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Saturday, March 12, 2005

Celebrate good times, come on!

Whoopee, they just opened the extension of the Portland streetcar, down to RiverPlace. Hop on and head down to see the empty apartments and storefronts.

Some exciting facts:

1. It took $16 million to lay a half mile of track. That's $32 million a mile.

2. When it was 2.5 miles long, the streetcar was costing Portland taxpayers $900,000 in general fund revenues every year to operate. That's $360,000 per mile, per year. With the extension, I'm assuming that amount will rise to about $1.2 million a year.

3. There's lots more to come, as we pay to extend this monstrosity to Tramland.

4. Randy Gragg, William Hurt and Nicolas Cage's mother think it's swell.

5. You can get there faster on foot.

6. The police stations in Portland are closed at night and on weekends. There's no money to keep them open around the clock.

7. There's a huge backlog of transportation projects in Portland neighborhoods for lack of funding.

8. Wait 'til you see the bill for the aerial tram.

Comments (22)

Every street in Portland ought to have lines in them so you can GET OUT OF YOUR CAR AND STOP WASTING GAS and HURTING THE ENVIRONMENT. Down town Portland ought to be like London with no vehicles allowed at all. Tom potter has got it right a Recumbent and an Echo,
There were only so many dinosaurs.

Actually Potter had nothing to do with the Streetcar, Katz/Bleumenaur put that in place.

I too like the Streetcar, though I question whether it is worth all the money we are spending. I'm not sure the Streetcar should be a higher priority than police.

Also, a Streetcar runs on energy just as much as a car does. And where do you think that energy comes from?

Lastly, Portland isn't London. And if you try to run Portland like London you'll kill the city.

Although it is too costly, I like the streetcar for a variety of reasons. It bugs that they won't crack down on fares. I've never seen a fare inspector on board, and I'm sure most people don't pay (outside Fareless Square, of course). They could at least put some effort into making the thing self-supporting, especially when you realize it's free from anywhere downtown to Glisan Street. For the record, I own a monthly Tri-Met pass, so I'm not a free rider.
Good things:
1) Generally cleaner/saner crowd than buses or MAX.
2) It's only faster by foot if you're going 5-10 blocks. Why the able-bodied ride it from the library to Powell's is beyond me. Beyond that, it's a great way to get from downtown to core NW Portland.
3) Tourists and hotel-dwellers love it. And they pay their fares more often than locals do. Every town worth its salt needs a good system for moving tourists around. Examples: NYC, DC, SF (and its suburbs), and even LA is starting to figure this out.
4) Big gripe: I don't want to see your bike or your dog on the streetcar. Sorry. I know there's room for bikes, I just think it's silly. Due to crowding, people usually need to stand in that space. Buses have bike racks -- if you want public transportation to carry your bike, take a bus. I don't think that's too extreme a request.


Couple of points:
1) Streetcar is free = no fare. So do you really ride this thing if you don't know that?
2) Even if you pay for fares it only covers about 1/3 the actual price of the ride, so there is not a lot of motivation to collect fares since subsidies will make up the diff.

The streetcar is sweet. When did any city project cost only $1 million per year to operate? That's only a few more police per year, so it's not fair to say that those police stations that close at night would be open if it wasn't for the streetcar. True, people could walk, but they don't. All those people who ride the streetcar from Powell's to the library would drive otherwise. It's difficult to quantify all the benefits like the tourism impact, but there're no question, is there, that it is a benefit? I'm also a fan of the streetcar because it invokes that nostalgia of the old Portland streetcar lines. I'd like to see the Max and streetcar extend in all directions - to the eastside and down to Multnomah village like it did 100 years ago.

And if streetcar is free, then why does the robot voice announce when you're leaving fareless square?

Yeah, the streetcar isn't free.

You are partialy correct and I should have been more specific - the streetcar is free south of NW Hoyt or so.

But you are also correct in that it is not really free since all of us that pay Tri-Met tax subsidize most of it - whether we ride it or not.

Phil Stanford called it "A desire named Streetcar"

After getting to tramland, that devilish streetcar will continue its march of folly, through the condos and faux shopping areas of Macadam. And then, the ultimate insult, ON TO LAKE OSWEGO! More rich people benefitting from the tax dollars of the downtrodden masses east of the river.

Will the insults to our city's body politic never end ...

> 5. You can get there faster on foot.

This cracks me up, because it's true. I like the idea of a streetcar, but when it runs at 15+ minute intervals you really can get there faster on foot!

Since another poster mentioned London, I'll say that the Underground has the quality of an elevator: if you miss one, no big deal, just get the next one (assuming you're not late or something). With the streetcar, if you miss it, walk. There's no point waiting.

As if one needed *another* reason to avoid living in Portland / Multnomah County / the Tri-Met taxing district. Keep funding the delighful boondoggles and resisting a sales tax, o dwellers of the Rose City. We Marion County residents are depending on you to continue to enhance the quality our visits to Portland, at little direct cost to us. Now toil away and keep paying those taxes!

Sure its expensive and slow, but its also great PR for the city and downtown business. Its an attraction for suburb dwellers and tourists. What suburban kid (or grown-up) doesn't get a kick out of riding on the streetcar? More people downtown equals more money spent at local shops.

Front page of today's O shows that the OHSU tram will cost 6 million more than estimated (now up to 34 million) and open six months later than estimated. Gee, there's a surprise.

But Dave (and Jack), if you actually READ the article, you see that the new monies will be paid entirely by OHSU, and that, I quote:

"the tram project takes no money from the city's general fund or from any city services. "It never has and it never will," [Brown] said."

So it's OHSU's money. What the hell are you pissed about? Or are you just someone who thought OHSU should have been able to anticipate the rising cost of steel and a falling dollar?

You and Jack are nothing but professional complainers.

I read that part also, but isn't OHSU a public institution? Ultimately it's taxpayer dollars, no matter how they color it.

Hey -- no offense Jack, but you can't have it both ways! If you want government to intrude as often as you do when you think there's something "good" to be done (I dunno -- let's say, reducing global warming, or homelessness, or poverty, or . . . ), you can't really complain when reality rears its ugly head and actual POLITICS comes in to play. You can't separate the specific policies from the framework that grants the government the power to accomplish them. In other words, if you give the government the power to accomplish A, you have likely also given it the power to accomplish B. And you may not like B. This is why it cracks me up so much to hear all the lefties bitch about Bush, the Evil One. He wouldn't be so evil -- or at least not so *effectively* evil -- if the lefties hadn't done so damn much legwork in conferring so damn much power on the federal government. So you don't like the streetcar? Run for dictator. It's the only way to get what you want without also getting what you don't want. For the rest of us (well, for me and the few sensible ones like me), we'll just take strong curbs on government power across the board, thank you very much. That way, I don't get what I want, but at least I don't get what I don't want, either.

Dave --

OHSU receives very little money from the state -- only about 4% of its total budget. All that money is dedicated for medical care uses and to subsidize tuition. Just because some public money goes into a big pot does not mean everything in that pot is now subject to public review.

So, no, in fact, you're still wrong. And still a professional complainer.

Actually Jimmy, I am an amateur complainer. I receive no compensation whatsoever for complaining.

Quite amateur. As in, you have no grasp of facts. Thank god no one pays you.

Central Portland is a rare jewel, a city of size that actually has a livable, vibrant core. The streetcar and light rail are an integral part of that. Visit Seattle in the evenings for an unpleasant contrast if you like. Or LA, or Phoenix, or Vegas or virtually any Western city other than SF.

Operating costs to extend the streetcar system will not grow directly in proportion to the new additions. A sizable amount of existing fixed overhead will in fact be allocated over more miles of rail, thus lowering the overhead cost per mile.

Capital costs, the rail beds and such, really should be amortized over at least 30-50 years. So while the up front costs are large, they are effectively one time costs which will benefit the system for many, many years.

Walking is often a good alternative to the streetcar, but it is not an alternative for many elderly and less than able bodied folk. And what about the rain? Remember when it rained here? It could happen again.

And the streetcar/light rail system will make increasing converts as oil prices, now at nearly $55/barrel, reach near term predicted levels of $75-100/barrel. That mass transport can move people with more efficient use of energy than cars is indisputable. In the near future, effective and widely available mass transit will become a requirement for any urban area to thrive economically and spiritually. To say nothing of the environmental implications. Portland is attempting to position itself for this coming reality. This means good jobs, a quality life style, an human city.

As for the "empty apartments and storefronts" at Riverplace, the very same could have been said of the Pearl when the street car first laid tracks there.

Methinks there surely must be actually egregious issues to discuss.....

A sizable amount of existing fixed overhead will in fact be allocated over more miles of rail, thus lowering the overhead cost per mile.

That's the funniest thing I've read all day.

In self defense, I just want to point out that if a command of the facts is a prerequisite for engaging in debate, we would have to shut down the U.S. Senate, the House of Representatives, all state legislatures and all local elected commissions.


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Celebrate good times, come on!:

» Racing the Street Car from Noah's Weblog
Late last week Jack Bog posted about the Portland Streetcar extension to RiverPlace. Jack isn't a big fan of the Portland Streetcar and one of his often repeated criticisims is "You can get there faster on foot." I never have... [Read More]


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