A couple weeks ago, we announced that Portland Afoot and BikePortland will be joining forces. Today you can see some of the first fruits of that: I’ve got a couple posts on BikePortland today and a new byline as that site’s news editor.
This seemed like a good occasion to share a bit about what’s happening and how this is going to work.
Update: Thanks to TriMet planner Jeff Owen, we’ve resolved an error in OPAL’s calculations that overstated the ridership at some of these bus stops. The numbers listed below are correct. –MA
Portland has a very serious problem with its bus stops.
For example, here’s a Google Street View image of the stop at Northeast 15th and Knott, which sees a total of 31 people per weekday get on or off the No. 8 bus:
And here’s the bus stop at Southeast Powell and 122nd, where the No. 9 averages 249 ons and offs per day:
To be fair, it’s possible that a third-party organization, such as the Irvington church in the first photo, pays for some of the amenities at its stop. But official TriMet policy recommends installing a rain shelter at every bus stop with at least 50 boardings per day – and it’s obvious that many, many busy stops fail that standard.
At a meeting last night that marked the capstone of a two-year Metro-funded project by OPAL‘s Bus Riders Unite! organization, about 30 East Portland transit riders used a Survivor-style selection process to choose the three east-side bus stops in deepest need of improvement.
They had a lot of material to choose from.
Last Saturday, Portland’s transit system became a giant toy train set for 200 fun-seekers on 49 teams traveling the city in pursuit of points, $2500 in prizes and the answer to the mystery of the missing Faire LeSquare.
The day-long game, a celebration of Portland Afoot’s third birthday and its new direction, was the product of months of planning by dozens of volunteers and contributions from numerous local businesses, and it was a huge success.
Here’s what went down.
Around 9 a.m., game master Matt Cleinman took charge of the floor at Velo Cult (aka Game Central) as the dozen volunteers who staffed our headquarters showed up.
Tomorrow’s a big celebration for Portland Afoot. It’s not just our third annual birthday party. It’s not just the day of our ridiculously awesome citywide transit adventure game. (We’re expecting more than 200 players crisscrossing the city.)
It’s also a celebration of the next step in Portland Afoot’s journey: We’re planning to team up with BikePortland.org.
You can read about this on BikePortland, too.
Portland Afoot has worked with BikePortland, the region’s indispensable source of bicycle information and inspiration and one of the best local news startups in the country, since before we even launched. Jonathan, BikePortland’s founder and editor, has been a guiding light, a collaborator and often a mentor – never hesitating to welcome Portland Afoot’s voice to the public conversation with as much care as he welcomes every other. Though Jonathan and his wife Juli operate BikePortland as a mom-n-pop media business and Portland Afoot is published by a small 501(c)3 nonprofit, I think both enterprises prove that social entrepreneurship is as social entrepreneurship does.
A year ago January, in Portland Afoot’s annual report to the community, I wrote that Portland Afoot had achieved too many successes to abandon, but not enough success to survive without changing. Today, with 2,100 subscribers to our monthly, about 800 podcast regulars, 11,000 unique web visitors a month and $18,000 in revenue last year, that’s still the case.
At the time, I identified four possible roads: doubling down on our monthly, shifting to quarterly publication, going online-only and merging with another organization.
In the months that followed, we launched a successful Kickstarter campaign that allows us to continue putting out a magazine-style product – one that’s free on mobile devices, unconstrained by the rules, structures and marginal costs of print and mail. Tomorrow’s game is the culmination of seven months of work developing the software for that mobile edition – which will also be open-source and available to small publishers everywhere.
Now, Jonathan and I are going to start collaborating more closely. We’re not quite sure yet where we’re going, which channels we’ll use or what sort of news operation will result – but we’re sure that working closely together is the best way to make both organizations better.
We’re also sure that we want your advice.
Lifestyle columnist Cathy Hastie and her family own a house in southeast Portland’s Richmond neighborhood, the core of resistance to the city’s recent boom in no-parking apartments. She’s been thinking about this issue a lot – and has some advice for her neighbors.
A surge of awesomeness is wrapping itself around me and my inner southeast Richmond neighbors, whether we like it or not.
My husband and I moved into our home right off Southeast Division Street 17 years ago. A solitary furniture refinishing business remains where once there was a plethora of quirky low-brow shops and industrial businesses. Gone is the flaking red paint of the Laughing Horse revolutionary bookstore, replaced by Victory, a wine bar that most nights packs a house full of spiffy, shiny kids in non-prescription nerd-glasses and a corral full of bicycles. Closed is the metal engraving and etching shop. Ditto the discount furniture store and Rose City Reptiles. Division was a bit down-at-the-heels, but friendly and unique – never snooty.
Lifestyle columnist Cathy Hastie heard that a certain local civic engineering project was still awaiting a name. She’s decided to make a modest proposal – on your behalf, actually.
The solemn elk in the middle of Southwest Main street; the diminutive bronze of former mayor Vera Katz smiling upon Eastbank bikers; the plaid-shirted effigy of Paul Bunyan at North Denver and Interstate: despite these few commemorative statues, many of them celebrating non-humans, Portland is not a city overflowing with monuments.
So would it surprise you to know that there is a new $134 million monument under development in our fair City of Roses as we speak? A massive landmark built to commemorate and celebrate a local hero?
You might cite the recent cacophony of commercial development as an excuse for missing it. But it is impossible to overlook, rising 180 feet into the heavens and stretching more than 1,700 feet long. Its skeleton is starting to fill a highly-prized spot of natural beauty on the Willamette River. Its massive foundation, like the hindquarters of a muscular sphinx, reflects the power and importance of the Portlander it honors. Its four elegant towers capture the heraldry of the offering, exalting this most revered citizen of our fine city. Who among us has tirelessly enacted feats of courageous and incredible ingenuity to merit this amazing, costly, time-consuming labor of love?
Humbly I will admit: it is a monument to me.
The map, which according to its filename dates from 1943, is by the private Portland Traction Company.
On Twitter, our friends at TriMet Diaries pointed to this ZehnKatzen Times post, which explores a map very similar to this one – a 1940 edition that boasted of portraying "The World’s Finest Trolley System."
Hmm. Yep, Portland is still Portland.
But he wants your help.
Lane Jensen, publisher of the earnestly muckraking (though often bile-filled) website and online radio program Portland Transit Lane, has created a public web form that lets anyone report a broken TriMet vending machine or ticket validator.
The mobile-friendly form takes about 30 seconds to fill out, thanks to careful instructions and a dropdown menu of every TriMet vending machine.
I’ve bookmarked the page on my own phone using the short URL http://pdx.be/BrokenTVM.
In some ways, Jensen’s project resembles the now-defunct website TriMetDown.com, which was launched by a different TriMet rider during a similar rash of broken TVMs in 2008. That website helped draw mainstream media attention and eventually more TriMet resources to fix the problem.
In other ways, Jensen’s project is different. He often says that his personal goal is to get the agency’s general manager, Neil McFarlane, fired.
Jensen said Wednesday that he’ll collect as many of these reports as he can and then bring them to TriMet to show just how often ticket vending machines malfunction.
TriMet says it may be willing to allow a basic $2.50 bus or rail ticket to last three hours – or all night after 7 p.m. – after all.
In a turnaround, the agency said Wednesday that it’s agreed to a new series of work sessions and meetings on the issue: a “new analysis based on new data,” as General Manager Neil McFarlane put it.
If approved, it’d be a major fare cut for people who pay for TriMet one ride at a time. For cash-paying riders, the price of a short daytime errand or evening outing would be effectively cut in half.
Portland Afoot is going to host a free, live, freewheeling public transit mystery adventure game on Saturday, May 4 (two weeks from today). More than 60 teams have registered, and there aren’t too many slots left.
It’s called Who Whacked Ms. Faire LeSquare? and we’re very, very excited.
Using instructions distributed through Portland Afoot’s new free mobile edition for smartphones, teams of 3 to 5 players will be assigned to smuggle cargo across town using the bus system, paddle across the Willamette and track nine shady characters through the mean streets of PDX.
As I’m typing, three teams are on the street for an all-day playtest.