June 16, 2008
Quiet Collapse of Prosperity
U.S. mayors have testified to Congress that failure to maintain and invest in infrastructure is resulting in a decline in U.S. prosperity.
June 16, 2008 9:36 AM
al m Says:
But our beloved federal Government run by a cadre of neo fascists can spend $3,000,000,000 a month on a phony war against innocent people in the middle east.
Why bother fixing cities? Or subsidize transit at home? The military industrial complex is much more important than actual US Citizens.
June 16, 2008 1:13 PM
Ron Swaren Says:
I happened to see part of that hearing on C-Span. There could be a number of reasons for declining prosperity, such as: weakening US dollar, higher energy costs, inflation, housing and credit bubble, space alien attack.....(just kidding on that last one.)
No doubt our infrastructure needs improvin'....all the more as we develop a first class system of international welfare, resettling folks that manage to come up with some silly reason why we should. And there are no serious signs of that trend letting up in the near future, so, yes, our infrastructure is getting outgrowed.
Every situation is going to be different, though. I have been studying how inadequate our transportation links are between Southwest Washington and our own liitle burg here. I had to drop all the way down the list of US metropolitan regions (among those situated next to another state and separated by a water barrier) to find one as inadequately equipped as our own. I found Memphis, Tennessee (pop.
Some cities like Boston might do fine with a MAX-like light rail system. OTOH, I have seen the one in San Jose in action though--pretty much a glorified bus route most of the day. But freeways might be too expensive. I like Halstead's idea of the double decker self propelled rail car. Somebody gave me a Colorado Rail Car brochure a few weeks ago, and they had their own design of one, too. There are some economical solutions out there. Don't panic yet.
And then instead of spending a billion or two to complete the I-405 route to Vancouver or plunk down a new bridge in the Camas-Troutdale area----we will embark on a Homerian Odyssey to solve our congested I-5 corridor by makin' the present structure even bigger---and that would be only the first step. I think we can fix our transportation issues--and have the ensuing financial prosperity, barring Asian competition, of course---but do it in a fiscally conservative way.
June 17, 2008 7:24 AM
Erik Halstead Says:
I had to drop all the way down the list of US metropolitan regions (among those situated next to another state and separated by a water barrier) to find one as inadequately equipped as our own. I found Memphis, Tennessee (pop.
Memphis isn't so bad - they have two Interstate bridges in a very close range to each other crossing the Mississippi (which join at a junction just west of the river), and frankly there isn't much in West Memphis. It is definitely nowhere on the scale of Vancouver.
Memphis' largest "suburb" is Desoto County, Mississippi.
What struck me as unusual about Memphis is that there really aren't suburbs in the sense that Portland has - when you reach Memphis city limits, there are farms and forestlands for the most park. Memphis is credited with stopping construction of the I-40 freeway through the center of town because the city zoo was (and still is) in the path - today what was I-40 is nothing more than ghost ramps at the west end, and an uncompleted freeway/expressway on the east end. Residents refer to the current freeway as the I-240 "loop", and the exit numbers do go around the loop, although in signage, one half of the look is I-240 and the other half is signed for I-40.
Memphis, like Seattle, has a "heritage" streetcar line. Like Seattle they use Melbourne, Australia streetcar vehicles as well as a smaller vehicle. Unlike Seattle, there are two routes - one on Main Street through downtown (serving the Amtrak station, although only one Amtrak train a day passes through town), and a second riverside route along the Mississippi that runs only one-way (southbound).
For the week that I was in Memphis there was really only one bottleneck, the "malfunction junction" between I-55 (to Mississippi) and I-240. (And that was only because the entire interchange was under construction when I was in the city.) The rest of the freeway system within Memphis was well-maintained, appropriated sized - and I had to commute from a hotel near the airport to the complete opposite side of the 240 loop (not my decision).
Now, cross the Mississippi into Arkansas and you can see the difference - the highways there are poorly maintained with potholes, rutting and so on. Like day and night. Drive south into Mississippi and the I-55 freeway was scary (people don't know how to drive). Even the I-55 and I-70 bridges across the Mississippi left much to be desired; the Interstate Bridge actually is a work of genius compared to the two bridges over the Mississippi.
June 17, 2008 7:32 AM
Erik Halstead Says:
But freeways might be too expensive. I like Halstead's idea of the double decker self propelled rail car.
IMO, I don't understand why the CRC folks haven't even talked about starting up commuter rail service north of Portland.
I wouldn't recommend a DMU but rather locomotive and car trains like Sounder, West Coast Express, CalTrain, ACE, Metrolink, Coaster - locomotive and five cars (which can seat about 600 people per train) and run them from Union Station to Vancouver, and on two routes - one east to Camas and Washougal, a second that runs north to Kelso. Possibly in the future, a third line to Battle Ground (this line would require extensive rehabilitation, and would be suitable for DMU operations to Vancouver.)
These two initial routes are already used by high speed (79 MPH) Amtrak trains, are already double-tracked and therefore don't require a rebuild of the track structure (like was necessary with WES). New stations would have to be constructed other than Portland and Vancouver. In Seattle the Sounder trains are extremely popular with very high ridership growth increases year over year for the last several years; reverse commute trains have been added and they are looking to expand more.
In California, many of the commuter lines run all day long.
A commuter rail service could be implemented for hundreds of millions of dollars, and serve a far greater reach than the $1.7 billion light rail line that would only go from the Expo Center to downtown Vancouver. Eventually such a system could be extended south to Salem, and possibly a DMU route to St. Helens and Rainier; and down the road a route to McMinnville.
These DMU routes could easily be operated as long distance motorcoach runs NOW. In Seattle, busses cover the mid-day and weekend runs to Everett and Tacoma when the trains don't run to provide continuous service.
June 17, 2008 6:07 PM
Ron Swaren Says:
We're all for the commuter train. By "we" I mean a still small group advocating the "Third Bridge" a mile downstream from the I-5. Paul Edgar, who has written on here, seems to be pretty knowldgeable about stuff related to freight trains and was on some regional advisory committee. If we could get that corridor going with both standard vehicular traffic and an improved freight rail path--maybe we could eventually get the high speed passenger rail up through Cascadia.
But what would be wrong with a relatively compact rail vehicle, at least for local service? That's why I liked the doubledecked Schienenbus--but even the old two car railbuses were pretty awesome. Why do commuter trains have to be so expensive and heavy? If airplanes are going to new materials, can't rail vehicles also. This is the 21st Century, isn't it?
We don't really know how the fuel crisis will eventually shake out with regards to air travel. No matter whether fuel costs come back down (just kidding) or cheaper alternatives are found or more fuel effcient aircraft designed, trains still would have an advantage---the station is close to downtown and, at least here, acccessible by streetcar, to boot. With two airport treks dispensed with in the Portland-Seattle commute that's a very big savings. I doubt that such short plane hops would ever soon upgrade to any supersonic service---and the present Horizon turbo props wouldn't be that much faster than a hi speed rail, anyway. (NBC news just said we will have composite plastic planes!)
So if we really want to look to the future let's look at how to get this rail corridor performing well and add one more River crossing in this metropolitan area, along with it---just like the Big Boys. This gives the Vancouver AMTRAK station a fairer shot at being something more than just another old building in Vancouver on the wrong side of the tracks. And here Vancouver could really emulate Portland---making the AMTRAK station the centerpiece of a fine urban renewal program on the waterfront.
What does this have to do with prosperity? Welll, maybe more diverse connections in Cascadia would be just the ticket, It would make us a more attractive vacation destination. Not that I really want millions of people movin' in here, y'all....
June 17, 2008 7:45 PM
Erik Halstead Says:
But what would be wrong with a relatively compact rail vehicle, at least for local service?
1. I don't see the double-deck vehicle, or even Colorado Railcar's DMU, or Siemens' , or Bombardier's Talent, as suitable for the particular route - the intent is to move a large number of people from a housing source to an employment destination, and a smaller vehicle would not provide the capacity. (This is similar to whether you want to run strictly busses between, say Beaverton or Gresham and Portland, or use a higher capacity vehicle like MAX.) Vancouver to Portland really needs additional capacity for which commuter rail can inexpensively provide (at a cost far, far less than building MAX across the river).
2. Under current FRA regulations such a vehicle would be illegal to operate given the freight traffic on the line.
That said - I'm hardly opposed, and actually support, the vehicles given the right route. Which is why I mentioned Battle Ground-Vancouver on the Lewis & Clark/Clark County Railroad. Or Sherwood-Milwaukie. Even in 50 years, Canby to Molalla or Woodburn to Mt. Angel to Silverton. These vehicles, in Europe, are used on branchline services, not the mainline.
When I was in Hamburg back in the mid-1990s there was what we call a short-line railroad that had a DMU service. It had its own track and platform at the DB station, and never touched the main track - it left on a track parallel to the main for about a half mile, before going off on its branchline.
Now, Germany doesn't have the same laws, and most traffic on their rail network is passenger and not freight, but running the shortline DMU train separate from the mainline solves a lot of problems in the long term. The train from Elmshorn to Hamburg...were all locomotive hauled consists.
If the feds can eliminate the crashworthiness directive, then maybe we can see more light-weight rail vehicles; however keep in mind that the light-weight railcar is going on the same track as a coal train with three heavy 420,000 pound locomotives up front, and 100+ 280,000 pound cars behind it. You just don't see that kind of freight trains in Europe; they simply don't exist.
June 22, 2008 10:01 AM
al m Says:
If gas prices continue to rise:
June 26, 2008 4:42 PM
Hey now, the space alien attack caused a lot of destruction!!!!