Today Portlander Mark Graves (who happens to be a photographer and reporter for The Oregonian) just happened to be waiting at a train crossing at SE Clinton and 12th.
You won’t believe what happened next. Or maybe you will. Heck, maybe you’ve done it?
As you can see in the video he posted to Twitter, several people — tired of waiting for the train to move along – picked up their bikes and then climbed up onto and then over the train!
This seems bonkers to me. I’ve been held behind a few trains in this area over the years and I have to admit I’ve let my mind consider doing this; but I’d be too scared. Scared of the potential injury consequences and scared of getting caught and/or shamed if someone saw me do it (can you imagine the field day on local media and Twitter if “the BikePortland guy” got caught doing this?!).
When I first saw Mark’s tweet, I figured a lot of people would use the video to confirm their bias against “those stupid bicyclists.” The reality is, behaviors like this are mode-agnostic. People do just as crazy things in their cars. Our friend Jessica Engelman said, “I’ve seen people in cars drive up onto the sidewalk, make a U-turn, then go the wrong way up a one-way street when stopped at that intersection by a long freight train in an attempt to drive around. So yes, some people in cars attempt to do the same thing.”
Long waits for trains is a big issue in the central eastside and inner southeast. The railroad companies still use manual switches, which means a human has to come outo and adjust the tracks by hand. We’ve heard TriMet is trying to get new, automatic switches paid for in their Division Transit Project so their new, “faster” buses, don’t get caught waiting.
Have you ever done this? Any ideas on a better solution than portaging bikes cyclocross-style or doing dangerous things in our cars to get through?
The bikeway will go through newly designed transit stations on Division, and that’s raising safety concerns about speedy cycling.
As we reported earlier this month, TriMet is firming up designs for the 41 new stations they’ll build as part the Division Transit Project — a $175 million plan to improve bus service between the downtown transit mall and Mt. Hood Community College. (It started as a bus rapid transit project but has since morphed into just better bus service.)
At last night’s joint meeting of Portland’s bicycle and pedestrian advisory committees in City Hall, TriMet planners shared even more recent and detailed station designs. They specifically wanted feedback on their “island stations,” where the bikeway (slated to be relatively robust and protected for the length of this project) runs directly adjacent to the bus stops. These island stations are “floating” in the roadway and separated from the sidewalk by the bikeway (see images).
TriMet is looking for “approaches to bicycle slowing” and they want feedback on “bicycle slowing measures” to potentially implement around these stations. The concern is that bicycle riders will come from the six-foot (plus buffer) bikeway and will enter the station areas too quickly and imperil people who are using the bus or otherwise walking in these crowded areas. One slide in their presentation listed a challenge of island stations as: “Requires added design applications to create safe environment for pedestrians and bicyclists.”[Read more…]
Artist J. Shea has added some flair to the new Orenco bike and ride facility. (Photos: Jeff Owen/TriMet)
Jeff Owen. (Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)
Publisher’s note: We’re trying something new. We’ve invited TriMet Senior Planner Jeff Owen to write a guest column (tentatively named “TriMet Corner” unless you have a better idea). Owen was hired by TriMet in 2012 as their active transportation planner and brings a ton of experience to the table. He also happens to be a very nice guy who’s dedicated to his work in making our transit system work better for bicycle users. This is his first article for BikePortland. ——
This past June TriMet hired a local artist to breathe life and art into the interior of our new Orenco Station Bike & Ride facility.
TriMet’s Bike & Rides offer an option for secure bike parking on one end of your commute. They eliminate the worry of bringing your bike on-board crowded trains or buses, only to find the spaces filled.
Now, thanks to the TriMet Public Art Program and a very talented local artist, the Orenco Bike & Ride really stands out from the crowd. [Read more…]
The new plan agreed to by both agencies and a steering committee is to make significant bus upgrades and route a new, “high capacity transit” line on Division Street. If funding plans materialize as expected (they’re hoping to get into President Trump’s infrastructure budget), the $175 million project is scheduled to open in 2021 and will run 14 miles from Northwest Portland to the Gresham Transit Center/Mt. Hood Community College. [Read more…]
TriMet buses idle in congestion on the Hawthorne Bridge heading into downtown Portland. (Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)
“It is time for @trimet and @MultCoBridges to open the outer lane on Hawthorne for transit only. This is utterly absurd.” — Alan Kessler on Twitter
Transit riders all too often forgotten victim of Portland’s congestion crunch. While we frequently hear tales of woe from people who drive in the daily gridlock that plagues much of our city, for some reason the news media and politicians don’t have the same empathic ear for people who use buses.
Since buses (and to a lesser extent streetcar and MAX trains) share the same lanes as cars and trucks, these (potentially) efficient and egalitarian workhorses of our transportation system are made to wait behind single-occupancy cars. This is infuriating to many transportation reform advocates, urban planners, and people with a grasp of basic mathematics.
Traffic in Portland is especially bad this year not only because driving is still way too attractive (it’s free, perceived as very safe, and often the fastest option), but also because of numerous construction projects. Case in point is Multnomah County’s project on the Morrison Bridge which prompted The Portland Mercury to report that it would “ruin your summer” if you drive. “Your options,” they wrote back in March, “Begin riding your bike, or figure out at whom you should direct your outrage.”
A graphic on the Portland Bus Lane Project website.
Unfortunately, if traffic on the Hawthorne Bridge directly south of the Morrison is any indication, it looks like way too many chose the latter option.
The result has surely caused outrage — but it’s not just people in cars that are mad. The daily backups on the Hawthorne leading into downtown frustrate transit fans too. One of them is Alan Kessler. Kessler is a lawyer by day and transportation reform activist on the side. He’s an active volunteer with Bike Loud PDX and other groups. On May 4th he was biking westbound on SE Madison approaching the Hawthorne Bridge and posted a video to Twitter with the message: “It is time for @trimet and @MultCoBridges to open the outer lane on Hawthorne for transit only. This is utterly absurd.”
Kessler’s tweet sparked a robust discussion. So much that he’s decided to start a grassroots campaign to see if the idea has legs.
Since his tweet, Kessler has launched the Portland Bus Lane Project. So far it consists of a website and an email list. A meet-up of interested activists is being planned2. He’s also invited Multnomah County Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson to meet him outside her office just a few blocks away from the bridge to take a closer look at the issue.
“Watching buses idle with a few dozen cramped people inside while another dozen individuals in cars block their path is just absurd,” he shared with me a few days ago. “The idea that this is a system that someone designed, that so many people subject themselves to daily, and that is killing our planet. It’s absolutely absurd.”
This hierarchy was adopted by city council as part of Portland’s Transportation System Plan.
Kessler points to Portland’s adopted planning documents that are supposed to prioritize transit above single-occupancy cars. “But this is a painful example of that not happening,” he points out. And he’s not just thinking about the Hawthorne Bridge. Bus-only lanes have been pushed for by Kessler and others on Outer Division for many months now. Metro and TriMet tried to create “bus rapid transit” on the Powell-Division Corridor last year, but were too afraid to constrain single-occupancy vehicle capacity to do it and the plan fell apart.
“If transit really is at the top of the inverted pyramid [a reference to Portland’s “transportation hierarchy” adopted in the Comprehensive Plan], and cars are at the bottom, then it should be easy to find the room to make this happen.”
What might happen to all traffic on the Hawthorne if we made this switch? It’s hard to say because don’t have precise figures about the current split of cars and buses. Two years ago, in a story about how biking and walking traffic was bursting at the seams of the Hawthorne Bridge’s sidepath, we reported that about 10 percent of all the traffic on the bridge is bicycle users, another 10 percent are on foot, and about 30 percent are in transit vehicles (leaving about half inside cars). A former member of the Multnomah County Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee told us, “We would like to see the council consider the possibility of lane reallocation.”
“I am certainly not against bus priority on the bridge, but I have always felt that Southwest Madison and Main are the more severe problem.” — Jarrett Walker, transit consultant
Jarrett Walker of Human Transit, a highly regarded bus and transit consultant, told us this morning that attention should be paid to the streets that lead up to the bridge. “Bus only provisions are needed especially for bottlenecks. The urgent problem is often on the bridge approaches rather than the bridge itself,” he said. As an example, he added that MAX light rail on the Steel Bridge is “reasonably reliable” even when it mixes with other traffic. That’s because the bridge itself isn’t where congestion happens and the MAX has a dedicated path on the approaches.
“I am certainly not against bus priority on the bridge, but I have always felt that Southwest Madison and Main are the more severe problem,” added Walker.
If you’d like to get involved with Kessler’s project. You can sign up for his email list at Portlandb.us.
Biketown is popular with tourists, but the system needs more annual members if it wants to flourish. (All photos by Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)
Portland’s bike sharing system could have a bumpy road ahead even if political vandals decide to leave it be.
A comparison of three bike share systems.
Biketown Portland: 2,837 (after nine months)
Pronto Seattle*: 2,878 (after nine months)
Capital Bikeshare Washington D.C.: 16,000 (after 12 months)
*Pronto has ceased operation.
Biketown launched nine months ago next week with 1000 bikes and 100 stations. Thanks to title sponsorship from Nike, it was one of the country’s largest bike-share launches — double the station and bike count of Seattle’s Pronto system when it launched in 2014.
At the TriMet board meeting on Wednesday, the agency’s General Manager Neil McFarlane pushed back against claims that he’s a “freeway builder.”
Last month we shared news (first reported by The Portland Tribune) that McFarlane advocated for three freeway expansion projects in the Portland region during a speech to the Washington County Public Affairs Forum on February 20th. The comments were met with strong criticism by transportation reform activists who felt the leader of our region’s transit agency should not be stumping for projects that expand urban freeway capacity and make driving easier.[Read more…]
An elevator on a bridge needed for cycling over light rail and railroad lines in southeast Portland has been closed for nearly seven weeks now. And TriMet, the owner of the facility, still isn’t sure when it will re-open.
On February 20th we reported that the elevator at the Rhine-Lafayette Bridge was broken. TriMet said moisture had gotten into the elevator shaft, causing the brakes the fail.
After posting our story we heard from several readers who were frustrated about losing such an important connection. As you can see in the map below, the railyard splits two neighborhoods and there are very few ways to get across it. While there are stairs with a wheel-gutter, the gutter is hard to use and for many people there are too many stairs to manage carrying their bike safely.
“This bridge being out is a significant impediment for those of us who use it to head North-South — makes my quick 15 minute ride from Sellwood to inner Clinton area twice as long and even longer if I’m headed further north,” wrote reader Carrie. “This whole thing is ridiculous. They tore down the old bridge because, well it was sketchy, but because it wasn’t ADA compliant. Then they build this new one, can’t afford(?) to build one at Harold or Reedway, and yet can’t maintain it and so now anyone who can’t do stairs, or can’t carry their bike up/down stairs (and it’s kind of scary to come down the stairs in the dark rain shouldering your bike) are screwed — there’s no where nearby to get from point a to point b.” [Read more…]