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The Monday Roundup: NYC goes big, assessing risk, Seattle sans car, and more

Posted by on November 4th, 2019 at 1:01 pm

Welcome to the week. Here are the most noteworthy items we came across in the past seven days…

NYC goes big: While we debate a $3.1 bill transportation package here in Portland, New York City is moving forward with a $1.7 billion street safety plan aimed squarely at making biking and transit better. It will build 250 miles of protected bike lanes in the next five years.

Sarah 2020 podcast: Mayoral candidate Sarah Iannarone released the first edition of her campaign podcast and she shares detailed thoughts on how transportation fits into her climate change, social justice and safety policies.

Manhole risks: I share this article about a man in Pennsylvania who was seriously injured after slipping on a manhole cover because it’s something I think about often and I want you to use caution while turning on them!

How risky?: A sober and illuminating article (and graphics) about how to measure and mitigate risks of cycling and other activities we love.

Do better Metro: Remember that shoddy poll from Metro where they said idling cars were reason to build more driving capacity? Here’s a solid debunking of that dangerous myth from Joe Cortright.

Free transit: If you’re one of many people who think public transit should be free, check out this deeper dive into how Columbus, Ohio found success with the policy.

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Subaru how could you?: Portland’s favorite automaker has sided with the Trump Administration in the battle over emissions standards in California.

Down but not out: A terrible fall during the 2015 Red Bull Rampage left downhill rider Paul Basagoitia with a serious spinal cord injury. His comeback is available in documentary form.

SW Corridor, ugh: TriMet has missed an opportunity to cut costs on this mega-transit project by reducing auto user capacity on Barbur. Would have been a win-win!

“Vehicular violence”: The DA for Manhattan has put forward the Vehicular Violence Accountability Act, which would create a law and define the ubiquitous motorized menace terrorizing our cities.

Car-less in Seattle: Our neighbors to the north are doing a great job in convincing people to give up their cars. Their car ownership rates dipped more than any other major U.S. city since 2010.

Tweet of the Week:

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55 Comments
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    idlebytes November 4, 2019 at 1:36 pm

    In addition to manhole covers and the infamous light rail tracks I’d like to highlight these things I’ve slipped on:
    – Road construction metal plates
    – Leaves
    – Gravel
    – Thermoplastic road markings
    – ADA tactile pavers
    – River silt (along the waterfront)
    – Concrete with exposed aggregate

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      Andrew Kreps November 4, 2019 at 1:40 pm

      Also those bags of mulch they use to keep sediment out of storm drains. They’re dark, low, apparently not required to be marked and cover >50% of the bike lanes they are inevitably in. Oh yes, and when you hit one, there’s a good chance you’ll crash if you’re not ready for it.

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        middle of the road guy November 4, 2019 at 3:49 pm

        So too fast for conditions then?

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          9watts November 4, 2019 at 11:02 pm

          Funny.
          #isthatreallyequivqlent?

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          9watts November 5, 2019 at 11:15 am

          Your comment reminds me of the original Car Head article by Alan Durning. Large, dangerous objects thrown or left in the bike lane are seen as the responsibility of the person biking, while similar objects in the travel lanes of automobiles are considered threats and immediately removed by ‘the authorities.’
          https://www.sightline.org/2007/04/19/car-head/

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            Dave November 5, 2019 at 3:27 pm

            Vancouver’s garbage service has a real propensity for setting recycling bins and trash cans right in the middle of bike lanes. Occasionally I will participate in that athletic event called the “bin toss” and see how far up on someone’s lawn I can get it.

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            • Hello, Kitty
              Hello, Kitty November 5, 2019 at 3:49 pm

              Or just carefully move them just to the left of the bike lane.

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              Seth D. Alford November 5, 2019 at 6:02 pm

              It’s not just Vancouver. Waste Management in Washington County does the same thing.

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      dan November 4, 2019 at 2:07 pm

      I think I’ve bailed on all of those except the last two – I have some catching up to do!

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      John Lascurettes November 4, 2019 at 2:50 pm

      There’s also just the silt near storm drains that have been a liability for me, particularly at corners with green lane thermoplastic. I was taken out by a front wheel skid on lane dust at SW 7th turning onto Morrison once. I’ve taken that corner nice and slow ever since and have still felt my wheel slip now and then.

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        X November 4, 2019 at 7:47 pm

        SW 7th?

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        X November 4, 2019 at 8:52 pm

        Columbus transit–great as far as it goes but “free” it is not. I don’t hate it but this is kind of like the model that got us into the health care mess, attaching a necessary service to employment.

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      David Hampsten November 4, 2019 at 4:32 pm

      Add to the list:
      – Packed snow
      – Black Ice
      – Ice on bridges (“Bridge freezes before road surface”)
      – Detergents from people washing their cars. When it get on asphalt at 70 degrees, it’s slippier than black ice.
      – Oils and heavy metals from car tires and car exhaust reacts with sun-heated asphalt to create a slick surface.
      – Moist roadways between 33 and 39 degrees cause car tires to hydroplane.

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      Scott Kocher November 4, 2019 at 9:09 pm

      We need to tackle all fronts at the same time rather than arguing “my crash factor is more important than yours,” but maintenance doesn’t start with “e” so it’s often overlooked. OHSU titled their Portland bicycle injuries study “Bicycle Commuter Injury Prevention: It Is Time to Focus on the Environment” because
      “roadway surface conditions were a factor in 40 (21%) traumatic events and
      10 (20%) serious traumatic events:
      tracks on the road, loose gravel, and steel plates were cited most often
      [it’s unclear whether “steel plates” includes utility covers -Scott].
      Fifty-six (29%) of all traumatic events and 24 (48%) of all serious traumatic events involved a motorized vehicle (p = 0.001).”
      Dr. Melissa Hoffman’s remarks: “because 20 percent of our events were occurring not so much due to poor infrastructure, but due to poor maintenance of infrastructure, we just felt that that was a place where we could definitely have some sort of impact that wouldn’t cost that much money.”
      https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/15fa/01b68f7fc2771b9ebf097fddf413bb47c86d.pdf

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    bikeninja November 4, 2019 at 1:51 pm

    The logic of the “progress” shown in the Albina transformation slide is stunning. We took a high density neighborhood where folks lived close to work and could get there on streetcars and such, then used urban renewal to move people to the burbs or elsewhere (often against their will) and built highways through the neighborhood so that the suburban folk could get to the jobs, that were previously nearby.This reminds me of a bit of folk wisdom I got from my grandfather . The Native Americans would build a small fire and sit up close but the Europeans ( wording changed to reflect modern sensibilities) would build a big fire and sit far away.

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty November 4, 2019 at 3:39 pm

      Planners know best!

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        David Hampsten November 4, 2019 at 4:36 pm

        I blame the engineers, developers, and politicians.

        (I would never blame “Joe & Jane Blow Average American” for wanting a bigger house, more material goods, nicer schools, a huge yard, and a fat tax-deductible mortgage. Gosh no!)

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      q November 4, 2019 at 4:07 pm

      This also relates to the recent article about how some residents of NE Portland are resistant to street changes (NE 7th revisions, etc.). The skepticism towards changes are understandable given that history. And many people living there today were living there during those unfortunate changes of the past several decades.

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        David Hampsten November 4, 2019 at 4:40 pm

        Lair Hill on the west side comes to mind for the same reason – sliced, diced, and split into various parts by intersecting highways and bridges. Lents and Montevilla are kinda the same way.

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          q November 4, 2019 at 9:17 pm

          Yes, I was thinking the same thing. N/NE wasn’t alone at all in being damaged. The destruction to neighborhoods was really pretty incredible.

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      Scott Kocher November 4, 2019 at 9:44 pm

      Here’s the other thing about @pdxvr’s aerial photos slider (it is stunning, thank you). Lower Albina wasn’t just “a neighborhood.” It “contained 80% of Portland’s black population.” (Must read link below.) As a person explained to me last week, when she was a kid Blacks “weren’t allowed to go anyplace else.” They “didn’t have any money but there was work and we were happy there.” Then came PDC’s 1962 report which declared: “clearly urban renewal, largely clearance, appears to be the only solution to not only blight that presently exists in central Albina, but also to avoid the spread of that blight to other surrounding areas.” Blacks were deprived of opportunities for wealth accumulation, then our not-so-distant white predecessors decimated the Black community with PDC’s “clearance” policy, and constructing I-5, Legacy Emanuel, and the Rose Quarter. Now there’s no center to the Black community, rents are driven up by other people moving in, and even the entry level jobs aren’t available. So, her kids and grandkids are moving to other cities. We need to figure this stuff out to understand why Black Portlanders are starting at a disadvantage, why some recent community meetings have gone so badly, and what we need to do going forward.
      https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/albina-portland-1870/

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    Todd Boulanger November 4, 2019 at 1:53 pm

    Interesting read about Columbus OH making transit free as part of its parking + employment plan…and as a way to reverse ridership decreases. In hindsight I wonder how/ if TRIMET has evaluated the “success” in moving from the Fareless Square zone to Fare Only in 2012 [I have not seen any official study on this immediate loss of ~2m trips]…and any long term impact of ridership (and transit adoption). [CTRANs ridership has been growing vs the national trend of ridership losses, like TRIMET is experiencing ~6% drop since 2012.] https://www.portlandmercury.com/news/2019/06/20/26664953/the-case-for-a-fareless-trimet

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      David Hampsten November 4, 2019 at 4:46 pm

      The dropping of the fareless square was in direct reaction to rising fuel costs and the loss of government subsidies when the Great Recession hit in 2009. I do remember several meetings afterwards in 2010-12 in which TriMet reported a dramatic drop in crime and drug dealing in their MAX trains in the former free area. However, those same crimes and others related to transit went up in the never-free areas of town as homelessness and poverty grew.

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    Bike Guy November 4, 2019 at 2:05 pm

    idlebytes
    In addition to manhole covers and the infamous light rail tracks I’d like to highlight these things I’ve slipped on: – Road construction metal plates – Leaves – Gravel – Thermoplastic road markings – ADA tactile pavers – River silt (along the waterfront) – Concrete with exposed aggregateRecommended 0

    add to list: Street Car tracks!!

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      Matt November 4, 2019 at 6:20 pm

      Isn’t “street car” a subset of “light rail”?

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    q November 4, 2019 at 2:42 pm

    The “how risky” article is great. My only worry about it is that by using deaths per hour as the way to compare activities, people will figure they’re safer if they go faster, to reduce their time of exposure to risk. That’s great for marathon running, not so good for driving.

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      Tim November 4, 2019 at 3:29 pm

      The glaring problem I see with the risk analysis pretested, and most discussions of risk, is benefits are left off. According to the graphic, cycling is twice as risky as driving which may be true if your only risk was accidental. However, the risk of a sedentary (driving) lifestyle is far greater the the risk of an active (cycling lifestyle). I once asked a life insurance statistician what sport reduce life expectancy – The answer – only hang gliding and scuba diving -rock climbers, cyclists, backcountry skiers all tended to tended to live longer than average.

      Glider pilots have a simple answer when asked why they do something so dangerous. How can you not do it?

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      El Biciclero November 5, 2019 at 3:11 pm

      “My only worry about it is that by using deaths per hour as the way to compare activities, people will figure they’re safer if they go faster…”

      I don’t think you need to worry; the good stuff was beyond the customary 250 character limit most people have for reading about a single topic.

      I was interested in the impact a “skill” (or “experience”) coefficient might have on risk. If, as number of hours of participation increase, an individual gains skill or experience that makes them able to more safely participate in their activity, how does that change the probabilities?

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    idlebytes November 4, 2019 at 3:17 pm

    I’ve always been interested in an a per hour risk comparison between driving and cycling. The per mile traveled always seemed like an automobile lobbyist talking point especially when considering the speed differences. The data used here doesn’t seem terribly reliable though. I mean just assuming an average speed of 35 mph driving and 6 mph cycling is rife for error.

    It’s worth noting that the risk for driving per billion miles used includes the risk to everyone including pedestrians and cyclists not just the risk to the person driving the car. Also the risk associated with cycling mostly comes from that same risk another person’s choice to drive. Absent cars cycling is very safe using 2016 numbers 72 cyclists died in other/unknown vehicle crashes or 9% of the total for that year.

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    mh November 4, 2019 at 3:29 pm

    I’m gonna move to Columbus.

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    maxD November 4, 2019 at 4:04 pm

    that City Observatory takedown is very good. Is anyone voting for Metro’s bonds?

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    drew November 4, 2019 at 6:08 pm

    I wonder how safe extended sitting in an easy chair, car seat, or on a couch is. With inactivity a known factor for cardiovascular disease, what’s the chance that a couch potato will give up the ghost with a bag of Cheetos in hand?

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      SilkySlim November 5, 2019 at 8:52 am

      Did you read the full post? While it didn’t get precisely into couch activity level, it did map activity risk against general likelihood of death based on mortality characteristics by age.

      Excuse the inexact wording, but flying commercial is basically as safe as being 17 years old. Motorcycling is as dangerous as being 85! Again – the article explains the mapping far more delicately than myself.

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    Laura November 4, 2019 at 6:58 pm

    Subaru has never prided themselves on being “green.” About 10 years ago, they wanted the Forester reclassified as a truck, because they couldn’t meet the CAFE standards. Their vehicles, generally do not perform in the MPG realm, when compared to other brands.

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      John Lascurettes November 4, 2019 at 9:02 pm

      ^ This! I’ve been badmouthing Subaru ever since.

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        SD November 5, 2019 at 7:12 am

        It’s crazy the number of portlanders who buy an AWD Subaru for that imagined camping trip that might happen once or twice a year and will not require AWD.
        Just buy the cheapest, smallest, fuel efficient car and then rent a car the few times it is needed for special trips.

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          Chris I November 5, 2019 at 12:06 pm

          If you don’t run winter tires, you have no need for AWD. So many people think that AWD is going to enable them to drive in the snow/ice. Tires are the most important part.

          AWD for “camping”? I haven’t heard that one.

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      Jim Calhoon November 4, 2019 at 10:22 pm

      When it was first imported it was classified as a truck. Poor MPG is the price they pay for the AWD system always engaged. Then there is the STI. Modern trucks get better MPG.

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        Chris I November 5, 2019 at 12:08 pm

        They also make parts of the airplanes you fly on when you fly commercial. It’s a very large company.

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      D'Andre Muhammed November 5, 2019 at 6:22 am

      They been pushing that LOVE crap for too damn long. And the parent company makes components for the military industrial complex. Damn fools.

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      Matt S. November 5, 2019 at 6:29 am

      Some don’t buy cars based on MPG.

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    Mark smith November 4, 2019 at 7:49 pm

    The fact that trimet caved before even a debate…is incredible.

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      Kittens November 5, 2019 at 12:48 am

      I think it was more of an admission that light rail as planned will never be and can’t be the answer to solve long term congestion in the SW Corridor. There was not the support for removing capacity because locals know it will do little to help. Embarrassing indeed.

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    Induced Demand November 4, 2019 at 10:43 pm

    Someone should go back and read the old studies on PDX freeways that were built. Did the freeways actually reduce idling? Or did they just induce more demand and create even bigger numbers of cars stuck in traffic.

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty November 5, 2019 at 10:05 am

      How would you distinguish demand “induced” by the highway from demand stemming from other factors? With a few exceptions, claims about induced demand are entirely unprovable.

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        Chris I November 5, 2019 at 12:08 pm

        Citation needed.

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    Kittens November 5, 2019 at 12:42 am

    Contrary to most common sense dictums, free public transit is NOT a good idea in America and specifically, Portland in 2019.

    Firstly, $53M of TriMet’s annual operating budget comes from farebox revenue. That would have to be back-filled by the public somehow.

    Second, we already have a horrible and growing problem with disruptive and illegal behavior aboard transit, removing the fig leaf of fare enforcement we presently have will only exacerbate the problem leading to more disruption, more crime and more police delays while issues are dealt with. And guess who don’t have time for trains and buses which never show up or show up late? Working people who support the system. This will lead to a death-spiral in which the only people riding transit will be those of last resort which will make it impossible to continuously pass expansion bonds and maintain the payroll tax.

    I wish it was not so, but our dysfunctional and delusional brand of “capitalism” is eating itself alive and producing horrible social and economic damage. We should be fighting for a fairer and more just society but shouldn’t lead with 100% free transit. That’s just naive and delusional at this point.

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      David Hampsten November 5, 2019 at 7:46 am

      Transit in most places is largely supported by a combination of local taxes (for example, payroll taxes in Oregon, property and sales taxes in NC), fare box revenue, federal subsidies, and state subsidies. The subsidies are largely based upon a combination of the local service population (potential customer base) and the number of actual riders. If your population goes up, you’ll get more subsidies, especially for paratransit. But it’s even better that your ridership increases, hence the temptation to reduce, simplify, or even eliminate fares.

      I don’t disagree with your assessment. Portland has an unusually high farebox recovery rate. In most US cities, likely Columbus too, the farebox recovery rate is so low (often below 10%) that the cost of collecting fares (in terms of machines, maintenance, fare enforcement, and extra administrative personnel) is greater than what is being collected.

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      David Hampsten November 5, 2019 at 8:02 am

      One other issue about making bus fares “free” is that your required paratransit for the disabled then must also be free. Any city that offers fixed-route bus service using any federal subsidies (and every US bus service does) must also offer a door-to-door paratransit service within 0.75 miles of any fixed route and beyond that distance in any loop route. Every city is allowed by law to charge up to double the fixed-route fare on its paratransit service. The higher the rate charged, the lower the usage for paratransit, and the greater the cost savings for the transit provider. Typically paratransit constitutes about 20% of the overall transit costs but only 2% of the ridership. Here in Greensboro NC where we charge the same fare for both fixed route and paratransit, the average cost of a fixed-route trip is $4.18 per trip, of which $0.59 is recovered by fares. For paratransit, it is $33.32 per trip in costs and $0.56 in farebox recovery. Over 45% of our transit budget now goes towards paratransit, a very non-sustainable rate. Basically we subsidize transit service for our most vulnerable population with money that was meant to expand transit options and routes for our poorest most economically disadvantaged population. It’s a long-term lose-lose situation to eliminate transit fares in any community.

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      Chris I November 5, 2019 at 12:12 pm

      Free transit would likely put my family back in our car. We take MAX quite often for activities in Washington Park and downtown. Lately, it seems that our unpleasant/dangerous encounters have increased. I’m at the point where we will just go back to driving if it gets any worse. I don’t think that free transit is going to boost ridership. We are just going to displace families and casual riders with the homeless.

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        Kittens November 6, 2019 at 2:38 am

        You’re not alone. I am shocked at the level of blatant lawlessness after the sun goes down. People who work for the City of Portland, OHSU, Standard Insurance etc. downtown 9-5 do not have a clue as to how messed up it gets out there. These well-meaning folks who make lofty pronouncements about free transit need to ride a bus or train at 10:30pm a few times a week to get their head right.

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    Jon November 5, 2019 at 10:00 am

    According to Tri-Met’s 2020 Financial Forecast:

    “LIFT is a requirement of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), yet TriMet receives no federal funding for ADA paratransit. Transit agencies have to provide all ADA paratransit (origin-todestination) rides requested by eligible individuals, without regard to the district’s financial
    situation. LIFT costs per ride are about 8-10 times the cost of a fixed route ride.”

    I’m a bit surprised that the transit agencies don’t all charge the maximum double the fixed rate charge since they were forced into a unfunded mandate from the Federal Government due to the ADA. The Feds should have been forced to fund this program with something like the Social Security Disability program instead of just making it a local payroll tax.

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      David Hampsten November 5, 2019 at 4:31 pm

      It’s easiest to think of paratransit as part of a package deal: If you want federal subsidies of any sort, you have to provide paratransit (also known as LIFT). Strictly speaking, TriMet is talking about LIFT/Paratransit operations: Transit agencies don’t receive any federal subsidies for operations. But they do get a fat 83% subsidy for buying the LIFT vans/buses/light rail vehicles and similar subsidies for light rail tracks, bridges, platforms, red paint on the street, etc.

      Any city that receives any federal subsidy of any sort, be it for transit, water lines, sewer treatment plants, or police weapons, all must follow ADA law as regards transit – no exceptions. Public LIFT/paratransit rides are for any purpose – we can’t discriminate based on what kinds of trips a user wants to take or by their income level. The only ways we can discriminate is on providing service beyond the 0.75 mile buffer around fixed-route service (known as Premium Paratransit) and what rates to charge between fixed-route charges and double.

      The vast majority of public transit agencies do charge double the rate for LIFT or Paratransit as fixed route; my community in NC just happens to be an exception – I give it as an example of what happens when cities charge the same for both services and what would happen if they are both free. (Columbus Ohio will eventually figure this out.) The 8-10 times the cost for paratransit is no exaggeration – we are essentially talking about the equivalent of an Uber taxi doing door-to-door delivery using unionized drivers, often moving one client at a time, but at no more than $7 per trip (in Portland) paid by the user, with the remaining costs being picked up by John Q. Taxpayer. By the way, if the client has a care-provider on the same ride, that person rides for free, and yes, many people have exploited this loophole everywhere, it’s a regular problem.

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    Champs November 5, 2019 at 10:46 am

    Not just turning on manholes, but braking as well. They’re not so visible on rainy nights, say, at the bottom of Mississippi where you might be braking late and hard for the stop sign.

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