December Open Thread

Have at it. Santa will take note of who’s being naughty, and who’s being nice.

Have at it. Santa will take note of who’s being naughty, and who’s being nice. :)

50 responses to “December Open Thread”

  1. I’d love to see a breakdown of that $3 million, especially considering that basic concrete pads and the crossing gates have already been present for a number of years.

    How much of that $3M is necessities like lighting, shelter, security cameras, TVMs, etc., and how much is for other improvements which may not truly be station amenities?

  2. Scotty, I think you’ll see this is pretty much an amenity-free zone. I think it’s actually a very utilitarian and attractive design, myself, including more Oregon-friendly shelters than in some previous stations.

    There is some small public art, but I believe that’s mandated and it certainly isn’t elaborate.

    A lot of the cost was in the improvements and additions to signal infrastructure. Also, only the base of the platforms was part of the original construction. Google Maps currently has satellite photos that show how raw the platform area was before this project. So does Street View.

    If you spot some fripperies, let me know.

  3. I went to the ceremony and got some pictures and video. Regarding it being basic, take a look at how small the shelters are, compared to some other stations that have ones the entire length of the platform.

    And $3 million doesn’t buy what it used to.

  4. Good grief Bob, you sound like me.

    I’ll bet TriMet got the funding and took 25% for “administrative” costs.

    When is the first planned subsidized mixed use/TOD building coming.

  5. The satellite images used on also show what was there originally.

    I don’t like to be a cold-heated cynic, but I can’t help but to not point out this is another $3,000,000 for light rail (and one station in an area already in walking distance of another light rail station at that), $0 for basic transit service.

    Meanwhile, Boring wants out of TriMet! According to the article below, several businesses realized it’s impossible for employees (or anyone else for that matter) to use TriMet to/from their businesses. For years the 84-Kelso/Boring has run out there with BR/VH (boarding rides per vehicle hour) far below what the 27, 74, 95, or 157 when they were cut, or almost any other TriMet route within the last few years of service eliminations (I think 153-South End Rd. was an/the exception).

    Last July, I took a ride out to Sandy on SAM and made the hike up Bluff Rd. to the stop on Bluff Rd. and Kelso Rd. During the ride up Orient Dr. and down SE 282nd Ave. and back, I shared the ride with… nobody. Not one other person boarded the bus the entire way to Gresham Transit Center, not even in the built-up area on Powell Valley Rd. in Gresham. Even though this is only an anecdote (and I’ve seen people board the 84 at Gresham TC before), I found the experience rather unsettling since TriMet insists on cutting entire routes (or headways on routes) with higher riderships than the 84.

  6. Good grief Bob, you sound like me.

    Stranger things have happened. :-)

    When is the first planned subsidized mixed use/TOD building coming.

    Not soon enough, can’t hardly wait. There, we sound different.

  7. I don’t like to be a cold-heated cynic, but I can’t help but to not point out this is another $3,000,000 for light rail (and one station in an area already in walking distance of another light rail station at that), $0 for basic transit service.

    Well, I purposefully avoided bus vs. rail comparisons, but since you mentioned it, one could also just about buy a modern streetcar for that kind of money, or dramatically reduce streetcar headways for a few years with additional staffing. (Why not throw a capital vs. operating costs comment in there, too?) :-)


    In the works since 1997, the $3 million station was funded with $1.2 million from the Federal Transit Administration and $1.8 million from Metro.

    Not much of an operating/capital issue.

    I think the station was finally constructed because the TOD had reached an agreed-upon level, including mixed-use housing.

    And, as usual, these are my own opinions and observations and do not represent my employer.

  9. “cold-heated” and “far below what the 27, 74, 95, or 157 when they were cut.” That’s what I get for hastily posting so late at night. :)

  10. The Civic station in Gresham was driven by the City of Gresham’s interest in developing the old mill site into a mixed use center. They missed the boat years ago in routing MAX away from their old downtown, so are just trying to make up for their error. TriMet insisted in a certain level of development before adding the station.
    re bus service to Boring…I would guess that TriMet would be happy to drop that area as little used bus routes on the fringe are money holes.

  11. Want another basket case? The #18 bus. I hardly ever see people in the buses on those runs, while the #15 had its headways cut. And it’s not an equity issue – the Hillside neighborhood is very affluent.

  12. TriMet did try to cut the 18 a few years ago, but got an earful from Hillside folks; everyone wants a bus for their neighbors to ride. Cutting bus service is harder than you might think as is changing a bus route…if you think its easy, then you have never tried to do it.

  13. “TriMet did try to cut the 18 a few years ago, but got an earful from Hillside folks; everyone wants a bus for their neighbors to ride.”

    >>>> Except that the neighbors don’t ride it. Check it out for yourself someday. Plus, now it only goes to PGE Park, having been combined with the #63.

  14. If Tri-Met is going to keep the #18, I wish they’d keep it running all day and serve Pittock Mansion. At least it might generate some tourist traffic.

  15. For their neighbors to ride as opposed to themselves! Of course nobody rides it. Politics drives a lot of decisions for better or worse…the Goose Hollow(or MAC Club) MAX station at SW 18th and Salmon is a good example of the latter.

  16. 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.)

  17. The Civic Drive station (well, what there was of it) was completely demolished and relaid. Primarily due to the differences in communications and power infrastructure (read conduits) required to meet current TriMet guidelines for platform construction.

    Yeah, it was a great idea to put those stub platforms in (and artificially restrict the speed of the trains as a result) ten years before they were fully realized.

  18. I did some Christmas shopping on Friday, and the set of stores I planned to visit intersected nicely with the collection at Gresham Station, so I took the opportunity to take MAX out there and check out the new station at the same time.

    On the plus side, the pedestrian facilities (including crossing safety measures) are robust, the quality of materials and trim is nice, and the blue lighting strips at night are a nice effect.

    But on the down side I’m just not seeing the kind of robustness I think we should get for a $3M station investment. It was quite windy Friday night (from the east, of course), and there was only one windscreen at the shelter. It was fine because at that time only a few people were waiting, but if the station ever sees the kind of utilization we would hope for at that price, there need to be more places that passengers can stand to avoid the inevitable harsh winds.

    I would expect to see at least twice the overall shelter area, at least for the westbound platform. (The likelihood of people waiting to go west, rather than heading for the few remaining eastbound stops, is greater.)

    And I would hope that $3M gets us a Transit Tracker display, but I did not see one in the station and I didn’t see one mentioned in the press release. Is Transit Tracker forthcoming?

    This station, after all, is supposed to be “at the heart of Gresham’s Civic Neighborhood”. Transit Tracker is especially important for stations served by a single line, where headways can exceed 10 minutes.

    I come at this not as a critic, but as someone wanting to see this kind of expansion occur in multiple places and priced as efficiently as possible. If you had told me this was a $1M station, I’d think “great job!”, if you had told me $2M, I’d say “not bad!”, but I just don’t see $3M here.

    Perhaps there’s an important and not-obvious cost here, something to do with environmental mitigation, I don’t know… that’s why I’d love to see some kind of breakdown of the cost categories.

    All that said, the station is also an opportunity to test theories about TOD _without_ having to break ground on a new project. There’s a recently completed mixed-use development just across the street from the station, and I noticed that the majority of the least spaces were at the end closest to the main mall area and furthest from the station. Now that the station is open and operational, will the unleased spaces fill in at a greater rate than other unleased spaces in the development?

  19. Perhaps there’s an important and not-obvious cost here, something to do with environmental mitigation, I don’t know… that’s why I’d love to see some kind of breakdown of the cost categories.

    YUP! And I’d love to see that sort of thing for all these huge $$$ projects. This stuff gets rubber stamped by the sock puppets never to be questioned or discussed again!

    Also, I have solved the benefits problem.
    I would bet that almost all the Trimet employees would submit to have their benefits cut in half if that half is given to them directly in the form of cash payments!

    It would be up to the employee to plan their medical/retirement coverage!

    It’s a free market solution!

  20. Al: Also, I have solved the benefits problem.
    I would bet that almost all the Trimet employees would submit to have their benefits cut in half if that half is given to them directly in the form of cash payments! It would be up to the employee to plan their medical/retirement coverage!

    Even when the “health care exchanges” start in 2014, TriMet will undoubtedly be able to better purchase better insurance on your behalf than you would be able to buy on your own–as they would be buying coverage in bulk, have tax advantages in doing so, and have a broad risk pool.

    Trust me, Al. You don’t want to be buying your own health insurance.

    Nor do you particularly want to be managing your own retirement either–I’m sure TriMet would love to convert its union employees from a defined-benefit plan to a defined-contribution plan, such as a 401(k)–in the latter type of plan, it is you that assumes the bulk of the risk, not TriMet. All the non-union employees at TriMet are already on defined-contribution. The DB plan that ATU757 negotiates with you is far more desirable (from the employees’ point of view) than anything your non-union peers get.

  21. Al, I can’t imagine anybody really wanting that option unless they’re hoping to opt out of the benefits completely and pocket the change. I’m self employed, a healthy non-smoker in my early 20s and have looked at paying for individual insurance. You would think without all the sickly old people in the group plans “weighing me down” I’d get some kind of reasonable rate. Nope.

  22. (Actually, thinking back on it, the rates I saw probably weren’t unreasonable, but they weren’t as great as I imagined they would be, and the coverage was crap. What’s truly unreasonable were the kinds of numbers my folks were looking at. Simply impossible to afford.)

  23. “but I just don’t see $3M here”


    It would be no surprise to learn TriMet took some big chunk of the funding for themselves under the cover of “administration” or “management”.

    I’l guess it’s 313,000.00

  24. I just don’t trust the set up right now.
    We could end up losing our retirement completely, I don’t think its beyond comprehension.

    The system is bankrupt, its gonna come home to roost, who knows when.

    At least with my proposal its cash in my hands to deal with under my direct control!

    And I agree that the Trimet capital projects division got a big chunk out of that money.

    Check out their hefty payroll sometime!

  25. Furthermore Scotty, I am paying $350 a month for my health insurance right now!

    I’d rather have control over this myself, I don’t trust the government or the union to handle my future.

    Just my opinion.

  26. Bob, there are two TransitTracker displays scheduled for installation. The mounting brackets, when received, were constructed backwards and had to be returned. Everything should be operational in the next week or two.

    I would also like to ask that people refrain from making accusations of malfeasance or shady financial dealings without actual evidence. This is not the first time I’ve seen this claim made as “I wouldn’t be surprised if…” The people I know at TriMet are honest and conscientious. They make mistakes, and they make decisions you may or may not agree with, but it’s perilously close to libel to make claims about their honesty.

    That being said, these are my own opinions and thoughts and not those of my employer.

  27. Thanks, Jeff. To be clear, I’m not leaping to any conclusions. I’d just really like to know the details of these costs so we can look to reducing them significantly, so future projects can benefit from a combination of cost-savings and greater scope.

  28. I thought this story in the NY Times was interesting.

    In particular, I liked the idea that changes in public disclosure requirements could have major impacts on policy. The article is specifically about pension obligations, but couldn’t this apply to a broad class of liabilities? How would Trimet’s decision making, and public participation therein, change if it was required by law to disclose a model of future revenue and expense?

  29. Steve Duin of The Oregonian has a go at the NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act, the federal law that requires federally-funded projects to write environmental impact statements), in the context of the LO Streetcar project. One interesting comment he did make concerns the City of Portland’s decision to forego federal funding for the initial Streetcar–how much of this was driven by the desire to avoid the NEPA process?

  30. I think bypassing federal money allowed the original westside Streetcar project to move faster to construction and to buy its cars off the shelf in Europe at lower cost. Chris would know. There was also no URA $ in the initial NW23 to PSU loop; it was mostly LID $. The LO project will need to show a serious LID contribution as well in order to fly.

  31. It was absolutely part of the strategy to avoid both the process and the costs associated with it. It’s also likely that FTA would not have been amenable to the project since there was no comparable project to use to evaluate the all-important TSUB score for the project (fortunately, TSUB is no longer as significant a criterion).

  32. Long time lurker, first time poster. I’m a regular bus rider and wanted to suggest a topic of discussion – pedestrian safety during Portland Streetcar construction. I work in the east side industrial district, commuting by bus from NE Portland. I take the #6 and need to cross Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. or Grand in order to walk to/from my office on Water Street.

    During the Streetcar construction process, they are blocking off 4-5 block stretches of MLK to pedestrians. Currently the area between Morrison and Hawthorne Bridges, where I get off the bus, is under intense construction. I don’t see any signage suggesting the nearest safe crossing points – i.e. those that are well lit, with timed traffic lights. All I see is block after block of “Road Closed” blockades. So I find myself wandering the poorly lit warehouse district after work, searching for the nearest open intersection and then fumbling my way across multiple lanes of rush hour traffic, standing in the middle of the street, in the dark, waving at cars to stop. The cars are pouring off the freeway ramp and it all feels very precarious.

    If this is the protocol for the duration of Streetcar construction, I believe it is only a matter of time before a pedestrian gets run over.

    If it is necessary to completely barricade multiple blocks simultaneously (and I am not convinced that it is, given my observation of MAX rail construction downtown), Portland Streetcar really needs to do a better job of protecting pedestrians – ensuring that there are safe, well-lit crossing points every couple of blocks, with clear signage pointing the way to those crossings.

  33. I was in communication today with the PBOT project manager about the very unsafe pedestrian crossing at SE Taylor and MLK where the traffic signal was turned off during the construction. I agree we’re not doing a good enough job on these crossings.

  34. Chris, I am happy to hear that you are already talking to people about that very intersection. In addition to the danger to 9-5 commuters, Taylor is a critical crossing point for people walking to popular nighttime spots like clarklewis and bunk bar. I shudder to think of people making their way to the #6 bus stop on Grand or MLK after a drink or two or three.

    I sent an email today to someone on the contact page of Portland Streetcar, and just heard back that their traffic engineer is aware of the problem. Hopefully there will be improvements soon, and more pedestrian-friendly construction zones as progress continues down the street.

  35. A couple pieces of unrelated transit miscellany I’ve recently come across:

    I’ve noticed that TriMet’s most recent system map now uses dashed lines to indicate routing on rush-hour only routes, not just the ’empty circle’ number designator they’ve used for years.

    And, for those of us who don’t like TriMet service reductions, I recently came across a page that King County’s Metro is reducing service for the entire week next week:

    Even found a transit agency that uses Vimeo for board meeting videos:
    (Please note: There may be someone familiar in the “October 2010” video.)

    No, I’m not going to rant about anything this post. :)

    Happy Holidays/Merry (9 letter word starting with “C”), and a Happy New Year!*

    * No obligation implied; void where prohibited; statement contains opinion of individual not site; etc.

  36. I’ve read that the Sunset bridge was put in place either to connect the two halves of the property after it was severed by the road and it’s canyon, or for a future on-ramp from Barnes Road to the highway (west of 217, Barnes used to become the on-ramp instead of continuing on; a new on-ramp was recently built between the highway and the transit center).

    And on the other side of the region, I took the train down to Salem for the holiday and noticed that United Streetcar has a whole test track out in Clackamas.

  37. Interesting… I received the correct aerial photo of the test track when I clicked Jason’s link. It may have something to do with your Google preferences or the settings used the last time you visited a Google map.

    But you’re right about the zooming in… I noticed this last week when I posted the link to San Francisco parklet photos… viewing from the wrong street took you back in time before the existence of the parks.

  38. If it disappears when you zoom in, it’s probably switching to the new cool at-an angle views (hint: you can change the angle by dragging the thing around the compass). I can fix it here by switching to the overhead view instead of the 45 degree one (click the Satellite button to get the options).

  39. I do think that Google Maps by default shows the map type that you used last (based on the browser’s cookies). I should have put “&t=k” in the URL (k for Keyhole, the imagery company that Google bought). Also the “spn” parameter actually duplicates the “z” one. See Google Map Parameters.

    And yes, the 45-degree angle photos, 90-degree “Satellite” (really aerial plane) photos and Street View ones can all be from widely different dates.

  40. In an incredible event, Willamette Week (which does not operate a serious newspaper or blog) actually published something I partially agree with!

    TriMet is winner of the highly un-coveted 2010 Rogue of the Year!

    The part I don’t agree with: Amalgamated Transit Union Local 757 was also named.

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