Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Cherriots board plus consultant deliberating coverage vs. ridership

A transit-booster's thoughts on watching a transit "strategic planning" workshop

Random thoughts Live from the Cherriots board's strategic planning workshop:

All over America, including in Oregon, the techno-green folks and the sprawl lobby who find buses just too tasteless are combining to salivate over the ideas of techno fixes to respon to peak oil and climate destabilization, like electric, plug-In cars and driverless cars.

Both of which are the most costly possible solutions to the least important problem in the US, a question that just happens to dominate the thinking in official Salem: "How can we continue to have an absurdly costly, auto-dominated, single occupant vehicle friendly system?"

If we actually wanted to serve communities like Salem better, what we would be investigating and investing in would be driverless buses. Buses travel fixed routes, so programming is a snap.  Robot vehicles that navigate fixed routes (but have flexibility to respond to disruptions using heuristic logic) are already in use worldwide, not just as aerial drones, but as work vehicles in countless environments, such as mines, giant manufacturing facilities, etc.

With remote surveillance cameras and microphones, we could actually have higher security buses (the driver is a very poor supervisor, and is also vulnerable to anything that threatens passengers) at lower costs, and we wouldn't be trying to create vehicles that can go to an infinite number of places.

Given the fiscal constraints crippling transit in Salem, we should start by creating a weekend hybrid rideshare coordination system plus driverless bus system for simplified routes (up and down Lancaster for example) and then extend both to seven days a week.

Jus' saying.

Final: The transit district is apparently going to repeat this exercise with "community influencers" and "stakeholders" on January 30 at 4 p.m.  There was no mention of any process for asking to participate, so it has the potential to create an echo-chamber effect, with the carefully selected participants, chosen by the district itself, likely to wind up being those who will simply do as they are told and not provide any divergent or lateral thinking to expand the discussion.  This is not a good procedure, even if the product is to your liking -- it's the same process that produced the Bridgasaurus Boondogglus proposals that have wasted so much money and energy in Salem; the Sprawl Lobby hand picked the citizen's committee to ensure that "no build" options would be marginalized from the start.  Nothing Cherriots does could be as destructive or wasteful as the 3rd Bridge Boondoggle, but it's not a great sign that "ask the key insiders" is considered part of public process.

Update 4: "The  schools and social service agencies like Kroc dump their problems on the transit district when they locate on cheap land, which is inaccessible land, and expect you to serve them; when they locate out on cheap land that is hard to serve they are saying that they want a reduced transit system."

Update 3:  Rather than re-build a $78 million city/police/library downtown, let's bring Chemeketa, the library, and Kroc to the old Boise site, put the police in a strengthened existing library, and create branch libraries/police precincts/community centers north and south using existing commercial underused commercial lots and buildings.

Update:  "When land is cheap it's because it's inaccessible." (Arising from discussion of Kroc Center.)

Update 2: the whole issue is being presented to the Cherriots board as a single continuum with overall system ridership at one end vs. coverage (a route within some reasonable walking distance for any random person).  In other words, the discussion is "given that we think of ourselves solely as a bus system, which do you want, productivity (total boardings) or coverage (everyone feeling like they could take the bus, even if they don't.). No discussion yet of ways to change the game ... No Kobayashi Maru solutions broached yet.