boxes and weird diagonal crossings and strange markings on the street that no one understands. It’s ticketing people for driving like assholes. And I don’t take requests for police intervention lightly.
And let’s just take a moment to recognize that the 2 projects PBOT mentions in the article above mainly benefit – once again – only a small section of the city. Maybe someday Portland will remember that life exists beyond SE 39th.
I’m curious: what would you be switching *to*?
That’s the problem. So far it’s meant staying home a lot more.
“This is interesting to me in the week when I have been considering stopping riding my bike except for short neighborhood trips. …jniel
As a rider in traffic, how might you describe yourself?
Not living in or needing to ride in Portland’s central area, I don’t have to deal with the commute traffic there when riding…but I’ve done it, and think I still could, well enough, though I’ve been away from it for awhile. I say that, feeling I’m fast enough on the bike to merge easily and correctly in and out of all the lanes of traffic, and with hand directional signals, can effectively communicate my directional intentions to other road users.
Lots of people biking in Portland, or some that may think about it from time to time, but don’t, may not be fast, or able to communicate directional intention other road users. If I were that type rider, commute biking on Portland’s streets probably wouldn’t be an option for me. Generally riding along at 7-10 mph, you’re going to get ate up, definitely by motor vehicle traffic, and likely by fast bike commuters, too.
If their day to day commute is through the thick, heavy traffic on streets of Portland’s downtown and close-in neighborhoods, I can easily understand why some people might seriously give up the harshness of riding a bike, for the comfort of riding in their own car, even if it’s an ok running $500 no-glam piece of junk.
I’ve thought about this and the comment below for quite some time before responding. On the face of them, they could be interpreted as telling me I’m not a good/fast enough cyclist to be on the road or that I’m riding in the wrong part of town/there be savages beyond SE 82nd.
But I don’t know either of you so I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt.
If we ignore the fact that every cyclist has the right to be on roads where it is legal to ride a bike, your point has a little validity in situations where the cyclist is at fault. Bad cyclists do exist, just like bad drivers and yes, even bad pedestrians.
But that is not the situation I was talking about. My point was that before, if a driver endangered me and I called their attention to it, I sometimes got an apology or a wave or worst case scenario, I just got ignored. Now I get yelled at or the finger. The attitude has completely changed and more drivers seem unwilling to admit any fault at all, instead getting enraged that I didn’t let them run me over.
jniel…my thought is on this subject, is that some roads will work for people of certain types of riding styles, and some roads won’t. I’ll further say, ‘legitimate’ riding styles, rather than those of road users, whatever their mode of travel, that play loose and fast with rules of the road, creating havoc for other road users as well as themselves.
I think people that are quick, fast and agile riders, maybe with the help of a racing style bike rather than heavier style bikes, probably can handle about any traffic situation out there. Lots of people on their bikes, aren’t quick, fast or agile in traffic, and may not want to be…and, they shouldn’t have to be. The practical reality for them is though, I think…that that they will inevitably find some road traffic situations to be overwhelming.
Unfortunately, the practical reality is, that until widespread better infrastructure for biking, or further progress in the evolution of favorable perspective towards travel by bike here in the U.S., happens, it’s probably going to work better for people biking that don’t want to contend with fast motor vehicle traffic, to, if possible, chart out routes that allow them to avoid that kind of traffic.
Edgy, irritable, incompetent road users, mainly people that drive, is one of the reasons long ago, I figured out that when riding a bike in traffic, I absolutely needed to know what my legal obligations and rights to use of the road with a bike are. Knowing I’m riding according to the rules of road, helps relieve my mind to focus more attention on what all is going on around me, and worry less when cranky people decide for no apparently legitimate reason, that they’ve got to yell, honk their horn, at someone in or on another vehicle on the road.
Last week, I got honked at a couple times, same location: westbound, Canyon Rd, just west of the 217 overpass, 500′ or so from the north entrance to Beav Town Sq. On the road bike in the bike lane, proceeding on Canyon from east of the overpasses. I wanted to eventually turn into the Town Sq entrances, which means several lane transitions to get into the left turn lane to access the entrance (unless I’m willing to get off the street and take the crosswalk…no thanks.). Looking for an opening in the slightly faster main lane traffic, as I moved towards the edge of the bike lane-main lane line, is when a couple people honked, more or less politely…a bus, and an old Caddy. Wasn’t quite enough room, so I hadn’t decided to transition yet, so hadn’t started to hand signal.
I let the Caddy go by, paced the bus after its driver honked, and then I sped ahead slightly, signaled, rode a bit further, transitioned into the right main lane from the bike lane, then the process again for the left main and left turn lanes. No problem, no other honking. Initially, I was a little tense at the honking, but it was fair on their part, because they may not have known what I was doing, having not yet hand signaled. Once I started signaling, all other road users nearby knew exactly what I was doing, and rolled along with me without issue.
Is what I was faced with, and how I handled this traffic situation on a busy, multi-lane thoroughfare, how people riding more slowly, are going to be willing to handle it? I doubt it. I was able to do it, but it wasn’t easy or relaxing, and not because other road users were conducting themselves badly.
Where was this? I’ve never been yelled at west of 82nd. Definitely had it happen a few times in outer-east Portland.
I can immediately recall being yelled at on:
* SE Milwaukie going over 99E where I was on the wide open empty shoulder… old man in a pickup truck…
* NE 28th northbound before the bike lane starts after I-84… old man in a pickup truck… he stopped in the middle of the road to yell at the cyclist in front of me after the driver swerved towards the cyclist and missed… maybe he didn’t try it on me because I was towing a large dog in a trailer…
also had various teens randomly scream as they went by… everywhere…
I was yelled at on NE Alberta last night. Never is a long time. Where do you ride?
Lucky you. I have had death threats screamed at me on Clinton Street before the diverters went in.
My partner recently quit bike commuting from inner N Portland to PSU because she was sick of getting constantly right hooked downtown. She is back to Maxing and or walking.
Maybe she wasn’t cut out for riding in traffic. Inner north Portland to PSU, it figures that part of her route would be Williams Ave, where there’s lots of people riding: safety in numbers.
There’s tricks though, to riding well in a lot of motor vehicle traffic, and there probably are many people that have no inclination or intention of learning those tricks or developing the conditioning and alertness to their surroundings, necessary to ride well in traffic. Better them, maybe to just ride the light rail or bus.
Wait 50 years, and maybe Portland infrastructure for biking will have become the fantasy of widely available motor vehicle free roads, that some people hope the city will become.
This. In fact kudos to her for adjusting her plan to what works for her rather than struggling against reality. Too many people are unaware, do not believe, or do not care that things they do on the road have an enormous impact on how motorists treat you.
One thing that drives me nuts every time I get caught in a gaggle of cyclists is how many ride in a way that pretty much tells motorists to cut them off and/or which invites abuse. Then when the expected happens, everyone acts surprised and gets bent out of shape.
You’ll see a similar dynamic in rural cyclists that can’t, don’t, or won’t learn how to deal with loose dogs.
The vast majority of problems cyclists experience are totally avoidable. It’s not indictment of a person if understanding traffic/dogs/whatever isn’t their thing. But if that’s the case, they’re better sticking with situations that fit their interests.
“…is how many ride in a way that pretty much tells motorists to cut them off and/or which invites abuse. …” banerjee
I see that phenomena, as people riding that haven’t given sufficient thought to understanding how traffic flow works, or what they as vulnerable road users on bikes in traffic that’s largely people driving motor vehicle…should do to legitimately to gain the area of the road they need.
Some people riding, are too timid in conveying their need and intent to change lanes. Vague, barely discernible hand signals, that often are displayed too late, are common. Or, signals not displayed at all. And then, rationalizing that this is ok, because some people driving, don’t display signals. That’s perpetuation of a big problem for all road users.
Some roads though, like the thoroughfares with posted speeds of 40mph, 45mph, I think many people biking will find allows for traffic flow that’s just too fast to comfortably and safely deal with. Finding a better route is just about the only option in such a situation.
X% per year is meaningless in a city like Portland. There is a massive deviation (ie major drop off) of ridership from the halcyon early summer days to the rest of the year. These sort of “metrics” oversimplify the characterization but maybe that is what people want so long as the numbers fit their narrative. Is this 7% a mean, a maximum? What are we even talking about? Give me the ridership numbers for each season of the year and then we’ll talk.
The “massive deviation” is mythology:
According to the info you posted, cycling across the Hawthorne goes from about 3000-4000 in the summer to 500-1000 in the winter.
I would call a 50-75% drop off a pretty good deviation.
April to October is reasonably stable. But there is a pronounced dropoff in the winter.
In all honesty, I prefer riding in the cold/wet/dark because cyclists as a group play much better with each other as well as traffic.
When we start actually punishing drivers for failing to see cyclists (even in the dark!), I’ll feel better about riding in the winter.
I feel as if I am seen more often at night. Bright blinky lights and some reflective accents make visibilty good I think.
Its in the spring and fall when the sun is low and in drivers eye’s during typical commuting time I get nervous about not being seen.
Agreed. I consider bright sunlight in the eyes (common for many commutes both going to and from work) the most dangerous lighting condition.
Bright sunlight is even dangerous to your back because it messes up your ability to track what’s behind you.
Night time is excellent both for visibility and being seen in urban areas because speeds are low and ambient lighting is plentiful. If you want challenging night time conditions, try riding winter storms or fog on rural highways where there is no ambient lighting.
Especially this time of year. I was somewhat blinded on my bike the last few days. Forgot to wear my cap with the brim. One turn west and suddenly couldn’t see.
Complete darkness I don’t mind actually. I rode in at 5:20am today, like usual. But when fall comes around, I’m riding home westward with the sun low on the horizon. And as we all know, drivers heading towards the sun are free to run people over without consequence.
the only time I was hit was early morning in the dark… one other close call at night during July 4th fireworks…
most of the time it’s a right-hook in broad daylight, usually on lower Hawthorne during commute… where I would expect drivers to be at their best in respect to cyclists…
I guess you missed the many winter months ~2000 trips.
(last years numbers were skewed by the opening the Tilikum bridge and malfuntions in the counter documented here on BP).
~2000 trips per day.
Considering how many people live/work in the area, that’s not much.
If 2000 isn’t very much, then 4000 isn’t very much, either. There are a lot of bridges downtown that cyclists use. This is just one of them.
Right. Aside from Steel which feels busy only because it’s so narrow, what other bridge gets much traffic?
Can anyone here say with a straight face that the number of riders doesn’t significantly drop when cold, rain, and/or darkness are in play?
As someone who commutes year around, I can tell you anecdotally that the number of cyclists from November to April is at least half. With the weather we have in Portland there is no reason for this. I can count on one hand the number of times that I ride in “real” rain. That being said, not sure how you get people to ride in the winter. I feel way safer in the winter months, much more visible with lights.
I simply don’t like carrying extra shoes… haven’t figured out how to stay warm and dry on my feet and hands yet… also, I bike to work in my work clothes…
Gloves help with your hands, at least.
Neoprene booties over some weather-appropriate shoes, or just rubber shoes with toe covers inside the shoes if needed. For your hands, bar mitts are good for wet and cold. Thick wool gloves work, but are difficult to get dry.
Why carry extra shoes — can’t you keep some at work?
As far as dealing with wet stuff goes, there are three options:
1) Just get wet — it’s no big deal. Happens every time you get a shower
2) Get a small fan to blow on your stuff
3) If you have a desk job, it’s easy enough to get a small drying rack that can discreetly help near the floor. That’s particularly effective when combined with a fan
Climate here is very mild — that’s one of the reasons we have as many year ’round cyclists as we do
you commute year round but not when it rains?
Apparently reading comprehension is not required for a college professor if that is what you are?
Some statistics from PBOT’s official 2013 bike count report:
Weekday Bike trips over the Hawthorne Bridge
Year round: 5,404
In summary, winter bike traffic is almost identical to fall bike traffic and is 80% of the year round average. Is a 20% drop from the year round average a “massive deviation”? IMO, no.
PS: Only a 33% drop comparing Summer and Winter.
If you actually do ride a bike, you would know that those numbers are skewed or wrong. Ride a bike in Portland in January and tell me that there is only a 20% drop in people riding bikes. What point are you trying to probe except stalking me?
Given that you replied to me first I will ignore your claim that I am stalking you:
As far as I can tell, these estimates were pulled of thin air and were never substantiated with hard numbers or a citations.
You can check my transcription of the 2013 data here:
And I will add that the 2014 Hawthorne weekday bridge count numbers are similar:
Year round: 5546
So in 2014 there is a 23% drop off from the year round average and a 39% comparing winter and summer only. Averaging 2013 and 2014 we get a ~22% drop off vs annual numbers and a 36% drop off comparing summer and winter only.
Whatever… Do you actually ride a bike? Because if you did you would know, no matter what the numbers, that cycling drops way off in the winter months. Some mornings it feels like there are only a few bikes in all of downtown.
Kind of like your anti-house bias, you have no idea what the facts ever are…..
The report says peak weekday (August both years) to low weekday (December both years) is a 50+ percent drop. Maybe that better matches people’s experiences?
No.No. No. Soren can not be wrong.. Ever. It just looks like there are not many cyclists in January, but Soren can see then from his high perch and we cannot.
i agree that the last part of dec shows a very sharp drop but this is likely due to many ohsu/psu faculty, staff, and students taking time off during the winter break. the fact that the winter numbers are roughly equivalent with the fall numbers is amazing, imo. (and, as i recall, the numbers over a decade ago showed a more significant seasonal drop.)
Have you been on the tram? You can see pretty far from up there.
The American Community Survey sends out surveys distributed throughout the whole year and therefore captures seasonal deviations (Question is “In the last week, …). So not an issue.
You would see this same kind of drop off with most of the other cities cited in the graph, except for maybe San Fran. The drop off is probably more severe with Minneapolis, as well as other “biking” cites not listed like Chicago, NYC, and Boston.
I see that the Orange line is always packed during commute, so that seems to be a good investment…
I have been using the bus as my primary commute vehicle for over 5 years…
transit has nowhere to go but up… they’re the densest form of transport… if they get some rapid lines the numbers will go higher…
right now the biggest complaints of transit is the time involved, and having to sit next to smelly houseless people… they don’t realize they can be productive during transit time vs doing nothing but driving… and that the really smelly people are rare during commute times…
Agreed about transit having nowhere to go but up. We would do well to install bus-only lanes, expand and extend the MAX network, and improve headways so that a schedule does not need to be looked at. 15 minutes for a “frequent service” route is too long, it needs to be closer to 5 minutes.
I would agree that 15 minute headways are still less than ideal for “frequent service” transit lines. And during the day, MAX is often less frequent than that, at least west of Beaverton TC and east of Gateway. What I’d love to see TriMet implement is something similar to what Metro Transit has implemented here in the Twin Cities, where the trains just run every 10 minutes, period. You missed the train at 8:17? No problem – you KNOW the next one is at 8:27 without having to check the schedule, and the trains will always come into that station at :07,:17,:27,:37,:47 and :57 all day, every day.
This can complicate things if multiple lines share tracks, but we have the Blue and Green lines sharing track in downtown Minneapolis, which means there’s always a train every 5 minutes. That’s tight, but well within the margin: MT runs trains every 2.5-3 minutes to handle crowds at major sporting events, and that’s despite having longer 3-car trains. So I think this could work even in downtown Portland.
This kind of timing is also in place for our new A-line arterial BRT service that just opened too, which is the kind of thing I could see TriMet deploying across a number of lines to improve service for far lower cost than LRT or even commuter BRT.
Another area I feel Trimet failed to plan for was a quick route through downtown. Putting MAX at street level was a mistake. And it really needs express and local lines (like in Manhattan) to allow travellers to bypass all those stops in Portland.
I find it hard to support further expansion of MAX when they insist of running all the lines through downtown Portland. In my case a SW – SE connection would be of interest so that Washington and Clackamas country would have a connection without having to deal with Multnomah county.
Trimet needs to fix public transit so that its quicker than bicycing. My current commute takes the same about of time biking as the Trimet commute. So most days I drive as it only take 60% of the time biking or public transit does.
During the CRC design process – I made the same suggestion: add 4 track section north of Delta Park for express trip bypassing a “local’ – but it found no alley with program stature.
typo: ally not alley
my commute is about 75 minutes on the bus, 50 minutes via bike, or 35 minutes via personal motor vehicle… I usually bus… because I can play on my phone and relax…
if I have any errands to run I’ll usually bike… mostly because I hate the wait time between all the different buses I’ll take…
if I have something to do directly after work I’ll try to leave early via bus, then motor afterwards, but once a month or so motor an entire day…
>Trimet needs to fix public transit so that its quicker than bicycing.
For a lot of trips that won’t be doable. Mass transit fulfills many to many travel patterns poorly, only with far greater density than most in Portland desire. Skipping the largest trip origin/destination, say for a SE/SW line that skips downtown, makes mass transit hard to pen out.
Add in time walking to and from either end, and waiting for the train, or waiting for a bus and a train, or multiple trains if someone has to make a transfer etc…
What’s your door to door bike speed? Counting all the time spent waiting at red lights, any pre/post ride stuff like locking your bike, collecting lights+other gadgets off of it, cleaning yourself up in a bathroom if you were riding hard and need to be more presentable etc…
They can’t because of the Steel Bridge bottleneck. We need a new line down Powell to take the green line off of the congested Downtown – Gateway segment, and better utilize the Tillikum Crossing. Eventually, the steel bridge will need to be supplemented with a tunnel under the river if we really want to increase frequencies and have light rail to Vancouver.
I would love to not have to look at schedules… my phone died the other day and I decided to just walk for miles instead of standing still for who knows how long…
I agree. In Paris the subway comes every 2-3 minutes, except for very late at night. I never once had to run to catch a train.
Sometimes, people want to relax rather than work. And even if they are happy to work (presuming they find being crowded in a metal can with others conducive), they have other responsibilities so spending a bunch of extra time in transit is relevant.
One major reason you’ll never see me on any kind of transit during rush hour is that it totally blows for people who are claustrophobic. If I weren’t on a bike, I’d rather be on foot — which is often faster for most distances until you get out a way where stations are spaced further apart and speeds are higher.
Having one’s own personal space, is one of the great things about personal cars. The light rail cars can be very enjoyable to ride when they’re not crowded. When the rail cars are crowded…for me, riding in them is far less comfortable than relaxing in the motor vehicle with room around me, good radio and music, even during commute hours.
With biking, on a regular, day after day commute, there’s always the vagaries of weather, plus the exertion involved, but that mode of travel does offer relief from the crowding on public transportation. For people that are able, biking can be a really good commute option, though one with definite compromises to be made.
Commuting by bike stays at an amazingly low mode share. 7 percent is such a small percent of all people traveling the roads during commute. The rate of increase in numbers of people riding also is very slow. I think it’s going to stay that way too, unless far more deliberate provision for increased capacity for bike travel is made, at least on key routes through close in neighborhoods to employment.
“One major reason you’ll never see me on any kind of transit during rush hour is that it totally blows for people who are claustrophobic.”
oh yeah, that’s a factor for sure… I’m a claustrophiliac, I like close spaces… but not so much crammed against strangers… still better than driving…
oddly, my gf has mild claustrophobia (can’t wear a full face helmet) but she’s way more comfortable taking the bus than biking because of her skill level on a bike and proximity to traffic…
You have to be really careful about the data sets and how you are interpreting them. With the Census data, you can look at a metro area or just a city. It looks like the data set referred to in this is for residents of the City of Portland. But, the traffic we see every day on the streets of Portland (where I ride my bike most of the time) includes traffic from non-Portland parts of Multnomah County plus adjacent counties. For example, we have all seen the claims and counter-claims about how much of the Sellwood Bridge traffic originates and terminates in Clackamas and Washington Counties.
I, for one, hardly consider the most recent data set to be sufficient to predict a long-term trend. Yes, it’s encouraging, but definitive, no.
The culture of bicycles to cars is the equivalent of pedestrians to bicyclists. As long as cyclists consider pedestrian sidewalks as a default bike-lane, pedestrians as as vulnerable to them as cyclists are to cars. I’ve been nearly hit more times than I can count, but in the case of a person on foot, the cyclist loses his or her “moral high ground” of environmentalism, but still has the self-justified assertiveness to take over pedestrian cross-walks, confuse everyone with defying the logic of intersections by creative lane shifts and riding on crosswalks, and not stopping for pedestrians when they are in the crosswalk, reasoning that they are exceptional for not driving a car. No need to get too high-minded about cycling when what you deplore about drivers simply now goes on two wheels. I haven’t had a car since 1973, and we are all mindless in traffic at times, whether on foot, in a car, or on a bike. Be alert and assume everyone else is distracted.
“The culture of bicycles to cars is the equivalent of pedestrians to bicyclists. ”
Please cite all the pedestrian deaths due to cyclists?
I think the statement has some validity. We’ve all seen plenty of cyclists who pass pedestrians too closely, ride too fast in pedestrian areas, and manifest other aggressive behavior.
The consequences of a collision may differ, but the parallels are real.
Not really. Well, unless you would consider it equivalent to say “the dangers posed to cars by airplanes is similar to the dangers posed to cyclists by cars”
I mean, technically, a few people die every year when their car gets hit by an airplane. Totally valid, right?
A recent study in New York cited over 1000 injuries there caused by cyclists to pedestrians in one year that required medical treatment; other accidents were not reported or were not serious enough to see a physician. That’s not to dismiss the greater threat of cars to either cyclists or pedestrians, just to plead for the same concern for those on foot as cyclists legitimately demand from drivers. It’s just a question of “right attitude.” Mindfulness on wheels, whatever they are attached to.
I might say that if airplanes routinely buzzed cars at high speeds. Which they don’t, so it’s not really a good parallel at all.
Just imagine driving on the highway surrounded by 55′ semi trucks. That’s what it’s like riding a bike on many Portland streets.
It’s like having a giant protective wall. That the truckers pay for.
There are citations of cyclists killing pedestrians in San Francisco, New York City, and elsewhere on the internet, but obviously cars are more lethal. Injuries from cyclists are still serious and would be diminished if cyclists extended the same courtesies toward walkers as they expect from drivers.
In any case, the culprit is definitely the careless motorist.
The number of pedestrians killed each year by cyclists is so small that it is basically statistical noise in the fatality data. Compare that to the thousands of pedestrians that are mowed down by drivers each year. Inconsiderate sidewalk cyclists are annoying, but I’ve never been afraid of them.
But other people might be. If you suffered from osteoporosis, for example, a fall can be life threatening even without collision. That makes you extra wary of things like people riding their bikes towards you on the sidewalk.
The magnitude of the danger greatly differs, but we can’t deny that some cyclists are very rude and sometimes aggressive towards pedestrians, much the way some drivers behave towards cyclists.
Perhaps those cyclists have tracked-down the drivers who attempted to right-hook them with no signal and are just returning the favor while they have the chance. I don’t know any “pedestrians” that get bent out of shape about sidewalk biking who aren’t actually terrible drivers on the way to or from their car.
In other words, “they have it coming”?
I’m just saying I’ll support more freeway spending when I stop seeing drivers on the downtown sidewalks with no helmets.
I’m not in favor of building more freeways, in case you thought I was.
I’m with HK on this. Cyclists in this town might not kill that many people, but a huge percentage of them are very inconsiderate of peds.
I would go so far as to say that cyclists are worse than peds than drivers are with cyclists even if the consequences are different.
I wouldn’t say cyclists are worse than drivers–not by a long shot!–but I agree there are way too many cyclists who are careless around peds and other cyclists.
“From 1996 to 2005, 11 pedestrians across New York City died after being struck by bicyclists, according to a report by four city agencies.”
that’s just one city…
One city. The most populated city in the country (more than double the next largest) with the largest pedestrian modal share and a huge amount of cyclists. But yes, it is one city.
Oh, and that’s an average of one per year, vs 130-200 per year from automobile drivers:
So bicyclists killing peds does not matter. Thanks for clarifying.
It’s not that it doesn’t matter, but, for the most part, it doesn’t happen.
Portland bike commuting – 7%. Portland transit commuting- 13.5%
Portland annual bike spending maybe $3M
Trimet total annual budget $489M
Portland share of Trimet budget maybe $250M?
Transit spending almost 100 times bike spending for almost 2 times as many people.
Bike spending – good, really affordable transportation for those who want it…
What if we spent $6M per year??
More like 800 grand due to multiple rounds of cuts, including one pushed through by Novick and Hales when they entered office.
AS others have noted, people aren’t using transit because it is inadequate. WE need transit-only lanes and simpler fares so people aren’t paying bus drivers at each boarding. Extending run times past 2 am and increasing frequency would start to build a system people could use beyond suburb to City center commutes. If they widen I-5, I really hope the new lane is a carpool lane! As for bikes, I beleive the bike commute numbers would make a big jump if Portland created strong connections to the exisitng network to areas that are currently holes to create safe, simple connections across busy intersections between bike routes and between destination- for instance Skidmore between Michigan and 7th- but there are many more.
My sis tells me TriMet’s service used to be a lot better and included many of the things on the current wish list–i.e., later and more frequent runs, more routes… She said it was more convenient and pleasant in general (more pleasant because fewer people were vying for space). You also used to be able to easily buy books of tickets at several locations. Not sure if if that’s possible anymore…?
Oh, yeah: and they cleaned the buses back then. Regularly, frequently. Nearly every bus I ride anymore smells like pee and weed (and worse. I once witnessed a guy pooping in a seat. Lovely). I fantasize about clean buses.
Could it be that the new cyclists are not Portlanders who’ve finally decided to ditch their cars but transplants who have moved here just so they can bike to work?
Could it be that the new cyclists are not Portlanders, but rather wheel-loving pod people from the planet Xenox? I mean, we can’t totally rule that out, can we?
can’t find the link but BP posted an article about how much population growth we’ve experienced but the level of driving did not reflect it, meaning all those new people were finding other ways to get to work…
This! My husband and I moved here from California eight years ago, and Portland’s bike-friendliness was one of the main reasons we wanted to live here. We have since sold our car, bought two cargo bikes, and bike/walk/take transit everywhere.
I have a friend who rather suddenly appeared in Portland, bike in hand, and I could swear that, until he was fully assimilated, he had a subtle but distinct Xenoxian accent.
Maybe cycling is up because driving has gotten so bad. I must have past 100 cars stuck in traffic the last couple of mornings. Somewhere in that stack of cars there could be someone who noticed me enjoying the morning while they were stuck and thought – that could be me.
Smile as you roll past all that traffic.
we all needs to put a sign on the back of our bikes that says:
THIS IS FUN
One of the motivating factors for me and mine to get rid of our car 3+ years ago was how horrible it had become to drive in Portland. And may I just point out, having lived here all my life–Portland drivers of the past were NOT bad drivers. Driving here was great, and not just because there were fewer people (though that was definitely a factor). We all griped about Washington drivers, who didn’t seem to understand how to use the passing lane on the freeway. 😉 “Portland drivers” became terrible when a slew of newcomers moved here in the past 10-15 years.
“If we want to avoid choking on congestion…” During rush hours, many of us cannot avoid riding along long lines of exhaust pipes. It has gotten nastier.
I disagree… last night I rode behind an MGB for a couple of blocks. Beautiful car, but a pox on those who drive pre-catalytic converter vehicles.
I find the diesels more annoying, particularly when the engine choice has more to do with image than practicality
Greeley’s FedEx and UPS trucks are the worst.
That’s not a disagreement. But if I need to clarify, more new car exhaust = nastier than less new car exhaust.
To your point, the worst is when drivers of any car insist on overtaking so you can suck their ick for a few miles of worth of stop signs on a residential street.
It’s now happening more on the greenways I ride unfortunately. Cars angrily buzzing around me hitting the speed bumps hard apparently upset I’ve impeded their ability to use a 20 mph side street as a short cut.
Yes, unfortunately many drivers won’t drive at a safe speed on side streets.
Thanks to the smartphone app, Waze… Adding real meaning to the stickers you see: “stop turning our neighborhoods into freeways.”
Those heinous, heinous shrieking reeking scooters. Old Volvos. Any VW. Beater cars and trucks. Diesel trucks. And “classic” cars.
I remember that episode of Jerry Seinfeld’s driving-around-talking-to-famous-people series, when he came to Portland to drive around and talk to Fred Armisen. He had brought with him a “classic” car that he was prohibited from driving in his home state of California, because it didn’t meet air quality standards (not even close). But—lo and behold! No such pesky, strict restrictions in Oregon! Woohoo! So they drove the choking thing around and polluted our air instead.
I did a little research after that and found a couple “classic car” and motorbike forums where dudes had actually moved to Oregon from CA and other more responsible states, just so they could drive their stinking, noisy, exhaust-spewing cars around. Feh!
Hilarious comment regarding I-5 expansion on O-Live:
“If we expand I5 we will sell more gasoline – gas taxes will increase and we would be able to afford to expand the freeway(s).”
Never read the Oregonian comments- purs me in a bad, confused mood the rest of the day.
The great thing about bikes is that they have an almost unlimited upside as far as capacity is concerned. At rush hour the car carrying capacity of most roads within the Portland core are maxed unless we force everyone in to HOV lanes and eliminate single drivers ( not likely). The capacity of most of the max lines at rush hour out of the central city is also at its limit given train length ( limited by portland block size) and spacing in-between trains. The time horizons for increasing the capacity of roads or transit is very long, only bikes offer the ability to massively increase the number of people moved in a short ramp up period.
This became apparent to me when I was in NYC recently, riding the L train from Manhattan to Brooklyn. In two years the MTA will be shutting down the L line for a year and a half for Tunnel repairs. This line carries 400,000 riders per day. There is no extra capacity on the existing bridges for cars , nor can are other subway lines located to help. Not sure what they are going to do, but from a mathamatical position the only way to carry this many people temporarily would be to dedicate more lanes on the bridges to bikes.
All absolutely true, but it’s not like bikes have maxxed out existing capacity.
But there is one other issue. For a supposedly cycling friendly city, PDX has woefully inadequate options for bike parking/storage
luckily my last few employers have had good bike parking… and are within biking distance…
oh wait, that’s not luck, that’s me being selective in where I work and live…
Have you seen Holland or anywhere in Europe. Bikes outnumber bike parking 10:1 and people still ride.
This is why the proposed Liberty bridge needs to be built to connect Manhattan to Jersey City.
How about reducing the amount of roadway given to cars in order to make a complete and comfortable bike network? What do we get for spending so much space, money, and livability on roads and parking?
Eliminate parking and auto lanes / lane width from surface streets and the freeway congestion will disappear. That $350M could buy a few nice tents for all of these people sleeping in the mud?
“What do we get for spending so much space, money, and livability on roads and parking?”
unfortunately the majority of people think that commerce will come to a screeching halt without motor vehicles everywhere…
The ones that think that are generally the ones involved in said commerce, while the naysayers generally aren’t.
I happen to agree that their fears are overblown, but they’re hardly irrational.
The people who “need” cars to buy and sell things should be willing to pay for it, or they’re just siphoning money off of everyone else. And maybe people on bikes don’t generally pop into auto-oriented businesses because they don’t want what’s being sold or don’t want to put up with the unpleasant conditions to get there (and find no good place to lock-up a bike.) And all of these bars with vast parking lots and no bike rack.
Most businesses see themselves, to some degree, as being dependent on drivers as customers. Look at the angst over removing parking on NE 28th… most people don’t “need” a car to eat dinner, and yet restaurateurs objected to a design that they saw as driving their customers away.
I’m saying their fears, even if overblown, aren’t totally irrational.
If you add or remove parking on one street, there are winners and losers, customers could easily drive a few miles to eat or shop elsewhere. Make it as easy and convenient as driving to ride a bike a few miles and people will change (under-priced gas, debt, and an incomplete bike network means we need to take some ease and convenience away from driving to give it to biking.) There are also winners and losers with maintaining the status quo, or else its champions wouldn’t be so well-funded and motivated.
Denial of facts is a key ingredient of irrationality, albeit a very socially-acceptable habit.
I simply disagree on a philosophical, political, and practical level that it will work to simply add inconvenience to people’s life if they don’t do what we say is “the right thing”.
I just don’t know how you build political support for that.
There are many options and opinions, and most of them are wrong. Leaders who actually look at the facts and science and act on behalf of the collective best interest tend to make significant progress, if you can find some.
It’s not like burning fossil fuel and adding debt is popular because someone said it’s “the right thing”. Find a way for lazy people to do the right thing out of laziness (electric recumbent trike is a lot like a couch) and the problem will solve itself.
Why do you assume that most people drive because they’re lazy?
I find that to be a time-tested default assumption about human behavior. There might be ignorance about the impact of driving, or never-really-thought-about-it (these are both forms of mental laziness IMO.) “FYIGM”? Do you have a better explanation? If the problem is truly that a majority of people are willfully malicious rather than just short-sighted, uninformed, manipulated, and selfishly lazy, then the foundations of civilization are actually gone. I guess I’m an optimist.
I should add that some amount of laziness is a virtue (the father of invention) and necessary for self-preservation.
Sure, I have a better explanation. People drive because they think it is the best option they have to do what they want to do. I’m not saying it _is_ their best option (or even that they need to do what they think they want to do), but, on the other hand, I’m not really well positioned to judge things from their perspective.
Which leads me to my standard set of proposals: improve the alternatives to driving, find ways for people to drive less, internalize the costs of driving, and perhaps market alternatives in a way that helps expand the horizons of what people think their options are.
It probably doesn’t help that you have an immediate, up-front cash payment when you get on a bus, but not when you step into your car. It almost feels like you are paying for inconvenience.
Even if people think it’s their best option, why aren’t they lobbying for better options, or standing up in opposition to the forces of free parking? Is that not some sort of lazy? I think laziness is still a significant barrier to all of your proposals (good though they may be, I’m not sure even $15/gal gasoline will put a dent in the almighty laziness.) The amount of space that we devote to moving and storing cars works against any initiative which tries to encourage any other mode and represents a huge subsidy while also adding distance between destinations and standing in the way of completing the active transportation network. Internalizing the cost of driving needs to include reclaiming a significant amount of that space.
Maybe people are motivated by other things, or feel that their existing options are acceptable even if not ideal. Most people have limited bandwidth, and those motivated by transportation issues above all else are a small subset of humanity.
Cost is a huge motivator for people. With $15 gas, you’d see a lot of behavior change because people’s perception of what the best option is would shift.
Calling people who don’t do what you want them to do “lazy” is probably missing the more interesting (and useful) explanations.
Hmm. Perhaps. Still, we ‘murricans are an indolent people.
Calling people lazy is different than planning for people to be lazy. The easy thing is an easy choice and driving is going to be very easy until we all stop working so hard to make it so easy.
Yes! I was agreeing with you–not advocating laze-making infrastructure and thingies. 🙂
Then i suppose you don’t shop online at all… those delivery trucks actually DELIVER stuff.
BINGO! (Is what I shout when I check the last box in a row on my status-quo-preservation bingo card.)
I am a firm believer in Parkinson’s law of traffic – traffic increases directly in proportion to the roads available to carry it. So any relief in the I-205 pinch point in the Rose Quarter will likely be very short-lived as more people decide it is quicker/more convenient to route their commute that way.
I think the city needs to identify ways to encourage more commuting by TriMet, bicycle and walking. To do this the alternatives to driving have to be quicker, safer, convenient, reliable and cheaper. I commute 32 miles a day, until recently I did it by bike because it was quicker, cheaper, convention, reliable and less stressful – then it became apparent it was not safer (no car involvement, slipped on gravel mid-turn and fractured the head of my humerus). I would prefer to get back on the bike, but I don’t think that is likely in the near or medium term. I’ve tried using TriMet, but it is not as convenient or reliable as my car. Reliability of MAX trains in particular is an issue, especially when a snafu downtown brings the whole system to a grinding halt (last week it was a protest, the week before an electrical issue). A snafu can double commute times – fine for me, but if you’re dealing with children, not fun.
That should be I-5 pinch point.
all roads were built with plenty of capacity… but then too many people started using them and demanding more…
what we need to do for auto congestion is nothing… do nothing… don’t fix it at all… want to sit in traffic? fine, sit in traffic… we should stop making more road capacity… do nothing for cars… they have had everything for 100 years… so in 100 more years we can look at doing something for cars again…
“…Parkinson’s law of traffic – traffic increases directly in proportion to the roads available to carry it. …” matthew
For some areas of population, that axiom is probably true to some extent, but I don’t think it’s very applicable to the I-5/Rose Quarter congestion. During rush hour am/pm, I-5 between Portland and Vancouver, is already at capacity…has been for years. Whatever planners intend to do with the the Rose Quarter area, hopefully will improve flow, some…make driving through a little easier and maybe safer…but as for any hoped for major increase in numbers of motor vehicles to be used…that seems doubtful.
Further out away from the city, in the less densely populated burbs, I think the axiom may have definite truth. Though maybe it’s a ‘chicken and egg’ type of question, asking whether the road prompts motor vehicle use, or motor vehicle use prompts road expansion. Motor vehicle use on Hwy 26 west of Portland to Hillsboro, took years, decades even, to reach capacity after that highway was improved…back in the late 50’s, I think. Other roads such as north-south 185th between Hwy 26 and Aloha, took far less time to reach capacity, because the highway expansion was already done, and the path towards higher residential density, and nearby employment, had already been set, and was made with rapid progression.
In terms of expanding provision for dramatic increases in numbers of people commute biking to work, Portland may be stuck for some time to come, because the city street infrastructure for handling transport of people commuting, already is built out, as much as possible to provide for their travel by motor vehicle.
The dilemma, for everyone, is that motor vehicles are a means of travel commuters really can’t readily give up without a reliable, good, viable alternative mode of travel suitable for each of their individual commutes. Portland doesn’t seem yet to want to invest in a major north-south east-west basic bike highway system across the central city, that might have potential to be an alternative for lot more people than are commuting by riding in the city right now.
It’s pretty well established that increasing road capacity induces people to drive more.
This same phenomenon induces more people to move to Portland as we build more housing.
In both cases, insufficient supply tends to impact the poorest the hardest.
When for example, long point to point connecting roads are expanded, say from two lanes to four with turn lanes, that can provide for a doubling in road capacity for motor vehicles, maybe even a little more.
When a road expansion project is just a smoothing out of transition at pinch points, as I think may be the objective there in the Rose Quarter, that sounds to me like something that won’t provide for much of an increase in vehicle use. It may make driving a little easier and safer.
I think it was in the last ten years or so that the northern terminus of Hwy 217 in Beaverton got a big improvement of this type. Traffic flows better because it doesn’t have to come to a complete stop to change directions to east or west; the improvements introduced were a big sweeping radius.
An idea I think some people may consider to be really radical, but that may make some sense to try, would be in the case of two lane roads in need of being equipped to handle increases in area population travel needs…set a plan for widening to provide extra lanes as needed, but delay construction of the main lanes, for years if possible. Construct the bike lanes first, and make them best quality, able to well handle high numbers of people traveling by bike.
Or, heaven forbid, we accept that some of our infrastructure is at capacity, and will be too disruptive to rebuild, so we limit growth in areas that will overtax it.
I don’t know that growth…that is…economic vitality, population and corresponding housing, employment, services, etc density…necessarily has to be limited to prevent it over-taxing road infrastructure for travel and transport by motor vehicle.
This kind of growth could possibly continue to occur as anticipated, with ample additions to road infrastructure more specifically supporting walking and biking…and considerably different community planning too, I’d expect.
But the money…is in motor vehicles, and the infrastructure providing for their use. Not bikes. Motor vehicles are the ‘superman’ of vehicular road travel, and so they consistently win out on prioritization for road provision.
The collective awareness of traffic congestion can be limited to bad as normal, to not as bad, as being much better. Someone moving up from L.A., might think traffic on TV Hwy, 185th, or some of Portland’s big thoroughfares running through it’s close in neighborhoods, is nothing compared to where they came from. From such a frame of reference, where’s the incentive for them to help stave off that kind of thing in their new home here in the Tualitan Valley? The forces against limiting expansion of road infrastructure for use with motor vehicles, are strong…very strong.
Among the many key things, is that our urban core continues to add jobs and housing. In cities that are doing that, Boston, DC, Seattle, etc, we’ll see reductions in auto commuting. Add in some actual biking infrastructure and improved transit service, and it will get better.
This reads like an example out of “How to Lie With Statistics”.
As the city adds population, there are more cars (and bikes) in the same amount of space. Maintaining a 7% bike-commute share isn’t much of a victory.
The rise from 3% to 6% biking in the 2000s was the biggest factor behind Portland’s ability to add jobs in that decade without increasing congestion at all. 7 percent isn’t a lot but it’s the highest rate for a large United States city. The question is whether it’s possible to make the number grow … and the recent experience of Portland (not to mention other cities) makes it very clear that change is possible.
Michael, a wonk question: why do the trend lines per mode seem more “stable” or less variable pre2005? (Are there less data points or a smaller sample size etc.?)
Michael only included data for 2000 and 2005 and then added a smoothed out trend line. After 2005 there is data for each year included.
That’s right – the reason being that the ACS didn’t collect any annual data until 2005.
It will be interesting city politics for TRIMET when the % transit slips below % bike…assuming that bike facilities would start pulling in more governmental investment comparable to its mode share.
Perhaps TRIMET would have to then strategically reach for political support from the outer suburbs…places that bike commuting to the city center would not make much development sense (vs. [real] commuter rail).
Broadway is pretty busy. Not up to Hawthorne levels but pretty packed during high-commute times. Rider volume drops off in the winter just like the others, of course.
Broadway, Steele, Hawthorne, Tilikum and Burnside all have counts in the thousands in the Summer. Morrison has low counts only due to the lack of connectivity on the east side.
Fair enough on Broadway. Tilikum and Steel have disappointing traffic considering their locations. Basic point still remains that if you add it all up, it’s not that impressive given how many people are in the area.
Any investment in highway (i.e. the rose quarter expansion) should have proven equal benefit for other means of transit. We already have a fully-developed highway network. We don’t need any more. The Sunrise Corridor was a waste of $130 million. Redesigning Powell boulevard with a cut and cover buried highway and dedicated transit and bike lanes on top from SE 23rd to 33rd would finally make transit (BRT) on that corridor workable (as well as set the stage for further LRT development). It would might also cost about $350 million, but benefit not just people commuting in cars.
I’m guessing you don’t cross the bridge into Vancouver every day.
I commute to Vancouver and I would like better transit options. I agree that widening of highways should only occur for train or bus rapid transit lanes. More car lanes will not fix traffic.
The Columbia River Crossing project, perhaps the most hated project in BP’s universe, proposed a really great extension of the Max line to Vancouver and great bicycle facilities. In the end, an interesting coalition of auto-haters, transit-haters and Washington legislators managed to kill the project.
I’ve predicted before and will repeat here that eventually the I-5 Interstate Bridges will be replaced and the replacement will feature increased capacity for autos, no dedicated transit facilities, and a poor excuse for bicycle and pedestrian facilities.
I cannot imagine Portland agreeing to any expansion without a light rail extension. It is also difficult (though not impossible) to imagine Vancouver/WA agreeing to such an extension, which makes me think CRC II, CRC III, and CRC IV are doomed to fail.
What we do know is that it will be back.
We have already seen several attempts by representatives in Vancouver to restart a highway-only version. I would support a stepped approach such as proposed by George M. Crandall.
I liked the redundancy and phased approach of Crandall’s Common Sense Alternative. I’d also like to see rail from Vancouver to Hillsboro via the old Cornelius Pass Railway Tunnel along the former United Railways interurban rail.
That place is a cesspool filled with vitriol and home to some of the nastiest people on the internet.
You mean adolescent trolls. News comments sections draw them like flies.
I’m happy to see that some news sites are eliminating them all together.
A movement of the needle from the long plateau at low-mid 6.X% to 7% isn’t exactly a surge in my book. Add in the fact that population numbers are growing and car numbers are not shrinking at all and it sure doesn’t feel like an increase in bike use.
I think we’re mostly seeing more and more of the region’s travel lanes at or over their car carrying capacity, which is stunting the use of cars. I don’t think the tiny steps being made by PBoT are having any significant impact one way or the other.
Sadly, this model suggests that the only way we’re going to see significant increases in bike use is to see near-gridlock for many hours per day. Ugh. Maybe we should all spend more time in our cars clogging traffic, all in the name of increasing cycling as a way to test this model. (Please don’t; I was just kidding.)
FWIW, I agree with all of this, except for the suggestion that 5,000 daily bike commuters isn’t a surge. That’s more than you’ll see in almost any city in the country, and it appeared on our streets in a single year.
We want a lot more surges like it, of course.
The filter will always be what works and what does not work. When getting to your destination by other than car rules, it will be because getting to your destination does not work. Transit, carpooling, cycling, etc. only serve to ‘free up’ roadway for those who do not choose to use transit, cycling, carpooling, etc. Let them enjoy critical mass for the automotive set. Our main goal is to secure safe facilities to use, unmolested by the motorists.
it will be because getting to your destination BY CAR does not work
sorry dude…i haven’t mastered the posting function on this site, but i tried to correct the “only deduct 170k/yr” in my followup:
u can only deduct interest on 1mm mortgage (here about 50k/yr-ish), and they phase out that deduction once you have annual income >170k….
The phase out never reaches 100% and is miniscule. For example, someone making ~$590,000 per year with $50,000 in mortgage interest would still get to deduct ~$46,000.
which means at a 39% rate you get to save ~ 17k on your tax bill…not saying its not there, but SPENDING 50k so u can save 17k isn’t some mad windfall or nefarious tax shelter hiding millions in income.
That’s where you’re wrong, my friend.
If I took that 17K savings, and gave it to my private banker so he could invest it in a leveraged IPO bond swap, with a double-stop buyback to limit downside-risk, I could use that as leverage for an advance option on a tax-deferred short-sale that could arbitraged on the currency market, the proceeds of which could washed through an anonymous Cayman corporation that would rent my property for 60K, thus turning a tidy profit (which I would use to add two bottles of 1984 Chateau Montrose Special Reserve Bordeaux to my cellar, and buy a third as a gift for my banker). Lather, rinse, repeat.
That, my friend, is how the rich get richer.
i’d leave your currency exposure unhedged…and dodd frank severely limits your cash bond swap ability (balance sheet is costly), unless you are willing to take CDS exposure…but yea…basically your plan is foolproof…can’t poke a hole in it
your comments on this topic are not even wrong.
table II in publication 936 illustrates how the deduction is calculated and the bottom line is that this is a deduction that greatly benefits the very wealthy and has little-to-no benefit for the lower income quintiles:
examples of how this tax works here:
How much will your $46K deduction save you? Somewhere in the neighborhood of $17K, unless you are in an industry that lets you funnel your income through a 15% vehicle, in which case your savings will be half that.
You two are not so far apart in your numbers.
my point is that the deduction greatly favors the rich. in fact, most lower income quintile owners don’t bother with the deduction because there is little to no benefit over the standard deduction.
The charitable deduction favors the rich. All deductions favor the rich, who pay taxes at a much higher marginal rate, if you want to make it into a class warfare kind of thing.
Stop. I’m not totally disagreeing, but i’m saying that to a girl making 500k+/yr, being able to “save” 17k on her tax returns b/c she shelled out 50k on interest payments just isnt some crime against humanity. Itsnot some dastardly rich v poor scenario. Yes its more than the standard deduct, but its not perpetuating the wealth gap. In fact, i think u’ll find alot of 1mm transactions are done in cash these days, partly b/c the deduction “benefit” is viewed as worthless
Totally anecdotal, but I biked through Rose Quarter/ N Williams last night right around 5:40 (i’m usually a bit outside commute hours). Anyhow, there were easily more than 50 bicycles waiting at the light at the Rose Quarter/ I-5 on ramp to head north. I’ve never seen it remotely so crowded at that light because you haven’t picked up the crowd from the steel bridge yet. This was during a normal light-cycle, not like we got held up from a Max earlier or anything. Anyway, it was really striking, wish my phone had been within reach to take a photo that I could use.
190 comments and only two people noted the outrage that we elected crazy lawmakers like riads commissioner Novick who approve $350,000,000 to fix one mile of freeway. That’s the story here.
Watch this small segment of my 35 mile daily commute…
We could create a lot faster and safer trips for more people if we elected people who cut all freeway money until we get to #visionzero deaths .
Evict Novick and his 350mil freeway and evict anyone who endorses him. That would be the corrupt board of bike walk vote PAC who excludes bike members from voting. Until we have real bike ACTivists we have just LOUD wanna be talkers .hot air. All talk no action.
Yeah, lets collect gas taxes from people who drive cars on the promise that we’ll fix streets and then not use any of that money to fix our freeways. The white yuppie crowd at BikePortland reeks of entitlement. You guys are just as bad as the KKK-worshipping Trump alt-right.
I am profoundly interested in your views of how race relates to a person’s feelings about prioritizing the spending of gas tax revenue. It is well known that all white people think alike (and, for obvious reasons, they all hate highway funding), but could you please explain your analysis in a bit more depth? Since you’ve already alluded to a KKK connection, it would be extra interesting if you could draw a comparison with the modern Nazi party, and their strong support for the use of gas taxes to fund bicycle infrastructure.
You may have missed the “yuppie” part. Although I think that most people who use that term as an epithet, don’t think it means young urban professional so much as it means affluent intellectual liberal fascist. (and sometimes success-hating un-american feminist atheist vegan communist crazy cat person depending upon the argument)
I don’t feel its entitlement to say that the FAA should put safety of air travel as a priority over travel times. My point is that each state DOT must do the same as the FAA. Road safety is more of a challenge than air safety due to many variables, but we can reduce the growing death trends. That makes me a Nazi to one person. Uh. Moving on to get shit done
The word you are looking for is “uppity”.
This is an excellent story, Michael. The story and the data it presents seem to confirm a very simple axiom that my pa and grandpa repeated often:
“You get what you pay for”.
So, do we want more cars, which will inevitably lead to more congestion, or more other forms of transport that serve to reduce the number of cars we “need” to use?
Pick one and pay for it, PBOT/ODOT, but don’t be surprised at the result.
Great article, Michael. Thanks.
Fantastic to see more and more people are switching to a pollution-free alternative such as biking for commuting to their work. And not to forget the health benefits.
Kudos, and way to go Portland!