OPB Morning News All About BRT

A well-balanced discussion of how Bus Rapid Transit stacks up against Light Rail and the corridors where it is under consideration (Southwest Corridor, Powell) as well as a discussion of Eugene’s system and its planned extension. Audio (MP3) and text links.

43 Comments

43 Responses to OPB Morning News All About BRT

  1. Lenny Anderson
    January 28, 2013 at 4:00 pm Link

    Bad Republican Transit. That about sums up my view of BRT. It was studied for Milwaukie where it had costs comparable to LRT to build with an exclusive ROW and much higher operating costs…all those Ops! Transit’s cost center.
    Time to go to the voters for the match with a compelling plan for SW line and maybe a WES upgrade. If it fails, put what we can into FS bus service and call it good.

  2. EngineerScotty
    January 28, 2013 at 4:36 pm Link

    My longstanding thoughts on BRT:

    1) In general, if you’re going to spring for class 1 BRT (a fully segregated transitway), in most cases rail may be a better option, due to the operational efficiencies mentioned. Note that this is not an absolute principle–BRT has advantages if you have a heavily-branched system and you want to improve performance and efficiency by upgrading the trunk.

    1a) In recent years, for whatever reason, building rail has gotten VERY expensive–if nothing else, there are far more contractors out there who can build roadways than rail, and lots of other economies of scale exist. In a capital-constrained environment, rail might not be a useful option.

    2) In places where class 1 operation is out of the question, either due to cost or due to a constrained urban environment, BRT makes a lot of sense: especially if the plan is to take auto lanes from cars, in which case quality BRT can be done really inexpensively.

    3) Ideally, some BRT would be the basic standard of service on all bus routes–at least the major trunk lines where there is bang for the buck to be gotten.

    4) Mixed-traffic rail (sorry, Streetcar) isn’t terribly compelling as a transit technology. It has some advantages if done right–certain demographics may prefer it, and electric traction has pollution benefits; but it has few (if any) operational benefits over local bus service.

  3. m
    January 28, 2013 at 4:48 pm Link

    “BRT makes a lot of sense: especially if the plan is to take auto lanes from cars, in which case quality BRT can be done really inexpensively.”

    This is the option they should take on a few key routes. Tri-Met is going bankrupt. This is the best option per dollar spent with the greatest chance of enticing to people to take more mass transit.

    LRT is too expensive and the Streetcar is a scam put forth by the developers.

  4. EngineerScotty
    January 28, 2013 at 5:06 pm Link

    This is the option they should take on a few key routes. Tri-Met is going bankrupt. This is the best option per dollar spent with the greatest chance of enticing to people to take more mass transit.

    While long-term pension obligations are an issue for TriMet, the agency is not “going bankrupt”. Generally, capital projects are paid for by a combination of grants from state, federal, and local governments, not out of TriMet’s operational monies. (PMLR was an unfortunate exception, as a small part of the construction costs are being paid by bonding TriMet payroll tax).

    The main issue driving what capital projects we can afford is how much money can be shaken from the tree in Salem and Washington DC.

    This is not to say that capital projects don’t affect operations. A *good* project will improve operational efficiency–either by making lines run faster and/or more efficiently, or by improving capacity–in both cases this allows a given level of service to be run with fewer vehicles (and may also make the service more attractive to riders). A bad project, on the other hand, may commit operational dollars to poorly-performing services (hi, WES!) or to routes where the bang-for-buck isn’t very good.

    LRT, if deployed on trunk lines, has excellent operational efficiency. OTOH, it can mean a transfer of service hours from the urban core routes to locations along the LRT corridor (often in the ‘burbs), particularly when LRT opens coincident with system spending cuts. (A good argument can be made that the Green Line is superfluous–as only the I-205 branch is unique service, and it is nearly duplicated by the 72, as well as the many E/W frequent busses that it bisects. OTOH, people seem to like to ride it…)

  5. Allan
    January 28, 2013 at 5:19 pm Link

    Its too bad that the bike ‘system’ can’t shake money from the trees you mention like transit can. If we could shake a good Half Billion or so we might get bike share up to to 20-30% or so, whereas that money doesn’t buy very much rail.

  6. m
    January 28, 2013 at 5:19 pm Link

    “The main issue driving what capital projects we can afford is how much money can be shaken from the tree in Salem and Washington DC.”

    I disagree that Tri-Met isn’t going bankrupt. They aren’t there yet, but if they continue on their existing path, it is a question of when, not if.

    In addition to the pension issue, we can’t keep expanding on the dime of the Federal deficit/debt. Yes, it pays for expansion, but when it comes time for maintenance we are on our own.

    “it can mean a transfer of service hours from the urban core routes to locations along the LRT corridor (often in the ‘burbs), particularly when LRT opens coincident with system spending cuts.”

    This is a planner/bureaucrat way of saying we can’t afford to expand and keep existing service because the method we are choosing for expansion is the Rolls Royce option instead of utilizing the Ford option which allow us to offer better service without decimating existing service in the inner city.

    We need to live within our means.

  7. EngineerScotty
    January 28, 2013 at 5:53 pm Link

    m,

    I think you’ll find that I’m suggesting that capital projects be undertaken wisely–something that hasn’t always happened. I think you agree with this.

    It also appears that regional leaders are getting the message–beyond PMLR and CRC, there aren’t any other big-ticket transit projects in the pipe for at least a decade (SW Corridor is being planned, but the funding isn’t there to build a major transit corridor, not for a long while).

    That said, there is a distinction between capital dollars and operating dollars; the two come from mostly-separate revenue sources. The complaints about the WES, the Green Line and the Streetcar expansions aren’t that money was taken from bus operations to pay for their construction (it wasn’t); but that these services represent new claims on operating dollars, which aren’t as cost-effective as other choices we might make.

    The interesting question about PMLR, when it opens: What will its affect on operations be? It will essentially eliminate the 33 north of Milwaukie, the 99, various peak-hour runs of routes like the 30 or 31, and possibly a few other E/W lines that turn north on McLoughlin. It will probably cost about twice as much to operate as the current 33 does between downtown and Milwaukie–MAX costs about 2x the price per service hour as bus does. OTOH, MAX won’t get stuck in traffic on McLoughlin, making the service more reliable, at least in theory.

    The big question: All else being equal, will the opening of PMLR (and cancellation of now-redundant bus routes) free up operational dollars for service elsewhere, or will non-redundant bus service cuts be needed to pay for PMLR operations? (All else may not be equal, of course, as the state legislature did approve a payroll tax increase as part of the PMLR funding package, which may offset any operational shortfalls caused by PMLR–OTOH, why wouldn’t the Leg simply make that money available for expanded bus service)?

  8. m
    January 28, 2013 at 6:34 pm Link

    I agree that capital projects should be undertaken wisely.

    With regard to the “SW Corridor is being planned”, this is the MO of TriMet and Metro: plan, plan, plan and then get so far into it before the general public realizes what has happened, they can say we are already too far along to stop even though you don’t want it or it is too expensive. The CRC has already spent more than $200 million and there hasn’t been a single shovel lifted. That is borderline criminal, in my view.

    We can’t keep buying the expensive option on the Federal dime/debt while knowing that the subsequent maintenance will be beyond our means without service cuts or tax increases.

    This is not sustainable. It is not opinion but basic math and will lead to bankruptcy if it continues.

    No more streetcars, no further expansion of LRT, and instead implement limited BRT on key routes and restore regular bus service as much as possible.

  9. EngineerScotty
    January 28, 2013 at 8:01 pm Link

    With regard to the “SW Corridor is being planned”, this is the MO of TriMet and Metro: plan, plan, plan and then get so far into it before the general public realizes what has happened, they can say we are already too far along to stop even though you don’t want it or it is too expensive. The CRC has already spent more than $200 million and there hasn’t been a single shovel lifted. That is borderline criminal, in my view.

    The CRC is largely the baby of ODOT and WSDOT; TriMet and Metro are minor players in it. Capital projects run by TriMet/Metro have generally had more open public processes.

  10. m
    January 28, 2013 at 8:33 pm Link

    I could have inserted any state or local agency to make the same point. PDC, TriMet, ODOT, Metro, they all use the same MO.

    TriMet started digging on the PMLR bridge before funding was fully in place then used the digging as partial justification for the need for additional funding. Metro/PDC will do the same thing with the convention center hotel boondoggle.

    Sometimes I think the developers and bureaucrats think all of the citizens are a bunch of idiots.
    The people are finally starting to pay attention. Hopefully it isn’t too late for this lovely metro area.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am a big believer in mass transit. But we need to live within our means and build mass transit that we can afford, not only to build but also to operate and maintain without having to cut existing service or raise taxes.

  11. al m
    January 28, 2013 at 8:36 pm Link

    How bout we perfect what we have and stop ‘planning’ for everything else.

    I guess that would mean people would be out of work, actually a lot of people, so the capital projects marches on even if the agency is insolvent. The capital projects division is in control of Trimet now.

    When it comes to spending the tax payers money the sky is the limit.

    Maybe by then they will have ‘privatized’ the workforce, eliminated all benefits, and have reduced pay to just over minimum wage.

    That’s most likely the plan.

  12. Erik H.
    January 28, 2013 at 9:33 pm Link

    The complaints about the WES, the Green Line and the Streetcar expansions aren’t that money was taken from bus operations to pay for their construction (it wasn’t); but that these services represent new claims on operating dollars, which aren’t as cost-effective as other choices we might make.

    Funny. WES was sold as an $80 million project. It was approved at $121 million. It cost $165 million. The federal, state and local obligations were based on $121 million. Who paid that $44 million, that included TriMet’s bailout of Colorado Railcar sending TriMet payrolled employees to write checks on TriMet’s checking account to pay a utility bill for a warehouse in Colorado? I’m pretty sure the feds and the state didn’t.

    Bad Republican Transit. That about sums up my view of BRT.

    And MAX is “Massively Assinine eXpense”, what’s the point?

    The reason the Green Line is expensive (whether bus or rail) was TriMet’s insistence on a new bridge; plus the massive number of overpasses that were chosen. Had TriMet stuck to using the already upgraded Hawthorne Bridge (which was rebuilt in the 1990s specifically to accomodate future rail use), that would have saved several hundred million dollars. Nope. The bridge already supports bus service – zero cost to improve it for BRT. And from the Hawthorne to Milwaukie, TriMet could have easily partnered with ODOT to build a HOV lane that would have allowed carpool use as well. More savings – and no unnecessary overpass for Powell Boulevard, no unnecessary overpass for Brooklyn Yard, no unnecessary overpass/underpass for Tacoma Street, no need to destroy businesses along 17th Avenue and further north, no need to destroy wetlands in Eastmoreland, no need for TriMet to spend millions on new office furniture for its top executives.

    Just think – the money used for WES could have paid for three or four BRT lines; the money for the Milwaukie Line another dozen or so – and on top of it, these BRT lines would have a direct improvement on TriMet’s operating cost by replacing old, unreliable, inefficient buses with newer buses; increasing ridership thus reducing the cost per boarding ride. Instead, we have WES at $17/boarding ride, while eliminating several $3/boarding ride bus routes to pay for it. And we’re still out the $40 million in money paid to Colorado businesses and workers.

  13. EngineerScotty
    January 28, 2013 at 10:47 pm Link

    TriMet started digging on the PMLR bridge before funding was fully in place then used the digging as partial justification for the need for additional funding. Metro/PDC will do the same thing with the convention center hotel boondoggle.

    Funding was mostly secure before construction began. There was some concern about Clackamas County’s share, but that’s a small piece of the overall budget.

    I guess that would mean people would be out of work, actually a lot of people, so the capital projects marches on even if the agency is insolvent. The capital projects division is in control of Trimet now.

    While I won’t agree (or disagree) with all of this, this is an interesting point. Construction unions, by and large, have the political clout to deliver pwork (a word I just coined–a combination of “work” and “pork”) for their membership; but ATU757 seems to lack similar clout. Maybe you need a) better lobbyists, or b) some well-connected capitalists you can hitch your wagon to. :)

    Erik–I’m not about to start defending WES in this thread; it was a bad idea as proposed, and its execution made it even worse.

    At any rate, you seem to have the Green and Orange lines a bit confused, as the Green doesn’t require any new bridges (unless you count the overpasses over Lents and Johnson Creek as “bridges”). The new PMLR bridge is only about 10%-15% of the cost of the overall project, if my memory serves me correctly, and will (hopefully) be beneficial to bus service (and ped/bike) as well. (If the Hawthorne were used instead–would you make the center lanes transit only, or run LRT in mixed traffic, like MAX used to do on the Steel long ago?)

    A HOV/carpool/bus lane on 99E would be better than mixed-traffic operation, though it might still get stuck in traffic–unless a HOV lane is physically separate from the mainline, traffic jams on the mainline will quickly affect HOV lanes. However, unless one was to steal lanes from cars–which I doubt ODOT would approve of–such a project would require significant new construction. Probably not $1.5B, but hundreds of millions.

    And I suspect that TriMet would have upgraded its office workstations at some point regardless of what transit project got built. From what I’ve heard, the furniture upgrades are entirely functional–not mahogony desks for TriMet management or anything like that.

  14. al m
    January 28, 2013 at 11:06 pm Link

    While I won’t agree (or disagree) with all of this, this is an interesting point. Construction unions, by and large, have the political clout to deliver pwork (a word I just coined–a combination of “work” and “pork”) for their membership; but ATU757 seems to lack similar clout. Maybe you need a) better lobbyists, or b) some well-connected capitalists you can hitch your wagon to. :)

    ~~~>That’s not it at all. The global elite is determined to break all the first world unions, which it is doing at break neck speed.

    Now here in the states its easy to go after bus drivers because its a scorned profession. In every state in this union the exact same thing is happening.

    It’s a carefully played script and they have completely fooled the masses of sheeple who believe the nonsense.

    1.5 Billion for a light rail line to a town of 20,000 but the 5 million a year for health benefits is the problem.

    1.5 billion for a light rail to a town of 20,000 but the $800 million unfunded liability is the problem?

    Believe what you want to, I can’t change the ignorance of the sheeple.

    “There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action.”
    Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)

  15. Ron Swaren
    January 29, 2013 at 4:35 pm Link

    “Now here in the states its easy to go after bus drivers because its a scorned profession. In every state in this union the exact same thing is happening.”

    Al, Government workers get the kid glove treatment. It’s in the private sector, with hire- at-will, where anything can happen. You can be the most skilled person in your craft, and you’re gone when somebody’s brother in law needs the job. Governments increasingly follow rules in regards to their employees; private businesses don’t have to.

    Why do you think Oregonians are gravitating more towards government jobs? There’s a lot less risk.

  16. al m
    January 29, 2013 at 4:50 pm Link

    It’s in the private sector, with hire- at-will, where anything can happen.

    ~~~> Exactly, and places like WALMART create massive fortunes for their owners on the back of their ‘employees’ who are nothing but wage slaves.

    The first world is in serious danger.
    And its going to blow up again, all because the money masters (globalists) have created this phony monetary system which is used to manipulate the masses and create a class of slaves.

    Right now there is not enough suffering going on to wake up the masses, but Europe is getting close to ground zero.

    And you know what happens when Europe blows up, millions suffer and die.

    There is no shortage of money, there is BOAT LOADS OF MONEY, it’s just being horded by giant corporations, banks, and individual members of the power elite.

    The recession was always a lie, its a manipulated event intended to perpetuate fraud upon the masses so the power elite can keep iron fisted control.

    “They” handed over TRILLIONS of tax payers money to bail out the TO BIG TO FAILS, yet the problem is the benefits to a bunch of bus drivers and social security recipients? Ya right, sure that’s the problem, sure it is…

    This is not going to end well, for anyone.

    My only goal is to wake people up to the reality of the situation.

    You cannot believe anything that is coming from the mainstream media or the corporate/government elites.

    And the only way the human race is going to progress is to shake the chains of the monetary system from around our necks.

    The American fascists are most easily recognized by their deliberate perversion of truth and fact. Their newspapers and propaganda carefully cultivate every fissure of disunity, every crack in the common front against fascism.
    (Henry A. Wallace)

  17. Lenny Anderson
    January 29, 2013 at 5:12 pm Link

    There are some very thoughtful comments on the original threat at OPB on the advantages of LRT vs BRT.
    Its worth remembering that WA county’s electeds were the driving force behind WES, “a lower cost rail option than LRT”, and that TriMet was cool to the idea.
    Likewise TriMet originally opposed Streetcar which is a COP project; the original line was paid largely by an LID of property owners and city parking money. Only later extensions brought in URA tax increment dollars and then for the eastside, federal money. Both in terms of ridership and development it is an unquestionable success. What other criteria are relevant here?

  18. al m
    January 29, 2013 at 5:28 pm Link

    What other criteria are relevant here?

    ~~~>Lenny I was under the impression that the reason transit existed was to get people to jobs!
    Give people mobility that otherwise don’t have mobility!

    Over the last 10 years that priority has shifted,now the priority is funding rail projects.

    While the FED’s are busy funding billions of dollars in rail projects the transit that the people actually need is in shambles.

    The question is why?

    The globalists support the rail agenda, that’s why.

    Now why would they support the rail agenda other than it transforms millions of tax dollars into the hands of the private ‘insider’ circle?

    Because it creates a situation where larger populations of people are easier to control.

    That is the globalist agenda.

  19. Ron Swaren
    January 29, 2013 at 6:26 pm Link

    “The recession was always a lie, its a manipulated event intended to perpetuate fraud upon the masses so the power elite can keep iron fisted control.”

    I think due more to Americans buying chic, foreign products. Like the $70,000 beemers running around liberal cities. Plus there are a lot of other things aggravating our trade deficit. Including the $100 billion/an. going to philanthropy, a good portion of that remittances to other countries.

    But, you know politicians will always find someone else to blame.

  20. al m
    January 29, 2013 at 6:32 pm Link

    I think due more to Americans buying chic, foreign products.

    ~~~>That cannot be correct and here is the reason why:

    The Europeans are suffering huge cutbacks due to ‘austerity’ and you cant turn around and say they are buying chic etc.

    The whole thing is contrived.

  21. al m
    January 29, 2013 at 7:00 pm Link

    And now we have THIS!

  22. al m
    January 29, 2013 at 7:20 pm Link

    THIS is an example of globalism. “pack em in like animals” because the global elites actually believe that we are less than them, that ‘they’ are the superior human beings!

    Do you think any of the executives that are shoving all this down are throats will ever use it on a continual basis? Do I need to answer that?

  23. m
    January 29, 2013 at 8:14 pm Link

    “Both in terms of ridership and development it is an unquestionable success. What other criteria are relevant here?”

    I STRONGLY disagree. The development comes from property tax abatements, not light rail. No one ride the eastside light rail because due to the idiotic circular route. The development won’t come unless and until the property tax abatements come. This is the next step in the developers’ plan/scam.

    The streetcar replaced buses that served the same function at a fraction of the cost.

    The streetcar is a SCAM of the highest order pushed onto the people by the developers all the while we are decimating the bus system and taking away property taxes via TIF from basic services.

  24. m
    January 29, 2013 at 8:16 pm Link

    I meant ‘streetcar’ not ‘light rail’ in the post above.

  25. Bob R.
    January 29, 2013 at 8:45 pm Link

    . No one ride the eastside [streetcar] (sic) because due to the idiotic circular routeThe streetcar replaced buses that served the same function at a fraction of the cost.The streetcar is a SCAM of the highest order pushed onto the people by the developers all the while we are decimating the bus system and taking away property taxes via TIF from basic services.

    Those are bold and specific claims.

    If you don’t mind, please document:

    1. What is the precise “no one” ridership of the eastside streetcar (“Central Loop”) line? (What threshold do you use to define “no one”?)
    2. Which buses previously served the current streetcar routes, what did they cost, and what was their ridership at the time?
    3. Which developers are “decimating” (1 in 10?) the bus system, and what were property tax revenues in affected districts prior to TIF and currently?

    Thanks,
    Bob R.

  26. m
    January 29, 2013 at 9:04 pm Link

    The statements are no bolder than your claims that “both in terms of ridership and development it is an unquestionable success.”

    Why don’t you start by specifically demonstrating how ridership is greater with the streetcar than the buses it replaced and how development increased because of the streetcar and not because of property tax abatements?

  27. Bob R.
    January 29, 2013 at 10:27 pm Link

    The statements are no bolder than your claims that “both in terms of ridership and development it is an unquestionable success.”

    You are referring to Lenny’s comment, not mine.

    However, although I think development needs to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis (not all developments were subsidized by tax abatements, but some were), in terms of ridership the streetcar is doing quite well, despite recent cutbacks. (Yes, the streetcar has experienced cutbacks along with bus and MAX service, both in the original route and in cutbacks from what the new CL line was supposed to have in initial service.)

    So I’ll extend my comment to again ask you for substantiation of your claims, and to ask Lenny to elaborate on his claims.

  28. al m
    January 29, 2013 at 11:10 pm Link

    I’m no streetcar supporter but the do have one BIG thing going for them.

    It’s affordable and mass transit for the public should be affordable!

    Trimet is actually not affordable for people on low fixed incomes that do not qualify for HC tickets and passes.

  29. Reza
    January 30, 2013 at 10:16 am Link

    @ Bob R.

    “2. Which buses previously served the current streetcar routes, what did they cost, and what was their ridership at the time?”

    While no bus to my knowledge ever served the current NS route (because most of 10th and 11th Avenues north of Hoyt Street didn’t EXIST), the 17 line is a recent example of a service cut in the Pearl and NW neighborhoods that was somewhat redundant with the Streetcar and provided those neighborhoods access to the Transit Mall.

    But then TriMet thought it was okay to push all those riders onto the Streetcar, so the 17-21st Ave section was cut, and now I hear that streetcar service could be cut yet AGAIN by PBOT due to budget shortfalls. Absolutely ridiculous…

  30. al m
    January 30, 2013 at 12:13 pm Link

    Trimet’s main purpose now:
    TriMet wants to develop site by Portland-Milwaukie Max line – Portland Business Journal

    (As I have been ranting on and on, the globalists are handing out BILLIONS of dollars for all this sort of nonsense while letting MASS TRANSIT {the thing that actual people need} wither away)

  31. Lenny Anderson
    January 30, 2013 at 5:46 pm Link

    The 77 runs the old 17 route in NW; it no longer shares the Lovejoy/Northrup couplet with Streetcar, which was redundant.
    re Streetcar’s succcess, I was speaking of the westside line which carries over 10K riders per day, more than all but a few bus lines, and certainly had a role in the transportation of an old industrial district into a pretty lively neighborhood.
    Eastside…its a little too soon to tell! There is a lot of vacant land, huge parking lots and other under utilized land along the line. Will developers take the plunge? Only time will tell.
    What do you suggest? I don’t think a bus line would do the trick; has it ever? where? when?

  32. m
    January 30, 2013 at 6:30 pm Link

    The property development scam:
    http://www.cato.org/articles/streetcar-scam

    The lack of ridership on the Ghost Train:http://www.wweek.com/portland/article-20202-murmurs_hose_flushing_ghost_trains_and_a_nike_shocker.html

    Will developers take the plunge, Lenny? Not without property tax abatements, they won’t.

  33. Nathanael
    January 30, 2013 at 7:58 pm Link

    al m: you’ve been distracted. Old tactic of the powerful. You’ve got a good understanding of the global situation… but you’e misapplying it to rail.

    The rail projects are, on the whole, quite useful. And in the long run they’re more efficient to operate than buses.

    Now… look at the ROAD WIDENING projects. Nationally, those eat up over 10 times what all the rail projects in the country cost. And for no benefit at all: people are driving less; they aren’t needed.

    Or… look at the US MILITARY. Now running in the vicinity of a TRILLION (with a T) dollars a year, it can’t win a war, but is spending more than the sum total of all other militaries in the entire world combined. The Military-Industrial Complex is the really big example of the powerful throwing money away on nonsense.

    The amount of money spent on this dwarfs the waste in the entire rest of the government… except, perhaps, for the money given to criminal bankers. Hard to tell with that, because nobody has audited the Federal Reserve.

  34. Ron Swaren
    January 30, 2013 at 9:07 pm Link

    I doubt that the Community Transit system of express buses into Seattle has had to have a lot of costly route alteration, time consuming citizen groups, costly parking facilities and transit stops. It would have been good to see this system evaluated in this comparison, too.

  35. Reza
    January 31, 2013 at 10:57 am Link

    @ Lenny Anderson

    Thanks for the comment, Lenny, but we already had the 77. And it doesn’t go into Downtown, so it’s irrelevant because you’ve just forced transfers on people, and in close-in neighborhoods like ours a required transfer to getting downtown incurs huge time penalties as a proportion of total travel time.

    @ m

    The quickest way to de-legitimize yourself in transit discussion is to start posting stuff from Cato, Heritage, CPI, etc. We obviously know where your biases lie.

  36. m
    January 31, 2013 at 11:25 am Link

    Reza:

    Actually, I am a liberal Democrat and not a regular reader of Cato.org. I found it by googling ‘streetcar scam’. Did you actually read it or just made assumptions due to the source? It has some interesting info and revealing quotes from our current mayor.

    My bias lies in being sick and tired of transportation dollars funneled away from transportation (such as buses) and toward property development tools that make a few very rich. To make things worse, the streetcar actually fails in its mission of property development. It is the tax abatements that bring the development. And as to it being a transportation option, I can (and do so regularly), walk faster than the streetcar.
    It is a scam and a joke.

    Expansion of the streetcar needs to end and the PDC needs to be shut down.

  37. EngineerScotty
    January 31, 2013 at 12:27 pm Link

    Reza,

    There is plenty of legitimate criticism of how public transit operates from the left; in particular the suggestion that many transit projects are primarily motivated by pork-barrel politics. It’s always useful to ask cui bono? with everything–and sadly, even on the most useful public works, chances are someone has their hand in the cookie jar. A good public project is one in which the number of purloined cookies is kept to a minimum. At any rate, the number of cookies swiped by politically-powerful constituencies on local transit projects is noting compared to the wholesale bakery theft that occurs in Washington and on Wall Street.

    (Of course, a similar criticism can be levelled at transit unions–their primary purpose, after all, is to maximize the pay and benefits of transit workers; rail projects are hostile to those interests in several ways).

    Even ignoring the prospect of pork-barrel politics, there remains other disconnects between policy-makers and many parts of the transit riding public. Policymakers are motivated (or claim to be–though the current state of law supports these claims) to be interested in environmental outcomes; from that point of view, things like encouraging cycling (which does not pollute) or building LRT to the suburbs (which has the potential to attract motorists out of cars, and does not pollute locally) are good ideas. Existing transit users, on the other hand, may not benefit from these things; and those worried about their next paycheck may consider the environment a luxury they cannot afford to care about–they want a reliable ride to work and couldn’t give a fig about what comes out of the tailpipe of the bus (or car) they use.

    As far as cato.org and Cascade Policy Institute go–a lot depends on the writer. Some Cato writers do engage in legitimate criticism of how transportation infrastructure is funded, including decrying “road socialism”. Other writers at Cato (Randall O’Toole being a notorious example) are little more than obnoxious sprawl-boosters; who seek to use public policy to preserve the hegemony of the automobile.

  38. dwainedibbly
    February 1, 2013 at 6:09 pm Link

    What has to happen in order for WES to be shut down? Were commitments made to the Feds in order to get funding? If so, when do they expire?

  39. Erik Martin reddit
    February 1, 2013 at 6:53 pm Link

    [Moderator: Troll post removed -- ES]

  40. Erik H.
    February 2, 2013 at 8:42 pm Link

    The new PMLR bridge is only about 10%-15% of the cost of the overall project, if my memory serves me correctly, and will (hopefully) be beneficial to bus service (and ped/bike) as well. (If the Hawthorne were used instead–would you make the center lanes transit only, or run LRT in mixed traffic, like MAX used to do on the Steel long ago?)

    Yes, I have the colors mixed up, but that’s besides the point.

    The new Willamette River Bridge is just one of many unnecessary bridges. There is the bridge over Harbor Drive. There is the bridge over Powell Boulevard. There is the bridge over the driveway to Union Pacific’s Brooklyn Yard. There is the bridge over the ramp to Tacoma Street (and then the tracks have to dip under Tacoma Street). There is the Johnson Creek Bridge (probably the only unavoidable bridge).

    MAX could have easily used the center lanes of the Hawthorne Bridge. Just like the Steel Bridge. Whether automobiles are allowed to use it…doesn’t really matter either way.

    MAX does not need a grade-separated crossing to UP’s Brooklyn Yard. It did not need a grade-separated crossing of the Tacoma Street on-ramp/off-ramp. Yet those overpasses added millions in unnecessary cost.

    But…God forbid we ask for TriMet to fund bus stops and there’s no money. Just eliminating ONE of those unnecessary MAX bridges would pay for hundreds of improved bus stops (shelters, sidewalk enhancements, lighting, bus information signs, landscaping). Just ONE. And the FTA would pay for it the same.

  41. Erik H.
    February 2, 2013 at 8:53 pm Link

    I was speaking of the westside line which carries over 10K riders per day, more than all but a few bus lines, and certainly had a role in the transportation of an old industrial district into a pretty lively neighborhood.

    What do you suggest? I don’t think a bus line would do the trick; has it ever? where? when?

    It’s amazing what a couple hundred million dollars in brand new transit vehicles (with low floor access and air conditioning in all vehicles) and fully improved transit stops, coupled with no fares (and no fare enforcement in the little section that had a fare, and the fares were widely disregarded), and frequent headway service can do, while simultaneously disinvesting in the other mode of transport (buses) resulting in old, aging, unreliable buses with no A/C, poorly designed (if designed at all!) stops, declining service and unreliable service, and increasing fares.

    Maybe a good experiment would be to spend $200 million on the 12 line between Portland and Hollywood, with brand new articulated buses with A/C, low floor access, 10 minute headways, and fully improved bus stops, and see how well transit ridership increases. Of course we’d still have $180 million left over after we’ve done all the improvements, so we could also improve the 12 out to Parkrose and to Tigard and a dozen other lines…and see how much transit ridership increases.

    Since TriMet refuses to give bus service the IDENTICAL treatment Streetcar received, there is no basis to the Streetcar claim that it is widely popular and bus service could not replicate that same “success”…because TriMet, Metro and the City of Portland REFUSE to let bus service succeed.

    If you want to prove me wrong, show me where a bus line received the same investment and attention to planning and detail and was a flop. (Queue Jeopardy music on permanent loop for a few years…)

  42. Lenny Anderson
    February 3, 2013 at 8:54 pm Link

    I misspoke, Streetcar played an important role in the “transformation” (not “transportation”) of the old NW industrial area/rail yard into a thriving community. My guess is a huge investment in bus service while welcome would not produce such a transformation. I have never read or heard of it happening anywhere. Feel free to set me straight. Some merchants in Woodlawn, unfortunately, want to get rid of buses that terminate at the Triangle; they might feel differently about reviving the old streetcar line that once terminated there.

  43. Jason McHuff
    February 4, 2013 at 1:16 am Link

    First of all, the Hawthorne Bridge is out of the way for serving PSU, South Waterfront and, via the tram, OHSU. It also is lifted frequently and doesn’t really have the space.

    There is the bridge over Harbor Drive.

    Not really avoidable given the adjacent elevation change and amount and speed of traffic on Harbor Drive.

    There is the bridge over Powell Boulevard.

    Not sure how you’d avoid it given that Powell is at a lower elevation, in addition to it being very busy and a state highway.

    There is the bridge over the driveway to Union Pacific’s Brooklyn Yard.

    That was a mitigation for changing the truck routes in the area and getting trucks off of narrow streets.

    There is the bridge over the ramp to Tacoma Street

    I’m guessing it was a safety or ODOT requirement.

    Maybe a good experiment would be to spend $200 million on the 12 line between Portland and Hollywood

    I’m not sure how realistic that is since there’s already very good service between those two places.

    Since TriMet refuses to give bus service the IDENTICAL treatment Streetcar received

    How much of Streetcar’s “treatment” came from Portland and not TriMet?

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