Recalibration? Milwaukie Light Rail gets 50%, not 60% federal match.

TriMet issued a press release today noting that the FTA has expressed strong support for the Milwaukie Light Rail project, but only committed to a 50% match, rather than 60% as has been customary in the past for light rail projects in our region.

The reasons listed were:

  • TA New Starts share could be no greater than 50 percent for a project over $1 billion
  • There is tremendous demand for the New Starts program, and FTA did not want to create a precedent for a federal share above 50 percent for a project over $1 billion
  • The US Department of Transportation’s budget has not increased and the Transportation Reauthorization Bill is not moving forward
  • There is no anticipated increase in most domestic spending, as directed by President Obama

TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane is quoted in the press release as saying “Over the next few weeks, we’ll be working with our project partners to recalibrate the project to fit within these new funding parameters”.

I wonder if this recalibration might also be an opportunity to reassess the idea of bonding future operating revenue to pay for capital construction?

128 Comments

128 Responses to Recalibration? Milwaukie Light Rail gets 50%, not 60% federal match.

  1. Daniel Ronan
    July 26, 2010 at 12:01 pm Link

    Or perhaps this could be an opportunity to verify the Federal government’s commitment to public transportation projects? Highways got 90% match when they were first built. When is that going to happen for public transportation? *sigh*

  2. EngineerScotty
    July 26, 2010 at 12:15 pm Link

    BRT?

    If nothing else, start making the threat, and see if the absurd prices for rail construction (which have escalated throughout the country in the past decade) start coming down?

    One disappointing thing about the project–the MOUS is only one stop shorter than the full project (ending at Milwaukie rather than at Park Place…) which suggests that there isn’t much flexibility to reduce scope.

  3. Chris Smith
    July 26, 2010 at 12:22 pm Link

    I wonder if that’s also an indicator for a similar cap on the Light Rail Component of the CRC?

  4. EngineerScotty
    July 26, 2010 at 12:28 pm Link

    Is the light rail component of CRC > 1 billion?

  5. Bob R.
    July 26, 2010 at 12:30 pm Link

    Just pure speculation here, but if CRC LRT was >$1bn, could each state do two individual

  6. Chris Smith
    July 26, 2010 at 12:30 pm Link

    The intent was to get $850M in in New Starts funding, so yes, I think so.

  7. Steve S.
    July 26, 2010 at 12:35 pm Link

    This is bad news for TriMet and Milwaukie Light Rail. [now over $2 Billion-see below]

    I wonder how the media will report it?

    All this is the feds telling TriMet the 60% is a no go. So don’t even put in in your application.

    This TriMet spin is also trying to BS that they have funding. They don’t.

    TriMet has not even filed their FTA grant application yet. They won’t until the fall and the formal fed agreement can’t get signed until June 2012

    So why is TriMet rushing forward with spending millions in State and local borrowed money on this project?

    Additionally bad news is this fed notice means a bigger local funding gap which TriMet already said they have no plan B for.

    Little or none of the prior local match was really funded to begin with. It was to be borrowed against the lottery, against TriMet’s own operating revenue, against property taxes, against parking fees with $140 Million in fed gas tax flex funds coming through Metro.

    Now another $150 million for the gap must be borrowed against diminishing government revenue streams.

    TriMet, adding $100 milion, has recently said the new estimate is $1.5 billion. Is it?

    That doesn’t include the additional $150 million lottery profits needed to retire the $250 million in lottery backed bonds.

    Or the additional $100 Million in property taxes that will be needed to retire Urban Renewal bonds.

    Or the additional $20 Million in TriMet operations revenue that will be needed to retire the TriMet operations backed bonds.

    Filling the $150 Million funding gap with more local millions will require an additional $100 Million for additional financing costs.
    Again from operations, property taxes or lottery profits.

    So now we are $1.5 billion plus $370 million = $1.870 Billion with easily an additional $130 million coming and pushing the cost to over $2 billion

    With a 5 story, 1000 space parking garage being built at Tacoma Street for Milwaukie Light Rail
    it will be a $2 Billion parking shuttle to cross the river.

    This also demonstrates that the cost of the Light Rail portion the Columbia River Crossing is much higher than is being reported. It’s likely to at least as high as the $2 Billion Milwaukie Light Rail.

    All while the Sellwood Bridge prohibits trucks and buses and TriMet contributes nothing towards a $50 million/year fringe benefit liability that is nearing $1 Billion in total unfunded liability.

    And TriMet tells the public they are sound?

  8. EngineerScotty
    July 26, 2010 at 1:17 pm Link

    Uh, Steve…your math is a bit fuzzy, methinks. $1.5 billion is bad enough, no need to double-count things to make it look worse.

    Saying “Funding source X of $Y is not committed; therefore the true cost is $Yx2, once for the project, and once for what the money would have been spent on otherwise”, is nonsense. To invert a common saying, that’s like not having your cake and not being able to eat it either.

    And the $1.5 billion includes financing costs (and projected inflation); the “cash price” of the project is closer to $1 billion. (It was ~$900 million last I looked, before the recent revision). Still out of line, but rail construction prices have escalated in the past decade all around the country–it isn’t a TriMet problem.

    At any rate, it will be interesting to see what “recalibrate the project” means–I suspect that it will mean some reductions on the cost side, not just attempts to raise more funds on the revenue side–money, after all, is getting scarce and Neal is smart enough to realize this. Would TriMet cancel or delay the project? Possibly. Certainly, it would be beneficial for the agency were some of the “project partners” (particularly contractors, and at least one prominent freight railroad with a reputation for shaking down transit agencies trying to build near its ROW) were to be convinced that this is a possibility.

  9. Bob R.
    July 26, 2010 at 1:22 pm Link

    and Neal is smart enough to realize this

    Total aside: Scotty, you made my heart jump all the way into my neck. For a split second there I thought I had misspelled Neil’s name in all of the videos and posts last week! Phew!

  10. EngineerScotty
    July 26, 2010 at 1:33 pm Link

    D’oh…. :) At least I didn’t spell it “kneel”.

  11. Michael, Portland Afoot
    July 26, 2010 at 2:15 pm Link

    I wouldn’t hold my breath, Bob. Here’s our updated look at Orange Line funding.

    22 percent of the project cost is missing, and they’ve got to find everything by this fall or they’ll miss the chance to start work on the new transit bridge next summer. That’d push the entire project back a year, which would further endanger local contributions such as that precious $250 million in state lottery money.

    I also came across a 2008 memo in which TriMet said that if they only got 50 percent of this money, they’d put out *more* bonds, not fewer. As well as pulling another $99 million out of a hat somewhere. I’d appreciate anyone who can add some context to this.

    I’m not an expert on this, but it looks to me as if (a) the PM line goes back to the drawing board somehow; (b) local agencies borrow more money, further endangering their services; or (c) TriMet activates their right to raise payroll taxes again, which two months ago Fred Hansen was saying wouldn’t be needed.

    Unless there’s some state or local agency rolling in money that I haven’t heard about…

  12. Michael, Portland Afoot
    July 26, 2010 at 2:21 pm Link

    Chris, I’ve got an email in to Ketrina Nelson at the FTA to ask about that very thing: have any other New Starts projects exceeded $1b?

    I don’t know how the federal math works on a multi-modal project, though. If the CRC is only hoping for $800m or whatever, that’s much less than 50 percent of the full CRC cost, so I assume this new standard wouldn’t trigger.

  13. Steve S.
    July 26, 2010 at 2:41 pm Link

    Scotty,,

    What money am I counting twice?

    $1.5 billion is bad but it does not include all financing costs. For instance the $250 million lottery share is the bonded contribution. Lottery profits will have to repay the bonds wit interest. Are you telling me the lottery bond debt service is in the $1.5 billion budget?

    Because from my reading the budget it’s not and the only financing costs included are the interim construction financing costs etc. It’s not even clear if TriMet includes their own bonded share financing costs.

    If there are some financing costs in the $1.5 billion that I have mistakenly added I would like to know.

    If WES is any indication “recalibrate the project” moving a bunch of station improvement off budget and trying to get the feds to change their mind. Despite money getting scarce and Neal being smart enough to realize this.

    There are at least $1.5 billion reasons to cancel or delay the project. As the spending continues there will be millions more as the costs will surely rise.

    The TriMet board should vote to suspend the project pending a review and authentic due diligence.

  14. Ron Swaren
    July 26, 2010 at 2:55 pm Link

    How about just connecting to the future Westshore SC line with a spur over the Sellwood bridge and to Milwaukie. That might obtain some federal money to help reconstruct the Sellwood bridge. (Since we probably won’t be able to afford the $250 million cost for that, either.)It’s only 2.4 miles. Then buy some fancy-schmancy express buses for 10 million total.

    Why do we need a 1.5 billion project?

  15. EngineerScotty
    July 26, 2010 at 3:04 pm Link

    I’ll look more when I get home tonight, hopefully.

    That said, the way project costs (including financing) are reported is standardized and hasn’t changed, to my knowledge.

    Perhaps TriMet should suspend the project–or as indicated above, consider more radical redesigns than merely trimming stops or stations. Lots of agencies are facing similar funding issues; TriMet is not unique here. However, should that occur–the same standard ought to be applied to other projects in the works, such as the freeway to Damascus that ODOT wants to build, or the Pinot/Casino Highway, etc. If we can’t afford MAX, we can’t afford new highway construction, either.

  16. Michael, Portland Afoot
    July 26, 2010 at 3:29 pm Link

    Here’s an FTA response on the New Starts question: there have been New Starts projects over $1bn total, but they’ve averaged only 35 percent of the total cost. My understanding is that this would apply to the CRC, which is looking for $750 million out of $3 billion or whatever to come from New Starts.

  17. Michael, Portland Afoot
    July 26, 2010 at 3:30 pm Link

    Steve S., when you refer to your reading of “the budget,” what document are you looking at? Is it online?

  18. Steve S.
    July 26, 2010 at 3:52 pm Link

    Scotty,

    It would be good to get the numbers with debt service.

    There may be standardized cost reporting methods that haven’t changed but there are new problems with this particular MLR financing package.

    One is that so little of the actual funding has been adequately identified as available or likely.

    The State Lottery share is borrowed against future lottery profits which are currently being spent elsewhere.

    TriMet’s own share bonded against future operations revenue is essentially fictitious funding. Unless operations are scaled back to free up revenue for debt service.

    The Metro share of $140 million in flex fund is fed gas tax revenue desperately need for the region’s many needed projects.

    $20 million of the Portland share is borrowed against property taxes with Urban Renewal TIF and $10 million is borrowed against parking revenue.

    Both are desperately needed for basics services and the parking revenue for streetcar operations.

    Milwaukie and Clackamas county shares are expected to come from Urban Renewal/TIF plans that unlikely in the face of strong opposition.

    The Milwaukie Light Rail financing is effectively seeking to spend money already spent.

    Coupled with the statewide dire circumstances TriMet should suspend the project and cease spending millions more. They should also suspend right of way purchases as proposed by a TriMet board member.

    As for the Damascus/Sunrise corridor, it is far off in the distant future and the Pinot/Casino/Dundee Newberg Bypass is funded with a “new” gas tax increase and will not divert any current funding streams. Although I would prefer the gas tax increase be suspended along with that road project.

  19. Just Saying
    July 26, 2010 at 4:40 pm Link

    Steve –

    It seems to me you aren’t arguing the money isn’t there, just that is should not be spent on this project. There is no bout that no matter where the money comes from, it could have been spent on something else. That includes the federal dollars – there are a lot of communities that would like even that 50%.

    The other issue seems to be that you think its a bad idea to pay for a facility that will provide future service with future revenue. I don’t see anything inherently wrong with that. To the contrary, having people pay for something when they are using it seems to me a better idea than taxing people now for a service that will be used primarily by people in the future.

  20. poncho
    July 26, 2010 at 5:02 pm Link

    I still dont understand how it costs $1.4 billion, now $1.5 billion to build a surface rail line to Milwaukie (even with a new bridge and lots of condemnation).

  21. EngineerScotty
    July 26, 2010 at 5:13 pm Link

    That is the billion dollar question.

  22. Steve S.
    July 26, 2010 at 6:22 pm Link

    poncho,:

    It’s costing upwards of $23 million to move one company. The bridge is an enormous cost yet other MAX costs in South Waterfront are not included in the MLR budget. Such as millions to move Moody street, moving the street car and raising the site 14 feet.

    It will certainly be in excess of the $1.5 billion.

    JS,

    I am indeed saying the money isn’t there. How you can read what I wrote and then suggest I didn’t say that?

    It’s as plain as can be. Read it again and ask me what you’re having trouble with. But please don’t re-phrase what I say.

    The latest chapter with the feds limiting their share to 50% makes the local funding even less likely.

    Why divert into the hypothetical of “no matter where the money comes from ti could be spent somewhere else”.

    We know exactly where the local shares would be coming from.

    Is there something specific you are disputing?

    Yes there are a lot of communities that would like a 50% fed funding for projects.

    That doesn’t make the local match magically appear.

    Do you realize you are altering what I say?

    I did not say this,

    “you think its a bad idea to pay for a facility that will provide future service with future revenue.”

    Your subsequent response is only addressing what you altered.

    Please don’t use “it seems to me” to change what I say.

    If you would like to have a conversation please stick to my own words.

    I was quite clear in my last post. If you have specific quotes you have trouble with I would be glad to elaborate.

    If anyone else misread or doesn’t understand my explanation of the local MLR financing please say so. I’ll gladly acknowledge any corrections as well.

    However, In 2007

    TriMet, “Light rail transit does require a significant up-front investment of $22 to $60 million per mile.”

    MLR will be at least $230 Million per mile.

    TriMet , “Light rail federal share summary

    “Eastside 83% Westside 73% Interstate 74%” [and wasn’t the Green line high?]

    Now it’s 50% with a severe local match shortage.

    TriMet, “Rarely do funds for the construction and operation of light rail compete with core community needs. Federal transportation dollars cannot be spent on schools”

    At least 3 prior lines used Urban Renewal/TIF diverting millions from core community needs including schools.

    MLR will devour millions more from every local level as explained above.

  23. Bob R.
    July 26, 2010 at 6:26 pm Link

    Not to get too far off “track”, but raising land in the S. Waterfront area 14ft isn’t a MAX cost. It certainly helps with the landing, but developers concerned about brownfields want the ground level raised so they don’t have to dig too far down into it — what is today’s ground level will become tomorrow’s “underground parking”.

    Whether or not (or how much) the public should be involved in paying for that is debatable, but this would probably happen with our without MAX.

  24. Michael, Portland Afoot
    July 26, 2010 at 7:07 pm Link

    I don’t know if it adds anything to this debate, but here’s what I just got from Ms. Fetsch:

    The original cost of the project was $1.417. It was at $1.471 when we completed PE. As discussed at the July Board briefing… the new cost was $1.545. As we learn more about the project, there’s more certainty with the budget figures.

    Below are the local committed funding prior to recalibration – (all in millions)

    State Lottery Bonds
    $250.00
    Metro/MTIP funds
    $72.50
    In-Kind Contributions
    $46.50
    City of Milwaukie
    $5.00
    City of Portland
    $30.00
    Clackamas County
    $25.00
    TriMet
    $39.20
    Metro Grant
    $0.30

    Under FTA policy, the financing costs paid during the project development period on bonds issued to provide local match for a project, net of any interest earnings on the bond proceeds, constitute project costs. The local revenues used to pay such net finance costs constitute project revenues. We estimated $149.6 million for the full $1.5 billion project. Since the project will be recalibrated, that figure will be lower.
    Up to $149.6M
    Financing costs for the $1.545B project… it would be $149.6 m that is part of the local match… and that would add up to $618M for local. Since the project will be smaller, and less financing, that $149.6M figure will be lower… that’s why it’s in the $600 million range for local share.Since there are so many moving parts, it’s best to talk in ranges at this point.

  25. Steve S.
    July 26, 2010 at 7:41 pm Link

    Thanks Michael but,,

    “Under FTA policy, the financing costs paid during the project development period on bonds issued to provide local match for a project, net of any interest earnings on the bond proceeds, constitute project costs. The local revenues used to pay such net finance costs constitute project revenues. ”

    I’ll need help with that. Is it Klingon? :)

    The $149.6 million can’t possibly cover all of the local match financing costs.
    Added Interim financing costs was the explanation for the recent addition of a $100 Million and the $250 million in lottery bonds will a take another $100 million to pay off.

    The there’s the debt service for the Portland, TriMet, Clackamas County Milwaukie debt service adding many millions more.

    What exactly is the $149.6 m

    What exactly is the $618M for local.

    Are you saying the project will be scaled back to 736m feds plus 618M local for a 1.352 Billion project?

    Also you do realize that many of the station amenities were already not funded in the $1.55 Billion.

    TriMet went over those improvements and potential funding sources at the last CAC meeting.

  26. Just Saying
    July 26, 2010 at 7:47 pm Link

    “We know exactly where the local shares would be coming from. ”

    So the money IS there for the original budget.

    “I am indeed saying the money isn’t there. How you can read what I wrote and then suggest I didn’t say that? . How you can read what I wrote and then suggest I didn’t say that? ”

    Because you “didn’t say that” until now. And then you immediately contradicted it by saying, “We know exactly where the local shares would be coming from.”

    “Please don’t use “it seems to me” to change what I say. ”

    I will use whatever words I wish to characterize the conclusions I draw from what you say. If you fail to make your arguments clear and contradict yourself, its not my fault.

  27. Bob R.
    July 26, 2010 at 7:51 pm Link

    Although I doubt it will help much coming from me, given the heated arguments I’ve been having in recent threads, this discussion has been going quite well and is more informative than usual — let’s try to avoid personal flare-ups if at all possible.

  28. Michael, Portland Afoot
    July 26, 2010 at 8:15 pm Link

    And here’s what I hope will be my last version of this page for the day.

  29. Michael, Portland Afoot
    July 26, 2010 at 8:22 pm Link

    Steve, here’s my read:

    – The $149.6 million includes financing costs and interest *during construction*.
    – The $149.6 million *is* included in TriMet’s current $1.545 billion estimate of the total project cost.
    – The $149.6 million *is not* funded by TriMet’s current lineup of local partners. (Per the updated list on our site.)

  30. Steve S.
    July 26, 2010 at 10:37 pm Link

    Bob,

    My source on SoWa says

    “Elevations do fluctuate throughout the north, central and south area of main district. PDC said the grade of streets needed to be raised approx. 4 ft in the present central area to get the ground level above the 100 year flood plain. What they didn’t explain is that everything beyond the public right of ways were also raised at taxpayer expense. I believe part of the elevations on the OHSU and Zidell property would need the 4 ft to 6 ft additional fill for flood plain reasons. The capping of the brown fields was also mentioned by PDC-savings for everyone; and also by raising the ground level of buildings allowed for more underground parking to be above the average flooding levels, but not the 100 year floods. 14 ft .fill isn’t needed for any reason but the light rail. ”

    But they forgot to address the Moody St and streetcar move.

    I am pretty sure those are due to MLR.

    All told we’re talking at least an additional $50 million plus TIF debt service not attributed to MLR in the budget.

    Michael again thanks. I couldn’t decipher that earlier financing cost explanation.

    What you posted now what I had previously understood about the “$149.6 million includes financing costs and interest *during construction*”

    I was aware of it in the budget but did not believe it was any of the long term debt service costs.

    From what you have posted that appears to be confirmed.

    Meaning all of the financing costs I listed above are indeed not accounted for in the MLR budget.

    Therefore, IMO the $2 Billion figure may prove to be a very sound estimate.

    I just visited your site. Well done. Helpful information there.

  31. Michael, Portland Afoot
    July 26, 2010 at 11:05 pm Link

    Thanks, Steve! I’m going to be keeping it as up to date as I can throughout this process. It’s all wikified, so feel free to edit or add as you see fit.

  32. EngineerScotty
    July 27, 2010 at 12:39 am Link

    My further reflections on the project, and the possibility of BRT rather than light rail….

  33. EngineerScotty
    July 27, 2010 at 12:40 am Link

    (BTW, thanks to Michael at Portland Afoot for his excellent work, and nice graphics…)

  34. Bob R.
    July 27, 2010 at 12:44 am Link

    Not to gaze too far askew from the big picture, but as there have been at least two floods above the “100 year floodline”, one in 1964 which had boats moored in my parent’s driveway 5 years before I was born, and one in 1996 which didn’t come quite as high, more like 100 feet down the road, but to which old-timers chanted a chorus of “I told you so” to everyone who built since the 70’s on land nobody else would touch, I don’t consider the “100 year” flood standard to be adequate for major investments.

    (And post-1964, those who were there were told that the new flood control dams would handle everything and nothing like what happened in, oh, 1996, would ever happen again.)

  35. jimkarlock
    July 27, 2010 at 4:03 am Link

    Daniel Ronan: Highways got 90% match when they were first built.
    JK: Yes, BUT that Federal money was ALL highway user fee money. (Think gas tax)

    Daniel Ronan: When is that going to happen for public transportation? *sigh*
    JK: When transit users are willing to pay taxes to pay for the entire cost of the federal match, just like happened with highways.

    See: subsidies/Externalities section of http://www.portlandfacts.com/autos.html

    thanks
    JK

  36. Just Saying
    July 27, 2010 at 6:35 am Link

    I don’t think Trimet gets to decide how financing costs are accounted for in the budget. There are good reasons there are rules for how these budgets account for costs.

    That said, they are usually going to include as much as possible in the budget since the feds are going to pay half the cost. Its not clear, for instance, that all the changes at Ruby Junction are really specific to this project. That’s not unusual. Certainly all the refurbishing of the transit mall was not an essential part of building light rail.

    No one seems to have a clear answer to why this project is costing so much compared to past projects. But I suspect this is the future, with new projects going through already developed dense urban neighborhoods. The benefits from serving those areas should be greater, but they are going to have to be to offset the higher costs.

    The low-hanging fruit is done.

  37. Ron Swaren
    July 27, 2010 at 7:29 am Link

    Time to rethink the strategy then. I’m sure with all of the intelligent people in Portland that should be eminently feasible.

  38. Steve S.
    July 27, 2010 at 7:49 am Link

    My SoWa source adds,

    “The present, new streetcar line is above the flood plane-that’s why it is on a filled road bed over 4 to 6 feet above Moody. Parts of Moody was also raised when they redid portion of it with curbs.
    We walked and biked all of this area in the 96 flood which they now say was a 500 year flood. All of the area mostly under water except parts of the original train track and Moody, most land east was under water. Pacific Metals which was southeast of the new OHSU building had water up to their ground floor which was about 3 ft above old street grade with their loading docks.”

    The streetcar move and Moody street move and 8ft of the are lift can be reasonably attributed to MLR.

  39. Chris Smith
    July 27, 2010 at 7:54 am Link

    The streetcar move and Moody street move and 8ft of the are lift can be reasonably attributed to MLR.

    I’ll side with Steve on the Streetcar component of this to a degree. The “alongside Moody” alignment for Streetcar was always considered temporary (we didn’t build it in Moody because eventually we knew Moody would be regraded).

    I don’t know why all the grade level changes were decided as they were, and probably some event in South Waterfront development would have eventually caused reconstruction of the segment (if only to allow stops to serve new development), but there is no question that MAX using the right of way is the proximate cause for relocating the Streetcar now.

  40. Cornelius Swart
    July 27, 2010 at 9:35 am Link

    I think saying that just because it’s $1.5 billions then it must be too expensive doesn’t right. I remember when gas was under a $1 a gallon. It’s a big number and a big number for Portland, but Portland is slowing growing up into a big city. Just saying.

    But Michael says the gap is $300 million and that’s actually 20 percent of the budget? Does that ring true with others?

    I have a question though- from the letter that TriMet got http://www.enzymepdx.com/2010/milwaukie-max-line-budget-cuts/

    It looks like TriMet knew full well that they were only going to get 50 percent of the project funded, but they went right on planning and now they are 12 month’s away from construction with a huge budget gap. Is that right? Is that a common practice with TriMet or other agencies like this?

  41. ws
    July 27, 2010 at 9:57 am Link

    The moving of the new streetcar line along Moody Ave. is very silly. How many millions for that project?

  42. Just Saying
    July 27, 2010 at 11:06 am Link

    I think you are right that the fact that it is expensive doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done. And, obviously, the region’s elected leadership agrees. Its not like Trimet came up with this idea on their own.

    I think Trimet has been a bit disingenuous on the funding level they expected to get. I suspect they knew all along that 60% was a long shot. But they have won that battle in the past, so they operated on the assumption they would win it this time. I would be surprised if they don’t have a pretty good idea on what the “recalibration” will take. But they certainly weren’t going to put that option out there before the Feds made a final decision.

  43. ws
    July 27, 2010 at 11:17 am Link

    I believe Tri-Met knew all along it was 50-60% share they could expect (last page):

    http://trimet.org/pdfs/pm/PMLR_Fact_Sheet_October2009.pdf

    On a side note, does anyone have the expected times from stations to stations? How much faster is LR going to be than say a bus system? It gives me percentage increases on that one page I linked…not the actual times.

  44. Aaron
    July 27, 2010 at 1:40 pm Link

    Why is it that back in the early-mid twentieth century Portland had rails, streetcar going everywhere, but now it costs billions for these runs? Has the technology really changed that much?

  45. Chris Smith
    July 27, 2010 at 1:55 pm Link

    Technology has changed, but more significantly safety and design standards have changed. We didn’t have ADA in 1920. Not that I’m saying the standards are a bad thing!

  46. EngineerScotty
    July 27, 2010 at 2:24 pm Link

    I’m not worried about changes in the past century, I’m more interested in changes in the past ten years….

  47. Ron Swaren
    July 27, 2010 at 3:10 pm Link

    And this is just a portion of what METRO is eyeing for light rail construction. How about a local X- Prize to see what actually would get people to use mass transit? It is working in other transportation modes. My gut feeling is that timeliness counts for more than style or mode of vehicle. Which is why a high quality express bus system—provided it doesn’t get stuck in congestion—would attract as many people as MAX. It could also be implemented soon and with minimal planning and public input. If it didn’t work a better system could be implemented later. Express transit, by its very nature, addresses the segment of commuting which is contributing the most to congestion.

    Assuming that a balanced ratio of: express buses, local “milk run” transit, bicycles and cars—could be achieved the critical and deciding issue of congestion is alleviated.

  48. Steve S.
    July 27, 2010 at 7:21 pm Link

    ws,

    I think it is an outrage for TriMet to have known about the reduced fed share and not said anything.
    But I am not surprised.

    I have a big problem with the Tacoma Station.

    The MLR project calls for a 5 story-1000 space parking garage at the Tacoma Station.

    Tacoma is the street that goes over the Sellwood Bridge.

    Why on earth would we spend $1.5 billion to shuttle people from Tacoma Station across a new bridge when people could simply drive the rest of that short distance?

    Or buses could be used for a parking shuttle at a fraction of the cost even if the parking strucure was built.

    The inflexibility and high cost of light makes it a horrible choice.

    If I were king I would make Portland the model for a high tech, state of the art bus and jittney system serving more neighborhoods more often at a lower cost than any metropolitan center in the country.

    With a new Sellwood bridge of course.

  49. R A Fontes
    July 27, 2010 at 7:51 pm Link

    Sellwood & Tacoma: two lanes now and forever.

    Every Portland downtown bound car parked at such a park & ride would stay off Macadam and wouldn’t need a downtown parking space. That said, I agree that an intensive state of the art bus/jitney system would be preferable by an order of magnitude.

  50. Just Saying
    July 27, 2010 at 7:56 pm Link

    “Which is why a high quality express bus system—provided it doesn’t get stuck in congestion—would attract as many people as MAX”

    Ron –

    I don’t think there is any evidence for this. But, in any case, MAX is not express service. There are people in Gresham who go downtown, but there are also people who are going to Lloyd Center and Gateway and Beaverton and most of the other stops along the way. Running express buses between all those destinations isn’t a realistic option.

  51. jimkarlock
    July 27, 2010 at 9:12 pm Link

    Aaron Says: Why is it that back in the early-mid twentieth century Portland had rails, streetcar going everywhere, but now it costs billions for these runs?
    JK:, Those old lines were built by developers to enable sprawl. As close in farms were converted to housing, they needed a way for people to get to the development, so they built a streetcar line. I would guess that they did not rip out existing buildings, but extended earlier lines to their new development through vacant land.

    The farms converted housing include Ladds, Sunnyside, Laurlhurst and all other East side neighborhoods.

    Aaron Says: Has the technology really changed that much?
    JK:, One VERY big difference is that the early lines were built, by those paying the bills, to serve customers. Now days the lines are built by bureaucracies to satisfy political goals, not to serve riders and paid for by forcing others (taxpayers) to foot the bill.

    Thanks
    JK

  52. Dave H
    July 27, 2010 at 9:36 pm Link

    To address something I didn’t see until now: Although I would prefer the gas tax increase be suspended along with that road project.

    I’d rather see the gas tax increased to pay for infrastructure statewide. Another route over the Willamette between Salem and Newberg would be a start. Other replacement/additional bridges over the Willamette and Columbia could solve a lot of regional traffic issues and improve safety statewide.

    I don’t like the current plan for the gas tax, but we’re still near the median of all states’ gas tax. Maybe eliminate the full service rule and raise the taxes?

  53. Steve S
    July 27, 2010 at 9:54 pm Link

    “TriMet will circle the wagons with its project partners in the coming days to explore if more money could be found.”

    Can anyone tell me if these meetings are open to the public or recorded for public viewing?

  54. Jason McHuff
    July 28, 2010 at 12:24 am Link

    Yes, BUT that Federal money was ALL highway user fee money

    I really don’t have time, but even if it was, a) it forced the decision in that the gas tax was forced upon the states and it would be foolish for them not to want it back as highway funding and b) there’s many other things that gas taxes don’t cover, like parking, Portland’s Big Pipe and other pollution defense, petroleum defense and road projects funded by other, non-user fees.

    Those old lines were built by developers to enable sprawl

    That was not “sprawl”. If you compare development built then to that built recently, you’ll find its denser, more pedestrian-oriented, etc.

    Can anyone tell me if these meetings are open to the public

    They may well be personal discussions.

    a 5 story-1000 space parking garage at the Tacoma Station

    Its been reduced to 800 spaces. And it may be an FTA-driven decision to have it to meet ridership targets.

    people could simply drive the rest of that short distance

    Maybe because that section is congested and because there are parking and other issues at the end.

  55. jimkarlock
    July 28, 2010 at 6:03 pm Link

    Jason McHuff Says: a) it forced the decision in that the gas tax was forced upon the states and it would be foolish for them not to want it back as highway funding and
    JK: Are you kidding????
    Do you know what the highways were like before the interstate system??
    Highway 99 all the way to San Francisco.
    The Old Columbia River highway all the way East.
    If you didn’t drive, you could always take the train if you could afford it. What they don’t tell you is that only the rich could afford the train. It was highways and cars that allowed most people to be able to travel. (I know some consider the freedom to travel to be a bad thing!)

    Jason McHuff Says: b) there’s many other things that gas taxes don’t cover, like parking, Portland’s Big Pipe and other pollution defense, petroleum defense and road projects funded by other, non-user fees.
    JK: Add them all up and it is still cheaper to travel by car than by transit. Faster too.

    Jason McHuff Says: That was not “sprawl”. If you compare development built then to that built recently, you’ll find its denser, more pedestrian-oriented, etc.
    JK: Lets see. It was outside the city – suburban, the suburbs. It was on farmland. It was less dense than the city It required building more transportation.

    It was sprawl – it let people escape the polluted, expensive crime riddled city – just like now.

    BTW, what is your problem with less density?

    Thanks
    JK

  56. Bob R.
    July 28, 2010 at 6:11 pm Link

    BTW, what is your problem with less density?

    Let’s avoid making it personal. From what I read of the comment, there was an objection to less walkability and an issue of your definition of “sprawl”.

    What they don’t tell you is that only the rich could afford the train.

    For this context, please define “rich”, and most importantly, “they”.

    I know some consider the freedom to travel to be a bad thing!

    Please name “some”. For the sake of relevance, if your list is long, please confine it to people in actual positions of power or influence.

    “Thanks.”

  57. jimkarlock
    July 28, 2010 at 7:49 pm Link

    Bob R. Says:

    (Quoting JK:) BTW, what is your problem with less density?

    Let’s avoid making it personal. From what I read of the comment, there was an objection to less walkability and an issue of your definition of “sprawl”.
    JK: Jason wrote (above):If you compare development built then to that built recently, you’ll find its denser, more pedestrian-oriented, etc. (bold added)

    Thanks
    JK

  58. Bob R.
    July 28, 2010 at 7:54 pm Link

    Yes, JK, I know how to read. And I already read what you wrote, and what Jason wrote before you. And your question of “what is your problem” is not founded in Jason’s statement and is getting too personally-directed. Drop it.

  59. Tom G
    July 28, 2010 at 8:08 pm Link

    For the bus vs rail question, when Philadelphia area replaced an old trolley line with buses in 1967, ridership immediately dropped 15%. More recently, comparing LA Harbor transitway to the blue line LRT, In 1995, LRT, with 6.5 minute headways, 4x as many riders as the 4 min headway buses. (adjusted for route length, without adjustment 8x difference.

    In LA in the early 2000s, comparing the Gold line LRT to the Orange line BRT route. BRT had 5 min headways vs 11 or more for LRT. LRT was 18% faster. The two routes are only 0.3 mile different in length, and the Orange line has 42% more population within 0.5 miles of the line and 40% more activity centers. Yet the buses only carried 21% more six months after opening.

    And in Portland, the yellow line carried almost twice as many passengers as the somewhat longer old line 5 bus it mostly replaced.

    Why is there a difference? Certainly the smother ride of light rail is part of the appeal, but other less well identified factors also matter. A transportation Research Board study concluded that light rail will attract 34-43% more riders than BRT in the same corridor.

  60. Jason McHuff
    July 28, 2010 at 8:31 pm Link

    you’ll find its denser

    How about “one would find it denser”? But the “you’ll” was definitely meant in a general sense and not a targeted, personal one.

    As for the actual subjects, both highways/freeways and early/late 20th-century development are very different. And I didn’t say that I was against freeways, just the Federal government deciding to have a tax for them. In addition, I don’t think that freeways outside of urban/suburban areas are necessarily highly harmful.

    As for development, if one compares early 20th-century development to late-20th century, even if both were built on former farmland at the then edge of urban development, they would find that the earlier development is more walkable, has more destinations nearby and easy to walk to, denser, etc.

    still cheaper to travel by car than by transit

    How about an accounting that shows that? And compare real mass transit (what one could find in the earlier developments) that actually gets decent use and not “social service” transit that exists mainly for people who might not have any other way to get around.

  61. Steve S.
    July 28, 2010 at 9:52 pm Link

    This new BRT study was presented o the TriMet board today. It demonstrates a far superior approach to Light Rail.

    http://www.transweb.sjsu.edu/MTIportal/research/publications/documents/2704_book%20(7.8.10%20with%20Covers).pdf

    LA is among the study systems.

    The Board heard some pretty gloomy news from the GM, finance and transit planning staff and got another ear full from the public.

    Drop in ridership, increased cost of operations but some good question from the board.

    From the board I percieved an arrival of some fresh and authentic due diligence.

    Mr. Clark requested additonal information be included in TIP and other reports.

    Dr. Bethel stated his disapproval of the “focus on the trendy at the expense of providing good transit service to all people and areas.”

    Given the totality and reality of the circumstances and comments from all I’ll predict MLR will be suspended.

  62. jimkarlock
    July 28, 2010 at 10:50 pm Link

    Jason McHuff Says: In addition, I don’t think that freeways outside of urban/suburban areas are necessarily highly harmful.
    JK: If this implies freeways inside urban/suburban areas are harmful, please enlighten me as to why getting somewhere faster and safer is harmful. (Urban freeways are safer than other urban roads.)

    Jason McHuff Says: … the earlier development is more walkable, has more destinations nearby and easy to walk to, denser, etc.
    JK: Why are any of these things desirable? People have cars now, so they can travel longer distances to have a wider variety of choices to save money, get a better job, find better entertainment or, to use the planner’s favorite example, find the exact brand of milk they like.

    Jason McHuff Says: And compare real mass transit (what one could find in the earlier developments) that actually gets decent use …
    JK: That does not exist anymore outside a few very dense cities, mostly Eastern and old. As people get affluent, they get a car because it is more convenient and faster than transit. We even see this in Europe! You can also carry things like the kids or 2x4s etc. in a car.

    Jason McHuff Says: … and not “social service” transit that exists mainly for people who might not have any other way to get around.
    JK: Driverless cars are on the horizon, so many people that can’t drive will be able to have a car! This will give those people faster, more convenient transportation.

    Thanks
    JK

  63. Bob R.
    July 28, 2010 at 11:33 pm Link

    So don’t we get to know what “rich” is, and who “they” are?

  64. Bob R.
    July 28, 2010 at 11:34 pm Link

    Oh yes, and who are “some”?

  65. Jason McHuff
    July 28, 2010 at 11:56 pm Link

    please enlighten me as to why getting somewhere faster and safer is harmful

    Yes sir! Its harmful that people (often minority) get forcibly relocated (while TriMer is getting people to agree to move for the Milwaukie line). Its harmful that those neighborhoods bear the brunt of air pollution, even though most travelers are just passing through and have nothing to do with the neighborhood. Its harmful that the interchanges create an increase in traffic on the nearby streets. Its harmful because freeways (along with subsidies and policies that encourage driving) encourage people to drive–when pieces of freeways have been removed, the same amount of traffic did not end up on parallel surface streets, and freeways encourage people to live far away from their jobs. Its harmful because that extra driving requires more subsidies. Its harmful because it discourages transit ridership, resulting in a need for increased subsidies and worse service for people who still want to ride.

    Why are any of these things desirable

    Maybe because people don’t 100% want to drive, and because other people are forced to subsidize and be harmed by drivers. And to many people, milk is milk–a commodity with little difference. Lastly, we’re not talking about an all-or-nothing proposition, driving everywhere or walking/biking/riding everywhere. We’re talking about allowing people to have the option to feasibly do those things.

    In addition, there are many services that are more costly to provide when people are more spread out. School buses, transit, paratransit, water pipes, sewer pipes, electricity lines, telephone lines, cable television lines, garbage trucks, recycling trucks, postal service vehicles, UPS/FedEx/DHL/other mailing services, pizza/other delivery services, police, fire protection, etc must all travel farther to reach the same amount of people in a lower density environment. Overall, its been said that low-density sprawl costs over 50 percent more to serve than compact development.

  66. Jason McHuff
    July 29, 2010 at 12:07 am Link

    That does not exist anymore outside a few very dense cities

    Routes in Portland proper (and maybe Frequent Service) do do much better than the average of the entire TriMet system. Including use by people who could otherwise drive.

    they get a car because it is more convenient and faster than transit

    And because they don’t have to pay the full cost of car use.

    carry things like the kids or 2x4s etc. in a car

    As I said before no ones saying that every trip MUST be done by transit or other modes.

    so many people that can’t drive will be able to have a car

    Let’s say the driving issue gets solved? Where do all those cars go? Many roads are already full.

    faster, more convenient transportation

    And transit can be that. Its just that given things that encourage people to drive and land use that makes it hard for transit (or other modes) to work, its too costly to provide excellent transit. But if you really want “faster, more convenient”, why not helicopter services?

  67. Jason McHuff
    July 29, 2010 at 12:17 am Link

    a far superior approach to Light Rail

    For Milwaukie service, that would need to include coming up with buses that can hold as many people per employee as light rail trains, that don’t (at least locally) pollute, are as quiet as light rail trains, are as efficient as light rail trains, last as long as light rail trains, etc.

    As well as a fully dedicated right of way. And a way for the vehicles to serve OMSI, South Waterfront, near the tram to OHSU, and PSU and allow Lines 9, 17, 19 and 66 to bypass the congested Ross Island Bridge heads.

  68. jimkarlock
    July 29, 2010 at 1:15 am Link

    Bob R. Says:
    So don’t we get to know what “rich” is, and who “they” are?
    JK:OK, OK! Here is your original request:

    Bob R. Says: (quoting JK) What they don’t tell you is that only the rich could afford the train.

    For this context, please define “rich”, and most importantly, “they”.
    JK: “Rich” in this context means train travel was quite expensive compared to today’s transportation costs.

    “They”, in this context, means today’s promoter of trains based on their apparent success in the early 20th century. Generally these people expect that trains would again become popular if we just spend a few hundred billion on improving them in some way. They forget that even the European trains require subsidies. And are losing market share to the private car.

    Bob R. Says: (quoting JK) I know some consider the freedom to travel to be a bad thing!

    Please name “some”. For the sake of relevance, if your list is long, please confine it to people in actual positions of power or influence.
    JK: I have seen statements on one or more local blogs that it would be good if people traveled less. Certainly this is implied in the anti-sprawl argument that people in the suburbs have to travel too far to work.

    Thanks
    JK

  69. jimkarlock
    July 29, 2010 at 1:27 am Link

    Just found this in a source that you-all should consider totally reliable (I may disagree as to overall reliability of grist):

    Smart Growth is great, unless it created the housing bubble

    Did land-use regulation contribute to the housing bubble? The idea is no comfort to Smart Growth fans, but it’s the conclusion of new research [PDF] from a pair of economists. Haifang Huang and Yao Tang, of the University of Alberta and Bowdoin College respectively, found that any limits on where homes can be built — be they lakes and mountains or urban growth boundaries such as Portland’s — corresponded to both higher price gains and steeper price drops for residential property:
    Read all about it:
    http://www.grist.org/article/2010-07-28-smart-growth-is-great-unless-it-created-the-housing-bubble/

    Link to above found at:
    http://ti.org/antiplanner/?p=3487

    Thanks
    JK

    thanks
    JK

  70. Just Saying
    July 29, 2010 at 7:20 am Link

    People can now escape the crime infested city to pristine, crime free, suburban … Rockwood. And, of course, Ladd’s Addition is an example of those earlier “suburbs”. There are always people who are attracted to new development when it is new, but there are a lot of aging suburbs that are finding the auto-dependent development pattern is not very attractive once the newness wears off. On the other hand, many denser neighborhoods remain attractive despite older, smaller housing stock.

    But I think personal preference misses the point here. The real issue is what are the public costs that are required to sustain that development.

    If you want to live in a neighborhood where there are no restaurants or retail stores that attract strangers, that’s great. But some other neighborhood is paying the cost of that luxury. If you want to live where there are no apartment buildings of other rental property, that’s great. But that means some other neighborhood has a higher concentration of those properties. And while some of those costs may be captured in the price you pay for your home, many of them aren’t.

    When you look at transportation, the issue becomes more explicit. The public, shared, cost of someone walking to the store is far less than the public costs of that person driving. But those costs are not attached that choice either specifically or in aggregate. The cost of a “free” parking space at the store, or on the street in front of a store, is included in the price, whether you use one or not.

    Some suburbanites may almost never even use a public sidewalk. They get in their car in an attached garage and they park in an attached lot everywhere they go. They may think they are paying the full price for all that private infrastructure, but they aren’t. And that does not even consider the costs that designing places to accommodate them place on others.

    Part of what you are hearing is complaints from people who are frustrated when they encounter an urban environment that is not designed solely for the convenience of people using an automobile. You can see that in the question will light rail reduce congestion? The real answer, is “who cares”. If you don’t want to sit in congestion, don’t create it. We can’t design our public spaces solely around people who don’t ever want to get out of their cars. While most of us do use motor vehicles, our convenience while using one isn’t the only thing we value.

  71. Steve S.
    July 29, 2010 at 7:34 am Link

    Jason,
    I disagree completely.
    Milwaukie bus service already exists and could easily be enhanced greatly with additional bus service for many more neighborhoods and people in the greater area of that coridoor.
    Modern buses could easily provide far better transit service than rail and go to the many destinations that are not downtown or on your list.

    As testified at yesterday’s TriMet board meeting many Milwaukie/Clackamas transit users do not need to go downtown.

    Modern buses have none of the comparative pollution, noise, inefficiency or durability problems you are stacking up to prop up the costly LRT opiton that simply cannot be afforded.

    With the tremendous downsides evidenced by the many detriments raised at recent TriMet board meetings the idea of building it anyway could not be more irresponsible.

    There is no justification for the diverting of countless millions from operations and basic services to provide fixed rail service from Milwaukie to SoWa etc.

    OMSI is entirely irrelevant.

    Any bridge head congestion problems are short lived and should be addressed with other policies such as reopening a new Sellwood bridge to bus traffic and accommodating more transit riders with a healthy and affordable bus system.

    Your LRT advocacy ignores entirely all of the severe problems TriMet faces. Those raised by TriMet themselves and the public at large.

    If folks are genuinely interested in serving more region wide, socially/economically diverse transit users instead of the white & wealthy over -served South Waterfront then LRT must be disregarded now in favor of preserved and expanded bus service.

  72. Just Saying
    July 29, 2010 at 8:10 am Link

    In case anyone doesn’t know, light rail was taken off the table for consideration in the Milwaukie corridor at one point. It was only AFTER carefully considering bus and other solutions that it was put back on the table. That was at the request of Milwaukie neighborhood leaders who had lead opposition to earlier light rail proposals.

    As far as I can tell, there is no evidence Trimet problems from the economic downturn are any more severe than many other transit agencies. And making long range facility decisions based on short term economic conditions is foolish whether you are a private business or a public agency.

    Small businesses that are forced to do that because they lack the needed resources often end up failing. If Trimet is forced to make those kinds of decisions it will be a clear sign that they really DO have serious problems.

  73. Steve S.
    July 29, 2010 at 9:10 am Link

    It’s good you prefaced your suggestions with “as far as I can tell”.

    Because your attribution of TriMet’s problems solely to the economic downturn is telling of how little you are aware of or choose to acknowledge. .

    Light rail was taken off the table in the Milwaukie corridor because it was rejected by the region wide voters who would be paying for it.

    It was put back on the table exactly how the Airport and North Interstate were following voter rejection.

    By dismissal of the right to vote.

    There has never been any comparative bus option studied at all for the Milwaukie corridor.

    A few Milwaukie neighborhood leaders offered up as supporting MLR is by any measurement entirely meaningless.

    The many TriMet problems you are apparently unaware of are of course far more severe than merely the effects from the economic downturn.

    As evidenced by much including the TriMet board, GM, staff and citizenry discussions at the recent board meetings.

    A prime example is Fred Hansen’s recent revealing to the board, the off budget unfunded $50 million per year fringe benefits liability not getting one dime from either TriMet or the employees. This unfunded liability has grown to $700 million.

    That is severe long range problem.

    Suspending the long range facility decision to proceed with MLR would not be foolishly based on the short term economic conditions. Quite the contrary. It would be based upon the long range effects of the enormous cost. and long term financing.

    The planned reliance upon long range TriMet operations revenue for MLR debt service is what’s foolish.

    Everyone who is aware of it has recognized that as a big problem. Especially in the face of the rising cost of services, continual sacrificing of bus services, aging ADA service fleet and other problems.

    But that’s only the tip of the long range detriment.

    The long range diverting of 100s of millions form lottery proceeds and Urban Renewal for MLR also will be draining that revenue from existing government services and jobs.

    So as far as you can tell there may be no long range problems but for the economic downturn but the many facts contradict that viewpoint.

  74. Bob R.
    July 29, 2010 at 9:52 am Link

    Sorry, JK, you still haven’t defined “Rich”, you haven’t named anyone from “They”, and your source of “statements on one or more local blogs”, were that to even be relevant, would have to include someone actually stating what you claimed, which is “freedom to travel to be a bad thing”. Instead, you’ve moved the goalposts to “people in the suburbs have to travel too far to work”.

    In case you don’t see the failure of logic in equating those two things, it’s like claiming that there are people who say that “freedom to swim is bad” and then offering up proof by saying there are random (unnamed people) who say that “people are required to swim too great a distance to get to the kiddie pool”. Those two quotes are not expressing the same sentiment at all.

    Claiming that people _need_ to do too much of a thing as part of a daily routine is not the same as claiming that the freedom to do such activity is a bad thing.

  75. Bob R.
    July 29, 2010 at 10:37 am Link

    Steve wrote: “By dismissal of the right to vote.”

    So, when exactly do we all get to vote on the CRC proposal? When did we all get to vote on the recent I-205, I-5, and HWY-217 widening projects?

    In any case, if memory serves, the last time there was a vote on a transportation package which included funds dedicated to South-North light rail (including Milwaukie), it was Measure 32 in 1996. 14 years ago.

    http://www.sos.state.or.us/elections/nov596/other.info/meas32.htm

    That measure was voted on statewide, and also included funds for road and non-rail transportation projects all over the state.

    Did investments in road projects outside of the Portland Metro area cease when this was voted down? Didn’t that measure also clearly express the intent of the voters to not provide state funds to transportation projects?

    I’m perfectly happy to have the whole thing go up for a vote again in some form. Up in Washington, Sound Transit was successful at the ballot box quite recently.

    But this light rail project is being held to a much higher standard when defining “will of the voters” than other transportation projects around the state.

    (None of that changes the problems faced by the project right now, of course — the relevance of a ballot measure 14-years ago which provided a mix of funding for various projects is minimal.)

  76. Just Saying
    July 29, 2010 at 10:50 am Link

    Light rail was never taken off the table for either the airport or Interstate Max lines. It was for Milwaukie. And it was put back on the table ONLY after careful consideration of bus and other alternatives. Neighborhood leaders in Milwaukie, who started out as outspoken opponents of light rail, actually provided leadership for that decision.

    Planning to use future revenue to pay for current investments is a standard practice for any business. Dedicating funds for one purpose certainly prevents them from being used for some other purpose. That reduces flexibility in the future, but it doesn’t mean its not worth the benefits. The benefits of reduced future operating costs, faster transit times and increased ridership more than justify the commitment of resources to the Milwaukie line.

    This is an issue now only because the economic downturn has hammered Trimet operating revenue. The result has been cutbacks in service. That has made funds that are available for operation more dear. But the cutbacks are much more a consequence of the economic slowdown than any long range shortfall in money for service.

  77. Steve S.
    July 29, 2010 at 12:15 pm Link

    Bob,

    Are you acknowleding that we got more light rail because voting was disallowed?

    There should be a vote on the CRC but you’ll have to agree that because it has light rail it will never be subjected to voter approval.

    What is the relevancy of the relatively minor I-205, I-5, and HWY-217 sort of “widening” projects?

    Portland voted down further funding for light rail.

    I can’t understand your vague points or questions about roads and other projects outside the region.

    Light rail is being held to a much higher standard when defining “will of the voters” than other transportation projects around the state because light rail was previously voted down.

    Just like the Convention Center expansion, only to have voters overruled.

    But yes none of that changes the current challenges.

    JS

    There was no table for either the airport or Interstate Max lines. Only the effort to ignore the voters and build them anyway.

    Your on and off and on the table talk on MLR has no significance at all.

    And what you refer to as “careful consideration” certainly never included everything that is problematic now. So how careful was it?

    The idea that BRT or any versions of expanded bus service was given adequate consideration is inaccurate to say the least.

    And again these few “Neighborhood leaders in Milwaukie” are meaningless as well.

    You really stumble as you attempt to normalize the MLR financing as no more than standard use of “future revenue to pay for current investments”.

    The big part you are missing is the lack of genuine capacity for borrowing against future revenue. The problem with MLR financing is the there no identified additional revenue for added debt service.

    This isn’t standard practice for any institution, homeowner or business.

    If TriMet were to be subjected to any type of credit application process their plan for own MLR share would never be approved.

    Over committing current operating funds is irresponsible as it effectively dedicates the same money to fund two different commitments. Beyond reducing flexibility in the future, it risks the entire operation. Certainly more cuts in service and fare increases will be unavoidable.

    You have completely distorted the dynamics of TriMet’s funding and financing challenges.

    The underlying story at yesterday’s board meeting was TriMet can’t cut service and raise fares fast enough to keep up with rising costs.

    And your “Business” advise is to never mind all of that?

    There has been no determination of future savings or new revenue. No identification of any new revenue at all. Only shifting current revenue in the face of the rising cost of operations.

    IMO you’re dreaming up future benefits to justify the commitment of resources to the Milwaukie line.

    Your idea that this is an issue now only because the economic downturn ignores the rising costs of prior commitments, of operations and capital investments.

    Rising costs are not a result of an economic slow down.

    The unfunded OPEB problem alone is severe and has nothing to do with economy.

    The long term effects of a $50 million per year unfunded liability will be catastrophic. It’s what happens when commitments are made without the means to pay them. This irresponsible error in judgement should not be repeated with MLR financing.

    TriMet’s fiscal instability involves far more than the cutbacks from the economic slowdown.

    I don’t know from where or how you are getting your perception of TriMet but it is contradicted by the facts and challenges they face.

  78. EngineerScotty
    July 29, 2010 at 12:34 pm Link

    To further comment on the ballot measure in question:

    It wasn’t a referendum on whether we should build (roads, light rail, etc) ever; it was a referendum on a specific funding proposal.

    The will of the people, to not authorize a specific transfer of lottery bonds to light rail, was respected. Were someone to refer more recent legislation to spend lottery dollars on transit to the voters, and the people to vote “no” on that as well, then those proposed bonds wouldn’t issue either.

    If you think spending lottery dollars on light rail is always a bad idea, by my guest to circulate an initiative petition to put such language in the Oregon Constitution (a Constitutional amendment would be necessary to prevent the Leg from authorizing new bonds in the future). However, don’t pretend that a vote against a particular bond measure a decade and a half ago, means anything more than a defeat of that particular funding proposal.

  79. Bob R.
    July 29, 2010 at 12:40 pm Link

    Are you acknowleding that we got more light rail because voting was disallowed?

    I’m not sure what you mean by “voting was disallowed”. No, I don’t think we “got more light rail” because a vote wasn’t involved. It just means that we got those projects via other means than the funding mechanisms which were voted on. Same as how we got more roads via other means.

    The lottery funding committed to Milwaukie Light Rail, for example, was approved by legislators who are voted in by the public. The Metro Council is elected. The TriMet board (which I do feel needs structural reform) is appointed by an elected Governor. The city councils of Portland and Milwaukie are elected.

    So it’s not as though the public has gone completely unrepresented here.

    There should be a vote on the CRC but you’ll have to agree that because it has light rail it will never be subjected to voter approval.

    I don’t think that the light rail component has any greater or less of an influence as the other larger portions of that project on whether or not it will go up for a vote.

    What is the relevancy of the relatively minor I-205, I-5, and HWY-217 sort of “widening” projects?

    There “relatively minor” but cost over a hundred million dollars. The CRC planning process, as has been discussed here, has also gone form the tens into the hundreds.

    I’m not making a statement here about the necessity of those widening projects — just pointing out that in aggregate much money is spent on transportation projects around the region and the state without a public vote.

    I can’t understand your vague points or questions about roads and other projects outside the region.

    It wasn’t a “vague” point, I thought it was pretty clear: If you’re going to claim that the public vote was “against” light rail and that the will of the voters is somehow being thwarted or “denied”, then you also have to accept that the measure being voted upon was about road funding too.

  80. Bob R.
    July 29, 2010 at 12:41 pm Link

    Thank you, Scotty, you put it far more succinctly than I did.

  81. Just Saying
    July 29, 2010 at 12:51 pm Link

    The only way Trimet can borrow money is from willing lenders. Apparently they, at least, believe Trimet will be able to repay them, with interest.

  82. Bob R.
    July 29, 2010 at 1:27 pm Link

    Well, at the risk of overstating the obvious, the last few years have shown that investors have been willing to loan money to projects which didn’t quite pan out. See: TARP, et al.

  83. EngineerScotty
    July 29, 2010 at 1:35 pm Link

    The issue with the financial crisis is that brokers were willing to loan OTHER PEOPLE’S MONEY on bad ventures, taking a percentage for themselves–much of the folks behind the financial shenanigans had little of their OWN funds at risk.

    Government-backed debt, OTOH, is usually a safe investment, which is why it pays a low interest rate.

  84. Bob R.
    July 29, 2010 at 1:40 pm Link

    What I’m getting at (and please keep in mind that I’m generally supportive of the Milwaukie light rail proposal) is that the two related statements A) people are willing to lend money to TriMet, and B) TriMet enjoys a low interest rate because the repayment is government-backed (meaning taxpayers are on the hook) do not necessarily indicate the long-term financial soundness of the project itself.

    So, at least for me, my opinion is going to rest more on what “recalibration” ultimately means, rather than “investors are still willing to make loans”.

  85. Jason McHuff
    July 29, 2010 at 2:32 pm Link

    many Milwaukie/Clackamas transit users do not need to go downtown

    And the Milwaukie MAX line would better serve places besides downtown. This includes a connection to the tram to Marquam Hill (even if you discount providing South Waterfront-eastside access, which it currently poor), as well as places on the eastside and eastside buses. In addition, even going to PSU requires backtracking.

    comparative pollution, noise, inefficiency or durability problems

    I have yet to see buses anywhere in this country that can handle as many passengers as even a 2-car light rail train, or that last as long as one. And I’m not sure about noise or pollution either, at least without the expense of putting up overhead wires or something.

    Any bridge head congestion problems are short lived

    I don’t believe that, that the Ross Island congestion is because of limits on the Sellwood.

    reopening a new Sellwood bridge to bus traffic

    I’ve been wanting to ask, what does the Sellwood Bridge have to do with the Milwaukie line? People wishing to travel from Milwaukie north towards the central city (east or west of the river) or over the Ross Island Bridge are not going to take the Sellwood Bridge. It requires going through the Sellwood neighborhood and, for many people, is out of the way.

  86. Jason McHuff
    July 29, 2010 at 2:48 pm Link

    The State Lottery share is borrowed against future lottery profits which are currently being spent elsewhere

    Lastly, I’d like to refer to a comment left here by Brian Newman (who I’m assuming was the Metro Council member): “…but no Clackamas County transit project has recieved state support. Therefore, since the Westside bonds will be paid off soon, we have made the case that this revenue stream should be dedicated to a project that helps Clackamas County cope with rapid growth. While the Westside bonds represented 11% of lottery revenue when they were authorized in ’89, the $250M allocation for this project represents only 3% of lottery revenue today (due to the growth in total lottery revenue)”

    Now one can argue how the total lottery obligations have also increased, but the point is that the lottery funding is just simply a continuation of existing TriMet light rail funding.

    And from “Milwaukie leaders, residents warm to light-rail proposal”, an Oregonian article copied here: “They are eyeing $250 million in bonding capacity that will become available in 2009 when the lottery bonds for the westside MAX will be paid off.”

  87. Just Saying
    July 29, 2010 at 3:38 pm Link

    Trimet is issuing the bonds and has a guaranteed funding stream to pay for them. There isn’t even a hint the project isn’t fiscally sound. As I said above, planning to use future revenue to pay for current investments is a standard practice for any business. The only thing out of the ordinary is the low interest rate Trimet will have to pay.

    The complaints are coming from people who either a) don’t like the project; or b) don’t like where the money is coming from. Neither has anything to do with the plan’s fiscal soundness.

  88. EngineerScotty
    July 29, 2010 at 3:52 pm Link

    In fairness, JS, many of the complaints are coming from c) those dependent on other TriMet services for their livelihood, and who are concerned that commitments by the agency to spend payroll tax revenues on debt service may impact other services.

    Public transit, as everyone here is aware, is a money-losing operation in North America (with a few exceptions). That’s OK–it provides a valuable public service–but it means that there is a limit to the amount of service the agency can offer, and thus the amount of public good it can provide.

  89. Just Saying
    July 29, 2010 at 7:52 pm Link

    “many of the complaints are coming from c) those dependent on other TriMet services for their livelihood, and who are concerned that commitments by the agency to spend payroll tax revenues on debt service may impact other services.”

    I was lumping them in with the second group. I am not saying their concerns aren’t legitimate. But they are questions of priorities, not whether the plan for financing the Milwaukie project is fiscally sound.

  90. Steve S.
    July 30, 2010 at 8:59 am Link

    JS said, “The only way Trimet can borrow money is from willing lenders. Apparently they, at least, believe Trimet will be able to repay them, with interest. ”

    Obvioulsy they are willing and the lenders know they will be paid. The bonds are backed by revenue streams without any measure of capacity. That hardly passes as anything remotely similar to a personal or business credit app approval.

    I know how these projects are funded but I was demonstrating the shady financing package of MLR .

    In a standard financing process the applicant has to demostrate the available income to service the debt.

    All TriMet is doing with all of the local bonding is hooking into the existing revenue streams which funds other current services, agencies, programs and jobs.
    The money to pay the debt will be taken without regard for the bills it already was paying.

    With these TriMet bonds, lottery bonds, UR bonds they take first position on the revenue and whats left will mean service cuts if additonal replacement revenue is not found.

    This financing package is by far the worst, in the worst of times and on the worst capital project next to a long neglected Sellwood bridge that is closed to Transit.

    It would seem like a lampooning but it’s real.

    The fact that “investors are still willing to make loans” of this type is no measure of soundness of either the financing or the project.

    Quite the contrary really. The use of this goverment bonding enables projects without merit and having never passed any due diligence.

    Jason,
    “This includes a connection to the tram” That’s just slightly above worthless.
    “South Waterfront-eastside access, which it currently poor),” Bad planning and a product of massive misappropriation at South Waterfront. SoWa has poor access period because of far behind and unfunded road, portal and freeway ramp projects.
    PSU needs MLR like they need their tuition revenue raided, which is also happening.

    It’s really reaching to be offering a meaningless difference in a bus versus ligh rail cars capacity.
    When light rail is nearly empty that capacity advanatage is diminished while buses can serve more, neighborhoods and people with flexibilty.

    There is no noise or pollution advantage worth mentioning.
    The overhead wires and the rest of the LRT infrastucture is visual pollution and obstruction to all things community. Commerce, bike, pedestrian, vehicles and all other road uses.

    The two most important factors are cost and flexibility. BRT would be $26 million/mile versus MLR at $220 million/mile and buses can provide a far geater web of service to many more people in more neighborhoods. That’s why old streetcars were torn out decades ago and replaced with buses.

    If we had adequately expanded bus service along with private jitneys etc transit users would be better served.

    “what does the Sellwood Bridge have to do with the Milwaukie line?

    That’s an amazing question. The Sellwood bridge has been neglected and is closed to bus and truck traffic. The idea that funding would go to a MLR ahead of this is laughable.
    Bus service is what TriMet also does. But with LRT and neglect of roads, the Sellwood Bridge and the agenda of deliberate congesting bus service is diminished.

    Some at the TriMet board meeting commented that it seems diminishing bus service is intentioinal.

    Sellwood isn’t out of the way for many people. However finding their way to LRT is often out of their way because no bus service is convenient or available.

    Putting a happy face on the lottery $250 million says nothing about the misappropriation it represents.
    But how does MLR help Clackamas County cope with rapid growth other than conceptually?

    During the course of Westside Light Rail lottery bonds being paid off lottery obligations have already anticipated and expanded far beyond that WLR retiring amount.
    Calling MLR “simply a continuation of existing TriMet light rail funding” is misrepresenting.
    Even on it’s face WLR was a $115 million bonding and MLR $250 million. But again lottery bonding debt service increases have already chewed through the WLR portion with huge net increases in lottery debt.

    Now in the deep recession it’s not prudent to pretend everything is OK with MLR.

    Just Saying Says: “Trimet is issuing the bonds and has a guaranteed funding stream to pay for them.”

    Oh come on. Try and stay on the problem.
    Their funding stream is their own already committed operations funding and other other local bonding portions are likewise.

    This isn’t about whether TriMet has the ability to pay any of the MLR bonds. Of course they do. Their own operations revenue, property taxes, parking fees, and lottery profits
    will pay the bonds.
    The fiscal madness is TriMet cannot identify how any of those debt service dollars will be replaced to fudn what they currently pay for.

    That’s far more than a hint of a problem.

    Taken in total with the rest of the fatal flaws at TriMet it’s suicide.

    And why are there no comments on the $50 million per year unfunded OPEB liability, now $700 million and rising.

    I’m pretty sure that’s criminal in the private sector. .

    TriMet is planning to use future revenue that is already obligated. This isn’t standard practice for any business.

    This isn’t complicated.

    How many times can a person, family, business or TriMet spend the same money?
    Once. And legitimate financing plan at any level by anyone considers all obligations and income.

    So what are you thinking JS? TriMet is already heavily over obligated, over extended and severely short on revenue with rising costs of operations.
    Far beyond a slow economy and a recovery will not provide adequate resources.

    Go to a board meeting, or read the minutes, study their budget, read their reports and analysis by others. Learn what the problems and concerns truly are.

    You are uninformed and are misrepresenting to readers the fiscal status of TriMet and their plans.
    It is not appropriate to do so.

    You should definitely stop misrepresenting where the complaints are coming from and what they represent.
    You’re no where near the truth and I can assure you those attending board meetings would find your remarks insulting to say the least.

    You are contradictory to staff and board members as well.

    The idea that the MLR plan is fiscal soundness is entirely inconsistent with the facts.

    It’s chaos. TriMet couldn’t even be forthcoming on the long ago notice of the 50% fed cap.

    The Federal Transit Administration said on July 26, 2010 that it would fund only 50 percent, or $735.8 million, of the project. (In a July 22 letter to Sen. Jeff Merkley, the FTA said it had been planning since 2009 to cover only half the cost, and told TriMet so.)
    FTA subsequently requested the Project submit a 50%/50% finance plan.

    On October 6, 2008, the project submitted a supplemental finance plan to comply with the FTA

    request

    Until recently they were misrepresenting what the local match would need to be.

    Now they having to address the larger hole they were aware of long ago but did not reveal.

    There is nothing sound about the MLR plan.

    Moving forward with MLR will make every problem with TriMet providing reliable transit service worse.

    I suspect you all know this to be the case but some are having difficulty dealing with it.

    Which is entirely understandable.

    However, that difficulty does not make it appropriate to misrepresent the issues under the concept of opinion or free speech.
    As it is often said, you’re entitled to you have and voice your own opinions but not to have your own set of facts.

  91. Just Saying
    July 30, 2010 at 10:39 am Link

    Lets be clear, there is no evidence that the money isn’t available to service the debt for the Milwaukie project. If there were and evidence at all of that, the people lending the money either wouldn’t lend it or they would demand much higher interest rates. Neither is the case here.

    This discussion has nothing to do with fiscal responsibility, it is about priorities. It is really an argument about whether the money would be better spent on operating expenses or investing it in infrastructure.

    For someone who opposed to any investment in light rail that answer is easy (and appears to them obvious). For someone who thinks the Milwaukie project is ill-conceived the answer is also easy. For anyone who thinks that expanding the light rail network is a good idea it is less obvious.

    If you think the Milwaukie project is valuavble and a critical addition to the system, then the question is not whether, but how, to finance it. The money to do that is going to have to come from somewhere and there are going to other, competing, uses for it. Just as there are for operating dollars.

  92. Steve S.
    July 30, 2010 at 10:39 am Link

    http://djcoregon.com/news/2010/07/02/portland-light-rail-route-goes-where-the-money-is/

    On the topic of light rail, Mildner informed me that constructing and maintaining a light rail in Portland is ten times more expensive than buying, operating and maintaining a bus.

    “The thing that is sad is that TriMet has put so much money into light rail it is taking away from bus service,” Mildner said.. You always want to use transit dollars to add value service on a bang-for-buck basis, and light rail don’t really do that, he said.

  93. Just Saying
    July 30, 2010 at 11:14 am Link

    Just to be clear about the benefits of this investment. The Milwaukie light rail will reduce operating expenses, increase transit ridership (and presumably the fares paid for those trips) and reduce the time for many transit trips.

    It extends the current light rail network into the central eastside, one of the region’s densest employment areas. It is likely it will increase property values there and make it and other areas around stops more attractive to employers.

    Those are some of the returns on the investment. You have to weigh those benefits against those of the lowest priority operating expenses that they would presumably be taken from.

  94. Just Saying
    July 30, 2010 at 11:24 am Link

    “Mildner informed me ”

    The Cascade Policy Institute and its associates are a source of many things, “information” is not one of them.

  95. EngineerScotty
    July 30, 2010 at 12:04 pm Link

    The statement:

    “constructing and maintaining a light rail in Portland is ten times more expensive than buying, operating and maintaining a bus.”

    is ill-formed. Light rail trains do not cost 10 times more than busses; the cost of the rolling stock per passenger per service year is about the same. Operating costs per passenger are lower for LRT than for busses, which is one reason transit agencies like light rail.

    Mildner is somehow amortizing construction costs in, which is another matter. Mildner’s comment would be analogous to observing, 100 years ago, that “constructing and maintaining a car in Portland is ten times more expensive than buying, riding, and feeding a horse”, and adding the costs of building a mature road network (which didn’t exist in 1910) to the costs of the car. Perhaps true, but an apples/oranges comparison.

  96. Jason Barbour
    July 30, 2010 at 12:19 pm Link

    I’ll admit that I haven’t read the posts in this thread in as much detail as I read others in other threads, but seeing the comment on serving the Central Eastside reminded me that an idea for really serving the Central Eastside is already out there:
    http://portlandtransport.com/archives/2007/03/the_howell_line.html

  97. R A Fontes
    July 30, 2010 at 2:44 pm Link

    As has been said before many times, LRT’s per passenger operating expenses are lower than bus’s only when there are enough riders to justify the extra costs. TriMet’s Spring 2010 route ridership report does show that the “RGB” lines operate weekdays at lower costs per ride than any bus route. However, at $2.14 per ride, Yellow costs more than the 4, 6, or 72. The Mall Shuttle costs $2.85 or more than any of 18 bus routes.

    Another factor is cannibalization. A year ago, the 72 cost $1.83 and provided 18,690 rides. Now it costs $2.10 and is down to 16,540 rides daily. For the folks who were able to make the switch to the Green Line, life is great. Those that weren’t often found headway increased, although still short enough to make riders of just about any other service jealous. It’s one thing when LRT completely replaces a bus and another entirely when that bus needs to continue operating with fewer passengers.

  98. Steve S.
    July 30, 2010 at 2:45 pm Link

    JS

    Yes let’s be clear yet again. The money available to service the debt for the Milwaukie project is already spent on current services.

    The evidence if as plain as the nose on your face. The taking of those proceeds for services to pay MLR debt leaves unfunded services.

    You hardly need to repeat the elementary point that the bonds will get paid.

    Of course this discussion has everything to do with fiscal responsibility.

    TriMet is already over extended and facing rising costs. You can ignore it but cannot hide that fact.

    Everyone but you acknowledges it.

    Additional over-committing of revenue is irresponsible.

    You’ve essentially ignored every challenge TriMet is facing while pretending MLR will save them money.

    The Milwaukie light rail will not reduce operating expenses. That is preposterous and a bizarre concoction.

    I must say though, your weighing your concocted and embellished benefits against what you call “the lowest priority operating expenses” is one of your more special presumptions.

    You’ve not exhibited any awareness or knowledge of the current discussions and circumstances at TriMet and offer no basis for any of your claims while then claiming The Cascade Policy Institute provides no information.

    CPI provided information is widely recognized, referred to and very useful.

    Including at Scotty’s site.

    Scotty, I’m sure Mildner is amortizing construction costs in.

    But I disagree with your analogy to “adding the costs of building a mature road network to the costs of the car.”

    A better analogy would be adding the cost of the Bus way in a dedicated BRT to the cost of bus service in that corridor. Of course it would be part of that cost. Would it not?

    Having said that, you have some good work at your site. My buddy JS may want to avoid it. :)

    The end result of this debate is unavoidable and a no brainer.

    When all things are are soon fully considered, Bus Rapid Transit will replace plans for more light rail to Milwaukie and on the CRC.

    And with TriMet in financial crisis, cutting services and facing risings costs the tremendous savings would be a boon to the agency.

    With this change bus service could return to a new Sellwood bridge which would not be a TriMet expense.

    The much lower cost of the CRC would not require tolls, the project would be accelerated and transit service by TriMet and C-Tran would be greatly expanded at a fraction of the cost.

    Milwaukie Bus Rapid Transit
    http://deadhorsetimes.blogspot.com/2010/07/milwaukie-brt.html

    From Buses to BRT: Case Studies of Incremental BRT Projects in North America
    http://www.transweb.sjsu.edu/MTIportal/research/publications/documents/2704_book%20(7.8.10%20with%20Covers).pdf

    Portland-Milwaukie light rail project
    http://portlandafoot.org/w/index.php?title=Orange_Line

    http://deadhorsetimes.blogspot.com/2010/07/milwaukie-brt.html

    BRT- Bus Rapid Transit from Portland to Oregon City ( “BRT” means bus service enhanced with low-cost capital improvements such as signal priority, but not a full busway):
    $119-$131 million.

    Busway from Portland to Milwaukie, BRT from Milwaukie to Oregon City: (“Busway” means a fully dedicated ROW for the exclusive use of transit vehicles).
    $267 million – $299 million

    LRT from Portland to Milwaukie
    $1.54 Billion – $1.85 Billion

  99. Just Saying
    July 30, 2010 at 4:08 pm Link

    The money to service the debt will come from future revenue. To say it is “already spent” on anything is nonsensical.

    Committing future revenue to the Milwaukie line will reduce revenue available for other purposes to the extent there are not offsetting savings. That is obvious. It is true of any investment. Again the question is whether the benefits are worth the cost.

    When you consider that the Cascade Policy Institute wants to eliminate of privatize virtually all government services, its not surprising they are opposed to any investment to improve those services.

  100. EngineerScotty
    July 30, 2010 at 4:22 pm Link

    Steve— no fair qouting the projected busway costs from the 2003 SDEIS (the numbers found in the DHT article), and comparing them to the current LRT budget, For one thing, those costs don’t include a new bridge across the Willamette; for another, there’s also a LRT estimate in the same report, which you are ignoring.

    My issue with Milwaukie MAX is simply that the cost has gone from “reasonable” to “unreasonable”, and I have no idea why. MAX does reduce operating expenses for a given level of service on highly-traveled corridors; a MAX train costs about 2x to operate per hour than a bus does but can hold over 4x the number of passengers. The Milwaukie corridor does do enough volume to justify conversion to higher-capacity vehicles on an operational basis–the question is can the region afford the price tag during a time of declining payroll tax revenue, coupled with rail costs that are going up.

    The answer to that question seems to be getting more to “no”, at least at the present time. Were rail costs to come back into line, or the recession to end and the topline to go back up, the answer may well turn back into “yes”.

    Certainly, BRT is an option–especially a BRT implementation which can be converted to rail later if circumstances demand it. (Which is to say, a fully-exclusive ROW from Portland to Milwaukie, running busses instead of trains). I’m of the opinion that for this corridor (between Portland and Milwaukie), “BRT lite” won’t cut it; and to address the quote above from the PSU prof, a full busway will cost considerably more than a tenth of light rail.

  101. Steve S.
    July 30, 2010 at 6:02 pm Link

    Scotty,

    Ok on the quote but the BusWay option would soar in cost like MLR, and I suspect holding out for your preference is only because of the potential conversion to rail.

    BRT lite would easily provide good transit service for Milwaukie corridor volume.
    Including all the way to Oregon City and elsewhere adjacent to the corridor.

    I’m told the ODOT report of what is necessary to do in the McLoughlin corridor, the counts on McLoughlin, the Tri Met bus ridership on McLoughlin all show BRT Lite is a good choice.

    Building a dedicated BRT lanes would be cheaper than light rail but just as bad. The lanes would carry very few riders. Similarly little use is found on HOV lanes with crowded general purpose lanes. There is a bottleneck now because of construction.
    “Heavy” BRT would be as bad as the Orange line BRT was in LA.

    But “BRT lite”, which is essentially skip-stop express service with maybe some different buses for branding, for a modest cost ($100,000 per mile or less). That’s all we need for Milwaukie, that and a new Sellwood Bridge for the buses to go over, which would be a Mult Co. expense, not a TriMet expense.

    BRT all the way to Oregon City, a new Sellwood Bridge and an enornmous savings to preserve and expand bus service region wide.

    The least option is workable and affordable while getting to where we need to be much sooner rather than much later.

  102. Just Saying
    July 30, 2010 at 6:27 pm Link

    “were rail costs to come back into line, or the recession to end and the topline to go back up, the answer may well turn back into “yes”.”

    I think it is the wrong approach to base decisions on long term investments, which is what light rail is, on the current economic situation Its an approach that failing businesses take.

    Obviously there is a point at which the project just doesn’t pencil out. But the argument that the project budget is out of control will actually be weaker if Trimet cuts costs in response to the feds decision on local match.

    I also think it is important to remember that there are a number of parts to this project that serve a broader purpose than just the immediate needs for getting light rail to Milwaukie, including the investment at Ruby Junction and the bridge.

    BRT was considered for the Milwaukie corridor and rejected. In fact it was its poor performance in meeting the transit needs in the area that lead to the reconsideration of light rail.

  103. Steve S.
    July 30, 2010 at 6:50 pm Link

    hmm
    We’re having double double posting posting problems?
    [Moderator … Double posts cleaned up for now, but shared web server obviously dragging its feet…]
    But the show must go on.

    JS

    Obviously many presumptions previoulsy made abouyt that corridor were wrong.
    And I don’t buy that claim that BRT would not meet the transit needs in the area and that’s what lead to the reconsideration of light rail.
    MLR rail was the objective and the justification was crafted.

    As for TriMet, financing and CPI.

    I’m really trying to help you out. But I don’t know whether to laugh, cry or scream.

    If you are not able to, try this and let’s stop all of the nonsense.

    First of all, MLR is not vital to TriMet, or transit, or the region’s transportation system. There are other options, bus service is already serving the corridor and the high cost has already been shown to be a detriment if it proceeds.

    So set aside your inflated importance of MLR for a moment.

    The “already spent” is not literally speaking. So yes if you took it that way it would be nonsensical.

    But it was meant to be the same as if you had all of your own fixed income being devoured by your expenses that are rising, came up more short every month and repeatedly put off increasing amounts that you are unable to pay. You then went out and found a lender to finance a new car who would only be interested in your income and having the first position on that income until the car was paid off.
    Would that mean you have the money to pay for a new car?
    No. You would be using your future pay that is already over-committed, or effectively “already spent” on prior obligations.

    Would the financing and purchase of that car be a fiscally sound plan for you? No.

    Of course it would be irresponsible.

    It wouldn’t matter if you told yourself it is standard to use your future pay to pay for a car.
    It wouldn’t matter if you could dream up a notion of saving some money with the new car.
    And neglecting the fact that you were already severely short, and getting shorter, every month to begin with would be completely foolish.

    Now you may want that new car really really bad, but ignoring your money troubles while cooking up an urgent need to justify the purchase is moving towards the decision that will accelerate and worsen the crisis you are already in to the point of losing everything.

    That’s exactly the scenario TriMet find itself in with their attempt to purchase MLR.

    If you are unaware of TriMet’s fiscal insolvency then go buy your car.

    TriMet has prior obligations which have the agency over extended. MLR would not be an “investment” any more than your new car.

    The Cascade Policy Institute’s John Charles has organized and presented TriMet’s own data in an informative and helpful way. He has not ginned up funny numbers because he
    wants to “privatize virtually all government services” or because he is paid for by anti-transit forces of darkness.

    He and CPI in alignment with the many people and interests attending the recent TriMet board meetings, is in favor of BRT and other efficiencies to provide better and sustainable transit to more people and neighborhoods at an affordable cost.

    They have the same objectives in other arenas.

  104. Jason McHuff
    July 30, 2010 at 9:49 pm Link

    That’s just slightly above worthless (regarding the connection to the tram)

    How so, considering the amount of people that work at the multiple institutions on Marquam Hill?

    PSU needs MLR

    No, PSU doesn’t “need” it, but people don’t “need” most things. Instead, it would allow transit riders to get between there and the east side without backtracking/transferring from Hawthorne Bridge buses or dealing with the congestion around the Ross Island Bridge.

    When light rail is nearly empty

    And I don’t think a Milwaukie line is expected to be underused in the future.

    BRT would be $26 million/mile versus MLR at $220 million/mile

    Is that a fair comparison, providing all the benefits that the light rail line would provide?

    The idea that funding would go to a MLR ahead of this is laughable

    I view the Sellwood Bridge and a Miwaukie MAX line as two separate and independent projects, which should receive funding from independent sources.

  105. EngineerScotty
    July 30, 2010 at 10:35 pm Link

    Actually, my preference for a “busway” over BRT-light isn’t just because of conversion to rail–note I said “if circumstances warrant”. In particular, if demand on the route climbs.

    Given that the line only is planned (currently) for half the corridor; a busway solution would work better for the whole corridor (even if no work is done south of Park Ave) as “rapid” busses could continue limited-stop on McLoughlin. South of Milwaukie, McLoughlin isn’t as congested as the stretch to the north, and no improvements, or BRT-lite might suffice. Eventually, conversion of the whole corridor would be desirable.

    As for the question of what can “handle the load”–the present busses “handle” the present demand satisfactorily. However, I’m interested in a) improving service (frequency, reliability, and speed), and b) increasing its utilization. The two things go hand-in-hand–many people are more willing to take rapid transit than the slow variety. (Much of North America has a stated preference for rail as well; which I won’t defend other than to note it exists). In addition, I’m interested in future demand should gas prices return to their pre-recession levels (or higher).

    With regards to the right way to invest–I agree that countercyclical investment is a good thing; a new transit project (especially funded with Uncle Sam’s money) would help the economy. Unfortunately, the only government entity that is really capable of countercyclical investment, due to it having a sovereign currency to play with, is Uncle Sam. However, Congress seems disinterested in further stimulus for now–and transit seems to be taking a back seat to other priorities. Without Federal help, the region lacks the dollars to meet all of its demands for government services–and unlike the US government, which can issue bonds backed by “full faith and credit” (and have the market buy them), local governments have to allocate revenues to guarantee their repayment.

    JS–do you have any more detail on why BRT was rejected initially, other than a stated regional preference for LRT? The SDEIS number for the busway option, while lower on the ridership numbers, were generally at parity for other metrics such as trip time.

  106. Douglas K.
    July 31, 2010 at 1:04 am Link

    From the Tribune article, the new transit bridge is budgeted at $135 million.

    Some time ago, I suggested the transit bridge should be open to cars on a toll basis, the idea being that some (not all) drivers would pay for a shortcut between SoWa and the east side, trimming as much as 8-10 minutes off their trip at rush hour.

    This might be a good time for Tri=Met to look at that concept, particularly if private vehicle tolling had the potential to pay for the entire bridge over time. If the bridge could be built “off-budget” relative to the rest of the project, there’s over 1/3 of the gap right there. And if rules allowed $135 million of bonds backed by bridge tolls to be treated as a local contribution to secure a federal funding match, that could cover $270 million of the $345 shortfall.

  107. Steve S.
    July 31, 2010 at 12:40 pm Link

    Jason said, “I view the Sellwood Bridge and a Miwaukie MAX line as two separate and independent projects, which should receive funding from independent sources.”

    Of course you do. Nothing could be more obvious and serving of the continual neglect of the Sellwood bridge while advancing a new $2 billion transit project.
    “Well the bridge takes different money, so we’re almost forced to make it wait”.

    That’s why so many people like myself think it is so laughable to the point it seems like a lampooning of planning. It’s even closed to transit making it even more laughable.

    Scotty,

    Good points, but given all of the constraints with current TriMet fiscal matters, available resources and the current demands for transit in the McLouglin corridor BRT-lite will suffice long into the future for the entire stretch to Oregon city.

    The savings from no MLR or BusWay would enable a plethora of other achievements while spending far less.

    The list of benefits from avoiding the High cost options are many. And they all lead to a healthier transit system.

    Among the available benefits would include the expansion of more frequent and modern bus service along with the adoption of private jitneys and better ADA service for an aging population.

    Gathering up all of the considerations we simply cannot afford to sacrifice massive dollars and service to extend these high cost capital projects.

    There is no reliable evidence that busses will not be able to “handle” either the present or future demand satisfactorily. Especially when enhanced bus service would be far more closer to door to door service for far more people. Now that’s increasing utilization.

    And calling our MAX “rapid transit” has always been an embellishment. It’s not rapid.

    The greater crisis with the region and state lacking the dollars to meet all of its demands for government services must remain front and center in any plan for spending huge amounts. We are where we are because that concern has been continually deferred.

  108. Ron Swaren
    July 31, 2010 at 9:40 pm Link

    Would someone from the crowd that favors these expensive projects tell me exactly what is the final goal—where we can rest and say that every major thing that needs to be done has been accomplished—-for at least a few decades? Do we actually have a TARGET? Where is that finishing point? It doesn’t take but one major blunder to put you on to a path of then having to desperately seek for remedial cures.

    There is a saying “Aim at nothing and you will hit it every time.” What is the result that we are aiming at? i.e. The final, completed strategy? It looks to me like we are headed into an unending spiral of poorly conceived, and expensive projects. This will require a slew of new, crafty ways to get taxes to pay for it all.

    The CRC is the chief, yet not the only one, of probable blunders. I will say that Mr. Liberty does believe in taking a sharp pencil to these proposals. Fritz on Portland City Council seems to have a similar attitude.

  109. EngineerScotty
    July 31, 2010 at 11:00 pm Link

    where we can rest and say that every major thing that needs to be done has been accomplished?

    That one’s easy. When an asteroid smashes into the planet, obliterating all life on earth. Or when globa… whoops, can’t discuss that. Or when a certain former governor of a northern state gets elected and personally brings about the Apocalypse. :) Or when a 9.8 quake off the coast of Astoria levels everything with 100m, including Portland.

    Take a look around, Ron, at all that has been built. Highways. Bridges. Railroads. MAX. Airports. Shipping terminals. Buildings. Power lines. Pipes. Parks. Etc.

    These all have been built over decades, nay, centuries, as the area has gone from Native American settlement to what it is today. They weren’t built as part of some grand plan to get to today; they were built as needed by the circumstances at the time. And much has been destroyed along the way, whether by nature (Vanport) or the wrecking ball (much of Albina, South Portland). Much of it was cheaper to build when it was done–no NEPA, no Davis-Bacon, no lawyer-empowered NIMBYs, and virtually all of it has now been paid for–but none of it came for free. What is being proposed now isn’t some new flood of pork-barrel politics, but a continuation of over a century of development in the area.

    Granted, there have been numerous boondoggles constructed over the years; and many things which have outlived their usefulness. And there probably will be more in the future. But no human settlement is truly ever “done”, at least not until it is dead (or dying).

  110. EngineerScotty
    July 31, 2010 at 11:14 pm Link

    Steve,

    What “other achievements” do you believe are being underfunded, and sacrificed for MLR? I’m all for the “expansion of more frequent and modern bus service”, but how do you get there? Improving the infrastructure is a big part of achieving that. A popular line of argument is “how many busses can you buy with $1.5 billion” (or whatever the cost of a proposed capital project is), but buying busses isn’t the most expensive part of running a bus system; hiring people to drive them is. $1.5 billion would pay TriMet’s operating expenses for about 20 months–and that’s current levels of service.

    Regarding whether or MAX is “rapid transit”–the systemwide average is about 20MPH; which is at the lower end of what’s generally considered “rapid transit”, but within the range. The Yellow Line is the most problematic line; and the slog through downtown is annoying; but the rest of the system is competitive with other rapid transit lines elsewhere in terms of performance.

    Compared to a fully grade-separated metro with wide stop spacing, MAX is slow; but those things are generally more expensive.

    Given that, I always find it interesting when someone, in the same post, demands that capital projects be done on the cheap; and also complains that prior capital projects aren’t of sufficient enough quality. Would you be willing to spend a couple billion to put a subway under downtown, so commuters can get from Beaverton to Gateway in 30 minutes on the train?

    I

  111. Ron Swaren
    July 31, 2010 at 11:23 pm Link

    ES,
    No it is not easy. I said “major thing.” After the Gresham Max was built we had almost two decades without another project like that. Now get serious, and don’t give me your Saul Alinsky answer.

  112. Bob R.
    July 31, 2010 at 11:58 pm Link

    After the Gresham Max was built we had almost two decades without another project like that.

    Gresham MAX opening: September, 1986.
    Westside MAX (full) opening: September, 1998.

  113. EngineerScotty
    August 1, 2010 at 12:09 am Link

    Also, to fill in the gaps a bit from Bob’s observations:

    Fremont Bridge: 1973 (opened)
    Glenn Jackson Bridge: 1982 (opened)
    Completion of I-205: 1983
    Oregon City Bypass: 1987 or thereabouts
    Rebuild of I84 east of I-205: early 1990s
    Red Line: 2001
    Yellow Line: 2004
    Green Line: 2009
    Big Pipe: 2011

    There have been 9-figure-plus capital projects going on, more or less continuously, for decades. As noted above, if you go back far enough, you get to a time of cheap labor and little regulation, where such things could be done far less expensively.

    And these are just new capital infrastructure. There’s also numerous projects, many of them expensive, needed to repave, repair, and refurbish the various projects built in the past.

    The difference is now, we’re in a downturn. The last Really Big Downturn, back in the 1980s, resulted in a slowing of capital project development; but things picked back up when the economy improved.

  114. Steve S.
    August 1, 2010 at 10:21 am Link

    Scotty asks, “Would you be willing to spend a couple billion to put a subway under downtown, so commuters can get from Beaverton to Gateway in 30 minutes on the train? ”

    Of course not. The cost would be prohibitive and the end results would never reach a justification.

    On the topic of operations and the ability to expand bus service TriMet has been over extending itself for a couple decades diminishing it’s ability to do just that.

    It’s gotten ridiculous. TriMet has even spent millions on development trying to assist the notion of TODs etc.

    If we stacked up all of the countless millions spent in this pursuit by them, Metro, PDC and every other entity there’s no wonder we haven’t enough for basic operations and expanding them.

    But we can’t even get the BS to stop.

    Reading the McLoughlin Area Plan and other current publications they contain every assumption and claim made to promote every prior failure.

    For instance we hear the perpetual claims that MAX prompted (now) $8 billion in economic development.

    None of the lack of results at any of the MAX stations has been acknowledged while more of the same is promoted.

    Heck, JS says TriMet and MLR financing is fiscally sound.

    We have many who think what was done to North Interstate should be done to Barbur Blvd. & 99 all the way to Sherwood and further.

    Like I said before, with every consideration on the table MLR and LRT on CRC cannot be justified.

    Omitting them would be a boon to TriMet, to transit and our many local public and private economies.

    The difference now is more than a severe downturn in the greater economy. The dire straights of over extension make it much worse.

    And why zero comments on TriMet’s OPEB $50 million per year unfunded liability?

    Do you all deny it exists of do you find it insignificant?

  115. Ron Swaren
    August 1, 2010 at 1:38 pm Link

    OK, so it was 12 years between Eastside MAX and West side MAX. (I had thought that Gresham MAX was begun in 1979 and completed in a couple of years. Looks like I was off by several.)

    There have been 9-figure-plus capital projects going on, more or less continuously, for decades. As noted above, if you go back far enough, you get to a time of cheap labor and little regulation, where such things could be done far less expensively.

    I’m glad that you mentioned that the economic equation has changed. Economics does matter. If I had actually been employed as a union carpenter on the Gresham MAX my hourly wage would have been something like $14/hr in those says. Those wages have only risen to $30 now. But apparently other costs have risen 1000 percent.

    Moreover it would be interesting to see what those highway projects penciled out at. That was also union labor; we lost a lot of jobs with the killing of the Mt. Hood Freeway and the 1990 Transportation plan.

    And since the subject is the MLR, I have hard time seeing the infill possibilities on this route. Why would people want to live in proximity to the rail yards south of Holgate? Then there is a stretch of parkland for over a mile. Then in Milwaukie (which has the most potential with Johnson Ck, running though there) they already have a rough plan for mixed use, not really high density housing. There might be some good infill possibilities in close-in SE, but that is bikeable or a short hop on the bus..

    So if you want to see Portland become a round the clock construction zone—–looks like we are headed there. I know LR proponents will not be content with a 1.4 mile stub into Clark Co.

  116. Dave H
    August 1, 2010 at 7:55 pm Link

    Moreover it would be interesting to see what those highway projects penciled out at. That was also union labor; we lost a lot of jobs with the killing of the Mt. Hood Freeway and the 1990 Transportation plan.

    I also wonder about neighborhoods like the one I live in that would have been pretty much obliterated by I-505 if it had been built. (The building I now live in would have been replaced by a freeway, for example.)

    How different would St Johns, Sauvie Island, etc look with I-505 in place? How about NW 23rd? Would the Pearl District have happened?

    For cost comparisons, look at what San Diego (a much larger metro region with a lot more available taxes, state and local) has built as much light rail as Portland (53.5 miles vs 53 miles), has had commuter rail (the Coaster) since long before the WES, and even had suburban commuter rail (the Sprinter) before WES opened. That serves Oceanside and Escondido on a LRT-like schedule, but it’s diesel trains on freight rail.

    They’ve also opened CA-56, almost entirely a new freeway that needed upgrades the day it opened. At the west end there are no direct ramps to I-5 north, you have to exit, go through a traffic light, then make a turn onto the ramp. That’s another $100 million or so. They also had to rebuild the interchange at I-15 because I-15 was getting HOT (high occupancy or toll) lanes built. That was another $50 mil at least. The I-15 project was in the billions. I-5 south to the split with I-805 was also widened to something like 20 lanes in total, CA-52 is getting extended east to CA-67, and widened from I-805 to CA-125, the toll road CA-125 just opened, and CA-905 is in process of being upgraded to Interstate 905.

    People there still feel LRT costs too much, even with that many road projects, and I’m sure I missed some. Of course, they have a 9.75% sales tax as well if I remember correctly, and a lot more population. To figure out what our fully built freeway system would cost I’d guess you could adjust for the different between the Trolley and MAX (per mile, but they’re so close that would barely matter), using WES to correct, and then use an average cost per mile from San Diego’s built out roadway projects.

    Of course, to be fully accurate you should also account for the passed on “parking spot cost” caused by businesses to need more real estate or build a parking garage to accommodate their customers.

    I don’t like bonding our future for MLR, but in the long run it’s probably a cheaper way to move people than making 99E a freeway. That’s not cheap.

  117. Steve S
    August 2, 2010 at 8:14 am Link

    I’d ask what MLR proponents are suggesting will happen? No need to speculate. Just tell us what prior line and development will be duplicated for the MLR dorridor?

    Consider-

    How does this,

    http://portlandafoot.org/w/index.php?title=Portland-Milwaukie_light_rail_project#Current_funding
    Arguments for construction
    Yonah Freemark, who blogs about mass transit around the country at The Transport Politic, wrote in 2009 that the Orange Line “promises to be the city’s best transit expansion project yet” because, unlike the Green Line and much of the Blue Line and Red Line, it will not run along a freeway and will therefore be more likely to induce transit-oriented development.

    ,square with this?

    http://www.thetransportpolitic.com/2010/07/04/weekend-links-11/

    I have bigger concerns with sandwiching the line between OR99E and the UPRR mainline south of downtown–a decision which limits the availability of local neighborhoods to use the line.

  118. Just Saying
    August 2, 2010 at 10:43 am Link

    This is not an old fashioned streetcar where people jump on as it passes. They only get on at stations. There are only two stations between McLoughlin and the railroad tracks, Tacoma (which has a park and ride) and Bybee. Both are at major intersections with overpasses that allow access from adjoining neighborhoods.

    The preliminary station designs can be found here:
    http://www.trimet.org/pdfs/pm/CDR/Station_Area_Planning_Portland_Metro.pdf

  119. EngineerScotty
    August 2, 2010 at 11:02 am Link

    Yonah’s assessment of the Milwaukie Line was (partially) wrong; I’ve corrected it at several points on his blog, including the post you highlight.

    But, as I’ve stated before–the in-between routing is fine for a trunk line; it works for the Gateway/Lloyd Center stretch. And it would be fine for MAX were it to extend beyond Milwaukie–something which is a long-term goal of planners.

    But it’s an issue for a shorter line.

  120. jimkarlock
    August 3, 2010 at 3:21 am Link

    Just Saying Says: The Cascade Policy Institute and its associates are a source of many things, “information” is not one of them.
    JK: Please stop the ad hominems against Cascade just because you don’t like to hear the truth.

    Or can you point out some real errors on their part as opposed to just telling you things you prefer to ignore?

    Thanks
    JK

  121. Just Saying
    August 3, 2010 at 6:06 am Link

    Jim –

    I have better things to do than to vet research from the Cascade Policy Institute. They are an ideological organization that collects and organizes facts to support their ideologically pre-conceived conclusions. Figuring out what of that information is misleading or finding the contradictory facts they left out is just not worth anyone’s effort. If you are interested in the topic, you might as well start from scratch with your own research.

    I happen to agree with John Charles on the idea that congestion pricing could be a useful tool for managing traffic congestion. But that does not make the Cascade Policy Institute a trustworthy source of information about the topic. You almost inevitably discover they left out important information that contradicts their conclusion. At least it happens often enough, that you can’t rely on anything they say.

  122. Chris Smith
    August 3, 2010 at 7:24 am Link

    Let’s keep to the topic at hand rather than spend time characterizing sources and impuning motives.

  123. jimkarlock
    August 7, 2010 at 12:54 am Link

    Bob R. Says: (quoting JK) I know some consider the freedom to travel to be a bad thing!

    Please name “some”. For the sake of relevance, if your list is long, please confine it to people in actual positions of power or influence.
    JK: Here is a good example from your blog:
    http://portlandtransport.com/archives/2008/02/land_use_impact_1.html
    February 13, 2008 10:45 AM
    Wells Says: … which comes closest to dealing with the biggest problem automobiles present: we drive them too much, too far, for too many purposes and construct economies around them which make them monopolistic and inequitable, addictive, and culturally destructive.

    Thanks
    JK

  124. Douglas K.
    August 7, 2010 at 9:01 am Link

    So basically, JK can’t find a single person out there who considers freedom to travel to be a bad thing. But instead of admitting that he was completely wrong once again, he drags up a fragment of a comment by Wells from two and a half years ago that has absolutely NOTHING to do with freedom to travel.

  125. Bob R.
    August 7, 2010 at 9:51 am Link

    Or, put another way, making the observation that obesity is an increasing problem, and that the quality of ingredients in various popular foot outlets is low, is NOT a statement opposing the freedom to eat.

  126. Ron Swaren
    August 7, 2010 at 11:18 am Link

    Not to get off the subject by any means, but I understand the federal contribution of projects like Milwaukie MAX is limited to 35% once the cost is above $1 billion, (So says our US Reps. office)Anyone know for sure what is happening here?

  127. Ron Swaren
    August 7, 2010 at 11:18 am Link

    Not to get off the subject by any means, but I understand the federal contribution of projects like Milwaukie MAX is limited to 35% once the cost is above $1 billion, (So says our US Reps. office)Anyone know for sure what is happening here?

  128. jimkarlock
    August 7, 2010 at 1:31 pm Link

    Douglas K. Says: he drags up a fragment of a comment by Wells from two and a half years ago that has absolutely NOTHING to do with freedom to travel.
    JK: Here is the relevant part of wells’ comment I drug up: we drive them too much, too far, for too many purposes So, according to you it is OK to travel as much as you want as long as you don’t use the method used for the vast majority of travel in the USA. Is that right?

    Thanks
    JK

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