Rolling the Streetcar Dice


There’s been a sea change at the Federal Transit Administration.

After the FTA created a preliminary set of rules for the Small Starts program (the program that Earl Blumenaur and other congressional leaders designed for Streetcars) that strongly favor bus projects, the new FTA Administrator, James Simpson, was just shocked to learn that no Streetcar projects had been submitted to the program. A number of bus projects were submitted, but most were relatively poor performers (Eugene’s BRT program being an exception).

Anyway, with Simpson now in charge, our region has been encouraged to submit a Streetcar project. Given that the same prompting is probably being given to other regions, the brakes are off and we’re moving as quickly as possible to submit a Project Development application for the Streetcar Loop.

One small problem – the development work for this was supposed to take until about June, and that work was to determine if we had the resources to make it all the way to OMSI or would stop the first construction phase shorter, either at Oregon St. or Morrison St.

Due to the acceleration, the steering committee of elected officials that oversees both The Loop and the Lake Oswego analysis debated the issue today and gave the tentative direction to make the stretch to OMSI. While this is not “irrevocable” as Commissioner Sam Adams pointed out, it’s unlikely that new information would be available to better inform the choice before the application is actually submitted in January.

Why is this rolling the dice? If we submit for OMSI and later decide that we only have the resources for a shorter segment (and under the terms of the workplan adopted by the steering committee, “having the resources” includes understanding and getting agreement on how any such allocation affects other projects, including Milwaukie LRT), we might be required by FTA to withdraw our application and resubmit a new application for the shorter segment. This potentially loses us our place in line in the Federal process. Worst case that could mean losing one or two years on the project.

I’ll be biting my nails, excitedly…

For those of you following the Lake Oswego process, the steering committee also took two actions on that project, eliminating River Transit from consideration (at the recommendation of the project’s citizen committee) and also removing consideration of placing Streeting on Highway 43 south of the Sellwood Bridge (putting Streetcar in the street in John’s Landing – as an alternative to using the Willamette Shorline right-of-way there – is still under study).


71 responses to “Rolling the Streetcar Dice”

  1. just curious … why OMSI? what else is there? museums are nice, but haven’t we subsidized this one enough? it’s in the center of a non-residential area. would OMSI, all by itself, generate the needed ridership? wouldn’t they be better off connecting it
    to a light rail station or taking it downtown?

    for that matter, isn’t morrison street north of OMSI? or is there another morrison street?

    so confused … need coffee …

  2. I don’t know I’m a fan of the Loop really, Burnside and the other ideas percolating (LO Streetcar) are much better ideas really. We don’t need a “loop” on that side of the river. We need “arterials” just like was before. But I don’t think the idea of funcional use is even a remote consideration anymore.

    As for the federal process, in all seriousness they should just cut us out of federal taxes and let the state collect it directly from its “citizens”. The wole recirculation and then redistribution of funds is so amazingly wasteful. Projects could double in price and they’d be nothing if this efficiency was had.

    But in curiosity, what exactly is needed to make a double submission, or a submission with “resource clauses”? So that both can be considered and they just (if passing) submit it back with “resource clauses” of their own?

  3. Yes, the line will be coming down from the North. Starting in the Pearl District, it will cross the Broadway Bridge, using Broadway/Wiedler. It will connect North/South to Oregon St. using Grand and 7th. If we proceed beyond Oregon St., at Oregon the southbound track would drop down to MLK. We will use MLK/Grand to Stephens St. (if we don’t stop at Morrison). At Stephens a flyover ramp would take the Streetcar over the mainline railroad and land at OMSI.

    Putting aside OMSI as an institution, I believe the the thinking is twofold:

    1) The area near OMSI is ripe for development.

    2) OMSI is where the current plans show Milwaukie LRT crossing back over the Willamette (although there is now some discussion of putting this crossing further south). Streetcar would piggyback on this new bridge to complete the look across the river.

    If the so-called Caruthers Crossing does not happen, it’s relatively straightforward to get from OSMI to the Water Ave. ramp of the Hawthorne Bridge to get back across the river.

  4. Adron, I think the next month will be spent figuring out if we can submit a ‘contingent’ application that would give us room with the Feds to drop back to Oregon.

    But it’s a new Federal program (Small Starts) with new rules, and both we and the Feds are figuring it out.

  5. Much, much greater development potential is in the Rose Quarter, less near OMSI for the time being. The shorter streetcar line to Lloyd District is the better bet in that regard.

    Reconfiguring the Weidler and Broadway couplet to accommodate the streetcar line will be a challenge. Address that challenge first. Apply the lessons learned to MLK and Grand later.

    I still believe running the Streetcar line further east on Weidler to 15th, then south to Multnomah near the Theater, west on Multnomah to 7th, south to Oregon, west to Grand, north to Broadway would serve the entirety of LLoyd District better than turning on 7th. But, a loop extension to 15th can be added later, at a reasonable cost.

    I’ve been following the Burnside Couplet project all along. The recent addition of a streetcar line complicates that project. The Burnside Couplet has its benefits, (improved traffic management, new sidewalks and streetscape, etc), but also many engineering difficulties to overcome. Adding a streetcar line complicates the project. If a streetcar line can be left as an option for later, that’s better. The couplet alone is supportable.

  6. Why not just play it safe and take the Loop as far south as Morrison, and call it “Phase 1”? If you later determine you can raise the funding to extend all the way to OMSI, submit a second Project Development application for “Phase 2” later in the year.

  7. Chris:

    I thought the Milwaukee Max stopping at OMSI was a slam dunk, when did that change? I do agree that it makes sense to send the Streetcar to OMSI if the Caruthers Bridge is going to go in, maybe that bridge we be more of a reality if both Streetcar and Max combined funding to make it happen?

  8. Chris –

    I hate to dare to bring this up, but has anyone talked about configuring the Caruthers Bridge (or whatever new river crossing may be built) to have a couple of auto lanes, one each direction?

    I know it would add to the cost, but, configured properly, it could take enormous pressure off of the Ross Island Bridge and some pressure off the Marquam Bridge, and could also solve that mess of approaches from Macadam to the Ross Island Bridge, at least for local trips.

    – Bob R.

  9. Extending the eastside streetcar line to Morrison is problematic several ways. First, MLK and Grand are major thoroughfares which will require utmost care in the layout and design of streetcar lines and stations. Better to first see how well the lines work on similarly traffic-congested Weidler and Broadway before attempting similar changes on MLK/Grand.

    Second, development potential is far greater in the Rose Quarter and Lloyd District than along the southern stretch of MLK and Grand. Rose Quarter development has the advantage with nearby Pearl and Lloyd Center Districts, which will attract and assure commercial activity and the value of ‘riverview’ Rose Quarter development. MLK/Grand will eventually be more closely tied into Lloyd District, but not before Rose Quarter.

    Third, there’s the problem of where to make the streetcar line reverse direction from southbound MLK to northbound Grand. It’s probably better to extend all the way to OMSI, than reverse direction at Morrison or at Burnside.

  10. Why not just play it safe and take the Loop as far south as Morrison

    It turns out that the Morrison option has the worst performance in terms of ridership vs. cost. It probably wouldn’t fare well in the federal scoring.

    I thought the Milwaukee Max stopping at OMSI was a slam dunk

    See http://portlandtransport.com/archives/2006/05/watching_it_unf_1.html

    has anyone talked about configuring the Caruthers Bridge (or whatever new river crossing may be built) to have a couple of auto lanes

    I’m not going to dignify that with an answer :-)

  11. Has anyone considered beginning the loop service from the south end?

    A line beginning at 4th and Harrison, north on 4th to Madison, east to Water Avenue via the Hawthorne Bridge and the Water Avenue Ramp and then to OMSI, returning to Harrison via 1st Avenue. – or – connect to the light rail on the mall via Main and Madison. (I suspect that the mall tracks will eventually be used only for streetcar type operation because the route sucks for regional light rail service.)

    If the Milwaukie Light Rail line continues north along Water Avenue and connects to the Yellow Line at the Rose Quarter, the streetcar, which could share the OMSI platform with MAX, could provide the critical southern transfer link to downtown, thus avoiding a slow circuitous trip on MAX for eastside passengers not destined to or from downtown.

    The high ridership that this first phase of the eastside streetcar would enjoy plus the higher ridership on a much faster north-south MAX line, especially if it includes a north extension to Hayden Island or downtown Vancouver, would more than meet the FTA’s tougher ridership/cost standards. Light rail and streetcar would then compliment each other rather than compete with each other for federal funds.

    The next phase of the eastside streetcar system could then be to complete the loop as planned, or, continue east out Hawthorne Blvd.

  12. Jim, that’s an interesting idea, but as you know that would mean revisiting the LPA decision, and very few people (certainly not me) would want to turn the clock back.

  13. I thought the Milwaukee Max stopping at OMSI was a slam dunk, when did that change?

    There will definitely be a stop in the vicinity of OMSI. The question is whether the stop will be directly adjacent to the building or a few blocks south. A transit bridge will be located somewhere between OMSI and the Ross Island Bridge. It is unlikely to carry autos, but could carry busses in addition to Milwaukie light rail, the streetcar, and a potential light rail line down Powell/Foster.

  14. is unlikely to carry autos, but could carry busses in addition to Milwaukie light rail

    I would be very supportive of a bridge that could carry buses as well as trains… this would mean that we would have a new river crossing built to modern seismic standards which could carry motor vehicles in an emergency (fire trucks, ambulances, police, evacuees, who knows?)

    – Bob R.

  15. Doug:

    I have heard from several planners that the location of the Carruthers Bridge is back up for discussion. We should be hearing a lot more about this next year when work on the final EIS begins.

    The main worry is that the Carruthers crossing does not adequately serve the new South Waterfront neighborhood. The bridge would run underneath of or next to the Marquam Bridge and it will probably be another 15 years or so before this area is developed.

    There is already talk of having the MAX bridge built just north of the Ross Island Bridge. This would allow for a MAX stop close to where development is already happening. The crossing will have to stay north of the Ross Island Bridge for fear that traffic on Powell Boulevard will be impacted. Any further south and the proposal completely falls apart due to the wide river channel and the lack of an established right of way.

    This whole proposal sounds like the whole adage of design by committee leading to bad design to me. We could end up with a transit bridge that kind serves both sides of the river, but that serves neither side particularly well.

    I’m also a big fan of building a bridge that serves buses as well. I ride the #17 and the #19 on a regular basis, and I know all to well what it is like to be stuck in the congestion on the Ross Island Bridge.

  16. Maybe we should look at including cars on the proposed light rail crossing. Make it a toll bridge. Say, two decks: lower deck for transit, upper deck is a tollway for fast access from McLoughlin to Naito Parkway and vice versa.

    If the auto lanes made up a sufficiently useful shortcut, would that create the prospect of paying for the entire bridge with automobile tolls?

    On topic: is the MLK/Grand alignment locked in at this point, or is there still a chance to build a 7th Avenue viaduct and extend the streetcar along 6th Avenue? (This was brought up a few posts ago, and it makes a lot more sense to me, even from a “redevelopment” standpoint, than running the streetcar on a couple of four-lane highways.) If there are prospects of shifting the line to 6th, maybe the best option is to treat “phase 1” as going to Oregon Street, and work out “phase 2” from Lloyd District to OMSI later.

  17. Caruthers bridge w/ car lanes? MAX to OMSI? So now, we’re debating again.

    I think a sensible place for a new bridge would be from SE Holgate to SW Bancroft (yes, I know it’s a long distance). I think we are only seeing the beginning of projects in the SW waterfront area. Now that the Stadium freeway has been breached as a barrier to containing “downtown core” style development, the SOWA and PillHill area is going to be marked for high scale infill, similar to No. River District. ( Any land next to a twenty five story building ain’t gonna be cheap anymore). So it should have its own connection across the Willamette. If this current wave of expansion at OHSU peters out in a few more years, there will be another phase, later. We will be watching (and hoping) to see how OHSU does in NIH ranking for funds.

    The Intersection of SW Bancroft and Hwy 43 also allows enough room (barely) to establish connections to and from I-5

    Forget the Milwaukie MAX and Caruthers Bridge. It will be a $550 million route that has little ridership most of the day. As I said at this week’s JPACT a streetcar from Milwaukie to the Westshore line–assuming it gets to the Sellwood bridge–covers only 2.4 miles; that couldn’t be too expensive. You could also run one up the Eastside and have two lines for a fraction of the cost of the one MAX. (I guess the Sellwood task force will have the say in it.)

    Also you could bring a streetcar across from SOWA on the lower sections of the Marquam bridge, right to the doorstep of OMSI. The Harrison connector portion of the present Central City line heads straight for the bridge piers, before finally veering south at Moody (or whatever street that is).

    I am presently researching the use of precast concrete sections in highway construction and have some links saved. I think preformed sections could be used in laying a new streetcar route, and these sections could be mass produced on an assembly line. It’s already being done for masonry construction. I see no reason why such sections could not be light enough to be loaded on to a flat bed trailer and lifted into place with a truck mounted crane. Let’s bring the cost of streetcar way dow, by using our heads. This could make it a new industry for Oregon with a product affordable to small communities.

  18. Jim Howell writes, “a line beginning at SW 4th and Harrison, north on 4th to Madison, east to Water Avenue via the Hawthorne Bridge and the Water Avenue Ramp and then to OMSI, returning to Harrison via 1st Avenue, or connect to the light rail on the mall via Main and Madison.”

    Hey Hey. A streetcar line between SoWa and OMSI via SW 1st (the most direct route) would make a nifty connector between those districts. But the Caruthers Crossing Bridge carrying MAX and streetcars is still the more productive investment.

    The priority streetcar is still the planned extension across the Broadway Bridge and into the Lloyd District. That river crossing could make invaluable rail connections to MAX on Interstate Ave and the Transit Mall. If rail on the Steel Bridge were disabled somehow, having MAX able to cross on the Broadway Bridge is smart planning. The priority streetcar line is still across the Broadway Bridge.

  19. Jim Howell also writes, “If the Milwaukie Light Rail line continues north along Water Avenue and connects to the Yellow Line at the Rose Quarter, the streetcar, which could share the OMSI platform with MAX, could provide the critical southern transfer link to downtown, thus avoiding a slow circuitous trip on MAX for eastside passengers not destined to or from downtown.”

    I presented argument and analysis in favor of such a MAX and Streetcar alignment for so long, it ain’t funny. Now, I’ve got a mental block. The fundamental question was how to affect convenient transfers from an Eastside MAX line to a streetcar line or buses with adequate capacity. The argument against the idea was the notion that all transfers automatically reduce ridership estimates. I argued it’s not the transfer, but the time waiting for the transfer that discourages riders. Make the transfer under 5 minute wait period, and most riders find that amount of waiting acceptable.

    I think the Streetcar and MAX station platform clearances are different and may not be compatable.

  20. I think the Streetcar and MAX station platform clearances are different and may not be compatable.

    While this is true for the current rolling stock (the streetcars are narrower than MAX LRVs), future streetcars could conceivably be built with “gap fillers” – small plates that pop out instantly as the doors open. The San Francisco MUNI Breda LRVs use this method to fill the gap between the car floors and the subway platforms.

    Such streetcars could share MAX tracks wherever operating speeds are less than 40MPH.

    – Bob R.

  21. This is a post for my wife and she told me that she wanted Streetcar Line extended through Milwaukie and Gladstone, all the way into Oregon City. We had that line going into Oregon City for the longest time and my wife used as a child and loved it.

    Her choice of MAX/LRT or Streecar, is Streetcar into South Clackamas County.

  22. The simplist MAX extension to Oregon City is along I-205 from Clackamas Town Center. The MAX to Milwaukie line has the high cost of the bridge crossing the Willamette, is problematic there and at the Clinton/Milwaukie Ave/UPRR intersection and through the Brooklyn yards.

    To route MAX from Milwaukie through Oak Grove and Gladstone and then into Oregon City is likewise very problematic. Get MAX to Milwaukie first, then make the decision how to reach Oregon City, via I-205 or along the McLaughlin corridor.

    A main premise of the LOTi Project was the importance of how transit lines interconnect. Being that it’s not possible for any transit system to function without transfers, how transit lines interconnect and affect transfers is critically important.

    When planning a modern light rail line, some areas can only be connected to light rail via bus or streetcar line lines. The question is which areas are best served (n today’s conditions and situations) with direct light rail service, and which areas are best served with connecting bus or streetcar lines. Atop that consideration is how best to accommodate growth and development.

  23. As to the importance of transit lines that interconnect; It seems lately that Tri-Met is doing more to “disconnect” rather improving connections. Revamping of the Gateway Max station is one example whereby fewer busses inner-connect at this proposed town center and shopping district. Another example is the Hollywood Transit Center. The Sandy Boulevard bus no longer is routed through the transit station. It is a three block walk from Max to Sandy. The City and Tri-Met want to remove the bus loop and greenspace, and build high density development on the property thereby placing the bus stops on the street and increasing the walking distance between transfers. Developing the property would also block the sight lines between the street and the Max platform not only making the platform less safe for passengers, but also placing an obstruction in the way of passengers being able to see if their transfer is coming or at the station. Some people have called the Hollywood Transit Center a suburban transit center in an urban environment. However, moving the busses onto the street has a greater negative impact to other traffic than the current configuration and negates the allowance the bus turnaround has for increased capacity and the expansion of service. A truly suburban transit center in an urban environment is the one located at the Rose Quarter with all that excessive pavement. That is where new development should take place, right where the busses stop. All that pavement exclusively reserved for transit is totally unnecessary even if the number of busses using it doubled, tripled or quadrupled.

  24. Art, I agree HCLRT could be extended into Oregon City along I-205 the easiest. However that is not where the people are.

    My wife just said that it would be best if it was a slow Streetcar and she would not mind if it followed the old inter-urban streetcar ROW, it is still there.

  25. “My wife just said that it would be best if it was a slow Streetcar and she would not mind if it followed the old inter-urban streetcar ROW, it is still there.”

    The streetcar doesn’t have to be slow. It is governed, presently, to a slow speed because it is used downtown. Our model can go 40-45 mph. This makes it practical for those longer stretches.

    “To route MAX from Milwaukie through Oak Grove and Gladstone and then into Oregon City is likewise very problematic. Get MAX to Milwaukie first, then make the decision how to reach Oregon City, via I-205 or along the McLaughlin corridor. ”

    If it’s going to be probematic, why even begin? I’ve suggested something far less expensive, and which the voters are less like to reject. The way the current planning is going we’re going to be paying for huge projects way out into the future: Good for planners careers and other vested interests. Bad for the US economy. And when they find out that those expensive schemes didn’t do the trick, they’ll find others. Validated, of course, by publicly paid consultants.

    Instead of going to OC with either MAX route, how about using the AMTRAK path. Is that impossible? Anyone know, for sure?

    Someday, I’m going to take some photos showing just how empty MAX trains are during the day. If Chris agrees to post them. That won’t be for awhile since I am going to Cannon Beach to work on a project. Will have to post from a public library computer I guess…

    I’m not faulting the East nor the West MAX line and hopefully the PDX spur will kick to life, someday. I enjoy using it when the situation arises, but I would still have to transfer even with MAX to Milwaukie, plus carry my luggage a half-mile. But I’ve even come from the airport at 5 pm with a whole eight other passengers…..
    Federally funded as an option, versus constructing freeways (a use-it-or-lose-it scenario) it was pretty much a no-brainer. I think it is a far different story now. Not that our little area would sink the US treasury. But multiply this attitude a hundredfold and it’s different. I don’t like deficits–Republican or Democrat ones.

    If anyone ever reads http://www.dailyreckoning.com you might get a different view of where our various economic deficits are leading. Perhaps the contrarians will be proven wrong and if they are, that means there will ultimately be more money flowing out the federal spigot than one could ever dream. If they are right you might wish you had moved to Argentina or Tanzania prior to the US collapse. So far they have been right about the soaring price of gold…

  26. Wow! All these logistical problems: why not just
    drop all these dopey rail projects and invest
    in a well designed BRT, starting with a Caruthers
    Bridge for buses. This would be a big boon to
    Southeast. Too logical, I think.

  27. Rich folks to serve with the street car:
    – Riverplace (check)
    – South waterfront (check)
    – The Pearl (check)
    – NW 23rd (check)
    – LO (planned – Dunthorpe too, right?)

    We know how LO is known for its extensive usage of mass transit. It’s certainly a better candidate for transit improvements over a place like SE 82nd which has standing-only buses during all times of the day and night.

    I don’t think any streetcar lines should be built until we can run a bus along the proposed route and have reasonable ridership to justify the added expense.

    Of course I suspect that wouldn’t work since rich folks seem to have an aversion to riding the bus with the “riff raff.” IMO, that’s why we have the street car, and that’s why we’re going to run the MAX through the mall — plenty of buses to ride but no rails.

    Well, at least they’re throwing us middle class folks a bone with the I-205 MAX.

  28. Mac said:

    “Of course I suspect that wouldn’t work since rich folks seem to have an aversion to riding the bus with the “riff raff.”

    Don’t worry Mac, there is plenty of riff-raff
    on MAX these days. That’s why I won’t ride it
    after 7 PM. Now I’ve read that going home to
    Gresham in the afternoon has become fun(?) also.

  29. I like the idea of a LO Streetcar, but I gotta say I’d rather see something done about 82nd, and definately about Hawthorne before seeing anymore Streetcar expansion. It’s kinda silly to blow all this money on “amenities” when a demand is not being supplied. The lines out on those streets actually turn an operational profit many days of the year.

    But as mentioned, logic is lacking. Then of course, it’s not a business, it’s a Government subsidized service that we’re told to use because of x number of myths.

    I’d even go out to Hawthorne more if the service was a bit better on the #14. I don’t like standing squished on the bus. It’s one thing on the MAX which is relatively stable, but the bus bounces around in those potholes way too much.

  30. Re: – Ron Swaren – The Amtrak right of way is allowed because of signed agreements between the Federal Government and Union Pacific. It would be detremental to UP and Amtrak to attempt to use those tracks. If you mean the right of way, then I think they might be more agreeable to use something paralleling the lines between PDX and Milwaukee.

    Be careful though, UP might not want anything to do with it, they’re already getting a shit storm in Washington (DC) about re-regulation of the freight industry.

    Then of course if that happens again, be prepared for the freight rail industry to finally receive its death knell.

  31. Instead of going to OC with either MAX route, how about using the AMTRAK path. Is that impossible? Anyone know, for sure?

    Well, I’ve suggested a commuter rail (uses same exact rails as Amtrak and Union Pacific, with a diesel locomotive and 3-8 passenger coaches) system linking Portland and Salem, that would stop in Milwaukie, Oregon City, Canby, and Woodburn.

    Every time I suggest it, the light rail folks cry foul, and want their “bona fide electrified six-car…” trains to Vancouver, Troutdale, St. Helens, Forest Grove, Tigard, McMinnville, and Canby.

    Salem =

  32. Erik said:

    “Well, I’ve suggested a commuter rail (uses same exact rails as Amtrak and Union Pacific, with a diesel locomotive and 3-8 passenger coaches) system linking Portland and Salem, that would stop in Milwaukie, Oregon City, Canby, and Woodburn.”

    Yeah, the same tracks that are used by freight
    trains to block and delay the commuter trains.
    Squelch that idea!

  33. As Adron was writing about E. 82nd Ave. a few posts
    back, I have a few observations to add:

    1) After I205 MAX is opened, just as many buses
    will have to be operated on 82nd. We had a big
    discussion about this on Usenet a while back.

    2) Earlier this year, I was at a dinner and
    someone who lives on Mt. Scott said he was looking
    forward to I205 MAX. When I told him that MAX
    was projected to take 38 minutes to reach downtown
    from Clackamas TC, his reaction was “forget it.”
    It’s these anecdotal comments that really tell me why tansit’s share is not increasing in the Portland Metro area. But of course, the railfans will foam over the new MAX, no matter how long takes.

  34. Just as I thought, congestion isn’t very bad at all here in little old Portland. Driving most places at most times is pretty quick and easy.
    We’ll just have to see how many new riders the Green Line attracts…this leg was pushed for very hard by Clackamas County and was an afterthought to the South Corridor planning effort. The MAX network has grown by a combination of politics, resource opportunities and some planning, in that order. But its used 100,000 times a day, and TriMet’s ridership is 13th best in the nation in a market that is 27th.
    So its not working out too poorly.

  35. Erik-

    I’m with you. Commuter rail between Portland and Salem, with stops in Oregon City, etc. is the way to go. Folks from Oregon City could jump on the train to get downtown, and probably do so in about half the time that light rail would take to do the trip, or a third of the time of streetcar.

    Nothing against Oregon City, but I think this is the most cost-effective option for near-term service there. I think that there are a lot more potentially cost-effective options for light rail & streetcar service expansion (i.e. Hawthorne, Powell/Foster, Barbur Blvd, St. Johns, etc.) before running new tracks all the way down there.

    This would make a great second line to Portland’s developing commuter-rail network (the first being the 217 corridor, of course, since it is already under construction).

    The trick is to make sure that the land-use tie is there. Each new commuter rail station should be required to have at least 2,200 total housing units (existing + new) planned for around it, in addition to supportive services & other jobs. This will ensure enough ridership for a successful service.

  36. Yeah, the same tracks that are used by freight
    trains to block and delay the commuter trains.
    Squelch that idea!

    Not necessarily.

    I agree, that currently – the UP mainline is an obstacle – just as much as streetcar lines are obstructed by, well, the lack of streetcar tracks on city streets!

    Build streetcar tracks, and streetcars can travel. Build a second mainline track, and you’ve doubled capacity.

    However, building a second main track alongside the existing UP mainline would be far easier – most of the right-of-way is already owned by UP, and if negotiated correctly, UP would have no reason to object (since it wouldn’t have to build the track, yet it’d have access to it and would benefit from added capacity, for the small price of allowing commuter trains to operate as well).

    My “Plan B” is to build a second track only from Hubbard (specifically, the Oregon 99E/551 interchange) south to Salem; build a new track in the existing state-owned right-of-way alongside Highway 551, a flyover bridge over the I-5/551 interchange to connect to the OE, and use the existing OE Willamette River bridge to connect to…the Beaverton-Wilsonville Commuter Rail line. Natural extension.

    Both of these would solve significant congestion problems and would get a head start on any future projects that would involve I-5 to the south. They both could also be done rather inexpensively – I would venture no more than $300M. No expensive tunnel, no expensive electrification, and very little real estate to buy. No roadway improvements, no sewer/utility relocations… Salem already has a train station as does Oregon City, and most of the other towns (Woodburn, Hubbard, Canby) already own land alongside the railroad tracks used as parking lots that could be used for stations (and new, improved parking lots).

    As for justifying it – Salem’s train station is within three blocks of Willamette University, and an additional two blocks to the Capitol building. An inexpensive shuttle bus loop could be used, that would connect the station with Willamette U, downtown (Transit Center) and the Capitol building/Capitol Mall. A park and ride facility could be built in North Salem (Chemawa) to attract riders from the north end. A stop at the State Fairgrounds could be built so that people could ride the train to the Fair (SP did it until the ’50s, and even ran State Fair specials.) Gervais, Woodburn, Hubbard and Canby all have downtown districts that are situated right along the railroad track. Oregon City’s station isn’t well positioned (it’s too far north of downtown, and not even near the transit center), but that could be fixed. And Milwaukie’s business center backs up to the railroad tracks as well, with at least three or four bus lines that would make an easy connection to downtown.

    In short – the “land use” component is already there.

  37. Eric said: “Build a second mainline track, and you’ve doubled capacity”.
    Actually if a second mainline track is built, you’ve increased capacity by as much as six-fold because it allows continuous bi-directional traffic greatly reducing the the need to sidetrack trains.

  38. I live in Oregon City and I have gone down to the Amtrak/UP Station and audited the activity and hardly no-one uses it. I support commuter rail and its possiblities but what we are doing right now is setup to fail.

    As others have said it is great for the historic wagon exhibit and maybe a tourist or two, but for getting commuters off of our roads and their dependence on the auto it is a failure, it is in the wrong place.

    I like Light Rail but I think that we can do better. To get MAX/LRT extended from the Clackams Town Center into Oregon City probably the best route is south along I-205 into Oregon City and with a new Transit Center this extension was estimated by a reliable source at $800M.

    The problem is that this possible extension of MAX/LRT into Oregon City would pass by very few people and the people who would come to either a Gladstone I-205 transit station or a MAX station in the north Cove area would be quite way from the majority of the population. The other part of the problem is how long it will take for anyone to go from Oregon City to lets say the Rose Quarter or Convention Center. If it is 1-hour to make that loop it will not attract ridership needed and necessary.

    The Portland Streetcar line is going to get extended to OMSI and that is good. To extend it to Milwaukie would be approximately $150M and this was extimated along a route that would take it through Sellwood/West Morland on Milwaukie Avenue and then to Waverly. This route would pass by a lot of people and has high possiblities of achieving high ridership and return of investment.

    To extend MAX/LRT into Milwaukie Town Center with a new Transit Center, the estimated cost is $800M. It would probably take a route that would put it on McLoughlin Blvd and would require some new bridges and major replacement of some overpasses. It would pass by and away from the major location where most of the people are but it is probably the best place MAX to go to get to Milwaukie. If I was Tri-Met I would take it south/east up nest to the heavy rail tracks that go out to Clackamas Industrial area and connect it in a loop with the Clackamas Transit Center. This could achieve a high speed (less stops) route into downtown Portland without going through Gateway.

    Comparing all Rail methods I like Streetcars and the ridership and when I look at the cost factor and what appears to be a better opportunity to achieve a higher return on imvestment it looks to be a winner.

    To extend a Streetcar line if it was built into Milwaukie south through Oak Grove and Gladstone along the original interurban Streetcar right-of-way by all of the people might cost another $200M because of all of the natural stations and pickup points. It would be a winner!

  39. Did anyone else hear the report on NPR’s businesses show yesterday afternoon on Paris’ new tram…aka streetcar? Took out the center lane of a boulevard, laid tracks, planted grass and trees, etc. Paris is also adding bike lanes, etc….trying to catch up with Portland, OR!

  40. I don’t think the general public would want to
    take a SLOW streetcar from Milwaukie or Oregon
    City to downtown (although the railfans would
    love it–the hell with the speed).

    As for commuter rail, why not just buid a bus
    lane instead of another track? And the buses
    would be flexible enough to go where the people
    are. Once again, too logical, I suppose.

  41. My “Plan B” is to build a second track only from Hubbard (specifically, the Oregon 99E/551 interchange) south to Salem; build a new track in the existing state-owned right-of-way alongside Highway 551, a flyover bridge over the I-5/551 interchange to connect to the OE, and use the existing OE Willamette River bridge to connect to…the Beaverton-Wilsonville Commuter Rail line. Natural extension.

    While I enjoy your proposal in general, it seems that the connection from the OE and Washington County line to the UP line could be made much easier and cheaper in North Salem. The rails are much closer to each other, requiring less new track, flyovers, etc. and you avoid more of the delay-prone UP.

    However it would miss making a connection between Washington County and Hubbard, Woodburn and Gervais. I imagine most people would go to or from Salem anyway.

  42. I don’t think the general public would want to take a SLOW streetcar from Milwaukie or Oregon
    City to downtown

    Which is probably why most of the rail proposals are for Light Rail, not streetcar. Still, outside of city traffic, the Streetcar is no slowpoke, but it does have a limited top speed…

    MAX and Streetcar share the same acceleration characteristics (3mphps), giving a zero-40mph time of about 13.3 seconds. The fastest New Flyer transit bus (which uses hybrid diesel-electric propulsion) claims a zero-40mph time of 23.3 seconds.

    (although the railfans would love it–the hell with the speed).

    First, no railfan here argues for inherently slower speeds. Thanks for asking.

    Given that electric rail vehicles easily out-accelerate diesel and hybrid transit buses, how does your “to hell with the speed” comment have any connection to reality?

    To put it a different way: The streetcar reaches 40mph TEN SECONDS before a hybrid bus. MAX reaches 55mph FIVE SECONDS before that bus even hits 40. In the same corridor, rail is nearly always faster than bus.

    As for commuter rail, why not just buid a bus lane instead of another track?

    Because thus far the commuter rail ROW being discussed belongs to private railroads. Those railroads would see inherent value in adding or upgrading trackage which they might be able to use during non-commute periods, but would find operating next to a paved lane on their property a nuisance.

    And the buses would be flexible enough to go where the people are.

    Does Greyhound drop you off at your door? “Where the people are” is partly a function of growth around infrastructure, zoning, employment centers, etc. Once established, they seldom shift.

    Look at the most popular bus route in Portland, the #14… through its busiest route sections it follows the original streetcar route which established that corridor decades ago.

    Once again, too logical, I suppose.

    Logical except for the part where you are wrong about bus speeds vs. rail speeds, population clusters around routes, etc.

    How about dropping the hyperbole and talking about real numbers for a change? I have already stated that I’m interested in seeing how Bus Rapid Transit works out in Eugene… it is possible for us “railfans” to keep an open mind.

    – Bob R.

  43. Off-topic PS to Nick…

    I’m not the webmaster or style cop here, but I hope that in future comments you can refrain from adding excess carriage returns to your posts… It is only necessary to add returns at the end of a paragraph and between paragraphs. Not everyone has the same window size, so let the web browser do the formatting and save yourself some time as well…

    Thanks,
    Bob R.

  44. it seems that the connection from the OE and Washington County line to the UP line could be made much easier and cheaper in North Salem. The rails are much closer to each other, requiring less new track, flyovers, etc. and you avoid more of the delay-prone UP.

    That is very true.

    But Woodburn is a very significant city in the northern Willamette Valley, and a growing city at that. There’s no reason it should be left out. Gervais and Hubbard are small but that they are both situated along the railroad tracks, makes stops at both towns practical at very little cost (at least for a few trains; “express” trains would proceed without stopping; or those cities could get stations later after the service is proven.)

    Although Woodburn isn’t itself a major destination, it is a significant bedroom community for BOTH the Portland and Salem areas. And Woodburn is served by only one I-5 interchange which is a known major traffic headache.

  45. Bob:

    Paul Edgar said it for me:

    “The problem is that this possible extension of MAX/LRT into Oregon City would pass by very few people and the people who would come to either a Gladstone I-205 transit station or a MAX station in the north Cove area would be quite way from the majority of the population. The other part of the problem is how long it will take for anyone to go from Oregon City to lets say the Rose Quarter or Convention Center. If it is 1-hour to make that loop it will not attract ridership needed and necessary.”

    Another case: Tanasbourne. I was there last Sat.
    for a luncheon, and experience this nonsense
    first hand. People living in all the apts/condos
    around Cornell and US 26 have to drive or take a bus to Willowcreek TC, and then change to MAX to
    go downtown. A BRT bus could collect riders at
    their developments and then enter a BRT ROW if
    MAX had been built as a BRT instead of rail. A
    much more rapid and convenient trip instead of
    a transfer and sometimes “no seats” MAX.

    As for numbers, transit share of Metro Portland
    trips seems stuck at around 8%. I read someplace
    that when Trimet took over Rose City Transit and
    built the bus mall during the 70’s, transit’s
    share rose from 6% to 10% of all trips. I think
    you all should do some soul-searching about why
    transit use is not outgrowing population in the
    region. Too much inflexible LRT, perhaps?

    Also, rainfans would prefer a slower rail operation if the alternative is a rubber-based
    solution. and I was talking about total trip
    times, not vehicle acceleration. An express bus
    will almost always beat and LRT in this regard.

    Let me know how the formatting went this time.

    Nick

  46. Also, rainfans would prefer a slower rail operation if the alternative is a rubber-based
    solution. and I was talking about total trip
    times, not vehicle acceleration.

    Nick, in nearly all of your comments you claim to read the minds of “railfans”, stating definitively what they would “prefer”.

    Well, I’ve never met a “railfan” who didn’t think that buses were appropriate for a wide variety of tasks. Please, no more straw-man arguments.

    Even the most rail-intensive transit cities in the US have extensive bus networks with types of service ranging from local, limited-stop, busway, and express.

    Numerous “railfans” on this site, including me, have expressed support for the idea of regional-center to regional-center bus service to improve transit for those not needing to come near or through the central city.

    I will not pretend to psychically divine your motivations… I suggest you stick to discussing actual policies and proposals rather than typecasting your opponents.

    Regarding formatting, your pasted quote from Paul came out fine, but except for two of your sentences, there were still too many line breaks in your post. What computer/web browser are you using to compose messages?

    – Bob R.

  47. I’ll tell you what my motivations are: I do not
    drive (never have), so I am a heavy end-user of
    the transit facilities here. The LRT in Portland
    is very inflexible, poorly designed and operated.
    There seems to be a myriad of problems with it.

    As for railfans, I was active in the hobby when
    I was living in New York, and I know that most of
    them are emotionally driven by their attachment to
    rail. So, when one gets into positions of power
    and influence, you will see advocacy for rail
    even if the modality does not best suit the
    purpose. I should have been the last one to
    advocate for BRT, having grown up (and loved)with
    the NYC subways in the 1950’s.

    But Portland is not New York City; what’s good
    for the goose is not good for the gander, etc.

    NOW, about Paul’s comments on Oregon City and my
    comments about Tanasbourne?

  48. I think that now that we have exposed ourselves to LRT (both MAX and Streetcar) that we have put on the blinders, and with regards to the Portland metro area refuse, generally speaking, to consider alternative methods that may be more cost-effective, quicker to start, or for other reasons – because Portland is seen as a “leader” in rail transit development.

    The tram came to be only because it was so unique that the city leadership embraced it (of course, with the then $15M price tag.)

    Portland is hardly a leader; many other cities had LRT, subway, and commuter rail well before Portland did; but what Portland did was shut down a freeway project in favor of LRT. While MAX is hardly a failure, it’s well known that LRT (again, either MAX or streetcar) can’t solve all of the problems. Yet when a question arises, the answer from TriMet, Metro, and all the other planning bodies seems to be “How can we make MAX/Streetcar work?” instead of the other possible solutions – including highway expansion, BRT, commuter bus, etc.?

    Rail has its place in transportation planning and I would describe myself as a “railfan”. I’ll gladly support any rail project that is defined because the rail is the best mode of transport for the need. But using rail because “it attracts more dollars” or for development/land use purposes is wrong, unless the developers are willing to pay the money. But I will say that in the other railroad related forums I participate in (including one focused on Amtrak), there are a large number of railfans who refuse to consider anything but rail; that insist that all “subsidies” to anything but rail be reduced or eliminated; and that busses are simply inferior and serve no purpose. Needless to say, I don’t subscribe to their views.

  49. there are a large number of railfans who refuse to consider anything but rail

    The only alternative looked at to the East Side Streetcar Loop was…a no-build, no change alternative. This despite the fact that an alternatives analysis was theoretically required.

    With Tri-Met arguing they can’t afford to pay operating costs, we’re apparently looking at adding parking meters to the Central Eastside Industrial District, with that revenue potentially earmarked for Streetcar operations. That’s a lot of change being asked for from our neighborhood –all in the name of development, not improved transit– when maybe what makes more sense, or gets us a bigger bang for our bucks, is walkable sidewalks and improved bus service in the Central Eastside.

    What’s disappointing is making a “solution” –the Streetcar Loop– drive the definition of the problem. Maybe we need to step back and look at what the real problems are here we’re trying to solve?

  50. The only alternative looked at to the East Side Streetcar Loop was…a no-build, no change alternative. This despite the fact that an alternatives analysis was theoretically required.

    That’s not entirely fair. The “no-build” was essentially a bus alternative, and bus ridership versus Streetcar ridership for the “Loop” was analyzed and Streetcar provides more ridership.

    What was not done was an analysis of a BRT-type system, since that’s not really what we’re aiming for (e.g., dedicated right-of-way for either Streetcar or a bus).

    What’s disappointing is making a “solution” –the Streetcar Loop– drive the definition of the problem. Maybe we need to step back and look at what the real problems are here we’re trying to solve?

    I think we are stepping back – in my mind the problem is how do we accomodate 1M new residents in the region without blowing out the UGB, creating sprawl, chewing up some of the best farmland in the world and generally impacting our livability negatively.

    I think using Streetcar to help drive 5,000 or so new housing units in the central city is a pretty good answer to that question.

    Some folks will of course say that we should NOT plan to accomodate that new growth. I have several responses to that:

    • A lot of that growth is our own kids.
    • The migration portion of the growth is in large part driven by our livability.
    • If we don’t plan for the growth the alternative is that folks who want to live here will just bid up the housing and housing will be REALLY unaffordable (look at San Diego’s housing prices).
    • We risk losing that very livability if we don’t have a plan to accomodate the growth.

    The Streetcar Loop not only gets us the new housing units (and jobs too) but also creates a foundation for a larger transit system that will reach out beyond the central city.

  51. The “no build” alternative was indeed a “bus alternative” with zero increase in service. So the alterantives compared apples to oranges…what if we spend money on a streetcar, but spend zero on imporving bus service.

    People will move into the Central Eastside Industrial District without a Streetcar Loop. If we dangle SDC credits for Transit-Oriented-Development what we do is put a BRAKE on new development…while the property owners wait for their opportunities –tax breaks– to appear.

  52. Frank Dufay said:

    “People will move into the Central Eastside Industrial District without a Streetcar Loop.”

    Just as they moved to Belmont, Hawthorne, Division, Mississippi, Alberta (to name a few) without streetcars. And they would have moved to the Pearl, too, if there was no streetcar.

    I believe this “development tool” argument is a
    myth created by rail “advocates” to justify their pet projects.

  53. As an addenum to my previous post, let met add that I LIKE “heritage trolley” systems, and believe that Portland should have had a couple of lines. Last night, I was studing the systems in Little Rock, Memphis, Charlotte and Tampa, and could see how an HISTORICAL streetcar system could spark development (a lot, in some cases), because they are so enchanting.

    But the streetcar was not necessary to cause development in the Pearl or South Waterfront here in Portland, and if we had historical lines, no one would be complaining about how slow it is, and there would not be some much opposition to extensions. Just food for thought.

    BTW, after looking at the Memphis system on the Web last night, now I feel deprived here in Portland, stuck with our bland and sterile streetcar.

  54. Nick –

    First off, your formatting is coming through great this time… whatever you fixed, it’s working.

    Adding new “historical” streetcar lines is actually more costly and serves fewer people than a modern streetcar line, although I agree that in the right context, restoring a historical line can be quite popular (such as the “F-Line” in San Francisco.)

    For a given route, the costs for trackwork and overhead wire, plus power substations and maintenance/yard facilities is the same. But because historical streetcars board at only one door, operation is slower. Plus, if you’re going to use anything before PCC cars, you may need a separate conductor and operator on the car, which doubles your staff requirements.

    Furthermore, purely historical lines do not meet ADA requirements. Portland has been very successful (in fact, a true nationwide leader, no hyperbole in this case) at accessibility for transit, with the first low-floor light rail cars in North America, and the modern low-floor streetcars.

    Given the similarities in cost, I’d much rather run a few historical vehicles over a modern system (such as the weekend Vintage Trolley service, but expanded) but otherwise keep the system modern and accessible.

    A few comments back you were deriding railfans for proposing slow systems, and yet here you would propose systems that serve fewer people, operate more slowly (in terms of both vehicle performance and boarding times), and cost about the same as a modern system.

    – Bob R.

  55. I would like to see a replica old streetcars tooling along NW 21st to Thurman, west on Thruman to the old Forestry Building site north to Vaughn, east to 23rd, south on 23rd to Burnside, east on Burnside and become a part of and a replacement for a new Streetcar in the Couch Street couplet.

  56. Bob R. said:

    “Furthermore, purely historical lines do not meet ADA requirements.”

    Oh yes they do–at least that is what I’ve been reading on their websites. It’s the four vintage trolleys we have HERE that are not. Some progressiveness!

    A Gomaco-type system would have cost less, IMO. And greater frequencies could be run. And you don’t have to give the service away, like we are doing here, and it would be a much bigger draw, anyway.

    All I said was that Portland should have a couple of historical style streetcar lines. Anyway, it’s the LRT in this town that really sucks. (And it’s just not I who is opining this, either–or else I would have shut up.)

  57. Choosing to have a modern system versus a “vintage” system was one of the first key decisions made by the original Streetcar Citizens Advisory Committee (long before I was involved). I’m inclined to think they got it right.

    However, the Vintage Trolleys will continue to run. It looked for a while like we might have to sell of a couple of them due to lack of funds for maintenance (they are maintained by a separate non-profit, Vintage Trolley, Inc.) but Commissioner Adams found the funds to keep them and they are slated for service on the Transit Mall starting in 2009.

  58. Nick –

    Sorry I wasn’t more specific about ADA issues. I should have said that purely historic streetcar systems are do not meet ADA requirements unless Rube Goldberg-style sidewalk ramps/plates or external lifts are employed which allow wheelchair users to board. These lifts add approx. 60 seconds to each stop whenever they are needed, and only serve one user at a time.

    The Portland Vintage Trolley has two of these, as their website states: “VT is handicapped-accessible during all hours of operation, with boarding platforms at Lloyd Center Station (adjacent the DoubleTree Hotel) and Oldtown/ Yamhill Station.”

    When MAX opened 20 years ago, it had only high-floor cars and did utilize these unreliable electric lifts. Not only did it considerably slow operations (if you had 10 wheelchair users at 10 different stops on your trip, which happens during peak hours, you blew away the schedule by 10 minutes), but treated wheelchair users like 2nd class citizens, forcing them to wait in a cattle stall for boarding. In the event of a lift failure, wheelchair users were SOL.

    The introduction of low-floor cars was a boon to everyone, regular riders and wheelchair users alike. Fast boarding, no special stalls or lifts.

    So, if I understand you correctly, you do not like the current modern streetcars, even though:

    1. Modern streetcar systems cost about the same as “heritage” streetcar system.
    2. Modern streetcar systems board from 3 doors, rapidly decreasing boarding times, rather than 1 door.
    3. Modern streetcar systems allow low-floor boarding for users with mobility devices with only about 10 seconds of time penalty, rather than 60+ seconds.
    4. Modern streetcar systems carry more passengers per vehicle (comparing double-articulated streetcars to typical PCC coaches)
    5. Modern streetcar vehicles out-accelerate comparable bus vehicles.

    – Bob R.

  59. I like and think the new streetcars are great but it would be neat if we had some vintage looking streetcars running where a lot of the streetcars existed. I know that everything (the tracks) would have come out and get reworked but it would be great in the eclectic NW 21st and 23rd areas.

  60. If we’re going to talk about a “historic” Streetcar line – how about making the Lake Oswego-Willamette Park segment of the Willamette Shores line that “historic” segment, and extend Portland Streetcar south to Willamette Park?

    OR…take the old Portland Traction Company line that parallels the Springwater-on-the-Willamette Trail between OMSI and Oaks Park, and put a trolley on it?

    I’ve ridden Memphis’ Main Street Trolley and it is an interesting system, but its usefulness is very limited in that it operates only two lines – the street segment through downtown (which is similiar to Tacoma’s Link light rail – it is a short route) and a second, “scenic” route that when coupled with the downtown segment forms a one-way loop, with access to the Mississippi River.

    The Main Street Trolley uses a variety of cars, including the Melbourne cars that are also used for Seattle’s Waterfront Streetcar (currently not in operation). Speaking of which, Seattle’s streetcar also doesn’t serve a real transportation service other than as a tourist transport. (The last time I was in Seattle and rode it, the Streetcar operator was actually trying to encourage me to take a nearby bus! He was shocked when I said “But I want to ride the Streetcar!”)

  61. “Modern streetcar” is an oxymoron, especially
    with trolley buses that can now run off-line for
    several blocks. Portland’s “modern” streetcar has
    an average speed of ca. 7 mph. And what happens when there is a traffic accident, water main break, etc? Just too inflexible. If the powers that be wanted to put non-diesel bus transit on 10th and 11th Aves., they could have purchased low-floor articulated trolley buses, a la Seattle, and strung up some wires together with substations. And I bet it would marginally outperform the “modern” streetcar in terms of speed, despite all of the ‘advantages’ that Bob R. enumerated, as well as being a lot cheaper. I’ll take Seatlle’s trolley bus system over Portland Streetcar anyday, and it’s even more interesting from a ‘fan’ perspective!

    As for heritage trolleys, they are not supposed to perform serious transportation functions (other than circulators, etc.). If a heritage trolley was not acceptable for 10th & 11th, it could have been built elsewhere. The purpose of them is to add to the charm and ambiance of the city, and you can actually charge people to ride them. Possible development along their routes is a possible side benefit.

  62. Hey Nick…

    Having lived in New Orleans, Memphis, and even Tampa for a short period of time I must admit that all those Streetcar systems where pretty cool. I used them on a somewhat regular basis.

    As for systems that functionally worked, Jacksonville’s People Mover is vastly superior to any of these Streetcar systems and not much more expensive. The only problem is that no one rides it because of Jacksonville’s bad infrastructure design and excessively heavy reliance on roadway modes of transit i.e. SOV cars.

    On some of Bob R.’s points.

    1. Modern streetcar systems cost about the same as “heritage” streetcar system.
    2. Modern streetcar systems board from 3 doors, rapidly decreasing boarding times, rather than 1 door.
    3. Modern streetcar systems allow low-floor boarding for users with mobility devices with only about 10 seconds of time penalty, rather than 60+ seconds.
    4. Modern streetcar systems carry more passengers per vehicle (comparing double-articulated streetcars to typical PCC coaches)
    5. Modern streetcar vehicles out-accelerate comparable bus vehicles.

    1. They do not. The only modern cars in the country are Portland’s & Tacoma’s. These cars are more than 2x as much, sometimes 2.5-3x as much as other systems which are “heritage”. New Orleans cars that didn’t get wiped in Katrina are over 100 years old and simply “maintained” now. Considering this fact there is a negligible startup cost. Lower than that of buying a new bus, and a LOT less than buying a new hybrid bus. The ROW, track, and catenary are about the same, but if done right can be done a little cheaper than what PDX has gotten.

    2. Considering where I’ve lived, seeing the inconsistency in boarding methods w/ the 3 doors, and the way the cars board at lights and usually get stuck in cycles they are actually slower more often than not compared to New Orleans, Tampa, and Memphis. Memphis however was slow simply because the cars really do take their time. PDX & the others seem to make effort to make decent time, the just don’t get up to speed.

    3. Low floor boarding is unneeded, also ADA is unneeded for real functionality. If you REALLY need to spend that much more to service the extreme minority that ADA covers than heritage can be outfitted for this. Personally I become more and more offended the behavior and attitude some of these “handicap” people have as of late.

    4. Umm, a 70 person average modern car system at 6mph every 12 minutes is about as piddly as a heritage system carrying 35 people at 6mph every 6 minutes. In the above places frequency is the key. All of the above systems could easily handle the capacity that the Portland system handles. The New Orleans system stands out being it is just as fast if not more so at carrying just as many if not more people than Portland’s all the while covering far more of the operational costs.

    5. Infortunately this never matters. It is also irrelevant as none really get to use that acceleration. If you want to talk about acceleration I unfortunately have to jump on the electric bus bandwagon. …and I personally dislike any type of busses.

    So in all seriousness Bob, there are MAJOR differences between heritage & modern, but the big emphasis is simply the fact that each system is setup and used differently in each city. So comparing them based on that criteria is silly, being that it is mostly the shell and low floor that make any difference. Personally, that’s a sad example of “modern” transit technology. LRVs that are utilized at a greater than 22mph average speed are good examples. HSR is good a example, and other such items of that caliber. Rehashing old things and saying it is “new” transit is simply, “lying”.

    Just to note… As with a vast majority of transit users my choices go as follows:

    Rail Mode (LRV, sometimes Streetcar)
    Automobile/Car

  63. Low floor boarding is unneeded, also ADA is unneeded for real functionality. If you REALLY need to spend that much more to service the extreme minority that ADA covers than heritage can be outfitted for this. Personally I become more and more offended the behavior and attitude some of these “handicap” people have as of late.

    So are you saying that the disabled don’t deserve mobility, or that you have a better solution somewhere for their mobility?

    If you’ve looked at what TriMet spends on its Lift program, bridgeplates on Streetcars look like a bargain.

  64. Chris, If you can get and post an excutive type balance sheet of Tri-Met that reflects where revenue comes and goes out the public would be well served.

    I agree with you that a lot of people do not know how much money Tri-Met spends, on special services that are all part of a healthy community out reach efforts, including ADA. ADA efforts are spelled out in federal law and Tri-Met and everyone else are doing their best to comply.

  65. A few of my original points:

    1. Modern streetcar systems cost about the same as “heritage” streetcar system.
    3. Modern streetcar systems allow low-floor boarding for users with mobility devices with only about 10 seconds of time penalty, rather than 60+ seconds.
    4. Modern streetcar systems carry more passengers per vehicle (comparing double-articulated streetcars to typical PCC coaches)

    Adron’s replies (in italics) and my new replies to his replies…

    1. They do not. The only modern cars in the country are Portland’s & Tacoma’s. These cars are more than 2x as much, sometimes 2.5-3x as much as other systems which are “heritage”. New Orleans cars that didn’t get wiped in Katrina are over 100 years old and simply “maintained” now. Considering this fact there is a negligible startup cost. Lower than that of buying a new bus, and a LOT less than buying a new hybrid bus. The ROW, track, and catenary are about the same, but if done right can be done a little cheaper than what PDX has gotten.

    I said streetcar “systems” cost about the same, not just the streetcar vehicles. Given the same corridor and capacity, you need trackways, maintenance facilities, power systems and catenary, and enough streetcars to meet your capacity goals. Portland (and most cities) have few remaining “historical” alignments with actual trackwork, so you have to start from scratch.

    3. Low floor boarding is unneeded, also ADA is unneeded for real functionality. If you REALLY need to spend that much more to service the extreme minority that ADA covers than heritage can be outfitted for this. Personally I become more and more offended the behavior and attitude some of these “handicap” people have as of late.

    Low-floor boarding is needed if you wish to conform with the law in a way that does not cause delays. You want to get rid of the ADA? Go join an anti-ADA advocacy group and see how many friends that gets you. You have completely sidestepped my points about boarding times here, and your proposal to “outfit” heritage streetcars for wheelchair boarding is exactly what I’m talking about: It takes too long to board and is too burdensome for users of mobility devices.

    4. Umm, a 70 person average modern car system at 6mph every 12 minutes is about as piddly as a heritage system carrying 35 people at 6mph every 6 minutes. In the above places frequency is the key. All of the above systems could easily handle the capacity that the Portland system handles. The New Orleans system stands out being it is just as fast if not more so at carrying just as many if not more people than Portland’s all the while covering far more of the operational costs.

    If you want to replace 1 modern streetcar with two smaller streetcars, you have just doubled operator costs. If running 6 streetcars annually costs you approx. $600,000, then running 12 streetcars to carry the same number of passengers will cost you $1,200,000. Over 30 years, that’s $18mil. I thought you were arguing that heritage lines were inherently cheaper?

    – Bob R.

  66. Upon further reflection, all of the “advantages” that Bob R. enumerated above could be achieved with a low-floor articulated trolley bus. And no need to maintain trackwork. And also the additional advantage of FLEXIBILITY.

    I mean, I grew up in Brooklyn, NY with a PCC line not far from my house, and I used to love to take the “trolley.” And the trackwork here around 10th – 11th and Morrison -Yamhill DOES look pretty. But I am also realistic these days, being a NON CHOICE heavy user of the transit facilities.

  67. Nick –

    I have never opposed the idea of trolleybuses. They are especially useful on hilly routes, and do offer superior rider comfort compared to regular buses, as well as very quiet operation. The systems can be maintained by any mechanic who has experience working with both streetcars/LRVs and buses.

    However, I disagree with this refrain of “Flexibility” which is often bandied about, especially in the case of trolleybuses. Look at the popular trolleybus routes in San Francisco and Seattle — they are nearly identical routes today to what they were 30 years ago. Unless something is seriously out-of-whack with an economy, entire fully-developed neighborhoods and transportation corridors don’t just pack up and move all at once.

    To move a trolleybus route, utility poles and overhead wire systems as well as electrical substations have to be relocated. There aren’t any tracks, of course, and trolleybuses can move to an adjacent lane (usually), so I do agree that they are more flexible than streetcars, but not a whole lot more.

    – Bob R.

  68. By flexibility, I really was thinking about the ability to move around obstructions by one lane.
    And if the trolleybus in front breaks down, the ones behind it can get around it by having it pull down its poles temporarily. Now with contemporary low-floor articulated trollybuses that can run offline for several blocks, the adavantages over streetcars become very telling. PLUS, you do not have to maintain trackwork. I really think it’s time to face reality about these things.

    Also, new lines/extensions are much easier to build than tearing up streets for rails.

    But I really want to stress that the “streetcar question” is not really that important in the big scheme of things here in Portland. It’s the light rail system that is ill-suited for Portland’s density and geography that is really going to screw us all in the long run.

  69. Just to note… As with a vast majority of transit users my choices go as follows:

    Rail Mode (LRV, sometimes Streetcar)
    Automobile/Car

    According to TriMet’s own ridership survey, the number of both originating riders and boarding riders on busses outnumber MAX 2-to-1 (FY06).

    In fact until Westside MAX was installed the ratio was closer to 5-to-1; after FY99 the ratio became 3-to-1 and slowly crept up to today’s 2-to-1.

    Part of the problem with TriMet’s ridership is that TriMet has deliberately chosen to virtually stop all investment in bus service, thus bus ridership has been virtually flat since FY01. Meanwhile, MAX ridership is reaching records despite not opening a new line in over two years – largely from park-and-ride passengers, which contributes to localized congestion and pollution and requires those dreaded parking lots that we despise Wal-Mart and the other “big-box” stores for contributing to.

    Result: Bus passengers, which make up the majority of TriMet users, get the shaft. And my pet rail project? (Beaverton-Wilsonville Commuter Rail) I won’t be able to take it to work, because there is no bus that will connect me to my nearest rail station; the rail doesn’t go to my destination; and the trains won’t travel during my work hours. Never mind the fact that to get to downtown via rail would take me through Beaverton TC, and the travel time would be comparable or longer to my current commute on line 12-Barbur (even when traffic congestion and slow drivers are factored into the time!)

    $130M could buy a LOT of busses. In fact, over 350 of them. Based on TriMet’s own count of 660 busses – that would equal a 53% systemwide service increase in capacity.

    Instead, we are getting the equivalent of 9 express-only busses.

    For $32M we got Streetcar from PSU to Gibbs; a shuttle bus employing a single bus (at a cost of merely $300,000) could provide the same level (not comparable level – SAME level) of service. Despite being touted as a “City of Portland” project, TriMet graciously pitched in – using capital funds that aren’t buying busses for the rest of the TriMet service district.

    The solution is that we aren’t building the “total transit network” that TriMet bloats about; we’re building a park-and-ride network that simply ferries people from parking lots to OHSU, PSU, downtown, and Intel. Never mind the hundreds of thousands of local residents who DON’T work for one of those entities…

  70. We need to be a little bit careful about distinguishing between capital and operations. TriMet DOES contribute to operating expenses for Portland Streetcar (on the theory that they would have to provide bus service if Streetcar was not there).

    TriMet has not contributed any significant sum that I am aware of to Streetcar capital costs.

    Most dollars allocated to capital for transit are not available for operations (e.g., you can’t use Urban Renewal dollars to fund bus drivers, only rails).

    Many of our funding systems have a built-in bias towards capital assets. This is not entirely rational and ought to be examined in the fiscal stewardship part of the Regional Transportation Plan policy process.

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