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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on May 15, 2008 10:31 AM. The previous post in this blog was I watched it for a little while. The next post in this blog is A complex soul laid bare. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Bad trip

All of a sudden, even the reality-challenged Portland City Council is admitting that the city's transportation problems are here to stay. The public isn't going to vote in any new taxes until the recession is over, and that may take years. And so the potholes are only going to get deeper.

But the delusions of grandeur persist with continued promises (or perhaps they're threats) to cover the city with new streetcars, which are expensive to build and operate and much less flexible than buses. Even if the feds and the lottery pay the full bill to build these things (which they don't), nobody but the taxpayers of the city and the taxpayers of Tri-Met pay to operate them. (Fare revenues are laughable.)

The fake story that people like Sam the Tram and Streetcar Smith foster (in their roles as sock puppets for the condo developers) is that the neighborhoods all want the streetcars. But that's clearly not the case. Here's a letter that the Boise neighborhood in North Portland sent to the city last week:

Mr. Patrick Sweeney
City of Portland, Office of Transportation
1120 SW Fifth Ave, Suite 800
Portland, OR 97204

Dear Mr. Sweeney:

Please accept this letter on behalf of the members of the Boise Neighborhood Association and residents and businesses of the Boise neighborhood as an expression of our concern about Portland's Streetcar Master Plan (SMP) process and its effect on both Boise and the entire city.

It has come to our attention that district working groups have been formed throughout the city, and are being asked to determine by June 16, whether or not there is community support for the proposed streetcar routes now under consideration. Good transportation and transit planning requires a thorough, system-wide approach. We have significant concerns about the SMP process. For example, we believe that the timeline for communities to reach a decision is too aggressive and that the information being provided to communities is insufficient to support good decisions. We have listed some more specific concerns and questions below.

1. The city is seeking community input on the streetcar proposal from special interest community groups formed on an ad hoc basis rather than working within the city's established Neighborhood System.

2. Portland neighborhoods, including Boise, are being asked to provide feedback and support for a streetcar solution when the city has not adequately defined the underlying problem the proposed solution is intended to address or provided information regarding what, if any, alternative solutions are being considered. We would like to know what problem—in particular, what transportation problem—the streetcar proposal is intended to solve, and why streetcar is believed to be the best solution to that problem when compared to other potential solutions (such as diesel, electric and hybrid buses, bus rapid transit and light-rail, and/or improvements to existing bus service).

3. The city appears to be asking for community feedback and support for where streetcar lines might run without consideration for whether such streetcar lines are feasible or how they would integrate with the city's existing transportation infrastructure. For example, it is unclear whether streetcar lines would replace or augment bus service. If the former, then what steps is the city taking to ensure system performance is maintained, especially for regional riders who may face additional transfers with a streetcar system? If the latter, then what specific benefits do streetcars provide compared to existing transit service?

4. It appears that little or no information is being provided to neighborhoods regarding safety issues, the impacts that streetcar lines would have on other modes of transportation (including cars, buses, freight and bicycles) and the environmental and economic impacts that streetcar lines would have on local neighborhoods. We have seen from the operation of the existing streetcar route that streetcars affect other traffic, especially when they stop for passengers in travel lanes, and when they change lanes, requiring traffic in all directions to stop. Also, streetcar tracks pose safety hazards. For example, bicycle wheels may get caught in the streetcar tracks causing accidents. These impacts to other modes of transportation must be fully identified and considered when contemplating future streetcar routes.

These issues are significant, not just for the Boise neighborhood, but for all of Portland. We request that the SMP process be put on hold until adequate responses to these issues are provided. By adequate response, we mean: Utilize the existing Neighborhood System and hold a meeting with all Neighborhood Association chairs and/or boards no later than June 16.

Hold a public forum to present and address the above concerns and providing information on the status of this process no later than June 16.

Good luck, neighbors. I doubt that there's any way to talk the current regime in city government out of its hallucinations when it comes to the streetcars. Instead of signing letters, you might want to take out the ballot and check off some names other than Adams, Middaugh, Stewart, and Smith.

Comments (9)

That first paragraph in the Boise letter is telling. The standard dodge in CoP is to form ad hoc groups of "stakeholders" carefully chosen to support the pre ordained desired result, and to ignore any one out side the "stakeholder group who might hold a contrary view.

Amanda Fritz is a master of the phoney "process"

Good for the Boise Neighborhood Association. I think Question #2 is a good one to ask. If Tri-Met would not spend so much money, time and energy on light rail and streetcars we might actually have decent bus service.

This is one of the best things that has come out of a neighborhood association for a while. I commend the board for asking such succinct questions. Now we need followup from other neighborhoods, then the city.

There needs to be definitions of the "supposed" problems, measurements of success for proposed solution(s), real funding sources, budgets that are met, and measurement of success after completion. And all not by the "stakeholders".

I attended the Northeast district streetcar dog & pony show this spring, and can say that there was only about 25 to 35 people in attendance and several of them were city employees. This is such a bogus process. The reinstallation of streetcars on the eastside will cause major diruptions for every person on the eastside, some of them of a permanent nature. To form a few small neighborhood groups to decide everybody's fate in this matter is ludicrous. Each project should require a citywide like vote, not some hand selected workgroup. On top of this, I just know that our local politicians and bureaucrats could garner state and federal monies for basic road improvements, or more upscale bus services, in lieu of these white elephant streetcar projects if only they had the will to do so. Governance in this city stinks!

ODOT is now likening the streetcar plan to the Iraq war. Adams is the prez, and this Sweeney character is Cheney, Powell, and Rummy all rolled into one. It's a planner battle royal! Seriously, you can't make this stuff up:

http://www.portlandsentinel.com/?q=node/1240

Your tax dollars at work, folks.

Sam will share the poll results with "stakeholders[.]"

"Adams now intends to have the city conduct another poll after the May 20 primary election. The results will be shared with a large stakeholder steering committee that Adams convened to help draft the original plan, possibly in June."

Funny. I just picked up a copy of the case file for Marks v. McKenzie High Fact-Finding Team from Marion county, as part of my research before demanding poll results from each of the publicly funded commissioner candidate committees -- under the public records law. Are they or are they not a public body?

I guess we will find out when the City Auditor or City Attorney steps forward to represent them, against me, or offers an amicus brief (without being like, you know, a party).

I can't seem to find the quote now where Sam argued that it would not make sense to put a transportation matter on the ballot if poll results show that folks are not likely to approve the proposal. I thought such reasoning would be portable to publicly funded candidates -- after their poll results show that any continued expenditure is fruitless.

Marks_v._McKenzie_319_Or_451.pdf
Marks_v._McKenzie_121_Or_App_146.pdf

When the court says something like the following:

"Neither does the complaint allege -- nor have the parties argued -- that the creation and use of the team by the school district was a subterfuge aimed at avoiding the requirements of the Public Records Law."

. . . be sure to accommodate that concern in a complaint. (Subterfuges are around nearly every corner, in these parts.)

Are the VOE committees funded by the (public) voters or instead by the 1,000 (private) supporters, via their highly leveraged 5's? The typical ratio of 140 bucks to 5 bucks -- public versus private -- should seal the deal on what the character is of a candidate committee. A committee is no less a "committee" because it becomes a "political" committee (either for a transportation tax or for candidate advocacy).

Back on topic here:

So Sam still wants to cut off my water if I don't pay his transportation tax (funny fee). Then the water ceases to be a fee, in my opinion. Is a poll itself a thing that represents political activity, in support or opposition to a proposal, in violation of the command of the Burt v. Blumenauer case? For VOE candidates a poll is an allowable expenditure, but for the city it is a contribution to such candidate. (See Vannatta case that covers both characterizations.) A transportation tax poll is a campaign expenditure.

http://www.pdxlawg.us/casenotes/255_or_55_burt.pdf

Maybe Sam could just pass an ordinance appointing Middaugh and Smith as our new commissioners and save us the cost of conducting a vote, or even the cost of performing a poll (and any VOE expense). That would be the functional equivalent to the City Auditor and City Attorney refusing to place my name on the ballot in 2006 for the auditor slot.

"ODOT is now likening the streetcar plan to the Iraq war. Adams is the prez, and this Sweeney character is Cheney, Powell, and Rummy all rolled into one. It's a planner battle royal! Seriously, you can't make this stuff up:"

Well, evidently, you can make this up since that is in fact what you just did! There was a person at the pdot/bna meeting that identified himself as an employee of odot and went on to state his concerns. he was speaking on his behalf not odot's.

please be careful, this irresponsible jump to faulty conclusions is potentially damaging.

I have been a starry-eyed street car fan for ages. I even rode the one in Grenoble before we got that model here, and loved it. Now, though, in spite of so many people I respect still singing that tune, I have come to advocate buses -- on purely ENVIRONMENTAL grounds.

The bottom line, to me, is the path to green each technology. The path to greening buses is so much shorter and cheaper, that anything else just doesn't make sense. Add to that that a bus fleet can be upgraded incrementally with minimal operating impact, rather than in one humungous disruptive technology replacement effort, and the case, to me, is closed.

Then, too, I have become persuaded by the bus advocates point about the inherent flexibility of bus systems.

In Europe and elsewhere, the systems we look to for inspiration have "greened" their public transportation system by shifting from diesel to supposedly "cleaner" nuclear-generated electric power.

I no longer think we should be copying them by building systems dependent on massive amounts of electric power that can't currently be generated by any green option.

I know the developers that drive our planning processes and buy the nice dinners for our elected officials want something sunk into the ground so their building next to it is guaranteed a fat profit. It is time to get those guys off the dole.

Call Sam and his buddies and offer them dinner in your home. Tell them you want the cheaper, greener option. Tell them it is time to give those developers and their sock puppets the boot.

PS The technocrats who advise the elected officials on this stuff will be THE LAST group to admit the truth that buses are the greener option. This is because their whole careers, not to mention the $$ that pay for their second homes, kids' private school and orthodontist bills, vacations in the South of France, etc, all come from the answer remaining the same as it has while they were working their way up the food chain. Citizens will have to lead on this one.


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