Mafioso


Yesterday’s Willamette Week identified my as part of the local transportation mafia. So be it. I’ll be happy to take some small credit for the wonderful alternative transportation options we have here in the region.

But it went on to paint the following picture:

  • Local transit industry makes contributions to Earl Blumenaur’s PAC
  • Earl’s PAC makes contributions to members of Transportation Committee
  • Transportation Committee earmarks funds for Portland
  • Local industry gets rich on Federal Funds

If that were true, why would I playing? I must be monumentally stupid, since I’m not getting any money out of this!

The above analysis breaks down on a couple of points:

  1. The transportation committee does not pass judgment directly on much of the funding that Portland gets.
  2. The funding Portland gets is generally in competitive programs, and we have to get our projects scored. The people who do the scoring work for George Bush.

So let me paint an alternate picture:

  • Earl promotes sound national policy on transportation
  • We support Earl and his PAC because we believe in sound transportation policy
  • Portland designs projects that fit well with the Federal programs (because we’ve gotten good at this, and because our policy values are in alignment with the sound policy)
  • We use the funding to build good projects that have great value to the community, and yes, some of us make our livings doing that (but I’m not one of them, I’m in it for the value to the community).

Guilty, guilty, guilty. And proud of it.


73 responses to “Mafioso”

  1. I must confess, that as a member of the Portland Streetcar CAC, I have received cookies and coffee, a streetcar pass, and a few promotional passes for the Aerial Tram. (I give the tram passes away.)

    What must I do to atone?

    – Bob R.

    (PS… Many of these perks were available to any members of the public who attended the same meetings, regardless of opinions expressed.)

  2. Yes, but do they give cookies, coffee and passes to bus supporters? I think not…just another example of how the cookie eating mafia discriminates.

  3. I’ve been to a few meetings solely devoted to bus shelters, and the participants received bagels.

    The bagels were kind of dry. Clearly, investments that should be made in bagels are being diverted to cookies, in violation of various charters, not to mention the Geneva Convention.

    – Bob R.

  4. Clearly. And I suspect that the bagels were not distributed equally. Is that correct? Even though the bagel distributors were charged with representing all potential bagel consumers?

    Would a tax on free loading cyclists help solve this problem? I mean, they should clearly pay their own way when it comes to both bagels and cookies.

  5. A confidential source informs me that the bicyclists have some kind of racket going with doughnuts … and it may involve voodoo … but that’s all I’ve been allowed to say.

  6. Chris –

    Lets not be naive. The folks giving the big bucks aren’t making evaluations of what is sound transportation policy, they are supporting Earl’s efforts because it promotes their particular business.

    There is really nothing wrong with that. As you point out, the result is many more federal dollars in programs that Portland is very successful at competing for.

    In terms of contributions skewing public policy, the folks in the road building industries have been at it a lot longer and are far larger players. Advocates of alternatives have a lot of catching up to do in the buying votes department.

  7. Local industry gets rich on Federal Funds

    Is this last statement were true, I’d stand back and give a bow.

    So, tell me, exactly which “local industry” got rich on federal funds? And moreover, which local industries got passed over for those local funds? I can certainly name on major local industry that got passed over – Freightliner.

    Ironically, today they announced that they are shipping off several hundred jobs to the eastern U.S. Coincidence?

  8. The only thing I found unusual in that story was the “partnership” between Blumenauer and Gustafson.

    That is really not kosher.

    (why does Blumenauer give his pac money away out of his district?)

  9. Yes, poor Freightliner. They’ve had to struggle with the relative trillion-dollar pittance the feds have thrown at roads and highways over the years (thus subsidizing the entire trucking industry).

  10. Well, I’m certainly glad that PART of the rail cabal got exposed this again. (There are more parts than just EB, contractors, and developers mentioned in the article.)

    The problem is, I as a transit user have to suffer of a system with many poor features, while others brag about what wonerful alternative transportation system we have here–while most of them drive cars.

  11. If Portland, the country’s 25th largerst city, has the 13th highest transit ridership, then TriMet must be doing something right, Nick notwithstanding.
    The real story of transit in Portland is the depth and breath of its grassroots. Residents of SE and NW led the fight to kill those freeways, community activists pushed for lightrail on the Banfield and got it back on track to Milwaukie, Streetcar really got traction from long time community folks like Steve Fosler, the late Bill Naito and our own Chris Smith. Not that Earl does not believe in this stuff too, but support for transit investment, especially rail, is deep and broad in Portland.
    Create a wave, politicians will get on and ride.

  12. Create a wave, politicians will get on and ride.

    I think Lenny is right, the real reason Portland is a national leader is its local community activists. But, to be fair in Earl’s case and as this article makes clear, Earl has added his own efforts to creating that wave over the last 35 years. We should all be thankful he continues to do so in congress.

  13. The article in Willamette Week depicting Congressman Earl Blumenauer as the Godfather of a “Transportation Mafia” is very enlightening. The characterization is also correct. WW came right out and exposed how a conspiracy with names of large property owners, consulting firms and individuals control the streetcar board, contribute to political campaigns and thereby line their own pockets at the expense of taxpayers. Additionally, the WW article acknowledged that public processes are done deals and that any public participation process is all for show.

    To suggest that Earl promotes sound national policy on transportation is totally false. A sound policy on transportation would require transit systems, be it bus, light rail, streetcars and/or a combination of to be financially self-sustainable paid for by the users. A sound policy on transportation would require transit systems not impede other forms of transport including motor vehicle and motor freight carrier travel. A sound policy on transportation would NOT take away capacity and user paid funding from one mode to develop another mode. A sound policy on transportation would not call streetcars a development tool when in actuality property tax abatements, other taxpayer funded subsidies and cheap land supplied by public funded development agencies are used to promote development along the routes. A sound policy on transportation would require citizen committees be totally objective, with quantitative participation based on mode split rather than just a window dressing façade with stacked deck participation as means to approve a politically motivated preconceived agenda. Furthermore, a sound policy on transportation would require bicyclists be directly taxed as users to pay for bicycle infrastructure.

    And yes, Portland does design projects to fit some Federal programs, in particular those that Earl, his crony friends and those whom stand to profit from such programs have specifically designed to fit their own motivations. But Portland also FAILS to take advantage of other Federal programs including funding for highway projects that would make mobility easier and generate better traffic flow with less congestion thereby meeting the needs of the overwhelming majority of the people rather than just catering to a small fraction of the people.

    The bottom line is taxpayers are being fleeced by Earl and his transportation mafia friends.

  14. wow. what a shocking piece of journalism! the reporters at the willy week have discovered that lawmakers raise money from interested parties, and then disperse said moneys amongst other lawmakers to gain influence. eventually laws are passed that benefit those parties who gave money! shocking!

    sorry for the snark, but the countless wealth in united states has been built on politically manipulated real estate speculation, it’s practically a tradition. the only thing noteworthy about this article, is that in portland the money is being made by inner city landowners, and contractors building rail transit, rather than everywhere else where the money is being made by exurban landowners, and contractors building freeways. the reason is–and this is even more shocking–it’s what the citizens want!

    though i did enjoy all the little diagrams. it made everything seem all the more conspiratorial. i will grant one thing, if that had shown that the bidding process was actually corrupt, they would have hada story. all they showed was that it is potentially corruptable.

  15. (why does Blumenauer give his pac money away out of his district?)

    Because that’s how you rise to leadership in a legislative body. You get to be speaker, or majority leader, or get plum committee assignments by helping raise money for your fellow lawmakers. One more reason we need to get big money out of politics.

  16. Why does anyone pay any attention to the Willamette Week. This is a paper that endorsed Measure 5 and has spent the last 17 years talking as if it and all the problems it created were someone else’s fault. The Tribune is really the “other paper” in town and even the Mercury, for all its own faults, at least has some integrity.

    The Willamette Week has really become just an embarrassment, relying on the long memories of its middle-aged readers who still think of it as an alternative paper. And, of course, its willingness to be the paper of choice for the tobacco companies.

  17. The funding Portland gets is generally in competitive programs, and we have to get our projects scored. The people who do the scoring work for George Bush.

    Bob T:

    What makes you think that Bush is really interested in curbing pork and other Federal dollars?

    Bob T

  18. A sound policy on transportation would require transit systems, be it bus, light rail, streetcars and/or a combination of to be financially self-sustainable paid for by the users.

    This makes sense only if automobile driving is also required to be financially self-sustainable. When drivers pay the true cost of gasoline (currently $10/gallon or so) and pay tolls equal to all government street/highway expenditures that are not covered by the gas tax (somewhere in the neighborhood of 10-25 cents per mile), then we can discuss making transit self-sustainable.

  19. Actually the Merc is now a more reliable source of news.
    The real “Godfather” of Portland’s rail transit revival is former Senator Mark Hatfield. But Earl certainly gets a lot of credit, though I remember his vote to keep I-5 along the Willamette in the late ’80s as well as some nasty battles with his PDOT to make NW more ped friendly in the early ’90s. Last, I would love to hear where our eastside congressman stands on the CRC.

  20. >The Willamette Week has really become just an embarrassment, relying on the long memories of its middle-aged readers who still think of it as an alternative paper.Because that’s how you rise to leadership in a legislative body.

  21. Sometimes they have good stuff in there.

    I am sure that is true. But what use is it when the only way to know is when you already know the story.

    His business partnership actually is news worthy, it does smack of conflict of interest.

    How? What conflict is there in Earl Blumenauer owning real estate in partnership with Rick Gustafson? Good stuff? Yeh, if you like innuendo with no substance.

  22. >How? What conflict is there in Earl Blumenauer owning real estate in partnership with Rick Gustafson? Good stuff? Yeh, if you like innuendo with no substance.

    Oh come on, he is in a partnership with a man who is being awarded millions of dollars of contracts! He should have no joint business ventures with the man to be above suspicion. There is a conflict of interest there. What’s good for his business partner is obviously good for him. That is defined: CONFLICT OF INTEREST.

    I still don’t think its a major deal, it just looks bad. And looking bad is how elections are lost.

  23. h come on, he is in a partnership with a man who is being awarded millions of dollars of contracts!

    By the city of Portland.

    There is a conflict of interest there. What’s good for his business partner is obviously good for him.

    How?

    But that’s the WW, no substance required.

  24. Well if you can’t see where the problem is I sure as hell can’t show you by writing on this blog.

    Sorry pal, I have to agree with the WW on this one.

    PERSONALLY, I do not think Mr. Blumenauer is making anything on any of these deals, IT JUST LOOKS SUSPICIOUS.

    Its a tempest in a teapot, but sometimes the teapot’s explode.

  25. Why don’t they do something about the more regional transportation deficiencies like commuter rail between Eugene to Vancouver B.C.? They are so focused on the toy trains that only carry yuppies and vagrants a few blocks and only go 1MPH.

  26. I don’t think the “industry” that is reaping the benefit from this cronyism is “transit.” Isn’t it more likely “real esate development.” Rail transit projects seem to exponentially drive the value of nearby real estate up—so if I owned a city block near to where a line could be built I might donate some money so my property would increase 30-50 percent suddenly–especially if I owned millions worth. But how would you ever prove this was the real reason for a campaign contribution?

    One of my beefs with the I-5 removal project ( besides the seemingly endless traffic snarls it will engender) is that certain property owners nearby will reap windfall benefits if their property becomes downtown waterfront real estate. The egregious expense of that project is just another nail in the coffin of an overburdened federal treasury.

    I we were the only ones fomenting these plans it wouldn’t be so bad. But Portland has to “lead” the rest of the country. Lead it where? Off a cliff into financial insolvency? I can’t argue with the Boston Green Line LRT or the one in Chi-town either. Bur some of the other rail transit projects have been pathetic in their results. The same effect will probably occur with the Streetcar. I know someone a lot of people don’t like created a big federal deficit–but finger pointing won’t make it go away, either. I think this is a time to tread carefully in public expenditures.

    Today gold reached $738/oz. Where are we headed?
    http://www.DailyReckoning.com

  27. I do not think Mr. Blumenauer is making anything on any of these deals

    Off of what deals? Off his real estate investments with Rick Gustafson? Why shouldn’t he make any money off them?

    IT JUST LOOKS SUSPICIOUS.

    Of course it does – WW made it look that way because otherwise there is no story there. You fell for it.

  28. how would you ever prove this was the real reason for a campaign contribution?

    What difference would it make if it was? The problem comes only if the elected official promises a quid pro quo for the contribution. There is nothing wrong at all with someone contributing to a candidate because they support a particular investment that benefits the contributor. In fact, that is probably why most contributions get made by business people. They think electing a certain candidate will help them make money.

    I think this is a time to tread carefully in public expenditures.

    I think it a mistake not to distinguish between public investments and expenditures that don’t grow in value into the future. Improving the transportation system is an investment. They are the kinds of things we ought to be willing to borrow from the future to pay for because they will benefit people in the future as well.

    That doesn’t mean we should build every project that comes along. But where there is a long term benefit we ought to act now.

    Extending downtown across the river with a streetcar loop seems to me to be a good long term investment. Likewise adding bus bypass lanes on some suburban arterials would be a good investment. Adding pedestrian connections to light rail and major transit stops would be a good investment. Those are things that make the region work better and will be used by generations to come.

    I think the Milwaukie light rail and Lake Oswego streetcar fit the bill. As would a new arterial bridge across the Columbia. In fact, so would a couple more arterial bridges at some point. A new Sellwood Bridge fits.

    certain property owners nearby will reap windfall benefits if their property becomes downtown waterfront real estate.

    I think all the waterfront property is publicly owned. But there is little doubt that some of the people involved in pushing the removal of I5 plan to make money off development in the area. That doesn’t make it a bad idea.

    Today gold reached $738/oz. Where are we headed?

    To using more silver I suppose.

  29. this appeared on the oregonian news feed:

    A valueless Portland Streetcar survey
    Posted by Larry Norton September 20, 2007 08:25AM
    Categories: General
    It is no secret that riders on the Portland Streetcar are not very forthcoming with the fare. Recently, I was a witness to a survey by Trimet that has dubious value.
    An apparent Trimet person boarded at the end of the fareless square area. She announced that she was checking proof of fare. At this stop and the very next stop the streetcar nearly emptied.
    A few went to the fare box and deposited the necessary coins.
    By the third stop it became obvious that she was not a fare inspector but only taking a survey – who was riding with proof of fare payment as opposed to those not.
    Could it come to anyone’s surprise that there was a high incident of proof of payment?

  30. Exactly how do the various rail projects “fit the bill” – it seems as though anything that has “rail” seems to automatically “fit the bill”.

    Why does MLK/Grand need Streetcar, when numerous bus routes ALREADY serve this area (not to mention a bus route that travels up and down MLK/Grand?)

    Why does Lake Oswego Streetcar need to exist, when I have clearly demonstrated (in another thread) that the traffic volumes on this route HARDLY support the need for a massive transit investment, and that despite Metro’s calls that this route is subject to congestion that the bus line that serves the identical route is TriMet’s BEST PERFORMING line-haul route out of downtown?

    Meanwhile, there are other areas of Portland that have a demonstrated need for better transit investment – and get next to zero.

    Portland’s transit machine is nothing more than a high schoolish popularity contest, rather than based upon actual facts and needs. Let’s provide more transit to rich developers, but ignore those that need and rely on transit each day. I don’t seem to recall future residents getting a vote in local government, but existing residents certainly have a vote.

    If we handled law enforcement the same way we handle transit, we’d be building new prisons to anticipate a run-up in crime – not in response to crime. We’d build police stations in areas where we think crime might occur, but ignore areas where crime already exists. How would you like it if a new fire station was down the street from another fire station (in anticipation of more calls), while another area of Portland has to wait 15 minutes for a fire truck to respond to an emergency?

  31. Today the cost of one Euro exceeded $1.40 for the first time, also. The Canadian dollar is also on parity with the US dollar. Goodbye Canadian bargains.

    From Yahoo Finance:
    “The falling dollar could be good news for multinational corporations because it makes American-made goods more affordable in international markets while making it harder for foreign manufacturers to undercut domestic competition.

    On the other hand, it worries the U.S. government by scaring away foreign investors who help to finance the country’s debt. As investment in U.S. Treasury securities dwindles, the government will have to pay higher rates at weekly auctions to find buyers for its bills, notes and bonds.

    That eventually could push up borrowing costs for all Americans.

    Associated Press writers Matt Moore and Melissa Eddy in Berlin, Rob Gillies in Toronto, Carolyn Thompson in Buffalo, N.Y., and Tali Arbel in New York contributed to this report.”

  32. Exactly how do the various rail projects “fit the bill” – it seems as though anything that has “rail” seems to automatically “fit the bill”.

    No Erik – you will notice I didn’t mention a variety of rail proposals that have been made, incuding commuter rail from Vancouver and McMinnville. The projects I did mention have been vetted through a very long public discussion.

    But in general what rail projects are better long term investments. They trade an upfront capital investment for lower operating costs, greater reliability, higher capacity and more riders than bus service in the same corridor. And those benefits will extend out into the future.

    In the case of streetcar, which is mostly a development tool, its pretty obvious it doesn’t really even compete with buses. Developers don’t see bus service as an amenity that increases their property value and justifies making larger investment in building in that location.

    Why does Lake Oswego Streetcar need to exist,

    I think it is pretty obvious isn’t it? There is already a public ROW to build on that can be used as a match for federal funds. Without that, I doubt anyone would be talking about a streetcar to Lake Oswego.

    Ron – If the deficit is a problem the solution is to raise taxes, not stop investing in public infrastructure.

  33. commuter rail from Vancouver and McMinnville

    I think this idea is so misguided. They can’t even get decent service between the more populated cities of Salem and Portland! Why even talk about yet another dumb commuter line when you can’t even get the current service right. I know…. Blame it on the freight companies.

  34. “Portland’s transit machine is nothing more than a high schoolish popularity contest, rather than based upon actual facts and needs”

    I think that eventually all the rail work will pay off, however it may be 100 years from now when gas is no longer available. The problem I have with all the rush installations is that they ignore the other transit service needs, which is were I happen to find agreement with most of what you post to this group.

    “Today the cost of one Euro exceeded $1.40 for the first time, also. The Canadian dollar is also on parity with the US dollar. Goodbye Canadian bargains.”

    What the hell does this have to do with transit?

    “But in general what rail projects are better long term investments. They trade an upfront capital investment for lower operating costs, greater reliability,”

    As I said previously, before reading this post, he is right on this point, imo.

    “commuter rail from Vancouver and McMinnville”

    Dumb idea!

  35. “commuter rail from Vancouver and McMinnville”

    Dumb idea!

    I don’t think they are dumb ideas. They are ideas whose flaws in the current market become apparent when they are examined in any detail. They may well fit into the region’s transportation network at some point in the future.

  36. “If we handled law enforcement the same way we handle transit, we’d be building new prisons to anticipate a run-up in crime – not in response to crime.”

    close. what we actually do is we build new prisons and then create new crime/criminals to fill them up.

  37. [close. what we actually do is we build new prisons and then create new crime/criminals to fill them up.]

    Isn’t there a whole jail sitting empty, BECAUSE THEY DONT HAVE THE FUNDS TO RUN IT?

    !maybe they can turn it into a streetcar depot!

  38. Well, there’s one possible destination for a North Portland Streetcar. Maybe the county could convert the jail into a theme park?

  39. Ross says.
    “Ron – If the deficit is a problem the solution is to raise taxes, not stop investing in public infrastructure.”

    Did I say stop investing in infrastructure? Boy, that’s a new one on me! Ross, exaactly where do you get your information?

  40. Why does Lake Oswego Streetcar need to exist, when I have clearly demonstrated (in another thread) that the traffic volumes on this route HARDLY support the need for a massive transit investment,

    Just because a road is popular doesn’t mean that it would make a good transit route, highway 26 is popular between the Zoo and the tunnel, but you wouldn’t just add a bus to that section of 26, because there is really nothing there. Transit has to serve destinations, not sections of roads, you are trying to design routes like WashDOT does: “Popular road, must be a good place for a bus.” It doesn’t work that way. The traffic counts on N Fessenden don’t exactly leap out at you either, but the 4-Fressenden bus is a frequent service route, where as there are plenty of streets with far more traffic, (185th in Washington County, for instance,) that don’t have the same ridership, (and therefor, as short of headways.)

    “and that despite Metro’s calls that this route is subject to congestion that the bus line that serves the identical route is TriMet’s BEST PERFORMING line-haul route out of downtown?”

    Uhmmm, I think you don’t understand why people want to make it into rail based transit. You don’t build rail based transit where there is no demand, hoping to induce it, you build it where there is already lots of demand, making it cheaper to operate in the long term over buses. For instance, they built the Yellow line to take over the #5 route, which was very popular and had BRT level headways. Bob R wants them to build a streetcar to take over the Hawthorne route, again, another very popular bus route… When you create a bus route, you aren’t replacing a very popular mass transit route, you are starting from scratch…

  41. Well, there’s one possible destination for a North Portland Streetcar. Maybe the county could convert the jail into a theme park?

    Or just sell it to McMenamins.

  42. exaactly where do you get your information?

    Ron –

    I guess I misinterpreted this from you “I think this is a time to tread carefully in public expenditures.”

  43. Could someone please clarify an issue for me?

    SoWa opponents like to go off on this mafioso, cabal, whatever you want to call it. And their basic premise goes something like this (I’m paraphrasing):

    “The claims that OHSU (and the developers) are paying for the lion’s share of the tram are false. Those costs will be absorbed by everyone else within the urban renewal district, and more broadly by everyone else within the Trimet service area, because OHSU pays no property taxes and no Trimet taxes.”

    Please strip away the diatribes. Please stop muddling the issue between upfront costs, capitalized interest, how does OHSU get their funding, etc. Just answer the question — who is ACTUALLY writing the checks that will be paying off the debts associated with the capitalized costs of the tram?

    If someone could just give a straight answer, this would go a long towards addressing this mafioso garbage (which voters apparently wanted anyway since they elected these people).

  44. Well, never mind. I figured it out myself. OHSU is paying for about 85% of the cost of the tram, along with about 90% of the operating cost.

  45. Does it actually cost $57,000,000 a year to run that thing!!??

    HOLY BEJEEPERS..what a waste, I don’t care which tax fund is paying for it cause it all comes from our pocket books!

    Project Budget:
    $15,500,000
    $28,500,000
    $40,000,000
    $57,000,000
    OHSU
    $9,000,000
    $17,200,000
    $30,700,000
    $40,200,00
    South Waterfront Property Owners
    $4,500,000
    $5,800,000
    $5,800,000*
    $5,800,000*
    North Macadam Investors
    $2,500,000
    PDC (Tax Increment Funds)
    $2,000,000
    $3,500,000
    $3,500,000
    $8,500,000

    http://www.ohsu.edu/ohsuedu/about/transformation/tram/tramqanda.cfm#How_much_is_the_public_paying_for_the_tram?

  46. It costs ~$1.5M/year to run the tram, of which 85% is paid for by OHSU, and the other 15% is paid for by charging people $4/ride. Except my understanding is that ridership has been above expectations, and the $4/ride has resulted in them having too much money…

  47. Just because a road is popular doesn’t mean that it would make a good transit route, highway 26 is popular between the Zoo and the tunnel, but you wouldn’t just add a bus to that section of 26, because there is really nothing there.

    Why wouldn’t you add a bus? The original plans for Westside MAX didn’t include the Washington Park station, either. Or that MAX skips all of the western development along Cornell/Barnes Road between the zoo and Sunset TC; and much of Cedar Hills between Sunset TC and Beaverton TC…

    (On the other hand, this is the one place where MAX really is an “express”. Looking at aerial photography, there are three stops located within just over a mile, between Merlo and Millikan Way – and there isn’t a whole lot out there.)

    The fact is that there were a lot of busses that ran on the Sunset Highway prior to MAX (I believe the count was around seven or eight) – today there are two (the 58 and 63); the 58 no longer serves the Zoo offramp like the 57 used to.

    And that’s probably a good thing – the Sunset Highway is congested, and getting busses off the road is probably a win-win for everyone. (You’ll also note that TriMet made a lot of bus system improvements in conjunction with Westside MAX, that Westside MAX was clearly voter-appoved).

    But to suggest that just because a highway is busy doesn’t mean it’s a good “route” for transit – so what, the idea of transit planning is to build transit where nobody is, or wants to go? Let’s see, Tigard is a damn big transit generator. Yet if you want to travel between Tigard and Portland your only choices is the 12 and 45 busses (and you’d be a real fool to choose the 45 if you had the choice). (If you own a car or live near an express stop you can also use the 94X, but in TriMet’s clearly discriminatory ways, the 94X doesn’t even serve the Tigard Transit Center, and TriMet cancelled the 95X because of supposed “poor performance”. Well, when you only run six busses a day, if three of them are late your on-time performance is already 50%. And when those busses run solely during rush hour on an extremely busy route, they’re bound to be late. So TriMet’s answer was to eliminate service, not improve service. Does that make sense?)

    As for the argument that we own the Jefferson Street Branch right-of-way – yes, so what? We also own the railroad line over Cornelius Pass, to Astoria, and a former railroad ROW to Vernonia – so should we build light rail on those tracks because of it? No – because the answer comes back to NEED (how many people live in Vernonia and need to commute into the Portland area? How many people have a need to travel between Portland and Astoria?)

    We also own significant right-of-way along many of Oregon’s highways – Highway 551 (the Wilsonville-Hubbard Highway), Highway 18 (Salmon River Highway – within Yamhill County) both have wide ROWs to accomodate future widening. Under the logic of “we own it, we should use it” – ODOT should immediately embark on a highway widening plan for all highways that we own the ROW for.

    (Strangely, I bet there would be little public opposition to either of those projects, except from people on this forum.)

    The last time I checked government existed to serve the public – and TriMet and Metro are both government agencies. Clearly, when 20,000 vehicles that use a single route (that has no alternative – exactly how many roads exist between Lake Oswego and Portland? ONE!), whereas nearly 200,000 vehicles use a combination of routes between Portland and Tigard – there is ten times the demand in one corridor versus the other, but the one corridor in light demand is going to receive ten times the investment as the other.

    There is absolutely, positively NOTHING stopping Metro from buying one of those German-made double-deck railbusses, building some light stops (i.e. concrete pads and a “stop” sign), and putting a railbus on the WST today, for a total investment of less than $10 million – except that it wouldn’t benefit the Mafioso. And in addition, there is absolutely, positively NOTHING stopping Metro and TriMet from investing in the Barbur Blvd. corridor, except that THEY DON’T WANT TO because Metro won’t invest in bus service, and TriMet doesn’t care – whether it’s the Board of Directors or the General Manager himself. Oh, and it wouldn’t benefit the Mafioso either.

  48. “There is absolutely, positively NOTHING stopping Metro from buying one of those German-made double-deck railbusses, building some light stops (i.e. concrete pads and a “stop” sign), and putting a railbus on the WST today, for a total investment of less than $10 million ”
    ———————-

    Why does this make so much sense to me?
    ps Eric, I joined your union!

  49. “Why wouldn’t you add a bus?…”

    I didn’t say it was a bad idea to serve the Zoo. I said that 26 between the Zoo and the tunnel has nothing on it, and the Zoo exit of 26 is quite a walk from the actual zoo entrance. The only reason anyone stop on 26 in that area there is because their car broke down, or they are working on the road/power lines along the road/etc. No houses, no businesses, no anything. There one trail that takes about a mile and half to get to the nearest houses/business, and another road, but that road already has a bus on it, so…

    If you are going to have a transit line, (bus or MAX or anything,) it has to serve people, not just busy roads. So looking at a road, thinking “it is full we should add transit to it” doesn’t work. Those 7 or 8 buses that used to run on 26 didn’t run on 26 to serve 26, they served places that you can get to via 26. And so standing around saying that the traffic counts on X road is higher than Y road, and so we should add more transit to X road instead of Y road, is totally the wrong way to look at it, you have to look at where the people on the roads are going, and if they’d could be served by transit efficiently.

  50. If you are going to have a transit line, (bus or MAX or anything,) it has to serve people, not just busy roads. So looking at a road, thinking “it is full we should add transit to it” doesn’t work.

    Fine, lets use YOUR criteria.

    First, let’s start with Macadam Blvd.

    (miles from I-405).

    MP 1.0: Old Spaghetti Factory, Streetcar terminus. (Lots of vacant streetblocks.)

    MP 1.5: Johns Landing.

    MP 2.0: Willamette Park

    MP 2.5: South of Taylors Ferry and north of Sellwood Bridge; there’s nothing here but a houseboat development.

    MP 3.0: Powers Marine Park (an undeveloped park)

    MP 3.5: Nothing

    MP 4.0: Dunthorpe

    MP 4.5: Dunthorpe

    MP 5.0: Dunthorpe

    MP 5.5: Clackamas/Multnomah County Line

    MP 6.0: Hey, we’re finally in Lake Oswego!

    OK, now let’s do Barbur Blvd.:

    MP 1.0: Barbur & Hamilton (this is a major bus transfer point)

    MP 1.5: Nothing

    MP 2.0: Nothing

    MP 2.5: Burlingame Fred Meyer, Bertha Blvd., Terwilliger Blvd., transfer to lines 1, 39 and 65X

    MP 3.0: Capitol Hill Safeway

    MP 3.5: 30th Avenue (there is a new condo development here, plus an underpass under I-5, a strip mall, and other dense development)

    MP 4.0: Barbur Blvd. TC

    MP 4.5: multiple office parks

    MP 5.0: Pomona & 53rd

    MP 5.5: Multnomah/Washington County Line, Portland/Tigard City Line

    MP 6.0: Tigard Fred Meyer

    OK. So the wonderful Lake Oswego line passes through a three and a half mile dead zone for transit. How much does Streetcar cost, $20 million a mile? Why should I approve $60 million dollars to literally be thrown in the garbage, when there is another corridor just a couple miles away that “well it’s busy but it doesn’t mean people use it” – tell me, how many people ride the 35? How many people ride the 12? How many Marquam Hill Expresses run to Lake Oswego? Along the 12 line? (the answer is two.) What about the 44 and 45 lines that also are in the same corridor? Or the 1, 36, 38, 39, 54, 55 or 56 that also partially use the same corridor?

    Yes, you’re right. There is no need for transit improvements along Barbur Blvd., and Lake Oswego NEEDS more transit – when its ONE bus route has the best on-time performance and travels on a highway that sees approximately 20,000 cars a day. (Hint: The Sellwood Bridge carries more traffic and has one fewer lane.)

    The ONLY rationale reason why Lake Oswego should get a Streetcar is because we own the right-of-way. So what – turn it into a trail, or let’s put light rail to Vernonia – after all, we own that right-of-way too. Of course, we know why – the Mafioso lives in Lake Oswego, not in Vernonia.

  51. There is absolutely, positively NOTHING stopping Metro from buying one of those German-made double-deck railbusses, building some light stops (i.e. concrete pads and a “stop” sign), and putting a railbus on the WST today, for a total investment of less than $10 million “

    To start with, Metro doesn’t provide transit, Trimet does. But what is the advantage of “German-made double-deck railbusses”?

  52. The ONLY rationale reason why Lake Oswego should get a Streetcar is because we own the right-of-way.

    No that isn’t the only rational reason, try harder and you can think of many others. But the real problem here is that you keep complaining about Trimet and Metro when, if you ask local Tualatin elected officials, transit it not their top priority. They wanted a new interchange with I5. They want the Tualatin-Sherwood connector. They have lots of things that are more important to them than an investment in transit service.

    Its the people you elect get to call the shots. So one reason Lake Oswego is getting streetcar is that they have advocated for it.

    “The wonderful Lake Oswego line passes through a three and a half mile dead zone for transit.”

    Which is really the only reason it works as a regional transit connection.

  53. While it might be interesting to run some kind of self-powered transit rolling-stock on the Willamette Shore Trolley line immediately, the condition of the tracks and wayside safety infrastructure precludes operating at the kinds of speeds necessary to make an improvement over bus service.

    Although Erik frequently accuses me of having some kind of rail bias, I would actually oppose spending $10 million on something which would under-perform the current local bus service, introduce yet another type of rolling stock, and require finding extra operating funds, and wind up with a service that runs with maybe 30 minute headways. What for?

    If we’re going to go through the trouble of planning and operating high capacity transit service in the corridor, let’s treat the project seriously.

    – Bob R.

  54. Double deck transit seems to be pretty common in Europe. I was on a double deck commuter train in Paris and of course a double deck bus in England. I saw some other photos of double decked rail while doing the search for the railbus photos. So Europeans must see a good reason for going with that sort of vehicle.

    Before any more rail systems get planned around here I think it would be good to study the economics of the German railbus. Being diesel powered, conversion to biodisel shouldn’t be hard. Even if it cost more, at this time, to obtain the biodieseel it would be setting a good
    pattern: 1. Find the rail lines 2. Get a source of biodiesel 3. Put the stops in 4. Buy the railbuses

    I was looking at an ODOT report from 1999 regarding upgrading freight track to accomodate 286,000 lb Gross vehicle weight rail cars (the Streetcar weighs 62,000 lbs plus passengers, so about 25 percent of a loaded freight car) and they estimated $300,000 per mile for rails, ties and ballast on existing railbed. I’m sure the steel and labor is considerably higher, now. But at least that gives a reasonable ballpark figure.
    The Washington Co. Commuter line is $117 million and Tri Met is spending $70 million for new MAX vehicles. The Transit Mall is costing $200 million. The Milwaukie MAX hovers somewhere between $500 and $800 million. I would like to find out what the railbus costs with shipping. If this could be used on existing rail lines, it seems like a bargain, especially with its potential for green energy usage. The latter should provide enough attraction–for environmentally conscious Portlanders.

    Even if it is too late for Portland to use something like this, let’s stop this mentality of thinking we can instruct the rest of the country. I am wondering what the old PCC streetcar systems cost when they were first built?

  55. TriMet critics: Keep in mind that the new commuter rail line was Washington County’s idea, Streetcar has its origin in Portland’s Central City plan, and the big advocate for the Lake Oswego Streetcar line is the City of LO.
    TriMet and Metro have been brought into the process for these projects…to manage them, do studies and seek federal funds, but they are not the project drivers. It is the electeds from a variety of jurisdictions and the communities they represent who are demanding these rail project be built. Indeed, Metro took rail off the table to Milwaukie after the defeat of North/South in 1998, but citizens from SE Portland and Milwaukie got it back into consideration.
    TriMet has ridership equal to that of much larger cities/regions. It has agressively expanded its Frequent Service lines in all directions. Its cost per ride on MAX is among the lowest of all lightrail systems, despite being limited to two car trains. Its capital projects have come in on or below budget and on time or early…Interstate MAX. Time to give them a little credit.

  56. You’re kidding!? Doesn’t state income tax fund Tri-Met and fares?

    Short answer: No.

    Long answer:

    TriMet’s non-capital, non-farebox revenue sources are primarily from payroll taxes within the TriMet service district. There are two revenue categories listed in the FY2008 budget for State “In Lieu” tax revenue and State Operating Grants, but together these represent less than 0.4% of revenue sources. It is conceivable that some of that 0.4% comes from state income taxes, but rounded to the nearest integer, TriMet’s operating revenues from state income taxes is zero.

    – Bob R.

  57. So how can they talk about a wino train into Yamhill County costing millions of dollars but they can’t even come up with more cost effective and simple ideas like having a bus go there instead? As for Salem, they have Amtrak but that is lousy as well. I think Oregon and Washington should “opt out” of Amtrak and start their own commuter train system instead.

  58. So how can they talk about a wino train into Yamhill County costing millions of dollars but they can’t even come up with more cost effective and simple ideas like having a bus go there instead?

    Greg, just who is the “they” you are talking about? It seems that some local communities along with a few private donors have managed to scrape up about $35,000 to fund a feasibility study, that’s it. Such a project has no serious attention at Metro, TriMet, and isn’t in the RTP. I think you’re getting worked up over a very unlikely project.

    See:
    http://www.sherwoodgazette.com/news/story.php?story_id=117268994064496400

    – Bob R.

  59. Who say’s I’m “worked up”? :)

    As for psymonetta’s link, there is transit service but it’s not very good. They leave you off in very inconvenient places – i.e. the parking lot at Shari’s in Newberg and the West Salem Roth’s grocery parking lot. With the huge population boom the valley is going through why don’t all the transit authorities Eugene – Vancouver merge into a big Willamette Valley Transit authority so the system is more efficient?

  60. Greg,

    I thought you didn’t like big bureaucracies that tax people, like transit authorities.

    The issue with merging into one large transit authority is that providing transit in rural areas is a far different beast (and funding source) than providing transit in Urban Areas. The cut-away buses that you see in the YamCo transit photos are actually one of the more flexible ways of providing transit in rural and small suburban areas, because you can combine paratransit (ie dial-a-ride) services with general public services using the same vehicles. So, people that can’t physically handle the “inconvenience” of being dropped at the Shari’s in Sherwood (where your average ambulatory citizen can easily link up with TriMet) are provided with deviations from the fixed route and curb-to-curb accomodations.

  61. I thought you didn’t like big bureaucracies that tax people, like transit authorities.

    I don’t… I was just asking the question – “why don’t they…?”

    I also don’t understand why those YamCo buses don’t go a few miles further and connect at Tigard Transit Center or the Salem Transit Center in Salem. You could ask the same of Wilsonville’s SMART – why don’t they go a few miles further to downtown Portland instead of stopping at the Barbur Transit Center? There must be some sort of government regulation prohibiting them from being efficient.

  62. You could ask the same of Wilsonville’s SMART – why don’t they go a few miles further to downtown Portland instead of stopping at the Barbur Transit Center?

    The City of Wilsonville opted to leave the TriMet service district because they wanted to make their own local decisions about how to allocate those funds to various routes and schedules.

    There must be some sort of government regulation prohibiting them from being efficient.

    It’s more a question of limited operating funds, and a population (in general) which is increasingly opting for transit while the existing funding sources don’t fully account for this modal shift.

    But as far as “efficiency” goes, why would Wilsonville spend the money to run all the way into downtown Portland if a transfer at Barbur would accommodate many of their riders? I’d love it if more regional center to regional center transit was happening (a good use for articulated limited-stop and express buses, for example), but either more operating funds have to be identified (express service is expensive) or local service has to be cut to fund these express services. Wilsonville, given the resources it has, has opted to favor local service. No big-Government conspiracy required.

    – Bob R.

  63. I’d love it if more regional center to regional center transit was happening

    That would probably increase ridership, thus increasing revenue collection from fares, thus less reliance on taxes. Why don’t they take a survey to determine if more people would get on board this way?

  64. Greg –

    Longer-distance services (express, limited stop) generally cost more per boarding ride and more per passenger-mile to operate. This could be combined with higher fares to partially offset costs, but you’d reach a point of diminishing returns in terms of ridership. To operate this kind of service, new operating funds have to be committed.

    A lot of attention is paid to capital projects, but the more mundane everyday problem of raising operating funds is a serious issue. The capital costs of Interstate MAX, for example, were $350 million (largely from Federal funds), for infrastructure which will last decades. But to actually operate all the existing bus and rail lines in normal operations, TriMet spends about that much each year.

    That is why when proposing any expansion of service it is vital to identify long-term operating revenues.

    – Bob R.

  65. “That is why when proposing any expansion of service it is vital to identify long-term operating revenues.”

    BINGO, GIVE THAT MAN A CEEGAR!

    That’s exactly right! They keep expanding at the expense of what they are already doing, which means of course current services get cut back or eliminated to provide all these new services.

    This is a serious issue and one that will most likely come back and bite TRIMET in the arse!

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