Eye in the Sky

Portland’s Bureau of Transportation asked me to collaborate on a simple experiment: in 15 minutes at rush hour, how many people do cars vs buses vs bikes move down a certain street? It was part of an effort to convince City Council to invest in “rose lanes,” special bus-only lanes to pull transit out of congestion and make it more attractive to riders. More people on the bus, fewer people in cars, less congestion, less frustration, less climate-change-accelerating pollution.

Cinematographer Matt Giraud fine tunes the rigging and composition for a PBOT shoot. (Gyroscope Pictures)So I scouted good vantage points nearby and we settled on the top of a 20-story building overlooking Main street. When dawn broke on our shoot day, we set up the shot and rigged everything for safety (and rain-proofing), the rainy city laid out below us in soft blue light.

Back in the edit bay, I cut together this 60-second spot. Using the data provided by a team down on the street – where they actually counted not just cars, but the number of people in them (bikes, too; TriMet provided bus rider data) – I created a visual encapsulation of those 15 minutes tallied by streamlined (and custom) counters.

What the data showed for this particular slice of time was that cars moved slightly more people than buses did. But pointing out the space it took to do that, I created a visual summation with the hundreds of cars it took to move their passengers, facing off against the minuscule 6 buses it took to move theirs.

The difference – and its impact on congestion and pollution – is obvious and compelling. City Council passed the measure unanimously.