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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on November 28, 2011 8:32 PM. The previous post in this blog was Born right here, November '43. The next post in this blog is Classic Scone. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Streetcar lies (and the lying streetcar liars who tell them)

They just cut nearly $60 million out of the fantasy budget for the insane Portland-to-Lake-Oswego streetcar project. Now apparently Homer Williams and his posse think they can can ram it down the throats of residents who don't want any part of it.

The news gives O Portland City Hall reporter Brad Schmidt another opportunity to display his biases. In the third paragraph of this story, the opponents are described as "well-heeled residents in Dunthorpe and Lake Oswego." The headline writer's no better: "Costs drop for Portland to Lake Oswego streetcar as project 'rebooted.'" "Costs drop"? Maybe. You journalism students, for the sake of your careers, please demand better of yourselves.

In any event, holiday time is a perfect time to push a scam forward. Homer and his water boys, the mayors of Portland and Lake O., have a busy month ahead.

Comments (26)

"Last year's projections showed the original route, which didn't stretch to 23rd, could draw as many as 11,930 boardings a day -- in 2035."

I'm so happy our leaders are focusing on 2035. That frees me up to try and make it through the month.

Ex LO mayor, Judie Hammerstad, wrote in the O in April 2011 the recipe for how to fudge numbers to come up with a dollar amount that taxpayers would find acceptable.

http://www.oregonlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2011/04/the_lake_oswego_streetcar_make.html

"Even the costs of the streetcar project are misstated. The project cost of $458 million is expressed in 2017 dollars, which is inflated by 4 percent per year since 2010. This number includes the value of the right of way of approximately $90 million, which is publicly owned and can be used as a match for the federal contribution. To get to the more realistic cost, subtract the $90 million, use current dollars, subtract the costs of the maintenance facility and the streetcars that won't be needed initially, and the cost, in current dollars, drops to $205 million to $250 million. That's highly affordable when compared to other recent transportation costs.

The swipes at Lake Oswego for "being swanky" is petty and has nothing to do with the fact that the residents of Johns Landing, Lake Oswego and West Linn are traveling on an undersized, congested highway with no possibility of being improved."

It has been proven that Hwy. 43 is not congested, and in fact has a reduced traffic count over the last 10 years. The DEIS is the flawed document that was slanted towards streetcar approval. Four out of seven LO city councilors including the mayor still voted to approve the streetcar as the locally approved option. Final approval is awaiting an advisory-only vote of the citizens scheduled for May. In the meantime, the City Council is poised to approve the Foothills Framework Plan after a public hearing tomorrow night, even though the developers have stated that the development and streetcar "are inextricably linked". Do they have a crystal ball for what will happen in May, or do they just not care?

Even though the outcome appears to be predetermined, please come out tomorrow evening to the LO City Council Public Hearing on the Foothills Framework Plan at 6:00 pm at the LO City Hall (4th and A). Being inextricably linked, if you don't like the streetcar, then you will not want the development either.
http://www.ci.oswego.or.us/calendar/CouncilMtgs/2011MeetingLog.htm

Mayor Jack Hoffman (and Judie Hammerstad before him) has persistently steered the process toward high density urban development and the PDX-LO streetcar. It is apparent that the conflicts of interest are numerous -- his law firm has many of the main players as clients. An ethical person would recuse himself from voting on either the streetcar or Foothills Development.
http://www.lakeoswegoreview.com/opinion/story.php?story_id=132208188117146100

Between used car salesmen and politicians, I'd take the salesmen anytime. At least I know what their end game is.

In my admittedly unscientific study based on about six months of driving Highway 43 twice each day, I can recall less than FIVE times that I was actually stuck in anything resembling congestion between Lake O and John's Landing. My drive is at least twice as far as it was in Portland and it takes me the same amount of time.

There is always some back-up once you get into Lake Oswego itself, which wouldn't seem to be improved by the fact that you add a streetcar terminus in the same area (with its park-and-ride lot feeding the same route that has the back-up).

There is quite a bit of vocal opposition to this project, but very little public support. Other than those directly involved in the project (developers, consultants, and the four members of the City Council), who is behind the "demand" for this?

Follow the money. This is and always has been about money for developers and a very few others. Toy trains have nothing to do with public transportation and improvement of the lives of the rest of us. We just pay the majority of the costs so a very few can be enriched.
It is disgusting! And this situation is everywhere. Check out the LA boondoggle for starters.

In 1998 and again in '99 the citizens of P-Town rejected the building of the Yellow line. Shortly after the second turn down TriMet announced someone on the board opened their wallet and found 60 million hidden in a secret compartment, "So we're building the thing".

Lake Oswego residents you're getting the Trolley, so go pound sand.

Look at all the pluses you'll get. Enhanced neighborhoods with new sidewalks, trees, art, paved roads, bike lanes and bike lockers

http://trimet.org/about/history/yellowline.htm

Just recently TriMet looked in the drawer and found enough money to build a money wasting solar panel grid! Whenever one of their contractors (or friends) needs a favor, they find some money!

It must be great running a public agency like that where you can hand out money to people you like and nobody can do anything about it. As long as you are handing out money to the right people, Neil's people keep you protected. And after a long career of handing out other people's money, you can retire with a big PERS payout.

Neil turned the state in a kleptocracy and the progressives have just taken it to the next level.

The LO Streetcar & Foothills as well as the Milwaukie Light Rail & Park Avenue Station can be stopped by the citizenry of Clackamas County just as the Fee Scam and UR abuse were stopped.

The grass roots uprising that defeated the fee by 64% and passed the UR measure by 70% is stronger and expanding as the primary season rolls out.

IMO there is nothing that can stop the Clackistan Rebellion.

It has an increasing full spectum of voter support, growing volunteer base, funding, lawyers and a unifrom message of NO rail and No Metro develoment.

It will be interesting to watch the establishment candidates try and defend the Portland attacks on the communities of LO and McLoughlin while trying to get votes.

Ben,
I'd like to add that we can do without Metro altogether.

I should clarify that the LO City Council meeting is tonight (Tuesday, Nov. 29) at 6 pm at the LO City Hall. Public Hearing is on the Foothills Framework Plan, though streetcar to Pdx is involved.

Just recently TriMet looked in the drawer and found enough money to build a money wasting solar panel grid!

Now, now...it's not really a grid; it'll just power some of the lights and stuff around their PSU Sustainability Station. And it's shiny!

Moreover, the panels'll save Tri-Met something like $3600 a year, which should really put a dent in the old pension liability. And at $3600 or so a year, the installation will pay for itself after 67 years!

What's that? Y'say the lifespan of the installation is only expected to be around 25 years? Hmmm. Well, put a train on it.

So if the final budget was going to double the initial estimate, now it will be three times this reduced estimate?

There's always money to be found.

TriMet continues to budget "depreciation expense" for 21 year old buses that were fully depreciated at 12 years of age. TriMet continues to budget the expense against bus operating costs, while also forcing bus riders with increased maintenance and fuel costs due to operating the older buses.

Voila - buses look like they are more expensive to operate, all the while TriMet builds a warchest to pull money from to build light rail and streetcar lines.

It also helps that TriMet also capitalizes most of the light rail maintenance costs, thus pulling those costs off the operating ledger even though they are operating costs. So light rail now looks better than it should.

The Streetcar is even worse since it's a hodge-podge of owners and operators - there's the City of Portland, there's Portland Streetcar, Incorporated, there's TriMet...it's easier to figure out the Mafia than the Streetcar.

Of course TriMet gets tripped up with WES since it can't pull a lot of the garbage it can between bus and light rail...but then TriMet pulls out the "we have to operate it or we have to repay the feds" argument. So in the end...the bus riders get the shaft because that money ($19 per boarding ride) has to come from somewhere, since the WES rider only pays $2.35 for the ride.

It's all accounting gimmicks. And TriMet is being given free reign to act this way.

Name me one large project that was ever close to the projected estimates.

These people are as addicted to raiding the public coffers for their own financial gain as a junkie is to his daily fix.

And the problem with a junkie is they have an endless spiel of BS justifying their actions.

Were they lying then, or are they lying now?

In this morning's print copy, that third paragraph reads "on behalf of residents of Dunthorpe and Lake Oswego", with "well-heeled" deleted. You should send them an editing bill.

Were they lying then, or are they lying now?

I'm pretty sure they were lying then and they are still lying now.

There are several lamentable items in Schmidt's article.

Having the new budget not buying all the trolley components at this time compared to the old budget is wrong-but right for a sales job. For example, making over 2 miles a one-way system versus two tracks, then saying "no appreciable effects" is wrong.

The trolley "project" is not "18 to two years behind schedule". The timeline had the four considered alternatives (no build-43 improvements-express buses-trolley) to be considered up until this summer, with even a provision for further analysis if needed. An exaggeration, and another example of bureaucratic hyperbole to force decisions. If Pols/bureaucrats/developers want a decision then allow all citizens paying for it have a binding vote now.

Over 1/2 of the whole line is in Portland, and now the proposal calls for most of it out in SW Macadam, supposedly to reduce acquisition and ROW costs. Wrong. Now think of how having a stop/go, 7mph trolley taking up to 2 lanes of the 4 present lanes along a good portion of Macadam-hurting traffic/volume. Already, just in the Johns Landing area, 3 intersections have "F" (failure) service.

And the ridership numbers? Funny. PDOT, who oversees these bogus numbers with LO, projected over 40% mass transit ridership for SoWhat while latest numbers are around 7%. Who are you going to believe? And why should we believe numbers out to 2035?

And when is the vote coming for Portland's segment? There isn't one. This article is a good example of the "shell game".

There is one point in the new proposal that I can't dispute: If they tear up all the roads between two sites and replace them with trolley tracks and bike paths, there will probably be a huge increase in mass transit because there are no roads left for the cars.

Organic development, the Portland way. Don't build it because it is needed, build it because you want to create the need.

Nolo,
We get the drift of what is coming.
Is there time to do a recall?

Ben,
Not that Clackamas people need help, but is that anything that Portland folks can do to assist?

When things are tied into a tight knot all around, what can be done? The treatment our community has gotten, time after time on these projects...is more than frustrating.

One problem with putting several miles of the line in Macadam is that then the trolley won't use a significant portion of the $90 million (appraised value) of the existing right-of-way. That brings the (appraised) value of the right-of-way that the trolley will use way down from the $90 million, let's say to $60 million if 1/3 of the R/O/W isn't used. That in turn means that the R/O/W is only a $60 million local contribution to the cost, instead of a $90 million, which cuts the feds' matching funds because the local contribution has then gone down.

Moreover, since the ROW is dedicated to rail, that land then reverts to adjacent property owners. This means that the 1/3 ROW that isn't used for the trolley returns to the property tax rolls; a situation that is diametrically opposed to The Portland Way.

What is the value of something that no one else can use? The ROW has little to no real market value, just the inflated number that was/is being used as a local match to get more federal dollars. It's all funny money.

The tragedy that extends beyond the Portland area is that the Obama administration has also been drinking Kool Aid and is pushing federal transportation funds on cities that build streetcars, light rail, and high capacity rail. Even though every one of those federal dollars comes from China, the politicians cannot see anything wrong with adding to the local and national debt. We just can't afford this any more.

"Value" has several meanings. The value of the R/O/W can be measured as the cost to replicate it -- how much in compensation would the government have to pay the property owners if the R/O/W weren't there and it condemned it today, plus the depreciated cost of the rail track and trackbed that are already there. Measured that way, the land value is measured by the square foot, plus some severance damages that the Dunthorpe homeowners would be able to claim. That total value is in the multi-millions and may be somewhere close to the $90 million that the streetcar proponents are using.

The other ways to measure value are the market approach and the income approach. What would a rail operator pay for this right-of-way? That in turn is tied to the income that the operator could earn from this track. My guess is that measured this way, the value of the right-of-way is only a few hundred thousand dollars -- nowhere near as much as what the Dunthorpe homeowners would collectively pay to repurchase and extinguish the right-of-way once and for all.

There is no need to replicate something that is unnecessary in the first place.

The government should float the idea of selling the ROW back to the private landowners and using the proceeds to improve the existing Tri-Met service (you know, the one that uses the untrendy, but efficient and flexible, bus).

Mike (the other one),
The buses these days do not need to be untrendy. There are express buses throughout the country that efficiently transport people to their destination, that offer wifi and other amenities.
Guess that concept won't be allowed in discussions by those who are intent on their path of pushing smart growth and light rail.

Agree that it is unnecessary in the first place and with Nolo, we just can't afford this any more.

Debt, Debt, and more Debt, it is like we are being driven over a cliff by decision makers. They are simply not being good stewards of our public finances or public interest anything for that matter.

Whatever happened to 2040?
Now it is 2035?
How about focusing on 2011?
It works so well to take the spotlight off of now!!

Please keep LO away from sharks. Enough of the cookie cutter plans around our area!

When one drives on highway 43 between John's Landing and Lake O, the most jarring thought isn't stop and go traffic. That is non-existent. It's the potholes, and annoying ruts that act like a ...... streetcar track from chains and studded tires. Time to throw the crooks out trying to do anything than meet their customer's expectations, and repair the road - not build a boondoggle.


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