This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on March 23, 2006 7:41 AM. The previous post in this blog was Terry and the Toe. The next post in this blog is Back in the CoP. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

E-mail, Feeds, 'n' Stuff

Thursday, March 23, 2006

From our pen pals

Two little birds up on Pill Hill send along the latest e-mail message from the chief administrator of OHSU to all his employees concerning the $55 million aerial tram (pictured above) [rim shot]:

To the OHSU community:

This continues to be an important time for the Portland Aerial Tram, so I would like to take a few minutes to update you on recent developments.

The Portland Development Commission presented a plan last week to the City Council designed to resolve the funding question for the tram.

The plan calls for each of the project partners - OHSU, the city and North Macadam Investors - to participate in the solution. OHSU is supportive of this plan, which was negotiated by the PDC at Mayor Tom Potter's request. Here is a link to PDC's City Council presentation:
http://www.pdc.us/newsroom/breaking-news.asp (then click on "Presentation").

You should know that we are doing all we can to ensure that any further contributions by OHSU do not impact our current cash or long-term financial position. No money will be taken away from other OHSU needs to fund our latest proposed contribution. The proposed additional OHSU contribution will consist mainly of a cancellation of PDC's financial obligation to OHSU for securing federal funding for the South Waterfront district at our expense. Also, we have offered to continue to pay the city's usual interest rate on our local improvement district debt, as we have budgeted all along, which is slightly higher than the rate we might have otherwise paid. The interest differential will help close the tram funding gap.

The City Council will review the PDC proposal and make a decision in the next few weeks. Here's a link to a recent editorial on the proposal:

Also last week, City Commissioner Sam Adams and Mayor Tom Potter held a town hall discussion of the tram project. About 200 people attended, representing a wide assortment of people who support or oppose the tram. City staff presented informative recaps of the history of the project and its current status. Audience questions ranged from wondering about the cost and operating hours of the tram, how far along the project is, whether it should be mothballed until financing questions are answered, how many jobs it has created, and its long-term benefits/challenges.

The Portland Department of Transportation has created a Web site with up-to-date information and photos of tram construction. Here's the link:

Or you can check out our OHSU update site: http://www.ohsu.edu/tramupdate/
You'll also find on that site links to our tram Q&A and a recent letter that OHSU President Peter Kohler sent to more than 1,000 Portland-area business owners.

Steve Stadum
Chief Administrative Officer

O.k., I'll take the bait. Here's Dr. Kohler's pitch to the local businesses whose property taxes he's sucking up:

March 14, 2006

Dear Colleague,

I am writing to you today because Portland's aerial tram faces a crucial turning point in the days ahead. Some city commissioners have been suggesting that the city walk away from its obligations on this project, endangering the city's ability to develop the jobs, private investment and public services Portland needs in the future.

I would like to share a little history with you before I outline the challenges we now face.

As the city's largest employer, Oregon Health & Science University has almost outgrown its home on Marquam Hill. We need space to expand either in Portland or on our own West Campus in Hillsboro.

Recognizing this, the city encouraged OHSU to invest in the South Waterfront district because it would keep thousands of new family-wage jobs OHSU will create in the decades ahead within Portland's central city, which has seen its employment base erode. OHSU's presence also would spur additional economic activity and investment in this underused riverside district.

The key for OHSU to buy land and invest in South Waterfront was the development of a fast, reliable transportation connection between that new area and our existing Marquam Hill facilities. After studying a variety of options, the aerial tram emerged as the best way to link our Marquam Hill campus with new research, clinical and campus facilities at South Waterfront. The tram will provide efficient connections between our faculty, researchers, clinical and support staff and students. (It has the capacity to move 980 people an hour in each direction, with trips that take three minutes at five-minute intervals.)

For Portlanders, the tram has spurred $2 billion of current and future investment in South Waterfront, providing jobs and long-term economic vitality. It also is helping to bring a variety of new, needed neighborhood transportation links.

The city council approved the tram after dozens of hearings and a long public process. OHSU offered to act as the manager of this challenging undertaking, turning the tram over for city ownership when construction was complete. The city, instead, chose to manage the construction itself. That means that although OHSU is paying most of the cost of building the tram, we have not been in charge of managing the construction contracts, schedules, material acquisitions or other expenses.

The process used by the city has failed to identify and control costs. The pricetag for the tram has skyrocketed -- and no one is more frustrated by those increases than OHSU, because we have a history of bringing complex construction projects in on time and on budget. The estimates rose over time from $15.5 million to $40 million because of the tram's design (chosen by the city and not by OHSU), big steel price increases, the dollar's weakened ability to buy foreign-made tram equipment, the construction inflation caused by Hurricane Katrina and a flawed city contracting process.

There are two key facts many people don't know:

* While the public's share of the tram costs has increased only from $2 million to $3.5 million, OHSU's costs have risen from $9 million to $30 million. That has been frustrating to us, because OHSU brings projects in on time and on budget.

* Not a dime of the tramÔŅĹs cost is coming from the city's General Fund -- that means not a dime from schools, police, fire or other public services. We have found that some members of the public do not understand how the tram is financed.

In June 2005, when the city informed us that the project estimate had reached $40 million, OHSU stepped up and paid for the additional costs, even though management of the project wasn't under our control. In return, the city agreed that finishing the tram was its obligation, that it would be responsible for costs over $40 million and that the project would be finished by July 2006.

Now, yet again, the project is over budget. Completion has been set back to December. This is inexcusable. Yet some city commissioners - again - want OHSU to pay for the city's process mistakes.

A different solution is needed. At Mayor Tom Potter's request, OHSU has been negotiating with the Portland Development Commission to find ways to address the gap. There are clear and obvious alternatives that won't impact taxpayers' pocketbooks.

A logical solution is to employ the funding process that other cities in Oregon and across the country use to pay for urban renewal projects. The city should use revenues generated by the development of this district that would not be available except for that development and which, by law, cannot be used outside of the district. This long-term funding does not take city General Fund money away from schools, police, fire or other public services.

Rather than exploring this or other reasonable alternatives, some city commissioners are talking about walking away from the city's contractual obligations. They are endangering investments the city already has made in South Waterfront and jeopardizing the city's future ability to join in public-private partnerships.

The tram already is 45 percent complete and is delivering on its promise. Many Portlanders are proud of the new neighborhood that is rising before their eyes, with its focus on green, sustainable buildings, an exciting mix of residential and business uses and a new campus for OHSU, Oregon's leading research university and only academic health and science center.

We hope you agree with us that the city council should live up to its obligations. The council should fund its fair share of the tram using the taxes generated by the tram and its accompanying development, or some other appropriate option. The city council must rebuild this partnership that is crucial to bringing jobs and economic opportunities to Portland's future.


Peter Kohler
President, Oregon Health & Science University
3181 SW Sam Jackson Park Rd.
Portland, OR 97239

I love the "not a dime from the General Fund" bit (caps and all). It's only "urban renewal" money, folks. You know, that line of your property tax bill that constitutes around 20 percent of the taxes that you pay to the city. That's not real money, so what's the fuss?

I've got to admire Dr. Kohler for his restraint. He's laying it on thick, but at least he left out this:

I'm just like you, colleague. I know you're struggling to make your firm successful in an unfavorable business climate. I was almost the chair of a privately owned public utility myself at one point. In fact, I think about you often as I cash my $600,000 annual paycheck and return home to the mansion in which I live at public expense -- a mansion that's owned by OHSU, which of course pays no property taxes. I'm doing it all for you.

Comments (43)

It's now 980 people an hour in either direction.


It's accumulated 80 passengers an hour since the public meeting.

I'm still trying to figure out why they say they can only move 140 people an hour in either direction. That seems way low. They're probably counting their half-fast campus shuttle, that runs once or twice an hour.

So... Dr. Kohler lives in a manse owned by the public corporation he works for? No wonder he has no concept of "property taxes". He doesn't pay any.

Doesn't even have a mortgage payment. Hasn't for 18 years now.

I heard from a doc on the hill last week that the new rental rates are so expensive that the clinic in which he works will not be moving into the new offices down by the river!
I wonder how many other clinics at OHSU are being priced out of the new offices at SoWa?

I would figure that OHSU would decide which clinics would go where.

I was under the impression that the showcase at the new OHSU SoWhat facility was to be the Women's Health Clinic. It's a hot field in medicine these days.

As I hear, there IS a strategy in place for the new SoWhat medical building, but only clinics who can afford the rents can move there. Also, it's called the Center For Health And Healing, and will include many wellness programs, a gym, fintess center, healhy cooking classes and so on. Clinics are:

Ambulatory Surgery
Cardiology and Cardiac Testing
Cosmetic Surgery
Dermatologic Surgery
Digestive Health
Family Medicine
General Internal Medicine
General Surgery
Neurology and Neuro Testing
Neurological Surgery
Oncology (Cancer)
Ophthalmology (Eye)
Pain Management
Rehabilitation Services
Plastic Surgery

It's all on the ohsu.edu website under "transformations" open to the viewing public.

To move 980 people per hour with intervals of 5 minutes per trip (12 trips per hour) means they are moving 82 people per trip!

That must be the biggest flying bus ever built!

These bureaucrats must really think the public is stupid or just products of the Portland Public Schools.

Gee, y'all are all kranked up over a measley $30,000,000 tram? Rummy spends that much money in Iraq, every day, before the 10am smoke break.

Priorities people, priorities.

We must keep our oil lines open as we tie up for another fix.

How much gas does the tram use?


FYI, that "urban renewal" line on everyone's property tax bills doesn't go to South Waterfront. It goes to the City's four "Option 3" urban renewal areas: Convention Center, Downtown Waterfront, South Park Blocks, and Airport Way.

Just an observation...

Kohler seems to realize the only way he can retain credibility is to blame the City for the budget woes, turning his back on the guys who he presumably courted for the project. By targeting area business owners, he is of course going for an easy 'amen', as they certainly have their beefs with Sten, Leonard, etc. But honestly, I think their only misstep was being fooled into the original budget target, which seemed (even at the time) to be grossly understated. So the budget is running over? NO SH*T.

Kohler states he always gets projects done on time and on budget. But I'm willing to bet OHSU would have strived for a more realistic number to begin with, if they had taken this on entirely by themselves.

Just seems transparent to me. The tram may turn out OK when it's all said and done, but this mess is due in large part to OHSU and their 'salesmanship'.

Before attacking the credibility of Kohler's missive everyone should be aware that, in all likelihood, he didn't actually write it. This is exactly the kind of thing that OHSU shells out the big bucks to Gard and Gerber to perform.

If an enterprising person were to do a public records request at OHSU for "all communications (handwritten, printed and/or electronic) between OHSU personnel and employees, agents, or affiliates, of Gard and Gerber, Inc. pertaining to the deliberation, construction, and financing, of the Portland aerial tram project" ...you will see a fascinating case study of how a quasi-governmental entity like OHSU uses its ambiguous status in Oregon statute to make use of influence flaks like G & G. A public agency, making use of sophisticated private PR agencies, to influence the public policy and opinions that govern their operations. If that isn't the tail wagging the dog, then Iím George Washington.

This entire scenario is very similar to what got Oregon's other behemoth quasi-governmental agency, SAIF, into the soup a few years back. Their "part of state government, but separate and apart from state government" breed an astonishing arrogance that lead to gross financial mismanagement, internal chaos, and ultimately an opportunistic competitor attempting to leverage public opinion in an unsuccessful ballot measure to eliminate their public status. And guess who lead that parade right up to its logical, fractious, cynicism inducing conclusion: Gard and Gerber and Goldschmidt.

The linkages are too many and too obvious to ignore. SAIF, OHSU, Gard and Gerber, Goldschmidt, Port of Portland, PGE, and the list goes on and on. A continuing assault of spun-up direct mail pieces, op-ed columns, Dear Colleague letters, and the other accoutrements of public opinion making from none other than our own public institutions.

There ought to be a law friends. And that law should be simple and direct: no public agency, quasi-public agency, or publicly funded body shall engage the services of a public relations, public affairs, or general public advertising agency without specific authorization provided for in statute.

If we can't stop our own government from crafting and delivering "targeted messages" at us, the people ultimately responsible for keeping them in check, then we deserve what we get. Sorry for the long rant. Gotta run, got a tram to catch.

b!X writes:
FYI, that "urban renewal" line on everyone's property tax bills doesn't go to South Waterfront. It goes to the City's four "Option 3" urban renewal areas: Convention Center, Downtown Waterfront, South Park Blocks, and Airport Way.

Isn't Convention Center the URA that is "loaning" funds to SoWa?

I love this line:

"For Portlanders, the tram has spurred $2 billion of current and future investment in South Waterfront, providing jobs and long-term economic vitality..."

HAHAHAHAHA!!! What a knee-slapper. He pulled that beauty right out of the CoP and PDC's playbook. It's the old" if you tell a lie long enough, it becomes the truth" bit.

MJ sez: To move 980 people per hour with intervals of 5 minutes per trip (12 trips per hour) means they are moving 82 people per trip!

That must be the biggest flying bus ever built!

To be fair, they claim it's a 200 second ride. That's just over 3 minutes. Then add in the offloading and onloading times...All get off and all get on. Say a 60 second load and a 30 second offload...that's four and a half minutes. Maybe those load/offload times could be shaved for more trips per hour.

The question is: How many passengers is each tram car designed to carry?

Keep in mind, there are to be no seats. A Tri-Met bus accomodates about 45 seated passengers. You just might be able to squeeze 80 passengers into one if you took the seats out.

Still, I think that claiming 980 passengers per hour in one direction seems like they have to be stacking them like cordwood in each car. You gotta allow a little extra time for that.

Then, add in wheelchairs, bicycles and equipment carts...they did consider those, didn't they?

Are we talking the Lead Zepplin here? (As I remember, they will be metallic exteriors in the shape of a...jelly bean [crafted by hand]. A very large jelly bean.) Like a blimp (very low) in the sky.

I still think Target, Inc., should be seriously enquiring about advertising space on the exterior of the tram cars.

As I remember, they will be metallic exteriors in the shape of a...jelly bean [crafted by hand]. A very large jelly bean.

Wait, I thought the Trib said that the cars were "hand-shaped" ...

Keep in mind, there are to be no seats. A Tri-Met bus accomodates about 45 seated passengers. You just might be able to squeeze 80 passengers into one if you took the seats out.

But seriously, are there that many people travelling to OHSU? I bet its like the MAX (which I use every day to get to & from work downtown), one or two full cars during rushour, and the rest are pretty much empty.

Kohler's most egregious falsehood is of course this,


"""* Not a dime of the Tramís cost is coming from the Cityís General Fund Ė that means not a dime from schools, police, fire or other public services. We have found that some members of the public do not understand how the tram is financed.""""


Which has and is being repeated by Bruce Warner at the PDC and every elected official.

Elect Dave Listed and finally one will stand up and tell the obvious truth.

1) Portland now has 12,000 acres inside Urban Renewal districts.

2) $7.8 Billion in assessed property in within those districts.

3) Over $4 billion of it is now in the UR increment with all of it's $64 million a year property taxes being divereted away from general fund basic services and into the UR development and debt.

4) Less than half, only $3.8 Billion in assessed property value remains in the base and feeds general fund basic services.

5) Because general fund basic services dollars are diverted to Urban Renewal a State Law was enacted in 1996 to require yearly reports on the Urban Renewal impacts to basic services. Many cities provide these reports. Portland does not.

6) SoWa UR district is 409 acres. 130 acres is being developed. Since 1999 every routine yearly increase in taxes across the entire 409 acre district was withheld from general fund basic services to pay for, among other things, the Tram and a $5 million payment to OHSU.

7) The CoP has borrowed $20 million to pay for Tram construction.

8) The SoWa plan, now thoroughly obsolete as many other components are way over budget, promises to devour at least $600 million in property taxes during the first 20 year for projects and debt service.

Any journalist could put together a very simple story detailing the cost and effects of Urban Renewal's "Tax Increment Financing".

But until they hear it from some elected official they will not.

I am confident Dave Lister, as City Commissioner, will .

With all the clinics that will be in the building, I can see that the tram will be used quite often by staff. Employees going to and from other departments for meetings and related business, delivery people distributing mail and office supplies/medical supplies, docs going from their clinic back up the hill to see patients in the hospital, that sort of thing. NOT that I would know. Ahem.

Does anyone know how many cars will be on this tram line? Everyone keeps taking the transit time and seeing how many trips would fit into an hour... but that assumes there are exactly two cars on the tram at any given time (one each direction). Is that actually something we know or is everyone just making an assumption?

In reality the transit time makes no difference whatsoever; what matters is the interval between cars. Even if the tram took twenty minutes to get up the hill, if you had a car leaving every two minutes, and each car held 32 people, that's 980 pepole moved per hour per direction.

I'm not sure I see why so many people are still so angry about this project. $3.5 million is a pretty miniscule amount compared to the amount of property taxes that the SoWa area will pull in. This was part of the reason why the city wanted OHSU to expand to the SoWa area as opposed to moving out to Hillsboro. And I'm not sure I understand how people see view that $3.5 million as coming out of their pocketbooks or being taken away from schools (if I understand the arguments correctly). Taxes haven't been raised for this project. And as far as schools go, about $90 MILLION PER YEAR was raised in the past 3 years. Well, someone explain to me just how the $90 million helped the schools in any quantifiable way? There IS a problem with the education system in Oregon, but to claim that the problem rests solely on funding is oversimplistic, and IMHO, misdirected. Not to mention, school funding hasn't been cut this year for the sake of the tram, so I'm still puzzled as to how this argument keeps coming up. Plus, the citizens of Portland voted DOWN the I-tax for the upcoming year. That's $90 million per year cut out of school funding (TWICE the entire Tram project). Why is there no outrage in any of these comments about that?

I'm not a big supporter of big corporations (as I view OHSU), but in this scenario, I see them taking on quite a bit of the burden of the financing for this project. I don't see the justification for the hatred being spewed at them.

Does anyone know how many cars will be on this tram line?


"I don't see the justification for the hatred being spewed at them."

If you see OHSU as a public entity, which is an easy perspective to adopt, then every penny going into the tram is public money that could be used for another public purpose.

If you see OHSU as a private-sector business, then any public-sector funds for the tram, whether incremental, excremental or you-name-it, make no sense whatsovever. It's the equivalent of the city buying new escalators for Meier & Frank.

Then there's the tram on its merits. It has none. It blights a residential neighborhood, will be costly to operate and insure, presents a target for terrorists and presents other safety hazards, has no inherent back-up or redundant capaabilities, and has a very limited "useful" life. There would have been many better ways to solve the rather minor problem of the geographic separation of the hill and the SoWat.

$3.5 million is a pretty miniscule amount

And nowhere near the true amount of city general fund subsidy of the tram.

I invite readers to check out the tramcar design in the PATI "Official Documents" online at http://www.portlandtram.com/Final_Report%20Chapter_6.pdf . That's Figures 6.22 and 6.23. Now, the "official document" says it has a capacity of 70 passengers. Do you think 70 passengers could fit comfortably on the tramcars pictured?

I don't. they show about five figures taking up a good 20% of the space. I'm skeptical about the claimed figures.

As noted, a capacity of 980 passengers an hour is like building a 14 lane freeway because that's what they need for rush hour. It's overbuilding on a vast scale. Off hours will see considerably less traffic than 980 passengers an hour (I'd bet even rush hour won't tax that capacity).

Of course, if they have anything like a "rush hour" on the tram *rimshot*, it will mean that the City's promise that this was not being built to serve as a park-and-ride tool for OHSU employees. (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) If you know what I mean?

As I stated eight years ago, this project will not address the traffic/parking problem on Pill Hill. Instead, it will temporarily lighten the load on the hill, while a completely new traffic/parking problem is created down at SoWhat. Once that problem becomes apparent, the traffic/parking problem on Pill Hill will resume it's intolerable effects upon OHSU employees and those who live in the adjacent neighborhoods.

At the risk of thread-jacking, I can't help but notice this remark, "Well, someone explain to me just how the $90 million helped the schools in any quantifiable way?"
Hahn...I don't know if preventing the layoff of hundreds of teachers, keeping class sizes from hitting 40, and preserving dozens of programs and electives counts as quantifiable, but that's what the tax money did.
Are you saying the money was wasted? Can you explain what you mean by quantifiable?

The patients for those two dozen clinics are mostly going to drive -- or think they're going to drive -- to SoWhat. Check out the parking structures at all the area hospitals -- they're huge, they're free, and they're packed. Between those folks and the park-and-riders tramming up to the hill, there's going to be a heck of a lot of cars parked down there. Not to mention the $1 million condo dwellers, who are each going to have both a Lexus SUV and a Prius. It will be a traffic nightmare, and the city taxpayers will pay tens of millions more for solutions.

I can't wait to see the looks on people's
faces when the winds pick up to 35 mph, or the ice on the line causes a bit of a problem. If MAX, or a bus stops people can get off and walk.
What happens if this thing stops in mid air? Spidey Man or Captain America going to come rescue the good docs?

Mike: maybe I'm giving the engineering team too much credit, but these things are proven to work on mountains where you have high winds and very cold conditions... (But do the engineers have experience building previous "trams"/skilifts in conditions like that? Maybe not.)

On mountains, they're shut down for six months a year or more in the off-season. Running this one daily, year-round is going to make it an absolute nightmare to maintain. But why talk about it? There are a million questions, but it's just like the SoWhat traffic disaster that's about to happen. Nobody in power is listening.

For Portlanders ... It also is helping to bring a variety of new, needed neighborhood transportation links.

Hmmm. How many new transportation links? And to what neighborhoods? I count only one -- from SoWhat to the Hill. Maybe they're counting the new bus line that will be created to run during the tram's down times (wind, maintenance, etc.).

"That's $90 million per year cut out of school funding (TWICE the entire Tram project)".

Twice the entire tram project cost NOW, but most certainly not the entire cost of the Tram when it's FINISHED.

JACK: is that postcard for real, or photoshop? That must be the $8.5 million stripped down version they talked about.

Daphne: you can bet that all that steel rebar and cement burned a few Btu's of energy.

Don't forget that most of Portland's electricity is generated by burning fossil fuels.

I wonder how many Tri-Met buses could have been converted to natural gas (which is much cleaner than diesel) for $55 million?

"Hahn...I don't know if preventing the layoff of hundreds of teachers, keeping class sizes from hitting 40, and preserving dozens of programs and electives counts as quantifiable, but that's what the tax money did.
Are you saying the money was wasted? Can you explain what you mean by quantifiable?"
What I'm saying is that there was a problem with our education system before the $90 mill per year given to them ($270 million in the past 3 years!!!). What's the evidence that the $90 mill did something to FIX the problems that were already present in the system. Are you saying that we need to make the I-Tax a permanent solution? My understanding was that the I-Tax was meant as a stopgap measure. To give the schooling system 3 years of time and money to fix the problems that plagued it. So I'm honestly curious - what did we get for $270 million that alleviates the problems that were in place? (BTW, I voted FOR the I-Tax despite not having kids. I wonder how many people voted for it that are now complaining about the Tram taking away from school funding.) Would you not agree that a higher income stream from taxes would help alleviate problems like having enough money to hire enough teachers? Would you not agree that at full buildout, the taxes from the South Waterfront would be a tremendous help in alleviating that?

At full buildout, the property in the South Waterfront is estimated to be $10 Billion. Correct me if my math is off, but if property tax is assessed at approximately 1.35%, it comes out to $135 million PER YEAR. Is there something negative about this that I'm missing?

Then we come back to the Tram issue - how does the Tram funding have to do with the I-Tax being cut? It seems like a lot of complaints about the Tram like to tie it in with the school system's problems. I'd like to know how the $3.5 million (or whatever the true amount is) is supposed to do to fix a problem that couldn't be fixed by $270 million? Is that really the issue? Or do people just want to complain about something they view as frivolous. I say "view" because I would like to know how you all would propose putting the money to better use to generate more future tax income than the Tram would do so for the South Waterfront?

I still have yet to see how the Tram does anything to harm the interests of anyone other than the Lair Hill residents. Plus the Lair Hill residents are getting a pedestrian foot bridge put in to have easy access to the South Waterfront. Chances are, property values in this neighborhood will skyrocket once that gets put in and the South Waterfront becomes a viable neighborhood.

I honestly don't understand how bad traffic, or terrorist risks constitutes good arguments for why the Tram shouldn't be built. Maybe we should take down the US Bank Tower or the Convention Center Towers also because they are potential terrorist targets? Let's take Vancouver and Beaverton apart because of how much traffic they generate along I-5 and 26.

You want to talk about money? Okay, let's say it's not $3.5 million. Let's say the true cost is $10 million. So what? Let's say they DO take that money out of general taxes. That comes out to $5 per person. The costs to keep the Tram running are being paid for by OHSU in a percentage that is according to the usage of it by OHSU patients. eg 85% of the riders are OHSU workers, patients, or family members then OHSU covers 85% of the cost. How is this not fair? This is in exchange for the $100+ million (potentially much much more) PER YEAR in taxes that the city will receive. Again, why is there SO much complaining about the Tram? I can understand a certain level of concern, but the way some people are going on about it, it seems like the city is somehow ripping them off. I'd like to know specifically how people feel like they are being ripped off. So far nobody's offered up any figure of just how much money is going to come out of THEIR own pocketbook for this.

Jack, you are right that no one is listening again.

The transportation projects listed in PDC's recent 3/16/06 Proposed budget presented to the URAC were all "not funded" or "underfunded". Several of the transportation projects in the last Nov 04 budget that were to be started or completed aren't even started or close to being started.

These "funding gaps" for transportation could easily reach $100M. In fact PDC staff even forgot to include one of the most important transportation projects, the North Portal Connections to Harbor Drive/Naito.

But as OHSU's URAC representative Mark Williams said after comments were made about these transportation shortcomings in the budget: "Projects like NM go forward across our nation without worrying about the transportation solutions, infrastructure; so we must continue with NM as is, and not wait for all these transportation projects."(slightly paraphrased

This response was made after Bob Durgin representing Zidells read a paragraph from the NM Agreement that required completion of transportation projects before or in conjuction with development in NM because of the dire traffic consequences to all the transportation networks affecting all the region that pass through the NM Urban Renewal area.

I hope OHSU won't be claiming after total gridlock in a few years , like they are with the tram; "we weren't a part of this issue, the city is responsible for the transportation solutions." That us, the taxpayers, again.

>>"That's $90 million per year cut out of school >>funding (TWICE the entire Tram project)".

>Twice the entire tram project cost NOW, but most >certainly not the entire cost of the Tram when it's >FINISHED.

Okay, let's view the math from a different perspective then. The Tram will cost, let's say $60 million over the life of the project - 3 years (more like 5 if you count the planning stages). At least $30 million will be paid for by OHSU. The city's contribution, as I understand it is 3.4 million, but let's again say it's $10 million. Over 3 years time, the ITAX generated $270 million. That's more than TWENTY SEVEN times more than the cost of the ENTIRE Tram project. And at least with the Tram, it generates future revenue.

What did the $270 million do to improve our school system? Did kids score better on national exams during those three years? Were there significantly more college grads during the three years? Did the curriculum get revamped to make better use of the normal funding that they DO get every year? Did it do anything other than as someone theorized above, save hundreds of teachers jobs? And btw, how did we afford those same teachers before the 3 years? We didn't suddenly have a huge increase in teaching staff with those $270 million. Why is no one mad about not having any accounting for what that money was spent on? But the Tram is a more worthy project to vent about?

>Daphne: you can bet that all that steel rebar and >cement burned a few Btu's of energy.

>Don't forget that most of Portland's electricity is >generated by burning fossil fuels.

>I wonder how many Tri-Met buses could have been >converted to natural gas (which is much cleaner than >diesel) for $55 million?
Natural gas is also a fossil fuel. While a natural gas engine has the same efficiency as a gasoline engine, it is LOWER in effiency than a diesel engine. Instead of replacing diesel engines in busses, why not replace the electricity generating coal burning plants with natural gas plants? Or another option includes gasified coal which produces a much cleaner burning product (potentially zero emissions through carbon capture methods) and utilizes a much more efficient gas turbine engine (rather than a steam turbine engine used by coal). Or increase the funding of renewable energy sources like wind or hydroelectricity. Then you've got a completely clean transportation system with absolutely ZERO pollution.

Hahn, I appreciate your input, but please do take a look at the comments policy. Thanks.

is that postcard for real, or photoshop?

I think it's real -- a reader sent it along. It appears to be an old tram they used to run up at Timberline Lodge. And there's talk of running another one up there some day, from all the way down in Government Camp. Maybe one of the old-timers out there could fill us in about the old one.

Jack Bog,March 24, 2006 12:50 AM It appears to be an old tram they used to run up at Timberline Lodge. And there's talk of running another one up there some day, from all the way down in Government Camp.
JK: I wonder if they would like to buy a do-it-yourself tram kit that is allegidly on its way from Switzerland.


Hahn: Natural Gas burning buses are real, and produce much lower particulate emissions than Diesel.

I'm not a scientist, but I know you drive behind a natural gas (or propane) powered bus, and continue to breathe very comfortably with the windows down. Try following a Tri-Met bus on Terwilliger (bike or car) and tell me that it isn't creating more pollution than the Tram is saving: and that's just one bus!

Also: coal burning electricity plants are going to be with us for another 200+ years. America has more coal reserves than natural gas or oil: it won't go away until we run out.

old-timers out there

I rode it once (well, ok, twice if you count up & down), probably in the late forties when I was still in single digits. It was noisy, crude, wasn't a success, didn't last long. It ran from Govt Camp up to Timberline. (Might be a nice technology to get the buses off the Portland bus mall to make room for the light rail.)

In answer to a question posed upstream: the tram will have only two cars, hooked to the cables to move reciprocally so that when one is at the top the other is at the bottom. It's limited to two cars because the cars don't turn around at the ends to descend (as ski lift cars do) but go back the way they came. The designers rejected a continuous-loop (ski-lift) design, possibly because of the effect on the upper station, and possibly because the ride is so short.

Here's a link to another shot of the "Skyway to Timberline" from a really cool site - lots of historic Mt. Hood photos.


>Hahn, I appreciate your input, but please do take a >look at the comments policy. Thanks.
Sorry. Will shorten my posts. Thanks.

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