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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

One thumb down on the new transit mall

I was on the "new, improved" Portland transit mall again today. This was my second visit since it reopened, and again I was shocked at how they have screwed up a good thing. Remember how you never had to walk more than a block or two to catch your bus? Forget that, my friends. The bus stops for the line I rode were four blocks apart or more. If you see your bus shoot past you, there's no longer a decent chance that you'll be able to run it down.

I'm sure the Tri-Met apologists will tell us that all that stopping was slowing the buses down. But all that stopping is what buses do. Some people can't or won't walk four blocks for a bus, especially if the weather's bad. You either serve the public, or you don't.

And remember the neat old Tri-Met bus kiosks, with windbreak walls, a couple of seats, good maps, and curved roofs that provided decent shelter from the rain? Forget those, too. Today on Sixth Avenue I stood (no bench anywhere around) under a little glass slat that seemed about the size of a stick of gum. Virtually any combination of rain and wind would have ensured that I would have been soaked. And with bus service about to be cut yet again, I would have been soaked a few minutes longer than in the past.

What a bust. We spent nine figures to get a mall that will provide less comfort, less convenience, and less incentive to visit or shop downtown than the old one did. But we are going to get light rail trains through there now. Whoopdee doo.

Comments (42)

I think it's a huge improvement: finally a bus mall for riders instead of a*****les and idiots.

(Jack I do not think you're either)

I love the new transit mall, especially the stop spacing. Buses fly through it now. That's what I call serving the riders! (and I don't know what a "Tri-met apologist" is, but I'm assuming it's a good thing) :)

Think of how fast they'd move if there were no passengers at all. That's where Fred the Visionary seems to want to go.

We'll see how you like it during winter storms.

Let's' see about the math here, though. If the bus stops are four blocks apart, then I would think you would be walking at most two blocks, rather than four. Portland blocks are short, too, so the actual distance isn't much. I'll miss those little smoking rooms, though.

The decrease in stops may have been necessary.

But the mall design is a disaster. Traffic downtown, already bad, has been made markedly worse. Cars are constantly breaking the law by driving in the wrong lane, and I can't imagine how a tourist or new driver will handle that mall.

And as a result, now 3rd and 4th are way over capacity because everyone in their right minds avoids 5th and 6th.

We were warned about the funky sharing arrangement between Max and buses and how they'd have to swerve in and out. It looks like a traffic nightmare to me.

And of course now that it is even harder to drive downtown, they are talking about removing fareless square.

If the bus stops are four blocks apart, then I would think you would be walking at most two blocks, rather than four.

If you're already on the mall to start with. And some of them may be more than four.

Portland blocks are short, too, so the actual distance isn't much.

Yeah, that 80-year-old lady with the two heavy bags of groceries -- what's two or three blocks on a crowded downtown street to her? "Portland's a small city, too, so you can walk all the way home."

I'll miss those little smoking rooms, though.

True, better to catch pneumonia than to breathe the same air as the little people.

Is the other thumb still making up its mind?

"Let's' see about the math here, though. If the bus stops are four blocks apart, then I would think you would be walking at most two blocks, rather than four."

Not everyone who rides the bus from downtown works on 5th or 6th. So a once two block walk (perpendicular to the run) could now easily be a three or four block walk. That could be significant.

I rode the bus exclusively to work downtown and back from my home outside Hillsdale for over 11 years. I rode with great folks like Al Goodwin and Sid Lezak. The bus was always full during commuting hours, but still running until past 1:00 a.m. There was never a need to drive unless you had to haul something large into town.

I assumed the system made money then, but I really don't know. This was before the "articulated bus" and other "improvements" to a system that seemed to work just fine as it was. People rode because it was convenient and inexpensive, not because they were saving the Earth.

I'm glad I work primarily out of the home and don't need to rely on the system anymore.

Don't you get it? Cars are Bad. Trains are Good. Busses are simply oversized cars; therefore they are Bad and must be eliminated.

"But the mall design is a disaster. Traffic downtown, already bad, has been made markedly worse."

Seems that some car apologists will never be satisfied sharing the city with mass transit. Let's remember that on the old version of the mall cars weren't allowed to travel its full length; they were required to turn after a couple of blocks. The new set-up is a response to drivers and merchants who wanted to open the length of the mall to auto traffic. It seems to me that the three modes of transit--cars, buses, trains--have been blended pretty well on the new mall.

And those who complain about how slow the streetcar is should see the merit in spacing bus stops along the mall further apart. The main, if not sole, factor that makes streetcars slower than buses downtown is the close spacing of stops for the streetcar. There's an obvious tradeoff involved in spacing the stops closer together or further apart: if you have to walk a little further to your stop, you will then have a quicker ride with less frequent stops; if the walk to your stop is shorter, you will then have a slower ride with more frequent stops.

You could argue which is preferable for the majority of mass transit users. I'm not a little old lady with two grocery bags, but I do ride the bus to and from work every day, and I prefer the less frequent stops.

the three modes of transit--cars, buses, trains--have been blended pretty well on the new mall.

We'll see when they're are actually trains, with people on them.

And those who complain about how slow the streetcar is should see the merit in spacing bus stops along the mall further apart.

Why are we solving the streetcars' problem on the bus mall?

The only place 80 year old ladies have bags of groceries downtown is at Safeway and there is a street car stop right there.

The problem with the transit area isn't how far apart the stops are; most people walk home more than 2 blocks after getting off the bus.

But I agree that the lack of incliment weather shelters is a large oversight. I ride the bus several days a week, which will decrease if I have to stand outside for 15 minutes in the pouring rain.

There was an elderly gal with three big bags of groceries on my ride through the mall today. Poor thing, she had to make two trips getting on and off. I suppose she is the kind of nuisance that Tri-Met wants to get rid of.

if I have to stand outside for 15 minutes in the pouring rain.

Make that 17.

How much time do you really save by halving the number of stops? The passengers themselves will take the same amount of time to load and unload. Are we talking two or three more minutes through the length of the mall, for a couple of additional red traffic signals?

I am an every day user of the transit mall and I think I have to agree with Jack. I ride a bus into town and then transfer to the bus I take the rest of the way home. The first bus goes right past the stop I need to catch my transfer and I have to walk three blocks back to that stop. The first day I had to do this there was an unexpected torrential rainstorm and by the time I made it to my next bus stop I was completely soaked because there were no adequate bus shelters and no convenient building doorways. Right now the buses do move pretty fast through the mall but I have seen countless people trying valiantly to catch their buses at the next stop four blocks away. Maybe that is Tri-Met's plan, to force us all to get into good shape. When the trains are added to this mix I think everything will slow down. I don't know how often the trains will be scheduled to run through downtown but they will be a significant presence. People continue to jaywalk, bicyclists continue to think all the lanes are for them and car drivers just get more and more confused.

People are honestly complaining about a three block walk? Seriously? Damn, our country is in major trouble if two blocks is the most we can expect our citizens to walk to catch a bus. The old ladies with groceries could probably run circles around this bunch of complainers. Btw, the old ladies usually have grocery carriers on wheels...and umbrellas. And if they don't, someone on the bus will help her with her bags (unless of course they are too exhausted from walking three whole blocks to catch the bus)

How many of us wouldn't think twice about walking across the parking lot at Ikea or Costco?


An easy way to solve everyones isues regarding the "new and improved" transit mall...... Go By Streetcar !!!!

I loath the design of the new mall and wish they had gone with the simple design where the train went straight up the left side and the busses wove on the right. This would've allowed them to keep the stops every two blocks, though I'm actually a fan of making it four (regardless of the length of one's overall walk to the bus/MAX, it's still only an additional two blocks at most). Cutting the number of stops in half speeds the slow crawl through downtown and should be implemented on the other MAX lines and streetcar too. Unfortunately, cars and bikes had to be accommodated because the businesses on the mall had this idea (absurd, IMHO) that no one would know their business exists unless they could drive by it in their car. So we're left with this debacle which makes virtually no sense to anyone.

It seems like we have a new 20-year plan every 7 years or so. My issues is $100M for what?

RIght now, it is like a train switch yard so they will get their wish of no cars downtown yet. I feel for any retail stupid enough to stay downtown after this. Then again, given the 3 biggest employers are all govt, maybe that's the way they want it.

Jack posts on his lil ol blog at 3pm on a relatively minor mass transit issue in PDX and three hours later we have 20 well reasoned responses.

Isn't this a wonderful example of our love/ hate relationship with the city of Portland ?

We think the bureaucrats suck but will instantly argue about old ladies having to walk further to catch a bus and how far bus stops are apart.

Actually, I don't think most of the shelters have been completed just yet. The original design had glass covers, which apparently didn't work, and they have been re-engineered for some sort of metal covering. I would agree that, given our wind and rain, there also needs to be some sort of side covering as well - but hey, maybe this was to expose all of the drug dealing that occured in the shelters.

I do agree that when the confluence of real trains with passengers with buses, cars and bikes begins in September, there should be no end of entertaining crashes and near misses looking out my window on 5th avenue.

How much time do you really save by halving the number of stops?

This is actually an interesting optimization problem. Waiting time is considered more important (higher dollar value) than traveling time. I'm not sure if Tri-Met did this kind of analysis prior to putting in the stops.

As far as the operation of the transit mall, what a cluster-f. I really hope they don't have an accident, trains zig-zagging back and forth, jay-walking peds around PSU, poorly-designed bicycle lanes, confusing intersections... Seems like only a matter of time to me.

Since my company pays for my parking, I really don't care about the problems of the "little people" but let's keep encouraging them to use mass transit; it frees up the highways for the executives (like me) that really matter.

I really think people movers on the sidewalks would have been much cheaper than streetcars.

Ah, guys, when the city institutes its contemplated toney bike rental program with kiosks every 5 blocks everything will be solved.

Rent a bike, race to the bus stop, abandon bike, clamber on bus.

There was an elderly gal with three big bags of groceries on my ride through the mall today. Poor thing, she had to make two trips getting on and off. I suppose she is the kind of nuisance that Tri-Met wants to get rid of.

The real shortage then is the lack of Boy Scouts in Portland. This wouldn't happen in Utah!

it frees up the highways for the executives (like me) that really matter.

The more cumbersome and painful it is to come downtown, the more the little people abandon their automobiles in favor of mass transit. Give 'em a few entertaining months of being accosted by packs of "youths" on the trains, and they'll be calling me in no time.

This is all well and good; money in my pocket. What irks me is that I am forbidden to pick up or drop off on the new transit mall. Have to drive several blocks down and pull to a side street.

I just love explaining to people...especially senior citizens and the handicapped...why they are forced by City of Portland Law to hobble a few extra blocks to get in my cab. This will be even more fun the next time a major ice storm hits.

That's the problem with planned economies and socialism...the Planners don't take into account real world situations like snowstorms, disabilities and aging while sketching out their utopias.

And you can bet that the majority of these Planners, like our drunk driving, pedophile Mayor, drive vehicles such as big white pickup trucks around, while doing everything in their power to make it more difficult for the little people to use an automobile in this city.

Kind of like how all the gangsters pushing for forced density live in large houses set way back from the street, with plenty of foliage, privacy, and room for their gardens.

Just like the potter and his lump of clay, the Socialist seeks to mould the lives of real human beings.

What irks me is that I am forbidden to pick up or drop off on the new transit mall.

Having cabs and delivery vehicles stopping in the one vehicle lane on the bus mall would ensure constant chaos. Remember what it was like before the redesign and recall that it was drivers who demanded (and got) a through-lane all the way from the train station to PSU.

I think before this is over, TriMet is going to have to install some new signage/lights to keep more people from tooling up the bus lane and making right turns.

"none," before the re-design, we were allowed to use the mall at night and on weekends. Used to have the statute written on the cover of my Thomas Guide to cite to ignorant gumshoes.

I see your point, but at the same time, do you see mine, about the inconvenience this causes my mobility impaired customers ? Explaining this new law over and over to people who live on 5th or 6th, or who are at some doomed business on those avenues is getting most tiresome.

Even better is when people think I am attempting to get one over on them by driving several blocks out of my way and back again in order to make a right turn and get them to their stop--the Nines hotel is a great example of this. Can't turn off of 5th onto Morrison now, have to go all the way down Alder to 3rd and then back up Morrison to the hotel. Adds a little to the fare, which is OK by me, but the customers sure hate it. Well, in the case of the Nines, I guess they can afford to pay the freight...

I have to walk at least 5 blocks to get a bus in my neighborhood and they run very infrequently and what's a bus shelter? But since these buses are so infrequent (even during rush hour) and none of them are a viable means to get to work (not in the central city but in Beaverton) I don't ride them. I'd be happy if Tri-Met gave us any meaningful service.

in the case of the Nines, I guess they can afford to pay the freight...

Maybe not. The last I heard, the Nines was such a flop that they were selling rooms for relatively bargain-basement prices.

Haven't been.

Don't want to.

Will put off as long as possible.

Have they managed to come anywhere near to meeting the fantasies they publish as schedules? I won't take one to work, because the drivers they have on that route can't make the published schedule...even in the dead of night with three passengers. I don't care to stand around in downtown at dark, in the cold, and rain, with their inadequate shelter, because their bus drivers can't make the schedule that allows a layover window for transfers.

I gave up on Tri-Met. They managed to flush about forty years of custom down the tubes.

Take the bus, everybody, and get out of my way on the streets. I'm drivin' here.

The king of Portland Bloggers can's the
Transit Mall

Al, thanks for the vote of confidence. Would love to hear what you think of the mall yourself, as you likely have much more experience with it than I.

I like the new transit mall.

Full disclosure - daily rider, general supporter and fan of mass transit. Moved here after a few years in Atlanta, a city that hates mass transit and loves cars.

My personal experience is limited to the 54 and 56 lines, so yours may be different. So far, personal expereince indicates that the new transit mall is shaving about 5-10 minutes off my evening commute.

I credit the fewer stops for much of this. The "streamlined" mall creates less slaloming in and out of the flow of traffic for the buses.

I don't think that the greater distance between stops poses a problem. I don't understand the argument that if you're already on the mall, you have to walk further. Downtown Portland is essentially a grid - if you're off the mall by two blocks, you have to walk two blocks to get there regardless of where the Tri-Met stop is. You are never that far from your Tri-Met stop.

I am not unsympathetic to Jack's 80-year old grocery shopper. I'm just trying to go all Mrs. Lovejoy ("Won't somebody please think of the children!!!") on this subject. Put a proposal in front of me to assist hungry octogenarians, and I'll probably sign it.

"People are honestly complaining about a three block walk?"

It is not the fact of the three block walk (that for most is an easy walk, note I said most) but the fact that if you are trying to make a close connection for a transfer you are screwed. Somehow or other Tri-Met has managed to schedule the buses and space the bus stops so it is very difficult to make timely transfers. I often end up having to wait 30 minutes for the next bus because I missed my transfer. And that 30 minute wait says it all about the quality of service on the line I ride home.

Proof that it is impossible to please everyone, and whenever possible people will whine.

Lots of places have efficient mass transit. It is really a shame that Portland does not.
I will continue to avoid the downtown area as much as possible.

"Take the bus, everybody, and get out of my way on the streets. I'm drivin' here."

I don't think we should overlook the possibility that that some people's aversion to riding the bus is rooted in laziness, selfishness and an exaggerated sense of personal entitlement.

I actually have not driven a bus down there so I can't provide any first hand comments.

Most of the drivers I talk to don't mind it.

For the reason's you talk about, THERE AINT MANY STOPS FOR THEM TO MAKE!

We won't really know how it will work until they have the max picking up people down there.

The old mall was complete chaos.

I'm not convinced this design is particularly wise.

From a rider standpoint I think your complaints are valid.

Having the max run down there is nothing but PORK.

I don't know if I'd call an "exaggerated" sense of personal entitlement. We do pay the taxes and tolls to build the roads, after all, and should be able to use them. Tri-Met has its own set of taxes and subsidies (and still provides crap service and loses money).

Once the new MAX line start running up the length of the bus mall, won't people be able to hop it a couple of blocks to the next stop for their bus?


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Phil Stanford - The Peyton-Allan Files
Jesse Katz - The Opposite Field
Evelyn Waugh - Brideshead Revisited
J.K. Rowling - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
David Sedaris - Holidays on Ice
Donald Miller - A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
Mitch Albom - Have a Little Faith
C.S. Lewis - The Magician's Nephew
F. Scott Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby
William Shakespeare - A Midsummer Night's Dream
Ivan Doig - Bucking the Sun
Penda Diakité - I Lost My Tooth in Africa
Grace Lin - The Year of the Rat
Oscar Hijuelos - Mr. Ives' Christmas
Madeline L'Engle - A Wrinkle in Time
Steven Hart - The Last Three Miles
David Sedaris - Me Talk Pretty One Day
Karen Armstrong - The Spiral Staircase
Charles Larson - The Portland Murders
Adrian Wojnarowski - The Miracle of St. Anthony
William H. Colby - Long Goodbye
Steven D. Stark - Meet the Beatles
Phil Stanford - Portland Confidential
Rick Moody - Garden State
Jonathan Schwartz - All in Good Time
David Sedaris - Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
Anthony Holden - Big Deal
Robert J. Spitzer - The Spirit of Leadership
James McManus - Positively Fifth Street
Jeff Noon - Vurt

Road Work

Miles run year to date: 113
At this date last year: 155
Total run in 2016: 155
In 2015: 271
In 2014: 401
In 2013: 257
In 2012: 129
In 2011: 113
In 2010: 125
In 2009: 67
In 2008: 28
In 2007: 113
In 2006: 100
In 2005: 149
In 2004: 204
In 2003: 269

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