Vagabond Shark

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Climate Change, Transit Development in the News

Posted by Peter W on October 29, 2007

We’ve got to do something about climate change:

The planet is in danger of crossing a “tipping point” of irreversible damage to its atmosphere, climate, water and ecosystems unless governments can develop comprehensive strategies to promote growth and sustainability, warns a new report released on Thursday by an environmental advocacy branch of the United Nations.

(full article)

California is trying – with the recently passed Global Warming Solutions Act they plan to “reduce the state’s total greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020.” But hybrids alone won’t solve the problem.

We need to do a lot more if we’re actually going to reduce our emissions. We’ve got to reduce the amount we drive.

To do that, we need to build in a way that makes it easy to get around. We need to build more homes near jobs, and make sure people can afford those homes. We need to build neighborhoods with shops, services, good public transit, and parks – all within easy walking distance of homes.

[…]

It’s time to turn the Bay Area’s innovative talent to the question of how to use our land well. Instead of saying, “We have to drive, but maybe we should drive a different kind of car,” let’s ask, “How can we make it easier to get where we want to go?” Let’s envision a better way to live for people and the planet, and let’s start making it happen.

(see full article in the San Francisco Chronicle)

Luckily it isn’t just a few newspaper editors that favor smarter growth (more compact cities served by more transit).

Three-fourths of Americans believe that being smarter about development and improving public transportation are better long-term solutions for reducing traffic congestion than building new roads, according to a survey released today by the National Association of Realtors® and Smart Growth America. […]

As evidence of the traction the issue has gained in the last few years, nearly three-quarters of Americans are concerned about the role growth and development plays in climate change. Traffic congestion is still a concern to many Americans as it continues to worsen in most cities in the country. Half of those surveyed think improving public transit would be the best way to reduce congestion, and 26 percent believe developing communities that reduce the need to drive would be the better alternative. Only one in five said building new roads was the answer.

Eight in 10 respondents prefer redeveloping older urban and suburban areas rather than build new housing and commercial development on the edge of existing suburbs. More than half of those surveyed believe that businesses and homes should be built closer together to shorten commutes, limit traffic congestion and allow residents to walk to stores and shops instead of using their cars. Six in 10 also agree that new-home construction should be limited in outlying areas and encouraged in inner urban areas to shorten commutes and prevent more traffic congestion. […]

The 2007 Growth and Transportation Survey was conducted by telephone among 1,000 adults living in the United States in October 2007. The study has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

(via Planetizen).

If Oregon is such a green state, and the majority in the US understands that better transit and smarter development can help combat climate change, why is Washington County continuing to build bigger roads that serve greenfield subdivisions on the urban fringe instead of focusing on better transit, more bike and pedestrian traffic, more compact centers, and urban renewal[1]?

1: Note that I mean urban renewal in the traditional sense: “renewing aging urban places”, not the Washington County Planning dept.’s definition: “supporting greenfield development in future suburban places”. If you don’t already know… the County is considering using “urban renewal” as a source of funds for the North Bethany development, which is a suburb on former fields at the North edge of the county.

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

A simple request?

Posted by Peter W on October 27, 2007

Turtles

There is a section of Walker Road just West of 185th Ave that I ride on often when biking to work. From 185th the bike lane exists until Walker hits NW 191st Ave, at which point something very strange happens.

There is a fairly new subdivision development there and it appears that when it was built the developer was required to do an “improvement” to add a turn lane and a stub of a second through lane on one side (why the thru lane you ask? Because they plan to widen the road to five lanes in the near future). Apparently, however, the developers weren’t required to think about cyclists and our need for space on the road.
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in transportation, washington county | 2 Comments »

Public Transit, Public Art

Posted by Peter W on October 27, 2007


Seattle Bus Shelter
Originally uploaded by techieshark

This summer I went to Seattle and while I was up there I was amazed at some of their awesome bus shelters. The general color scheme matches their buses, and most shelters have different designs in the glass as well as unique designs painted on the wood paneling of the shelter. I think this is a great way to brighten the area, provide a more interesting & attractive environment for transit users, and artistically reflect the culture and history of the area.

Portland’s TriMet transit system has an art program but they seem to mainly focus on the MAX train stations. I think it would be great if we had more art incorporated into the bus system. I also wonder how Seattle and Portland’s public art incorporation into public transit compares with other cities.

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Gas prices up, but does anyone care?

Posted by Peter W on October 21, 2007

According to CNN, gas prices are up 60 cents from a year ago. The national average for a gallon of gas is now $2.80, up a nickle in the last two weeks. Over the same two weeks, the price of crude oil went up the equivalent of 18 cents, and as soon as refineries turn that into gas that price raise will be passed on to consumers across the nation.

All this makes me wonder – does Washington County or the cities in it figure in the rising gas prices into their models that determine the projected road capacity needs? Does this constant increase make them consider that we need to alter the kind of transportation system we have, and support more public transit, walking, and cycling? Or does the WCCC plow ahead on a new MSTIP to build more massive roads so people can drive more and so vehicle trip miles can continue to increase?

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

Upcoming: Protest against Chinese Human Rights Violations

Posted by Peter W on October 21, 2007

Need a new kidney? Go to China! An investigation by a former member of the Canadian parliament found that in China, it only takes about 1 week for a kidney to become available for human transplant, while in Canada the average wait time is 32.5 months (in the U.S., the waiting time is similar, about 1000 days). Wonder how China is so fast? According to the investigation, its pretty simple – they take organs from live & unwilling victims – political prisoners. The prisoners are often followers of the Falun Gong religion, who are also tortured and killed for following their religion of choice.

Want to do something about it? Be here:


Portland Rally and March
Where: Pioneer Square, Portland
When: Oct. 26 (Friday) 4-6PM

(thanks for the info Jenny).

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Bicycle Naming Scheme

Posted by Peter W on October 21, 2007

Like most cyclists, I love my bikes and have a great deal of affinity with them. I have five bikes currently, and have had others in the past so it should come as no surprise that I name my bikes, partly out of affection and partly so I can refer to them more personally than, say, “my Cannondale R800”.

Here’s a list of the names I’ve used for my bikes and the ones I’m reserving for future use.

Read the rest of this entry »

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North Bethany School Costs Go Up

Posted by Peter W on October 19, 2007

The Beaverton School District has done new projections for the cost of providing schools for kids in North Bethany, and it doesn’t look good.

The first thing they’ve found is that people North of Hwy 26 have more kids:

Read the rest of this entry »

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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): http://www.bethanyplan.org/images/04.12.07swg_summary.pdf
TAC meeting summary (page 2): http://www.bethanyplan.org/images/04.12.07tac_summary.pdf
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

DSC03292
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 »