Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Climate Efforts

A nice mention of Portland's work and quote from Mayor Adams. We're working on the street lighting elements and hope to be a leader in this area. There's a leap one needs to make to invest in green technology and to make the case that the reduced maintenance costs will serve the community in the long-term. Our study on LED lighting has been published and showed promise. Unfortunately, if the maintenance staff are concerned about reduced costs resulting in fewer jobs, there may be a negative connotation to the effort. The good news is there are maintenance needs elsewhere in street lighting, so there will be different jobs to do, like look after the conduit, deteriorating pole foundations, and the communication system that will be needed to control the LEDs to further reduce power demands.

There's also the need to find staff to maintain electric vehicle charging stations.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Review of Manual: the Movie

I starred in a Filmed By Bike video this year. I wasn't completely sure what the interview was going to be for and whether I would be one of several people involved, but it turned out they (Joe Biel and Steve Bozzone) made a movie that highlighted my summary of the challenges we have with the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices.

Signal Timing Data Collection Enhancements

I found this post on the Miovision Street Sense Blog and thought it was a nice combination of different relevant elements about signal timing that seem to be lost on the engineers that I work with. There's very few engineers that complete signal timing and it would be good if there was a stronger link to the signal timing in the Highway Capacity Manual.

I have been criticizing the HCM at work to determine whether it is the right tool for us as an agency as we move forward. It seems like it is stuck in a suburban model of development and will not address the importance of congestion for meeting the needs of communities. As I mentioned in the post about the Vancouver BC visit, their policies offer clear direction with some interpretation. To improve the transportation system for the freight community, we need to carefully consider improvements like signal priority for our larger friends and provide good traveller information to encourage off-peak use. I also like the idea of making tolls (Columbia River Crossing) freight friendly, reducing the cost for goods movement in the off-peak.

Bicycle Signals Moving Forward in Oregon Senate

One of the many unique tasks I have enjoyed while working at the City has included the chance to testify in front of the Senate and House Committees on Transportation related to Bicycle Signals. SB 130 has moved forward due to my testimony and response to questions. The last round was very contentious and there were several pointed questions related to the following topics:

  1. Compliance (we have some sense of this based on the early studies), 
  2. Delay to motorists (there's the potential for some, but we have kept it as low as possible without compromising safety), 
  3. Costs (they are truly minimal since we're adding signals where we already have a lot of infrastructure), and
  4.  Safety (our records have been very good in this regard).
The City has six now and we're in the process of developing some additional sites currently where it can improve the performance of the street network or we have bicycle only movements where it is intuitive. 

To address #1, #2, and #4 we need to get Portland State involved more to study the issue. 

Visit from Vancouver BC Transportation Staff

We had a group of transportation officials from the Vancouver community visit us on Friday.
Vancouver BC is seen as a peer to Portland in many ways and they have done some great things that we can learn from. They also operate under a different set of constraints than we do in the U.S. and their flashing green "half signals" are a good example where they are continuing to build pedestrian and bicycle treatments at a rapid clip.

They have had a great number of successes with freight traffic and integrating the compromises necessary of increased density and maintaining capacity. They have a policy of no new auto capacity based on their community plans and I asked questions about how that can be construed as freight friendly. I didn't have enough time to discuss that with the staff and need to follow up because that was a bit confusing to me. Their relationship with freight seemed clearly different than ours (which we will improve with investments in our system).

The peer discussions and comparisons of our two cities was a good opportunity to compare notes on things that have worked for our collective communities. One of the main things we talked about was integration of light rail with the signal system. In Portland, we have several different examples that combine different elements. In most cases, City staff have worked on these corridors until they have worked efficiently for most users. In the event you're reading this and you can't agree with that statement, give me a call.
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Shift's Breakfast on the Bridges

One of my favorite events in Portland is Breakfast on the Bridges. I stop in most last Fridays because it is on the way to work and it's a great time to connect with community.
This Friday was particularly awesome because there were pancakes and bacon in addition to the usual coffee and Voodoo doughnuts. The SHIFT version of a food cart was well organzied and delivered tasty pancakes cooked to order.
The cook was well equipped through the cargo bike and all of the various folks that helped put on the event.
I was a little disappointed that the syrup wasn't homemade or organic, there were plastic forks, and they ran out of fruit. I mean if you're going to do things right, they should do the job completely (kidding).
The Voodoo doughnuts are always a nice touch. There are many people behind SHIFT, but the most visible person that I know is Steph Routh. She's won several awards recently recognizing how much she does for the community and has been such a pleasure to get to know over the past four or five years. As the Willamette Pedestrian Coalition Executive Director, she serves dual duty during Breakfast on the Bridges, welcoming people of all modes to join us at the table for a nice cup of coffee in a patented Goodwill mug. It's another example of the integration of bikes, sustainability, and community minded fun that I enjoy when I stop every month.
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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Transportation Technology Innovations

Traffic Signals Go Red when Speeding
I have heard about this concept before and it would be easy to do with appropriate detection. I'd have a hard time getting this implemented through the City staff and I would see a benefit if you could give a benefit to vehicles travelling at the speed limit.
Bluetooth for Arterial Travel Times
In other news, the following implementation in Houston has lead the way to provide performance results on arterials. We have a few units out in the field now, but have been outdone by our friends down south.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Oregonlive Editorial on Planning

I had a spare minute to read the Opinion section in the Oregonian tonight. A short piece on thoughts for scenario planning by a Masters of Urban & Regional Planning student from Portland State University. Of course the comments ranged from the ridiculous to the just flat wrong and I had to post the following response to the post comment from a regular commenter:

ultimately if Portland doesn't offer what people want, people will leave Portland. With people leaving, so will services and businesses that employ people. Can you say "Detroit"? Portland MUST offer something for everyone - even if you don't agree with it. That means affordable single-family residences designed for people with children.

Here's my response:

I don't often post in these forums because mostly the comments are laughable, but this one had some thought to it and people might actually think Detroit and Portland are comparable. So let's just take a look at Detroit and Portland... I would agree that we don't want to emulate Detroit (they have had 20% population leaving the City in the past 10 years) and their design with the automobile in mind (they are home to the Big 3 automakers) has made the community hard to get around without a car. Our city's emphasis on smart growth (transit, bike, and peds) has been successful. Portland's trend looks a little different with the City adding 10% in the past 10 years, with stronger growth in the previous decades: 
Portland has significant challenges as does the entire metro region, but we've also got a vibrant central city that while not for everyone, offers an attractive place that has lead to a net migration. I feel like it is a great place to raise a family, recreate, and work. We bought a starter home in Milwaukie and then moved to Portland after several years of wanting a more walkable neighborhood, so we're part of that 10% increase in the past decade.

Sunday Parkways SE Edition

I rode through the Sunday Parkways route twice today. On my first trip through at SE 100th & Holgate, I was stopped by a guy who was pulling the bikes out of the garage. He hollered over as I was passing by, "Do you have a pump?" I was carrying one today since I was out for a longer ride and so I stopped and offered him my small pump. At first he said, "It looks like it's for smaller valves" and then I showed him how it worked and he was happy to have the opportunity to get the bike ready for himself and his wife. He added color commentary while working on the bike: "wife needs a little more air since she's a little heavier than me". He had a modest house with camping chairs in the front and three cars in the driveway. He was definitely not a spandex wearing Lance Armstrong type, a Bicycle Transportation Alliance member, or your daily commuting cyclist. He seemed more like most of the 500,000 or so residents who doesn't think twice about people on bicycles that he passes by every day. One of the reasons Sunday Parkways is so important for the City is that it gets community members that wouldn't otherwise be on their bikes today to try it out. It helps them experience life on two wheels, to feel how vulnerable a person is on a bicycle when crossing major intersections, and perhaps remind them of some of their joys of a childhood. It may just take them back to a time when they could bike to a friends house or around the block with the freedom afforded when a City makes streets safe for all users, prioritizing the citizens rather than the ones travelling through it.

He also said (unsolicited) that he thought the City was doing a great thing for the neighborhood. He liked the police presence and the community aspect that the event brought to this area. "This neighborhood could go straight down the tubes, this sort of thing seems to cheer everyone up a bit, making us appreciate what we have". It's that sort of spirit that Portland could use more of.

My second trip through, I ran into several friends on the route that were enjoying the day. They were happy to see so many people, even on a day that turned a bit cold. I especially enjoyed seeing some of my colleagues who aren't always on their bikes, but are exposing their children to cycling. It is my hope that are community values will be shared with them and we will have continued our emphasis on healthier communities in the years to come.
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Monday, May 16, 2011

Making the Portland Streetcar Faster

I have had a great time working with two capstone classes at Portland State University on transportation applications. This is one of the efforts. Implementation is coming soon.

Update (5/22/11): The vimeo page has been viewed almost 1,000 times. It's no internet sensation, but I have enjoyed watching it.
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