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Archive for August, 2007

North Bethany won’t have high level of transit service

Posted by Peter W on August 20, 2007

I wanted to make sure that people in the North Bethany development could easily get to their destination by transit, so I asked the county:

I noticed that TriMet has been involved in some of the discussions about N. Bethany and I was wondering if they (or any other source) has said how much density is required to support frequent bus service? If so, will N. Bethany be built to that density?

Ideally, North Bethany would be dense enough to support a frequent bus to the Willow Creek MAX stop, Sunset TC, and even downtown Hillsboro, Beaverton, and Portland. But it looks like we’ll be lucky to see the #52 serving any of the area. According to Washington County Planner Laurie Harris:

Phil Selinger, TriMet’s representative on the TAC, gave a presentation at the April 12, 2007 TAC and SWG meetings. The discussion is summarized in the following documents:
SWG meeting summary (page 2):
TAC meeting summary (page 2):
Phil said that North Bethany likely wouldn’t achieve densities to support high transit service [my emphasis. -peter] throughout North Bethany. In addition to density, there are urban design and development strategies that support transit, such as pedestrian-friendly amenities, sidewalks, and street connections. There is potential to extend Line 52 from PCC into one of the North Bethany neighborhood nodes or community center.

According to papers I’ve read (1, 2, 3) , there are some generally accepted guidelines for densities required to support transit. Here is what I’ve seen (note, the papers didn’t usually say, but I assume they are in units / gross acre):

  • bus service becomes feasible at 7 units per acre
  • frequent bus service becomes feasible at 15 units per acre
  • rail transit becomes feasible at 30 units / acre

If Metro requires that new land brought into the Urban Growth Boundary be developed at 10 units / net acre, how come most of North Bethany won’t support at least infrequent buses? The reason is that the density they are looking at works out to be about 5.75 units / gross acre (equivalent to 10 units / net acre, when you don’t count land used for open space and roads), which isn’t enough to support transit. However, they plan on concentrating higher density development near the main civic center at Kaiser Rd so they can build low density sprawling suburbs on the rest of the site – this might be enough to support transit to that area.

I think the county needs to think more about the proper density for the site. Here are some questions I still have:

  1. Is there enough office/commercial to generate mid day trips to sustain frequent (or even infrequent) during non-commute times?
  2. If a certain level of transit becomes feasible at a given density, how much higher does the density need to be before that level of transit will usually be successful, or even pay for itself?
  3. How much of a given density is required? If most people will only walk 1/4 of a mile to a bus stop, how many people should be within 1/4 of a mile to support that stop, and how many such stops are needed along a service corridor?
  4. I’m guessing that if driving were more expensive, even lower densities would support transit. How much more would driving need to cost for 5.75 units / gross acre to support frequent service?
  5. Can we prove that for the lifetime of the houses (say 100 years), we will always have cheap personal transport? Oil sure looks like it is running out and nothing else promises to be as cheap or easy. If we know we’re running out of cheap oil, is it really appropriate to build at such low, automobile dependent, densities?

Posted in north bethany, planning, transportation, washington county | Leave a Comment »

Bike Camping!

Posted by Peter W on August 19, 2007

The deer at Oxbow are probably too tame!

If you haven’t been bike camping yet, you need to go! I’d recommend Metro‘s Oxbow Regional Park — it’s close, it’s huge, and it’s super cool.

A couple weeks ago I took off with friends from the Rock Creek Bicycle Alliance and a few others, and we biked to Oxbow. Jenny and I actually took off early and got there Friday afternoon, which turned out to be a good idea – there were only 5 spaces left when we got there. Saturday we went back into town and met the rest of the group at the last MAX stop in Gresham. Mat and Erin couldn’t make it, so the group was Jenny, Thomas, Stephanie, Janel, Chris, Tyler, Andrea, and myself.

We took off from there and promptly learned why I do not lead rides… Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in bikes, rock creek bicycle alliance | 1 Comment »

Federal Government sees end of cheap oil coming

Posted by Peter W on August 18, 2007

Apparently even the Feds realize that we’re running out of oil quickly. I’m reading a study by the Dept. of Energy that is talking about the need to start producing oil from oil shale …

The idea of “peak oil” (the point where production of oil reaches a peak and begins to decline) has been around for a long time. In 1956 a geologist from Shell Oil, M. King Hubbert, forcasted based on oil production data that the US would reach peak oil production in 1976 (he was slightly off – it actually peaked in 1970). Although oil doesn’t run out until long after the peak, the problem is that as soon as the supply of oil fails to meet the demand, the price skyrockets. During the 1970s oil shocks, a 5% decrease in supply resulted in the price quadrupling. Information on peak oil is available on wikipedia, in the general media, and in oil industry news, and extensive info is available from peak oil websites. They even have a major movie coming out now!

Anyway, back to the Energy Dept. study, here’s a few key quotes:

Although there is no agreement about the date that world oil production will peak, forecasts presented by USGS geologist Thomas Magoon (Ref. 6), the OGJ, and others expect the peak will occur between 2003 and 2020 (the year the prediction was made follows the name). What is notable about these predictions is that none extend beyond the year 2020 [my emphasis], suggesting that the world may be facing shortfalls much sooner than expected by the EIA.

2003 – Campbell, 1998
2003 – Deffeyes, 2001
2004 to 2019 – Bartlett, 2000
2007 – Duncan and Youngquist, 1999
2008 – Laherrère, 2000
2010 to 2020 – International Energy Agency (IEA), 1998
2020 – Edwards, 1997

Further, it states:

Every effort needs to be made to reduce oil demand. Conservation and improved end-use efficiency are essential. Higher (real) prices will naturally force consumers to conserve and live within supply constraints. However, a severe supply-demand discontinuity could lead to worldwide economic chaos.

Remember, this is the federal government saying this. Of course, they purpose of their document is to forward the idea of producing more fossil fuels domestically. According to the document, the US has the equivalent to 2 trillion barrels of oil locked up in oil shale, and if we could just make use of that, we’ll be set. There are just a few problems:

  1. Oil shale is not a liquid, but in fact a sedimentary rock. You can’t just stick a pipe in the ground and suck it up as cheap liquid energy.
  2. The hydrocarbon in oil shale isn’t actually oil. It is kerogen, which can be converted to synthetic oil and gas through a chemical process which requires heating it to 570 °F or higher.
  3. There are a number of environmental problems with mining it and processing it, including pollution to groundwater and the air.

Basically it looks like oil shale could be useful for producing some electricity or for heating use or to supply necessary energy to the military, but as far as preserving our automobile and petroleum dependent lifestyles with it… forget it.

Personally, I’m planning on saving some money to move to some place in Europe that was designed and built before people became dependent on oil, where the peak oil shock won’t be so bad.

Posted in peak oil, planning, transportation | Leave a Comment »

Why 10 year olds should not be architects

Posted by Peter W on August 16, 2007

Ugly “house”

Originally uploaded by techieshark

This is what appears to be a 5 car garage with living quarters above it in Beaverton. It looks like it was designed by a 10 year old (actually that is probably an insult to 10 year olds). This is also proof that Washington County has no residential maximum for parking. The lot itself is gigantic – the grass in front is large enough to put two more homes on it at least, and the driveway is probably 100 feet long.

Why not just do detached garage(s) and build a nice looking ground level house? Got me!

Posted in architecture, beaverton, washington county | 1 Comment »

Ice Cream Trike Spotted in Beaverton

Posted by Peter W on August 16, 2007

Ice Cream Trike(?)

Originally uploaded by techieshark

I saw this guy in Beaverton on Tuesday night. Looks like he was selling ice cream from a special trike. Actually thats just my guess – for all I know he could be selling AK-47s or Matryoshka dolls from that thing. In any case, its good to see it happening on a pedal powered vehicle!

I would have stopped to check it out in more detail, and to get some ice cream if thats what it was, but, alas, I was stuck in a car! (Thats why the picture looks like crap – I was taking it on an older digital camera as we drove by. I had actually clicked the “take” button right as we passed at 10mph, but the camera has about a 1.5 second delay.

I wonder what other cool human powered vehicles are in waiting to be discovered in Beaverton?

Posted in beaverton, bikes | Leave a Comment »

Sustainability at PCC

Posted by Peter W on August 14, 2007

Sustainability Report Carbon Emissions

The Rock Creek Cycling Club (also known as the Rock Creek Bicycle Alliance) was recently featured in PCC’s 2007 Sustainability Report [PDF]. The image to the right shows that commuting makes up 49% of carbon emissions from campus, so its fair to say that the potential of bicycle commuting to help make PCC more earth friendly is huge! Below is an excerpt from the report:

The Rock Creek Cycling Club supports pedal-powered transit, organizes Sunday bike
rides, has established a campus bike system so employees located out at the farm can
ride to campus petrol-free; they are also setting up a bike maintenance program.

Posted in bikes, school, transportation | Leave a Comment »

Hillsboro Bike Update

Posted by Peter W on August 14, 2007

Last Wednesday, August 8th, I had a great meeting with Don Odermott, the City of Hillsboro’s Transportation Planning Engineer. He discussed the history of Hillsboro’s Pedestrian and Bicycle Program, and told me that the city is interested in starting it up again. Even though I’ll be living in Portland soon, I said I’d be glad to help out … perhaps I can help import good ideas from over the hill.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in bikes, hillsboro, planning, transportation | 2 Comments »

Nicest House in Aloha to go?

Posted by Peter W on August 14, 2007

There is a really nice house next to Errol Hassell Elementary School in Aloha which may soon be demolished to make way for 12-14 houses. (The sign says +/- 12, but my sister walks dogs in the neighborhood and one of her customers said they got a flier saying it would be 14 houses).

While walking past it the other day, my sister saw the following sign:

+/- 12 lot subdivision
August 16th 2007, 6 PM
Aloha United Methodist
2270 SW 198th

Its curious to me that the meeting isn’t right next door, at the elementary school. Perhaps they are trying to avoid angry neighbors?

The house was probably one of the first ones in the area. A friend of mine built it and lived in it for a number of years, back when Bany Road was gravel with farms along it, and back when the school didn’t exist and the neighborhoods behind the school were just forests.

The house is on an approximately 3 acre lot with lots of large coniferous trees. It would be a shame to see either the house or the trees go. I’ll try to make it to the meeting – hopefully I’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that the new development will be nice looking while preserving the trees and house.

Posted in architecture, washington county | Leave a Comment »

Problems with “urban renewal” in North Bethany

Posted by Peter W on August 13, 2007

People in the Portland metropolitan region are concerned about the environment and stopping sprawl so much so that they are willing to take a personal hit – having more development in their own neighborhood instead of in former farms and forests (according to this Metro Study [PDF]. So does the idea of using an “urban renewal” funding source – created by Oregon to promote redeveloping centers and increasing density – for the purpose of enabling development to sprawl out over 800 acres of green space make sense to you? I didn’t think so.

An article, “Diverting Funds to help new area ruffles officials” in in the Oregonian’s Metro section today talks about the problem with using “urban renewal” in North Bethany, and there are a number of officials in the county who are either opposed or worried about the effects of this.

Here are a list of problems they didn’t cover: Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in north bethany, planning, transportation, washington county | 1 Comment »

North Bethany Open House 3

Posted by Peter W on August 10, 2007

Last night was the third (and final, I believe) open house for the North Bethany Conceptual Planning process. What they presented was essentially the same stuff they’ve been saying before: Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in north bethany, planning, transportation, washington county | Leave a Comment »