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Report reveals attitudes about transportation from inside and outside PBOT

Posted by on January 16th, 2020 at 10:33 am

A poll commissioned by the Portland Bureau of Transportation found that a large majority of Portlanders don’t think widening roads is the answer to congestion and that the agency needs simpler messaging and a clearer vision.

Those are just a few of the findings from a wide-ranging report (PDF) by Bloom Communications that was completed in fall 2018. The report has been used internally by PBOT since then but was not made public until a records request by a BikePortland contributor was filled last week.

Bloom, a public relations firm with offices in Austin and Portland, conducted a 22 question poll with 1,000 respondents, hosted two focus groups and held a series of interviews with high-profile internal stakeholders. Among those interviewed were: former PBOT Director Leah Treat; Division Manager of Construction, Inspection and Pavement Todd Liles; Traffic Safety Section Manager Dana Dickman; and Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) Office of Urban Mobility and Mega Project Delivery Director (and former transportation policy advisor to Governor Kate Brown) Brendan Finn.

The results shared in the 65-page report give PBOT a baseline for how the public feels about the agency and its work. According to PBOT Director of Communications John Brady, the agency had never before gone through a comprehensive polling and perception exercise. The report says PBOT has instead been, “Relying on anecdotal evidence to inform communications strategies.”

In addition to gauging perceptions and behaviors of a scientifically significant number of Portlanders, the report gives PBOT a deeper understanding of how to frame their messages and be more effective as an agency.

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Stakeholder interviews reveal an agency with room to improve when it comes to internal and external communications. “We have a little bit of an identity crisis,” one interviewee stated. “One minute Vision Zero is the leading thing; one minute potholes is the leading thing. There are too many things going on at once, and it gets confusing,” stated another. One stakeholder said messaging about projects is inconsistent because it’s the responsibility of each individual project manager. Bloom summarized the issue by writing, “The amount of various transportation projects PBOT is responsible for leads to muddled messages and brand confusion. Many Portlanders are unsure of what PBOT actually does and why they do it. Portlanders are overwhelmed by the volume of the bureau’s projects and messages.”

On-street infrastructure was found to be confusing to people as well. Under the heading, “Operational Actions”, Bloom advised PBOT to improve traffic signage. “PBOT should prioritize making traffic lanes and signage consistent throughout the city. Lack of/inconsistent signage causes confusion for both bikers and drivers and increases safety risks. There should be no question about the division of car/bike lanes.”

On this topic, one focus group participant said, “I fully endorse putting bike lanes in… but it feels like they’re changing their minds continuously on how they want to do that. Some areas there are green stripes, some areas it’s on the edge, some areas it’s in the middle, some areas they’re taking the entire lane out.

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Hardly a “war on cars” out there.

Bloom also noted the tension between PBOT and ODOT. “At the state level, the priority is primarily congestion relief in the form of getting more cars through the roads… Because PBOT’s goal is to get more people through Portland with multi-modal transportation, inconsistent messages are being presented to the public. An internal stakeholder said of the PBOT/ODOT relationship, “We don’t always get good information from the state on their priorities vs. our priorities. We could better collaborate to send out the same message.”

Another finding that stood out was how often focus group attendees mentioned a fear of strangers as the reason they choose to drive.

“I can control who’s in my space when I’m in my car, and I don’t have to worry about someone random bashing me in the back of my head while I’m driving… When you don’t know people, they could look completely normal, and next thing you know…” said one person. “I was one of the people that was on the MAX when [the stabbing happened]. Right after that is when I got my car,” said another. Bloom called this a, “Collective fear of other people and the uncertainty that comes with being around those you don’t know,” and determined that, “Portlanders generally feel safer in a car because they have some control over what happens to them and their families.”

“In addition to a fear of the homeless population and overcrowding,” the report continues, “Portlanders are driven to take their cars because of dirty streets and unmodernized public transportation assets.”

Bloom urged PBOT to make addressing homelessness a priority and to partner with nonprofits that serve them. Asked about the issue, PBOT’s John Brady said, “We didn’t act on that recommendation.”

In other recommendations, Bloom tells PBOT they should be more direct in telling people they’ll have to start driving less if they want to decrease congestion. “PBOT should explicitly communicate to Portlanders that building more infrastructure is impossible,” the report states. “While this message must be direct, it also must be understanding of the major lifestyle change solving traffic congestion requires.”

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Brady said in a phone call yesterday that Portlanders’ rejection of road widening, “Was a really nice validation.” He said the bureau put that information to use when crafting messages for their Central City in Motion plan.

In order to encourage people to drive their cars less, Bloom advised PBOT (based on polling results) to focus on environmental benefits, affordability, and the convenience of not having to find parking.

The report also urged PBOT to create a new mobile app to garner feedback on all projects and programs, saying the existing PDXReporter tool has a “huge barrier to entry”.

Brady says the report was, “Really valuable” and that, “it has helped us define our audience a lot better.” He noted that people who bike, walk, and take transit have a better perception of the bureau’s work than people who mostly drive. Another thing he took away from it is that PBOT needs to keep thing simple. “We’re making more of an emphasis on that internally, trying to get folks to talk to the layperson, to de-wonkify the language.”

***

Here are some interesting numbers from the poll:
– 68% don’t think widening roads is the answer to congestion.
– 65% would be willing to pay more in taxes if they knew the money would be going directly to traffic congestion.
– 55% would be willing to pay more to drive during peak times if it meant a quicker commute.
– 90% say more needs to be done to improve the safety of Portland’s roads. Only 76% feel safe walking the streets of Portland.
– 47% do not know about Vision Zero.
– 90% want to see more enforcement of traffic laws.
– 60% get their information from from local TV news versus 40% from online news sites and 38% from social media.
– 51% use a private car every day.
– 17% use a bicycle every day and 43% ride at least once per week.
– 64% said they’d stop using their car if other options were reliably faster or the same amount of travel time.
– 77% said driving a car is an easy way to get around Portland, compared to just 50% for biking.

Download the report here.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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David Hampsten
Guest

When I worked at PBOT 2000-2006 as a low-level peon, I found the bureau was highly fragmented into 3 major bureaus (engineering, maintenance, and parking enforcement) and numerous small agencies. Later as a community advocate 2009-2015, the bureau hadn’t changed one iota, but I did find myself (as did other volunteers) having to be the go-between of different agencies and staff within PBOT who weren’t willing to talk with one another, let alone work together. It was then, and I suspect still, a highly dysfunctional agency. Its worst enemy is itself.

Mike Quigley
Guest
Mike Quigley

Sounds like Congress. It’s the new norm.

The Last Voyageur
Guest
The Last Voyageur

Vision Zero should have been called Zero Vision.

There is one thing (nearly) everyone agrees on: “more needs to be done to improve the safety of Portland’s roads.” Now there’s a simple organizational mission that serves the wishes of the people. No more BS slogans. If PBOT cannot complete that mission without additional delegated powers from Salem, it should say so.

J_R
Guest
J_R

Well, there’s nothing here that can’t be solved by another task force, more management meetings, and a few more media communications personnel added to the already bloated bureaucracy. Throw in a management-media consultant and some trips to see how they do it in Europe.

David Hampsten
Guest

You forgot the stakeholder advisory committee – this is Portland after all, the city that meets.

idlebytes
Guest
idlebytes

“17% use a bicycle every day and 43% ride at least once per week.” This is an interesting contrast to the census results of work commutes by bike. More evidence that maybe how they phrase the questions and limit you to picking just one type of transportation isn’t giving an accurate picture of what modes of transportation people are using.

Rebecca
Guest
Rebecca

Agreed! Census data only asks about how people commute to work, which can be different from the modes that people might use when they run errands, visit friends, go to the park, etc. And what about people who aren’t commuting to work (retirees, children)? I appreciate the Census for its consistency but surveys like this, and the Oregon Household Activity Survey (OHAS) give a much more nuanced picture of how we get around.

Alicia J
Guest
Alicia J

I think the most interesting thing here is the 25 percentage-point gap between “I would ride more if I knew I could get where I’m going faster and more reliably than in my car” and all of the other reasons in that last graph. As important as safety and the perception of safety are, people will use transit if it works! I think the bus only lanes are a great way for buses to visibly be better than cars. If I’m stuck on the Burnside Bridge at 5pm and I see 8 buses blow by me in the bus only lane, I might start to wonder about using the bus for at least part of my commute.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

>>> people will use transit if it works <<<

People say they will use transit if it works.

Aaron
Guest
Aaron

Considering that people who live in places where public transit works do in fact use it, I’m not entirely sure what point you’re trying to make.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

My point is that what people say they would do and what they actually do are not always perfectly aligned. It’s a well known problem in this sort of “stated preference” survey.

That some people who are well served by transit use it doesn’t tell us much either.

Aaron
Guest
Aaron

Sure they’re not perfectly aligned. I’m perfectly aware that if public transit were significantly improved here to the point that it “works” (whatever metric we use to determine that), the increase in the number of people using public transit wouldn’t be exactly 25 percent. But, there is quite a wide range between the figure not being a perfect representation of a future reality and the figure not being at all informative. The fact that there are cities that have good public transit and also have a majority or significant minority of the population using public transit, and the fact that there is a gap between the current behavior of people and their aspirations to use more public transit in Portland is in fact very informative. It suggests to me that there’s untapped potential. How much is up for debate, but saying that it doesn’t tell us much is in my opinion a pretty big logical leap unless you can identify specific methodological or statistical issues that render the data meaningless.

Matt S.
Guest
Matt S.

The Max goes straight to the Zoo. My family and and four other families all drove…

Ryan
Guest
Ryan

Why?

Jason
Guest
Jason

I believe you are being snide when you say, “scientifically significant” number of Portlanders responded to this survey. 1000/657,100 is minuscule. According to PSU, 657,100 is the estimate for PDX population in 2019. https://www.pdx.edu/news/psu%E2%80%99s-population-research-center-releases-preliminary-oregon-population-estimates

John
Guest
John

He’s not. Your comment basically just self-identified you as somebody who doesn’t understand statistical significance. Play around with this tool a bit and you’ll see how few responses you actually need for a statistically significant result: https://www.surveymonkey.com/mp/sample-size-calculator/

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Of course, this assumes that those willing to take the poll were representative of everyone else, and not, for example, people more interested in answering a large number of questions about transportation than other people. In my experience, those most interested in talking about transportation tend to be focused on non-automotive ways of getting around.

Perhaps that’s why the poll found that 43% of Portlanders ride their bike regularly. Does that even vaguely pass the smell test?

Jason
Guest
Jason

This gets to my point of contention. How do we know that the 1000 people who were selected were really that varied? It’s more difficult to constrain the results if you increase the sample size.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

I think it’s less a question of sample size and more a question of who actually got sampled. If you double the number of conversations with people-who-like-to-talk-transportation-turkey, you’ll get the same level of skew.

Any time you do something like this, you need to see if your results are credible. If they don’t seem to be, either you made an error, or you’ve discovered something new. Can we independently corroborate the 43% figure? If so, wonderful! If not, there may be a problem with the data.

stephan
Guest
stephan

The report says it was a representative sample but for not provide evidence of that. I agree, hard to believe given those responses.

Jason
Guest
Jason

Yeah, I admit that statistics is not on my skills list. Maybe I’m just an example of, “nobody asked me, but I would like to have participated” syndrome. From my perspective, it seems like a very small sample set. And as long as you’re creating a software to tabulate 1000 answers, why not 10,000 answers? Sure, you don’t have to (according to what I am understanding from you), but what is the value in restricting the sample set?

J_R
Guest
J_R

Cost. The costs of tabulation and analysis are very small. Telephoning people to get 10,000 responses is ten times as expensive as 1,000. I would guess that telephone surveyors achieve about one complete, valid response per hour with the rest of the hour devoted to calling to find people who answer and are willing to participate and who don’t get bored and quit part way through. Figure that the company who provides the surveyors charges PBOT between $40 and $50 per hour and your extra 9000 respondents costs an extra $360,000. That’s why they choose a smaller sample size.

Jason
Guest
Jason

J_R, if you read the report you can see that phase 2 was an online questionnaire. Like I said, cost is flat for 1000 or 10,000. Or negligible.

John
Guest
John

The cost delta definitely isn’t negligible. You need to account for getting the word out about the survey to a huge number of people. Remember, you wouldn’t need 10,000 responses, you’d need 10,000 valid responses that geographically and demographically represent the city. So if you ended up with 10,000 responses that skewed heavily toward young men, you’d have to keep getting responses until you were balanced.

John
Guest
John

Uh oh, I have to issue a correction on myself. Looks like the way they did this one was to distribute to 1,000 people (not wait for 1,000 responses). The reason you wouldn’t go wider is because maybe you go from a 95% confidence level to 99% and narrow your margin of error from 5% to 3%. Either way, with polling like this you should be able to trust the data even with a fairly small sample size.

Jason
Guest
Jason

It’s an online questionnaire, the cost of sending the email to one person is the same as 10,000 people. And the software, if it was engineered for this purpose, would be the same cost if it were 1 or 10,000 people. Sure, if it was hand gathered data the cost would scale. But it wasn’t and I am reluctant to agree that the cost would scale. I wouldn’t say that any misconduct occurred per se, but lying with statistics is nothing new. In my opinion, if the sample size is 1000, the potential for engineering the answer is much higher. Honestly, given that the survey was online, I can’t see why they didn’t ask more people.

chris
Guest
chris

“I fully endorse putting bike lanes in… but it feels like they’re changing their minds continuously on how they want to do that. Some areas there are green stripes, some areas it’s on the edge, some areas it’s in the middle, some areas they’re taking the entire lane out.

This is my criticism as well. Our bike lanes follow no best practice or uniformity of design. It’s as if PBOT is conducting an experiment every time they build a new one. It’s produced a lot of visual clutter that’s difficult sometimes for even me to parse, to say nothing of motorists from out of town that aren’t used to driving around bicyclists. Most of the designs aren’t very good, and the addition of new bike lanes has been effectively cancelled out by increasingly chaotic traffic patterns. It has not lead to an increase in bike ridership. As this blog has pointed out in the past, ridership has fallen by a percentage point, so new infrastructure clearly isn’t producing the desired result.

“I can control who’s in my space when I’m in my car, and I don’t have to worry about someone random bashing me in the back of my head while I’m driving… When you don’t know people, they could look completely normal, and next thing you know…” said one person. “I was one of the people that was on the MAX when [the stabbing happened]. Right after that is when I got my car,” said another. Bloom called this a, “Collective fear of other people and the uncertainty that comes with being around those you don’t know,” and determined that, “Portlanders generally feel safer in a car because they have some control over what happens to them and their families.”

This is a sentiment that should be taken seriously, as it’s widespread. Most people in Portland will vocally express support for more bike lanes and public transit, but in terms of their actual behavior, they’ll respond to incentives. Even if they recognize that it’s inefficient and wasteful for the majority of people in a city to drive, they’ll do what they perceive as being in their immediate self-interest. If the public space is dysfunctional and chaotic, people will armor up. Even if they’re miserable sitting in traffic, at least they get to be miserable in their own private bubble. If the city attempts to disincentivize driving by making it less convenient and more expensive while not improving the cycling and transit experience at all, people will react against a strategy that they see as all stick and no carrot. They will perceive the city transportation policies as malicious and actively reducing their standard of living.

Buzz
Guest
Buzz

Comment of the week!

Andrew N
Guest
Andrew N

Agreed. Comment of the week here ^^. PBOT just seems like a mess and the chaotic infrastructure reflects that. Plenty of people inside trying to do quality work but overall there seems to be significant bureaucratic ossification happening (maybe in line with the slow decay of most of our institutions of governance) + a number of folks at the top who seem a little too comfortable/complacent or perhaps just burned out after so many seemingly-Sisyphean years. We at least need a visionary, sensibly-radical mayor to CLEAN HOUSE, bring in some fresh eyes, and set a new tone over there. The fact that Wheeler is even running for a second term makes me sick.

Speaking personally, I used to be deeply invested in transportation reform and devoted some of my limited time to advocacy, including quite a bit of effort devoted to various “Plans” that seems to have been mostly for nothing (other than consultants vacuuming up public money). If anything I feel taken advantage of. Having a child really hammered home how maddening the gulf is between PBOT’s stated priorities and the lack of follow-through. I mull over this every time I’m sitting on Going with said kid on the cargo bike, about to play frogger with 4 lanes of speeding traffic — which isn’t even that often these days because we just drive. If PBOT is losing a lot of people like me they’re in big trouble. But maybe I’m an outlier.

AlexK
Guest
AlexK

Agreed, Comment of the Week.
PBOT is profoudly clueless regarding consistency in this town. Do interns run all of their projects soup-to-nuts?
How could you everhope to enforce the (painfully quick to fade into oblivion) paint-based inconsistent BS they have proliferated all over town? Much less expect drivers to interpret these unique configurations in real time ? Why is there no “Metro” or Salem coordination to ANY of this? PBOT needs to have their “new stuff” halted until they can come up with something coherent and lasting and IN THE OREGON DRIVERS MANUAL, at a minimum.

maxD
Guest
maxD

agreed about PBOT, and would pile on by saying that not only are they continuously trotting out new design, they keep making really elaborate segments that are poorly connected. This works against increased bike ridership in 2 ways: 1) it lures people onto a promising new bike route only have it disappear or severely diminish at a gap (won’t try that again!) and 2) it creates expensive, space-sing pieces of infrastructure that are poorly used (because they are poorly connected). PBOT really, really needs to double down and make sure all new projects are well-connected and spend some time and money addressing the gaps and pinch points that are preventing our bike infra-segments from becoming a functional network!

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

>>> Even if they’re miserable sitting in traffic, at least they get to be miserable in their own private bubble. <<<

The survey suggests they're not even that miserable in their bubble, making effecting change that much more difficult.

Jason
Guest
Jason

Consistency enforces safety, supports safety.

I empathize with motorists over the sometimes confusing right of ways. In particular, the intersection at Couche and NE Grand has an illuminated warning sign (an often ignored sign) saying, “Turning vehicles yield to bikes.” I think the same sign might be in one other place in town. Not many know this, but theirs an implicit green box in every intersection, but it’s not well known. Some intersections have advanced pedestrian crossings (peds light starts 5-10 seconds before car light). The list goes on, the more you think about the infrastructure, the more you begin to see the inconsistencies.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

>>> an implicit green box in every intersection <<<

Bike boxes almost always feature right-on-red prohibitions. If an intersection doesn't, there is no "implied" bike box.

chris
Guest
chris

What one encounters once turning onto Grand from Couch is another good example, although it’s transit infrastructure instead of bike infrastructure. If you want to enter 84, you have to know beforehand that you need to turn on to the second-to-the-right lane on Grand, not the right lane as one would in the past. If you turn onto the right lane, you’ll be diverted onto Davis because of the diverter meant to protect the Streetcar. I’m not opposed to this sort of thing in principle, but the unpredictability and lack of uniformity is a problem. Clearly, that diverter is a hack meant to remediate a design that was bad to begin with (which led to people crossing over in front of a street car in order to make the freeway entrance).

When I was driving to Hood to go snowboarding with a friend and turned onto Grand from Couch, my friend saw that I was in the second-to-the-right lane, he said, “Hey man, I think you need to be in the right lane.” I was sufficiently familiar with the area that I knew not to be in the right lane, and I said, “Nope, and you’ll see why the right lane won’t work in a second.” How many people unfamiliar with that area likely pull an opportunistic merge to get around that diverter at the last second, rather than allowing themselves to be diverted onto Davis before trying again?

The lack of best practices in this city incentivizes motorists to pull dangerous opportunistic maneuvers when they encounter surprises. You can say that they shouldn’t drive this way, but rules aren’t enforced here, so people will do whatever they want.

Another Engineer
Subscriber
Another Engineer

There is a lot of sign clutter but there are signs at all the preceding signals indicating the right most lane is not the one for 84 and many have right only signs and pavement markings for the right turn lane.

I personally think drivers have an expectation that they will be able to make every movement and take any street; this assumption is incompatible with multi-modal transportation systems.

Another Engineer
Subscriber
Another Engineer

Bi-annual driver education is what is needed.

Only ~75% of drivers can correctly describe their responsibilities when facing a green ball indication. Anecdotally in my experience this sign does help, that of course needs to be balanced with the question of whether this reduces drivers changes to yield where it is not present.

https://pdxscholar.library.pdx.edu/trec_seminar/158/

There are not implicit bike boxes, per the Oregon Drivers Manual “As a driver, you must stop for a traffic signal behind the bike box. Do not stop in the box. Bicycles will move into the box in front of you at the intersection. No right turns are allowed at these intersections when the traffic signal is red. If turning right on a green light, you must signal and yield to bicycles on the right.” Page 39.

There shouldn’t be anything confusing about a leading pedestrian interval as a driver. The red ball indication you are facing means you need to stop and remain stopped unless you are able to make a right turn while yielding to other traffic.

https://nacto.org/publication/urban-street-design-guide/intersection-design-elements/traffic-signals/leading-pedestrian-interval/.

The problems you are describing are caused by a poor understanding of traffic laws or a disregard for them.

Paul Cone
Guest
Paul Cone

To PBOT’s credit, when they started putting markings for bikes down that went beyond a basic 6″ white line on the right side of the road, some of the new stuff wasn’t even in the official manual of approved markings. They’ve been on the bleeding edge of experimenting with new ways to provide space for bikes so of course they’re bound to have built things a bunch of different ways. They put green paint on SW Broadway in 2009. NACTO didn’t approve green paint until 2011, and even then it was preliminary.

https://bikeportland.org/2009/08/31/first-look-at-portlands-inaugural-cycle-track-22932

https://nacto.org/publication/urban-bikeway-design-guide/bikeway-signing-marking/colored-pavement-material-guidance/

I know this because I worked at PBOT at the time and it was my job to map where those markings were going. Engineers came up with new things and so we had to figure out how to create new symbols and types for them GIS database before we could even map them.

Roberta Robles
Guest
Roberta Robles

Leave it up to the advocates at nomorefreewayspdx to do the messaging and hard work of educating people about congestion, road widening and induced demand. That’s the problem of having the transport bureau run by a councilor that changes everytime the mayor gets changed. Zero accountability to an elected official. Honestly the entire region transport service delivery should be a regionally elected accountable entity. This would lead to more consistent messages across all transport departments and project delivery. Why do we need mega projects if we can’t get crosswalk enforcement? Zero trust #visionzero

cmh89
Guest
cmh89

And this;

“To eliminate serious injuries and deaths on the streets of Portland by 2025, at least nine in tenresidents would be willing to drive sober (96%), drive without distractions (96%), drive at safespeeds (95%), drive more carefully on wide, fast streets (95%) and see more enforcement of trafficlaws (90%).”

Is how we get nonsense like cheering for traffic and useless billboards. This nonsense is what allows PBOT to still pretend you can just message your way out of vehicular violence.

What rot

jason
Guest
jason

I’m really concerned about those 40 people who are not willing to drive sober for the sake of safety. Mind you that can be extrapolated to be 26,280. Assuming the sample set is truly representative of the entire population. If the sample set is not representative, than there’s other issues.

AlexK
Guest
AlexK

Welcome to America (,Oregon, Portland.. not much diff really)

Jon
Guest
Jon

Almost 40% of people do not feel safe on transit.
“I can control who’s in my space when I’m in my car, and I don’t have to worry about someone random bashing me in the back of my head while I’m driving… When you don’t know people, they could look completely normal, and next thing you know…” said one person.
My wife used to commute by bike 5 days a week using the Springwater. Now even as a larger than average man I avoid the Springwater. The few car free transit paths are now considered unsafe due to lack of enforcement of the right of way. I used to feel completely safe riding anywhere in Portland and was more worried about the angry pick-up drivers in the rural areas. Now there are places I just don’t ride due to the homelessness/drug/mental issues I see. Nobody is going to beat me up and take my bike in Banks but they might on the Springwater. We need more enforcement on the bike paths AND the traffic lanes.

Brent
Guest
Brent

There is a lot in here that is really good.

I found the comments regarding perceived safety of the transportation system telling. There is widespread belief among those that haven’t really tried it that the buses and max are dominated by crazy, smelly homeless people that will harass you or at the very least inconvenience you, and that to bike means risking your life every time you commute. This belief makes it easy to justify continuing to use the car despite the growing disincentives of cost and congestion.

As a bike commuter and a previous Max commuter I am seen as extreme by many coworkers. This from people who commute sometimes an hour or more one way every day! I don’t know how to change it, but until the perception of the safety and utility of alternative modes of transportation changes, we will not see widespread shifts. Incentives and infrastructure are important, but people feel safe in their cars and think any other option will put them in danger.

idlebytes
Guest
idlebytes

This sentiment of the interested but concerned group fits quite well with the PBOT survey years ago that identified this as the largest group of potential bicycle riders. Unfortunately it doesn’t appear to have budged much over the years. I like the new infrastructure that’s meant to entice this group to ride and think it works for a small number but ultimately I think education and incentives to try it out are the way we’ll get more people to use other modes.

Similarly the group that would take other modes if they were just as fast as driving might benefit from some education. I find very few people consider their time commuting as being wasted sitting in a car while if they took transit although slower they could use that time to be productive in other ways. For instance if someone wants to read an hour every day. They could spend 30 minutes commuting in their car and an hour of their time at home reading or they could spend an hour on transit reading saving them 30 minutes that was otherwise wasted on their commute. Obviously this won’t work the same for everyone but I bet it could work for a lot and that most people that drive never even consider it.

Brent
Guest
Brent

If given the chance and a receptive ear, I’ll go on for minutes describing the time and money I save riding my bike, making it a slam dunk economic argument. I try to explain I’m not “extreme” or a die-hard environmentalist, just a regular person trying to maximize utility.
1. I save money on gas, parking (parking downtown is expensive), and insurance (mileage-based plans are the best). Until recently we only had one car, so throw in saving on a car payment too.
2. My commute is my exercise, so I save time and money going to a gym or other exercise. Alternatively, I save the mental anguish of wishing I could exercise more.
3. Fresh air and exercise keep me healthier, saving who knows how much time and money from not getting as sick. (I know this is unprovable, but I’m sticking with it)
4. Depending on traffic, it takes me the same amount of time to ride as drive. It’s also always the same, consistent amount of time. This is a bigger deal to me than perhaps others. The mental anguish and stress of sitting in unexpected and horrible traffic because of construction, or an accident, or no reason whatsoever makes me crazy. When I bike, I always get to work on time.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

And, despite all these advantages, it sounds like you recently bought a second car.

Brent
Guest
Brent

Yep. Flexibility won the day with my wife returning to work, car 2 go leaving, and both kids in school / child care. I still ride to work most days of the week.

Kittens
Subscriber
Kittens

Brent, good points but I can assure you as someone who operates MAX the problems take place largely outside of peak times. This is when it becomes down-right scary. I have to deal with these people and the things which go on would shock even the most hardy among us. Bullies who are aggressively rude and disruptive, drug use, feces, vomit and urine, so much urine, weapons, fights, say nothing of the rampant use of transit as a traveling homeless shelter and squat for the mentally unstable. There are basically no rules on MAX and no one checking. I would highly recommend everyone Tweet or text TriMet customer service when they see something disruptive on MAX. Otherwise we don’t know and can’t respond. Point is, the system is being ruined by a few bad apples which cause untold delay and frustration.

tnash
Guest
tnash

I lived in pdx until 2016, mixed mode daily commuted by bike or bus and train. Spent the last 3 years in Cambridge outside Boston. Here, my 16 year old daughter bikes or takes public transport to school every day. There is no way that I would let her do that in pdx. To me, Portland has a unique flavor of unsafe.

Paul Cone
Guest
Paul Cone

Boston is one thing, Cambridge is another. Sort of like Portland vs. Lake Oswego. (I’m from Portland but I lived in Somerville and worked in Cambridge and Boston for a few years.)

joan
Subscriber

So in fall 2018, 64% of the people surveyed agreed that they would take transportation other than a car more often “If I was sure I could reliably get to my destination faster or in the same amount of time as driving my personal car.”

This is fantastic, really. It’s a path forward. And I suspect is not unrelated to the Rose Lane Project. Make it easier and faster for folks to take public transportation or another non-car method, and they will.

chris
Guest
chris

It might be a good reason to postpone the Max SW extension and build the downtown tunnel first.

Buzz
Guest
Buzz

they need to go full subway downtown, and spring for some grade-eliminations in the inner east side and other congested places on the MAX lines; this was sort of a no-brainer from the beginning, but they decided to cheap out. Now they’re going to screw up Division even more with the new bus service, which will be anything but ‘rapid’.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

A downtown tunnel and a line on Powell connecting the Orange line to the Green line along I-205 should be our regional priority. Spending billions to build low-ridership lines extending to all of the suburbs is not the most efficient way to gain ridership.

raktajino
Guest

(see link above) Ctran will start allowing the express buses to take the shoulder on the WA side of i5 (they already do so on other highways in WA). If WSDOT and ORDOT are unwilling to enforce transit/hov lanes on the freeway, more of the shoulder might be a doable compromise.

As for surface streets, hell yeah the red lanes.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Should transit lanes are great until you hit a double exit lane, like that from I-205 at the airport, at which point they become extremely dangerous. Oregon has a lot of these double exit lanes.

Buzz
Guest
Buzz

double exit lanes are uncomfortable/hazardous/deadly for cyclists and other users, get a clue PBOT/ODOT!

Carrie
Guest
Carrie

This morning, at morning commute time, I rode 11 miles from SE near Reed to N Portland near UP. I purposefully used PBOT-designed infrastructure the whole way. There were three spots that were ridiculously awful. SE 29th between Belmont and Stark was closed due to utility work. There was no prior warning that the road would be closed until you were ‘right there’ and there was no signed detour. The scary and non-intuitive way you are supposed to cut across NE 28th N-bound after crossing over I-84 to get into the two-way cycle track? Let’s just say I completely missed that and then still had to cross over left to get onto the Greenway at Wasco. There’s NO WAY I’d send a grade school kid to ride on this section of road by themselves (& this is part of the world class 20s bikeway). Then N Rodney was also closed for utility work north of Shaver. Again no prior notice and no signed detour.

It was confusing, frustrating, inconsistent, and downright dangerous at times. And it should have been a simple trip from one part of town to another, using purpose-built infrastructure, to get to work.

Buzz
Guest
Buzz

my MO is to scrupulously avoid all infrastucture installed by BPOT unless it’s unavoidable. I’d much rather ride on Ash than Ankeny, and I don’t use the ‘designated’ routes through Ladd’s Addition either. Just two examples, fill in the blanks…

Suburban
Guest
Suburban

“When you don’t know people, they could look completely normal, and next thing you know……you’re riding tubeless and pregnant with twins.

Kittens
Subscriber
Kittens

Surprise! People don’t want to travel to work/leisure in uncomfortable, slow transit with tweakers and unmedicated mental cases! We have invested billions of dollars into a system which mostly caters to those with no options.

My other key takeaway is that if PBoT thinks the biggest problem is communication, they have another thing coming. But you know… just throw a couple more billboards up and host a listening session and call it a day!

Ricky
Guest
Ricky

This would not affect transit ridership much (except if people’s driving privileges are revoked and they’re forced to use TriMet) but – 90% want to see more enforcement of traffic laws. Considering that vision zero initiatives do not seem to be working as well as hoped and traffic related deaths are rising rather than falling- this seems like a great opportunity to shift resources and actually start enforcement.

MTW
Guest
MTW

Not to go all “no true scotsman” here, but I feel like Vision Zero isn’t working because they’re not really trying it. I keep going back to that absurd initiative where PBOT held up signs asking people to slow down. The whole point of Vision Zero is to engineer the roads to force compliance/safety. Not to try and counter-act having wide/unsafe roadways (which induce speeding) by asking people “pretty please, slow down.”

I tend to put additional enforcement in more or less the same category. Instead of asking nicely, it’s carrot and stick (don’t speed or you might have to pay a fine.) It’s more effective (maybe?) than having PBOT employees waiving signs at you; but it’s also a lot more expensive, not all that effective overall, and instead of PBOT employees with Orange signs you have Police Officers with guns.

What we’ve learned is that people will drive in a manner which feels safe *for them.* Wide/highway style roads result in speeding. To me, that’s where you allocate resources. Fixing roadways like Lombard/Columbia, 82nd, MLK, etc. It’s the less popular option; but you need to slow the cars.

Ricky
Guest
Ricky

In addition to better street design, speed enforcement is actually a part of vision zero. Automated enforcement with speed cameras is recommended. https://visionzeronetwork.org/resources/safety-over-speed/

Ryan
Guest
Ryan

I work downtown, and there are about 1,200 employees in my building. Almost all of us- seriously, the vast majority- take public transit or bike to work. Why? There are several reasons: we get free Trimet passes; parking is prohibitively expensive; we have a secure, monitored, indoor bike parking area, and a shower facility. If Trimet were fareless, and the city went all Shoupista and charged market price for parking, I suspect we’d see a lot more people using public transit. And if people knew there were a safe, secure place to lock up their bike at their destination, they might ride more often.