Assessing Transportation Downtown

As part of an open house on the Central City Plan component of the overall “Portland Plan”, PDOT release a preliminary assessment (PDF, 2.3M) of the transportation situation and future needs for the downtown core.

Are they on target?

0 responses to “Assessing Transportation Downtown”

  1. There’s a lot in this (and it looks like this is just the beginning).

    Interesting that they’re calling for ‘spreading transit service out,’ but as far as I know TriMet is designing their new downtown service around consolidating most routes on 5th and 6th and Columbia and Jefferson.

    Also interesting that central city tolls are on the list of “Possible Solutions” (the last page has a lot to think about).

    Why do I get the feeling that when they talk about “Housing Affordability and Access to Opportunity,” that they’re trying to say that they think more income-restricted housing for the very poor is necessary, giving those people the idea that if they get a better job they’ll lose their place to live, employers the idea they can get away with paying lower wages, and developers/builders the idea that they’re not responsible for the glut of suburban “custom” housing that fewer people want because it’s not in a livable community (as well as the lack of affordable rental units)?

  2. The bicycle mode split in 2030 is low. They want 2.7% of trips to the central city to be by bicycle in 2030, up from 1.8% in 2005. Now, that seems low for 2005 in the first place, but it has been growing by 10-20% a year, so even assuming that the 1.8% is accurate, we might be up to 2.7% already.

    The bicycle mode split for commute trips to downtown (not separated by origin) was 6% in 2007 according to a PBA study…

  3. Here are some random thoughts after reading the assessment:

    There is a lot of one-sided bias injected into the assessment. It can hardly be described as impartial and cutting edge.

    The assessment is lacking user equity as it relates to funding. Any funding gap needs to be balanced by directly taxing the users of the non-auto modes of transport. Not only should there be a bicycle tax, but there also needs to be a charge for bicycle parking in areas where metered parking for cars exist. Transit fares must be increased to generate more revenue, and better reflect the true financial costs of providing the service, not just the current 21 percent of the operating costs. Transit costs need to be financially self-sustainable paid for by the users. The existing Portland Streetcar must be weaned off of parking meter revenues and also financially stand on its own paying its own way. .

    Streetcars (snail rail) beyond the current Westside Central City route are too slow for high capacity transit. The streetcar system plan needs to be replaced with a more affordable electric trolley bus system plan that also takes considerably less energy to construct and implement. One exception could be to Lake Oswego, but only if the rail right-of-way that already exists is used and does not need overly expensive upgrading. .

    Continuing the costly and never ending tax subsidy experiment of promoting downtown as the as the region’s primary economic hub is the wrong direction. With all the tax subsidies and property tax abatements handed out like free candy over the past 30 years o more, downtown Portland has yet to pay its own way. How many lifetimes does it take for this to happen? The Central City must be considered one of many regional economic hubs that are equally connected by all modes of transport.

    Shared parking probably will not work. If people both live and work downtown, their cars will not be moved during the day and will likely be occupying those shared residential parking spaces during business hours

    The assessment identifies a lack of employment growth in the Central City. What the assessment fails to do is breakdown those jobs. It is highly likely there has been a decline in private sector jobs while government jobs have increased. Tolling the portals to the Central City will only cause even more private sector flight to other town and retail centers that are more accessible to the majority of the population who represent approximately 80 percent of the regional trips that are made by motor vehicle.

    The assessment only interviewed 16 unidentified stakeholders. The term stakeholder is also undefined. However the non-exclusive definition of stakeholders is anybody that pays transportation taxes, anybody that drives/owns a car in Portland, and/or anybody that is a property owner in Portland. By only interviewing 16 so-called stakeholders, the assessment implies stakeholders are an elitist group of who knows what. . .

    So, is the Central Portland Transportation assessment on target? Some of the historical numbers are probably accurate, but they have also been heavily influenced/manipulated by socialistic spending and subsidy programs that are aimed at dictating lifestyles, housing and transport choices. The employment data in the assessment is lacking information and does hot give an accurate picture. Missing from the assessment is any discussion about the likelihood that new fuel sources for motor vehicles will trump environmental concerns. Moreover, and way off of any realistic mark are many of the so-called possible transport solutions. They all cater to the misaligned social engineering spending agenda that has become the trademark of Adams regime, all of which will only raise the costs of living in Portland for almost everybody and therefore have even more people and families fleeing to the suburbs and Clark County.

  4. Myself, and 70% of Portlanders, disagree on every point Terry Parker just wrote. However, Mr. Parker is entitled to his auto-centric attitude regardless of how ignorant his ideas are with all of the information and government spending data we have available to any of us. No, I don’t have the answers either, nor am I implying my ideas are better and/or less ignorant. I do believe the City of Portland is pretty well on track as far as making my city more livable though with its continued focus on becoming less auto-dependent. I gave up my car willingly 2 years ago, and my life has become so much richer and fulfilling in every aspect. Hopefully more bicycle and pedestrian projects will finally move forward as the grueling 50 years of massive car subsidies comes to an end, and we can get back to how humans have lived for millennium.

  5. I agree that the MAX should be put underground through downtown as a part of speeding it up in general and in possible preparation for a future heavy rail rapid transit system. Outside of Downtown/Rose Quarter there aren’t that many stops, especially on the Red Line. The people living in Beaverton who need to get to the airport would definitely appreciate it.

  6. NJD said; “Myself, and 70% of Portlanders, disagree on every point Terry Parker just wrote.”

    What source of information is NDJ using to make this kind of an outrageous claim? Most committees that prepare reports and assessments for the City and Metro have become stacked decks to support a preconceived conclusion – and if that doesn’t work consultants are hired at taxpayer expense to make sure that any predetermined conclusion is supported. Polls are designed with questions so the only possible answers prop up the conclusion being sought. Public processes are intended to line up supporters for the blueprints on the table rather than to gather diverse opinions of other alternatives. Public hearings have become an after the decision is made window dressing charade. Both the public processes and public hearings only receive voluntary participation from the public. So again I ask; what source of information and backup documentation is NDJ using for his derogatory statements.

    Livability is a subjective term that is defined differently by different people and classes of people. Many of those definitions include being gainfully employed. In the United States, one in approximately ten or so jobs is tied to the auto industry. The average new car dealer in Oregon employs approximately 60 people (source Oregon Automobile Dealers Assn). These are family wage jobs. As a transportation hub, many of jobs tied to the auto industry in Portland involve the transporting cars and trucks to and from other locations. Not only does the paycheck for many Americans come from support for the auto industry, but people also define their transportation option by driving their cars. Call it auto-centric if you like, but approximately 80 percent of the trips in the region are made by motor vehicle.

    The ignorance therefore is in the planning that has come from the bias Adams regime and the elitist Metro cartel that refuse to accommodate growth with increased highway capacity and motor vehicle infrastructure. All the excessive spending on alternatives to the automobile only represents a small fraction of the overall number of trips. With new fuel sources and advancing technology, motor vehicles are on the road to becoming more eco-friendly. With the anticipated regional population growth, it is pure nonsense and foolishness to think that transit options, sidewalks and promoting bicycling can replace the need to accommodate more motor vehicle traffic and parking. What all this type of thinking is doing is creating more congestion and what comes with it, and driving families to flee the city for the suburbs and Clark County. Downtown could not even stand on its own two feet without all the direct and indirect subsidies it receives. Freeloading bicyclists want more specialized bicycle infrastructure as long as somebody else pays for it. Transit users only pay 21 percent of the operating costs of the service while money is extorted from motorists to pay many of the capital costs. All this is creating a larger separation between the elitists and the wealthy, as opposed to the declining middle class and the poor. The pyramid scheme has crumbled and the Federal Highway Trust Fund that subsidizes bicycle and transit infrastructure is running out of the money that is paid in only by motorists. It is about time the downtown community, the freeloading pedal pushers and those who use transit start paying their own way.

    So again, is the Central Portland Transportation assessment on target? If I had to say yes or no, I would say no. It is a social engineering agenda that is way off of any realistic mark. Furthermore, on this issue I believe the mainstream of the silent majority, who often vote by driving their cars, would agree.

  7. “In the United States, one in approximately ten or so jobs is tied to the auto industry…”

    A couple years ago it was 1 in 7. That is very large number of jobs lost in a few short years. The biggest company in terms of market capitalization with the initials GM isn’t General Motors anymore, it is actually General Mills, (by a lot: $22B to $6B.) With that in mind, I think we can tell which way the automobile is headed. (Not that that should be a surprize: It is either going to go down or stay the same since there aren’t very many people that don’t own a car, (and can legally drive,) already in this country.) And so if we want downtown to be more than a playground for the rich to park their cars in, (since the average person in Portland doesn’t make enough in a year to buy a Volt,) well, that means we need to design it for pedestrians, bicycles, and public transit…

  8. When I am Downtown on the occasional weekday I a struck by how relatively empty the streets are…hardly congested. Where’s the problem? Congestion is the sign of a busy, attractive, energetic city. Why is everyone dreaming of returning to Portland in the early 80’s when 10%+ unemployment kept the streets virtuallly empty?
    And please don’t put transit and its riders in a tunnel out of the sunshine on the rare days we have it. Put cars in a tunnel.

  9. Who can read that thing?

    Another great bureaucratic document!

    How much did they spend on that I wonder?

    In the end it will be the almighty dollar that makes all the decisions re:what happens to this city, with full cooperation of the government of course.

    The government runs for the benefit of itself and big business, even in Portland. (Gustafson ring any bells?)

    The citizens are just a minor annoyance.

  10. Matthew said referring to auto industry jobs: “A couple years ago it was 1 in 7.”

    That is also the information I have. However, with all the layoffs and plant closures, and even with some foreign manufacturers building assembly plants in this country, the up to date split is obviously less than 1 in 7. By saying “one in approximately ten or so:” I was taking that into consideration while not attempting to overstate the estimated present day numbers. The current recession both reflects the decline in the American auto industry, and the high cost of energy. Cars and trucks are not going away, but there has been a shift in consumer buying patterns from American cars to foreign cars. America’s increasing reliance on foreign produced cars and products is no different than a reliance on foreign oil. The decline of manufacturing jobs in this country along with the outsourcing of other jobs to overseas locations also sends our dollars to other countries. Keeping the dollars here is one very good reason people should buy American cars instead of foreign ones.

  11. Terry, a while back I posted a link that showed that the gas tax does not fully pay for interstate highways. You seem to forget that quite frequently. Therefore, here is another study for you from the folks over at TXDOT, but let me give you a little tidbit:

    “No road pays for itself in gas taxes and fees”

    Those people over TXDOT must be communist freedom hating bicyclists too.

    [Moderator: Link fixed… the comment system ate the formatting somehow.]

  12. It should be noted that the TXDOT article (thanks for the link, Susana) mentions that 25% of Texas gas tax revenues go to education. Oregon, however, constitutionally dedicates _state_ gas taxes to roads. The ratio of federal taxes returns to the state vs. what is paid in may be different in Oregon, as well.

    Those differences aside, it looks like based on TXDOT’s calculations, even eliminating those variances would barely make a dent in the true costs of highways.

  13. I wonder if there are certain sub-issues that may be being overlooked here… like the rise of motorcycles, scooters, and mopeds, both gas and electric. Sure, these aren’t a huge issue, except that their parking needs are very different from either regular bicycles or cars. I suppose that’s just something that will need to be monitored, but as time goes on and gas prices go up, I think it’s pretty clear that the popularity of these things is going to skyrocket.

    When they say “create exclusive bike lanes,” I wonder if they’re referring to technology that we really haven’t seen her ein Portland yet, i.e. the exclusive bike lanes that you see in places like the Netherlands and Copenhagen, with a slight grade separation, curbs and/or bollards between the bicycle lane and both the sidewalk and the roadway (and the transitway, if present)? This would almost certainly come, in the central city, at the expense of removal of a lane of auto traffic… but, if auto demand management is successful enough, perhaps that would be a fair trade-off.

    Also, they said that transit “provides the highest person-trip capacity of all modes.” That may be true (it’s a pretty specific statement), but does transit provide the highest person throughput per foot of ROW width? I would guess that both pedestrians and bicyclists actually best transit at this measure, which is arguably just as important, if not even more important, in an environment like the central city where ROW width is at an extreme premium. The sidewalks are generally wide enough in the central city… but, dedicated bicycle facilities still need improvement, if the trendline for bicycle modeshare growth continues as it has for the past decade.

    Translation? A bus probably just barely holds more people per square foot than could fit into the same square footage if it were filled with bicyclists. However… the bus only comes so many times per hour, whereas the stream of bicyclists can be more or less continuous. It costs a LOT of money to pay for the operating costs of the buses, so making them into a nearly-continuous stream could easily bankrupt Tri-Met. However, it costs comparatively little to dedicate and build a portion of the ROW into bicycle facilities… and people will go out and buy and operate bicycles to fill that ROW at their own expense.

    What would a 20% bicycle modeshare look like? What would it take for the City to accommodate it, in terms of infrastructure.

    Similarly… what would a 40% bicycle modeshare look like, within the central city? That’s what they get in Amsterdam… it IS possible here, if fuel prices get up to the level that they are in the EU. What kinds of infrastructure improvements might Portland need to make over the lifespan of this plan to accommodate a 40% bicycle modeshare?

  14. Garlynn wrote: However… the bus only comes so many times per hour, whereas the stream of bicyclists can be more or less continuousHowever, it costs comparatively little to dedicate and build a portion of the ROW into bicycle facilities… and people will go out and buy and operate bicycles to fill that ROW at their own expense.

    This is the same argument used by light rail proponents – that light rail could carry more people than an equivalent lane of freeway traffic; but in reality light rail rarely ever accomplishes that (because of travel patterns, train length and headways). (This is proven by the need to widen the Sunset Highway from two to three, or three to four, lanes, after MAX was constructed; a soon-to-be-let project will extend a third line to Cornelius Pass Road, a road that itself was widened from two to five lanes to accomodate “transit oriented growth” in Orenco Station.)

    So, maybe a bike lane could carry more people than a bus lane, but in reality it would unlikely work like that.

    One suggests comparing Amsterdam to Portland – what improvements are needed to get Amsterdam’s level of bike ridership? How about completely changing Portland’s land use policies to ensure a wide variety of housing in the central city, including affordable, low and moderate income housing? How about ensuring more jobs (and better paying jobs) are available to most? How about ensuring policies that provide for a stronger work/life balance so that people can have the time to commute to/from work, and spend time with their families?

    It should also be noted that The Netherlands also has, according to Wikipedia, one of the most dense highway networks in the worldThe Netherlands has a motorway density of 57,5 kilometers per 1,000 km², the most dense motorway network in the European UnionThe Netherlands has one of the most advanced motorway networks in the world, with Variable Message Signs and electronic signalization across most of the country. A special feature of the motorways is the use of Porous Asphalt Concrete, which allows water to be very good drained, and even in heavy rain, no water will splash up, in contrast with concrete or other pavement types. The Netherlands is the only country which uses PAC this extensive, and the goal is to cover 100% of the motorways with PAC. Porous Asphalt Concrete has some downsides, including the initial construction costs, PAC is two to three times more expensive than regular pavement, and needs constant maintenance, especially with heavy traffic. Sometimes, the pavement has to be repaved within 7 years, especially on routes with heavy truck traffic causing widespread track formation.

    It seems as though The Netherlands also invests heavily in their highway network, something neglected by the so-called transport advocates that only focus on their chosen mode of transport (in this case bicycling, but often also streetcars or light rail). Another comment about The Netherlands:

    Traffic jams are common in the Netherlands. Unlike many other busy roads in other countries, Dutch motorways usually feature only 2×2 lanes. The exit density is also high, exits are usually no more than 3000 meters or 2 miles apart, also in rural area’s. The number of traffic using the motorway for local trips is high, due to the fact that the non-motorway roads are largely underdeveloped, especially in the Randstad. Another growing issue is the number of trucks on the motorway, sometimes occupying the entire right lane on some motorways. Another problem is the limited number of rivercrossings, usually only motorways. Nearly all major river crossings are jammed during rushhours. An usual rushhour accumulates between 200 and 300 kilometers of traffic jam, but can be as high as 100 traffic jams totalling 500 kilometers. Some daily traffic jams exceed 20 kilometers in length. Outside of rushhours, the situation is usually free-flowing, but can still be very busy. Morning rushhour usually lasts from 6 am until 10 am, and evening rushhour from 3.30 pm to 7 pm, except for Fridays, where there is little morning rushhour, but the evening rushhour starts already around noon.

    So, the question becomes, which came first – the traffic jam, or the bicycles?

    I would say that North Korea is a better example of a country in which bicycling is favored over the private automobile; of course such is not a chosen attribute but rather government control and legislation, the strict control of fuel and automobiles, artificial wage control (usually by impoverishing the population – the typical North Korea resident is food poor), and corruption.

  15. Speaking of Amsterdam and investment in public transport…

    A hydrogen fuel cell bus manufactured by Daimler Benz.

    It seems that Portland is home to a very significant Daimler subsidiary, Freightliner. It would seem that if Portland really wanted to lead this country in “green” development, why isn’t Portland partnering with Freightliner to bring this kind of innovation to Portland? Instead, Vancouver (BC) is running hydrogen cell busses, and Vancouver (Washington) is proclaiming “Earth Day…Every Day” on its brand new fleet of hybrid electric busses.

    While we’re talking about our bike ways, Seattle and other cities have had improved bike networks for years. Portland is hardly the first with Streetcars (we built the first “modern streetcar”, but many cities, Seattle included, had Streetcar systems years and decades before Portland) or Light Rail (many cities built light rail in the 1970s). If we are really to use Amsterdam as a model of what to become, then let’s do it – and that includes all forms of transport, highways and busses included, along with bike and rail investments.

  16. Erik,

    The traffic and motorways that you’re referring to (in the NL)aren’t located within the center city. These are regional highways. A bit like the Bay Area but on a larger scale. Bicycles are a common transport mode for city centers. obviously.

    I dont know anyone that is advocating daily commutes between salem and portland by bicycle.

    Also, please stop the writing garbage like:

    “(This is proven by the need to widen the Sunset Highway from two to three, or three to four, lanes, after MAX was constructed; a soon-to-be-let project will extend a third line to Cornelius Pass Road, a road that itself was widened from two to five lanes to accomodate “transit oriented growth” in Orenco Station.)”

    Because its just not true. On a number of levels.

    Im wondering what your point even really is with your last two posts…

  17. Hello wrote: Also, please stop the writing garbage like:…Because its just not true. On a number of levels.

    What part isn’t true?

    That Cornelius Pass Road was widened – AFTER Orenco Station was constructed?

    That the Sunset Highway was widened – AFTER MAX and many of the sprawl developments associated with MAX were constructed?

    That the Cornelius Pass interchange with the Sunset Highway was rebuilt – AFTER Orenco Station was developed?

    That significant roadway improvements were undertaken on Cornell Road – during and after MAX was constructed?

    It’s only “garbage” because it’s true but the advocates for MAX related development do not want to admit that those “transit-oriented developments” created the need for these roadway/highway projects. Cornelius Pass Road used to be a two lane farm road just ten years ago; it certainly isn’t today until you get north of West Union Road.

  18. Erik said:
    ‘those “transit-oriented developments” created the need for these roadway/highway projects.’

    Most of Washington County is very bike/ped/transit unfriendly (sprawl, long distances between destinations, lack of connected low traffic routes or even straight routes that busses can take, etc).

    I would say those reasons, more than the transit oriented developments, cause lots of people to drive. That and the government of WashCo is very auto-oriented in the “solutions” they come up (you don’t really see the Board pushing alternative transportation of any form).

    Remember – Orenco isn’t the only thing being built in WashCo; there is tons of other developments going in. Especially look at the 5,000 home North Bethany project being planned at the urban fringe which will not be served by transit, and the County wants to see hundreds of millions of dollars spent on an array of road widening projects, including Cornelius Pass, 185th, Springville, and others.

  19. The widening of the Sunset Highway is a project (or more accurately, a series of projects) that have been in the works a long time, and was not something thrown together at the last minute in order to deal with “increased sprawl caused by MAX”. Methinks that “sprawl caused by MAX” would largely consist of folks who (duh) prefer to take MAX downtown; no point in moving into Orenco Station to be close to MAX, and not using it.

    Washington County has seen tremendous growth due to a vibrant high-tech economy (it’s where lots of jobs are), lots of places to build, and soforth. I doubt MAX has contributed much, if anything, to sprawl. Obviously, better transport infrastructure (road or rail) makes a location more attractive both to businesses and people looking for a place to live–but lots of things factor into that equation. Simply building a freeway (or a LRT line) to a particular place won’t cause “sprawl” if nobody wants to live there; but building one to a place already considered attractive certainly will make the place more attractive.

    An interesting question. Many objections to the CRC seem to be based on the premise that it will encourage more people to move to Clark Co, while maintaining jobs south of the Columbia–and that this additional traffic volume will result in service levels on the new bridge which are little better than the Interstate Bridge gets now. (A similar argument helped kill the Mt. Hood Freeway many years ago–the road would be jammed soon after it opened). How much is this really so?

  20. >I agree that the MAX should be put underground
    >through downtown as a part of speeding it up in
    >general and in possible preparation for a future
    >heavy rail rapid transit system.

    How can Portland, a city with a population of only about half a million, afford to build a subway system? And without a state sales tax?

    It would cost billions. Where is the money going to come from?

  21. How can Portland, a city with a population of only about half a million, afford to build a subway system? And without a state sales tax?

    I’m not saying it would be easy, but we’re already building a “subway for sewage” which is considerably longer and of a similar scale to what a subway for people would require.

    As DJK and others have pointed out, a MAX subway to improve travel times through downtown could be done with as little as 10-12 blocks of tunnel, a couple of side-street closures, and platform lengthening in other parts of the system. A massive excavavation project, miles in scope, is not required.

  22. I’m not saying it would be easy, but we’re already building a “subway for sewage” which is considerably longer and of a similar scale to what a subway for people would require.
    And that’s being done with what for most people is an excessive sewer portion of a combined water/sewer bill.

    I remember listening to coverage of the New York power outage that occurred earlier this decade, when they mentioned that when the subway loses power, it’s hot, dark, and you’re not going anywhere. They also have to have emergency crews evacuate the trains if the power’s out for any duration (as what happened then).

    IMO, it would be cool to elevate downtown light rail, but do it the right way (emergency walkways, just in case; see if buildings could support some sort of second story lobby for easier access to/from, ample passenger waiting space, etc.). We could also show Seattle how to have elevated transit that goes somewhere. :)

  23. I remember listening to coverage of the New York power outage that occurred earlier this decade, when they mentioned that when the subway loses power, it’s hot, dark, and you’re not going anywhere. They also have to have emergency crews evacuate the trains if the power’s out for any duration (as what happened then).

    That’s certainly a risk with the current tunnel under the west hills. It wouldn’t be a problem with a 10-12 block tunnel downtown, especially if there are one or two stations along the way. Worst-case scenario: everyone walks out.

    Elevated light rail might be a possibility if you get rid of the skybridge at the Galleria. Have the line elevate from First Avenue at Stark Street — it needs to clear the Morrison Bridge ramps — and then run above Morrison Street to 12th, and drop back down to grade at the PGE Park Station. Put one elevated station at Pioneer Place, another at the Galleria. Close Lloyd Center, Convention Center, Chinatown, Oak Street, PGE Park, and possibly Goose Hollow stations, and expand the remaining stations to 400 feet each.

    We could then convert the existing surface tracks and stations on Morrison and Yamhill to a streetcar couplet. Make it the center segment of a Hawthorne to NW 23rd Avenue line.

    Personally, I’m partial to a subway. But if an elevated line does the same thing (increased speed and double capacity) for less money, we should consider it.

  24. One hazard of the NY subways that isn’t found in MAX is the third rail. There’s always the risk that if power goes out, passsengers evacuate the train, and then the power comes back on–somebody stumbling around in the dark might find themselves simultaneously touching the third rail and the ground, and be fried crisp as a result.

    Massive power outages will thoroughly disrupt *any* transportation network, including privately-driven autos. While the auto can still operate without an external power source (so long as it has gas), the loss of traffic lights and such will quickly bring the road network to a crawl. Fortunately, outages like the NY one are once-in-a-decade events.

    Rather than a dedicated MAX “tube”–what of a “transit tunnel” like in Seattle? A wide tunnel downtown, under some street, that handles busses as well as trains. Like the other posters above have noted–paying for such a thing is currently not on the radar.

    OTOH, depending on the results of the November election, there might be dollars made available for transit projects….

  25. >Personally, I’m partial to a subway. But if an
    >elevated line does the same thing (increased
    >speed and double capacity) for less money, we
    >should consider it.

    I seem to remember reading once that an elevated line could be built for about a tenth the cost of a subway.

  26. There are, of course, significant stretches of the new Green Line under construction which are elevated. Where the line crosses Foster, for one; where it crosses Johnson Creek Boulevard, for another.

    Building an elevated train viaduct is pretty simple, engineering-wise.

    The main objection to an elevated line is that many find them to be an eyesore–although in the context of downtown, I’m not sure that’s a big deal (lots of things downtown are eyesores, after all).

  27. Seems to me the “eyesore ” problem is really just a question of design. Yeah, it would cost more to make a viaduct beautiful — look at the difference between the Marquam Bridge and the Fremont Bridge, and how much more the Fremont cost. And there’s not much you can do about it blocking the sunlight to the street below.

    But on the hypothetical Morrison “el”, you really need the “scenic” part of the viaduct to be from about Fourth Avenue to maybe Ninth or Tenth — so it looks good as a backdrop to Pioneer Square, won’t detract from the view of Pioneer Courthouse, and creates an appealing crossing of transit mall. The remaining parts could be blandly functional. And even with the extra cost, it would still be far less expensive than a subway if William Cousert’s recollection is right.

    Are there any examples in the world of attractive elevated rail lines — or viaducts generally?

  28. Some may blanch about the aesthetic–but I’ve always thought the brick arch viaducts found in the UK to be kinda pretty. Don’t think that motif would work downtown.

    One advantage of building a viaduct on the Transit Mall is that people would finally be able to see Portlandia without straining their necks. :)

  29. Actually, there’s an even cheaper way to get 4-car Blue Line MAX through downtown, but it would require some permanent changes to traffic patterns, and Tri-Met would probably need to buy out some businesses — or at least pay to change their access.

    (1) Close Morrison to through traffic from First to 18th. Make Morrison like First Avenue — limited local access traffic and no turns across the light rail line.

    (2) Run two-way MAX traffic on Morrison.

    (3) Create a Fourth Avenue bridge between Yamhill and Alder that carries three lanes of traffic over Morrison. That creates room for a 400 foot station between Third and Fifth, connecting with the transit mall. It would also have freight impacts on Pioneer Place and might require some access changes to the parking structure at Fourth and Morrison (maybe all access would be from Third).

    (4) Cut off through traffic on Park and Ninth across Morrison. That means both Park and Ninth would be dead-end two-way streets with access from Yamhill. Put a second MAX station between Broadway and Tenth.

    Combined with the other steps I mentioned earlier, this would allow four-car MAX service all the way through downtown, at the cost of three low-traffic through streets, plus one bulky new three-lane bridge and some business access changes. It’s not elegant, but it’s about the least expensive way to double MAX capacity I can think of.

  30. Other things in the system besides downtown blocks limit MAX to two-car trains, IIRC.

    Right now, MAX would benefit more from improved times through downtown (as well as better payment schemes!) than it would from longer trains.

  31. The quick and easy way to speed MAX between Goose Hollow and Lloyd Center is to remove three unnecessary stations: Salmon St./Kings Hill, PioneerPlace and Convention Center. All are within two blocks of other stations, have relatively few riders and together could reduce the 20 minute travel time thru downtown by up to five minutes.

  32. Downtown blocks are the major obstacle to four-car operations. There are a few other stations (notably, Washington Park and Sunset TC) that would be expensive to expand, and Beaverton Central would be a challenge. But on the Blue Line, at least, most stations along the way could be expanded with relative ease.

    And once the Blue Line supported four-car trains, it would be easy to do the same with the Red and Green lines (this assumes the Green Line goes out to the West Side instead of down the mall in the future). With three lines running four-car trains on ten-minute headways, the peak capacity from Gateway to Beaverton — or Willow Creek, or Hillsboro — would be tremendous.

    Also, by putting four tracks on the Steel Bridge, the North-South capacity of the Yellow Line would be dramatically increased — one two-car train every three minutes, since it wouldn’t need to share track with the other lines.

    We might not need all that capacity yet, but I’d rather build for it before we need it than play catch-up later.

    As for speeding travel, we probably could give up the Lloyd Center stop too. It’s only three blocks from Seventh Avenue, and the major destination (Lloyd Center) is about as close to the Seventh Avenue stop as it is to the “Lloyd Center” stop.

  33. >Downtown blocks are the major obstacle to four-car operations.

    Why not merge some of these downtown blocks? Make some of them twice as long as they are now. There should be plenty of room for three, maybe even four car MAX trains.

  34. The problem with closing specific downtown streets to create long blocks or superblocks is with the N-S streets. All the N-S streets from 2nd to Broadway are pretty heavily used and would cease to be through streets if closed off to make a long MAX station. If you want to have a stop with convenient transfers to the transit mall, you’ll have to close either 4th or Broadway (or the transit mall itself, which defeats the purpose!).

    For the portion of MAX that runs on 1st, you could in theory close off one of the lesser-traveled E-W streets, and the Skidmore Fountain station area is already long enough to accommodate 4-car trains, if you re-grade the sidewalks and platforms.

    So what we’re really talking about is the eventual need to grade-separate MAX from about 1st to 12th downtown, which means a subway tunnel or an elevated portion. (Although I think building an elevated portion to modern standards would be unavoidably visually obstructive.)

    Costs could be reduced by combining both directions of travel into one tunnel with common stations/platforms, and by constructing on a different street than Morrison/Yamhill (Taylor?) so that the surface alignment is not disrupted until the last possible moment, when tracks are tied into the new system.

    Like I said before, it wouldn’t be easy, but it can be done.

    As others have suggested, we should first look to station consolidation/elimination to improve travel times before going all-out on a subway/elevated plan. 3 or 4 stations between Lloyd Center and Goose Hollow could be rearranged and shave a few minutes off roundtrip times.

  35. Well, MAX stops near Pioneer Square. Which among the following streets (4th, 5th, 6th, or Broadway) would you close to auto traffic so that MAX trains could straddle it while stopped?

    Actually, I’d give up a few more stops.

    Jefferson/Goose Hollow is a keeper. King St/Salmon Street is gone.

    PGE Park is a definite keeper.

    Move Library/9th a block west; keep the
    Galleria/10th where it is.

    Elevate MAX between Park and where it turns onto 1st; with one stop in each direction (where MAX crosses the transit mall). As part of the elevated structure, though, provide an elevated covered pedestrian walkway with easy access to the Square and to Pioneer Place. Also get rid of the Yamhill District and SW Third stations.

    Oak/First can stay.

    Consolidate the Old Town and Skidmore Fountain stations.

    Redesign the whole RQ/Convention Center area, to be served by one stop (one which serves both the Red/Blue and Yellow lines).

    And as you say, consolidate the 7th and Lloyd stops.

    That takes us down from 15 stops (!) in each direction between Goose Hollow and Lloyd Center (inclusive), to 8.

  36. “Redesign the whole RQ/Convention Center area, to be served by one stop (one which serves both the Red/Blue and Yellow lines).”

    So the orginal plan for the Yellow line to turn after the regular Rose Quarter stop, but it added something like $250M to the cost, and so they went the current design instead… Now, the big problem was getting it to work with the freeway, and there is an easy solution to that: Remove the stupid freeway.

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