Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Eugene, Oregon's EMX (BRT) Line Versus

EMX Bus Approaches Eugene Station


The Lane Transit District (LTD) opened its EMX (Emerald Express) west 11th Street extension on Sunday last the 27th of September 2017. I rode it on that opening day and found it bumpy but otherwise comfortable.
The EMX system is a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system. So how does EMX compare to regular buses and to light rail?


  1. EMX is basically a bus. Its stations are called bus stops. It has many reserved lanes in the roadway where only it, and right turning cars, may drive. It stops at signals just like all traffic and regular buses do.
  2. Because stops are few and far between, you can think of it as more of a Limited bus route. Riding it reminded me of the 38L on Geary Boulevard in San Francisco. A bit faster perhaps, and less crowded then the 38L. But both only stop where they cross other bus routes. In this sense, EMX is a limited stop bus route.
  3. Bicyclists slow down loading because bicycles most be placed on a special rack a the front of the bus, a rack that can only hold two bicycles. Contrast that to the new EMX bus. It has an internal bike rack that can hold three to six bicycles. And because bikes roll easily onto and off of the bus, their loading/unloading does not slow down the EMX bus.
  4. All LTD buses stick to published arrival times posted at each bus stop. The EMX bus posts those arrival times on electronic screens at each stop. When any bus, including EMX buses, runs ahead of schedule, it must pause in a bus stop and wait to get back on schedule. This is perhaps the one most annoying part of riding the LTD system. Buses that pause to fall back into schedule are frustrating. Instead, LTD signs should show when to expect the next bus in minutes. "The next bus will arrive in 7 minutes." That way, even if the bus ran ahead of schedule, the arrival would be correctly predicted without the need to pause at a bus stop. This is easy to change on EMX because they run at 10 minute intervals. So missing a bus causes little harm. This would not work on other bus lines because they run at 1/2 hor and hourly intervals where missing the bus is a crisis.
  5. Despite having laid special concrete in its lanes, the EMX bus ride was bumpy. All buses are bumpy because they run over road intended for other traffic. The only systems that are smooth are rail systems. Portland's light trail system, for example, is smooth. Light rail costs twice as much as BRT to build. EMX could have built half the distance and put in light rail. Would half the distance of light rail have made sense? Subways cost 10 times more than BRT to build. Would on tenth the distance of subway light rail have made sense? Probably not, because BRT gives you more distance for the buck, but BRT runs a third as fast as a subway.
  6. The real advantage of EMX is its frequency. During weekdays, EMX buses run one every 10 minutes. Imagine if all bus routes ran one every 10 minutes. A rider wouldn't need plan on a scheduled bus, instead the rider could simply show up at a bus stop and a bus would arrive within 10 minutes. Would buses be vastly more popular if so frequent?
  7. As an experiment, LTD should run an express on some busy route to see if frequency is a better draw than BRT with it level boarding and scheduled stops. By way of example, consider a 50x that could run out River Road crossing the 51, 52, and 55 lines. If it ran once each 10 minutes, and only stopped at transit transfer intersections, would it be as popular as the existing EMX line?
How does BRT stack up in your town?


Sunday, July 9, 2017

My new favorite artist: Jeremy Geddes

Acedia 2000
Artist: Jeremy Geddes

It is not often I discover an artist whose art I just fall in love with. Jeremy Geddes has this way of visualizing the world that takes my breathe away. Whether floating astronauts, exploding buildings, or split up people, his art is intended to, and succeeds to evoke a strong emotion, good or bad.

I discovered Jeremy in the latest issue of High Fructose magazine. If you are interested in contemporary art, you should definitely subscribe to High Fructose magazine. However, if you are easily upset by surreal art, you should skip this magazine.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Fake Stars


A backdrop on a stage can be perforated to create the feeling of night time stars. One might call this an artificial night, or one could use the more popular word, "fake." Fake stars imply that they have been created to deceive. Artificial stars imply that they have been created to set a mood. Normally one would not call the backdrop stars fake. But these are not normal times. When the leader of the free world uses the word fake, he does so with malice.

Does this trend imply that we too should adopt a posture of malice? Should we call a toy duck a fake duck? Should we call a Teddy bear a Fake bear? Should we call a model railroad a fake railroad? Should we call an actor in a role a fake person? Should we call a photograph fake art? Should we call store Santa a fake Santa? Should we call a veggie burger a fake burger?

Personally I don't think our leaders create the world in which we live, rather we create the world in which our leaders live.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Rest On Art


While on a trip to Spokane, Washington, I awoke early went for a walk to photograph art. The night before I had seen this bench on my way to have a nightcap and ice cream. It was an art bench created by artist Timothy Biggs using old scarp machine parts from the former Steam Plant. It is not often that a bench on a sidewalk can be art.

Unfortunately the seat was not comfortable to sit upon. It reminded me of sitting on a waffle iron. Not that I have ever sat on a waffle iron. ☺

You can see more shots of this bench here.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Edit Lesson: What's wrong with "here"


The word "here" is one of those unspecific words that can appear in fiction. I say unspecific because it tells the reader nothing about the location other than it is not someplace else.

The word "here" is also unnecessary word that can appear in fiction. I say unnecessary because it can be eliminated with no change in meaning. The default location in fiction is the present location (here) unless otherwise specified.

To illustrate, consider this paragraph from an actual published book.
And here I was, performing that same trick today.
What the author actually means is,
And I was present, performing that same trick today.
But of course that sounds worse. So lets remove the word "here" from the original sentence:
And I was, performing that same trick today.
We drop the "And" and the comma and get a declarative sentence:
I performed that same trick today.
The lesson is that "here" can, and should, be stricken from all fiction, unless used in dialog as part of a necessary jargon or accent.

When editing something you have written, make a pass through it looking for all occurrences of the word, "here." Remove each occurrence and rewrite so that its absence works better.

Perhaps another example will help. Consider:
He pushed open the door and shoved me into his office. What was I doing here again?
Eliminate "here" and rewrite to perhaps get:
He pushed open the door and shoved me through. What was I doing in his office again?
Search your manuscript for the word "here" and eliminate. Repeat until there are no "here" words left. Your manuscript will be better for the effort.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

An Interesting Rejection





I got the following rejection from Mike Allen at Clockwork Phoenix magazine:

"Dear Bryan, thank you for sending this. Your story was reserved for me to read by one of my assistant editors, but though it's well written I'm afraid the story didn't hold me. Sorry about that! I do wish you luck placing this one elsewhere."

This got me wondering what failed to hold his interest. The story is fairly linear for being a time travel story.  A young married couple visited an old woman selling a condo. But the old woman appeared to be the younger woman only much older. An odd device causes the two women to fall as if the floor vanished. They land on dirt in 1946.  The old woman is killed and the young woman has broken a leg. The bulk of the story's middle is how the woman came to grips with the past and decided not to follow the steps of her prior self.

I would be interested in hearing from you it you have ideas how I might tighten and fix this story. I would be willing to email you a PDF of the story if you can convince me that you are a good critic. Please contact me if you have interest in helping.

Meanwhile I will reread it with an eye for how it slows.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Second Guessing A Penny

Take a moment to wander around your home. Look at all the clocks you have. You may already have looked in response to the recent change from Daylight Saving Time (called Summer Time in Europe). Notice first that clocks are everywhere --on the microwave, on the oven, on the telephone, on your cellphone, even on some refrigerators and toasters.  Notice also that all the modern digital clocks lack seconds.

While wandering did you also notice a penny jar on your dresser? Or at least a change jar somewhere in the house?

Almost all small stores in the States have adopted a penny tray by the register (Europe lags behind in this regard). You place into the tray any pennies you received in change. The next customer may need a penny or two to round out a purchase, and can take them from the tray.  (In some neighborhoods, I have noticed nickels and dimes in the penny tray too, but that is off topic.)

Pennies are becoming more and more worthless. A gum ball from a machine now costs a quarter ($US 0.25). Things that used to cost a penny each, no longer exist.

Pennies are beginning to seem like trash. Who wants to carry around pennies in a purse or pocket? Better to saddle the next person with your worthless trash.

Seconds are beginning to follow the example of the penny. When was the last time a second mattered to you?  Sure seconds matter in races and competitions, but that is why we have stop watches. Sure seconds matter when counting down to a launch, but how often do you launch rockets?

Have you noticed that children "dial" phones, but have never seen a phone with a dial? Have you noticed that children call CDs "records"?

Slowly and stealthily, digital clocks are eliminating seconds from our daily consciousness. What's going to happen when children never experience time passing in seconds. What's going to happen when the only clocks they ever see show only hours and minutes?  How long is a minute, you might ask.  Well, its... one, of course.

"How many pennies can you count in sixty seconds?" you ask your daughter.

"What's a penny?" she frowns. "What's a second?"

---

This essay was originally published on bcxnews.org.