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Saturday, September 11, 2010

OMG! No Portland streetcar for two weeks!

What will all those riders do?

Ride shuttle buses, apparently.

Will the bus drivers check for payment of fares? That would be a big shock to many streetcar riders, who usually scoff at the farebox, with impunity.

Anyway, for two weeks, we'll see what Portland should have put in place (if anything) on these streets, instead of expensive, slow, inflexible fixed-rail transit. Then we'll go back to basking in the toxic glow brought to us by Mother Vera and her spawn, Sam the Tram.

Comments (18)


I seem to remember reading somewhere about this that the shuttles will be free. Can't remember where I read it.

I thought it was tragic the other day seeing people protesting the cuts in bus service. It put in focus the transfer of wealth that's going on with all this. It's not just the fact that these things are so expensive - it's also that normal working people who count on buses are having to scramble to find ways to get to work as bus service gets sliced.
The transportation system is eating itself as our leaders emphasize these big ticket items to the suburbs over helping working people get around right here. What makes it more annoying is that these are the same leaders who advocated using public transportation in the first place.
I think it all goes back to the relative thrills: Building a train or a streetcar...that's exciting - that's what important leaders do! Keeping a bus line going through a recession? Where's the thrill in that?

I've heard tales told about days of yore, when streetcars rolled along the streets of Portland. Trolleys, they called them. Well, they replaced them with buses.

Bill McDonald,
If this thrill seeking addiction is in play, why don't they go out in the private sector?
Guess the thrill is higher with other people's money. These types would be right in there anyway with the public/private partnership. Heard that term often from Katz!

We so need to go back to basics. I would take a bus before getting on the crime rails. Just talked to someone last night who will no longer use light rail. What doesn't make sense is that one has to pay to take the bus, wouldn't that put more money into Tri-Met? But that isn't what is going on here, is it?

Bill McD and clinamen,

"On March 18, 2003, President George W. Bush told Congress he was about to invade Iraq. We all know how that went.

That same day, Rep. Earl Blumenauer, a Portland Democrat, introduced a bill to create a federal grant program for streetcars."


Will the bus drivers check for payment of fares?

No, because TriMet is going to give away free rides to the Streetcar riders, who generally live in condos that are under URAs and thus don't pay much to TriMet for the service anyways. Meanwhile, existing bus riders will have to wait longer for a bus because the buses used for the Streetcar Shuttle will be taken from existing routes (as TriMet doesn't have many spare buses available); and nearly all Streetcar riders have access to other TriMet routes within a very short walking distance. So the Streetcar Shuttle is basically unnecessary - but TriMet wants to protect the "free" service the Streetcar riders are accustomed to.

I've heard tales told about days of yore, when streetcars rolled along the streets of Portland. Trolleys, they called them. Well, they replaced them with buses.

I thought it was the automobile at first. I remember something on the history channel about the large auto manufacturers buying up the trolley companies and shutting them down.

Bill McDonald.. you hit the nail on the head with these public servants. That same mentality of building something exciting is the only reason Leonard, Shaff, and Glicker are building a drinking water treatment plant and covering our reservoirs. No public health problem here. The PWB engineers have whined for years they have nothing new to talk about at national meetings. Poor little guys. Soon we will be inhaling gases from our water linked to birth defects...formaldehyde, Radon etc. All to line the ballot box for Leonard, line the PERS package for Shaff, and line the pockets for Glicker. What a great place to live.

Here's a personal example of how light rail robs Tri Met of money. Whenever I have to go down town (which I dread doing by the way), I avoid paying the local and regional governments any monies by driving a few miles and walking to the Max at the Lloyd center (fare free zone to down town). By doing this I avoid paying $2 to $4 to the bus fare box and another $4 or more in parking fees. Now there are many people who don't even bother about the free zone, they just get on the Max and don't pay period. Then there are the bicyclists who don't pay any monies, and even receive some public monies; and don't pay a dime towards the cost of their bike paths and special treatment.

But according to Mayor Adams and his cohorts, he operates in financial reality (per conversation with John Canzano) and it all pencils out. What's that old saying: "fool me once, shame on me." Fool us twice, shame on us for re-electing this character and his cohorts."

Gardiner Menefree,
Thanks for the very informative link.
From wweek link:
. . Rick Parker, a Republican, says he’s known Blumenauer since the “super-nice” congressman was a city commissioner. “That’s why I’ve tried to help him out where I can,” Parker says. “It’s just been exciting to see a congressman from the east side get some seniority, and get us some things once in a while.” . .

Looks more like a betrayal to the east side residents out where he came from if you ask me. Bet he wouldn't step his foot inside “that” light rail at night without body guards. He should take a few rides (not just on opening day celebrations) and then see if what he pushes on others is so great.

This community is hurting because of all this money shoveled into light rail and what comes with it. The agenda here using light rail is what I am against.


I thought it was the automobile at first. I remember something on the history channel about the large auto manufacturers buying up the trolley companies and shutting them down.

Bob T:

No, that's a myth. Where bus lines operated early on (say, a few routes), they attracted more riders because of the flexible routing and more comfortable rides.

When streetcar lines were purchased by auto makers (some of them, I guess), if you check the time lines you'll see that numerous streetcar lines were kept going for quite some time, and then were phased out because they were losing too much money compared to the bus lines. The streetcars were purchased not to be shut down, but to get more patrons in a mix of services (much the same way movie studios purchased TV stations -- not to run test patterns to force people to go out to the movie theater, but to get patrons even on the nights they opted to stay home).

Streetcar lines were huge money losers. That's why they were shut down. By the way, many streetcar lines were owned by the local power companies. Why didn't they by the bus lines and shut them down?
Maybe it just doesn't work that way. But some people hold onto conspiracy theories far too long. These types of conspiracy theories (transit) are easy to believe if one knows very little about the market system, and transportation issues.

Bob Tiernan

I remember something on the history channel about the large auto manufacturers buying up the trolley companies and shutting them down.

Ahh, the good old Great American Streetcar Scandal conspiracy theory.

It gets repeated over and over again, but it's flat out a lie.

About the only shred of truth is that National City Lines did buy out a bunch of private transit companies, it was owned by GM, Standard Oil, etc., and they did convert streetcar/trolley/tram lines to bus routes. Guess what? So did the transit systems that WEREN'T owned by NCL. In fact, Portland's trolley system was shut down a full decade before Los Angeles' was - and Portland's system was never owned by NCL.

Further, the story goes that NCL shut down the "red cars" of Los Angeles. Well, there's two issues wrong with that version of the story - NCL never owned "the red cars" (the Pacific Electric Railway) - and the last PE electric lines were abandoned under ownership of the Metropolitan Transit Authority - a newly formed government agency to take over the transit systems in Southern California. That's right - when the PE was turned over to a government agency, it was still running "trolleys" (the PE was actually an interurban running electric trains from downtown L.A. to the suburbs, and not comparable with the Portland Streetcar, for example). The "Yellow Cars" - the Los Angeles Railway and the local streetcar network, was owned by NCL and continued trolley operations for many years after the PE was shut down - the L.A. Ry. was abandoned in the mid-1960s.

NCL was indeed taken to federal court for its actions. It was found not guilty of any crime in shutting down the L.A. Railway trolley lines (in fact the court ruling specifically stated, non-NCL operated transit systems had been engaged in that practice since the 1920s), and NCL was found guilty of one mere offense - monopolizing the sale of General Motors buses to the NCL owned properties (instead of allowing GM competitors to sell buses to the NCL lines). NCL was fined $5,000 - a miniscule amount.

While the light rail supporters' websites continue to promote the scandal as "NCL Killed the Red Cars", numerous books and even videos produced in the 1950s and 1960s (of which I have copies of) clearly show that the Great American Streetcar Scandal is nothing more than revisionary history - and chock full of errors, mistruths, misstatements, and outright lies.

Wait... are you saying that buses can do everything that a streetcar can do? Who would have thunk it?

If these shuttles are free, that truly does offend me as a paying bus rider. Why do residents of NW need a free ride downtown?

If these shuttles are free, that truly does offend me as a paying bus rider. Why do residents of NW need a free ride downtown?

If I jump on a bus from my home to downtown Tigard (about one mile) I am expected to plunk down my $2.05 in fare.

Why should downtown Portland residents get ANY free service - Streetcar or MAX? And the "one year Streetcar + Tram pass" for just $100? $100 will barely get me a one MONTH pass on TriMet.

And now we know why TriMet is in such financial straits. If TriMet simply eliminated the subsidy to the City of Portland Streetcar, eliminated the "Free Rail Zone", and for good measure shut down WES - that would free up over $10 million a year - fully one-half of TriMet's annual financial shortfall. By eliminating layers of management and the Capital Projects Division (and shutting down all planning for future MAX lines) that'd save a few more million.

Then by forcing TriMet to more aggressively look for cost cutting for its insurance (through a combination of benefits cuts and negotiating better rates) it could easily cover the rest of the downfall.

Finally - leveraging federal funds - NOT a $150 million taxpayer bailout - to replace the aging bus fleet. The feds will pay 80% of the cost of a new bus but inexplicably TriMet is refusing that offer and demands that local taxpayers foot the entire bill - while not allowing the same taxpayers to vote on MAX/WES/Streetcar expansions. By purchasing a newer fleet (including a mix of articulated or double-decker buses, standard 40' buses and some smaller, fuel-efficient minibuses for less used routes), TriMet can take advantage of cost savings in operating newer, more fuel efficient, and less maintenance intensive vehicles; by having more reliable buses as well as articulated buses on high-capacity routes it would also save on overtime expense. It would also allow certain routes that were at 15 minute headways to go to 20 minute headways while retaining the same actual number of passenger seats per hour (and the 72 Killingsworth/82nd Avenue bus, currently running at 7-8 minute headways could go to 12 minute headways). Those would allow a reduction in labor cost simply by needing fewer drivers to move the same number of passengers.

All - without cutting ANY employee's pay (other than the managers who lose their jobs), and generally without cutting ONE MINUTE of revenue service - service to the citizens and taxpayers who make TriMet work.

Erik H.
You sure do know a lot about transportation, thank you for sharing the information.

Does seem like more of the same "insider"
benefits subsidizing that streetcar.

Feds will pay 80% the cost of a new bus and TriMet refuses?? - I can only imagine that they want that $150 million period. Is there an accounting of where these bond monies are actually spent?

I spoke with the "Streecar" bus driver around OHSU today to see if he's be driving at half-speed to simulate the streetcar. He chuckled and said, actually, yes. His instructions are to add about 15 minutes to his route. In a bus, he could get from OHSU to NW 23rd in about 25 minutes instead of the mandated 38 minutes! No wonder people with places to go don't use the streetcar.

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