Willamette Shoreline Transit Plugs Along

From Metro:

Metro and its partners continue to work to develop a transit project that meets future travel demand between Lake Oswego and Portland, supports local and regional land use plans, and garners public acceptance and community support. The transit project is now preparing a Draft Environmental Impact Statement, studying the potential benefits and impacts of three alternatives in the corridor. The DEIS analyzes the direct and indirect effects of the alternatives.

After the DEIS publication, anticipated for summer 2010, public events will offer an opportunity to share information and solicit comments about the no-build, enhanced bus and streetcar alternatives and design options based on a comparison of potential benefits and impacts. The project steering committee will rely on public input and the analysis results to select a Locally Preferred Alternative in fall 2010.

The project partners have just published the latest newsletter for the project, outlining the alternatives and design options being analyzed in the study. The newsletter has been mailed to residents and businesses in the corridor as well as people who have signed up to the project’s interested persons list and have provided their mailing addresses.

A web version of the newsletter is available at http://library.oregonmetro.gov/files/lopt_newsletter-112409-web.pdf.

For more information on the project, visit www.oregonmetro.gov/lakeoswego. For questions, send e-mail to trans@oregonmetro.gov or call 503-797-1756.

52 responses to “Willamette Shoreline Transit Plugs Along”

  1. Regardless of whichever option is chosen, I hope that the ability to co-exist with the historical Willamette Shore Trolley is a part of the project. There aren’t many “functional” museums left in the United States and it would be unfortunate for this to be another casualty.

  2. Chris,

    The Willamette Shore Trolley exists, in large part, to preserve the right-of-way for transit purposes–at least this is my understanding.

    Were there not trains running up and down the line on a somewhat regular basis, then adjoining property owners would have a legal basis for forcing abandonment of the line. (This is also a rational for rails-to-trails conversions: it preserves the ROW). Railroad easements are FTMP use-it-or-lose-it.

    (Another example unrelated to transit: My employer owns a fairly large commercial campus in Washington County, which is frequently used by cut-through traffic–even a few bus lines pass through. However, on New Years Eve every year–a company holiday–the “no trespassing” signs to up, and the campus is closed to through traffic. Why? To preserve unencumbered legal title to the roads there–otherwise there would be the risk that a public easement would be created, permitting public access in perpetuity).

  3. On the other hand, it would be ironic were Streetcar opponents to use “preservation of the Willamette Shore Trolley”–whose 5MPH or so operation would be incompatible with transit uses–as a reason to not build the Streetcar…

  4. I would look at moving the Willamette Shoreline Trolley across the river to the SamTrak line. Use the trolleys to serve the rail segment from OMSI to the Sellwood Bridge, with a stop at Oaks Park.

    I’d also look into equipping each vintage trolley with fuel cells, perhaps as part of an experimental partnership with OIT’s Renewable Energy Engineering Program. OIT students could get practical experience in designed and experimenting with fuel cells, and the trolleys could get rid of the noisy diesel generators they drag along with them. A project like this might qualify for Department of Energy grants if it has a useful R&D component.

  5. Well how hard would it be to make the trolley compatible with the streetcar system, and run it like the Vintage Trolley (assuming they wouldn’t actually be using the Vintage Trolley)?

    Also, by “functional” do you mean one that actually goes somewhere, and not just around a grounds or back and forth? If so, we might get one across the river if the new rail museum means that the steam locomotives can be more easily used and allow people to get on and off at both ends.

    moving the Willamette Shoreline Trolley across the river to the SamTrak line

    I’m not sure that would be possible since that’s a real (freight) railroad and the trolleys in no way meet railroad standards.

  6. even a few bus lines pass through

    If it’s the campus I’m thinking of, I’m not sure any one does anymore. But I’m curious if the buses had to take part in the detour that day.

  7. I’m with Douglas K., move the WST to the Samtrak line. Its a perfect route for the operation, especially once you have that huge transit hub by OMSI.

    I notice there is a route option around Riverdale to have the streetcar option run on one of the residential streets instead of the WST RoW.

  8. I would have rather seen a spur from this line going across the Sellwood Bridge to Milwaukie than the MAX. It is only about 2 miles distance and I think it would benefit Tacoma St.

  9. I asked about this specifically at a Portland Streetcar CAC meeting.

    On the current MAX lines where the Vintage Trolley operates, those trolleys have been constructed with steel frames (I was told you can see how the windows in the skylight line up differently than in the original historical design, to hide the steel framing).

    Federal rules for crashworthiness required these changes.

    The current fleet of historic vehicles operating on the Willamette Shoreline, I am told, are largely wood frame. If this project goes forward, a large portion of it will be federally-funded, and those operational rules would apply as well — historic, wood-framed vehicles would not be allowed to operate on the tracks at any time of day when modern, heavier vehicles are operating.

    You could conceivably find the money to reconstruct the historic cars to meet the federal standards, but then they wouldn’t be truly “historic” anymore.

    More practically, I could envision setting aside certain Sundays in the summer months to only run historic cars as a tourist event attraction, say from Lake Oswego to the South Waterfront, where people could then transfer to modern streetcars.

    Otherwise, it seems that mixing historic cars into regular service is a no-go.

    (Does anyone know if any of the F-line cars in San Francisco are not up to federal standards, and if so, how it is that they are allowed to operate down there?)

  10. A few other questions:

    If the Streetcar option is chosen, and when it goes online–how does it route when it reached downtown? Will it be an extension of the current Streetcar route? Any chance it might go up the Transit Mall (with platform extenders), which would make it easier to run two-car operation (the existing LRT platforms are more than adequate), making it a bit more useful as mass transit? How about when the Eastside Horseshoe (it doesn’t get to be called a “loop” until the new bridge is built)?

  11. The current thinking is that Lake Oswego would be an extension of NW 23rd to SoWa. I haven’t heard any other concepts floated, but that’s not set in stone. It would boil down to where switches or turnarounds are.

    Mixed operation with light rail for any extended length is probably going to enjoy considerable disfavor from the operations folks for both systems (obviously the bridge being a planned exception).

  12. Does anyone know if any of the F-line cars in San Francisco are not up to federal standards, and if so, how it is that they are allowed to operate down there?

    I’d assume since they’re on their own separate track from all other train types they are allowed to still be used. Half their fleet are PCC streetcars, which are still used in other American cities. That and it’s a slower-speed line, no parts are posted over 25 (maybe 35) mph, so I’d guess that would help their case for using them as well.

  13. I imagine that this (joint operations of MAX and Streetcar on tracks where it’s appropriate) will become a more pressing problem in the future. As you note, when the new transit bridge opens, its lanes will be shared with MAX, Streetcars, and busses–I assume that the streetcar/MAX duplex will continue at least to PSU. LO may get a streetcar line, and a spur of that may head to Sellwood if and when the replacement bridge is built. And in the prior thread, it is mentioned that Rapid Streetcar is an option for the Barbur line.

    If they ever do a St. Johns streetcar (running between St. Johns and Interstate Avenue), it might be useful to run the things down the Yellow Line (though then crossing on the Broadway or continuing south–leave the Steel to MAX).

    As I understand it, the technical issues for common streetcar/MAX operations are as follows:

    * Size and weight of MAX trains prevents them from operating in mixed traffic, in tight corners, and on routes with unimproved roadbeds. We should never expect to see a MAX train operating at 23rd and Lovejoy, for instance.

    * The top speed of the Streetcar excludes them from any “fast” parts of the MAX system–anything east of Lloyd Center, west of Goose Hollow, etc.

    * The platform gap issue–Streetcars are narrower than MAX trains by a few inches, requiring extenders. (Would gauntlets–interleaved sets of rails–work, or is the gap too small? Many of the stations along the WES line–Hall/Nimbus, for instance–use gauntlets to permit WES to approach platforms but keep freights well away, without needing a separate trackway.)

    * Signalling system differences–is this merely an issue of operator training, or of electronic rework? Will the MAX signalling system presently detect a Streetcar on the MAX tracks?

    And you (Chris) note an additional issue–separate operations staff and facilities. Have combining the ops folks (I assume Tri-Met would host a combined facility) ever been considered, or is that a political hot potato?

    Finally–when the Loop goes online, how do you plan to nomenclate the different routes? Given that the bus system uses numbers and MAX uses colors–will the Streetcar use letters?

  14. As historic cars built before 1955 they are allowed to operate under a grandfather clause by the California PUC. When some Budapest vehicles went up for sale for cheap, I asked the Market Street Railway folks if they could run them. They said no because they were built after 1955 and not up to crash standards.

    The heritage cars in Charlotte were constructed so as to be able to run with the LRVs. However the existing vehicle they renovated is not allowed to run on the track.

    The Muni historics have to run with the LRVs from the Geneva Yard to get to the F Line so they do run together and have crashed before. In fact one of the Milano cars was completely crushed when it was hit by a Breda LRV in 2003 i believe. Bob if you send me an email I’ll send you a picture if I can find it among the MSR listserv emails…

  15. Scotty,

    Streetcars and MAX will separate immediately after the bridge, with streetcar operating in the street on Moody (which will be rebuilt) to the existing track to RiverPlace and MAX in a dedicated right-of-way.

    I think it would be fair to characterize streetcar supporters (including the City of Portland) as believing that as soon as the streetcar system is handed over to TriMet it will stop expanding. So unless TriMet changes its culture and mission I don’t see the organizations being merged for a long time.

    Streetcar lines have been assigned colors by TriMet. The current line will be Amber and the Loop will be Aqua. MAX gets all the ‘good’ colors :-)

  16. “The current line will be Amber and the Loop will be Aqua. MAX gets all the ‘good’ colors :-)”

    And this is a problem. :-) Or, it will be, once things start picking up. If the city’s vision of a comprehensive system of streetcar routes is built out, a series of pastels just won’t do, especially for tourists/newcomers. (No, I said take the Yellow Line, not the Amber line.)

    I’ve posted a few lengthy comments on this topic in the past, and I’ve promised to do a full post about my suggestions — obviously I missed the opportunity on that one. :-)

    But to summarize my views:

    1. Keep colors for regional rail services like MAX. Enhance this with letter designations, to assist the color-blind and provide clarity on rollsigns, maps, etc. We’re lucky so far, letters match existing colors easily: B for Blue, G for Green, R for Red, Y for Yellow. We can get Purple and Orange for the next two without trouble.

    2. Streetcars are a hybrid: They operate on routes much like local buses do, but offer an upgraded level of service/amenities. We should number them, but make it clear that it is a streetcar route. So I propose putting the letter “S” in front of a number. Where streetcars (possibly) replace an existing bus route entirely, use that number. For example, a Hawthorne-50th-Foster line might be the “S14”. For our first two lines in the loop, we can establish numbers according to TriMet procedure for numbering buses. (There is a procedure, right?)

    3. For special classes of service, such as express, we already have a letter designation by adding an “X” to the end of the express route number. This can apply to streetcars as well as buses (should there ever be such a thing as a limited-stop or express streetcar service).

    4. For BRT, should we go that route, if it is a high-capacity regional service it can be a primary color code just like MAX. If it is an upgraded local service, it can get a “B” in front of a number, like “B12”.

  17. For our first two lines in the loop, we can establish numbers according to TriMet procedure for numbering buses. (There is a procedure, right?)

    I’d almost prefer to see the streetcar named separately from the bus system. One of the complaints I hear most often from non-bus transit users is that they’re too confused by buses to use them. They see trains and the streetcar as simple, and as we expand the network we should make sure to keep that simplicity as a benefit of them.

  18. I can see streetcars working beautifully in certain corridors…. but this isn’t one of them. I’d rather see the enhanced bus option for PDX-LO. Now if WES-type vehicles were to be used on the existing frieght tracks between LO and Milwaukie, this would have the benefit of connecting the MAX Orange Line with not only LO but also Lake Grove, Tualatin, Sherwood, etc.

    If they ever do a St. Johns streetcar (running between St. Johns and Interstate Avenue), it might be useful to run the things down the Yellow Line (though then crossing on the Broadway or continuing south–leave the Steel to MAX).

    Now THAT would be a streetcar corridor I’d consider supporting. And if they’d run the tracks along Lombard to Interstate and reroute all the freight traffic to Columbia, even better.

  19. My long-term thoughts on North Portland are as follows:

    If and when a new Columbia crossing is built, and MAX is to be extended to it, the current route of the Yellow Line suffers from some serious speed issues–right now its 20 minutes from Expo to Rose Quarter, which would put a downtown-to-downtown connection at a half and hour or so.

    At that point, what I would like to see is a new route for the Yellow Line which provides more direct service to downtown. One option might building a “cap” over the Portsmouth Trench, which connects the Willamette and Columbia bridges, and put LRT over the top, then turning southeast through UP and Swan Island, reconnecting with the existing Yellow Line near the Fremont Bridge–such a route would have a more isolated ROW, rather than being in a street median, and fewer stops. At that point, the existing Yellow Line could be converted to Streetcar operation, with pavement placed around the rails so it could serve as a busway as well.

    But it does appear likely that long-term, the Streetcar might appear in applications that right now are served by LRT–the overlap between the two technologies is not insignificant, and there are some places the Streetcar has advantages (one of which is the ability to share a ROW with busses at higher speeds than you can do with LRT). And for lower-volume runs, Streetcars may be more economical to operate.

  20. Streetcar lines have been assigned colors by TriMet. The current line will be Amber and the Loop will be Aqua. MAX gets all the ‘good’ colors :-)
    I thought there was a post here a while back that said Portland Streetcar lines were given names representing precious stones.

    For special classes of service, such as express, we already have a letter designation by adding an “X” to the end of the express route number.
    Used to. The “X” designation on various routes was taken out earlier this decade. My 9-9-2001 TriMet System Map lists the routes with the “X” designation; my 9-1-2002 map doesn’t. 74X, 92X, 94X, 95X, 96X, 99X, etc., became 74, 92, 94, 95, 96, and 99, respectively, same as regular service routes. There was also an “S” suffix used to designate “shuttles,” which also went away at the same time.

    IMO, there should be a separate designation for express service, otherwise how are those not used to the system going to understand that rush-hour express service exists. Or perhaps the idea is that people should ignore express bus service (even if it runs outside their front door) and drive to a light rail or commuter rail stop. I wish I had the answer on this one.

    On the other hand, C-TRAN provides printed express schedules along with a map of Clark County and Downtown Portland, making it easy to determine where express service exists, as well as pick-up/drop-off points. Although I’ve never been there personally, Phoenix Valley Metro has a map on their website for regular service and a separate map of express service.

    Wouldn’t surprise me if all of us who have ever used and thought about transit riding and usability have various thoughts on designation/naming schemes, which are all very different from each other.

    (W)hat I would like to see is a new route for the Yellow Line which provides more direct service to downtown.
    I asked about this at a CRC open house. The “answer” is that running an express track wouldn’t work because of scheduling/timing issues, so the only light rail “option” that’s being given to Clark County is an extension of the regular Yellow Line, then a “toonerville-trolley”-like route through Downtown Vancouver and over to Clark College, where a massive park-and-ride lot will be built.

  21. I’m for designating streetcars with letters. Keeps things simple. Colors=MAX, WES or true BRT; letters = streetcar; numbers= bus. We could also designate express buses and rush-hour only routes with 3-digit numbers (say, 5xx for express), and reserve the 1-digit numbers for BRT-lite service (frequent service, limited stops, enhanced shelters, but no reserved right-of-way.)

  22. Corporate sponsorships.

    Westside MAX could be the Nike Line, the Green Line could become the Precision Castparts line, the Red Line could become the Port of Portland line, (assuming the Port has an advertising budget), and the Yellow Line could become the Burgerville Line.

    The #12 bus, rather than the boring name of Barbur/Sandy, could instead be christened the Erath Winery/Troutdale Factory Outlets line.

  23. In what way is TriMet’s “culture and mission” opposed to streetcars? (And are you speaking mainly of management and planning staff, or of guys in the trenches as well, who might view different technology as threats to their livelihood)?

    Is the Streetcar viewed as being no better than a bus at mobility goals, and thus not worth the trouble? Is there opposition to transit-oriented development? Class prejudice involved? The sense that Streetcar development represents an abandonment of longstanding transit users for greener pastures (a criticism frequently levelled at MAX)? Or a simple case of not-invented-here?

    If you look at the term “streetcar” in its meaning as a system, it refers to rail vehicles which run in the street. As a noun for a vehicle type, it refers to trains designed for this purpose–smaller and lighter than other rail vehicles; such vehicles are inappropriate for Metro-like service. However, as noted above, “rapid streetcar” has considerable overlap with “light rail” in application. It seems to me that the LO route, being more of a regional connector than a neighborhood circulator (ignoring the possibility of configuring it as an extension of the existing line), has more in common from a user’s point of view with some of the MAX services (in particular the Yellow) than with the trains that crawl down 10th street.

  24. I would suggest that TriMet (and I think this applies to pretty much the whole organization) is focused on delivering mobility through transit.

    The City of Portland on the other hand is generally using streetcar as a catalyst for placemaking. I don’t believe TriMet would continue the same emphasis on placemaking if it took over the construction and operation of the streetcar system.

    I would footnote this remark to clarify that I’m not saying that the streetcar system does not deliver excellent mobility, but that the strategic goal is about more than just mobility.

  25. The LO streetcar line, however, seems to be more on mobility–providing service between Portland and Lake Oswego–rather than placemaking. While there are some opportunities for placemaking in Macadam; and possibly in downtown Lake Oswego, the bulk of the line passes through areas where geography constrains development, or which are already high-value real estate, unlikely to be attractive to (or affordable by) developers.

    Anyway–TriMet presently provides drivers for the Streetcar. (IIRC, TriMet’s contract with the transit union would make it difficult otherwise; and TriMet already has extensive organizational competence in managing transit operations, which it would be hard for Portland Streetcar to replicate). However, you indicate that the “ops” folks for the Streetcar are separate, and there seem to be political hurdles to integrating the systems too much. What functions does Portland Streetcar outsource to TriMet, and which does it handle in-house?

  26. The LO streetcar line, however, seems to be more on mobility

    Proving my point – TriMet has forecast costs for operation of this line in its outyear budgets for use of payroll taxes while continuing to negotiate with the City over its contribution to Loop operations.

    TriMet drivers (you must be a trained MAX operator) and mechanics can ‘post’ to work for Portland Streetcar. But TriMet has no roll in managing Portland Streetcar (Fred Hansen does serve as a board member for the non-profit).

  27. So… PSC handles functions like dispatch and such separately from Tri-Met?

    It certainly makes sense to have the planning functions separate, given the different organizational goals. But it seems there would be advantage in integrating the operational side, especially given that Portland Streetcar lies entirely within the TriMet service district.

    Are there concerns that if TriMet were to be responsible for Streetcar ops, that quality of service would suffer (or that TriMet might somehow shortchange Streetcar ops for services and routes it prefers?)

  28. Yes, the operations are completely separate.

    I’m trying to figure out how to frame the suggestion you’re making, and I’m parsing it as “would it make sense for the City to sub-contract Streetcar operations management to TriMet?”

    From my experience and given the mission differences I’ve already discussed, I’m struggling to find an advantage in doing so. I’m not sure TriMet would want to offer that service and given that it’s a different vehicle fleet and track system, I’m not sure what the operational efficiencies would be (maybe eliminating the dedicated Streetcar supervisor on duty).

  29. It’s awfully hard to understand the reasoning behind the mobility logic for LO streetcar extension given how much longer trips using it will take compared with trips using bus. The transit-stop-to-transit-stop time isn’t the problem; it’s the whole-trip time that’s so unfavorable for streetcar. It looks from here to be about a half hour for the average rider for each round trip.

    I also am concerned about the City of Portland’s role once service extends beyond its limits.

  30. Just to be clear–does the Streetcar option for LO assume that the #35 bus (and possibly other busses in the corridor) are converted to feeders to the Streetcar? Or would the Streetcar be an additional service which wouldn’t affect the existing #35 service substantially?

    If the Streetcar option does involve curtailing the #35, then it does indeed to a grave disservice to riders of that line–not just because of a transfer in LO, but also because of another potential transfer at PSU for those riders wanting to go to destinations along the Mall.

    Which is why, Chris, I’m asking about combining operations–you seemed to indicate that running the Streetcar on the same tracks as MAX downtown would be problematic, in large part due to distinct operations. Assuming the minor technical issues were solved, I was wondering if there were any political hurdles involved in a single ops department (planning and stuff would remain separate, given the distinct missions of TriMet and Portalnd Streetcar), or the current arrangement was simply one which was convenient. It sounds like the latter, and that if there was a desire to run Streetcar vehicles down the mall, it could be done.

    After all, a LO-to-mall ride is probably more useful than a LO-to-the-Pearl-and-23rd… especially if you are assuming that lots of riders on the thing are going to be displaced West Linn commuters, and not Lake Oswego residents going shopping….

  31. Several reactions:

    – Much of the benefit of Streetcar in this corridor is that buses will become less effective has 43 gets more congested. My recollection is that the Streetcar has a distinct travel-time advantage by 2025.

    – I wouldn’t characterize the technical issues as minor. In addition to the ‘gap’ issue at platforms, there are signaling system issues.

    – The concept to run this line to NW 23rd assumes that it is basically an extension of the current service. It’s not like additional trains would be going to 23rd, but rather than the current trains serving 23rd would just go further south.

    And yes, I think the political hurdles would be substantial.

    LO will be the exception, not the rule. It’s the only line currently in discussion that crosses the City limits. Everything described in the Streetcar System Plan stays inside Portland. While I am sure other lines will eventually continue to other cities, that’s not going to be a driver of operational structures for many years yet.

  32. The overly pessimistic congestion projections regarding Highway 43 are not supported by basic demographic and transportation data from the Census Bureau, TriMet, ODOT, and local transportation departments. The facts are that Lake Oswego’s population is very stable and aging rapidly (especially on the city’s east side); that West Linn is very stable on its east side while its I-205 oriented west and south should continue to see significant growth; that Oregon City to Portland commuters will have faster access to SOWA, PSU, and beyond by Milwaukie MAX than with streetcar; that LO to Johns Landing traffic has been declining for years; that route 35 ridership peaked many years ago; etc.; etc.

    It’s not that 43 won’t get more congested; only that bus service won’t degrade to the point where streetcar will be faster for more than a fraction of riders for many decades to come. If nothing else, a bus which converts to a non-stop express between LO and PSU would remain faster and more convenient for most riders well beyond our lifetimes.

    Yes, Scotty, the plan advanced in the Alternatives Analysis does eliminate all runs of the 35 and 36 between LO and PSU except for two 35’s in each of the morning and evening commutes. So we would lose more than 60 runs every day.

    I’ve three main concerns regarding this project:
    1. Service degradation
    2. Governmental ethics and competence
    3. Additional operational costs

    The first would be satisfied by a ironclad commitment from TriMet to keep the 35 as long as it provided better service than streetcar. The third would go away if some combination of the City of Lake Oswego, LO downtown businesses, and Johns Landing businesses would indemnify TriMet, and thereby its riders, from extra operating costs resulting from the extension.

    I don’t have a lot of hope regarding the second, given WES and the way this project has been handled so far. One relatively late development: project planners are thinking about having the “enhanced bus” follow the streetcar alignment on 10th and 11th rather than keeping it on the mall.

  33. With the LO Streetcar and Milwaukie MAX, pretty soon Portland will have two rail lines running halfway to Oregon City. Unfortunately, it’s the same half. :)

    Obviously, Milwaukie MAX is already well underway, and construction is due to start any day now IIRC (has it already?), and there’s no existing ROW ready for use between LO and West Linn (or OC). And geography makes any rail between LO and West Linn difficult.

    In the long range corridor plan, a Clackamas-to-Washington Square line is indicated, going through Milwaukie and LO, and intersecting with Milwaukie MAX. This is a long ways off, but would require a bridge across the Willamette.

    Maybe the Streetcar could cross this bridge as well at some point…

  34. One other thought about transferring–virtually all “transit centers” in the TriMet service district consist of little more than a shelter, a bench or two, a ticket vending machine if MAX is there, and some signage and the occasional empty literature stand.

    Maybe transferring wouldn’t be so obnoxious if people could, you know, wait indoors? And be able to buy a cup of coffee or use the restroom? Especially when the transit center is at the end of a line and the driver will be spending his/her break thereabouts.

    I’m not talking the Taj Mahal or Grand Central… but one of the reasons tranfers are such a pain is that the place you have to wait is frequently unproductive and uncomfortable. When your at your desk and your phone tells you exactly when you have to leave to meet the bus at the platform, infrequent service is one thing–but at a transfer point, there’s often nothing to do but wait outside.

  35. Maybe transferring wouldn’t be so obnoxious if people could, you know, wait indoors?

    Sounds like a great retail opportunity. I’m always astounded at how few MAX stations have any retail. I can only think of the coffee stand at Rose Quarter and the dry cleaner at Old Town.

  36. Sunset TC does have a coffee cart, albeit one at the top of the stairs by the parking garage/bus lane, not down by the MAX platforms.

    But other than a few places where vendors are explicitly permitted, TriMet seems to have a pretty clear policy that vendors are unwelcome on agency property. (And I’m not turning MAX stops into bazaars, certainly–overzealous hawkers ought to be kept away). But a coffee cart, or even a busker with a guitar, can make a wait a bit more pleasant.

    One nice thing about vendors, as they can provide other functions as well–if nothing else, watching for trouble.

  37. I would suggest dropping the 35 entirely, and extending the 76 on the 35’s route between Oregon City and Lake Oswego thereby making the 76 into a Beaverton-Lake Oswego-Oregon City crosstown line. The 35 between Lake Oswego and Portland would become the streetcar. I agree that a transit mall route downtown would be much better than on the present downtown streetcar alignment, for the faster ride, better proximity to downtown office buildings and the regional scope of transit provided on the mall and MAX alignment. Have the present ‘Central City’ (23rd-SoWa) streetcar operate as it is now terminating at Lowell. Meanwhile the LO streetcar essentially runs “express” from SoWa to downtown by traveling on the MAX alignment between SoWa and Downtown and bypassing the slower streetcar route through RiverPlace (though obviously making the MAX station stops). If this was the case, the only place the Lake Oswego Streetcar and the Central City Streetcar would share tracks is in the South Waterfront (between current Portland Streetcar terminus at Lowell and the new MAX Bridge). But IMO if the LO-Portland line is selected as streetcar it should be viewed as and operated as a separate streetcar line from the present ‘Central City’ streetcar.

    Is Oregon Iron Works considered designing a ‘Rapid Streetcar’ model for higher speeds, with more seating and fewer doors for longer runs like potentially the LO line?

  38. When we first moved back to Portland, I started working from a home office (still do for the most part), and our proximity to a MAX station sparked my curiosity about setting up a coffee stand at commute hours — either as extra income for me, or as something for my partner who was job-hunting to have something to do.

    Some of the normal hurdles to operating such a stand (storage, kitchen availability, maintenance, transportation, security, etc.) were all mitigated by the ability to just wheel the thing to/from home when not in use (theoretically).

    I contacted TriMet to discuss rules/requirements for vendors, availability of electricity, etc., and they were open to doing something. But my normal business picked up and my partner found a job, so the idea was set aside.

    I don’t think TriMet does much of anything to recruit people to be vendors at stations which don’t have buildings constructed for this purpose, but unless they’ve changed the rules since 2002, they’re at least open to hearing from potential vendors. (I didn’t pursue things far enough to determine if TriMet’s rents and stipulations would be cost-prohibitive.)

    If someone lives near a busy MAX station with no nearby vendors, and just happens to have an underutilized food cart, it might be worthwhile to at least contact TriMet.

    As for streetcars and vending, a bit of history: The traffic circle at 39th and Glisan has a large golden statue of Joan of Arc. You may have noticed that this statue is not in the center of the circle, but is offset. That’s because, way back when, a streetcar line ran up Glisan and went straight through the middle of the circle, so any buildings or statues were built off to the side of the tracks.

    I read somewhere that there was a fairly substantial (for a streetcar stop) building there … it was the intention of the developer to have the building function as a small shop with sundries for the neighborhood, but this use was opposed by residents and it never opened.

    (NIMBY-ism is not a new phenomenon.)

  39. Pardon my grammar, that should be…
    Is Oregon Iron Works considering designing a ‘Rapid Streetcar’ model for higher speeds, with more seating and fewer doors for longer runs like potentially the LO line?

  40. Chris said

    Sounds like a great retail opportunity. I’m always astounded at how few MAX stations have any retail. I can only think of the coffee stand at Rose Quarter and the dry cleaner at Old Town.

    Gateway has a coffee/newsstand kiosk. What with nearly all MAX lines converging/diverging there, plus some bus lines, I figure that kiosk must get a reasonable amount of business.


  41. The 76 doesn’t go into Lake Oswego–are you thinking of combining the 76, 36, and 35 into an Oregon City/LO/Tualatin/Beaverton route?

    One thing to consider WRT the 35, at least–Oregon City residents generally have better options downtown. The 33 is slightly faster from OCTC to downtown, and is frequent service, and has better service to other parts of OC (it runs to Clackamas CC). The 35 is mainly useful for making trips with an endpoint BETWEEN OC and downtown–i.e. Macadam, Riverdale, LO, West Linn.

    Given that the #36 and the #35 only total about three busses an hour outside of rush hour–and given that I assume the N Portland branch of the #35 would be unaffected–does cost-effectiveness of the Streetcar extension require deleting the bus services?

  42. The Alternatives Analysis converts the 35 south (between LO & OC) to frequent service. This upgrade, plus the four daily 35 central (LO to PSU) runs, plus the new turnaround/layovers for the 35 north (PSU to UP) at PSU and for the 35 south in LO will absorb most if not all of the savings from dropping the rest of the 35 central and all 36 north (LO to the north Portland mall) runs.

    Streetcar extension operations should cost somewhere between $2.5 and $3.0 million, assuming that it would simply continue current runs at about $140 per hour.

    $1 million equals about 10,000 bus hours or roughly 1% of TriMet’s annual passenger revenue. So TriMet will have to raise fares by an average of 2.75%, drop the equivalent of 530 bus hours weekly, or do some combination thereof just to accommodate the extra streetcar extension operating costs. This assumes no major net change in ridership because of the streetcar conversion.

  43. Memories of an end-station of Vancouver’s Sky-Train…a full scale market place with shops, cafes, and restrooms! Now that’s transit friendly development; why can’t we do it?
    re Yellow Line on Interstate, this is the best example of MAX serving a community and “making” or enhancing places. 25 minutes from Expo to the Mall…guaranteed…is not bad; most rides board at Lombard. It will be another 5 minutes or so to Vancouver when they get their act together or 30 plus minutes downtown to downtown.
    An essentially lightrail type line(overhead power, separate ROW, moderate speed, fewer stations) with smaller, single car trains to LO is more of a TriMet product than a Streetcar one. Maybe it should use the Mall with specially designed cars to meet the MAX platforms and a TriMet paint job.
    Not using an existing publicly owned rail line for HCT would be pretty damn foolish. There are many people out there who will NOT ride a bus, period; but are happy to jump on a train…with some good reason in their favor.

  44. There are many people out there who will NOT ride a bus, period; but are happy to jump on a train…with some good reason in their favor.

    So….let’s start spending extra billions to help those people.

  45. While MAX would be better than streetcar, trips using either would take longer than those using the current bus.

    Using the Mall would save the average corridor rider something like 4 minutes on a round trip. Eliminating most stops would save several minutes. Rejecting a “hybrid” alignment on Macadam would save 6 minutes. But even with all that, trips using bus would still be faster because it goes a lot closer to where the riders are.

    We have transit between LO and Johns Landing now; we don’t have a safe, direct, and reasonably flat bike/pedestrian route between the two.

  46. Investing serious money in order to provide a better product at lower cost is just normal with the private sector. You do it or you go away.
    Why not with the public?
    Travel time may be less important than travel time reliability. Transit that has an exclusive ROW, especially one that is already publicly owned, is a better product; its more reliable. And cost per ride to provide it via rail cars…once the capital investment is made…is much lower. Lightrail simply provides a better product at lower cost.
    This is especially true for the target market, so called “choice riders” who could be driving.
    I sell the transit option on an almost daily basis, and when you tell someone they will be on a bus from Tigard, etc. the conversation is over, but where its a train from Beaverton, they want to hear more. That’s just the way it is, and ridership numbers bear it out.

  47. According to TriMet, the difference in reliability between MAX and bus operations is very small — about 85.6% v. 83.2% for on time performance. Of course, MAX does have a lot of shared ROW while most of the extension would be exclusive. WES’s reliability is shown as above 99%.

    The one half hour longer average for a round trip using the streetcar extension compared with the current bus is real. It may not be significant for a recreational rider once or twice a year or less. But for the daily rider who is trying to just get back and forth to work, school, whatever… it could get old fast.

    The real problem is for those folks who regularly travel between points north of downtown Portland and south of downtown LO, especially during off hours. Going from no transfers to two will add a lot of time and inconvenience when transit is not operating with short headways.

    TriMet/Portland Streetcar will be forced to sock it to riders throughout the system either in the form of higher fares or less service to make up for extension operating losses. If TriMet feels obligated to keep the 35 and 36 to maintain a decent service level, then cost per boarding ride on streetcar could easily exceed that on WES.

  48. Note that bus schedules are adjusted for peak hour traffic, so reliability data are a bit misleading.
    From Expo Center to Rose Quarter on MAX is 20 minutes, all day, every day. The old 5 bus could take 30 minutes or more in peak hour traffic which often felt like an hour…and how it felt is important to attracting new riders to transit.
    And remember 50% of congestion on major roads/freeways is due to incidents…utterly random, so its get on the 35 and see what happens. Hence the value of exclusive transit ROW.
    Rail service to Lake Oswego even if no faster in the peaks will be seen by the public (the market, if you will) as a better product…smoother, quieter, easier to use, etc. It is likely that the local match for this can be the publicly owned ROW, making the lion’s share of capital costs covered by the FTA. Needless to say the “feeloaders” of Dunthorpe are not pleased by the prospects of this project being built.
    Re thru trips on the 35…there are not many of these; I wish there were more as it almost gets you to Swan Island.

  49. I agree that perception is very important. Sales courses often start out with the concept of selling the sizzle; not the steak. But people will notice the day the extension goes into schedule that they have to leave home earlier and get back later, losing an average half hour a day, every day.

    Yes, the project is predicated on the Federal treasury picking up all or almost all construction costs. This, in turn, assumes current market value for the ROW at some $109 million. This means that we made more on our 1988 investment than Bernie Madoff promised his suckers. Pretty good for a very narrow strip of land which is restricted in large part to rail transportation. Since the freight business is long gone, never to return, and the passenger business could never survive without huge subsidies, the property has no market value as a unit; only broken up into small parcels. Don’t worry, even if the FTA figures this out, we can rely on our congressional delegation to rewrite the law a la WES.

    Yes, there aren’t all that many riders who take the 35 on trips extending beyond both Portland and LO downtowns. My wife and I use it to get from downtown LO to the airport. The most efficient transfer point is Interstate/Rose Garden which drops in-vehicle time on the early run to 55 minutes. By streetcar, in-vehicle time will go up to at least 75 minutes and probably closer to 80. With red line trains 15 minutes apart, we’re looking forward to an additional 30 minutes on that trip, making it impossible to use transit for early flights.

    Obviously, this is an infrequent thing for us, but it’s safe to assume that there are others who will face similar situations on a day-to-day basis.

  50. sorry i meant the 78 (beaverton-lake oswego) not the 76 (beaverton-tualatin)… just merge the 35’s route between lake oswego-oregon city with the 78 which now terminates at lake oswego. it makes sense to have a bus between Oregon city and Beaverton anyway…

    That should have read…
    I would suggest dropping the 35 entirely, and extending the 78 on the 35’s route between Oregon City and Lake Oswego thereby making the 78 into a Beaverton-Lake Oswego-Oregon City crosstown line. The 35 between Lake Oswego and Portland would become the streetcar.

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