Welcome to the Comment of the Week, where we highlight good comments in order to inspire more of them. You can help us choose our next one by replying with “comment of the week” to any comment you think deserves recognition. Please note: These selections are not endorsements.
In last week’s article about Governor Tina Kotek’s interview with OPB’s Dave Miller (Oregon Governor has some questions for TriMet), BikePortland did what BikePortland does best—draw on a deep knowledge of transportation issues, put it all together, and find relevance where others might miss it.
In this case, Jonathan picked up on Governor Kotek specifically mentioning TriMet in response to a called-in question from the Street Trust’s Sarah Iannarone about transportation safety. He then pulled from his recent podcast with David Bragdon, and also from long-time advocates’ grumbling “about lack of accountability at TriMet,” to find significance in the Governor pivoting to TriMet on a safety question.
But enough about us.
Then you, BikePortland commenters, did one of the things you do best: fill out news stories with detailed and genuine personal experience about getting around in this town.
Michael responded to Governor Kotek as a “fellow resident of NE Portland,” and added specificity to her general comment about inadequate TriMet service. Here’s what he wrote:
As a fellow resident of NE Portland, I can unequivocally say that 90% of the time, no, [TriMet is] not a real option.
It’s ridiculous that my weekly 15 minute drive to South Portland becomes an hour-plus trip if I were to take Trimet. When the 87 bus runs only every 30 minutes, it makes it really hard to make my trip north to get to my frequent doctor’s appointments–God forbid my appointment runs even slightly long and I get stranded next to the loud, uncomfortable, and unsheltered stop at Airport & 122nd.
It’s great that we have these fancy, high capacity articulated buses on Division now, but they still only run every 15 minutes. I get Trimet’s desire to fix capacity issues by running bigger buses–it’s cheaper after all and I remember very well the operator shortage issues we were having recently–but that really only works at the margins to make transit more convenient. What Trimet desperately needs is to fix capacity by increasing frequency, as that will have the synergistic effect of making the bus more convenient for the people who currently have to make the choice between coming up with an active plan on how to get to A to B and figure out how much of a time sacrifice they’re going to make versus just hopping in the car in their garage or a few feet in front of their house or apartment and just… driving away.
Headways of longer than 5 minutes along major transportation corridors is a policy failure, pure and simple.
Thank you Michael! You can find Michaels’s comment, and other interesting commentary, under the original post.
Lisa Caballero has lived in SW Portland for over 20 years. She is on the Transportation Committee of her neighborhood association, the Southwest Hills Residential League (SWHRL) and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A 15 minute bus ride that runs every 30 minutes is a one hour bus ride. If it runs every 10 minutes it’s a 30 minute trip. That’s how humans work.
Yeah. Waiting for transfers eats up a lot of time too. I think TriMet does a decent job of making transfers – especially with MAX – line up pretty well, but that’s only a band aid in the absence of more frequent and reliable service.
You’re joking, right?
My biggest beef right now with TriMet is how poorly the Red Line leaving Beaverton TC at 5:12am connects with either the 72 or Green Line.
I injured my hand and have to make a connection at CTC and it’s impossible on that train – you literally have to start at 4:42 and add 30minutes to your day because of their poor planning.
Agreed! I’d take the first running bus to Willow Creek and if the bus had been on time (60% of the time it was) I’d have time to go west to Orenco TC to get on the east bound blue with less people on it and be guaranteed a seat. If the train maintained its time I’d have a few minutes at Gateway to grab a coffee at that great little stand (this was awhile ago so don’t know if its still there) if there wasn’t a line of people before getting on the green. And then hoping that the last bus would actually be there for the last leg. Too many times the train commuters would end up calling that we were running late because something had gone wrong. So basically constant stress that tri met would be on time and things would work for almost 2 hours before i got to work and my day could officially begin.
I can’t find any reference to a “15-minute bus ride” in the article or the comment.
Should be <45 and <25 minutes respectively as you stated it, provided the buses reliably run on schedule (which gets rarer by the year with TriMet).
Waiting feels longer than riding.
Whom amongst you would drive for tri met ? Hmm?
I’ve considered it. But I don’t like driving big vehicles.
I think 5 minute headways are a fine goal – but we should be a little more realistic. For starters, the shorter a bus headway is the higher the need is for actual transit infrastructure. Given that PBOT is more or less wholly unwilling to build any serious amount of bus infra, 5 minute headways are almost certainly not possible – at least at peak hours (when that would be needed). If TriMet were to commit to 5 minute headways, they would probably need 3x – 4x the budget per line upgraded (from 15 minutes). And while I think this would be money well spent, it would require a not insignificant amount of additional funding.
I’d say we should start with 8 to 10 minute headways on the lines with the highest ridership and most potential and add the infrastructure needed to support that without breaking the bank first. Adding bus lanes and all door boarding is cheap – and likely would allow for immediate reduction in headways to the 12 minute range (from 15) without a huge change to the number of buses required.
Sorry, the best I can do is a massively expensive
land development schemefixed rail line aimed at getting suburban commuters downtown a couple of days a week.
I’ll never understand this anti-rail mindset of so many nominally pro-transit Portlanders. You understand that the mid/long-distance transit mode with the lowest total long-term costs will be the one that ultimately does the most to affect modal shift from driving to transit? And that because the debts incured by rail infra depreciate over time, while the operational costs of any mode both move with inflation and increase far more quickly when you need to operate more vehicles to serve a fixed route, you ultimately have to provide less transit with buses for the same cost as a train, right?
The biggest reason the MAX has kinda failed so far is precisely because land development HASN’T happened, which is also a major cause of sprawl, high housing costs, poor air quality, etc. So-called “left” NIMBYism needs to die in a hole.
I’m not anti-rail in the slightest. Rail excels at moving people efficiently over large distances. The benefits of rail are capacity and speed.
Trimet has taken rail, paid the huge cost of rail, and then made it run like a local bus/trolley to downtown. It’s really poor implementation on their part. It basically doesn’t make sense to use the Max for most people because most people aren’t going downtown and most people don’t live 10 blocks or less from the MAX.
Commuter rail all aimed at moving workers downtown really has very little impact on driving. Especially with our new reality of desk workers increasingly being able to work from home. Of course, TriMet couldn’t have predicted work from home, but they could have predicted a future in which people would want to go anywhere besides downtown.
Are you calculating the reality that MAX is functionally empty most of the time?
MAX has failed because most people don’t live near a MAX station and most people don’t value the MAX enough to factor a line into where they choose to live. The MAX is basically useless unless you want to travel between a few points and downtown. It’s not even great for workers who work downtown.
I used to work downtown at a yellow-line MAX stop and I live in NoPo. There wasn’t a single configuration of a commute where it made sense to take the MAX.
We need a transit system that serves real people who already really live in Portland. The lack of BRT going east-west on the east side of the river is absurd. I live 20 minutes from the airport by car and Google is telling my that if I left right now, it’d take me 1 hour and 25 minutes by public transporation, which includes going all the way down to the red line.
We will only shift away from driving when TriMet values everyday people doing everyday things over suburban commuters who come downtown a couple of times a week.
So, it seems with you, 2+2=? “…most people aren’t going downtown and most people don’t live 10 blocks or less from the MAX.” Right! That’s why redevelopment is so important! Make it possible for more people to live and do more things near the stations! And if you can include anecdotes, so can I: I’ve lived in central Beaverton for almost 3 years, and the number of times I’ve taken the MAX to Portland are outnumbered by trips I’ve taken on the Blue Line out to Hillsboro or even Forest Grove at least 10:1. I’m sure I’m not the only one. (And I tend to think that paying in one day to park at PDX what you’d pay for the trip there and back is a bad deal; I’ve never driven there, and never will)
Very monocentric regions like NYC and Tokyo with very centralized job density are a wonderful counterargument to “Commuter rail all aimed at moving workers downtown really has very little impact on driving”. These cities simply couldn’t exist as they are without their commuter rail systems taking as many cars off the road as they do. The commuter rail-style operations of NYC (to say nothing of places like Boston or Chicago) definitely leave a lot on the table vs. regional rail-style ops seen especially in Europe, but it’s just not true to say that it has little impact on driving.
What Portland is missing that a lot of other big cities with actual commuter rail systems is the possibility to live car-free outside of downtown; the only way to fix that is denser redevelopment around stations in the suburbs.
I’m very far from saying the MAX is great as it is. Nonetheless, the biggest spending–actually building it–is done. What needs to happen is the built environment of the region needs to take advantage of it, and inarguably, too, the operations of the system need to change to enable its fullest use. (Yes, this will include a downtown tunnel at some point, and bare minimum transit priority while it’s still surface-running.) Intending to demonize it as a land development scheme–when that is precisely what this region needs so much more of!–is just misplaced enmity.
That’s what TriMet has been trying to accomplish for the last 40 years. The result has been dead transit stations, a dead MAX system, and ever falling public transit usage rates.
Building transit for people who don’t live here based on where you hope they want to go is quite frankly silly, and only the land speculators could really endorse that method.
The MAX just isn’t a selling point for housing. Even if you live near a MAX, it’s not like that opens up the city to you. It only works if you want to travel a narrow corridor around whatever MAX line you live around. Hope you don’t change jobs!
We don’t need ancedotes, most people in the Portland metro drive a car to get where they are going. Put in random addresses and see what the suggested route is. Unless the address is within ~20 blocks of MAX line, you aren’t going to see it suggested generally. There are exceptions of course.
We also know that the MAX system isn’t useful or attractive to most people. MAX ridership has been falling for years. It’s certainly not growing.
Comparing Portland to NY and Tokyo is silly. You can park downtown, especially now for less than $300 and your employer might give to you for free outside of certain parts of town. Average parking across all of Manhattan is $570 a month. In the financial district it can be up to $700 a month. Commuting in a car in NYC makes Portland look tame, and the insurance on a car up there is out of this world.
Compared with the Portland metro. Every suburbanite needs and will have a car anyway. Commuting on the MAX isn’t all that much faster than driving (if at all), and the MAX costs $200 a month.
You’re looking at maybe a $200 a month premium to sit in the comfort of your own car, leave when you want, and not get screamed at.
Again, we have the stats. No one wants to ride the MAX.
The purple line certainly isn’t done. And despite being rejected by voters, including voters it would ‘serve’, TriMet is still hell bent on building it, someone has to get those land speculators paid.
Big buildings are built where people want to live. N Williams and N Missippi grew up before N Interstate because N Interstate is gross. The MAX is not a draw to get people to build.
It is and was a land development scheme. We don’t need any more surface street commuter trolleys. We need BRT and more buses that serve people who actually live here that takes them where they actually want to go. Radical idea, I know.
So TOD cannot ever work? No one ever moves for a potentially easier commute? Tell me that TriMet has been seriously pushing TOD anywhere, and that everyone else in the region is actually on-board with the scale of urban living that rail transit–even more than buses–enables. Look around 95% of the stations outside downtown, and continue to take your position seriously; I dare you.
You keep framing the discussion as though it’s assumed that transit ridership will not increase, no matter the circumstances, so we’re best off just serving people too poor or resistant to the idea of owning a car. Meanwhile, you also serve up arguments why the way the city is region is set up–abundant downtown parking (which simply does not exist in good transit cities), car-dependent sprawl outside of downtown–fights against inducing MAX ridership (I’d argue that ~40 million trips, pre-covid, is not no one wanting to ride it, even if at least some large portion of them have no other realistic choice, and even if it should be higher).
It’s funny, you’ve actually very well articulated a mindset that I think is a big part of many of Portland’s problem. It seems your contention is that Portland simply did not have an “urban enough” fabric–that its geography is too suburban–to support a rail transit system, and I think a lot of people like to think of Portland as still not a big city. Well, surprise; it is. About two million people live here, and the MSA has been posting double-digit growth rates every decade of its history. The villainized land development is just what happens in growing cities.
Portland needs a rail system, and to prevent the decay of suburban sprawl from spreading its sepsis throughout the region and causing the hypovolemic shock in the core that seems frankly imminent, it needs to start housing people more densely–that’s how and why cities work–and we all need to start getting used to the idea that it’s a big city with the transit needs of one. Buses and BRT are important transit modes, but they’re the wrong backbone to move a city Portland’s size.
We’ve already built the right backbone, and unless you want to essentially contend that Portland is just not a desirable place to live and work (which, if so, fine, don’t live here), the only missing piece IS development.
Define ‘work’ I guess. TOD generally only works when people want to use the “T”. Like I said, MAX lines are not particularly desirable places to live, especially in the Portland area. Unless you need to regularly go downtown, they aren’t useful for utilizing transit, and there a ton of sketch people who hang around the transit stations.
But if you offered land speculators the right incentizes, you could convince them to build a skyscraper in Burns. So, sure it’ll ‘work’ if the financial incentives are right. There isn’t demand near MAX stations so its not going to happen organically.
I have no idea what you’re trying to say.
I have no idea where you came up with that idea. You seem confused on what I’m saying. Transit ridership will increase when TriMet focuses on customers, and customers want frequent buses, not another commuter trolley.
I’m not sure if this a freaudian slip or what, but I never said anything about poor people or people ‘resistant to the idea of owning a car’.
My point is that TriMet should serve the customers who actually exist over the theoretical ones that never materialize. Hell, MAX usage would rise if we had buses that could get people to the MAX hubs in a timely manner.
I don’t think you really understand what I’m saying at all. We don’t ‘need’ a rail system so we can play big kid city. We need what is cost effective transportation that moves people throughout the city in an efficient manner. MAX doesn’t do that. Buses do. They might not be as fun or glamorous for planners to build, but they are time tested and proven.
If you want density, you should agree with me. Good public transit is the actual backbone of a dense city. Commuter trolley is nothing but a suburban toy.
I think you don’t really understand what you’re saying at all.
Light rail systems–trams, trolleys, whatever you want to call them–work wonderfully in a lot of places, especially the German-speaking world, where they call them S-Bahn; this is, to a certain extent what the MAX was modeled after. And once again, trains are more cost-effective than buses at high levels of service. You can move more people with fewer drivers, and the vehicles wear out more slowly. Yes, initial capital expenditure is higher, but again, those costs depreciate over time; all debts do if there’s inflation (which there is in any productive economy). Operational costs don’t depreciate, which is why buses are more expensive in the long run if you’re accomplishing the goal of getting as many people to use transit as possible, which I think we’re all on board with.
And I’ll say, once again, that I’m not defending the MAX as it is today. Like all TriMet services, they’re not run and coordinated well enough to make the most of their potential. Nonetheless, the hardest part is building the initial system, and that’s already done.
Getting tired of repeating myself. The “customers who already exist” are, as you imply with “Unless you need to regularly go downtown, they aren’t useful for utilizing transit, and there a ton of sketch people who hang around the transit stations” largely people who have no other choice in their means of getting around. And once again, if the point of operating transit is to get more people to use it, you shouldn’t be focusing on your existing customers; they’re already your customers, they clearly like the service well enough to use it. If should be on getting more customers (users).
And again, framing the discussion as MAX vs. buses is wrong, wrong, wrong; these are complementary services. You do buses at lower levels of ridership, then add in rail transit as ridership increases (because it’s cheaper to run at higher levels of service). The only mindset in which these are opposed is one of static transit ridership and funding: that no more people than currently use transit today will ever use transit in the future, and no more funding than currently allocated for it will be so allocated.
The crux of the argument has to be whether Portland has a population that justifies a rail transit service, and whether or not that population’s geography can be served by rail transit. Again, 2 million people is plenty; there are cities all over Europe much smaller than Portland with even more extensive rail systems. Unless you’re saying that the region is too poorly-centered–which is a problem you fix with dense development, and one that at least isn’t the case in downtown (which emphatically still is a place people want to go; it’s why any of the rest of the region is what it is)–then it clearly needs a rail transit system. We just have let too much sprawl far from stations and too little development near stations happen.
Have you ever been to Germany? I have. You know what Germany has? A great bus system.
Again, as you seem to continue to fail to understand, I’m not anti-light rail, I’m anti-MAX. Light rail might be the appropriate option when we have higher transit ridership.
And once again, it’s irrelevant because our trains roll around mostly empty due to them not going to useful places or connecting to anything else.
I encourage you to really read what I’ve written, so you wont keep writing stuff that doesn’t address my comments!
The ‘existing customers’ are people like me, who would love to take public transit but don’t because it isn’t useful. A suburban commuter in Tigard will at best use the MAX a couple of times a week, just to go to work. They will never, ever use MAX for anything else.
If you built BRT across the northern part of east Portland, it would be used for all sorts of stuff like running errands.
I really encourage you to go back a read what I’ve written. Despite being really explicit, you seem to mistakenly think I’m anti-light rail. Once you understand that I’m not, you can take a look with the correct lens at what I’ve said.
S-Bahns are a terrible comparison to the MAX. They are local rapid rail transit services running on mainline rail tracks – more like a hybrid of regional rail and subway service than light rail. The most apt comparison to an S-Bahn I can think of domestically would be the DC Metro (although it leans more U-Bahn owing to the dedicated underground trackage in the city center).
Unless you mean Stadtbahns which are (confusingly) different terms – Stadtbahns are trams, S-Bahns are regional/urban rail hybrids. Light rail is often more tram-like than train-like, and I think the MAX is a bit more tram-like personally. Street running in the city center cripples both capacity and speed (which are the two primary benefits of a rail system)
Agreed. The purple line was going to take 30 minutes at best to cover 10.8 miles. It’s no more than a 35 minute drive during rush hour.
You can take the S-Bahn from Manz to Frankfurt, which is a 26 mile, ~40 minute drive, in only 30 minutes.
They aren’t even comparable. Of course, when you arrive in Frankfurt, there is other public transporation to take you to other places in the city.
It makes sense to take the S-Bahn for reasons other than commuting.
> MAX usage would rise if we had buses that could get people to the MAX hubs in a timely manner
This right here. If TriMet doesn’t just want to write off MAX they (ironically?) need to beef up bus service.
What a banger of a comment. I agree with you.
However, cc_rider makes some good points, just in the traditionally abrasive BikePortland way.
The problem of MAX going too slow downtown is something everyone can agree on. It messes with trips going through AND to downtown. I think in the short term they could delete the stops every 3 blocks and get rid of cars on Yamhill, Morrison, 5th, and 6th so they’d stop blocking the tracks.
The SW light rail failed, but I don’t think it’s just because people ‘didn’t want it’. There was a lot to hate about it that didn’t have anything to do with the actual line itself. I voted against it because of the amount of highway expansion that was included. Some folks voted against it because we were first experiencing this global pandemic thing that made thinking any further than a couple days into the future really hard to do. Plenty voted against it because it imposed a payroll tax with no sunset date to pay for it. I think if it came back for just the light rail line and a more palatable funding plan it would probably pass.
I also think that downtown has “enough” transit connections. It’s already kind of ridiculous how many transit trips on the east side require going all the way through downtown and back. I want to see MAX lines that connect and ring the region the way the highways do. WES right-of way upgrade to a new MAX line anyone? 🙂
It’s very Portland to call someone abrasive for standing by what they said!
Pointing out that the strategy we’ve employed for the last 40 years hasn’t worked and wont work isn’t abrasive.
Well, light-rail takes about ten years per project. At the rate you’re talking about, we will achieve a ring in maybe 50 -60 years.
“So TOD cannot ever work?”
It’s a great concept that Metro (not TriMet) was pushing very hard on on the 1990s and 2000s. It didn’t take for various reasons, the primary one being (in my opinion) that it isn’t what people want.
Maybe TOD can work. It just hasn’t.
It works fine in other places where the transit service is better. New York City is a classic example of “TOD” with regards to the subway. Plenty of TOD in Vancouver BC as well. Portland just doesn’t really have good enough service – and the places that do have good service (like the Banfield Freeway) are you know, in a freeway median. Which makes development much less attractive.
So you are arguing that TOD could work (because it has in bigger cities), but hasn’t (because service here isn’t good enough, and Max isn’t in the right places)?
More or less yeah. The benefits of living within a quarter mile of a MAX stop are pretty meh. There’s very little economic (or social) incentive for people to be car free in Portland (outside downtown and maybe parts of NW), so the benefits of being right by even the highest density parts of the system are slim.
If people already feel like “oh well I’ll need a car anyways” then TOD will always be a marginal benefit.
I think we mostly agree on this. I think it’s pretty clear that TOD is not going to be the game changer planners thought it would. I think we’ll find out the same is true for our ending of single family zoning, which has been great for driving up housing prices and increasing the supply of short term rentals.
TOD is only as good as the transit it’s oriented around. TriMet doesn’t run good enough service to justify it – but they theoretically could. Portland is still trying to convince itself that a streetcar running every 15-20 minutes is good enough to compete with a car for people’s mobility.
Meanwhile, in Vancouver they build skyscraping residential towers with no parking and people pay a premium for that because it’s on top of a metro line that runs every 3 minutes.
It takes some convoluted reasoning to come to the conclusion that ending single family housing has been driving up housing prices in Portland. And depending on the nature of the short term rental market, it’s not explicitly bad to have more available. More housing supply means lower prices than what there would have been if that supply did not exist. It doesn’t mean prices will fall, or that it will be affordable. If Portland didn’t allow for duplex/triplex/quadplex/cottage apartments, there would be less housing supply and it would be even more expensive to live here
I have no problems with short term rentals, except when there is a housing shortage and it displaces long-term rentals. And when it allows developers to build more expensive housing because part of the cost can be offset by short-term rental income.
But this is mostly a problem for the upper end of the income spectrum, where the housing shortage is more notional than real. Those on the lower end aren’t being served by anyone, and a “build more” approach won’t work, in part because developers make a lot more money building for the upper end of the market.
I mean I think it’s fair to be against something like the SW Corridor project (something that was explicitly planned with downtown-suburb commuters in mind) while not being anti-rail conceptually. The MAX is not very effective because it’s trying to be 4 different things at once. If you design a rail system to be a streetcar, interurban, commuter rail, and tram all at the same time it’s going to struggle to do any of those things particularly well. Light rail systems like the MAX are the stroads of the rail transit world.
There is a reason that cities in the pre-automobile era built fully grade separated rail systems – it’s more reliable, faster, and more efficient. There is just no world where a new MAX line to a sprawly suburb is a better investment than a subway or elevated through the densest part of the region (downtown Portland). Both in terms of ridership and usefulness for people who already use the system.
Yeah the SW corridor probably would have been a disaster with 0 ridership. The best part of it would have been a MUP. I’m basing this as someone who lives near the Orange Line. I didn’t live in the city during its planning but I don’t know what they were thinking. It travels through a no-man’s land far from any potential riders before crossing the river and traveling at a rate one could easily walk faster than. I never use it as it’s faster and more convenient to ride my bike to essentially anywhere in the city. When I see it in Milwaukie or along Clinton it is basically empty.
I also live by the Orange Line and I think it was a pretty poorly planned transit line. Things like the SW/NE alignment of the Tilikum (along with the steep grade) make it a slow and circuitous route. But they “had” to connect OMSI and the South Waterfront, so a slow circuitous route is what we got. And it “couldn’t” go over the Hawthorne Bridge because that would take a lane away from cars, and we can’t have that. Despite the fact that a dedicated transit lane can move an order of magnitude more people.
I do use it though. It’s a convienient connection to Union Station when I take the train to Seattle. If I ever went to Milwaukie I’d use it (but I never do that). The lack of development along the route is pretty sad – especially considering that TriMet owns multiple lots along the alignment on 17th. The fact that TriMet won’t develop parking lots across the street from their own light rail line is just about the most apt depiction of TriMet I can imagine.
“And it “couldn’t” go over the Hawthorne Bridge because that would take a lane away from cars, and we can’t have that.”
And the Hawthorne is a drawbridge, though your explanation better fits the narrative.
The MAX already runs over a drawbridge, and one that’s even older to boot. Not to mention the Hawthorne was originally a “light rail” bridge.
The fears that the Hawthorne routing would create a traffic bottleneck are cited in the wikipedia for the Orange Line – although the citation is coming from an old newspaper article. There are also old documents showing exploratory routes that it would have taken, with the Hawthorne bridge included (as well as a different alignment for what is now the Tilikum closer to the foot of the Marquam Bridge on the west side – see this page 34).
The Steel Bridge does most of its lifts without disrupting Max.
Yes – but it also has less vertical clearance than the Hawthorne when it’s not lifted (49 ft vs. 26 ft). I don’t really know how often the bridges lift (and can’t find any data on it either), but it’s not very often. I can count on one hand how many delays I’ve had from the Hawthorne lifting in the last 2 years (2). It would have been a trade-off, but I would have personally liked it a bit better since it’s a more direct route to downtown/points north from points south.
When I commuted via the Hawthorne, I would encounter a lifted bridge every week or two, so it happened relatively frequently. I’ve only seen the upper deck of the Steel lifted a handful of times in my life.
But regardless, my point was that you shouldn’t discount more conventional reasons for TriMet making the decision they did.
I occasionally ride from Clackamas to Milwaukie and grab the Orange line instead of riding up 17th/Willamette trail.
I get off at OMSI and ride my bike across the Hawthorne because it is vastly faster than staying on the line.
MAX from between points on the westside if great. MAX between Gateway and CTC is great. MAX between Gateway and Sunset? Godawful.
Plus, in order to use MAX to get from Beaverton to CTC I go so far north out of the way that the trip is at least 50% longer than a direct route (on a bike, about 17 miles).
Basically, MAX serves a small portion of the population well, a slightly larger portion of the population nearly adequately and the rest of the people in the Metro area not at all.
A demeaning term that YIMBYs use when anyone rightly points out that their so-called free-market will never trickle down enough to address the low-income housing crisis.
Virtually no YIMBYS actually claim that market-rate housing by itself will solve the low-income housing crisis.
In what universe is “enough” of something the same thing as “by itself solve”.
Please note the absolutism, the demeaning meme, and the general unwillingness to admit that our housing crisis is entirely a crisis of people with low or no income. Well off*, mostly-white, mostly-college educated YIMBYs can almost always find habitable housing. In fact, just about every YIMBY researcher/planner/organizer that I know personally is a home owner.
*or upwardly mobile
“In what universe is ‘enough’ of something the same thing as ‘by itself solve’.. ”
“Enough” is subjective. You didn’t specify what you meant by “enough to address the low-income housing crisis”, so it’s natural to assume you meant “solve the low-income housing crisis”. That is what you want to accomplish, isn’t it?
I’d love to see where I said I’m opposed to, e.g., public housing, increasing minimum wages to make housing more relatively affordable, etc. You do love a good strawman.
Accusing someone of a strawman with a strawman is both amusing and a little disturbing.
As a renter who does not give a damn about the imaginary housing crisis of the upper-middle and upper classes, I find the use of “make housing more relatively affordable” to be an example of how YIMBYs cynically talk about relatively small changes in affordability* while their actions and funding goes towards policy that prioritizes building housing for upper-income people. Most of the people you deride as left-NIMBYs are not categorically opposed to upzoning and some like myself have always supported upzoning#. (I just don’t think upzoning does much to address our low-income housing crisis.)
As an aside, the idea that increasing minimum wages in the absence of regulation will make housing more affordable is questionable given that real-world experiments have shown that giving tenants cash simply caused landlords to raise rent. (Perhaps our culture of anything goes deregulated landlordism is one of the reasons that we have a housing crisis.)
* which do little to address the housing crisis
# as long as higher-income neighborhoods are also upzoned
“A massively expensive land development scheme…”
I have 2 questions:
• Where are you sleeping tonight?
• How much do highways cost?
A house built and platted long before my parents were born
Lots! Can you explain how that’s relevant to a conversation about how to improve public transportation? Blowing wads of cash on something no one uses isn’t some cure for freeway expansion.
So you are enjoying the results of previous generations’ land development while denigrating the same thing today. Interesting.
I have seen MAX trains full to bursting on Timbers game days. Obviously people are using it. The point of TOD is to make it easier to use for more people.
Where did I say I was against land development? I think you are confusing me with another commenter. I’m very pro-land development within the UGB.
Wow! A whole four hours of use for, what, 16 days a year? What an ROI!
I’m not anti- TOD, it just doesn’t work when no one values the transit because it doesn’t go anywhere.
“No one values the transit because it doesn’t go anywhere…”
So you’re in favor of more development along transit lines. Weird that you would single out transit as “massively expensive” while ignoring the costs of sprawl, i.e. what you get when you don’t build near transit.
Of course, why wouldn’t I be?
MAX has zero impact on sprawl. Living near a subway in London or New York is something people want. Very few people care about living next to a MAX line.
I think you’re confused about my point of view. The MAX system is so small, so slow, and so limited that it isn’t going to spur dense development.
I want my transit projects to be about improving transit, not some failed attempt to spur dense developments.
The UGB is far better at encouraging density than a slow choo choo that goes downtown.
Spurring dense development is the entire point of building transit projects. New York’s subway lines were built when most of the city was low-density residential neighborhoods. The transit stops attracted new development, and the city grew in density and economic productivity.
The city of Portland and TriMet have done next to nothing to encourage or even allow dense development near many MAX stations outside of downtown. Case in point are the stations along SE 17th and N Interstate, flanked by a thin ribbon of commercial or mixed-use development surrounded by low-density residential zones that are prohibited by law from ever becoming anything else.
The UGB by itself doesn’t necessarily inhibit sprawl. For decades, Portland merely outsourced its affordable housing supply to Vancouver WA, which had no such geographic limits on construction. We just exported the sprawl to somewhere else.
The Max train I saw 3 weeks ago heading downtown along the Banfield corridor around 8AM had about 10 passengers, at most 20. So Timbers fans may take the Max, but not many others do.
It’s not as if Timbers fans are somehow more predisposed to enjoy using transit. They use MAX on game days because it is relatively cheap and convenient. Increased frequency and building more things near transit stations will let more people plan their activities to include transit instead of driving.
They may be, actually. When you travel in a big group to and from a sporting event and it becomes part of the ritual and pre- and post-game party, that might make you more predisposed to enjoy it. Parking at the stadium on game day is difficult and expensive.
The next day, when it’s time to head into the office, and you’re all alone with the junkies on the train, your warm car and free parking spot at work might seem pretty tempting.
You’re so close to getting it. Abundant free parking is a big reason why driving is still more convenient than transit for most trips. That’s a policy choice.
Driving is more convenient because it is on demand and is point-to-point. I am a strong believer in economic incentives, and it is clear that if people had to pay more to drive to work, fewer would do it.
If you want to increase the cost of driving, I think the best way would be via a carbon tax (and I would fully support this approach). That idea is not popular here for reasons I don’t understand.
Driving is point-to-point precisely because it’s so easy to find parking at your destination. A carbon tax would do little to reduce electric car use.
I’m aware that 5 minute or less headways will take effort and resources to pull off. The point I was really trying to make with my original comment was that that’s what we (PBOT, Metro, Trimet, ODOT, etc.) should be striving toward rather than shiny investments in faux BRT that still isn’t particularly convenient due to its infrequency. Better frequency makes the whole system more convenient, which in turn helps to drive people to getting out of their cars and onto the bus. Higher ridership, in turn, helps to alleviate the budgeting issues you point out.
So yeah, of course on our way to hitting <5 headways we need to pass through 10 and 8 minutes. But neither should we just decide that the problem is too hard, throw our hands up in the air, and buy a bunch of fancy articulated buses, instead.
“Faux BRT” is my phrase of the week!
I definitely agree with you. It’s unfortunate that the solutions are “technically easy, politically difficult” – since adding bus lanes usually incurs some amount of local backlash from motorists used to getting everything their heart desires which makes public officials leery to commit. But it’s absolutely unacceptable that our public transit agency isn’t willing to fight for better public transit. Just insanely frustrating stuff
Is it fair to say that a transit system with five minute headways would have to be automated, run on a separated grade, and (somehow) also be cheap? The sort of buses we have in Portland, scheduled every five minutes, would arrive in twos and threes, unable to pass each other because of a lack of space and also because of the havoc it would cause to TriMet’s organization. The cost is almost irrelevant.
The Rose Lane projects are a beginning to the project of making transit work in Portland. Hopefully they won’t suffer from the Bike Infrastructure Malaise of being disconnected, poorly maintained, and capriciously obstructed or removed.
Is it a coincidence that Hardesty was a transit rider and Rose Lanes appeared during her tenure as PBOT commissioner?
Rose lanes began under Eudaly.
Yes, my mistake. I looked up the date but not Hardesty’s term in office. I’m happy to credit Chloe Eudaly for that.
I read some past comments knocking Hardesty for not riding a bike to work and had to laugh. I’ve seen her more than once walking from her office towards the MAX line. Somehow we can’t figure out who our friends are.
I credit Mingus Mapps for claiming to ride bikes and will hold that thought up until the day he phones into a council meeting from the driver’s seat of a Prius.
Dylan Rivera from PBOT was on OPB this morning talking about how unsafe Portland streets are. PBOT’s sole message: drive more slowly! No mention of driving less, taking transit, walking, cycling or even carpooling! PBOT is 100% committed to to driving, and anything else is only for publicity.
Yeah that sort of messaging really bothers me. PBOT (nominally) has the power to change how people get around the city but all they seem to manage is “please drive slowly”. PBOT needs to compel people to drive more slowly – not ask nicely.
Great comment! Trimet would be better if it actually tried to compete with commuters’ cars. As it is, the marginal cost of any given car trip is waaaaay cheaper than that of a trimet trip, if your time has any value!
My experience on TriMet today.
Hopped on Max downtown. After we crossed the river we were told by the driver that we had to sit there for 15 minutes because the train ahead of us had to “air out” and we couldn’t go around like a bus.
The reason for this “airing out” was, and I quote the train driver, “drug use.”
Yeah, with experiences like that everyone is just begging to ride.
I think many who live it or hear about it consider that there’s no cost great enough to have to put up with that nonsense and would drive every time.
And yet I still ride, wondering about my own sanity! 🙁
You nailed it, Charley. Trimet is now the de facto system for moving Portland’s large number of “people struggling with addiction and mental-health crises,” as BP now puts it. Bus drivers don’t even try to keep PSAMHC folks off buses if they can’t pay the fare, and of course the MAX train can’t keep anyone off. I have no problem sharing space with anyone in need of a ride, but it does exact a cost on other riders, plus it keeps people who are NOT so tolerant from riding Trimet.
Precisely, and this phenomenon is not limited to public transit. In the last few years we’ve been asked to surrender our sidewalks, multi-use paths, parks and now libraries (removing a great number of books from Central Library to convert it into even more of hangout spot for homeless). We’re rapidly reconfiguring every public amenity into a freeform, no-rules sanctuary for people who turn around and abuse it– then wonder aloud why the problem continues to grow, and where all these people came from…
90 percent of them are from here. There’s this thing called a housing shortage happening right now, in case you haven’t noticed.
This isn’t even marginally true. The Multnomah County PIT found that 20% were from here Multnomah County
Further 25% of the total sample arrived in MultCo less than two years ago. 45% of the sample reported they were homeless when they arrived in MultCo.
We have a drug addiction and untreated SPMI crisis exasperated by a housing crisis.
“The Multnomah County PIT found that 20% were from here…”
Only if you define “from here” as literally born and raised here, since there wasn’t a question for people living here more than 2 years but less than their entire lives. So, 20% from here originally plus 53% more than 2 years = 73% “from here ” by any normal definition.
“We have a drug addiction and untreated SPMI crisis…”
Kentucky and West Virginia have higher rates of addiction and mental illness but low rates of homelessness. I guess we’ll just never know the reason why (*cough* housing costs *cough*)
Regardless, your 90% number was completely made up. I do consider ‘from here’ to be people who were raised here. I don’t consider myself from Portland although I’ve lived here over 15 years. Most people say they are from wherever they were raised for the most part. That’s a normal definition.
Sure, housing costs plays a role. There is not going to be cheap housing in Oregon for the foreseeable future.
The other reason is that Kentucky and West Viriginia aren’t meccas for drug addicts. They don’t let people set-up flavelas in their parks and on their sidewalks.
It’s normal and okay to not want to get screamed at by people with untreated SPMI and drug addiction. It’s okay and normal to not want all your green spaces destroyed. We need to crack down and send message that says “Don’t come to Portland, we aren’t going to tolerate bad behavior any more.”
Do you think 25% of Kentucky’s homeless population arrived in the state in the last two years?
75 percent of people who began abusing opioids in the 2000s said their first opioid was a prescription drug. Lemme know when you have a plan to “crack down” on legal drug makers and doctors pumping large amounts of addictive substances into the population.
We have no control over that. What we do have control over is whether or not we let violent criminals victimize the working class of Portland. They aren’t stealing Teslas or camping in the west hills, they’re stealing from people who are just barely scraping by.
I feel for people who have drug addiction. That doesn’t mean I want to let them victimize others.
So you’ve changed the target of your ire from “drug addicts” to “violent criminals”. As if unhoused and mentally ill people were the main perpetrators instead of the common victims of violence. While also equating “violence” with property theft. Nice trick, really. I applaud your rhetorical gymnastics.
“They aren’t stealing Teslas or camping in the west hills…”
Maybe not, but one guy was running a catalytic converter theft ring out of Lake Oswego. I guess it must be the lawless local authorities encouraging crime there. What a shame.
A true “mecca for drug addicts” would be a state like West Virginia, which has the highest rate of fatal drug overdoses in the nation. Not exactly a state known for chronic homelessness. I’m sure the fact that housing costs are way lower there is a total coincidence.
“The other reason is that Kentucky and West Viriginia aren’t meccas for drug addicts…”
Good thing that the Derby isn’t known for mass alcohol consumption, or that Kentucky’s main claim to fame isn’t distilled spirits. Or do compulsive drinkers not count as “drug addicts” in your book?
Maybe their homeless come here.
Yes, I’m sure thousands of people are migrating across an entire continent to live in a tent in Old Town, and the difference in housing costs is just a coincidence. And that NFT will really be worth something one day.
It is well documented that many do come here from pretty far afield and end up living in a tent.
I’m glad you like my avatar; I’ll give it to you if you promise to use it.
There is an element of truth here. Portlanders have kind of shifted the notion of “public” as “for people unable to arrange an alternative.” Not that long ago, when friends visited from out of town I made a point of taking them on the MAX to the library downtown. “Look how great our public spaces are!” I used to ride Tri-Met every day. I enjoyed it as a pleasant meditative or social experience. Chat with neighbors or read or just watch the scenery.
That is not the vibe now.
At some point we collectively decided that our solution to a variety of social problems (not least: housing) was “desperate people should be allowed to live in public places.” Is it any surprise no one (and likely including the people living there) wants to be in public places any more?
I overslept this morning and rode a train 2 hours later than normal.
Instead of 0 TriMet people I saw *4* separate groups on the green line.
1 at Rose Quarter checking fares
1 at Main St. – security hopping on for a stop or 2
1 at Lents – fare inspectors
1 at Fuller – security riding to CTC
WTF? How about staggering the shifts so we get a presence at the times when the most problems happen?
Last week it was one tweaker triggering a poor mentally ill guy and the operator being stupid enough to engage with him (newsflash – yelling at mentally ill people doesn’t actually change their behavior) then 3 morons from the back of the train bullying him (including kicking his stuff off the train) while we were waiting for the cops (10 minutes at 82nd to wait for them).
Oh, and as an aside – all that still didn’t keep someone from taking a dump on the back car in downtown this morning and us being held up for 5minutes+ at Rose Quarter for a cleanup crew.
Second that- I rode the MAX during the recent snow. Mostly fine, but the transit mall is an insane sketchy shitshow of tents, drug smoking, drug selling. People are smoking cigarettes, weed and drugs at the transit stops and continuing to smoke when they get on the train. The transit mall and trains/buses should be clean and safe- no trash, no smoking, and no tents.
For what it’s worth, I rode the T in Boston recently, and the trains and buses were clean, and the stations trash free. Riders were all people going somewhere, and everyone followed the rules.
In Boston, it helps that there are fare controlled gates that you have to pass through to get to the train platforms. I’ve used light rail in a number of North American cities. The ones that had fare restricted boarding areas were much cleaner and more comfortable to use. I’ve been vomited on in the max and the San Diego trolley, which are both light rail systems that lack fare restricted boarding areas. Never been vomited on in Boston. Small sample size, but maybe evidence of correlation?
Proof-of-payment systems require some amount of social trust and cohesion…which seems to be a bit frayed in Portland at the moment. But the correlation isn’t quite clear. The PoP stations and lines in LA for instance tend to be a lot cleaner and more comfortable than the fare gated subway lines.
You didn’t explain why people living in tents and smoking drugs is a threat to your safety. Sercondhand smoke doesn’t travel that far.
When I rode Max on Christmas Eve, the guy starting at my wife wasn’t a threat to my safety either (I don’t think), but we changed cars anyway.
So sexual harassment never happens in corporate boardrooms, only on public transit. Got it.
If everyone had housing, they could use drugs indoors ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
I agree with Michael. Public transit service has to be much more frequent to be serious alternative. As with other public services, like health care, we in the US often don’t know what’s possible or reasonable without knowing how other countries do it. Sure, they’re facing cuts and growing inequality, too, but they’ve started out with so much more. Bike Portland has done good stories on biking in Amsterdam and Paris, which I have never done, but I have taken the Metro and bus in Paris and trams in Amsterdam, and what a difference! You don’t worry that you’ll miss the 3:30 bus or that it will be late or canceled. You just go to the stop or station confident that another one will be along in a reasonable time to get where you are going on time. And you’ll find one to get you home later. You use public transit because it meets your material, not your metaphysical needs. We can and should achieve that as well.
Paris and Amsterdam are world capitols – Portland not so much. I wonder what % of Portlanders would need to commit NOT to drive for Trimet to have the level of ridership that would create the demand to justify the level of service people would like to see? 30%? 50%? 80?
This speaks to the myopic worldview that Portlanders often have. To us, Portland is a world capitol. Hell, it might as well be the center of the known universe! Everything we do is innovative and notable, even when it’s not. And when people from other cities are unimpressed? We get defensive and dismissive.
Unless it’s Amsterdam. Then we pretend that the Dutch banned cars (they didn’t) and everyone bikes everywhere (they don’t).
Paris and Amsterdam don’t have good transit systems because they are world capitals – they have good transit systems because they invest in them. The Portland metro area has a GDP roughly equivalent to Rome, yet I can guarantee that Rome has public transit service an order of magnitude better than Portland does.
TriMet would become unbearably overcrowded if 30% of the 3 county service area committed to not driving. Considering that about 8% of households in the Oregon part of the Metro already have no automobile access, quadrupling that would mean something like 40 million more people would have to rely on TriMet, walking and biking. If those 40 million people averaged one TriMet trip every month we would be looking at 10x more ridership.
okay I did some shoddy math on this one, sorry guys. The additional 24% of the three county population would be 400,000ish people, not 40 million! But if those 400k people took one trip a week, it would still be an immediate 50% increase in ridership – and considering that most people without cars probably* take more than one transit trip per week on average, even 2 or 3 per week would lead to record ridership (on a less than ideal service pattern), which would almost certainly lead to peak hour overcrowding
*citation needed here I realize, but I think it’s reasonable to assume that
“Paris and Amsterdam don’t have good transit systems because they are world capitals – they have good transit systems because they invest in them.”
And they invest in them because they are capitals of wealthy countries.
They invest in them because it’s politically expedient to them and they have the funds to. Portland has the funds*, but it’s not politically expedient to invest in quality transit. We only have money for highways, highways, and more highways. Again, the Portland region has a similar GDP to Rome (a capital of a wealthy country). It’s not like there isn’t enough economic activity here to justify transit investment.
*the money exists, there would be need to be a political/legal shift to allow for more of the gas tax/other revenue in the state to be spent on transit projects. This would likely not be particularly popular
trimet is great as long as you don’t have to transfer lines
Hard to provide effective transit to a city that has the same population density as Las Vegas
Yet somehow the streetcar system circa 1915 did just that…
As transit planner Jarrett Walker likes to say, frequency is freedom. (“Frequent ” meaning every ten minutes or less.) I guess TriMet hasn’t gotten that memo despite consulting Walker’s firm on their Revised Service Concept. I assume that’s down to lack of funding (and an operator shortage), but it’s disappointing to see TriMet continue to tinker around the edges of a system that mainly needs a massive increase in capacity.
What the system really needs is more people willing to take it. It is currently way under capacity.
Build it and they will come.
You won’t get the ridership until it’s frequent, reliable, clean and safe.
It’s definitely a chicken and egg question. It can be hard to politically justify additional investment if ridership is flagging, but tightening financial belts usually means lower levels of service, which in turn fuel even lower ridership in favor of other modes (usually a personal automobile). But you can kickstart a virtuous cycle the opposite way, where a bit of investment can go a long way to increasing ridership, which in turn makes additional investment more politically palatable. As a country, we’ve been in that vicious cycle for a long time ever since the mass adoption of the automobile, especially when the Interstate Highway Act and white flight took off post-WWII, so it’s going to be a heavy lift to put that initial investment in to reverse the trend and start getting back to sane transportation and land use policies.
The FX2 buses on SE Division are scheduled at 12 minute intervals, not 15. There are reliability problems related to the railroad crossing, but I have been impressed by the new technology signal priority system being used.
I use the FX when I discover there is something happening between Gateway and Downtown on the MAX line (frequent) that is disrupting service.
They’ve had what, 2? recalls already on their fancy new articulated busses? And they have been on 15minute headways at 4pm when I’ve used them.
I can tell this because the reader board each time has shown 15 minutes to the next bus.
Also indicative that no one thinks people getting off a N. Bound MAX are going to go West there – since they are literally scheduled to barely miss each other.