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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on August 22, 2008 8:33 AM. The previous post in this blog was Leaving a footprint. The next post in this blog is For richer, for poorer.... Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Friday, August 22, 2008

Hopeful spending

Although federal funding for building the thing won't come through until the end of the year -- if at all -- the City of Portland is blowing more millions on designing the infernal east side streetcar. Another $6.3 million will now flow out of city taxpayers' pockets via the "urban renewal" pork barrel -- probably never to return.

"The feds just really haven’t been supporting work around the country so there’s a pretty significant slowdown," said Mark Dorn, a senior project manager with URS Corp., the engineering firm overseeing the project. "We’re hoping a new administration will pump money into transit."
Nice to get that unbiased view. And how nice for Mr. Dorn, whose firm will now make its millions regardless of whether Mike Powell's real estate dreams come true.

Comments (21)

“I have confidence our congressional delegation and Commissioner Adams have worked hard (to secure funding) … this is a risk well worth taking,” said City Commissioner Dan Saltzman.

Yes, we have to remember that Saltzman is an environmental engineer; he has the sheepskins to prove it. (Never mind that a civil engineering degree is tantamount to being a glorified surveyor.) He even had his own engineering company at one time. (Can’t find a record of it anywhere though) This certainly makes him an expert in risk management, particularly when it is the taxpayer’s money…..

I'm a big fan of the idea of mass transit. Its my hope that over the next decade, Portland's investment will really pay dividends as it allows and encourages the culture to shift away from cars. If that happens, all the light-rail work is going to seem visionary. If gas prices double over the next year (again), that'll do it.

Unfortunately, the pragmatic in me continues to believe that we are all too stubborn to give up our cars. With the "mass," these transit projects have little real utility.

If John McCain wins in November, these people can kiss their streetcar goodbye. It can't happen soon enough.

If gas prices double I will be driving this. In New York, Nissan will unveil a battery-powered concept car that hints at the vehicle's future styling and technology. The production vehicle will have a daily range of 100 miles, with an estimated top speed of 75 mph. A complete recharge will take about eight hours.

The lithium ion battery pack will have 24 cells, each with four batteries.

No Street Car for me.

"we are all too stubborn to give up our cars"

You know, this is a pretty serious mis-reading of the situation. The problem with mass transit is the incredible lengths of time it takes to get anywhere and its lack of flexibility. Over ten years ago - before westside light rail - I used to ride the bus when I worked downtown. It took quite a bit longer then driving. Today, taking light rail, would take even longer. It would take me 1 hour and 45 minutes to get to my current job on the bus - and my office is less then 3 miles from my apartment. To go to the grocery store would take an hour - and it's a mile away.

With my car, I can drive from my apartment directly to anyplace I want to go. I don't have to be concerned about a long walk or bike ride before or after I get to or off the bus or light rail.

Mass transit is horribly inefficient from a time standpoint. My time has value - if I waste an extra hour or two a day taking mass transit that has a cost to me.

Bitterly clinging to our cars has nothing to do with stubbornness and everything to do with the inherent weaknesses of mass transit.

It would take me 1 hour and 45 minutes to get to my current job on the bus - and my office is less then 3 miles from my apartment. To go to the grocery store would take an hour - and it's a mile away.

Have you considered biking? Sounds like a 15 minute bike ride to me.

"Have you considered biking? Sounds like a 15 minute bike ride to me. "

What's the point if you can drive. Oh wait, that 'global warming' B.S. again...

"I'm a big fan of the idea of mass transit. Its my hope that over the next decade, Portland's investment will really pay dividends as it allows and encourages the culture to shift away from cars. If that happens, all the light-rail work is going to seem visionary. If gas prices double over the next year (again), that'll do it."

And what happens if cars become more energy-efficient than the MAX? Doh! Better car technology exists now, and broad market acceptance is on the horizon, like Meg wrote.

JF's point is that mass transit is not the best alternative since it is:

1. Inflexible
2. Doesn't go where one needs to go
3. Is incredible expensive - the cost these streetcars/Max could put a lot of buses on the road
4. The lines are generally sited so that someone's pockets get deeper

So, a bike or an electric vehicle are much more flexible, but not always practical.

The $6.3 million shows someone's benefiting already and construction hasn't even begun.

This is stupid. Cityhall can't wait three months to see who wins in November? It really does matter who wins in November. If McCain wins, it probably does get much harder to get this elephant built largely by the federal government.

The Children's Investment Fund is up for renewal this November, and $6.3 million could pay for half its annual costs. Instead, cityhall asks its taxpayers to fund such worthy basic services while cityhall gets to play downtown decorator.

Otherwise, it's a nice day in the town of government handouts.

I was lucky enough on Wednesday to see a prototype electric thing for a bike on Mt Tabor. It had a battery about a third the size of a car battery and a motor that discretely replaces the hub for the front wheel. It was a no-motorized-vehicle day. The rider was moving uphill at a pace that was right out of Wizard of Oz (Almira Gulch taking Toto away); with kid in tow to boot. Freaked me out.

The creators cannot resist setting up solar panels to charge the battery.

The car culture has as much, or more, to do with a preference for the convenience of individualized mobility versus climbing onto a mobile sardine can. There is less of an Apples to Oranges problem (or eco-ideology war) when comparing such an electric bike thing to an electric street car. I do wish the real entrepreneurs well, as against the typical (and timeless) cabal of hand out seekers professing to make a better world through use of snake oil (to line their pockets).

If you want to see greater efficacy toward anti-car then try this:

How about adding a requirement to any "affordable housing" project that receives any aid from the city that the occupants not have gas powered vehicles? Lower rents seem to fuel car purchases and parking problems to boot, on the street and in numbers greater than the code-required on-site parking spaces. The increase in cars at Killingsworth x Cully for example, post-redevelopment, is astounding. NOW I rarely see any walkers going from there to the Albertsons near me, along Cully.

Would the demand for the city-aided units drop like a rock, solely because of such an anti-gas-vehicle condition? The cost to conduct a test would be close to zero, and the results would likely be known instantaneously.

It's all about the time people.
I took TriMets calculator test, and by driving I not only save 3X as much money, I cut a two hour bus/light rail commute to about 14 minutes.

What's the point if you can drive. Oh wait, that 'global warming' B.S. again...

Yeah! Those egghead scientists and their so-called "data" and "multiple peer-reviewed studies" and "documented evidence"! You told 'em!

Dave: Yeah! Those egghead scientists and their so-called "data" and "multiple peer-reviewed studies" and "documented evidence"! You told 'em!
JK: Oh, you mean like the fraudulent "hockeystick" that Al Gore uses?

Perhaps you meant the chart Al used to show how temperature and CO2 are related? He forgot to tell us that the CO2 lags temperature by a average of 800 years. He lied.

Oh, I bet you mean the several peer-reviewed papers that prove that CO2 lags temperature.

Please broaden you reading beyond the Sierra club weekly reader.

Thanks
JK

I love that comment about "breaking the dam" of federal funding.

The dam is not the problem - it's that the water behind it (the funding) is drying up faster than the city planners can imagine.

Don't know if anyone caught it the other day, but New York state's governor was on TV stating that his state is facing a roughly 40% reduction in tax revenues and declaring it a crisis.

The feds will be facing similar issues in the next couple of years.

Bottom line - those funds ain't comin. That $6 Mil is toast. Perhaps we can recycle the blueprints into a paper airplane for Sustainability purposes.

Reggie.

Dave J.

I don't think it's a valid argument for you to throw out stuff like "sounds like a five minute bike ride".

First of all, a lot of people can't ride a bike due to health reasons or their age.

Second, as far as commuting by bike is concerned, most people don't have jobs where they can arrive sweaty and be smelly all day. Most employers, since we have primarily a small business economy, can't provide showers and the other necessary amenities for people to be able to clean up and change clothes after their bike commute.

Near as I can tell, the vast majority of bike commuters in Portland are, in fact, city employees, where the city provides those amenities and offers incentives for bicycling. That's all fine and dandy if you're a government worker, but most of us aren't.

Let's see...

They're spending $6.3 million of your tax dollars (though they have no money to keep our roads in good shape) for the design of a 3.3-mile streetcar loop.

They want $150 million to build the 3.3-mile run.

Yet a month or so back, in June, A federal study of the project's cost effectiveness found it didn't meet the transporation agency's funding requirements.

In other words, the project's a turkey, but the choo-choo-meisters at City Council find the truth somehow offensive.

This Streetcar crap has got to stop. It is a worthless toy, that just looks pretty to some (like Scam). Transit users are MUCH better served with good bus service.

Anyone have any solid, unbiased figures on how much coal will be burned to power the streetcars per passenger-mile ?

It makes me happy reading everyone's comments and, for once, agreeing with the majority. Buses are the best option for mass transit, period. And I don't care how they do it over in Europe, cars aren't going away, even with $10/gallon gas like Obama and the Dems in congress want.

I read something to the effect that a multi-million dollar high-rise development is planned for 12th and Sandy, but the real estate will only be available if they do the Burnside-Couch couplet, which only becomes required if you add the street car to the existing traffic mix.

Also, there is this business of tracks guaranteeing delivery of people to the developer's door. You can't have a rapid, green bus system, even if the logic is completely inescapable, because that doesn't make the usual suspects their usual take, because people could take it anywhere! Can't have that!

I am coming to see the street car as logically similar to, and perhaps even married to, the drive for nuclear power plants. Distributed generation, green buses and cars are better for the people. Only central planners, large scale developers and big utilities benefit from systems like the street car.


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