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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Ding dong, a streetcar's dead

Portland's erratic mayor has suddenly announced that he's abandoning the decade-old plan to run a streetcar down West Burnside Street. The reason is that "the money hasn't materialized" to build it.

Let's pause right there for a moment and reflect. That phrase sums up perfectly the mayor's tenure in office so far, doesn't it? It should be the new municipal motto on the police cars: "The Money Hasn't Materialized." When Portland's too broke even for pet projects, you know the fiscal situation is dire.

The killing of the streetcar is a major setback for bookstore magnate Mike Powell, who has wasted several years of his life sitting in charade meetings and pushing for a shiny rail car in front of his flagship store. Having missed out on the Pearl District condo boom on three sides of his property, Powell was hoping for new opportunities to slap 10 stories of particle board over his existing empire. But the mortgage weasels and condo flippers have left town, and now even the developer tool in the mayor's office won't play along. Powell's learning what the Multnomah County sheriff is learning -- there is no grownup dealing with Portland's heavily medicated chief executive and his throng of inexperienced staffers.

One has to wonder why the mayor is suddenly cleaning up his act. Given that he's unemployable outside government, and that he's up for re-election next year, he's doubtlessly polling like crazy. Maybe somebody has told him that constantly flogging junk like the streetcar isn't helping his chances for staying off the unemployment line.

But he's still talking about turning West Burnside and Couch Streets into a one-way "couplet," and now he says the motorized westbound traffic on West Couch would be reduced to a single lane. What a stunningly dopey idea that is. It's even worse than the East Burnside-Couch rat maze couplet, which is now in place. Except for a small improvement in north-south traffic flow on 12th Avenue, that project turns out to have been a huge waste of money. It's still impossible to figure out why the city did it. The first instinct would be that it made some real estate tycoon happy, and in that neighborhood we'd be talking about old Joe Weston. But he supported the effort to recall the mayor, and so that can't be it. Whomever it was supposed to benefit, the East Burnside-Couch actually made life more hazardous for the city's precious bicycle commuters, which shows how ill-conceived the whole thing was.

Earl the Pearl and the Sam the Tram have made clear to Portlanders that if you're in your car, you're not welcome here. As a long-range economic strategy, nothing could be more out of touch with reality. Let's hope a new mayor gets here soon, leaves West Burnside a two-way street, tells the congressman to go find us some money for schools instead of streetcars, and spends some money making Burnside safer. There's a lot can be done without a couplet.

Comments (23)

"The Money Hasn't Materialized."

What a hypocrite and completely liar.

"The Money Hasn't Materialized" for Milwaukie Light Rail either.

They're "financing" plan just plunders existing revenue streams intended for other uses and further depletes already insufficient funding for those many services and higher priorities.

From the city share itself to lottery proceeds to Metro Flex funds to TriMet borrowing against their own operating revenue the fiscal crimes have never been greater.

The shameless MLR scheme is reason to remove from office and appointments 100s of people.

The thoroughly reckless abandon, self interest and conflicts involved make it the most egregious misuse of public funds in Oregon history.

Mike Powell doesn't have anything to complain about. He still has streetcar tracks on two of the four streets fronting his flagship building. That is more than enough.

It troubles me to hear that his excuse is money when it should be clear to all that the whole idea stinks and should never have been considered.

The rat maze couplet is the only remaining part of the "redevelopment" of the 5 blocks the city was going to give to Home Depot (Despot) for their now failed high end stores, and more condos of course. It had no real purpose for that project either, but in typical city fashion, they just went ahead with it anyway. The money for that was "materialized" I guess.
Peter Findley Fry (advisor to who ever pays top dollar for his access to City Hall) and partners own the former Templeton Building on the south east side practically on the bridge, and there are several others, loosely connected to Sam and Company, who own the buildings around the couplet area that was supposed to be the H/D store and condos.
They all bought high, and hoped to make a killing in real estate, only to be thwarted some years ago when the project fell apart.
It has probably been an expensive waiting period, and so who ever is elected mayor will have to be strong to resist their entreaties.

In reading your musings about Michael Powell

"sitting in charade meetings"

Perhaps one could amp-up the current City of Portland development speak, and you could deem that Michael Powell spent his time:

"sitting in charade charrettes"

This makes it sound so... uh... continental!

Any Portlander would have to be living under a rock on a bike path to be clueless enough to re-elect someone who never should have been elected in the first place. So disgusted.

It's time to put together a book of Sam the Scam quotes. We could call it Sh-t My Mayor Says.

  • We messed this up. [On the leaf pick-up fee fiasco]
  • We're just out to do some try-storming. [On the SamRand rape of Timbers fans]
  • You know there's no clapping. [Telling a citizen to shut up at a council meeting]
  • What you would be left with would be something that looked like a cheap ski lift at a bad ski resort. [On why the money had to materialize for $am's Tram]
  • The money hasn't materialized. [For the Michael Powell Porktrain]

The concept of having a grown up somewhere in "City Hall" is an exciting idea.

"The reason is that "the money hasn't materialized" to build it."

When has this dope ever let that stop him? All he needs to do is take yet another plane trip to see his good buddy Earl Bluemanure and re-color some money right? Or siphon it off of Randy's water money? Or create another URD?

I'm sure it will go through because: "The three-lane option would do the most for pedestrians but it would create havoc for vehicle movement,"

Mayhaps it needs a Temproary Urban Renewal District.

This is getting simply too obvious and too mandatory.

Jack Bogdanski for Mayor.

Jack: If you ever decide to run for Mayor - I will cut you a generous check for your campaign. Our three daughters visited us here in Reno for Mother's Day - and about half the conversations were about the sorry putzes Portland is stuck with on the City Council.

If Jack were the mayor, who would take his place on Jack Bog's Blog? He can't leave us high and dry like that. Some of us are addicted, checking the blog several times through out the day like some crazy OCD patient. Click the link and blissfully read about the various characters in this soap opera called Government in Action. My chores can wait!

One has to wonder if there is an underlying scheme that Sam is cooking up.

Kind of like when the good residents of Milwaukie exercised their American and democratic right to vote out their City Council when TriMet and Metro shoved MAX down their throat. What happened? Somehow, MAX came back to the forefront. Basically the city was then blackmailed: "You WILL accept MAX, or we will deny you any flexible transportation funding forever. But if you accept MAX we'll give you development money too."

I think Sam is deliberately taking the Streetcar off the burner...but it isn't going very far off the stove. He's going to have someone else do his grunt work for him and he can still claim victory in the end while being "on the record" as a fiscal conservative now, before the election.


+1 on visiting many times a day here

Jack is far too educated and judging from the family pics, is unlikely to hold a charette in a men's room. Or anyplace for that matter, I still write him in on my ballots, even on the ballots I cast when I was a Republican, before I woke up. I don't think he would fit in without a lobotomy.

Apologies for a minor thread jack.

Pertaining to the street car, it's as dead as the Convention Center hotel.

Until the SEALs come in and drag it's lifeless proposal from it's multi-million dollar, platinum LEED certified public loo, and dump it into the Columbia, I will be watching and hoping to be wrong.

Portland, it's where common sense goes to retire!

"and spends some money making Burnside safer. There's a lot can be done without a couplet."

I'm curious what measures could be made to make Burnside safer? The portion from the North Park Blocks west to NW 23rd has only 60 feet of right of way. Narrowing it to a travel lane in each direction with a center turn lane would most likely result in traffic gridlock.

I'm sure Ben and Karlock would "solve" the problem by removing all the buildings on one side of the street, including Powell's Books, to add more travel lanes!

But seriously, what are some of the realistic solutions for making West Burnside safer?

"the fiscal crimes have never been greater."

How about how my sewer dollars go to treat runoff that comes from streets and not my property?

"Somehow, MAX came back to the forefront."

That's not what I remember. I remember other ideas and not light rail being considered, but then the residents wanting it reconsidered.

And I've been on East Burnside before and after the couplet, and its a lot nicer now. Before it was hard to cross on almost ANY street, not just 12th. With traffic going in two directions, you had to wait for openings in two different traffic streams. Overall, why should rushing people through a neighborhood be prioritized over people who actually live/work/etc in the neighborhood?

Is this the first time he hasn't doubled down in a crunch? I can't remember another. Maybe an historic event?

Hmm. I take the East Burnside couplet to/from work every day. It drives a lot better than old two-way Burnside did. I can time the lights going westbound almost every trip, never stopping. Coming eastbound is not quite as good, but from the time I leave the bridge until I cross Sandy, I usually only come to one stop. Basically, the traffic that used to get squeezed onto four-lane Burnside is now spread over six lanes between Couch and Burnside, making for better flow all around. Used to be, a bus stopping on Burnside, or someone waiting to turn right, would back up both lanes in it's direction. Now there is room for traffic to go by without disruption. And left turners - used to a real traffic-killer whereever it wasn't prohibited - now you can turn left easy as pie without bringing traffic to a stop. Sorry, but you're wrong on the one. The Eastside couplet is a Very Good Thing. I'd like to see a Westside couplet. Oh, and clear the sleeping bags off Burnside while we're at it.

A wonderful testimonial -- the first person I've heard say anything good about it. The bicyclists I've spoken to have a different opinion, and my own experience has been negative. As I say, going north on 12th is marginally better. Coming west on Sandy is a ridiculous loop-de-loop, and trying to get from Burnside to Sandy eastbound is simply blocked.

"The bicyclists I've spoken to have a different opinion"

What exactly did they say? I mean they can't ride on a quiet Couch Street anymore (especially eastbound), but overall the streets seem to be calmer and easier to cross, plus there's bike lanes in parts.

As for Sandy, all it takes is a (slight) right, a left, and then another (slight) right to get back on. Eastbound from Burnside, you just have to turn up 14th for a block.

I rest my case. What an enormous waste of money.

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