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The Monday Roundup: Portland’s ‘War on Cars’, Strava stats, car economy costs, and more

Posted by on December 30th, 2019 at 9:54 am

Welcome to the week.

We’re still in vacation mode around here (posting this from an airplane!), so I apologize in advance for not being on top of everything for the next week or so. You can expect a few posts, including Becky Jo’s latest, but other than that I’ll be trying to unplug until mid next week.

I hope everyone has had a nice holiday!

A time for war: Of course a man who doesn’t understand why, “this topic is very emotional to some people” thinks we should just give up and let cars and their drivers rule our city.

Car economy price tag: A Harvard study puts the estimated cost of maintaining a system of 4.5 million cars and trucks in Massachusetts at an eye-popping $64 billion a year. It’s considered the first comprehensive estimate of public and private costs.

Broken dream: Nicholas Dlamini, a 24-year-old up-and-coming pro road racer had his arm broken by overzealous park rangers while training in his hometown of Cape Town, South Africa.

Trains or lanes: The Stranger looks into the political imperatives around Cascadia high speed rail and the billions we’ve wasted on car lanes that could have funded it.

Inga Thompson and transphobia: Outsports picks up the saga of the Oregon Bicycle Racing Association and the removal of former Olympian Inga Thompson from their Board of Directors.

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No comment: The Oregonian/OregonLive.com has decided to close their online comment section, saying it takes too much time to moderate the, “uncivil, even downright nasty at times” posts.

Strava stats: The inimitable DC Rainmaker looked through Strava’s annual data dump and found some interesting tidbits — including that a whopping 44% of Portlanders logged their commutes on the app, the highest total in the world.

Paris progress: Another report of bike use growth in Paris and I can’t help but notice that a major element of their strategy is to restrict car use in the city.

Helmet obsession: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo shocked transportation reform advocates with a veto of a bill that would legalize e-bikes and scooters. His rationale? The legislation didn’t include a mandatory helmet law.

Tweet of the Week:

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soren
Guest
soren

“it’s cool (literally slows global warming)”

Progressive climate crisis denial. If everyone lived like a typical bike-riding portlander, the climate crisis would be far more dire.

Al
Guest
Al

Realism is one thing, but I don’t understand the need for some who supposedly advocate for solutions to climate change to be so very very negative on everything and everyone including people who one would think they would support because of shared goals.

What does your comment accomplish? Does it make you feel better to point out that the person advocating for climate solutions doesn’t share your dark and depressing perspective? That they didn’t poison their own advocacy with it? Are you showing that you’re on the “better” climate change solution team because you’re making the “real” sacrifices for us all? What?

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

I think Soren is saying that if you think you are saving the world by riding your bike while still eating meat, using Uber, and flying “home” for the holidays, you are self-delusional. I think these are things that Soren would say are typical of Portlanders.

It’s a bit like recycling: assuages the guilt of a consumptive lifestyle without actually compensating for it much.

9watts
Subscriber

Sure, I am as allergic to puffery and delusions and feeling virtuous about small acts as the next person, but it seems a cheap shot to tar someone who is only making the claim for bike commuting with that very broad brush.

If she had said that ‘recycling saves the world!’ I would agree with you, but she didn’t.

Jason Skelton
Guest
Jason Skelton

There will always people to say you aren’t doing enough when you do anything.

Al
Guest
Al

Yes, the original tweet is very much short on citations, asterisks and disclaimers. I’m sure this will hurt the tweet author’s peer review process and the tweet itself may be rejected from publication.

soren
Guest
soren

from complaining about the depressing reality of the climate crisis to mocking the climate science that underpins efforts to address the crisis…

soren
Guest
soren

“Are you showing that you’re on the “better” climate change solution team because you’re making the “real” sacrifices for us all? What?”

No, I don’t believe that any individual action I take “literally slows global warming” either.

BradWagon
Subscriber

Well… riding a bike instead of driving LITERALLY does produce less CO2 so of all the above valid broad points to consider this is objectively wrong.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Actually, while riding is far more efficient than driving (I think), on a LITERAL basis, it does not “slow warming”. It just makes the problem less worse than other activities.

BradWagon
Subscriber

“Applying the brakes doesn’t slow down your bike, it just keeps it from moving as fast as if you didn’t use them”.

Makes total sense.

soren
Guest
soren

Not using plastic straws also LITERALLY does produce less CO2.

According to this kind of magical thinking, banning straws also LITERALLY slows climate change.

soren
Guest
soren

Banning plastic bags LITERALLY SLOWS CLIMATE CHANGE!
Switching to bamboo toothbrushes LITERALLY SLOWS CLIMATE CHANGE!
Using silicone lunch bags LITERALLY SLOWS CLIMATE CHANGE!

To slow climate we need to account for the other things we are doing/consuming, the other things other people are doing/consuming, and the things global economies are doing/consuming. Even claiming that cycling is slow CO2e emissions in Portland is absurd because cycling has plummeted in Portland (and is likely to continue to drop). Tokenizing the climate crisis by claiming some random individual action “slows climate change” is not only absurd but provides a way for people/societies to avoid taking responsibility for the hard steps needed to collectively change our systems.

soren
Guest
soren

To slow climate we need to account for the other things we are doing/consuming, the other things other people are doing/consuming, and the things global economies are doing/consuming. Trivializing the climate crisis by claiming some random individual action “slows climate change” is not only absurd but provides a way for people/societies to avoid taking responsibility for the hard steps needed to collectively change our systems.

Pete
Guest
Pete

Sure, but it’s human nature to rationalize one’s choices as more logical than the collective ‘other.’ Once you start to talk about those “difficult choices” required of others you’ll surely offend someone. The result is the tit-for-tat comparisons you see on this blog (and I’m guilty of), such as whether it’s worse to drive a diesel truck or order online which forces one to be driven to your house, or whether it’s worse to fly in an airplane or order a bike frame from Taiwan, or set up a bike blog with comments that drives electrons through data-centers powered by salmon-killing hydro dams.

I think the benefit of Riley thinking she’s “literally” improving the situation (even if she’s wrong) is that she’ll continue to ride her bike, stay healthy, and smile more. Good for her!

It’s kinda the same logic parents use while telling the Santa lie to their children… 😉

9watts
Subscriber

I think I know where you’re going with this, but I don’t think your blanket statement is really fair.

On transportation (not eating meat) a bike is a hands-down win for the climate, unless of course you drive your bike and yourself to the trailhead; but in any case the comment was about commuting.

Jon
Guest
Jon

Since the birth rate for Oregon and Portland has been dropping below the 2.1 children per woman replacement rate for the typical bike riding Oregonian is actually making a huge dent in greenhouse gases. Having a child is the biggest greenhouse gas hit. Flying, eating meat, etc. are nothing compared to having children for greenhouse gas impact. The last stats I saw showed less than 1.8 children per woman in Oregon. If it were not for in-migration Oregon would be losing population. Any reduction is an improvement. If everyone just throws up their arms and says since I can’t do everything I might as well do nothing we will be digging an even deeper hole for the future.

BradWagon
Subscriber

The whole topic of having kids being the worst thing you can do implies that humans alone, without any context, destroy the planet. This is obviously not true as it’s the behavior of humans in the past few hundred years that have started damaging the planet. If my two children live carbon neutral (not saying they will, just a hypothetical) you are saying that would still be worse than someone who doesn’t have kids but for their 80 years on earth has habits that spew pollution?

Your statement assumes future generations will live like past ones, this is clearly not going to be the case, either by choice or, I fear, by necessity.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

It also assumes that our children aren’t going to become the scientists and politicians and social leaders that will help us find a better way forward.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

I’m assuming that my kids won’t be doing that, at least. I guess you have lofty goals for your kids.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

I have lofty goals for somebody’s kids, but I’m not sure yet who they are.

Peter W
Guest
Peter W

Hello, Kitty
It also assumes that our children aren’t going to become the scientists and politicians and social leaders that will help us find a better way forward.

Considering that we need to cut emissions about 45% by the time any child born today is 10 years old… then yes, this seems like a fair assumption.

Also, if human reproduction were the only requirement for “the scientists and politicians and social leaders” the world needed in order to fight climate change, I would have thought that the already-existing exponential human population growth would have left us, by now, with the necessary ingredients to have solved this problem a few times over.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Only requirement? Hardly.

I don’t presume that someone born today is going to have changed the world in 10 years. But we’re going to need innovation and leadership well beyond that time.

I certainly support having smaller families. But at the same time I recognize that our children are our collective future.

9watts
Subscriber

“I don’t presume that someone born today is going to have changed the world in 10 years. But we’re going to need innovation and leadership well beyond that time.”

Innovation and leadership are great, but as Peter W already noted, those aren’t really in short supply, nor will my child/your child likely contribute disproportionately to that need. Pronatalism is what this is called.

“I recognize that our children are our collective future.”
“It also assumes that our children aren’t going to become the scientists and politicians and social leaders that will help us find a better way forward.”

Ugh. My parents used to say this sort of thing.
This is silly. We/our children may well not have a future, or one we would recognize and dignify with that name. The future, whatever it will look like, would be faaaaaar better for everyone if there were fewer humans, if we all had (had) fewer or no children. To suggest otherwise is just special pleading, delusional, pronatalist cant.

9watts
Subscriber

Peter W won that one, handily.

Ryan
Guest
Ryan

Uh, you think? I don’t.

Jon
Guest
Jon

If the past is any indication of the future each subsequent generation is going to generate more greenhouse gases than the next so having fewer children is critical. We are still trending up in GHG.

BradWagon
Subscriber

If being the key term there.

Pete
Guest
Pete

It still surprises me this logic is so unpopular. While it can be argued human behavior correlates to rate of resource consumption (and its related environmental impact), I don’t see how one could argue adding another consumer to the planet doesn’t increase that aggregated impact, even if you believe the fantasy that an eventual miracle of science will erase the ozone depletion and captured gases our parents left us with.

turnips
Guest
turnips

it’s like my pappy told me before his business went under: “I’m losing money on every sale, but I’ll make it up in volume.”

9watts
Subscriber

“The report finds that the public costs of the vehicle economy total about $14,000 per family in Massachusetts, regardless of whether these households own a vehicle. Even carless families, which are more likely to have lower incomes, help subsidize the Commonwealth’s vehicle economy given that user fees and gas taxes cover just one third of state budgetary costs, which total $5.7 billion.”

Fantastic framing of the matter. And high time we got to see numbers like this.
‘Whose Roads.’ by VTPI may have a worthy successor.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

The $14,000 figure includes external costs such as climate change which, while real in their own way, are not being paid for by anyone; it’s not correct to conflate external costs with budgetary ones.

More fundamentally, the study poses the question of “whether cars are the most cost-effective ways to connect”. Given a blank canvas, the answer is almost certainly “no”. Given existing conditions, it’s a lot less clear.

Jon
Guest
Jon

Reading the actual report on the costs of cars in Massachusetts is enlightening and worth the read.

rain panther
Guest
rain panther

War-On-Cars guy says in the first paragraph “I have no transportation bias.”

That’s funny/sad.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Jeep-driving tech-startup owner runs on the Springwater occasionally and thinks that this makes him an unbiased authority on transportation issues.

dan
Guest
dan

I was bothered by the way in which he presents his (incorrect) opinions as facts, like “less traffic will not convince more people to drive”.

bikeninja
Guest
bikeninja

As an engineer, I am somewhat offended that a startup called “Chirpify” ( war-on-cars guy’s company) that exists to help build loyalty to corporate brands of consumer products is considered Tech. I remember when our local Tech companies made sophisticated electronic test equipment, or laser circuit trimming machines or scientific computers. In those days we had a different name for people who figured out ways to sell people stuff they didn’t really need. We called them hucksters.

turnips
Guest
turnips

looks like the Chirpify office is in the Peloton apartment building on N Williams. surprised he didn’t use that location as evidence of his lack of bias against bikes.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

And now we know that his perception that we have a “war on cars” is purely because he doesn’t like having to fight for street spots on Williams and try to execute a parallel parking job in that weird left-hand bike lane while simultaneously having trouble seeing cyclists due to his Jeep’s huge blind spots.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

While I strongly disagree with his conclusions, the author is correct in pointing out that what we’re doing (in our “war on driving”) is not working, and that simply doing more of it is unlikely to have a better effect.

I believe we need a new strategy, possibly in the form of a carbon/gas tax, parking pricing, and/or road tolling. In other words, stimulate market demand for better alternatives.

BradWagon
Subscriber

Those other strategies would actually be a true “war on cars” so bring it on! Like everything labeled “the war on ___” the irony is that that thing is not actually facing any meaningful pressure.

Fred
Guest
Fred

Is anyone going to write a rebuttal to the War on Cars guy in The O? When I read his line about how “the experiment [with better bike infrastructure] is over and it has failed,” I almost choked on my corn flakes. The experiment has barely started: while there are continuous car-lanes everywhere, there is NO continuous bike lane to get me from SW Portland to downtown or anywhere else in the Portland metro area. State and local gov’ts have spent billion$ on MV infrastructure for over a hundred years; now that bikes are getting a pittance on bike lanes and wands and paint on the asphalt, it’s time to give up??

Also did anyone else notice the misleading photo chosen by the O, apparently taken from the Hawthorne Bridge flyover of Naito, which shows queuing cars in the left lane and an empty right lane protected by wands?

GNnorth
Guest
GNnorth

Can we please stop with the wanna be high-speed rail stuff? It’s like demanding organic pure unadulterated food for the homeless on a golden platter instead of quality food that fills the tummy. Inslee has shown his wholesale ineptitude at the realignment that went awry and killed three people and injured scores of others.

First, lets work on getting a solid, functional passenger network with more regular trains that stop in places like Tenino, or Echo, or Baker City, Ashland, etc.. It also entails that more doubletrack and triple mains be built. Move the masses efficiently over the whole PNW, running passenger speeds at even 80-95 is just fine. Bring back the Pioneer to eastern Oregon, but people like fairy tales and the image of “flying” along so hence the support. Even the NEC back east isn’t high speed, 110-125 is great. Apparently we like wasting money on “studies” that suck public money to certain groups with political ties to Olympia and Salem instead of being on the ground. Hell, even in the 40s-50s they did a damn good job. Of course so much can be blamed on the car culture but this isn’t the right solution, yet.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Serving the cities you listed with even 80mph rail service would cost many times more than 110mph service between Portland and Seattle (sub 2:30 travel time), and would serve significantly less people.

I don’t think we should spend money on far-flung routes until we have sub-2:30, hourly service on the SEA-PDX trunk route. Once you have that in place, people will be much more likely to connect to smaller cities with the system.

GNnorth
Guest
GNnorth

No, it wouldn’t, it was already done years ago. The ATSF, GN and other western roads all served the numerous small communities and the auto with it’s door-to-door service led the ridership dropping to zilch. Of course certain routes need major realignment but nothing near the cost of what it takes to achieve with true HSR. Put in “milk runs” from the smaller places to hubs like Eugene, PDX, SEA and Vancouver (BC) and have higher speed express runs, like they used to. This mantra that it has to be faster isn’t a good thing.

This isn’t new, just a new sales job for a different product. California’s debacle with the line from near the Bay Area down to near Bakersfield has ballooned and no one should be surprised. Unrealistic expectations from the start but got the “masses” buying into it. Rural areas need just as good as solid transportation choices as major cities, if not more. Ever try getting somewhere out of the mtns w/o a car?

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

The Point Defiance Bypass cost $181 million dollars, to bring a degraded freight line up to modern, 80mph standards (and of course, failing to re-align a critical 30mph bridge). That’s $12.5 million per mile. How much would it cost to re-hab the Central Oregon and Pacific Line between Eugene and Ashland? That’s 180 miles, with steeper terrain, tunnels, bridges, etc. You’d be looking at $2+ billion dollars, if you want to run service that would be time-competitive with a Greyhound bus on I-5. Intercity rail service doesn’t make sense for sparsely populated areas. Seattle, Portland, and Vancouver are big enough for 100+mph service. Eugene/Salem are big enough to justify 80mph service. Nothing else is worth the money.

GNnorth
Guest
GNnorth

First, regarding the Pt Defiance bypass, you can squarely place the blame on that bridge fiasco on Inslee and ST, they were front-and-center on bringing this to the public arena w/o being fully ready. The man knows nothing about running our state effectively, it’s that clear but I digress. Fro my place above the mainline in BC near the border to PDX we don’t need HSR, just more doubletracking/realigning and more regular trains. The Cascades haul ass down at Swift (south of Blaine) and other key areas too. There’s no way HSR will ever be cost competitive with regular rail Californias as we both noted bungled it so badly and is still trying to justify this monstrosity, Ugh.

Now onto the Siskiyou line, that does need some serious upgrading as you mentioned. It’s also why the Natron cutoff was built over to Chemult and down to KFalls and then reconnects with the Siskiyou at Black Butte. But take I-5, the first iterations of it through that whole area from Shasta Lake to north of Roseburg was the same scenario. 45-50 mph in the canyons near Dunsmuir. Just think of how different it is from 1975, a totally new freeway with speeds to match. That cost way more than 2 billion over this amount of time, and Greyhound is still just as horrible to ride as it was forty years ago. Invest in the Siskiyou and bring more trucks and cars off the freeway, but admittedly it’s unlikely to happen.

I agree that the Boston-NY-DC corridor is best suited for anything HSR in the States, other than that we we’re wasting valuable money spent on a multitude of other projects that bring more to the overall public.

Last, 60mph average speed isn’t slinking around, that’s good and more than acceptable. We have let the car with it’s door to door mentality define the travel times for other modes of transportation except for flying. And if it’s all about speed then let’s just accept flying is fine and go with it and subsidize that to the maximum. En=courage travelers to get their Nexus card and avoid the long lines, get on the tube w/wings and off they go.

David Hampsten
Guest

As a transit-dependent bicycle user who never learned to drive, I’ve become a total train nut since I was a kid. I literally ache for HSR to happen in the USA, anywhere, preferably the 200 mph kind in Germany, France, Japan, and China.

That said, HSR has technical issues that can be overcome with current engineering technologies, it has certain land use issues in particular corridors that are more politically challenging but not yet impossible, and political issues that are often “fatal flaws” with certain corridors. For example, the California corridor is likely to get some of the best ridership, but while it will likely get the support of its 53 congresspersons in the US house (12% of all votes), it still has only 2 votes in the Senate (2%). The Texas corridor between Houston and Dallas has similar political issues and Cascadia is even worse off. The NEC has the greatest population density, AMTRAK already owns most of the track, and there’s very strong local support for the project. But it will ultimately fail (compared to the other alternatives) because the vast majority of its numerous congresspersons and senators all belong to just one party, a party that doesn’t control the Senate (yet, and isn’t likely to any time soon.)

And so the most politically viable HSR corridors are the Midwest and Southeast, as they have a mix and diversity of senators and congresspersons from both parties, including from the other party. Yeah, they don’t have much on population density nor particularly high passenger rail use, but that has never been a criteria in funding US rail, has it?

GNnorth
Guest
GNnorth

I understand the want for HSR and it’s certainly a real and viable alternative in many other nations, Japan arguably the best one could hope for but then Tokyo has 38 million people right?! But take a look first at newer services like Brightline or tried and true commuter rail such as MBTA and Metra, or Caltrain on the Peninsula. As mentioned in the other link that national road maintenance for autos is 64 billion I think. Well, that doesn’t even cover the California HSR project and it still hasn’t gotten any further south than Bakersfield because Tehachapi is such a major engineering challenge. What is being proposed in the Midwest from Chicago to Milw and further north is positive and still not HSR. Even the freakin Auto-Train from D.C. down to Sanford is popular and Amtrak cancels the damn thing at times. My point is bring a wholesale regular network back first then go for higher speeds in the appropriate corridors. Advocating for HSR in my opinion helps the rural vs urban fight so prevalent now.

David Hampsten
Guest

What I like about Siemens ICE system is that their trains can operate on any standard gauge trackway (the USA and Europe has the same width track, 4′ 8 5/8th”). TGV, Pedolino, Thalys & Eurostar can operate on standard gauge track, but they work best on dedicated track. The Japanese and Chinese HSR systems use a special non-standard gauge. For any HSR system, you need a minimum of double-track throughout and preferably quadratrack to allow passing and express trains.

I’m not sure what you mean by urban versus rural. All US states are over 50% urban now. Do you mean higher-density states like in the Northeast versus lower-density in the Great Plains and out west? Or do you mean connecting rural communities in say New Jersey to more urban ones?

turnips
Guest
turnips

my favorite trains in Japan weren’t the fast ones. they were the small (sometimes only one car) and slow trains through the mountains to small rural towns. I gather that many routes like that don’t come anywhere near profitability and are being shut down, which is too bad.

David Hampsten
Guest

Yeah, I like the short lines too. I used them in Britain, Germany and France last time I visited those places. Vancouver Island has one I highly recommend, just two cars with the driver in the front cab, runs up and down the island from Victoria to Comax. At one point the train stops on a high trestle to allow users to take photos.

turnips
Guest
turnips

I don’t think the Victoria-Courtenay train is operating. last I heard, there were plans in the works to assess what it would take to get it going again with no promises.

GNnorth
Guest
GNnorth

That’s correct unfortunately. The Malahat hasn’t ran in some time and the Victoria station is now severed since they yanked out the bridge and replaced it. Southern half of Vancouver Island is a traffic nightmare now. The only “shorty” in the province is up in Lilolet and CN is trying to quash it too. So that leaves The Canadian and the Rupert to Jasper trains only here.

David Hampsten
Guest

I’m glad I used that train when I had an opportunity to do so. The cross-channel hovercraft service ended about a year after I first used it, another adventure in alternative transportation that will likely never again be implemented. Life is like that I guess.

bikeninja
Guest
bikeninja

The Oregonian closing down its comments section is indicative of so many of the trends running through our society. We (the USA) has become a place with little common ground. The comments section on the Big O had become a land of open warfare between two sides who shared radically different views of the world. This created a swamp of hyperbole and name calling that no longer served any useful purpose. But removing this “no mans land” of interaction , as coarse and uncivil as it had become. does not solve any of our problems. Each side has retreated in to it’s own corner, watching its own media, and pushing its own memes. How will we resolve these differences? Maybe the commentary sandbox of a fading news medium is no longer the place, but what will be? Perhaps we are not really destined to solve these problems on our own and we must wait until one side or another fails in a way that all can see, so we can pick ourselves up and try something new. I for one, have almost given up on the the mass of people loosening their white knuckled grip on the dead stick of happy motoring. But hopefully ,when the false dream of driving 5000 lb hunks of metal and plastic from fry huts to big box warehouses has faded from the our reality there will be enough left of the earth to try something new.

EP
Guest
EP

Great timing on the Oregonian closing comments down. That “war on cars” piece is up to 412(?!) comments as of my writing this. Comments sections often turn into a toxic wasteland of hateful trolls snarling at each other. I take heart in knowing that it’s a VERY small, VERY vocal minority of people spewing the hate on there. Per the Oregonlive piece:

“It’s important to note that very few people contribute the vast majority of comments on the site. Most readers never comment or read the comments. In fact, across our company’s websites, which serve 50 million unique visitors in an average month, just 2,340 people produce more than half of the comments. Just 3 percent of visitors to OregonLive read the comments over a three-month period last summer. A tiny fraction of visitors ever posts a comment.”

2340 people (out of FIFTY MILLION) produce over 50% of the comments?!

9watts
Subscriber

Math is way off. Those fifty million visits (not visitors) are probably disproportionately by those commenters, going back hundreds of times posting vitriol.

Stephen Keller
Guest
Stephen Keller

Nah, I believe the math. Advance Publications owns the Oregonian. The article says 50 million unique users across all their websites. These would include websites for hundreds of newspapers, as well as Discovery Channel, Wired, Condé Nast, Lycos, Angelfire, Tripod, Reddit (according to Wikipedia, anyway) and probably hosts of others no one has bothered hunt down. AP is privately held and not always forthcoming about their assets. There could easily be 50 million unique users across all their sites correlated by IP address and session tokens.

Stph

9watts
Subscriber

50M!?

OK.

Stephen Keller
Guest
Stephen Keller

Many of their sites, Reddit for example have global reach, so the population base is greater than just the US market.

9watts
Subscriber

Global reach – in that case why is that a relevant comparison to Oregonian commenters?

Stephen Keller
Guest
Stephen Keller

It isn’t relevant to the Oregon. AP’s announcement was pure spin doctoring to present a best-case rationale for the change. I would not expect much more from a media holding company. I spent enough time reading Annenberg School for Communication missives in grad school to become deeply cynical of the media with their interlocking boards of directorate and raw-profit motives couched in the rhetoric of the “common good” and all. The only reason they make any such announcements of this sort is to present themselves as benevolent and reasonable.

Fred
Guest
Fred

Now where will all the Russian and right-wing trolls go?

Ted g
Guest
Ted g

Please correct the lead -in to the Stava article. The article says “ 44% of Strava USERS in Portland, or 21% in LA [are] commuting by bike”. It doesn’t say 44% of Portlanders are commuting by bike.

Asher Atkinson
Guest
Asher Atkinson

The lead in says 44% of Portlanders logged their commutes, so I read that as Portland users, as only a user can log. My confusion is with the bit about Portland having the highest number in the world. In looking at the slides I see a higher percentage in London and Berlin logging commutes, but perhaps I’m misunderstanding that stat, or missing another completely.

That said, pointing out the Strava report is great. Recently on Bikeportland there was another mention of Strava data with some commentary dismissing its usefulness. Sure, it doesn’t capture all cycling and may be biased toward a certain type of cyclist (debatable), but 48 million users in 195 countries logging 19 million activities a week (a large percentage being rides) is very impressive and can lead to policy based on data rather than anecdotes.

Clark in Vancouver
Guest
Clark in Vancouver

At the moment I’m pretty discouraged by the politics in this continent re. high speed rail. I’ve visited Japan and Europe and rode the Shinkansen and the German ICE. They’re both amazing. It’s so easy and affordable to just take the subway to a train station then at a kiosk punch in where you want to go and go catch the train. After a comfortable few hours you’re in another city far away. No need to book tickets and get to the airport and wait to lift off, the noisy cramped flight then touch down and after that still have to get to the city.
It’s amazing only to this continent. In other places it’s a reality.
The Koch brother and others in the automobile/oil industry industrial complex know that their fortunes are based on a big lie and are quick to quash any awareness of the people (Interest in high speed rail, the cycling renaissance, etc.) to alternatives. The domination of private cars has been artificially encouraged and alternatives intentionally suppressed and they know it.

In this continent people are flying to visit family in the next state or province when they could be taking a high speed train in less the time and less hassle but aren’t offered that option.

Sad really.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

It’s more than just politics; it’s geography too. Germany is the size of Oregon + Washington, and Japan is comparable to California. Think about the number of destinations in Japan or Germany compared to those US states; I love those train systems too, but we’re so spread out that trains are simply less feasible. Imagine a train line running the height of Germany but only stopping in 4 or 5 cities (spanning Seattle to Ashland, for example), only two of which really amount to anything population-wise. It takes a lot of infrastructure to serve not many people.

Clark in Vancouver
Guest
Clark in Vancouver

Yeah, density is a big factor when it comes to paying for it. In Canada whenever it’s talked about it assumes that the Toronto to Montreal (and maybe Ottawa) line is where to start. Big population centres with a lot of people moving between them.
One factor though is going to a different country. The US and Canada are pretty similar on the surface but it’s still considered exotic to travel to the States and see how things are different. Travelling within Canada is fairly similar (even to French Canada) so not so exotic from a travel perspective.
I suppose the subsidy that all transportation receives needs to be factored in and accepted that it’s a common good. In the case of the Cascadia high speed rail idea, they’re claiming that it’s half the cost to do high speed rail from Vancouver, BC to Portland, OR than to add another motor vehicle lane to all those highways. If that’s true then this needs to be brought up. It can be a brain exploder for gear heads who believe that they are fully paying for the highways with gas tax, etc. but it’s time to educate them. Once that happens maybe, just maybe, the acceptance of taxes going to mobility of the citizens can be directed to also subsidizing HSR.
But we’ll see.

9watts
Subscriber

Expansion, growth, adding lanes or speeding up rail are all 20th C holdovers. They do not speak to our present moment in which contraction, defensive measure are or should be the order of the day. If we have money to spend (and my hunch is we don’t) then seawalls, earthquake readiness, road diets, phasing out the auto should all take much higher priority.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

As much as I would love a high-quality rail connection between here and Seattle, I am having a hard time coming up with a justification on either a dollar or a CO2 basis to build a new line given that we have airports and roads already built (i.e. sunk cost). I am aware of no serious proposal to build a new highway lane between Vancouver and Portland, so that’s not a compelling argument to me.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Not as a single project, but more of a “death by a thousand cuts” cluster of projects. WSDOT is spending almost a billion to add a through lane in each direction on just a few miles of I-5 near JBLM:
https://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Projects/I5/JBLMImprovements/default.htm

This just moves the choke points around, so a few year later, they target another area; and then another; and then another.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

The US has a few corridors where it makes sense. Obviously, the DC-NY-Boston area needs true high speed rail, and has the tax base and demand to support it. LA-SF was completely bungled, but could definitely support a service that doesn’t detour to the middle of nowhere. The Texas Triangle is another good one, primarily because it will have very low construction costs.

Beyond that, other large cities in the US would be best-served with medium-speed rail (80-125mph). There is a common misconception that you either have slow, milk-run type trains, and super-fast trains. Much of Europe is served by lines that don’t come close to 200mph, but also don’t slink around at 60mph like most of the Amtrak network. Vancouver-Seattle-Portland have the population and travel demand to support 110mph service. This would get PDX-SEA below 2:30, making it faster than driving even during low-congestion periods on I-5. It would also be competitive with flying for those traveling from city center to city center. If hourly service with a 2:30 run time is successful, additional incremental improvements can be made.

Jamie
Guest
Jamie

Did a lot of riding around the UK on trains like this, both on work commutes and inter-city.

A 5 hour London to Edinburgh train handily beats a 90 minute flight once you factored the time and hassle getting out to the airport and back.

turnips
Guest
turnips

what low-congestion periods?

X
Guest
X

“…detour to the middle of nowhere…”

OK, this has come up here before. The high speed line ends at a town that none of us has heard of before but there’s not going to be a line of passengers walking off to the horizon, is there? They’ll transfer to another train, right? Big PR fail by somebody to let this fairly stupid idea take root.

Asher Atkinson
Guest
Asher Atkinson

re: Massachusetts car economy

The $64 billion Massachusetts car economy provided an estimated 52 billion vehicle miles in 2019, coming out to $1.23 per vehicle mile. To put this in perspective, the MBTA (bus, light and commuter rail) provided 1.84 billion passenger miles for a $2.1 billion dollars. The MBTA miles were from a 2014 report, and the budget was for 2020, and likely the passenger numbers have declined, following the same declining trend in many US and European cities. But using those numbers, the transit economy comes out to $1.13 per passenger mile, or a 10% savings over cars. By converting vehicle miles to passenger miles, the car cost will be lower, but I couldn’t find the numbers. Additionally, Massachusetts has 15 other smaller regional transit authorities and I’m guessing they likely don’t operate a efficiently as the MBTA, making the car economy premium even smaller.

Scrutinize the numbers further and the car economy likely moves people at a lower comparative cost. Examples: The second largest car cost in the report is death and injury which double counts insured losses from auto policies. The road land value is attributed all to cars, yet transit and heavy freight use the roads, too. Debt service comes mostly from the Big Dig and the Longfellow bridge restoration, yet the Big Dig also expanded the Silver Line and the Longfellow bridge is primarily a crossing for the Red Line which has almost four times as many riders as motorist. Transit emits pollution, GHG, and noise, adding to its cost. Etc, etc…

My point is less about an accurate accounting and more about the need to resist eye popping when seeing a number absent context. At least the report authors acknowledge the most significant missing context, which is weighing cost with benefit. They recommend more studies for this, but I’m confident we already know the answer, because as individuals we consciously or unconsciously weigh cost and benefit when making personal and political choices and collectively we continue to choose cars. If we’d like to see that change we need to find ways to present better value propositions.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Very well stated. The $64B figure includes many indirect and external costs, so is not really comparable to the MBTA operating budget, which does not. A fairer comparison would likely favor transit even less on a dollar for dollar basis.

GNnorth
Guest
GNnorth

Thank you for that breakdown. I wonder what the costs are alone to fund South and North Stations respectively. South Station has to be one of the neatest I’ve been to in all of the U.S. but sad to see ridership is declining while out here in the PNW it’s on the uptick.

soren
Guest
soren

Ridership in Portland has been declining for many years. For example, in 2018 it was down ~1.9% for buses and ~2.3% for max. As Portland inexorably develops into an exclusive playground for the rich*, this trend is almost certain to worsen in coming years.

Note that Trimet itself subscribes to this explanation for decreasing ridership” https://www.wweek.com/news/city/2017/11/18/trimet-blames-economic-displacement-for-portland-area-decline-in-bus-riders/.

*Ironically, many cycling advocates support development policies that promote increased gentrification.

X
Guest
X

I am also deeply annoyed by the short-term numbers for transit use, land use, capital investment, etc, etc. MAX lines don’t seem to pencil out but our investment in light rail has given us a tunnel through the West Hills that will be quite valuable into an indefinite future, as well as graded track lines that will remain useful as efficient ways to carry large numbers of people, becoming relatively more efficient as private motor vehicles are driven from the scene by a dawning reality.

See: Australia, bush fires. People there are becoming radicalized and giving their elected officials an earful. What’s that quote about the prospect of being hung in the morning?

I’m not offering false hope. Actually I think we’re screwed, but we’re also pretty close to a political tipping point where things might be attempted to be done.

GNnorth
Guest
GNnorth

Soren, I was referring to Amtrak specifically, maybe I’m mistaken. The Cascades are doing quite well but it’s funny to be on one leaving a Vancouver or watching it roll by south past my place in White Rock half full but in Bellingham gets packed to the gills on its way to PDX. As for MAX declination I can only wonder at what time that happens. The difference between a decade ago and now is starkly Used to be able to bring a bike on at 3-4pm but not the case for me when I’m in town these days.

John
Guest
John
9watts
Subscriber

Fantastic piece. Thank you for posting that here.
I hope all the boosters here read it, and report back to us.