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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Is the aerial tram all about OHSU parking?

With all the hubbub about the OHSU aerial tram [rim shot] this month, a new angle surfaced today that I hadn't heard about before. A reader writes in to suggest that OHSU is going to have employees park in the SoWhat district (also known as North Macadam, or "NM") and ride the tram up to their jobs on Marquam Hill:

Like my Starbuck's jockey said yesterday: "My intern wife will love the tram because she'll be able to park in NM along the river and ride the tram to work."

Isn't it strange that the second "OHSU" building to be built is a 3000-car parking garage right in our Greenway zone (plans underway)? And better yet, OHSU has asked for a variance to place something like 2500 surface parking spaces on its Schnitzer property. My, all this is great use of riverfront property. NM will become pill-hills parking lot which is contrary to the NM Agreement plans, and the subsequent planning we all worked on.

Another reader responds:
The way it has been pitched on the Hill is that it is an opportunity to grow without adding to the already existing parking problem. One of my intial criticisms is that while not addressing the parking problem on the Hill, the tram [rimshot] creates a new traffic problem down next to the river. OHSU seems to have always looked at this project as MORE PARKING.

Comments (32)

I guess those five thousand new jobs are for parking attendants.

Has anyone heard about Ken Ackerman's lawsuit against OHSU and the Medical Group? I guess he is challenging the tort limit law. This could be devastating for OHSU.

No...just some of them will be parking attendants.

This is the way an institution like OHSU can grow, without affecting it's immediate neighbors more adversely than they already have. It's an attempt to deal with the fact that they cannot, and should not, continue to expand the number of structures on Pill Hill. (Of course, they are just finishing up two new expansions _on_ the Hill.) Parking, and traffic impact upon the immediate neighborhoods, was one of the elements which drove an offsite expansion.

Take it from me, OHSU suffers from a distinct institutional edifice complex.

I understood this whole SoWhat project was leveraged with the promise that if the city didn't go along, OHSU would pursue its expansion plans at its west campus in Hillsboro. This they did by dangling x number of new jobs (usually temporary construction jobs that rubes think count as permanent jobs) and increases in property tax revenues for local governments.

But, wait, to enjoy all this, we'll have to give them tax abatements, allow them to skirt the height requirements, require us, the taxpayers, to cover the costs of public services extension, and swallow a more than 300% increase in the intial projected cost. This has got to be one of the most imaginative TIF schemes I've seen in some time. And, it certainly doesn't look as though it benefits the Portland taxpayer much at all.

Indeed, it looks like it's gonna cost more each minute that ticks by...

Those looking to find Fault with OHSU need only Google up USGS where they will learn the greatest threat to life in the NW is earthquake and see where Pill Hill sits atop a potential epicenter.

See, now that's actually the best reason I've heard yet for the existence of a dedicated pedestrian transport link bypassing surface traffic. Keeping hundreds of staff cars off the hill every day would not be a bad thing at all. (Which is not to say that the tram is a cost-effective solution, just that traffic and parking up there is a real problem.)

Maybe the city should plan for an OHSU underground station on the Sherwood MAX line. [ducks]

This whole sordid scam...rhymes with [fillin] *rimshot* gets more outlandish by the hour. It'll be interesting to see how the O plays this revelation. As well, anticipating they're not watching, why not forward your post to the local TV folks....see if someone will amplify this continuing sorry saga for the masses?

That's "damn tram *rimshot* scam" to you.

When I worked in the Lair Hill Neighborhood in the 1990's and first heard about the Aerial Tram concept I thought that was why they were building it.
Here is a link someone sent to me for a cam that takes regular pictures of the South Waterfront project.

We can call it the 'Scam Cam'!

During the Marquam Hill Plan and North Macadam Plan processes, there was lots of discussion about parking -- and how South Waterfront would NOT be a park-and-ride for OHSU. Remember there is only one exit point at each end of the South Waterfront district, so the potential to create even worse congestion on Naito Parkway and Macadam during rush hour was/is clearly a concern. The plans were supposed to include safeguards to ensure that parking in South Waterfront is limited.

A few months ago, SW Neighborhoods Inc. at the request of the Corbett-Terwilliger-Lair Hill Neighborhood Association wrote a letter to Mayor Potter questioning the tram again, and in his reply he said one of the values of the South Waterfront district is that it will have "ample parking". OHSU told the nurses union during bargaining in the most recent contract that our weekday on-hill parking problems would be resolved by South Waterfront and the tram.

Because of OHSU's desire for parking, and since the jobs/housing mix in South Waterfront has changed over the last four years, it seems likely there will be more amendments to the South Waterfront Plan to allow more parking -- and the world's most expensive Park-and-Ride.

If one of the primary goals of this project is to fix parking problems on the hill, one wonders if all those doctors, nurses, etc are going to want to wait seven or more minutes (the O's estimate for a round trip on the tram, if memory serves from last week's inPortland story) for a ride up the hill. They'll be driving out of their way down to the Waterfront, circling a parking garage and then will have to wait outside in the cold for this glorified ski lift. That'll add who knows how much time to their commute. How many of them are going to be willing to endure this hassle on a daily basis when they can drive straight up Terwilliger and park in one of the existing garages? Parking is tight up on Pill Hill but it isn’t that tight. At least not yet.

The tram project now sounds like a glorified Park and Ride and what doctor is going to be willing to contend with what is essentially mass transit? Even if it costs a fortune and looks neat soaring over Barbur Boulevard?

I spent a summer working at OHSU prior to college and was commuting in from nearby Multnomah Village. Even I was unwilling to endure the tedium of a bus ride and drove my car up Terwilliger for a meager $6.25 an hour. This cut 30 or more minutes from my commute each day.

If all those hours spent in front of Sim City taught me anything about urban planning, it's that commuters always prefer convenience and a quicker commute over the pitfalls of public transportation. Once it's built, will anyone besides tourists ride the tram?

I plan on riding the tram several times a day, just to get my money's worth.

And when my kids ask if we can go to the movies, I'm going to say,

"Sorry daddy had to pay several extra hundred dollars in city taxes this year, so Portland could build a tram. We can't afford the movies. But how about a ride on a cool Ski Lift up to a Hospital. Huh!! How much fun will that be?"

I expect we'lll take these fun field trips, during morning rush hour and afternoon commutes. We'll drink grape juice, eat snacks, change diapers, you know just to help with the Doctor's commute.

I shudder to think what the traffic on the west side of the Ross Island Bridge, and on the whole I-5 complex near the south end of the Marquam Bridge, is going to look like on weekday afternoons once SoWhat opens.

Welcome to Seattle.

Didn't part of the deal to appease the neighborhood include some sort of traffic abatement thingie? Of course it won't matter to me. Like JP, I'm just going to float above it all and gaze down on the masses from behind the glowing face of the Lars ad they stick to the side.

"Look out politicians...I'm watching you!"

If we were playing a game of SIM City, you'd never put the hospital and all its related facilities on pill hill. It's a horribly expensive place for that type of construction. Plus, the freeway access for emergency vehicles and parking sucks.

Pill hill with its million dollar views would be much better suited for residential/condo development, while SOWA would be an ideal location for the hospital. And guess what? You wouldn't need a tram [rim shot]. But we're fighting the issue of sunk costs, so we're constantly fighting the battle of incrementalism. We keep pouring good money after bad since no one in a position of leadership has been willing to stand up and say enough is enough.

Ah....finally....the magic words:
"no one in a position of leadership has been willing to stand up and say enough is enough."

Better: there is no leader, for "a position" or otherwise. Tommy Boy may be on Jack's top 10 list for '05, but neither he nor the other council dwarves can lead. They're all too busy "visioning."...and covering their butts absolving themselves from this growing mess.

Not a leader in the whole damn bunch.

Exactly - who puts a public hospital on an inaccessible hill?

The doctors are healthy. End this charade, give them stairs and they can walk.

I like JPs idea, except that it sounds like the typical Portland behavior we've come to expect in every other public setting (have you been to the airport lately?!). The cult of the yuppie child, with sixteen layers of Gore-Tex, five accessory bags, some fleece-nazi apparel, and two tons of plastic. But hey, if it's who we are, we might as well shove it in their face and punish them for putting the stupid hospital on a hill and making us pay for their toys.

A Disney Tram? No way. OHSU employees deserve a little luxury like some gilded Hummer limos and door to door service. 11,000 personalized Hummers and personal drivers would work. This would be fair reparation for the parking pain and suffering OHSU patients and employees have experienced all these years.

Better yet, there are two helipads up at OHSU. A few helicopters could take OHSU folks anywhere. I think OHSU is thinking too small with the tram. Go for the helicopters. Go for it.

Canfield, you don't understand. It's difficult to put your name on a shuttle service. It's got to be an edifice to satisfy the institutional planners. Even if they can't afford the medical equipment, nor the staff, to make it a functional edifice.

Al... Could I have you do the search and find a URL for us on the projected earthquake damage along the West Hills fault in the event of a 7+ earthquake? The bOregonian ran it a couple of years back. I couldn't find it online.

I heard once the land for the hospital was donated by a wealthy family. In the old days River front property wouldn't have been considered a healthy place for a hospital. I think this had something to do w/ most of the cities sewage being dumped in the river and home for most of Portlands rats. If you look at the nicest homes still existing in Portland you don't find many very close to the River, but in the hills. Hospitals seemed to have been built in higher areas maybe because they felt the air was cleaner. Probably OHSU is where it's at today because it seemed the best place for it to be built at the time.


It's on the hill because it was a gift. Actually, a series of gifts. Originally, the land was purchased, site unseen, for a railroad switching yard. Well, the RR owner found it a bit unsuitable for that, so they gifted it to the University of Oregon for their medical school, which prior to that was located in NW Portland. From there, the portion with the current hospital was gifted to UofO Medical School as a site for health care delivery and research. The deal was that Doernbecher would donate the money for a children's hospital, if someone would donate the land. This was done with the estate of Sam Jackson, former editor of the Oregon Journal and the Oregonian, and journalistic heir to Harvey Scott. Thus, Sam Jackson Park, whereupon sits OHSU hospital, the U.S. Veterans Hospital, Doernbecher Children's Hospital and Shriner's Children's Hospital. The old county hospital and the TB hospital are still there, but they have become ancillary buildings to the growing institution. This gift was given with the stipulation that it be dedicated to health care and community recreation, as per the wishes of the widow. Any violation of this stipulation reputedly reverts the property to the heirs of the family.

Curious, huh?

OHSU does not have a copy of the deed in its possession.

Curious, huh?

I fail to see what health care the proposed aerial tram *rimshot* intends to provide. And, OHSU has not touted it as a recreational implement, despite all the snide comments about "ski lifts".

Hey, legal beagles... Where does one go to obtain a copy of a property deed with its stipulations? Of a piece of state property?

The deeds are all recorded with the county, I think.

We could alleviate the traffic in Macadam by moving the beginning of the Tram to the East side of the Willamette.

How many units of manufactured homes could we construct on the land for local shipment rather than to Alaska, as before? We might even be able to call it, with a straight face, economic development, by reason of the export of units to Vancouver. Such manufacture could meet the genuine needs of affordable housing too, where the buyers are not demanded to pledge all their earnings and their children's inheritance too, just for meager shelter.

If Portland has the authority to give a gift to OHSU Medical Group it must also posses the authority to punish. Condemn the lower parking structure and charge extra for the doctors, not less. And, prohibit the doctors from driving up the hill so as to force them to take the tram, at a City-set rate. This would provide a tram-ride-revenue-stream that we could use to issue bonds to support schools.

I predict that the doctors won't use the tram. Everyone else will, but the docs will have dedicated parking spaces on both campuses, just as they do now on the hill. They'll have preferred spaces that are close to their offices and wider than the ones their patients have to use, just as it is now. Can you imagine a heart surgeon putting himself/herself at risk of riding public transportation with some of his/her patients? Ain't going to happen, I'm afraid.

On deeds:
My impression, from working on some land issues with state agencies, is that the agency itself should probably have a copy of the deeds. I worked on an issue recently with the State Fair Commission and found that the commission had copies of the important documents relating to the land on which the fair is located.

If OHSU says they don't have them and the county records office isn't helpful, you could always try the State Archives in Salem. I've found quite a lot of interesting material there over the years.

While you're there, reminisce over the cost overruns in that white elephant ...

Doug in SW,

I concur. Completely.

Well, maybe the "trendy" docs. And interns.

Did OHSU run out of land on Pill Hill?
No. They gave it away.
OHSU donated roughly 45 acres of forested land on Marquam Hill to the city to be used as parkland. It represents one of the largest park donations to Portland.

Not only was the original land 'given" to tthe city, much of the current SOWHAT area was "given" to the City of Portland from the Schnitzer family. Thereby saving them thousands upon thousands of dollars of clean-up fees. Which now, as I believe, gets lumped into the Superfund Cleanup area, and thereby passed onto the tax burden of Joe Avererage Portland. Thanks!

. Yeah, right.

Let's get serious here...physicians won't ride the tram. It's going to be used by the nurses, staff, rceptionists, aides and other employees (schmucks?) at OHSU going to an fro during the work day. The docs will be driving in their vehicles, parking in the desired close in parking slots, just as they do now.

Currently, OHSU relies heavily on Trimet with dedicated express buses for commuting employees, as well as coordinating bus service from downtown to OHSU. In 12 years of taking the bus, I have never sat next to a physician on the good ol' Trimet system.

Personally, I like the helicopter idea...It makes about as much sense as the tram.

Steve - They ran out because the neighborhoods abutting the campus didn't want any more growth. Believe me, given the potential earthquake damage, we don't want any more development on the hill.

Lily - The land was not given to the city, but to the University of Oregon Medical School, the legal predecessor of OHSU. It is nominally owned by the State of Oregon, within the stipulations transferred with the deed. The medical school was on Marquam Hill before the 1924 gift of the Jacksons of the Sam Jackson Park land. There was a stipulation that it was to be used for health care or recreation...ergo, if it couldn't be built on, it would become park. That is as it should be; as the giftor would have wished.

In deed, indeed?

Regarding the conditions of the conveyence of the land on which OHSU perches, the deed may not contain all of the details, if any at all, but could reference another document (e.g., an "Agreement") that is not officially recorded with the county or state.

In any event, basic sound research would include investigating the details and records of the Estate of Sam Jackson, if his estate was ever probated.

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