Light Rail’s Next Stop: Oregon City?

Putting aside the ongoing CRC discussion for a few minutes, an article in Thursday’s Oregonian briefly mentioned that the city of Oregon City has passed a resolution endorsing the Portland-Milwaukie light-rail line LPA that was chosen by the steering committee.

The resolution supports the Porter-Sherman Willamette River crossing, the Tillamook Branch alignment in Milwaukie and the Park Avenue terminus, which would provide better service to Clackamas County communities south of Milwaukie.

Additionally…

“What this plan says is that Oregon City is on the radar,” said Mayor Alice Norris. “The next light-rail extension needs to come to Oregon City.”

This is quite the reversal from ten years ago, when Clackamas County residents and officials couldn’t have been paid enough to “allow” light-rail to be built on their land. Now, Milwaukie and even Vancouver are both behind the idea of bringing light-rail to their cities, and even more suburban cities and urbanized areas of the counties will be lining up in the near future asking when they’re next. Oregon City is indeed squarely in the sights of not one but two future light-rail extensions: The Yellow Line (Milwaukie) and the Green Line (Clackamas). The Yellow Line will terminate seven miles north along 99E, while the Green Line will terminate eight miles north along I-205.

This raises an interesting question.

For those of us who’ve been paying attention for the last several years, we know that the next great light-rail expansions are rumored to be Powell and Barbur Blvds. Both of these projects are going to require massive capital investments due to the intensity of development along both of these state highways. By contrast, installing light-rail from Oak Grove to Oregon City might be a cakewalk.

One of the benefits touted by Vancouver officials about building light-rail in Clark County is that they’d only have to cross the river to tie in to a mature and expanding multi-billion dollar light-rail system spanning dozens of miles. Indeed, if transportation dollars are scarce (and they were even before the CRC gathered momentum), the light-rail expansions of the next two or three decades might consist primarily of new spur routes (i.e., Airport MAX) rather than entirely new routes (Westside MAX).

The questions that I pose to you are “where?” and “why there?” What potential spur routes could gain favor to the point of leapfrogging Barbur and Powell as the “next” expansion projects to follow Milwaukie and/or Vancouver? Or will Barbur and/or Powell prove high-priority enough to remain at the top of the list?

I know very well that investment in light-rail (for some, even it’s continued operation) is controversial to many individuals, and I don’t intend for this post to provide yet another forum for pro-rail vs. anti-rail (or pro-public transit vs. anti-public transit) commentary, as there are already more than enough venues catering to that discussion. In the near future we will have similar discussions about other transportation modes and where we need to be focusing our expansion/intensification efforts with respect to those modes. This time we will discuss light-rail expansion.

For purposes of this discussion, we are assuming that light-rail will be expanded in the future, but not at the cost of required investments in other parts of the transportation network (including but not limited to roads, bike lanes/boulevards, heavy rail, marine and air terminals, buses, and streetcar). I support a balanced transportation network and am not advocating that any light-rail expansion projects move forward that will create a situation that results in disinvestment in other parts of the transportation system by any agency. However, this is not a “pie-in-the-sky” scenario, either, where money is no object and reality is out the door. The question I ask you is really this: “To where does it make the most sense to expand the light-rail system next?” You can and should take land-use and density goals (not just current zoning and land uses) into consideration.

Is Ms. Norris being too optimistic about her city being “next,” or is that actually the most likely scenario? Or is it more likely that the first extension to Oregon City is along I-205 (linking an Amtrak station to the airport in one shot)? If so, would you also want to extend that line all the way to Tualatin to link to WES?

City gives its support to light-rail alignment

61 Comments

61 Responses to Light Rail’s Next Stop: Oregon City?

  1. Ron Swaren
    July 11, 2008 at 4:52 pm Link

    Bring the costs back down to earth, and it would be much more worth doing. How can heavyy freight rail track costs five million per mile and light rail cost twenty times that much or more? Sure everyone wants to have it—this could be a pereptual federal tax drain.

  2. jim karlock
    July 11, 2008 at 5:11 pm Link

    Whats the mater Ron, you got some complaint about spending $4 per passenger per mile? All those big money campaign doners need their payback.

    For comparision, gas would have to get around $100/gal to make driving that expensive.

    Light rail costs too much does too little.

    Thanks
    JK

  3. Matthew
    July 11, 2008 at 5:26 pm Link

    I expect that after the CRC loses in court they are going to go back to the drawing board, and I think one of the things that will be discussed is the “red line” extension to Clark County at I-205…

    I’m not sure exactly how that would work, but there would probably be two lines going up the tracks north of Gateway TC, a “red” that goes into the airport, and a “pink” (for lack of a better color) that goes to Parkrose TC and then crosses the river. My feeling is the pink should follow I-205 south along the green line, and not go into downtown, (if you want to go into downtown, transfer to either the red, green or blue lines at Gateway.)

    And I agree, it is amazing what happens politically when gas hits $4.25…

  4. stan
    July 11, 2008 at 5:40 pm Link

    As an eastside guy it pains me to say this, but I think the next light rail line after the McLoughlin line should be on Barbur to about Tigard if not King City.

  5. John Russell
    July 11, 2008 at 6:47 pm Link

    I think the biggest question for me at least is ‘where are the biggest untapped markets for light rail?’ Looking at a map, it’s most certainly SW Portland.

    Once the Milwaukie line is built, the next line should be out on Barbur Boulevard. It would make sense after building one on 99E to put one on 99W. The only questions would be ‘how far do we build it and to where?’ and ‘what do we do with the bus out to Sherwood at this point?’

    There’s also my residence of Vancouver, but such an extension would obviously require much more infrastructure.

  6. NJD
    July 11, 2008 at 7:40 pm Link

    Barbur will more than likely be the next after Milwaukie, however, the blue line extensions to Forest Grove and MHCC on either end are getting attention and are smaller capital projects that might get a green light if funding is found first. Also, if Milwaukie light rail is poised to go to Oregon City, then the green line might be extended eastward from Clackamas TC along the planned sunrise corridor (there are plans to leave room for light rail/ busway along the route if it ever gets funding). Recently a report came out (unsure of source) that the Glen Jackson Bridge cannot hold light rail without reducing auto lanes, which might kill any LRT plan over 205 for the near future. Also, Powell/ Foster has been slated for ‘light rail ready’ bus rapid transit according to Metro, but may swing to full LRT if more federal rail funding becomes available with diesel prices soaring.

  7. MRB
    July 11, 2008 at 9:59 pm Link

    Why not down Barbur/Macadam all the way past Lake Oswego to West Linn, then cross the bridge there to Oregon City?

    If you want to serve Tigard, It looks easier to come down from Beaverton TC and/or see if it’s possible to run lines on the WES tracks.

  8. Douglas K.
    July 11, 2008 at 11:37 pm Link

    I’d extend the line down McLoughlin to Oregon City first, both because it looks pretty easy to do and because it puts more traffic on the absurdly expensive bridge Tri-Met’s going to build to cross the Willamette.

    Besides, I’m not sold on either Barbur or Powell as light rail corridors. Given their relatively short lengths, I’d want to compare light rail to both “true” BRT and Streetcar options first. But I think extending the Milwaukie LRT to Oregon City is a no-brainer.

  9. al m
    July 12, 2008 at 1:15 am Link

    A bus passenger remarked to me:

    “Why don’t we just put light rail in on every bus route?”

    I agree with Jim Karlock,
    Light rail costs too much does too little.

    The rest of the world is going bus rapid transit but no, Americans being the ego driven slobs they are, have to have light rail (and street car), because “it feels good”.

    They could have had their stupid Willsonville-Beaverton-Portland service up and running right now without the huge expense and inconvenience. What a joke that is.

    How do you spell:

    P-O-R-K?

  10. al m
    July 12, 2008 at 1:30 am Link

    My point is clearly evident when you take the case of the hapless 76 commuters, who sweat like pigs on a bus that only shows up once every 1/2 hour from Tualatin. (during day time hours)

    Now if that bus breaks down or has an incident, well tough [expletive deleted]. Just sit there and wait.

    Now we have WES, decked out like an luxury ocean liner!

    But that is only going to work for the very special commuters who work during those hours and that can actually get to it by car.

    DOUBLE STANDARD?

    YOU BET!

    Light rail is good for business, WES is good for business.

    Business comes first, transit passengers are last.

  11. Benjamin Baumgartner
    July 12, 2008 at 2:57 am Link

    A Barbur line to Tigard is a logical next choice, especially to feed WES riders (with eventual destination downtown and beyond) who can jump off before reaching the Beaverton Transit. Obviously this would have huge implications concerning construction and traffic flow (i.e. Barbur and Capitol). The route would be prime for PCC Sylvania students, currently served with rather shoddy bus service.

  12. Grant
    July 12, 2008 at 7:13 am Link

    A line over the Glen Jackson should be the lowest priority, if it ever happens at all. Two reasons: there is nothing on the WA side of the river that even resembles a “center,” and there’s no room on the bridge. To put tracks in they would need to eliminate a car lane and/or the bike/ped facility, probably both to make room for 2 tracks. Good luck doing that politically.

  13. D.J.
    July 12, 2008 at 8:57 am Link

    An extension to Oregon City makes a lot of sense – especially if they put a nice big park & ride where the line crosses 205.

    However, I’m a little concerned that in making the light-rail line to Milwaukee that they aren’t planning ahead for an extension to Oregon City. Being that Oregon City is a long ways from downtown, and that one of the main complaints about MAX is its slow speeds and that its construction eliminated all the Banfield express buses, should Trimet consider adding an “express lane” on the Milwaukee line?

    I haven’t heard it discussed at all in the media, but I think it would be a huge help if/when the line is extended.

    I imagine it as a third track, in between the normal two tracks. However, it would only stop at a few stations (for the other stations, it would dip underground for a few hundred feet or something). It would be reversible, meaning that Trimet would use it to run trains to downtown in the morning, and away from downtown in the evening. Of course, once it got downtown, it would rejoin the usual tracks.

    I think it would be an easy way to double the line’s commuter capacity while speeding up times for many riders.

  14. MRB
    July 12, 2008 at 9:27 am Link

    MAX is only slow in downtown urban areas.

    Between Lloyd Center and 82nd (along the Banfield) it is fast – usually faster than traffic. Ditto for between Goose Hollow and Beaverton TC. Faster than traffic.

    But between Lloyd Center and Goose Hollow, very slow. They need to eliminate the stop between Lloyd Center and the Convention Center; and one or two downtown stops (SW Oak & First; and one of Pioneer Place or Pioneer Square)

    Anyhow, point is; MAX between Oregon City and Downtown Portland need not be slow.

  15. Ray Whitford
    July 12, 2008 at 11:16 am Link

    Yes, LRT in certain locations are too slow (Downtown PDX and the three stops in Downtown Gresham). They are even planning two more stops in Downtown Gresham (at Civic and at Main St.). I think the plan is Tri-Met is going to build out the spokes with all the stops and then says “We need more capacity so therefore we will start skipping stops (a) or we need to build a seperate Heavy Rail capacity on certain lines and heavy rail will need a subway (b)”. I think Tri-Met will do both with (a) happening within five years and (b) starts being discussed in ten years(b). We are growing that fast and fossil fuel prices are only going up. Get use to it, conservatives! I would support this plan so that by 2040 (Metro plan folks) we have our LRT spokes done; we have the start of a good streetcar system; and we have a one or two Heavy Rail Subway line(s) for the our main demand lines (Gresham to Hillsboro first in my opinion). This way we keep all the past investments in the two-car LRT system and meet the demand later when the Subway in Downtown PDX is the only remaining answer to meet our goals.

    Back on subject: I think that getting a line to Tigard first and to I-205 on Powell/Foster second or at the some time. One thing to always remember is more people live on the Eastside so the investment in LRT there makes more sense. I hope they try to create these two spokes at the same time. Getting ready for Damascus/Boring development and the lack of investments along Powell/Foster is very sad, so getting this section of town moving to more density/development makes sense. All of the people who get on the Green Line would really like the option of getting off at Foster to get Downtown more directly makes too much sense.

    Extensions should be based on ROI and Demand so: First get a extension to Troutdale (past MHCC) so when Commuter Rail to The Dalles is up and running in fifty years people have the option of getting South once they enter the Valley and be ready for a possible third/fourth CR Bridge location. Second, would be a Oregon City extension for coverage of South Metro area. Fourth would be the Forest Grove extension and the Amber Glen/Tannasbourne extension done at the same time since the plans for new High Density development are being discussed and LRT is part of the possible transit options. Fifth would be the required extension from Lents at Foster out to Damascus.

    Side note: Hopefully the Powell/Foster plan would include a BRT along Powell from 50th all the way out to the LRT Gresham terminus at Cleveland. Why? The Powell Corridor will need expansion (it’s bad people) and I would like to see high capacity transit on that corridor instead of a five lane road. Then the BRT line could be part of the first Heavy Rail line in Portland (like BART) in thirty years. I just don’t like the idea of riping out all the LRT investments for higher capacity when we should start thinking in terms of overlapping our investments down the road.

    Maybe a discussion here about this concept: Where would a new service be located in Portland for a true Heavy Rail line? And where would this Heavy Rail line go there Downtown PDX (Subway of course).

    Ray Whitford

  16. Wells
    July 12, 2008 at 12:50 pm Link

    MAX to Oregon City could one day see a glamorous station with expansive views of and access to the Willamette River Falls, rather than being impacted by the freakin paper mill. There’s a true industrial zone a stone’s throw north in Johnson City where a modern, efficient, job-creating paper mill could be built and effluent treated properly. Gotta do something with all the sawdust, just somewhere other than Oregon City.

  17. Brian
    July 12, 2008 at 1:01 pm Link

    Great post. I agree that a Southwest Corridor along 99W makes sense and would fill a gap in our growing radial system. However, I seem to recall some serious challenges when Barbur was evaluates in the early 90s.

    – Between Lair Hill and Terwilliger Blvd, Barbur goes through a forested corridor with very low density.
    – Between Terwilliger and Capital Hwy, the presence of I-5 just a few hundred feet to the east really divides the catchment area and makes it challenging for pedestrians from the eastern neighborhoods to access the stations.
    – Between Capital Hwy and Sherwood, 99W is so congested with auto traffic that it would be difficult to add rail tracks without elevating the line. 99E south of Milwaukie, as a comparison, is much less congested.

    Anyway, that is what I remember the last time the corridor was evaluated by Metro – although a lot has changes in the last 15-20 years. All are challenges but not necessarily fatal flaws.

  18. Jason Barbour
    July 12, 2008 at 1:48 pm Link

    A few things about some of the concepts being kicked around here:

    Tuesday night at the C-TRAN board meeting, a presentation from the Clark Co. High Capacity Transit Study reported that according to FTA guidelines, Clark Co. doesn’t have any employment centers that meet light rail funding guidelines. Downtown Vancouver is the largest, but still isn’t big enough. The only way they’ll get light rail funding at this point would be for service to Downtown Portland.
    Furthermore, there was considerable discussion of the terminus of the Minimum Operating Segment… the concern is that if light rail were placed on Main St. in Vancouver, it would force out the residents and businesses that are currently there in favor of denser development.

    Speaking of redevelopment, that’s a concern of mine (I’m not the type that’s ever been “rolling in dough,” so I know what I’m talking about), if light rail is placed on every major corridor, and upper-class housing, jobs, and services replace housing, jobs, and services for ordinary people who are most unlikely to afford motor vehicle ownership (or in some cases can’t drive), so they get pushed out to areas with little or no transit service of any kind. (I’m sure I’ve ranted about “Affordable Housing” and Section 42 before, so I won’t regurgitate it here again.)
    Another thing to remember about $4-5/gallon gas… there are people out there that have no choice but to drive, and the extra gas money is coming out of what they were spending on food. Just something to think about.

    Finally, regarding PCC-Sylvania… it actually has better bus service than some of the other campuses, namely Rock Creek. Another “secret” of PCC is it actually runs it’s own bus system during Fall, Winter, and Spring Terms for student and staff use.

  19. AL M
    July 12, 2008 at 2:59 pm Link

    Well you folks sure have a lot of big ideas.

    The only person that makes any sense to me is Jason Barbour.

  20. Joseph Edge
    July 12, 2008 at 3:27 pm Link

    There does seem to be some consensus that light-rail should go to Oregon City along the McLoughlin Blvd corridor, but not much discussion yet about where light-rail goes once it reaches Oregon City. Is the goal simply to get to Oregon City, so the terminus would be located at the Oregon City transit center? Or should it wind over to I-205/hwy 213 where The Rivers development and county offices will be located, setting up the eventual connection to Clackamas Town Center? Should we build it out to Clackamas Community College?

  21. Greg Tompkins
    July 12, 2008 at 5:58 pm Link

    What a dumb idea. They already have an AMTRAK station in Oregon City that barely gets any use. What makes them think a MAX would get any, either? They should just use the existing tracks and the existing station and have a “real” commuter train that goes on the normal tracks, not a totally new overpriced MAX route.

  22. Wells
    July 12, 2008 at 6:17 pm Link

    The only person who makes sense to Al M is Jason Barbour? Whatever.

    Barbour says MAX past PCC Sylvania ain’t worth it, says sleepy Vancouver businesses will fail. So what else is new? Ha! Jason says homes will be destroyed for apartments? Not likely nor against his free market ideology. Barbour doesn’t make a good case against MAX to Vancouver. Al M stuff, I’m skipping over. Feel free, Al, to skip over my posts, no problem.

    I believe the city decision to tie I-5 bridge replacement with light rail is excellent. It gives us time. I support another look at the supplemental design, with the few changes I’ve mentioned here before — ped/bike on MAX bridge, delay old bridge reinforcement — these can go ahead on a smaller budget and perhaps a ‘more timely’ construction time line.

  23. MRB
    July 12, 2008 at 8:12 pm Link

    The comparison between an Amtrak route/station to an LRT route isn’t really apples and apples.

    Although, it’s only $3.50 each way and takes 41 minutes. Not bad. However, only two runs per day.

  24. Jason Barbour
    July 12, 2008 at 9:47 pm Link

    Barbour says MAX past PCC Sylvania ain’t worth it…
    That part of my post had nothing to do with light rail to PCC-Sylvania, I was only pointing out that PCC has its own bus transit service available to its students and staff (paid for mostly from parking revenues, so if everyone stops driving there they’ll have to find another revenue source).

    …says sleepy Vancouver businesses will fail.
    Actually, this is what one of the Vancouver City Councilors that also sits on the C-TRAN board had to say about light rail along Main St. (I want to say Jeanne Harris, but I’m not 100% sure)

    …[H]omes will be destroyed for apartments? Not likely nor against his free market ideology.
    My concern is the type of housing that becomes available through redevelopment (mostly high-end stuff), and the housing programs designed to help lower-class (and in some cases, middle-class) families and individuals actually discourages them from getting better-paying jobs or “moving up.”

    Barbour doesn’t make a good case against MAX to Vancouver.
    I have no opinion one way or another. Besides, I think Portlanders and Oregonians should let Clark County make their own decision regarding the matter (IMO, it’s okay to make respectful, civil comments to help them with anything they might be deciding, but at the end of the day they’re the ones that will be living with what goes in their backyard). What I do care about (and have an opinion on) is that some form of usable transit service is available. The rest of any bias I have is that I happen to be a C-TRAN fan. Not because I have anything against TriMet or anyone else (I don’t), but because they figured out how to provide unique services that many people like (including myself).

  25. AL M
    July 12, 2008 at 9:51 pm Link

    “The only person who makes sense to Al M is Jason Barbour? Whatever.”

    NOPE!

    Greg Tompkins makes sense to me too!

    THAT MAKES THREE!

    1-Jim Karlock (as much as I hate to admit it)
    2-Jason Barbour
    3-Greg Tompkins

    And me of course, that makes four!

    Naah naaah naah naah nah!

  26. Chris Smith
    July 12, 2008 at 10:15 pm Link

    Let me remind everyone that we expect RESPECT for all participants, whether they make sense to you personally or not.

  27. AL M
    July 12, 2008 at 11:39 pm Link

    why?

  28. Benjamin Baumgartner
    July 12, 2008 at 11:54 pm Link

    The only reason I included PCC Sylvania in my post was for a point of reference. Most people I met while attending there lived on the east side and some used combinations of car/bus, bus/shuttle, or max/bus to get to class. I myself would have to take two busses, sometimes taking up to an hour to go about 10 miles. I don’t think it would be plausible to run a line directly to/through PCC but somewhere near it would suffice. Also, I agree that the Rock Creek campus is inadequately serviced. How about a line down 185th, diverting towards Beaverton Tranist Center at either TV Hwy or Farminton?

    Another line I could envision in the future, although it is probably unpopular on here would be from Beaverton Transit Center, down Beaverton-Hillsdale Hwy into Portland. Bascially this would be mimicking the 54 bus. It could diverge at Bertha Blvd (to avoid the hilly part of Capitol hwy that runs through the Hillsdale town center) and meet up and run on the Barbur line. This would provide an alternative connection from the employment centers and shopping areas of Beaverton to Portland and service a large chunk of land with little light rail access. I assume it would also facilitate growth especially in some of the neighborhoods that Beaverton plans to annex (Raleigh Hills, West Slope, etc.) With BHH being straight and flat for a good portion, it seems like the construction would go smoother than other hypothesized projects.

  29. al m
    July 13, 2008 at 12:03 am Link

    Whats so bad about the rock creek campus?

    **52 line**

    5:09am
    5:36am
    5:50am
    6:04am
    6:16am
    6:30am
    6:43am
    6:57am
    7:12am
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    10:15am
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    10:45am
    11:00am
    11:12am
    11:26am
    11:40am
    11:54am
    12:09pm
    12:24pm
    12:39pm
    12:54pm
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    1:39pm
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    **67 line**

    5:58am
    6:26am
    6:54am
    7:23am
    8:02am
    8:26am
    8:59am
    9:44am
    10:29am
    11:12am
    11:57am
    12:42pm
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    10:35pm

    whats wrong with that service?

  30. al m
    July 13, 2008 at 12:12 am Link

    While you folks pine away for your beloved light rail why don’t you take a ride on the 76:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9kk8jdzxkRA

  31. Benjamin Baumgartner
    July 13, 2008 at 12:15 am Link

    Having never taken classes at rock creek, i was merely commenting on what others in this topic have said. Obviously bus is easier/superior to light rail over here in the west side. I was just trying to include more campuses in my view.

  32. Aaron
    July 13, 2008 at 3:47 am Link

    Oregon City via McLoughlin IS a no-brainer. In fact, so much so that it will most likely be under construction before the Milwaukie line is even finished. Remember that the Hillsboro extension was fast-tracked once construction started on the Westside LR (to SW 185th).

    As far as which line would be next (besides the Yellow line extension to Vancouver)… definitely Barbur Blvd/99W.

  33. Wells
    July 13, 2008 at 10:05 am Link

    Jason, I noted that your position is moderate, and I respect that. It’s fair to air two sides of any debate. Sometimes though, even moderate views can be construed as biased. Your final note about the decision being Vancouver’s alone belies the fact that Vancouver residents are so close, they’re in many ways just as much Portlanders. Vancouver’s economy would certainly benefit enormously with MAX access. Think my idea to move Oregon City mill a little wild? How about tearing down Jantzen Beach Big Box retail and building a multi-story mall alongside a 6-Flags amusement park? This idea I call “Operation Jantzen Beach 6-Flags!” Vancouver would see commercial development replacement and its tax base would improve. Booyah!

  34. Nick Stewart
    July 13, 2008 at 11:06 am Link

    Next = a commuter rail extension from Tualatin to Milwaukie through lake O. Tracks are there, and so is a train bridge (“the forgotten bridge”). This would also hook up with the willamette shore line street car (that is in the EIS study by Metro now).

  35. jc
    July 13, 2008 at 8:52 pm Link

    I’d like to see Barbur as the next logical extension connecting to the WES in Tigard and/or Tualatin. Stops at Hillsdale, Multnomah Village, PCC, OHSU, etc all seem like areas where good opportunities for growth and redevelopment. Given towncenter status of Multnomah Village and Hillsdale in particlar as well as opportunities for Tigard to build out it’s core around MAX and WES seems like it makes sense.

  36. jc
    July 13, 2008 at 8:58 pm Link

    and one other thought. First, I love the idea of the Streetcar down to LO along to old trolley line being explored – but in leiu of an Oregon City MAX extension and spending the money on the streetcar why not just extend the MAX over the rail bridge down there and into downtown LO? Given the plan to go to Lake Road seems like it’s not too much of a stretch. Could be also be a spur to a Oregon City extension. (and on a side note I’d then like to see the old trolley line turned into a bike and pedestrian path – seems something the Dunthorpe crowd mught be more likely to buy into).

  37. Erik Halstead
    July 13, 2008 at 10:32 pm Link

    JC wrote: I’d like to see Barbur as the next logical extension connecting to the WES in Tigard and/or Tualatin. Stops at Hillsdale, Multnomah Village, PCC, OHSU, etc all seem like areas where good opportunities for growth and redevelopment.

    I have often cited that the best route for a southwest MAX line does not follow Barbur Boulevard, but follows the original alignment of the Oregon Electric Railroad from Portland to Tualatin:

    Portland-Burlingame would be identical to Barbur Blvd. (the OE alignment is actually now Interstate 5.) Along this stretch of road there is ample capacity to fit MAX into the roadway width, and maintain adequate capacity for existing motor vehicle traffic.

    The route would then split from Barbur and follow Multnomah Boulevard due west (thus serving Multnomah Village and Garden Home). At that point the route would turn to the southwest, serving Washington Square (a Metro designated Regional Center). From Washington Square, the route would jump over 217, and then rejoin the existing “Oregon Electric” route through downtown Tigard and terminating in downtown Tualatin.

    This route serves more “centers” than an alignment strictly down Barbur, and eliminates the hassle of fitting MAX on a highway right-of-way that is one of the busiest in the state, and will likely receive little to no benefit from a MAX line – specifically Highway 99W/Pacific Highway from I-5 to downtown Tigard.

    Of course, TriMet screwed up the idea by building WES on the line. Had the OE MAX idea been realized, a “shuttle line” could be built connecting Washington Square with Beaverton TC (basically a stripped-down MAX line, single-line, with trains running only between the two transit centers); Tigard and Tualatin would see a vast improvement in transit accessibility; and freight trains through Tualatin would be re-routed on the Newberg Branch (a.k.a. Westside Branch) line along Tualatin and Hermann Roads, then turning onto a new route to the west of the core area on a less-than-one-mile new route to rejoin the Oregon Electric route south to Wilsonville, Salem, Albany and Eugene. This would also eliminate the railroad crossing of Tualatin-Sherwood Road in downtown Tualatin, because MAX would terminate there without crossing Tualatin-Sherwood Road.

    This route would not serve Hillsdale (but Hillsdale already receives ample bus service to numerous points; Hillsdale serves as a bus hub that works well), OHSU (self-explanatory), or PCC (Tigard/Tualatin are better “centers” than PCC, but PCC would like see its 44-Capitol Highway bus go Frequent Service and could see improvements to the 78 line to Tigard TC.)

  38. Erik Halstead
    July 13, 2008 at 10:37 pm Link

    Greg Tompkins wrote: What a dumb idea. They already have an AMTRAK station in Oregon City that barely gets any use. What makes them think a MAX would get any, either? They should just use the existing tracks and the existing station and have a “real” commuter train that goes on the normal tracks, not a totally new overpriced MAX route.

    Good to see you back, Greg.

    This is a brilliant idea. Why not use the existing UP right-of-way to host frequent commuter rail service between Portland and Salem, with stops in Milwaukie (connection to MAX), Oregon City (connection to various bus lines), Canby (connect to CAT), Woodburn (Woodburn Transit), and potentially limited stops at Gervais and Hubbard?

    The line is already built to support high speed (79 MPH) passenger operations but would require some work between Oregon City and Canby, new stations, and likely signal upgrades and more double-track to make it work.

    Anyone that says that it can’t be done…Seattle is making it work, and adding more service, more frequency, and is seeing double-digit ridership growth on the Sounder trains (Seattle is seeing double-digit growth in almost all modes, include that lowly form of transport that some Portland transit advocates hate, including Metro and TriMet – the bus). If Seattle can do it, I see no reason why Portland can’t do it (other than ego).

  39. Jason Barbour
    July 14, 2008 at 1:16 am Link

    PCC would like see its 44-Capitol Highway bus go Frequent Service and could see improvements to the 78 line to Tigard TC.

    Actually, it’s not the amount of service that’s the problem, a lot of it is students (which is a large portion of the route’s ridership) requesting that TriMet somehow make the schedules work around the PCC class schedule (including the sign-ups starting and ending at the beginning and endings of class terms – ha!), especially the 78 since it only runs every half hour (there’s a run in the afternoon around 3-ish that’s about 20 minutes between the other two, but that’s one run).

    The 44s during the weekday while classes are in session have amazing ridership, with many runs standing room only. The weekends and when PCC as well as Wilson HS, and to a lesser extent Gray and Jackson MSs, are out, not so much.

    The biggest transit problem there – heading South. I considered putting together a proposal to TriMet to consider rerouting the 37-Lake Grove (which is constantly on their underperforming route list) so that it would run between Tualatin Park & Ride and PCC-Sylvania instead of Lake Oswego TC. I didn’t when I started looking to see if there would be any backing (and a list of people that would definitely use the service regularly if it were available) and I was asked by several people, including PCC staff, to not go forward.

    Another issue to consider (which is just beyond the scope of this website) is the idea that PCC obtains additional funding to expand course offerings throughout the Metro area and create more of a presence closer to light rail lines, so more students could attend classes closer to home instead of a long commute to ‘the (only) campus that has the class I need.’ Also TriMet wouldn’t be so pressured to provide as much capacity to one location.

  40. Benjamin Baumgartner
    July 14, 2008 at 2:02 am Link

    Erik Halstead says: The route would then split from Barbur and follow Multnomah Boulevard due west (thus serving Multnomah Village and Garden Home). At that point the route would turn to the southwest, serving Washington Square (a Metro designated Regional Center). From Washington Square, the route would jump over 217, and then rejoin the existing “Oregon Electric” route through downtown Tigard and terminating in downtown Tualatin.

    This sounds so ideal I can’t help but get excited. Paired with a BHH route that I mentioned earlier in the comments, SW Portland would be almost totally served by light rail. However one drive along this proposed route would bring to light the difficulties that would come with. Multnomah is a very small road, often plagued with rush hour traffic. Nothing such as widening could be done without major support from property and business owners along the road. The intersection of Multnomah, Garden Home rd, and 69th would also prove troublesome.

    Olsen Rd is another story in itself. Crews have been working to widen to road for around 2 years, and there are areas where it is still not near completion. What used to be a small neighborhood road is now a sulking behemoth. Lots of property along both north and south of garden home road are for sale, people are obviously tired of the slow construction, and I believe some of the zoning has changed. Those that are left would be slow to support more construction, especially some as “newfangled” as a light rail.

    Long story short: I would love to see it happen, and i think eventually it will have to, but i wouldn’t get your hopes up.

  41. MRB
    July 14, 2008 at 2:13 am Link

    One thing that I feel comfortable criticizing Tri-Met for, it’s for a lack of unified student pass program for university students. Tri-Met lags well behind other major cities in subsidies for university students, especially in the context of the $20 monthly pass offered to high school students.

    The lack of a unified university subsidy program leads to situations like at PCC, where the discount is [was] so modest as to be be essentially not worth it, especially given the difficulty of purchasing one (cash only? really?). PSU FlexPasses offers students a discount on parking – the most successful university transit programs FUND their transit pass discounts by jacking up the price of parking (UW-Seattle, UW-Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, all Minneapolis, Chicago, Boston, Baltimore, and Atlanta schools, etc).

    /rant

  42. ambrown
    July 14, 2008 at 8:59 am Link

    I’m seconding MRB. Most colleges here in the Minneapolis/St. Paul region sell greatly reduced (or give away free) transit passes. (from my small school, I can get a $45 bus pas for $20.) Since Portland’s planners seem to have a huge crush on Richard Florida and all that Creative Class nonsense, maybe we could actually give students free passes on the rails and buses. I think this is especially pertinent when you realize the demographics of many of the students of most of the schools in the pdx metro; all the more way to help them encourage leaving the car at home, since most don’t live on campus, and many have to hold jobs to support their education.

  43. Hank Sheppard
    July 14, 2008 at 2:28 pm Link

    As someone who rode the “pre light rail” inter urban to Oregon City, it sure is a pity that a few bucks were not spent in ’58 to keep it crossing the Willamette to 4th & Morrison, and for additional upgrades.
    SF kept the Muni street cars going during the glorious freeway 50’s, though they tried hard to kill the Cablecars. Too bad Portland missed the boat, errr train, on Oregon City light rail way back in ’58.

  44. Unit
    July 14, 2008 at 2:33 pm Link

    Two potential Washington Co alignments I haven’t seen proposed yet:
    1. Red Line extension along US 26 from Sunset TC to Tanasbourne. It would follow US 26 past 185th, turn south thru Tanasbourne and Amber Glen, and could rejoin the blue line near Quatama. This would provide relief for the packed westside line, and improve MAX access for the US 26 corridor and residential areas to the north, many of which are pretty far from the Blue Line.
    2. Commuter rail from Hillsboro to Beaverton. This could follow the existing Portland & Western tracks along the south side of T-V Highway, from downtown Hillsboro to the new commuter rail station in Bearverton. It would provide access to the new Shute Park development south of downtown Hillsboro, Aloha, and a large underserved swath of the southwest metro area. Ultimately, this would provide improved connections to downtown and the new commuter rail line, and faster commute times between Hillsboro and downtown.

  45. MRB
    July 14, 2008 at 3:03 pm Link

    Is it not possible to adapt some of the stations on the MAX route to accomodate commuter rail for Hillsboro/Beaverton line? For that matter, why not keep on trucking all the way to Portland?

  46. Unit
    July 14, 2008 at 5:11 pm Link

    Certainly continuing to Portland is necessary in some form, but the P&W right-of-way turns south from Beaverton (the soon-to-open commuter line route). So you would either have to transfer/connect to the existing MAX or use one of the ideas described above – such as a Beaverton-Hillsdale Hwy MAX line, to continue east.

  47. EngineerScotty
    July 14, 2008 at 5:27 pm Link

    A few suggestions for rail, both LRT and commuter.

    1) As mentioned above, more (diesel) commuter lines on the existing heavy rail infrastructure. A Hillsboro/Aloha extension to WES is a no-brainer (this might relieve pressure on the existing MAX blue line), and the Portland/Milwaukee/LO/ Tualatin/Sherwood route makes sense as well, especially if a siding can be built to allow such trains to reach the planned Tualatin station for WES. (Currently, there is no connection between the Sherwood/Milwaukee line and the Beaverton/Wilsonville line close to Tualatin–the spur connecting the two lines in the Durham/Lake Grove area is somewhat distant.

    Other existing rail corridors which might benefit from a WES-type solution include service to points in Washington (Vancouver, Hazel Dell, E. Vancouver, Camas/Washougal), N. Portland/St. Johns, and Canby. Possibly even a line running to Salem providing service to Woodburn, one which runs more frequently than Amtrak Cascades or Coast Starlight (and acts like transit rather than full-service long-distance transportation–no baggage handling or any of that).

    As an aside–is there any reason that WES trains can’t operate over MAX lines, were the two systems to be connected? MAX can’t share track with heavy-rail freight (even if electrification issues are dealt with) due to MAX trains being tin cans compared to your average diesel-electric locomotive; but the DMUs used by WES are a lot smaller (but apparently robust enough to run on the same tracks as freights).

    2) Regarding LRT to Oregon City–would this be an extension of the green or yellow lines? The old Portland Traction ROW from Golf Junction (near Sellwood) down to OC has, IIRC, been turned into a trail, so there might be some resistance were someone to turn it into a train line. Extending the yellow line out 224 to Clackamas and perhaps beyond to Damascus eventually, and the Green Line down to Gladstone and OC, makes sense. In OC, I’d consider routing the line with a stop near the existing Amtrak station, with improved pedestrian access across I-205 to the shopping center, then up the hill (paralleling the route of the old Willamette Valley Southern) to CCC.

    3) Intra-city lines like Powell or Barbur, I would think, would be better served with streetcars than with LRT.

    4) While a southern LRT crossing is a sorely-needed thing, if we are to expand the city’s train network–how about

    5) A very far-fetched idea: How about a line from Oregon City to Tualatin? I-205 is jammed daily with commuters going between Clackamas County to jobs in Washington County; as this would be new construction I imagine it would be LRT rather than diesel commuter rail. Service to Tualatin, possibly Stafford/Wankers Corner, Willamette, West Linn, and OC; this might be an alternate Green Line extension.

  48. Douglas K.
    July 14, 2008 at 7:39 pm Link

    If we’re looking beyond LRT here, I’d like to see two DMU based lines — call them the Gold Line and the Silver Line — providing frequent service on the freight tracks between Tigard and Wilsonville via Tualatin; and between Tigard and Milwaukie via Lake Oswego. Extend the Red Line to Tigard via Washington Square.

    Engineering the rail to allow two-way frequent service wouldn’t be a problem. The issues are (a) is there ridership to support all-day frequent service, and (b) can the rail line schedule its operations to run freight on those corridors only at night?

  49. Erik Halstead
    July 14, 2008 at 8:30 pm Link

    Unit wrote: Commuter rail from Hillsboro to Beaverton.

    I’m not sure what this accomplishes, other than giving TriMet a reason to abandon the 57 T.V. Highway bus route.

    It would also steal ridership from MAX because it would be faster. If TriMet ran the commuter rail – AND promised NOT to reduce 57 line service, then I might support it. Frankly, I’d rather see T.V. Highway turned into a full freeway (maintaining two lanes in each direction, however), with dedicated BRT lanes (or possibly light rail), along with a true grid system of busses out west (Cornelius Pass, for example, is a major throughfare but lacks any bus service.)

    (Freight rail service would be re-routed over the line from Hillsboro to Banks, North Plains and over Cornelius Pass.)

    MRB wrote: Is it not possible to adapt some of the stations on the MAX route to accomodate commuter rail for Hillsboro/Beaverton line?

    Short answer: NO.

    LRT and “Commuter Rail” legally cannot mix. If there is a link between the two, then MAX would become a regulated interstate rail carrier, subject to Federal Railroad Administration regulation. MAX cars do not in any way, shape or form meet FRA requirements (other than maybe wheel gauge.)

    EngineerScotty wrote: (Currently, there is no connection between the Sherwood/Milwaukee line and the Beaverton/Wilsonville line close to Tualatin–the spur connecting the two lines in the Durham/Lake Grove area is somewhat distant.

    The Sherwood-Milwaukie route (the “Westside Branch” or “Newberg Branch”, depending on whether you want to use Portland & Western terminology or Southern Pacific) crosses over the Beaverton-Wilsonville route (the “Oregon Electric” at Tualatin. True, the crossing is located a quarter-mile from the Tualatin station, but I’m sure a creative solution could be found (a small peoplemover?) You are thinking a bit too far east (Lake Grove, a.k.a. “Cook” junction).

    Possibly even a line running to Salem providing service to Woodburn

    I wouldn’t consider a “WES type solution” for this route – I’d call for locomotives hauling four or five car trains (if not longer) – like Sounder, West Coast Express, CalTrain, Altamont Corridor Express, MetroLink, Coaster, TRAX…

    is there any reason that WES trains can’t operate over MAX lines

    You just answered your own question, the Colorado Railcar DMUs are built to FRA requirements. MAX is not. If you put a CRC DMU on MAX, MAX becomes a federally regulated railroad and no, they can’t operate together. It does not matter that the DMU is slightly lighter than…I’m not sure, they are as heavy as any other passenger rail car operating in the United States. Would you want Amtrak operating on the MAX line? Same difference.

    Intra-city lines like Powell or Barbur, I would think, would be better served with streetcars than with LRT.

    Why is a Streetcar that rarely operates faster than 30 MPH a good solution on a street whose speed limit right now is 40? I see your line of reason, but IMO Streetcar should be restricted to a specific city and MAX take the role of what used to be called an “interurban”. (Right now, MAX actually has characteristics of an “interurban” and what used to be called a “streetcar” or a “trolley”, which are generally interchangable terms except in Portland.)

    How about a line from Oregon City to Tualatin

    Not enough demand (there’s still farmland out there.) Better to install a HOV lane, and an express bus that runs non-stop from Tualatin P&R to Oregon City TC.

    Douglas K. wrote: providing frequent service on the freight tracks between Tigard and Wilsonville via Tualatin; and between Tigard and Milwaukie via Lake Oswego

    Why Tigard-Milwaukie? Why not Sherwood-Milwaukie? You would still have a connection in Tualatin between the two routes.

    Sherwood-Tualatin would be a very inexpensive route to implement; save for one bridge that needs upgrading. (On the other hand, Tigard could become a hub, and the route would operate Sherwood-Tigard. The line from Tualatin (SP/OE overcrossing) to Cook could then become a pedestrian trail (including the bridge over the Tualatin River and I-5).

  50. Douglas K.
    July 14, 2008 at 10:21 pm Link

    My suggestion to run Tigard-Milwaukie was to create a hub at Tigard: LRT lines to Beaverton and possibly Portland, frequent-service DMU trains to Wilsonville and Milwaukie, and a cluster of bus lines intersecting there. I didn’t consider running a DMU to Sherwood (I’ll call it the Bronze line) because I didn’t see much demand. But the track crosses Hwy 99W south of Brookman Road, so maybe a huge park & ride just off 99 would intercept a lot of traffic coming in from Yamhill County. Park there, ride in to Tigard with stations in Sherwood and Tualatin, and transfer at Tigard to whatever direction you’re going.

  51. MachineShedFred
    July 15, 2008 at 7:28 am Link

    Intra-city lines like Powell or Barbur, I would think, would be better served with streetcars than with LRT.

    Streetcars are horrible solutions for traveling any kind of distance, in any short amount of time. Want to use it as a circulator in a dense area? Okay, I can see the merits to that. Want to move 200+ people from Lents to Downtown? Get a real transit solution.

    As someone who lives in the Creston Park area off Powell Blvd., if you came knocking on my door asking if I’d rather have a streetcar or the existing 9-Powell (or 17-Holgate) I’d tell you to kick rocks and leave my busses alone.

  52. Douglas K.
    July 15, 2008 at 8:00 am Link

    Streetcars are horrible solutions for traveling any kind of distance, in any short amount of time.

    I think the top speed of the Portland Streetcar to be about 45 mph. I see no reason we couldn’t use streetcars to serve routes like Powell or Barbur with stations 8 to 10 blocks apart, given the fairly short distances involved (PSU to Lents is about 7 miles; PSU to Tigard TC is about 9 miles).

  53. Chris Smith
    July 15, 2008 at 8:39 am Link

    While Streetcar can operate at higher speeds in dedicated right of way, above a certain speed it is not safe to do so in mixed traffic operation. For example, in studying the Lake Oswego line, it was determined that Streetcar could not safely share a lane on Macadam south of John’s Landing because traffic speeds were too high.

  54. Joseph Edge
    July 15, 2008 at 8:46 am Link

    I see no reason we couldn’t use streetcars to serve routes like Powell or Barbur with stations 8 to 10 blocks apart, given the fairly short distances involved (PSU to Lents is about 7 miles; PSU to Tigard TC is about 9 miles).

    Personally I believe the role of streetcar is to provide the role of buses in certain low-speed/ high-capacity/ high-ridership corridors (i.e., Hawthorne, Sandy). If we were going to install a streetcar on Barbur or Powell it would either have to stop every two blocks (like a bus) or operate in conjunction with a local access bus to maintain the existing quality of service for riders. It may not seem like a big deal to a healthy fully upright adult, but if you were not so lucky, wouldn’t you rather keep a bus on your street with a stop one block away instead of installing a streetcar and having to walk (or wheel) up to four or five blocks (or more) in either direction to board? This is also true for MAX, except that the stops should be spaced even further apart than eight to ten blocks, so there is less of a sense of redundancy IMO when a smaller local bus is paired with MAX in a given corridor.

    I also have to say that I really like Erik’s suggestion of running MAX down Barbur then turning west at Multnomah Blvd to Washington Square and then south to Tigard. I’ve never before pondered that alignment but it makes very good sense to me.

    As far as Oregon City is concerned, a terminus at a park & ride near CCC would be my ideal plan, but I’m not sure how you route the tracks through Oregon City, which is very hilly. Maybe turning around at the OCTC to head north along Washington to the I-205/213 interchange (service to the Rivers, Clackamas Heights, and county offices), then south on 213 to CCC. Or perhaps an alignment along 7th/Molalla Ave?

  55. EngineerScotty
    July 15, 2008 at 12:57 pm Link

    As mentioned above, the old Willamette Valley Southern railway (see here and here), an electric railway from the early 20th century which ran between Oregon City and Mount Angel, got to the “top of the hill” via a grade which is now the route of the Oregon City Bypass, FTMP.

    The route started at an intersection with the old Portland Traction line (near the modern-day intersection of 17th and Main in OC), actually crossed the (still existing) UPRR line on a trestle (!!), went along the west side of Kelly Field along what is now Abernathy Street, then up the hill along the current route of OR 213. The route passed through what is now the Clackamas Community College campus (the Inskeep Environmental Learning Center, and the old Smuckers building, are on the line), ran behind what is now OCHS, then headed south to Beavercreek. It crossed the Canby/Molalla branch in Liberal, and wound up in Mount Angel. Very little of the ROW remains today.

    So if you wanted to route LRT up to CCC, it can be done.

  56. While I support commuter rail expansion across the Portland Metro Area, I don’t like DMU technology. Diesel is not the right solution here — we need to focus on electrification. Diesels are dirty, plain and simple, and trains aren’t regulated like buses are. Electrification is cheap, compared to health care for folks who lose lung capacity due to particulate matter clogging up the works. I’d like to see commuter rail east/west from the Dalles to Astoria via Hood River, Troutdale, Lloyd, Union Station, St. Johns Bridge, St. Helens, etc.; and north/south from Salem to someplace north of Vancouver. And yes, some other routes as well (Oregon City; McMinnville/Corvallis; etc.).

    But with regards to MAX, the more I think about it, the more I think that the Powell/Foster alignment makes the most sense for expansion initially. The trains can use the new bridge to get downtown, and this corridor has plenty of room for infill development. It should terminate in a suburb someplace, however — maybe the Sunrise Corridor? Lots of population density, and potential density, out this direction.

    Oregon City, I agree with the suggestion to run commuter rail (electrified, though, I would stipulate) prior to MAX. Maybe MAX makes sense longer-term, but… commuter rail would seem to be the faster solution. Also, generally low population densities exist between Milwaukie and Oregon City, not really enough to justify a light rail station now, and not planned to be a regional center in the future.

    Barbur… yes, that seems to be a natural extension for MAX coming off the Transit Mall, but again, generally low existing population densities, and where’s the development potential? I see this as longer-term, though connecting to Tigard/Washington Square makes a lot of sense.

    Which means that Vancouver is my second choice, after Powell/Foster. It’s the largest population center remaining in the region that’s unserved by light rail, correct?

    So, summary:

    * Rail transit needs to be electric, even when it’s commuter rail. EMU, not DMU.
    * Streetcars for dense, downtown-type neighborhoods.
    * Light Rail for connecting higher-density inner-city locations to suburbs with the possibility of increased density.
    * Electric commuter rail to connect the further-flung suburbs together and to the downtown core.
    * High-speed rail to connect to destinations like Eugene, Roseburg, Bend, Medford, Grants Pass, Pendleton and Seattle.

  57. EngineerScotty
    July 15, 2008 at 4:43 pm Link

    DMU’s have one big advantage over EMUs:

    They can run on existing non-electric rail lines.

    Were WES to be electric, it would require either construction of a new ROW, or cessation of a still-very-active freight railroad.

    Electrification of, for example, the Beaverton-to-Wilsonville line that WES will be running on, would make those tracks incompatible with freight service. Freight locomotives and other rolling stock is MUCH bigger and taller than either a DMU or a LRT car; and would prevent use of aerial electrification system. “Third rail” electrification is compatible with diesel freight systems; but that poses an extreme public hazard; ground-based electrical systems are only used in places where access to the ROW can be strictly controlled, such as a subway. Given that the line in question passes through numerous neighborhoods at grade, that is obviously out of the question.

    Given that a new electrical service in the WES corridor is a non-starter, and so is taking the P&WR out of commission, it’s either WES or folks driving up and down 217. Take your pick. :)

  58. Actually, the research I’ve done indicates that electrification is compatible with non-electric train service. For instance, the height of a double-stacked freight rail car (two shipping containers on top of one another) is only 20′. Electric catenary wire height can be 24′ or higher. So, the natural solution is to string the wires all at 22-24′ in height above the tracks, to allow the movement of all kinds of traffic on the tracks below.

    Besides which, we should also be moving to electrify our freight engines wherever possible as well. Diesel locomotives pollute almost as much on freight trains as they do on Amtrak trains. (no, that’s not an ironic remark — in my experience, Amtrak belches the most smoke).

    So, yes, WES especially should be electrified, and future rolling stock should be EMUs, not DMUs. Check out the cost of electrification per mile. At around $331k per mile, it’s actually quite cheap! (sources: cost per mile, http://pubsindex.trb.org/document/view/default.asp?lbid=210586; inflation conversion factors, http://oregonstate.edu/cla/polisci/faculty-research/sahr/sahr.htm)

    The trickier issue is, if the guv’t pays to electrify the tracks, does it make sense for the ROW to continue to be owned by the private companies, or should the guv’t also pay to purchase the ROW? Purchasing the ROW would probably cost MUCH, MUCH more than just paying to electrify it…

  59. Erik Halstead
    July 15, 2008 at 9:44 pm Link

    Douglas K. wrote: But the track crosses Hwy 99W south of Brookman Road, so maybe a huge park & ride just off 99 would intercept a lot of traffic coming in from Yamhill County. Park there, ride

    I’ll disagree, only because a transit station located there would induce sprawl. I’d rather see a transit center located in downtown Sherwood with a substantial parking garage – combined with signage on Highway 99W to advertise the commuter rail (i.e. “estimated trip time by highway/commuter rail” readerboard?); it would also create downtown Sherwood as a regional center or town center (it’s already an established community), as opposed to building a new “center” further into farmland.

    But to use it to attract ridership from Yamhill County? Absolutely! However, I still believe that Yamhill County needs to get express busses running into the Portland metro area.

    Joseph Edge wrote: Personally I believe the role of streetcar is to provide the role of buses in certain low-speed/ high-capacity/ high-ridership corridors

    Fully concur. A streetcar should be a logical step up from a bus (specifically, an articulated bus). Portland is making a mistake by introducing Streetcar as a competitor to the bus, which IMO creates disparity between what a Streetcar rider receives for their dollar, versus what a bus rider receives for their dollar. This should NEVER be the case; every transit rider (regardless of mode) should have equal treatment.

    I should never see a Streetcar stop and a bus stop within close proximity of each other and have an image in my mind of the 1950s era “separate but equal” water fountain photograph.

    Garlynn wrote: I don’t like DMU technology. Diesel is not the right solution here — we need to focus on electrification. Diesels are dirty, plain and simple, and trains aren’t regulated like buses are.

    How are trains not “regulated” like busses are? Are you talking EPA regulations? Railroads are absolutely regulated; new diesel engines must meet EPA Tier II regulations. EMD stopped manufacturing the F59PHI locomotive because they couldn’t make the unit Tier II compliant, and there wasn’t a high enough demand to engineer a new passenger locomotive. So EMD no longer manufactures a passenger locomotive for the U.S. market.

    I am not a big fan of DMU technology either; I’ve seen some vehicles and some routes that make sense, but the whole DMU argument of the last seven or eight years has been blown out of proportion. Fortunately, the vast majority of the “planned” routes never made it anywhere. Colorado Railcar, the lead pusher of the concept, had grand plans – but only two sales (South Florida RTA and TriMet). Every other agency that actually built (or is building) a commuter rail line using DMUs have gone to another manufacturer.

    Electrification is cheap, compared to health care for folks

    Electrification increases the project cost by about 50%. The United States does not have nationalized health care, so the “health care for folks” argument is a no-go.

    I’d like to see commuter rail east/west from the Dalles to Astoria via Hood River

    Huh? Can you say “induce sprawl”????? I would never want to suggest commuter rail to Hood River or beyond St. Helens on the A-Line. Maybe a regular intercity train to Boise, but not a commuter train. (Would we also suggest commuter rail between Portland and Albany, or Portland and Centralia – they are about the same distance away as Hood River is.)

    The rest of your proposed routes, however, have a lot of merit.

    Barbur…generally low existing population densities

    Same densities as the far western or eastern edges of the MAX line.

    Actually, the research I’ve done indicates that electrification is compatible with non-electric train service. For instance, the height of a double-stacked freight rail car (two shipping containers on top of one another) is only 20′. Electric catenary wire height can be 24′ or higher. So, the natural solution is to string the wires all at 22-24′ in height above the tracks, to allow the movement of all kinds of traffic on the tracks below.

    No research is needed – several freight railroad operators have rights to operate freight service on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor; the Long Island Railroad (which is predominately a commuter railroad) has freight operations; BC Rail had an electrified coal hauling branch in British Columbia (it was just removed a few years ago), and the Milwaukee Road was electrified for much of its route from Tacoma east.

    However we must address the issue of cost, as well as finding electric supply for it. We’re not going to get it from just building solar and wind projects (because those projects are offsetting other plants which are being decommissioned for the most part).

    The same argument is true of the bus-trolleybus-light rail (or streetcar) – do we go all out and replace a bus with streetcar, or can we use an incremental approach by replacing the diesel powered bus with a trolleybus? You pay for the cost of the electric overhead and new vehicles which are cheaper than the streetcars, and get 15-20 years of use out of them. At that time, you can raise funds to consider going to a streetcar, or continue trolleybus operations.

    However some routes are always going to make more sense as a diesel bus. In this case, employing hybrid-electric technology is the way to go (at least with current technology). It makes no sense to spend millions to electrify a weekday rush hour route, for example.

    Many transit systems in Europe have a very healthy mix of vehicles/modes which when used appropriately, provide everything under the sun, without discrimination against the modes. You will have diesel busses serving outlying areas, newly developed areas, etc. You’ll have trolley busses in the neighborhoods. You’ll have your subways and elevated lines. In some cities you’ll have a tram/streetcar network. And you’ll usually have a healthy commuter rail network as well connecting suburbs to the main city (yes, European cities have suburbs).

    Ironically, what you don’t really see in Europe is what we call “light rail”. There was never a need for an “interurban” line in Europe; they were always connected by commuter trains (oftentimes a DMU or EMU route, depending on traffic. Germany has a very extensive DMU network.)

  60. Metro HCT team
    July 18, 2008 at 10:15 am Link

    Metro is launching a study aimed at developing a plan to guide the next thirty-fifty years of high capacity transit investments. High capacity transit could include light rail, bus in separate right of way, commuter rail or streetcar. During this planning process, Metro will evaluate future regional high capacity transit investments including improving the existing system – capacity or speed improvements or new connections – and expanding the system with new routes.

    We hope all of you participate in the High Capacity Transit System Plan process. Plan to join us at a workshop on August 12, 13 or 14 or complete an online survey starting on August 12 to provide input about which corridors or other high capacity transit investments should be studied and how the investments should be compared. Please visit http://www.oregonmetro.gov/index.cfm/go/by.web/id=26680 for more information or to sign up to receive future notices about the project meetings.

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