So You Think We’ve Got Problems?

Everything’s relative. I thought I’d start this thread to invite readers to compare Portland’s transport situation with other cities’, either those we think are in better shape, or those we think are in worse shape. I think (hope) the comparisons will help us keep our perspective. I’ve going to start off with two brief stories, one from Rotterdam, one from Los Angeles.

Rotterdam, Netherlands, is one of the largest ports in the world, and is a “sister port” of Seattle. The city and metropolitan area populations are comparable to those of Portland. Rotterdam does have a couple of metro (subway/elevated) lines and a number of streetcar lines. The central city was bombed in 1940, as a prelude to the German invasion. After WW II, the downtown was completely rebuilt in postwar architectural style. The metro opened in 1968 and has been extended a number of times.

Now the anecdote: I’m freely translating from the January 2008 issue of Het Openbaar Vervoer, a Dutch e-zine, New Years Eve hooligans once again caused heavy damage to public and private property. RET (Rotterdamsche Elektrische Tramweg, the local TriMet) experienced heavy damage to metro stations, particularly TVM’s, windows, and escalators. In one station, a cherry bomb blew up a very expensive soft drink machine. Also, many bus and streetcar shelters were heavily damaged. Because vandalism isn’t covered by insurance, RET must step up and cover the damage itself. An angry managing director Peters (RET’s Fred Hansen) estimates the damage at a minimum at several hundred thousand euros (1 euro = about $1.50 these days), but he wouldn’t be surprised if it reached close to a million. RET will try to collect the damages from the perps, using security camera videos as evidence. In consultation with the justice ministry and the civil courts, RET has been trying for two years to compel restitution from transport system vandals.

COMMENT FROM MIKE: So we think we have a crime wave in Portland? As I said, everything’s relative.

Since 1990, Los Angeles has opened several light-rail lines and a full-scale subway line. As reported in the January 2008 Railfan and Railroad (paper magazine),

“In October 2006, the federal judge overseeing the transit authority decided the MTA had complied with a ruling to improve bus service. The suit was brought ten years ago by a bus riders’ group that contended the MTA was spending too much on rail for upper-income residents and not enough on bus service for low-income people. The MTA, under the court order, bought 1,472 natural-gas-powered buses, boosted annual service by 1.3 million hours, and increased security.”

COMMENT FROM MIKE: In reading this blog regularly, I’ve seen a number of complaints alleging TriMet is allowing bus service to deteriorate as it builds up the rail system. Had it gotten sufficiently worse to warrant a lawsuit? If so, where’s the Portland equivalent of that bus riders’ group? They ought to be saying to TriMet, “See you in court.”


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