Streetcar One Step Closer to Lake Oswego

The Community Advisory Committee for the Lake Oswego to Portland Transit Project has recommended the Streetcar alternative, using Macadam Avenue in Johns Landing.

The committee further recommends that the other two major alignment questions, how to route through Dunthorpe (on the existing rail right of way or on Riverwood Rd) and whether or not to dip into the Foothills area in Lake Oswego, be carried into the Final Environmental Impact Statement process.

The vote was 16 votes for Streetcar, 2 for Enhanced Bus and one for the no-build option.

The Project Management Group (staff) will make their recommendation next week, and the project steering committee (mostly elected officials) will consider both recommendations and forward a recommendation to the variety of local governments involved for final adoption.


64 responses to “Streetcar One Step Closer to Lake Oswego”

  1. I find the choice of the Macadam routing to be unfortunate, given that this is being peddled (somewhat) as rapid transit. Local service to Johns Landing makes good sense, rapid service to Lake Oswego makes sense. But replacing a local bus with a slower train doesn’t do seem to have much transit benefit, especially when there’s a perfectly good ROW a block away.

  2. You know, this might be a silly question, but why can’t they put MAX tracks on the WST ROW? The northern end is only a few blocks south of where the new MLR tracks will be, and there is space by the freeway to bridge the gap.

  3. I easily could pick a very large number of nits with many aspects of the CAC but what would be the point?

    Two major disappointments: The lack of representation of corridor transit users and the uncritical acceptance of everything the project team offered.

    Of the 23 committee members, three were listed as “transit users:”

    Ed Abrahamson was listed as BTA representative and transit user. I believe he lives on the east side and that his transit use rarely if ever involves the 35 or 36. Also, why did the BTA have a seat at the citizens transit table after the trail had been orphaned from the project? No transit user group -such as they are- had a rep. He supported streetcar even though it adds 10’s of millions of unfunded and unsourced dollars to the cost of building a cyclist/pedestrian trail through the corridor. When Metro put out a public survey early in the Alternatives Analysis phase the most popular response by far IIRC was for a trail. 43 is dangerous.

    John Betts from the McVey South Shore neighborhood (i.e. an area served by the 36) was listed as an “accessible transit user.” I’m not sure that he voted (three votes were absentee), but if he did, it was for streetcar.

    David Jorling, chair or vice-chair of the earlier LOPAC, was on record publicly as a committed streetcar supporter before the formation of the CAC. He was preselected by the Steering Committee as vice-chair of the CAC. He ran for LO city council last November and finished last among seven for three seats after being most closely associated with the streetcar alternative of all the candidates.

    I attended all open meetings of the CAC except the January 2011 one at the WEB in LO where there is no evening transit service. I used the 35/36 both ways for all the meetings in Portland in the almost year and a half of the committee’s existence and never, in all that time, did even a single CAC member share the bus ride.

    Committee members did ask a lot of good questions over the life of the CAC. The questions tended to demonstrate a general lack of familiarity with project details compared with some of us on this blog. But the questions were honest and I don’t remember many that seemed to be designed to elicit responses that would put streetcar in a favorable light. The problem was that nobody asked anything that got to the heart of the need question and the project forecasts that are so incredibly out of line with the real world. Everything that was put out by Metro, TriMet, and their contractors was accepted as Truth Revealed.

    Some of the members who were all committed streetcar supporters asked very few questions. One of them said early on that he felt that the streetcar was such an obvious choice that the CAC should just vote for it and go home.

    The reality of the project is that there is a solid block on the Steering Committee that has been pushing for streetcar a very long time. It is inconceivable that anything other than streetcar would come out as the recommended LPA regardless of what the CAC might have said.

    There is a real chance that one or more of the local boards/councils which will weigh in on the LPA may come out against streetcar. The odds are still in the streetcar extension’s favor, but things are a little different now after the last election. The best chance for sanity in this case lies with the feds. We’ll see.

  4. CAC membership aside, it is hard to argue against a publicly owned ROW for rail. Even with the Macadam “detour,” transit…no matter the vehicle type…in its own ROW simply offers better, more reliable service at lower operating cost.

  5. You know, this might be a silly question, but why can’t they put MAX tracks on the WST ROW?
    I asked a very similar question as part of the Sellwood Bridge Community Task Force. Although I don’t have the answer right in front of me as I write this, it was something to the effect of the Sellwood Bridge being a totally separate project from both overall MAX expansion (not just Portland-Milwaukie) and the Lake Oswego project, and the ROW being too small for MAX trains. I think “projected ridership” was also an issue. (This is as I remember it. NOT an official answer. Void where prohibited. :) )

    I used the 35/36 both ways for all the meetings in Portland in the almost year and a half of the committee’s existence and never, in all that time, did even a single CAC member share the bus ride.
    “Separate project,” I know, but I used to ride the now-canceled 41-Tacoma and later the 70 to/from SBCTF meetings, sometimes stopping by a certain 24-hour coffee place to re-digest the night’s information. Just mentioning that at least someone else out there travels to/from these kinds of things by bus. (And since I’m currently about 265 miles away from the nearest light rail route, not needing a train to consider riding transit as a base-level personal norm is a good thing.)

  6. The DEIS has Macadam alignments at four minutes longer than the WSL one. So that accounts for about 27% of the extra time that streetcar would take over the average current bus. Dedicated ROW would definitely be more reliable. But with the push from residents next to the WSL ROW and the pull from businesses who see significantly more development with a Macadam alignment, how would it be possible for streetcar backers to get a project through without this deviation from the ideal? Even if LO should walk away from streetcar, strong support within Portland – and especially Johns Landing – is critical for any extension at all.

  7. Yeah, I think the Macadam routing is a bad idea. It costs more (both in up-front and operating costs) and delivers slower service. And from a development standpoint, what does it matter if you need to walk one more block to the streetcar, as long as the walkway and the streetcar station are clearly visible?

    In terms of pushing the project through, “goes faster, costs less” seems like a pretty good sell to me. Proponents of the WST ROW should keep pushing those points as the project is refined, particularly if (as frequently happens in public works) there comes a need to trim project costs down the line.

  8. My other comment, longer term, is IF they build it, it (eventually) ought to run up the transit mall, not up to NW 23rd. By the time this thing is in operation, MLR and the full Eastside Loop should be open. Has anyone looked at the possibility of adding streetcar tracks from Union Station (and the current Green/Yellow tracks), under the Broadway Bridge along Station Avenue, connecting into the loop-thingy at Northrup and Marshall?

    I’m aware of the present technical and political difficulties involved with mixing MAX and Streetcar on the same tracks for any significant distance (the shared segment on the Caruthers crossing being a planned exception), but remain of the opinion that tremendous benefit would be derived from solving those difficulties.

  9. Scotty, those are my two biggest things about this project too… the slow Macadam routing and running up to 23rd (at least build a connection so the transit mall alignment can be a routing option later). I’ve written about these at every public comment period. The deviation to Macadam isn’t even straightforward, it has all these sharp 90 degree turns (just like at Montgomery & 4th). That stretch of Macadam is also the stretch where I’ve encountered the most congestion, can’t they at least give it dedicated lanes? Its a long journey from LO to downtown to begin with (its already quite slow through SoWa, RiverPlace and PSU), the last thing you want to do is create a slow deviation enroute on the one stretch where it would be the fastest.

  10. I agree, Scotty. That’s worth at least another two minutes to the average LO/WL rider or four minutes to those who go beyond PSU.

    WARNING! The following opinion may cause apoplexia in some streetcar believers. Read with caution!

    When streetcars and buses start coming off the Caruthers Bridge, there will be a plethora of transit on Moody/River Parkway/Harrison north and west of the bridge. The existing SOWA streetcar should see a permanent drop in total ridership in that area and would only be needed to serve the three stops each way south of the bridge.

    Question: If we don’t extend streetcar, why not pull up the tracks south of the bridge truncating the current line at PSU, serve the stops affected with the long-promised frequent service 35 thereby providing direct mall access to SOWA residents, and save about $1.5 million in transit ops annually?

  11. The “development” argument for the Macadam alignment never made sense to me, given that the streetcar would drop them a block away from Macadam anyway. The cost alone for building the Macadam alignment makes me think the whole project is doomed to fail. I’ve got reservations about running this route out to LO anyway, but at least when it was on a dedicated alignment it would result in a speed increase (especially during rush hour) over bus service at a relatively minimal cost.

  12. Which between the Macadam “in-street” alignment and the “additional lane” alignment alternatives is looking most likely right now?

  13. A couple of times I proposed a compromise position which was largely forgotten or treated as a sort of Solomon’s Choice… It’s moot now, but here it is again:

    Run northbound trains on the existing ROW.

    Run southbound trains on Macadam.

    This would be similar to the couplet in NW Portland, where the streetcar is separated by two full blocks. In fact, in most places the compromise route would be closer together than that.


    For condo owners, there are half as many trains coming through, and there’s only one track (just like now) in front of their properties.

    For commuters, the (predominantly northbound) morning commute is the most time-critical, so that runs in the separate ROW. It may take longer to go southbound on Macadam, and there may be traffic variations, but schedule predictability is not quite as important in the evening commute.

    For Macadam property owners and developers, there is still a visible streetcar line right in front of their doors, and in the direction that’s going to deliver customers from South Waterfront and Downtown.


    There may be some confusion by having a couplet which is not immediately visible (but this is the current condition along much of the existing streetcar line, and it didn’t stop the new overlapping routing on 7th in the Lloyd District).

    It would cost more to build, because of the development and work in two different ROWs and you’ve still got to tear up part of Macadam, but then again, it might cost a bit less… would have loved to see numbers about it.

    Condo owners still have a streetcar running by. (I don’t personally view this as a disadvantage. Many Pearl District condos are closer to the streetcar tracks, after all, but in a more urban setting.)

  14. Bob, your idea has more than enough going to at least having been considered with an explanation of why it should have been dropped.

    My pet not-considered idea is to use the WSL ROW for a single-lane bus guideway for commute hour express service.

    *Cheaper to engineer and build as buses weigh less (& cost less) than streetcars, would only need one lane, and don’t require complex signaling/power systems.
    *Buses could continue off guideway at both ends of the trips thereby eliminating time wasted transferring to and from streetcar.
    *Cheaper to operate unless ridership goes ballistic.
    *Buses could go off guideway in emergencies.
    *New diesel hybrid buses could operate in electric mode in sensitive areas.
    *Faster than streetcar with shorter braking distances.
    *No loss of regular service to unincorporated area between LO and the Sellwood Bridge.
    *Guideway could be used as pedestrian/cyclist trail outside of commute hours.

    *ROW neighbors not ecstatic, but would have much less disruption with minimal transit ops through their yards.
    *Possibly would have to buy significant portions of ROW that is currently restricted to rail use.
    *Potentially still would have problem of trail access in Elk Rock Tunnel area.
    *It’s not streetcar, should that actually make a difference to riders or developers.

  15. Ron,

    The “single lane busway” idea was mentioned in some of the LO Streetcar planning docs (IIRC–it may have been a “single lane general purpose traffic lane” instead), and was dismissed as unworkable, for both the reasons you note, and for the fact that it would be illegal to pave the LO Streetcar easement and turn it into a roadway. Were they to try that, adjacent property owners could probably sue to force abandonment of the easement, and then you’d have nothing.

    (And if you think that Dunthorpites dislike a streetcar passing by their front door; they’d REALLY scream were it a squadron of busses…)

  16. Which between the Macadam “in-street” alignment and the “additional lane” alignment alternatives is looking most likely right now?

    My understanding is that the CAC recommendation is for the “in-street” configuration.

  17. You know, this might be a silly question, but why can’t they put MAX tracks on the WST ROW?

    My understanding is that this was analyzed more than a decade ago and it was determined that the ROW was too narrow for MAX. It’s a tight squeeze even for the narrower streetcar vehicles in a few spots.

  18. If Milwaukie Light Rail proceeds to completion, Lake Oswego commuters who’d like to use MAX would be well-served by an extension across the “forgotten bridge” just south of Milwaukie. The travel times would actually be competitive with the streetcar paralleling Hwy 43, even though it’s counter-intuitive to be crossing the river twice.

  19. I can’t find any reference in any project documents for consideration of a busway on the WSL ROW. There was consideration of a reversible transit lane on 43.

    It’s illegal to drive a car through my bedroom at 60 MPH, but that could be remedied by ODOT buying our property for a freeway through mutual agreement or by eminent domain, if necessary.

    The ROW is made up of a large number of different parcels in different types of ownerships or easements. IIRC, the rail-use only easements were somewhere around 35% of the original 7.5 mile WSL purchase. It could well be a higher percentage of the 6 mile extension but is nowhere near 100%.

    While on the CAC, lawyer David Jorling offered his opinion that there may be precedent for developing restricted rail-use easements for trails. Since the question of using parts of the ROW for a trail (with or without streetcar) has been out there for years, it’s kind of interesting that Metro has yet to reveal what it’s attorney’s legal opinion is.

    I definitely could be wrong, but the idea of a couple dozen buses traveling one way on electric power over a couple of hours in the morning and then again in the afternoon weekdays would be preferable to many residents compared with 10 to 20 streetcars running both directions 20 hours a day every day starting around 5 AM.

    It’s all moot, anyway, unless streetcar is rejected.

  20. Bob,

    The “forgotten bridge” isn’t forgotten–the railroad uses it all the time for freight service (and recently deepsixed a proposal to hang a pedestrian facility off the side). It isn’t likely practical to mux LRT service on it, however.

  21. Bob, again we’re in agreement.

    The LOtP Alternatives Analysis ballparked such a MAX extension at $212 million ON ITS OWN BRIDGE. And that was with three stations in the roughly one mile between Lake and the bridge plus a leg south to Albertsons in LO. There’s no way that TriMet would buy those. The area on the east side can’t even support weekend bus service on the centrally located River Road and the logical direction for a MAX extension on the west side is towards Tualatin/Sherwood or Tigard.

    Dump a couple of those superfluous stations and given that MAX has that Mall alignment thing going for it, there are not a lot of reasons for most riders to mess with streetcar.

    The best part of the MAX extension concept is that a Milwaukie/LO transit crossing is part of the HCT. They’re going to do it anyway. The current thinking is along the lines of a WES-II, but if it’s a MLR extension then the streetcar south of Nevada or, at most, the Sellwood Bridge and the costs therefrom in building a trail are a complete waste of money.

    I’ve said all this before, but it’s so incredible.

  22. Scotty – that was my original point. It was suggested by more than one person but was never given any real consideration – – just like Bob’s combined Macadam and WSL idea.

  23. In the case of the “busway on WSL” idea, it doesn’t merit real consideration IMHO. The easement simply cannot be used for that purpose, full stop.

    Likewise, building a subway from LO to downtown wasn’t given serious consideration either. :)

    No offense, naturally… but the WSL busway idea is not one that merits detailed analysis.

  24. Do you believe that we can’t afford to buy the necessary portions of the ROW, that there would be limited advantage in such a busway, or what?

  25. My understanding is that this was analyzed more than a decade ago and it was determined that the ROW was too narrow for MAX.
    OK, then, even sillier idea. What if TriMet purchased a set of cars from United Streetcar, identical to the ones in use on the Streetcar, painted them with TriMet livery, and called them MAX Type 5s, and operated the new line as part of the MAX system? :-)

    I mean, it just seems incredibly weird to me to be using the Portland Streetcar, which is designed for intracity transport on a intercity route. And there are plenty of cities that run incompatible rail systems as part of one system (Boston, New York). It would just seem to make more sense to me to have MAX take care of intercity and PS take care of business areas. This is my main hangup with this project.

  26. Buying the ROW would be expensive, and would probably need to happen in condemnation court. The only advantage a busway would have over streetcar would be that the 35 and 36 could route on it, avoiding a transfer. If you want to improve the quality of bus service between LO and downtown, and consider rail out of scope due to the transfer issue, there are far better ways to do it.

    One thing that would be a Useful Idea, and I don’t know if this has been considered at all…but has there ever been consideration of Lewis and Clark College putting in a connection between the southern end of campus (just west of the Grad School of Education and Counseling) and Terwilliger Boulevard, preferably for transit and active transportation only? That way, the 39 could more easily be extended from its terminus at LC down into Lake Oswego, and become merged with the truncated 35, so those who want a one-seat ride from West Linn to downtown can have one. (Of course, when the SW corridor opens in ten years or so, that will probably get chopped at Burlingame…)

  27. OTOH, the 39 doesn’t go downtown either, so the prior thought will need some more consideration. At any rate, it seems to me that much of the West Hills bus service could use some serious refactoring.

  28. OK, then, even sillier idea. What if TriMet purchased a set of cars from United Streetcar, identical to the ones in use on the Streetcar, painted them with TriMet livery, and called them MAX Type 5s, and operated the new line as part of the MAX system? :-)

    So you’d have them stop in South Waterfront and have people get off and transfer to Portland Streetcar?

    The LPA recommendation says nothing about who would operate the streetcar service. While there may be logic in contracting Portland Streetcar to do it (full disclosure – I’m a board member of Portland Streetcar Inc.) no such contract yet exists.

    Regardless of who operates it, the key point should be seamless service into the Central City.

  29. Have they decided on vehicles? Is there perhaps a different model of streetcar that could be used that would be more “rapid”er? Maybe paint it with flames to make it look like it’s going fast?

  30. So you’d have them stop in South Waterfront and have people get off and transfer to Portland Streetcar?

    No, I would have the MAX line connect to the MLR tracks, which are little over 1/2 a mile north, via the space between SoWa and I-5. It would then run along the MLR tracks right to the Transit Mall.

    The LPA recommendation says nothing about who would operate the streetcar service.

    No, but all the information about it has described it as a Streetcar project. I’m saying this would not be considered a streetcar line at all. Why would it be logical to have PSI operate it.

  31. In particular, it might be possible to truncate the flyover structure (which MLR is to use) connecting SW Lincoln, crossing over Harbor and Gibbs, to surface level near Gibbs, and then make it possible for northbound vehicles coming from Macadam to proceed down Lincoln along the MAX line, rather than staying on Gibbs and weaving through RiverPlace et al. Or revisit the connections near PSU.

  32. Way back when I was in high school we all thought people in Lake Oswego were worthless twits with too much money. No need to go out of our way at considerable expense to bring them into our civilized world. Make them ride the bus. Teach them a lesson!

    Why are our fine streetcars not Cape gauge–42 inches? It would be easier to fit them into our narrow streets and tight corners if they were. MAX–standard gauge–has dedicated right-of-way on streets, where motorists and cyclists are not supposed to be, but cyclists and motorists are necessarily allowed to be where the streetcar rolls.

    If our deservedly popular streetcars were narrow-gauge much of the distress over the Lovejoy layout’s conflicts pointed out by AROW and others would be moot: cars easily could straddle the tracks and bikes would have an extra foot or more to ride the side.

    Just saying!

  33. Installing a streetcar line on Macadam is the worst possible choice for LO/Streetcar; most expensive and highest transit time.

    But the real doozy is that it doesn’t take advantage of the historic tram rail along the shore. Wasn’t that the whole point of the project in the first place?

    It seems like Trimet is creating a PR nightmare with this project and Milwaukie LRT. Neither project makes sense financially or with ridership.

    Its crazy talk, and these projects could very well doom public transport in portland for decades to come.

  34. But the real doozy is that it doesn’t take advantage of the historic tram rail along the shore. Wasn’t that the whole point of the project in the first place?

    Indeed, and the Willamette Shoreline right of way will be used for the vast majority of the line. We’re only talking about a few blocks on Macadam in Johns Landing.

  35. There’s another deviation from the WSL carried over in the CAC recommendations. It would have the tracks on Riverwood Road north of the Elk Rock Tunnel. This one is literally a “NIMBY” thing, offered as a sop to Dunthorpe residents. Unlike a Macadam alignment, it has almost no chance of being part of the LPA.

  36. It’s easy to get all worked up about Macadam, but that’s only one of several time wasting attributes of the extension as proposed.

    *The northbound 35 & commute hour 36 together serve 71 stops in Lake Oswego, West Linn, Oregon City, and Tualatin. Streetcar will have two. Everybody using any of the 69 stops not served by streetcar will have to transfer or walk longer distances to get to the nearest rail stop.

    *Dunthorpe and Johns Landing lose half of their stops. In Dunthorpe, streetcar stops are about a mile apart and well away from Highway 43. Some will lose safe access entirely; others will spend an extra 15 to 20 minutes each way just getting to their stops. Fortunately, the passenger numbers are very low in the area so this won’t affect many people.

    *Bus is scheduled to average about 23 minutes between PSU and the LOTC, with a fastest time of 14 minutes and peak of 29; streetcar is forecast to take 29 minutes peak on a full WSL alignment and 33 with Macadam between Albertsons and PSU. Off peak, streetcar should be able to save up to a minute or two on Macadam, but there wouldn’t be much if any saving on WSL. The current run between PSU and Lowell which is mostly shared ROW is consistent throughout the day.

    *Most riders continue beyond PSU onto the mall or to north Portland, with about three dozen using the Rose Quarter TC alone. All of these would be forced to transfer or face longer walks. Those who elect to stay on streetcar to transfer to Blue/Red or to walk to central downtown locations will lose several minutes as streetcar takes its circuitous route.

    On balance, streetcar will cost the average rider about one half-hour on a round trip basis compared to what we have now. Frequent service for the 35 isn’t scheduled in the RTP until at least 2018, while the if-everything-goes-as-planned schedule for the project has streetcar service starting in 2017. If so, riders will never have a chance to compare frequent service bus to streetcar.

  37. Maybe so, but I bet the LO streetcar will have higher ridership and lower cost per ride than the 35. Its really peak hour travel times that matter; there were probably times when the old 5 bus made it down Interstate faster than MAX, but not in the peaks. Ridership has more than doubled there. I guess in ten years we can see if I am correct on LO rail transit.
    The Macadam jog is in response to condo owners along the line…too bad, but also due to an honest desire to see Macadam elevated from a commuter street to more of a “place.” Streetcar has the potential to do this, plus look for an LID from Macadam property owners to cover more of the local share.

  38. Lenny – We might get a preliminary test after MLR opens and Oregon City loses through service on 99E. It looks now like a MAX/truncated 99/33 combo might be faster in the evening peak southbound than the 35, but that’s it. The latest passenger censuses have about 200 riders boarding the 35 at the OCTC daily. Many of them get off in West Linn or LO, with a significant number transferring at the LOTC to the 78 – presumably to go to PCC Sylvania. The 35 is the only direct service to Johns Landing, SOWA/Aerial Tram, and PSU from OC. That would change with MLR, at least regarding the tram and PSU.

    If OCTC 35 boardings six months after MLR are down more than say 25%-30% then you’re probably on the right track here and LO streetcar very well could have significantly increased ridership.

    I don’t doubt that many people who won’t set foot on a bus will go out of their ways to ride the LO streetcar, at least once, but how many of them will be regular riders? It takes hundreds of once-in-a-blue-moon passengers to make up for the loss of one daily commuter who decides it just isn’t worth it any more. Here in LO & WL we may not have another realistic transit option, but we have lots of cars.

    Without a huge increase in ridership, cost per boarding ride will definitely go up with streetcar because it costs about 50% more per hour to operate than bus and will take about 40% longer to make the LO to PSU trip than the 35/36. The good news for streetcar fans is that unless Portland Streetcar, Inc and TriMet start putting out standardized detailed reports, we probably never will be able to figure out how much it really costs.

    We can expect that the streetcar extension will put an immediate hole somewhere around $3.5 million in our area transit ops budget if it starts on schedule. That’s because the 35 isn’t set to get frequent service status until at least 2018, streetcar doesn’t currently operate as many hours as the 35, and the savings from eliminating bus service between LO and PSU would be eaten up in providing frequent service between LO and OC.

    Unless local governments do Washington County/Wilsonville style subsidies for the extension, TriMet could easily find itself looking for upwards of 40,000 bus hour equivalents to cut.

  39. What I don’t understand, and maybe some of you can help me with, is why is the LO streetcar taking precedence over other projects that make much more sense?

    Logically, other projects make a lot more sense as building blocks in the complete transit system, especially considering that LO and Milwaukie, the next two projects, serve roughly the same are. Other projects:

    MLK Streetcar
    Hawthorne Streetcar
    LRT Tunnel Central City
    Powell LRT
    Barbur LRT

  40. A couple of perspectives:

    1) The regional high-capacity transit plan suggests that Barbur comes next, and planning funds have been allocated to start that process. Powell is also a high priority on that list, a tunnel in the central city is not (i.e., the high-capacity expansion plan is not being disrupted).

    2) From a modal viewpoint, I think there is a sense that if Streetcar is perceived as a Portland-only effort, it will not have regional support, so it’s a good idea to show that the mode has utility in other parts of the region.

    3) Within Portland, no designation has been made yet for what next corridors (from among the system plan corridors) will be studied. My own hope is that we’ll look at one in East Portland, not just in the central part of the city.

    I don’t think we can actually make a complete judgment until we see what sources of funds are proposed for the local match. For example, if Lake Oswego puts up a significant subset of the match, those funds certainly would not have been available for any of the projects listed above.

  41. Why not run the streetcar down Macadam and no farther, just for us real Portlanders?

    Then build another MAX bridge to Lake Oswego to make the rich and privileged feel better about themselves.

  42. Jim – There are those of us who would buy your idea in a heartbeat as long as there were not any forced transfers to streetcar from the 35/36 and 40 replacement.

  43. I’m still not convinced (probably never will be) that the Macadam alignment through Johns Landing is a good idea, and I’m hoping that cost will ultimately move the alignment back to the WST line one block east. (Full disclosure – I’m a West Linn commuter who uses the 35).

    However, if Macadam is ultimately the LPA …

    I’m not skilled enough to link the exact address on Google Maps, but if you zoom into the intersection of Macadam and Carolina, you can see a diagonally shaped property connecting the WST line to Macadam. If my history’s correct, I believe that used to be a rail right of way connecting the current WST line with a spur that ran along Macadam. Has any consideration been given to purchasing that? At the very least, it would eliminate a pair of those dreadfully slow right-angle turns.

  44. Tim – short answer is probably yes, at least for the additional lane option as opposed to the in-street option. You can download the streetcar plan set at Check page 14 in the Adobe Reader.

    I’m belaboring the point, but the four minutes lost daily with a Macadam alignment is just a small part of all the time lost from streetcar. Yes, it does subject streetcar to gridlock, no question about it. But after all is said and done, you can look forward to something in excess of 30 minutes round trip more from West Linn on a downtown peak commute compared to what you’re experiencing now. It will cost you even more time if you’re commuting off-peak. Welcome to the wonderful reality of rapid streetcar.

  45. to make the rich and privileged feel better about themselves.

    We can criticize the merits of a project without belittling other groups of people.

    It seems that when transit is being brought to a poor neighborhood, we hear concerns about crime coming on the bus/train/whatever, subsidizing riff-raff, transit welfare, etc., but if a transit line is proposed to go to a wealthier area, we get the opposite complaint.

    Having grown up across the river in Oak Grove, I’m all to familiar with a variety of pejoratives aimed at Lake Oswego. (And I admit that some make me chuckle, but they’re still off-limits here!)

  46. Chris Smith:

    )From a modal viewpoint, I think there is a sense that if Streetcar is perceived as a Portland-only effort, it will not have regional support, so it’s a good idea to show that the mode has utility in other parts of the region.

    Only if it is indeed a good idea though. The LO Streetcar project is starting to remind me of WES… it seems like you’re trying to shoehorn Streetcar into LO regardless of whether it’s actually a good fit. The concerns about cost and travel times are totally valid, and haven’t really been addressed. I know in the past you’ve held that the Streetcar is more about development than about travel times, but IMO if you increase total travel times from LO to the bus mall you’re going to lose ridership.

    The proposal makes more sense if you’re going to reuse existing ROW, but think ultimately that bus (i.e. no build) might be better here. FWIW I support all of the projects Neil Young listed above.

  47. All seriousness aside, if the streetcar is to extend much beyond its present bounds, say to the huge eastside expansion that has been studied and reported on, it surely will need a much more general legal and financial base. It is hard to see how an agglomeration of LIDs could do the job.

    Maybe the LO proposal is the first test of that.

  48. Couple the 78 with the 35 between OC-LO.

    Amen, Tim. I was wondering about that old spur too and why it wasn’t being proposed to be used. That spur is even used by the WST and would really ease those turns. So much of the route is psychological, the detour to Macadam will feel like an obstacle enroute and give the appearance of the route being slower.

    In my opinion routes on an old rail line like that of the Willamette Shore line are ideal for transit, you get both the speed and development potential, without the cost of a subway. Put it on a major road and it has to be a wide road (typically unped-friendly) to fit exclusive lanes or if its a narrower street and it has to be a slower operation as it has to run in mixed traffic.

    Given the demographics of LO, I think it is extremely laudable the support for the streetcar. The demographics of LO are not your stereotypical transit riders/supporters. Although LO does remind me of some of those small towns in CT along the Metro North line.

  49. So the streetcar is the slowest of the options but that’s the one chosen? I really don’t understand here. What the hell is in the water these days?

    I want everyone to see how much $$$ we’ve spent on slow streetcars at the expense of a tunneled downtown system, enhanced frequent bus system, and decent express bus system.

    What we’re left with is a slow MAX system running on surface streets and a “frequent” bus system that gets 30 minute headways in some areas.

    F it. I’ll just drive instead.

  50. The boondoggle projects line lots of pockets.
    Who cares if this goes in or not?
    Not me, as long as it is not taking service away from some other line, which is what is happening.

    It’s all about the money, not about the transit.

    We already know this.

  51. I’ve been having mixed feelings about a Lake Oswego Streetcar all along. The problem is, it’s too slow to be useful as rapid transit, but running it to Lake Oswego doesn’t seem to be very useful as a development tool or a pedestrian enhancement. As a hybrid system, it runs into the same problems as MAX, only worse — imagine if MAX was stopping every three or four blocks from Hollywood all the way to downtown.

    So let me run this idea by everyone: what if Lake Oswego Streetcar was a true Rapid Streetcar line that just shared tracks with Portland Streetcar at a few places? Here’s what I’m thinking:

    Build the Lake Oswego Streetcars with extenders to allow them to be used for boarding at MAX platforms.

    Build the Streetcar with a few stops in Lake Oswego (as in Gresham or Hillsboro, you can put a lot of stops at the end of the line), but very few stops between Lake Oswego and South Waterfront. Run the line entirely along the WST ROW, with fewer stations than currently planned between the Sellwood Bridge and Lowell Street. Treat it as MAX-lite.

    Then, when it reaches South Waterfront, the northbound Streetcar will go east on Bancroft, then north on Bond. Using pre-emption to make sure no cars are ahead (the end of the line for the Portland Streetcar would be a lay-over on Lowell), it skips the Lane stop, to stop at OHSU at the foot of the aerial tram.

    After that, it goes west on Gibbs, and then plugs into a brand new double-track alignment built right along the shoulder of the freeway, all the way along existing graded right-of-way to the corner of Harbor Drive and River Parkway. It will completely bypass the “local” Portland Streetcars running through South Waterfront. That segment would have only one stop, to allow transfers to MAX and Portland Streetcar at the west end of the new transit bridge.

    Again using pre-emption (northbound Portland Streetcars will wait at River Parkway and Moody station), it skips the station on the Harrison Street ramp and stops at First and Harrison.

    Then (and this would require changing traffic patterns on 1st Avenue to make it a two-way street), it goes northbound on 1st with stops at Market/Clay and Salmon/Main. It then ties into the Blue/Red MAX tracks (hence the need for boarding adaptable to a MAX platform) and serves the four stations along Morrison, to the end of the line at 11th Avenue. Given that the Red and Blue line cannot run more frequently due to the Steel Bridge bottleneck, there should be ample opportunity to fit in a Rapid Streetcar between MAX trains.

    In short, for northbound trains, the stops approaching downtown would be: River Forum/Hamilton, OHSU Tram, Carruthers Bridge, 1st and Harrison, 1st and Market, 1st and Main, and then the four Morrison stops. A good segment of that would be on exclusive right-of-way. That’s a reasonably quick trip.

    For southbound service, Lake Oswego Streetcar would begin at 11th Avenue and head east along Yamill, picking up passengers at the MAX platforms. It would then travel south along 1st to Harrison, take a left turn to the 1st/Harrison Station (pre-empting any southbound Portland Streetcars on Harrison Street), skip the station on the Harrison ramp, and head south on the new tracks alongside Harbor Drive/I-5 with one stop at the transit bridge. It would stop at Gibbs to serve OHSU, and then skip the Gaines stop and continue south along the WST ROW.

    That seems to me to be a much better commuter project than the sluggish hybrid we’re looking at right now. It would be built mostly on existing right-of-way, would intersect with Portland Streetcar and MAX at several points, would serve OHSU and the Aerial Tram, and would be a quicker trip from downtown to Lake Oswego.


  52. Douglas,

    I think that you are on the right track in trying to find ways to speed up the proposed extension. The fact is that it will cost the average rider about a half-hour round-trip compared to what we have now. I specifically like the idea of a 1st Avenue alignment to balance the existing N/S street rail system.


    Johns Landing folks are adamant about having downtown-like short distances between stops. They have clout and could potentially kill the line if there were an unbridgeable gap regarding the WSL v. Macadam alignment issue.

    Dunthorpe area residents are upset about streetcar in general, and specifically about the mile spacing between the two stops. People are losing access here as some will not be able to safely walk to the ‘nearest’ stop.

    The current plan just calls for two stops in LO, not including the Briarwood stop which may well be in the city limits. One thing a lot of us would like to see – if we get stuck with it in the first place – is for the line to be extended on its own ROW well south of downtown (say Marylhurst) so that most of the Park & Ride patrons won’t add to our already heavy congestion. That isn’t in the plans as it would be ultra expensive and be very disruptive.

    For a personal benchmark: We can now get to PDX in about an hour with just 52 minutes in-vehicle time from the LOTC when trying to catch an early morning flight. Streetcar as planned will bump the in-vehicle time to 79 minutes making it useless unless it starts operating on an “owl” schedule. Your proposed 1st Avenue alignment alone could save as much as 10 minutes on that trip. If you can cut another 17 minutes to match the current bus then you’d convert this skeptic into a believer. Good luck!

  53. @Douglas K: That’s similar to the idea I posted above (as Max), except I had it connecting to the new MLR tracks in SoWa and running along the transit mall. I’m not sure which provides better access to downtown, the transit mall or Yamhill/Morrison, but the transit mall wouldn’t require any new trackage once MLR is built.

    Of course, the streetcar is limited to 30 mph, which is certainly faster than rush-hour traffic, but doesn’t really seem that “rapid” to me.

  54. @Juke: I think that works too. There would be ample spacing between the Green and Yellow line, and we could have a Tri-Met branded Streetcar that acts like a MAX train. It would certainly be a less expensive capital project than my approach.

    @R A Fontes: Maybe both ideas would work. Extend the “Portland Streetcar” to Johns Landing with a Macadam alignment with frequent stops, and use the WST ROW for a Tri-Met Lake Oswego Rapid Streetcar with generally MAX-like characteristics. Both lines could share track at key points in SOWA and Johns Landing, with scheduling and signal pre-emption giving priority to the Rapid, allowing it to bypass certain Portland Streetcar stops as a “limited” service.

    That would mean dividing the Streetcar into two projects: the “Johns Landing Streetcar” extension, and the “Rapid Streetcar” to Lake Oswego. But there’s the potential to provide better service that way, without too much additional cost.

  55. If we’re going to run streetcars on MAX, another approach would be to modify the proposed MAX flyover bridge for the Milwaukie Line, which runs from the intersection of Naito and Lincoln, flies over Harbor, along Gibbs, and flys over Gibbs to descend into the MAX station at the foot of the Caruthers bridge… so streetcars from/to SOWA can connect onto the structure.

  56. I also think this is really the only way to go with LO Streetcar (all on WST RoW, express from SoWa to Downtown) but a simple connection will have to be built to allow streetcars from the South Waterfront to connect into the private RoW between SW Moody and SW 1st, I’ve suggested it in comment cards for Milwaukie MAX but have been told its up to the LO Streetcar project. But I say build it during construction so its at least a routing option in the future. You’d never want to add this complex junction in later when the line is functioning.

    Also running LO streetcar on the Transit Mall alignment could take those Portland Mall Shuttle slots.

  57. Practically speaking, is there really any chance in hell of changing this project that much at this point? It doesn’t even look like keeping extra stations like the Pendleton stop out is likely.

    If I go to a meeting and suggest the buildings that are too close to the WST alignment be acquired to obviate the problems would I get shivved?

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