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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on January 2, 2012 9:45 AM. The previous post in this blog was Follow her down to a bridge by a fountain. The next post in this blog is Countdown is on. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Monday, January 2, 2012

Sanity restored in Motown

An alert reader points out that the folks in Detroit, Michigan have come to their senses and scrapped a budget-busting light rail project in favor of high-speed buses:

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told Detroit Mayor Dave Bing that doubts that Detroit could pay operating costs over the long term for the light-rail line because of its and the state's financial problems swayed him against the plan. The decision came despite earlier public support that included LaHood's 2010 visit to Detroit to award a $25-million grant to get the project moving.

LaHood, President Barack Obama's top transportation official, met last week with Bing and Snyder, and the sides agreed that the better option is a system of rapid-transit buses operating in dedicated lanes on routes from downtown to and through the suburbs along Gratiot, Woodward and Michigan avenues and along M-59, the officials said.

The death of the light-rail plan, first reported on freep.com Tuesday evening, brings an end to about four years of intensive effort by the city, private developers and nonprofit groups to create what was widely viewed as the most promising attempt in decades for a light-rail system to Detroit.

The feds will help you build it, but you get to pay to run it. For the taxpayers, it never, as the real estate sharpies say, "pencils out."

Oh, we can hear the nattering Blumenites now -- "Thank God we're not like Detroit, Michigan." Uh huh, until you look at the government balance sheets, on which our ink is as red as theirs.

Comments (32)

For the Milwaukie Lightrail, what is worse than even Detroit Federal "$25 Million grant to get the project moving" is that Bluemenaurites stole $200 Million from our State Lottery dollars to get MLR started. All the Planning and pouring concrete in the Willamette River for the Singing Anti-Car Bridge comes from our State dollars.

This same scenario of throwing spoils money to study, throw a little dirt, line up a few government jurisdictions to promise some money for a project is playing out for the LO Streetcar, the Barbur to Tigard Lightrail, Lightrail to Oregon City, the CRC Bridge, you name it.

Maybe there is hope when LaHood and the Obama administration even sees the reality beyond what Bluemenaurites tell them. Our transportation systems are broke.

Portland's problem is much worse than Detroit's. In the motor city, they are concerned that they MIGHT not have the cash to operate trains; in Portland, we KNOW there is a shortfall. The Green Line to CTC has been operating at service levels 33% below what was promised to the feds ever since day one, due to cash flow problems. Those problems are only getting worse, as TM and Portland try to figure out if they can run the eastside streetcar at all.

If LaHood thinks operating costs matter, he should kill the Milwaukie LR line right now and cut everyone's losses. But I'm sure the local light rail mafia has him convinced that all is well here.

Just read the comments on this PMLR story and the Portland problem is clear.

The cabal of government agencies, consultants, designers, engineers, big time contractors, developers, planners and their rank and file supporters are engaged in forcing their will and agenda upon unwilling communities around the region, at any and all costs.

Their reckless abandon is finally getting rejected and the tantrum they are throwing is entirely predictable.

It's not enough for them to keep their agenda in Multnomah County where little resistance exists.
Portland, TriMet and Metro (all branches of Sam Adams government) are pushing to impose their agenda where it is not wanted.
None of them have any credibility at all.
Supporters spew all the usual contrived rhetoric about how worthwhile it all is but their real message is that voters should NOT have a choice. Anything but that. Not in Clackamas, Lake Oswego, Clark County or the SW corridor. The identical tactics are being used in every jurisdiction.,

Fortunately the enormous and diverse grassroots rebellion in Clackamas County, which their opponents call "a small group of whack jobs" is proving the entire establishment can be beaten by a huge margin. Just allow the 1000s of people to sign petitions and voters will deliver victories like 63% & 70% even with more Democrats voting.

I know it's hard to fathom, but IMO resistance is now futile for the establishment. The size of the rebellion has surpassed insurmountable and continues to grow towards inevitability.

BTW it's my understanding TriMet is pushing forward with eastside work on PMLR in hopes of assuring their relocated and new lavish headquarters funded by PMLR proceeds.

Funny how there is no mention of their new headquarters in any google results.
Should we assume it will be a sustainable Taj Mahal?

LaHood should be sent some of bojack's threads on the light rails in pdx.
He needs to hear from viewpoints other than the light rail promoters.

How many operational costs around the city have not been factored in and what do they all add up to?

Just to keep this from being an echo chamber , I will mention that some of us do like mass transit , and we think the priorities that massively favor the horribly polluting 3,000 lb single user metal boxes are out of control. Every car on pdx streets sends out toxic pollution that the rest of us have no choice but to breathe. You are externalizing the true cost of your auto poison , and should be taxed for the health damage you cause the rest of us , the 99%

"All the Planning and pouring concrete in the Willamette River for the Singing Anti-Car Bridge comes from our State dollars."

>>>> Lee, what about the anti-pedestrian Fremont and Marquam bridges. Tit-for-tat, you know.

The new bridge will be very good for SE bus operations and pedestrians. The streetcar and light rail are an unnecessary waste of money.

billb: Just to keep this from being an echo chamber , I will mention that some of us do like mass transit , and
JK: Would you please also advocate paying your full cost per ride - about $10 - instead of sponging off of taxpayers for 75% of your transportation?

billb: we think the priorities that massively favor the horribly polluting 3,000 lb single user metal boxes are out of control.
JK: What priorities would those be? Free choice? People choosing faster, more convenient ways to travel?

billb: Every car on pdx streets sends out toxic pollution that the rest of us have no choice but to breathe.
JK: So do buses. In fact buses spew MORE pollution than small cars because they use more energy per passenger-mile than small cars. Under BHO’s new energy mandate, cars will use far less energy than buses, hence be far less polluting.
BTW, light rail is powered by coal, nuclear, birds & fish.

billb: You are externalizing the true cost of your auto poison , and should be taxed for the health damage you cause the rest of us , the 99%
JK: Get real - modern cars are almost pollution free and are cleaner than buses.

For the record:
Trimet spends more per daily user than the average person spends to own and operate a car.
See: http://www.pdxtransport.com/
Trimet’s bus fleet uses energy about equal to a car getting 22 MPG. (portlandfacts.com/top10bus.html)
Commuting on Trimet averages 70-85% longer than car. (portlandfacts.com/commutetime.html)

Thanks
JK

"should be taxed for the health damage you cause the rest of us , the 99%"

You mean people who don't drive? I think that's more like 10%. Money is spent on auto-centric projects because an overwhelming majority of taxpayers use them.

billb,

Most people have no objection to mass transit. Including the rebel voters and those who currently ride the Clackamas buses who will be forced to transfer to a slower train in Milwaukie to finish their trip downtown.

It's disturbing that you haven't been able to address the public choice or grasp the complaints and fatal flaws with PMLR.

My guess is you are being disingenuous.

With the change in Detroit's transit system from light rail to BRT, the Feds are acknowledging that the latter is less expensive to build and operate than the former. Where is this intelligence seen in the federal transportation plan that keeps the (Chinese) money flowing for light rail and streetcar projects?

PMLR = Wapato Jail on rails.

You are externalizing the true cost of your auto poison , and should be taxed for the health damage you cause the rest of us , the 99%

No, we're not "externalizing the true cost". We're being realistic. What's the true cost of transit - bus riders who lose transit access in order to pay for rail projects? Seven bus riders lost service for each WES rider...how is that a success? $165 million in the drain, while bus riders (those that are left) put up with ancient, unreliable equipment (that costs more to run, and thus TriMet tells us it's broke - when it's own management decisions are costing the agency millions)? What about the cost of inflated housing costs, the subsidies to developers, the lost property tax revenues from LIDs meaning schools get less money that the rest of us have to make up?

If you want to play the "true costs" game, then let's see you cards. Let's see the TRUE COST of a light rail project. It's far, far, far more than what TriMet and Metro pitch.

But let's get to your other two points:

How is taxing auto users for the health impacts going to do anything? Who provides healthcare in this country? For the majority of us (two-thirds) it's not the government. So essentially you want to tax 90% of Americans, to gold-plate health-care for the 1/3rd of Americans that do get socialized healthcare (government employees, retirees and families, veterans, and Medicare recipients)? While the 2/3rds of us get nothing? Or are you going to give that tax revenue to the health insurance companies, that'll just use it to pad their profits and continue to increase rates year after year? Which is it? Either way - you're taxing in the premise of one argument, but the end result has nothing to do with what you want it to do.

And finally...the 99%... You're just simply wrong - 90% of Portland metro trips taken are by automobile (either alone or carpooling). That leaves 10% for transit, biking, walking, work-from-home. Transit gets about a 3-4% share - 1/3rd of that by light rail/streetcar and the other 2/3rds by bus.

That said...90% of Portlanders drive or are using a car. Why should we blow money on transit modes that Portlanders "who love transit" are themselves refusing to use? We have a bus system - why are we disinvesting in it? If Portlanders love transit so much why are they up in arms about actually having to pay to ride the Streetcar or MAX downtown? The Green and Yellow Lines are almost never crush load. Much of the Blue Line's ridership comes from park-and-riders, rather than those who walk to a MAX station (or use a bus to get to a MAX station).

I think the 90% speaks for themselves...

Oh, and I ride the bus. But frankly, last week I took my car (thanks to free parking downtown) and I had one of the least stressful commute weeks in a long, long time. No standing in the rain for a bus...no crush loads on the bus...no buses passing me up, no buses breaking down, no walk along a street sans sidewalk... It was great. Sure, it cost me a little more in gas (since all of the other costs, including Washington County's multiple-time-overwhelmingly-approved-by-voters-property-tax-levy are sunk whether I drive or not), but it was money well spent on my sanity and lowered stress levels (and improved health).

I'd love to see some analysis regarding the trade-offs for the city re: operating a mile of streetcar line for a year versus how many miles of road maintenance could be done for that amount of money.

I get the impression that some of the previous commenters would be just as vitriolically opposed to express buses as they are to rail transit.

Benjamin J: I was actually wondering about how much more it costs to operate light rail vs. an LRT system. I'd assumed that LRT would at a minimum be competitive from an operations perspective because you could run lower frequencies (due to higher capacity) while still employing one person to run the vehicle. I thought the place where BRT really had the advantage was in construction, because you didn't have to spend all the money building the rails.

Benjamin: I propose a third party that you, most Democrats, and many Republicans could readily support because it would exert zero negative impact upon your core values. I propose the establishment of the OPM Party; dedicated to the proposition that Other Peoples' Money is rightfully yours to blow in any spendthrift fashion that you deem desirable.

Busses are way less expensive because they do not require a separate system on which to operate. They drive on roads!
Also because they use streets the routes can be easily altered to changing demographics, unlike anything that runs on a set of tracks.
I really wonder who is running the rail oligarchy.

Buses seem to me to be the only logical choice for mass transit in a place like Portland. I thought it was really odd that Detroit was even thinking of light rail. They're so broke they probably can't even afford buses. Detroit can barely afford scooter taxis and rickshaws. They are third world and dropping.

Portland can at least afford a nice fleet of buses. That is, if they would stop wasting all of the capital money on stupid stuff like toy trains and street cars.

I've lived here a long time and I still haven't figured out exactly why a small group of morons keep shoveling money into the light rail black hole. Is it because they really think it is a good idea? Or is it a scheme to reward friends and family? It isn't a good idea as most anyone who thinks about knows, so it must be some sort of con job or graft.

So Max, are you a member of the OPM party when it comes to all of our money that goes to build freeways and streets that some of us don't use? Hint: a lot of tax money going to roads ain't gasoline tax "user fees."

User fees can get to be a bit illogical.!'if every "public" service was funded by user fees, there would be no public education and a lot of uneducated people. More like Haiti than Detroit. I think we have come to an age where there are just too many choices competing for limited resources and no clear consensus about how services should be prioritized. That's too bad. Previously obvious maintenance items
Ike street upgrades and repairs are taking back seat to expensive glamour projects like streetcars. How and when did this city and country become so self-indulgent and spoiled? You need to eat your vegetables before you get dessert.

Andy:

Be fair, the Airport MAX line makes sense, it serves a corridor that would likely use the service (Airport->Convention Center and Downtown) and does so much better than the bus line it replaced (which I rode a few times when I first moved here).

Benjamin J. So Max, are you a member of the OPM party when it comes to all of our money that goes to build freeways and streets that some of us don't use? Hint: a lot of tax money going to roads ain't gasoline tax "user fees."
JK: Please give us a credible source for the claim.
And compare that to the tax subsidies to mass transit on a per-passenger-mile basis.

Please do not include urban renewal spending on roads to profit the developer weasels in the pearl and the sowhat.

Thanks
JK

Somewhere in this entire arguement is lost the FACT that TriMet operates a fleet of aging and unrelaible busses. Most larger cities have already moved on and partially or completely replaced old diesel busses with late model hybrid and/or electric busses.
Even here in tiny Reno, we have a fleet of mostly hybrid, electric and articulated buses that are light years ahead of what TriMet uses. Not only does the entire fleet run with much fewer brealdowns, but the pollution is far less as well.

Nobody,

There is more to determining sense than "it serves a corridor".

Like how often it runs nearly empty and the fact that it is stuck on rail tracks. Among other measurements.

And I reject that "it does so much better than the bus line it replaced" because you "rode it a few times."

Bus routes and shuttle buses to various destinations could serve the corridor and beyond to any destinations on demand as service is needed.

The entire plan of Airport MAX spurring a transit/ped/bike oriented development at Cascade Station not only failed but it ended up becoming the big box strip mall it was intended to prohibit.

So it's a double failure being propped as making sense with meaningless rhetoric to prevent anyone from being held accountable.

I'd shut it down tomorrow and run buses when needed. Same with WES.

But we can all argue endlessly about these rail boondoggles.

The voters should settle it.

There is more to determining sense than "it serves a corridor".

I think in practically every case the express bus service that TriMet cancelled after building each light-rail line had faster travel time than MAX ended up having. Many of them were re-routed as feeders to the light-rail stations turning many people's fast, transfer-free commutes into a slow crawl with 2-3 transfers. I know both PMLR and CRC light-rail line that TrainMet hopes to build are both expected to be about twice as slow as the existing bus service (and that's according to their own DEIS reports). The main motivation for LRT is that it is very expensive which makes Siemen's, Homer Williams, United Streetcar/Oregon Ironworks, etc. very happy.

I had a conversation a few years ago with one of the "light rail mafia" members here in town. It only took a few minutes before I figured out that the guy (who is still around) was addicted to OPM. His attitude was that since the Feds were willing to pay for stuff then we should take "their money" and build stuff. And he really wanted to build expensive stuff that would be "iconic" and "a showcase".

The simple concept that regular people actually have to work at jobs to pay the taxes to pay for this stuff didn't seem to concern him.

So I understand that there are greedy idiots loose in society who want to take my money to spend on stuff they like. What I don't understand is why do we elect those people into positions where they can do harm?

It would help if the media illustrated what other cities/regions have turned to, express buses with clean facilities, wifi, etc. and buses such as Dave A. mentioned in Reno.

Perhaps the media has and I have missed it?

Most likely citizens are being kept, "broke, dumb and happy!!"
(propaganda works for some)

Randall O'Toole has already done a study of Portland's transportation issues and he favors enhancing buses over the cost of light rail. Check him out on the net.
Besides, no one is around to ride all these light rails because there are few jobs to get to these days.

Some of us are broke, smart and pissed off!

The more I read this blog, the more Portland sounds just like San Francisco: "The cabal of government agencies, consultants, designers, engineers, big time contractors, developers, planners and their rank and file supporters are engaged in forcing their will and agenda upon unwilling communities around the region, at any and all costs."

Sounds like Frisco to me.

I don't know about Detroit, but Dave Bing was a pretty good NBA basketball player. People who voted for him at least knew he could do something right.


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Mitch Albom - Have a Little Faith
C.S. Lewis - The Magician's Nephew
F. Scott Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby
William Shakespeare - A Midsummer Night's Dream
Ivan Doig - Bucking the Sun
Penda Diakité - I Lost My Tooth in Africa
Grace Lin - The Year of the Rat
Oscar Hijuelos - Mr. Ives' Christmas
Madeline L'Engle - A Wrinkle in Time
Steven Hart - The Last Three Miles
David Sedaris - Me Talk Pretty One Day
Karen Armstrong - The Spiral Staircase
Charles Larson - The Portland Murders
Adrian Wojnarowski - The Miracle of St. Anthony
William H. Colby - Long Goodbye
Steven D. Stark - Meet the Beatles
Phil Stanford - Portland Confidential
Rick Moody - Garden State
Jonathan Schwartz - All in Good Time
David Sedaris - Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
Anthony Holden - Big Deal
Robert J. Spitzer - The Spirit of Leadership
James McManus - Positively Fifth Street
Jeff Noon - Vurt

Road Work

Miles run year to date: 113
At this date last year: 155
Total run in 2016: 155
In 2015: 271
In 2014: 401
In 2013: 257
In 2012: 129
In 2011: 113
In 2010: 125
In 2009: 67
In 2008: 28
In 2007: 113
In 2006: 100
In 2005: 149
In 2004: 204
In 2003: 269


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