Cars are from Mars, Busses (and Bikes and Trains) are from Venus

In the open thread, I mentioned that a Clark County legislator (Republican Liz Pike) wanted to “restart” the CRC project.  The Columbian has the scoop–and not surprisingly, Rep. Pike’s opening bid is to get rid of light rail.  Obviously, such a proposal isn’t going to be acceptable to those of us in Oregon–a state of affairs which was rather confusing to the folks in the combox, mostly Vancouverites, and mostly opposed to MAX expansion (but more than eager to have a wider freeway).

Part of the reason the debate gets so heated–and there’s plenty of bashing of Vancouverites that goes on in Oregon (including, unfortunately, in our combox), is that the two sides don’t understand each other and empathize with each other.  Rural Clark County (and Clackamas County) is full of people that don’t really care to live in urban environments–thinking them to be nasty, crowded, and full of crime.  (Sometimes such attitudes are informed by racism, though certainly not always).  That people who live in Portland may like it the way it presently is, and may view freeway expansion as a threat to urban living, does not commute.  Of course, the reverse is also true–many Portlanders like to snark about “Vantucky”, and engage in all sorts of stereotyping about “white trash” and such, and can’t imagine that someone might actually prefer to live in Battle Ground or Woodland  (or for that matter, Canby or Molalla or Banks), completely dependent on the automobile, and far away from the action here in the city.   Many people who live in rural or semi-rural areas like it that way, and are terrorized by the thought of waking up one morning and finding that the Big City has come out to them.  Right or wrong (and certainly, a LRT line to Clark College poses little threat of upzoning in  Battle Ground), people on both sides of the river fear change, and often see “foreign” infrastructure as a threat, not as a benign (let alone beneficial) improvement.

Unfortunately, there’s a more fundamental problem, and it’s summarized in the title of this post.  In a large human settlement (i.e a city and its surrounding suburbs), you can have parts that are optimized for a low-car lifestyle, and you can have parts that are optimized to be convenient for automobile usage (by persons of average income).   But you can’t have places that are both.

If a place is optimized for automobiles–and virtually all of Clark County is–you will have low density:  cramming lots of cars into a small space will instantly cause congestion; spreading them out across a more expansive road network will reduce the number of conflicts for space that lead to cars needing to stop and wait for other cars.  And you will have plenty of parking:  Large parking lots at major attractions, driveways and garages in residences, and lots of street space allocated for vehicle storage.  (And all of it free for users).  Drivers in such environments will want to drive fast (if nothing else, to traverse the longer distances more quickly), and road topologies will be optimized for speed.

The large distances needed to get from A to B will make walking and biking impractical (and the high traffic speeds will make them unsafe).  And the spread-out nature of everything will make efficient transit impossible.  Thus, if a place is optimized for cars, they will become necessary.

Much of inner-city Portland, OTOH, is optimized for active transportation and transit.  For transit to be efficient, and for more trips to be practical on foot or by bike, everything has to be closer together:  density must be higher–in many cases this means apartment living, rather than single-family homes with yards.  And maximizing the amount of functional land uses within a small space will require that very little space be devoted to parking–thus parking will be scarce, and expensive.  Lots of things crammed into a small space also greatly increases the number of conflicts between private cars, thus if people try and drive in such areas, traffic will result.  If a place is optimized for car-free living, living with a car becomes a pain.

(Unfortunately, there is a middle-ground where all kinds of transportation are a pain in the butt–Beaverton comes to mind as a notorious example.   Out here we have some decent transit–certainly better than most other Portland suburbs–but it isn’t frequent or reliable enough to support convenient car-free lifestyles; hence most people drive.  But traffic in Beaverton is infamously bad as well, particularly close to the downtown core.  There is hope–Beaverton politics is far more transit-friendly than Tigard or Hillsboro politics, and is moving slowly in the right direction–but the city is a long way from becoming a car-free utopia, both in terms of land use and in terms of transit and bile/ped infrastructure).

If you live in a car-dependent place, and use a car to get around–it is often to your advantage for public policy to maximize the number of places you can use your car easily.  Thus, motorists frequently advocate for more roads and more parking–including in places (like downtown Portland) where such changes would be utterly destructive.  If you live in downtown Portland and use TriMet to get around the city, it’s in your interest to expand the reach of TriMet (as without a car, many parts of the metro area are unreachable).  Thus expanding transit into the ‘burbs makes sense–even if said suburbs lack the land-use necessary to support transit, and the residents there may regard transit infrastructure as a threat.  In many ways, the fight about the CRC is about different people with different lifestyles trying to expand the scope and reach of their preferred mode of travel–which often means limiting the expansion of the preferred mode of the other side.  CRC planners tried to square this circle by including expansion of both highway and transit–but ended up pleasing nobody.  And thus the project is dormant (it can never be truly considered “dead”, unless perhaps barred by Constitutional amendment); too many people on both sides of the river, and both sides of the politics, would rather have nothing than see an expansion of the mode they dislike.

Is there a happy medium?

Unfortunately, as noted above, the middle ground is frequently not happy.  A big problem with low-density, car-friendly infrastructure is that it doesn’t scale well–once a metro area gets a population above, say, 200k, travel distances get too large to maintain a low population density.  This has arguable happened already in many parts of Clark County, where traffic jams are frequent occurrences despite an aggregate density far lower than the Oregon side.  And when that happens, if you aren’t careful, you enter the Beaverton Zone–or worse, the zone of suburbs that try to solve traffic problems by building wider and faster thoroughfares, and find that it just doesn’t work.  (WSDOT is busy turning SR500 into a full-fledged freeway, and has already done so with SR14, and recently completed a brand new SR502 interchange north of Salmon Creek, yet traffic is still frequently clogged).   C-TRAN does a fine job with a limited budget, but Vancouver is too spread out to make transit efficient for large numbers of trips.  The transformation between cartopia and carfree-paradise is hard and difficult, and disorienting for those affected.  Adding moderate amounts of density will often exacerbate traffic problems long before it provides relief by enabling efficient transit and car-free living.   (This is a big reason that even progressive, inner-city Portland neighborhoods are resisting the apartment boom; many residents perceive that the new arrivals will add to congestion in the short term, but the increased density won’t necessarily result in better transit service or closer/better  neighborhood amenities, even in the long term.)

In the past, I’ve joked about building a Columbia River bridge with a park-and-ride in the middle of the river, straddling the state line, and a MAX line going halfway across the bridge.   (In Baltimore, the transcontinental I-70 freeway, originally planned to terminate downtown, actually does end at a park-and-ride on the city’s west side, though not over water).  And park-and-rides are perhaps one solution to the problem (though many of us urbanists dislike them)–while I’d rather have efficient transit reaching all the way to Salmon Creek and Vancouver Mall–having Vancouverites driving to a garage in downtown Vancouver (or even Delta Park) and getting on MAX or the bus there is better for Portland and Portlanders than widening I-5 through North Portland and downtown, and adding more parking within the city.  (And of course, similar arguments apply to residents of Hillsboro, Tigard, Oregon City, and Gresham–Vancouver residents have a very good point that residents of Oregon suburbs aren’t facing the prospect of road tolls anytime soon).  And if car-sharing services were to deploy vehicles at suburban transit centers–we might be able to allow these places to function as “ride and parks” (or “ride and drives”), permitting car-free Portlanders bettter access to suburban destinations that aren’t efficiently served by transit, if at all.

Certainly, Portland has shown–after observing the destruction of many of its old neighborhoods in the 1950s and 1960s–that it isn’t about to be paved over for the benefit of suburban commuters.  And certainly, the suburbs aren’t going away any time soon–many people prefer that lifestyle and will fight tooth and nail to defend it.  Mars will not defeat Venus, nor Venus Mars.  But the metro area functions best when all parts of it are mutually accessible; there is the risk that our present political stalemates may make getting from different parts of the region too difficult.  One possible technique may be to find better ways to bridge the gap between the two (virtual) worlds, to reduce the barriers (of transportation, and of culture) that separate Mars and Venus.

At least that looks like a good idea from here on Earth.


95 responses to “Cars are from Mars, Busses (and Bikes and Trains) are from Venus”

  1. As a Hillsboro resident, I am well aware that TriMet is receiving a ton of payroll tax revenue from Intel, yet the transit service out here is quite lacking for a city of 92,000 is quite lacking. If anything, my feeling is that while ceiling for potential demand isn’t as high as it is in Portland or the inner ring suburbs, it’s high enough to warrant better frequency and network coverage.

  2. I tend to disagree with you here, Scott. Every morning, I walk down the street to my friendly neighborhood MAX station and take the train into my work in the Lloyd District. And my fiancé gets up, gets in her car and drives to her work at 182nd and Halsey. I think the happy medium can exist.

    Of course, it’s under threat – urbanites want to make it harder to drive, essentially forcing people who can’t live the Venus lifestyle to move further out. And it’s not perfect – the only walkable amenities near my home are a good bar, a couple great parks and the part-time Lents Int’l Farmers Market… no grocery, no coffee shop, no variety of restaurants. But I think the happy medium can exist, if everyone can stop trying to argue for Mars or Venus and try to enjoy the best of both.

    • I’m curious who you think “can’t live the Venus lifestyle.” Plenty of people live in inner neighborhoods and commute far out by car. The people moving farther out tend to do so because of costs, not because of pedestrian-oriented improvements.

      As Lents develops into the town center it is designed to become, won’t the addition of density, amenities and destinations inherently bring the Venus lifestyle? Or do you see another way that can balance auto driver needs without compromising the potential for success for a future Lents?

      • @Average_Joe –

        Just an administrative reminder… When you last posted here back in 2013 you were using a different moniker. While Portland Transport allows the use of pseudonyms, we don’t allow multiple identities for the same person. It’s been a few months since you were last here, and if you’d like to use “Average_Joe” going forward, that’s fine, please just keep things consistent. Thanks.

    • Not to be rude–but it sounds like you’re living in Mars. You don’t say where you are living exactly (close to Lents, it sounds like–in which case there’s a big freeway ripping your neighborhood in half), but if the only walkable amenties near by are parks and a tavern, that’s Mars.

      For it to be “Venus”, most if not all day-to-day journeys would be capable of being accomplished–conveniently–without a car. There are many parts of Mars where efficient transit is provided for those who commute to Venus–and that’s a good thing!–but if you generally need a car to get around, it’s still Mars.

      Most of the Portland metro area is Mars, including many parts of the city, so don’t feel bad. :)

      I should note that there are many poor people who live in Mars, but do so without a car. In general, these folk make do–but have to endure things like hour-long rides to the grocery store, and in general spend many hours a day riding (or waiting for) the bus.

      And–there are things that could be done to improve the Lents area. More crossings of I-205 would be a major improvement (though that could get expensive), as would improving the condition of the sidewalks and side streets. More commercial uses along streets like 92nd or Flavel (outside the “core” of 92nd and Foster in particular) would be beneficial as well. I’m not sure whether or not this would hurt or help, but the Portland Streetcar planning docs have suggested a Lents/Gateway circulator, that connects a lot of the neighborhoods between 82nd and 102nd, but with better neighborhood access than the freeway-bound Green Line. Of course, if frequency on the neighborhood busses were boosted to even better than the 15-minute standard, then taking an E/W bus to 82nd and transferring to the 72 to reach the numerous shopping opportunities on 82nd, would no longer be a big headache.

  3. The CRC situation really comes down to an irrational hatred for rail service on the Washington side of the border.

    There are a lot of places where they’d be happy to get a rail ilne with a park-and-ride at the end — and still remain a car-dependent suburb. Best of both worlds — the rail line is just for the people heading to Portland, while cars drive all over everywhere else on the north side of the river.

    There are entire “commuter railroad” systems organized around this principle, including the Long Island Rail Road. But the irrational hatred for rail service on the Washington side of the border prevents them from seeing that.

    The correct response to this behavior for the Oregon side of the border is to say “to hell with them”. Instead, provide lots of service to the communities in Oregon which want it and pay taxes for it. When the roads to Washington start falling apart, shut them down and don’t replace them; they aren’t Oregon’s responsibility or interest.

    Bluntly, Vancouver needs Portland, but Portland doesn’t need Vancouver. So if the Vancouver area isn’t willing to be reasonable, Portland may as well take its marbles and go home.

    • Nathanael,

      I live in Vancouver and tend to agree with your attitude that Oregon should pick up its marbles and go play in another ring, but I must say that you’re forgetting the costs of bridging the river for LRT. If downtown Vancouver were three miles from the end of the Yellow Line and the only reason it didn’t reach it was some sort of spiteful political disagreement (which definitely exists) it would be a no-brainer to make the extension. If nothing else, it would revitalize downtown Vancouver and provide another riverfront opportunity for mid- to high-rise development in the region.

      But the river is there and so is the shared Steel Bridge chokepoint over the Willamette, and the combination of the two make the extension not cost effective. To spend 3/4 of a billion dollars on a system that because of the Steel will be limited to something around 2,500 to 3,000 pph in the peak direction in the most OPTIMISTIC scenario is not a good use of public funds.

      Now there definitely does need to be some sort of separated transitway across the river, ideally with southbound bus-only improvements in both Washington and Oregon in order to make the buses overall quicker than driving for people headed to major activity centers in Oregon in the AM peak. Extending the HOV lane to the bridgehead in Oregon — and ENFORCING it with cameras every quarter of a mile — would help, too.

      But that’s not an argument for a MAX bridge.

    • Also, “the roads to Washington” are parts of the Interstate and Defense Highway System, so they actually ARE Oregon’s responsibility to maintain and replace if they fall apart.

      That does not mean they are responsible for making them large enough to handle any possible peak commuting demand from Washington, though. That is not a stated goal of the the IDHS legislation.

      • No, actually, Oregon can abandon the roads to Washington any time Oregon wants to.

        Interstate roads are, fundamentally, a *federal* responsbility.

  4. Most people drive because they want to, including those of “us” in Oregon. No amount of top-heavy central planning will ever change that.

    BTW most people in Oregon do not embrace the smart-growth, high density, car-free, regionalism philosophies that are pushed on us.

    We just haven’t figured out how to run you crooks out of the state yet (but we will, eventually).

    • Can’t we all just get along? Let Portland (and other city centers) be urban and walkable, and let the rest of Oregon not be.

      • Sorry Joe, but Portland is a big diverse city and also democratic. One small group (ultra devout urbanists) does not get to call the shots. Your remark troubles me- think about your position and what the whole city of Portland wants. It’s majority rule.

        There is a groundswell of opposition to a politically and ethically flawed planning system. Your utopia must be built elsewhere where people agree on a vision.

        Right now, Portland wants a decent infrastructure for cars and trucks. We want infrastructure all over the city- not just where the big money interests
        want to turn a quick buck. Those who fight the voters will have quite a fight on their hands.

        • Your false narrative is masterfully crafted, but you have no basis for claiming to represent a majority.

          If anything, the vision of the “ultra devout urbanist” seems to best reflect want Portlanders want… as evidenced by the number of people who want to live here. Sorry Mamacita, I trust the facts I observe and the evidence from several decades of support for urbanist politicians over some invisible the majority you claim to represent.

          We aren’t building a utopia, but we are building a great urban environment. Thankfully there are great adjacent suburban and rural environments too, so there is something for everyone in the Willamette Valley.

          Go win some elections, then you can credibly claim the support you think you have! A few neighbors ticked off by too much construction hardly represents a total backlash to Portland’s planning system.

          In the meantime, I too look forward to improvements in under-invested parts of the city… but for me it’s a chance to spread the benefits of Portland urbanism to other neighborhoods. That includes infrastructure for cars and trucks, but walkers, bikers, and transit users too. This seems to be what most Portlanders want.

          • My point is: since we think that we are better intellectuals than Tootie Smith, since we are presumably holding ourselves to a more rigorous intellectual and philosphical/ethical standard, shouldn’t we be more careful to include the rural point of view in our discussions?

            The next time Engineer Scotty is writing about areas outside the
            Pearl/N.Williams, shouldn’t he make an extra effort to choose his words carefully in regard to how Greshamites may think? Perhaps look to local news sources for support?

            “Fear” is a dumb meme in this context because it essentially has no meaning. It’s a value judgment about a position. It is a stupid word like “vibrant”. “Vibrant” has no meaning outside of “pleasing to urbanist.”

            If this area is kinda science-y, then stop using poetry words. Use factual words: more populous, expensive restaurants, x music clubs per square block . Be factual or admit that you are, in the words of Zappa, dancing about architecture. I fear no vibrancy but I will mock the planning community’s lexicon.

          • The below reply was not for JHB- I meant to post it on another
            one of the mini-threads that have developed.

            JHB- let’s do a post-election wrap up in late May. We each have our own theory- and the May elections should provide some facts to digest.

            BTW- if you can point to one competently crafted study showing the degree of public support for your vision, let me know.

            My last point is this; just because urban planners are doing X does not mean that they get to take credit for proximate event Y
            I am open to hard proof. Do not give me some study from BPS with jargon and compound questions- those are bad faith efforts
            to create public opinion. Give me a study that would not be laughed at in the social sciences or business school..

            • Thanks for the reply Mamacita. I don’t have access to a study, and I’m not sure one exists. I don’t suppose you have a counter-study that meets the standards you are asking for either? You are a good debater, so I know you’ll stop claiming to represent a majority until you have an election or at least a study to back it up. In the meantime, the urbanists do have a 30 year history of winning elections in PDX.

              One thing I do know: People want to live in Portland. The national attention we get, the new housing construction, the very atmosphere of the city, encourage me that Portland is moving in the right direction!

    • I love the name calling by people who make choices to live with a car and then complain that those that do not use cars as heavily are somehow lesser people.

      The truth is that cars do not pay their way, and it will get worse in the future if the problem with the gas tax is not fixed. You act like it is a fundamental right to be able to drive and park anywhere, and it has to be fast and convenient. I don’t want a lot of people driving in my neighborhood, thank you, and would appreciate it if you drove only in your neighborhood and did not come into mine to pollute it, make it more dangerous, and use up land so you can park your car.

      Cars have enough roads to get them everywhere they need to go. The fact that the CRC would have made it easier, or widening the freeway would make it faster, is unimportant to me. If it is slow on your commute, that is your problem and not mine to solve. You could take mass transit but then you don’t use it enough to warrant frequent service. Scotty is right, the two have a hard time mixing.

      I don’t want to take away your right to drive. But I don’t have to support your desire to make it convenient and fast. If you want to form a group and build a freeway paid by tolls, that is fine. But apparently that is not something most drivers support.

      Finally, I would argue that if one has to apply the “crook” label to anyone, it is the people driving cars. They do not fully pay for the roads, they definitely do not pay for the damage to the environment (global climate change, deaths from smog and pollution) and don’t seem interested in doing so. They don’t want to have to pay tolls and will go out of their way to avoid it, and finally, they don’t want to pay for the damage that their studded tires make to the roads.

    • That sure is a lot of name-calling. And as a native Oregonian that does embrace all of those things (as do the majority of our Democratically elected representatives), I take offense. There are a lot of places in our country where you can have exactly what you want, so why don’t you consider moving? Seems like it would be a lot easier than kicking out hundreds of thousands of your fellow citizens.

      • Chris I, can we please stop telling people to move? Not productive. You have better arguments in your quiver.

        Agreed that “crooks” is not a productive term either.

        Byron, I would respond that you need to look at your household’s dependence on trucks to deliver the food etc. that you buy.

        AS far as I am concerned, I wish there was a tax on what scientists say are the real drivers of climate change. A gas tax sure, but also taxes on beef and all sheep products. Americans may need to give up rice. Perhaps we need to discourage ownership of large dogs- which can have the same carbon footprint as a person.

        I note that no one in Portland discusses the climate impact of dogs. Studies in Britain suggest its real.

        To what extent is Portland’s response to climate change driven by utopian dreams and lifestyle bias, as opposed to science? Would an urbanist decide to get a cat over a dog (cats have a tiny carbon footprint compared to dogs). What if we taxed gas and dog food? Would folks on this blog accept that? Or will we concentrate on goring the neighbors’ ox?

        • Mamacita,

          True, we’ve had words, but I have to say I agree very strongly with all of what you say here. The carbon footprint of meat products is significant. One of the best ways people can reduce their own is by eating less meat.

          I don’t understand the reference to rice though. Please elaborate if you would. I know its cultivation is very different from other cereal grains, but isn’t it basically just flooded fields? Is that what causes the difference?

          So far as the dogs and cats, I think you may have a harder time with that than “urbanists” have trying to get people to reduce their driving. People loves them some dogs!

          And so far as the tax on gas and dog food, I’d only pay the first and, “Yes, I’d pay 25% more for gas (percent is better than a per gallon levy which erodes over time by inflation) IF the money were used only for existing road maintenance and to fund switching over to renewables.” I wouldn’t want it to go for new roads, though.

          • Apparently the reflections off the rice paddies are harmful. They are like big mirrors.

            Rice is central to Asian life- so my idea is that people who aren’t rice-centric should let the Chinese eat the rice and we will eat other starches.

            Goats need to go- they denude the land. Same with sheep.

            Why is it ethical to make driving miserable while allowing and even celebrating large dogs?

            BTW- if we ever need to discourage ownership of large dogs, it would NOT involve euthanesia because large dogs don’t live that long. Discourage the breeding of large dogs, tax dog food, educate the public, and within ten years the problem will have abated as Rover goes to his heavenly reward by natural causes.

            Dogs and cars. Maybe you should be allowed one or the other.

            As a final note, I think transportation freedom is more important than an unfettered right to own a pet, especially a large meat eating mammal that generates significant waste.

            • Nobody is proposing taking your car away.

              Some of us are suggesting that less money be spent on car infrastructure, and that the amount of car infrastructure provided (by the public sector directly, and required to be provided by the private sector through land-use regulations) is excessive and market-distorting.

              Some of us even suggest that existing levels of car infrastructure are so excessive, that some of it be repurposed for other uses.

              After all, you can drive from any place to any other place with your car as it is today. But some people act as though they should be able to drive at high speeds, never have to encounter traffic, and always be ensured of ample and free parking when they get there.

              Yet many of these motorists aren’t willing to extend the same level of service to other transit modes. If motorists have the right to demand a traffic-free commute and a place to park, shouldn’t bus riders have the right to demand that a bus comes every five minutes, and there will always be a seat on board?

              As far as your comments on rice and dogs–I ain’t touching that. :)

    • Anthony,

      IF you were right the legislature wouldn’t have a nearly veto-proof majority of Democrats in both houses of the legislature.

  5. Anthony, that is not a helpful attitude. We live in a Democracy and ‘your’ side did not vote
    in large enough numbers to achieve the things you claim they want. In reality, we are all on the same side. I am a full-time walker in the Central City, and I do not enjoy all the car pollution coming off the freeways. But I am not shouting that we need to get rid of cars, am I? In fact if folks had an opportunity to live like I do, with everything one needs a short walk or bike away, and no more sitting in traffic, I bet they would switch in a sec. Go around PDX and you will see the tide of young folks biking now, they are choosing to not have cars, that is the future, Mate.

  6. I guess I’m still having a hard time understanding the Clark county point of view on this issue. I get that most people there drive, so they want a freeway rather than light rail. Fine. But it seems like they also want the state of Oregon to foot the entire bill for “their” freeway. Virtually the entire benefit of the CRC would be to people living in Clark county who commute here for work. If they want it to be freeway-only, let them pay for it themselves. If they want Oregon to pay for it, they’re going to have to accept whatever design Oregon chooses.

    • Clark County residents have had the good fortune of having most of their school and transportation funding subsidized by King County and the federal government. The sprawl north of the river is the direct result of the two freeway bridges, and now that they have built out to the point that they have created congestion, they start complaining. It’s time to pay your way. If you want a new bridge, you are going to pay tolls and have to raise local funds. WSDOT is not interested in funding the bridge.

  7. I hope OR’s state reps and senators make clear yet again that without a much improved transit element (ie light rail), there will be NO new highway lanes across the Columbia into Portland. We already have 14 lanes for cars and trucks and that is quite enough.
    Light rail is actually a low cost regional rail system (vs. a very expensive heavy rail like BART), that serves the suburbs quite well and the city neighborhoods not so well. Frequent Service buses and Streetcar are much more effective in denser urban areas.

    • The main problems with the CRC were the double-deck bridge and the Hayden Island interchange monster, both exits a safety hazard, both entrances a noisy, polluting, uphill blind merge. An LRT or BRT span (3-lanes with Ped/bikeway) alongside and level with a 5-lane ‘single-deck’ southbound I-5 span forms an emergency access corridor. Why put the transit lanes on a lower deck AND reduce river clearance to less than the Coast Guard minimum standard of 125′ when a single-deck bridge achieves about 140′ clearance and has far superior structural integrity?

      Single-deck bridge designs were considered the obvious choice until 2008. (The Obama Excuse?) In 2010, ODOT finished its fine Marine Drive design to replace the ‘horrible’ old interchange, plus the Expo-to-Hayden Island local road/MAX bridge, plus the Concept #1 Off-island Access alternative to the spagetti ramp death trap. WSDOT, claiming to save money, tried to defer the desparately needed Marine Drive interchange for later and keep the stupid double-deck bridge, the hazardous Hayden Island interchange monster and all the Washington State interchanges, needed or not. Then WSDOT rejected Concept #1, which if YOU haven’t seen it, YOU don’t know what you’re talking about.

      On the Oregon side, the Port of Portland is most to blame for their idiotic West Hayden Island BS marine terminal which is no place for an oval track rail facility, tying up the main RR bridge crossing at all hours and risking complete closure in predicted derailment with its sharp 90 degree spurs. BNSF needs to upgrade its North Portland yard to continue conducting the same operations planned for West Hayden Island.

      I was happy that Vancouver voters voted down the 1995 MAX plan because it made no sense to head north to Clark County fairgrounds instead of Vancouver Mall. But, with a single-deck bridge acting as emergency access, BRT is the better vehicle to go from Jantzen Beach to Vancouver Mall in Phase 1.
      WSDOT ruined the CRC.

  8. No bridge without rail & bicycle infrastructure, period. I want Clark County residents to have the option of not driving. If most of them don’t want to use it, fine, they can sit in traffic, but the ones who want to (and can, conveniently) ride the Max or a bike should be able to. Every person who does frees up roadway space for those who drive.

  9. If you live in downtown Portland and use TriMet to get around the city, it’s in your interest to expand the reach of TriMet (as without a car, many parts of the metro area are unreachable).

    I think it’s a stretch to compare that with the interest Vancouver residents have in expanding auto access to Portland. Part of what makes a city a city is the interesting and unique amenities that only come with scale. It’s possible for suburbs to develop such amenities, and it’s possible for mass transit to encourage such development. But you’re suggesting city residents miss amenities that haven’t been built (and which might not get built) as much as suburban residents want access to actual, existing city features.

    To illustrate this problem suppose you asked the average car-free Portland resident to list what neighborhoods in the metro area they wanted to go to that they couldn’t easily go to. I’d be surprised if anywhere outside of Portland made the top 3.

    Looking back at the CRC, why not let a good fence make good neighbors?

    • The reason city-dwellers want access to the suburbs is mostly for jobs. Many people I know live in the urban “Venus” neighborhoods, but require a car to commute to the suburbs.

      Reverse commutes via lightrail and bus-transfer can be an option for some, but the logistics aren’t workable for most. Improved suburban transit can valuable for access to jobs. Lots of eastside folks commuting out to Hillsboro. Hopefully over time more jobs come to urban core, but there will always be a need for urban to suburban commutes for some people and some industries.

      • In reference to Tony’s post about lots of eastsiders wanting to commute to the Tech Corridor, Oregon should spend the $450 million it was going to spend on the CRC to improve the east-west MAX line. The Sunset Freeway really can’t be widened through the canyon, and the tunnels provide a three lane chokepoint anyway so there will be no increase in auto capacity between Multnomah County and the Tech Corridor. It has to be MAX that handles the load.

        And it could with three or four car trains, at least as far east as Gateway. There are only three stations north of Gateway on the Red Line, so if the Airport platforms could be extended far enough, it would make sense to swap the Red and Blue lines at the Gateway and run four car trains on the new Blue Line to the airport.

        That wouldn’t be cheap to accomplish, because there are a few stations out on the westside which it would be quite difficult to extend: Sunset’s the hardest because of the road overpass, but Beaverton Central and Beaverton TC are both on short straight stretches of track that would be hard to lengthen.

        And then of course there’s the obvious limitation that two car trains already BARELY fit in a downtown Portland block.

        So what to do? Well, I doubt that it could be accomplished for the $450 million, but the obvious thing is a tunnel from about Seventh Avenue to Goose Hollow.

        Really, Metro Portland is so close to having a really fine, high-capacity system that it should take the leap and build it. And while it’s at it, extend the Red Line to Tualatin to replace WES, including a swing over or under 217 to have a stop between Washington Square and the freeway.

        Put a wye in the connection at BTC and extend east along I-205 to Oregon City and up to Clackamas Town Center and run trains from CTC to somewhere out the Tech Corridor, maybe all the way to Hillsboro. The folks in Clackistan would like THAT Light Rail train!

        The tunnel would take the congestion off the Steel Bridge making MAX to Vancouver more cost-effective at some time in the future.

        This is obviously a 25 year plan, but the ring around the south and west would be a huge winner.

      • I think that would be a solid motive to the extent suburban employers were concentrated within a comfortable walk of each other (and of a potential train station). In practice I’m not sure how much that happens, it’s the opposite of an office campus configuration.

        It also has an a priori problem, if city residents are working at a site not served by mass transit then they’ve already found some other means to get there. Their demand for a transit line is moderated by the fact that they already have access. The people who’d benefit the most- those who don’t have access with current transit options- are unlikely to care since they necessarily aren’t working there and would face the uncertainty of a hiring process even if there was transit.

        • BJ,

          It’s a 25 year plan. Most of the people working in the Tech Corridor now won’t be then, and there may be more Nike Shuttle-like services to various off-line employers. Maybe it wouldn’t work; obviously it would need to be carefully researched.

          • Sorry Anandakos, my second comment was in response to Tony. I like your plan, though if the terrain permitted it I’d prefer an “El” over a subway.

  10. The Nike campus would be quite walkable from the Beaverton Creek MAX station if they would just build a connector path through their private property jogging forest to the south of campus. Apparently, they want all of their employees driving to work.

    • Chris, um there already is one. Several years ago they build an employee only path through their private forest.

      • To clarify: There is now a jogging path around the perimeter of the “Tek Woods” property (west of Murray, south of Jenkins, north of Beaverton Creek MAX station), which can be used to get from Beaverton Creek to the main Nike campus in the northwest corner of Murray and Jenkins–though it’s an indirect route. (Nike owns the “Tek Woods” property, having bought it from Tektronix some years ago, and may eventually expand across Jenkins).

        The path is intended as a jogging path, though, moreso than as a walking path for commuters using MAX. Nike does provide a shuttle bus connecting its main campus, its offices on the Tektronix campus, and the Beaverton Creek station.

  11. With 14 freeway lanes in operation across the Columbia and with a third of the traffic on I-5 being local trips,(not to mention lousy sidewalks and 3rd class bike facilities), what is called for is an arterial bridge with light rail, a big wide bike/walk promenade on the down river side, and two or even four local traffic lanes.
    The two cities and two transit agencies, and/or even two counties two MPOs or all eight could partner to manage such a project. But why can’t the DOTs extend OR 99E to connect to WA 99? or build a freeway “frontage road” on a bridge? Why force local trips on to the Interstate freeway system?? Build a “Broadway Bridge!”
    Extending the MAX Yellow Line to downtown Vancouver is obvious…that is the hub for almost all of the C-Tran system; you have a “last mile” system in place. Use it!
    The Steel bridge can handle the traffic: at 10 minute headways in the peak or 6 trains per hour for each line plus four extra trains on the Blue (roughly 50% more than trains than run now), you get 30 trains per hour each direction. I am sure that two minutes between trains works with their low speeds over the Steel Bridge; it may even be 90 seconds, allowing even more trains. In the future a light rail link, a la Jim Howell, could be extended thru the central eastside to the Orange Line with some trains not even going thru downtown at all.
    In the meantime, let’s stripe HOV lanes on the bridge and I-5 to 99th, run a C-Tran Limited down I-5 to the Yellow Line at Delta Park/Vanport, and put on a toll to pay for earth quake proofing the existing bridges.

    • Lenny,
      There needs to be some middle ground. They’ve made it pretty clear that light rail is a non-starter from Vancouver. What about building the bridge perhaps a bit wider than normal that could some day accommodate a train or bus lanes?

      Nothing will get built in our lifetime if folks can come to a compromise. It’s as simple as that.

    • Lenny,

      I like your idea a lot, but THERE IS NO MONEY to pay for it. The FTA money is lost, if indeed the parsimonious jerks in Congress really would have appropriated it. An “arterial” bridge across the Columbia would qualify for no Federal Highway funds, nor so far as I can tell as things stand now, even State DOT funds from either Oregon or Washington. Maybe you could get ODOT to extend the 99E or 99W designation to mid-river over the south channel bridge and to mid-bridge on your idea, but it would not connect to a state highway in Washington. There is no “SR99” in Washington south of Fife any longer. It’s kaput in its entirety except between there and just south of Everett where it serves as a very limited but nonetheless important alternative to I-5. It’s extirpated everywhere else.

      Though they might be able to get voter approval, the two cities certainly can’t afford a half-billion dollar bridge on their own. And though Clark County thinks it can afford such a non-state bridge (and withOUT tolls no less; will wonders never cease?), it wants it to be for cars at 192nd Street. I expect that Multnomah County could manage its half of either such bridge, but it’s questionable that it would give one or the other much priority. It has lots of bridges to worry about already.

      And it’s CERTAIN that the Clark County commissioners and voters would decisively reject your proposal.

      So who’s gonna underwrite the bonds? I don’t see anyone plausible.

  12. One danger of building “expansion” lanes–is they may get used for cars, not transit.

    At any rate, folks in Vancouver want the bridge more than folks in Portland do. Given that–why should Portlanders be the ones to give in in a compromise? As noted above, quite a few folks on both sides consider no-build to be the best alternative.

    And demographics will probably not be kind, long term, to the sort of right-wing populism that drives much of the anti-rail attitudes north of the river. Portland’s greens can simply wait for all the Tea Party sorts north of the river to die off.

    • I’m just sad that I’ll die off along with them, too. Oh well; I’ve at least gotten to ride MAX for ten years since the Yellow Line opened.

    • And demographics will probably not be kind, long term, to the sort of right-wing populism that drives much of the anti-rail attitudes north of the river.

      Let’s see, anti-rail measures have passed recently in Clackamas County, Tigard, and King City. I’ll bet you a beer that under most circumstances they would fail in just about all of our suburbs right now. However, I don’t believe it’s necessarily a vote against the concept of rail. I believe that it’s a combination of an anti-Trimet vote (Trimet has a pretty lousy reputation out there especially in the ‘burbs), weak existing transit service in the ‘burbs, and a perception that Portland wants to get everyone out of their cars and on to trains/buses.

      Until some of these issues are addressed, we’re not getting anywhere quickly.

      At any rate, folks in Vancouver want the bridge more than folks in Portland do.

      Why did Kitzhaber push for it so hard in the special session?

      • The existing Marine Drive interchange is horrible, especially for trucking. ODOT’s replacement looks excellent and shovel-ready. The Expo-to-Hayden Island local road/MAX bridge is also shovel-ready. These can be built without a new I-5 bridge.That’s why Kitzhaber rightly supports continued effort.
        Cost about $550 million. Concept #1 Off-island Access should replace the spagetti ramp death trap Hayden Island interchange nonsense.

        The old bridges are 2-lanes acting as 3-lanes without shoulders. Accident rate is too high.

        Any double-deck bridge design should be rejected and replaced with a single-deck design to achieve 140′ river clearance, reduce cost and guarantee structural integrity. Build a 5-lane southbound span and a 3-lane LRT or BRT transit/ped/bikeway span attached to form emergency access lanes. Leave the old bridges in place for an interim period to handle northbound traffic.

        • Wells,

          Why is Marine Drive so bad, “especially for trucking?” The northbound on-ramp loop stores cars that already back up for blocks on both sides of the intersection. With just a standard “intersection” the backups would go much further down Marine Drive in both directions.

          And the off-ramp loops mean that the dominant traffic flow (north to west and south to east) can be made without stopping. The ODOT design is a standard traffic light interchange for every direction.

          Seems like it would be a step backward to me.

          • From the aerial view, the westbound Marine Drive to I-5 North Driving pattern is thus:
            Over bridge, Right turn, Under I-5
            Right turn circular Climb/blind.
            Other access arrangements are just as bad.

            The ODOT replacement is way simpler: At central stoplight:
            Right turn and Left turn, Downhill BEST visability Accelleration.
            Efficiency. Least turns. Safest.

            Anyway, whatever. Here follows an edit project, chris,
            for your property rightswork, which I assume is doing good:

            “It sounds like you’re living in Mars” (@)

            You don’t say where you are living, perhaps close to Lents with I-205 ripping the neighborhood in half. The only walkable amenties near parks are taverns? That’s Mars.

            To be “Venus”, day-to-day journeys would be capable doing conveniently without a car. There are many parts of Mars where transit is provided for those who commute to Venus, and that’s a good thing! But, if you still need a car to get around, it’s Mars.

            Most of the Portland metro area is Mars, including many parts of the city. {;^(

            Many poor people live in Mars, but do so without a car. In general, these folk make do, but endure hour-long rides for groceries and too many minutes waiting.

            There are things to be done to improve Lents. More ped/bike crossings ‘over I-205’ would be an improvement as would improved sidewalks/bikeways on sidestreets. More commercial uses along 92nd to Flavel (outside 92nd & Foster central core) as certainly beneficial. I’m not sure, but Portland Streetcar planning documents suggest a Lents/Gateway Circulator connecting neighborhoods between 82nd and 102nd with
            a better neighborhood access to the freeway Green Line….

            edit edit edit…..

  13. There is a lot of support for light rail in Vancouver proper, its just a couple of idiologically driven “Rs” who killed the terrible CRC compromise.
    My proposal (originally made to the I-5 Task Force in 2000) is based on data: 1/3 of trips are local…why try to accommodate them on a freeway?; only 12% of vehicles are freight (ie. the obstacle to moving freight is too many SOVs)…give those drive aloners some options!; 50% of congestion is caused by incidents (I left out upgraded enforcement, etc.).
    What is missing across the River?…not freeway lanes. What is missing is good, reliable transit, safe bike/ped facilities, and direct local connections. Pay for it with New Starts and tolls on all bridges or at least the new arterial one and I-5 (for a seismic retrofit).
    I think the two mayors should start a conversation based on this simple data based proposal.

    • Lenny, I-5 (Vancouver to Marine Drive interchange) has too few lanes and no shoulders on the bridge, the exits/entrances to Hayden Island are haphazard, the old Marine Drive interchange needs to be rebuilt ASAP. My recommendation does NOT add thru-lanes. Of the 5 lanes I recommend for a new “single-deck” southbound span, 2 are entrance/exit lanes. I-5 returns to 3 lanes past Delta Park. I recommend a 3-lane span for BRT system from Jantzen Beach to Vancouver Mall because as an emergency access corridor and justify reducing the southbound span width from 6-lanes to 5-lanes. A matching northbound span can be built later, ‘tentatively’ with the truck flyover from Marine Drive and 6-lanes for the bridge. And of course, Concept #1 Off-island Access for Hayden Island. There are no alternatives that comes as close to a viable rebuild.

      • An “entrance/exit” lane STILL delivers one new lane’s worth of cars to Oregon. Get that, please. That 60% increase in cars delivered southbound in the morning has to have to go somewhere. As you accurately note, I-5 south of the Denver Avenue (“Delta Park”) interchange is three lanes in width.

        So where are you going to accommodate the increased car load? Why on MLK, Vancouver Avenue, Mississippi, Interstate, Denver, and Greeley, that’s how. Nice of you to tromp on your neighbors in North Portland.

        Also, you gonna’ have that third lane on the “BRT system” bridge be a reversible lane? I guess you’re expecting a LOT of buses!

        Just to be clear, I do not disagree with your staged replacement with decent shoulders, and BRT across the river ideas, just the excessive width you’re proposing. As long as one lane would be 24x7x365 vigorously enforced left-hand HOV lane, a four lane replacement would be acceptable. But hear me, that lane would have to have one of those two-foot wide cross-hatched “crossable but only in an emergency” buffer spaces like in King County and cameras on both sides of the river and on the bridge to ensure compliance and extract biting mordidas from violaters. It should start at the beginning of the bridge influence area about Mill Plain and continue south at least to the Denver Avenue off-ramp To make this work the general traffic must be forced to merge INTO the lane a bit south of the END HOV mark as it does at the end of today’s northbound HOV, rather than the HOV having to merge into the general traffic lane. This would make the left lane of the two that exit to Denver Avenue like it used to be but one lane to the right. There is sufficient room to add a lane to southbound I-5 between the existing lanes and the MAX right of way, but just barely.

        Today, southbound about one-half of a lane net of traffic has exited at Hayden Island, Marine Drive or Denver Avenue today. As a result the freeway flows fairly freely most days as far as the curve just south of Columbia Blvd, which is the first of three heavily used on-ramps in a half mile. So the stretch between Denver and Lombard can carry three general lanes and whatever the HOV attracts

        If you don’t throttle the freeway fairly severely at the NORTH shore of the river, Clark County will explode with new housing and North Portland will be overrun with Washington-plated Escalades and F-150’s.

        However, I do have to ask how staged replacement can work with a no-lift design. Any such staged replacement bridge is going to have to be high enough at the north bank of the river to clear vessels using the lift on the remaining spans for northbound traffic. I do not believe it is possible to attain 135 foot clearance that close to the shoreline; I believe this was to be handled with the CRC replacement by building the whole bridge except for the span closest to the shore, then shutting down river commerce that could not pass under the “hump” for a few weeks in low-water time while the girders to support the “last span” were laid and the upper roadway constructed. Then the hump would be removed and all river traffic would take the new bridge while the remainder of the existing spans was removed in the most economical manner.

        However, with a staged replacement, the hump in the existing spans will remain; the span above the river closest to the north bank will have to provide full clearance to anything passing through the lift.

        The CRC was originally slated to be 95 feet in clearance (presumably bank to bank) later raised to 116, I believe. That restriction was one of the primary objections people in Clark County had to the bridge, third in importance to Light Rail and Tolls. A clearance of less than 135 feet will apparently cripple a couple of businesses in the old Kaiser Shipyard, and one predicts a future need of as much as 153.

        The CRC engineers struggled to get to 135 and finally agreed they couldn’t without excessive grades. People blame this on the inclusion of LRT, but in fact light rail vehicles can negotiate grades at normal speeds as steep as five degrees and in a few places in the world — one being Dolores Park in San Francisco, do so at TEN degrees!. Believe me, the trucks using I-5 do NOT want to have a ten degree grade at the north end of the bridge.

        So, I do not see any way that a half-replacement can reach a 135 free span AT the north bank and still connect to SR 14. The spiral ramp from westbound to southbound would be a sight to behold. Shades of the I-10/Sam Houston Tollway interchange. That disappoints me because I do think that doing the replacement in stages is a good idea.

        • P.S. The J trains are creeping when go downhill at ten degrees, there’s no doubt about that. But they’re amazingly spry going up.

          Also, it sounds like I think that a ten degree grade would be necessary. It certainly wouldn’t. It would be more like four degrees assuming the beginning of the ascent at the Evergreen Bridge for the main lanes. The BRT bridge would have to be considerably steeper because it wouldn’t begin its ascent until Fifth Avenue or maybe Sixth if absolutely required.

          Even still, the FHWA probably wouldn’t want a four degree grade.

          • Anandakos, WHAT is it about a “SINGLE-DECK” bridge don’t you understand? The lower deck of the “double-deck” bridge design (garbage) reduced river clearance about 25′. 116′ plus 25′ = 141′. A single-deck bridge would therefore be no taller and its entrance/exit ramps no more steep than the double-deck design. Comprende?

            The 3-lane BRT/ped span (a bridge) is downriver (attached) to a 5-lane Southbound span of 3-lanes (for thru-traffic) PLUS 2-lanes for entrances from Vancouver and exits to Marine Drive and Hayden Island with Concept #1. The 2 exit/entrance lanes are standard safety measures.

            Do you have any idea what benefits Concept #1 offered? No, you don’t.

            As for I-5 southbound traffic diverting to MLK and other N/S arterials, I say yes, local traffic should do just that. Thru-traffic can stay on I-5. The prospect of more commuting from Vancouver is unrelated to the CRC I-5 bridge replacement. To reduce commuting, the developers of suburban sprawl and their political puppets in Washington State must admit their folly if not their mendacity.

            • Arthur,

              OK, so a single deck would be higher. Very well; I will concede that point, though I don’t think you’ll get the entire 25 feet. There will still have to be girder boxes below the flat structure; that was going to be wrapped around the LRT and bike/ped levels, though I’m sure that they can be less tall if they’re just support structures. Still, it’s probably possible to have the northernmost span clear the river at the needed 130 odd feet so high loads can pass in line to the BNSF swing span.

              But so far as the “entrance/exit lanes”, safety-schmafety. Those two added lanes combined will deliver a 60% increase in traffic to North Portland compared to current volumes. You can lie about it all you want, but that’s exactly what will happen.

              And it is EXACTLY “the prospect of more commuting from Vancouver” that is the reason that everyone over here wants to increase the number of lanes. The “developers of suburban sprawl and their political puppets” are hardly going to “admit their folly”. First, they don’t think it’s folly and second it’s what they WANT.

              And I have to say you have a very expansive definition of “local” traffic. Take a ride on the #4 over to Killingsworth and Vancouver some morning during the rush hour. Do a little survey of the Washington plated cars stopped at the light southbound on Vancouver. My bet is that fully 80% of them are headed to downtown Portland or out to the Tech Corridor by using the Cook Street on-ramp to the Fremont Bridge.

              Not exactly “local” as Webster would have it. Maybe Welsh folks have a different concept of near and far?

              On that topic, you have never told us anything about the neighborhood you live in. Why don’t you? I personally don’t understand what you have against the folks who live in North Portland, but maybe you lived there once and got in a spat with a neighbor about the Deep(ly) Bor(ing) Tunnel?

              I agree with you that having no ramps on Hayden Island is a good idea (Concept #1). It reduces the cost of the bridge and simplifies access to the island from the Oregon mainland. However, I expect that the merchants there, who get seventy percent or more of their sales from Washingtonians would disagree, but since I’m a Washingtonian who wants our businesses to succeed I don’t give a rip about them.

              The bottom line is, I don’t understand how you can rant on and on about Concept #1 AND IN THE SAME POST argue for a pair of slip lanes which END on Hayden Island.

              No hace ordenador, mi amigo. Comprende?

            • Anankandos, would you please abbreviate your overly verbiose replies? Your 1st point about “bridge height”, I win, you lose, period. The 2nd point about the two entrance/exit lanes, again I win, you lose. Both lanes handle truck traffic to Hayden Island and Marine Drive, therefore both lanes are a standard and necessary safety measure. Don’t you dare call me a liar.

              The 3rd point on commuting, once again I win, you lose. Because commuting to Portland is based on suburban sprawl, Vancouver big wigs would create jobs in Vancouver, but won’t because their income is based on how much less cars supposedly cost in Vancouver. Folly or mendacity? Both?

              As long you’re in the betting mood, I’ll bet you’re 80% wrong about rush hour commuters getting off I-5 and taking Vancouver Blvd to the Cook Street on-ramp to the Fremont Bridge.

              Finally, where I live is none of your business, but if you think my perspective can be haughtily dismissed for any ridiculous reason, I’ve lived over the years in several North and NE Portland homes and apartments and am fully aware of the traffic conditions throughout the area, probably more than you will ever be.

            • On the second point, No, No, No, No, No, No, No. Slip lanes may indeed be “common safety measures”, but they also provide an uninterrupted standard-width lane between Washington and Oregon. If built they will each deliver one lane’s worth of traffic to North Portland. It won’t happen all at once of course; for several years there may be enough capacity that folks won’t use a Hayden Island exit to access the non-freeway arterial bridge to the island. But eventually they will.

              There are six freeway lanes approaching the bridge influence area on the Washington side, three from I-5 and three from SR14. Four and a half are clogged today, and those folks are emphatically not heading to downtown Vancouver.

              On I-5 southbound something around two and two-third lanes’ worth of the traffic that crosses the Mill Plain bridge continues to the bridgehead. A bit a bit more traffic than enters from Mill Plain exits to SR14 eastbound. There is about a third of a lane’s worth of capacity to absorb the traffic from SR14 and Washington Street.

              From SR14 one lane, the right hand one carrying about a half a lane’s worth of traffic joins I-5 northbound, removing traffic from the bridge influence area. The left-hand lane becomes the I-5 cloverleaf on-ramp and is frequently backed up nearly to the Grand Boulevard interchange.

              The middle lane exits to downtown Vancouver, but mostly carries people trying to get around the long queue for the direct on ramp by turning left on Sixth Street in Vancouver and using the Washington Street on-ramp. While that lane does not back up onto SR14, the cars using it are usually backed up all the way to the off-ramp on Sixth. There are at least one and a half lanes of traffic from SR14 which could use the bridge today given adequate capacity on it.

              So total demand is 4 and 1/6 lanes, and there would be more if more capacity were provided across the river, because people going to downtown Portland or the Tech Corridor from East Vancouver would choose big, wide, relatively untraveled SR14 to get to the I-5 corridor instead of the clogged, stop-and-go Banfield (I-84).

              The only reason they aren’t doing so is that the capacity is not provided. That 3500 feet of bridge is a critical bottleneck protecting North Portland residents from a flood of cars, which you — and far too many other people — would inflict on them.

              So far as the bet, I know for a fact that at least half the cars using Vancouver Avenue in the morning are Washington plated and that many of them turn right at Cook Street. The reason I know that it that was the way I went to Nike on the days I knew I would have to work late and couldn’t take transit home reliably. And before Interstate MAX was built and I worked in downtown Portland I would drive that way and park a few blocks north of the Rose Quarter MAX station. Those cars aren’t going to jobs on Vancouver because there are no “jobs on Vancouver” except at the hospital.

              Yeah, I was one of those Vancouver jerks driving through North Portland, and there are thousands more like me.

              The same usage pattern occurs on MLK, Interstate and Denver though I will agree that at least some of the traffic on those streets may well be “local” in the non-Welsh meaning of the word.

              So either there are a lot of people in North Portland who have registered their cars in Washington because …. because ….. well, just because OR there are a lot of Washington residents using those streets to escape from freeway congestion.

              Thank you for stating that you have lived in North Portland. That lends some validity to your posts about the area.

            • Anandakos, we have a difference of opinion. You are entitled to your opinion. I will spend my time arguing for an I-5 bridge width of 5-lanes instead of 6-lanes (striped for 5-lanes) as proposed. The two entrance/exit lanes (slip lanes if you like) are the standard traffic management and safety measure necessary between Vancouver and Marine Drive interchange, period, end of story.

  14. Lenny’s correct. There is a lot of support for light rail WITHIN Vancouver, but the rest of Clark County doesn’t understand the benefits. They believe the “crime train” propaganda put out by the right-wing Faux News crowd.

    • Aaron,
      Based on the story from the Columbian, the measure only passed in the precincts surrounding Downtown Vancouver. If there is all this support for light rail in Vancouver, those folks need to speak up and show up for the elections.

  15. Engineer Scotty:

    Please cite your sources for the characterization of people who prefer rural life as
    “fearful” and “terrorized.” Your second paragraph seems to have an unconscious
    (or conscious?) bias against most Oregonians.

    Isn’t this a way of minimizing the concerns of everyone outside of the city center of Portland They can’t have a reasonable position because they are too scared?

    Just so you know- I am not “scared of change.” I am not scared of much. I am angry at density dumping and dead school girls. Sometimes I am effective at lobbying.
    And I appreciate rural life.

    I resist tearing new orifices for the new, unlikable Portland wannna-be snobs. But this slander of my fellow Oregonians makes that hard….

    • OK Mamacita, then please cite your source that Oregonians who prefer an urban lifestyle with multiple means of getting around their city are “unlikable wanna-be snobs”. That certainly doesn’t describe anybody I know, and I grew up here.

      I just don’t understand why somebody in Molalla or Battle Ground should have ANY say whatsoever on transportation policy within the UGB. And why would they even care, if not for being “fearful” of so-called Portland Creep. Nobody in Portland is micromanaging what transportation facilities are getting built (or not getting built) outside our city limits. If anything, rural folks should be thankful that we’re building densely and efficiently because that keeps the urban areas from encroaching into their rural lifestyles. You know, the whole purpose behind the UGB, right?

      • I didn’t not mean to say that all Portlanders who bike/take the Max are snobs. I have three bikes and use them. But there is a persistent anti-rural bias on this blog.

        And there is a new breed of snob in town. I would suggest that some Portlanders need to think and understand the rest of the state.

        Are you “afraid” of Canby, Aaron? I doubt it. Why do you think fear is the right meme for rural people?

        • Well, having grown up in Clackamas County, less than 5 miles from the Canby Ferry, I’m most definitely not afraid of Canby. I’m also not afraid of anything Canby (or Ridgefield or Newberg or Sandy) wants to do to handle their unique transportation needs. But I have a real problem with exurbanites who feel they’re somehow entitled to comment or have any input whatsoever on how Portland handles its own transportation needs. They don’t want Portlanders invading their space, but they’re perfectly fine inserting their snarky (and yes, sometimes fear-based) comments into discussions on urban issues.

          • My point is: since we think that we are better intellectuals than Tootie Smith, since we are presumably holding ourselves to a more rigorous intellectual and philosphical/ethical standard, shouldn’t we be more careful to include the rural point of view in our discussions?

            The next time Engineer Scotty is writing about areas outside the
            Pearl/N.Williams, shouldn’t he make an extra effort to choose his words carefully in regard to how Greshamites may think? Perhaps look to local news sources for support?

            “Fear” is a dumb meme in this context because it essentially has no meaning. It’s a value judgment about a position. It is a stupid word like “vibrant”. “Vibrant” has no meaning outside of “pleasing to urbanist.”

            If this area is kinda science-y, then stop using poetry words. Use factual words: more populous, expensive restaurants, x music clubs per square block . Be factual or admit that you are, in the words of Zappa, dancing about architecture. I fear no vibrancy but I will mock the planning community’s lexicon.

            • I have nothing against rural areas, except that rural areas shouldn’t be dictating the form of urban transportation systems. I certainly don’t want to run light rail out to Molalla or Brush Prairie. OTOH, I don’t care to see freeways widened in Portland, either.

              One interesting issue with both Clark and Clackamas Counties, is both counties contain significant exurban and rural populations, which seem interested in constraining the transportation systems built in the urbanized parts of both counties. Why should folks in Molalla care what gets built in Milwaukie? There is, of course, an interesting question as to what extent the rural and urban areas should cross-subsidize each other (and generally, given that roads in the rural Clackamas and Clark counties are mostly paved, it is the urban areas subsidizing the rural–truly rural counties generally have gravel roads outside of towns and main highways, because there’s insufficient tax base to pave and maintain local farm roads and such); but in general, I’m not interested in telling folks in Molalla what to build and what not to build. Mollala is a small town, not a big city (or a suburb of a big city), and what works here is not appropriate there.

              I’ve already elaborted on the F-word (“fear”), and ain’t beating that dead horse any more.

              I do try to avoid words like “vibrant”–the only mention use of that word in this thread is by you–though I may slip up from time to time. Likewise for “liveable”–plenty of people love to live in the ‘burbs or the country, after all, and find these places perfectly liveable. (“Walkable”, on the other hand, has a more value-neutral definition).

    • To clarify references to “fear” and “terror”: I don’t have a literary cite for this, but it is a commonly-observed phenomenon in any sort of development, that people are apprehensive and/or skeptical about changes to the area where they live.

      And there’s nothing wrong with that! People often live where they like to live. They have an investment in their home (even if they are renters): they have roots in a community, friends, family, church, social activities, and such. They may have jobs nearby. And homeowners have a significant financial investment as well. Having the place they love fundamentally changed to something else–or even changed piecemeal–can be a disorienting experience.

      (Renters have something else to fear: gentrification, and the prospect of being priced out of their own home–or worse, being evicted because their home is slated for demolition by the landlord).

      On the other side of the coin–there are certain types of land uses that are in short supply. One of them is high-density urban living. Living in the Pearl or in similar neighborhoods is expensive, because the demand for such housing outstrips the supply. Given that, there is tremendous market pressure to build MORE high-density urban housing; but there’s only so many places you can put it (generally, it can only go in an established urban area–trying to replicate the Pearl out in Tualatin would be an Epic Fail).

      Of course, this puts pressure on another land use that is in short supply: so-called “streetcar suburbs”, including much of Portland outside the downtown core, and including Division Street roughly from 12th out to 82nd. Many other upzoning Portland neighborhoods, in N and NE Portland, also are in the same boat. There is also a demand for these neighborhoods (prices are high here as well), and residents there in particular like close proximity to the city (and living within its limits), and don’t consider places like Beaverton or Gresham to be an adequate substitute–but value living in single-family homes as opposed to apartments. Some residents thereof consider apartment construction to be a threat–even though the chances are almost zero that a homeowner along Division would be forced to sell to a developer looking to build apartments. (I say “almost zero” because things like Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn do occur, but it’s been a long while since that sort of force redevelopment has occurred around here).

      And going further out–it’s not hard to find residents of single-use suburbs who would consider the presence of even a low-rise apartment building, or a small strip-mall on the corner, to be an unwelcome intrusion on their orderly neighborhood. Going further out into the countryside, it’s easy to find people who like the rural lifestyle (some of them are involved in productive agriculture, some just like large lots even if they don’t farm them) and are terrorized (there’s that word again) against one of their neighbors subdividing.

      Now, getting to public policy: Oregon’s land-use laws, and the whole urban growth boundary, are designed to prevent rural land uses against suburbanization. And the UGB mostly succeeds at this–although Portland’s urban footprint has expanded over the years, it has expanded far less (and consumed far less prime agricultural land) than many other cities of considerable size. (And sprawl is a far bigger issue in Clark County, where Oregon’s UGB does not apply). But there isn’t really a similar region-wide land-use tool to demarcate the boundaries between Venus (dense, walkable urbanism), classic mixed-use streetcar suburbs, and auto-centric suburbia. The zoning code assumes the role, but zoning decisions and exceptions are often made on a lot-by-lot basis, not on a regional basis.

      Metro does designate a few areas to be “town centers” in its planning documents–some of them actually consist of walkable urbanism, but quite a few of them are wishful thinking. One big reason for that is inadequate follow-through in terms of infrastructure and land-use designations, but another is that bootstrapping density is hard. People who like the urban lifestyle, FTMP want to be downtown, not in Gateway or Tanasbourne–part of the point of urbanism is being close to the action (arts, culture, etc.), not merely being close to other people. (Tanasbourne is doing reasonably well, but attracts a different demagraphic than does the Pearl).

      And the desire to be “close to the action” is why so much upzoning pressure is being exerted on SE Division. It’s quite close to downtown, which makes it much more desirable real estate than living along NW Cornell. People want to move there, and some landowners are more than willing to make it possible for them to do so. The question is–to what extent should existing residents be able to veto this process.

      • Engineer Scotty,

        Many good points. But I am still right about the bias in your second paragraph. I feel that you would be even more effective if you reconsidered this idea:

        “commonly-observed phenomenon in any sort of development, that people are apprehensive and/or skeptical about changes to the area where they live.”

        “Commonly observed” is a cop-out. Who is observing? (Hint: pro-density urbanists)

        As for “apprehensive/skeptical” those are two different things. Are you trying to move away from “apprehensive” without admitting that it is not a good meme?

        Skeptical is a better term- more respectful. It also gets to the utopian aspect of planning and the fact that people in our area may not be of one mind. To what extent is some of our planning faith-based and utopian- and whose utopia?

        Perhaps the transit planning community needs to take a look at itself and admit that it is not a diverse community in many ways- not just obvious things like gender, but class and lifestyle, also personality. Once one admits a tendency to a certain bias, one can better avoid it.

        Sometimes Inner Portland feels cut off from the rest of the state. I see myself as an Oregonian and that means accepting my neighbors who hunt and fish
        and don’t like to be crowded or to eat overpriced foodie food. But I live in rural Portland.

        • For what it’s worth, I love hunting and fishing and grew up in the rural part of the state. I love dense inner Portland during the week and some weekends, and I love my weekend fishing trips on the Clackamas and annual hunting trips to the Wallowas.

          Mamacita, please don’t stereotype me! I’m both the pro-density wanna-be urban snob you hate and also the accepting Oregonian who respects the rural part of the state.

          There’s room for urban density, suburban single family homes, and rural farms within our state. One thing there will be less room for is single family estates that are affordable to lower middle class people within a mile or two of downtown PDX. Sorry if I’m a snob for believing this and thinking it’s an OK outcome of our landuse system.

          • Not all density advocates are snobs- and nothing you said JHB says that you are a snob. But this constant ragging on rural people as “fearful” has to stop.

            There does seem to be a sense of superiority amongst the hardcore density advocates- their values are paramount, and my values are laughed at. I am a breeder, I am a tea partier (???)
            I am a NIMBY.

            BTW- what do you mean re:single family estates near downtown? Are you calling a ranch on a 5000 foot lot an estate?
            Do you support Portland’s strategy of pushing out working class families? .

            As for the UGB- yes, I am all for it, and my friends in Helveltia will vouch for that.

            I love the Wallowas. When you are out there- do you see fearful people? Stupid people? People whose values are inferior? I bet you don’t. We need transit advocates who visit the Wallowas, meet other Oregonians and understand their points of view. Hopefully you are that person and you will be sensitive to the undercurrent of snobbery that is present in the Portland planning community.

            • People in the Wallowas don’t give a rip about density in Portland, unless they think it’s going to raise their taxes. And if they’re smart they’ll welcome it as more money for Salem to dip from the rich pot of Metro Portland’s high incomes to ladle over the rest of the state.

              It’s people in Gresham, Oregon City, Milwaukie, Tigard and King City who do.

        • Mamacita,

          I think you are overreacting to the word “fear”. For one, it applies to everybody–many urbanists are TERRIFIED, for instance, of having cities ripped up for freeway construction, for instance. That isn’t just an abstraction, that was actual policy for much of the latter-20th century. From the 50s through the 80s, the conventional wisdom was that cities were horrible, dirty places that “nice” people shouldn’t want to live in, and so state DOTs and such made it the official policy of the state to tear up city neighborhoods, build freeways so folks could live in the ‘burbs and commute to work, and encourage anyone who could afford to, to get out.

          There is a reason that many Portlanders oppose the CRC, and it isn’t just because we think Vancouverites are a bunch of rednecks or anything like that. (I’ve got family who lives up there, and they certainly are not “rednecks” of any sort). We’ve seen first hand the destruction wrought by the bulldozer.

          Yes, my source for the “fear” comment is an urbanist (Jarrett Walker), but I consider him to be authoritative on the subject.

          But you should not consider it a slur. If you prefer, substitute the word “concern”. I have no intention to offend.

          • Scotty,

            Stating that a political position is rooted in “fear” has the effect of minimizing the validity of the position. Call it a disagreement- a lifestyle preference- tension between urban and rural values. That is what it is.

            Over and out on this issue- but I seem to have hit a sore spot with the word “snob.” Why? Because I am right about undercurrents of snobbery and you guys do not want to be snobs. You have colleagues that take snotty positions and deserve a Mamacita style beat down (and I delivered one at Cartlandia last year). I am asking you to show more respect for the 95% of Oregon that isn’t in the shiny close-in utopia.

            The beatdown is a funny story- I put a bike snob in his place.

            • It’s no different from using the term “snob”, which minimizes the validity of someone’s position. These are just words. Because one side or the other has over-used them in the past, doesn’t mean that we can’t use them to accurately describe a situation.

              For example, I can confidently say that my position against the CRC is partially rooted in fear. Fear that my neighborhood will be degraded by cut-through traffic that will bypass an increasingly congested I-205 and I-84 corridor. And snobs? They don’t just live in the city. Anyone that thinks they can drive their car wherever they want, as fast as they want, and have a birth right to free street parking is a snob. They think that their way of life is the best, and we’re all crazy for considering alternatives.

              When I’m riding my $400 bike on a quiet neighborhood greenway and I get buzzed by some jerk going 10mph over the speed limit in a $50k luxury SUV, who is the snob?

              noun: snob; plural noun: snobs
              a person with an exaggerated respect for high social position or wealth who seeks to associate with social superiors and dislikes people or activities regarded as lower-class.

          • One final quibble: a visit to Jarrett’s website suggests a deep knowledge of some subjects related to transit- but where is his background in social psychology and politics that would make him a neutral authority on “fear.”

            Jarrett has some turf to defend- that doesn’t discredit him –but I am
            not buying the “fear” meme. Give me a neutral source from the
            appropriate social/political science.

    • Dave,

      Looks like they’ll have to change their name, then. They just destroyed their I/T department, that’s for sure.

        • Mill Plain Pet Hospital?

          One concern I have with the move is that the old BPH location had good transit access, the new location, not so much. Employees of BPH who used transit to get to work may need to start driving, or find a new job. (Some of them may decide to move to the ‘Couv, to be closer to work and to no longer pay Oregon income tax).

          OTOH, having good jobs in Clark County isn’t a bad thing, though luring them across the border isn’t good for Oregon, obviously.

          A non-transit related issue: A commonly cited advantage of Clark County is good schools–and indeed, that’s an important one. Tim Eyman and other tax-rebels in Washington weren’t able to gut Washington’s school system in the way that Bill Sizemore or Don McIntire were able to do so back in the 1990s–which has produced the rather perverse result that the “red” county north of the border has better school funding than the “blue” counties in Oregon. Yet despite Oregon’s increasing blue tint, there hasn’t been any discussion (that I have ever noticed) about repealing (or at least mitigating) Ballot Measure 5 or any of its follow-ons.

          • Scotty,

            Yes, the transit access was great: Red, Blue and Green Lines and the 77 a quarter of a mile away and the 75 right at the front door. Four frequent service lines within a short or shorter walk.

            OTOH, to get to 188th and Mill Plain from Oregon by transit an employee has to get to Parkrose, change to the 65, change to the 37 at Fisher’s Landing and change to the 38 at Mill Plain (or walk 3/4 of a mile). Nobody will do that.

            That’s why I said they’ve kissed their I/T department “Good-bye”. Now maybe that’s fine with them, but they use Oracle and Unix and there are plenty of users of both technologies on the Portland side. Folks who don’t want to pay sales tax for lunches AND Oregon Income Tax will just find another Oracle gig.

            I’m sure they expect that they’ll be able to reconstitute the staff from Washington folks. But they’ll have the same issues to a lesser degree with all the “back-office” folks who use transit. The pet-technical folks are of course stuck; they’ll be moving to Clark County.

            • Oh, I forgot: about the school funding: it’s about half King County money. If it weren’t in the state constitution that K-12 is the state’s primary responsibility, we’d have schools like Alabama: “Ain’t gonna’ let those union leeches have MY money!”

            • As someone who has worked for two large Vancouver companies in the past, I can tell you that very few employees ride the bus to work. Even the lower income folks drive their old beat up cars because transit is terrible in Vancouver.

              Also, my experience has been that at least 50% of the employees commute from Portland (all drive). The breakdown is interesting. The younger, single employees live in Portland, while the families with children all seemed to live in Vancouver.

              We can keep building these trains but if the jobs are no where them, then there is no reason to ride them.

            • Dave,

              I’m amazed that half the people you worked with came from Oregon. Why would anybody do that? Wages are lower and they have to pay sales tax if they buy lunch.

              Can you say what you do?

              I do know that people don’t ride the bus over here. With the exception of a quarter of a mile circle from Mill Plain and Chkalov, congestion is pretty much non-existent over here. And if one is doing a reverse commute, it’s pretty much the same: the bridges flow freely almost all the time in the “off-peak” direction. Sure, there’s the occasional accident that causes a jam-up, but the day to day congestion of the “normal commute” is almost totally absent.

  16. Shifting some jobs to Clark does address the bridge congestion problem; there is a huge jobs deficit across the River. I have often thought that without OR land use laws and the UGB, Daimler would long ago have moved to a nice cornfield out near Verboot! We can hope that some Banfield emps move to E. Vancouver or Camas where they will have a short commute even if by car. Did they file a ECO survey with DEQ? I wonder what their mode split was out on 82nd right next to the 72 Killingsworth line (Not 75, A).
    PS I never saw a dog in their very orderly dog running facility…they could have expanded onto that!

  17. Lenny,
    It really doesn’t address the bridge congestion. Most of us are either married on in a relationship. The odds are pretty good that if one spouse works at Banfield, the other one will need to commute to Portland for work perhaps adding even more to the bridge commute. So moving is challenging for two person households. My experience is that Vancouver is a great place to recruit for call center and less technical folks. But you need specialized skills, that’s going to come from Portland.

    Daimler would have moved to South Carolina if they hadn’t realize that they would have needed to do a 100% restaff. I guess they realized that would be too great of an impact.

  18. They tried that twice. Don’t tell me QoL doesn’t count for something. We Americans on average move about once every 5 years and change jobs with the same frequency, so its all very fluid. But overall a stronger job base means a better shot at living close to your job…if you so choose. I am reminded of the guy who worked at Intel and bought a big house in Washugal and then complained about our freeway network. Hello! The reverse commute as A pointed out is a piece of cake; both I-5 and I-205 operate just fine over 90% of the time.

  19. I guess it all boils down to how one defines “transportation freedom.” A basic principal of “transportation freedom” should be the right for everyone to be safe in the public right of way and not fear for life or limb. “Safe” includes clean water, ie. rivers and streams as well as clean air.

  20. I disagree with the premise of this article and believe that it is possible to have places optimized for bicycling, pedestrians, and cars at the same time. It is just far removed from our experience. They seem to have made great strides towards this in the Netherlands.

    Perhaps, optimized is too strong a word, they accommodate different modes. This seems to be achieved by keeping different modes separated to a great extent.

    You can read all about it here:

    • I love the example of what has been done in the Netherlands, but in the eyes of most Americans I think the approach they take would certainly be considered “anti-car.”

      It’s not anti-car in the way that anti-bike means “no bike facilities anywhere,” but it is anti-car in the sense that cars speeds are slowed, car volumes are limited, car access is managed, and car routes are (often intentionally) circuitous.

      Trying to implement any of these elements in the US would absolutely be seen as anti-car. See the debates over the Williams or Foster bikeway planning to see how *any* modification to theoretical car capacity is met with passionate opposition.

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