Jul 19, 2007

Why I'm Glad I Don't Work In Downtown PDX

I don't work downtown. However, the Mrs. does. She usually takes MAX to and from work- it stops 1/2 block from her office.(I'll share her stories about the unreliability of MAX as a form of transportation in a future entry). Over the past week, it has twice been necessary to pick her up downtown after work. I thought I'd share a few words about my experience.

Everyone knows that downtown PDX is a messy construction vortex of pain due to the change-up of the bus mall. Let me tell you what that means in terms of time. At 4:30pm, from Troutdale, it takes me about 25-30 minutes to go from our house to her office.

What about coming home? From her office (at approximately SW 11th), it takes 25 minutes of gridlock just to get across the river on the Morrison bridge. I don't even think that's 3/4 mile. I realize a lot of this delay is due to the closure of the Burnside bridge. But the main cause of the delays? Gridlock at the intersections downtown. Cars, Tri-Met buses, trucks, you name it. They'll start through the intersection when there isn't room, and there they are, stuck in the middle of the intersection, which blocks the traffic of the entire intersection for one light or two lights.

I also totally forgot about the total contempt downtown pedestrians have for "Don't Walk " signals. They just go. And don't get me started about the narcissistic bike riders who ride the wrong way, zip between lanes, blow through the red lights, ride on the curbs.

This is the wet dream of congestion that makes the New Urbanist folks shudder with pleasure. Anything to annoy folks out of their cars. But it hasn't worked. Instead, they stay in their cars, but move their businesses out of PDX to Kruse Way, Carmen Drive etc. And they do their shopping in Bridgeport Village, Gresham Station, Streets of Tanasbourne, even humble little Troutdale. They'd even rather go to Ikea (You know, the transit-friendly Ikea at Cascade Station MAX.The store on the MAX line with 1200 parking spaces).

But I digress . One hour or more is the average car commute from downtown PDX to Troutdale. But even though it's HELL to get out of downtown, and takes over an hour to get home, let's compare that to the mass transit commute time from Troutdale.

While poking around the latest U.S. census information(2000), I came across statistics for average commute times. Here are some average commute times for Troutdale, for Oregon, and for the U.S.:

Average travel time to work (minutes)-
Troutdale: 26; Oregon: 22; U.S.: 26

Average travel time to work using public transportation-
Troutdale:65; Oregon: 39; U.S: 48

Average travel time to work using other transportation-
Troutdale: 24; Oregon: 21; U.S: 24

For Troutdale residents, a 65 minute one way commute to work on Tri-Met translates to 10.8 hours in travel time per week, or 43.2 hours per month, or 512 hours per year.

Contrast the mass transit commute with a Troutdale resident driving to work. A 26 minute one way commute translates to 4.3 hours in travel time per week, or 17.3 hours per month, or 208 hours per year.

And Metro wants us to get out of our cars? I can think of many other things I'd rather do with my time than spend the equivalent of an entire work week on.


Mover Mike said...

TCC, that's incredible. I wasn't aware that commutes took so long by public transportation. And they want how much more to bring in Oregon City?

eeldip said...

so are you suprised that living in at the edge of the suburbs leads to long and inconvenient commutes? i think the great thing about troutdale is that the character of the town, a suburb sitting at the edge of wildnerness, is preserved by the policies of the greater portland area.

a troutdale anywhere else would find itself surrounded by development and traffic in no time.

HMIL said...

Heck ... do those PDX pedestrians think they're in *New York* or something? Sheesh!

shudder ... those commute times remind me of when I lived at 152nd NE and NE 8th in Bellevue, WA ... took me 30 to 45 minutes to get to the edge of Elliot Bay to work, and an hour to an hour and a half to get home ... depending on the traffic across the bridges to get back to the East Side.

EEESH ... people in the down here in the Willamette Valley complain about "rush hour" but it's more like "rush 15 minutes" ... they have *no* idea!

Jason McHuff said...

First of all, I want to congratulate this small-town councilor on blogging--it seems unusual.

Second, I agree that downtown is a mess. But moreover, I believe that the mess (at least with the buses) was mostly avoidable and will not be worth it. MAX should have been put in a tunnel, which is the only way to fix the slowness (7.5 MPH) and some of the unreliability through downtown, as well as long-term capacity issues caused by the inefficient 2-car train limit. But even on the surface, they could have put MAX in the far left lane, possibly allowing buses to keep using the right lane on 5th/6th during construction.