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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on December 12, 2005 4:08 PM. The previous post in this blog was Opie's in. The next post in this blog is Live remote. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Monday, December 12, 2005

Tri-Met now on Google

Those clever kids at Google are always coming up with new internet toys. The latest one's called Google Transit, and some day it will allow you to plan a trip on mass transit anywhere you might be.

What better place to start this new toy than our own Portlandia? Sure enough, the beta city for the new Google system is the Rose City. This is quite the feather in the cap of Tri-Met and the streetcar people. As usual, the Google toy is fairly easy to use and uncanny in the amount of information it provides.

Just for kicks, I thought I'd see about the mass transit route from City Hall to Commissioner Leonard's house. The verdict: "43 mins in transit -- 21 mins walking to/from your route." An hour each way? No wonder he drives it -- "about 21 minutes." My work commute draws a similar result on Tri-Met: "48 mins in transit -- 14 mins walking to/from your route." Compared to a drive of "about 15 minutes."

What's next for Portland? How about Google Condo, with data input from the Portland Development Commission? Put in an address in a nice old neighborhood and click to see how many tens of millions of dollars in public subsidies are available to build an inappropriate condo tower there.

Comments (15)

For the record, Google Transit is nice and has a sweet interface, but it's nowhere near as good as TriMet's own Trip Planner. Google Transit often directs me to walk half a mile to a bus stop when there's a stop on the same route just half a block away.

I imagine that's the reason for Randy's "21 mins walking".

Saw this a few days ago, and just for kicks put in my old commute route, from Aloha to downtown.

Via Tri-Met: "Start by walking for 25 minutes to the nearest bus stop..."

Compared to driving directions, door-to-door in 22 minutes.

Then the Tri-Met trip would continue on either the bus or MAX (depending on time of day for some reason) for about another hour.

Anyhow, it *is* kind of a neat toy, and hopefully it'll improve as they work out the kinks. As it is now, it's not especially useful for several reasons.

One of the problems is in the comparison with a driving route -- first off, no way would I ever drive the suggested route they offered (up 217 to 26, not a smart move!) and secondly, even if I did take that route there's no way it could be done in only 22 minutes. Actual drive time was usually about 30-35 minutes in the morning, often 40-45 minutes in the evening. So the drive times are woefully inaccurate based on real-world traffic.

Second, the cost comparison -- the driving cost is rather simplistically based on the standard IRS mileage allowance. Easy enough, but not a useful comparison value, since those who own vehicles are paying the "overhead" built into that allowance whether we drive the vehicle or not. The real driving cost is doubtless less than what is quoted (though if you're going downtown, the *parking* costs would certainly more than offset that!)

Then there's the opportunity cost of taking an extra hour out of your day (each way) to ride Tri-Met. The way I figured it, that round-trip on the bus wouldn't have only cost $3.60 for the fare, but more like around $50+ including lost work time.

So it won't give you accurate information to decide which mode of transport to take -- and once you've made that decision, it won't necessarily give you the *best* directions (either driving, or apparently by bus).

But it's still a cool toy. ;-)

Actually, I have not driven to city hall since last spring. I now get a monthly bus pass and ride the bus in along with riding my bike 2-3 days per week.

Because of my schedule, and the use of the bike (a TREK from The Bike Gallery)I bought last spring as well, I use a variety of different bus lines in addition to MAX.

When I take the bus in, I drive to SE 135th and Foster and take the #10 downtown. Usually about a 40 minute ride.

If I am not driving at all, I walk up (One and a half blocks) and catch the #157, transfer to the #31 which takes me downtown. Usually a total ride time of just over an hour, including waits between transfers.

If I am having a meeting close to the MAX, which seems to happen regularly, I drive to the Park and Ride @ 122nd and Burnside and ride the MAX in.

I try and get 2-3 days per week (yes...even in the wind, rain and cold) riding the bike one way either downtown or home.

I have saved the cost of parking ($185 per month) and gas (another aprox $125 per month) less the cost of the Bus Pass (about $40 per month plus it is paid for before taxes out of my check...the equivalent of about $25 per month).

I have also saved the aggravation of driving. No small benefit. Now, I read the paper and have excellent conversations with other riders.

Additionally, because of the bike, I have lost some weight.

As you know, I live in the outer reaches of Portland. If I can use mass transit to get to and from downtown, anybody can.


I forgot to compare bus commuting to my driving time.

From my house to city hall during rush hour and assuming there is average traffic (which is just plain bad...if there is a wreck, its worse) is about 45 minutes.

Interestingly, I have actually found the ride time on my bike is just about the same as driving (of course, only after a few months of "conditioning").

Jack,
Since you are a numbers guy I thought you might be interested in an equation I saw to compare the time calculation on driving vs. other modes. In order to accurately calculate whether driving saves time you have to include the time you spend at work earning the money to pay for the car, the insurance, maintenance, fuel, etc. Law profs still come out ahead, but for many students in your class running those numbers- they come out ahead riding their bike and/or hopping that shuttle bus in front of Nordstroms as I did for my first 2 years of law school with no car. I do cop to alot more driving these days, but I did hop the yellow max line to downtown this morning. ANd I take the train to Seattle when I can- but Amtrack's haters have done nothing to add trips, improve track and make it convenient.

P.S. The "Google Earth" toy is Ammaaaazing

That seems pretty slick, but they leave out the "waiting" time. The Trimet website shows this, and its pretty revealing, especially on weekends. Wait times can be as long as the actual ride itself.
Google's site shows my commute from downtown to Beaverton TC (closest to my house) as 23 minutes (including walking time) during afternoon rush hour. But include waiting, which I seem to do a lot of, and its ALWAYS at least an hour for me just to get to the Sunset TC.
So it might need a bit more work.

Don't forget that the reason public transportation seems so much "cheaper" than driving your own car is that the per-trip cost is heavily subsidized through tax dollars!

The Tri Met system is great for getting downtown and back again, unfortunately that's not where the jobs are. If we'd invested in busses instead of light rail we could change the routes in accordance with the employment demographics.

No jobs downtown? Oh, whatevs. Where do you commute? If there are no jobs downtown, why is there such a f*cking traffic nightmare getting into downtown in the morning and out of downtown in the evening? MAX is filled to capacity into downtown on the morning and out of downtown on the evening (you'll have to stand, and sometimes you'll barely even be able to fit on). If you ask me, they could stand to run a few more MAX trips during rush hour.

Actually, its only one or two trains that are anywhere near "packed". I ride it every day, and for the train that is "near capacity" the next one or two are practically empty.
Nice try, though.

I wonder whether Randy wears a (fire) helmet when he rides? Just curious.

I wonder what time he leaves the "outer reaches" and what time he leaves city hall (or wherever he works)?

I wonder if he has more time to commute because he doesn't work 8 hours a day?

I wonder how the "...aggravation of driving" stacks up against the aggravation of those who can't afford to waste two hours a day having "excellent conversations".

Keep up the good work(?) Randy.

BTW, who cares what brand of bike you ride and where you bought it? Critical Mass?

Peggy-
I am sorry you are "unimpressed".

Great job Randy! Have you seen any health benifits from the biking?

Lars mentioned the sit on his show during my lunch hour today and plugged his staff's commute's into the computer and they all laughed at the results. Funny how a site in beta testing can be treated by some as a finished product. But of course we'll never accuse Lars of telling the complete truth.

With light rail public subsidy over $14 per trip (one way) and the future (maybe) tram with public subsidy over $65 per trip, I think we need to do better analysis of how we spend our dollars one how to make a functioning city. Moving people, goods, etc. is more than riding a bike.


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