Frequent Services on 122nd Needs an $8M Ante from the City of Portland

An interesting sidebar in today’s Council work session on the street fee: TriMet could justify (and pay for the service hours) upgrading 122nd Avenue to Frequent Service if a series of safety and access improvement were made by the City to help draw ridership from the surrounding area. The cost of those improves is about $8M according to Commissioner Novick.

27 Comments

27 Responses to Frequent Services on 122nd Needs an $8M Ante from the City of Portland

  1. SEAN
    October 14, 2014 at 7:55 am Link

    $8 Million? That’s a rounding error as far as city budgets are concerned. I’m sure the money could be easily found.

    • Chris Smith
      October 14, 2014 at 12:31 pm Link

      I wish it were so. In PBOT at least, $8M is a lot of money – witness the major discussion around raising another $40M/year with the street fee.

      By way of comparison, $8M is about what Portland contributes each year to paying the bonds on the Sellwood Bridge replacement.

      But I do hope we can prioritize these funds to make frequent service on 122nd a reality.

      • Adron @ Transit Sleuth
        October 14, 2014 at 1:52 pm Link

        …which still makes me nuts. We’ve basically bought Clackistan a bridge, light rail, bike ways and millions of dollars of commerce and a city core of almost world class status… and we still have whacko politicians down there screaming about crime trains and other nefariously untrue things. Ugh, sometimes one just can’t win. :-(

        But yeah, $8 million is pretty steep for one frequent service line – if it were something like 3-5 minute frequent service I’d be all “wow, that’s great” but considering it’s lousy 15 minute service for that much money, it just bites at the gut.

        • Chris Smith
          October 14, 2014 at 1:57 pm Link

          Well, yeah, I wanted to toll the Sellwood :-)

          But I can see TriMet’s point – why run a frequent bus that a large part of the ‘transit shed’ can’t effectively or safely get to?

          • Adron @ Transit Sleuth
            October 14, 2014 at 5:50 pm Link

            Hahaa, I’d have been 100% pro-tolling the Sellwood. What a free ride the users get out of that! It’s kind of nuts considering how expensive it is/was!! Well, now that it is being built, at least it’ll be a nice bridge. :)

            As for the second point, yeah, exactly!

            • Jason McHuff
              October 17, 2014 at 12:02 am Link

              Someone should (have?) create a petition to do that and possibly refund the licensing fee. If cash back were on the table, I think it could easily gain enough signatures and pass. But maybe that no one has shows that Multnomah County residents are nicer and smarter.

              But it looks like Washington County is trying for their own VLF.

  2. EngineerScotty
    October 14, 2014 at 3:48 pm Link

    What, specifically, does TriMet want done? I’m assuming that this is a package of sidewalk and crossing improvements, from the price tag.

    Also, would this result in frequent service on the western leg of the 71 as well, or just along 122nd? (And if the latter, would the 71 be replaced with the 14 on this stretch?)

  3. Erik H.
    October 14, 2014 at 8:46 pm Link

    Funny how when it’s a bus line, TriMet refuses to spend the money or find the money, demands the “city” come up with the money, and the city refuses to spend the money because “it’s a bus line” and that’s TriMet’s job.

    Say “rail”, and everyone falls over themselves with blank checkbooks, tax credits, tax breaks, and all sorts of promises of “Oh, we’ll gladly spend money here, we’ll shift the money around to pay for it!”

    This just underscores the vast bus versus rail divide in Portland. Nobody is willing to spend pocket change for incremental improvements for good bus service, but the seas are parted and the Sun and the Moon are moved to make way for a rail line. All, because you say “rail” and not “bus”. There’s not one single logical other explanation to it.

    Don’t give me the B.S. line that “the feds will do this…” for rail – most of the federal transit grant programs don’t specifically target a mode. It’s all the incessant pro-rail, anti-bus attitude in this city. And the people who lose are the citizens who depend on transit to get around – they are the ones caught in the middle of the political fight of people who don’t dare step foot on public transit, unless it’s a specially choreographed press event with a brand new TriMet bus whose headsign reads “V.I.P. Special” and only the V.I.P.s are allowed on the bus.

    • EngineerScotty
      October 14, 2014 at 11:16 pm Link

      While I don’t agree with some of the tone of Erik’s remarks, he does pose an interesting question.

      Quite a few recent rail projects, including the Green Line, have included ped/bike components above and beyond the immediate station area(s). Sometimes this is done to get matching funds from the FTA for things that might not otherwise get them as standalone projects, and sometimes this is done to encourage and improve access to transit.

      Contrary to Erik’s assertion that this is only done for rail, both the SWC (which may be bus) and the Powell/Division project (which will be bus) are likely to have pedestrian components. Both corridors are through areas where the pedestrian environment is lacking (particularly SWC), and making it safe for people to walk to transit is an essential part of doing transit right.

      Which brings us to 122nd. Could a Small Starts (or Very Small Starts) program be done, consisting of the necessary improvements to the 122nd corridor (including some direct improvements to stops/stations and/or other bus-related components), along with a guarantee of frequent service, and thus get FTA funding for this? $8M is well within the limits for either program, and “limited BRT” is permitted under the program.

      • Adron @ Transit Sleuth
        October 14, 2014 at 11:53 pm Link

        I’m with ya on that EngineerScotty. That’d be a valid app for small starts. It’d be a good strategy too since most of the city, PBOT and related entities that would often have to pay/match costs for something like this are seriously strapped for cash at the moment.

        …the question is, does PBOT or whoever needs to apply for such even have the bandwidth to do that?

    • John Sporseen
      October 16, 2014 at 7:47 am Link

      While I don’t agree 100% with Erik, I do think that bus lines occasionally get the short end of things. While I am most often a MAX and streetcar rider, I do use buses 48/20 as well as 6/8 and 9. I personally would love a major change on 48/20 but also realize that Cedar Hills Boulevard would require a different arrangement.

      That is for me primarily but some changes need to be made in SW.

    • joebobpdx
      October 19, 2014 at 10:20 pm Link

      This screed must have been meant for the Oregonian and misposted here – it’s so long on spleen, so short on facts. Having been around the rail project map in Portland and elsewhere for many years, I don’t recognize Eric’s characterization at all.

      It’s been 10 years, but back when, almost all FTA grants were highly categorized by allowed use, whether discretionary funds or formula money. I don’t think that’s changed – but feel free to correct me.

      And no one has been falling over themselves to fund rail – that effort has gotten tougher and more contentious with each project. So assertions that are provably false becomes evidence of a “vast . . . divide”, of an anti-bus conspiracy.

      TriMet, ODOT and local jurisdictions spend hundreds of thousands of dollars a year on incremental improvements that help bus transit. It’s not enough, and more targeted money is needed on the bus side, but stand down on the hyperbole, ok?

  4. Andrew
    October 15, 2014 at 4:16 pm Link

    I’m all for expanding the high frequency network, but I also hope sidewalk construction will accompany it. I’ve always been surprised how many places in Portland, even west of 82nd Ave., don’t have sidewalks. I’ve often felt that I sidewalk construction should be at least as important as bus expansion, particularly so in East Portland. Since every bus rider starts as a pedestrian, they should have a real place to walk. East Portland has always been screwed over in this respect. I live in inner Southeast, and I have seen them upgrade existing sidewalks. They look nice, and they give better ADA compliance, but they also represent funds diverted from places that don’t even sidewalks, let alone functional if outdated ones. I think Erik H. has good reason to be cynical, especially about how funding is doled out. I think his complaints have more than a little merit.

    • Chris I
      October 16, 2014 at 8:10 am Link

      You can’t compare neighborhoods east and west of 82nd. The majority of the neighborhoods west of 82nd were built as part of the city. The developers built sidewalks, and this cost was passed on to the home buyers. If you buy a home in a neighborhood with sidewalks, you are paying more to get sidewalks, and you are responsible for any repairs that are required.

      The neighborhoods east of 82nd were built on unincorporated land. These developers mostly did not build sidewalks, and thus the houses were cheaper to purchase originally, and are cheaper to buy now. The homeowners also don’t have to worry about spending money to repair these sidewalks. Now that these neighborhoods are part of the City of Portland, it wouldn’t be fair to build out the sidewalk network purely with taxpayer dollars, as those that live in neighborhoods with sidewalks have already paid for their sidewalk infrastructure in their home purchase price and ongoing maintenance costs.

      What PBOT is doing now is fairly equitable. They are upgrading existing sidewalks to be ADA compliant, and selecting certain higher usage or dangerous arterials in east Portland to get full sidewalks. This is fairly balanced tax expenditure by neighborhood.

      If neighborhoods in east Portland want full sidewalk build-outs, they should look at forming neighborhood LIDs (local improvement district). PBOT would chip in part of the funding, and the rest would be bonded and paid for by the residents of those neighborhoods. PBOT would fund the arterial sidewalk construction, and LIDs would cover the residential areas.

      • Chris Smith
        October 16, 2014 at 8:13 am Link

        For local service streets the LID approach is the default.

        But for collectors and arterials, the City probably has more responsibility, and especially for key transit access routes.

        • EngineerScotty
          October 16, 2014 at 9:01 am Link

          Of course, the obvious question (and one that I’ve asked many times before):

          Why are sidewalks generally the responsibility of the homeowner (and in many cities; homeowners are responsible to keep the sidewalks in front of their homes in good working order), but streets generally the responsibility of the city or county (including dead-end streets that only serve a particular neighborhood, and have no through-mobility function)?

          There’s a good reason that many homeowners, particularly in car-dominated areas, regard sidewalks as a nuisance rather than as an amenity–and thus often work diligently to avoid annexation into cities (which tend to be more eager to build them)?

          Perhaps street maintenance, excluding arterials and collectors, might be devolved to LIDs?

          (Or is “distributing the load” progressively seen as an important concern–if so, given the nature of the streets in many poor Portland neighborhoods, it’s not being distributed very well).

          • EngineerScotty
            October 16, 2014 at 9:03 am Link

            Many more recent subdivisions do take this tack–the owners in the development own the streets in common, and HOA assessments pay for their upkeep and repair.

          • bjcefola
            October 16, 2014 at 7:40 pm Link

            Scotty, I think in Portland there’d be arguments against that on equity grounds. Here’s an example of how that plays out with parks.

            • EngineerScotty
              October 16, 2014 at 11:07 pm Link

              Yes, wealthy people often don’t like subsidizing the poor. (Unfortunately, all too often, the reverse happens).

          • Jason McHuff
            October 17, 2014 at 12:31 am Link

            Maintenance is different, but at least capital-wise streets are the responsibility of the property owners.

            • EngineerScotty
              October 17, 2014 at 9:27 am Link

              But sidewalk MAINTENANCE is the responsibility of property owners. (And here in Beaverton, there are a few concrete contractors whose entire business seems to be patrolling Beaverton sidewalks, looking for uprooted slabs and other damage, reporting it to the City, and and then submitting unsolicited bids to homeowners when the City demands repairs).

              I’m not sure what the fair or equitable funding solution is, but if sidewalks are considered a valuable public amenity (and I think they should be!), perhaps they ought to be maintained publicly. Otherwise, you get the situation we have today, wherein homeowners without sidewalks often resist their installation.

  5. billb
    October 17, 2014 at 12:11 pm Link

    I find the whole notion that property owners are on the hook for things not-on-their-property. I am aware of a development in the west hills where a developer took bare ground [on a steep hill] and put in ten homes and a ‘street’ and sidewalks to serve them. He sold the homes and gave the H.O.A. the title to the infrastructure and went away. At some point the Fire Marshal came out and informed the homeowners that their ‘street’ was sub-standard, and that no fire truck [very heavy] would ever be allowed to come up it to put out any home fires. The City issued permits to build the whole place, but somehow did not notice the sub-standard roads.
    To me, if the City makes standards for public infrastructure [good news] then they should build it all and spread the cost to all of the good citizens of the City. Any rich folk that don’t want to pay are, of course, free to move to some libertarian compound in central america.

    • billb
      October 17, 2014 at 12:13 pm Link

      OOPS
      ‘I find the whole notion that property owners are on the hook for things not-on-their-property ABSURD.’

    • EngineerScotty
      October 17, 2014 at 1:32 pm Link

      Technically, homeowners in many places OWN the sidewalks in front of their home, but the public has an easement to walk on them, and the homeowner a duty to maintain them. In some places, property lines may extend into the street (and easements again permit public use, in perpetuity, of the street).

      Substandard housing from developers is a longstanding problem, I’ve heard many scary stories about builders not doing a proper job, with the result of people’s homes becoming unlivable–and many builders are very good at structuring their affairs so that there’s nothing to sue (and the required bond is seldom enough to cover claims in the multiple millions of dollars).

      Inadequate inspection is also a problem, of course.

      • Jason McHuff
        October 17, 2014 at 11:51 pm Link

        In some places, property lines may extend into the street (and easements again permit public use, in perpetuity, of the street)

        I’m not sure how far property lines go here but if a Portland street is vacated the adjoining property owners automatically get the land. (I’m guessing the idea is that the land was originally owned by the developer before being platted, and the rights of way were donated since they made the development possible.)

        • EngineerScotty
          October 18, 2014 at 10:20 am Link

          Yes, generally this means abandoning an easement, not adjustment of any lot lines.

          • Chris Smith
            October 18, 2014 at 11:22 am Link

            The technical term for this is a “vacation” of the right of way, more commonly called a “street vacation” (which generates no end of puns since it sounds like the street is going on a holiday).

            It’s not at all uncommon to do partial vacations. At an upcoming Planning and Sustainability Commission meeting we’ll be processing the vacation of 18 inches of depth along a blockface to assist TriMet in developing a parcel in the Clinton Triangle near the PMLR station.

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