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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on March 18, 2013 7:44 AM. The previous post in this blog was You can be a walking rim shot. The next post in this blog is More Portland street parking stolen on a whim. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Monday, March 18, 2013

It's who we are (stupid people, that is)

The massive money hemorrhage known as the Portland streetcar is getting a lot of attention from the mainstream media these days. Those folks are always ready with a hard-hitting exposé after it's too late. When the program was being put together and rammed down the public's throats, the local newshounds slept right through it.

Anyway, what's really funny is the hipster reaction when anybody suggests that the toy trolleys ought to be shut down or scaled back:

There is no clear-cut answer as to why ridership is down, or as to why collected fares are half of what was projected. But those few who do ride the streetcar swear by it.

"It's part of Portland," said one rider. "It's who we are."

The story's conclusion? "The streetcar's current $1 fare would need to jump to $16.66 per ticket in order to break even -- if paying-rider numbers stay the same." Like that's going to happen.

"It's who we are." No kidding. Like this: The community college about to borrow $177 million for bricks-and-mortar facilities, including all kinds of office space, in an era when the internet has revolutionized information sharing. What a waste, and all on the backs of property taxpayers (and that means you, too, renters -- it's built into your rent). But hey, the majority voted for it. "It's who we are."

Comments (19)

I just got done paying a Portland Community College bill.

The campus is glorious looking. My bank account, not so much.

The only reason why this is being investigated now is because there's nothing to be lost by doing such investigations. Back when Sam Adams was still mayor, either you had people with a vested interest in keeping Sam in power pushing to make sure that similar investigations were "sat upon", or the reporters themselves were terrified that they might lost access to Sammy if they didn't kiss his butt eight times a day. And in Portland, don't forget that wonderful revolving door of weekly newspaper writers becoming CoP flacks, right about the time they realized that their only other career options based on abilities and talent involved scraping out sewer lines from the inside.

TTR nailed it, especially re the cowardice in the Portland print media.

TTR A+

After reading San Antonio promised not to use bond measure money on light rail (in order to get support) only to advance a streetcar plan saying it is different, I have been sending San Antonio gadflies all of our local Protland streetcar stories and blog threads.

Check out how their boondoggle is shaking out.

http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/local_news/article/Group-off-hook-for-streetcars-4183225.php

It's sickening.

There's a great Krugman column today on the complicity of the media in our disasters, which I sent to my list thus:

The dangers of groupthink, the manufactured consent to insane policy choices, cannot be overemphasized.  

The commercially controlled media, rather than being the tonic to groupthink that the Framers envisioned when they wrote the First Amendment, has become the giant IV tube for anesthetic visions pleasant to the sponsors.  The failure of the press to critically and rigorously examine elite policy choices in time for informed citizens to change them is the failure of democracy.

From Iraq to economic policy to biofuels down to local insanities like the megabridge proposals for the Columbia and Willamette, we are living in dangerous times, where the corporate and political elites are so hermetically sealed into their bubbles of self approval that they tell the truth when they say "but everyone said it was a good idea" -- because you become invisible and inaudible to them if you dissent from their "business as usual" program, no matter how much evidence you amass that business as usual is a prescription for disaster.

KRUGMAN:

Ten years ago, America invaded Iraq; somehow, our political class decided that we should respond to a terrorist attack by making war on a regime that, however vile, had nothing to do with that attack.

Some voices warned that we were making a terrible mistake — that the case for war was weak and possibly fraudulent, and that far from yielding the promised easy victory, the venture was all too likely to end in costly grief. And those warnings were, of course, right.

There were, it turned out, no weapons of mass destruction; it was obvious in retrospect that the Bush administration deliberately misled the nation into war. And the war — having cost thousands of American lives and scores of thousands of Iraqi lives, having imposed financial costs vastly higher than the war’s boosters predicted — left America weaker, not stronger, and ended up creating an Iraqi regime that is closer to Tehran than it is to Washington.

So did our political elite and our news media learn from this experience? It sure doesn’t look like it.

The really striking thing, during the run-up to the war, was the illusion of consensus. To this day, pundits who got it wrong excuse themselves on the grounds that “everyone” thought that there was a solid case for war. Of course, they acknowledge, there were war opponents — but they were out of the mainstream.

The trouble with this argument is that it was and is circular: support for the war became part of the definition of what it meant to hold a mainstream opinion. Anyone who dissented, no matter how qualified, was ipso facto labeled as unworthy of consideration. This was true in political circles; it was equally true of much of the press, which effectively took sides and joined the war party.

CNN’s Howard Kurtz, who was at The Washington Post at the time, recently wrote about how this process worked, how skeptical reporting, no matter how solid, was discouraged and rejected. “Pieces questioning the evidence or rationale for war,” he wrote, “were frequently buried, minimized or spiked.”

Closely associated with this taking of sides was an exaggerated and inappropriate reverence for authority. Only people in positions of power were considered worthy of respect. Mr. Kurtz tells us, for example, that The Post killed a piece on war doubts by its own senior defense reporter on the grounds that it relied on retired military officials and outside experts — “in other words, those with sufficient independence to question the rationale for war.”

All in all, it was an object lesson in the dangers of groupthink, a demonstration of how important it is to listen to skeptical voices and separate reporting from advocacy. But as I said, it’s a lesson that doesn’t seem to have been learned. Consider, as evidence, the deficit obsession that has dominated our political scene for the past three years.

Now, I don’t want to push the analogy too far. Bad economic policy isn’t the moral equivalent of a war fought on false pretenses, and while the predictions of deficit scolds have been wrong time and again, there hasn’t been any development either as decisive or as shocking as the complete failure to find weapons of mass destruction. Best of all, these days dissenters don’t operate in the atmosphere of menace, the sense that raising doubts could have devastating personal and career consequences, that was so pervasive in 2002 and 2003. (Remember the hate campaign against the Dixie Chicks?)

But now as then we have the illusion of consensus, an illusion based on a process in which anyone questioning the preferred narrative is immediately marginalized, no matter how strong his or her credentials. And now as then the press often seems to have taken sides. It has been especially striking how often questionable assertions are reported as fact. How many times, for example, have you seen news articles simply asserting that the United States has a “debt crisis,” even though many economists would argue that it faces no such thing?

In fact, in some ways the line between news and opinion has been even more blurred on fiscal issues than it was in the march to war. As The Post’s Ezra Klein noted last month, it seems that “the rules of reportorial neutrality don’t apply when it comes to the deficit.”

What we should have learned from the Iraq debacle was that you should always be skeptical and that you should never rely on supposed authority. If you hear that “everyone” supports a policy, whether it’s a war of choice or fiscal austerity, you should ask whether “everyone” has been defined to exclude anyone expressing a different opinion. And policy arguments should be evaluated on the merits, not by who expresses them; remember when Colin Powell assured us about those Iraqi W.M.D.’s?

Unfortunately, as I said, we don’t seem to have learned those lessons. Will we ever?

Please don't include me in....."It's who we are." Some voters fall for these pipe dreams because they actually believe someone else will be paying the bill.

There is no clear-cut answer as to why ridership is down, or as to why collected fares are half of what was projected. But those few who do ride the streetcar swear by it.

Ridership is "down" because the old ridership #s were goosed by the fareless zone downtown. You have to wait 20 minutes for one to arrive, and then when it gets there you can usually beat it by walking. Or, you can take a bus for the same amount of money.

David, it's even worse. These are people who don't have problems with paying their tiny portion of the bill, and they'll gleefully tell you that they're willing to pay their share. However, if they actually had to pay their fair share, compared to the people who don't want it, then they scream and howl about how "we have to convince everyone else that this is a good idea, because I like it." (That, by the way, was something I first noticed among serious science fiction fans, but that ranges among the socially retarded regardless of political or generational affiliations. I don't know about anybody else, but I'm desperately sick and tired of the response to legitimate concerns and criticisms being "Well, I like it," with the subtext being "from God's mouth to my ear.")

Portland operates rather like a college town. The young'uns come here and vote for things that sound cool, failing to think about how they will be paid for and who will be impacted. But in Portland's case, many of the young'uns don't grow up, get jobs in the private sector or go home to be semi-dependent elsewhere. And now, "That's who we are!" Well, time to show the kids what the consequences of their dreams cost. $16 fares for all!

Thanks John Gear for an interesting post. Groupthink happens in every subculture, workplace, committee, family and anywhere more than 2 people get together. The difference today is that we don't prize independence, courage, or doing the hard thing. The generation in charge today has had that fighting spirit whipped out of them by all that "fairness" and political correctness they learned in school.

I am hoping folks sober up about the Arts tax when the bills are sent out next month. Just like other things maybe Portlanders vote for things only to regret their vote when the actual bill comes due. This almost occurred with the Multnomah Income Tax of years 2003 to 2005, but since it was temporary it barely squeaked by a repeal vote (winning continuance to end date 2005 by only 2% points).
The larger picture is if our government bodies were to just step aside now and scale back the public work projects and over regulation, we very likely would see the U.S economy take off; and the interesting thing to this very plausible scenario is tax revenues would actually grow more quickly while tax rates are kept stable. We can't seem to escape the Soviet-Harvard top down central planning models Metro and Governor Kitzhaber are wedded to. It's a shame.

Say what you will about the tram, at least the operators make sure to collect tickets before people clamber onto "Boon" and "Doggle." Nobody gets on the tram unless they pay (with perhaps the exception of some OHSU staff).

That's a far cry from the "jump on and ride because nobody's checking" reality of the streetcar. And why do three groups have to be involved in streetcar business: The City, Portland Streetcar LLC and TriMet? And with all those salaried whizzes, why isn't there are more coherent plan and better management?

That's, "a more coherent plan."

Oh, the irony.

"It's part of Portland," said one rider. "It's who we are."

6b
6c

Amen TTR! and John Gear.
I am ashamed of the city in which I was born, and in which my family has operated various businesses since 1903!

Quotable quote:

"Kids around our age tend to sneak on once in a while," said one early-20-something rider."
--------

When exactly do "kids" become adults now?

At age 23, I was a US Army Company CO of 300 men in a faraway land.

Did nobody learn from the Monorail fiasco up in Seattle?

Let's vote for something we like! Yay, it's approved! Now let's for a tax to pay for it. Yay, we're taxing ourselves!

Oh, it's going to cost...HOW MUCH? And we'll have to raise that tax...HOW MUCH?

And thus is the history of the "Seattle Popular Monorail Agency", an agency that spent a lot of money on...office space and office furniture, but not one piece of monorail. But the existing, privately owned and operated monorail, is doing quite well.

Approving things that cost money without simultaneously approving the taxes to pay for it seems silly.

Jo - and selling revenue bonds on predictions of unknowable future revenue seems fraudulent.


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