Revisting TriMet and Metro

Garlynn Woodsong is a planner and a frequent commenter from Portland Transport’s early days. He has recently returned to Portland after an assignment in California.

A recent visit to San Diego opened my eyes to another possibility for the reorganization of transit in the Portland region.

Currently, Metro does regional transportation and land use planning, while Tri-Met does regional transit planning (finer grain of detail than Metro), transit project construction and transit operations and maintenance.

In San Diego, SANDAG does regional transportation (including transit) and land use planning, as well as transit capital projects (construction); the transit operators just handle simple service planning, operations and maintenance.

We have previously discussed having Metro perform a wholesale takeover of TriMet, and the pros and cons of this approach.

But, what if Metro were to only take over the TriMet Capital Projects Office and long-rang planning functions, leaving TriMet to handle short-range service planning, operations and maintenance?

This would allow Metro to have a more direct link between long-range planning (coordinating land use and transportation) and the implementation of those plans; it could also handle the funding of those capital projects.

TriMet could then be freed from the political heat involved in capital projects; it could focus on its core strengths of running the regional transit system. Shenanigans involving taking from the TriMet general fund to pay for capital projects would be made more difficult… which would hopefully free up funding to pay for the operations of new lines constructed by Metro.

The two agencies would still need to work as closely together as they do today, especially with regards to find operations funding for new lines, and for projects like system-wide electrification (if something like that were to happen). But, it could be a win-win…

I’m not necessarily advocating for this move; I’m simply putting it out there for discussion of a possibility that I don’t think has been thoroughly vetted in this region yet.

Any thoughts?

65 Comments

65 Responses to Revisting TriMet and Metro

  1. Nick theoldurbanist
    February 14, 2013 at 9:35 pm Link

    But even if Metro took over Trimet Capital Projects, there would not be any more new light rail lines planned for the foreseeable future because of opposition from places like Clackamas, Tigard, and Vancouver. and it only takes a minority to delay and obstruct the process. In other words, it will be politically difficult.

    Also, consider the paucity of future Federal funds due to the national deficit.

  2. al m
    February 14, 2013 at 10:43 pm Link

    Seems like a good idea, anything is better than what they are doing now.

    Nick is right, although pie in the sky rules the roost at Trimet, all spoiled overpaid bureaucrats with big ideas (at tax payers expense) , there won’t be any more capital projects after the cow town express train. The money and popular support just aint there.

    And that’s a good thing.

  3. Jim Lee
    February 15, 2013 at 9:35 am Link

    “System electrification” could mean trolly buses on high service lines, right?

    Also, where would Portland Streetcar, Inc., fit in to such a scheme?

    TriMet already does operations; were Metro to do the planing the present entity would have no reason to exist, apparently.

  4. j_j
    February 15, 2013 at 9:38 am Link

    State Rep Chris Gorsek has a bill this session to fold TriMet into Metro. Seems unlikely to go anywhere, but Metro has the ability to take over TriMet (a power it has obviously never exercised). In terms of planning it makes sense, but Metro is generally a financially prudent agency and it seems risky to talk about having it consolidate with one that has lately been unable to resolve its internally generated fiscal problems.

  5. Lenny Anderson
    February 15, 2013 at 10:15 am Link

    As I recall Metro led all the planning for South/North LRT in the 90′s and for the followup MLR after S/N’s electoral defeat…I attended a few of those meetings where every option BUT LRT was on the table.
    Metro led the HCT study that gave us SW Corridor, Powell and WES as HCT corridors, and it now leads the SW Corridor study. TriMet participates, but does not lead these planning studies.
    TriMet steps in once the LPA (Locally Preferrred Alignment) is accepted by Metro and affected jursdictions and funding is secured. The CAC for Interstate LRT worked with TriMet only once the alignment and funding were set. So what you suggest appears to be the case already.
    The lightrail system is the result of a broad based regional commitment to high quality transit in major corridors, repeatedly endorsed by our elected representatives at Metro, COP, Multnomah county and beyond. There has always been opposition to every project from day one. I remember the Republican candidate for governor in 1986 belittling the first line at great length. History has proven her and many others wrong.

  6. Garlynn Woodsong
    February 15, 2013 at 10:54 am Link

    Following up, the proposal would essentially be for Metro to take over the TriMet Capital Projects office, including funding and management of construction, right up to delivery. Maybe it’s a solution looking for a problem, as Capital Projects actually has one of the best track records in the industry in terms of delivering on time and within budget… but, it could potentially take some political heat off TriMet during the financing and construction phases.

    Anyways, thanks for the comments, this post was really intended mainly as food for thought… though, I do see two likely projects on the horizon, the Barbur and Powell corridors, which could be pretty successful alignments even if their first phases never crossed the city limits…

    In terms of the relationship to Portland Streetcar, sure, there could be some efficiencies to be gained if future streetcar expansions were rolled in to the responsibility of a Metro Capital Projects office… but again, it also might be a solution looking for a problem, given that Portland Streetcar also generally does a good job with project delivery, with the singular exception of on-time vehicle delivery (which seems to be related more to the contractors working on that problem than to the management framework they operate within).

  7. R A Fontes
    February 15, 2013 at 10:59 am Link

    It was Metro that provided the unachievable projected ridership numbers used to justify WES. It’s also Metro that provided questionably high PMLR numbers.

    One episode that sticks out was the proposed LO streetcar extension. Discrepancy after discrepancy could be traced to or at least linked to Metro. I only found two that directly involved TriMet: the blackballing of West Linn and SE Portland (think line 40) from the steering committee and the padding of 2005 ridership figures in the project alternative analysis with extraneous numbers from outside the project area. The latter might be explained as a communications failure between Metro and the district.

    WES, MAX, and buses all have TriMet markings and the general public rarely thinks of Metro when it has concerns about transit. After it does its business in starting a new project, Metro transfers responsibility over to TriMet and immediately starts pushing the next big thing. There’s not a lot of accountability. Would having Metro continue on these projects for an additional step or two while still lacking operational responsibility really change that? Would TriMet’s participation in capital funding change as long as it’s willing to be the bank of last resort?

  8. EngineerScotty
    February 15, 2013 at 11:44 am Link

    Here’s another take on this:

    Some here have praised TriMet’s management of capital projects (generally on time and on budget), and I won’t dispute that. Some questionable projects have been produced of late, obviously; though the worst offenders are those that TriMet is less involved in.

    But what of the operations side? A big complaint, especially in the past few years, is that TriMet is neglecting operations bigtime.

    Part of this may be the current dispute with ATU757–it’s hard to deliver good customer service with an unhappy union. Part of this may be budget cuts, and a desire to preserve service hours by cutting away other customer-facing aspects of the business. But I’ve heard the complaint, from several different sources, that TriMet “doesn’t care” about operations–that the organizational focus of the agency is capital projects. Granted, many of these sources have an axe to grind, so keep that in mind. But if that’s true–might it be better to have a separate agency, and management structure, in charge of operations–if nothing else, to ensure that ops has a seat at the table in inter-agency planning?

  9. al m
    February 15, 2013 at 12:35 pm Link

    might it be better to have a separate agency, and management structure, in charge of operations–if nothing else, to ensure that ops has a seat at the table in inter-agency planning?

    It’s just good public policy to separate the functions.
    Having one authority over obviously leads to conflicts of interest.

  10. dave
    February 15, 2013 at 1:01 pm Link

    Why does anyone think that Metro would run Trimet or its Capital projects any better than Trimet can? They are both government agencies, run in similar fashion. All you are doing is moving folks from one government agency to another. If you think Metro is any better take a look at the Oregon Zoo. Let’s see, they think they don’t need to subject their restaurants to health inspections. The fiasco over the baby elephant. Hmmm, $400k took care of that problem.

    I do think Trimet needs help. But to start with, it’s time to replace McFarlane. If you run an company and all the outside world sees is a war between its employees and management, then something is wrong. I’m not taking sides here but generally when things get this bad, its time for some new blood to work things out.

  11. al m
    February 15, 2013 at 1:54 pm Link

    I do think Trimet needs help. But to start with, it’s time to replace McFarlane. If you run an company and all the outside world sees is a war between its employees and management, then something is wrong. I’m not taking sides here but generally when things get this bad, its time for some new blood to work things out.

    ~~~~> Amen Brother. It’s actually hard to believe that the ‘powers’ behind all this haven’t moved him out of there by now.
    But it is government, and it was set up to be unaccountable, and they have always operated that way, and they always expect Things to blow over

    But in all honestly, operationally I don’t think this dispute has had much effect. I listen to operations daily so I would know.

    It’s definitely a mess out there but I can’t be sure how much that has to do with Mcfarlane’s behavior.

    From a management standpoint it would be the best thing to do, get some new management.

    But this is Trimet, always remember Trimet is not accountable!

  12. m
    February 15, 2013 at 2:38 pm Link

    “But, what if Metro were to only take over the TriMet Capital Projects Office and long-rang planning functions, leaving TriMet to handle short-range service planning, operations and maintenance?”

    This would be little more than lipstick on a pig unless it involved: (i) cleaning house at both Metro and Tri-Met for the high level transportation folks responsible for the current TriMet financial mess along with (ii) a formal policy shift acknowledging that new capital projects can not be approved if they result in any existing service cuts unless they are truly redundant.

    Both sides are to blame for the financial problems: The union needs to acknowledge the real world and assume more costs and management needs to stop pointing fingers at the union and acknowledge it can’t keep taking on more expensive projects with “free” federal money while the foundations are crumbling.

  13. al m
    February 15, 2013 at 3:58 pm Link

    OK folks, I know that many of you think I am a hysteric, but really, just take a look at THIS and tell me, is it me, or are we being conned by the guy that is in charge of Trimess?

  14. Lenny Anderson
    February 15, 2013 at 4:00 pm Link

    If Portland doesn’t take the federal funding, some other city will. MLR will haul more people, more reliably at lower cost than the current bus service, so its a very smart investment endorsed by every elected jurisdiction in the region.
    I think TriMet has too many underperforming bus lines that are there for political reasons; perhaps the “finanical crisis” will provide political cover to shut some down. When cost per ride is over $5, something has to give especially when your major cost center (Ops) thinks the public trough has no bottom.

  15. m
    February 15, 2013 at 4:08 pm Link

    “If Portland doesn’t take the federal funding, some other city will.”

    This is the weakest argument going and part of the reason ratings agencies are downgrading US treasury debt.

    TRIMET IS HEADED TOWARD BANKRUPTCY IF IT DOESN’T CHANGE ITS WAYS. It’s not a question of if but when.

    The Federal Govt. is like a drug dealer. They give away some for “free”, but you can’t survive over the long haul because the ongoing maintenance and debt loads becomes too crippling.

    If we can’t afford to operate our system, we can’t keep expanding. The feds don’t give money for maintenance and support.

    This is not opinion but basic math and is not sustainable.

  16. al m
    February 15, 2013 at 4:32 pm Link

    It’s obvious to me, Mcfarlane is intentionally bankrupting Trimet.

  17. al m
    February 15, 2013 at 4:53 pm Link

    If Portland doesn’t take the federal funding, some other city will.
    So what?
    The Simpsons parody episode on light rail

  18. m
    February 15, 2013 at 5:01 pm Link

    “It’s obvious to me, Mcfarlane is intentionally bankrupting Trimet.”

    Mcfarlane is a puppet but I am starting to think those pulling the strings might be.

  19. al m
    February 15, 2013 at 5:10 pm Link

    Mcfarlane is a puppet but I am starting to think those pulling the strings might be.
    Yes, that would be correct.

  20. Lenny Anderson
    February 15, 2013 at 8:17 pm Link

    TriMet is a state agency whose board is appointed by the governor. Its General Manager answers to them; focusing on him is a foolish strategy. Maybe the state treasurer can examin the TriMet books and help us understand just how dire the situation is. Not sure bankruptcy is possible, but it would sure solve the benefit “problem.”
    Oregon like the rest of the world is slowly emerging from the Great Bush Recession, worst since the Great Depression. TriMet lost riders and payroll taxes like never before through no fault of its own. And of course there are the usual “anti-socialists” out there who oppose any public institution…transit, library, parks, probably sewers…who are rubbing their hands in glee at TriMet’s challenges.
    But bottom line, why can’t union employees at TriMet just get the same benefits as non-union and be glad they won’t descend into personal bankruptcy in a health emergency. Let’s all pull together and get the Frequent Service buses back to 15 minutes or better!

  21. al m
    February 15, 2013 at 10:12 pm Link

    Not sure bankruptcy is possible, but it would sure solve the benefit “problem.”

    ~~~>Interesting that you never have any problem with Fred’s $16,000 a month pension for life (by the way his pension has gone up while mine has gone down by 28%) of Playfairs $11k/mo for life.

    And you never have a problem with the layer after layer after layer of executives.

    To you its all about the health care.

    I told ya how I felt, if it were up to me nothing would be rolling.

    If people didnt listen to me and went to drive then they should get whatever Mcfarlane wants to give them and forget it.

    I respect the way the union is handling it.
    They should never give in to this kind of bullying,

    Never, EVER, give in to bullies-NEVER GIVE IN TO IT!

  22. Lenny Anderson
    February 16, 2013 at 7:41 am Link

    How do TriMet executive salaries and benefits compare to other transit agencies, other public sector jobs? They are much less than comparable private sector jobs. How do union benefit packages compare? These should be simple things to look at and discuss. “Give backs” are honorable when called for.
    A strike would be interesting; has Portland ever had a transit strike? Not likely that TriMet would pull a “Reagan” and bust the union like he did with the air traffic controllers. It would end in a deal.
    Another option is to put a property tax increase on the ballot to cover TriMet union benefits…put it to a vote! In Portland we pay for fire and police benefits as a separate item on our property taxes. Why not transit workers?

  23. NJD
    February 16, 2013 at 10:08 am Link

    “A strike would be interesting; has Portland ever had a transit strike?”

    ^Oregon law does not allow essential services to strike including police, fire, and transit workers.

    One nice thing about Trimet doing their own construction projects is that ultimately they are the ones to use it and maintain it, giving them a vested interest in minimizing maintenance costs and making sure new bus and rail lines operate with existing services. I have also been wary of Metro projects like CRC, WES and LO Streetcar, as I feel there are too many politicians involved. Trimet has fewer politicians which is a benefit and a curse, a benefit for internal responsibility but a curse for getting labelled ‘unaccountable’ (as if politicians are actually more accountable than a hired bureau position just because they get elected, hah!).
    Regardless, I feel like basic recession economics at the end of a long period of prosperity lead to Hansen (not McFarlane) giving in to a powerful union who asked and got too much (way, way too much, see national statistics), and now that reality has hit, Hansen is gone and out of people’s minds, but his ridiculous over-generosity to the union and to the quick pace of large capital projects (without new funding streams, see Westside Line) has left a broken system in its wake. The answer is not restructuring, but a reality check to all parties (with concessions by the union and a moratorium on new capital projects) that the good times ended in 2007, and that they wont return until roughly 2018-19 (as currently estimated).

  24. Jay
    February 16, 2013 at 12:00 pm Link

    “al m Says:

    If Portland doesn’t take the federal funding, some other city will.
    So what?”

    Then other cities will get the post-auto infrastructure we could have had instead of us. And by the time we really need it, there won’t be any money for anything.

  25. al m
    February 16, 2013 at 1:40 pm Link

    “”Then other cities will get the post-auto infrastructure we could have had instead of us. And by the time we really need it, there won’t be any money for anything.”””

    ~~~>I don’t buy that sorry

    “”How do TriMet executive salaries and benefits compare to other transit agencies, other public sector jobs?”””

    ~~~>That is not the point! You will justify theft by pointing to other peoples habits of thievery?
    Lenny I am surprised at you, really. I can’t believe you would stand up for people making six figure salaries while screwing riders and employees.
    I suppose to you the corporate CEO who hands himself a 50 million dollar bonus after laying of 50,000 people is entitled to it because other CEO’s do it?

  26. al m
    February 16, 2013 at 1:51 pm Link

    Sometimes I wonder if Lenny actually believes any of this or if just enjoys yanking my chain.

    Does THIS guy appear to you to be the type of guy that would defend the executive class?
    The answer is no, he doesn’t appear to be that kind of guy.
    So what’s the story?
    Lenny just enjoys f*&%ing with me that’s the story.

  27. Lenny Anderson
    February 16, 2013 at 8:24 pm Link

    Al,
    Let’s not get too personal, but no I don’t have much sympathy for private sector CEO’s who stick it to their folks. Managers of public sector institutions are another matter. As are the unions which represent public sector employees. They and their members have a duty to restrain their demands on a vital enterprises owned by all of us and look to the well being of not just their members but of the broader community.
    Unions should take their militancy to the private sector to fight it out with shareholders for their fair share of the profits. TriMet makes no profits, it provides essential services for the community, and as members of that community you and your union should not ask for so much that you put those services at risk.
    If the ILWU can organize Powell’s workers why can’t the ATU organize all the workers at private transportation companies; I’ll walk the picket line with you there. But lay off TriMet.

  28. Erik H.
    February 16, 2013 at 8:34 pm Link

    As long as the light rail mafia (companies like Siemens, Stacy & Witbeck, and the dozens of developers who line up and get corporate welfare from the property tax office) can buy elections and pay lobbyists to line the halls of Metro, there will be no different which fox is guarding the hens, whether it’s TriMet’s corrupt leaders or Metro’s corrupt leaders.

    The best thing that could happen is an absolute ten year ban on ANY light rail planning or construction, PERIOD, no ifs, ands or buts.

    Worked in Los Angeles. Guess what? Not only is their transit agency REQUIRED to maintain the bus fleet to a respectable standard AND serve ALL citizens equally and without discrimination, but once again they are building rail lines where it is actually necessary and prudent to do so based upon actual transportation needs and not the whims of elected and unelected officials and bribes.

    Time for Portland to do the same, except it should have been done in 2007 when the Green Line and WES were starting construction. We’re already be half-way through the moratorium and TriMet would be a far, far stronger and more responsive transit agency than now, where it’s only gotten worse and more corrupt.

    TriMet, Metro…as far as I’m concerned, they’re both evil when it comes to actually providing quality transit for ALL citizens. They’re only after their personal interests, and those of their light rail and developer buddies. Screw Joe Bus Rider.

  29. Dave H
    February 16, 2013 at 9:21 pm Link

    San Diego is a great comparison to Portland for a multitude of reasons. They have added bus-based service that serves a streetcar-style population in their Super Loop in the UTC neighborhood, they have commuter rail from Oceanside to San Diego that connects to their trolley system (AKA LRT) that both connects them to Tijuana (their Vancouver) as well as a fairly large consitutancy that resides in their less than urban areas of El Cajon, Grossmont and Santee (which are kind of like Clackamas).

    They have balanced their network expansion of BRT, LRT and commuter rail with projects that allow expansion of local highways as well as Interstate and State Freeways though. They keep the suburban commuters happy by adding HOT/HOV lanes throughout the region while also dedicating some sales tax (which we obviously don’t have, but they don’t have legal gambling) to transit and bike/pedestrian transportation.

    Their Transnet extension of about 2005 added a 1/2% sales tax that is split so that one third goes to freeway expansion (pleasing the suburban commuter), 1/3 goes to transit, and 1/3 goes to local routes, which is a mix of automotive, pedestrian, and transit capacity. The final third helped with the El Cajon Blvd upgrades that were done that both make it less painful for auto commuters, expanded transit service along the corridor, and helped make a more walkable neighborhood.

    They have their own problems, but they also are obviously getting some things right.

    We can choose to differentiate ourselves from them, but the SANDAG/MTS/NCTD seem to have figured out a way to make the Coaster, Sprinter, Trolley and local buses work together without having many of the issues TriMet seems to face in integrating things fully across a region with other agencies.

    As long as they’re looking at us as a model of Smart Growth, we might want to look at why their model of governance seems to have broad support in their region.

  30. Jay
    February 16, 2013 at 9:22 pm Link

    “Erik H. Says:

    The best thing that could happen is an absolute ten year ban on ANY light rail planning or construction, PERIOD, no ifs, ands or buts.”

    And in 10, or 20, or 30 years, when gas costs $10 or $20 a gallon we’ll all just… walk?

    Jeez, I’d laugh, if it weren’t so gorsh darned STUPID!

  31. Ron Swaren
    February 16, 2013 at 9:36 pm Link

    “Oregon like the rest of the world is slowly emerging from the Great Bush Recession, worst since the Great Depression.”

    Hope you can sell your ideas at the UAW meeting, Mr Anderson. You might be a better labor organizer than economist. And for the record, even though I voted for him, the Carter recession still has second place.

    “How do TriMet executive salaries and benefits compare to other transit agencies, other public sector jobs? They are much less than comparable private sector jobs. How do union benefit packages compare? These should be simple things to look at and discuss. “Give backs” are honorable when called for.”

    In government jobs there are also much stronger rules in force for how employees are treated. (Which I guess is when you have to call an agency in DC these day, it’s like stepping into a Mr. Rogers show). Comparing government service to private sector is apples to oranges.

    As for the MLR—-what good is it going to do to get to a town of 25,000 people? Oh, I forgot—we’re going to put condos up in the RR corridor so people will be awake all night.

  32. Dave H
    February 16, 2013 at 9:55 pm Link

    As for the MLR—-what good is it going to do to get to a town of 25,000 people? Oh, I forgot—we’re going to put condos up in the RR corridor so people will be awake all night.

    Every place in the Portland Metro area I’ve lived, NE, SE, NW, SW, I heard trains. It would be nice if having them nearby actually did something for me, like having MAX near me would do.

  33. m
    February 16, 2013 at 11:14 pm Link

    “And in 10, or 20, or 30 years, when gas costs $10 or $20 a gallon we’ll all just… walk?”

    This is another one of the piss poor arguments thrown out there again and again but is just plain false along with the environmental/save the earth argument. The technology for electric cars is RAPIDLY improving and costs are decreasing.

    When the majority of cars are hybrid or all electric (this will happen), this lame (oh buy gas will be $30 a gallon) argument disappears. Why do you think the states are now focusing so much on VMT? The gas tax revenue will be plummeting.

    There will MORE cars on the road (not fewer) as electric cars become cheaper, more efficient, and more popular.

    We need to plan for THAT reality and stop wishing for the Utopian Portland that will not exist wherein we all bike and walk everywhere. Portland is NOT Manhattan. Deal with it and move on.

  34. Jay
    February 17, 2013 at 8:20 am Link

    Electric cars… sheesh. Without cheap oil to build them and maintain the roads (asphalt, hello!) electric cars will help, but in an expensive- and supply-constrained energy reality, they won’t be the way that most people can get around. Electricity will have far more important uses than charging our toxic-waste generating battery packs.

    Your bias is showing: “along with the environmental/save the earth argument.” Seriously?

    Our fossil fuel addiction is literally killing us. But, like the most deluded addicts, you’d rather die of an overdose than face the uncomfortable reality.

    Fortunately, those of us who are not suicidal are at least giving you a run for your money. This isn’t over yet.

  35. Lenny Anderson
    February 17, 2013 at 10:37 am Link

    Why MAX? Just look at cost per ride well under $2 per ride. Most bus lines other than FS lines are not sustainable with cost per ride at $4 and more.
    Ron, I don’t think there is an economist out there that would agree with you. The Great Bush Recession…yes he put us there… is second only to the Great Depression in depth and length; we got that thanks to Coolidge and Hoover. Those Rs!

  36. Ron Swaren
    February 17, 2013 at 2:03 pm Link

    “Ron, I don’t think there is an economist out there that would agree with you. The Great Bush Recession…yes he put us there…”

    Since economist don’t produce tangible value, they, like lawyers, are in the hire of political interest.

    So you don’t think that the fact that real estate in a lot of Midwest and Southern cities has lost just about all it value isn’t a factor on the economy? If I owned a home in Detroit or Ohio or Mississippi or Pennsylvania and could only sell it for $30,000, that wouldn’t leave much money to spend on other things, would it? When US consumers opt for foreign products, US cities will tank.

    Most union pension funds are tied up in corporate stock, so they also have a vested interest in corporate profits, too. But if Americans keep spending money on products from overseas that doesn’t help the US economy very much. And there are a lot of other factors in the balance of trade, too, such as the current account deficit.

    But I would rather not mix local issues with what is happening on a national level. That is not what this blog is about. Since you dragged the conversation off, though, I thought someone should respond.

  37. ws
    February 17, 2013 at 2:18 pm Link

    Don’t produce tangible value? What the hell did Socrates produce then?

    But yeah, economists and lawyers are annoying to say the least, but still of value — even if they always have their best interest at stake (but who doesn’t really?)

  38. EngineerScotty
    February 17, 2013 at 3:56 pm Link

    Of some relevance to the discussion: apparently TriMet is considering some additional executive hires.

  39. m
    February 17, 2013 at 4:49 pm Link

    “Your bias is showing: “along with the environmental/save the earth argument.” Seriously?”

    You misread my statement. I believe in climate change. My point is that the anti-car folks will not have the environmental argument to rely on as much like they constantly do now when electric/hybrid cars become prevalant. Americans enjoy the freedom to go where and when they want to via cars.

    Innovators will continue to come up with ways for people to drive cars without polluting the environment as much. The demand is there. I would bet on that before I would bet on some world where we all bike/walk in the rain for 8 months of the year.

  40. Ron Swaren
    February 17, 2013 at 5:28 pm Link

    “What the hell did Socrates produce then?”

    Stone masonry was what produced a high level of civilization in the ancient Meditteranean. Being in the construction business I have been learning some very intriguing things about that part of the world. For example, Constantine had the new capital of the Roman Empire built within six years. Even though initially very hard to build, once they had the stone buildings up, they were done—-for generations to come. Apparently there are dwellings in Italy that have been inhabited for several hundred years and some still standing that are two thousand years old. Contrast that with Northern Europe where wood buildings would rot out.

    So, the ancient world was productive enough —and Greece was defensible enough—they could eventually support the relative luxury of thinkers. In the modern USA, IMO, thinkers such as lawyers and economists are highly politicized, not really looking out for the overall interest. If they were we would not have such a high level of crime to pay for.

  41. Nick theoldurbanist
    February 17, 2013 at 10:04 pm Link

    You know, lately I’ve been just passing over posts when the discussion veers off-topic to non-relevant issues.

  42. chrisw443
    February 18, 2013 at 1:00 am Link

    I read that oregon live article, It proves that the bloated management has to go in order to keep portland moving.
    Some comments bothered me though.
    Why do so many people on there hate public transit?
    I am glad there solution is to buy a 2,000 dollar car and pay 500 to 1,000 a month maintaining it but I can’t afford that.
    We all know what happend last time portland went to all car transport. Do we really wanna end up paving over all of downtown and forcing folks like me to walk for miles?
    I honestly love the transit here and am sad we cant extend the yellow line.
    I just wish someone with authority here in this great state, and trust you me it’s a lot better than my homestate, fires Mcfarlane and all of his USELESS management and leave the employees and riders alone. Can’t they just let us be? Can’t portland continue to be the last progressive nice town I fell in love with?

  43. Ron SWaren
    February 18, 2013 at 10:20 am Link

    “Can’t portland continue to be the last progressive nice town I fell in love with? ”

    Portland has also always been a “town” of spirited, independent, hard scrabble, self-sufficient, fundamentalist, you-name-it’s.
    After the initial influx of New England out-casts and quick fortune-seekers in furs and gold, there were the displaced southern tradesmen, looking for new opportunities, following the Civil War and reconstruction. You can drive straight up east on Hawthorne Blvd. and run right in to the Baptist’s seminary. And then another group of conservative people from the Midwest came here during the Depression.

    That’s why there is a significant resistance to so called “social progress” programs, especially when they cost a lot of money and result in higher governmental taxes, fees and charges. Or result in changes to what is considered normal behavior. Yeah, Portland had some very poor urban planning throughout its history. A lot of our architectural quality was very poor, also, which is why a lot of the historic buildings are gone now.

  44. Ron Swaren
    February 18, 2013 at 10:51 am Link

    “”Can’t portland continue to be the last progressive nice town I fell in love with? ”

    And just so you know, a lot of the high level expert opposition to pork barrel projects like the CRC is coming from religious and/or political conservative bookkeeper/accountant types—-like Tiffany Couch and Katie Brewer. They see a dollar out of place and start piping up right away! And some say that women are treated as second class…….

  45. Jay
    February 18, 2013 at 1:18 pm Link

    m Says:

    “Your bias is showing: “along with the environmental/save the earth argument.” Seriously?”

    You misread my statement. I believe in climate change. My point is that the anti-car folks will not have the environmental argument to rely on as much like they constantly do now when electric/hybrid cars become prevalant. Americans enjoy the freedom to go where and when they want to via cars. ”

    So do Europeans. Unlike us, however, they chose not to destroy their cities and rural areas in a all-eggs-in-one-basket approach to transportation and land use.

    Car-dependent sprawl is the single biggest waste of money, land and time that the human race has ever devised, next to World War, I suppose. The sooner we realize that and craft a different path, the better.

    But, beyond that, your we-can-drive-just-as-much-and-not-kill-the-climate scenario is simply impossible. Cheap liquid fuels are built into so many facets of our economy, from the off-season produce in our supermarkets to the equipment, fertilizers and pesticides used to grow it to the ships and trucks that allow us to offshore the manufacture of consumer goods (and almost everything else) to how and what we spend almost all of our money on, there is simply no way to unravel that much dependence without making major changes in how much, what kind and how we use energy. The electricity we have will have a LOT of competition (and we’re likely to have less of it, given how much we currently get from coal), and since moving a person from point A to point B in an electric car is one of the LEAST efficient ways to use it (and there are so many MORE efficient ways to accomplish the same task), it simply won’t make the cut.

    Will people carpool in electric cars? Sure. Use them in carsharing systems? Certainly. Will the rich charge theirs for a lazy Sunday drive or even a rush-hour commute? I’m sure some will. But will they enable our insane exurban lifestyle where you have to drive to get anywhere or do anything (and where all other transportation modes are destroyed in favor of the personal automobile)? Not a chance.

  46. m
    February 18, 2013 at 2:38 pm Link

    The car will be the primary mode of transportation for the super majority of Americans during our lifetime. That is the reality. Innovators will find ways to get rich by allowing Americans to maintain the lifestyle they enjoy with affordable alternatives. We need to provide those people practical alternatives that we can afford over the long haul to induce them to get out of their cars (not build what we can afford to build now with “free” federal money and issuing more debt but ignore the future maintenance costs)

    Don’t get me wrong, I a big believer in mass transit. I used to be a regular bus rider until they kept cutting service and raising fares (23% fare hike in the last round with yet another cut in service).

    But I don’t believe cars are inherently evil. I would like to see Portland develop more BRT and focus on actually providing high quality transportation options and stop acting like a property development agency masquerading as a transportation agency.

    TriMet is headed toward bankruptcy because it is expanding via ridiculously expensive options instead of focusing on core services and because of terrible collective bargaining decisions made in the past.

    The PDC needs to be shut down (a la California’s end to Urban Renewal), the street car needs to stop expanding, and we need to buy clean, high efficiency buses. The focus needs to be on core services we can afford.

  47. Jay
    February 18, 2013 at 3:46 pm Link

    Good grief. What we can’t afford is subsidizing endless sprawl and auto-dependent destruction of both our natural and built environments.

    We the people need to use ALL tools at our disposal to built all and every alternative to the auto-dependent nightmare that we can, as quickly as possible before we can no longer afford to do so because of rising energy costs and the costs associated with switching away from fossil fuels. The bus works for the last mile in those far-flung suburbs that we decide we can’t afford to abandon just yet, but otherwise they’re only a band-aid until we can rebuild our rail network, from high-speed intercity through interurban down through the streetcar that takes you within walking distance of your house. Trolley buses can work, too, along with plug-in hybrids, etc., but rail remains the gold standard of getting the most people to where they want to go the most efficiently. The cities with the best public transit have the largest rail networks, period.

    TriMet’s financial problems have everything to do with their lack of an adequate tax base, the lack of progressive taxation within that base, our society’s lack of financial support for transit generally and a host of other ills that have nothing to do with their mission of creating and serving transit-oriented communities. European transit agencies offer better wages and benefits, better service and are not going bankrupt. I don’t have a lot of confidence in TriMet’s current management, but if anything their problem is not having too large a scope to their mission, but one that is too small. But without an adequate tax base, they are stuck between the aspirations of their constituents (which overwhelmingly and consistently support rail expansion), and the demands of operations. Their funding should automatically increase with every new rider and every expansion of service, not decrease. And they are an essential piece of the mission-critical effort you deride as “property development” which is itself mission-critical to the well-being of our metropolitan area.

    The “ridiculously expensive options” you have such contempt for would never have been needed in the first place if we had not destroyed the rail networks we had 100 years ago. Far, far more expensive are the endless subsidies we have devoted to fossil fuels and the cars that burn them. Unfortunately, we will be paying those costs (the ultimate “carbon tax”) long, long after we have abandoned them for more sensible and sustainable choices. The sooner we make that transition, the easier it will be and the lower those ongoing penalties will be. Deluding ourselves with dreams of BAU will only postpone and increase the pain we and future generations will be forced to endure.

  48. m
    February 18, 2013 at 4:09 pm Link

    “The “ridiculously expensive options” you have such contempt for would never have been needed in the first place if we had not destroyed the rail networks we had 100 years ago.”

    I understand your points and do not disagree that things would be easier if different decisions had been made in the past but they weren’t.

    It is essential to acknowledge the real world as it is now and not how we wish it had been made. The reality is most Americans drive cars and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. The question is how do we get them out of their cars?

    I don’t have contempt for light rail. I have contempt for building things we can’t afford when there are less expensive alternatives that work just as well and in some cases better. The cities with the the “best public tansit” using rail, as you say, were built in a different era when worker safety and unions were of little concern and costs were much much lower (and most of those systems were actually built by private companies, not govts — e.g., NYC). Again, I think here you are focusing on how you wish the world was instead of how it actually is.

    Just look at how hard it has been for NYC to build a very small extension of the 2nd avenue subway in modern times. They have been talking about doing that for 40+ years and it will cost billions.

    Portland made a critical mistake IMO in building surface light rail downtown with the small blocks limiting the # of cars to 2. Volume is therefore very limited compared with the costs. To put it underground now would be insanely expensive.

    BRT is the solution IMO.

  49. EngineerScotty
    February 18, 2013 at 4:14 pm Link

    M,

    While some of your criticisms of TriMet and other agencies are on point, there remains the fundamental disconnect between this:

    “Don’t get me wrong, I a big believer in mass transit. I used to be a regular bus rider until they kept cutting service and raising fares (23% fare hike in the last round with yet another cut in service).”

    and this:

    “The car will be the primary mode of transportation for the super majority of Americans during our lifetime. That is the reality.”

    So long as the majority of our infrastructure is sprawl… transit service will, out of geometric necessity, either be heavily subsidized, or of poor quality (and probably both). Period. Full stop. It’s not a matter of ending waste, fraud, and abuse at TriMet, or putting the union in their place, or anything like that. You can’t provide efficient transit service to sprawl. No matter where you put the bus lines and the bus stops, too many people will be too far away; as will their destinations; and the bus will come too infrequently to be useful to anyone who isn’t desperate.

    Let me ask you a few questions:

    * Would you be willing to pay higher taxes in exchange for lower fares and/or improved service?

    * Are you willing to yield automobile capacity to transit in some form–such as more signal priority for busses, conversion of existing auto lanes to bus lanes, and such?

    * Are you willing to subsidize motorists less–even if it is removal of minor subsidies like copious free parking in the street?

    * Finally… how old are you? Feel free not to answer this here, as it’s a personal question, but if you’re north of 40 (as am I), there’s a good chance that your opinions on the universal, unabiding American love for the automobile will be vastly different than the Millenials who will be paying through the nose for your retirement. This will be their country soon enough, and a good many of them think that driving and owning a car is both a waste of money and a royal pain in the a$$.

    I’ve seen many people proudly claim to be transit supporters–but only insofar is it allows the poor to get to jobs (as opposed to being unemployed and collecting assistance), augments the daily commute, and reduces traffic on the freeway so they can drive to work more quickly. But many of these folks bleat about a “war on cars” or “developer pork”, and grousing about subsidies whenever someone suggests giving transit dedicated infrastructure, or funding operations adequately, or rezoning a neighborhood for higher densities or mixed use, or installing parking meters, or slowing down traffic so people can walk through the neighborhood without getting killed.

  50. Jason McHuff
    February 18, 2013 at 7:18 pm Link

    a very small extension of the 2nd avenue subway

    Now things are a lot different in NYC, but the Second Avenue Subway has actually been planned since 1929.

  51. Jason McHuff
    February 18, 2013 at 7:19 pm Link

    a very small extension of the 2nd avenue subway

    Now things are a lot different in NYC, but the Second Avenue Subway has actually been planned since 1929.

  52. m
    February 18, 2013 at 8:14 pm Link

    Jason: That only strengthens my point as far as I am concerned.

    Engineer Scotty:
    Your question about taxes is too narrow. Serious discussions about transportation can’t made in a stand alone vacuum. They are part of a larger quality of life issue for the city. Portland has some fundamental tax issues that need to be addressed before we talk about raising taxes to lower fares.

    1. Fully 25% of the city’s budget goes to Urban Renewal. While once well intended, the PDC and its urban renewal suffers from mission creep. The people behind the recent so called Education Urban Renewal district are guilty of criminal fraud as far I am concerned. The PDC needs to be shut down and UR districts allowed to expire.

    2. Measure 5 has outlived its usefulness. Schools and other agencies are suffering as a result. While the city is focused on 20 minute neighborhoods, PPS is moving in the opposite direction because the funding mechanism penalizes small locals schools. One dollar goes down to Salem and comes back to PPS as about 70 cents.

    Shut down the PDC, end Urban Renewal, and fix Measure 5 and you will literally have MILLIONS of dollars to spend on basic services such as education and real transportation without having to raise taxes.

    I am a strong supporter of yielding some auto lanes for BRT and some key bus lines. I am not in support of the same for bike lanes as I believe the cost (both financial and utility) significantly outweighs the benefit. [But I do support things like the Sullivan's Gulch Trail - the space is there. The city needs to work with UP to find a solution]

    With regard to “subsidizing motorists”, I would first like to hear how you think motorists are currently being subsidized (and by that I do not mean things that happened in the past that can’t be undone like building highways – I mean things currently and going forward). Where are the subsidies coming from that exceed the gas tax revenue in your opinion?

    With regard to the sprawl/transportation issue, I am not a betting man but if I were I would put my money down on super high efficiency cars becoming prevalent before I see cities like Portland losing their suburbs and we’re all living in Soviet style particle board apartments. I think the latter is a Utopian pipe dream put forth by idealistic urban planners who deny reality and wish the world had developed different than it actually did. The horse is out of the barn on cars and the way to deal with it is to give them real alternatives we can afford. We can afford BRT and buses. While I personally like light rail, we simply can’t afford it in today’s economy.

    The streetcar is a scam put forth by the developers and not a transportation solution. Anyone advocating for its continued expansion loses serious credibility in my book.

  53. m
    February 18, 2013 at 8:18 pm Link

    With regard to the Millenials not wanting cars, they will change their tune when they start having kids like most people do. I lived for many years without a car just fine in a city with good public transit. Once they have kids, they will dust off/repurchase their subaru wagons and jettas. You can count on it. Even today, most of them already have cars.

  54. Chris I
    February 18, 2013 at 8:37 pm Link

    We have cars, but we don’t drive them as much. My wife and I shared one car for about 2 years (I can ride my bike to work, and she was taking transit to grad school). We now have two, but are trying to end up in an employment situation where we can move back to one. We don’t have children, but we have two dogs that are too large to be transported by bike. I don’t want to own two cars. I don’t want to spend the money, and I don’t want to worry about having to maintain them. I will sell the second one as soon as I can.

    I don’t think this will change when we have children. I will continue to ride my bike to work as much as possible. Our K-8 school is walking distance; the high school is biking distance. My family will have a much lower VMT than my parent’s. There is a generational shift; I promise you. It is not just economic.

  55. m
    February 18, 2013 at 8:53 pm Link

    Chris:

    I am going to make some assumptions about you. Let me know where I am wrong:

    1. You moved here within the last 5-7 years.
    2. You grew up in the suburbs of a Midwestern or East coast city.
    3. You live in inner SE or NE Portland.
    4. You feel you are underemployed compared to your education.

    With regard to not having kids yet (I have 2 in grade school), I used to feel the same way as you about cars. All I can is say is that priorities change for most people after they have kids. Practicality winds up trumping ideology for most, even in Portland. Now if you are comfortable living in a particle board apartment with thin walls and a couple of kids, then I wish you good luck with your one or no car. But I think you will be in the minority. Even in Portland.

  56. Erik H.
    February 18, 2013 at 10:07 pm Link

    And in 10, or 20, or 30 years, when gas costs $10 or $20 a gallon we’ll all just… walk?

    Jeez, I’d laugh, if it weren’t so gorsh darned STUPID!

    I never knew that the only options were “walk” and “train”…

    And remember, your precious MAX train is powered by COAL and NATURAL GAS. Yup. Don’t believe me, check out PGE and Pacificorp’s websites. When gas costs $10 or $20 a gallon, electricity will spike through the roof too. Walking might actually not be such a bad idea, but at that point our economy will be so messed up, nobody will have anywhere to go, and TriMet won’t have any money to even pay the drivers much less operate a service.

  57. EngineerScotty
    February 18, 2013 at 10:07 pm Link

    M does make one good point–kid-friendly housing in the inner city is expensive. Houses in the nicer parts of PDX generally cost $200-$300/square foot, and apartments bigger than 2br can be difficult to find. Portland is more like a European city, in that the poor (excluding the homeless) are pushed out to the margins–as opposed to many US cities where the poor live in the inner city, and those with money live in the suburbs.

    One of the downsides of living outside the central city is that reasonable transportation gets more expensive: you practically have to have a car to live in much of suburbia. Some suburbs are better than others–there’s many places in Beaverton or Gresham where a carless (or single-car, multiple-adult) lifestyle is practical. On the other hand, in many parts of places like Tualatin or Oregon City or Happy Valley or Brush Prairie, the only amenity you can reasonably reach without an automobile is the mailbox.

    Of course, some people prefer suburban lifestyles, and thus choosing a car over convenient transit is a no-brainer. Others may need a car for purposes other than commuting. But Portland is definitely a place where proximity to (frequent) transit is an amenity that is reflected in real estate prices.

  58. Chris I
    February 19, 2013 at 7:47 am Link

    “1. You moved here within the last 5-7 years.
    2. You grew up in the suburbs of a Midwestern or East coast city.
    3. You live in inner SE or NE Portland.
    4. You feel you are underemployed compared to your education.”

    1. Lived in Portland my whole life (except for college)
    2. see above
    3. Inner NE, yes
    4. Not at all.

    I guess I’ll just have to see at this point, regarding kids. I don’t see why I would need more than one car, as long as we have the one to cart them around in. Why does having children affect how I get to work? I still want to save money, I still want to build exercise into my daily life. I’m going to ride my bike.

  59. m
    February 19, 2013 at 9:31 am Link

    Chris:

    The point is not everyone can live in inner NE or SE Portland unless we tear down most of the homes and pack ‘em in like sardines in Soviet Style particle board apartments. The folks in Irvington at least saw all this coming and have made that pretty much impossible with their historic zoning designation. Other neighborhoods are considering it as well (I don’t think any others will do it) and are waking up to what the planners are trying to do and are starting to push back on the forced density. Given that reality, people are going to continue to be spread out for the foreseeable future and most will be driving cars.

    Regardless of your reasons why, the bottom line is that you along with most people including myself are a multi-car household. Even our recently departed mayor who used to spend so much time talking about biking and our transportation system, but then proceeded to drive his Prius every day to work and park in front of City Hall. Practicality trumps ideology for most.

    Some of the planner folks want to ignore this reality and force us to subsidize developers with property tax abatements into building lots of apartments with no parking. This will recreate the mistakes of NW Portland. I disagree with this approach because I think it ignores the way people actually want to live. Most will own and drive cars for the foreseeable future and not live in particle board apartments.

    We need to deal with and plan for that reality.

  60. nuovorecord
    February 19, 2013 at 10:02 am Link

    With regard to “subsidizing motorists”, I would first like to hear how you think motorists are currently being subsidized (and by that I do not mean things that happened in the past that can’t be undone like building highways – I mean things currently and going forward). Where are the subsidies coming from that exceed the gas tax revenue in your opinion?

    Well, for starters, $35BN and counting has been transferred from the federal General Fund to the HTF. Then, the petroleum industry enjoys billions in federal subsidies to keep the cheap fuel flowing. Plus, the sheer amount of public right-of-way devoted to the use of cars and cars alone is a huge subsidy. Fuel taxes don’t come close to capturing the true cost of automobile transportation. I can’t believe you asked a question like the one above with a straight face.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Highway_Trust_Fund

  61. EngineerScotty
    February 19, 2013 at 10:12 am Link

    M,

    Don’t insult Soviet construction–they were masters of the medium of concrete, and would scoff at the notion of using something as flimsy as particle board. Only get-rich-quick capitalist developers would indulge in such an outrage. :)

    At any rate–nobody is forcing anyone to tear down their homes. The current disputes are as to whether those who wish to may tear down property that they own (or who own vacant lots or parcels), and develop those lots to higher levels of density than have been traditionally permitted, and free of many longstanding restrictions, such as parking minimums.

    At any rate, nobody is going to force you out of your home, or require that you convert your backyard into a fourplex, or install a parking meter in your driveway. But you seem to believe that existing residents in a neighborhood have a right to things like ample free parking, and that additional residents who may be competing for such amenities somehow are taking that which is rightfully not theirs.

  62. EngineerScotty
    February 19, 2013 at 10:45 am Link

    Your question about taxes is too narrow. Serious discussions about transportation can’t made in a stand alone vacuum. They are part of a larger quality of life issue for the city. Portland has some fundamental tax issues that need to be addressed before we talk about raising taxes to lower fares.

    Fair enough.

    Fully 25% of the city’s budget goes to Urban Renewal. While once well intended, the PDC and its urban renewal suffers from mission creep. The people behind the recent so called Education Urban Renewal district are guilty of criminal fraud as far I am concerned. The PDC needs to be shut down and UR districts allowed to expire.

    While I’m not going to defend the Education Urban Renewal District–accusations of fraud should come with greater substantiation than “I think something is rotten in Denmark, but I can’t prove it”. Are you suggesting that public officials are receiving bribes from developers? Are you suggesting that political messaging which is (in your view) false, constitutes fraud? If the latter, the PDC needs to get in line behind a whole lot of other folks…

    Measure 5 has outlived its usefulness. Schools and other agencies are suffering as a result. While the city is focused on 20 minute neighborhoods, PPS is moving in the opposite direction because the funding mechanism penalizes small locals schools. One dollar goes down to Salem and comes back to PPS as about 70 cents.

    I won’t disagree with your criticism of measure 5, other than to note that:

    * As a Constitutional amendment, undoing it is beyond the power of the state Legislature; it will require a vote of the people.
    * Your claim that it penalizes “small local schools” is only partially correct. It may penalize PPS for trying to have more neighborhood schools, but the state school funding mechanism heavily subsidizes rural school districts, at the expense of large urban districts like PPS. The YouthPass controversy (the state pays for yellow bus service, but not for student passes on public transit) is but one example.

    Shut down the PDC, end Urban Renewal, and fix Measure 5 and you will literally have MILLIONS of dollars to spend on basic services such as education and real transportation without having to raise taxes.

    Uh, no. Existing urban renewal bonds will still need to be paid off–whether this comes from existing tax-increment financing arrangements or the general fund, the bonds will still need to be paid. It may prevent NEW bonds from issuing, but not issuing new bonds doesn’t create new tax revenues, it just prevents new revenue streams from being diverted.

    And what was the purpose, do you suppose, or Measure 5? Limiting taxes. Measure 5 is, first and foremost, a restriction on the ability of municipal governments to levy property taxes. If you repeal it, and the the “tax compression” effect goes away and tax levies suddenly can be enforced at their full value (instead of totting them all up and dividing into 1%), what do you think will happen? Property taxes will skyrocket.

    But you’re correct about one thing–there will be lots of new revenue, and you’ll know just where it comes from each October.

    I am a strong supporter of yielding some auto lanes for BRT and some key bus lines. I am not in support of the same for bike lanes as I believe the cost (both financial and utility) significantly outweighs the benefit. [But I do support things like the Sullivan's Gulch Trail - the space is there. The city needs to work with UP to find a solution]

    Bike lanes are cheap. Sharrows are even cheaper. That’s a big reason for building bike infrastructure–it can be done at VERY low cost; fare less than a bus lane.

    With regard to “subsidizing motorists”, I would first like to hear how you think motorists are currently being subsidized (and by that I do not mean things that happened in the past that can’t be undone like building highways – I mean things currently and going forward). Where are the subsidies coming from that exceed the gas tax revenue in your opinion?

    Someone else mentioned general fund transfers to the Federal highway trust fund. Locally, I might add:

    * Local street maintenance is often paid for out of general funds, as are things like the electricity to operate traffic lights, and the like.
    * Traffic enforcement. TriMet is responsible for providing its own security and own police force (they pay money to the Portland Police Bureau for Portland cops to serve as transit police); however the Oregon State Police, and the traffic divisions of county sheriff’s departments and local police forces, come out of the general fund: none of these agencies gets to send ODOT or PBOT a bill for catching speeders. (Though some cities, like Beaverton, have set up municipal courts so they can keep traffic fines…)
    * On-street parking. (Unlike through lanes, which can be used for many different purposes and vehicles; street parking stalls are only usable for one purpose).

    With regard to the sprawl/transportation issue, I am not a betting man but if I were I would put my money down on super high efficiency cars becoming prevalent before I see cities like Portland losing their suburbs and we’re all living in Soviet style particle board apartments.

    I don’t think the suburbs will be “lost” anytime soon–barring some earth-shattering events, Portland won’t ever have sufficient population to turn everything from Forest Grove to Troutdale into Pearl Districts. What may happen, though, is more poverty gets moved out into the suburbs (particularly unincorporated areas like Aloha or East County) as close-in locations become more desirable.

    I think the latter is a Utopian pipe dream put forth by idealistic urban planners who deny reality and wish the world had developed different than it actually did. The horse is out of the barn on cars and the way to deal with it is to give them real alternatives we can afford.

    Speaking of horses–one hundred years ago, there were plenty of predictions that horses (and streetcars!) would continue to dominate urban transport; and that the horseless carriage was a ridiculous contraption that would never catch on.

    We can afford BRT and buses. While I personally like light rail, we simply can’t afford it in today’s economy.

    Depends on who is “we”. In a political environment in which a good quarter of the region’s wealth is sent off to Washington DC and then spent on dubious projects such as invading Middle Eastern lands or on building more and more freeways through the South and Midwest (despite all the complaints about the Highway Trust Fund being impoverished, there is still plenty of money to expand the Interstate highway system; just none to fix what is already built)–yeah, we in Portland may not have enough money to do very much. But the US remains the wealthiest country in the world (China’s rise notwithstanding); if it is the case that “we” don’t have enough money, it’s largely because the 1% are hoarding much of it.

  63. bjcefola
    February 19, 2013 at 12:21 pm Link

    With regard to the Millenials not wanting cars, they will change their tune when they start having kids like most people do.

    Most households don’t have kids. That’s true in most suburbs as well as Portland. The trends towards delaying child rearing and having smaller families are unlikely to change any time soon in my view.

    To demand we continue planning for car dependent lifestyles is to plan for yesterday’s families. I would argue that it is actually anti-family, as I think no small part of the reason people put off child rearing is because of the lifestyle sacrifices perceived as entailed- ie giving up life and moving to the suburbs.

    If we want to plan for tomorrow’s families rather than yesterday’s we need to accommodate families in the city, not drive them away. That doesn’t mean locking down large swaths of the city in aging, expensive, leaded single family homes. It means encouraging affordable housing forms that appeal to families. Whether we meet it or not I think that is the challenge of our day.

  64. Erik H.
    February 23, 2013 at 2:00 pm Link

    To demand we continue planning for car dependent lifestyles is to plan for yesterday’s families. I would argue that it is actually anti-family

    TriMet’s (and Metro’s) policy of bus service disinvestment is very much anti-family – it is patently unsafe for many families with children to be asked to wait for a bus on the side of a road, sans sidewalk. It is unsafe to wait at many dark, unlit bus stops early in the morning or late at night. It is not healthy to require my two-year old to stand in the rain to wait for a bus that whose arrival is increasingly unreliable and frequently late.

    I could go on, but The Oregonian’s link could also be construed to mean that many families choose to move out of Oregon in pursuit of communities much more suited for families – better schools, parks, neighborhoods, sidewalks, housing options. I lived in Portland’s city limits for two years but as soon as my son reached Kindergarten we moved to Tigard. He can safely walk to school – an option we didn’t have in Portland.

  65. bjcefola
    February 24, 2013 at 9:18 am Link

    Erik, I agree that Trimet service cuts don’t help families, or anyone else for that matter. But those cuts don’t happen because of housing construction in the city. Building apartments without parking does not cause Trimet to lose money.

    Building affordable family housing in the city is a challenge we need to meet. An important part of that is location. If the only affordable housing is in an area where families don’t want to be then it isn’t really a solution.

    I don’t have all the answers, but I know what isn’t an answer is locking down large swaths of inner city Portland and saying it can never be other than what it is now.

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