Portland to Lake O Transit DEIS Hits the Streets

This has already been noted on the open thread, but here’s the official notice:


What kind of transit might connect the downtown of Lake Oswego and Portland in the future? Find out the alternatives and offer your comments.

Metro, along with the cities of Portland and Lake Oswego, Multnomah and Clackamas counties, TriMet and ODOT, have studied transit alternatives to connect Lake Oswego with downtown Portland. The Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), including the preliminary Section 4(f) assessment with preliminary findings of de minimis impacts to public parks, examines potential impacts and benefits associated with enhanced bus, streetcar and a no-build alternative, where existing transit service is maintained. The DEIS provides information the future effects that each alternative would have on communities, traffic, travel options and the natural environment.

The DEIS is now posted on the project website, www.oregonmetro.gov/lakeoswego, and contains the same information as a CD version or hard copy of the DEIS. With this email, you have received access to the DEIS and can begin your review. Comments will be received beginning Dec. 3, 2010 through Jan. 31, 2011. The Federal Transit Administration, Metro and TriMet have issued the DEIS under the National Environmental Policy Act for the Lake Oswego to Portland Transit Project. Cooperating agencies are the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal Highway Administration.

You are invited to review the DEIS and help decision-makers as they weigh trade-offs to meet future travel demand while protecting neighborhood characteristics in the corridor.

• Open house, 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday Dec. 9 | PBS Conference Center, 4343 Corbett Ave., Portland
• Open house, 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday Dec. 16 |Lakewood Center for the Arts, 368 S. State St., Lake Oswego
• Public hearing, 5 to 8 p.m. Monday Jan. 24 | Lakewood Center for the Arts, 368 S. State St., Lake Oswego

Comments will be accepted during the 60-day comment period, Dec. 3, 2010 to Jan. 31, 2011.
• Email to trans@oregonmetro.gov.
• Submit online at www.oregonmetro.gov/lakeoswego, available Dec. 3.
• Mail to Lake Oswego to Portland Transit Project, 600 NE Grand Ave., Portland, OR 97232.
• Fill out a comment card at an open house.
• Testify at the public hearing.

• Visit www.oregonmetro.gov/lakeoswego.
• Email trans@oregonmetro.gov or call 503-797-1756 to request a CD or hard copy of the DEIS.

15 responses to “Portland to Lake O Transit DEIS Hits the Streets”

  1. Everyone must be on vacation this week. (Technically, I’m on vacation, though staying at home…)

    I’ve never been a terribly strong supporter of the LO Streetcar project, and the DEIS doesn’t really do anything to change my mind. My first and foremost issue is simply one of priority–given the limited local transportation dollars available in the region, is the best use of them? Given the overall funding issues with TriMet, and the difficulties with financing MLR (a project that, despite its flaws, I consider to be of far higher importance to the region), I find LO Streetcar harder to justify–I simply don’t think it makes the cut in the present economic climate. (Obviously, much of the funding isn’t transferable to other projects, but some of it is flexible funds which could be spent elsewhere).

    Beyond that, I have serious concerns for the direction the project is heading, even if funding weren’t an issue.

    I think it’s useful to characterize transit projects (and non-capital transit infrastructure such as plain bus lines) according to purpose–whether social service, efficient transit, or land use (or some combination of the three). And the purpose of a line or project ought to dictate how it is funded, evaluated, and designed. Many of TriMet’s bus lines are social-service focused–they are designed to provide minimal transit to areas without out it; they aren’t designed to be operationally efficient or to attract motorists. MAX, as well as many of TriMet’s frequent service lines, are transit-focused: efficiently providing high-quality transit service to large number of riders is the goal, and expenditures on dedicated transit infrastructure are appropriate. And the current Streetcar lines are, to a large extend, all about land use and placemaking–something which Portland Streetcar is quite forthcoming about. Some dislike use of transit infrastructure for this purpose, but I don’t have a big problem with it as long as it’s funded appropriately–and land-use-focused transit projects ought to be funded by means such as LIDs, urban renewal, and other community-specific mechanisms. (And federal matching funds when and where available).

    The problem with LO Streetcar is that I can’t tell if it is primarily a “transit” project or a “land use” project. The goal at the start seems to be focused on transit–the corridor is part of the RTP, it is scheduled to replace part of several suburban bus lines, the selected mode (“rapid” streetcar, i.e. streetcar-class rolling stock running in a mostly-exclusive ROW) is consistent with transit focus, and at the end of the thing is a big park-and-ride. Oh, and it’s a 7 mile corridor which connects two different cities, and the stop spacings are considerably wider than the every-other-block-or-so spacing of the current Portland Streetcar line.

    However–forces keep pulling it in the direction of a land-use project. The most straightforward routing through the Johns Landing area–along the existing Jefferson Branch ROW–is being opposed by the neighborhood, who instead want to run it in mixed traffic on Macadam for a significant length–a design alternative which will have a significant impact on speed and reliability. Other compromises, technical and political, have similarly eroded the technical characteristics of the line, to the point that it isn’t any faster than the local-stop bus service it is intended to replace. (Projections of improved service depend on predictions of OR43 turning into a parking lot in coming decades, in which case mixed-traffic running on OR43 is probably not a good idea).

    And, the use of single-car “trains” of the same type as the existing Streetcar system is a dead giveaway–if what you want is rapid transit, the Skoda 10T (or the United Streetcar clone) used by the existing Streetcar is not a particularly good choice, given that it doesn’t support entraining while in operation, and has a rather limited top speed (40MPH or so). Skoda makes several streetcar models which would be better suited for a transit-focused streetcar line. I beat this dead horse in greater detail here. While short-term realities might require the LO project to inherit the technical limitations of the current Streetcar system (the line is intended to be an extension of the current line, after all); I’m disappointed that little thought seems to be given to running with faster, longer vehicles in the long term, or in the possibility of eventually running on the Mall rather than up the current Streetcar alignment.

    In short, if this is a rapid transit project, as much as possible it should be designed as such. If the purpose is local transit or land use, then it should be funded in that way (and should be cost-neutral from TriMet’s perspective, or close to it), and it shouldn’t impact the service of regional bus services like 35 and 36. (After all, the bus lines through Macadam weren’t truncated at SoWa when the streetcar was extended to there). And if the MOUS is built (to Sellwood), there’s no way to justify that as a through-transit project IMHO–yet the DEIS makes clear that the 35 ends at the Sellwood station in this case. (What happens to the 36 and 37–are they extended to Sellwood as well? Or do riders of these headed downtown now need a second transfer?)

  2. Just skimmed the summary, but noted that operations costs for enhanced bus are twice those of streetcar while the latter cuts about 10 minutes off the peak hour commute time and attacts more riders. No surprises there.
    But this project would not even be on the table were it not for the ROW which is publicly owned and available and can be a significant portion of the local match. Hard to walk away from that.
    If the route detours onto Macadam, then an LID there should put up some of the costs for that segment. Increased commute times due to local stops is nothing new…the Goose Hollow MAX station is a good example. Life is full of trade offs.

  3. Lenny –

    To avoid confusion, I assume you mean the “Kings Hill/SW Salmon” station, which I too consider to be superfluous.

    The actual “Goose Hollow/SW Jefferson” station is more heavily used and connects to bus lines on Columbia/Jefferson.

    If the Kings Hill/SW Salmon station were to be removed, most locals would not see a longer walk (and those that did would only see a difference of a block or two), while travel times would improve for transit passengers and also just a bit for motorists needing to access 18th or Salmon, due to signal timing.

    (I’m posting this in both threads where you’ve mentioned the station.)

  4. Where does one begin?

    The operations cost of streetcars per unit time is about 1 1/2 times that of buses. With the expected Macadam alignment, streetcar should take 33 minutes between Albertsons and PSU v. 22 minutes average for the current bus between the LOTC and PSU (check the schedule). So 1.5 (cost per unit time) times (33/22) 1.5 time units = about 2.25 times as much to run a streetcar as a bus on this particular run.

    Yes, yes, a streetcar can carry slightly more than two busloads of passengers. However, two buses are cheaper to operate in this corridor than one streetcar. So whenever there are less than 90 people standing on a streetcar, that run would be cheaper by bus.

    The DEIS is based on forecasts for 2035, and not on current conditions. This is a big part of the problem. Metro says the world is going down the tubes and trips will take much longer than they do now. Meantime, in the form of all available hard data, the Willamette corridor is incredibly stable with ODOT stats, TriMet trip times, and ridership numbers all flat to declining over the long term. According to the Census Bureau, LO & West Linn rank 1st & 2nd of all area cities with over 20,000 population, regarding average age (oldest), per capita income (highest), and average home value (highest). Growth is pretty much limited to infill, redevelopment, and annexation; the last of which is generally well away from Hwy 43.

    So why are Metro’s forecasts for ridership growth for no-build alone four times that of TriMet as a whole? Metro has provided no evidence whatsoever to justify its projections. We’re supposed to take it on blind faith.

    The point being that if ridership doesn’t come anywhere near Metro’s absurd projections then the costs per rider for streetcar shoot up dramatically. Metro has already written off Oregon City riders who make up about 17% to 20% of all corridor riders. How many from West Linn and Lake Oswego—who find themselves transferring once or even twice where none are required now—end up saying that it just isn’t worth it? The average rider really-honestly-truly is looking at an extra half-hour plus added to her or his daily commute the day that streetcar replaces bus.

    And please don’t get me started on the sham excuse for “Enhanced Bus”. I’m convinced that if some wet-behind-the-ears newbie analyst even brought up the idea of trying to find ways of offering improved bus service, she or he would be now cleaning up after elephants.

    I may have had too much wine with dinner, but reality is what it really is, and not what we’re being spoon-fed.

  5. Just skimmed the summary, but noted that operations costs for enhanced bus are twice those of streetcar while the latter cuts about 10 minutes off the peak hour commute time and attacts more riders. No surprises there.
    But this project would not even be on the table were it not for the ROW which is publicly owned and available and can be a significant portion of the local match. Hard to walk away from that.
    If the route detours onto Macadam, then an LID there should put up some of the costs for that segment. Increased commute times due to local stops is nothing new…the Goose Hollow MAX station is a good example. Life is full of trade offs.

  6. Sorry for the double post…some computer foulup.

    Thanks Bob for clearing up which station I was refering to, yes the one at Salmon Street. I was the NWDA rep to the committee that wrestled with Goose Hollow’s demand for a station there. They wanted to move the stadium station in that direction, which I firmly rejected as it is the closest to NW.
    re Streetcar to LO. It may not be a great deal, but it tough to walk away and leave $100M on the table…the value of the ROW. Historically Metro’s projections for rail projects have been low, not high. Same with westside Streetcar.
    Who dreamed in ’86 that MAX would be carrying over 100K riders per day?

  7. “Average commute” time for transit is not the issue….its Peak Hour travel time that matters both to planners and to potential transit riders.
    Exclusive ROW is tough to acquire, and is an absolute necessity for real HCT whether the vehicle is Streetcar, Light Rail or Rapid Bus.
    If the local match for this is ROW value plus an LID along Macadam (if that alignment is chosen) and LO TIF or LID, what’s the beef?

  8. Here’s one 35 rider from West Linn who would trade a peak hour trip on the bus for a streetcar ride in a heartbeat – even adding a transfer – with the caveat that the line stays on the private ROW through Johns Landing. Macadam is a mess at rush hour, and the stretch between Bancroft and Taylors Ferry can delay buses 15-20 minutes.

    I can count on one hand the number of riders I’ve met who ride the 35 from Oregon City past Lake Oswego, and my stop is only five minutes north of the bridge. Most ridership originating from OC gets off between OC and LO.

  9. One good thing in the streetcar proposal is to extend the 78 to OC. It would also plug in rump 35’s between LO & OC to bring combined headway down to 15 minutes. If OC/WL ridership on the 78 goes up significantly, it just might be enough to bring that line into contention for frequent service.

    Based on TriMet’s Spring 2010 Passenger Census, it does look like something on the order of 150 to 180 OC riders do go beyond LO daily. Perhaps the big draw is PSU which is not served by the 33/99.

    The inside track is pretty consistent that the Macadam alignment will be the LPA. Johns Landing residential and business interests won’t have it any other way. Even so, it would only cost about four minutes; a triviality for WL/OC riders who will spend about 20 minutes or so more on the average trip.

    That $100 million ROW is artificially driving this thing. Without it, there’s no way that this would ever come up for discussion. Two things:
    1. It’s applied to the 40% match, which means that we’ll have to dig into our pockets for 40% of everything over $250 million. If the feds limit their participation to 50%, then we’ll have to dig in sooner and deeper.
    2. The ROW value was based on an “over-the-fence” appraisal, or what the adjoining properties are worth based on their usage, not the ROW. So it’s what TriMet would have to pay for it today, not what we could get for it. Since a big chunk of the ROW is for rail use only, and there’s no one else who would pay good money for the ROW with that limitation, major sections have no market value. Bottom line: the ROW just might be worth an awful lot less than what we’re told.

  10. The inside track is pretty consistent that the Macadam alignment will be the LPA. Johns Landing residential and business interests won’t have it any other way.

    An interesting question: How much clout do they actually wield?

    It’s long been an article of faith that this project (or one like it) would never go forward because Filthy Rich Nimbys living in multi-million-dollar mansions along the route would a) tie it up in court, and/or b) use their influence to block it legislatively. But here we are. OTOH, as noted above, the Goose Hollow neighborhood was able to use their substantial influence to get a redundant stop on the MAX Blue Line.

    Combining the (truncated) 35 with the 78 is a fine idea, especially if the route can be made FS.

  11. Re: the use of “peak” v. “average” trip times. This is a real issue and goes to the heart of the presumed value to riders.

    A system on exclusive ROW independent of traffic variations runs consistently through the day. Transit in traffic is a different story. Okay, presumably we can all agree to that.

    In this particular case, the bus schedule varies between 15 and 29 minutes between PSU and the LOTC. (Yes, that’s scheduled, and the 80% plus reliability record of buses is significantly worse than a probable 90% plus record of rail on exclusive ROW.) Streetcar won’t serve the LOTC, but is expected to run between 29 and 33 minutes between Albertsons and PSU, depending primarily on Johns Landing alignment. (This change in alignment is significant to hundreds of us but isn’t all that important to this specific discussion.)

    According to TriMet, about 11% of all trips are taken during the peak hour and 31% during the two peak evening and two peak morning hours. So about 69% – almost 7 out of 10 – of all rides occur outside of peak hours. Those LOTC-PSU rides average roughly 20 – 21 minutes. This great majority of riders can look forward to an average 12 – 13 minutes additional time each way thanks be to streetcar, and all this before the extra time for transfers and/or longer walks at both ends of the streetcar alignment.

    Shouldn’t the effects on more than 2/3rds of all riders at least be considered?

    I can’t speak for anyone else. In this household’s case, we will use streetcar when it replaces bus; we just won’t be able to use it as much. There are trips that will not be possible via transit after the changeover, mostly because of the extra time required. In those cases, we will use our car until we reach the point where we can’t do so safely. Then we expect to arrange transportation with friends and by cab.

  12. I think the bulk of the objection to the proposed “rapid” streetcar is that it doesn’t appear to be rapid. It manages to make the Yellow Line look downright speedy, after all.

    Part of that is that the 35 seems to function like an express bus between LO and PSU–although it isn’t (it offers local stop service), most of those stops are skipped, I suspect. (How many riders of the 35 get off and on between LO and downtown?) The Streetcar (if nothing else, by virtue of being more socially acceptable to the upscale residents and shoppers of Johns Landing) will probably serve more local traffic in the area (including the traffic it gets from SoWA north), slowing trip times for more distant commuters.

  13. I think Johns Landing is the most popular part of the 35’s route. RA – do you have any stats that could back up my anecdotal assumption?

    From Taylor’s Ferry to Lake Oswego, the 35 is essentially an express bus, in much the same way that the 33 is on the other side of the river between the MLK viaduct and Ochoco St.

  14. Here are the northbound census numbers from last spring – OC through 6th & Burnside. I didn’t make any effort to line up the numbers, but they shouldn’t be too hard to figure out.

    Some things of interest:
    Oregon City TC has more northbound boardings than any other stop, but many get off in West Linn and LO. About 180 OC/WL/south LO riders get off through LOTC, so my earlier estimate of 150 to 180 OC riders continuing beyond LOTC was way off. It’s probably more like 80 to 120.

    LOTC, with 155 “ons” & 83 “offs”, is the busiest stop outside of the two mall stops closest to Pioneer Courthouse Square. The two LO stops where streetcar stops are slated (State & North Shore and State & B) combine for only 48 boardings between them. Everybody else has longer walks or forced transfers.

    Few use the stops in Dunthorpe area as you both surmised. However, for some of those folks, the two proposed streetcar stops will be unusable. They’re a mile apart and there is a real lack of safe pedestrian access in the area.

    218 get on in Johns Landing through Hamilton Ct with the Pendleton and Boundary stops getting the most use.

    A significant number of riders continue across the Steel Bridge with about three dozen getting off at the Rose Quarter TC. It is the most efficient place for corridor riders to transfer to east side MAX lines. For example, riders can save up to half an hour compared with using streetcar and transferring at the Central Library stop.

    Hope this helps:

    Route: 35-Macadam/Greeley – To University of Portland
    Stop Location—Location ID—Direction—Position—Ons—Offs—Total Monthly Lifts
    Oregon City Transit Center 8762 W AT 204 10 214 | 29
    Willamette Dr & Holly 6320 N NS 18 5 23 | 0
    Willamette Dr & Burns 6306 W NS 31 6 37 | 2
    Willamette Dr & Lewis 6330 N FS 6 1 7 | 9
    Willamette Dr & Holmes 6321 N NS 4 0 4 | 0
    Willamette Dr & Elliott 6312 W FS 14 3 17 | 0
    Willamette Dr & Barlow 6303 W OP 3 1 4 | 0
    Willamette Dr & Hughes 6323 N NS 3 1 4 | 0
    Willamette Dr & Pimlico 6344 N OP 9 2 11 | 0
    Willamette Dr & Jolie Pointe 6325 N NS 5 1 6 | 3
    Willamette Dr & Mark Ln 6332 N NS 7 1 8 | 0
    Willamette Dr & Mapleton 6331 N NS 6 7 13 | 0
    Willamette Dr & Cedar Oak 6309 N FS 77 9 86 | 1
    Willamette Dr & Walling Way 6349 N FS 12 4 16 | 0
    Willamette Dr & Lazy River Dr 9216 N NS 10 4 14 | 0
    Willamette Dr & Shady Hollow 6346 N NS 7 3 10 | 0
    Willamette Dr & Arbor 6301 N NS 3 1 4 | 0
    Pacific Hwy & Marylhurst Univ. Driveway 6334 N FS 27 12 39 | 1
    Pacific Hwy & Holy Names Drive 6335 N FS 11 3 14 | 2
    Pacific Hwy & Glenmorrie 6317 N FS 2 1 3 | 0
    Pacific Hwy & Cherry 6310 N OP 5 1 6 | 0
    Pacific Hwy & Laurel 6327 N OP 13 1 14 | 0
    S State & Wilbur 5514 N NS 33 6 39 | 0
    S State & North Shore 5512 N OP 22 9 31 | 2
    N State & Foothills 5509 N FS 51 6 57 | 0
    B Ave & Second St 147 W NS 18 7 25 | 1
    Lake Oswego Transit Center 8207 S AT 155 83 238 | 10
    A Ave & Second St 3 E FS 20 2 22 | 0
    N State & B Ave 5505 N FS 26 1 27 | 0
    N State & E Ave 5508 N OP 6 0 6 | 0
    SW Riverside & Briarwood 4895 N NS 1 0 1 | 0
    SW Riverside & Elk Rock 4896 N FS 1 0 1 | 0
    SW Riverside & Greenwood 4897 N OP 1 0 1 | 0
    SW Riverside & Military 4901 N NS 3 1 4 | 0
    SW Riverside & Palatine Hill 4904 N OP 1 0 1 | 0
    SW Riverside & Riverwood 4910 N NS 1 0 1 | 0
    SW Riverside & Riverdale 4908 N OP 8 0 8 | 0
    SW Macadam & Miles 3617 N NS 8 4 12 | 0
    SW Macadam & Nevada 3622 N OP 26 2 28 | 1
    SW Macadam & Florida 3608 N OP 14 1 15 | 1
    SW Macadam & Nebraska 3619 N NS 15 2 17 | 1
    SW Macadam & Carolina 11812 N NS 8 1 9 | 0
    SW Macadam & Pendleton 3623 N NS 46 3 49 | 2
    SW Macadam & Flower 3610 N OP 21 1 22 | 1
    SW Macadam & Boundary 3603 N NS 47 7 54 | 2
    SW Macadam & Julia 3616 N OP 9 1 10 | 0
    SW Macadam & Hamilton Ct 3613 N NS 24 2 26 | 0
    SW Macadam & Lowell 13184 N NS 6 1 7 | 0
    SW Macadam & Gaines 3611 N NS 7 2 9 | 0
    SW Macadam & Tram Tower 13185 N AT 8 52 60 | 2
    SW Naito Parkway & Arthur 1923 N AT 2 20 22 | 0
    2100 Block SW Naito Parkway 13179 N OP 0 0 0 | 0
    200 Block SW Harrison 2567 W OP 22 101 123 | 3
    4th & Hall 12827 N OP 2 0 2 | 0
    SW Harrison & 6th 13305 W NS 40 142 182 | 4
    SW 6th & Columbia 11486 N NS 82 84 166 | 5
    SW 6th & Salmon 7789 N NS 134 198 332 | 20
    SW 6th & Washington 7803 N NS 138 126 264 | 9
    SW 6th & W Burnside 7751 N NS 91 59 150 | 6
    NW Everett & 5th 8886 E NS 34 17 51 | 3
    NW Everett & 2nd 1612 E NS 18 9 27 | 2
    N Interstate & Rose Quarter TC 11814 N AT 156 35 191 | 32

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