Open Thread for the Week of 10/6/13

What’s on your mind?

39 responses to “Open Thread for the Week of 10/6/13”

  1. The CRC. It looks like the Oregon legislators will be called in for a special session to vote on the highway expansion. I know my representative, Chip Shields, voted for it in the past to gain some tiny concessions, like a provision for women construction workers. I think that is a great program, but it is such peanuts compared to lasting impacts of the project. The project has 2 major flaws in my opinion:
    1. too low/no lift. this is a near-permanent restriction with immediate costs to upstream industry. The lack of a lift means the bridge is built as steep as possible to achieve a reasonable height, but that height still limits industry, reduces appeal for peds and bikes, and increases fuel consumption.
    2. too wide: this big freeway expansion will get more cars onto and over the bridge, moving the bottleneck south into Portland neighborhoods. This will immediately increase smog and dangerous diversion traffic as cars cut through local streets to attempt to beat the back-ups. In the long-term, this just puts pressure on more freeway expansion farther south, which would only worsen/widen the gash in the urban fabric already caused by I-5.
    3. too expensive: With the current plan (including challenged traffic and toll projections) ODOT and Oregon will be servicing this debt for decades! That is a lot of important construction and maintenance that will not happen. If there are cost overuns (likely), if the traffic numbers are down, or peopel divert to 205 to avoid tolls, more money comes out of the transportation budget.

    What is gained? A new bridge with improved (marginally) driving, cycling and pedestrian facilities. An expansion of the yellow line hat is of dubious value, but paid for by the feds.

    This cannot be worth it, but how do we convince our amateur politicians of this?

    • DG,

      I cannot agree with you enough about reason 2. Immediately upon the completion of a new bridge with a 40% increase in capacity the howl for widening I-5 through Portland will rise to a caterwauling scream. Either the string of blocks to the east or west of the current freeway will be razed, because there is simply no room to widen the current roadway otherwise.

      I’m stunned that any Oregon politician countenances the existing CRC bridge design.

      [Moderator: Anandakos, I’ve removed the middle part of your comment. After all the back-and-forth about civility on the blog, let’s have a break from calling out groups. It wasn’t a big deal of a remark, but the need for everyone to tone it down a bit outweighs. Thanks. – Bob R.]

  2. Wow, you banned Al. Impressive. And you call yourself civil. To me, it sounds like you’re just believing Tri-Shit and dont care about the truth. How thoughtful of trying to be unbiased.

    • Hello, Lane –

      Thank you for the dissenting opinion. Please note that in the future your comments will more rapidly become part of the thread if you refrain from writing cuss words.

      Note to other readers, Lane’s video comment (link above) contains explicit remarks (according to Lane).

      Thanks again,

      • [Moderator: Comment removed due to multiple scatological expletives and a Godwin’s law violation. Two strikes, lane, you’re almost out. Also, please don’t pretend to lecture us anymore about civility. Thanks. – Bob R.]

      • PS… Lanes’ video, if you’re in the mood for expletives, is really a hoot, truly up there with the satirical greats like Limbaugh and Lars. My hubby laughed right along with me. More, please. Just not here, the language is totally inappropriate for a family-friendly blog.

        PPS… What hair-dye do you recommend to bring that mustache to reality?

        • [Moderator: Complaint about moderator action and sexual reference to TriMet spokesperson removed. You could’ve been a productive commenter, but nope, invective is apparently more important than issues to you. So, goodbye. – Bob R.]

  3. Bob, thank you for stepping up on moderation. I know it is normally a thankless job. In the past I have been reluctant to comment here due to the risk of being insulted or attacked by certain commenters. I will try to contribute more often, if this can become a place for productive conversation. I would love to see Portland Transport become 1/4 as busy and interesting as Seattle Transit Blog or BikePortland.

  4. Lately, my thoughts have been about how lovely articulated buses would be for relieving crowding, or perhaps limited stop routes on the trunk lines to speed up longer trips and divert some of the crowding from more local routes. I would also like to see signal priority for bus lines and trains in Downtown. I’m also wondering whatever happened to the double-tracking that was suppose to be done for the streetcar along with the Oregon Sustainability Center (or whatever it’s called). Anyone know about plans about any of this, or is it all wishful thinking that is unlikely to be realized very soon?

    • The section immediately south of PSU Urban Center WILL be double-tracked sometime in the next year, keeping the existing track and adding a parallel track.

      This is necessary to support the vehicle frequency required for full loop operation.

      Unfortunately it won’t go diagonally through the block as was once envisioned. PDC, which owns the block, preferred to keep the lot as intact as possible to increase its sale value.

    • There was a presentation about the double-tracking last week at the Streetcar CAC meeting. Chris’s summary is correct but I may do a post later today with more detail. I have a map but need to overlay some descriptions on it to match what was presented.

      Regarding the PDC and sale value, there is the additional concern that running the streetcar through the block right now, without a corresponding development occurring, would really make future development of the lot difficult, as you’d have to be very careful digging around the operating line.

  5. It should be noted, for the record, that a certain new commenter who was banned for incivility (and not for his actual political/policy views) a couple of days ago, has made dozens of attempts at posting to the site, including creating multiple false identities. He has a fondness for anonymous proxy servers, in particular those off the coast of West Africa. Ironically, the only way he has gotten through to post again, thus far, is with his original email address, because it wasn’t actually banned. We’re sort of on the honor system here, and when we tell someone they’re not welcome anymore, we hope they’ll take the hint and go away, rather than engaging in 2nd-rate hacker tactics (even script-kiddies could do better) and campaigns of petty intimidation by posting people’s personal info.

    Any future posts from this person that make it through will eventually be deleted.

    It’s funny how people that accuse others of “tyranny” and toss around “nazi” are so quick to engage in attempts at vaguely-thuggish online disruption, however impotent.

    Seriously, take a deep breath and dial down the hate. Your heart and body will thank you.

  6. Another bizarre turn in the dispute between TriMet and ATU 757–the union seems to be complaining that TriMet is putting too much money into the pension fund (which it suggests is acting as a slush fund of sorts). In a print ad that appeared in the Portland Tribune and the Northwest Examiner (possibly among other sources), and which you can read here (PDF, bottom of page 5), the union (via Transit Voice) objects to a 16% increase in contributions to the fund, which is presently funded at 59% or so. TriMet has published a response.

    One of the reasons that many local governments have gotten into trouble in the past few decades, is the sort of questionable practice that ATU seems to be suggesting TriMet should engage in. Not adequately funding retirement benefits has long been a way for public officials (and their counterparts at the negotiating table) to have their cake and eat it too–to increase public employee compensation without having to raise taxes or cut public services, simply promise more extravagant pensions and such, without funding it–let future taxpayers foot that bill.

    • Is this the same fund that Cascade Policy Institute has been drawing attention to for years, calling it woefully underfunded and demanding at TriMet board meetings that it be dealt with urgently? If so, has Cascade Policy issued any statements in support of TriMet regarding this, now that they appear to have increased the funding?

  7. According to Multifamily NW, apartment vacancy rates continue to tighten, especially in close-in Portland neighborhoods, while rents continue to rise due to that demand. Rents in older properties are rising at a lower rate, which suggests to me that the newer properties are absorbing mid-to-higher-income renters, easing the pressure on the affordability of existing units, but not by much.

    • I sent a few hundred emails to find my current place. I needed to live in SE because it just wasn’t worth trying to save $100/mo to buy a car. I can use Car2Go to get to work for about $.30 more than using TriMet.

      But, yeah… Finding this place was like living in San Diego again.

      • Professors Case and Schiller just won the Nobel Prize in economics for their
        studies showing that the real estate markets are not rational.

        Having moved to Portland because it was cheap and semi-rural 20 years ago, I can’t fathom why anyone would pay the equivalent of a mortgage payment to live in a small place in my old neighborhood.

        I think that there is a bubble building in expensive apartments. If you look at all the new projects being built in Portland and near the jobs in Washington County, I just see an imbalance between wages and rents.

        How does a 30 something with student loans survive in this town?

        • Land value is high in these areas, and the available housing stock where people want to live is low, which gives us our 2% vacancy rates and corresponding high prices. These new projects will help to relieve the upward pressure on prices, but I’m sure they will continue to rise. In this climate, a 30-something with student loan debt does what most of my friends do: they squeeze a bunch of people into a house in a nearby neighborhood, or they pay more to rent an apartment in an older building. They would be better off if they could rent even smaller apartments for less money, but few are available.

          A good number of my friends live in apartments that were built along with the streetcar lines, and don’t have *gasp* off-street parking. These tend to be the cheapest options.

        • Case and Schiller are talking about Single Family Homes, not apartments.

          Apartments are only “irrational” in that sometimes too many speculators build them and everyone loses their shirts. But rents are by definition never “irrational”. There’s always another landlord who wants to bust the monopoly and keep her or his units rented, even if it means a cheaper rent.

          THERE IS NO CABAL of fat cat apartment developers raping defenseless young people. If there’s a villain in this its single family homeowners who resist any densification at all for a mile around their houses. (yes, that’s an exaggeration, but only somewhat).

          • Yeah, anyone who questions builders is a “villain”. You know, that word comes from the French word for “villager”, and it was used
            by the landed gentry as a slam against the common folk.

            So, when I sabotage your minimum parking requirements and stand up to the developers who are big campaign donors, that makes me a “villain.” But it also makes you into Marie Antoinette- who used that word (villain) to oppress peasants.

        • Do you suppose rents would be cheaper if there weren’t lots of apartments being built?

          Location matters in real estate, and Portland is highly desirable. That means higher home prices, whether you buy or rent. There may be some “irrationality” in the market–speculative bubbles can occur in any market–but Portland real estate is expensive because lots of people want to live here. It’s that simple.

          Back in the 1970s, Portland was a sleepy burg–a nice place to raise a family, and a good industrial town–but nobody’s idea of a cultural mecca. Now, like it or not, many regard Portland today like SF has been regarded in the past–a hip, happening place to be.

          Some people don’t like this for various reasons–they don’t like the crowds and the congestion, or the cultural values of the newcomers, or the rise in housing prices caused by such demand, or the (perceived) downward pressure on wages by more job-seekers in the market, and would rather have Portland the way it was in the 1970s. I’m not entirely unsympathetic to such views–it’s disconcerting when your home changes around you. OTOH, it’s generally not possible to have a place which is simultaneously a) popular, b) cheap, and 3) uncrowded–at least without heavy-handed regulations which seek to utterly warp the market. A places which is popular and cheap is going to be crowded; a place which is popular but uncrowded will be expensive, and a place that is both inexpensive and uncrowded is generally so because few want to live there.

          • Good post, and I actually agree with parts ;).

            It’s about balance and carrying capacity.

            We may regret all the new residents shoved into tall building with small apartments when the water runs out and the riots start (I expect a riot during a hot summer on Division or North Williams street in the next ten years- a serious riot). Growing up in an East Coast suburb as a girl, I heard stories about the riots and how they start on hot nights when the young men can’t stand to be home and there is no relief from the heat ……

      • Yesterday, the dispute was about work rules. Now it’s about a supervisor doing a union member’s job and running over two engineers with a train, killing them.

        Absolute labor relations nightmare. One for the record books. My sympathy
        for everyone involved, labor & management, and especially the families
        who lost loved ones.

      • My quick analysis:

        (I know this general area) Some of the biggest work rule changes BART sought relate to work shifts and worker protections.

        1. For example, BART wants to be able to change work schedules with greater ease; the unions want to preserve schedules such as a 4-day, 10-hour week, saying this helps workers with child care and other obligations.

        OM: This seems reasonable on labor side- don’t know the details.

        2. Other proposed changes would affect the handling of worker claims of discrimination or harassment by managers.

        “The unions say they are willing to submit work rule changes to an arbitrator, but that BART declined. ”

        OM analysis: This is too complex for me right now. I would like to know the rules at Tri-Met and other transit unions.

  8. We single family home owners are the privileged party here, not renters. No one should be forced to pay for parking for which they have no need, especially when there is plenty in the pubic domain.

    • Why are rents rising at the same time that 75%tenants are made to park on the street? Rents should be dropping under your theory, but they’re not.

      No parking = more profit for builder. New tenants using street parking does not lower rents. They do get their cars and scooters vandalized, however.

      • No parking = more profit for builder. New tenants using street parking does not lower rents. They do get their cars and scooters vandalized, however.

        Mamacita, are you suggesting tenants of apartment buildings without onsite parking are at disproportionate risk of having their tires slashed?

        • BJ,

          Everyone in Buckman and Richmond is a risk of the tire slashing. 400 police reports were filed.

          Now, the vandals are slashing motorcycle seats, and this will happen until a Mongol or a Gypsy Joker is bike is slashed (yes, they are still around, and yes I am serious).

          The 75% of the new tenants on the much-hated 34th and Division
          building, who will add cars to the streets, may regret their choice of abode.

          Yes, I understand the need for more compact growth in parts of Portland. But our current regime is run for the benefit of builders and
          not the environment or the community.

          BTW, further out and I am seeing infill lots that are ecological disasters-
          they are putting 3000 sq. foot 3 bathroom places on small lots, which
          are essentially paved over, between the impermeable driveways to the flag lots and the lack of yards. Wow- I get more and more cynical about whether the folks at the top are anything besides greed heads.

  9. If you willing to risk the free public street to store your vehicle, why should you have to pay for the added cost of parking? That just makes no sense. Rents reflect the broader market, but do have some relationship to costs. Building unnecessary underground parking or condemning valuable land to auto storage are both wasteful uses of valuable resources…money and land.

    • Lenny,

      If the builders could cut out toilets and fire sprinklers they would. Just because the builders say that rents will be lower with no parking doesn’t mean they aren’t lying to you. Follow the money…

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