AORTA Testimony on Eastside Transit

Delivered May 10th at the public hearing on the Eastside Transit Alternatives Analysis.

AORTA asserts that all reasonable alternatives for an eastside circulator have not been fully analyzed. The Draft Evaluation Report states in Chapter 2, regarding the No-Build Alternative (page 2-1 paragraph 4), “A ‘best bus’ alternative with further bus system enhancements would not garner public support because it would not have the level of demonstrated economic development impacts that would [be] realized with streetcar”.

We don’t exactly know what the “best bus” alternative is but we suspect that it does not include a trolleybus system, which could demonstrate a similar level of economic development as a streetcar system.

Trolleybuses operate under a fixed guideway and can be valuable land development tools. A trolleybus system is fixed in place and the investment in the power wires gives it the same sense of permanence as streetcar wires and tracks but without the much higher track work costs. Trolleybuses, like streetcars, are quiet and non-polluting. Modern low-floor articulated trolleybuses are similar in capacity, access, acceleration and ride quality as streetcars. If a trolleybus system is given the same preferential signaling and curbside amenities, and operates with frequent all- day service, it will attract ridership similar to that of a streetcar system.

Following are some of the advantages of a trolleybus system (see attached map) over a streetcar system for an eastside circulator:

  • Costs much less to build (no tracks; no bridge needed over the UPRR)
  • Can cross the Hawthorne Bridge and the UPRR railroad tracks at grade
  • Can be built sooner (does not need Caruthers Bridge to complete loop)
  • Can operate more compatibly with heavy traffic on streets like MLK, Grand, Broadway and Weidler
  • Can respond more effectively to congestion and traffic blockages, since trolleybuses can move one lane over when needed
  • Can provide as fast, or faster, travel times between major destinations
  • Serves the Keller Auditorium area
  • Directly serves Union Station
  • Connects to the North Mall
  • Possibly lower operating cost (no track maintenance)
  • Possibly higher ridership (accesses additional important destinations)

A supplemental Eastside Transit Alternative Analysis that includes a trolleybus system is needed in order to evaluate all reasonable alternatives for this project.

Since the estimated cost of the full loop streetcar systems range from $187 to $204 million, $50 to $66 million short of any identifiable revenue, and cannot be completed until a new bridge across the river is built, there is time to do the supplemental analysis.

Jim Howell , Portland Chapter Chair

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