A Small Victory for Jim

The Daily Journal of Commerce is reporting that Metro will “crunch the numbers” for running Milwaukie Light Rail through the Central East Side instead of over a bridge into downtown.

It’s a little bit hard to tell from the article, but I get the sense that this is a side exercise by Metro staff at the request of the Council (or a Councilor), not part of the formal EIS process (can someone who was at the meeting clarify?).

But I imagine Jim Howell is smiling this morning :-)

31 Comments

31 Responses to A Small Victory for Jim

  1. djk
    August 14, 2007 at 7:34 am Link

    On the off chance this actually happened, is there a Plan B for the streetcar loop?

  2. Chris Smith
    August 14, 2007 at 7:40 am Link

    Return on the Hawthorne Bridge.

  3. Ross Williams
    August 14, 2007 at 7:51 am Link

    I think they should look at the east side alignment as a “bypass” for some east west trains. I can connect across the river on the new bridge and then to Goose Hollow. That is certainly a more immediate solution to the slow progress of trains through downtown than a subway. And it would also allow improved connections to the south waterfront.

  4. Joseph
    August 14, 2007 at 8:36 am Link

    In the long run, I do think it makes sense to run a line through the CEID, because eventually (IMO) downtown will spill over to the eastside and this way LRT will be there waiting. It’d be a piece of cake to hop off the MAX at Madison and catch any of the numerous buses (or a streetcar) that cross the Hawthorne every ninety seconds or so during peak periods. Use some money intended for the new rail-only river crossing to install a pair of elevators for ADA compliance and a covered waiting area on top of the viaduct.

    “We’ve invested a lot in (the South Waterfront) area” [Roland] Chlapowski [Adams’ transportation policy director] said. The light-rail extension “is a real key to the success of that development.”

    Then spend some of the leftover money designated for the new rail-only river crossing and start planning for LRT through SoWa and along Barbur to the Barbur TC/Park & Ride or the Tigard commuter rail station. Barbur TC could serve as a BRT-to-MAX hub for commuters headed downtown from Wilsonville/Tualatin, Tigard/Sherwood, and perhaps points even further out. Smaller frequent-service buses could serve PCC-Sylvania and local destinations along Barbur Blvd not within walking distance of a MAX stop, which should be few and far between to serve as a true “express” route to the central city.

  5. Lenny Anderson
    August 14, 2007 at 9:43 am Link

    Two things work against the eastside MAX line; we’ll see if the numbers bear me out. Most riders from N. Portland are going downtown; most projected riders from SE/Milwaukie will be going downtown.
    The other is the industrial sanctuary in the CEID…as long as the area is thus zoned, development potential (i.e. destination creation) is limited, not to mention the adverse infrastructural environment…freeway, railway and bridge viaducts.
    When I-5 is gone, the RR is buried and the bridge ramps are removed, the zoning will change, and we can begin the buildout of central city Portland on the eastside of the Willamette. Both Streetcar and MAX will be important parts of that, but we are not there yet by a long shot.
    On the other hand, I wonder why MAX and Streetcar could not share the Grand/MLK alignment from Holladay to somewhere around OMSI.

  6. Bob R.
    August 14, 2007 at 10:14 am Link

    I’d be interested in seeing the final “crunched” numbers. Although I primarily support a downtown alignment (serves the most passengers and provides for the most convenient transfers by using the mall), I can see the value in shorter trip times for eastside-only trips. If a line is ever extended to Vancouver, it would shave a lot of time for anyone traveling between Vancouver and inner SE Portland, and would certainly make connecting to places like the Lloyd District easier for Clackamas County riders.

    I think the best short-term outcome of this study (assuming the ridership numbers are favorable)would be to construct the original mall alignment with a new transit bridge, but lay the groundwork for a planning process and ROW acquisition process for a future supplemental line.

    What you’d ultimately see would be Green Line and Yellow Line trains serving the Transit Mall as planned, with a new color running directly from Milwaukie to Expo Ctr (beyond?) entirely on the east side, likely shaving 10 minutes off the total trip.

    For short, local trips, riders could choose either line — the result would be reduced headways — and longer-distance riders could choose the color which best suited their trip. (For example, if Yellow trains run every 12 minutes and the eastside line runs every 12 minutes, you have 6 minute headways for trips adequately served by either line.)

    Lenny asked if streetcars and MAX could share a Grand/MLK alignment. The answer is a qualified Yes – given the following 4 considerations:

    1. The trackway must be constructed to accommodate the heavier weights of MAX trains.

    2. The public process favors the removal of parking spaces in all station blocks which will serve MAX trains (streetcar stops remove a minimal number of parking spaces but MAX platforms require an entire block face)

    3. New streetcar vehicles are found or existing designs modified to allow for “gap fillers” — streetcars are 6″ narrower than MAX cars, so all platforms will have to be further away from the tracks than current streetcar platforms in order for MAX trains to safely pass. The additional 3″ of gap may be considered a safety hazard or an ADA violation (or maybe not – study is required) – “gap fillers” that pop out of the streetcars as the doors open would mitigate this problem.

    4. This doesn’t apply to MLK/Grand, but other route segments to be served by both vehicle types would have speed or schedule constraints to consider because the streetcar’s top speed is lower than MAX.

    – Bob R.

  7. Chris Smith
    August 14, 2007 at 10:19 am Link

    Jim has actually done a ridership analysis and has some interesting data. I’ve encouraged him to summarize these in a guest post.

    Also note that Jim is advocating a Water Ave. alignment, not MLK/Grand. I’m not sure what Metro will be analyzing.

  8. djk
    August 14, 2007 at 11:01 am Link

    It seems to me that MAX would require a dedicated right of way, which would mandate a completely different design for MLK/Grand if MAX and the streetcar wound up sharing track. Maybe, for example, turn MLK into two lanes each way, and Grand to one lane each way with rail down the middle and center platforms. My point is that if we were to look seriously at an MLK/Grand MAX option it would delay the Eastside Streetcar for a couple of years while we revisited the entire design process.

    I’m still of the opinion that if Tri-Met builds a bridge into South Waterfront from the east side, they should pave it and open it to private cars on a toll-only basis. A lot of SoWa residents probably would be willing to pay for direct access to the east side without having to negotiate traffic all the way to the Hawthorne Bridge or Ross Island bridges.

  9. Joseph
    August 14, 2007 at 11:21 am Link

    if Tri-Met builds a bridge into South Waterfront from the east side, they should pave it and open it to private cars on a toll-only basis. A lot of SoWa residents probably would be willing to pay for direct access to the east side without having to negotiate traffic all the way to the Hawthorne Bridge or Ross Island bridges.

    This is a really good idea if the new crossing is inevitable (as I suspect it is). Everybody can agree that getting in or out of SoWa by car is going to be a pain, and charging a toll for the convenience will help pay off the bridge faster.

    Any idea how much extra up front cost this would add to the project?

  10. djk
    August 14, 2007 at 12:56 pm Link

    Any idea how much extra up front cost this would add to the project?
    If Tri-Met decides to pave the bridge to support buses, virtually nothing. It’ll be the cost of configuring toll entries and setting up automated gates at each end of the bridge.

  11. Bob R.
    August 14, 2007 at 1:04 pm Link

    One question to consider for private autos sharing the bridge with LRT/Buses, is will there be any legally imposed speed restrictions that would otherwise be avoided? Would there be liability issues? We have an opportunity here for buses and trains to cross the river uninterrupted and at higher speeds than currently experienced on bridges like the Steel and Hawthorne.

    As I’ve said before, I do think the bridge should be paved for use by rubber-tired vehicles, if for no other reason than emergency access. This will be our first new central-city Willamette bridge since the ’70s and will be built to current seismic standards — it may be one of the few functional east-west routes in and out of town in the event of a strong earthquake, at least initially.

    – Bob R.

  12. Grant H
    August 14, 2007 at 2:07 pm Link

    Build it! It seems to make sense that at the very least that rails on MLK/Grand should be built to the standards that would accommodate LRT. The cost of putting that type of rail in now would be far less than replacing them or building them on Water Ave later on. (I would bet)

    My dream plan:

    Build the east side bypass (Orange Line) now as part of the Milwaukie LRT/East Side Streetcar project. In addition, put LRT capable rails on the Broadway Bridge to accommodate LRT (someone tell me if it can be done?) so that the Yellow line can go downtown and bypass the Steel Bridge. The Orange line can start at Expo/Vancouver and serve the Rose Quarter for those who need to transfer to the Red or Blue then continue on down MLK/Grand/Water to Milwaukie.

    Then, as part of the Powell Blvd Corridor, start the tracks at Goose Hollow down Jefferson/Columbia, right on first, left on Harrison along the streetcar tracks, across the new bridge and out eastward.

    This does so many things:
    1 – takes one line off the steel bridge while still maintaining access to the red and blue line for Expo/Vancouver people.
    2 – provides a more direct access for people from the West side to downtown/PSU and onward to the SoWa and the tram. I watch so many get off at Goose Hollow and just walk because they know it’s faster.
    3 – combines projects in such a fashion that ultimately saves money.
    4 – etc. etc.

    Oh well, it doesn’t cost a dime to dream right?

  13. Ross Williams
    August 14, 2007 at 3:38 pm Link

    If Tri-Met decides to pave the bridge to support buses, virtually nothing. It’ll be the cost of configuring toll entries and setting up automated gates at each end of the bridge.

    I don’t think that is true. The buses can operate mixed with trains, you aren’t going to be able to that with private automobiles without impairing the operation of MAX and buses.

    The other thing is that you need to provide access to the bridge and deal with the traffic it generates.

    But if there is a bridge directly into South Waterfront, I agree it should include capacity for autos if you can solve the access issues. Given the limited access to South Waterfront it just makes sense to extend the southeast Portland street grid across the river if that’s possible.

  14. Grant
    August 14, 2007 at 4:11 pm Link

    I just want to point out that cars and MAX already share space, on the Steel Bridge. Maybe they’re not supposed to, but they do. The speed restrictions on that stretch have to do with the gap in the tracks where the lift span meets the fixed span. If the new bridge is built high enough, that problem goes away.

  15. Libby Tucker
    August 14, 2007 at 4:17 pm Link

    I get the sense that this is a side exercise by Metro staff at the request of the Council (or a Councilor), not part of the formal EIS process (can someone who was at the meeting clarify?).

    That’s correct. Councilor Liberty asked for the review and his request was supported by Councilor Newman. The results of the analysis will determine whether it becomes another option to consider, according to Liberty. Metro says the EIS process isn’t starting over, nor will it be delayed by the study.

  16. Terry Parker
    August 14, 2007 at 5:43 pm Link

    Congratulations to Jim. Maybe this will help Metro wake up to reality and realize that keeping North-South Max on the Eastside will actually attract more passengers, in particular more long distance cross-town passengers than detouring on the transit mall and moving at a snails pace just so the affluent residents of SoWhat can have another short hop transit option. SoWhat already has the tram and snail rail streetcar service. They do not need Max too. Furthermore, the 250 million dollars in lottery funds set aside by the legislature for the Caruthers Bridge could be better utilized and better serve far more people and vehicles if those dollars were used to refurbish or replace the Sellwood Bridge. If Max is to become a regional system rather than just a to and from downtown service, routes must be built that bypass the central business district.

  17. Ron Swaren
    August 14, 2007 at 5:46 pm Link

    This is an improvement over the more complicated plan of building a new bridge for the Milwaukie MAX. btw, what are the latest cost estimates on that thing? Now, I’m hearing $800 million, up from $515 mill. at start. Of course we are spending 200 million for the downtown mall, which real purpose is to prepare the way for MAX to Milwaukie. Does this figure in to the $800 million? I’m confused.

    I’m going to set up a display under the Marquam Bridge at OMSI to ask the public why we cannot simply utilize the existng infrastructure with relatively little new investment. All of this planning for: new MAX lines, several street car lines, replacing the I-5 bridges, removing the Marquam, and relocating I-5 should only run to what? $30-40 Billion dollars? Anyone care to join me at OMSI? I bet the public will repond with the same questions.

    I think the Portland-Vancouver area can solve its major transportation needs for about $3.5 Billion.

  18. Matthew
    August 14, 2007 at 6:16 pm Link

    “Of course we are spending 200 million for the downtown mall, which real purpose is to prepare the way for MAX to Milwaukie.”

    I thought the purpose was to go to PSU? Of course, at some point in the future, MAX might also got up the Barber Blvd direction, and as the article implied, the best solution involves both a CEID route, and a downtown route for that MAX… Yellow doesn’t have the ridership now to support two lines, but it would if it went to Vancouver…

  19. Ross Williams
    August 14, 2007 at 6:37 pm Link

    I just want to point out that cars and MAX already share space, on the Steel Bridge.

    Yes, they do. But isn’t that another reason MAX speed is restricted on the steel bridge? The slow speed across the steel bridge is one of the complaints I hear most about traveling through downtown on MAX.

  20. djk
    August 14, 2007 at 7:39 pm Link

    The buses can operate mixed with trains, you aren’t going to be able to that with private automobiles without impairing the operation of MAX and buses.

    I don’t think that’s the case if you set the tolls high enough to discourage congestion. Consider: MAX crosses (each direction) once every six minutes at peak hour and takes thirty seconds to cross the bridge (which probably is excessive). Assume Streetcar attains the same peak frequency. You still have the bridge sitting empty something like 85% of the time at rush hour. Late at night, it’s empty closer to 95% of the time.That’s a lot of room for cars without interfering with MAX operations, even if you have a bus crossing every minute or so.

    Just set the toll gates to hold the cars for about twenty seconds when MAX is approaching (clearing the road ahead), then let them on behind it.

  21. Brian Newman
    August 14, 2007 at 8:17 pm Link

    Just to be clear, we instructed staff at Metro to perform a model run to test the ridership of an eastside LRT connection. This potential connection is NOT in lieu of a new river crossing between OMSI and South Waterfront. If the model demonstrates that the eastside connection has merit, it will inform Metro’s high capacity transit system plan that will be developed over the next 18 months.

    An eastside LRT connection could become it’s own stand alone project at some future date, but will not be built as part of the Portland to Milwaukie MAX project.

  22. Erik Halstead
    August 14, 2007 at 9:06 pm Link

    Since there are groups that are demanding that an Interstate Bridge replacement MUST include light rail, maybe there should be a movement to demand that a new Willamette River bridge MUST include SOV access.

    What’s good for the Columbia is good for the Willamette.

  23. Grant
    August 14, 2007 at 9:43 pm Link

    “But isn’t that another reason MAX speed is restricted on the steel bridge?”

    Ross,

    It might be. But a major reason is the gap in the tracks. Check it out sometime, it is at least 2 inches wide. Don’t get me wrong, I would rather go slow than derail, but I don’t see why they can’t fix it. It’s as much of a reason for the bottleneck as the crossing of the yellow/blue-red-green tracks that Bob detailed on here a while back.

    Fixing that gap was a line item in the FEIS for Interstate MAX, which would have increased the speed limit from 5 to 25 mph. I can’t figure out for the life of me why they didn’t do it, especially considering that the project came in 25 million under budget. It is certainly possible: exhibit 1 and 2 being the BNSF bridge over the Willamette and the Columbia bridge that Amtrak uses.

  24. Bob R.
    August 14, 2007 at 9:47 pm Link

    Right now, there are many bridges over the Willamette but no dedicated transit bridges (and only one partial transit-only lane in one direction), and two exclusive auto-only bridges which ban bikes and peds entirely.

    It does not follow that automobile access must be a mandatory part of a new Willamette crossing, but I’m not opposed to it being considered. (At this stage I just want to know how it will impact transit.)

    The Columbia river has few crossings – it makes sense to demand multi-modal access to what few crossings we will have, but still I’d prefer one or more supplementary arterial bridges rather than a one-size-fits-all mega bridge.

    I guess I’d reverse what you said Erik and say that what’s good for the Willamette is good for the Columbia.

    – Bob R.

  25. Ron Swaren
    August 14, 2007 at 9:57 pm Link

    “I thought the purpose was to go to PSU?”

    If it costs two hundred million to get the MAX one third of a mile further were in very deep trouble. What is the projected cost out to Tigard? 2 Billion?

    “Since there are groups that are demanding that an Interstate Bridge replacement MUST include light rail,”

    The group I know of suggests that the light rail cross on an entirely new bridge in the BNSF corridor. This could be combined with improved rail, bicycle, pedestrian, auto and truck capacity. This alleviates the I-5 of enough traffic to avoid an expensive reconstruction of that facility and also opens up a new route into rapidly developing NW Portland.

    See:ThirdBridgeNow.com

  26. Adron
    August 14, 2007 at 11:22 pm Link

    I’m smiling too.

    This makes a LOT of sense to do this. Especially considering that downtown is NOT growing nearly as fast as much of the surrounding area. In ridership numbers it will probably be more important to loop the green line and yellow line between Milwaukee and Clackamas than to make the MAX hop to downtown. I see Milwaukee and even the loop I just mentioned as a much higher priority than blowing a zillion bucks on the bridge to downtown.

    …I do however think that the poor old beat up Union Pacific Steal Bridge should be either MASSIVELY upgraded, or just replaced altogether. Sure we’ll get another century of use out of it, it IS a railroad bridge, but it could be built up/replaced and used by even more.

  27. Erik Halstead
    August 15, 2007 at 8:22 am Link

    …I do however think that the poor old beat up Union Pacific Steal Bridge should be either MASSIVELY upgraded, or just replaced altogether. Sure we’ll get another century of use out of it, it IS a railroad bridge, but it could be built up/replaced and used by even more.

    My guess is that when the 99 year lease expires (between Union Pacific and ODOT) in 2011, UP is going to want to dump the bridge.

    Why?

    1. The bridge primarily serves Union Station. Neither UP, nor predecessor road Southern Pacific has operated a revenue passenger train in Portland since 1971 (Amtrak now runs the trains). The payments Amtrak makes to UP hardly reimburse UP for the use of the track. UP has no legal obligation to hold on to this track since Amtrak’s 25 year operating rights expired in 1996.

    2. North of Union Station to the Portland Terminal Railroad’s Lake Yard the track is owned/maintained by BNSF. The trackage rights agreement allowing UP to use this line restricts UP to four trains (two in each direction) per day. UP could just tell BNSF that it’ll interchange at Vancouver instead (since UP has much greater rights up to Tacoma) – eliminating the interchange at Lake and UP’s need for the Steel Bridge.

    3. Portland & Western RR operates one train from Vancouver to Albany. While it has the right to run over the Steel Bridge, it has its own line north of Willbridge and can just as easily go from Vancouver to Willbridge, turn right (north) and head towards Linnton and Cornelius Pass. And in fact it uses this option often.

    Thus – the ONLY trains using the Steel Bridge would be Amtrak; today Amtrak is the majority user of the lower deck.

    Multnomah County is in no position to buy the Steel Bridge and it is a very maintenance-intensive bridge. ODOT which holds the lease to the upper deck likely has no desire for the bridge, given that the state highway on either site of the bridge was turned over to the City of Portland. So the Steel Bridge is an isolated state highway segment not connected to any other part of the state highway system.

    That leaves City of Portland, Metro and TriMet left to buy the bridge. Somehow I think TriMet will be the one, and I’d sure like to know where the money is going to come from (I have a pretty darn good guess, if the last 10 years have been any indication.)

  28. djk
    August 15, 2007 at 10:57 am Link

    If UP wants to sell the bridge because they can’t use it anymore, it probably won’t cost all that much. They’d be trying to dump a maintenance headache, after all, and

    My comment is the same as the Carruthers (or whatever) Bridge: make the Steel Bridge a transit bridge (I’d go to four tracks for light rail rather than two) that is open to private cars via electronic tolling. The tolls would have to be set rather low to get any traffic at all, given that there’s not much traffic there anyway, and easy detours to both the Burnside and Broadway bridges. But it would provide (probably) several hundred dollars a day in revenue for ongoing maintenance.

  29. Terry Parker
    August 15, 2007 at 11:34 am Link

    Brian Newman said: “This potential connection is NOT in lieu of a new river crossing between OMSI and South Waterfront.”

    Theoretically, true comparisons of routes and systems are required as part of the EIS process. Brian Newman’s statement demonstrates how broken this process has become, how the EIS can be stuffed with propaganda disguised as viable alternatives, and how the EIS can in turn support a preconceived political agenda. Furthermore, not only is this flawed and socially engineered process being used for transit projects, it is also being used to on the Columbia Crossing project.

  30. Bob Tiernan
    August 15, 2007 at 12:04 pm Link

    Chris Smith:

    I’ve actually been party to discussions at MPAC about using urban renewal as a tool to advance development of centers

    Bob T:

    That’s too bad — urban renewal was devised to
    do something about blight. Real blight. It
    has morphed into a device for governments to
    satisfy their Fat Cat friends, and screw over
    many people, usually minorities.

    When the government can define anything as blight, the people get screwed. Why do
    Progressives take the sides of the people
    screwers yet again?

    Bob Tiernan

  31. Terry Parker
    August 15, 2007 at 12:24 pm Link

    Brian Newman said: “This potential connection is NOT in lieu of a new river crossing between OMSI and South Waterfront.”

    Theoretically, true comparisons of routes and systems are required as part of the EIS process. Brian Newman’s statement demonstrates how broken this process has become, how the EIS can be stuffed with propaganda disguised as alternatives rather than realistic alternatives, and how the EIS can in turn support a preconceived political agenda. Furthermore, not only is this flawed and socially engineered process being used for transit projects, it is also being used to on the entire Columbia Crossing project.

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