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Monday, April 12, 2004

A Streetcar Named Your Wallet

Here's Portland City Hall Bonehead Idea No. 10,462 of the new millennium. Portland Mayor Vera Katz has unveiled her new budget, which has got to be one of the most depressing public documents to be aired in quite a while. According to the Trib, it includes "making a series of changes to parking fees -- such as raising meter rates and extending meter hours at night and to Sundays -- which would finance $4.5 million in transportation improvements over the next few years."

And we all know what those "transportation improvements" are, now, don't we?

Translation: We get to pay to park on Sunday on MLK Blvd. to pay for the streetcar to RiverPlace, and then the almighty aerial tram to OHSU.

This is the same mayor who once proposed toll booths on the Willamette River bridges. She's done everything she can to stigmatize driving an auto to work, to church, to shop, or to go to a show. Of course, she doesn't drive. A police chauffeur has apparently handled all her transportation needs for more than a decade.

Comments (18)

It almost makes me yearn for those recall campaigns. Hey I voted for the 19-year-old last time. Bojack, did you?

And it is about time to take Sam Adams to task for his complicity in this administration. I was not surprised at the Big O's endorsement Jim "Big Bucks" Francesconi, but today's endorsement of Sam Adams was disheartening. At the next candidate forum/press conference/debate somebody, please somebody, ask Mr. Admams to detail his involvement in the negotiations surrounding both the Rose Garden and PGE Park. I just do not believe him when he claims to be against all those Katz-led initiatives.

Does any city of any size make motorists pay for parking on Sundays? I'm sure this will keep some people from shopping downtown on Sundays. I don't own a car anymore, but I think this sucks!

I'm sure it won't be just downtown. You'll pay to park on Sunday anywhere there's a meter, including the Lloyd District, around the Convention Center, and coming soon to NE Broadway and Weidler.

The city of Vancouver, BC, makes motorists pay for parking until 8 PM everyday, even on major holidays! But people actually live and work in the city so it’s not a big deal. The gas price in Canada is much higher too (even now) so people actually have the incentive to use the mass transit system.

My personal experience (as a six-year-bus-rider) tells me that Tri-Met needs to overcome many obstacles before it can be a serious alternative to the average commuters. It is slow and the routes are not logically designed to meet the demands. I mean, why put in an expensive street car if it is just as vulnerable to traffic and much less flexible than the bus? To be fair, American cities are not designed for walking or mass transit systems (maybe with the exception of subway systems). We might consider these options if the gas price goes up to $5 per gallon, like it is now in Europe.

The sad part is that Vera doesn't have a driver's license. I remember commuting on my bicycle through downtown and crossing paths with Bud Clark on several occassions (after he retired).

Give Vera a bicycle, she could use the exercise.

I've always considered the streetcar as simply another form of transportation. As the city becomes more condensed, it will become more and more difficult to drive. The streetcar offers another alternative. Why should the city make its residents dependant on the automobile?

Furthermore, I am not sure where people got this notion that driving is a right. Driving is a privilege and should be treated as such.

That being said, this idea of extending meter rates to Sundays and Holidays is not a good one. The downtown business community does not need another deterrent to its customers; it just needs more customers.

I've always considered the streetcar as simply another form of transportation. As the city becomes more condensed, it will become more and more difficult to drive. The streetcar offers another alternative. Why should the city make its residents dependant on the automobile?

Furthermore, I am not sure where people got this notion that driving is a right. Driving is a privilege and should be treated as such.

That being said, this idea of extending meter rates to Sundays and Holidays is not a good one. The downtown business community does not need another deterrent to its customers; it just needs more customers.

I can see why other cities sprawl. Here we have cheap, safe, comprehensive public transportation within at least a 6-mile radius from downtown. Our local government takes unpopular steps to promote more public transportation, including partnering with land developers. However, even pragmatists like JB are apparently unwilling to recognize the overall benefit of reducing our reliance on cars and promoting infill. Tell me, the $4.5 million price is evaluated on its face, but how would you value all the external long-term benefits (and detriments) of public transportation development? I understand how unpalatable the city-developer union is, but is this not a necessary evil? Living in Portland, you see the conflicts inherent in progressive transportation development. Luckily, we come out on the side of light rail and trams, not highways and unfettered sprawl. Also, I still believe that hot chicks from all over America and Canada will flock to the tram, which is reason enough not to bitch to hard about it. As commissioner Leonard has said many times, unless we want a completely metrosexual community, we’ve got to focus on attracting cute ladies to our town. Just wait and see – trams are part of the solution.

You're right, Justin, driving will be a privilege for the elite while the rest of us (i.e. "the masses"or "the unwashed") will get the prvilege of riding together in buses, streetcars, lightrail and trams to our low-wage service jobs.

They (Vera and other government mass transportation advocates) still need us to wash their dishes, bus their tables and ask if they want to supersize it...they just don't want us cluttering up their highways while they zip around town making policy decisions for "our own good."

I'm surprised Vera didn't just go all out for the "London" scenario where they charge you $10/day just to drive into downtown (parking extra).

Just my 2 cents, though only partly related. I don't know the circumstances regarding the building of the Max because I haven't lived here very long. They should have shelled out the extra $ to build it underground because getting around on that thing sucks. It is sooooo slow.

When I was a kid in Portland, first venturing downtown on my own (circa 1964) we had an excellent bus system. It was the Rose City Transit company. It was a private enterprise. It had sensible routes (north-south, east-west grids) instead of the "wagon wheel" that tri met uses. By providing good service and advertising that outfit made money. Of course, they were probably short on six figure income managers and their rank and file was not going to retire on a PERS type pension....

I agree with Steve...the Max and streetcar would be far more valuable if they had elevated or subterranean it is, they're so slow that they're hardly better than walking. Or perhaps, the roads they're on could be closed to auto traffic downtown. The max is useful to get downtown, or from downtown, but if you need to go through downtown, it's horrible. The streetcar has never caught up with me as I walked its route, so I've never ridden it. How about more and dedicated/covered bike paths also...that can be very cheap. I'm all for public transportation, but let's make it useful. And about the parking meters, my impression by the timing is that they're currently not trying to discourage extending hours, including sundays and holidays, they will, which will cut into business profits, success, well-being, and the city's tax receipts.

When I have been downtown on nights and weekends, there seem to be tons of people around. That is not the case in many other American cities. Downtown is very lively on a weekend. Parking with no meter fee is difficult. I usually take Public Transit if possible. I don’t see how charging for parking is going to cause a serious hurt to downtown business, particularly if they manage to actually fill all those condos going up in the pearl. The only people concerned about parking downtown are suburbanites addicted to car culture. No one that shops downtown on a regular basis is going to stop because they start charging for parking on nights and Sundays.

Burying the max would have vastly escalated the cost, though it might have made sense downtown. But then there are the historical floods of downtown. Is the flood problem solved or would you be faced with cleaning river sediment out of a tunnel?

The streetcar is a bad idea because it does only service a small area, runs slow, and does not integrate into the tri-met system. You have to pay twice if you want to ride the streetcar and tri-met. The money spent on the streetcar could have been used to improving the existing transit system.

Tri-met could vastly improve by running more busses along existing routes. If every route ran at 10 minute intervals (yes, this is a pipe dream), taking public transit would be much more practical. Right now to take public transit, you have to either be too poor to afford anything else or believe in public transit systems.

timNE: yo dog, trimet transfers work for the streetcar. stop paying the man twice.

Being from a city that sprawls where public transportation is a joke and the situation is only now being regarded as a problem, I have to say I appreciate all of the options here and the fact that there are actually bike lanes. You're risking your life riding your bike on the street in my town. I don't mind riding the bus downtown, although I admit I live right off Barbur so it's a straight shot for me and never takes very long. And this summer I plan to commute on my bike, something I never would have considered in the good ol' midwest.

Be careful when you ride your bike downtown, J. There are no bike paths and it's illegal to ride on the sidewalk. Motorists seem to pay no attention to bicyclists and some are even overtly hostile. I can't believe that a city with such an active downtown makes it so difficult (and dangerous) to ride a bicycle in downtown.

Well, Lily, maybe if bicyclists obeyed the road rules and behaved like cars when not in bike lanes, it wouldn't be quite so dangerous--even for the cars. My husband and I commute to downtown by car and we are frequently cut off by bicyclists, see them running lights and making turns and lane changes without using hand signals, have them come up beside us on the right when we're making a right turn and thus delaying our turn. As a pedestrian downtown I frequently have to step out of the path of a bicyclist riding on the sidewalk, or one riding in the cross walk instead of waiting for the car traffic to go.

Well, Kris, I happen to be one of the bicyclists who obey all of the rules because I'm scared sh*tless of being hit by a car. Both times I have nearly been hit lately have been because the drivers of the cars were so busy talking on their cell phones that they couldn't pay attention to the road. Luckily, I was paying attention and managed (just barely) to get out of the way, even though I was legally in the right.

I have never seen ANYONE riding on the sidewalk downtown since the city made it illegal to ride on the sidewalk. By the way, Kris, do you and your husband own cell phones??


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference A Streetcar Named Your Wallet:

» The Laquedem Portable Meter Plan from Isaac Laquedem
Jack Bog roundly scolds the Mayor for proposing to raise money for transportation by raising parking meter rates and extending meter hours. But from his wrath I draw inspiration, unfed by a no-bid contract from the City. The current parking [Read More]


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