Streetcars, MAX Trains and Buses – Three Modes – One System

seventh ave alignment w max

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The streetcar system, promoted as a development tool, is supposed to be a local circulator with frequent stops and yet it will run without a stop for two-thirds of mile, across the Broadway Bridge between the Pearl District and the Eliot Neighborhood.

On the other hand, light rail is supposed to function as a high capacity regional system, (Metropolitan Area Express) but is being forced to function as a streetcar, creeping along downtown city streets with stops every few blocks.

It appears that each mode is being planned without much consideration of the other, with little thought given to developing a coordinated synergistic system.
Some serious thought should be given to the big picture.

Following is an example of how the three modes, coordinated as a single system in the central city, could provide better service than if developed individually.

  • The Transit Mall could accommodate buses and streetcars. It is a more appropriate venue for frequent streetcar service than it is for long regional MAX trains.
  • Streetcars routed via Station Way and over the Steel Bridge could provide additional service to the Pearl District and new service to the North Riverfront area.
  • Streetcars could serve the Rose Quarter and connect the Lloyd District to both the Transit Mall and the Pearl District.
  • The Yellow MAX Line could then extend south to Milwaukie on a direct eastside alignment, providing efficient transfers to eastside bus routes while avoiding two river crossings, awkward junctions at the Steel Bridge and a slow slog through downtown.
  • The eastside streetcar could be routed over the Hawthorne Bridge and serve the Keller Auditorium area while providing a critical link between the greater eastside and South Waterfront.
  • The Ross Island Bridge could be upgraded to provide bike, pedestrian and bus access to South Waterfront.
  • The huge capital cost of a new light rail bridge and the expense of laying tracks over the recently refurbished Broadway Bridge could be avoided.
  • The money saved would be better used to extend the Yellow MAX Line to Hayden Island and to extend streetcar service to Lake Oswego.

    The attached map shows these modified river crossings. It also illustrates a north-south streetcar alignment through the eastside that incorporates the following advantages.

  • Seventh Avenue, less intensely developed, provides more opportunities for new development than MLK/Grand.
  • The Seventh Avenue corridor now lacks transit service whereas MLK/Grand has excellent bus service (148 trips a day) with the MLK #6 corridor bus route that connects Hayden Island to the transit mall and PSU.
  • Lloyd District would be better served with two-way streetcar operation on Seventh Avenue, which is a two-way street. It would be more intuitive and easier to understand than the proposed split operation, with streetcars going in one direction on a two-way street and the other direction on a one-way street, with two blocks between tracks.
  • The Seventh Avenue streetcar bridge across Sullivan’s Gulch could also provide a desirable bike and pedestrian link. Perhaps the old Sauvie Island Bridge could be recycled for this purpose.
  • The Seventh Avenue alignment eliminates time consuming streetcar turns at Grand and Broadway, and at Oregon and MLK.
  • The streetcar on Seventh Avenue would have less negative traffic impact than on the very busy MLK/Grand couplet.

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