Mall Discontent II

Update – the morning after: Former Mayor Vera Katz, who chaired the original steering committee that signed off the design is now suggesting that the new information needs a review, as reported in the Tribune.

Whatever you think about the downtown Transit Mall plan, it’s pretty clear TriMet is out of favor with the Downtown Neighborhood Association. The association president used the first part of the meeting this evening to trash TriMet’s response to the written questions.

This was followed by a presentation by Riverfront for People, an organization that until now has been known for their support of removing the freeway from the east bank of the Willamette. They presented their alternative ideas for the mall.

I was not able to stay for the whole meeting, but did get the handout (PDF, 82K). The presenting team was Joe Smith, Ron Buel, George Crandell and Jim Howell.

Here are some of their key points (and my reactions in some cases).

  • The mall does need an upgrade
  • The current ‘weaving’ design is unsafe and reduces bus capacity
  • Two years of construction will disrupt the downtown economy (OK, but what does this have to do with the design?)
  • Moving some bus lines to other streets permanently will be confusing
  • Steel Bridge MAX bottleneck
  • Permanent damage to downtown by moving buses to 3rd and 4th, Columbia and Jefferson (This is the one I struggle with the most – it implies that transit service is a detriment to the retail environment on a street, I think the opposite is true. Also, they might have noticed that Columbia and Jefferson are already transit streets.)

Their recommendations:

  • Separate lanes for Light Rail and Buses, no weaving (doesn’t address Steel Bridge bottleneck)
  • Shorten the construction period (OK, but isn’t that a good idea for either design?)
  • Keep autos off the mall during rush hour (but still allow autos – I think the in the bus lane – at other times. Doesn’t this impact bus capacity?)
  • Keep all the lines currently on the mall on the mall, not on 3rd, 4th or other streets

My overall reaction is that they describe a lot of problems, then offer a solution to a subset. I’m sure that TriMet will basically respond “where were you two years ago when we examined the lane options?”

73 responses to “Mall Discontent II”

  1. as opposed to a complex full-scale reconstruction and reconfiguration of the mall with light rail, why not do cosmetic improvements to the existing mall (like replace missing bricks plus some minor improvements) and add light rail tracks similar to the how the streetcar tracks were built with its easy and quick construction methods and no reconstruction of the entire roadway? granted LRT tracks are more complex and heavier but it would be just adding tracks to what we have now. doing it this way wouldnt require the huge reconstruction of the entire mall (at least in the existing portion) and would be much less disruptive since the construction would take place in one lane(what was streetcar construction? 3 blocks in 3 weeks?) i would imagine when the mall was built in the 1970s the utilities were relocated.

  2. I think this pretty much comes down to a matter of traffic engineering. Buses and cars mix fine when a street is operating below capacity. Buses, which are not free to travel in the left lane in congested mixed traffic while making stops, use up a lot of capacity. Once a street is at capacity, bus movement is impeded, reducing the attractiveness of that mode. I remember riding rush hour buses on Third before the Mall was built. It was not fun. The effects of gridlock and loss of parking must be weighed against the benefits of transit on the non-Mall streets. If cars are willing to leave the Mall during the peak, but share off-peak, perhaps both modes can benefit.

    If this new design proposal has any potential to shorten the duration of construction, or reduce the impacts, then it deserves consideration for that reason alone.

    While this new proposal doesn’t address the Steel Bridge bottleneck, neither does the current plan, claims to the contrary notwithstanding. However, if both a McLoughlin and Barbur line are built, and the excess trains that can’t fit across the Steel Bridge turn around at Union Station, then the non-weaving rail alignment will certainly have a capacity advantage.

  3. So you made it, Chris! I wonder who you were. I was sitting back in the corner (not all the way back, but over on the right side near the wall). I got some good notes, but glad to see you laid it out as well.

    Jon–one of the things that came out in question time was that the first YEAR of the remodel would be moving utility lines where the LRT tracks would go. So apparently it’s a big deal.

    I was surprised at the sentiment of the audience. There were multiple applause points whenever someone said they didn’t think LRT belonged on the Transit Mall. This was rather in contrast to the presenters, who think the renovation is a good idea and generally buy into LRT–but think it’s the CARS that need to go, during peak times at a minimum. I was unable to get a really sufficient answer to the question, “Has anyone asked whether this project has a bat’s chance in hell if the Downtown Business Association pulls their funding over the cars issue?”

  4. Joe – I had to leave after about 25 minutes though. I suspect we were sitting next to each other, I was sitting on the table :-)

    Having been through lots of utility issues with Streetcar, I can confirm that water and sewer lines under the mall are in fact an issue.

  5. Ha! I think you’re right. I have to say, once you left it got considerably easier to take notes on the table. !!! :O I talked to Jim Howell at length afterwards; good guy. Smart guy, definitely.

    I promise I’m still gonna call you…

  6. well i guess it depends where the utility lines are under the roadway but i was looking at the trimet report from a few years ago that shows the different street configuration options (left side, right side, island options). the plans show the amount of the mall that would have to be rebuilt and the left side option is the least disruptive and the stations would be where the mall’s extra-wide sidewalks are (and where the auto lane disappears). the buses primarily use the right side lane and the middle lane is used for LRT and is a secondary/overflow bus lane. option A isnt perfect but personally i think its the best option short of digging a huge subway.

    this is the report

    compare left side option to right side option and island, in my opinion left side is the best and I sent an email back in sept 2003 voicing my support for the left side track option (which i recall was option A or 1) to the trimet person receiving public input on the project.

  7. Like I may have mentioned earlier, going back to Bill Naito, there is a strong contingent of folks who believe that light rail has no business on the bus mall, whatsover. I’m not sure that this sentiment has been ever properly addressed.

    That being said, the best way to put LRT on the bus mall would be in a way that had a minimum effect on bus operations. The way I envision this happening is running LRT in the current auto lanes, then having it weave into the second bus lane for the blocks where LRT stops would be located. Buses would then drive single-file past that block without stopping in the 1st bus lane. This would completely eliminate bus/LRT conflict potential. It would also eliminate cars from the bus mall. However, I think that this is the only option that will work. The current weave proposal… just seems unsustainable.

    Govworker, to the extent that the Steel Bridge represents an unfixable bottleneck, you’re correct that a Union Station turnaround, coupled with an eastside couplet and a Barbur run, are good ideas.

    Finally… has anybody ever considered whether there is a potential for double-decker LRT trains? Is there a way to shrink the size of the overhead catenary arm, thus allowing a second level of seating to be squeezed onto the train? Just a brainstorm. :-)

  8. You know, I’ve gotten pretty tired of the Trib. I suppose its just the pendulum swinging back the other way; a few years ago it was a rather progressive and forward-looking paper that was more of a showcase for all the rapidly gentrifying areas in Portland – Hawthorne, Mississippi, South Waterfront, etc…

    Now its just become a very reactionary rag based on Phil Stanford’s conservative grognardism, probably stemming from reading too much of Jack Bog’s Blog.

    Reminds me of Fox News, ‘Fair and Balanced’… except about neighborhoods & rich developers instead. Aaah, the drama. =)

  9. Finally… has anybody ever considered whether there is a potential for double-decker LRT trains? Is there a way to shrink the size of the overhead catenary arm, thus allowing a second level of seating to be squeezed onto the train? Just a brainstorm. :-)

    I have all kinds of things to say about the transit mall, but haven’t had the time to put them into comments here lately, but for some reason I’m addressing this tangent instead. Go figure. :-)

    Although from an engineering standpoint, just about anything is feasible, and in fact there are double-decker commuter rail cars (look at CalTrain in San Francisco) and heavy-rail passenger cars, double-decker LRT in Portland would be problematic.

    MAX travels through a number of areas with limited clearance, including overpasses, tunnels, and elsewhere. In addition, LRVs are self-propelled vehicles (unlike the commuter and passenger cars mentioned above) and have to have somewhere to put all the heavy electrical equipment. In the case of the low-floor cars (which are great for easy passenger access), much of that equipment goes on the roof.

    A double-decker powered LRT vehicle, which probably would not fit into the clearances of the current system, would be top-heavy and would not corner well at speed (think I-84 corridor.)

    Also, the current low-floor design (I assume we want to stay with low-floor) has less seating available than the old high-floor design (plus 16 seats are eliminated for bikes/standees on every 2-car train). Adding stairway vestibules at each end of a car would eliminate at least that many more seats, so the net gain in seating up top might not be worth it.

    If I had unfettered control of the public checkbook, I’d prioritize upgrading, supplementing, or replacing the steel bridge with a rivercrossing that could accommodate untangled access for the multiple rail lines converging at Rose Quarter (and Union Station in the near future.) This would allow for shorter headways, meaning more trains more often with better schedule reliability. Of course more trains means more drivers and higher operational costs than longer trains, but if you tried to come up with a weird proprietary LRT design, that might cost more anyway.

    Going a step further (and getting more expensive), I would construct a short, partial subway alignment at Rose Quarter. Blue/Red trains would start going underground around the Convention Center, and Yellow trains would descend in the vicinity of the Broadway bridge.

    Once underground, the platforms would be near their current locations, but at different levels of depth. Tracks that now interfere and require switching operations when crossing would instead cross over each other three-dimensionally. I really should diagram this someday… Combine it with 3 tracks across the river (even on the existing Steel bridge) and you eliminate most delays due to switching.

    Having an underground Rose Quarter gets rid of the problem of pedestrians transferring from Red/Blue to Yellow needing to cross TWO busy streets, and would untangle the bus transit center and automobile traffic on the surface.

    A short pedestrian tunnel could lead from the Rose Quarter station to the surface just outside the Convention Center, eliminating the need for the Convention Center stop. (That’s a political issue… most of the time Convention Center is unused and the Rose Quarter stop is actually only about 25-50ft more walking to the Convention Center north entrance than the current stop.)

    If you did all that (including a new river crossing), you could shave up to 3 minutes off of the commute – 6 minutes roundtrip, and allow for more system growth with fewer risks of delays.

    Now, another thing to consider for the future: If we ever do go to a subway downtown, there is no technical reason why MAX cannot run with 3-car trains. 3 cars gives you an immediate 50% capacity improvement. Nearly all of the non-downtown platforms along freeways or in medians can be extended for 3-car trains relatively easily. I don’t know if provisions already exist for the Zoo station or if the tunnels would need to be widened to accommodate longer platforms.

    If we do build a subway, planning for 3-car (or longer) trains downtown is a MUST. It will allow for significant future growth of the system.

    – Bob R.

  10. TriMet is on target to ask…”where were you two years ago?” I attended several Open House sessions when the basic Mall alignment issues were addressed. Downtown business interests made it their #1 demand…through auto traffic. The most cost effective alternative would have run MAX tracks up the center lanes with stops where auto traffic is now diverted and sidewalks ultra-wide…doors would open on the left. (disadvantage —transfers between bus and MAX would have to cross tracks). Putting in a through “Auto Lane”…I have urged TriMet and staff has on several occasions agreed that this is a “Multi-modal Lane”…requires MAX cars to open on the right, hence the weave from center lane to right lane at stations. This option did allow stations to be better placed in terms of function and design…at Pioneer Courthouse instead of one block south. But the weave was driven by the demand of a through lane. Remember the CrossMall route has a through lane…used by bikes as well as autos and delivery trucks, and the sky has not fallen.

    Why do the Mall at all? It is my hope and expectation (and the place where all of us should be putting our energy) that both the Green and Yellow Lines will continue south, one to Milwaukie and Oregon City? And via Barbur Blvd to Tigard and Kruse Woods? I once was told that the Steel bridge could handle a train every 90 seconds in each direction…If all four lines are running someday at 6 minute intervals in the peaks, that is a train over the bridge every 90 seconds, and at that point or sometime prior, the Subway must be on the table. I do not believe that TriMet is opposed to a Subway in principle, but is realistic enough to note that the resources are not there at this time, nor the will. When the Subway is built, the Mall (as well as the current CrossMall MAX route) will be great additions to Chris’ Portland Streetcar system.

    Re construction…there will be impacts, but the contractor that did Interstate MAX is set to do the Mall…Stacy & Widbeck…and they did a great job in reducing impacts and getting the job done swiftly and effectively on the Yellow Line. The Going Street crossing was done in one weekend with no disruption of weekday truck traffic! They earned that project lots of goodwill in the community.

  11. In reading today’s Trib article, the following quote strikes me:

    “Katz says if the report had been done before she left office, “I would have probably raised even more of a fuss about the auto lane,” adding that its benefit to neighboring businesses has been exaggerated.”

    It seems to me that the best solution would be one that Tri-Met, perhaps because of political considerations, did not offer among their three choices. This would be a hybrid version of Option 1, the left-side loading platform. Except, the LRT would use what is now the auto lane for those blocks without a station, switching to the center lane for station blocks, then switching back to the auto lane. This would allow all existing bus operations to continue, except that the buses would run through the LRT station blocks in single file in the far right-hand lane, spreading out again to service bus stops on either side.

    Advantages: Lowest construction impact, lowest impact on transit operations, and probably among the highest speeds for throughput of LRT.

    Advantage: No through automobile traffic on the bus mall.

    Advantage: No partial automobile traffic on the bus mall.

    Disadvantage: No through bicycle traffic on the bus mall… but you know what, bicyclists seem to manage somehow now without that anyways, so it’s not that big of a deal.

    With ex-mayor Vera jumping into the fray and calling for this issue to be re-examined, and calling specifically to e-open the issue of the auto lane, I believe that this is the option that must be discussed at this time.



  12. Garlynn proposed: …”the LRT would use what is now the auto lane for those blocks without a station, switching to the center lane for station blocks, then switching back to the auto lane.”

    Although I’m neutral on the idea of the through auto-lane, I would be strongly opposed to the removal of the existing non-through lane (by putting rail in that part of the street), and I imagine that much of the business community would be opposed as well.

    The current short-running auto lanes provide a valuable function: Access. Most of the buildings in that dense corridor are accessed for deliveries and underground parking by entrances facing the east/west streets. Because downtown has a one-way street grid, the only way to access a given building may be to go around the block (or around two blocks).

    If the short-running auto lane is eliminated, delivery vehicles and local access autos will have to travel along six or even eight block faces to access a building.

    – Bob R.

  13. Bob brings up the *very* good point of the current function of the auto lanes: “The current short-running auto lanes provide a valuable function: Access.”

    Can this access be provided in any other way? Portland has some of the shortest block faces of any downtown in the nation. It’s only 200 feet from one street to the next. Can a little bit more truck-loading-zone space be provided on all of the cross streets near 5th & 6th, and perhaps more robust hand-trucks provided nearby, so that delivery drivers could park on the cross streets, get out their packages, put them on a handcart or wheeled device if necessary, lock the truck and then just wheel them around the corner to make the delivery? The sidewalks are certainly wide enough to accommodate this… can we think outside the box and figure out a more creative solution to this issue, or is auto access on the bus mall the ONLY SOLUTION?

    I think there’s a lot riding on the line here, but I also think that every option needs to be thoroughly explored, and we shouldn’t not examine something just because discussing it makes the business alliance uncomfortable. We know what makes them tick: They want to stay in business, keep customers, stay profitable. How can those needs be accommodated alongside the need for throughput of as many buses and trains, without delay, as possible, while providing the most seamless and easy experience for every transit user?

  14. Lenny, I’m glad you brought up the future extensions of the MAX system. Maybe this should be on a separate page, but something I’ve been thinking about for some time now is the lack of a MAX masterplan. My concern is that the lines are being planned and constructed on a what-we-can-get basis. They want one to Lake Oswego, Barbur, etc. but are they ever considered in a network? I’m worried that with more lines, the system will become incoherent.

    The system is beginning to look more and more radial, which becomes a big problem for a rider not wanting to go downtown. If you look at most of the rail systems in this country, Chicago, DC, etc, the transit service is great downtown, but if you want to get from somewhere not downtown to a destination also not downtown, rail doesn’t help. Trimet made a good move by designing the Clackamas line N/S, rather than down McLoughlin Blvd, but I’m worried that there’s no real comprehensive plan. The Metro web site has a map with plenty of “potential transit corridors”, but it seems that this never moves beyond potential corridors. Our transportation network needs to be more than a collection of corridors. We need a plan that shows definite future lines. They don’t have to be detailed or the alignments set in stone, a highlighter on a map is good enough, but it should show some kind of understanding and commitment.

    I have seen some personal web pages with attempts at doing this, although I can’t find them now. We really need this kind of planning as a growing, forward looking city

    The Metro “regional public transportation system” PDF

  15. Garlynn – makes you wish Portland had alleyways like Vancouver BC, doesn’t it? Portland does suffer quite a bit by not having any place to dedicate utility access or parking garage entrances.

    Considering how the business alliance & government thinks, you are probably the first person to think of this ‘innovative’ solution – parking around the corner!

    What I’d like to throw in is additional criticism to the ‘access’ road along the mall:

    1) how can drivers park their trucks along a one lane street? Nobody else will be able to drive around them!

    2) If they do park in the middle of a block, how will they deliver packages on the other side of the light rail & bus lines without getting ran over?

    Seems pointless to me, and the only true function of the lane will be so out-of-towners (hillsborians, non-oregonians, etc) will be able to drive down the street while their friends/family in the car scream “there it is! You just passed the (store, bar, whatever) – quick! Park! Turn around!” while the driver frantically swerves into the way of the MAX and everyone in the car is thus killed.

    Terrible tragedy in the making!

  16. The mall plan has allowances for pullouts, however I was informed by a PDOT representative that they are skeptical about how many pullouts will actually be implemented in the end, because building vaults which extend under the sidewalk and which are capable of supporting a sidewalk probably would not support the weight of a roadway and a delivery truck. It would be up to property owners to re-engineer their buildings if they really wanted a pullout.

    – Bob R.

  17. re the Mall…everyone needs to remember that all the action will be at 12 mph. That’s how the signals are set, and I doubt that MAX will have pre-emption, but will follow the traffic lights much like Streetcar and existing Yamhill/Morrison route.
    re Subway…why put MAX riders in a hole? to save 10 minutes? Not sure its worth it.
    re future routes…the Green Line (I-205) is really a crosstown route, adjacent to the 72, TriMet’s busiest bus line. Likewise Commuter Rail…suburb to suburb.
    Maybe the MAX line extension to Milwaukee should be via South Waterfront (Tram) and John’s Landing with a river crossing on a new Sellwood Bridge. Streetcar can fill the SE gap running down Milwaukee Avenue (old streetcar route) to Tacoma Street. This was looked at a rejected years ago, but deserves another look.
    Running MAX lines along side freeways (I-205 or McLoughlin Blvd) precludes much Transit Oriented Development as Hollywood so well demonstrates. Who wants to live, shop or work next to a freeway?

  18. Kind of a minor issue but I was surprised that on the I-205 line that there are two at-grade crossings from what I can tell in the video (at the SE Main station parking lot and at the Flavel St. crossing). What would it take to grade seperate these crossings and make the entire I-205 route grade seperated?

    Theres a few places on the mall (like the Hilton and Mult. Co. sheriff) which need auto access for parking garage access or drop-off which might cause some problems.

    Isaac: I agree its surprising how a full light rail master plan seems to be hard to come by or non-existant which is especially odd considering this is Portland and we like to plan way ahead on things. I’ve been looking for a good master plan MAX map for awhile, the 2040 map drawn up in the 1990s can be found here: (on page 25 of the document) its a little outdated since its based on the old North-South MAX line. One of the more up-to-date and extensive maps I’ve seen was in the Oregonian in July 2002 with all the rumored and mentioned lines like Powell/Foster, Barbur, Oregon City(you’d have to check microfilm at the library for this)

    Justin: I couldn’t agree more about the Portland Tribune, I too feel it now has a really strong anti-Portland bias. It used to be a great newspaper with its stories on local developments and special pull-out sections about the pearl district or shopping along the latest MAX extension but last summer they fired most of the staff except for the cranky phil stanford who just spits out word-for-word Jack Bog’s garbage (like when for weeks straight his column was devoted to indepth criticism of downtown because of a few vacant storefronts). I doubt the tribune is following the Portland transit mall story so closely because they see it as critical part of downtown but rather as something to paint out Portland and TriMet negatively.

  19. I think the MAX is getting too costly for what ir delivers; but then I have said that a number of times before. The Downtown Mall is part of a package that would eventually include the Caruthers bridge and Milwaukie MAX, but I think we should look at other possibilities.

    The Streetcar…let’s be forward thinking. Bringing production of it to Clackamas county should allow us to tweak it so that it performs much better and hopefully also find ways to be more cost effective in the design and construction of routes. Would it become too puny for a bigger Portland Metro area? A cute, 98lb weakling? I think within a decade we will have enough technology advancement that we could build larger or articulated cars that could run on the same tracks. And we could always add more frequent service. As mentioned above, crossingthe Sellwod Bridge and also going southward fron OMSI could be real-and cheaper- possibilities. There are other routing possibilities: north on Front Ave and over to U. of P. and Vancouver; Milwaukie to Lake Oswego, Oregon City and/or Clackamas TC. I agree that not everyone is going to downtown.

    Like it or not, the US now has a huge budget deficit and it doesn’t matter who started it, the country will have to deal with it. e.g. Clinton had to deal with it. So expect low funding….

  20. I certainly agree with Lenny that light rail down the freeway is not a good solution. Nobody wants to be there, whether waiting for a train or living, working, or playing there. It’s unfortunate that people think it’s fortunate that they designed room for transit on I 205. This is a topic for discussion on the sunset corridor and a few people have suggested light rail down the highway or boulevard, which unless they can turn the boulevard itself into a TOD, it’s a bad idea.

  21. I think the freeway is the right place for the Green Line. If you look at the stops, they are on streets with bus lines–Division, Powell, Holgate, Foster, and of course a bunch of them at Clackamas TC. Going through town on the bus from 100th and one of these streets, is a time consuming process. It’s necessary to provide coverage to the whole east side, but if you’re out by the highway and don’t have a car, you’re forced to use the local runs if you want to get downtown.

    With the MAX running along the highway, you get cheaper access and a quicker route than from the buses. It’s true that you won’t see a WHOLE lot of development in the sense that they hoped for from Interstate, but you will get some commuter development clustering around those stops I believe. And frankly, whether MAX goes there or not, Sunnyside/Damascus is ready to explode with people, and having a major MAX terminus somewhere out there is a must for the future.

  22. “”””I certainly agree with Lenny that light rail down the freeway is not a good solution”””””

    The why are you folks sitting by and allowing this to be built?

  23. Welcome back, Steve.

    I see you noticed you’re no longer banned (actually, the banned list did not transfer when I upgraded to MT 3.2).

    You’re welcome, as long as you play by the rules, especially # 5. You can tell Jim that too :-)

  24. I’m with Torridjoe on this… although the alignment is not an ideal one (given unlimited resources, which we never have…), when you already have extensive contiguous right-of-way, you go with that right-of-way.

    I use the NE 60th MAX station extensively. It is not pleasant, but it is convenient and highly utilized, as is the 82nd Ave. station. (Pet peeve for both stations: The upper level bus stops do not provide adequate shelters for the many people who transfer from rail to bus at these stations.)

    From what I have seen of early plans, the I-205 stations will be further from the freeway than the I-84 stations which should make them more appealing to new riders. How well they connect with local buses is the key.

    Clackamas Town Center is a major destination and already a major transit center. The green line will provide a level of service which is not currently available in that area.

    Even today, the #71 bus stops right in front of my house, literally 15ft from my porch, but I would never ride it all the way to Clackamas Town Center. The trip would take 35-40 minutes. But on the Green Line, I estimate that this trip would only take 19 to 21 minutes.

    A person wanting to go from CTC to the Gateway area, depending on destination, must take 30 to 40 minutes by bus, but on the Green Line this will take only 15 minutes.

    Although opportunities for TOD are not widespread along the line, several important retail and commercial centers will be directly linked, including CTC, Mall 205, Gateway Fred Meyer and shops, along with many medical offices and other businesses within walking distance. This will be a boon for a car-less individual living/working in SE who must shop for their kids, go to work, etc., in the corridor.

    Although the difference between a 20-minute trip and a 40-minute trip may not seem that big a deal to some people (especially non-transit users), if you have to go to 3 locations after work to A) fill a prescription, B) get your kid some new shoes, and C) return a book or DVD to the library… presto, you’ve saved an entire hour using the Green Line (in theory.) It can mean the difference between not being home when your kids arrive home, or having dinner on the table.

    Thinking long-term, an extension from Gateway north to Clark County would improve links between our communities. The tracks already exist as far north as Parkrose (the Red line tracks). The bridge with the ROW is already built.

    – Bob R.

  25. “”””” Clackamas Town Center is a major destination and already a major transit center. The green line will provide a level of service which is not currently available in that area.”””””””””

    That’s conjecture and not realistic.

    Gresham Station after many years of light rail does not have sites next to LRT stop developed. And the vast bulk of visits continue to be by car. When relative little use of LRT for CTC repeats this failure where will you’ll be on the learning curve?

    The Transit Mall promises to duplicate the current Malls failures as very few people use transit for shopping.
    It will be a disaster and many pro-transit folks see major problems with it.

    “””””This will be a boon for a car-less individual living/working in SE who must shop for their kids, go to work, etc., in the corridor.”””””””‘

    This is false and has already been debunked by real world trials with the current LRT lines.

    It appears to me that you make no bones about cannibalizing bus service and sacrificing the need for road capacity as long as more LRT is built.

    LRT at all costs is not smart.

    With such a weak case for it I wonder what motivations are continuing the push for more.

    Peak Oil?

  26. “LRT at all costs is not smart.”

    Welcome back, Steve.

    Did I say anything about LRT “at all costs”? No. Did I say anything about “cannibalizing”? No.

    In fact, I started off my comments supporting the Green Line compromise, which is to use existing transit ROW along I-205.

    I could just as easily ascribe to you the statement “LRT under no circumstances is not smart”, but I won’t.

    – Bob R.

  27. “”””I could just as easily ascribe to you the statement “LRT under no circumstances is not smart”, but I won’t.””””

    IMO both are accurate.

    IMO our transit system as is sits now would be greatly improved by improvements other than more LRT. Our bus system is in dire straights as fee increases come more frequently and neighborhood bus service requests are continually denied.

    We need a strengthened transit system and adequate road capacity to ease the overflow traffic in our neighborhoods and to better move commuters and commerce.

    LRT provides neither while devouring a disproportionate high level of resources.

    The proposed LRT Transit Mall is the ultimate mistake as commuter trips to the city center are in decline due to job reduction in the downtown core. The recent movement of government jobs to the core has not off set and will not offset the trend.

    If you go back to the original Transit Mall promotion I’m certain you will find the nearly identical rhetoric and miscalculations which now are being used to justify the new Transit Mall.

    I have watched the debate by transit and rail proponents such as Jim Howell and others here on and there is no question serious flaws in the current Mall plan are collectively fatal.

    The whole spectrum of interests has raised these flaws from the business community to the planning experts.

    This cannot and should not be interpreted as anything other than the uniform negative assessment it represents.

    What does it take to stop a project if this high and broad level of red flags can be simply disregarded solely by the desire by some to see more LRT at all costs?
    Especially when the outcome is likely to be a detriment to Transit itself as well as to our greater transportation system.

    Additionally, we have a severe funding crisis at nearly all levels of existing basic public services and infrastructure and can not afford any miscaclulations and waste.

    Fiscal sustainablility should be job one at this critical point in time.

  28. I think the I-205 LRT alignment is a great idea. People are always complaining about the hub & spoke radial transit system. From Gateway to Clackamas TC is a cross-town alignment. That’s pretty unusual on the West Coast for a rail transit operation!! The stations will all be on the major transit axis of the eastside, and they will be along one edge, not in the median of the freeway. We actually have seen a good deal of development along the existing freeway-based MAX system (I’m thinking of the vacant lot at 60th that has since sprouted a massive apartment complex; the redevelopment around Hollywood; the new apartments near 82nd, etc.) I think there’s good reason to expect some pretty serious infill development around the Foster/Woodstock (Lents) station, as well as the Clackamas station, at the very least. Considering the extremely low cost of putting in LRT on this corridor, compared to ripping up an existing street, it’s a pretty good idea.

    Also, for people who think LRT is a bad idea and we should just use buses for everything… I’d say look at the numbers. Ridership in the Westside Corridor has increased, what, 160% since MAX got extended through the hill and out to Hillsboro? This is from just a 46% increase in overall transit service. I don’t think you would have seen those numbers with just buses. Why? There’s a certain intangible quality & benefit that trains give, that buses do not. Trains don’t sit in traffic, they run on their own ROW, they run smooth, they run quiet, they’re romantic. Try to deny it all you want, but trains cause transit-oriented development in a way that is much more difficult to achieve with buses. Much of central Portland was built around a rail-based transit system… the streetcar.

    I could go on, but let me just be clear that rail transit has very definite advantages over buses, and Tri-Met is definitely on the right path with its LRT expansion plans.

    Sure, streetcar needs to be expanded, too, but they’re not the same thing. LRT has a greater capacity (4 seats wide vs. 3) and a higher top speed(59mph vs. 35 mph), as well as longer vehicles. This makes LRT the preferred choice for routes with greater distances between stops.

    Finally, true commuter rail, such as the Washington County project, also needs to be a greater part of the mix to serve the even-longer-distance trips.

    And buses *are* useful, they just aren’t the answer for everything. They *can* serve new development, if they have high enough service levels… looks at the Belmont Dairy project. But they’re just one essential part of the whole system.

    Any more news on Vera & the mall-wiggle flap?

  29. Steve wrote: The proposed LRT Transit Mall is the ultimate mistake as commuter trips to the city center are in decline due to job reduction in the downtown core. The recent movement of government jobs to the core has not off set and will not offset the trend.

    We started out arguing the merits of I-205 rail, but since this was originally a post about the transit mall, I understand why you want to segue back to that…

    What is your basis for stating that employment has declined in the City Center? I would love to see the report.

    Here’s the report I usually look at: The Metro Regional Data Book.
    Scroll to page 64 of the report (page 69 of the PDF).

    Specifically, consult Multnomah County Subarea 1. This is the portion of downtown Portland bounded by the freeway loop, and also includes small portions of the east bank. There is also a map showing the subarea near the front of the data book. It’s about as close to “Downtown Core” as you can get in a statistical sense.

    Key points:
    1980 Subarea 1 Total Employment: 88,917
    1990 Subarea 1 Total Employment: 103,872
    2000 Subarea 1 Total Employment: 121,222

    In 2000 there was a 16.7% gain in the downtown core over 1990. Retail jobs also grew about 28% in the same decade. And, since 1980 (the Transit Mall opened in 1978) downtown core employment has grown by 36%.

    If downtown core employment has really declined by any amount since 2000, I’d love to see the data.

    – Bob R.

  30. Bob, Steve is excellent at making sweeping statements of facts that he seems utterly unable to substantiate with data. What Gresham’s LRT stop has to do with Clackamas Town Center when comparing the likelihood of utility for CTC, I’m not sure. They have almost nothing to do with each other besides the development of an LRT station.

    Furthermore, I think Steve misrepresents Jim Howell by seeming to claim that Howell believes LRT will be the death of the Mall. He doesn’t. If anything, he believes the best alignment of current options is LRT and bus. (His ultimately preferred option, he said Monday, was 4-minute jitney service!)

    Until Steve comes correct with something other than Internet bravado, the utility of engaging him seems low IMO.

  31. For what its worth, at the I-5 Columbia Crossing meeting I talked to a man who said he was an engineer for WSDOT for SW Washington. We talked about the extensions of MAX across the Columbia. He said that crosssing at the I-205 was much better than at the I-5, which I tend to agree with. Isn’t there a loop planned anyway, you may say? Well, maybe–maybe not.

    I can see the value of connecting both Vancouver and Camas region to PDX, Clackamas TC and downtown Portland. Remember, these LRT systems are gettting ever more expensive–so bringing several destinations together in one line is more sensible.

    I think there is another possiblity in the west region: Utilize the “West arterial Route” for an urban street car. Given, the rapidly rising value for riverfront property I’ll bet hirise condo expansion will eventually continue north on Front Ave. and also continue west in Vancouver. Vancouver officials are already working on a strategy for 26 acres on the riverfront. The “West Arterial Route” (i.e. Amtrak, RR and North Portland Rd.) is already favored by a North Portland group for a multi-modal crossing. The “W. Arterial” also goes fairly close to U of P.

    Back to the Downtown Mall:
    Though it may sound far fetched–I would rather see a “lite” streetcar mall on SW Front Ave than a big MAX mall Downtown. This downtown mall will be obsolete and a pain in ten years and thereafter they will want to redo it. The Central Streetcar already crosses SW Front Ave. and then comes near NW Front Ave. by the Broadway bridge and continuing the car to Lloyd Center would necessarily cross above NW Front Ave. anyway.

    As costs rise we will have to discuss MAX routes in terms of billions of US$. OTOH, if we can make the Streetcar a local specialty we may find ways to constrain the costs and thus improve its desirability for small and medium-sized urban areas.

  32. Where is all the high-value construction going on in Portland? 90% of it is within 3 blocks of the streetcar line, don’t believe me? Then take a walk thru the Pearl, West End and South Waterfront. There’s even new projects on the Eastside announcing their location along the future eastside streetcar line.

    As far as light rail and the Clackamas Town Center, two days ago there was an article in the Oregonian about the huge expansion of the CTC around the new LRT station.

    Its news to me that we have a poor bus system. I’ve been on bus systems throughout the US and Portland’s is one of the best if not the best: Bus shelters (with schedules) throughout the system, bus bulb-outs, transit centers, satelite tracked buses with real time arrivals, “frequent service” buses, clean and well maintained buses and on the whole people dont look down on the bus system here unlike almost any other city in the US.

  33. Ron wrote: “Though it may sound far fetched–I would rather see a “lite” streetcar mall on SW Front Ave than a big MAX mall Downtown.”

    That sounds interesting… but how about using 1st Ave instead as a MAX extension? 1st Ave. already has MAX tracks as far south as Yamhill, and gets you a block closer to most destinations. Also, 1st street continues S. all the way across I-405, which might be useful for future expansion.

    Mind you, I’m just exploring this as an intellectual exercise, because I’d rather see MAX on the mall to PSU, an alignment which would serve the most destinations with the least amount of walking required.

    – Bob R.

  34. The reason I still support the freeway alignment for the Green Line even though I believe an alignment down the middle of 82nd (ala Interstate) route would be better – and allow better development infill opportunities, rests on a number of points:

    1) there is already a bunch of development along I-205 – several malls, the new UGB expansion area (Damascus), etc.

    2) there is already a redevelopment plan that was completed several years ago for Clackamas Town Center, which included dividing the entire mall up into standard Portland blocks & developing it as mixed-use developments

    3) the freeway alignment WILL be faster than a median alignment. Not as pretty, but functional. Can’t argue with that!

    4) price. Dang cheap, if you ask me…

    Maybe over time there will be improved cross-town bus service, bus-only lines, better bus stops, and/or eventually streetcar service in dedicated lanes… who knows?

  35. Steve – I’ve read some of your previous comments, and am really curious – do you mind if I ask you a question?

    Do you ever ride the bus in Portland? And, if so, which routes do you prefer for their comfort and punctuality?

  36. Bob,

    First Ave as a MAX extension to what? To a Caruthers Bridge and Milwaukie? I don’t believe that the ridership will justify a $500 miilion (and up) MAX. I have been suggesting that Milwaukie could be linked to the (hoped for) Westshore Car, via the Sellwood Bridge. A second line could, by some route, connect Milwaukie to an Eastside Car going to OMSI. I think it also might be possible to use the lower Marquam Bridge (the concrete beams) for a Streetcar Crosssing, with a liftspan. The added weight, on the massive Marquam, would be negligible.

    That’s why I said “streetcar mall on Front Ave.” The fact that it parallels MAX for a distance would be a plus. The only drawback is that it is a quarter mile from mid-downtown but in big cities that’s nothing. I really believe we are going to see Front Ave. grow rapidly in “New Urbanist” importance, simply because it is riverfront. Eventually industries along Front Ave. may capitalize on their premier location and sell to developers, and there are also big vacant fields, farther out and close to the RR bridge. And I think we will see similar development in W. Vancouver: just wait and see!

  37. Bob R said:

    “Mind you, I’m just exploring this as an intellectual exercise, because I’d rather see MAX on the mall to PSU, an alignment which would serve the most destinations with the least amount of walking required.”

    Bingo. What is the #1 most utilized stop in the entire TriMet transit system? PSU.

  38. Ron wrote: “First Ave as a MAX extension to what?”

    Well, to me, (and again, I prefer a Transit Mall alignment), the appeal of a 1st Ave. alignment would be as a temporary route which would bring N/S MAX service to downtown and S. to Milwuakie and/or along Barbur (1st. Ave connects nicely with Barbur).

    There would be some advantages to doing it this way:

    1. No mall or MAX disruption during initial construction.
    2. Lower costs. Faster construction (only one street needs to be torn up).
    3. Future subway construction, if done along the mall, would not risk disrupting light rail on the surface of the mall.

    Construction of such a line would require an absolute commitment to the idea that it is a placeholder line until a subway was needed. My fear would be that once built, this deliberately limited line would be deemed “good enough” and further progress would not occur.

    – Bob R.

  39. 3 comments:

    1) Portland’s existing bus sytem is second to none. It’s already fabulous and it’s only getting better. Just try riding the bus anywhere else to see what I mean. However, the bus system works best when it’s combined with a robust multimodal network of commuter rail trains, light rail trains, streetcars, small blocks, bicycle and pedestrian facilities. It’s just part of the picture.

    2) Has the idea of a Dutch-style “woonerf” been explored at all for the Mall? Is there any way to remove… curbs, for instance… to encourage greater mixing of uses in the same space, and still allow the same throughput of pedestrians, buses, light rail, bicycles and delivery vehicles? The answer might be no for now, but I think it’s worth bringing up. Perhaps the woonerf concept will be applicable elsewhere.

    3) I believe that the reason why 5th/6th is the preferred LRT location is directly due to density. Light Rail likes to have a high-density 1/4 mile catchment area on both sides of each station, which in Portland translates into about six and a half blocks, or roughly the distance from the bus mall to Waterfront Park. If the light rail alignment is located along 1st street, the catchment area is reduced nearly in half (notice how many fewer people get on along the existing 1st street alignment, in comparison to the rest?), because the river is occupying most of it, and we don’t allow houseboats on that stretch of the Willamette. ;-)

  40. Garlynn – Your Point #3 is why I still favor a mall alignment. 1st Ave. would mainly be an idea to consider if the mall plan disintegrates… think of it as a “1/2 the cost for 1/2 the ridership until we can afford better” kind of plan.

  41. Garalynn–
    on Monday George Crandall used slides of Zurich’s streetcar system to show how a curbless sidewalk would allow delivery and other parked vehicles to get out of the traffic lane, but still use the street to stop on.

    Americans are totally unused to the idea of cars coming up on the sidewalk, so I’m doubtful the idea could gain currency–but if you narrowed the lefthand sidewalk and took out the curb on that side as well, it would probably work better than a few loading zone cutouts.

  42. I’m not familiar with Zurich’s system, but having just been in Amsterdam, I know that their tram system would NOT meet ADA standards in the U.S. Engineering for ADA (which I support) is a very complicating factor.

    The Dutch have also moved beyond Voonerfs.

  43. Ron wrote: “Though it may sound far fetched–I would rather see a “lite” streetcar mall on SW Front Ave than a big MAX mall Downtown.”

    Since the streetcar on 10th/11th is already completely at capacity during rush hour, I would definitely like to see a bigger train on the transit mall (which has several times the number of riders that the streetcar carries) so as to not be a waste. I guess they could string together 3 streetcars in a train.

    Also, how is the streetcar going to make it all the way to the east side? The MAX can go 20-25 mph faster than the streetcar.

  44. The Streetcar vehicle is plenty fast. The relatively slow speed is a function of the way we use it as a local circulator. If we wanted it to go faster, we’d get rid of half the stops. It will zip across the bridge with no problem.

    I think the factor that affects most people is headways rather than speed. If we had a car coming by every 10 minutes instead of 13 or 14, I think this would not be an issue.

  45. The top speed of the Streetcar is governed down for dense, urban areas but it can indeed go faster. I was just passing by one on my way home via Front Ave. Boy! There is a lot of headroom in one of those. Maybe they could be double-decked, later on? Why such a big vehicle? Producing those in Oregon, transit-crazy as we are, should provide opportunities to improve the design and economy of those–assuming that comes to pass. But how would one evaluate 50 million suggestions?

    I’m sure the Europeans must have had to figure out how to make their transit systems economical, too. After all, it was a postwar world in which their current systems were designed. How many European governments could sustain huge borrowing and budget deficits? I believe nanoscale science, which Sen, Wyden is encouraging for Oregon, will result in better engineeering–but may be cost-prohibitive at first.

  46. I would imagine the streetcar would be traveling at a pretty nice speed if the Lake Oswego streetcar extension goes thru.

    Thats an interesting idea about using the lighter weight yet rapid streetcars to replicate heavier light rail throughout the region. Its practically LRT but w/o the higher cost and with a little less capacity. I suppose the streetcars could eventually be coupled together into trains to make up for the capacity difference.

  47. Personally I’d like to see multi-articulated streetcars like they have in Strasbourg, France – see:

    And as far as the Lake Oswego connection – here is a nice pic of what a streetcar might look like in rural areas (this pic also from Europe):

    However, again I feel that the capacity of the streetcar for the transit mall would be too limiting, unless we used multi-articulated trains. It also wouldn’t plug into the I-205 and Milwaukee system, rendering it somewhat less useful – which is the entire point of the Mall MAX.

    However, I would absolutely love to see the streetcar hit the eastside. Close-in eastside, up 15th to Alberta, down Hawthorne or Belmont, Sellwood (meet up with the Lake Oswego train?), up from the river to Lewis & Clark College… who knows? Keep it cheap and put it everywhere, I say!

  48. Jon Says streetcars are “practically LRT but w/0 the higher cost and a little less capacity.”

    The only time I see LRT running at full capacity is at rush hours. This would be a drawback for streetcars but could not more cars be run at that time–and then put them away during the rest of the day? Wouldn’t they last longer?

    Also, I have said that with the Milwaukie route we could have two routes for about a third of the cost of the one MAX route. Besides NW Front Ave as a potential path, how about going south from Front Ave out on Barbur Blvd.. to Tigard and the commuter rail line?

  49. “””””””trains cause transit-oriented development”””””

    That’s as false a claim as there is regarding rail around here.
    Pure trickery.
    It’s equal to claiming the Tram spurred the SoWa devlopement.
    If that’s the case why does thetaxpayer have to pony up $1/2 billion in Urban Renewal borrowing and spending?

    Same goes for the Pearl and allof the TOD’s.
    The trains had nothing to do with the development other than creating the excuse for massive public subsidies.

    The Transit Mall is the worst idea to date and Torrid makes sweeping claims it will increase business.
    And he talks about my claims?

  50. So, Steve… care to provide evidence to support your claim that downtown employment has declined?

    I gave you figures and a link from the Metro Regional Data Book and you did not respond.

    – Bob R.

  51. Something to remember as we kick ideas around…TriMet’s service area is 25th or so largest in the nation, ridership is 12th highest, so we must be doing something right here. Three MAX lines carry 1/3 of TriMet’s daily riders. MAX works. People love Streetcar…it works; hard to argue with all the new investment along the line.
    Someone suggested more roads…through who’s neighborhood? with what money?
    The only change to the current Mall plan I’d make is to extend MAX to the Tram (sorry Chris)…why not serve the largest employer in the region. Or better, when the Green Line is extened out Barbur it should go up 5th Avenue and into a tunnel under OHSU, then pop out the other side onto to Barbur.
    Portland built an arterial network in the 30’s and 40’s, a freeway network in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. We started a lightrail network in the 80’s and need to finish that…to Oregon City, Tigard, Vancouver (you have to connect the Centers). Last, we started a bike network in the 90’s, only started. We are on the right path, just need to finish the job.
    Portland has come a long way since I took the Blue bus from Multnomah (and rode the streetcar to Oregon City).
    People want options…some have, some don’t. Putting MAX on the Mall gets us headed south into Clackamas County.
    Now, let’s remove I-5 from the eastbank and beginning building the next Portland there.

  52. [duplicate comment removed – cross-posting the same comment to multiple posts is not respectful of reader’s time – thanks.]

  53. Bob said,
    ,,,”If downtown core employment has really declined by any amount since 2000, I’d love to see the data”

    MYZ: Non government jobs have declined except for hotel chambermaids. When Barbara Roberts was Guv, she issued an Executive Order requiring government agencies in the region to move downtown. Government jobs there grew from relocation and from the increase in government employment. That is why people are deprived of better service from decentralization of all layers of goverment.
    According to the Metro numbers, Subarea employment increased by 17,350 jobs between 1990 and 2000. According to Oregon Covered Employment (State of Oregon) for 1990 and 2003, Multnomah Cty government employment rose 9,878.
    That subarea had 13.4 % of region jobs (counting everyone who works for government as working in subarea 1) in 1980 and 10.4 % in 2000. Multnomah county employment dropped from 558,295 in 2000 to 539,445 in 2002. during the last year reported the City lost population.
    But that doesn’t tell the whole story. When the Portland Water Bureau reports employment, do they show employment all over the city or at he head-works in Bull Run or at the Bureau headquarters? Are the Police shown where they work in their patrol cars on their horses wherever or where the Police Dept headquarters and payroll comes from?
    I believe it was Willamette Week that posted a story that went into details about downtown employment which broke out occupations by location. I recall them concluding that chambermaids were the only occupation that rose.

  54. Mel…

    As I said to Steve, I’d love to see the data. I’ve shown the data I have used, where’s yours?

    The original claim was that total downtown employment had _decreased_ and that an increase in government jobs did _not_ make up the difference.

    This claim was used partially as the basis to assert that the transit mall was no longer necessary.

    The only numbers you have shown do NOT show any decrease in employment (non-government or otherwise) in the downtown area.

    A decrease in the _percentage_ of overall jobs does not mean a decrease in _actual_ jobs.

    – Bob R.

  55. I agree with Bob. Unless I see real, hard numbers – not fudged ones – of a decrease in downtown employment, I’m not going to believe it either.

    However, that being said – I really wouldn’t be surprised if it did decline. The US went through a huge recession. However, we need to plan for future growth anyways – as in the next 100 years.

    To say that downtown employment will not grow in the next 5,10, or 100 years – is to say that you are a complete moron. We actually want employment and housing to increase in the central city, and the MAX is part of that strategy in making Portland a more livable city.

    Being a stinky grognard doesn’t really help anybody. Please donate your time to help people in need instead of blindly posting your idiotic rage against public transit – when you have never ridden it in your entire life – on this blog. Have a nice day.

  56. Lenny Anderson Says:

    >Something to remember as we kick ideas
    >aroundŠTriMet’s service area is 25th or so
    >largest in the nation, ridership is 12th
    >highest, so we must be doing something right

    Faulty reasoning. Portland’s transit ridership
    has always been high. If you really want to know
    if you are “doing something right,” what really
    counts is growth in transit ridership.

    While Portland’s ridership has grown fairly fast
    in the last decade or so, between 1980 and 1990
    it stagnated. By comparison, many cities have had
    much faster growth in ridership since 1980,
    including Houston, Raleigh, and Las Vegas. Note
    that none of these wasted money on rail transit
    until, in the case of Houston, very recently —
    and Houston’s ridership declined after it started
    building light rail.


  57. Randal-

    So, what you are saying is that Portland’s ridership drastically increased after we started building lightrail (1986-present), not before. I totally agree with you.

  58. Lenny Anderson Said,
    “Something to remember as we kick ideas around…TriMet’s service area is 25th or so largest in the nation, ridership is 12th highest

    Mel,,, Check the census. MAX only carries 7,100 riders per day in peak hours when the roads are congested. That’s all lines in 2000 , the date of the last census.

    Streetcar trips and fareless square trips don’t take any cars off the road.

    There never has been any development along the lne that didn’t precede light rail or the street car or that wouldn’t have occurred. Take the No Macadam development. It is NOT because of a trolley extension or the tram. It’s because of taxpayer funding to very well heeled developers.

    The Pearl would not have happened without $258 million of taxpayer funds, in 1998 dollars. And what did it accomplish. A subsidy of $66,000 per unit for very well-heeled yuppies and a lot of very expensive boutique shops that attract ore car trips to the most congested area of the region — downtown.

    LEN,,,,”Someone suggested more roads…through who’s neighborhood? with what money?”

    Mel,,,Its oK to run a light rail line or a tram through someone’s neighborhood but not a road??

    With what money??? With the money from the highway trust fund that comes exclusively from road users and is now being wasted on rail for people that don’t pay to build it and pay only 19% of the operating costs of each ride.

    Rail hasn’t done anything except make congestion worse. See

    LEN,,,,”The only change to the current Mall plan I’d make is to extend MAX to the Tram (sorry Chris)…why not serve the largest employer in the region.”

    Mel, The largest emloyer in the region is Intel. Are you planning to run the tram out there. Intel employes with free passes aren’t using MAX. Maybe they would use the tram.

    LEN, “,,, finish the job,,, let’s remove I-5 from the eastbank and beginning building the next Portland there.

    Mel,,, That would expedite the tansition of Portland into a ghost town

  59. Justin said
    “Randal-So, what you are saying is that Portland’s ridership drastically increased after we started building lightrail (1986-present), not before. I totally agree with you.”

    Actually, ridership drastically decreased after Portland starting
    building light rail (which was in about 1981). After the rail line
    opened up, it started increasing again. But here is the sad part: the
    growth in ridership in the 1990s was slower than it had been in the
    If Tri-Met had not gotten into the light-rail morass, it would not
    have suffered such drastic ridership problems in the 1980s and might
    have had growth in the 1990s as fast as in the 1970s.

  60. Randal,

    You’re confusing changes in the growth rate of ridership with actual ridership. Actual ridership has never decreased since Trimet’s debut in 1969. The growth rate will always fluctuate depending on economic and population growth cycles. Remember, the ’80s we had a pretty bad recession here, so naturally, the growth rate would be reduced. Light rail had absolutely nothing to do with the recession.

    By all accounts, light rail has been phenomenally successful in Portland. Even some European cities admire our willingness to break free of auto-centric (American) thinking. Nothing wrong with autos, I have one too, but there has to be other options for mobility unless you want Portland to be another LA or Houston. There will always be naysayers or anti-rail, anti-bike, anti-growth, pro-status quo activists who just want nothing else to ever be built, never ever ever. That’s not possible in a prosperous city. If there’s no growth or change, a city dies. And I don’t think you want that to happen here, do you?

    Light rail is not a “morass”, as you put it, it is just another option for people (even people who own cars) to get around. I don’t understand how anybody could be against that. It’s like being against clean water or clean air.


  61. >You’re confusing changes in the growth rate of ridership with actual

    I don’t think I am confusing that at all. I said, “between 1980 and
    1990 ridership stagnated.” In 1971, Tri-Met carried 18 million trips.
    In 1980, it carried 51.0 million trips, nearly a 200-percent
    increase. In 1990, it carried 58.3 million, a mere 15 percent
    increase. When growth declines from 200 percent to 15 percent, I
    would say that is stagnation.

    > Actual ridership has never decreased since Trimet’s debut in 1969.

    That’s not true either. In 1985, Tri-Met carried 58 million riders.
    In 1986, it fell to 52.9 million, largely due to a fare increase and
    service cuts needed to help pay for cost overruns on the east-side
    light rail.

    >The growth rate will always fluctuate depending on economic and
    >population growth cycles. Remember, the ’80s we had a pretty bad
    >recession here,

    The recession was worst in 1981 through 1983, when ridership fell by
    about 6.5 percent. By 1985, the region had mostly recovered and
    ridership had grown 22 percent. The high cost of the light rail, not
    the recession, led to the 1986 decline, another decline in 1989, and
    very slow growth for several more years.

    >By all accounts, light rail has been phenomenally successful in Portland.

    By all accounts that you want to read. I would hardly call spending
    40 percent of the region’s capital transportation funding on a
    transportation mode that carries less than 1 percent of the regions
    passengers — and virtually none of its freight — phenomenally
    successful. Portland’s light rail is more successful than light-rail
    lines in Buffalo, San Jose, and some other cities. But that it not
    saying much.

    >Even some European cities admire our willingness to break free of
    >auto-centric (American) thinking.

    Just because pork barreling political leaders are willing to spend
    money on rail doesn’t mean that Portlanders are “breaking free” of
    the auto (i.e., enslaving themselves to slow, inconvenient, and
    unreliable transit).

    Rail supporters brag that transit’s share of Portland travel grew
    from when the first light-rail line opened in 1986 to 2002. (To be
    precise, it grew from 1.76 percent in 1986 to 2.30 percent in 2002.)
    But it shrank from 2.59 percent in 1982 to 1.76 percent in 1986. It
    has also shrunk from 2002 to 2.27 percent in 2004. Portland would
    have been much better off sticking with buses.

    >Nothing wrong with autos, I have one too, but there has to be other
    >options for mobility unless you want Portland to be another LA or

    LA has lots of other options, having invested billions in little-used
    rail lines. Its ridership also dropped as it cut bus service to pay
    for the rail lines. Only when bus riders sued to get service restored
    did its ridership return to pre-1985 levels.

    Houston had much faster growth in transit ridership than Portland.
    Its growth only halted, and ridership declined, when it opened its
    first light-rail line.

    Your problem is that you confuse intentions with results.

    > There will always be naysayers or anti-rail, anti-bike,
    >anti-growth, pro-status quo activists who just want nothing else to
    >ever be built, never ever ever. That’s not possible in a prosperous
    >city. If there’s no growth or change, a city dies. And I don’t think
    >you want that to happen here, do you?

    I just don’t want anything built that requires huge subsidies and
    produces negligible benefits. Maybe the tram will teach Portlanders a
    lesson, though that lesson appears to be lost on you.

    >Light rail is not a “morass”, as you put it, it is just another
    >option for people (even people who own cars) to get around. I don’t
    >understand how anybody could be against that. It’s like being
    >against clean water or clean air.

    No, it is like being against giving people $150 bottles of champaign
    when a bottle of clean water would do.


    American Dream Coalition
    P. O. Box 1590
    Bandon, Oregon 97411
    541-297-6798 cell

  62. “I would hardly call spending 40 percent of the region’s capital transportation funding on a transportation mode that carries less than 1 percent of the regions passengers — and virtually none of its freight — phenomenally successful.”

    This argument, a favorite among anti-rail types, is nonsensical. That’s like saying we should have stopped building sewers because the first pipe didn’t reach enough people.

    The same thing could be said about highways, when the first highway was built it carried less than 1 percent of the regions passengers. Should we have quit building them after the first one, simply because few people were using it?

    What people fail to realize is that the larger a network grows, the number people using it will grow also (exponentially if it is done right). We are *starting* to see this with MAX. The more lines we build, the more people use it, not only the new lines, but the existing ones as well. We have only just begun to see the success and potential of rail transit in Portland. Some can argue against the success of rail now, as Randal and many others do, but they miss the key concept. We’re not building this for now, we’re building it for our future. If these were as good of statistics as we’ll ever get, rail would be a failure.

    Those who don’t want to subsidize transit forget that the biggest subsidy in the history of the world is our highway system.

  63. Isaac,

    Perhaps there are less costly solutions than LRT. It seemed like a good thing in 1979, when costs for the Gresham MAX were projected at $8 million per mile; that figure doubled before it was finished. The Milwaukie MAX is projected at almost $100 million per mile. How high will costs go in the future?

    LRT was a step forward from heavy diesel-electric (or steam engines)commuter trains, but the technology is thirty years old. The streetcar seems to be around $25 million per mile and I think this could go lower with some Yankee ingenuity. I am afraid that the MAX faction, in Portland, has become the Highway Lobby of our time. Streetcar isn’t all that great, yet; they should be designed to carry more people and should be lighter and cheaper, still. The observation that we could provide a heckuva lot of bus service for what we spend on these rail systems is a reasonable criticism.

    Atlanta is considering a 10.7 mile system.

  64. Randal,

    Roads and highways aren’t subsidized?! Airports aren’t susidized?! Sewers and water systems aren’t subsidized?! Are you serious?!!!

    I didn’t realize you lived 300 miles away from Portland, that explains a lot. Do you pay for all of the repairs on Hwy 101 to Bandon out of your own pocket? No, we all do. Just because you never have to move around Portland on a daily basis, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have rail transit here. I doubt I will ever need to use the stretch of Hwy 101 through Bandon, that doesn’t make it unnecessary. As always, anti-rail types take an extremely miopic view of the world. If they never have to use it, then by god, they shouldn’t have to pay for it either. Activists like yourself will take a few disjointed statistics and try to cobble together an argument that rail is a ‘boondoggle’.

    Your numbers from 1971 are taken from a time when Trimet was less than two years old. Of course the ridership numbers are comparatively low because the system was just starting up after an era of unprecedented growth in automobile ownership. So the initial growth curve was very high. That’s just common sense. To claim that light rail has in some way caused a decline in ridership growth is a complete nonsequitor. Your ridership numbers for the ’80s could very well be correct, considering the bad recession, but that’s not because the transit system was a failure, it’s because the economy tanked.

    You claim that we have spent 40% of our transportation dollars on rail transit. Since one mile of track is cheaper to build than one lane of freeway, we should now have more rail miles than freeway lane-miles, right? Obviously, that’s not the case.

    You say that rail transit produces “negligible benefits” but you don’t ride it to work every day, so how can you know? I’d say the 100,000+ people who do use it regularly would argue otherwise. I could just as easily say Hwy 101 has “negligible benefits” because I’ve only used it once or twice, but that would be silly.

    Transportation infrastructure is not “champagne” just because you don’t personally use it. It’s a necessary part of modern civilization. Like I said before, I just don’t understand your ‘cars-only’ view of the world.


  65. >This argument, a favorite among anti-rail types, is nonsensical.
    >That’s like saying we should have stopped building sewers because
    >the first pipe didn’t reach enough people.

    So how many tens of billions will it take before light rail has
    “reached enough people”?

    >The same thing could be said about highways, when the first highway
    >was built it carried less than 1 percent of the regions passengers.
    >Should we have quit building them after the first one, simply
    >because few people were using it?

    Since 1919, Oregon highways have been built mainly out of user fees.
    At least since the 1950s, Oregon gas taxes and other highway user
    fees have covered roughly 100 percent of the cost Oregon urban roads.
    Light-rail user fees have paid 0 percent of the capital costs and
    only about a third of the operating costs of rail transit.

    Besides, the first roads were not used by few people.

    >What people fail to realize is that the larger a network grows, the
    >number people using it will grow also (exponentially if it is done

    That’s why the Interstate light-rail line carries no more passengers
    than the bus lines it replaced? Portland’s light-rail system carried
    1.2 percent more passengers — 367,000 — in 2004 than in 2003, while
    its bus system carried 1/2 percent, or 336,000, less. That hardly
    sounds like there are any synergistic effects.

    >We’re not building this for now, we’re building it for our future.

    You can justify just about anything using that claim. But rail isn’t
    working anywhere in the world. Even in the most rail-intensive
    European cities, Ridership is stagnant at best while auto use is
    rapidly growing. If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it going to
    work here?

    Once again, how many tens of billions will taxpayers have to spend
    before people admit it doesn’t work?

  66. >Those who don’t want to subsidize transit forget >that the biggest subsidy in the history of the >world is our highway system.

    MYZ: A a subsidy is when you pay for someone else NOT what you pay to use it yourself.
    See and anyone that can read nows that highways are paid for by highway users, who also pay for transit.

  67. Actually Mel, it’s taxpayers who pay for highways, and believe it or not, not all taxpayers own a car. I would be just fine with a system where a driver pays for his or her own use of the highways. Then those that drive 20 miles to work would pay 20 times the amount that someone who drives 1 mile to work would. Unfortunately, that only happens where there are these things called “toll roads”, maybe you’ve heard of them. You claim that only those that use the roads pay for them, but if that were the case, every road would be a toll road. This is the old “if I don’t use it, I shouldn’t have to pay for it” anti-tax argument which just doesn’t fly. But you’re certainly entitled to your opinions, I just don’t understand your thinking on this issue.


  68. Aaron said,
    “”””it’s taxpayers who pay for highways,I would be just fine with a system where a driver pays for his or her own use of the highways, the those drive 20 miles to work would pay 20 times the amount that someone who drives 1 mile to work would. I just don’t understand your thinking on this issue.

    Mel can speak for himself but his “thinking” is likely gas taxes. State and Federal Gas taxes.
    The more gas you use the more taxes you pay.
    The more you drive the more you pay.

    This is amazing but apparently you have no awareness of the funding source for our roads.
    Do other people you know and discuss transporation with also have this same lack of awareness?

  69. Every penny that the feds provide for metro planning, AMTRAK and transit comes from the Federal Highway Trust Fund. That is the 18.4 cents per gallon paid by gas purchases for autos and from the tax on trucks for diesel purchases and weight-mile in Oregon. In the 90’s, part of the HTF also went to deficit reduction.

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