“It is time for @trimet and @MultCoBridges to open the outer lane on Hawthorne for transit only. This is utterly absurd.”
— Alan Kessler on Twitter
Transit riders all too often forgotten victim of Portland’s congestion crunch. While we frequently hear tales of woe from people who drive in the daily gridlock that plagues much of our city, for some reason the news media and politicians don’t have the same empathic ear for people who use buses.
Since buses (and to a lesser extent streetcar and MAX trains) share the same lanes as cars and trucks, these (potentially) efficient and egalitarian workhorses of our transportation system are made to wait behind single-occupancy cars. This is infuriating to many transportation reform advocates, urban planners, and people with a grasp of basic mathematics.
Traffic in Portland is especially bad this year not only because driving is still way too attractive (it’s free, perceived as very safe, and often the fastest option), but also because of numerous construction projects. Case in point is Multnomah County’s project on the Morrison Bridge which prompted The Portland Mercury to report that it would “ruin your summer” if you drive. “Your options,” they wrote back in March, “Begin riding your bike, or figure out at whom you should direct your outrage.”
Unfortunately, if traffic on the Hawthorne Bridge directly south of the Morrison is any indication, it looks like way too many chose the latter option.
The result has surely caused outrage — but it’s not just people in cars that are mad. The daily backups on the Hawthorne leading into downtown frustrate transit fans too. One of them is Alan Kessler. Kessler is a lawyer by day and transportation reform activist on the side. He’s an active volunteer with Bike Loud PDX and other groups. On May 4th he was biking westbound on SE Madison approaching the Hawthorne Bridge and posted a video to Twitter with the message: “It is time for @trimet and @MultCoBridges to open the outer lane on Hawthorne for transit only. This is utterly absurd.”
It is time for @trimet and @MultCoBridges to open the outer lane on Hawthorne for transit only. This is utterly absurd. pic.twitter.com/sQ8lwqazkb
— Alan Kessler (@alankesslr) May 4, 2017
Kessler’s tweet sparked a robust discussion. So much that he’s decided to start a grassroots campaign to see if the idea has legs.
Since his tweet, Kessler has launched the Portland Bus Lane Project. So far it consists of a website and an email list. A meet-up of interested activists is being planned2. He’s also invited Multnomah County Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson to meet him outside her office just a few blocks away from the bridge to take a closer look at the issue.
“Watching buses idle with a few dozen cramped people inside while another dozen individuals in cars block their path is just absurd,” he shared with me a few days ago. “The idea that this is a system that someone designed, that so many people subject themselves to daily, and that is killing our planet. It’s absolutely absurd.”
Kessler points to Portland’s adopted planning documents that are supposed to prioritize transit above single-occupancy cars. “But this is a painful example of that not happening,” he points out. And he’s not just thinking about the Hawthorne Bridge. Bus-only lanes have been pushed for by Kessler and others on Outer Division for many months now. Metro and TriMet tried to create “bus rapid transit” on the Powell-Division Corridor last year, but were too afraid to constrain single-occupancy vehicle capacity to do it and the plan fell apart.
“If transit really is at the top of the inverted pyramid [a reference to Portland’s “transportation hierarchy” adopted in the Comprehensive Plan], and cars are at the bottom, then it should be easy to find the room to make this happen.”
What might happen to all traffic on the Hawthorne if we made this switch? It’s hard to say because don’t have precise figures about the current split of cars and buses. Two years ago, in a story about how biking and walking traffic was bursting at the seams of the Hawthorne Bridge’s sidepath, we reported that about 10 percent of all the traffic on the bridge is bicycle users, another 10 percent are on foot, and about 30 percent are in transit vehicles (leaving about half inside cars). A former member of the Multnomah County Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee told us, “We would like to see the council consider the possibility of lane reallocation.”
“I am certainly not against bus priority on the bridge, but I have always felt that Southwest Madison and Main are the more severe problem.”
— Jarrett Walker, transit consultant
Jarrett Walker of Human Transit, a highly regarded bus and transit consultant, told us this morning that attention should be paid to the streets that lead up to the bridge. “Bus only provisions are needed especially for bottlenecks. The urgent problem is often on the bridge approaches rather than the bridge itself,” he said. As an example, he added that MAX light rail on the Steel Bridge is “reasonably reliable” even when it mixes with other traffic. That’s because the bridge itself isn’t where congestion happens and the MAX has a dedicated path on the approaches.
“I am certainly not against bus priority on the bridge, but I have always felt that Southwest Madison and Main are the more severe problem,” added Walker.
If you’d like to get involved with Kessler’s project. You can sign up for his email list at Portlandb.us.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and firstname.lastname@example.org
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+1000. I realize that Hawthorne Bridge is probably on Alan’s daily commute and that’s the bridge he’s paying particular attention to, but eastbound Burnside Bridge has needed a bus lane for YEARS. It’s unacceptable the amount of delay that bus riders have to face when just trying to get past the queue of car traffic headed to I-84 via Grand Avenue.
Yep. It’s just the one I know well. It’s also right outside the County building, so it seemed like a good toehold. Let’s get bus priority throughout the city.
I’ve noted here in the comments over the years that the 96 which runs up and down I-5 to Wilsonville and which I ride regularly could use a bus/carpool lane during rush hour. I’m not holding my breath, but the situation is identical to what you’ve observed on the Hawthorne bridge.
As I’ve mentioned here before, Twin Cities Metro Transit is allowed to use freeway shoulders during congestion, which effectively creates a bus lane and works brilliantly. A lot of Portland freeway miles lack shoulders and TriMet doesn’t have that many routes that ply the freeways, but it’s a still a good idea that TM could adopt in a few places.
This would certainly facilitate bus movement. However, unless a lot more buses were moving up that corridor, it would be hard to make a good argument for a bus only lane. However, an HOV lane would be a step forward and reduce the number of cars as well.
I’m sure most bus lines have at least one chokepoint. Riding the 17 it is smooth sailing on Holgate, absurdly painful traffic going north on 17th and merging onto Powell, and then smooth sailing again across Tillikum and through downtown. That one painful mile often takes as long as the rest of the rest of the ride combined!!
I think we gained about 30 minutes on average not having to go across the ross island bridge with the 17.
I almost never ride the bus on burnside but the last time I did I was coming from big pink going east to 24th and it took over an hour. Its crazy to think people do that everyday. The savings in lost fuel alone would be a huge win for Trimet.
Fully support this. I feel so badly for the buses as i bike them daily on Hawthorne- they are getting a raw deal. I never take the bus because there is really no time savings, i’d prefer to grind it out on my bike. However those less willing to bike would probably be convinced under our current construction-induced gridlock to take the bus if there was a time savings and travel time reliability to be had.
All those folks stuck on the Hawthorne bridge bus in rush hour traffic could hop off and walk downtown much quicker than waiting for the traffic to thin and bus to creep forward. Seems like many of the riders have a choice at that point of gridlock – those folks not heading downtown could have grabbed a bus not going over hawthorne bridge and used the tillicum bus service, or streetcar; those going downtown could walk faster. kind of a temporary issue while county tries to fix morrison bridge. City needs to get smart about bridge bottlenecks.
And for those folks on the bus who are disabled/elderly/etc?
This is Portland. Apparently if you aren’t young, white, and lacking disabilities this city isn’t for you.
Me too, I run an 8 minute mile, I run the 3 mile commute home (central west side by the waterfront to ne Glisan) 15-20 minutes faster. It’s absurd. Here’s my transportation hierarchy when making commutes around town: bike, car, walk/run, max, bus. And many times when I’m on this bus I get fed up with the stop and go traffic that I get off early and walk.
I agree, the bus needs its own lane. Inefficient times one hundred!!
Yes. More town centers need them, too.
Transit needs priority. A bus full of people replaces a line of cars a quarter of a mile long — very relevant during rush where zero or one car often gets through on a light cycle.
I won’t ride transit in Portland. Way too slow as well as being packed. It would be more attractive if it were more efficient.
You won’t ride transit.. because other people do? How incredibly ***insult deleted – bb, please don’t insult other commenters. thanks – Jonathan***.
No. I won’t ride transit because it too slow, unreliable, and uncomfortable.
If I took transit rather than my bike to work, it would take over an hour extra each day. If I ran to work instead, transit still wouldn’t be faster. For a number of days this past year, major lines weren’t running at all. When the weather gets bad, transit should be the most reliable way around, but instead it’s the least. If there’s a protest, accident, or whatever, it gets hosed.
If it’s going to be crowded, it needs to be efficient. Speaking of which, here’s a link to the best public transit system I’ve ever seen, bar none. This is Kievskaya Metro in Moscow taken in October 1991 (just after the Soviet Union collapsed). Those people in the picture aren’t just standing there — they’re moving fast onto a high speed escalator because during rush hour the trains ran EVERY MINUTE during which the system would handle 3 million people among the stations. You couldn’t even walk the length of the length of the platform before the next train came in. During non rush, the trains ran every two minutes. Unlike PDX, you couldn’t touch the transit times with any other form of transport, it was super reliable, and generally the best way to get aroud evar. I seriously doubt we will ever have something as good as the citizens there took for granted for decades. http://photos.alptown.com/images/Russia.1991.ChasPik.jpg
As a regular user of TriMet, I can vouch that it can be pretty miserable–crowded (super wedged standing room only), smelly, slow. And the buses are filthy, many of them. I always check before I sit down—if I’m lucky enough to get a seat. My sister (a transit-user from way back) informs me it didn’t used to be this way and that TriMet was quite nice (and clean) and more wide-ranging and reliable–more routes and frequency. But it was much easier back then for them to be all those things.
…Just one of the reasons I can’t comprehend anyone saying “Bring on more people, Portland! MORE density! The more the merrier!” More people make everything worse, as I think someone else said here not that long ago. Who wants to live in a congested hellhole where you’re constantly waiting in line, or squished between people, or stuck in traffic, or unable to get your basic life chores done because a bajillion other people are doing the exact same thing at the exact same time? An exaggeration, perhaps 😉 but you know what I mean. Pray tell: exactly WHAT is ‘fun’ about all this growth? Grumble grumble…
Thanks, Alan, for being a squeaky wheel! Dedicated bus lanes are absolutely a necessity if this city’s going to get serious about getting people out of their cars. And more buses, more MAX trains. It is so unpleasant using TriMet at all but the least busy times now. And in my neighborhood, there really is no “least busy time” anymore.
In addition to being smelly and slow, they are really loud. In many ways, I prefer to share the road with a bunch of cars even with a few “compensation” vehicles mixed in with these behemoths that constantly drift into bike lanes, block vision, and make so much racket you can’t hear anything else. Why Portland of all places doesn’t use hybrids on a significant scale is beyond me.
We clearly have different commutes. I take a series of five buses (two Trimet, two SMART, one Cherriot) each way, and they’re all absolutely delightful: fast, clean, on time, good connections, etc. Oh, and ridiculously cheap: $7.10 spread over these buses on three different systems. Can’t beat that combination of cost and speed.
You must not take the 4… 🙂 I take the 10 instead whenever I can, but it has a limited run. It’s also full a lot of the time, nowadays. I LOVE taking transit for so many reasons–when I get a nice, non-urinous, uncrowded bus or MAX, I’m thrilled. It’s great.
I love taking the #4 bus.
Our commutes must be very different. If you can, would you be willing to share a substantial portion of your commute? I truly cannot fathom a series of buses being anything less than slow and miserable compared to a bike. Even a direct line on the routes I know does not compare attractively.
“I truly cannot fathom a series of buses being anything less than slow and miserable compared to a bike.”
Don’t be silly.
#14 ($2.50) from Hawthorne to 2nd & Main; walk four blocks to
#96 at 2nd & Columbia -> end of the line (Commerce Circle, Wilsonville) walk 50 yards to
#5 SMART (free shuttle) to Wilsonville WES station; transfer to
#1X Cherriots/SMART ($3) to Salem Bus Mall; walk across the river and get on
West Salem Connector ($1.60) which takes me to within a short walk of my front door.
All told, 2-1/2 hours including 20 minutes walking across the Willamette in Salem.
unbeatable in terms of price, convenience, and speed. Or did I already say that?
That is one long commute — does that mean you spend 5 hrs/day commuting on a normal day? How long does it take you to get to the WES station on transit?
Wilsonville is about 20 miles from Portland. Unless the bus can move really fast, I would still expect a bike to be faster to that point. This strikes me a great opportunity to get in phenomenal shape or an electric bike for the less masochistic. Certainly more fun.
“That is one long commute — does that mean you spend 5 hrs/day commuting on a normal day?”
No, I don’t do it every day.
“How long does it take you to get to the WES station on transit?”
About half an hour from downtown. If all I were doing was going to Wilsonville I’d bike downtown and then put my bike on the rack, but since there are so many legs I just take the bus the whole way.
“Wilsonville is about 20 miles from Portland. Unless the bus can move really fast, I would still expect a bike to be faster to that point.
Well if you can bike at 40mph, be my guest.
“This strikes me a great opportunity to get in phenomenal shape or an electric bike for the less masochistic. Certainly more fun.”
Kyle, let me tell you something.
I am in fine shape, don’t want or need an electric bike, and am frustrated by your persistence with your one-size-fits-all lecture. Did you forget that Wilsonville is not my destination? My destination is 54 miles from where I start, and although I’ve biked it, and probably will again, it takes me about 4-1/2 – 5 1/2 hours. This is not (for me) a realistic solution after a day of work, when I can pay a few bucks and let public transit get me where I’m going while I nap. Why is this something you’re determined to talk me out of?
It was a simple question. Am I to understand that you cover the first 20 miles in only 1/2 hr — meaning there is a 40mph average including all stops, waiting for buses, and transfers?
My experience with buses in Portland is that they are way slower than that. In fact, my experience with traffic at rush hour of any type is that it is way slower than that, especially down to Wilsonville. Covering even 3 miles in a half hour is hard enough by bus, so I wasn’t expecting you to cover 20. I know for certain I can’t cover 20 miles in a car during rush hour in 30 minutes so I’m surprised to hear I could do this simply by taking a combination of buses.
And yes, I understand the difference between getting to Wilsonville and all the way in. But I knew no one would do a daily commute by bike to West Salem.
Just for the heck of it, I ran a transit search. I was consistently seeing 40 minutes just for the section of the #96. Presumably the sections on the #14 and the #5 , walking between stops, and waiting for buses add rather than subtract time from that figure. I’ll go out on a limb and guess things don’t speed up at rush hour either.
Yes, rush hour slows things way down – if you’re going with the predominant (non-) flow of traffic. The 96 runs on I-5 for much of its Southbound run, and at 6am heading out of town there’s *no* competition to speak of. Returning at 5pm you can easily add half an hour to that stretch.
The lucky thing about the commute I’ve been elaborating on is that there is very little waiting and walking involved.
“It was a simple question.”
Well it started out simple.
I think we might add on Jarrett Walker’s idea, and ask for westside bus-only lanes from SW 5th/6th down to/up from the bridge. And on the east side, the bus-only lane should start at 12th and Madison, not 10th. And perhaps other bridge approaches as well.
The answer: No, it is not.
I second your YES.
What was the question?
(see headline, 9) 🙂
Similar to Roberta Robles’ proposal for freight dedicated signals on the I-5 approaches. The idea being we can cut down on the number of SOVs in the center city and get Freight off of surface streets, if we dedicate I-5 to freight (or at least the approaches in Portland).
where did Alan and Jarrett move here from?
No idea about Alan, but Jarrett Walker grew up in Portland.
That said, where somebody is originally from is completely irrelevant to the legitimacy of their ideas.
Manifest Destiny! 😉
I grew up in rural Nevada. I don’t recommend it.
The moment I had a choice of where to live, I moved here and went to college. Portland is a much better place–I’m thrilled to have found a place I love to live in and that I can advocate for.
Why does it matter?
I assume he was just making conversation 😉
Walker grew up in Portland — http://humantransit.org/about
If the Powell-Division (kinda, sorta) BRT is really going to go over the Hawthorne instead of Tillikum, then a bus only lane should be a requirement.
I’ve suggested this before and I’ll suggest it again: Bus only on the center lanes of Division from Water (OMSI) to 176th; on inner Division to 80th, all on-street parking removed, and the lanes reserved for local folks to drive to their driveways, but car access blocked with traffic triangles at each side street end (access in or out only, no crossings) but otherwise bike/ped access only along the old parking lane, with a small curb between the bus lane and old parking lane, to keep cars from accessing the bus-only lane. For 80th to 176th, outer lane for express bus only, inner lane for shared use by cars (to access shopping and residents) and by local bus service, with a protected bike/ped lane along the curbs. Periodically there should be curbs between the express bus lane and inner lane, to discourage cars from using the express bus lane. Pedestrian crossings at least every quarter mile, if not more frequently.
My 2 cents.
Inner Division’s single lane is pretty baked in due to all the bioswales; changing that would require a huge amount of money. Part of why Division is so slow is because of the improved pedestrian environment. That sucks for buses, but they’re well below pedestrians in the transportation hierarchy.
“As an example, he added that MAX light rail on the Steel Bridge is “reasonable reliable” even when it mixes with other traffic. That’s because the bridge itself isn’t where congestion happens and the MAX has a dedicated path on the approaches.”
The MAX shared with a lane with cars on the Steel Bridge prior to the construction of the Green Line and rebuild of the transit mall. For the last 8 years or so it has had dedicated lanes on the Steel Bridge, and no longer mixes with other traffic. The fact that the MAX isn’t delayed by traffic is an argument in favor of dedicated lanes for transit on the bridges.
I was confused by that too. Was it a typo and should have been past tense?
“even when it mixe[d] with other traffic.”? I can’t say whether that was true, limited experience during traffic back then.
The MAX is definitely delayed by traffic at the Steel Bridge. Although the MAX doesn’t physically mix with traffic over the Steel Bridge it is heavily influenced by traffic on both sides of the bridge because it runs at grade and relies on finding a preemption window at multiple traffic signals throughout the City. 6th at Hoyt, 1st at Everett and Multnomah at Interstate. Efficiently lining up preemption windows with all of the lines that run across the bridge and getting them to traverse the three way track plant at Multnomah is very challenging to optimize and something as simple as a pedestrian call, which cannot be truncated, can delay a LRT vehicle.
Also, MAX isn’t delayed as much over the Steel Bridge because it has its own lane and the trains constantly preempt the traffic signals and take priority over most other modes.
TDLR, whether its dedicated bus lanes, BRT, or light rail, LRT, all at-grade systems interact with the traffic signal system and other traffic.
This seems like an initiative that has to be driven by data from both PBOT and TriMet. Buses are tracked by GPS, so TriMet should know where how many riders are being slowed down on each line at what time of day. PBOT knows car count at those spots and times. Isolate the spots where the most bus riders are being slowed down AND where a bus-only lane will not create an intolerable bottleneck to other traffic. Then mark bus-only lanes there, with enough signage and plastic wands.
Philosophically, I think the goal should be to thoughtfully speed up transit riders. The goal should not be to intentionally bottleneck drivers. Bottlenecking drivers may be a “cost” but should not be a “goal”. There is no reason to be malicious about making life miserable for people who have good reasons for driving – age, infirmity, time and family demands, distance to travel, inadequate transit coverage, etc.
Not to mention getting buy in. It won’t help support for bikes and transit if deliberate sabotage is used to make them look more attractive.
It’s not deliberate sabotage of driving alone. It’s simply a matter of physics. There is only a finite amount of road space, so someone is going to lose. In my opinion, it should be the least space-efficient mode losing space and being replaced with a more space-efficient mode. In every case, this means taking space away from cars.
Bikes are certainly more space efficient than cars. But if thing are structured punitively rather than logically, people will see right through that which sets attitudes backwards rather than forwards.
I agree with the majority of your comment. However, this is the part that I disagree with in your comment – and it is the part that will KILL bus-only lanes.
“Isolate the spots where the most bus riders are being slowed down AND where a bus-only lane will not create an intolerable bottleneck to other traffic.”
All slowdowns are intolerable when you’re driving in them, so next to no such spots will ever be found. And even if 25% of the traffic-jam section is found to not create an “intolerable” slowdown for people driving (which I doubt), a bus-only lane that gets you past one-quarter of the traffic jam is not nearly as good as a bus-only lane that gets you past all of the traffic jam.
Yes! I’d love to see the modal count data for the Burnside and Hawthorne bridges.
However, you’re concern about “not creating an intolerable bottleneck to other traffic” would sink any proposal. The whole point is that traffic *is* an intolerable bottleneck for all users today. At least with a bus only lane, some users, and hopefully more users, could get through.
Depends on what “intolerable” means. Of course a bus only lane will slow drivers in the other lanes, that’s unavoidable.
Burnside eastbound is a problem that can be fixed. The back up is because 1) the left lane is blocked by cars trying to turn left on Grand and waiting for pedestrians in the crosswalk, 2) the right lane is blocked by buses stopping for riders to get off-on, and the signals are poorly timed, and 3) temporarily, construction in the left lane. Notice that after 12th, the bottleneck goes away.
So, remove one of the bus stops or make the right lane bus-only, change the light timing, wait for construction to finish.
“I think the goal should be to thoughtfully speed up transit riders. The goal should not be to intentionally bottleneck drivers.”
Are you a transportation surgeon? How do you propose doing one without the other? I’m for doing both, with gusto and no apologies.
Remember the reason buses are stuck is because of all those other (typically) single occupant vehicles. So I doubt you’re going to have much fun trying to maximize (a) without minimizing (b).
He’s not saying do one without the other. He’s saying try to minimize the fallout for drivers while improving transit.
good luck with that.
I don’t know if that’s possible. Motorists are going to feel like bloody revolution has broken out no matter how carefully you present this. May as well rip off the bandaid and push for an outcome that will really improve things – – otherwise, we’ll end up with a big slowdown for single-occupancy vehicles and no real improvement in travel times for transit, which would empower drivers to say the experiment didn’t work and it’s time to be ‘realistic’ now and open all those lanes back up to cars.
Agreed. Most people will make you pry their cars from their cold dead hands. No one’s going to go willingly, especially if semi-coddled.
We just built a carefree transit bridge with a transit-only viaduct that connects all the way to PSU. What they need to do is create a grade-separated crossing of the railroad tracks from SE 7th at Division to the Tilikum so buses, bikes and peds can easily cross without stopping for trains. The Hawthorne buses can then be routed south on 7th and over the Tilikum. It is slightly out of direction but the route would serve South Waterfront and the entire south end of downtown, including PSU. The buses would avoid congestion on the Hawthorne Bridge and delays due to bridge lifts.
I’d also like a more direct connection from Division to Tilikum. The nice thing about doing pop-up trial bus lanes, is it just takes cones, a few signs, and the will to make it happen.
“The Hawthorne buses can then be routed south on 7th and over the Tilikum.”
That seems like a *terrible* idea to me. Exactly the kind of obeisant nonsense you’d get if you followed John Liu’s advice about not inconveniencing those in cars.
Why don’t every time you need bike across the Hawthorne, instead ride over to cross the Tilikum and then ride back up to Hawthorne? Please let us know how much more convenient that is for you.
This was a major oversight of the orange line project. The new bridge is underutilized, and we missed a great opportunity to reconnect the grid on the east side.
We have visited Tucson a couple of times. On some of the main streets the busses and bicycles share a lane of their own. Pretty nice!
Bus/bike lanes are generally pretty terrible. Not a good idea to have the smallest vehicle share a lane with the largest vehicle.
While I personally would love to ride in the bus lane, I’m also not generally in favor of this because buses and bikes usually move at very different speeds.
Yes, that and having to leave the bus lane to pass a stopped bus is not pleasent.
” buses and bikes usually move at very different speeds”
not where I bike. There the speeds are if anything too similar.
In my experience, the bikes are usually faster then the buses. 😉
That is most definitely my experience and is one of the reasons I don’t ride them.
A resounding YES. Instead of biking to work for the past month, I rode the bus. It was packed (I’m glad it’s a popular transit method) but stuck in the same traffic as cars. It occurred to me that trimet would be even more popular and efficient if it had its own travel lanes, especially during peak traffic hours.
We need to incentivize low-cost, low-emission transportation solutions. Dedicated bus lanes would support the cause.
I’m a transit advocate, but with Portland steadily removing lanes throughout town, I’m not sure what’s going to be left to give.
Parking lanes, of course.
I like the idea of removing parking lanes in favor of bus lanes. Even if just restricted to rush hour (like those on SE Madison and SE Morrison), a bus lane westbound in the morning and eastbound in the evening could have huge benefits on a narrow street like SE Division. Never thought I’d say this, but it’s too bad the city has built so many curb extensions! 😉
“…it’s too bad the city has built so many curb extensions!”
I’m sure Trimet could install some of those monster truck tires on the right sides of the affected buses to deal with that challenge.
Curb extensions are great for pedestrians, who occupy the highest pinnacle of the transportation pyramid. We need more such infrastructure.
Where I see this is in the afternoon on NW Everett. The bus makes good time on 5th in a dedicated lane, but it takes 10 minutes to go 5 blocks and merge into bridge.
How many people is the road not moving in the 15 minutes between buses?
I don’t think the overall efficiency argument is a winning one.
Just so you’re informed:
Hawthorne Bridge: Lines 4, 6, 10, 14, 15 (temporary), 30
Burnside Bridge: Lines 12, 19, 20
What’s the combined frequency and passenger throughput of all those lines put together?
A certain amount of density is required for it to make sense. If the buses are frequent enough like on 5th and 6th, it’s a pretty easy case to make. If they’re too spaced out, it gets really weak.
Transit should be about moving people and stuff.
Commute like you give a damn. Far too many people clearly just don’t give a damn.
I wish people would line our bridges and remind the multitudes that cars are the major cause of climate change, that they can do something about it right now.
But I am fortunate to live within 5 miles of work and can bike everyday.
Every SOV commuter should get a bumper sticker that reads: I am changing the environment, ask me how!”
Unfortunately, I think very people organize their daily life around combating climate change, even in Portland.
You are right and that is exactly why the suggestion above is so important. If everyone were already doing it, we wouldn’t be having this discussion, would we?
Every single major collector in Portland should have bus-only lanes. Hawthorne, Burnside, Chavez, Sandy, Powell, Foster, Lombard, basically any street wider than three lanes. Remove parking if needed. This is how we get people to take public transport over driving alone.
I don’t have much faith this will ever get done, however, since we can’t even manage to plan a BRT line with dedicated bus lanes…
Indeed. Modern day streetcar roads, it would be a game changer for transit.
At the very least, try it on one! Create a test case for the love of the Lord!
That is such a disappointment, the Powell (Division) BRT. 🙁
The carrying capacity of single occupant automobiles in tight urban places like the Hawthorne bridge and its approachs is pathetic. At best, 2000 people per hour can be carried per lane, while nose to tail buses can carry 20 times that number of people per lane. So. there is really no answer to congestion, other than removing travel by single person automobiles where ever possible. No matter how much an individual person may like or need the convenience of driving from a parking garage downtown to their house on Mt. Tabor, it has no future in a densifying Portland. At this point, it is nothing more than a nod to the nostalgic past and a short lived luxury for the privleged.
Except that buses don’t drive noise to tail, they drive 15 minutes apart, so it’s more like nose 2 miles from tail. How dense is that?
Like everything worth discussing at length this is a dynamic problem. If (a) the buses had dedicated lanes and (b) the lanes on which those in single occupant vehicles could idle during rush hour were cut in half, don’t you think it conceivable that the number of buses might practically be increased? And if not, why not? This is not static and we would do well to reject static takes on this problem.
Increasing buses requires drivers and more buses, both of which cost money, which TriMet does not have. I agree reduced headways are essential for a world-class transit system, but who’s going to pay for it?
If we wanted to we could easily find the money. Let’s raid ODOT’s coffers. It isn’t as if they were spending it wisely now is it?
It may seem obvious to you to transfer money from ODOT to TriMet so they can hire more drivers, but may be less obvious to the other people who have to buy in to that decision. ODOT’s money comes from a variety of sources, many of which are highly constrained on how that money is used.
“ODOT’s money comes from a variety of sources”
surely from us/our tax dollars, no?
So, where’s the problem?
Do you not realize how many buses go over these bridges?
Reposted from my other comment in this article:
“Hawthorne Bridge: Lines 4, 6, 10, 14, 15 (temporary), 30
Burnside Bridge: Lines 12, 19, 20
What’s the combined frequency and passenger throughput of all those lines put together?”
Lines 12, 19, and 20 each run at approximately 15 minute intervals during the eastbound afternoon rush hour. Max seating capacity is roughly 40 for the 40 foot buses. So those lines move at most 480 people per hour over the Burnside Bridge eastbound. If every bus is 100% full. One bus comes by every 5 minutes, per schedule. Hardly “nose-to-tail”, is it?
What is rush hour car traffic eastbound over that bridge? I found some traffic count data from 2012 that said peak hour was about 1500 vehicles per hour; I imagine it is substantially higher now.
Last data I saw for bike traffic over the Burnside bridge is 2,345 per day in 2014, that’s all day in both directions, and I imagine it is also substantially higher now.
So my best guess is that of the people crossing that bridge eastbound during the rush hour, perhaps 75-85% are in cars, 15-20% in buses, 5% on bike or foot.
We need to improve conditions for transit riders, bike riders, and pedestrians. That’s for sure. But we need to be reasonably balanced about it. If 75-80% of the people crossing during the peak congestion period are in cars, some slowdown to them is unavoidable but too much slowdown is not going to be tolerated. Yes, have a bus-only lane on East Burnside, but also do things to reduce the impact on drivers.
In addition to what we’ve discussed already, how about this:
– Eliminate parking on the north side of E. Burnside from MLK to Grand, make that a block-long left-turn-only lane/pocket for drivers turning left on Grand.
– At other left turn opportunities on E. Burnside, consider changing curb bump-outs to curb islands, and removing curbside parking, to make more left-turn-only lanes/pockets.
– Make the right-most eastbound lane on the bridge and on E. Burnside to 12th a bus–only lane, with right turns also allowed.
-Consider restricting some right turns after MLK and before 12th, perhaps just during rush-hour, to reduce right-turning cars disrupting buses and bicycle right-hook opportunities.
– Leave two other lanes eastbound lanes on the bridge and on E. Burnside as car lanes.
– Improve light timing during rush hour for better traffic flow, keep them regulated at 20 mph during other hours.
Like many of you, I’ve taken thousands of driving, riding, and busing eastbound trips on E. Burnside over the past several years. Traffic is getting worse and it is hurting everyone.
By the way, I have to admit I can’t tell what the rules are for turning left on Grand now, given the construction, and I don’t know if that left lane is already planned to be a dedicated left-turn lane. Construction has snarled up and confused things.
There are reasons why citywide transit mode share has been stagnant at 10-12% for decades. When there is no travel time advantage to taking transit, most people will choose to drive (especially in a city that is as easy and cheap to drive in as Portland). I guarantee you many of those drivers would switch modes if there was a real tangible benefit to doing so.
And also, you have to assume that many of those peak hour buses are standing room only and carrying more than the seated capacity. According to this TCRP report, “A typical 12-meter (40-foot) urban transit bus can normally seat 43 passengers and can carry up to 37 additional standees if all of the aisle circulation space is filled.” You can probably count on each of those peak buses somewhere around 45-60 passengers.
That’s an exaggeration. We can “wish” that, and even “think” that, but no-one can “guarantee” that a substantial number of drivers will switch modes because the bus travel time improves.
I’d think the sensible thing to do is to make a test change, then evaluate, and get actual data on which to base further actions. Take some routes that serve important bus lines, put in bus-only lanes etc, and compare ridership and congestion to similar routes which have not been changed.
In this city (and in the government world generally) I see a lot of theories being offered up as “guarantees” to justify actions that end up being detrimental. Since the people who confidently make the guarantees seldom suffer major consequences, this pattern continues.
No, this is not mere conjecture. There was a report done last year that indicated the #1 thing that transit agencies can do to improve overall satisfaction with transit service (and potentially encourage additional riders) is to reduce travel times (second is reducing headways).
Does it follow that “increased satisfaction” will translate into increased ridership? Enough increased ridership to make the tradeoffs worthwhile? How much will other modes be affected? That’s what a test would show.
That survey, and similar surveys, are very soft data. Just like the survey featured in another recent BP story: 25% of people say that if traffic were” bad enough” they would consider riding bikes. That survey result is pretty meaningless because no-one knows what “bad enough” is, and because people always say they will do things and then don’t do it. So with the survey linked above. Making existing transit riders “more satisfied” doesn’t mean drivers will switch to transit. They might, they might not, how many? To find out, do a test.
“If 75-80% of the people crossing during the peak congestion period are in cars, some slowdown to them is unavoidable but too much slowdown is not going to be tolerated.”
Remember, you are not stuck in traffic… you are traffic.
“…but also do things to reduce the impact on drivers.”
You and Hello, Kitty keep insisting on this, but I’m not clear on the logic. If auto (mostley-solo-) drivers are the cause of nearly all of this congestion, and if as I think we agree there’s some elasticity to their use of the car – higher prices, more frustration sitting there not moving, better alternatives, etc. – then let’s take advantage of that elasticity, push things in those directions. If we’re always concerned about the impact on drivers we’re never going to get there.
Smokers probably don’t like standing out in the rain or sun to do their thing either, but, let’s face it, that is where they have been sent, and everyone else is better off for it.
I’m not saying “don’t inconvenience drivers”, I’m saying that adding friction to driving should be considered a cost, perhaps a necessary one, to be minimized, not a goal to be maximized.
Choosing a different path will make solutions politically untenable.
let’s not forget that everyone EVERYONE said that a city gas tax was politically unviable, a dinosaur, etc. bikeportland, Oregon Walks, Steve Novick and on down. And guess what we not only got one proposed but it passed. Ha. Don’t come to me with politically untenable.
There’s nothing more politically untenable than Climate Change. I say too bad for politics.
It was so untenable that it was approved by voters. If you think you could get “increasing friction for driving to make alternatives more attractive” past voters, then by all means do so. I’ll vote for it.
We’ll both live to see the day.
But when it happens it won’t be a free choice. ;-(
Is the prevailing attitude here that bike riders and transit users are the only people that matter, and car users are a class of people who don’t matter at all? Seems like it.
Give me a break!
Are you conveniently forgetting a century(!) of subsidies thrown at automobility?
Yeah, when are people going to finally stand up for the road users who take up 90% of the road space and receive 90% of the funding?
. . . and represent 75-80% of the population . . . and voters . . .
The problem with BP comments is that it is usually about 15 regulars all agreeing with themselves, with very little sympathy or concern for people who have different needs or interests. Total echo chamber stuff.
75-80% of the people crossing the bridge are in cars, and you don’t think we should find some way to ease their misery too? If and when we install a bus only lane, we also need to do things to help car traffic flow better. Period. If the advocacy effort that this story describes fails to include that, then it deserves to fail.
Not quite an echo chamber, but I know where you’re going with that.
“75-80% of the people crossing the bridge are in cars, and you don’t think we should find some way to ease their misery too?”
OK, let’s unpack that a little bit.
Shall we call this a collective action problem? Why not? Everyone in their own car is just trying to get where they want to go, but if we allow too many of those individuals do their individual thing in a confined space that can’t really handle that much individuality we get a BIG problem. Those riding a bus or walking or cycling or pushing scooter’s behaviors are not generating externalities for everyone. And not just because there are fewer of them but because, as Ivan Illich reminded us, the pursuit of greater speed than the other guy that the car instantiates is doomed, is self-defeating if you let it play itself out. All end up losing, whether they are inside or outside the car. This dynamic does not inhere to the other modes which should give us pause.
So the reason I bristle at your talk of auto-misery is that your phrase seems to entirely discount the role those auto-bound play in causing this problem. I’m far more interested in causes than effects, and we do understand the cause perfectly well, have for generations. I know full well that many people are stuck (thanks past policies that always favored the car!!) driving, but sooner or later we need to get past this, accept defeat, call it for what it is, and move on. When you appeal for sympathy for those in cars I hear an unwillingness to consign the car experiment to the rubbish heap of history. Let’s make it clear that we’re done propping up this car-nonsense and are going to redouble our efforts to make the alternatives really good.
Buses do have more carrying capacity than personal cars do, but buses don’t go to the destinations many people travel to. In simple terms, buses aren’t practical transportation for meeting the travel needs of many people using the road.
For a bus to be practical transportation, it doesn’t have to go right to people’s residence, but the distance from the bus line to the rider’s residences, is a definite consideration in need of being kept in mind. If that distance poses adverse circumstances, people just aren’t going to willingly ride the bus, if they have a safer, more comfortable and convenient means of travel.
By the way…not in reference to your comment, but about the following excerpt from this story:
“…because driving is still way too attractive (it’s free, perceived as very safe, and often the fastest option), …” bikeportland
I’m not sure from where such an idea comes, but it certainly does sound like animosity, in addition to being untrue.
Driving is free? The cost of the motor vehicle, the insurance, the fuel, whether it be diesel, gas or electric? Wow, this is news to me. I’ve got to tell the gas station cashier next time I fill up the vehicle’s tank: Thanks for the ‘free’ gas! And my insurance company: I won’t be needing to write out checks for insurance anymore, because I heard that it’s now ‘free’. And why am I driving a 20 year old pickup, when new cars must be free, now that driving has been pronounced as a ‘free’ way to travel. If that’s true, we should all go right down and get our ‘free’ new cars.
What prompts a statement suggesting that driving is ‘free’, when driving is definitely not free? I’m not sure. Maybe it arises from some people’s feelings about the city not having so called ‘congestion pricing’, as I’ve heard London has, in which people must pay a fee to drive their motor vehicle in certain busy areas of Downtown. Ok…for a very busy city like London, NYC, Tokyo, maybe congestion pricing is a worthy idea for trying to reduce road congestion. Maybe. But for Portland? Extremely doubtful that such an idea would find much favor from many road users in Portland, or from business, or from people living in the city.
About half the people on buses could be on bikes.
A lot of car people could be too, but a lot of car people are hauling kids, etc.
Most Bus riders are just commuting by themselves (like cyclists) or are going somewhere by themselves (like cyclists), and just don’t want to do it.
Most transit riders I see are distracted by their headphones listening to music or using their cell phone or ipad. Given a choice, I’d much rather they take the bus distracted rather than drive distracted (almost universal now) or ride their bikes distracted (I’ve seen and I’m sure you have too.) Distracted pedestrians are, alas, a leading cause of crashes these days. Sorry to break off, I’ve got a call coming in, can get back to you later?
“Distracted pedestrians are, alas, a leading cause of crashes these days”
The idea that distracted pedestrians are a leading cause of crashes is always argued based on anecdote, not data. This suggest to me that this narrative is likely rooted in prejudice.
It’s based upon data, from the FHWA, that pedestrian distraction is one of many “causes” of fatal injuries and an increasing one. Obviously distracted drivers are a far higher and deadly cause. Are you saying you have a bias against drivers who are otherwise obeying the law and driving at posted speeds are always at fault if they should hit a pedestrian? Or are you saying that pedestrians cannot by definition be distracted and/or incapacitated by electronic devices, gawking, chemicals in their system, or a lack of judgement about their surroundings, and thus cannot be at fault for causing a crash?
Well, sure, North Korea reputedly has some missile capabilities… but that is really mostly a distraction from the fact that we (the US) have seen fit to build and maintain military bases in some 120? countries around the world. Given what we know I’d have so say that focusing on pedestrian distraction (North Korea) is not done in good faith.
Just because some is “distracted” by headphones, cellphones, etc. on the bus doesn’t mean they would be if they were driving, walking or biking. The bus ALLOWS you to do these things, which is one of the most wonderful things about getting out of your damn car.
I ride transit frequently, and when I do so I often open up the Mercury, check the news on my phone, work on my laptop or read a good book. All things I do NOT do when I’m biking or certainly driving – and also don’t do when I’m walking in a crosswalk or other place where cars may be present.
“Distracted pedestrians are, alas, a leading cause of crashes these days.” Not true. This is a meme that’s going around to blame victims, and which the pro-driving crowd eats up. But “distracted” pedestrians are very rarely at fault in collisions. Even in the fairly uncommon cases where pedestrians are hit by vehicles and wouldn’t have been if they’d looked up from their phones, they are usually in crosswalks where they had the right of way. Driver just resent that people in a lower transportation class don’t uniformly genuflect and make eye contact with them. Never mind that they can come up to a stop sign at a busy highway, and not get mad that the passing drivers don’t make eye contact and thank them for not killing them. But heaven forbid a pedestrian fail to acknowledge someone higher on the totem pole!
I can ride a bike, but sometimes, in the winter, I don’t feel like enduring the 30mph wind ripping out of the Gorge on my commute to Gresham. Public transit is an important part of a car-free lifestyle.
A huge YES to this!! Just signed up – thanks Alan for spearheading this.
Just as the question was asked recently about switching from single-occupancy vehicles [SOV] to biking when traffic gets so bad [25% shift?] … it should be obvious that many folks who are stuck in their cars and watching buses blast by in a bus-only lane will switch too!
People are inherently smart [and selfish] and will take advantage of a better way to commute … let that better way be transit in dedicated lanes.
We have also seen time and again that carmageddon rarely happens even with entire freeway sections obliterated, so some lane reallocation is a damn good idea. In fact, bus-only lanes ought to be very common; and in places where they are only needed during rush hours, let them be temporary [pro tem].
The buses should be laughing all the way to downtown.
A better way sometimes means heated seats, personal space, leather interior, nice stereo, freedom to drive after work. Even if your commute is an hour one way…
I see those folks enjoying their “freedom” to drive after work while I squeeze by them–as they idle through many cycles of lights–in the gutter on my way to the bridge. I wonder why they don’t look happier.
Now that is a winning formula! Why didn’t I think of doing that?!
There is a streetfilms video of people riding bikes on the rush-hour bus lanes in Seattle.
You can’t switch to a bus when service in your area is so infrequent, inaccessible and unreliable as to be non-existent. If we are going to dedicate lanes to bus service, TriMet should be forced to improve it.
More street cars and less buses = less air pollution.
I’m a big fan of this approach, too, and just signed up. Depending on how much throughput these lanes end up having with only busses, it might make sense to also open them up to freight delivery trucks, and maybe (again, depending on whether or not they’re at capacity) 3+ person carpools. And maybe even (gasp!) SOVs, as long as they paid a variable toll, to ensure that the lane keeps flowing at a pre-defined pace (e.g. 25 MPH). All toll revenues could be dedicated to adding more frequent bus service.
I agree with this. I think that the common enemy of cyclist, bus, and freight is the SOV. I imagine there are huge wins to be had with transit-/commercial-permit- only lanes. Congestion pricing would be amazing.
yes to carpools being included (but as you already noted, not the 2 persons in a car = carpool nonsense)
This is a bit of hyperbole. Current problems shown on Hawthorne are somewhat due to the issues with the Morrison Bridge closure – a 3 month closure due to a re-surfacing problems that the County brought on themselves with poor maintenance and poor oversight. Take care of the maintenance, take care of the contractor oversight. A three month fix horizon is ridiculous, what are we working on the job for a few hours a day, with a few people on the job? County needs to expedite this work with 24/7 work crews and shorter schedule. Get the job done.
Buses need to stay out of the bike lanes. The Portland transit pyramid shows bikes > bus, but the bus drivers all operate their vehicles in the bike lane as if the pyramid is structured the other way around. Buses should keep not pull over into the bike lanes, especially on busy arterials like the hawthorne bridge.
Seems to me they managed to deal with a much bigger bridge collapse in Atlanta in less time…
I’ll rewrite that to make more sense:
If you have a bus only lane, how frequently will buses go by in that lane? If not often enough, then it might make more sense if cars can use the bus lane when no bus is in it, but if a bus comes up behind a car the car has to move over to allow the bus to pass. And cars in the car lane would be required to give room for them to move over.
I’m glad more people are getting on board with this. It’s a shame that Trimet themselves are not advocating for these changes.
Streetcar has been very proactive about getting a transit lane on NE Grand to get past the backup to get on the I-84 ramp. This would help the perpetually stuck #6 bus too. But you’re right, TriMet doesn’t seem that publicly concerned with the amount of operating dollars (read: labor costs) they’re hemorrhaging when buses get stuck in SOV-induced congestion.
Then the westend of the bridge needs a protected bike/bus lane to keep out cars.
E Burnside would be a good candidate – not ODOT owned so they can’t hit their giant “NO.” button. Well it would work at least until the Gilham intersection (~67th), where it becomes two narrow lanes – dedicated lanes beyond that would require eliminating both parking *and* bike lanes (which are the only nearby bike lanes to get across 205) Though going right from that intersection sends you through the Gilham<Thorburn<Washington<Stark route, and there's ample lanes going way out into The Numbers.
Past 12th, eastbound East Burnside doesn’t get particularly congested. At least as far as I have observed. If there are parts that do, then we should consider bus only lanes. There’s no reason to put a bus only lane where it isn’t needed. A bus comes along only every 5 minutes. As long as buses are moving okay, why have an entire lane sitting empty almost all the time?
Portland is choking in it’s own success. In 5 years, I literally envision 24 hour gridlock in Portland. 1/2 of the gridlock will be cars driving around trying to find street parking, road rage will jump 500%. The % of bikes commuting will drop in half because of safety concerns. We can’t widen or add streets to inner pdx. Yes, we can take away street parking to ‘add’ lanes, but car traffic will increase, gridlock, and lead to tons more bike/car conflicts. Please someone prove me wrong here!! We don’t have a housing affordability problem…we have a LIVABILITY problem! The days of cheap housing in PDX are gone. The city had decades to purchase very cheap vacant lots for affordable housing, change zoning to allow duples/triples…but didn’t. Mini-San Francisco here we come!
Who cares if the cars are in gridlock if I could just sail past them on a bus or bike?
Yeah, but it gets to a point where cars are blocking intersections, doing last minute right or left turns across bike lanes to avoid traffic (n Williams), etc… bike safety gets compromised .
I’m curious what those on here think of bus-bike-taxi lanes? My first reaction was negative and that they don’t mix, though a recent trip to Paris where almost every street has one of these changed my mind (at least in Paris).
If there’s excess capacity in the lane with all of the buses running, then I see no reason not to also have a commercial permit to use the lane–use congestion pricing to make sure that transit isn’t impacted.
How about bus and 3+ person car pool lanes?