What If the SW Corridor Started on the East Side?

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Extending the Yellow Line south to Tualatin should be considered in the SW Corridor Plan. It would provide a north-south rapid transit alternative to I-5, which is becoming increasingly congested. The line would extend 19-miles between Vancouver WA and Tualatin with at least 24 stations providing connections to rest of the transit system.

I propose it traverse the central city on the east side and south waterfront thus avoiding the slow downtown operation that plagues the Blue and Red Lines, and serves OHSU with a deep tunnel station similar to the one at the zoo.

Note:Building a tunnel for light rail is not necessarily more expensive than building it on the surface. Land values can drive the cost of surface construction to great heights. The 2.9-mile Robertson light rail tunnel through the West Hills, with one subway station, opened in 1998 at a cost of $184 million. That underground work would be about $290 million or $100 million a-mile in today’s dollars. Compare this to the 7.3-mile Milwaukie Line, now under construction above ground, costing $1.5 billion or $200 million a-mile.

Following is a brief description and map of the line.

Segment 1 – Rose Quarter to OMSI
This 1.7-mile segment could run on the surface along Water Avenue or on a structure above the UP Railroad tracks on First Avenue. It should have three intermediate stations at the bridgeheads for connections to all the eastside bus lines that cross the Willamette.

Segment 2 – River Crossing
This segment, with a new platform adjacent the OMSI MAX Station, shares the new Willamette River Bridge and South Waterfront Station with the Orange Line.

Segment 3 – Marquam Hill Tunnel
This 2.8 mile-long tunnel would have an east portal immediately west of the South Waterfront Station and a west portal at Burlingame. It would have a deep station to serve “Pill Hill” and a Hillsdale Station to provide a connection to the frequent bus lines on Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway.

Segment 4 – Burlingame to Tigard Transit Center
This 4.2-mile segment could run on the surface along I-5 and Barbur Blvd. It could have three or four stations. They would be at Burlingame, the Barbur Transit Center, and one at SW 72nd and Barbur Blvd. The line would enter the WES right of way at the Tigard Transit Center. An alternate alignment could be in a tunnel between The Barbur and Tigard Transit Centers with a subway station at PCC Sylvania.

Segment 5 – Tigard to Tualatin
The possibility of adding a 3.8-mile section of electrified track in the Portland and Western and WES rights of way in order to extend MAX south to Tualatin should be considered. MAX could possibly share the WES platforms.

64 responses to “What If the SW Corridor Started on the East Side?”

  1. What is your justification for running it through the Central Eastside? I agree that the downtown portion of MAX is ungodly slow, but it is also where the demand is. Central Eastside has virtually no housing and not really a lot of jobs either (it’s not exactly the industrial hub it used to be). If I thought the city was serious about tearing out I-5 and redeveloping the whole area, then maybe this would make sense, but otherwise the whole purpose appears to be to make it easier for people in Vancouver to get to SW Portland. That doesn’t sound worth it when there is way more demand between Vancouver and downtown an SW and downtown. I agree there need to be more crosstowns, but this doesn’t really make sense as a crosstown–it should be a brand new connection like Washington Square to Clackamas Town Center.

    In any case, while it is fun to debate different routes for SW light rail, it’s not going to happen. Portland should not and will not build any more rail for a long time to come. The money and the demand is not there. It never really was there, and now the spigot has stopped and the bills are coming due. Time to get the house in order by buying a new bus fleet, restoring and expanding the frequent network, and maybe build some BRT lines. Rail can wait for a better tax base and a willingness to build real density both in Portland and in the suburbs.

  2. Interesting exercise, but I agree with zefwagner about the routing. This really only helps during events in the Rose quarter. Someone from SW wanting to get to downtown, (where the jobs are, where the cultural events are, where the transit mall is, etc) would have to change to an Orange line Max or streetcar at the South Waterfront station. That would make this new Purple line a lot less useful to the people that it would serve.

    Anyone wanting to go to the Central Eastside can change to the streetcar or a bus, until there is enough demand there to justify greater service.

  3. Folks coming from Vancouver don’t take the Yellow Line, it’s ungodly slow. They hop the CTRAN 105 or another Express service directly to the bus mall, Pill Hill or Lloyd Center nonstop from Vancouver.

  4. But most of the trips from Vancouver do not go downtown or even to the Central City, they are to the thousands of jobs in Rivergate, Swan Island, Interstate Corridor, Lower Albina and Columbia Corridor, to which C-Tran provides no service. These destinations can be reached only by the Yellow Line MAX and/or TriMet bus connections.
    C-tran needs to turn the 105 around at Delta Park/Vanport.

  5. @Lenny Well, tons of people do take it from Portland as well. A better idea would be to have it stop at Delta Park somehow for MAX and maybe bring the 11/16 from Jubitz to that station for efficient Vancouver/Rivergate connections. Running the 85 downtwn, I believe, should have been done by now so if that were to happen it could meet the 105 down there.

  6. Bypassing Downtown isn’t an option for the SW Corridor. Forcing transfers from the Eastside would take longer and cause more problems than simply going straight up the “ungodly slow” Transit Mall alignment. Actually, that alignment isn’t as bad as the Red/Blue alignment until you reach Union Station and the Steele Bridge. THAT section is ungodly slow and unsustainable in the long run, but that’s another topic.

    I do think, however, that there seems to be a shift in thinking about where the SW line should end. Instead of continuing straight out 99W from the Tigard TC to King City or Sherwood, turning south and hitting the edge of Kruse Way, Lower Boones/Bridgeport and Tualatin makes more sense. Whether that’s within the WES ROW or parallel to it (say 217 and I-5) remains to be seen.

  7. I think the Yellow line should be realigned to go over the broadway bridge (sharing the new streetcar tracks). It could serve the future Blanchard site and it would be a few hundred feet shorter than the current alignment. It also avoids the need to run all trains across the same chokepoint. The Yellow line would be slightly farther from the Rose Quarter but I don’t know that that’s a problem.

  8. If you were going to run a transit spine on the east side, wouldn’t you want it to be farther from the river? It seems like serving both east and west of the line would be useful. Probably along MLK, 7th or 12th

  9. Not a bad alignment, although I don’t see the benefit of the eastside detour; a direct PSU-PCC connection seems more useful to me in the long run. Besides, the track is already there.

    If Tri-Met were to surface the line from Burlingame to Barbur TC and then go back into a tunnel to PCC, would that be cheaper than simply keeping the line in a tunnel with no stations from Hillsdale to PCC? It strikes me that a tunnel segment with no portals and no stations probably isn’t that expensive, compared to a surface line that may require street reconstruction, utility relocation, and possible land condemnation and street widening.

    As for the hypothetical expansion from Tigard to Tualatin, I’d look into jogging the MAX line away from the WES route at Durham Road to serve Bridgeport Village and the Tualatin Park & Ride.

  10. Interesting proposal. However, a SW Corridor line without direct Downtown access is a non-starter. That’s one problem, Tigard is never going to agree to fund a line that doesn’t go where the regional job center is (Downtown Portland). OHSU would be hard-pressed to agree with that, as well.

    Second, you miss a pretty crucial jobs center in Tigard Triangle (at least in your “alternate” tunnel alignment). There are several thousands of jobs located between OR 99W, I-5 and OR 217. Regardless, SW 72nd @ OR 99W is too far away to effectively serve the core of the Triangle (where the office buildings, George Fox University, etc. are).

    I must say I like the WES alignment (I have advocated for it on here several times), but it seems like a missed opportunity not to build a station at Bridgeport Village. Even if you have to deviate off the PNWR alignment down 72nd Avenue, it would be worth the investment, as there is an opportunity for infill among the several surface lots around the various shopping complexes. You also have a lot of office parks and light industrial in that area that may or not get redeveloped further down the line.

    It’s crucial that suburban stations are more than just glorified (free!) park-and-rides. Employment/retail centers outside of Downtown such as Tigard Triangle and Bridgeport Village can serve as strong anchors that ensure that trains enjoy high bidirectional ridership all day (and not just high toward the direction of Downtown in the morning and away in the evenings that is typical of peak hour ridership). And it would serve a ton of jobs.

  11. I agree that routing it down I-5 to Bridgeport and Tualatin makes more sense than out to King City/Sherwood. And, honestly, if you do that, does WES just become redundant, and is there any reason to not just extend that line to Wilsonville and scrap WES altogether?

    As for the routing proposed starting on the east side, I don’t think lack of residential along that route is the biggest problem, as TriMet has used MAX for redevelopment purposes before. But I don’t think you need to do that here with the Streetcar a few blocks away and the demand will be downtown.

    I think SW Corridor will be MAX, eventually. But also agree that it will be awhile before it gets built. TriMet is pretty broke right now, and has used up a ton of captial, both real and political, with the PMLR.

  12. Maybe it’s just me, but there don’t seem to be many stations along the Barbur corridor at all. I know they need to be spaced far enough apart for operations to be fast, but you don’t want them too far apart either. Most urban rail systems in the world average station spacing at about 2/3 of a mile, a little bit less in denser areas and a bit further in less built up areas. Former USSR block countries and Russia are a notable exception, but then they have such frequent service and dense, ample surface routes that it’s made up for.

    I have to agree that an inner SE alignment may not be the best way for reasons stated in others responses here. I have to say, though, that since I come from North Portland from my music lessons to my inner SE apartment, I would welcome a bus connection on the East Side instead transferring in Downtown. It would shave time off of my commute, that’s for sure! You could even have it cross the new bridge and run back into Downtown. This could even be useful for when they have to finally tear down the Steel bridge to replace it. MAX will have an alternate alignment until the new bridge is done. Not bad, in my opinion. Anyone have any idea if the are plans to replace the bridge? It’s surely quite old, and it is a slow choke-point, no doubt.

    The alignment duplicating WES is a decent idea, especially if it follows the 76 bus to Tualatin, or perhaps it could go to King City and then curve down to Tualatin, getting both places. That could work out nicely, I think. :)

  13. It’s not a bad idea, but the close in East Side part might be too much. I’d guess we could make it the Pink Line with service from Beaverton to Tualatin via Downtown for less.

  14. Jim’s idea makes sense as soon as I-5 comes down and the UPRR line is buried with an extra HSR line. Then you will have a whole new city in East Portland.
    But don’t be fooled into thinking everyone is going down town to work. Data I recall from the I-5 Task Force ten years ago was clear: most trips across I-5 are NOT going to downtown Portland, fewer still to WA county. My guess is the number of jobs in Rivergate (10K?), Swan Island (10K), Interstate Corridor (?), Lower Albina (?), Lloyd District (20K), Central Eastside (20K?) come close to equalling what’s downtown.

  15. I think you are referring to trips across the interstate bridge going to those industrial areas, not trips passing through say going street

  16. I think you are referring to trips across the interstate bridge going to those industrial areas, not trips passing through say going street

  17. Don’t miss the most important parts of the proposal: a tunnel under OHSU and running the line to Tualatin.
    OHSU would be just minutes from the heart of downtown via a rail tunnel. It would be virtually an elevator’s ride from PSU. There is a lot of land on the hill that is underutilized by low-rise buildings and parking. These could be redeveloped into downtown-Portland densities and parking ratios if an LRT tunnel were built. Hillsdale would finally become the town center that is envisioned there- a unique destination at the portal to the tunnel.
    Tri-Met could end bus line 8 to the hill and use the savings to run LRT instead. Other lines could connect at Hillsdale, saving Tri-Met enough to cover LRT operating costs. Buses could also connect at PCC, saving Tri-Met operating money and improving service to PCC
    Tualatin has higher ridership potential than Tigard/Sherwood, the latter could be served by a branch or a connecting line. Better yet, WES should be upgraded to LRT. Sherwood really needs more bus service instead of LRT- there’s not even a route between Sherwood and Tualatin.
    The real north-south LRT route should shadow I-5 from Vancouver to Tualatin/Wilsonville.
    There will be money to build light rail, especially when you consider the alternative of spending money (capital, operating, and environmental)on bus rapid transit over the life of the project. If done right, similar to Jim’s proposal, it will save Tri-Met operating money and make everything better.

  18. I would prefer seeing a LRT tunnel from Lair Hill starting near 6th avenue to Hillsdale, which would run about a 1 1/2 miles. This seems like it may also make Hillsdale a transit hub and create the potential for a denser neighborhood.

    But it may be possible to cut that distance by a third and have the tunnel end at Barbur near SW Slavin Rd. That option still lends itself to limiting traffic on Barbur. Not sure what’s more cost effective.

    As for a tunnel under PCC Sylvania, it seems a lot cheaper to bypass Capitol Hwy and provide access to the West side of campus with a much shorter tunnel under 55th or Lesser Rd., then under I-5, back to 99w and so on.

  19. I lived in vancouver for a long time, If i want to get around on the trimet fares ctran honors, and save me a few bucks i am going to take the yellow line and the number 4. I always did this those express buses are nice but using my one cheapo fare was a better option then. Secondly, Tri met is not going to build lrt to tualitan from downtown. They have WES! If they made that service an every hour service I would be able to use it more than I do. Then and a brt or a ton of buses to 217/ line 57, and you got yourself a doable transit alternative

  20. Re: tunneling in the West Hills.
    I know this might not be taken very seriously by transportation people, but I am skeptical of putting too many holes in our basaltic hill formations, at least when there are huge buildings above them. Maybe where there are houses, such as with the Hwy 26 tunnel….or, I could see tunnels in other parts of the West Hills. But any subsidence of the ground under a large commercial building would become an incredibly expensive problem. Basalt normally fractures in the cooling process so all of those solid looking West Hills have thousands of fractures in them already. These fractures have also been exacerbated by trees sending down roots, for who knows how long.

    Any perforation of these hills should be limited in scope and reinforced with structural steel, not just concrete and reinforcing bars, no matter how large. Unless there is some kind of super-super glue for rocks…..

    And, with application to a downtown tunnel, just remember that the bigger your investment is, the greater the loss if something does go wrong.

  21. Ron, boring tunnels under the West Hills poses absolutely NO danger to buildings above it. The weight of the rock and soil over the tunnel FAR EXCEEDS anything that may or may not be built on the surface, even huge multi-million sf medical centers. Likewise, trees have no effect on the strength of the tunnel. Engineers actually have a pretty good grasp of how to design and construct tunnels after centuries of experience, no matter what kind of rock or soil they’re drilling through. Super-gluing rocks together is not part of that process.

  22. Aaron, I never said that trees would grow into the tunnel. I said that basalt, which by its nature fractures, can have those fractures enlarged where tree roots can grow into it. Which, if there were successive deposits, could mean that older and deeper layers have larger fractures. Just down the street from me (on SE 17th Av.) there is an apartment complex built on a bluff that is slowly fracturing away. There have been other buildings lost and roadways severely damaged by ground movement in the PNW.

    It doesn’t have anything to do with the design of the tunnel and whatever weight is bearing on it. It is how much investment is prudent in topography which has been shown to be unstable. Once there is major transportation infrastructure investment in Pill Hill is there going to be further commercial investment there, also?
    And if Portland can require geotechnical studies for homeowners, why not for a multi $ billion complex? I’m just saying it’s another point to consider in projects of this magnitude, which likely isn’t considered from the transportation advocacy viewpoint.

    But the deeper question as always, is where is the rejiggering of the MAX system going to end?

  23. OK, folks, remember: The inverse square law is your friend. Compression force is not distributed in a straight line. That is all.

  24. where is the rejiggering of the MAX system going to end

    And the terrific thing about buses is Flexibility.

  25. Your post said “… I am skeptical of putting too many holes in our basaltic hill formations, at least when there are huge buildings above them. Maybe where there are houses, such as with the Hwy 26 tunnel….or, I could see tunnels in other parts of the West Hills. But any subsidence of the ground under a large commercial building would become an incredibly expensive problem.”

    Sorry if I misunderstood you, but that makes it sound like the size of the buildings on the surface are hazardous to tunnels, which isn’t the case. There is fractured rock in every rock formation on Earth. That in no way prevents tunnel construction.

    Now, whether or not to build houses or hospitals on steep slopes that are prone to slides…. that’s an entirely different discussion. But Pill Hill already has the highest concentration of jobs outside of downtown, so that alone warrants direct MAX service, with or without new construction on the Hill.

    “And if Portland can require geotechnical studies for homeowners, why not for a multi $ billion complex?”

    Who said they wouldn’t? Trust me, Portland will require more than just a simple geotech study before any tunnel gets built.

  26. Allan,

    The Broadway Bridge cannot support LRT vehicles and the MUCH heavier track structure it requires. Plus, the curves at 10th and 11th are WAAAAAAYYYYY too tight for Max. Finally, the stations are tiny and the streetcars run in mixed traffic, which Max simply cannot do.

    Give it up.

  27. I’m not a bridge engineer, so its probably unfeasible if you say so, but I wasn’t proposing using any streetcar sections but the bridge. Basically connect to the transit mall via Broadway and union station

  28. What is the value of forcing the tracks to climb several hundred feet to surface at Barbur TC, run along a stretch of Barbur Boulevard that frankly is not at all conducive to high capacity transit, and then go back underground?

    If we’re going to build a subway, keep it underground and let it serve Multnomah Village – arguably a far more appropriate transit destination than…the Burlingame Fred Meyer store. The 44 bus has a higher utilization than the 12 bus which would make more sense to attract riders who hit the major 44 stops.

    Barbur makes a good place for BRT. Something that could be done literally today, for about $25 million (total, including a dedicated fleet of articulated, hybrid-electric buses) if it weren’t for TriMet’s and Metro’s anti-bus attitude. A MAX line will cost at least $2 billion…and will likely result in the elimination or drastic reduction of many of the connecting bus routes like the 1, 38, 39, 43, 44, 45, and 55…plus the 12 route would be rendered to impractical, the 61, 64 and 94 would also be gone…how is that improving transit? The BRT option would actually improve most of those bus lines since they would partially use the BRT route, or would offer a far better transfer experience from the shortline route to the mainline route versus today (i.e. the 12-39 transfer or the 12-43 transfer).

  29. Eric,

    I think that BRT may make sense for the SW corridor.

    On the other hand, a real subway on this route *could* be a huge success story, connecting hard-to-reach places (even by car, certainly be walking) to downtown portland.

    To be effective, a subway would have to have stations at major locii and be integrated with great bus service (to serve suburban-like areas). In addition, there would have to be a willingness on the part of developers and communities to create higher density housing along the corridor.

    I can envision a Barbur with urban-style communities at Multnomah Village, Hillsdale, and from Burlingame down to Capital Highway. Basically, a high density linear neighborhood stretching along the line with excellent bus connectors to the low density residential areas nearby.

    This route would serve important destinations such as:
    Bridgeport Village

    The price tag likely does come in at around 2B, which if comparing to other cities, is a relative bargain.

    I for one think that the Milwakie line is a bit of a joke, and with the whole bridge thing, maybe more like a nightmare. It costs 1.5B. That’s a lot of a line that only goes a few miles to a town that very few people live in. Honestly, I don’t get it.

    And don’t get me started on the transit mall…

    But the SW corridor is an important route, IMO. I’d like to see it developed with real mass transit, which we’ve basically concluded means a subway along most of the route.

  30. “But the SW corridor is an important route, IMO. I’d like to see it developed with real mass transit, which we’ve basically concluded means a subway along most of the route.”

    >>>> Real Mass Transit? That means high-level platforms and complete grade separation, not obsolescent super-sized trolley cars known as ‘light rail.”

    >>> Subway? No way with Portland’s (low) density; they belong in places like Chicago and NYC.

    Plus, there is NO MONEY for any kind of subway here, anywhere. Look how they had to scrape up funds to build MLR. Get real, guys.

  31. Hey Nick you know how these guys like to play BUILD AND PLAN THE TRANSIT SYSTEM!

    It’s a fantasy game that has been played for YEARS over here.

    Fun to watch actually.

  32. Nick and Al,

    I don’t agree that mass transit is only for cities like New York and Chicago. There are plenty of cities around the world where mass transit is an important and effective means to get around.

    I do agree that the whole MAX light rail thing hasn’t always been planned or implemented effectively. I followed it quite closely even though I haven’t lived in Portland in years.

    To support my first point, I would look to the MAX Blue line. It’s the original, and it’s had a couple decades to build ridership. What do we see there? A success story, plain and simple.

    There are, and will be, more success stories for Portland transit.

    Now, on the other hand, we can plainly see that Milwakie LR is not worth the total cost of the project, and that planners have probably railroaded it in order to provide transit service for the South Waterfront neighborhood. Rather than focusing on transit concerns, planners seem to be using transit as a tool in order to create a vibrant core. I’m skeptical of this approach.

    Portland will never have New York-style mass transit. But that does not mean that Portland cannot have successful mass transit. It’s an important distinction and I encourage you to consider it.

  33. “”Nick and Al, I don’t agree that mass transit is only for cities like New York and Chicago. There are plenty of cities around the world where mass transit is an important and effective means to get around””

    ~~~> I never said that! I think Portland did have an excellent system but its now in the death spiral and it will only get worse.

    People need mass transit, including greater Portland.

  34. While I disagree with Nick, he didn’t say “mass transit” was only for places like NYC and Chicago, he said subways were.

    I don’t know if we should build a subway through Southwest, but I think we should hold it up next to various surface alternatives and compare the costs and benefits of each. If a tunnel is not much more expensive than a surface line and provides faster trips and better ridership, maybe it’s worth doing.

    If we can work out a subway from downtown to Tigard serving OHSU and PCC, perhaps in conjunction with BRT (or BRT-lite) to enhance service on Barbur, then a lot of buses that currently serve downtown and OHSU could be reassigned to provide more frequent and comprehensive bus service in southwest Portland. Elsewhere, I suggested a multiple-hub system with buses criss-crossing SW, radiating outward from stations at Hillsdale TC, PCC, Tigard and Washington Square.

  35. Al, if you weren’t so sarcastic I think others might take you more seriously.

    I see that I made an mistake regarding Nick’s comments. Indeed, there is a difference between mass transit and subways.

    However, I would argue the same thing: Portland needs a subway, at least in the central city, in order to have true mass transit. And that is within reach.

    As it is, MAX has parts that work and parts that don’t work all that well. Everyone here knows that the surface alignment through downtown is a lackluster solution.

    As well, I think the conclusion on this blog has been that a route through SW will cost about the same, regardless if it is a surface route, subway, or BRT.

    Given that, I don’t have any problem arguing in favor of a subway alignment.

  36. I can envision a Barbur with urban-style communities at Multnomah Village, Hillsdale, and from Burlingame down to Capital Highway.

    The problem is that you described Capitol Highway (with an “O”), not Barbur Boulevard.

    A little history lesson: The original route through the area was Taylors Ferry Road. Then Capitol Highway, the first highway connecting Portland and Salem (hence the spelling of “Capitol”). It was then replaced by the Pacific Highway and Barbur Boulevard. It was then replaced by I-5.

    In the meantime, the area was also served by two, long gone railroads – the Southern Pacific’s Red Electric, which travelled down what is now Barbur Boulevard to Bertha, to Beaverton-Hillsdale (in fact the Capitol Highway overpass over Bertha was built FOR the Red Electric), and then on a private ROW (which is currently being considered as a neighborhood trail) to Beaverton to connect with the existing railroad from Beaverton west to Hillsboro. The Oregon Electric travelled down what is now I-5 to Multnomah Boulevard, to what is now the Oregon Electric ROW segment of the Fanno Creek Trail, to Beaverton and Hillsboro via what is now MAX.

    It is through these historical routes that communities grew up. Hillsdale, Multnomah Village, Garden Home – are all creatures of the past highways and railroads; not 1970s-era creations like the Barbur Transit Center and PCC Sylvania or the Kruse Way business park, or Washington Square. Tigard was an agricultural station on the OE (and to a lesser extent, the Southern Pacific’s “shortcut” between Beaverton and Lake Oswego, that became the Tillamook Branch in the 1930s when the original Portland-Beaverton line was abandoned after just 14 years of interurban service). It wasn’t until the 1950s, 1960s that Tigard began to grow with the widening of U.S. 99W to a four-lane highway, and later the construction of I-5 and Oregon 217; and taking off in the 1980s. (Tualatin, in comparison, had a population of around 700 in 1970, but around 6,000 in 1980.)

    The reality is that Tigard is not going to be a good location for rail. It isn’t a “corridor”, nor has it ever had a truly functional city center. Ask most people what Tigard’s city center is and they’ll answer either Washington Square or Bridgeport Village. Even Metro acknowledges that, naming Washington Square a “regional center”. But the MAX/Southwest Corridor seems to ignore reality in virtually every imaginable way – pretend that most people on 99W travel only within the corridor (most trips do not start or stop on the corridor), pretend that Tigard’s center of travel destinations is downtown, and pretends that Barbur Boulevard is somehow a destination. In reality, you have destinations that are near – but not on – Barbur, and as we’ve seen in the last 10 years a consistent attack on the bus system has resulted in a fragmented public transit system that is inconvenient, poorly timed, and dysfunctional. The 12 and 94 lines are popular because the 12 is the only Frequent Service line that runs much of the day, but the 94 takes over during the rush hour by skipping the sparsely used stops. The 44, on the other hand, gets good ridership because of the density along the route and serves known transit destinations like Hillsdale and Multnomah Village (the commerce centers of the neighborhood), the Mittleman Jewish Community Center, and PCC Sylvania.

    But what is really striking is that a number of years ago the City of Portland decided to draw up transit plans for the city. Southwest didn’t follow the other areas of Portland and flat out said that a Streetcar wouldn’t work and didn’t meet the needs of the community. The City’s response – terminate all transit planning for Southwest. In short, the community said “we need better and more bus service” and got slapped for it, because God forbid buses actually work. Southwest already has the making of good bus service – the 1, the 38, the 39 the 43, 44, 45, 55…and of course the 12/94, and the 64 and 65. With MAX – most of these routes will disappear, leaving many SW residents with less transit than now, not more. It is idiotic to repeat the mistake of Westside MAX and encourage transit growth merely by the use of expensive and expansive parking lots and parking garages…when buses encourage that truly community transit usage that encourages walking to a nearby bus stop.

    Short of using a nuclear bomb to blow up all of S.W., why create a massive failure and reinvent the wheel – why not just fix the spokes, put a new tube and tire on, and inflate it? BRT down Barbur can be had for $25 million. New buses, bus stop improvements, sidewalks and other pedestrian improvements (that benefit far more than just the bus riders) is maybe another $25 million. We’ve just made a massive improvement to numerous bus lines, for 1/20th the cost of a six mile surface light rail line – AND ensured connectivity to all major transit destinations. These improvements have proven to increase ridership; coupled with newer, more efficient and more reliable buses would absolutely lower the cost of operation compared with TriMet’s insistence in maintaining 22 year old, fuel-sucking buses that simply cost more to run. And actually implementing a real ITS system as well as access control for Barbur/99W from downtown to the Tualatin River would provide massive benefits for bus riders (fewer delays), road users (fewer delays, faster travel times) and neighbors (fewer delays getting on/off the road, safer conditions, safer pedestrian crossings). And focusing business access away from Barbur and onto side streets will encourage more local patronage and a lesser dependence on businesses that cater to the motorist.

  37. Your absolutelyf@#$ing right BushLeagueTransit, I am indeed sarcastic.

    After 58 years on this earth I find now that most everything is a joke, and the joke is on us (citizens) and there aint a freaking thing we can do about any of it.

    Sarcasm is a means of survival:

    “It’s always darkest before it turns absolutely pitch black.” (Paul Newman)

    Footnote: I don’t care if anybody takes me serious, I’m not running for political office

  38. Erick–

    We’ll never get BRT on Barbur because nobody is going to agree to give up traffic lanes for busses. That is the crux of why BRT is a nowhere argument because, practially, isn’t going to happen. Also, true BRT is going to cost more than $25 million. On that corridor, $25 million may not even get you BRT lite (which is all you would get people to agree to, anyway).

    I fully believe we ultimately need the tunnel. You have high volume locations like OHSU and PCC, and a heavy trafficked corridor. A tunnel with a MAX train can serve that volume without taking away the auto lanes, which, I’m sorry, is simply the way the political game must be played in this country.

    Now, the MAX line becomes your hub. You still need the spokes in the form of strong community bus service. I realize trimet hasn’t always been great about providing that in areas where the MAX is located, but that is where the fight needs to take place. A MAX line through this corridor will serve the region far better long term than BRT-lite.

  39. The reality is that Tigard is not going to be a good location for rail. It isn’t a “corridor”, nor has it ever had a truly functional city center. Ask most people what Tigard’s city center is and they’ll answer either Washington Square or Bridgeport Village.

    FWIW, I always thought Tigard had the most appealing “downtown” of any of the metro area’s suburbs. It’s just far enough removed from the madness known as Pacific Hwy that it isn’t constantly choked with traffic (keep in mind I’m only referring to the commercial area immediately east of 99W). With the presence of Tigard TC and the ever-expanding Fanno Creek Trail, I could see central Tigard developing into a nice little destination area, and maybe a bigger transit hub than it currently is.

    Speaking of Pacific Hwy, has a study even been done of the notorious choke point south of Greenburg/Hall of how much of the volume is local vs. through traffic? Transit enhancements would hopefully ease the local load while the I-5/99W connector (if it’s ever built) should handle more of the Yamhill and coast-bound traffic.

  40. Erick,

    Thank you for your knowledgeable post regarding historical southwest portland transit. It was great reading and I appreciate the time you put into it.

    I, however, disagree with your conclusions. I rather think that your historical argument favors the next method of transit, in this case MAX.

    If the type of transit defined these communities, as you state, then why not redefine them again with mass transit?

    I agree that it’s huge planning and political challenge. We’ll see what happens.

    Note: I agree with Dave that BRT lite will cost more than 25 MM and would be relatively ineffective. Real BRT will of course be a non starter given that Barbur is a state highway.

  41. Light Rail will of course be a non starter given that Barbur is a state highway. Any idea of a tunnel is just a fantasy.

    And of course, given Portland’s relatively low density, any kind of rail is a non starter.

  42. What does non-starter mean to you? Rail transit projects haven’t had trouble getting off the ground in the past.

  43. People might have scoffed at a tunnel in the 1980s because we hadn’t built one.

    Now that one exists, suggesting a second one would be a fantasy is more than a bit preposterous. Particularly since a MAX tunnel may be the only way to get decent transit service to OHSU/VA, which is probably the single largest prospective transit trip generator in the entire region.

    The realistic question is not so much “will there be a tunnel” as “how long will it be?”

  44. Back in the ’80s, there was more money available to waste on projects like the West Side tunnel. Now, the situation is much different, which make an OHSU tunnel just a fantasy.

    If BRT is a non-starter for Barbur, so is light rail, as both would take up traffic lanes.

    I guess some folks don’t like having their balloons popped.

  45. There is plenty of federal money for things like a tunnel, as PMLR demonstrates. Or as the CRC demonstrates. Take your pick. The question is one of political will in Washington County to get the project going. It would be different if this project were in Clackamas County which, obviously, won’t be getting any more rail for awhile.

  46. Cost of a six mile tunnel: $750 million (basis of estimate: Robertson tunnel cost $184 for three miles; double the estimate for twice the length, double it again for inflation)

    Cost of three underground stations: $300 million. (Cost of Washington Park station — around $40 million).

    Cost of two miles of surface track from PCC to Tigard TC: $200 million (there’s no obvious existing right of way, so I assume a lot of it will need to be purchased).

    Projected back-of-the-envelope cost: $1.3 billion. Yes, I rounded up. The federal government will put in at least half of that, possibly more. The state and various local governments could come up with the rest. If we have a Democratic majority in the state legislature, state funding is a real possibility — particularly with an OHSU station on the line.

    And I wouldn’t discount a public vote for a Tri-Met bond measure; Tri-Met area voters have been supportive of light rail in the past, voting “yes” three out of four times that a light rail project was on the ballot. Just a few years ago, Metro voters approved $125 million for the Oregon Zoo — we clearly aren’t opposed to big ticket items.

    Sorry to pop your balloon, Nick, but the money is there and it’s not that hard to put a politically realistic funding plan together.

  47. It’s pretty funny that the only place where it seems I see proposals for an OHSU tunnel is on this blog. Where have Metro and Trimet even broached the possibility of building a tunnel? If I remember correctly, Metro has even hinted that the reins may have to be pulled in on future transit projects.

    Now, where are we going to find half a billion dollars for this tunnel, after the big hassle of originating the local/state share for MLR? Nowhere!

    Tunnel porposals these days, in downtown and SW, are just fantasies. But, people used to do analagous things like that when I was living in NYC, so I understand.

  48. Neither of those links rule out a tunnel. Metro has to look at ALL the options, including new surface ROW options that could be as costly as a tunnel, perhaps even costlier. I’m betting a new viaduct on the side of the steep hill between Barbur and I-5 is gonna be “cost-prohibitive”.

    Also, Metro’s own HCT Plan from June 2010 specifically mentions a tunnel as one of the options for the SW corridor. “We” on this blog aren’t the only ones proposing it.

  49. June 2010 was two years ago. It looks like Metro is now facing financial and political reality and intends to scale back big projects. There is probably no stomach for building a SW tunnel, or even a surface viaduct like you mentioned. Stop dreaming.

  50. That’s a bogus argument. When HASN’T Metro faced financial and political realities. They ALWAYS face financial and political realities. Would you have believed 5 years ago that we would spend 1.5 Billion on light rail to Milwaukie? No, you would have said that that was a “dream” as well. Actually, a lot of naysayers on here would have called it flat out “impossible”.

    Frankly, if Metro was able to get MLR financed in THE WORST economic downturn since the ’30s, I don’t see any problem whatsoever getting financing to build Tigard MAX. In fact, it’ll be a piece of cake compared to MLR. I totally agree with Douglas on this one. Portland and Tigard want it, Washington and Multnomah Counties want it, Metro wants it, our US Reps and Senators want it, our State Reps and Senators want it…. it’s gonna happen. Period.

  51. So the $4 billion CRC can be built, but we can’t start talking about a $1-2 billion SW corridor tunnel and MAX line? Or do you think the CRC is doomed as well?

  52. Nick just does not like rail transit and claims it does not work in Portland. Almost 150K riders a day say he’s wrong. In the end it may be the voters who get to decide as its about time for a TriMet bond issue measure for the local match of the next HCT project.

  53. I think a bond measure would be a slam dunk. I’d even go so far as to say they should include not just SW MAX, but also an extension to OC (to get Clackamas Co on board…. and to piss off the cranks in Estacada and Mollala), the MAX portion of the CRC to Vancouver, maybe BRT-lite on Powell, upgrade a big chunk of the buses, extend the Red line from Beaverton TC to Tigard/Tualatin, and restore service hours systemwide. Make it a comprehensive bond that takes advantage of historic low interest rates and the lowest construction costs we’re likely to see for decades to come. If LA can do it, we sure as hell can.

    Building infrastructure = new jobs, and I think a big majority of people here would see the benefits, both short-term and long-term.

  54. “I think a bond measure would be a slam dunk.”

    >>>> The last bond measure got rejected. How would Trimet service the bonds now with its current financial situation?

    “Nick just does not like rail transit….”

    >>>> Not true at all; I grew up on the NYC subways, and that’s how I developed a life-long interest in transit.

    “…and claims it does not work in Portland.”

    Very true; how many more potential riders we would have got with an open BRT busway system, instead of slow and transfer-inducing LRT?

    Metro planners have recently stated that they intend to be “lean and mean” with future projects. But I see that the delusions on this board go on and on.

  55. [Moderator: Personally directed remarks removed. Sorry for not noticing this sooner, was busy with ATU757 coverage. –ES]

  56. [Moderator: Response to personally-directed remarks which were moderated, also removed. –ES]

  57. If LA can do it, we sure as hell can.

    Pretty good point. And LA won a 2/3rds majority for a sales tax hike in the midst of a plummeting economy. Tri-Met would need only 50%+1 in a time of (slow) economic growth.

    The last bond measure got rejected.

    By a fairly narrow margin while competing with multiple bond measures on the same ballot. The previous three votes (Westside, South/North, and the referral of state funding) all passed, although the statewide measure was defeated outside the Metro area.

    Aaron’s right — it’s well within the realm of political possibility to pass a comprehensive MAX/BRT measure with projects throughout the entire Metro area.

  58. All this talk about a new bond issue is unrealistic. Lottery bonds were already issued to help pay for MLR. Despite the arbitrator’s ruling today, Trimet is unlikely to be able to service (interest payment and amortization) on a new bond issue.

    And has anybody at Trimet or Metro even given a hint about using bonds to pay for SW transit?

    Just remember what the Metro planner have recently said about new project exprenses: “lean and mean,” “affordable,” and “manageable.”

  59. “Just remember what the Metro planner have recently said about new project exprenses: “lean and mean,” “affordable,” and “manageable.” ”

    LOL… Of course they’re gonna say those things. What did you expect them to say? We want to build bloated, gold-plated and unwieldy projects?

    You can say “delusional”, “unrealistic”, “silly”, “fantasies” and “dreaming” all you want. SW MAX is gonna happen whether you believe it or not. And somebody else said it earlier…. it’s not a question of IF a tunnel will be built, but how long it will be and how many stations.

  60. “You can say “delusional”, “unrealistic”, “silly”, “fantasies” and “dreaming” all you want. SW MAX is gonna happen whether you believe it or not. And somebody else said it earlier…. it’s not a question of IF a tunnel will be built, but how long it will be and how many stations.”

    >>>> Dream on. We’ll see in 10 years from now.

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