Green Means Go



Dignitaries arriving from Clackamas County on the inaugural Green Line ride were greeted at PSU by Mayor Sam Adams, a (very loud) drum corps and the Viking cheerleaders.

The predictable round of speechmaking ensued, but a notable distinction from recent rail line openings was the presence and full-throated support from Peter Rogoff, the new Federal Transit Administrator.

It’s nice to have the Federal Government as an enthusiastic, rather than reluctant, partner again!

40 responses to “Green Means Go”

  1. Did you take those photos? Because I was right there filming and I didn’t see you. I got all of the speeches at both Clackamas and PSU on film, and will be heading back out soon.

  2. You got me to laugh out loud Bob and Scotty.

    On another light note, it’s nice to see that PSU has been getting cute cheerleaders. Things are looking better in the South Park Blocks. Does a PSU band play at football games? It’s great to see PSU become more like a traditional university instead of a commuter school.

  3. Also, to get things back to a wonky status:

    It’s great to see federal investment for light rail. I’d think that a lot of people will ride MAX to PSU and I’d much rather see federal dollars come to our area than go to other parts of the country that get way more than they pay in taxes (looking at you Alaska…….).

    It’s also nice to see the stops spaced out farther on the Green Line in downtown as it keeps the line moving along quickly rather than stopping all of the time, like near the stadium and the transit mall.

  4. Yeah, the hype machine has sure been working overtime this week. I think all these politicos should be be forced to ride the line every day and do the ‘crawl’ thru the Rose Quarter, over the Steel Bridge into Union Station and down the mall to PSU. Their ‘enthusiasm’ might change.

  5. Amos and I rode from Lloyd to Clackamas and back at 5:30. We had to wait 40 mins for a train at Lloyd, and when it came it was packed. We squeezed on and headed East.

    More and more folks packed in at each station, it was taking a long time at station stops because people had to de-sardine themselves, and new folks had to squeeze in. We couldn’t actually see out of the vehicle. for the sea of heads and arms.

    At Gateway, the driver announced to folks waiting on the platform that there was another train just behind us.

    So we detrained at the next stop hoping for a little elbow room.

    5 mins later the next train arrived, equally packed. We stood next to an 87 year old man and his wife, retired civil engineer.

    After getting off at Clackamas Town Center, it was sunny and seemed to be at least 90 degrees, and the line of people waiting to get back on northbound stretched way down the sidewalk, at least 200 people.

    After getting dinner, things were much quieter, and we were able to walk onto a waiting train. Didn’t get seats, but had a nice ride back to Lloyd.

    It was great to see so many people out riding the new line, and the new bike path looks like it will be pretty good, lots of grade separations, decent width, didn’t see any sharp curves, and I only noticed one annoying steep grades with stop signs at the bottom.

    Hats off to Trimet and everyone else for getting the line running, let’s get lots more running soon so we can actually outpace the growth in car travel!
    Ted Buehler

  6. An interesting operational anecdote (or an incorrect destination sign), I saw a train heading northbound out of the SE Main St. station on the Green Line as a Red Line train. (Couldn’t discern if it was going to the airport or to Beaverton) at about 12:45pm today.

  7. Hats off to Trimet and everyone else for getting the line running, let’s get lots more running soon so we can actually outpace the growth in car travel!

    Thanks for sharing! I was going to get on it for a ride yesterday, but the train I saw was so crowded I decided I could wait a few days when it wasn’t opening day.

    Hopefully it stays full (but not too full!) for weekday service.

  8. My wife & I rode the first run from PSU this morning. We both found it to be well executed, but Ruth was surprised that the CTC station seemed a little far from the mall for a laden shopper.

    A very rough calculation comes up with about $9 million annually to operate the line, including a 20% allowance for non-revenue service hours. That should be a pretty good deal, eventually. It still can only put more pressure on TriMet’s finances.

    TriMet’s June Monthly Performance Report shows the average fare paid to be $1.11. At that rate, TriMet will need 8 million more riders over today’s figures before it will have dug itself just out of the hole that this new service created.

    The current WES hole is only about $3 million thanks to Washington County paying TriMet up to about $6.7 million over four years. So we can expect it to grow to $5 million annually by the end of 2012.

    I don’t know to what degree, if at all, that TriMet will be hit by losses on eastside and LO streetcar extensions, but together they could easily dwarf WES. Then there’s Milwaukie.

    Even successful new services require subsidy. TriMet probably included expected green line op losses when it determined its recent and planned future cuts. Nevertheless, we can expect even more to look forward to in the way of cuts, fare increases, and/or tax hikes as other projects come on line.

    I think it’s more than reasonable to expect TriMet and Portland Streetcar to walk away from the most wasteful projects so that we minimize adverse impacts to the whole system. Of course, that’s not happening yet.

  9. or an incorrect destination sign

    Probably just a stuck sign – the Green and Yellow trains are interlined, but I don’t think Red is with either of them.

  10. “TriMet’s June Monthly Performance Report shows the average fare paid to be $1.11. At that rate, TriMet will need 8 million more riders over today’s figures before it will have dug itself just out of the hole that this new service created.

    “The current WES hole is only about $3 million thanks to Washington County paying TriMet up to about $6.7 million over four years. So we can expect it to grow to $5 million annually by the end of 2012.

    I don’t know to what degree, if at all, that TriMet will be hit by losses on eastside and LO streetcar extensions, but together they could easily dwarf WES. Then there’s Milwaukie.”

    A Congress that can find a hundred other silly ways to waste money can probably figure out how to bail out Tri Met. Fred Hansen probably has a red phone on his desk that connects him to Earl, Ron and Jeff just for such occasions. Until there is a definite “No” from someone who has a grip on reality expect Portlanders to clamor for more such expensive services.

  11. Considering that all of Tri-Mets routes are subsidized (perhaps there are a select few which are not), I’m not sure why the Green Line is somehow expected to break even, whereas the Red Line, the #12 bus, and virtually everything else–is not. $9 million is about 1% of Tri-Met’s budget.

    The #33 line between Oregon City and downtown takes slightly more than an hour each way. Yet it’s a frequent service line; given the 2+ hour round trip and the need for breaks–there are probably 10 #33 busses in service (less at non-peak times). If we assume a 16-hour service day (actually a bit longer), times 10 busses, times $100/hr to operate a 40′ bus (anyone have a more recent figure?), the #33 costs about $16k to operate–per DAY. Given service is less on weekends, this works out to about $100k per week–or about $5 million per year.

    Even if the bus ran full 100% of the time, it would probably not “make up” its operating costs. But that’s OK–it provides a useful service.

    What if the #33 were replaced with MAX–say. the planned Milwaukie line extended down McLoughlin, then up the OC Bypass to Clackamas Community College? The total line length would be similar to the green line–if the stop spacing were similar, one would probably be able to get from CCC to downtown in forty minutes or so. Were trains to maintain the same 15 minute headway, there would need be only 9 or 10 such trains in service. The net cost would be higher (MAX costs about twice as much per hour to operate as the bus)–but you’d have a faster, more attractive service–one with a good shot of making up the difference in cost at the farebox. It wouldn’t operate in the black, but it would be a less saturated shade of red.

  12. Loved the inaugural theme song “Love Train” and the green-attired dancing to it at the PSU morning event. Made my way out to CTC by 1:00 or so, trains not all that crowded, stopping at Pioneer Square, Greyhound Depot and SE Main where a harmonica quartet of seniors performed. CTC had the largest event, but the blacktop was too hot for me to enjoy it.

    The long boarding line there that zig-zagged down the walkway and reached the cross-street worried me, I hate lines. But an hour later appeared less than half that so I walked up hoping to board 1st line and did. By the time that line began boarding, the entire line had again reached the cross-street. A quick estimate head count showed the entire intimidating line was only two boardings. Very well done, Tri-Met!

    On the way back, (thank you Professor Peabody for your great machine!), stopped at Lents station, the coolest station for sure dude, like wow, to visit Bike Friday’s booth, eat polished Italian plums that hit the spot and fill up my water bottle from an impromptu, multi-spigotted, utilitarian art work in copper pipery connected to the hydrant on the sidewalk – Art in Action!

    The bike path is coming along, but not complete yet. Overheard someone say another month or two. Grading final segments appeared from the window of the 23-year old models still running on the way back with Sherman to be underway.

  13. The point was that whenever we get a new service – any new service – we end up adding to the deficit until increased ridership throughout the system fills up that hole. In the meantime, the operator somehow must make up the difference.

    A new service like the green line has an excellent chance of catching up and even exceeding average service productivity. WES does not. Even if all the new services TriMet were to develop turned out to be great successes, the agency is still increasing its deficit with each one. All it can do on its own is to reduce other services or increase fares.

    Some may disagree, but I think that TriMet could have a decent case for higher fares if all the new services looked as promising as the green line. It can only get more and more difficult to raise fares, reduce other services or ask for higher payroll taxes if it insists on defending WES, the LO streetcar extension, and other costly boondoggles.

    The Spring 2009 route ridership report had the weekday cost per boarding ride for the Milwaukie end of the 33 at $2.68 and the Fremont end at $4.65. I don’t have a problem with subsidizing that through higher fares. Where the hackles get up is in having to pay for WES’s $18.57. Even if there were a ghost of chance that WES deficits could get down to something approaching average, it might be possible to swallow it.

    The problem with the LO streetcar is different. It will just cost more to operate than the bus service that it replaces while providing worse service to most riders. Who cares?

  14. The #33 bus down McLoughlin is reputed to have the lowest cost per passenger boarding in the whole system, cheaper than MAX, with its artificially low stated costs.

    I have ridden it down there weekdays and weekends, and the ‘turnover’ of passengers on the bus is fantastic, with a lot of people going for short rides. So I would have no doubt that this would be true.

  15. If #33 were replaced by MAX for its length (assuming just the McLoughlin segment, now that the old Fremont segment is now #24), wouldn’t you expect the same to be true? The line covers a lot of distance–it’s about fifteen miles from downtown to Oregon City.

    One concern that I have with the Milwaukie MAX–is that right now its too short as planned. As a temporary measure, that’s fine; the exact routing of LRT to OC has not been determined. (Milwaukie through Oak Grove/Gladstone to OC, following the #33? Milwaukie along 224/Lake to Clackamas, joining the Green, and then down to OC with a branch out Sunnyside? Or just extend the Green, and make OC commuters go to Gateway–I used to live down there and would occasionally use 205 to the Banfield to get downtown when driving…)

    Milwaukie MAX will get maximum bang for buck when it can replace one (or more) frequent service bus line, with equivalent train service. But having the service end in Oak Grove results in one of two things:

    1) 33 riders need to transfer in Oak Grove or Milwaukie, or
    2) 33 runs as an express north of there; in which case it is a duplicate facility with the train. (Riders can transfer to MAX if they want, or stay on the bus between Milwaukie and downtown).

    Eventually, the Orange Line (or whatever they call it–rumor has it that it won’t be Yellow), will have to go somewhere beyond a park-and-ride alongside McLoughlin. Whether that’s across the river to LO and beyond, down McLoughlin, or east to Clackamas, or some combination, remains to be seen.

  16. It would have been helpful if I knew even ONE person either in my personal or driver life that actually intended to use this thing.

    Yea, the “hype” machine was at its best.

    One thing you gotta give TRIMET credit for, is their ministry of propaganda.

    Really first class all the way.

  17. Well, if it helps you, Al, I know people over in SE who will be using the Green Line. (I’m assuming that’s the “thing” you refer to…)

    As I live in Beaverton, it’s of limited use to me–but then again, so is much of Tri-Met.

    That’s why it’s called a “system”. :)

    If you are referring to a different “thing”, my answer may change. (I don’t know anyone either who uses WES, for instance…)

  18. Scotty old pal old buddy,

    I watched as peoples lives were devastated by the service cuts.

    Do you expect me to feel good about any of this?

    They’re celebrating while peoples lives are destroyed.

    I aint celebrating nothing, sorry.

  19. Al–the service cuts are an economy issue. They’re a Tri-Met bet wrong in the oil futures market and got screwed royally issue.

    They’re not a busses vs trains issue.

    Or they shouldn’t be.

    Since the project is federally funded, Tri-Met has to run it IIRC–same with Wes (which I won’t defend with anywhere near the same vigor as I’ll defend MAX). Uncle Sam doesn’t like it when cities and transit agencies take money, build stuff, and mothball it.

    I certainly doubt that the dignitaries and riders on hand for this weekend’s festivities, were gloating over having laid off bus drivers and cancelled routes. Likewise, if Tri-Met has postponed the opening of the Green, I doubt you would be celebrating at all the rail motormen who would be losing their jobs as a result.

    There’s a lot to flame Tri-Met for. There’s a lot to flame politicians outside of transit for.

    But rather than arguing over who gets the last slice of pie, ain’t it better to bake a bigger pie?

  20. For as long as I have been commenting on this blog I have said over and over this never ending EXPANSION was gonna come back and kill us.

    Well it did.

    The Trimet ministry of propaganda along with the complicit media just left all the negatives out.

    Out of sight out of mind.

    It’s like the 30,000 human beings that will die today of starvation while we throw food into the garbage, nobody cares.

    Well I have no intention of just living in a dream world that says

    “since things are so great for me I must be handpicked by god for good fortune while those people must be sinners so they get what they deserve”

    If somebody doesn’t at least speak up for those that have no voice then the entire species known as man is doomed.

    You see Jason Barbour and two others of the transit riders union speaking up.

    It’s just a handful of us, its better than nothing.

    Erik Halstead is completely correct, the bus service is being dismantled before our eyes and the special interests have taken over our transit agency.

    The green line and the wes is all you need to see in the face of devastating service cuts.

  21. Again, I won’t defend WES.

    Until we see how the Green performs, we won’t know if that was a good investment or not.

    But should we go kill the Red? the Blue? the Yellow? You seem to think that Tri-Met should provide bus service first and foremost, and rail is a luxury that should only be provided once the bus system is fully funded. You seem to think that rail is a useless distraction from Tri-Met’s “core mission”.

    Again, I say its time to bake a bigger pie.

  22. I doubt you would be celebrating at all the rail motormen who would be losing their jobs as a result

    Well, they wouldn’t – if cuts need to be made at rail, those operators just go back to being bus operators, they don’t get laid off.

    Personally I didn’t like a lot of the speechmaking going on about how the system is bigger and better than ever – not when it coincides with so many bus lines being sliced. I know that the planning for the Green Line has been years in the making, so I’m not as bothered by the rail service opening a day before the bus service takes a hit. However, I do think that current plans for rail to Milwaukie is a huge mistake – if the system isn’t sustainable now, why make it bigger?
    I’d sooner see plans for things like, oh, restored service to all of the gaps on the west side that now have no service outside of morning and evening rush hour during the week and nothing on weekends than service to Milwaukie.
    And speaking of Milwaukie, that route would go similar to line 70, right? The line 70 that just had its weekend service reduced. Trains are cool and all but I’m not seeing the benefit of replacing a bus that didn’t get enough people on it with a train.

  23. Al –

    You know me, and I will be using the Green Line for utility purposes. Not daily, but multiple times per month I reckon.

    Just yesterday I took a short trip out to Mall 205 / Target to give the Green Line a try during regular service.

    The SE Main stop is curiously located… it seems to be equally inconvenient to everything around it (the mall, the hospital, transfers on Stark/Washington), but relocating it to make one area more convenient would penalize all the others.

    Timing of trains, at least when I was there, allowed for a walk into Target for a quick purchase, and a return to the platform just in time for a return-trip train.

  24. Unfortunately, I’m at work and in a video-free zone :(…

    And I appreciate the difference between curtailing an existing service, and delaying a new one.

    But if service cuts are needed–how should we decide which services get cut? Regardless of what is chosen, people will lose jobs, and riders will have less convenient transit, or none altogether.

  25. Bob-

    The green line is great, I have no problem with the green line.

    Fred talked about 8% cuts across the board.

    As usual what he says and what happens are two different things.

    There was nothing across the board in the cuts.

    And that is where I have a problem.

  26. By “across the board”–what do you mean? All routes should be sliced equally?

    Or are you suggesting that administrative expenses should have taken a bigger hit?

    I won’t argue with that (though I’m not in a position to comment what changes or cuts ought to be made in the Tri-Met offices).

    But I think you hit the nail on one particular head: The system is expanding, but its funding base is not. Now, the recent recession was a particularly nasty one, and a had a greater impact on Tri-Met’s finances (and other transit agencies around the country as well). Given that Tri-Met must balance its books, and tax revenues were well short of expected, and the whole fuel fiasco–what else was Tri-Met to do? Unfortunately, transit still requires a subsidy; if routes were running in the black, we’d have a different discussion.

    But the problem then, is, the need for a bigger pie–or at least a more stable one, so Tri-Met doesn’t have to go firing bus drivers and parking busses every time there is a downturn, and then hiring them back when the economy picks up. Of course, this is true for many public agencies in general–demand for services increases in bad times, just as funding decreases.

    That is the battle TRU ought to be fighting.

  27. The system is expanding, but its funding base is not.

    Not quite true. The payroll tax rate is going up slowly, thanks to increased authorizations by the Legislature. And tracked over a long enough time horizon, employment is also going up, although clearly not in the immediate term.

    This gives TriMet the ability to forecast increasing operating budgets. The “problem” is that they budget pretty much 100% of the available increase into new rail service.

    I would suggest that the policy questions TRU should be pushing on are:

    1) As operating fund increases become available, how should it be allocated between bus and rail.
    2) Should operating funds EVER be bonded to produce capital funds for construction (this is slated to happen again for Milwaukie).
    3) Should TriMet be required to build up some kind of operating reserve to buffer variability in payroll tax revenue.

    But I also agree that we should continue to focus on growing the pie, not just adjusting the slices.

  28. The payroll tax rate is going up slowly, thanks to increased authorizations by the Legislature.

    But from what I have heard at the board meetings/briefings, the actual tax receipts are DOWN, even considering the rate increases. Overall, the service cuts should be blamed on that and not the Green Line. Yes, if they didn’t have to pay for a large service increase (and the portion west of Gateway–30 of 46 minutes, or about 65%–duplicates existing service), they might not have to cut so much, but its not like they planned on taking money from bus service to pay for rail service.

    Lastly, the real problems are that:
    1. TriMet has to serve a lot of low density, pedestrian (transit rider)-unfriendly and driving-encouraging areas that limit and discourage ridership.
    2. Taxpayers don’t get a choice on sending money to DC to fund transit projects. This understandably leads to local agencies wanting that money back, spent on projects here rather than elsewhare.

  29. yeah i’d like to hear more about a route to oregon city. i think we all know its likely in the works in the future but when and where? how does it factor into either the i-205 or milwaukie max lines? i have to believe when these lines were/are being designed that they have factored in that one or both will be extended further to OC.

    i think the milwaukie line really needs to go further than park ave. which is an odd place to end. clackamas town center seems like a reasonable place to terminate.

  30. We need an elected TRIMET board of directors who can take control of this agency.

    Won’t happen.

    Special interest will continue to dominate politics here as everywhere else.

    The strong survive and weak perish, that’s the way of the world.

    I watched today as people stood helpless without a ride on the 67.


    Luckily it was a nice evening for them to walk cause that’s what they are gonna have to do from now on.

    I hope the big shots having the liquor at the green line party had a toast to all those that were left behind RED MEANS STOP, YOU GOTTA WALK!

  31. al m – You DO REALIZE that transit is absolutely “sacrificing peter to save paul.” or as often is said “taking from peter to pay paul”. From the perspective of bus vs. rail, unions vs scabs, taxpayer vs. mooch – transit is redistributing the wealth – or in America’s case today – our devalued currency through “services”.

    Transit is a net loss operation, you’ve said this a million times yourself. As long as it is a Government service, voted in or not, you’re going to keep getting this. You realize you’re suggesting more of exactly what is causing the problem.

    If you wanted more BRT and more transit services you should have been out there getting more people to vote for McCain. Bush and his ilk wanted buses, BRT, and more buses but not a penny for light rail, intercity rail, or otherwise.
    … and of course don’t forget roads. They wanted random roads – and lots of em’.

    If you want to sit down and work this math out – we can setup a time so you can see for yourself these bus service cuts aren’t because of the Green Line, Blue Line, or even the WES. Matter of fact I’d love to sit down and work that math out with you and Erik, because I’d love to see what would be you guys’ suggestion then.

    If we didn’t have a single mile of light rail in Portland two things would have been true with these cuts.

    1. There would have needed to be more cuts.
    2. TriMet wouldn’t carry near as many people, so maybe in a perverse way less people would be affected.

    Either way, the cuts would have had to happen.

  32. I got my first ride on a type 4 on the Green Line this afternoon. It was very nice, but vandals had already gotten to the curved plastic(?) windows in the inside car ends. It’s a shame, but the material doesn’t appear to be scratch resistant. You’d think everyone would see it coming.

  33. {i]The #33 bus down McLoughlin is reputed to have the lowest cost per passenger boarding in the whole system, cheaper than MAX, with its artificially low stated costs.[i]

    Actually, I did a study, and the lowest cost per ride bus out there is line 61-Marquam Hill-Beaverton TC, which gives back 90% of what it makes, or almost 10 times. Other top lines include lines 64, 44C, 53 and 28. Line 33 is actually pretty low, although in debt making less than what it costs, but the biggest profit of frequent service routes is line 8-Jackson Park. OHSU Makes the biggest profits, with all the lines giving at least 70% of its profits to TriMet.

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