Portland is the 10th-worst city for traffic jams in the nation

TRANSPORTATION ROUNDUP: Study makes questionable claims about Portland commutes; rapid busline to Gresham advances; TriMet rolls out new buses, light-rail trains.

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If you believe the 2015 TomTom Travel Index, Portland is the 10th-worst city in the nation for congested commutes.

The Oregonian’s commuting and transportation writer Joseph Rose doesn’t believe Stumptown traffic is worse than Washington D.C., or on par with congestion in Houston.

The study found — using satellite navigational data — that Portland drivers spend 26 percent longer to get home during peak hours.

Rose cites several problems with the study’s methodology:

1.The rankings are based on an overly simplistic formula to measure the complex world of urban traffic in cities with different commuting patterns, geography and highway systems. TomTom says its index taps into billions and billions of raw travel data points to compares travel times during non-congested “free flow” hours with travel times in peak hours. The wider the gap between, say, 4 a.m. traffic and 5 p.m. traffic, the higher the congestion ranking.

But the methodology is skewed against compact cities with shorter commutes such as Portland. By measuring only relative travel times, a 12-minute bottleneck for someone who has Portland’s average 23.7-minute commute will suddenly push the congestion index’s ranking above 50 percent. Using TomTom’s approach, Houston commuters who typically have a longer, 45-minute, free-flow commute that turns into a 70-minute commute have it better than Portland commuters. Or let’s say your 5-minute “free flow” drive to work stretches to 10 minutes during rush hour. The delays double the length of your trip.

To be fair, the top cities — according to the index — seem accurate according to anecdotal evidence:

  1. Lose Angeles
  2. San Francisco
  3. Honolulu
  4. New York
  5. Seattle
  6. San Jose
  7. Miami
  8. Chicago
  9. Washington D.C.
  10. Portland

Rapid busline to Gresham advances

Metro hopes to have a rapid route from Portland to Gresham operating by 2020.

A few decisions remain in the way, but the project is moving forward, according to a report in the Portland Tribune.

The [steering] committee appointed by the elected regional government has already made a series of major decisions. They include choosing buses with at least some dedicated lanes over light rail as the transit option. The committee also has designated Southeast Powell Boulevard as the route to and from downtown Portland, and Southeast Division Street as the route to and from Gresham. The committee made another major decision at its March 16 meeting — to run buses in and out of downtown Portland over the Tilikum Crossing bridge that is part of the Portland-to-Milwaukie light-rail project. It was chosen over the Ross Island Bridge, which was the other option under consideration.

The remaining decisions require more study, however. Perhaps the most important is where to connect Powell and Division. The majority of the committee clearly supports using 82nd Avenue, which would run the buses past Portland Community College’s newest campus and the heart of the emerging Jade District. But because 82nd is already so busy, Metro also will study 50th and 52nd avenues as alternatives. PCC Southeast could still be reached from the intersection of 82nd and Division. Another decision is the route buses will take between Powell and the transit center being built just east of OMSI, where they will access the Tilikum Crossing.

The committee will meet next on June 1 to discuss new information.

TriMet rolls out new buses, light-rail trains

Portland’s public transportation provider is upgrading its fleet.

Starting last week, five new buses went into service, Portland Tribune reports.

Next year’s budget proposes to purchase 77 more new buses, allowing TriMet to have 326 newer buses on the road and meet the industry standard of an average age of eight years by July 1, 2016.

The five buses are the first of 22 new 30-foot low-floor buses that are replacing buses that have been in service since the 1990s. Knows as 3400 series buses, they have been assigned to routes were the turns and terrain require shorter vehicles, including 39-Lewis & Clark, 51-Vista and 152-Milwaukie.

The buses come with air conditioning, improved GPS systems, automated stop announcements and other features.

The agency is also unveiling $4.4 million light-rail trains to the media today, Portland Business Journal reports.

Portland’s transit agency will introduce its “Type 5” MAX train to media members. The trains, which cost $4.4 million apiece, promise more legroom, larger windows, improved cameras and security systems and new boarding ramps for disabled riders.

The agency’s buying 18 new trains as part of the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Transit project. The new line is expected to open in September. TriMet says the project, once expected to cost $1.4 billion, could come in under budget.

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