The local election results and transit/land use

It has certainly been a momentous–and busy–election night. In DC, the status quo was mostly maintained–President Obama is re-elected, and neither house of Congress changes control (the Democrats pick up a few seats in the Senate, and likely will in the House as well; though many seats are still undecided at this point). All Oregon congresspersons are re-elected, and the Jaime Herrera Beutler in WA-3 appears headed for re-election as well. In Salem, the Democrats will maintain control of the Senate and re-take the House.

But several local races may have a bigger impact on transit and land use.
First, in the Portland mayoral election, Charlie Hales has defeated Jefferson Smith. This result was not surprising, given the various damaging personal revelations about Smith to surface in recent months. Earlier in the year, Hales gave an interview with Portland Afoot where he stated his positions on the relevant issued. He is, of course, a strong supporter of (and strongly associated with) Portland Streetcar, and has long supported the system during his career in both public office and private industry, and supports its expansion. He believes that transit in general is a worthwhile public endeavor, and supports new taxes/fees to fund operations. On the other hand, he is also a strong supporter of the Columbia River Crossing project (arguably moreso than Smith was), though has made clear that he will continue Sam Adams’ policy of requiring alternate transportation on the CRC as a condition of Portland’s support for the project.

Which brings us to Proposition 1, the initiative in Clark County for a 0.1% sales tax hike to fund both MAX operations as part of the CRC process, and the proposed Fourth Plain BRT project. It failed, 56%-44%. As Portland Afoot notes, officials in Washington have been viewing Prop 1 as a referendum on the CRC itself. With Clark County expressing its dislike for light rail across the river, and Portland likely continuing to insist that it be built, and a continued lack of funds from either Olympia or Salem, and the extreme difficulties the project team seems to be having with designing a bridge that will meet regulatory approval; will this put the brakes on the CRC? (One other factor that may have an affect: The Washington governor’s race remains too close to call at this time).

Two Oregon suburban communities also continued an anti-rail backlash, with Tigard voters passing a measure to require a public vote on tax/fee increases going towards future light rail spending (and doing so by a wide margin). This measure seems to be more competently drafted than the similar measure which passed in Clackamas County–it only applies to new taxes and fees (not sure how it deals with the money-is-fungible problem), and also only applies to construction projects. It doesn’t appear that this measure will limit Tigard’s ability to participate in the SW Corridor planning process; though it certainly could constrain the result of that process. As noted previously, if Tigard residents are opposed to light rail, this is the time to speak up. While Clackamas County residents have made opposition clear to future projects, the Green Line is already in operation along I-205, and the Milwaukie line is under construction as we speak.

Speaking of Clackamas County, transit opponent John Ludlow is currently leadingincumbent Charlotte Lehan in the race for county chair, and another transit skeptic, Tootie Smith, is leading Jamie Dimon. Should both results hold up, the county government will shift to a position of being considerably more hostile to “Portland creep” in the county. Whether this will affect ongoing projects like MLR remains to be seen; though it’s safe to assume that future “smart growth” projects will be on hold in the county for a while.

Portland Afoot has more analysis of tonight’s election results.

32 Comments

32 Responses to The local election results and transit/land use

  1. Chris I
    November 7, 2012 at 7:09 am Link

    It’s just amazing to me that these communities are passing legislation to require votes for a certain mode of transportation. $2 billion dollar highway project? No problem. $500 million dollar light rail line? We have to vote on it!

    What if they build it using mag-lev trains? What if they choose BRT? This is so short-sighted…

  2. al m
    November 7, 2012 at 7:54 am Link

    My views on this are simple, they are referendums on Trimet, its fat wasteful bureaucracy, the lies that continually come out of their propaganda department, and their complete lack of regard for the citizens of the area.

    That agency is too powerful and people want it stopped and made accountable.

    These are victories for people like me that have worked long at making that place accountable.

  3. inwe
    November 7, 2012 at 10:05 am Link

    How about a vote on Metro taking over TriMet?

    TriMet provides an amazing service, especially in comparison with other US transit agencies, but something is also very clearly wrong. TriMet leadership needs to be more accountable to the public.

  4. EngineerScotty
    November 7, 2012 at 12:02 pm Link

    One non-local race of some importance:

    In the Honolulu mayors race, voters elected Kirk Caldwell over conservative Ben Cayetano, in a race which was largely seen as a referendum on an elevated rail line which is planned for the city (and for which some construction has started). Cayetano ran against the project, calling it wasteful–advocating BRT instead, and hinting that if he won he would cancel the project.

    However, Cayetano lost decisively, and the project likely will go forward.

  5. EngineerScotty
    November 7, 2012 at 12:02 pm Link

    One non-local race of some importance:

    In the Honolulu mayors race, voters elected Kirk Caldwell over conservative Ben Cayetano, in a race which was largely seen as a referendum on an elevated rail line which is planned for the city (and for which some construction has started). Cayetano ran against the project, calling it wasteful–advocating BRT instead, and hinting that if he won he would cancel the project.

    However, Cayetano lost decisively, and the project likely will go forward.

  6. al m
    November 7, 2012 at 1:17 pm Link

    However, Cayetano lost decisively, and the project likely will go forward.

    ~~~>Not completely accurate, there was a federal judge that ruled against it

    Honolulu’s Controversial Rail Project is Derailed in Federal Court | Hawaii Reporter

  7. al m
    November 7, 2012 at 1:34 pm Link

    Here’s a list of transportation votes around the country, most passed:

    Transportation Ballot Measures | Center for Transportation Excellence

  8. Dave
    November 7, 2012 at 5:18 pm Link

    Well, the Teahadist Republic of Clackistan is alive and well.

  9. Wells
    November 7, 2012 at 6:44 pm Link

    “Teahadist Republic of Clackastan” FUN-KNEE!!

    Once Milwaukie MAX is up and running, many conservatives will naturally become supporters, but the cult of isolationist individualism will still worship golden calf idols though the earth may open and swallow them on their way to the drive-thru for a burger.

  10. al m
    November 7, 2012 at 7:29 pm Link

    Can someone please explain to me why they can’t build the bridge huge enough to accommodate rail later? Whats the big deal with rail? I just don’t understand why that is holding up a car bridge?

  11. EngineerScotty
    November 7, 2012 at 10:44 pm Link

    Willamette Week chimes in on the transportation issues facing mayor-elect Hales.

  12. Chris I
    November 8, 2012 at 8:04 am Link

    Al,

    The transit funding is just one of the MANY issues holding up the bridge.

    And look, if ODOT had approached this as a simple bridge replacement so many years ago, they would probably be built by now. One new 8-lane bridge with HOV/Transit lane would have been $1 billion. They chose to make it into a massive freeway expansion project (remember that roughly half of the cost is rebuilt interchanges, primarily north of the river), and felt they could appease Portland by adding light rail. You can’t blame this problem on light rail funding.

  13. dan w
    November 8, 2012 at 10:24 am Link

    They chose to make it into a massive freeway expansion project (remember that roughly half of the cost is rebuilt interchanges, primarily north of the river)…

    I agree that the interchange rebuild component has a stronger aroma of pork than just about any other aspect of the CRC; ironically enough, several interchanges on the WA side were already rebuilt/modernized not too long ago (don’t remember exactly when but they’re newer than anything on the OR side).

  14. Allan
    November 8, 2012 at 10:46 am Link

    The super-annoying thing as an Oregon resident is that Oregon is on the hook for 1/2 the cost (or at least half the local match) for those interchanges that are totally unbeneficial for Oregon residents unless they travel to the northern suburbs of Vancouver. Why they are included in the ‘bridge project’ as a 50/50 Oregon/Washington match is crazy to me.

  15. Wells
    November 8, 2012 at 11:24 am Link

    The CRC lead agency is Wsdot. ODOT didn’t finalize feasible Oregon interchange designs until 2010, the 4th year of planning. The current Marine Drive interchange is a hazardous “pretzel” for all users, cars/trucks/peds/bicyclists, yet its “excellent” replacement was the first to be deferred by Wsdot supposedly to cut costs.

    ODOT’s new Marine Drive interchange includes an option to access Hayden Island west of Home Depot. This option, Concept #1 is the safest entry with the least impact and most restoration potential. However, Wsdot prefers the initial design for “spagetti ramps” that predict horrific multi-car pile-up on its exits and its entry ramps noisy, polluting and likewise dangerous. To claim the spagetti ramp design is “safer” is a malevolent LIE. Embarrassed CRC Commission members are reluctant to admit being bamboozled by Wsdot.

    Next to blame is the Port of Portland for approving the post-2008 double-deck bridge design which they’ve known from the start fails the crtical river clearance requirement. The Port is too focussed on bulldozing West Hayden Island to build a marine terminal and an oval railway track facility there instead of in North Portland where it makes the most sense but doesn’t expand their territorial hegemony.

    The CRC is screwed up badly.
    Blame Wsdot and the Port of Portland.

    Recommendation:

    Build only a Southbound single-deck bridge, 5-lanes plus width for BRT -(LRT later?)- and Ped/bikeway on west edge; use existing bridges for Northbound traffic. Build new Marine Drive interchange with Concept #1 off-island access. This should cut project cost roughly in half.

  16. al m
    November 8, 2012 at 1:07 pm Link

    Oh gawd, the whole thing smacks of government dysfunction in action.
    Nothing ever gets done all the career bureaucrats squabble about stupidity and the planners and consultants continue to make millions off all of this.

    Wasn’t it you Scott that posted here that the design was set up intentionally to fail and create chaos?

    It appears you were on the money.

  17. EngineerScotty
    November 8, 2012 at 3:07 pm Link

    I had wondered a while back–somewhat tongue in cheek–if someone in one of the DOTs, desiring to screw Portland over, intentionally designed the bridge with a 90′ clearance, so that when the Coast guard objected, the light rail piece could be stripped off.

    There’s no evidence for that supposition, and it violates Hanlon’s Razor (“never attribute to malice what can be explained by incompetence”)–and recent talk of turning the CRC into a drawbridge (!) seems to suggest that no, this won’t happen.

    But whatever, this project is Seriously. Fouled. Up. (Another word starting with “F” would be more appropriate, but we don’t use that sort of language here at Portland Transport).

  18. Wells
    November 8, 2012 at 4:32 pm Link

    Evidence for the supposition that Wsdot plotted to eliminate light rail on the CRC project is found in the 2008 decision to reject single-deck bridge designs which fail the river clearance issue and ignore a safety advantage that BRT/LRT lanes offer southbound traffic in an emergency.

    Other evidence condemning Wsdot is found in their decision to build a 60′ bore tunnel through unstable soils beneath vulnerable downtown Seattle towers directly atop a 50 mile east/west earthquake fault line; a tunnel whose north portal redirects heavy traffic from a suitably commercial corridor up a long steep hill through high-density residential Queen Anne on Mercer Street which is already overloaded with traffic. Wsdot directors and department heads on these projects are malevolently indifferent to public safety. Bill Gates wanted convenient freeway access to his new headquarters despite the danger, and what Mr Bill wants, Mr Bill gets.

  19. al m
    November 8, 2012 at 9:19 pm Link

    Southwest Washington lawmakers ask for CRC redesign | The Columbian

    $160 million dollars in planning work?
    What a f’n disgrace.

  20. Nick theoldurbanist
    November 8, 2012 at 9:30 pm Link

    “Rivers said the light rail system is too expensive, that Vancouver’s population isn’t dense enough to warrant light rail, and that light rail is a bad choice because it’s stationary. “We can’t just pick up the rails and move them” if the demand for mass transit shifts to different areas, she said.”

    >>>>> And PORTLAND’S density does not warrant light rail, either, as I’ve said all along. Ditto for being inflexible.

  21. Erik H.
    November 8, 2012 at 10:05 pm Link

    $2 billion dollar highway project? No problem. $500 million dollar light rail line?

    Considering that I’m not aware of any $2 billion projects in the Tigard area…the most controversial project in the highway department was the $12.5 million dollar safety improvement between 217 and the “Viaduct” – and the only controversy was that the city raised the gas tax to pay for what should have been a state funded project as it involved two state highways.

    But…we got WES, the lovely $165 million, 200% over-budget, months late, underperforming (after three years of operation ridership is still 700 boarding riders below the first year estimate), and costs regional taxpayers $7 million in operating subsidy or $17 per boarding ride. Meanwhile, the 12 route got slashed and the heavily used transit line south of downtown Tigard now has less service; the promised improvements to the 76 line were not delivered, the 45 got cut back, 94 riders still enjoy some of TriMet’s buses that are more worthy of a scrap heap than one of the leading transit systems in North America… And if you’re lucky what used to be a ten minute bus ride from one end of town to the other end now requires a 27 minute wait at the Tigard Transit Center (sorry, no Transit Tracker, “free” Wi-Fi or art – those amenities are only for rail riders).

    Between a highway used by 50,000 vehicles (and many more people), or a TriMet forced rail project that carries a tiny, tiny fraction of that, at a much higher cost – it’s no wonder Tigard residents are fed up with TriMet’s continual poor and mismanaged service. And to think TriMet wants to remove heavily used travel lanes from Tigard’s main street with no alternative route for a light rail line that won’t even serve a vast number of the 99W travelers?

  22. Chris I
    November 9, 2012 at 7:08 am Link

    Erik,

    You may just get your wish, and Tigard will not get improved transit service. Enjoy your gridlock on Highway 99. Yet another reason to avoid Tigard completely.

  23. al m
    November 9, 2012 at 2:32 pm Link

    Light rail debate, from Hawaii, this is sorta interesting sounds like light rail does have support from the public there, watch the video

    Kirk Caldwell secures convincing win | Politics – KITV Home

  24. R A Fontes
    November 9, 2012 at 6:55 pm Link

    Back to local elections:

    Lake Oswego defeated the sole incumbent (Bill Tierney) running for reelection and is bringing in four newcomers to elected office. Three of the four (unofficial mayor-elect Kent Studebaker, councilors-elect Karen Bowerman and Skip O’Neill) were part of a conservative slate, while the fourth Jon Gustafson (any relation to Rick?) is very pro-streetcar but didn’t advertise the fact in his campaign. So the City Council is going from 7-0 pro-streetcar through 2008, 6-1 in 2009 & 2010, 4-3 in 2011 & 2012 to 2-5 next year.

    Tierney lost by only about 625 votes and it’s possible that his streetcar related actions may have cost him his seat. He’s the one who sidetracked the LO extension last January which may have upset some streetcar advocates. At the same time he added language supporting a MOS based extension through Johns Landing. The problem is that the project DEIS (Section 2.2.3.3) calls for the truncation of the 35 at Nevada Street, forcing transfers to streetcar for about 3/4 of all Highway 43 transit users. This would cost riders at least an average 30 minutes on each round trip. All this is without any purported benefit to Lake Oswego.

    After Tierney’s motion passed unanimously, I petitioned the council to pass a resolution supporting continuation and improvement of line 35 through-service whether or not streetcar was extended into Johns Landing. The three conservatives signed on to putting it on the agenda, but not one of the pro-streetcar majority would support the effort. So it was never publicly discussed.

    The Review kindly published an Op-Ed explaining what happened and why it was important to riders. I also passed out flyers at the LO transit center. Most were unaware because media didn’t cover Tierney’s Johns Landing extension language back in January. LO bus riders were not pleased to learn of Tierney’s and the council majority’s action.

  25. Nick theoldurbanist
    November 9, 2012 at 9:42 pm Link

    ” The problem is that the project DEIS (Section 2.2.3.3) calls for the truncation of the 35 at Nevada Street, forcing transfers to streetcar for about 3/4 of all Highway 43 transit users. This would cost riders at least an average 30 minutes on each round trip. All this is without any purported benefit to Lake Oswego.”

    >>>> Disgusting! As a heavy transit user, I’ve really grown to hate anything rail around here, except for Amtrak and the freight RRs.

  26. al m
    November 9, 2012 at 10:28 pm Link

    The whole divide on rail is very very strange.
    I never did figure out what the fascination with light rail was, other then the obvious fat cat contracts that it brings with it.

    We have one light rail line in PDX that makes sense, the blue line.

    The rest of the system is just fluff.

  27. EngineerScotty
    November 10, 2012 at 3:01 pm Link

    Seattle Transit Blog on Washington’s governor-elect, Jay Inslee. The article focuses on Seattle, but the election of Inslee, who is far more transit-friendly than his predecessor, Concrete Christine Gregoire, may have impacts in the Portland/Vancouver area.

  28. al m
    November 11, 2012 at 3:15 pm Link

    Linking these elections to light rail is a real stretch of imagination. I’m sure that’s not the only thing people up in Washington are thinking about when they voted up there.

    Washington state is far more progressive than Oregon as evidenced by some of the social victories in the elections up there.

    Now in LA, there was a huge loss for the light rail agenda. You can probably pass anything in the city of Portland but as far as expanding that empire outwards, my personal feelings is that It’s Over

  29. John D
    November 11, 2012 at 4:36 pm Link

    Al, oh please. Measure J won 65% of the vote. That means a majority of the population of the county wanted it. But because of Prop 13 and the super majority requirement the 35% was able to dictate what was going to happen.

    What most of these local elections are showing is that you can buy an election. Look at the one in Vancouver where the woman won had $1.5 million to her opponent who only had a $10,000 and still got a good 40% of the vote.

    What is really scary is how many of these local elections are being dictated by a few power money people like the Stimpson Lumber funded Superpac that put all the money into the Clackamas County elections.

  30. al m
    November 11, 2012 at 6:01 pm Link

    Well it lost, John.
    They are having the same fight down there as we are having, but they have a bigger activist riders group there.

    They did get it defeated, due to the super majority clause which I think is a very good idea for any tax raising measure.

  31. chrisw443
    November 11, 2012 at 8:14 pm Link

    Why do we still have to wait 40 minutes during some rush hours to cross the damn river? WHY? It is very annoying clark county voters like to sit in traffic, or worse like to sit on the #4 for half of a commute. I want to live in Vancouver, but I wont until I have an alternative other than one overused interstate.

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