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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on April 1, 2010 8:45 PM. The previous post in this blog was Wheels coming off the Catholic Church. The next post in this blog is Moss on your roof, in Portland?. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Thursday, April 1, 2010

OMG! Earl the Pearl putting in for money to buy buses!

Here in Portland, where we're all ga-ga for trains and streetcars these days, the bus system is going to pot. The routes are being cut, and a lot of the buses are old and rickety. Today comes the shocking news that Portland Congressman Earl Blumenauer is asking his colleagues to throw Tri-Met $15.4 million toward the cost of 45 new buses. We locals would have to come up with the rest of the $19.25 million on our own.

At one time, that amount would have seemed like a good-sized investment in equipment, but when you think about how Tri-Met burned $161.2 million on the ludicrous WES train and another $575.7 million on the MAX line to the Clackamas Mall, you realize what a spectacular buy an order for 45 buses turns out be. It works out to $428,000 a bus, and each one runs wherever you want it to for 15 or 20 years. They can even change lanes! We're talking amazing technology here, people.

Comments (21)

Jack, I really love the sarcasm, but it really does rub the wrong way that these "city leaders" have shoved light rail and street cars down our throats KNOWING that the good old bus was the most cost effective mode of public transit. Blumenauer, Adams, Gustafson and all the streetcar cronies should produce their analyses of why rail is better than bus; I'd really like to see that one.

Trains and streetcars sell bad condos and apartments -- or at least they did for a while -- and that's all they're good for. I believe the sales pitch is that they "spur development." Same thing.

In place of 45 more conventional buses made in Canada (with seats installed state side) lets go for 30 articulated models made in China. Less driver labor coat and more ad space.

With what we paid for the Green Line, we could have bought 1,345 buses.

Gustafson made a whole heap a bunch of money putting in those streetcars don't y'all forget!

go by skateboard........

@Abe Are you a CEO of a large company that ships jobs overseas? New Flyer (builder of TriMets newest buses) has 3 Manufacturing facilities, 1 in Canada and TWO in Minnesota USA! They employ over 700 people in the US to build buses. I highly doubt its just to put in seats (which the transit agencies do sometimes themselves). The plant is suffering because like TriMet, many agencies decided not to buy buses, but to spend on projects that do not benefit the public riders. I vote to keep the jobs here, buy from Minnesota USA!

What the area needs to do is look at the laws that prevent competition in the transit business. If the new buzz word is transparency then that word should apply to the laws that restrict what people are allowed to do in the marketplace. Problem is most people have no idea such laws are on the books or the history behind them.

Opening the market and getting private investors to spend their own bucks would save taxpayers a bundle. And btw Volvo makes a great bus.

Now if we could just get some HOT lanes for them to drive on we would have a 21st century solution to traffic.

I don't get it - how does purchasing 45 more buses fit into the Bicycle Lobby's agenda?

Do they have doors that only allow boarding after stowing a bike?

Jack, last time I asked you stated that you were in favor of MAX - this has apparently changed. May I ask why?

I agree that the streetcar and WES are poorly-thought out. But MAX?

Hey - Be happy it wasn't for 500,000 bike-n-bowtie starter kit giveaways.

Doesn't Mr Blue-manure ever care about anything besides buses and streetcars - Like schools and overpriced water/sewer fees?

With what we paid for the Green Line, we could have bought 1,345 buses.

...or 23,000 nicely equipped cars.

Nicely equipped cars that don't require a driver with a big fat pension. Many modern cars emit fewer emissions than MAX or busses do per passenger mile too.

abe -

You may not have noticed. but TriMet at one time had a significant fleet of articulated buses.

They were unusable in any serious rain or minor snow or ice event, and ran like dogs all the time.

Pay attention to geography and topography. "Artics" don't run well in the hills.

Steve's comment: . . Doesn't Mr Blue-manure ever care about anything besides buses and streetcars - Like schools and overpriced water/sewer fees?

Apparently not. I asked for a letter from him as to what he has done to uphold the oath that he took to our country and constitution?
That is far more important than his drive on the "choo choo trains"! The office is usually more than willing to want to send letters, but did not ever get a reply to that request.

If the trains are more important than our constitution, get a citizen in there who does care.

He also is not assisting in saving our Bull Run Water System. Since he is local born and certainly knows the value of this system, this is quite a betrayal.

FYI: Portland's LR fleet is actually older than the bus fleet.

http://www.ntdprogram.gov/ntdprogram/pubs/top_profiles/2007/agency_profiles/0008.pdf

"It works out to $428,000 a bus, and each one runs wherever you want it to for 15 or 20 years."

The average bus life is not that high. I believe it's more like 12 years.

A light rail car costs more, but its lifespan is 3 times that of a bus.

That does not mean we shouldn't buy new buses, but something to question in regards to lifespan costs of transit modes.

My arguments are in regards to bus vs. MAX, not bus vs. streetcar.

Asking if someone is "for" or "against" rail is overly simplistic. The blue and red MAX lines are tremendous regional assets (and the Yellow line will be as well, once it extends to Vancouver). Many urban areas (e.g., Seattle) would kill for a rail system that connects the hubs of their five largest cities along with their main airport. These lines have their design faults (the blue line in particular cut corners for the sake of fast and cheap construction) but they still comprise one of the nation's great transit success stories, and the Portland area has benefited enormously from them over the past two decades. However, Tri-Met should have halted rail development at that point and focused instead on strengthening bus service (and extending it to 24 hours in main corridors). The green line, WES and streetcar were not worth their cost and should not have been built. The first two don't serve sufficiently populated areas, and probably won't for at least another 50 years. The streetcar is totally redundant to bus service and adds little or no real value to the system.

Chad: The plant is suffering because like TriMet, many agencies decided not to buy buses, but to spend on projects that do not benefit the public riders. I vote to keep the jobs here, buy from Minnesota USA!

I agree, however New Flyer is actually doing pretty well.

http://www.newswire.ca/en/releases/archive/March2010/23/c4480.html

On March 23 they released FY2009 results: revenue up 14.4%, EBITDA up 8.2%, sustained backlog of 8,990 units (equivalent to a 40' bus), improved liquidity.

I have said that Daimler should convert their Freightliner plant to an Orion Bus plant and build buses right here in Portland - they would build as many buses in one month, as Oregon Iron Works would build streetcars in several years.

The Other John: Many modern cars emit fewer emissions than MAX or busses do per passenger mile too

On average, yes, but a fully loaded bus will still beat out a car. The average Prius I see still only has one or two people in it.

Nonny Mouse: You may not have noticed. but TriMet at one time had a significant fleet of articulated buses. They were unusable in any serious rain or minor snow or ice event, and ran like dogs all the time.

This is oft-repeated by TriMet critics. The problem is not articulated buses per se, the problem was the specific model of articulated bus that TriMet purchased.

TriMet purchased a bus that was manufactured by a Hungarian company (at the time part of the Soviet Bloc, and in fact the same model of bus is still in daily use throughout Eastern Europe countries and even in Cuba to this day). As we all know, Soviet era industries had no incentive to make products that lasted, so quality was not there. Further, the engine was mounted in the middle of the bus (the type of bus was called a "puller") which of course caused traction problems because you had a back end that was heavy and swayed.

The buses, when they worked, did work OK. TriMet had them in service from 1982 until 1998 - 16 years, when they were retired coinciding with the opening of Westside MAX (the theory was that the artics ran many westside routes, and therefore ridership would shift to MAX. However, that was quickly proven wrong and TriMet had to increase service frequencies on the former artic routes because the ridership didn't all migrate; nor were all the artic routes replicated by MAX - the 12 Barbur route being a prime example.)

Other transit agencies have had excellent use of artic buses, including Seattle (except when snowy, and Seattle has more hills than Portland does). However it would be simple to just adjust bus assignments, and reassign the artics to flat routes (like the 57 TV Highway, or the 33 McLoughlin to Oregon City but not to the college).

ws: Portland's LR fleet is actually older than the bus fleet.

Sorry, wrong.

It is true that the Type I LRVs (cars 101-126) were built in 1984-1986 and THEY are the oldest vehicles in the fleet.

The second oldest fleet type are the 1400 series Gillig Phantoms, vehicles 1401-1463, manufactured in 1990.

The third oldest fleet type are the 1600 series Gillig Phantoms (30'), vehicles 1600-1643, manufactured 1990-1991.

Then you have the 1701-1808 series Flxible Metros built in 1992 along with the 1900 series Metros (30') in 1992, and then the 1817-1843 series Metros built in 1994.

The original New Flyers, 2001-2022 and the second group of Phantoms, 2100-2165 were built in 1997 -- along with the first of the Type II LRVs (201-252, although they continued to be delivered through 2000.

Between 1998 and 2001 TriMet ordered several batches of New Flyer D40LFs, vehicles 2201-2318 and 2501-2560. Somewhere in there, the 2400 series World Trans buses were built, but those buses were retired prematurely due to several buses experiencing major engine fires. Only a couple of those remain and are used for the Washington Park Shuttle.

In 2002, TriMet's two DE40LF Hybrids were built along with 55 D40LF non-hybrid buses.

In 2003, TriMet ordered another 25 D40LF buses -- and the 27 Type III LRVs (301-327).

In 2004 no vehicles were ordered. In 2005, TriMet had the 2800 series buses built. In 2006-2008 there were no new vehicles.

In 2009, TriMet received the 2900 series buses (D40LFR, 2901-2940) as well as the Type IV LRVs (401-422).

In terms of percentages: over 75% of TriMet's light rail fleet is 13 years or newer. 40% of TriMet's bus fleet is more than 15 years old.

It should also be noted that the oldest LRVs, the Type Is, are being rebuilt by TriMet where each vehicle is completely disassembled to the frame and rebuilt. TriMet never does that to a bus. (Seattle did take a fleet of their "diesel/electric" buses and completely rebuilt them, from the frame up, as articulated trolley buses, so it can certainly be done to a bus.)

ws: The average bus life is not that high. I believe it's more like 12 years. A light rail car costs more, but its lifespan is 3 times that of a bus.

The Federal Transit Administration requires that a transit bus purchased with federal dollars last 12 years, and buses that qualify for federal funds must be tested to a 12 year life. This is done at a research facility in Altoona, Pennsylvania, so it's common for bus manufacturers to say "Altoona Tested" in their marketing. Most agencies keep their buses 12-15 years before replacement.

TriMet, however, has 40% of their fleet approaching 20 years of age with no replacement strategy. In fact Hansen cancelled the order of buses which were to be delivered in the next couple of years - he cancelled ALL upcoming bus orders. It takes about a year and a half to two years, if not more, from order to delivery - and remember, New Flyer has a huge backlog that lasts several years (many of those, however, are options that don't have a delivery scheduled.)

As for a light rail car having an automatic life span of three times that of a bus...well...tell San Francisco Muni and Boston MBTA that about their Boeing-Vertol LRVs that were a disaster. (Ironically, two of them are at a museum in Brooks.) Those agencies were literally forced to keep them running as long as they were, and often had to scrap other vehicles just for replacement parts for the rest of the fleet. It was not just a disaster for the two agencies but for Boeing (yes, the manufacturer of the 737 jet).

Semi-Cynic: The streetcar is totally redundant to bus service and adds little or no real value to the system.

Not only that, it is intended to compete with the bus system.

It would make more sense, if Portland took its busiest, established bus routes (remember that to this day, several bus lines still follow the original streetcar/trolley routes from decades ago) and slowly built them up to trolleybus and then streetcar. It would improve existing transit; allow the re-deployment of those buses on other routes (or new routes), and reward existing transit users and those who already live near transit lines, rather than greedy developers who get tax breaks just to comply with Metro's and the City's demands for development along the Streetcar.

While we are checking out buses here's Volvo's. I have nothing to do with the company except some relatives are from Sweden. I ain't sellin' nothin'.
http://www.volvobuses.com/bus/global/en-gb/products/Pages/volvo-buses-products.aspx

Nice looking products there.


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