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 SweeneyGood 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.
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.