Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Man on Bus

I had some minutes in front of Fred Hansen, Trimet Director, some Trimet board members and various Trimet staff at a public hearing about proposed cuts to the transit system. I've put this together from my speaking points, and added some things I should have said.)

Thank you. I worked with Dan and Jon a couple years ago to re-define Line #39. That was a moderately successful Citizen/Trimet project.

With the Line #39 project we had Hillsdale and we had the College, 1000's of people in different communities, but with no way to get between them. No way that any normal person [indicating the many Trimet Staff present] would take to get there. So, the #39 route change was about connecting these two communities, and I think this is something we need to do all over the region.

Granted, we need to get people down town. We've gotten past the city-centric model. We need to connect pairs of town centers, and to get people through downtown. At one time, there was some semblance of the Region 2040 plan in your Transit Improvement Plan, but I think that has gotten sidetracked more recently by focusing on light rail development.

I claim that in order to keep and build ridership, we need to design an overall system that has integrity, one where people can get around using their intuition, rather than needing technology.

For example, I see lots of iPhones on the bus these days, people are using them for Transit Tracker and such. It helps tremendously. Thank You. But I use transit not just to "go to work" but also to meet my family somewhere for dinner, and I frequently scramble to use the Trip Planner in different parts of the region. The Trip Planner is no substitute for good design.

Imagine instead a system where you would know how to get from one area to another. "First I would go there, then to there". I shouldn't need carry a computer around with me all the time. [Ok, the iPhone is a computer, but that is not the point.]

The automobile addict is NOT going to put up with a lot of nonsense to get around.

We need a beautiful system map that people can UNDERSTAND and get excited about.

So, TRIMET, If you have such a map in your back room, why not get it out and show it to us? Involve communities in the design of such a system -- what ever shape it might take. Get a grant as part of the TIP to lead a large scale community design and computer-optimized system map for the region. One that is scalable, resilient, and so on. Can Trimet and Metro do this??

There is a difference between Planning and Designing.

When gas was $4, we had lots of people on the bus. But where are those people now? They've moved to Spokane, evidently, because ridership there has continued to increase in spite of gas going back down. Spokane Transit must be doing something up there... Hint: They recently re-drew their entire system map.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Before the Metro Council

I had 5 minutes to make my remarks before the Metro Council. They interviewed 8 people on October 25th. These were my prepared remarks which I delivered pretty much as written. UPPER case denotes verbal emphasis.

Good Evening... I'm John Miller.

I would like to commend you on the OPEN NATURE of this process! Thank You.

I live at the Northern end of Boones Ferry Road in Southwest Portland.

My day job is System Architect in Information Technology at Metro. I love my Job, but, I would GIVE IT UP if appointed. The Metro attorney here can address this if needed.

When I came to Portland in 1972, I got interested in the Neighborhood Associations (..CPO's), and a Colorful Map of the DOWNTOWN Comprehensive Plan. My eventual involvement in The Collins View Association (next to Lewis & Clark College) LED TO Southwest coalition board which led to chairing the Multnomah County Citizen Involvement Committee which led to serving on the Metro RUGGoS committee (Held up the Metro certificate).

In 1990 I started a family, and stole time only to make or write public comments.

[The Metro Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) draft was on the meeting agenda earlier, so I used it here as a springboard.]

I would like to use the transit component of the RTP as the basis of my remarks today...

[HELD UP] Here are my written comments about the RTP in 1999. In 1992 (fifteen years ago) I also commented on Region 2040. [Held up GRAPH OF NODES] There are circles and arrows on that one. In 2007, I will submit similar comments on the draft RTP Transit plan, introducing a PATTERN LANGUAGE that matches the patterns in 2040 plan.

For example, this RTP has "Radial Community Bus Service". That's Good! But I really think we need to implement these new concepts, indeed even the TOTAL SYSTEM, from the ground UP. TRIMET says that building the TOTAL SYSTEM means providing shelters and information like the TRACKER -- and the PLANNER, and providing adequate SERVICE. But our transit system of the FUTURE should be INTUITIVE to use, connecting adjacent towns and communities so that a person can GET AROUND without having to consult a Trip Planner all the time.

We've got a long way to go... (Held up #39 poster) Here is a project that I recently co-ordinated to connect Lewis & Clark College with Hillsdale, previously STRONGLY DISCONNECTED communities. The new route works well, but this needs to be done all over the region.

I recently heard a rumor -- There's a BLUE SKY project at TRIMET... a total redesign of the system map. What does the public know of that? When I came to Oregon.. the OPEN meetings law had just passed, which was a radical departure from back room deals and such. [Hold up WIRED magazine] This guy, Linus Torvalds, (who lives in District #2, by the way) is on a lot of magazine covers. Here they characterize him as LEADER OF THE FREE WORLD. (The world of Open Source Software Development).

This new form of COLLABORATION is being applied in MANY areas. Metro's MetroScope model should be OPENED. The R.E.I.N. website is a kind of OPEN DATA project. We have Open SPACES... even Open FOOD. How about if we APPLY some sort of Open METHOD to the design of a TOTAL TRANSIT SYSTEM, on the assumption that the people in their own communities know how best to serve and connect their own places?

[Timer runs out] In closing,

Why do I want to be a Councilor? I would have more of an opportunity to be involved in all kinds of Metro projects, and that would be a step UP for me. We are facing some hard problems.

Thank You.

That Long Break

I admit that I was chagrined by the treatment that World-Remixed got in the Oregonian compared to the other blogs that got more prominent mention. One of the blogs ran out of things to say after two days. In another guy's blog, all the postings were dated March 10th. It was basically a promo for his consulting business.

I pointed these things out to Steve Woodward, and he wrote back:

On the other hand, that's pretty much a reflection of the real blogging world. Many, if not most, blogs ARE abandoned in real life. And a very high percentage of blogs are commercial enterprises. So I think the readers got to see a representative slice of what's out there. I wish I'd been clear, though, about the nature of those blogs.

Having said that, I would do it differently if I had it to do over again. So please accept my apologies for not featuring your blog more prominently. It really did deserve better.

When lots of family and personal business ensued, I dropped the blog for the summer.

I will get back to my theme after documenting one of the reasons that I continued to take the long break... I applied to fill the vacant seat on the Metro Council created when the incumbent resigned!

The Ghosts of Celilo

On October 5th, we went to see The Ghosts of Celilo, which takes place in the time just before the falls are inundated.

The play was visual and musical. The story was as much about the children placed in boarding school, having their cultural heritage suppressed, as it was about the river being harnessed for "progress".

The play was well-written, fairly representing the mindsets of the time. It had a mythical feeling to it. The staging, lighting, acting, and singing was all very good. It has all the qualities a good play needs, well-crafted throughout.

A group of high schoolers attended from Chemeketa High School in Salem. They particularly enjoyed the well-delivered inside jokes, such as the use of "inn-it", slang for "isn't it?".

There were several dramatic lines and scenes that drew their responses, such as a racist remark from the school headmistress. But there were plenty of cheers as well. Overall, the effect for them must have been tremendous. I was happy that this story was being told to sold-out crowds.

I mention this here to re-start World-Remixed where I left off.

The Ghosts of Celilo website.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

A Reflection on Celilo Falls

In The Oregonian on February 18, 2007, Kara Briggs wrote:

The place drew Native people from as far away as the Great Plains and Vancouver Island. Season after season they came to fish and trade for hard-to-get goods at the village, which spread out on both sides of the river. Young women helped haul the fresh catch. Older women cleaned the salmon to dry, sell or cook for the masses that gathered when the fish ran.

The whole village came alive and smelled of ocean. "I always heard the old people say 'this is our center of the earth right here.'" -- Olson Meanus, Jr.

At 10:00 a.m., March 10, 1957, the gates of The Dalles dam closed and by three in the afternoon, Celilo Falls were under water. Thousands listened to radio and watched TV. The ancient ones stood by in horror, as a place known for ten millenia disappeared.

I was not yet eight at the time. We sang Roll on Columbia in school. I later learned that my parents witnessed salmon fishing at Celilo Falls on their 1937 Honeymoon. Looking at it as an adult, I thought — it's only flooded, maybe it will return some day. But the Oregonian article shocked me. We had blasted the basalt land forms so barges can pass where Salmon once jumped.

We destroyed a way of life and fish, just 50 years ago this day.

More reading:
Umatilla recall the ending of a way of life at Celilo Falls

Friday, March 9, 2007

General Systems Theory meets Ecotopia

Thanks to The Oregonian for listing WORLD REMIXED in the Living section today.

I hope you'll consider going back to #1 remix on February 21st, where I took up Steve Woodward's challenge to become a rookie blogger. In any case, Welcome!

As an amazing co-incidence, 30 Years ago this day I sent the following memo.

TO: All faculty and Students
FROM: John Miller, Mathematics Department

The following is a description of a course that I am offering this
spring term at Lewis & Clark:

Math 298 General Systems Theory

The purpose of this course is to have the student momentarily
eschew the role of a specialist to confront real world problems
from a comprehensive viewpoint. Working as an organized team,
the class will define a large scale problem, a set of mutually
agreeable assumptions, and a direction toward some goal. The
course will consist of several lectures, guest speakers, a film
or two, join problem solving sessions subgroup problem solving
sessions, and hopefully much dialog and exchange. The magnitude
of the problem to be viewed in on the order of:

1) A model of a capitol city for Alaska, or
2) A model of a self-sufficient Utopian colony.

The end product of the course cannot be known at this time. However,
a term's worth of thinking should lead to realizations about the
nature of comprehensive problem solving.

Your contribution and/or contributions will be appreciated.
Students from all Majors are encouraged to take the course.
The class will meet Period 10, 7:00-9:30 pm on Mondays and Wednesdays.
I wish to speak with each prospective student sometime before registration.

I had a reading list prepared, but somebody stopped by my office and told me about Ecotopia, by Earnest Callenbach, so I scratched the list, order copies for the bookstore, and made Ecotopia required reading for the course.

The blog entry on February 23 describes a little more about how the "class" went. We got a good start on a world model.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

A Virtual Community - Beacon Hill Village

Suzanne Stark, 79, lives in a book-lined apartment in central Boston's lovely Beacon Hill neighborhood. Independent and active, the author and freelance writer nevertheless acknowledges there are times when problems arise and she needs help. Like when her beloved cat Zenobia became suddenly, violently ill, and Stark couldn't get her into a carrier to take her to the veterinarian.

"I tried everything, and then I called Beacon Hill Village," she says. "I said, 'I know this is weird, but can you send someone to help me get this cat in the carrier?' And they did."

Beacon Hill Village is a revolutionary, all-encompassing concierge service created by residents who want to grow old in the homes they have lived in for years.

I read about Beacon Hill Village in the December 2005, AARP magazine, in an article by Barbara Basler, entitled Declaration of Independents, Home is where you want to live forever. Here’s how.

The concept was developed in the MIT AgeLab. They have put together "HOW TO" documentation so that the nonprofit association can be duplicated anywhere.

Services available with a subscription to the village include: Home repair and adaptation, Household cleaning, Errands, computer problem solving, bill paying, Transportation, Weekly grocery shopping, Home-delivered meals, Regular trips and events. The association also organizes dining groups, free lecture series, and tracks opportunities for members to help each other and local non-profits, and so on.

The village can be whatever the association want it to be. They just contract for services and hire a manager.

Beacon Hill Village is hosting a two-day national conference, The Building Blocks: How to Make Your Neighborhood into a Village, designed for community leaders and professionals interested in creating and funding living alternatives. April 30 and May 1, 2007 in Boston.