Tuesday, December 29, 2009

You Don't See This Everyday

As seen at the Bond & Lane Streetcar Stop at 6:45p, 12/29

Thursday, December 17, 2009

In 2009

The end of the year is near, and what a year it was. More things made a debut in (West Coast) Transit this year than any other year I can think of.
Heres a summary of all the fun we had this year:

New Lines Galore: TriMets WES and Green Line, Sound Transits LINK Light Rail, & Community Transits SWIFT BRT. LA Metro also had an extension to the Gold Line. Phoenix Metro rolled out their Light Rail very Late 2008, much of its new ridership was this year, they only had 5 days of operations in 08.

San Diego MTS, NCTD, LA Metro, San Francisco (MUNI), and Puget Sound areas rolled out SmartCard Fare Payment Systems.

San Diego, Snohomish County, and Seattle all took delivery of new Hybrid or Clean Air BRT style Buses. Portland and Seattle took delivery of new Light Rail cars. Seattle continues to lead by example by purchasing 93 new Orion Hybrid Buses, with an option of over 600 more in the contract. Portland also received a new Streetcar built in the USA, even tho it never comes out to play.

Every agency has suffered some of the biggest cuts to transit ever, many have cut service, raised fares, or both.

We have seen some pretty bad incidents this year, Metrolink had a fatal crash caused by texting, Computer error causes Washington Metros trains to collide resulting in fatalities, Plus a handful of crashes on LINK already.

Oaklands BART work force averts a strike with 6 hours to spare, Philadelphia's SEPTA system Strikes for 6 days, crippling the city and overloading the Regional Rail System. Portlands TriMet employees contract has expired, and negotiations are not looking positive.

Transit agencies are turning to Twitter and Facebook to reach their riders, San Diego leads the pack on both while BART, Metrolink, KCM, ST And PT follow closely behind. OCTA and TriMet use these mediums, but don't really take them seriously.

Here at Home Base for me, TriMet has been criticized more than ever! Cutting Bus Service while MAX grows, the union of bus drivers wants the GM out, Executives are rewarding themselves with hefty salaries and bonuses, Bus drivers running red lights videos emerge, cell phone usage while driving is out of hand, No new bus orders, Portland Mall MAX loop (Waste of money while bus service suffers), MAX disruptions are occurring at least once to twice a WEEK, and Fareless Square for buses will end. Yet, everyone (execs) at the agency acts if they don't care.

Steve Banta is positioned to take over at Phoenix Metro.

NCTD makes bold decision to outsource bus drivers and mechanics positions.

I meet "Rantings" driver Al M, meanwhile his blog has been under fire twice from those whom disagree with him at TriMet.

I started this blog!

Big plans ahead: TriMets controversial Orange Line to Milwaulkie, City of Portlands Eastside Streetcar Loop, City of Seattles First Hill Streetcar, Sound Transits University LINK, King County Metros First BRT line, and Los Angeles Metros Expo Line. San Diego's MTS ordered over 50 new Light Rail Cars.

The next year will be a rough road, many agencies will still continue to feel the pinch from lowered sales tax and payroll tax revenues, and may pass these on to riders. In California, many agencies are receiving $0 in State funding that they have received int he past. In Portland, TriMet relies heavily on the Payroll tax, which is tied to the states high unemployment rate. In California and Washington, Sales Tax revenues are down sharply, causing another blow to California agencies.

I have made a video of the events and videos I have been to and made in the last year. Call it a "Video Yearbook" if you want, I can tell you this, it was fun to make. (Make sure your sound is on, its part of it all)

With that, I bid farewell to 2009, and I am not so sure about looking forward to 2010 yet, but it will be interesting to see what hell will break loose, and what will improve. I spent the entire year unemployed, thanks to the one passenger railroad you never see mentioned on my blog, and never will.

I hope you all have a great Holiday Season, I will be on hiatus until after the First of the year, See you all in the new year!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Random Rant

This is a rant of my recent travels about the city:

-The traffic lights could be better programmed by kindergartners! Heres comes a herd of traffic, nows a good time to change. The Transit mall lights are all screwed up, cross traffic sometimes gets out of sync lights. (Front Ave is also a prime example of stupid lights)

-Construction, Construction, Construction, Theres so much of it, you almost can not get around town with out a detour. On the inner Eastside, they close streets with no warning, one day it could be closed, the next day its open, come on! And a detour on Burnside at Rush Hour, how dumb are these idiots!

-F'ing Parking meters, used to be a quarter was the minimum (still is in the Lloyd Center Area), now its $0.40, some damn consistency please! Using my card for a $0.40 Meter costs more than a $0.25 minimum.

-MAX at Rose Quarter, just because MAX is late doesn't mean motorists should have to wait FIVE minutes to make a left turn, F@#K MAX Signal Priority!! They can wait 30 seconds so we can get on our merry way. MAX is NOT environmentally friendly when its causing cars to idle for prolonged periods!

-Attention Bicyclists and Pedestrians, Wearing all black (or dark colors) in the dark will cause you to almost get hit!!!! I cant friggin see you in the dark!

-Subaru Wagons and Priuses! Need I say more, keep these slugs off the road.

-The people on street corners looking for "Donations for a cause", Shooo, leave me the hell alone!

-The citys ongoing mission to spend money on anything but Potholes!

-Smart Park charging you for 2 hours, when your parked for 1 hour and 9 minutes.

Driving...or going out in this town is becoming riskier every day. Not to mention, the citizens that operate on the convenience factor, they want every thing for this city (environmental crap), but only when it works for them.

Changes coming for the New Year

So, a lot is changing or coming for the new year, heres a run down:

TriMet is chopping Fareless Square to the "Free Rail Zone", oddly, the announcements already reflect the new name.

TriMet Line 15 will travel on 21st Ave instead of 23rd ave while some sewer construction goes on (Seriously, MORE "Lets keep people out of Downtown" construction, City of Portland knows how to keep stuff screwed up)

Free Service on TriMet only after 8pm on New Years Eve until the end of Service. (Not a change, but worth mentioning)

ORCA is being turned into an absolute. Transfers are history (Except KCM, within KCM routes only). Also Day Passes are restricted or eliminated. KCM is eliminating the Weekend Day Pass. The Round Trip pass you purchase from a Sounder or Link TVM will only be valid as a Day Pass on the service in which machine you bought it from. For example, a Link RT Ticket is good as a Day Pass on Link ONLY, there are no transfer privileges with it, and you can not upgrade it on Sounder. Sounder Day Passes are good on Sounder only. I personally think they screwed up doing this, because if it was an effort to save money, fares would be going up. KCM transfers will be valid on KCM routes only. They are NOT valid on Sound Transit or Link, this includes Metro Operated ST Routes. Monthly Passes are only available on ORCA. Orca cards are free until 1/31.

KCM Service Changes early next year, including the discontinuation of Route 194.

KCM RapidRide still scheduled for early 2010 start.

SF Muni Adult Monthly FastPass will Rise $15 to $70, this pass has risen $25 over the course of the last year. A New "M" pass will be available for $55 and will not be valid on BART. Visitor Passports (Daypasses) are also rising $2. Fares also rose this last year to $2, a 0.50 increase, Transfers were retained.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Poll Results - which of these areas do you think trimet needs to improve in most?

MAX Service
2 (20%)
Bus Service
6 (60%)
Customer Service/Website
1 (10%)
1 (10%)

There is a new poll on how you would rate Batnas performance at TriMet.

Steve Banta to go to Phoenix Transit Agency

Negotiations begin for Banta to take over as CEO for the Phoenix Valley Metro agency. The story is here. Is this the beginning of a management shake up we were promised? And the next question, who is going to take his place? My big wonder is, typically the most sought after persons in the transit world move around because other agencies want that person and their experience, so if Fred Hansen is recognized as a "Leader in Transit", why do we still have him, how come we can not get rid of him no matter how hard we try. Maybe his "Leadership" isn't so great after all, I think the people of this great land already know that. See ya Banta, wish you luck in flatland. Now, Anyone going to miss Banta? Anyone interested in Fred? We won't put up a fight if some other agency wants him.

Update: Banta has accepted the job and contract and will take his new position in Phoenix in Mid-January.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Transit Beer Recap

On Saturday, Dec 5, we had a Transit Beer Conference. Adron, Max, Jason Barbur, Jason McHuff and myself were all in attendance. It was a good evening of conversation and debate about TriMet, WES, Transit Trackers, Streetcars, planning errors, and more. Heres a summary of what we talked about:

//Max discussed his Schedules, TransitQ, for the Palm. His shows scheduled times for ALL bus stops, not just timepoints as a regular schedule would.
//Leaving the child on a MAX Platform, what would we do? Jason discussed how his group briefed on what do if they got separated, everyone had a plan of action.
//Fred Australia trip, NO ONE knows what went on there, Jason was denied attendance to the presentation.
//BRT in Australia runs on dedicated tire tracks.
//How is it TriMet spend Taxpayer money, when the taxpayers have no say? We, The Taxpayers of Portland OWN TriMet! If the People do not give this money thru taxes to TriMet, TriMet cannot operate.
//Briefly looked at the Metro Orange Line BRT Line
//Streetcars do not need fancy stops, Like MUNI in San Francisco
//BRT Does not need fancy stops to work, Like LA Metro, Simply using 60' buses and a regular bus stop, our example did not even have a shelter. This could work for the 72 line.
//Placement for bike racks on light rail cars. Is the middle of the car, or by the door best? Maybe more than one hook per slot.
//We compared a few fares between other agencies. The Zone system in Portland needs to go.
//We looked at the TriMet interactive map, you can track buses on this map.
//The demise of Frequent Service, despite TriMet trying to change the definition, we feel Frequent Service exists only on one line.
//Jason Barbur discussed what the TriMet Riders union is. They meet at the Chit-Chat Cafe on Wednesdays at 6pm, anyone is welcome.
//TriMet could run a much better transit system if management ran it better, the right people are not in the right positions.
//We briefly discussed the unions "No Confidence in Fred" reasons. We agree with many of the points. LIFT Costs too much to operate as a whole.
//Bus Costs $ 94.73 MAX $264.75 WES $ 1029.35 /per operating hour
//We discussed WES in great length. TriMet made a poor move in purchasing new DMU cars versus leasing equipment, or purchasing used cars in the first place. Also TriMet can not use any other cars because of the raised platforms.
//All should have ceased instead of bailing out Colorado Railcar and explored other options that would saved money.
//TriMet should have built regular platforms, similar to MAX Platforms, to be more versatile with other equipment.
//We discussed Banta Possibly Leaving.
//Line 72 has not lost any riders to the Green Line. The Green Line does not cater to line 72 customers.
//The CRC is dumb, poorly thought out, and costs too much.
//Why didn't TriMet study running MAX over the I-205 bridge from Parkrose to Vancouver, where more of Vancouver population is, and could use it?
//Merge TriMet and Metro to create something along the lines of Portlands version of Sound Transit. ST creates and plans roads and freeways in way to benefit transit, and it works. ST Projects are voted on, ST was created as a result of a vote. Also, most ST ballot measures involving taxes and spending are approved by voters.
//All of TriMets projects should be voted on by the very people that provide them the money to spend, the taxpayers.
//All of Freds activities should be public, after we are paying to run the place.
//Possible commuter rail via the O&E line through Sellwood, Lake Oswego, Sherwood, and possibly connecting to the current WES line to serve Salem.
//Amtrak, most West Coast routes are owned by the state in which the operate in, Amtrak just operates it, in many cases, Amtrak does not own the equipment.
//TriMet should focus on running the current system efficiently, and to a higher standard before taking on more, such as the Milwaulkie Light Rail.
//TriMet should be spending more of the stimulus money in way to directly benefit customers. Many believe the idea to not purchase new buses was a big mistake. Possibly using the funds to implement a SmartCard system to simplify fare collection. A Customer on a 105 degree bus could care lees about a new bus wash. Many of the projects were unjustified, and did not save or create a large amount of jobs.
//Why TriMet hiring a Twitter person would be beneficial. Currently Alerts are hardly ever posted in a timely fashion, they have been working on it for months now. Twitter would create a better Customer relationship with TriMet.

Thats what I seem to remember, if you were there, and I forgot anything, let me know. If you have anything you would like to add, or debate, feel free to comment! It was a good meet, I hope to get together again.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Look-out...its the FREE RAIL ZONE, Coming Soon!

Free Rail Zone

In January, Fareless Square becomes the "Free Rail Zone"

Free Rail Zone iconAs of January 3, 2010, Fareless Square will become a free zone for rail only. That means you can still ride MAX and Portland Streetcar for free in downtown Portland and the Lloyd District, but not buses. To help communicate this important change, we're changing the name of the zone to "Free Rail Zone."

The Free Rail Zone will have the same boundaries as Fareless Square: Most of downtown Portland (within the boundaries of the Willamette River, NW Irving Street, and I-405) and MAX stations from the Rose Quarter to the Lloyd District.

This winter, we'll be adding new Free Rail Zone emblems on customer information displays at rail stations within the zone boundary.

To help our Honored Citizen riders who live in downtown Portland, TriMet is offering a newdowntown-only bus pass.