Since the Regional Transportation Plan is fully underway, and grabs most of the headlines, I thought everyone should also know about what Metro is doing with regard to high capacity rail planning.
First of all, we in Portland owe much to the dedicated and visionary leaders and planners in the 1970’s and 1980’s for the incredible regional rail system that we have today. Our system benefited from the regional compact in 1990 that laid the foundation for the expansion of the light rail system from 15 miles to over 60 miles. We have made amazing progress in the last 20 years on our existing plans, as well as projects not even envisioned in that era, namely a 15-mile Commuter Rail line that’s currently under construction from Wilsonville to Beaverton as well as the Portland Streetcar system, which has brought amazing economic development along with its ridership success.
But despite our region’s success, we must not rest on our laurels, so we’re aggressively pursing new rail system planning.
Starting this summer and ramping up in the fall, Metro will be undertaking a Regional High Capacity Transit System Plan. This plan will build on the work currently underway in the RTP, and will include the prioritization of future major transit investments in the region. Metro will be evaluating ridership, costs, operations and financial feasibility of potential light rail, streetcar, commuter rail and bus rapid transit projects in the region. The work will be closely coordinated with TriMet and local jurisdictions. Metro’s efforts will dovetail with work that the City of Portland is undertaking on the development of a Streetcar system plan.
I hope that everyone who follows transportation issues closely is both thankful for how well our region has planned and implemented our rail transit system and energized about our ongoing and future efforts to add more rail capacity. It’s one of the most valuable assets our region has to maintain our economic security and quality of life for generations to come.
Past agreements have allowed us to avoid the multi-billion dollar tax increases seen in places like Denver, Salt Lake and Phoenix to rectify the unsustainable practices of sprawl and automobile monoculture. Steady, modest investments coupled with smart land use planning and good urban design help us avoid drastic actions yet we can’t let up. This next round of constructing our region’s transportation “backbone”—high capacity transit—is critical.