Tag: Portland

Philadelphia Water Department moves away from Deep Tunnel-style water management

West North points out that instead of spending $8 billion to build new sewage holding tanks throughout the city, the Philadelphia Water Department plans to conver impervious surfaces to pervious, natural surfaces. The American Society of Landscape Architects has more information on The Dirt:

The green infrastructure proposal would turn 1/3 of the city’s impervious asphalt surface, or 4,000 acres, into absorptive green spaces. The goal is to move from grey to green infrastructure. Grey infrastructure includes “man-made single purpose systems.” Green infrastructure is defined as “man-made structures that mimic natural systems.” As an example, networks of man-made wetlands, restored flood plains, or infiltration basins would all qualify as green infrastructure. The benefits of such systems include: evaporation, transpiration, enhanced water quality, reduced erosion / sedimentation, and restoration. Some grey / green infrastructure feature integrated systems that create hybrid detention ponds or holding tanks, which are designed to slow water’s release into stormwater management systems.

And, like Portland, Philadelphia is accomplishing more than just better stormwater management.

…the city is calling for a triple-bottom line approach, aiming for: more green spaces, improved public health, and more green jobs. [The Dirt]

Portland is building “Green Streets” that combine bicycle facilities with green infrastructure like bioswales inside curb extensions. This plan did not arise perhaps as altruistically as Philly’s (actually with a little controversy), but more as a way to build bicycle facilities with bioswale funding.

Meanwhile, the Deep Tunnel system in Chicago continues to expand. But it’s not all bad. The City of Chicago will showcase green infrastructure in a new streetscape in the Pilsen neighborhood.

Keep Portland weird!

Co-opting Austin’s marketing strategy, Portland also wants you to keep it weird (read the history of this slogan). If you haven’t yet, please peruse my 54 (so far!) photos I’ve uploaded from my trip to Portland, Oregon, in April this year.

A wall in Chinatown (yeah, Portland has a Chinatown) invites citizens and visitors alike.

Bicycling in Portland is so prevalent, you’ll see entire families on the streets riding their bikes to the park, to school, or shopping.

Check out Portland’s unique transportation facilities and improvements in my photoset, “Transportation in Portland.”

Bridges of Portland

Like Chicago, Portland has many moveable bridges that connect major parts of the city. In Chicago, you have to cross the Chicago River from the west or north to get into the central business district (or loop). For Portland, you’ve got to cross the Willamette River from the humongous east side to the west side and central business district.

But that’s where the similarities stop. While Chicago has twenty bikeable bridges* from Lake Shore Drive on the east to Roosevelt Road on the south, they are each 200-500 feet long and bicyclists ride amongst normal traffic (except for northbound Lake Shore Drive). To ride on the bridges in Portland, bicyclists ride on bike-specific facilities across five bridges, all over 1,000 feet long.

There is only one lane for people riding bikes.

From north to south:

  • Broadway – Sidewalk with one-way bike traffic and two-way pedestrian traffic in each direction.
  • Steel Bridge – Narrow sidewalk on the lower level with tw0-way bike and pedestrian traffic.
  • Burnside – Bike lane, one in each direction.
  • Morrison – 15-foot wide path for bicyclists and pedestrians, in both directions. The City of Portland has construction details on this new path.
  • Hawthorne – Sidewalk with one-way bike traffic and two-way pedestrian traffic in each direction.

It’s great that people riding bikes are accommodated but all of these bridges are excellent examples of “afterthought planning.” There are tens of thousands of people riding bikes across the bridges each day in very close quarters (see this video I made of people riding and walking on the Hawthorne Bridge). Expensive changes are being made now (or have recently been constructed) to accommodate the high volumes of bikes on the bridges.

Complete streets policies are being adopted across the country that attempt to address our past experience with transportation infrastructure construction: bikes will be accommodate throughout all aspects of planning, design, and construction to ensure people riding across these bridges on bikes don’t have to tread carefully between joggers and high curb next to automobiles and buses traveling at 30 MPH.

The Burnside bridge has a typical bike lane.

The Columbia River Crossing (a highway bridge replacement project between Portland, Oregon, and Vancouver, Washington) will be a failure for residents from the day it opens if it does not include facilities that allow for comfortable and convenient biking.

I didn’t appreciate the riding environment on any of the bridges** except for the Burnside bridge. This one seems most like the twenty Chicago bridges I have the choice of riding on each day on my commute to work – they look and act like typical streets. While bike-specific facilities like those on the five Portland bridges are not necessary, taking care to make cycling across bridges convenient and comfortable is a priority.

There’s only one path on the Steel Bridge and its on the lower level. You should probably only use this bridge recreationally because it doesn’t connect well into the street grid at either end.

*Only two of these twenty bridges have bike-specific facilities. Wells has a bike lane and a treatment to make cycling safer on the open-grate metal bridge. The Lakefront Trail traverses the Lake Shore Drive bridge.

*I did not ride on the Morrison bridge during my trip in April 2010.

A diversity of transportation

Portland is a great city to visit to see a large variety of small-scale transportation, including facilities and accommodations for non-motorized and human-powered transportation, or out of the ordinary modes like an aerial tramway (also called a cable car). The photos are from my trip to the Pacific Northwest in April 2010.

You pay to go up. It’s free to come down.

Portland also has traditional transportation modes like streetcars and light rail.

What to see and ride in Portland (I rode or saw each of these):

  • TriMet MAX (Metropolitan Area Express)
  • Portland Streetcar
  • Portland Aerial Tram
  • Bikeways, including bike lanes, marked shared lanes, bike boulevards (now called neighborhood greenways), and cycletracks
  • Bike parking
  • Lift and moveable bridges – the Steel Bridge carries light rail, railroad, automobiles, pedestrians, and bicyclists; the Hawthorne is the most popular bridge for bicyclists. I made sure to cross over the Broadway, Hawthorne, Steel, and Burnside bridges. I missed crossing on the Morrison bridge. I guess I will have to take another trip!
  • Bus – This is standard fare, nothing unique about it in Portland compared to other cities.

Bicycles make up 21% of all traffic on the Hawthorne Bridge. See the rest of my “Transportation in Portland” photos.

Igniting the discussion on equity

I want to have more conversations about transportation equity

My master’s project is all about it. You might have read me talking about it a little here two weeks ago. A then I shot off a post with some key quotes I’m using about the topic in my project.

The purpose of the map is to show the difference in distribution between 2008 and 2009.

This post, though, is all about the graphic above. A lengthy conversation has begun in the comments on the Flickr page. I want more people to get talking about why 2008 might look the way it does, and why 2009 looks the way it does. Perhaps you need a little background on 2009: I made sure to visit the most underserved Wards you see in 2008 and ensure they receive new bike racks in 2009.

A big question is why people in those areas aren’t asking for bike racks. Does no one there ride a bike to the store? Or maybe they do but don’t know how to request a bike rack or know the purpose of one? Maybe they got a bike stolen and need some tips on proper locking.

Those are all questions I want my project to answer – and I’m working hard 20 hours per week to answer them! But I want more questions. I want ideas that point me to look in new directions. If you don’t like my response, tell me.

Bike parking is almost always mentioned in nationwide bike plans as a necessary way to complete the urban bicycling network. Mia Birk, “famous” bicycle planner, and principal at Alta Planning and Design in Portland, Oregon, says that bike parking is part of “the tool kit for successful 
bicycle infrastructure in cities.” Another Portland entity is aware of equity: BikePortland.org.

What’s going on here? Photo by Eric Rogers.

Benefits of bike parking

I’m working on my master’s project about bike parking distribution and equity in Chicago and while working on a section in the paper, I decided to get some help from readers. Many transportation projects are measured on predicted changes like trip travel time savings or trip cost savings (I give two examples below the photo).

My question is this: What are a bike parking installation’s measurable benefits to a traveler or a community?

Photo: Portland has installed 40 on-street bike parking “corrals” since 2004. What does a traveler or community gain from this bike rack installation? Photo by Kyle Gradinger.

To figure equity (fairness) for these project types, you measure these impacts for different groups (often high, medium, and low income), either in the alternatives analysis, or project selection phases. So, converting a lane on a highway to charge tolls for the lane’s users will have a certain benefit for many trips: a lower trip time. A new bus route may be convenient enough for some travelers to switch from driving to taking the bus, possibly reducing their trip cost.

Improving bicycling to airports

An airport may seem like the last place to which you would ride your bike. You still want to ride there: It’s an alternative to driving (either by yourself, or getting dropped off), taking a taxi, or riding transit. It’s an ideal destination to which to encourage bicycling: Thousands of passengers move in and out, in addition to thousands more workers – switching just a portion of these trips to bicycling would reduce congestion and damaging demands on the transportation system. I see two major issues that stifle the frequency of biking to the airport: how to get there, and parking.

A photo from Jonathan Maus’ first trip to the airport via bicycle. See links in “Getting There” below.

Many cities have airports far away from population centers. Think Denver, Colorado (a commuter rail will reach DIA soon). Kansai near Kobe, Japan, is on an artificial island two miles from shore. A causeway carrying high-speed trains and a highway gets passengers to KIX.

But what if you live in a city where the airport is in town, accessible by city streets (either minor or arterial), or is even a short train ride away? It seems more plausible to bike there. I’m thinking of airports like Midway in Chicago, Illinois (MDW), or Portland, Oregon (PDX).

Getting There

In Portland, bicyclists can either take the MAX light rail train, or bike all the way (PDF map). At the airport, the path leads right into a bike parking area. Photo of bike parking at PDX and Read Jonathan Maus’ experience.

In Chicago, bicyclists can ride directly to Midway on any street (Archer provides a direct connection, but has high-volume traffic on many segments), and there are many north-south and east-west streets with marked bicycle facilities. The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) Orange Line terminates at the station. Bicyclists will find sheltered bike parking outside or inside the train station.

Neither situation assuages my concerns about bike parking security.

Parking: Lockers

Cities, transit agencies, and airport operators should work together to provide secure, electronically accessed bicycle lockers either on airport property, at adjacent transit centers, or at key stations on connecting trains. Electronic bike lockers will provide bicyclists with the convenience and security necessary to encourage them to ride. I would ride to the train station nearest my house if I knew I could store my bike in a locker for seven vacation days.

A bike locker at the Victoria International Airport available for cheap use near the departures entrance. Photo by John Luton.

The airport in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada (YYJ), provides bike lockers for $2 a day. It’s not as convenient as one that’s accessed electronically; it requires you visit the security office to get keys. The manufacturer, Cycle Safe, offers an electronic option.

This photo shows the BikeLink electronic card access solution for bicycle lockers. Load a magnetic stripe card with cash and control any locker in the network. Photo by John Luton.

I think BikeLink is a great solution in providing electronic bike locker access. It would work like this: The local airport authority, in collaboration with the city and transit agencies, would install BikeLink lockers at several, various locations at the airport, and transit centers (both bus and train). Users purchase a smart card and load it with cash. It now works like a debit card. Users insert the card into the locker they want to use, open the door, store their bike, and lock the door. Days later, when your vacation is up, re-insert your smart card to unlock the door. The BikeLink network operator debits your card for the amount of time you used the locker.

So far, Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) and nearby Silicon Valley cities have installed these lockers at many train stations, parking garages, ferry terminals, libraries, and university campuses. Find a map on BikeLink’s website.

BikeLinks works similar to pay-as-you-go cellphones or RFID transit passes (like ORCA in Seattle, Washington, or the Oyster card in London, England). The BikeLink smart card differs in that it uses the traditional magnetic stripe. However, enterprising agencies could build an integrated RFID card (much like the I-Go car sharing program and the Chicago Card that opens car doors and bus doors).

I’ll be waiting for this to happen. In the meantime, on Monday, I’m going to hop on the bus and transfer to the train, a journey that costs a reasonable $2.50 and takes 30 minutes.

Comparing the Portland and Seattle bike plans

The assignment:  Find two plans written on a common theme from cities with similar attributes and compare them. The purpose is to start reading plan documents produced by firms, agencies, and organizations around the country. Furthermore, the comparison should include a critique of each plan. For this assignment, I compared the bike “master” plans for Seattle and Portland. The cities have a similar population, and are geographically close.

The class: Making Plans, Making Plans Studio. This class has a lecture and a lab. The assignments are due in the lecture session, which have little to do with the single assignment for the lab. In the lab, students write an actual plan. I took this class in Spring 2009 and each of the four labs independently write an economic development plan for Blue Island, Illinois.

Portland and Seattle are very closely located cities and have a population difference of only 20,000. Portland is recognized as the bicycling capital of the country, but Seattle desperately wants to compete. I reviewed each of their bicycle master plans, but Portland’s is in need of an update. Seattle released their bicycle plan in 2007.

Organization and Design

Portland is definitely known around the country and world as the United States’ premier bicycling city. The leading hobby magazine, Bicycling, identified Portland as such back in 1995 (according to their Bicycle Master Plan). As such, I was expecting their plan to be near perfect. I found that its organization was haphazard and difficult to follow.

Portland installed its first bike boxes in 2008 in response to deaths caused by right-turning trucks.

For example, the plan is 159 pages long but does not use paragraph or section identifiers (i.e. Objective 1.2) or page headers or footers that can tell the reader where they are in relation to the other sections of the plan. The only understandable section identifiers are in the table of contents and the objectives labels. The objectives labels are taken straight from Portland’s comprehensive plan and all come from the same section of that plan (section 6). Eventually you may find that the Portland bicycle plan does have a chapter for each subsection of section 6 in the city’s comprehensive plan. Unfortunately the label is written once at the beginning of the section and is blurred into a black and white photo.

The Seattle plan smartly follows the Chicago example of heavy sectioning and sub-sectioning. This method makes it easy to reference, locate and describe an exact strategy in the plan. In this way, each strategy, or action item as Portland calls them, has a distinct identifier. By following the Chicago example, plans can also more easily internally cross-reference. The one cross-reference in the Portland plan tells me to find Section IV B3. Section IV is only labeled at the beginning of that section, so a reader first has to find that page. Then within Section IV, “B3” is nowhere to be found. There’s no way to infer what B3 could mean. It could mean “benchmark” but Section IV has no benchmarks for the strategies described. Cross-referencing in the Seattle plan is helpful: the links usually take the form of, “For more information, see Chapter 4.” Sometimes the Seattle tells visitors to go online.

Both the Seattle and Portland bicycle plans have great initiatives to improve bicycling, but Seattle’s document surely makes their future work much easier to find!

Bicyclists are the first customers off the ferries in Seattle. On an average day, over 50,000 trips are taken by ferry.

Content

Both the Seattle and Portland bicycle plans provides a lot of extraneous but relevant information, including tips on safe cycling, traffic laws, maps, facility design guides, and crash data. This makes for a long plan but provides governmental and transit agencies the information they need to make decisions available in a central place. The plan document can also act as a self-promotional tool: information contained within the plan is identical to the information that the plan makers want to educate people. For example, within the Portland plan, safe cycling guidelines are included. The necessity of its inclusion in the plan document is debatable, but it doesn’t distract from the plan’s reason for existence.

Portland also includes in its plan a streets and bikeways design guide. This is a separate document that explains to traffic engineers and roadway constructors and planners how to design and build streets, including signage, that make it safer for bicyclists to ride upon.

Both plans have very similar strategies, but because of Seattle’s more recently developed plan, it includes recently accepted innovative traffic calming techniques as well as new bikeway designs (like bicycle-only left turn lanes).

The Portland plan’s age might become a disadvantage to the city and its bicyclists if uninformed agencies are strictly following its guidelines. The Portland Bureau of Transportation, in which sits the Bicycle Program, has fortunately not stuck to strategies listed. PBOT has installed several bikeways and bike parking facilities that are not mentioned in the plan, namely colored bike boxes between pedestrian crosswalks and motorist stop bars, as well as on street bike parking.

UPDATE: Portland closed on November 8, 2009, the public comment period for the 2009 Bike Master Plan Update. Read the draft plan.

What the Census says about bicycle commuting

UPDATE 11-08-10: I wrote a post comparing the commuting statistics between Chicago, Minneapolis, and St. Paul.

UPDATE 02-12-11: Added 2009 data.

Prompted by this entry on BikePortland about the rise of bicycle commuting and the bicycle mode share in Portland, Oregon, I decided to research what the American Community Survey says about the mode share of bicycles as part of commuting where I live: Chicago. I’ll also post bicycle’s share of commuting for other locales, as well.

Some definitions, first:

  • Commuting means travel to and from work – the Census Bureau calls this “MEANS OF TRANSPORTATION TO WORK.” The Census Bureau does not collect information on travel to shopping, medical services, and other places in the decennial census or the yearly American Community Survey (which will supposedly replace the decennial census).
  • Block means the smallest area for which the Census Bureau reports statistics. Any smaller and the possibility that someone could personally identify you from the responses increases. Find your block. The American Community Survey reports information for much larger areas: In some cases, researchers can only select data at the county level. The Census Bureau provides information for the City of Chicago and other municipal divisions of many counties in Illinois.
  • Subject definitions. These describe the question asked to participants and include clarifying information in the case the participant doesn’t understand the question, or their answer is complex. Download the subject definitions for the 2008 American Community Survey.
  • Margin of error (MOE) means the high and low end of confidence. Read more about margin of error on the Census Bureau’s website.

For the American Community Survey, I found table S0801, Commuting Characteristics by Sex. In the decennial census, I found table  P30. MEANS OF TRANSPORTATION TO WORK FOR WORKERS 16 YEARS AND OVER. If you want to check my research, look for these tables of sample data.

Chicago:
Margin of error for male and female categories varied. Combined always reported 0.2%.

  • 2009 – 1.1% travel to work by bicycle. 1.8% male (MOE: 0.3%), 0.4% female (MOE: 0.1%). Workers over 16: 1,271,744. Permalink.
  • 2008 – 1.0% travel to work by bicycle. 1.5% male (MOE: 0.3%), 0.5% female (MOE: 0.2%). Workers over 16: 1,260,741. Permalink.
  • 2007 – 1.1% travel to work by bicycle. 1.4% male (MOE: 0.3%), 0.7% female (MOE: 0.2%). Workers over 16: 1,230,933. Permalink.
  • 2006 – 0.9% travel to work by bicycle. 1.2% male (MOE: 0.3%), 0.7% female (MOE: 0.2%). Workers over 16: 1,209,122. Permalink.
  • 2005 – 0.7% travel to work by bicycle. 0.9% male (MOE: 0.1%), 0.4% female (MOE: 0.1%). Workers over 16: 1,162,550. Permalink.

United States:
Margin of error happened to be the same for each reported category (combined, male, female).

  • 2009 – 0.6% travel to work by bicycle. 0.8% male, 0.3% female. MOE: 0.1%. Workers over 16: 138,591,804 (decrease). Permalink.
  • 2008 – 0.5% travel to work by bicycle. 0.8% male, 0.3% female. MOE: 0.1%. Workers over 16: 143,995,967. Permalink.
  • 2007 – 0.5% travel to work by bicycle. 0.7% male, 0.2% female. MOE: 0.1%. Workers over 16: 139,259,684. Permalink.
  • 2006 – 0.5% travel to work by bicycle. 0.6% male, 0.2% female. MOE: 0.1%. Workers over 16: 138,265,905. Permalink.
  • 2005 – 0.4% travel to work by bicycle. 0.6% male, 0.2% female. MOE: 0.1%. Workers over 16: 133,091,043. Permalink.

Read the BikePortland article if you want to know that Portland has a higher share of commuters traveling by bicycle than Chicago has.

And what about my block? As I mentioned above, we can only find information at the block group level in the decennial census. I live in Block Group 1 of Census Tract 6009 in Chicago, Illinois. I didn’t live here in 2000, though, the last time the decennial census occurred. Back then, out of 168 workers over 16, 4 of them rode their bikes to work! That equals .024% of the worker population in my block group. Oddly, though, the Census Bureau reported 946 people living in this Block Group. Looking at table P8 (Sex By Age), I see that 674 have at least 16 years of age. 178 people have at least 55 years. Does this mean a lot of people in the Block Group didn’t work at the time of the survey in 2000? I don’t know. Permalink to data.

By far, though, driving alone won as the most popular way to get to work: 71.423% of the worker population.

New light rails this year

Visiting my family in Mesa, Arizona, over my holiday break last year got me more excited about light rail than I’ve ever been. I hopefully showed this with my photos on my Flickr account. I posted over 300 pictures of the new Valley Metro light rail that serves the west side of Mesa, central and north Tempe, and many regions of Phoenix. It goes through two downtowns: Tempe and Phoenix. The light rail will be good for commuters, but also discretionary travelers; both downtowns are major destinations for the valley. Tempe has a vibrant night life and the state’s largest college campus. Phoenix has tons of large-scale attractions.

I love trains. I’m almost a railfan.

So I present you this list of light rail extensions that will open this year in the United States – just two, but they’re respectively significant for the regions they will serve. There are no new systems opening this year, but there’s at least one for 2010.

  • Seattle SoundTransit Central Link – This new line goes from the Westlake Center (southern terminus for the Seattle Monorail) south to the Seattle-Tacoma airport. This will be an amazing new asset for the region – transit links to airports is always a plus. We’ve benefited from this in Chicago for over 15 years (the Orange line to Midway opened in 1993, after the Blue line to O’Hare). Sadly, after several years of voting rounds and bickering, the monorail was never extended into the transit system; the potential’s still there.
  • Portland MAX Green Line – Scheduled to open in September 2009, the Green line will wrap around the new/reorganized Portland Transit Mall and head south along I-205 to a new transit center at the Clackamas Town Center mall. As part of this construction, the existing bike path following the highway will be redesigned and improved greatly. The TriMet website has more information about the enhancements along I-205.