Friday, May 31, 2013

Op-Ed: Saving the Cycle Rickshaw

Growing up in India, I’ve used about nine different modes of transportation to get to school every day. My favorite was the Cycle Rickshaw (or the pedicab), as the operator (the rickshaw cyclist?) would sometimes let my friends and I take turns driving it back home. With the advent and subsequent monopoly of motorized and faster modes of travel on Indian roads, the Cycle Rickshaw population is dwindling. Increasingly, they are being banned from cities due to their poor integration with motorized traffic and deteriorating public image. In this post, I’ll talk about the problems faced by this mode, why they are a critical component for the Indian city, and some innovative grassroots initiatives focused on bringing back the Cycle Rickshaw.

Cycle Rickshaws on a busy road

The Merger of Carsharing and Taxis, and the End of Private Car Ownership

Carsharing services like Zipcar have changed the way we think about car ownership. When Zipcar enters a city, it brings with it a fleet of cars that are place in parking spots, or “home spots,” around the city. Zipcar users pay an annual fee to have access to those car and then pay to use the car by the hour. At the end of the trip, users must deliver the car back to its home spot.

Chicago's Pedestrian Scramble

Today was the first day people could legally cross a busy downtown Chicago intersection diagonally. At the intersection of State and Jackson Chicago has introduced a test pedestrian scramble that will allow pedestrians to cross the intersection in six ways, the cardinal four and the two diagonals. 

The pedestrian scramble is intended to reduce conflicts between turning vehicles and pedestrians by letting pedestrians get a head start as well as their own time on the road. For 35 seconds of every third light cycle pedestrians can cross in all directions. The experiment will run for several months to collect data and feedback before deciding if the scramble will become permanent and, perhaps, spread to other intersections in the city. 

Op-Ed: Metropolitan Area Express Park & Rides and the Free Rider Problem
            Reducing auto-centric commuting in Portland has often been a discussion topic between enlightened individuals in coffee houses, pubs and classrooms across this city. Similarly, figuring out how to adequately fund TriMet, dry though it is in subject matter, has undoubtedly been discussed over a pint or a coffee as well. It is my intention here to stimulate a similar discussion in an acute fashion. That is, how can TriMet implement a policy that will reduce free-ridership and improve revenue?
Despite its efforts to keep its operating costs down, TriMet the organization that handles Portland’s mass transit needs is facing a 17 million dollar budget shortfall over the next year. And making up that difference is proving to be challenging for an agency that receives an average of 57% of its operating revenue from taxes and 24% from passenger fare (TriMet Budget, 2013). The issue at hand most easily dealt with is revenue generated from those who use the service. TriMet obviously acknowledges that its MAX service has a free-rider problem and is not generating as much revenue as it could. In 2011 they moved their policy for riders without fare from one of warning to one of zero tolerance with a $175 fine (, 2011). In yet another move to sure up the budget and reduce free-ridership TriMet absolved Portland’s beloved “Fareless Square”.
Now let’s deduce this topic into something more personal. I have three simple questions.
-          First: Have you ever used MAX without paying your fare?
-          Second: Have you ever been checked by transit police for proof of fare?
-          Third: If so, did you have valid fare? Or were you lucky?
If you answered yes to two or more of these questions as 10 out of 18 individuals I surveyed using social media did, then you should agree that TriMet does have a free-rider problem. One respondent surveyed stated that she “rarely had paid for MAX, had never been asked for valid fare and therefore was never lucky”. Portland’s light rail network is 52 miles long and has cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build and maintain (MAX factsheet, 2012). But if MAX has a significant free-rider problem it cannot be generating maximum potential revenue. Thereby diminishing the public's’ return on investment and contributing to TriMet’s current budget woes.
I’ll get back to dealing with the free rider in a moment. For now though, I think it is appropriate to discuss TriMet’s Park & Ride facilities. Those with experience parking at the innermost parking garages know that free parking is a very finite thing. As Joseph Rose of the Oregonian put it “ask anyone who has wasted time circling the ramps inside the Sunset Transit Center's park and ride garage, and they'll tell you that it's nearly impossible to find an open space after 7 a.m.” (The Oregonian, 2010). Logic dictates that the 622 space Sunset TC reaches capacity for many reasons including proximity, cost of parking and, MAX commute time to destination. To use Sunset TC as an example, only 622 cars are removed from the road each day? Perhaps more importantly, how many of those drivers paid their fare to TriMet for a free parking space?
I think we can all agree that solving TriMet's budget dilemma will need many approaches, each approach either reducing operating costs or increasing revenues. After using Sunset Transit Center as a parking garage and commuting to school on MAX for more than two years I think I may have a partial solution for TriMet’s dilemma that can be applied to every Park & Ride facility: Systemic reduction of the free rider through commodifying the free parking space at key transportation terminals.
Implementing a parking pass program at TriMet’s most popular parking garages would increase revenue while making reductions to the free-rider problem. Policy here does not require an increase in fees for use of a parking space. That would be counterproductive in the endeavor of reducing VMT and peak congestion as parking in the city would become more competitive with parking in the suburbs. Rather, production of a second window ticket for the vehicle upon the rider’s request would suffice. This simple policy change would produce two guaranteed outcomes.
-          First: it would ensure all individuals parking their vehicle in a TriMet lot have paid their fare.
-          Second: it would ensure that all individuals parking their vehicle in a TriMet lot who have not paid their fare would not have a window ticket and therefore would receive a heavy parking fine conveniently of $175. If the rider purchases transit passes on a quarterly or annual basis, that individual can receive a more durable window sticker covering them through the period of payment.
In the past Portland has achieved reductions in auto-centric commuting through investments in large free parking garages, an excellent light rail system, and an effective active transportation network. Without an effective and adequately funded transit agency, reducing congestion and VMT’s further in Portland will prove a real challenge. I do not pretend that this ticketing strategy will produce the additional $17 million TriMet is looking for. It will help though.

Works Cited
Rose, Joseph. "Oregon." The Ian. N.p., 29 July 2010. Web. 31 May 2013.
"Why Is There a Budget Shortfall?" TriMet, n.d. Web. 31 May 2013.
"TriMet Max Westside Factsheet." TriMet, n.d. Web. 25 May 2013.
"TriMet Max Factsheet." TriMet, n.d. Web. 25 May 2013.
"Cracking Down on Fare Evasion." TriMet:., n.d. Web. 31 May 2013.

Tracking the Carbon Footprints of Megacities - They're Watching the Skies in LA

Cities are a major contributor to global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, and increasingly policy is targeting the transportation sector as a means of curbing these emissions.  But the practice of determining exactly how much carbon dioxide, methane, carbon monoxide, and other greenhouse gasses (GHG) are being emitted is still primitive.

 The Megacities Carbon Project aims to change that, using the latest scientific advances in atmospheric monitoring to discover what's really in the air.  Doing so will allow cities to accurately determine if, and how, well their policies are working to curb global warming.

Copenhagen’s Failed Congestion Charge

Copenhagen is a city known for its flourishing bike culture. However, as it is succeeding at getting more people biking to work, it is also struggling with increased auto use because of an increase in overall trips into Copenhagen from surrounding towns. In a past post we discussed ways Copenhagen has been dealing with bike congestion. We also touched on a Copenhagen’s investment in rail. In this post, I am going to discuss the rise and fall of Copenhagen’s congestion charge plans.

In 2004, London became the first major city to implement a congestion charge. How it works is that anyone who enters the ring that has been set around downtown in an automobile during the work week is required to pay a fee of 8 pounds for the day, which they can pay online. As of 2012, London’s congestion charge has been wildly successful. Congestion has dropped 30 percent and average driver speeds are at the highest level they have been in 50 years.

In 2006, the Forum of Municipalities (a grouping of 16 municipalities near Copenhagen) released a report studying the implementation of congestion pricing in the greater Copenhagen area. According to the Forum, the average speed of automobiles during rush hour was down to 20 kph. This resulted in more than 130,000 hours of wasted time, or the equivalent of about $1 billion in lost productivity. The Forum suggested implementing a congestion pricing schema to reduce or eliminate congestion and to invest the money earned from fees directly in public transit investment.

There are two ways to do congestion pricing. The first is similar to tolling. Users can either be charged to use uncongested lanes, or all users of the highways can be charged based on the current level of congestion. If a road was very congested, the price to use the road would increase. If the congestion level went down, the price would drop. The second way to do congestion pricing is to use the London model and set up a boundary around the downtown. This is what the Forum recommended. They propose a boundary be set up around Copenhagen’s center and that all those entering the center be charged a daily fee. They suggest charging 25 DKK ($4.35) during morning and evening rush hour, 10 DKK ($1.75) during the rest of the day, and having no charge for entering the city center in the night. The Forum believed congestion pricing could reduce congestion, increase productivity, better air quality, reduce noise pollution, and contribute to reducing climate change overall.

In 2011, a congestion charge in Copenhagen looked all but inevitable. Unfortunately, ministers in Denmark shot down the proposed congestion charge in 2012. Although politically will could change in the future, for now a congestion price in Copenhagen has been shelved.


Edited by: Darwin M

Op-Ed: Transforming ODOT

Wait a minute. The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) is changing its transportation planning focus from a highway-centric to an integrated intermodal approach? It’s about time a state DOT is attempting to get with the times and more need to follow suit. ODOT is shaking things up by retooling its Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) and has formed the Intermodal Oregon Initiative to re-energize the agency with a multi-modal transformation.

Biodiesel: a new renewable energy alternative

Will biodiesel becomes the next alternative fuel in US? I found that it comes out with hope for a better future saving the global warming, reducing emissions and reducing the country’s dependence on foreign petroleum to biodiesel instead.

Today You Don't Drive

Mexico City is one of several cities currently operating a license plate rationing strategy for transportation demand management. This has been predominantly a mechanism used in Latin American cities, including Bogota and Sao Paolo. License plate rationing is when access to certain areas--usually downtown cores--is restricted by the plate numbers on vehicles. For example, on Mondays cars with plates that end in a 5 or 6 cannot enter downtown. This policy is meant to primarily improve air quality, but also limit congestion and increase transit ridership. 

Op-Ed: Lower that Legal Limit!

Every day, in the United States, one person dies every 48 minutes in a motor vehicle crash that involves an alcohol-impaired driver. These tragic crashes cost the United States more than 51 billion dollars each year (1). Given these stark and grave statistics, I urge the federal government to lower to legal alcohol limit for non-commercial drivers in the United States. 

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Op-Ed: Portland: Replace parking minimums with parking markets

Parking isn’t free. The assumption that it has no costs or the stipulation that it should be free ignore the fact that space is a scarce resource. Scarce resources have value and public policy is incredibly influential in determining how that value is allocated in the marketplace. Minimum parking requirements distort the markets for land and transportation by bundling the costs of parking with the costs of housing. Portland should repeal the recent decision to set minimum parking requirements for new apartment buildings over 30 units. In its place, the city should provide neighborhoods the option to create a well-functioning, well-regulated local parking market through Parking Benefit Districts. (Kolozsvari and Schoup 2003)

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Does the MAX increase property values?

There have been many inquiries into how proximity to a light rail or rapid rail station affects values of nearby properties.  

The Modern Freeway: A Thing of the Past?

As walkable and bikeable development continues to gain popularity, many cities, developers, and organizations have forced cities to consider tearing down inner-city freeways.  While a freeway teardown isn’t an easy feat, the process offers many benefits including the opening of land for real estate development, the addition of parks and open space, and, above all, the creation of a place for people. 
Seoul, South Korea tore down a 14-Lane Elevated Freeway Running through Downtown, credit: SDOT blog

New Transit Hub in Minneapolis

Big changes for the city of Minneapolis are coming in terms of transportation projects. Hennepin County is pushing for a $79.3 million two-tiered transit hub where five commuter rails would intersect near Target Field. This new development, currently being called “The Interchange,” could become a busy entertainment center for people coming in and out and moving around the city. 

Why the Streetcar Can Kill Public Transit

I recently came across an article titled “Are Streetcars the Future of Public Transportation?”. I immediately became horrified. As the article states, streetcars have recently taken off in U.S. cities like wildfire. Mayors and city officials across dozens of cities in states all over the country, including Obama’s new USDOT Secretary Nominee, are responsible for trying to revitalize their downtowns with a new “public transit” addition: the streetcar. Many of these cities have looked to cities like Portland—which has seen relative streetcar success by bringing about $3.5 billion in dense economic development along the line—as role models. Support for these often charming lines has been high by the public compared to other transit functions. Its permanence yet affordability provides a great mix that beats out light rail in the eyes of voters and decision makers. However, if this frenzy continues, streetcars can very well be the death of public transportation in the U.S. as we know it.

I-5 Bridge Failure Local Op-Ed

This last Thursday the I-5 bridge that spans the Skagit River north of Seattle in Mount Vernon failed after an over-sized truck carrying drilling equipment hit one of the load bearing overhead girder. While no one was seriously injured this brings some serious issues about our failing infrastructure and the deferred maintenance on the bridges in our region to light.” Meanwhile, 378 bridges in Oregon, including Portland's Steel Bridge, are considered "structurally deficient" and 1,150 are rated "functionally obsolete." Nearly 40 percent are older than the 50 years and unable to handle today's traffic demands [2]” This brings into question how the city of Washington will react to the proposed plan to update the I-5 section crossing our much closer Columbia River as well as what priority we in Oregon will put onto maintenance of our own bridges. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Op-Ed: Car Share - A New Frontier for Transportation Agencies

Car share has only existed in North America for the last decade but is rapidly gaining popularity as a transportation alternative.  In 2012 over 800,000 people in the United States belonged to one or more car sharing companies, a 44% increase from 2011 [1].  Today, 25 car share companies operate in the American market, which include large corporations such as Zipcar (owned by Avis), car2go (owned and operated by Diamler AG), and smaller peer-to peer networks such as Getaround and RelayRides. New estimates predict the car share has passed the one million member mark in the United States, and is expected to grow to 15 million members in North America by 2020 [3].

NYC Tries to Make Parking Smarter

NYC has notorious parking problems, and finding a spot can be very difficult.  This leads to plenty of illegal parking, and added congestion to NYC's already packed streets.  A study of one NYC neighborhood by Transportation Alternatives found that 1 in 6 cars were parked illegally, and over 50% of the street traffic was looking for a spot to park.  Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Kahn's tenure has been marked with bold efforts to improve the function of city streets, including new solutions to persistent parking troubles.

Op-Ed: California Should Dump Amtrak

It’s crunch time for the states that have Amtrak trains that travel less than 750 miles (unless they are on the northeast corridor), since the states will now be responsible for all expenses related to those trains. For many years states have funded trains under the 403b provision of Amtrak law including California, Oregon, Washington, Illinois, Michigan, and North Carolina but now will be required to fund the entire amount even on trains that are currently not funded by the state. However, the state of California is in the unique position to run their trains themselves and probably save some money along the way.

Currently the state of California funds the Capital Corridor between San Jose and Sacramento that sees 15 round trips per day; the San Joaquin’s that provide six round trips a day with four from Oakland and two from Sacramento with service to Bakersfield; and the Pacific Surfliner Corridor that travels from San Diego to San Luis Obispo with many trains per day. In addition California provides an extensive collection of connecting bus services leaving very few places in the state that are not accessible by the network. 

Photo by JoeinSouthernCalifornia

All of this success can be contributed directly to the hard work of various branches of the state of California and the many advocates of rail passenger service that have worked very hard for the progress the state has seen. In fact the state of California is one of the few states that have dedicated funds for rail passenger service that were approved by the voters (although there were various attempts by former Governor Schwarzenegger to raid the funds).

In fact Amtrak itself has had very little to do with the success of rail passenger service in the State of California and in many cases has been a roadblock to progress in the state. Way back in 1986 former California State Senator Jim Mills, who as mayor of San Diego was instrumental in creating the first new modern light rail system in the United States, wrote a damming store in San Diego magazine showing how Amtrak had repeatedly created road blocks to improving the line between San Diego and Los Angeles. (Mills, 1986) 

Another factor in why California should go it alone is the high cost of dealing with Amtrak. Over the last few years Amtrak has lost most of their contracts to provide commuter rail service because of how expensive they are. In addition there have always been questions about Amtrak’s accounting and what the true costs are to provide the service and how much money is actually syphoned into the northeast corridor. Once again the state of California is in a perfect position to find another operator with the extensive network the state currently has.

With any action there is going to be unintended consequences of actions taken, so in the case of California going on its own, what will be the consequences?

First of all the agency that will run the service will have to negotiate new agreements with the railroads. This will probably be fine with the BNSF who has been very cooperative in rail passenger service in California but the Union Pacific would probably be harder. However, considering the amount of trains that are already running on UP tracks and that the state already has an agreement with the UP that provides them better compensation than running a standard Amtrak train, there is no reason why the agreements should not be able to be made.

Second, Amtrak owns most of the equipment used on the Surfliner service from San Diego to San Luis Obispo along with most of the locomotives so the state will have to either purchase the equipment from Amtrak or be able to secure enough equipment to use before taking over the service. The unknown is what would be Amtrak’s reaction to losing its source of money coming in from California and what tactics they may use in response. The state will also have to work to secure rail yards to use although the possibility exist to create joint maintenance facilities with the commuter railroads that cover both sides of the state.
This will not mean that Amtrak will no longer operate in the State of California as it still will provide service on its long distance trains which provide service to many destinations. However, local service within California would now be directly operated by the state of California.

California is probably the only state that currently funds Amtrak 403b that is in a position to take over those trains and run them instead. The State of California and various advocacy groups are largely responsible for the success of rail passenger service in California. If it had been up to Amtrak the San Diegans would still be running 3 trains a day between Los Angeles and San Diego and the highly successful San Joaquin and Capital Corridors would only be a dream. It is time for California to take the next step and take complete control of their trains.


Amtrak California. (n.d.). Amtrak California. Retrieved May 28, 2013, from
Mills, S. S. (1986, December). Amtrak: The Public Be Damned. san diego magazine, 10, 2-10.
Vantuono, W. (2005, October). The best in the West: Gene Skoropowkis's trains. Railway Age Magazine, 206, 10.

APA formatting by

Monday, May 27, 2013

The P Word... and its controversy.

Parking. Everyone seems to have an opinion on parking. Some people think we need more, some think we need less. Some are adamant about parking requirements for new developments and some say parking requirements prevent development from happening in the first place. Donald Shoup believes the latter. His article “Free Parking or Free Markets” makes a strong case that the cost of parking is usually hidden and placed on non-drivers. His study on parking requirements and the effects of parking policy makes a strong case for reducing requirements in order to spur infill development and promote the reuse of older buildings.

Tracking High Speed Rail in India

For nearly thirty years, India has been toying with the idea of implementing High Speed Rail along major corridors to maintain global relevance and to increase connectivity to boost business and tourism. It looks like India is, finally, on track to get its very first high-speed rail line, albeit at least ten years from now. The HSR made headlines last week when the French National Railways, SNFC, announced that the technical feasibility studies for the Mumbai – Ahmedabad line (and 5 other lines), it is helping the Indian Government conduct, is nearing completion. The construction for this line is expected to begin after ironing out financial details like pricing, etc. and is expected to take 10 years to complete. Each line is expected to cost $600 Billion to construct.

High Speed Rail for India?

The Time for Congestion Pricing is Now

Congestion is a major problem facing American cities. Each year the average American spends 38 extra hours in their vehicle because of congestion, and the total cost of the lost fuel and time is $121 billion. Without major changes, that figure is expected to grow to nearly $200 billion in 2020.  The good news is that there is a tried and tested policy to help alleviate congestion: congestion pricing. However, congestion pricing is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Congestion pricing programs must be tailored to the specific land use patterns, transportation networks, and geographies of individual cities. To reverse the trend of increasing congestion, it is up to local governments, both big and small, to enact congestion pricing programs that are tailored to each city. 

Op-Ed: Increasing Funding for Infrastructure Replacement in Rural Areas

The recent collapse of the I-5 Bridge over the Skagit River in Washington State has brought further attention to aging and failing infrastructure throughout the country.  The bridge was actually collapsed due to a collision with a truck carrying drilling equipment higher than the posted clearance of the bridge, but nevertheless, according to the 2013 Infrastructure Report Card from ASCE, the American Society of Civil Engineers, 4.7% of the 7,840 bridges in Washington are structurally deficient.  21.6% of Washington’s bridges are functionally obsolete, meaning that they are narrower than currently standard, have a load limit imposed, and are usually beyond their theoretical design life.  According to the Federal Highway Administration, 30% of the nation’s bridges are beyond their 50-year design lives, and the average age of bridges across the country is 42 years old.

Millennials + ? = > Transit Ridership

A recent article in the New York Times addresses the issue of ‘millennials’ (teenagers and the twenty-somethings) and their apparent lack of interest in driving to the point of, collectively, impacting the nation’s driving rates. The article cites the newly printed U.S. PIRG report which purports, ‘For six decades, Americans have tended to drive more every year. But in the middle of the last decade, the number of miles driven – both over all and per capita – began to drop’. The article brushes aside the assertion that it is simply the cause (or effect) of the recession stating, ‘the changes preceded the recent recession and appeared to be part of a structural shift that is largely rooted in changing demographics, especially the rise of so-called millennials’.  This is a big claim and to buttress the argument, a University of Michigan study is cited which hypothesizes that, ‘access to virtual contact reduces the need for actual contact among young people’. This is postulating that our youth are driving less because, in essence, they don’t need to drive to visit friends or hang out – they hang out online.  Which I guess means one of two things: their computers have rendered them too blissed out and indifferent to care or they are sufficiently connected to the nearly real, virtual, and online friends that driving to see them is unimportant or unnecessary.

Bikes as Disaster Relief Tools: Seriously?(!)

This started as a response to Josh’s post: The Use of Bicycles as Disaster Relief Tools but I ended up re-tooling it to the point where I thought it could stand on its own, building on, not just responding to what Josh proposed.


This is an interesting article and idea but before you get everyone riled up writing to their congressman proclaiming things like, "bikes are the linchpin to survival during a disaster" we should take a step back and let cooler heads think this through a little bit.

Op-Ed: Putting a price on our roads: it’s time for a national mileage-based transportation funding system

Think about the last time you filled up your car at the pump. As you watched the meter zoom up, you were acutely aware of the money you’re spending on fuel. You might even buy a different car, drive less, or live closer to work to soften the pain of watching that meter rocket upward endlessly. 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Integration of bicycling and MAX for long distance trips

Portland has well known as a bicycle friendly community. Various programs including SmartTrips, bicycle way finding system, incentive programs for bicycling and transportation management association promote using a bicycle as a primary mode instead of an automobile. Researches show significant association of bicycle infrastructure with bicycle uses.(Pucher, J., Dill, J., Handy, S., 2010) Accordingly,  Portland spurs the expanding bicycle path network to provide cohesive connectivity for bike riders.

 In Portland BicyclePlan for 2030, the goal of bicycle use is to encourage bicycling under 3 mile short trips for all trip purposes as an alternative of a car. It classifies Portlanders into four types of people such as not interested in bicycling, strong and fearless bicyclists, enthused and confident bicyclists, and interested but concerned bicyclists. It aims at attracting people to regard a bicycle as an inseparable part of life by understanding the degree of how much familiar with a bicycle. The target of mode share for bicycle is 25 percent until 2030, and currently 6 percent of commuters ride bicycles although it is almost over 10 times national average. The question is how to achieve this goal. By encouraging bicycle not only for short trips but also for long distance trips from suburban area of Portland, the target mode share of bicycle would be more easily achieved.  

More specifically, what I am suggesting is to provide strategic integration between current public transportation and a bicycle for relatively long trips. The suggestion about the connection between bikes and Metro is included in a bicycle comprehensive plan, however, it is still not enough integration provided in terms of  weak bike path network and pedestrian sidewalks in suburban area. Also, secured bike and ride facilities are available only at Sunset, Beaverton, and Gresham Central transit centers although most MAX stations and WES stations provides bike racks. There is no bike stations where various bike services are available such as rentals, repairs, bike washing and showers .

Incorporating bicycling with public transportation are both beneficial in terms of increasing the demand of public transit and bicycle use. Travelers would receive benefits when they access to public transportation stations by bicycling instead of other modes including driving and walk. Bicycle connects trip ends and public transit stations at lower cost compared to automobile such as alternative as park-and ride travel behavior, and at faster speed compared to walk. Transit enables bicyclers to travel a long distance trip so that travelers do not need to give up bicycling because of long distance. Considering these advantages of integration between bicycling and public transportation, travels originating at suburban area of Portland would be a good target to increase the ridership of bicycle. Further, it would reduce VMT effectively by reducing long distance trips. Because travelers enter Portland city by MAX, it also prevents driving for additional trips in a city.

It would be worth to go over strategies of how integrate bicycling and public transportation before thinking about any appropriate strategies for Portland. There are four strategies which have been applied most commonly(Krezek and Stonebraker, 2011). The first strategy is bike on transit. Bicyclist usually prefers this option because they can ride a bike around both origin and destination area before and after taking transit service. The second one is bike to transit. For this option, secured parking facilities are important to attract bicyclists. The third option is two bikes which means travelers ride two different bikes when they access to transit station and when they egress from a destination stop to a real destination. The last strategy is shared bikes.

The suggested strategies among four options for Portland include bicycle to transit and shared bikes. The first option is suggested by Krezek and Stonebrake as the most cost-effective strategy from a comprehensive analysis, and it seems to be applicable to Portland. Although bicyclist preferred to bike on transit, the enough room for bicycles is a necessary condition. During morning and afternoon peak hours, the inside of fleet is already congested so bicycle to transit seems to be more feasible option under the situation where the demand of MAX for cyclist increases than now. To attract the demand for the second option, my suggestion is to increase the secured bike and parking facilities over stations in suburban area. In addition, building more bicycle path network to link stations and major residential area in suburban area would increase the attractiveness for travelers to access to MAX station by bicycling and take MAX to enter Portland.     

Bike sharing would be another good option for promoting the use of bicycle and MAX for long distance traveler heading to Portland. The one of major concerns in cycling is whether there are parking facility at each trip end, and bike sharing program releases this burden. Bike-sharing is cost-effective mode compared to automobile or car-sharing. Or, it can be considered as another public transportation service with a reasonable membership fee in suburban area where the frequency and the number of bus lines which have stops at MAX stations are limited . Recently, Portland made a contract with Alta Bicycle Share for bike-share system in the central city of Portland, and it will start its service from 2014 spring. In order to take advantage of bike-sharing program not only for short trip but also for a long distance trip, it is required to expand its service area to include suburban area of Portland.  Denver already provided bike sharing mode option, and more than 20 percent of members use bike sharing to access to and/or egress from light rail or bus stations. 

*Academic references
1. Pucher, J. and Buehler, R., 2009. Integrating Bicycling and Public Transport in north America. Journal of Public Transportation, Vol. 12, No. 3. pp79-104.
2. Pucher, J., Dill, J., Handy, S., 2010. Infrastructure, programs, and policies to increase bicycling: An international review. Preventive Medicine 50. pp106-125.

Benefits of TOD Neighborhoods

Transit-oriented design (TOD) could be described in a number of ways. From creating “compact, walkable neighborhoods centered around transit stations” to any “medium or high density, mixed-use development based on traditional older city design principles” (DeCoursey & Athey, 2007). Either way, the central idea is to have more people living in a smaller amount of space while incorporating many transit locations to increase transit use, ease, and availability.

The Yellow Light Dilemma

At a state level, most Departments of Transportation in the United States have very similar mission statements that list goals such as safety, efficiency, and economically viable as their priorities for their state transportation agency.  However, different states often choose to prioritize certain goals over others. Recently, the state of Florida has been getting much grief for its decision to slightly shorten the yellow light time of traffic signals as a revenue generating mechanism. The response has been quite negative from the transportation planning community, stating that such a move prioritizes revenue over safety since the increase in revenue would come from more people running red lights. Florida Today reports that red light cameras generated more than $100 million in revenue in 70 Florida counties in 2012, and estimates over $120 million in revenue in 2013 with the yellow light changes. Studies have shown that even an adjustment of a yellow light by portions of a second can cause a difference in the number of red lights ran at an intersection and therefore the number of crashes (Retting, 1999). This leads us to believe that U.S. drivers have become accustomed to a certain length of yellow light as it relates to the speed limit they are driving at.

Oregon's Aging Bridges

There are 7,202 bridges in the State of Oregon (Statemaster Website) and of these, 561 bridges are structurally deficient (Statemaster Website) which means they require significant maintenance and repair to remain in service.  Issues include need of paint to prevent rust, cracked concrete, rutted bridge decks, and

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Reduction in Driving Not Likely to Continue

The announcement that the driving boom era is over should come as no surprise. This probably isn’t surprising especially for Millennials, who are attributed with the shifting trends of decreased car ownership and vehicle miles traveled. The scary truth is that it’s not over because cars that drive themselves will bedazzle us all. Based on the current evidence, it can’t be denied that our society is undergoing a shift in the way we get around, but all the research and reports currently out aren’t factoring the potential impact of something like a Google Car. 

A recent report by the Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) announcing that the car boom era is over has been receiving a lot of attention recently, and rightly so. Their report, “A New Direction”, chronicles the rise and fall of driving in our society, predicts that driving won’t rise again, and makes a call to action to change the way we approach transportation at the federal level. 

Reading response: Access to Choice by Jonathan Levine

Jonathan Levine contends critics on urban design based on accessibility. Urban sprawl influences on travel patterns to have long travel distances, and it creates cities in United States as a more automobile dependent society. Negative impacts of urban sprawl include congestion, inefficient gas consumption, air quality, equity issue, and etc. Jobs-housing balancing, transit villages, and New Urbanism are designed to focus on accessibility rather than mobility. This article refutes critics on these new ideas on urban design, and proclaims that urban design focusing on the ease of access would provide various ways of life styles associated with land uses and travels to accommodate households' needs and preferences .

The first critic is regarding the limit of people's choice by applying new alternative urban designs. Levine argues current local government regulations exclude some urban development design, and it constraints various choices of some households regarding land uses. Current some local land use policies need to be loosened.  The second, it is argued that the new alternatives for some cases increase congestion. New alternatives provide better accessibility, and it might not reduce congestion although it would reduce vehicle mile travel. Levine contends that there are better valuable goals than automobile movement at free flow speed, and if there are demands for new alternative land use options, it should not be regulated, and let market choose it. Third, some researches regards neighborhood self-selection as an example of invalidating alternative land use, because it is hard to prove the effect of urban design on travel behavior. Levine thinks self-selection would be desirable behavior because it shows how households react to alternative transportation oriented urban design although it is not easy to be estimated.   

It is quite a interesting debate regarding association between land use and transportation. I am agree with Levine in a sense that traditional urban designs triggers people to choose only automobile as their primary mode. It is hard to consider other ways to live without automobiles in sprawl urban form because both accessibility and mobility will be reduced without vehicles. Traditional urban form might restrict various needs and preferences of households having different lifestyles. Several alternative travel modes including a bus, light rail, a bicycle, and walk are not competitive to automobiles in terms of travel time and convenience. Households might suppress other values except travel time and convenience because the gap between automobile and other modes  regarding these values are quite large which means there might be no room to think about other values. Recently, people are aware of  negative effects of automotive dependent travel patterns such as air pollution, physically low activity level, and inefficient energy use compared to other alternative ways of life style. Alternative urban form might not satisfy all needs and preferences of households who seek for a more healthier life style rather than constraining their values only on efficiency in terms of travel time and monetary value. However, it would work as alternatives for traditional urban form. Also, as Levin discussed, market would prove whether urban form focusing on accessibility is what they want and need. 

Crowdfunding Local Community Planning: If we fund it, will they come?

It is safe to say that social media has changed the world. Never before have we been in instant contact with people from every country and continent. We receive up-to-date check-ins from our friends and family and also complete and utter strangers. It is no surprise then, that this ability to communicate with just about anyone has lead to the revolutionary idea of fundraising. What might be more surprising is that social media has helped reinvigorate local communities by allowing them the power to create their ideal city.

Okay, sure, technically fundraising is not revolutionary. It has been around since the invention of financing, but the idea of raising capital from private investors you have never met is pretty far-fetched. Welcome to the world of crowdfunding. We’ve all heard of it. Crowdfunding is being used to invest in emerging entrepreneurs in developing countries and that videogame/movie/iphone app you read about on Kickstarter. There are a slew of websites out there that can help anyone raise money for anything. Even a skyscraper.

Botoga's crowdfunded skyscraper            source:

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Use of Bicycles as Disaster Relief Tools

Could this be the new frontier for disaster response?
Natural disasters strike throughout the world on a daily basis. So many occur throughout the year that we won’t even hear about most of them from our regular news source. What we do hear about is the extreme ruin from building crumbling earthquakes, hurricanes that grind a city to standstill, entire blocks completely ravaged by tornadoes, record shattering snowstorms. All of these disasters happen routinely and when they do, emergency plans are called into action. For many, those plans heavily rely on traditional means of transportation, such as an automobile, bus or rail lines to move goods, shuttle people or even to evacuate the city. But history has shown that in situations such as these, traditional methods yield anything but traditional results and typically solutions are not usually viable means of mobility.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Gender Equity in Bicycle Planning

Separated bicycle facilities has been an increasingly tricky issue in the U.S. We can see the success stories in Europe, but there are also plenty of studies detailing the dangers of cycle tracks and the like (more on this in the Op-Ed). One thing that hasn't been talked about much, however, is the categorical lack of gender equity in deciding if the U.S. should adopt cycle tracks as a viable infrastructure option. This may be a key issue in the disparity in gender of cyclists in many cities trying to be more bike-friendly.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Suburbia as Smart Growth

This may not make you very comfortable to hear.  Suburbia may have inadvertently arranged itself, despite our grumblings and crinkled noses, in a manner that shockingly resembles that of Smart Growth or New Urbansim.  Now before you brush me off as some mild-mannered troll, let me say that I do not mean all of suburbia.  I’m not talking about single-family housing (there is no hope for that), but rather I’m referring to multifamily housing.  An Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium (OTREC) report states that “since 1970 suburban multifamily housing has been the largest growing family housing market” and currently comprise a quarter of the housing units in the suburbs.  It goes on to say that these units are typically built 20 to 30 an acre, which is a sufficient density, according to an Access report, for a bus or even light rail corridor.

Bicycle Planning: Separation or Integration

One of the more divisive issues in bicycle planning today is whether cyclists should be integrated with the rest of traffic or separated from it. There are aspects of the helmet debate and the L.A. case study that can be seen in this topic as well (perceived vs actual safety, locus of responsibility, should we focus on ridership or infrastructure). Let's run through some of the core arguments for each side and take a look at where we stand.

Chicago’s Answer to The Last Mile Issue

One of the problems with transit is the “last mile” issue. That is, getting from your train or bus stop to your final destination. If all development were transit-oriented and transit blanketed every city, this wouldn't be much of an issue. Unfortunately, there are a lot of transit service gaps, particularly in Chicago. The city’s answer to getting transit riders from their transit stop to their final destination is bike sharing.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Bikes - How Does The Motorcycle Relate To The Bicycle?

In 1980, 80% of people in Beijing who commuted to work did so on a bicycle. Today, only 19.7% of commuters are choosing to bike. Some of these people have switch to mass transit due to major improvements in the subway and busses since 1980, but many are now driving cars, motorcycles, and mopeds. Beijing has set a goal of not just stemming the tide of bicyclists who are switching to motorized vehicles, but increasing the bicycling mode share for commute trips from 19.7% to 23% by 2030 [1].


To help people make the switch, Beijing is improving its bike lanes and bike parking, and creating a bike rental program that will supply 50,000 bikes by 2015. Bike lanes are being developed more strategically to serve subway stops and transit parks in recognition that many people live too far away from their place of employment to bike the entire distance [2].


But a growth in bicycling won’t happen just by improving infrastructure. A car may still be out of reach for most in Beijing, but a motorcycle of some sort is within reach of many, and can contribute to pollution even worse than some cars due to two stroke engines and other simplistic designs. Motorcycles are a poorly understood element in growing metropolises because they have never been a major transportation mode in western cities. A World Bank report from 1997 looked at trends in Italian and Taiwanese motorcycle ownership from 1950 to 1990 and in Italy, subcompact economy cars (Fiat) became widely available around the time that incomes started rising rapidly; the early 1960s. Incomes also started rising in Taiwan at that time, but Fiats were expensive to import and the urban density was higher, so cars didn’t become the dominant mode of transport during some very important formative decades for urban structure.

The report recognizes that these outcomes may be partially predicated on cultural and climactic differences, but speculates that mainland Chinese cities will have transportation trends more like Taiwan: motorcycle dominated [4].


Beijing appears to be heading closer to the Italian model, however. Despite all of the car and smog-choked pictures we’ve seen of Beijing, it is a city that still has 3.6 million vehicles registered, and a population nearing 20 million [5]. Motorcycle/scooter/moped ownership rates are nearly impossible to come by because licensing and registration for them was very lax until recently. Even though car ownership rates aren’t very high yet, Beijing has been building highly auto-oriented infrastructure such as:


There is a tree-lined sidewalk, but the scale is so daunting that anyone not in a vehicle gets a loud and clear message “you don’t belong here.” But Beijing and other major cities in China have an issue Italy, Taiwan, and the rest of the world does not have: very tight controls on who can live where. 35.9% of  Beijing’s residents have migrated there from somewhere else in China [6], and getting a Beijing residence permit is getting harder, forcing many to commute into the city for work or school every day. New measures to discourage more people from moving into the City sans residency permit include a bylaw forbidding the renting out of basements, and a regulation requiring each rental apartment room to accommodate two people at most. The non-resident workers must commute in from outlying areas, traversing a distance too great for someone who isn’t in perfect health and doesn’t have a modern road bike. (Beijing’s manufacturing sector employs 1.8 million people, 60% of whom do not have a Beijing residence permit)[7] For these people, motorized transport of some sort can’t be avoided, but almost certainly doesn’t involve a personal car.  This enforced sprawl/disconnect of work and home is  part of the reason Beijing has astounding highways, and needs to be addressed at the policy level – no amount of enhanced bicycling facilities is going to convince a factory laborer to commute 15 miles each way if he can only afford a steel-framed single-speed bike circa 1989.


But for those who live and work in Beijing, various organizations are working on strategies to promote bicycling: attempting to make it cool, in a place where car ownership is still the ultimate status symbol. A campaign being promote by the China Communist Youth League Beijing Committee is promoting the right tool for the right situation called ‘3510’, suggesting people should walk when travelling within a distance of 3 kilometers, to cycle when traveling for 5 kilometers and to take public transportation for a trip of 10 kilometers [3]. An NGO called “Smarter Than Car” has created “Beijing Bike Week”, which is similar to the Bike To Work Week/Month events around the US. Their biggest hurdle is overcoming the connotation of ‘bicycle’ with ‘low-class’:


The image of the bicycle is still ingrained as a vehicle that the old China was using to move around. There are a lot of people who believe the idea of riding a bike around the city is a good one, but very few are prepared to lose face and go out there and do it. The director of [Chinese NGO] Friends of Nature , Li Bo, told me about an acquaintance, a successful business person, who decided to start riding his bike to work. He began getting calls from people asking if there was something wrong with his business and did he need to borrow money. So there is still a stigma attached to the bicycle.[8]


As a resident of the Pacific Northwest I find it odd that people in China are actively trying to cultivate an almost elitist connotation to bicycling when we’re fighting that a little bit in order to promote it to the common man, but it sounds like a necessary hurdle in that situation.


[1] Julian Rollins. (2011, June 21). Tackling Congestion in Cities by Encouraging Cycling. This Big City. Retrieved from


[2] BEIJING CYCLING. (n.d.). UCI World Tour, Tour of Beijing. International Sporting Organization. Retrieved from


[3] Tingyi supports “3510” campaign on green travel. (2012, May 4). National News. Retrieved from



[5] Beijing vehicle restrictions have noticeable results, car owners support. (2009, April 3). People’s Daily Online. National News. Retrieved from


[6]Deng Jingyin. (2012, January 13). Beijing residence permits updated. Global Times. International News. Retrieved from


[7] Beijing Exodus: New Population Controls Force Migrants Out Of Capital - All News Is Global |. (n.d.). Retrieved May 20, 2013, from


[8]Full circle for bikes in Beijing? (n.d.). Retrieved May 21, 2013, from

Shifting Away from Automobilities

As we've covered previously, Mexico City has experienced dramatic change over the last five years to its transportation system. Long regarded as one of the worst commuter cities in the world, Mexico City has seen such growth that they received the 2012 Sustainable Transport Award from the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP). This can be attributed to the city's system-wide shift away from automobility planning towards a multimodal approach emphasizing transit and active transportation options.

Cool Real-Time TriMet Transit Map

Hi Everyone, check out this really cool real-time TriMet transit map I found recently. You can follow bus lines, MAX lines, and the Streetcar. I thought it was appropriate since we are discussing transit in class today:

Sacramento RT's "TransitRenewal"

Sacramento Regional Transit (RT) recently conducted a Comprehensive Operations Analysis (COA) of its entire fixed-route service. Coined “TransitRenewal”, RT was determined to replenish its system to recover from a major service reduction brought upon by economic downturn. In 2010, RT was forced to eliminate 28 bus routes and night service on both bus and light rail service to fill a budget gap (Turner).

Denver RTD's Business-Like Transit Management

The Regional Transportation District (RTD) of the greater Denver region has gained quite a bit of attention from their highly innovative service management approach. From the planning, construction, and operations of it's multi-modal service, RTD has proved to be ahead of the curve in how it does business.

Land-use planning and transportation for everyone?

Levine’s article is refreshing in my opinion.  Though his basic argument in favor of a positive relationship between land-use and transportation is unremarkable, his approach is unique. Cervero and Landis focus on proving that there is a positive relationship between land use planning and policy and transportation choice.  They then go on to explain why this relationship should be utilized and strengthened.  Levine instead focuses on individual choice and variation amongst the population.  I found this refreshing, especially in an area of study where so many land-use and transportation planners and researchers discount the fact that there are people who do not want to change their mode of transportation.  Instead of honing in on this stubbornness as a negative, Levine suggests that efforts be made to assist those who do wish to alter their way of living and traveling.