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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on June 29, 2010 11:45 AM. The previous post in this blog was Why the cops Tased an 86-year-old woman. The next post in this blog is Follow the public bidding laws?. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Bass ackward transit planning

We thought the idea of commuter trains was to help get people out of their cars. But down in Wilsonville, where Tri-Met's WES train has proved to be a colossal flop, they're talking about spending $27 million to build new roads to get more people to drive to the train:

The main project component extends Kinsman Road from Barber Street to Boeckman Road. The hope is to reduce traffic around Interstate 5 and expand commuter access to the South Metro Area Regional Transit (SMART) station....

This project, which extends Barber from Kinsman Road to Coffee Lake Drive, continues a project started in 2008 to provide street connectivity between the Villebois community and the WES commuter rail station. This project is in combination with three others that the city has designed with the help of the Oregon Department of Transportation.

As we understand it, access to the train is just fine as it is. The problem is that nobody has any reason to ride it. Are we missing something?

Comments (15)

This is a joke... right?

The problem is that nobody has any reason to ride it.

Wrong-O. Two words: Free. Wi. Fi.

there is plenty of access to the station, just no one wants to ride it

Finally, I've figured how to get them to keep roads repaired - Just say they are for access to light rail.

WES has to be bleeding money.

Good idea Steve. Let's start telling City Hall we need to take care of our roads so that we can get to the MAX and the bike shop.

Is WES a worse boogdoggle than the tram? We need a side-by-side comparison to see which pie-in-the-sky transit project threw more of our money down a toilet.

Jack,
You haven't been paying attention. They have signs all over the Tri Met buses that say "WES WORKS".

And this part

"The hope is to reduce traffic around Interstate 5"

Around? But not on I-5?
Eihter way it is asinine to expect any benefit to I-5 at all.

In fact the city is likely being disingenuous and their real motive is to divert traffic away from the over burdened Wilsonville Road interchange to the north Wilsonville interchange.

The horrific planning by Wilsonville and the new coming new Fred Meyer at Wilsonville Road will soon make traffic worse than Tualatin-Sherwood Road at it's worst.

This is all the aftermath of former Mayor Lehan who lead the adoption of auto trip rationing for new development only to abandone it when they discovered the Urban Renewal (TIF) Villebois used them all up for decades. With more UR and the Fred Meyer and old town makeover far more trips are coming.

But the past planning shenannigans failed miserable to accomodate the growth in traffic the $150 million in UR subsidized development would generate.

This is the perfect demonstration of the regions failed planning model and schemes to adopt it.

Lehan and company were faced with a fatal flaw from ODOT in their Villbois plans.

ODOT reported that a new freeway interchange was needed.

Lehan hired a consultant to come up with an alternative plan. It didn't have to be built just alterantive.

I kid you not that alternative to get around the fatal flaw was to covert Wilsonville Road under I-5 to 6 lanes in each direction.

Flash forward and here in the city that Lehan called the best planned of all 23 Metro cities, facing the kind of expensive chaos that only the UR/mixed use/village planners can create.

Dave: They should make those into status signs that say "WES doesn't work" when the pollen count stops those mighty diesel beasts.

But WES destination is.....
...wait for it....

BEAVERTON!

Beaverton does have a certain vibrancy to it that makes me sort of want to take a diesel and money-burning commuter train to... maybe...

Has ANYTHING concerning WES so far made any economic sense whatsoever? Nothing but PR and lies on top of failure and corruption.

Said it before and I'll say it again.

When MAX is built, ODOT traffic counts prove that traffic volumes INCREASE, at a higher rate, in the roads parallel to or in the immediate vicinity of a MAX line both in the year of opening and the following year; traffic continues to increase at the same level as previous in subsequent years.

When MAX was extended to the westside, numerous roads had to be widened at/about the same time - nearly all of the roads in the Orenco Station were two lane roads (Cornell was four lanes, but it had ended at Cornelius Pass and did not continue east) - Cornelius Pass and Evergreen are both now five-lane roads, Cornell was pushed through.

U.S. 26 had to be widened to three or four lanes in each direction from Sylvan to Cornell - AFTER MAX was built. Today, ODOT is working to widen 26 out to 185th.

The Cornelius Pass interchange had to be completely rebuilt to accommodate greater traffic volumes.

And now we have WES. Thanks to the misguided, Metro approved development, a substantial wetland just west of the WES station will be partially filled in to accommodate new road construction simply for the sake of allowing single-occupant motorists to drive a short distance (in a supposedly "transit-oriented development!") to a publicly subsidized, toll-free parking lot, to ride in a mode of transit that costs well above and beyond the majority of services offered by TriMet save for its LIFT paratransit service, and provides red-carpet amenities far beyond what the average bus rider receives.

All...while TriMet decries the cost of the bus system which comparatively is cheap - and some fixed-route bus routes actually turn a profit for TriMet.

Of course, it should be noted that the WES station siting in Wilsonville itself is flawed; it is so removed from virtually anything in Wilsonville that it requires an auto-trip to get somewhere and Wilsonville had to completely reinvent its bus system just to serve the out-of-the-way WES station; whereas the WES station could have been sited off of Wilsonville Road in the city's central business district. In general, transit facilities tend to be successful when sited in a CBD or downtown core area (of which only the Tigard WES station, and possibly Tualatin's, would count as being properly sited.)

The $27 million cited to build just ONE road whose only purpose is to connect a detached "transit-oriented development", through a "protected" wetland to an out-of-the-way WES station in the middle of an industrial zone, could be used instead to purchase 77 buses, or a small shared-ride jitney system...or better yet, some other more worthwhile community investment. Instead, it is being used in a way that is entirely inconsistent with Metro's own transportation planning; yet Metro willingly allows the exception as it supports the dumbfounded WES system which Metro wholeheartedly supported. Metro should be acknowledging the mistake, and taking the steps needed to shut down WES instead.

Didn't Trimet even have to purchase the company that was building the WES trains because it was going under, in order to get the trains built at all? And are they still building trains for other communities? Or did they close it down after the WES units were built?

Didn't Trimet even have to purchase the company that was building the WES trains

Not exactly.

Colorado Railcar, the company that was contracted to build the WES cars, was behind schedule by several months and TriMet sent a representative to the factory in Colorado to find out what was going on, after being essentially brushed off by CRC's staff.

What TriMet found was a company that was literally days away from running out of money; disputes with essential parts suppliers, basic bills (as in the electric and phone bills) going unpaid. TriMet stepped in and took control of the company, was paying the bills - yes, paying the payroll, paying the suppliers, paying the utility bills - ON TOP of advances already given to the company (with no accounting for where the money went).

As a result, TriMet got two of the four cars delivered onto the property and final fitting had to be done on site by TriMet and P&W employees here in Oregon. The other two cars were finished as best as possible, and then sent over. One car under construction was destined for the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority (a.k.a. TriRail), the only other commuter agency that uses the DMU, and one for the Alaska Railroad.

TriMet's last two DMUs left the factory, and the SFRTA and AKRR DMUs left the factory about a week later. At that point, the company was allowed to cease operations and was liquidated.

In the liquidation auction, the engineering plans for the DMU was purchased by a company called USA Recovery Group, that formed another LLC called U.S. Railcar. It is based out of what can best be described as a railroad-themed party/conference facility in Columbus, Ohio, and they have announced the production of the DMU at a factory site to be determined - but not one order has been placed. The USA Recovery Group has virtually no background, no history...but it has located a partner, American Railcar Industries (ARI) which is a well known freight car manufacturer and competitor to Portland's Greenbrier Corporation (who is the parent company of Gunderson).

As a result, TriMet's "$80 million project" became budgeted at $121 thanks to early cost overruns (underestimating the cost of real estate - Washington County had to bail out TriMet on that one and send folks to Union Pacific's headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska and write a $24 million check - because someone forgot to ask UP for the required real estate and UP was able to jack up the price knowing that TriMet was too far into the project to back away); and ended up being a $161 million project - $40 million and 30% over budget - thanks to Colorado Railcar.

It should be noted that Colorado Railcar is at least the third reincarnation of a business that operated under other business names, failed and reconstituted itself (see Rader Railcar, Rader Railcar II, and an affiliated company, Tillamook (yes, as in Tillamook, Oregon) Railcar.)

TriMet should have learned from the Crown-Ikarus buses of 1981 - use TRUSTED, EXPERIENCED suppliers. Thanks to Colorado Railcar, TriMet had to go to the Alaska Railroad to buy two 1950s era Budd Rail Diesel Cars to refurbish - when TriMet had the opportunity to buy THREE RDCs from ODOT for $250,000 - ready to run; plus TriMet could have purchased two more from the Port of Tillamook Bay Railroad (before that railroad was washed out stranding the cars on the Oregon Coast), and there are still two more RDC cars sitting rusting on a siding in a Tigard industrial park. For just a few million dollars, TriMet could have refurbished these older but solid cars - instead, it paid nearly $50 million for "state of the art" cars that have been sidelined numerous times by various problems (clogged fuel filters, improperly installed electrical wiring, various mechanical failures)...

Why can't we have our local media researching and reporting what Eric just posted? I think we know the answer.

Media is beholden to government entities like TriMet, City Council, PDC and Metro. I remember the days and other papers of other cities that sought the Truth. We have a Media/Government Complex.


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