BRT, LRT advance in Southwest Corridor

Before the meat of the post, some apologies for my scarcity the past two months or so. I always seem to take blog-cation in the fall, and it happened again this year–have been quite busy with work and home, so haven’t had much time for PT. (Plus, I’ve been focusing a bit more on the upcoming election–but since this is a 501(c) non-profit, I’ll have no more to say about that… :P )

Now on to the gist of things. The Southwest Corridor Plan Steering Committee have agreed to advance a few Bus Rapid Transit and Light Rail options for the Southwest Corridor. BRT seems to be the preferred option of the committee, given the current funding environment; though light rail is being advanced for consideration as well. The primary corridor (for either mode) is Portland to Tigard, with Tigard to Tualatin being the preferred extension–Sherwood is viewed by the committee as not providing sufficient demand to justify high-capacity transit.

Reading between the lines; it does appear that “real” BRT, with exclusive lanes, is what is being considered (with the caveat that hard parts might be run in mixed traffic); not BRT-light. (BRT-light is mentioned as an option for Sherwood).

Enhancements to WES seem to be out of scope–though if a rapid transit line goes from Tualatin to Tigard to Portland; it’s only a few miles between Tigard TC and Beaverton TC; and a major destination (Washington Square) is right on the way. Ideas dropped from further consideration include mixed-traffic streetcar, and “freeway bus” on I-5. Other commuter rail besides the current WES alignment (such as Sherwood-Tualatin-LO-Milwaukie-Portland) did not get mentioned in the report.

Details here.


51 Responses to BRT, LRT advance in Southwest Corridor

  1. Jim Lee
    October 25, 2012 at 9:22 am Link

    Electric trolleys and real BRT would be a great match.

  2. dwainedibbly
    October 25, 2012 at 5:54 pm Link

    All good news, in my opinion. I still would like LRT in a tunnel under Marquam Hill. I’ll go one step farther & tack on a suggestion for some sort of bicycle infrastructure through the tunnel as a way of encouraging people on bikes to ride to downtown from the other side of the hills. Crazy? Probably.

  3. Douglas K.
    October 25, 2012 at 7:34 pm Link

    My reservation about BRT is that the only good way to serve OHSU is via light rail tunnel. BRT abandons OHSU as a destination. That said, I suppose it would be possible to do a completely separate project to extend the Green/Yellow Line to OHSU, and no further.

    OHSU and PSU are less than a mile apart as the crow flies (or the gopher tunnels). The tunnel itself wouldn’t be more than half a mile long, although the underground station would likely be very expensive — more so than the Washington Park station was even after adjusting for inflation. Brand the Milwaukie Line as “Orange” and have it turn around at Union Station, and OHSU could be served by eight to ten trains an hour. OHSU-bound BRT riders could transfer to MAX at PSU.

  4. al m
    October 25, 2012 at 7:44 pm Link

    I’m sure glad the future is so rosy that we can plan all these additions.
    “Happy Days are Here Again!”

  5. EngineerScotty
    October 25, 2012 at 9:12 pm Link

    Planning–particularly the early sort of planning (as opposed to preparing an EIS) doesn’t cost very much, and is often paid for with grants. It’s the latter phases that are expensive.

  6. Mark Foss
    October 26, 2012 at 11:58 am Link

    This is interesting. If the BRT option is taken up, what kind of lanes would be used? Will the lanes be physically separated from the regular langes? Where can I find out what is being considered?

  7. Mark Foss
    October 26, 2012 at 11:59 am Link

    This is interesting. If the BRT option is taken up, what kind of lanes would be used? Will the lanes be physically separated from the regular langes? Where can I find out what is being considered?

  8. Lenny Anderson
    October 26, 2012 at 3:36 pm Link

    BRT without a exclusive ROW in the peak hours is a sham and waste of money.
    Milwaukie LRT re-emerged from the S/N defeat in ’98 due to strong neighborhood pushback. It will take the same to give SW corridor that option in the end.
    And as to money, compelling ideas attract money, uninspired one’s end up on the shelf.

  9. EngineerScotty
    October 26, 2012 at 3:55 pm Link


    At this point, the project is very early in the planning; so the answer to your question is “to be determined”.


    Agreed for the need for exclusive-ROW BRT for the corridor, if we do BRT. Do note that the N/S BRT proposal was for an exclusive busway–it wasn’t a case of light rail vs bus-with-a-nice-paint-job.

    At any rate, my suspicion is a similar political dynamic may be in play here as was for MLR; the city of Milwaukie (as expressed via its elected officials) wanted light rail, and that drove the decision-making. Whether the same thing will happen with the SWC, with a less generous funding environment, I do not know.

  10. R A Fontes
    October 26, 2012 at 5:25 pm Link

    I’d still like to see a BRT tunnel serving OHSU and maybe PCC Sylvania.

    Yeah – it’s a lot of money, but we’re only going to get one chance to get it right. Maybe it could be also operated as a toll tunnel for privately owned ZEV’s and possibly LEV’s, thereby paying back at least part of the extra capital costs over a surface project.

  11. Douglas K.
    October 26, 2012 at 7:23 pm Link

    I can’t see doing a BRT tunnel. The major advantage to BRT over light rail is the capital costs are so dramatically lower. That’s particularly the case when the light rail line has to create its own right-of-way — the ideal BRT project would simply take over a couple of lanes on an existing road.

    However, BRT has a higher operating cost per passenger, which adds up over the long term. Not only do you need more operators, the vehicles need to be replaced far more frequently than light rail. As a practical matter, you can get federal help to build the line, but not to operate it. Even so, BRT might be a good choice if the higher operating and maintenance costs over fifty or a hundred years still reflect a total savings when construction costs are taken into account.

    But if you’re going to put the money into digging a tunnel with overhead wire (because the BRT would have to be a trolley bus), then adding track reflects a fairly tiny percentage increase in the cost of the project. At that point, just do light rail and save on O&M costs over the long term.

  12. R A Fontes
    October 26, 2012 at 9:31 pm Link

    Tunneled BRT could be part-time zero emission buses – hybrid diesel electrics in electric mode. Presumably, the buses would have plenty of charging time on the surface portions of their runs.

    Please forgive the repetition of previous comments in the following AV rant:

    With each announcement, it’s becoming more and more certain that autonomous vehicles are coming, probably sooner than most of us expect, and that they will have incredible effects on transit systems. I’m convinced that within 20 to 30 years, major systems like TriMet will implode and small systems like CAT and SMART will disappear. Surviving transit would be that which could compete with autonomous Car2Go or taxi types of services: essentially commute hour and circulator services in congested areas. Transit will also survive in the dense urban areas.

    As Scotty pointed out in a post awhile back, AV technologies have the potential to turn transit operational cost models on their heads. Buses would be cheaper to run than rail systems.

    A second advantage of bus over LRT is that it would eliminate transfers to major feeder lines, saving some money and a fair amount of time. Forcing riders to transfer between LRT and bus feeders would be a great way to lose customers once they have AV options.

    The point is that if SW corridor transit is to be viable for anything more than commute hour service a generation from now, it needs to be BRT and use a tunnel serving Marquam Hill.

  13. Nick theoldurbanist
    October 26, 2012 at 10:16 pm Link

    “Forcing riders to transfer between LRT and bus feeders would be a great way to lose customers once they have AV options.”

    >>>> Forcing riders to transfer between LRT and bus feeders IS a great way to lose customers as things stand NOW, as these transfers are inherently unattractive. Plus unproductive bus feeder lines drive operating costs sky-high.

  14. Anandakos
    October 26, 2012 at 10:53 pm Link

    Mr. Fontes,

    This being America, land of lawyers, I think your shining future of autonomous vehicles is a pipe dream. And the pipe is loaded with some of Mendocino County’s finest.

    Take a moment and imagine the legal circus that will occur the first time an autonomous vehicle runs over a grandmother or a kid who runs out into the street from between two cars. Forget that the kid or granny would probably be just as dead had the car been driver by a human driver.

    Instead, focus on the pocketbooks of the purveyors of the autonomous vehicle technology. See in your mind’s eye the young up-and-coming lawyer subpoena Sergey Brin. Sergey has billions; he probably gets richer each day by much more than the entire net worth of the average driver who kills granny.

    Can you see the lawyer’s wolfish grin? Do you see the dollar signs in his eyes? If you don’t, look again, because that lawyer is out there, and he will win a multi-hundred million dollar lawsuit predicated on unjust profiteering by the negligent company that provided the car.

    And all this is not to mention the insurance companies who will not touch such a vehicle, because they have deep pockets to raid as well.

    And finally, do you really believe that the egregious jerks madly cutting one another off in the morning commute are going to give up their little blood sport in order to traipse in orderly COLLECTIVIST single-file to work each day?

    If you do believe this, I have an antidote to your Fabian optimism: it’s called Fox News. You can find it on your TV dial.

  15. Anandakos
    October 26, 2012 at 10:56 pm Link

    “driven by a human driver”.

  16. Douglas K.
    October 26, 2012 at 11:30 pm Link

    By the time autonomous vehicles are street-legal, they will be safer than human drivers by far. And they’ll be insured, because insurance companies will crunch the numbers and realize the cars are a good bet.

    While there will absolutely be a media circus over the first fatal accident involving an autonomous car, mostly because it IS the first one, there will not be a legal circus. There will be a lawsuit with a next-of-kin plaintiff, a few defendants, and evidence offered to show who was at fault — just like every other auto accident case involving a defective vehicle.

    And there won’t be any huge recovery either. Speaking as an attorney, if you think the fact situation you posited would lead to a “multi-hundred million dollar lawsuit”, you’re the guy with the pipe dream. By the way, if you’re aware of any cause of action by a private party for “unjust profiteering” please point me to a source. I might find it useful some day.

  17. Bob R.
    October 26, 2012 at 11:42 pm Link

    OK take it easy, there’s room to advocate and criticize the role of (assumed future) autonomous vehicles without also criticizing advocates as being deluded by “pipe dreams”.

    Personally, I think geometry is a far bigger challenge to low-occupancy vehicles, autonomous or otherwise, in urbanized spaces, and that this will be a limiting constraint in the future. But I could be wrong!

    And, depending on the outcome of various marijuana initiatives in our region, autonomous or drive-for-hire human-operated vehicles may be very desirable, so that pipe dreams may be just as practical and safe, if not safer, than (alcohol-based) bottle dreams.

  18. Dave H
    October 27, 2012 at 1:36 am Link

    Just for the record, autonomous vehicles are street-legal in California. Link. As the article mentions, they’re not even the first.

    From what I’ve read, the safety records are amazing. The only accidents I’ve heard about were an autonomous car getting hit by a distracted driver, and a driver taking over in a manual mode bumped another car. Maybe I missed one?

    At some point soon computing power will be cheap enough to be a safer driver than any human could be. The required sensors get cheaper every quarter. It won’t be overnight, but eventually TriMet will probably buy buses that don’t require a driver. Maybe it’ll be 47xx series, but it’s probably going to happen.

    I figured that automated vehicles will probably lead to forms of commercialized slugging with Car2Go type vehicles, but there will be benefits for transit agencies as well. If the transit agencies adapt quickly during the right window of opportunity they might be able to build out a system that is more cost-effective and able to compete with other solutions.

    A well designed AI dispatch system could optimize the number of vehicles on the road, wait times, etc and dispatch a carpool for you and some random strangers along the way. If you have cargo, let it know, if you want 42 minutes to go shopping, let it know. There could be an app for that.

    Maybe TriMet will be providing that service in 100 years.

  19. Douglas K.
    October 27, 2012 at 7:33 am Link

    By the time autonomous vehicles become universal, I expect smart-phone-summoned robot taxis will displace public transit and private cars. A lot of people will give up their cars completely, while others will own one or two vehicles that provide automated taxi service most of the time.

    I also expect that public transit will eventually disappear outside of NYC and a few other densely populated urban cores, and maybe some peak-hour service. It will take a few decades, but it will come.

  20. EngineerScotty
    October 27, 2012 at 8:38 am Link

    Autonomous vehicles, of course, eliminate the driver. This means that transit vehicles and taxis need not pay someone to serve in that role, and it means that private vehicle users can do something else productive with the time. Unless you’re a transit driver now made redundant by the technology, this is a benefit to both modes.

    As to whether or not larger vehicles carrying more passengers (what we currently call “transit”) will grow in utilization in comparison to smaller vehicles carrying fewer (down to a single passenger), that depends more–I think–on things like energy prices and technology, emissions regulations, and as Bob said, geometry of our cities. Energy prices will be the biggest influence; if we call can have a Mr. Fusion in our vehicles, I would expect the continued dominance of the SOV. If, on the other hand, gas gets north of $5/gallon, electric vehicle technology stagnates, and people have to pay real money for each ton of steel they haul around with them; that would favor shared vehicles.

    One thing I do think would happen, regardless, is that large transit vehicles (40′ busses, and any sort of rail) will diminish in importance, and that medium-sized vehicles (“jitneys”) will become more dominant; and much more transit will become privatized as it becomes more lucrative. (My take on public/private: I don’t really care who operates a transit vehicle, as long as reasonable standards of service are maintained. As transit is a public good, I fully support taxpayer-funded, “money-losing” public transit agencies; but if transit becomes a profitable business venture, fine by me).

  21. jon
    October 27, 2012 at 8:57 am Link

    Back to SW Corridor…

    I agree with Douglas’s first comment on how nice it would be to extend MAX a short distance from PSU South to OHSU even if it didnt go any further. OHSU is such a destination and its such a short distance (although difficult with freeway crossing, clusterf— road layout between I-405 and Duniway Park and then the tunnel issue itself).

    Whatever mode is chosen for SW Corridor, I sure hope, as at least part of the plan, are exclusive bus lanes from downtown on Barbur/Naito to the Capitol Highway/Barbur turn-off. This stretch is a busy bus trunk-line that can often get very congested by SOVs. This could still work with LRT much in the way LRT/bus is sharing part of the route on PMLR.

    I believe I heard on this blog that one possibility was an exclusive bus right of way on Naito Parkway thru Lair Hill especially given the excess street width in this stretch. It would also allow that oversized 1940s highway design to be rebuilt to be more context sensitive. I like this exclusive transit RoW idea on Naito a lot.

    We really need exclusive bus lanes in the areas just outside of downtown to feed buses quickly to the transit mall so that large numbers of buses are not being congested by SOvVs in mixed traffic during rush hour. Many of these are multi-bus line trunk line corridors (like Barbur and Jefferson/Columbia). Every day at evening rush hour I sit on a packed bus inching its way into downtown along Naito Parkway through South Auditorium, it should take 2 minutes to go the distance instead takes 20 minutes due to traffic.

  22. R A Fontes
    October 27, 2012 at 8:58 am Link

    On the AV liability issue:

    We could have universal no-fault. We could have a Price-Anderson-like cap imposed by government(s) which wouldn’t answer the who question, but would make manufacturers more comfortable.

    Even so, I think that Douglas K. is on to something by suggesting that liability questions are likely to be handled pretty much as they are now. One reason is that it looks like AV technologies will continue to be brought into the mainstream one at a time, as opposed to all at once.

    Consider cruise control. First it was just a device that would keep the vehicle’s speed constant regardless of hills or wind. Then with adaptive technologies it kept vehicles from rear-ending slow movers. Now it can keep vehicles within a lane. Volvo and others are developing additional hazard avoidance systems.

    The point is that we will probably be driving vehicles capable of autonomous operation by the millions for years, offering manufacturers kilotons of data and all the time that’s needed to fix bugs before driverless operation is legalized. Then after the safety advantages are undeniable, autonomous operation would be sanctioned and overnight (in the true meaning of the word) AV’s could reach near ubiquity. Metro and TriMet need to incorporate that into their planning.

  23. R A Fontes
    October 27, 2012 at 9:11 am Link

    On geometry: It’s very likely after the AV dust settles that the total number of vehicles per household will go down; people really won’t need as many private vehicles as we do now. AV’s also won’t need premium parking; cars can wander off into the boonies or just go home until needed again. These two benefits should free up a lot of street space, particularly where needed most. This development might seem at first less hospitable towards pedestrians and cyclists, but AV’s will present much less of hazard than drunken texters.

  24. dan w
    October 27, 2012 at 1:43 pm Link

    Very intrigued by this AV discussion; I can’t tell you how jazzed I am over the prospect of not having to find a designated driver on New Year’s Eve (kidding… maybe). I’m assuming another one of the benefits would be increased capacity on existing roads without having to expand their footprint?

    On to the topic at hand…. I’m happy to see SW Corridor planning moving forward. Needless to say, in addition to funding challenges, there are some unique constraints to this corridor that weren’t major factors in the implementation of previous HCT lines: geography, lack of street grid, lack of pedestrian facilities, sheer number of commercial driveways along Barbur, etc. A separate ROW would indeed be a pain to build in certain segments but is pretty much a must, in part for political reasons, as I could see SW/Tigard hollering: “Why do Beaverton/Gresham/Clackamas Co/etc. get fancy traffic-separated transit and we don’t?” And they’d have a point.

    Even if fiscal realities prevent it from being funded during the initial phases of SW Corridor implementation, I really hope the window of opportunity for building an underground station serving Pill Hill is kept open.

    Whatever mode is chosen for SW Corridor, I sure hope, as at least part of the plan, are exclusive bus lanes from downtown on Barbur/Naito to the Capitol Highway/Barbur turn-off. This stretch is a busy bus trunk-line that can often get very congested by SOVs. This could still work with LRT much in the way LRT/bus is sharing part of the route on PMLR.

    I believe I heard on this blog that one possibility was an exclusive bus right of way on Naito Parkway thru Lair Hill especially given the excess street width in this stretch. It would also allow that oversized 1940s highway design to be rebuilt to be more context sensitive. I like this exclusive transit RoW idea on Naito a lot.

    Agreed. Ideally, it’d be great if the SW Portland Circulation Plan would be funded and implemented as a component of the larger SW Corridor plan, as an indirect side effect would hopefully be better bus circulation on Barbur/Naito in the Lair Hill area.

  25. Lenny Anderson
    October 27, 2012 at 3:26 pm Link

    I’d love to read something about how BRT has spurred development. Has it ever? In Pittsburgh? In Ottawa? That said, I think there are challenges in the SW Corrdior to denser station area development that LRT can produce. The proximity of Barbur to I-5 compromises station areas right off the bat…look at how long its taken Hollywood to show some signs of life. OHSU and Hilsdale and maybe PCC Sylvania are obvious stations, but otherwise its pretty bleak out there on old Hwy 99W. The other question is do the communities in the corridor want development and the density that comes with it at all. Multnomah has pushed back in the past to denser development along Capitol Hwy; the Yellow Line is blamed by some for the gentrification in N. Portland, though that is a stretch. Tigard is the real wild card. If the anti-City “No LRT” forces take hold, then we may just end up with new buses with special paint jobs and bigger bus shelters, and few new riders.
    re transfers, if a BRT line runs every 10 minutes (you wish!), and splits into three lines at Tigard…Sherwood, Tualatin and Wash Sq., then you get a ride to those end stations once every 30 minutes. Not sure that’s a plus.

  26. Andrew
    October 27, 2012 at 3:52 pm Link

    The idea of AVs does not sit well with me. I don’t think I would like to trying crossing a busy street with those things zipping by quickly and in close, efficient, formation. I shouldn’t have to walk several blocks to a signaled cross-walk every time I need to cross the street anyway.

    Also, what about the cost? How much will they cost to purchase? Many people go without cars precisely because they are expensive. If they are to be called like cabs, how much will that cost? Most people who don’t have cars don’t typically use cabs either because they are expensive.

    What about taking long trips of a few hundred miles? When I take a trip to Astoria, I use the Amtrak bus service. Will there be AVs available for trips like that? Frankly, a coach bus is more comfortable than a car.

    What about the infrastructure for the AVs? Will it be private, public, or a combination? Will any new infrastructure be needed, and how will it be maintained? Our country does not have the best maintenance record, as we all know. You have to remember also that computers are phenomenally stupid machines. They need very precise coding, and sometimes even perfect precision can yield unexpectedly stupid results.

    Then there is the plain truth that I bet a lot of people would not be willing to cede personal control to a computer. For many, surely fuel Orwellian nightmares of intolerable state control over individual rights.

    Would there be different sizes of vehicles available? This would be important if you have large groups, or if you need to haul something like furniture around? What about moving? Will commercial delivery be automated as well? That’s a hell of a lot of jobs lost to a computer.

    Lastly, what about cleaning? If the AV I would be using is like a cab, what is to be done of people who puke in it, for example, because it’s New Year’s and don’t have to drive themselves? Who’s cleaning these things and how often? How will it be detected that cleaning vomit is necessary if there is no driver to swear in frustration and then call in the problem? If there is an extra fee for puking, why would the sick individual call it in? They can let the cab go to the next person, and when that person finds it, they cannot necessarily prove the previous occupant did it. I can see that game being played out.

    Going back to the SW corridor, a tunnel with a station at OHSU is a must. To pass that by would be such a stupid and glaring omission, and everyone would see it that way. I also agree that many would cry train equity if BRT ended up being the choice. I also agree that an exclusive right away in the worst areas is the only way to make the ride significantly better than the bus as it is now. Of course, funding’s always a problem, and I don’t see much money coming up in the near future. The attitude towards public spending, especially on “socialist dreams” like public transportation which is already a “waste of taxpayer money for undeserving people,” is getting worse, I think.

    Besides that, there is an increasing pent up demand on the part of TriMet’s riders for a refocus on bus service, which has been sorely neglected for a long time. No one particularly likes TriMet because of the lousy quality of service generally. Fixing the bus service would, I think, go a long way towards repairing TriMet’s reputation. Maybe then people would be more likely to support another expensive MAX extension or even improvements to the currents lines (which I would support before additional lines myself). Possible upgrades could be signal priority in Downtown that actually works, or eliminating superfluous stations (we’ve been over that topic extensively), or even making the Steel bridge crossing as fast as an electric wheelchair instead of a snail’s pace. These things would make a lot of people very happy.

  27. jon
    October 27, 2012 at 5:04 pm Link

    I kind of was thinking the adopted solution for this corridor would be BRT-lite on Barbur with exclusive transitway from Capitol Highway/Barbur turn off into Downtown via Naito plus improvements to WES in Washington County. Plus a plan to revisit LRT 20 years later potentially then with a more ambitious underground alignment possibly more in the Capitol Highway corridor which is more conducive to transit, pedestrians and a more urban “main street-type” development pattern. But it looks like WES improvements are off the table in this latest alternatives narrowing process.

    OHSU is the big question, how to serve it? Unfortunately there is no way to tie in the Aerial Tram to OHSU to a BRT/LRT transfer station at either Gibbs/Barbur or Gibbs/Naito. Its either a miss or an expensive direct hit (underground) for transit in this corridor. But it would be crazy to miss OHSU given what a huge transit destination it is with relatively poor transit service for this massive hospital complex, poor vehicular access, high parking demand, huge employment center, huge patient demand, etc.

  28. EngineerScotty
    October 27, 2012 at 6:53 pm Link

    If the goal is to “spur development”, might there be other ways to do that?

    One of the big problems with re-developing land that isn’t a greenfield, is that it’s expensive. Existing buildings have to be cleared, and if they are still functionally useful, their value written off. Environmental mitigation and cleanup may need to be performed. Neighbors may object to changes in land use. This is a big reason why developers prefer to develop on greenfield lots.

    A frequent argument for rail, suggested by Lenny above, is that it represents a greater amenity to developers, lenders, and to the residents and businesses that occupy the built premises; than bus service that performs a transit-equivalent function–and that the value difference is sufficient to influence decisions as to redevelop: developers will happily redevelop a lot next to a light-rail line, but will not waste money on a similarly-situated lot located next to a bus line.

    It would be interesting to know what the perceived value difference between bus and rail is, and if it exceeds the difference in capital costs. In other words, if land use transformation is seen as a vital and important purpose of a transit project, would it be more cost effective to build a more expensive rail project, or build a cheaper (but equivalent) busway and then use the difference to “induce” (OK, bribe) the developer to do the development in question?

    Or, for that matter (this should spin some heads), for the government to buy the land itself and develop the properties it things ought to be built, rather than trying to goose the private sector to do the same?

  29. Douglas K.
    October 27, 2012 at 9:07 pm Link

    I don’t think light rail makes a lot of sense on the surface in SW, since the only real route for it is Barbur. The destinations it really needs to serve (OHSU and PCC) aren’t easily accessed, and there are few other destinations that are logical transit destinations (Hillsdale and Multnomah Village) that can be reached with a surface rail alignment. There’s also not much land left for development. A surface alignment in SW really should be BRT — two lines from downtown to Tigard, one continuing to Tualatin-Sherwood and one continung to Washington Square, both running on fifteen minute headways. That’ll provide seven to eight minute headways from Tigard to downtown.

    If light rail is built, I can’t see ever extending it south of Tigard; there simply aren’t any destinations that really warrant rail service, or are likely to in the future, and there aren’t any easy rail corridors. So for light rail, it should be a tunnel serving OHSU, Hillsdale TC and PCC (and maybe Multnomah Village, but I’m skeptical about that one), then a surface line serving a Tigard Triangle park & ride, Tigard TC, and continuing north to Washington Square. (There may be an easy way to do that last segment; Google Maps shows what looks like an abandoned rail corridor from Tigard TC along SW Tigard Street and SW Tiedeman Ave, and the line could then use Greenburg Road to the 217 right-of-way, and then north along 217 to Washington Square.)

    A MAX tunnel would obviously be more expensive than a BRT surface line, but MAX could link nearly every major destination and transit center in southwest, in a way that BRT really couldn’t.

    In short, I see the choice as either a fairly inexpensive BRT line that doesn’t serve optimal destinations, or fairly expensive MAX line that serves all (or nearly all) of them. And as I mentioned earlier, there needs to be a MAX tunnel to OHSU either way.

  30. Lenny Anderson
    October 28, 2012 at 2:08 pm Link

    Portland is full of under utilized property, vacant lots, parking lots, lots with single story buildings. Thriving cities grow. If that’s what we want (some people fear cities, attack them and/or flee them), then the question is Up or Out? Both have costs, but in the most recent decade or so, cities have been filling it and going up. Portland perhaps more than most due to the UGB and region wide planning goals.
    Serving existing destinations is important, but so is a project’s potential for creating destinations and for attacting housing or at best building entire new communities where there is now little or nothing. Inner NW, aka the Pearl, was created in part by Streetcar; same for South Waterfront. We are waiting to see what happens in on the Eastside.
    So could LRT in the SW corridor play this role? The best comparable situation we have is Interstate Avenue, just like Barbur, old 99W. LRT resulted in a complete rebuilding of the street into a true multi-modal facility. Investments in retail and housing are slowly occuring at station areas. Realtors certainly tout MAX in selling houses. The same could happen in SW.
    For sure a low cost BRT on Barbur will not only fail to serve key existing destinations, it will probably not attract investment or spur development. Maybe that’s OK. Some residents of SW like its semi-rural feel.

  31. Allan
    October 29, 2012 at 2:05 pm Link

    Do we need to encourage density in all areas? perhaps the geography would encourage us to leave some areas lower density and focus on increasing densities in other areas. The SW corridor might fall into that cateagory.

    RE: AVs – I’m curious if the taxi-style services will end up being cheaper or more expensive than jitney-style service. This, I believe, is where we’ll head. Basically- $/trip will rule the day for a decent subset of riders

  32. ws
    October 29, 2012 at 10:22 pm Link

    “Do we need to encourage density in all areas?”

    The answer is no, a resounding no, especially when it’s done so poorly. Density, without urbanism, is downright ugly. Most of the suburbs in Portland (Beaverton’s aggregate density is higher than Portland!) is density without proper sidewalks, street trees, pedestrian connectivity (i.e., it lacks urban qualities).

    Portland, and Metro need to focus on density in the right places, particularly in downtown.

    The City of Portland needs to make the city the best choice for people looking to live and open a business.

    Density and transit development will be easy after addressing that.

    Has Metro or the city ever asked why so many people choose not to live Downtown? Let’s start there before our quest to expand density in these places becomes a broad-based tool, which has causes some problems in many neighborhoods (oh like ugly-ass skinny homes in nice neighborhoods on the Eastside).

  33. EngineerScotty
    October 29, 2012 at 10:49 pm Link

    Beaverton itself is reasonably good at providing urban amenities such as sidewalks and the like. It’s the unincorporated areas around Beaverton that are often lacking in that department–in many cases, populated by residents who consider such amenities to be little more than a costly headache.

    (And given that the city/county fixes streets for “free”–tax dollars notwithstanding, but homeowners are required to pay for sidewalk repairs, it’s not surprising that many folks in Aloha, Cedar Mill, Bethany, and other unincorporated areas surrounding Beaverton want no part of the city thereof…)

  34. chrisw443
    October 30, 2012 at 12:57 am Link

    Brt really wouldn’t make sense past Hillsdale along capitol as there isn’t many destinations, or room for bus lanes anyway. OHSU needs to be a destination, Hillsdale needs to be a destination, Raleigh hills, Tigard, and wash. Sq. I say make wes 7 days all day service, and put Surface BRT in. OR do LRT and increase
    WES service. The 217 between 26 and ORE 10 (Central Beaverton) Is getting so crowded with cars my 58 and 54 are always late. The only way to build a SW corridor I think, Is to get as much off the clogged roads as possible, not take lanes away, or add vehicles during the nuts rush hour.

  35. Mike
    October 30, 2012 at 10:59 am Link

    I feel like this corridor needs to directly serve OHSU in order to be successful.

    I just wonder if we can’t get OHSU to pony up and support some form of relevant infrastructure improvements, similar to how Bechtel helped to fund the Red Line extension to PDX in exchange for the ability to put a mega strip mall along the way.

    I will confess to being a very big LRT fan (I’m super excited for when the PMLR opens, as it very much benefits me), but I feel like a tunnel with an underground stop at OHSU and then on through to Multnomah Village et al seems like the only route that’s not a hack or a bandage. I just wish that we could get OHSU to provide some of the funding that would benefit it (and much of the SW) so much.

  36. Allan
    October 30, 2012 at 11:12 am Link

    OHSU wouldn’t benefit much from this tunnel because they are ‘built out’ on the hill. As a result- this project would be serving existing development not future development. Do you still think it pencils out?

  37. Mike
    October 30, 2012 at 11:26 am Link

    Allan: That’s a good point. It’s all armchair speculation for me of course, but I guess the question is whether OHSU feels like its position is adequately served, and how much improved access is worth to them. I feel like a direct LRT connection would allow for much better movement to OHSU from all directions of the city when compared to the winding 8 and the rush hour 6x buses (how do you get to OHSU from the SW outside of rush hour?), but maybe that’s not enough of a win to be worth investing in. Hmm, I wonder if OHSU has any un-built land that they have future plans for!

  38. Chris I
    October 30, 2012 at 11:27 am Link

    I would say that they have a lot of surface parking lots and garages that could be built on or redeveloped if they had better transit access. I guess that’s for them to decide, though.

  39. Allan
    October 30, 2012 at 11:47 am Link

    That was based on comments I’ve heard off the record somewhere… Feel free to convince them otherwise

  40. Nathanael
    October 30, 2012 at 2:45 pm Link

    Autonomous vehicles will be legal precisely until the first crash (as Anandakos says). Then legislatures will jump to ban them so fast it isn’t funny.

    There’s a piece of psychology here. People want someone to blame. The autonomous vehicles have to be at least *100 times safer* than human drivers, perhaps more so, in order for people to grudgingly consider them safe.

    I know they’re already safer than human drivers — but they ain’t that safe, and they never will be, unless they simply turn off the car and stop under bad weather conditions. Which is another thing people won’t tolerate.

  41. Nathanael
    October 30, 2012 at 2:48 pm Link

    “There will be a lawsuit with a next-of-kin plaintiff, a few defendants, and evidence offered to show who was at fault — ”

    If the car programmer/manufacturer is at fault, it will then become impossible to *sell* the autonomous vehicles. Think carefully about the psychology.

    Why has it been so hard to get automated trains (which are a mature technology) installed, to the point where they can only be installed if there are no grade crossings? Please, think. People want “someone in charge” when there’s a crash, even if that person demonstrably can do nothing (as is usually the case for a train driver).

  42. Anandakos
    October 31, 2012 at 1:10 am Link

    Thank you, Nathanael.

    To everyone else,

    Yes, autonomous cars will be able to react more quickly than a human driver. But their accident avoidance capabilities will be limited by their passengers’ G tolerance. So when little Johnny runs out from between two parked cars — and every day somewhere in America Johnny or Janie does so — and very unfortunately the car is unable to stop because of it’s designed braking limits which the wolfish lawyer will “discover” and present to the jury with anguish, Google or whoever wrote the software will be in the tank.

    I agree that there is a great future for platooning trucks on highways where random incursions are much fewer. And maybe enough people will go for the Socialist Utopia of private auto-chauffeurs that “HAT” (High Occupancy/Autonomous/Transit) freeway lanes will become the thing du jour, but I seriously doubt you’ll see fully automated operation in congested old neighborhoods with jillions of access points.

  43. EngineerScotty
    October 31, 2012 at 9:50 am Link

    Come on now, folks. Detroit, Tokyo, and Munich have been successfully slapping down wrongful-death suits for defective cars for DECADES now.

    What makes you think that autonomous vehicles would change the legal and political calculus here? I expect the future going forward would be much the same as it is now–really egregious behavior by auto manufacturers and their subcontractors gets punished by the courts, but such lawsuits will be terribly hard to win otherwise. The auto industry has the lobbyists to make it so.

  44. dwainedibbly
    October 31, 2012 at 10:58 am Link

    How does one get from a stop on the bus-exclusive lane on Barbur or Naito up to OHSU or the VA?

  45. Chris I
    October 31, 2012 at 3:16 pm Link

    More $50 million trams!

  46. Allan
    October 31, 2012 at 3:32 pm Link

    Giant Escalators?

  47. Douglas K.
    October 31, 2012 at 8:54 pm Link

    A funicular railway under the aerial tram. Think LA’s Angels Flight writ large.

  48. ws
    October 31, 2012 at 9:23 pm Link


    It’s not about building a sidewalk, it’s about having that sidewalk go somewhere that doesn’t take 30 minutes to walk to.

    The suburbs offer a terrible urban experience, even though they have all of the components that make up urbanism.

    I still understand why people move to the suburbs, they’re not a hell-hole and offer pretty good livability at the end of the day.

    My point in regards to jamming density down suburban cities throats while not addressing Portland’s downtown density is confusing and hypocritical.

  49. ws
    October 31, 2012 at 9:25 pm Link

    RE: Autonomous Cars

    Why don’t we all just wait and see and let autonomous car tests take place? The people making these things are far smarter than us, and speculation of this matter is silly at the moment.

  50. Dave H
    November 1, 2012 at 10:40 pm Link

    I guess it ties into both AV’s and mass transit, but I just spent last weekend in the Seattle Center neighborhood, and I realized that the idea of fixed-route transit was valid. I took a cab (twice), the monorail (five or seven times), and the SLUT, but I never took any of Seattle’s famed buses. It wasn’t just my call, my dad brother and I were ready to take a bus, then we realized it only ran once an hour. We knew the monorail ran every ten minutes, so is was worth just walking up there.

    I’ve taken buses in Seattle before, but the monorail and streetcar are easy to remember fixed routes.

    To get back to BRT/LRT om SW, it’s a commuter corridor so BRT is probably fine. Something along 99W to 72nd to Boones Ferry to Tualatin-Sherwood seems like a great route for BRT. A Terwilliger/Boones Ferry bypass could be good also. From there, WES to Sherwood seems like a good idea.

  51. Nathanael
    November 5, 2012 at 7:29 pm Link

    “Come on now, folks. Detroit, Tokyo, and Munich have been successfully slapping down wrongful-death suits for defective cars for DECADES now.”

    No, you don’t get it. When the person DRIVING a defective “self-driving” car crashes the car, and the car companies successfully escape liability, then most likely the person DRIVING the car will get punished for an accident which he or she didn’t cause — individuals aren’t so good at escaping wrongful-death suits. This will be frightening enough that people won’t buy these “send-you-to-prison cars”.

    If the person DRIVING the car also is found not guilty, *THAT* is when the legislature will ban the self-driving cars. Because if there isn’t anyone to blame for the crash, then it has to be banned.

    People want someone to blame.

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