November 2011 Open Thread

It’s November. The smell of winter is in the air, baseball is done for the year, the Blazers are about to start the seasonlocked out, and everyone’s counting down the days until the holidays. So whether or not you think TriMet are a bunch of turkeys, it’s time for another open thread.

  • Plenty of transit and land-use related issues on the ballot next week. Libertarian activist Loren Parks is throwing his money into the race.
  • A pair of appointments from Governor Kitzhaber. The governor has appointed Pat Egan to the Oregon Transportation Commission, replacing Gail Achterman who resigned in August for health reasons. Egan is a former aide of the governor and currently a VP at Pacificorp. According to the Willamette Week, though, the Oregon Trucking Association wanted former PDC chief Bruce Warner. Kitzhaber has also appointed Craig Prosser to the TriMet board, replacing Hakeem Olanrewaju. According to Portland Afoot, Prosser is a supporter of a light-rail solution for the SW Corridor.
  • Construction of the Harbor Boulevard flyover, an elevated structure which will carry MLR from the western end of the new transit bridge, over Moody Bvld and Harbor Drive, to the intersection of Naito and Lincoln, starts this month.
  • Dr. Lawrence Frank, the author of Health and Community Design: The Impact of the Built Environment on Physical Activity, will present “information from his book and lead a discussion on public health, land use and transportation” at a talk this Friday, Nov. 4, from 7:30 to 9 a.m, at Metro headquarters ( 600 NE Grand, Portland). Admission is free.
  • Construction has started on a new development at the corner of Millikan and Murray in Beaverton, across the street from Nike and Tektronix. The new development will have 360 units on 26 acres, about 50% denser than the trailer park that used to be there.
  • And for those who think that Milwaukie MAX is expensive, check out what’s in store for the Puget Sound’s East Link LRT line to Bellevue and Redmond.

43 responses to “November 2011 Open Thread”

  1. As I was very recently asked to ‘consider toning it down,’ I’ll limit my reaction to already posted commentary (which accurately reflects my reaction):

    According to Portland Afoot, Prosser is a supporter of a light-rail solution for the SW Corridor.

    Monomodal Fixation Disorder

    (W)hether or not you think TriMet are a bunch of turkeys…

  2. Gobble, gobble. :)

    Speaking of light rail and Tim Eyman, according to this article in The Stranger, a Seattle alt-newspaper, one of the big reasons for I-1125 is to kill off East Link rail to Bellevue. (A big supporter of the initiative, and opponent of the East Link, is Bellevue developer Kemper Freeman).

  3. Prosser, yet another member of the ruling class (aka the 1%er class), former ‘public’ (sic) employee for Tigard I guess, running all sorts of stuff over there blah blah etc etc.

    Wouldn’t it be such a shock to see an actual real person get appointed to this board.

    I can think of about 10 that participate right here on this forum that would make excellent candidates for this position.

    Such a nice little club they run over there at TRIMET secret central operations.

    Reminds me of the situation in Greece right now.

    The premier over there decided to have a referendum on the Greek bailout package.

    Immediately the power elites freaked out and the ‘markets’ went lower.

    Heavens to Betsy, let the ‘little people’ have a say in the way things are run?

    You must be out of your mind!

    And so now we have Prosser, I’m sure Neil is very happy today.

  4. Metro and the Cities of Portland and Tigard will call the shots on what happens in the SW Corridor, not TriMet. Better start planning to run for office on the “No Light Rail” platform in those jurisdictions if you want to have any impact. Good luck; a No Light Rail guy ran against Charlie Hales for City Commissioner in the 90’s…not sure he got even 10% of the vote.

  5. I really think the solution for the SW Corridor will come down to money. If they have the money, they will go with a MAX line, probably with significant tunneling, as some have talked about on here before. If they don’t have the money, I think we will see something similar to the “RapidRide” lines up in Seattle. Nicer articulated busses, dedicated lanes where possible, queue jumping, signal priority, etc.

  6. If the proposed MAX line is projected to cost less than a billion dollars or so, I expect Tri-Met will find the money.

  7. The high cost in this corridor is for a HCT right of way. Vehicle type is secondary, but my guess is SW Portland will feel pretty dissed to get just bigger buses while the rest of Portland has rail.

  8. In 1995-96, it cost $184 million to build the 3 mile Robertson Tunnel. Accepting there will be inflationary increases twenty years down the line, a tunnel from just south of PSU to a point just southwest of PCC Sylvania would be about 6 miles long. Twice the distance and (I assume) roughly twice the cost of the Roberston Tunnel.

    Add another two miles, some underground and some surface, to reach Tigard TC, plus the cost of two additional underground stations … expensive, but probably not prohibitively so.

  9. The U Link Tunnel in Seattle is 3 miles long and costs 1.9 billion dollars, if that gives some indication. That does include two stations, but still very expensive. You can’t compare the current construction costs with the mid-90’s. Deep Bore Tunneling costs have inflated at incredibly fast rates because only a few companies are left out there that bid on these projects.

  10. However, the East Side Big Pipe tunnel is nearly six miles long and cost $464 million from 2007 to 2010, for a tunnel 25 feet across. That’s more than large enough to put two tracks inside.

    Sound Transit tends to spend a preposterous amount of money on light rail on a per mile basis, IIRC. I can’t find it right now, but I remember seeing a chart a few years back that showed the per mile cost of various light rail lines in different US cities, and Central Link was this massive spike that shot up way above everything else. Somewhere close to $200 million per mile, I think. And that was using an underground segment that was already in place.

  11. The expensive cost of tunneling isn’t the tunnel; it’s the stations. The Big Pipe, being a subway for sewage, doesn’t need to have platforms and elevators (and caverns excavated for these). Tunneling costs also vary with the nature of the earth being tunneled through; all else being equal tunneling through a hillside is cheaper and easier than tunneling under water.

    Also, the city of Portland reportedly has a tunnel boring machine at its disposal.

  12. Sure, but we can ballpark the cost of stations, too. From memory, the Washington Park MAX station cost about $40 million. I assume that cost would probably be doubled twenty years later, and that an OHSU station would be fairly challenging — it would likely require a wider platform and more elevators, for one thing.

    Even so, add three underground stations (OHSU, Hillsdale, PCC) at around $100 million each to the cost of a “Big Pipe” tunnel, and the projected six mile underground line would be around $760 billion. That’s not bad, particularly when compared to the ridiculous cost of the Milwaukie MAX line.

  13. Lenny, that “no light rail” guy that ran against Hales was me and it wasn’t the 90s. It was 2000 and I got 35%. Which was a larger percentage in Portland than Gordon Smith ever got. It was more than that Lister guy got and is still trying to ride on that. LOL

  14. Based entirely on observation, I think the McLoughlin causeway project is finally completed. At any rate, I don’t see any construction zone signage (no more $250 tickets) and no more 2x4s where stairs should be.

    On a purely aesthetic basis, I love it. There’s just enough WPA/deco feel to acknowledge that bridges are important architecture, while still looking very functional.

  15. OK, 35% sounds about right as the big MAX South/North bond issue ($400M) got about 65% YES in Portland in ’98, with only Arbor Lodge and east Kenton voting in the negative.

  16. Flynn was unconvinced.

    “Every time we built (a freeway), life has gotten better,” he said. “We haven’t done anything since 205, and our lives have gotten worse since then.”

    Are these people for real?

  17. The high cost in this corridor is for a HCT right of way. Vehicle type is secondary, but my guess is SW Portland will feel pretty dissed to get just bigger buses while the rest of Portland has rail.

    S.W. Portland is already dissed when the City of Portland came around to pitch their Streetcar Plan to S.W. and S.W. made it clear that streetcars were not a viable option. So instead of promoting a “Public Transit” plan (note: mode not specified) the City simply removed S.W. from the “Streetcar Plan”.

    What good is light rail to the existing, transit-friendly neighborhoods of Hillsdale, Multnomah Village and Garden Home if it’ll be routed down Barbur? What good will there be when TriMet is forced to further cut back bus service to pay for the light rail? What good will there be to force S.W. to have an aging bus fleet all in the name of rail; and a forced transfer to rail eliminating the direct, fast bus trip?

    We all know Metro, the City of Portland and TriMet IS calling the shots. Recent surveys in Tigard showed that city citizens did not want light rail. A recent city council election showed that the one candidate (who is a contributor here) in favor of more rail got pounced big time – finishing DEAD LAST in a field of three other candidates) over candidates who favored fixing the problems we have (99W). Tigard is only interested in light rail for the same reason any other town is – because they’re effectively being blackmailed by Metro and TriMet to accept light rail, or get nothing. Metro refuses to fund bus projects, even though my bus line (the #12 bus) is arguably more “regional” than the entire MAX system: The #12 bus serves TEN incorporated cities across two counties (from west to east: Sherwood, Tualatin, King City, Tigard, Portland, Maywood Park, Fairview, Wood Village, Troutdale, Gresham). The entire MAX system has just four cities (Portland, Gresham, Beaverton, Hillsboro)

    Throw in the routes that act as connectors to the #12 line like the #1, #38, #39, #44, #45 that serve S.W. Portland – there’s not one MAX project that can provide the depth or level of service that enhancing bus service can. And since TriMet has already broken past promises to beef up bus service for rail projects (TriMet removed all of the enhanced bus service for the Interstate Line; most of the shuttle/connector routes to the Westside Line were cut back and/or removed, no new bus service was added for WES despite explicit promises for a new Tualatin route, a new Tigard route, and converting the 76 to Frequent Service, and no new bus service was added for the Green Line – in fact, bus service was overall removed for the last two.)

  18. Get on the project CAC, challenge the data of the Metro study, push for alternatives. When Metro re-opened the south corridor study after the failure of South/North bonds in 1998 they did NOT have light rail in the mix. Citizen/community pressure put it back in; the same in SW can take it out. But how are you going to get good HCT without an exclusive ROW, especially in the peaks?

  19. The results from last month’s streetcar survey of Lake Oswegans is available from the city at

    The survey report starts at the end of the packet on its page 137 (page 144 of the pdf).

    The key finding is that 52% of the sample oppose the streetcar extension while 39-40% support it. In comparison, the city’s 2008 biennial citizens’ attitude survey showed 81% support for the project.

    The report will be discussed at Tuesday evening’s city council session, carried live at 6 PM on TVCTV channel 28.

  20. TriMet had a different email go out that said he’s currently a resident of Lake Oswego, but they didn’t put that in the email mentioning Tigard.

  21. So has anyone asked Mr. Prosser, as a resident of Lake Oswego, does he have any particular opinion about the Lake Oswego Streetcar proposal?

  22. FWIW – Mr. Prosser was placed on the Lake Oswego budget committee recently, replacing committee vice chair Dan Williams, a conservative, who made the mistake of almost beating incumbent city councilor Donna Jordan in last year’s election. I believe Mr. Prosser is also a former Lake Oswego city councilor. I don’t know his specific stance on the streetcar, but he seems to be aligned with the pro-streetcar majority on other issues

  23. TriMet wants you all to know about their new solar panels installed along the MAX line at PSU. The panels, which will power station infrastructure at PSU (it WON’T power the MAX line), is expected to save TriMet $3600 per year on energy costs. The cost of the installation is about $370k; though it doesn’t appear any operating monies are being used to pay for it (a big chunk of which comes from leftover monies from the Green Line project (which presumably need to be spent on capital if at all), another big chunk comes from a tax credit, and PGE is also helping pay for the project).

    As someone with an EE degree (even though I’ve been working exclusively in software since leaving college), I must take exception to the following, however: “When completed, it will produce more than 67,000 kilowatts of power annually…”. Kilowatts are a unit of power, similar to horsepower; not a unit of energy or work–to speak of “kilowatts per year” is nonsense. Perhaps TriMet meant to say “67 kilowatt-HOURS per year”; but that comes to an average power level of less than 8 watts–not enough to run a single light bulb, let alone an entire station’s lighting and control systems. So who knows what TriMet meant…

  24. Brad Schmidt at the O links to the LO streetcar preliminary refinement report at:

    The project team dropped the 2011 costs to $200 million by including neither the value of the WSL ROW nor the 400 space LO parking structure, changing 2 miles of double track to single, putting the line on Macadam at Bancroft, and other changes. Yuxing Zheng, in the O’s Clackamas County roundup, figures the actual savings at $58.9 million. The refinement adds two stations which means that trips will take even longer.

  25. I wonder what it would cost to single-track the line all the way from Bancroft to Lake Oswego, with double-tracking at the stations and a few double-track segments (say, from Willamette Park to the Sellwood Bridge) to allow streetcars to pass each other.

    Ignore Macadam altogether for now, and maybe add a track there in the future if/when demand grows enough to run more streetcars than a single-track line can support.

    Bet that could shave a LOT off the projected cost.

  26. Who knows? The article implies that Clackamas County believes they have a legal, contractual obligation to do so–one which cannot be undone by popular initiative, and are prepared to issue “full faith and credit” bonds–essentially bonds not backed by any particular collateral, to satisfy this obligation. (The US Constitution, and tons of case law, does prevent local governments from using their legislative powers to abrogate contracts they have previously agreed to; whether this applies to any standing deals between Clackamas County and TriMet, I’ve no idea).

  27. I’d say “worst case scenario, the line terminates at the Tacoma Street park & ride,” but I don’t know if that would be an option once the feds have kicked in funding based on the full-length project.

  28. Douglas,

    The minimum segment for MLR goes to the Milwaukie TC, but excludes the section to the Park Avenue park and ride. Given that this last section includes a viaduct crossing over OR99E, eliminating it probably would save more than $25 million, and might even allow some of the corners previously cut (such as no parking garage at Tacoma, or no improved pedestrian bridges over the Brooklyn Yards) to be put back into the project.

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