Welcome to another glorious Monday.
This week’s roundup is sponsored by Action LED Lights, where you can currently receive 40% off some models.
Below are the most notable stories our writers and readers came across in the past seven days…
Safety mom: In this very relatable essay, the daughter of America’s foremost advocate for traffic gardens shares what it was like to grow up with a “safety mom” who’s doing her part to build the type of street utopia she wants to see in the world.
Culture of fear: It’s sad this mom had to ask Slate whether her 6th grader could walk 0.4 miles to school in a safe neighborhood. At least Slate responded well, saying, “Eventually, we’ll have to loosen the leash on our kiddos.”
Enforcement needs: Philadelphia is hiring eight new parking enforcement officers with a specific mandate to go after people who park cars in bike lanes.
Roe decision protest: Women competing at the U.S. National Road Race Championships took a knee during the national anthem at the start line of their race in Knoxville, Tennessee.
E-bike rebates: I wish every single elected official and policymaker in Oregon were required to read this news story about Denver’s wildly popular e-bike rebate program.
Saudi sportwashing: A country with an atrocious human rights record and that helped the killer of Fallon Smart flee the U.S., is the sponsor of a major golf tournament at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Course in North Plains this coming weekend. Yuck.
Biden’s gas tax error: Oregon’s Earl Blumenauer and Peter DeFazio are among the environmentally-minded influencers who are very critical of President Biden’s plan to suspend the gas tax. They and many other transportation reform advocates say Biden should instead improve access to driving alternatives.
Joe’s Train Tour: Noted environmental Bill McKibben makes a very strong case that Biden should go on a nationwide train tour to simultaneously save our country from anti-democratic rule and boost the profile of his beloved mode of travel.
Motordom’s shadow: Author and academic Peter Norton shares the history behind a 100-year traffic safety monument in Baltimore that helped define a legacy of car culture we all live with today.
Bike-friendly rankings: Portland finished 5th among big cities on People For Bikes’ latest City Ratings.
Video of the Week: YouTuber RM Transit takes a look at Portland’s transit system and has some very solid recommendations on how to make it better, including creating superblocks downtown, building that tunnel under the Willamette, and much more.
Thanks to everyone sent in links this week!
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Overall this is a good video, but it would be better to phrase this as a video that takes a look at Portland’s light rail system; he completely overlooks our buses. And TriMet’s bus service is almost comically bad, especially on the westside. Trips that would be about a 10-minute drive take about an hour and a half by bus and train. A good light rail system is nice, but it’s not going to move the needle if the buses are so bad that nobody can get to the light rail in the first place.
It’s sad because there’s so many common-sense solutions that could be implement right now, such as rerouting the 56 to Scholls Ferry and 26 between downtown and the Six Corners. But TriMet is instead doubling down on bad practices like routing about 10 lines on the same route instead of servicing more areas, which does nobody any good.
I found the video hilarious, very Canadian solutions that sound logical until you understand how US federal, state, county and local laws work – and often conflict with each other. Trains must be “buy American” to get the 83% federal subsidies. The Steel Bridge for all its faults is privately owned and operated by UP, likely something that he isn’t aware of and would find very surprising. Portland doesn’t have huge mega station areas partly because of local height limitations but mostly because of local land use conflicts and ownership issues – state versus city versus private versus right-of-way, particularly at Gateway and Lloyd Centers. After Boston’s Big Dig fiasco, no US city is willing to contemplate new tunneling.
No mention of all the crime and security issues on MAX.
He also mentioned the “underutilized” Amtrak rail lines, blissfully unaware that they’re heavily used by their owner, UPRR. And also hit on the idea of double-tracking the Red Line between Gateway and Lloyd Center, which would be great if only there weren’t heavy rail and a highway sandwiching it in.
Good catch. The UPRR main to Salem would have to be double-tracked the entire way for commuter rail to work to/from Salem. Much of this is out in the farmland south of Portland, but there would be several expensive stretches along the “William-ette” river, and a few trestles. The BNSF route between Union Station and Vancouver is very congested, and we would likely need capacity expansions over both rivers.
I’ll agree in part. I found the video very frustrating. He glosses over so many important details, and either ignores (or more likely is not aware of) the local context. It feels like drawing lines on a map and saying ‘you should build this’ without really understanding the system.
That said, there are cities in the US doing new tunneling. Seattle has been quite successful at keeping their new transit tunnels from going way out of budget (The new viaduct replacement tunnel was pushed through by the state DoT and did go over budget). I think that a downtown tunnel in Portland makes sense, but some of the other ideas he mentioned are… Dubious to say the least.
We definitely do need more Transit Oriented Development around our transit, but I’d be happy with what he dismisses as “just five story” buildings. Considering we’ve had vacant lots around many of our MAX stations for close to 30 years (Sunset, Beaverton TC, Beaverton Creek, Quatama). Sure, Gateway should have higher density (it’s zoned for it), but until the demand is there for new towers, I’d be happy with more people living close to transit, and more destinations close to transit.
Seattle’s tunneling costs aren’t great, but I think that’s mostly due to the station costs, not the tunnels themselves. Given their track-record, I actually would trust Trimet to follow best international practices w/r/t tunneling and stations and to keep them pretty simple and cost effective. Totally agree on the TOD. Unfortunately Trimet isn’t allowed to act as its own developer in the way that Hong Kong, Tokyo, or (now) Vancouver can. It has to find others to rent or sell the land to. I’d love for the legislature to give them the power to acquire and develop land.
All of Trimet’s trains are Siemens, which is German, and the Streecar trains are Skoda and Inekon, which are Czech. The Steel Bridge will be an issue until The Tunnel(s) are built. He doesn’t mention things like crime and security because his system videos are focused on trackage, rolling stock, signaling, and scheduling.
He does mention how lacking the bus system is
I watch the RM video and I scratched my head wondering what MAX service is he talking about as it sure isn’t the one I use.
Just this morning as I was waiting at Gateway I was admiring all the trash and rats in and around the platforms. The bike parking area’s glass was busted out too. So much for a safe place for a bike.
Then on the ride in, though it was before sunrise, how hot the train was.
Guess I need to find the store that sells the rose colored glasses he was wearing.
And yet, “People for Bikes” ranked Brooklyn and Queens as the #1 and #4 “cities”.
That also left me scratching my head. The lack of data transparency on these sorts of lists frustrates me often. They discuss ways to improve but not how data is procured and processed, insofar as I have found at least.
“Data transparency”? These lists are written by second-string magazine writers looking for an easy hook to hang their 1000 words on. Devise some easily googleable metric that gives the results you want and you’ll be at the bar in time for happy hour.
Senate and house politics aside, Bill McKibben seems to be blissfully unaware of how awful national passenger rail service outside the NE Corridor has become after 50 years of neglect. Most Amtrak trains pass through at night, the areas around stations are were the homeless now live, rural states like ND only have one congressperson for the entire state (but still has daily Amtrak service each way).
And Amtrak long-distance routes are suffering from major staffing shortages this year. Cancelled trains and removed equipment has resulted in extremely full trains, delays, or last-minute cancellations with no alternatives. We shouldn’t promote Amtrak until we resolve these issues, because it really can’t support additional passengers right now.
Don’t forget about the 10-20 years of neglect done by the private railroads before they handed off passenger service to Amtrak.
But perhaps a presidential long-distance train excursion could highlight the good with the bad and point out where it needs improvement?
Are these trains vampires that stop during the day? 😉
In all seriousness, long distance trains, those that have routes 1-3 days long are going to have to have bits where they pass through areas at night. Otherwise the train journey will be even longer, making taking Amtrak even less appealing.
Those long-distance trains are going to have to pass through a sparsely populated state or two to get cross-country, that’s just the geography of our country. That being said, there should be more service in more populated areas in addition to those long-distance routes.
Right, but what McKibben wants is for Biden to go by train to have large election rallies for Democratic Senate and House races, which will only have a positive impact in high-density areas where the incumbent is in a close race, which more or less rules out the Northeast and the West Coast where Democrats are on top already. So what is left is a patchwork of destinations in the Midwest and Deep South where Amtrak trains typically pass through at night, and the stations are typically only open at night and they are typically in the “bad” area of town. There are exceptions, but alas not very many.
I do agree that if President Biden does such a tour it would have a positive impact for many local communities as well as for the perception of passenger rail, but in some communities it could just as easily backfire.
But then the Secret Service would have to work overtime to prevent passenger rail derailments like the new one in Missouri: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-61958813.
I would guess that if a Biden train tour did happen, it would be comparable to the old “whistle stop” campaign trains of old. It would be a chartered train that didn’t adhere to Amtrak’s schedule (and it would probably be a logistical headache if they tried to do it that way.) So it wouldn’t be like Biden would be stopping in Fargo in the middle of the night. And I’m pretty sure the town officials of whatever towns the train would stop at would sweep away anything deemed unsavory or unsightly.
That derailment today (and also the Amtrak incident yesterday) is indeed tragic. That happened on an unsignalized grade crossing, which there are a lot of in rural America. I don’t know what’s going to be done about this in the short-term, as a) this is more the responsibility of the host railroads vs. Amtrak and b) upgrading these crossings cost money, money I’m guessing the freight railroads are loath to spend. There should be a massive push via the Federal Government for upgraded crossings and positive train control. Private railroads wield a lot of power (power mostly granted during the Manifest Destiny era) and they don’t like government oversight, so expect a lot of push-back. (See also Amtrak trying to restart the Sunset Limited service between New Orleans and Jacksonville, service suspended since Katrina. Amtrak wants it back, NS and CSX, the host railroads, are doing everything in their power to prevent it.)
And well yeah, the Secret Service would be workin’ overtime on any route that a Presidential train would head. Train trips by sitting presidents have been rare since World War II. The last I can remember is Obama (and Biden) had an inauguration train from I think Philly to DC in 2009. You better believe there was heavy Secret Service presence along that route, especially at every over/underpass. If I remember correctly, the Secret Service required Amtrak to equip the trains with diesel-electric locomotives, even though this is the electrified Northeast Corridor, the reasoning being they didn’t want terrorists, etc. to cut the power and disable the trains. And they also had a few trains running at the same time so people couldn’t tell which train the President was on, just like how the Motorcade works.
Hmmm. Every Monday I look forward to see what you’ve got for the Roundup but I was a little surprised to see article on Saudi/Pumpkin ridge. Near as I can tell there is no bicycle content. Makes me wonder what the “charter” is for Bike Portland. Thoughts?
The Saudi government – the same one that backs the LIV golf tournament – helped the killer of Fallon Smart flee the U.S. while he was awaiting trial in a Multnomah County court. We covered Fallon’s death extensively on this site.
Thanks for your feedback.
The Saudis helping their citizens abscond in a situation like that is no different than what most countries would do for their nationals.
One example, from many many to choose from:
While Smart’s death was undoubtedly a tragedy, and the driver no doubt guilty of killing her, this is not a great example of Saudi malevolence. Lord knows there are plenty of better examples to choose from.
This just feels like a comfortable bandwagon to jump on.
We disagree about this Watts. Bandwagon or not, I felt like Saudis returning to our backyard after what they did in the Fallon Smart case was something the community should know about. Thanks.
Yeah, the BBC has done many stories on this, those evil Americans absconding on British justice, the best in the world! Of course the crash would have likely been avoided if the silly British had just learned to drive on the right like most of our European allies do…
I agree it was bad behavior, and I’ve been boycotting Trump’s UK golf courses in protest.
Oh, so if an American murders someone in a foreign country, the US government will send an undercover team to whisk that person away from the justice system in that country? Which is my understanding of what Saudi Arabia did in this case. Disgusting.
Pro cycling has sportswashing going on too–I’m no fan of the UAE Emirates or Bahrain teams.
Let’s see if I get your logic. Safety in streets is clearly an issue in your “wheelhouse” so I can see why you’d cover the original story. (I remember being so outraged by that story when I read it) The Saudi/Pumpkin golf is somewhat of a stretch but it sounds like your logic is that it was tied to the prior issue and street safety. Fair summary?
More generally, does Bike Portland try and stay on bike related topics or would you post a story completely unrelated to cycling if you felt it was important enough to the community? Just trying to understand your charter.
My view is that a lot more is related to cycling than most people think. That’s why we cover all types of stuff on here from real estate to homelessness to general politics, gender issues, racism, and so on and so forth. And yes, if I think something is important to this community than I will share it here… But there’s a limit. I will only do that if there’s a clear intersection with streets, transportation, bicycling, etc… I do not get into unrelated topics that we have no ability to add value or expertise into. (for instance, we probably won’t post anything about the abortion issue… Unless someone on a bike or in the biking world does something around it.)
Hope that clears things up a bit.
Sounds reasonable. Thanks
Gax tax cut comes out to $10 a month for the average driver and that’s if the oil companies don’t just hike the price the same amount as the tax. Pretty pointless to remove it if we can’t pass a bill to keep them from price gouging. People freaking out about gas prices when rent and mortgages have gone up 100s if not 1000s a month for many parts of the country is baffaling.
Do people just not do the basic math? I think it’s more akin to paying more in sales tax in a year but not caring because you don’t see it come out all at once or during tax season like income taxes.
How can we show our support for more transit projects?
How do you feel about term limits?
Ride Trimet more often.
The information in the historical article about traffic safety monuments is incredible. It’s like looking into a parallel universe of reason that really existed in the 1920s.