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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Breaking news: Most people in Portland drive

Here are some new numbers to fuel the debate about whether Portlandia should continue blowing tons of transportation dollars on bikes, trains, and streetcars. What's clear from the article is that more than eight out of 10 trips taken by Portlanders are by automobile. That number, which we put in the "substantially all" category, is not going to change much. Car haters will say, "Wait 'til gasoline is $5 a gallon," or $6, or whatever number, but they neglect to mention that in that climate, mass transit fares will go up just as quickly as, if not more quickly than, fuel prices.

We get a kick out of writing that talks about percentage shares of travel without taking into account seasonal factors. In Portland, when the weather's good, everybody and her sister break out their bikes, but that's only three or four months a year. There are another four or five months when only the hard-core bikers are out there getting soaked and chilled to the bone. Are these studies giving numbers in peak cycling season, the dead of winter, or some sort of average?

But the money quote in the O article is quite a ways down:

During a presentation of the research Tuesday, Metro board members asked the authors of the $1 million study to dig even deeper to find data showing the agency's land-use planning is paying dividends.

Classic Portland politicians. "Tell us what we want to hear!" Who needs Fred Armisen when you've got Psychedelic Rex and Waylon Hughes?

Comments (24)

Let's not forget that without the mythology quite a few of them would be without a job.

I read somewhere today that 'the problems are interconnected and systemic'

Only $1 million for the study? They really do need to dig deeper.

I could have told them most people NEED to drive a car daily and I would have only charged them $ 900,000.

Mining Truth From Data Babel
Nate Silver’s ‘Signal and the Noise’ Examines Predictions
By Leonard Mlodinow, NY Times (October 23, 2012)

"A friend who was a pioneer in the computer games business used to marvel at how her company handled its projections of costs and revenue. “We performed exhaustive calculations, analyses and revisions,” she would tell me. “And we somehow always ended with numbers that justified our hiring the people and producing the games we had wanted to all along.” Those forecasts rarely proved accurate, but as long as the games were reasonably profitable, she said, you’d keep your job and get to create more unfounded projections for the next endeavor.

This doesn’t seem like any way to run a business — or a country. Yet, as Nate Silver, a blogger for The New York Times, points out in his book, “The Signal and the Noise,” studies show that from the stock pickers on Wall Street to the political pundits on our news channels, predictions offered with great certainty and voluminous justification prove, when evaluated later, to have had no predictive power at all. They are the equivalent of monkeys tossing darts."

Con't at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/24/books/nate-silvers-signal-and-the-noise-examines-predictions.html

As someone who prefers walking to driving, biking or taking public transportation, I wish this city would invest more in sidewalks.

Why do you think? It rains 10 months out of the year here and jobs aren't close to neighborhoods.

Bikes are a lot less expensive to make infrastructure for, compared to every other mode of transit, even walking, in terms of return on investment in dollars (where return is defined as a relative reduction in the use of lubrication burning cars). Every dollar spent on light rail could have gone to an ever better bicycle infrastructure. MAX is pretty cool, though, as even I use that to get across town sometimes, taking the bike with me, since in the outskirts it's just slightly faster than cycling. Streetcars are of no use to cyclists since I can beat a streetcar in speed any time. The MAX tunnel is a cheap way to avoid going over a thousand foot hill, too.

Streetcars are really expensive now and the only way they'll really pay off is maybe in a hundred years if we can get our inner core built up with tons of skyscrapers. Walking and streetcar will be more efficient than cycling at that point.

Then again, jerbs, right? Anybody wonder if Charlie Hales will be heralded as a visionary in 40 years as the city keeps building up and not out? Or will we run out of money first?

^^ "lubrication burning cars" ^^

Does your VW run on KY? Vaselinemobile! Now THAT'S a slick ride!


Seth, just exactly how much infrastructure will help the mom with two toddlers go grocery shopping on a bike on a rainy December evening? Or the aging guy with creaky knees that really can't ride very far or very fast (that's me and pretty much every youg bike warrior over time). Sheesh . . .

Ritz, you make a good point, it doesn't take much. Just minor changes like closing a few right turns or putting in signals to alternate the bike and car traffic at troubled intersections. I know this audience loathes that kind of suggestion, which is why it's fun to make it here. I personally don't mind cycling with cars and find bike lanes only really useful around difficult intersections (boulevards that cut off car traffic every ten blocks to reduce through traffic are the best bang for the buck in my view). Don't want to do this on too many roads too close to the main roads, or alternate routing around congestion becomes harder (as I write navigation software so this is a concern of mine too, to reduce fuel use idling in traffic).

As far as old age, I'm hoping that Charlie Hales's descendants will install a system of pneumatic tubes to transport us all around in by then. PRT on steroids.

And yes, I understand that after fractioning the lubrication gets processed into what's more like a flammable solvent, but it kind of started as a useful organic lubricant. It's organic right? That means I can eat it?

I always enjoyed riding home in the rain, ice and sleet at 11:00 at night after putting in a 10 hour shift. Gave me good reasons to drink.

Crude oil's original use was as a medicine, topically applied and ingested, depending on the malady to be treated.

Meanwhile, the hyping of bicycling as a primary mode of mass transportation is one of the worst flim-flams being perpetrated around here -- by a toxic combo of graying fraud artists and young-ish cycling maniacs. And it isn't weird, you hipster nitwits, it's stupid and sick.

Seth, you jest when you sugest that we agree - or that I am part of any particular "audience." I bike and know many bikers, most of whom consider the urban and suburban infrastructure more than adequate to their needs. I agree, largely because bikes are a marginal mass transportation mode most of the time for most folks in Oregon. So, no, design new infrastructure with proportionate consideration for the small minority of bikers who would use it regularly, and spend no money to change existing infrastructure.

This conversation is really about money, isn't it? Why isn't my proposal the most reasonable allocation of limited resources (which I assume you'd agree are tax dollars and fees - *you* don't actually have *any* direct infrastructure costs)? Why wouldn't the "transportation infrastructure" money be better spent on maintaining existing infrastructure (like roads and bridges), providing more basic stuff (paved streets or sidewalks, or, diverted to some other function we'd prefer to fund - courts, schools, the arts, whatever - or, just sayin', not collected in the first place?

First time I read this b.s. in Big O I said to myself...oooohhh, I hope Jack jumps all over this. Thank you! You also picked out the best nugget of info from entire article. I just don't think this info really gets through to average Portland metro area citizen.

Tonight at 7:12 p.m., the east side streetcar stopped on NE Weidler at MLK had exactly five passengers on board. That's a big $5 of revenue... if they all paid.

Anyone that promotes biking as a major transportation mode is longing for a mythical past that never existed.

And we are now living in a very sad paradox:

As China develops, the bike is shed for more reasonable and preferable transportation.

As Amerika deteriorates, the bike is reintroduced because that is all people will be able to afford. And probably sooner than you think.

Anything wrong with this picture?

Ultimately, why does COP hate cars? Presumably, due to the emissions, especially carbon. But, in today's dead O, there was a special section on cars - guess what? Nearly every car company has new hybrids coming out, many of which are getting 30-40 mph in town. Electric cars are also becoming more prevalent, and the technology in both are increasingly used in conventionally-powered automobiles.

I also had a brief discussion with a weather scientist from U of W - all of the carbon reductions we do don't mean much. Carbon levels are essentially the same around the world. Our efforts would be far better used to R & D the most efficient form of engines possible, then sell that technology to the Chinese and Indians to install in their auto fleets.

Once again, reality is not optional.

"Bikes are a lot less expensive to make infrastructure for"

Not really when bicyclists pay no user fees to support that specialized infrastructure. One less driver on a bicycle is one less taxpayer making financial contributions to the transportation funding pot.

There are fees other than user fees. I do pay everything but gas taxes when I bike because I have a car and scooter.

Even if I didn't own them, I would still have other taxes contributing to local transportation. And do you think I ride my bike on freeways?

I'm subsidizing cars disproportionately to how much I use my car. Is that fair?

“The disparity, said Mike Hoglund, director of Metro's research center, is probably due to differences in how each survey's questions were asked.” Could it be that the bobble heads at Metro paid for a study that didn’t design the questions asked to reflect the preconceived outcome they desired? You can bet the next round will not contain anything open and objective, just more bias, slanted and one-sided questions to get the distorted answers they want to perpetuate their spewing propaganda.

“There are fees other than user fees. I do pay everything but gas taxes when I bike because I have a car and scooter. I'm subsidizing cars disproportionately”. Not true! If you can get to the right people at PBOT (those not proliferating the propaganda), they will tell you that auto related taxes and fees – primarily the gas tax – is what pays for streets and roads. The primary exceptions are when a utility digs up a street and must repair it; when a developer is required to make improvements associated with new or rehab construction which includes system development charges; and in urban renewal districts where tax increment funding can be used for transportation infrastructure. Property taxes do not pay for roadway infrastructure

“Anybody wonder if Charlie Hales will be heralded as a visionary in 40 years as the city keeps building up and not out? Or will we run out of money first?” The question should be: Will Charlie stand by his campaign rhetoric of paying for basic (to be determined) services first; or will he continue to create a deficit and Homerize Portland by using funds from the public trough to line the pockets of Williams and Dames and the likes?

Seth whines: "I'm subsidizing cars disproportionately to how much I use my car. Is that fair?" Nice passive-aggressive non-response from someone who apparently does not pay much in gas taxes, the primary support mechanism for street infrastructure. In any case, since when did each taxpayer get to designate his or her taxes to specific things?

Back to the real issue - the cost of your desired changes to existing infrastructure from a finite pot of money. You answered none of my prior questions, likely because you have no credible response that actually adds up. Ever ridden your bike into a pothole? I have, and its no fun. Potholes first, then basic infrastructure relevant to all modes that use the streets - that pretty much taps out the pot of money. So, any diversion to the 5% (or 2% in December) takes away infrastructure from the vast majority (hint - they drive cars). What you really want is more than your fair share.

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