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Monday, February 26, 2007

Keep it simple

Isaac Laquedem has a great suggestion to obviate the need for a new $2.2 billion (and counting) bridge across the Columbia River between Portland and Vancouver*, Washington**. Why not build 40 aerial trams [rim shot] at a mere $55 million each? He figures that you could get 9,000 cars an hour off the road that way.

As ingenious as it is, this plan seems unlikely to get anywhere with the powers that be in Portland transportation. For one thing, where are the condos? We don't spend money on transportation unless it helps sell condos. Plus, where is the quasi-governmental public-private partnership with a board full of West Hills appointees to run the thing? Don't tell me Tom Imeson's too busy -- I'm not buying it. And I know Chris Smith would be willing to serve.

But wait just one second! Do you think an international design competition might make it too expensive?

I've got a better idea. Have the Oregon taxing authorities run off a list of everybody who lives in Vancouver and works in Portland. Take the $2.2 billion and offer to pay $100,000 each to the first 22,000 of them who'll promise to quit their jobs on the Oregon side of the bridge and stay in Vancouver from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday for the rest of their lives.

The program would sell out in a day, it would cut down the dreaded Greenhouse Gases That Are Destroying Life As We Know It®, and it would decrease unemployment among Oregonians by 22,000. We've got to think outside the gondola on this one, people.

* No, not that Vancouver.
** No, not that Washington.

Comments (33)

$2.2 billion? We're already talking $6 billion up here! We're thinking nearly 3x your number and haven't even flinched yet. Silly Oregonians and your low balling.

And disbursement of $2.2b is a taxable event so sweep the proceeds and build at least one tram to/from IKEA.

As much as I love this article and comments..you guys have it all wrong. Out of the blue smoke and hallucinogenic drugs of ODOT, comes the truth on Highway financing. Someday there will be no more Trollys for Portland and no more trams to build and the money saved will pay for bridges and overpasses and universal health care, and the Iraq war, and a cure for cancer.When ODOT figures and dreams all is possible. Remember State Gas taxes are 41¢ in New York and Hawaii and we are a paltry 25¢, lot's of room for more and more and more....

maybe i'm still Oscar-struck, but i believe "think outside the gondola" is going to win Best Catchphrase of the Year.

I recommend we adapt the Portland City Council idea of free loaner bicycles. You leave your keys in your car over there, walk across the bridge, then use someone else's car while you're on our side.
Of course, the cynics will point out that the free bicycles were all stolen in a short time, but maybe it's like Clean Elections: The system is just new and needs to be fine-tuned.

The inflated cost and nearly all of the CRC task force "planning" is an effort to stop any project which adds any road capacity.
The not so hidden agenda is to push forward light rail to Vancouver and expand Metro style "development patterns" throughout Clark County.
This current process of pretending to be planning a new and expanded freeway bridge will further unfold with more delays, rejection of tolls, conclusions that the cost is too great, that there's no source of revenue and that polls show people don't want it. There will be no public vote and light rail will soon follow.
Miraculously not finding ANY of the obstructions (including any cost)which blocked the expanded or new freeway bridge.

The EXACT same pattern will also kill the Sunrise Corridor, the Dundee-Newberg By-Pass, the I-5/99 connector, the 217 expansion, a new four lane Sellwood Bridge and any other auto/freight oriented project.

mmm... I seem to remember an article about someone who all ready has a plan to do just this. And if you think a tram is crazy enough, guess what he want's to use for the tram cars...? Believe it or not old air frames check out this old willamette week article. To be fair though this guy claims his tram will be cheep in comparison to the portland tram.

The gondolas could carry more if riders were also on the outside of them.

I just researched the free bikes and the idea originated in the private sector in a group called UCAN. However Mayor Katz - in a letter about the loaner bike program - wrote, "As Mayor of Portland, I am proud of what UCAN has accomplished."
So this is gold: Another private-city partnership. If you have to go across the bridge, you just leave your car on this side, and get a loaner after you walk over.

I'm imagining the year 2050, about the same amount of time from the Interstate bridge's building until now.

A few *million* more people in the PDX-Vancouver area.

Hundreds of thousands additional commuters, even if 80% of all new drivers between now and 2050 choose to never drive.

Whatever was built across the river would be aging by then, needing repair and maintenance. Supporting far more traffic than the current structure.

Then, I'm imagining this conversation happening all over again in 2050, 40-odd years from now, with an army of planners, designers and politicians asking "how do we manage all this growth? how do we accomodate all this commuter traffic?"

in other words--still asking the wrong questions.

"how do we manage all this growth? how do we accomodate all this commuter traffic?"

What are YOU talking about?
That isn't the question that has, is and will be asked.

Here's the real one,
"How do we manage to continue ignoring all this growth? How do we continue pretending to be accomodating all this commuter traffic?"


When will we arrive at the utopia our alternative approach promnised?


i think you're right--we're not paying attention to the growth, and also not accomodating traffic because, really, we never can; we can only mitigate a little.

my point of view's straightforward on this issue: growth is a profound problem.

to use an analogy, it's like the morbidly obese guy who asks "how can i accomodate all this additional weight, and the 50 pounds i'll be gaining soon?"

the answer is "you can't. instead, eat a lot less, exercise and drop the excess weight."

i know from personal experience--that's hard to do.

We prefer:

*Not BC
**Not DC

I already give Oregon 9%+ of my income earned in Oregon. That's got to count something toward my share of the bridge.

Lord knows I would sign up for your plan, I don't enjoy my commute, even if it doesn't take me over that particular bridge.

Brian: Nothing personal. It's a win-win.

"growth is a profound problem"

No more than it was 500 years ago.

The problem is derived from the false notion we are short on land and must cram as much as possible into the same places.

But there is no arguing with those who are obsessed with "stopping sprawl."

Never mind Oregon could plop down 20 new cities the size of Tigard in any number of places and not even notice it. Every one with nice neighborhoods and high livability.

But everything possible is cast as evil "sprawl".

Our "morbidly obese" cities that Metro plans are gaining more weight and Metro keeps telling us it's better than anything else.

Metro doesn't ask "how can i accommodate all this additional weight"
I don't know where you get that idea.
They are not interested in accommodating the additional weight at all.
They just keep eating with false hope that someday the weight won't matter.
The symptoms get worse, the region gets more sluggish and every single politician is afraid to challenge the planner's planning plans that have no plan.

I read Wilsonville trying to figure out what to do about growth. I saw Tigard talk about beginning an effort to figure out what to do about growth. Last night I watched Wa County chair Tom Brian that the county has to figure out what to do about growth.

Come on folks. None of these cities, or Metro, know what to do about growth.
Not with traffic, not with affordable housing not with any of it.
That's what THEY are saying.

So ask yourself, how can there be no plans for growth when we have had for 20 years an extra layer of growth planning, Metro, and all of them for years have been telling us they have been planning growth?

This is NOT complicated. There is no plan for growth, there has been no planning for growth and there will be no plan for growth.
There will only be more of the same policies which they told us was growth planning for the past 25 years.

Meanwhile the failure to meet the needs of growth will continue as we are told more of the same "alternatives" are better.
And not one of the mayors, commissioners or councilors will challenge any of it.

I wonder how many Metro councillors would fit in a trebuchet? I wonder if a really BIG ONE could hurl them all North of the river? I wonder who would care if it couldn't?

Yup, Metro sucks...big time. Even when the commissioners were not paid. Lofty ideas became revenue enhancements, for naught. Density pressure cookers were the answer to urban sprawl. Incorporating industry into small towns never entered the big leaguer's minds. Bigger is better and even the state legislature has a law that a moratorium on building can only last one year. To hell with infrastructure. Satellite cities is a concept foreign to Metro.

The least they could do while we are all waiting on the new I-5 bridge is add a few designated swimming lanes crossing the river. A northbound lane and a southbound lane wide enough to let the faster people pass up the slow pokes should be sufficient. Metro could encourage use of this alternative transportation method by offering subsidized swim goggles, nose plugs, wetsuits etc.

If the swimming thing catches on maybe they could add a few lanes for Metro sponsored canoes and kayaks. These would be painted yellow of course. You never know if this whole swim/canoe/kayak concept catches on maybe we might just do away with the new bridge thing altogether. As an added bonus we will have a healthier population that is too exhausted to bother everyone with all this whining about needing a new bridge.

How about this - Rex should buy the first one.


Cheesuz! How about we mandate that cars be built to half their present size? That should free up a lot of road space. Now is that thunkin' outside the box, or not?
The Nickle

The mad math:

50,000 commuters pay $2 a roundtrip for $100,000 a day or $500,000 a week gross.

Half a mill a week, times 50 weeks (less 2 for vacations)= $25,000,000 a year in tolls, meaning it will take us about 40 years to pay off a bridge that should last 100-150 years. Not counting expenses here, but the tolls will be automatic, via a computerized sticker on your dashboard.

If the feds pick up half, like usual, locals will pay off the big bridge in 20 years.

And I didn't count weekends, when Vancouverites love to cross the bridge and cheat their lovely state out of their sales tax at our beautiful tax-free malls!!!

More Mad Math

If the bridge costs $2.2 billion and is financed at 6.0% over 40 years, monthly payments would be just over $12.0 million or $144.5 million annually. 50,000 commuters paying tolls 5 days a week for 50 weeks equates to 12.5 million trips per year. To pay off the loan over 40 years, commuters would have to pay $11.56 per round trip ($2,890 per year after taxes). With the requisite cost overruns and toll collectors; let's round it up to $15.00. I'd rather just live in Portland.

JK: Bob hit upon the major weakness in Metro's plan of urban containment - people can easily escape to Vancouver.

Setting a high toll will stop this "tunnel under the wall" thereby securing the wall around Portland. Of course this is just an intermediate step before banning all travel outside of the urban preserves ala the wildlands project.


"when Vancouverites love to cross the bridge and cheat their lovely state out of their sales tax at our beautiful tax-free malls!!!"

Sorry to take this tangent, but research has shown that when Vancouverites are provided with their versions of Portland's stores that they tend not to cross the river. It's too much of a pain in the ass unless you're going to spend at least $1,000.
In-store sales in Clark county stores are increasing about 10% per year, outpacing the growth rate, suggesting that Clark county shoppers are more than happy to shop on their own side of the river when given the chance.

I recommend we adapt the Portland City Council idea of free loaner bicycles.

This was tried once before, and it didnt work then. Even though the bikes were all painted yellow, they were all stolen or messed up so bad they were dangerous or unuseable. This would happen again. All it would provide is free bikes for the Zoobombers.

Clark county shoppers are more than happy to shop on their own side of the river when given the chance.

A Costco over there would be interesting. The NE Portland one has lots of Washington license plates in its parking lot.

A Costco over there would be interesting. The NE Portland one has lots of Washington license plates in its parking lot.

that's nothing; just wait until the IKEA opens nearby this summer. more SUVs than you can shake a gas can at.

A Costco over there would be interesting. The NE Portland one has lots of Washington license plates in its parking lot.

You mean like this one: http://www.costco.com/Warehouse/LocationTemplate.aspx?Warehouse=772

It is only about 10 miles from the NE Portland Costco, so it can't be that much further away than crossing the river.. I've gone to it on occasion because they sometimes have different items than the ones over here. (Though it has been a while.)

Bingo. Given that it's there, and that tons of Couverites still drive over to NE Portland, indicates to me that sales tax evasion is a significant motivator.

Costco Home pulled out of Cascade Station.

Ikea will be joined by Best Buy and other auto-oriented development.

I think since Costco already knows if your are a WA resident when you make a purchase that they should have to collect the WA sales tax. It really wouldn't be much extra work for them, and it might decrease my wait time. ;)

Actually, if a Washington resident makes a purchase out of state, it's not subject to Washington sales tax. But when the resident brings the item back to Washington, it's subject to Washington use tax, which the resident is supposed to report and pay annually to the state.


The only way it could ever work is with a state customs-like checkpoint on the interstate bridges, sort of like the old California ag inspection booths. Ain't gonna happen.

I am going to buy the Columbian and Vancouver mayor Pollard each a balling gun.
What in Purgatory is a balling gun?
Well, when you have a house you want to give a pill, the horse can't be exactly eager to take the pill. You put the pill in this balling gun, shove it down the horse's throat, push this button, and bingo! The horse may be unhappy, but he's taken the pill. Now, isn't that the technique the Columbian and Pollard are using to sell light rail?
The Columbian "edited" my letter saying this and made me look a proper fool. Now, people are calling me to find out what a balling gun is.

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