Welcome to the week!
Greenfield Health, a different kind of comprehensive primary care clinic with two Portland locations.
Here are the most noteworthy items we came across in the past seven days…
No commute: The latest numbers from the U.S. Census show that telecommuting has become the second most common way to get to work (behind driving alone) — surpassing public transit for the first time.
Teen scooter love: High school-aged Americans are in love with scooters — but the law isn’t on their side.
Cars kill trees: Officials in Salem say they have to remove famous cherry trees that line the courtyard across from the state capitol building because the roots are damaging the roof of an underground parking garage.
A license for safety: A high school in London wants to make license plates mandatory for all students who bike to class.
The problem with Florida: The Wall Street Journal takes an in-depth and sobering look into why so many people are injured and killed while biking on one particular stretch of road in Florida.
How many riders? Google it: In addition to helping cities calculate greenhouse gas emissions, Google plans to release estimates of bicycle ridership based on people’s use of its mapping services.
Safer intersections: With Portland’s future including a lot more protected lanes, the question will be how to make intersections safer: We should steal knowledge from protected bike lane pioneers in New York City whose DOT just released findings of a research study on the topic (PDF).
Deadly SUVs: Turns out a major factor in the huge spike in road deaths for people on foot (up 46 percent nationwide since 2009) is the dangerous design of SUVs — and federal agencies have failed to make them safer.
TriMet’s unfair enforcement: After an Oregon judge ruled TriMet’s fare enforcement practices are unconstitutional, 13 state legislators are asking the attorney general to step in and stop them.
Transpo leadership defined: SF Mayor London Breed is tired of delays to road safety measures and says she will take a larger role in projects that would improve safety for vulnerable road users.
Seattle’s decline: Our neighbors to the north are having a hard look in the mirror after the latest U.S. Census numbers showed a decline in bike commute trips — especially for women.
Maximizing road capacity: An excellent illustration by Dr. Alejandro Henao uses a sports stadium to show how many people can travel per hour per lane by various modes of transportation.
New champion, old debate: Alejandro Valverde — who served a two-year suspension for doping — won the road cycling World Championships on Sunday; but many in the cycling world are not celebrating.
Thanks to everyone who sent in tips and suggestions.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and email@example.com
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I’m curious what TriMet is supposed to do if they can’t do random fare checks. Without extra money they cannot run the trains for free, and without turnstiles they can’t perform prophylactic enforcement. Also, proof of payment is vastly superior in terms of rider convenience, so switching to turnstiles wouldn’t even be a good idea if it were free.
I’m sympathetic to those who brought the lawsuit and their concerns regarding the equity impact of random stops, but this seems like a situation where there’s just going to have to be settlement where TriMet agrees to audit and modify the current system to address the discrimination issues, and the plaintiffs agree to allow proof of payment enforcement to continue. The other options are not very good unless someone can get taxpayers to put up the 10s of millions it would likely cost to get rid of fares.
You’re gravely mistaken if you think these people actually want to come up with solutions to problems. Our politicians are just latching onto blind Twitter outrage and using it for their own personal gain.
Onto actual solutions. First of all, is is this even really a problem? Audits have found no discriminatory tactics used by fare checkers. Additionally, by my own personal observations, I have seen fare checkers generally do check everyone on the train. It would be fairly obvious to anyone if they were only checking certain people based on their skin color. The only semblance of a problem has been anecdotal, and while I don’t believe that woman should have been arrested and that TriMet police messed up in that instance, data is not the plural of anecdote, so you can’t simply extrapolate an isolated incident into a grander problem.
TriMet can and should install fare gates where it is possible: the stations that run along I-84, as well as much of the I-205 portion of the Green Line, and the McLoughlin portion of the Orange Line are well suited to fare gates. I remember TriMet had been planning to pilot fare gates along the Orange Line, but it appears this never came to fruition. Not really sure why. As for the street level stations, these still need to be proof-of-payment unless you want unsightly fences blocking off the sidewalk. We could bring back the fareless square, but that would require greater enforcement to ensure people don’t just sleep on the trains, which would be going in the opposite direction for those who suspect unfair enforcement in the first place. Proof-of-payment can and does work very well in plenty of other cities.
Better training will help as well – the phone app has a timestamp on it, so fare checkers can easily tell when someone had activated a mobile ticket. With the Hop card, this becomes even easier – checkers just scan the card to tell if the rider has a valid fare. Although the most recent time I got inspected, the fare checker admitted to me that the machines were not functional. That needs to be fixed.
Basing decisions that affect actual people and city funding on social media outrage does us all a massive disservice. Vote all the politicians than placate this outrage out of office. We need to be using hard evidence and data to make decisions, and not just listening to the loudest voices in the room.
I fail to see how asking for tickets from all riders on a given platform is discriminatory. Wouldn’t a turnstile effectively do the same thing?
To be clear the ruling was not on the basis of discrimination. The ruling is that TriMet cannot do random checks at all, because random stops without individualized suspicion are an illegal search/seizure under the Oregon constitution..
Individualized suspicion is the key point here.
But what about the sobriety checks on various holidays to make sure people aren’t driving drunk? Wouldn’t that be the same, or are those not allowed in OR either? Stopping all cars traveling down a certain road during a certain time period vs stopping all people getting off a train at a certain stop…
I believe sobriety checkpoints are illegal in Oregon, for exactly the same reason.
“asking for tickets from all riders ”
Is that what the fuss is about? Somehow I think it isn’t quite so simple.
Generally the fare checkers board the train, rather than stop people on the platform.
It’s not as simple as “they can’t do random fare checks.” I encourage you to read the full opinion: https://aclu-or.org/sites/default/files/field_documents/state_v._valderrama_opinion_order_18cr17532.pdf
The short of it is that there are 4 requirements for an administrative stop. The judge found 2 were not satisfied: 1) the search must be “noncriminal” in nature and 2) the search must be properly authorized by a “politically accountable lawmaking body.”
Number 2 does not appear to have been well argued, probably because the state didn’t really think it was in question. But regardless, even if random inspections are not currently authorized, that can be fixed with a law change.
Number 1 is easy to fix. A fare citation is not criminal. The problem here was that because of a police officer’s presence at the inspection and potential (and actual, in this case) criminal violations resulting therefrom, the search (i.e., the fare check) was not noncriminal. This can be rectified by limiting police involvement in fare inspection.
So, this isn’t the permanent end of random fare inspection. It’s a decision on problems in this case, and the current procedure, that are fixable.
SUVs… is there any better symbol for the selfishness, cluelessness, insularity of our age? It used to be cigarettes, now it is bloated vehicles.
It isn’t as if we haven’t know about their myriad risks, how unnecessary and ridiculous they are.
I remember when owning an SUV was seen as a mark of selfish-excess or narcissism among left-leaning folk and “environmentalists”. Now, critcism of SUV ownership is often branded as elitist individualism or, even, classism by left-leaning folk.
I guess I’m old school then?
I’ll be honest with you John, I’m a guy and can’t wait to get a minivan. Ideally it would have stow and go seating (so you have a flat 4’x8′ area) so weekend camping trips are a breeze by sleeping in the back and I could easily roll in a few bikes too.
My buddy is a carpenter and all his vehicles are minivans. Better for securely transporting his gear to job sites and keeping stuff dry and warm in inclement weather (a consideration when moving wood). With snow tires, they also make great ski / snowboard vehicles. Racks inside the van allow for maximum gear slutting.
I can’t tell you how many times during my 18-year tenure in Portland that I had conversations with people who were car shopping, and expressed the desire to have an AWD vehicle to get around on the occasional days when it’s snowy or icy.
I always tried to point out to these folks that AWD only helps you go. It doesn’t help you steer, and it doesn’t help you stop. But good (non-studded) winter tires help with all of these things, and dramatically so. I’d feel a lot safer driving down a steep snowy street in a 2WD car with good winter tires than in an SUV with standard “all-season” [quotes intentional, because it’s an outdated label] tires.
Nevermind that a good set of winter tires, mounted on rims and ready to be swapped in and out seasonally, typically costs far less than a thousand dollars. Nevermind that even on a vehicle offered with both 2WD and AWD options, AWD costs much more than that. Nevermind that most people buying SUVs are often spending $5k-10k more than they would need to for a comparably sized (and better performing) sedan, hatchback or minivan. Nevermind that the increased fuel costs alone on the SUV outweigh the costs of winter tires for the competing automobile.
It doesn’t matter. Despite my best efforts at persuasion – without being pedantic about it – in ZERO instances that I’m aware of was I able to talk the buyer out of getting an SUV. In most people, car buying decisions aren’t made by a rational part of the brain.
one of the reasons that SUVs are so profitable is they were intentionally exempted from the fuel economy and safety regulations that make cars less profitable.
Another is that manufacturers are free to bundle markers of status in any combination they choose. Feature-rich SUVs are akin to feature-rich cordless tools. As a potential customer you can’t get many of those features bundled with the product line you might prefer (small car, corded tool) but are forced to take whatever packages the manufacturer offers.
You all sum it up pretty well.
If I was shopping for a new car, hands down, it’d be a minivan.
Since I’m shopping used, I’ll be getting a sport wagon, but basically anything other than an SUV.
One reason I hate SUVs is they’ve caused the best sportswagons to remain in Europe. We love our Acura TSX, which had a less-than-successful 2-year stint on the US market, but I’d love to check out the Kia Optima Hybrid (which looks identical). Or a Skoda Superb…
There have been some rumblings of a Mazda 6 wagon coming to the US. Not sure if there’s any substance to those rumors, but I would love for that car to be available here.
People don’t kill people – SUVs and guns do.
You nailed it! My earliest vehicles were an F350 and then a Jeep Cherokee (both inherited from Dad), and they were downright dangerous in the snow and ice. Currently I use Bridgestone Blizzaks on either Audi S4 (AWD) or an Acura wagon (2WD), with the AWD edging out the TSX only in the harshest conditions (massive low-end torque makes a difference too). I’ll never go back to either studded tires or SUVs, and the other thing I’ve learned is in deep snow pack you want higher-profile tires (my Blizzaks are 225/45R17 to fit the Audi; the ideal would be 205/55R16 which would keep the back end from coming loose more easily).
Two things about SUVs that many folks don’t realize: steering ratios can be higher, which is better for hardcore offroading but exaggerates any response to correcting slides, which need to be subtle (and are done by computer in many modern cars; i.e. ESP). Also the front/rear weighting tends to be front-heavy, as in pickup trucks, but many pickup truck owners are actually aware they need to add weight to the rear end in snow storms.
What about custom bike ownership?
Because $7,000 custom bikes are about as functional as $500 bikes they can be viewed as a form of voluntary wealth re-distribution. IMO, we need many orders of magnitude more involuntary redistribution before we become a functional society…but every bit helps!
This begs a question then…do you operate at a profit or do you donate any excess income you have to others?
Isn’t that typically considered a private decision? I know I think of it that way.
I was all set to agree that expensive custom bikes are no better than run of the mill, but then I looked at the tandems in my back room and reconsidered. The only way my spouse and I could both enjoy touring and even local adventure rides together is on a tandem with the one exception of riding in the flats (she can draft like nobody’s business). They had to be custom because her motion sickness makes riding stoker a non-starter for her and standard tandems just don’t work with a 6’2″ stoker and a 5’6″ captain. Besides, not even she wants to spend all day looking at my rear end.
Overall, your actual point, not the side bar I addressed, is on the mark imo.
Yes! My stoker is 6’2″ and she doesn’t comfortably fit on our XL/XL Sovereign. I think the people bashing on custom bikes might just be 6′ or under…
Glad to do my part – I’ll keep custom frame- and wheel-builders in business any day!
People claim that they are more practical, but a station wagon is far more roomy inside. The “trunk” on a wagon is much deeper than in most SUVs, and pedestrians are more likely to survive being struck by a sedan-height wagon vs the brick wall front end of an SUV.
Increase the gas tax for private motor vehicle operators to pay for free public transit, never worry about fare enforcement again.
I mean, as the owner of one of those much-maligned SUV, I’m all for it. I’d go for registration taxes over fuel taxes if only because the growth of BEV and plugin-in hybrids makes fuel taxes a little problematic, but otherwise bring it on. Because I’m also a telecommuter and transit user, and I recognize that making those options better/stronger/easier will only improve my life, including when I do climb in the truck and drive somewhere.
” the growth of BEV and plugin-in hybrids makes fuel taxes a little problematic”
Norway has the highest share of EVs in the world, and I’m not aware of anyone there shrieking about how problematic fuel taxes are.
We would however do well to raise ’em already.
fuel taxes are problematic in that even autos that consume little or no fuel have massive externalities/costs which are not captured by fuel taxes.
Yes, which is why everyone in the rest of the world is wringing their hands over this slippage, this incomplete accounting – not.
It’s not the biggest deal in the world but it is a reason to have a mileage based or car ownership based system in addition to the gas tax. The registration/mileage tax could be scaled up to make up for falling gas tax revenue as fleet mileage improves and the EV percentage increases. This is not to say gas taxes are bad… gas taxes are very very good. But a mileage/ownership tax would also be good.
the administrative costs differ starkly between those two, and you would want to subtract that overhead in any comparison or advocacy for making this more complicated.
If you can come up with a better, cheaper, simpler way to discourage driving and raise funds than the goode olde gas tax, I’m all ears. But until then I’m going to continue suggesting we just lustily raise the tax we already have in place, and keep raising it.
Norway just had a political scuffle over this; they proposed taxing EVs based on weight to make up for declining fuel tax revenues. There was an outcry, and they backed down (for now). So yes, hands are being wrung and it will have to be addressed eventually.
I’m not saying don’t raise fuel taxes, I’m just saying it wouldn’t be a permanent solution, and maybe we should try to plan ahead a little? Especially if we’re talking about a radical expansion of public transit, as we should be.
Sure, but you could simply make the gas tax much higher right now, and not let perfect be the enemy of good.
We need to not lose sight of the reasons we (well the rest of the world) levies stiff fuel and other auto-related taxes, something Oregon bureaucrats pioneered, let us not forget:
– raises or could raise tons(!) of money to ideally be spent on developing alternatives so we’re less dependent as a society on the horseless carriages.
– financially penalizes the use of the most environmentally problematic fuels and propulsion systems
– is a perfect example of a https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pigovian_tax
Once we’ve copied much of the rest of the world: steeply increased our fuel taxes and indexed them to something relevant going forward, let’s check in again and see if the issues you raise are still problems.
0.7% of registered vehicles in Oregon is a massive externality?
Cars have massive externalities beyond gas. At this point the number of EVs in oregon is not significant to make a big dent but if they increase as projected over the next 20 years that won’t be the case anymore.
“Cars have massive externalities beyond gas. ”
Has anyone in the history of bikeportland comments ever said otherwise?
I think you are confusing
(a) auto externalities: a thousand we could list, and
(b) the fiscal mechanism we rely on to pursue redress of these ills.
Given our generational neglect of public transit, I’m skeptical that making it free will boost ridership much.
Free transit is certainly worth doing for redistributive reasons but when driving is so easy the savings associated with “free” may not be much of an inducement overall.
I agree with this. The primary reason people do not ride transit is because it is slow and unreliable in comparison to the alternatives.
Given unlimited resources, it would make sense to improve service AND eliminate transit fares.
However, if the transit agency has resource constraints, improving or maintaining service is (probably-hedging here because it depends on the improvements) a better investment of scarce resources than free fares.
Might it also make sense to make the alternatives a lot more inconvenient? We could eliminate free parking (for example, require a city-wide parking permit program as Chicago and San Francisco already do.) We could make all right-hand lanes of any double-lane arterial (such as 122nd, Barbur, or Lombard) bus-only.
Requiring parking permits in neighborhoods where there is no shortage of parking will backfire. That said, if I could pay fair market value for the spot in front of my house, I would. That would make driving more convenient.
The transit agency has the power to raise taxes, including property taxes. Why has it not done so? And why is it more interested in supporting freeway projects than creating dedicated transit right of way?
“We could make all right-hand lanes of any double-lane arterial (such as 122nd, Barbur, or Lombard) bus-only.”
Given that gas taxes and user fees only pay for ~60% of our roads it seems fair to allocate a significant fraction of the remainder to other modes.
Island Transit, which serves Washington’s Whidbey and Camano Islands, is fare-free — and, by the way, excellent as rural bus service goes. As a rural transit agency that has to cover long distances with relatively few boardings, they decided many years ago that fare collection wasn’t worth the cost.
Fareboxes are expensive, especially since most transit agencies outfit their vehicles with multiple fare devices to handle the variety of cash, passes, RFID, smartphone, paper transfers and other payment options. Ironically, in the urban areas where fare collection is cost-effective, it has the downside of significantly slowing down service.
Besides the revenue source, however incremental, transit agencies get from fare collection, I think the real reason they like charging fares is that it changes the demographics of the people on the bus. It’s not like TriMet made a whole bunch of extra revenue by dropping Fareless Square a few years ago
C’mon…people who use a service should pay *something*.
Get back to me when people pay for every parking spot in Portland, and for taking a drink from the Benson bubblers, and for walking in the park, and getting books from the library, etc.
Everyone benefits from public transportation, whether they use it directly or not.
People value transportation more highly when they feel they are paying directly for it (or avoiding paying for it, such as tolls), than if they are paying for the same through taxes. Most public services are paid predominantly through your taxes, including bubblers and TriMet buses. But if you don’t see a bill, such as for your bubbler, highway or latest foreign war, you tend to ignore the cost and how that service is paid for. But you are still paying for it. A lot. On your income taxes (state & federal), gas taxes, utility bills, hotel sales tax, property taxes, etc. If you knew you were already paying $300/year for TriMet through your various taxes, would you be more inclined to use it? And if a Benson Bubbler cost taxpayers $1 per drink, would be more inclined to shut them down?
Some will be inclined to question why they are paying for a service they don’t use.
And then the city’s “leaders” will have to put on their big boy pants and explain how government works.
In other words, the roads are there for you to use, whether you choose to or not.
Using a service and benefitting from a service that other people use are two different things, both of which are probably worth something. Transit and bike lanes (for example) may not be directly useful to you, but they keep a certain number of other people (who do use them) out of your way, providing a benefit to you even without your direct usage. Which benefit is worth more?
The question was whether highlighting to folks how much they pay in taxes to support transit would encourage more to use it. While I completely agree with your argument, I think it would be lost on some segment of the population, who are not willing to look at facts that challenge their world view.
Many would understand that argument, but the ones that don’t, or don’t care, are probably the ones mostly likely to complain the loudest about paying taxes for something they don’t use.
And I failed to even mention the free public transportation we already have. When was the last time you paid to use an elevator or an escalator in Portland?
The free public elevator in Oregon City takes you to another tier of the town.
I see you’re commenting on this site, but not supporting the site financially. Shouldn’t you pay *something* for the service you’re using?
Keep smiling, he’s wrong.
The winky face is because what he said was funny. Learning that he misinterpreted your status is useful, but perhaps you can appreciate the source of his confusion.
I admit, it would have been a great comeback if it were true.
AHAHAHA. Made my day.
Matt, you are actually incorrect. I do support this site financially. I use two different versions of my user name to log on…one of which is apparently not linked to my donation.
You should use the other version sometime, just to balance things out a bit.
Nah. I use one email specifically for monetary transactions and another for social apps/sites.
I don’t feel the need to advertise what I contribute to, but might reply if asked.
Does that go for freeways that cost $100 million per lane-mile?
I’d be interested in having someone play with the stadium graphic. Maybe it should just be the stadium, with numbers next to it. Having just one car/bus/bicyclist/walker below the graphic linked to the section would also work.
Having the colors/graphics below the stadium creates visual space where the colors are all equal, and it’s a larger space than the stadium itself, so the mind has to do work to retranslate that into the stadium seats. That’s an awkward mental leap.
Read a bunch about Jim Marshall’s work with George and Martha (books about two hippos, kind of) last night, and everyone was talking about the power of simplicity and the rest taken away.
Seemed strange to me to meld walking and biking as one green block inside the stadium. Ok, they are both “green” but the visual comparison of lane capacity is lost.
I’m not sure where the distance component fits into this graphic. If the sliver filled by car users is full of folks that came from 30 miles away, while the bike/walk section is filled only with people who live 3-10 miles away, does that affect the conclusions? How concerned are we about time spent in transit and ability to arrive at destinations on a schedule?
One convicted doper wins worlds, another loses the riders’ union vote, and people get mad no matter what. All in all, just another week in men’s pro cycling.
Both guys broke the rules, both served their suspensions. Caring about who was and was not contrite is just WWE-type drama. Why can’t sports just be about the competition anymore?
Agreed. It seems people want to punish others in perpetuity.
Don’t exempt yourself now… Punishing us here with your verbal Molotov cocktails.
Hive mentality needs to be challenged.
It is evident that you think of your role here in those terms, but I’ve lamented in the past that although you do register contrarian points of view, the manner in which you often do this is more akin to jeering than engagement.
I’m sorry you see it that way, but I see your point. I also see other’s rebuttals of “you’re simply wrong because you’re not a progressive” the same way…but those apparently pass muster.
I’m always game for another round, am open to being challenged, enjoy the opportunity to learn, so I suspect you are thinking of someone else.
I just disagree with ‘bikes = cars’, which is a central theme in many of your comments. It’s probably a fun game to play, and I kind of get what you’re trying to do, but it doesn’t have much impact with me because it’s a false equivalence in almost every way.
I’m not surprised no one commented on the working from home article since Portland still has a much higher rate of transit use (12.6%) than working from home (8.6%). However, if PDX doesn’t get things together and dedicate some of those ever more congested travel lanes to public transit, I expect to see these numbers flip, or at least converge a bit. (That’s assuming we aren’t all doing low-wage service jobs that require our presence, perhaps a bad assumption at this point.)
It’s interesting that a great number of the cycling deaths in the Florida article involved people riding on sidewalks, several of whom were struck at driveways. What are “protected bike lanes” and sidepaths but glorified sidewalks? No wonder NYC is looking at the intersection problem created by their decision to try separation. Over and over and over again we find that this approach is just not right in an American context.
There are lots of things we can do faster and with better outcomes for cycling than pushing for excessive separate facilities. (Note: some separate facilities are grand, ans I’m happy to use them, but they aren’t in the heart of cities.) We can widen bike lanes and not put them in door zones. We can lower speed limits. We can stop putting bike lanes on the right side of right turn lanes. We can change the way we use traffic control devices and diversions to facilitate bike use and bikes crossing arterials.
None of these cost much money and all of them can be extensively implemented without busting the bank, though lowered speed limits will require some legal changes (as do many of those separated nightmares, btw). They do all cost motorists time, but if we keep adding ever more motorists they’re going to lose that time anyway while sitting in gridlocked traffic.
The difficulty is not so much in the technology nor the implementation costs, but getting cities and their elected officials to both fund improvements and more importantly, to actually implement them. As bad as Fayettesville NC or St. Petersberg FL are, PBOT’s track record in East Portland isn’t much better.
We can designate every second or third street as a no-single-passenger-car area. It’s a fancy design problem but if buses and commercial vehicles operate in only specific ways and the rest of the street is strictly human powered with interspersed furnishing zones that would reduce conflicts and crashes a lot. Pedestrian crossings of motor streets would be almost entirely at controlled intersections, at times when heavy vehicles all have a red. Where people cross motor street intersections: Barnes Dance.
This would be easier with an idealized grid but it’s possible in an existing built environment.
Some other features: pavement repairs in human power zones are done with paving blocks to signal a moderate pace for vehicles. Bike riders can use motor streets but they are constrained to right turns at motor/motor intersections. Street furnishings on human power streets are laid out to favor large-radius curves in the line of travel. Transit vehicles on human power streets operate on electric power only.
You want some of this?
The main issue I have with intersection treatment guides, including from NACTO and from this NYC pdf, is they tend to focus on just one-way and grid-iron streets, giving very little guidance about two-way/4-way intersections which are much more common in most of the USA, especially in “suburban” areas. Most cities in the southeastern part of the country are not gridded like they are in Portland, Chicago, or Manhattan, so we don’t have parallel streets for couplets and one-way traffic except for very short sections.