Commissioner Novick – Move Bolt Bus

Without facilities, trash piles up on the street

This email to Portland’s Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick is reprinted with the author’s permission.

For more on the Bolt Bus stop’s negative impact see: Bolt Bus – It’s a Park, Not Your Bus Depot


From: Stan Penkin
Date: Thursday, July 7, 2016 at 5:20 PM
To: ‘Commissioner Novick’ <novick@portlandoregon.gov>
Subject: Safety Issue

Hi Steve,

I hope that all is well with you and that your campaign is going well.

Although I know that letters of concern have been sent by various individuals and organizations regarding a safety/livability issue, I want to personally direct your attention to this concern, rather than as a board member of Friendly Streets and of the Pearl District Neighborhood Association.

As you may be aware, the Bolt Bus stop previously located downtown on Salmon St. was relocated several months ago to NW Everett St. between Park and Broadway. This was of immediate concern to local residents as they experienced a dangerous back up of traffic, cars maneuvering and double parked for drop off and pick up, idling busses creating noise and pollution, trash strewn on the street, people milling about in doorways and an overall disruption of normal life. Minimal mitigation was achieved over the idling issue via direct contact with the company’s representative, but all the other issues remain and will be further exacerbated by the placement of a bikeshare station at the corner of Everett and Park immediately adjacent to the stop.

Although I live several blocks away, during my neighborhood walks I have often seen as many as three busses backed up, cars double parked, cars and Trimet busses trying to maneuver around the Bolt busses and double parked cars, not to mention the trash left behind. Now with a large number of bikes added to the mix, this is a disaster waiting to happen.

While I understand that this location is designated as such and assume that Bolt Bus (owned by Greyhound) has whatever permits might be necessary (perhaps a bad assumption), I cannot believe the designation of this location as a bus stop was intended to create such a dangerous and hazardous situation. This is a serious safety and livability concern, not only for the neighborhood, but for all those who drive, bike and walk through this busy street in the heart of the Pearl.

I am asking that you please look into this matter with a view towards an expedient solution to remove this as a private bus location. I and others would be happy to meet with you at the location so that you may see the problem first hand.

Many thanks for your attention to this concern and I look forward to hearing back from you.

With best wishes,

Stan Penkin

Why Can’t Wealthy Cities Fix the Homeless Problem?

sfhomelessproject

Reposted from Alternet: Why Can’t Wealthy Cities Fix the Homeless Problem? July 7, 2016

What follows are six unexpected takeaways from the SF Homeless Project’s coverage, starting with the surprising revelation that there were more people living on the city’s streets in the 1990s. These may be some valuable lessons for Portland.

1. May Have Been Bigger Two Decades Back. It’s common to hear San Franciscans say homelessness is worse than ever, and add it to the list of how their city has gone downhill—from the invasion of a wealthy high-tech monoculture to a growing lack of affordable housing for anyone not making six figures.

One surprising takeaway from the project’s reporting is that the number of homeless people on the streets actually may have been larger in the 1990s, according to a historial review by the CBS-TV affiliate. Then, “estimates of the street population topped 8,000, higher than today,” when a 2015 city-run census found nearly 6,700 people. That was before San Francisco, which now spends $241 million a year for homeless programs, and another $150 million a year on emergency services for the homeless, put those programs in place. However, nobody can precisely say how many people are living on the city’s streets. Estimates range from 6,686 from that one-night census in 2015 to larger estimates from the city’s health department. Those on the street include a sizable number of LGBT youths as well as growing numbers of older people. Nearly half are African American. Sixty percent have alcohol or drug abuse histories, the Chronicle reported, and half struggle with depression or serious mental health issues.

2. The City’s Budget Keeps More People Off The Street Than On It. The most obvious solution to homelessness is to provide housing, temporary or longterm. That’s what other locales, like Salt Lake City, have done. But San Francisco’s lack of low-income housing options goes back decades, when the federal government and states began cutting back public housing subsidies in the 1970s, mental health programs in the ’80s and welfare programs in the ’90s. In recent years, a series of San Francisco mayors went the opposite way and began spending millions for shelters and subsidized housing. That’s where most of the city’s homeless funds are now spent—keeping as many or more people off the street than are now living on it.

“Where does the $241 million go?” CBS-TV reported. “Fifty million each for shelters and health services, leaving $141 million. That is not spent on people on the street, but to keep people in permanent housing—9,000 people who are not counted as homeless, 3,181 in temporary shelter and 3,505 on street.” In other words, most of the money City Hall spends keeps greater numbers of homeless off the streets, even though what people see and complain about are those on the street. The public just isn’t aware that the city is already housing thousands of people who would otherwise be homeless.

3. Lack of Government Coordination Keeps People On the Street, But Non-Profits Aren’t Much Better. But even as the city is taking care of many more homeless people than is widely known, the government and non-profit safety net isn’t exactly user friendly, the media outlets found. One big takeaway was there are too many narrowly focused agencies following their own protocols. That not only fails to treat homeless people holistically, it creates red-tape deterrents for those willing to seek help. For example, street people interviewed by reporters about going to shelters frequently replied, “Come on, have you ever been there?” They don’t want to be fingerprinted and treated as petty criminals, they said.

The city manages its homeless programs through eight different departments, leaving people to ricochet among service providers at shelters, hospitals, police stations, etc. But there also are some 75 non-profits and private organizations with 400 city contracts for homeless services, the media reported, and they weren’t much better coordinated. The Chronicle’s front-page editorial starting its coverage called this mix of public and non-profit agencies a local “homeless industrial complex” that was largely accountable. The non-profit piece of this was a surprise, as these outfits histiocally have been very critical of the city’s homeless services.

The mayor’s office recently created a new single homelessness department and its director, Jeff Kositisky, acknowledged this murky bureaucratic reality. “If you’re homeless, you may need to be assessed three, four different times, answering the same questions each time; it’s unfair, inefficient and not respectful of people we’re trying to serve,” he said, pledging to change that status quo. “Clients have to get into many different lines to access services, and we’re going to ask them to get into one line.”

4. Small Minority of Homeless Cost the Most. Stepping back, the Chronicle found that other big cities—Boston, Atlanta, New York City and Washington, D.C.—“have more homeless people per-capita than San Francisco,” according to federal estimates. But San Francisco has the highest proportion of unsheltered homeless, 511 people on the streets for every 100,000 residents, they found, adding that a sizable number have very serious medical and health problems.

The Chronicle reported that the homeless cost the city about $150 million last year for emergency services, such as ambulance rides, emergency room visits, sober living centers, etc. But about one-fifth, or 1,320 people, cost $106 million in emergency medical and mental health services, each averaging $80,000.

5. Private Sector Has No Record of Providing Housing Solutions. Every social service provider agreed that the first step in stabilizing the lives of homeless people was getting a roof over their heads so they can begin to deal with other problems. This goes beyond a new trend in the city, where groups have been giving the homeless tents to live in, making them more visible and leading to sprawling encampments. But tents are no substitute for brick-and-mortar shelter, which has been in short supply for years.

As Tim Redmond, the former San Francisco Bay Guardian editor wrote for the website 48hills.org, it wasn’t simply the retreat by government subsidies that created homelessness. Progressives in government—even in this liberal city—took the same line as their conservative opponents, saying that the private sector had to build the needed housing stock. Of course, that didn’t happen then and is barely happening now—even for the city’s working- and lower-middle-class residents.

“Why didn’t we build more housing in the 1980s?” Redmond wrote. “I was here, and I can tell you that we tried: The left, the progressives, begged and cajoled and organized to demand that office developers build housing for the new workers they were bringing to town. But no: Investment capital ruled city planning then, as it does now, and the quick money was in offices, so the private sector would build no housing.”

Fast-forward to today and despite a building boom—primarily targeting techies—the private sector still is not filling the void, nor can it be expected to. Redmond’s point is that government has to create housing for the homeless, but that’s still not recognized by political and business leaders. “The developers, the speculators, and the real-estate industry, who see housing not as a social good but as a commodity to be sold for the highest possible profit, are allowed to determine what gets built, for whom, and where.”

6. Many Homeless People Are Victims of Larger Forces and Not Criminals. This conclusion came through listening to people tell their stories, which often included bad luck, economic hardship, and for women, domestic abuse—not just a result of untreated mental illness or drug abuse. As Damon Francis, interim medical director of Alameda County Health Care for the Homeless, told SFPublicPress.org, “We should be asking, ‘what happened to you?’ not ‘what’s wrong with you?’”

But that’s not the dominant media narrative, Redmond wrote, even in San Francisco. “People who are homeless must have done something wrong with their lives. Even the rare sympathetic news media coverage focuses on drugs, mental illness, crime, job losses … There is never the suggestion that people who live on the streets are victims of a system that the political leadership either helped create or tolerates.”

Reframing the Discussion

The SF Homeless Project’s coverage highlighted many nuances of the problems surrounding homelessness, poverty, mental health, social safety nets and service. It was not without critics, especially from those who have spent decades trying to help the homeless—who said it made an everyday occurrence appear as a crisis. That said, some of the more thoughtful pieces that stepped back and looked at the project were cautiously optimistic it would reframe the way the city’s political leaders faced the problem.

As Caleb Pershan concluded in a media history and criticism piece for SFIst.com, “The best thing that could come of this project… is to move the conversation beyond ‘the worst it’s ever been’ or the brand new ‘new normal, and recognize that just because our city is very pretty and rich, as cities go, this isn’t a unique problem that’s grown out of anyone’s control. And of course it’s solvable — which is true of many of society’s deepest and most complex failures… so that someday, people in poverty or those with mental illnesses won’t be treated like problems, they’ll just be treated.”

Bolt Bus – It’s A Park, Not Your Bus Depot

Without facilities, trash piles up on the street
Without facilities, Bolt trash piles up on the street. Passengers ask nearby businesses to use bathrooms.

Bolt Bus, a subsidiary of Greyhound likes to market itself as the hip, low-cost future of bus travel. Earlier this year, Bolt moved into the North Park Block without warning. Rather than use their nearby Greyhound bus station (at NW 6th and Hoyt) Bolt turned the corner of NW Everett and 8th into a bus terminal without concern for it’s impact on the the park or neighborhood. We first  in February. See Terminal Chaos Forces Bolt Bus To Street Corner

Bolt passengers block sidewalk
Bolt passengers block sidewalk

To update the situation, here’s a reprint of a letter from Pearl District Neighborhood Association. 822KB pdf


April 19, 2016
Re: Bolt Bus
Dear Mayor Hales and Commissioner Novick,

The Pearl District Neighborhood Association (PDNA) brings forward the following Livability & Safety concerns regarding the Bolt Bus stop/depot that moved from SW Salmon St. to NW Everett St. at 8th Avenue; without any prior communication to the neighborhood. The Bolt Bus move to this block has had an immediate and negative impact on those living and working here.

Bolt riders forced sit on the sidewalk
Bolt riders forced sit on the sidewalk

We do not understand why Bolt would use a city street for a depot as there are no services commonly associated with a commuter bus terminal. Bolt Bus provides a coach service to destinations as far as Vancouver BC. Their customers travel with luggage – which necessitates being dropped off or picked up by car or taxi. Buses queue all day long, starting with the 6:30 AM pickup – which results in increased traffic starting sometime after 6AM and throughout the day. The Bolt Bus’s last drop off is scheduled for 10PM, although with delays their buses do sometime arrive much later. The increase in traffic is undeniable. The noise from the idling cars, the greetings and farewells, the honking of frustrated drivers who cannot proceed on Everett or surrounding streets due to double parking is ever present.

Bolt Bus drop offs block traffic
Bolt Bus drop offs block traffic

Livability Issues:

  • Noise from the buses; including idling and wheelchair ramp engagement.
  • Pollution from the buses.
  • Littering from Bolt Bus customers due to the fact there are no trash receptacles
  • Cigarette butts thrown on the sidewalk and ground cover of the WeWork (Custom House) building as there is no butt disposal container.
  • Illegal congregation of Bolt Bus customers under the private property doorway of the previous Remedy Wine Bar (also an egress into/out of the North Park Lofts building for residents); as Bolt Bus customers attempt to get out of the rain, wind, cold, heat, etc.
  • For residents of the North Park Blocks building; especially those on the corner of 8th and Everett, there is a materially negative impact on the livability of their homes; and most likely the property values as well. Residents are unable to open their windows due to the noise and exhaust.
Idling Bolt buses block street crossing
Idling Bolt buses block crosswalk

Safety Issues:

  • Traffic congestion as the stop is in a lane of traffic on an already busy street (Everett).
  • Illegal parking of cars picking up and dropping off Bolt Bus customers.
  • Concerns for the safety of Bolt Bus customers and drivers at the North Park Lofts building garage entrance/exit. Bolt Bus customers congregate under the roof of the garage door to get out of the rain, wind, cold, heat, etc. This is particularly concerning as this exit is a downhill slope from the parking garage which makes visibility poor; a risk for drivers and Bolt Bus customers.
  • Cars are parked illegally, backing up a lane of traffic (which also has two pedestrian crossings) on Everett between 8th and Park; as they drop off or pick up Bolt Bus customers.
  • Buses stack up down Everett as Bolt uses Cascade and Northwest Point and other bus company’s buses when demand exceeds Bolt Bus capacity.
  • The right lane of traffic on Everett is impassable when Bolt Buses drop off or pick up passengers; creating traffic back-ups that extend into the pedestrian walkways.
  • There is no presence of traffic officers ticketing illegal parking in a lane of traffic on Everett nor are there parking officers to ticket drivers who are not paying for parking as they are dropping off/picking up Bolt Bus customers.
Blocked sidewalks and illegal dropoffs
Blocked sidewalks and illegal drop-offs

This bus depot should be relocated to Union Station which has a facility with seating, bathrooms, concessions, garbage receptacles, etc. or to a parking lot where at least the traffic concerns would be addressed or use the bus depot on NW 6th and Glisan.

Please advise as to next steps to work towards a resolution in this matter.

Sincerely,

Patricia Gardner
President, Pearl District Neighborhood Association

Bus passengers trample plantings to get out of rain
Bus passengers trample plantings to get out of rain

Ted Wheeler: Reclaim PDX Public Spaces

Portland firefighters called to homeless camps 79 times in two months
Portland firefighters called to homeless camps 79 times in two months

First off, our congrats to Ted Wheeler for sweeping the primary. Now it’s time to get down to work making Portland a better city for all. In case you don’t read Reddit, we wanted to repost this piece from r/Portland 18 May 2016

Open letter to Ted Wheeler 

Dear Ted,

I’m a resident of Portland, a homeowner, and one of the many people who voted for you yesterday. I chose to cast my ballot for you because of your experience and technical credentials as our state’s treasurer, but also because of your work with Portland Mountain Rescue.

Like you, I love the mountains and the outdoors: biking, hiking, climbing, skiing. It’s why I’ve chosen to make my home here.

Over the last few years, I’ve slowly watched our urban green spaces be taken over by a population of people who reject the social contract and feed off our city like parasites. Open air drug use, public defecation, rampant property crime, intimidation of law abiding folk… the list goes on. The taxpayers and responsible citizens of this city are being held hostage in their own neighborhoods. I commute to work every day past growing camps of transients who have no respect for the rule of law, and no care for the city which they are polluting. Help us. Direct the police to help us. Just… do… something.

Our city cannot tolerate another four years of passive non-leadership on this issue. Our city cannot tolerate kicking the can or shifting blame. Fight for the taxpayers on this one. Help us reclaim our parks, multi use paths, and sidewalks. Create the conditions for us to enjoy our wonderful city without fear of being harassed, victimized, or worse. Be the hero Portland needs.

Sincerely,

alpinemarmot


For more on the subject see 6 reasons why Portland’s homeless crisis is at a breaking point


Image From Portland firefighters called to homeless camps 79 times in two months ( KGW)

Portland Sidewalk Camping on Yelp

portland-sidewalk-camping2

Update: Since we first posted this on April 26th, the Yelp listing has been pulled. But we can share this archived PDF Version 600kb

While the mayor’s controversial street camping policy has triggered a lawsuit, it’s also inspired someone to create a new Yelp Business listing:  Portland Sidewalk Camping. Not surprisingly, it uses City Hall’s contact info.

Last summer we posted some unsavory photos to make the point about how bad behavior was transforming our park into  #Camplandia.

Ridicule is a better way to go. Who knows, maybe the NY Times will notice?