$57M Park and Ride?

Frank Dufay is a neighborhood activist in SE Portland and a regular rider of the TriMet #14.

Pave Paradise?

Maybe not paradise, exactly, but a healthy chunk of South Waterfront will be disappearing under surface parking lots.

You would think this new neighborhood, pedestrian-friendly, urban, dense, served by the Streetcar, buses and the Tram…well, how many parking lots DO they need?

OHSU has won approval to add THREE new SURFACE parking lots. This despite:

“The adopted South Waterfront Plan encourages parking to be underground.”
Well, OHSU WILL have 634 below-grade parking spaces. But now they’ve asked for an additional 812 surface ones.

That’s 1446 parking spaces for OHSU. Just OHSU. It doesn’t include new parking for all those condos going in.

The “cap” for surface parking is 200,000 sq ft for the whole South waterfront sub-district. OHSU is adding 309,000. And that’s just OHSU.

Oh, it’s “temporary.” They have to have a plan in place to move SOME of it by 2012. But 2012 is a long way’s away, the auto traffic infrastructure in place is already inadequate, and, well, how is this going to work?

What are people thinking? And why hasn’t there been any public discussion of this?


31 responses to “$57M Park and Ride?”

  1. How many blocks does that 812 space figure add up to? I would have reservations about putting anything underground close to the Willamette R. because of the potential for flooding–although I’m in favor of the condos and they need the underground spaces. How about a tall multistory parking structure that will serve other commercial buildings—when the plans finally come in for them. Of course the underlying question is–why can’t they use mass transit?

    In answer to that—long range development of the Barbur BV. corridor would also get some proximity to Pill Hill—but I would be more favorable to an economical system, like Streetcar–not MAX. Barbur BV can continue into Front AV and then turn northward to Vancouver. I think this corridor makes more sense than the additional MAX proposals I have seen.

    Since the SOWA/Marquam Hill complex will eventually be another downtown core area shouldn’t it have its own bridge? If it was placed at SW Bancroft(and going to SE Holgate)—where Benz Spring is now–I think a new, improved interchange could improve access to I-5, both north and southbound. It would be better to plan this now than to wait until the entire area is developed.

  2. I just hope the Tram is such a huge success that OHSU gets busy sooner rather than later in building its waterfront campus. Likewise, let’s hope that condo sales continue in SoWa, so that more get built, and we don’t end up with a lot of “land bank” parking lots. I think the City made an exception for OHSU in this case…North Waterfront in not covered with surface parking…which is no surprise. OHSU is the City’s largest employer and the region’s only research institution.

  3. “land bank” parking lots

    Building parking lots is hardly “land banking.” Besides, the intent is, in the end, to replace the surface parking lots with structured parking. So, either way, you’re building for cars, not for alternative transportation modes, which I thought was the point of SoWa. In the meantime, what kind of transportation nightmare are we creating here?

    OHSU is the City’s largest employer and the region’s only research institution.

    Wow. Seems I’ve heard that before, Lenny. It doesn’t justify everything, or, frankly, anything.

  4. Well, we need to take into account that 10,000 or so people work at OHSU, and that every economist worth their salt tells us we need to have a research university to have half a chance of thriving in a global information based economy.
    So I think you cut OHSU some slack.
    I expect that most of that surface lot will become buildings of a new campus and no doubt a structure or two. The limited roadway access along with low cost transit passes that all OHSU employees have will insure that lots of staff continue to use non-drive alone modes. Does anyone know the mode split at OHSU?

  5. Does anyone know the mode split at OHSU?

    OSHU argued in their application that 97.5% of their visitors will be coming by car.

    What the employee mode split now is will certainly change when the Tram is up and running.

  6. No one ever cites a source. Where did this information come from?

    The decision of the Hearings Officer on Land Use 05-125472 (dated 1/6/2006). And the Bureau of Development Services Type II decision on LU 05-181180 first rendered on 3/6/2006 and then amended on 8/15/06 to modify the zoning standards.)

    The automode split for employees is 60% according to OHSU.

    Along with their 1,446 parking spaces OHSU is providing 11 long-term BICYCLE parking spaces, and 19 short-term ones.

  7. I’m sure they expect most patients to travel by car; the current arrangment on the Hill has free parking for patients. For staff it is tightly regulated. 40% non drive-alone is pretty good; comparable to Lloyd District with MAX through its heart. Sound like they can do better on bike parking, but hey, 2012 is just around the corner.
    If people do drive to SoWa and ride the Tram up the hill, that will help out traffic on Terwilliger and Sam Jackson Park.

  8. Just because OHSU is our largest employer doesn’t give them a pass to take land that should host dense development and turn it into parking that will send their mode split in the wrong direction and make auto congestion worse in SoWa. If we get congestion in SoWa, it should be from activity in SoWa, not up the hill.

  9. South Waterfront is seriously deficient in public transportation. The streetcar, tram and #35 bus will provide convenient connections to downtown, OHSU and Lake Oswego but transit connections to most other parts of the region will have to be by way of a downtown transfer, which in most cases will be a slow and out of direction trip.

    A study should be undertaken with MTIP funds to determine the feasibility of building a transfer facility at the crossing of the Ross Island Bridge with Moody Avenue. Bus pullouts on the bridge and vertical transportation would have to be provided to access the streetcar, tram, buses and Waterfront development below.

    The 430 buses a day that cross the Ross island Bridge, literally within spitting distance of South Waterfront, could provide this area direct transit service to and from many southeast neighborhoods. The three routes that cross the bridge carry 18,000 passengers a day, and in the future will provide frequent transfer connections with the I-205 and Milwaukie MAX Lines.

    An exciting option that should be considered is to integrate the vertical access with a building adjacent to the bridge straddling the streetcar line. For example, this is an excellent location for an affordable housing development in a slender high rise with a bridge level lobby connected to the Ross Island Bridge with a short pedestrian sky-bridge.

  10. Jim –

    That sounds like an excellent idea. Portland-area transit users are already somewhat accustomed to using tall elevators to access transit (MAX tunnel Zoo station), and a properly located lift and transfer station could see high utilization for relatively little investment, especially if the elevator is incorporated, as you suggest, into a new building.

    Also, Oregon City has a long-established municipal elevator that proves that an large elevator structures, even those with a dedicated use, can be inexpensive to operate and withstand the test of time.

    The real key to this would be how far one has to walk from the streetcar, and how many streets have to be crossed. Physical and psychological distances limit people’s willingness to transfer. If it could be designed such that you step off the streetcar platform and into an elevator, perhaps even on the same side of the street as the streetcar platform, and then get off the elevator less than 50ft from the bus stop, it would be a real coup.

    Months ago on this blog, someone commented that for the money we are spending on the tram, we could have constructed a pedestrian/people mover tunnel straight back under I-5 to OHSU, with an elevator at the end, and options for additional elevators to connect to Barbur or other neighborhood streets.

    Elevators are really just vertical transit systems, usually privately owned, and just about any trick can now be accomplished with off-the-shelf technology. I hope your idea gets some serious consideration.

    – Bob R.

  11. Great idea, but to build a bus stop on the Ross Island Bridge would be a huge expense – and that’s just to widen the bridge for the bus pullout and the platform. Are the SoWa developers willing to pay for that? Is OHSU willing to pay for it out of its own pockets?

    Not to mention that the west end of the Ross Island Bridge is already a nightmare; I’d hate to be a TriMet driver having to manuever into and out of those stops.

  12. FOCUS, people.

    You really think ODOT, which absolutely refused to put a bus stop on the MLK viaduct rebuild –can’t slow down traffic, mon dieu!– is going to slow down traffic on the Ross Island?

    In the meantime…CAN SoWa’s transportation infrastructure, right now, handle the auto traffic suggested by 1,466 parking spaces AND however many parking spaces the condos require?

    And we want density…but, hey, what’s a few parking lots as place holders? (That underground parking lot by the KOIN center that still lacks a building above it…22 YEARS!)

    Lenny…you want to tear down the Marquam. Just where –and what streets– do you think all these cars are going to be driving on?

  13. I was a little surprised to see the Surface Parking Lot on the way to the Gibbs Streetcar platform opening. After all, it has been said that most people will need to come by alternate means for the area to work.

    Also, I know an aerial connection has been talked about before. I believe it is mentioned in TriMet’s Transit Investment Plan. I asked about it on the way back from the Gibbs opening and was told by Fred Hansen, et al, that it might happen when/if MAX comes. Moreover, at least eastbound, there already is a stop at the end of the bridge.

  14. – Bob R. – That was me with the people mover + an elevator idea.

    As for the large problem at hand – the posted issue that is.

    …there really isn’t a good solution that is reasonable. Whatever the case traffic is looking like it will be atroious, infrastructure investment looks like it is underbuilt, and in general there are too many problems surmounting to make this even remotely smooth.

    Even if the area gets yellow line light rail, new on and off ramps, and added Streetcar frequency, the problems lie in all of this stuff not fitting well. Sure it can be remedied but when private entities are moving ahead at a vastly more rapid pace than the public elements you start getting a lot of disconnects…

    …then you get hurried Government services trying to straighten out the transit infrastructure and everyone screaming.

    …in the end though, the market will be the final arbiter of what is and is not well built. Hopefully the right pieces get dropped in eventually. Looks like a BIG growing pain for Portland.

    I’m still wondering too, are the shipbuilders that are located down there getting evicted? I seriously doubt they will be liked by the well to doers that will eventually be living down there. Blue collar and white collar traditionally don’t mix very well.

  15. Jim always has great ideas…I recall that the people mover in a tunnel with an elevator in lieu of the Tram was his idea.
    Will the 35 be re-routed off Macadam through SoWa, or will another line do that; seems like there has to be some kind of bus transit through the area, not just over along I-5, to supplement the Streetcar.
    And that huge parking lot had better be temporary…just until construction begins on a new campus, but remember while parking can be a magnet, limited access can be a metering device that nudges folks onto transit or bikes, etc. And most patient trips are not peak hour, so things may not be so bad.
    re the Marquam Bridge, I think these rules apply…Build it, and they will come. Don’t build it, and they won’t come. Tear it down, and they will go away. I want the East Portland Beach!

  16. While SOWA and the Tram are happening, Frank Dufay points out the symptoms of poor transit planning for the area. The question now is what can we do to salvage the situation?

    The two big nearby transit corridors are Barbur and the Ross Island Bridge. We missed our chance with the Tram to connect with either one of them. Barbur may have to wait until LRT is built, but Jim Howell’s suggestion for a transfer elevator at the west end of the Ross Island Bridge should be acted on now, while the opportunity is still available.

    The incremental cost of adding a bus pullout, while large compared to something like my household budget, would be small, and extremely cost-effective, compared with what it takes to build a rail station or new bridge, for example.

    An effective regional transit system must have strategically located transfer points that provide a quality transfer environment. A 2004 study by Prof. Nigel Wilson of MIT of the Boston transit system showed that when transfers occur in a good environment with elevators and escalators between levels, patron behavior indicated no “transfer penalty” beyond the actual time spent transferring and waiting for the subsequent trip. It is a geometric fact that an efficient (reasonably low operating cost) transit network requires transfers.

    So who in government is going to pick up on Howell’s idea and make it happen?

  17. Maybe the good that can come out of all this is it becomes a transit nightmare and the values drop so low it becomes affordable housing! :o

    j/k But it seems the only reasonable way to expect such things, and no one has a real good idea about how to deal with transportation other than, “cut off the cars” and “make people use transit”.

  18. The construction of additional parking in SOWA is yet another “reality check” of Portland’s misguided transport policies. Motor vehicles “rule” (in this case with the help of OHSU) whether PDOT likes it or not.

    I do however agree Jim’s concept has some credibility, as long as two things take place:

    1. PDOT does not screw the concept up by replacing the bus pullouts with curb extensions that will only increase congestion and have a negative impact to traffic on and off the Ross Island Bridge.

    2. Transit users must be charged as the funding method for the majority of the price tag.

  19. From Doug’s post:

    The incremental cost of adding a bus pullout, while large compared to something like my household budget, would be small, and extremely cost-effective, compared with what it takes to build a rail station or new bridge, for example.

    Another poster suggested there were stops on the east end of the Ross Island bridge – the stops are prior to the bridge, not on the bridge itself.

    A west end stop would actually have to be built off of the bridge – in other words, building “wings” off of the bridge to support the bus stops, etc.

    Two words: not cheap. There is no place at the west end landfall to build safe bus stops, without a complete rebuild of that massive interchange.

    A better solution might be a bus shuttle from SoWa that drives over the Ross Island to a transfer point at Powell & 17th and back; the same bus could continue southwest to Barbur & Hamilton as well, or to the south end of the transit mall at PSU – although that would duplicate Streetcar service. Such would require no capital cost, and no costly construction on the Ross Island Bridge. (Although, I’m sure ODOT would find a way to do it, if it got out of having to maintain the bridge afterwards!)

  20. Finally we realize what the gondola is – a parking lot shuttle.

    This adds 800+ spaces to OHSU’s parking lots and with a city-subsidized gondola, it allows more doctors to drive to work. You’ve been duped if you believe this helps public transport.

    It is as likely doctors would take public transport as Homer et al will build affordable housing in SoWa.

  21. Finally we realize what the gondola is – a parking lot shuttle.

    What’s disappointing to me is how little attention this received. There’s the neighborhood leaders, who I’ve subsequently communicated with, who didn’t even know this was happening. And the PDOT staff who passed on this without any analysis of how to handle the traffic impact, or to even look at what that impact will be.

    When policy makers decide that 200,00 sq ft of surface parking is the maximum allowable in the district…and OHSU gets permission to build –however temporarily– 308,000 right from the start, it really hurts the credibility of the decision-making process. And what our real committment is to transportation alternatives.

    Thanks, Chris, for helping us have this discussion here. It’s interesting to see how people want to be creative in finding new solutions.

  22. I have to disagree with the claim that a west end Ross Island Bridge transfer would be too expensive. If Jim Howell’s suggestion is followed to integrate vertical access with an adjacent high-rise building, the bus pullouts can be supported by the new building. A full TriMet bus weighs 19 tons, which works out to a loading of 100 psf over the area of the bus. Any steel framed high-rise can handle this easily.

    Whether doctor’s will ride mass transit is irrelevant. There are many other OHSU employees who do and more who would if given good connections. This should allow TriMet to reduce service directly to Pill Hill, and decrease operating costs.

    Someone should cost this idea out, and see if the operating cost savings and additional ridership are worth it. I wonder if Terry Parker’s standard, that transit riders should pay for it, would be met by a project that produced a net decrease in TriMet’s systemwide subsidy per rider?

  23. I have to disagree with the claim that a west end Ross Island Bridge transfer would be too expensive. If Jim Howell’s suggestion is followed to integrate vertical access with an adjacent high-rise building, the bus pullouts can be supported by the new building.

    And just who is going to pay for this high-rise building with a 10th floor transit center?

    Somehow, I get the idea that the developer of said building will get some sort of tax abatement/deferral/cut, and the city/county/state/Metro/TriMet will get suckered into paying for a large portion of this “bus stop”.

    I don’t know of many high rise buildings that are done “on the cheap”. The new OHSU building was pegged at $145M.

  24. South Waterfront is seriously deficient in public transportation.

    Took a walk over lunch to the tram. Not surprisingly you STILL can’t walk to South Waterfront from downtown without walking in the street where there are no sidewalks. (Including right next door to the tram at the Zidell facility, and where cars are parked in the bike lane).

    As the first surface parking lot near’s completion, I spied an OHSU shuttle bus labeled “Schnizter Lot.” Unbelievable. People will be DRIVING to this parking lot, which has no access to the streetcar going by, and taking a SHUTTLE BUS to get to the TRAM.

    Talk about multi-modal…

  25. That area is enough of a distance between streetcar stops that as it develops it will need some kind of transit. An airport-parking style shuttle-bus that takes people to the tram or streetcar stop doesn’t seem very efficient for getting people to downtown.

    I’m curious, Chris, was a stop ever envisioned for that area?

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