Archive | October, 2011

Mix Analysis of LUBA CRC Decision

The Land Use Board of Appeals ruled today on a collection of appeals filed by numerous parties related to the “LUFO” (Land Use Final Order) enacted by Metro providing the Oregon land use approvals for the Columbia River Crossing.

LUBA sustained one grounds for appeal, that Metro exceeded its authority by approving a portion of the Oregon side of the project that extends outside the urban growth boundary and rejected all the other grounds for appeal.

Willamette Week ran this under the headline “Columbia River Crossing Project is Rejected By State Land Use Board”.

But I think the Oregonian headline is more on point: “Columbia River Crossing opponents lose first ruling on bridge project”.

The key question of whether Metro could use a statute primarily written to authorize a light rail project to approve a whole freeway (the CRC is longer than the entire I-405 freeway) appears to have been decided in favor of the project.

Some analysts believe Metro could easily extend the UGB to include the portion of the Columbia River to the state line. Others believe the City of Portland might have jurisdiction.

It will be interesting to see if the appellants take their case to up the ladder to the Court of Appeals.

Apparently, We’re Going to Have Competition in the NW for Building Streetcars

Seattle is striking up a manufacturing partnership for its next streetcar line.

The partnership is with Inekon, the lead partner in the manufacturing of Portland’s first ten streetcars (partnered with Skoda for the first seven cars, then Dopravn√≠ Podnik Ostrava for the next three).

I was part of a delegation to the Czech Republic in 2005 to check on the progress of those last three. A secondary purpose of that trip was to firm up a partnership between Oregon Iron Works and Inekon. When that didn’t happen, OIW partnered with Skoda instead…

More TriMet Budget Woes

[Updated 10/26 with full press release after the break. – Bob R.]

Prepare for more pain, this media advisory came from TriMet today:

TriMet faces budget shortfall for FY2013
Agency kicks off budget process early to develop options

TriMet will kick off its Fiscal Year 2013 budget process tomorrow at the monthly meeting of the board of directors.

The agency is starting the budget process three months ahead of schedule to begin developing options to respond to a projected budget shortfall in its FY13 budget. The FY13 budget begins July 1, 2012.

The October 26 Board meeting will be at:

Portland Building
1120 SW 5th Avenue
Room C on the 2nd floor
9 a.m.

The budget presentation will occur at the beginning of the meeting.

No additional details available until tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. Details after the break

TriMet faces budget shortfall for FY2013
Agency kicks off budget process early to develop options

TriMet today kicked off its Fiscal Year 2013 budget process three months ahead of schedule to begin developing options to respond to a projected $12 million to $17 million shortfall. The shortfall results from the continued recession and slow recovery, an anticipated cut in federal operating grants and costs associated with a new labor contract.

The shortfall is part of the agency’s FY13 operating budget that begins July 1, 2012. TriMet’s FY12 operating budget is $444 million.

“We have already cut $60 million from past budgets, but our financial challenges remain,” said TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane. “We face some tough decisions ahead and everything is on the table as we look to take corrective actions to close our budget gap and realign our cost structure.”

Stagnant economy
With employment and wage growth stagnant, TriMet expects to receive about $3 million less in payroll tax revenues than previously anticipated.

Federal operating grants
TriMet receives $40 million to $45 million in federal funds for annual preventive maintenance. There is significant uncertainty in the federal budget, including the continuation of that funding level. TriMet is estimating a cut of $4 million.

Union contract
TriMet is working to bring the union contract in line with revenue growth and make it financially sustainable. The contract expired in 2009 and both parties are now heading to interest arbitration scheduled for mid-January 2012. A recent Employee Relations Board (ERB) decision, which TriMet is asking ERB to reconsider, currently has eliminated potential wage and retiree benefit savings from the current labor arbitration. The ERB decision adds $5 million to $10 million to the FY13 budget shortfall, an amount that grows significantly in future years. There are also additional outstanding items related to the labor contract that could increase the shortfall further.

Next steps
TriMet will create a Budget Task Force with community members that will provide the general manager with recommendations on how to balance the budget. TriMet has limited options to lower costs and increase revenues. The task force will consider internal efficiencies, fare increases and service reductions.

Over the next 2 to 3 months, TriMet will develop specific options to close the budget gap. In the meantime, the public can begin to offer suggestions or comments:

Phone:503-238-RIDE (7433) select option #5
Mail:TriMet 2013 Budget
4012 SE 17 Avenue, Portland, Oregon 97202
Fax: 503-962-6451
TTY: 503-962-5811

Sign up for email alerts on the budget process at

What Does the Tappen Zee Tell Us About the CRC?

East coast transportation geeks have been left with their jaws hanging, wondering what happened to the Tappen Zee Bridge project.

The project, which might once have been an example of a better way to do a mega-project, was scoped to add Commuter Rail and BRT to a highway corridor.

But co-incident with the project being selected for “expedited Federal Review” the transit and rail components have been mysteriously removed. More shocking, no one will own responsibility for the decision.

Which makes one wonder what ODOT and USDOT might conspire to do with the Columbia River Crossing? And would Metro even notice?

A Little Streetcar Music

Here’s a bit of an entertainment diversion for the weekend.

Just over a month ago, several groups came together to produce an event called “Portland’s Streetcar Mobile Music Fest”, which featured eight different bands or performers on a series of streetcars over a three-hour period. The event was quite well-received, and many riders turned out specifically for the event, as well as those who were pleasantly surprised to have live music on-board.

I was hired by some of the event organizers to produce a video of the festivities. That video was recently shown in the film festival portion of the Railvolution conference in DC, and has now been released on Vimeo.

Without further ado, the overview video:

Other venues (not just streetcars!) have been discussed for future events. It was a great deal of fun to be a part of this and I hope to see events in the future which further promote other modes of transit (from buses to the aerial tram) and active transportation.

Many people were involved in making this event a success. Full credits available on the Vimeo page.