January 2011 Open Thread

January 2011 Open Thread

Happy New Year, everybody! 2011 is already shaping up to be an interesting year for transit and mobility in the Portland area. Among the highlights (and lowlights) in the upcoming year:

  • The Milwaukie MAX project breaks ground.
  • The Streetcar Loop (minus the OMSI-South Waterfront segment, which will require the new bridge) opens.
  • Selection of the Locally Preferred Alternative for the Lake Oswego Streetcar project.
  • Resolution of the labor dispute(s) between TriMet and ATU Local 757
  • Several political actions in Clackamas County with transit and land-use impacts, including the referendum on the Sellwood Bridge fee, the proposed referendum on Urban Renewal, discussions in Boring about withdrawing from TriMet, and consideration of incorporating the Oak Grove/Jennings Lodge area.
  • A new governor (John Kitzhaber–OK, a new old governor) and a new Metro President (Tom Hughes) take office.

But of course, the open thread is open to any topics or observations which are relevant for this blog.

46 responses to “January 2011 Open Thread”

  1. 2011 is scheduled to be the last year that Washington County contributes the full $2 million towards WES ops. There should be a relatively small amount – possibly as little as $630 thousand – left over in WACO’s commitment available for 2012, but then that’s it. This means another 20,000 plus bus-hour-equivalents that TriMet will have to cut or $2 million to be sucked out of the next fare increase.

    Wilsonville’s $300 thousand annual contribution seems to be open ended.

    WES really is a premium service and is screaming for premium pricing.

  2. Wait, when does the Streetcar open? I thought it was in Mid-2012! O_o

    Cool! Light rail scuffles besides, if they’re gonna build it, I may as well enjoy it.

  3. Is there a schedule for the delivery of the vehicles? Is the prototype ready? How is the Rockwell thing going?

  4. Yes, there is a schedule that has the cars being delivered in the summer and fall of 2012 (staggered delivery), the question is how reliable is that schedule?

    My understanding is that the prototype has been out on a tour (on the back of a flatbed truck) of cities interested in acquiring vehicles, but that it is now back in Portland and work on the Rockwell propulsion system is proceeding.

  5. Is the “Rockwell system” anything like the PCC system?

    The original Max units use PCC and it is premium for smoothness. I grew up riding PCC cars in Saint Louis, and it beats whatever Skoda uses by lightyears.

    Why not just use PCC? Can’t improve on perfection!

  6. Is it known in what ways (if any) the Rockwell system will differ from the existing ones? Are there any features which are present in one and absent from the other?

  7. Is it known in what ways (if any) the Rockwell system will differ from the existing ones?

    That would be a better question for Oregon Iron Works/United Streetcar. From a PSI/City of Portland point of view, we entered into a contract with OIW for a vehicle with a certain set of specs, and OIW requested a contract modification to substitute the Rockwell propulsion system. So the only contract requirement is to meet the original specifications, enhanced capabilities were not a requirement (which doesn’t mean it may not have some).

  8. Thanks, Chris, for correcting my double post.

    The PCC bogie design resulted from intensive research and development by American streetcar companies in the 1930s. It features a rubber spacer between (steel) tire and (steel) wheel, rubber-in-shear as non-linear springs (no steel there), hypoid drive gears from motors to axles. All extremely smooth and quiet, which was the goal, achieved at a time when steam locomotives still ruled American railroads.

    The classic “streamlined” cars were built by Saint Louis Car Company. When it lost the BART contract it ceased business, and the patents went to Europe, which still had many PCCs in service, thank you very much! Bombardier licensed it back, built a factory in the US, whence our original high-floor Max cars originated.

    Ring-around-the-rosy much! We develop the best technology, throw it away, buy it back with our Canadian friends as intermediaries!

    The Skoda cars are an excellent design hampered by inferior propulsion: bad case of rumbles and lurchies.

  9. I hope you will put up the two articles on the London Double- Decker buses I sent in. A number of cities, elsewhere, have opted for this means—perhaps not solely, but at least as a significant component of their transit strategy. Hong Kong has something like 5000 of them. The new DD’s in Berlin have a passenger capacity rated at 120-130 persons—I believe there are 450 in operation (2002 figures).

  10. Interesting story in today’s O. A question: Can you advocate for densification while ignoring redevelopment? It seems to me that projects like this, or the Irvington historic neighborhood designation, are at least as influential on where and how people live as the transit infrastructure.

  11. The Boston Globe today has an interesting article on the popular folk song “Charlie on the MTA”, and its history. The song, originally written as a campaign tune for a leftist politician named Walter O’Brien (who would later be blacklisted during the Red Scare, despite not being an actual Communist), was later turned into a big hit by the Kingston Trio, who sanitized the lyrics somewhat. The Trio changed the name of the politician in question to the fictional George O’Brien, and removed two versus.

    A web page at MIT has more on the song, including the complete lyrics of both the original and Kingston Trio versions.

  12. Not sure if this was posted already but this article was in today’s The Oregonian about the Southwest Corridor: http://www.oregonlive.com/washingtoncounty/index.ssf/2011/01/federal_grant_will_help_metro.html

    As usual, the comments are an anti-Trimet, anti-Metro, anti-MAX free-for-all with suburbanites foaming at the mouth over building more roads. [Moderator: Personally-directed remark removed — ES]

    All that’s missing is someone claiming that MAX is only going to bring more crime to their idyllic suburb.

  13. Sandi Day’s trial on traffic violations stemming from the April 24 accident starts today; she faces several traffic violations, including careless driving, making an illegal left turn and failing to yield to pedestrians. All of the offenses mentioned in the Oregonian article are “traffic violations”–a less serious category of offense than either misdemeanors or felonies, and which does not include prison time as an offense, but any conviction could result in Day losing her commercial drivers’ license.

    Day was fired by TriMet after the incident. ATU Local 757, the union representing TriMet operators, is appealing the termination–though were Day to lose her CDL (and thus not legally be able to drive for TriMet), it’s hard to imagine any circumstance in which she keeps her job.

  14. Probably quite a few. Bridges cost more than pavement (or tracks) laid on the ground. But they generally cost less than tunnels. All for obvious reasons.

    But if you need to cross an impediment such as a river or a freeway, an at-grade solution won’t do.

  15. Yup, it’s expensive.

    My primary hope for the bridge is that it will enable TriMet to reroute at least some of the southbound 35/36 buses back onto their original alignment on Kelly/Hood. Yes, there are a lot of drawbacks – evening traffic snarls in and around the US 26 interchange, little maneuvering room on Kelly, etc. – and it may well be politically impossible. But it could be integral to an express service along 43 which would have so many advantages it’s ridiculous.

  16. I notice that improved pedestrian crossings west of the bridge are part of the project–a crossing or Kelly, of Corbett, of Naito, and of Barbur. Are any of these signalized crossings? It wasn’t clear from the drawings.

    Given the speeds and volume of traffic on all crossing streets except possibly for Corbett, signallized crossings seem to be an essential safety improvement. And they would constitute a speed improvement for autos over an unsignallized crossing, as cars would only need to stop when the light turns red, rather than whenever a pedestrian or bicyclist is waiting to cross. The only way pedestrian signals will slow traffic down is if one assumes motorists will violate the law and fail to yield the crosswalk to pedestrians in the absence of such a signal.

    Signalization of the Naito crossing would have the added benefit of auto traffic being able to use Whitaker to cross Naito Parkway. And longer term, Naito Parkway itself needs to be redesigned; turned from a de-facto expressway and a major barrier to mobility in South Portland, into an integrated boulevard with a sane speed limit. I-5 has been in place for 40 years, there’s no longer any reason to maintain the remnants of old US99 to highway status.

    Perhaps as part of the SW Corridor project, maybe.

  17. I’ve just set up a new site at


    for the primary purpose of offering official verified info on the Lake Oswego streetcar extension which is not otherwise available online.

    The site itself is not a integral “whole,” but the individual pages do try to present visual representations of official data and projections.

    I plan to use the charts and map in commenting on the DEIS. Your criticisms and critiques would be most appreciated, especially those which offer better and/or contradictory evidence.

  18. Portland Rep. Mitch Greenlick is apparently introducing a bill which could lead to the merger of Metro, and the three metropolitan counties. Metro President Tom Hughes, though, offers up the opinion that it “isn’t going anywhere”, noting that he doubts the suburban counties would not want to have everything run from Portland.

    Even keeping in mind that Portland would be the likely seat of government in such an arrangement, the recent election results seem to suggest that the fear is backwards: that the city of Portland would increasingly be subject to the whims of surburban voters in such a scenario.

  19. Anyone catch the little nugget buried at the bottom of this story? Interesting

    “Rep. Jules Bailey wants to look into replacing yet another Portland-area bridge. …the District 42 Democrat has introduced a bill to direct the Oregon Department of Transportation to conduct a study to determine the cost and feasibility of replacing the Marquam Bridge across the Willamette River.”


  20. I’m glad Rep. Bailey is starting this conversation (and I’m sure it’s only a beginning). The Marquam actually has a lower structural sufficiency rating than the I-5 Columbia River bridges do.

  21. On those relatively rare occasions when my wife & I travel northbound on the Marquam, I try to make a point of saying “We want a nine point.” The idea is sort of like saying “Break a leg!” to an actor.

    Same thing on the Sellwood.

  22. Is the Marquam in such bad shape that it would be more cost-effective to replace it than simply to give it a seismic upgrade? Make no mistake, I’m no fan of the bridge. It’s unsightly, about 50 feet too high, and the S curve on the east side kind of scares me. But replacing it seems like a ridiculously expensive proposition.

  23. Actually, RA, that’s good news–even if Sam Adams’ attempts to save face on this point are amusing, to say the least.

    If the bridge is to support streetcar, it’s good to have it structurally designed to do so. It’s not necessary to have tracks or non-structural ramps in place prior to streetcar service being ready to go. (After all, they weren’t planning on installing catenary and signalling infrastructure, so it wasn’t really “streetcar ready”…)

    The downsides are a) adding tracks later will probably require partial closures of the bridge. Some may argue that not having the tracks pre-installed might make it easier for rail opponents to resist in the future; I don’t consider that a particularly good reason to build speculative infrastructure, though.

  24. Douglas, I’m sorry, but I think the Marquam is a great piece of Americana. The St Johns and Fremont beat it, but the Marquam is pretty beautiful in its own way. From OMSI it’s a great way to frame the downtown skyline.

    If it can be saved in some way, I’d prefer to see it. Even if it’s replaced I’d love to see a partial re-use at least.

  25. I have a suggestion – why does it seem that the TriMet time points at TCs are so wonky and there is seemingly no coordination? Here’s a “for instance” I see over and over again. I ride the MAX to catch the #62 at Millikan Way. RIGHT as the MAX is pulling in, there goes the 62! And the next one doesn’t come for 30 minutes. Why can’t the bus drivers when they know a connecting MAX or other bus is JUST pulling in at least wait another 30 seconds to a few minutes? I’ve had a similar experience getting the #12 to get the #76/78 at Tigard. It’s especially bad when because of this you miss a connecting bus that then makes you miss the next one and it’s the LAST one of the day! If TriMet can provide “real time” data to users, why don’t they provide it to the drivers also so this doesn’t happen? I think a better system would be for nearing last runs or for runs that aren’t frequent for them to all be there simultaneously for, say, 5 minutes then all LEAVE at the same time….. Has this ever been considered?

  26. From the article: “Line 84 is one of the least used of TriMet’s bus lines.” Well, DUH! It only RUNS twice a day. It’s next to useless as transit. Put a bus on the line every hour and see if that helps with ridership.

  27. Cherriots is on Google Transit now, you can get transit directions to Salem. Who do I need to bribe to get C-TRAN to participate?

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