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Monday, February 13, 2012

Partners in crime

If it weren't already crystal clear where Tri-Met is coming from these days -- ripping out a perfectly good bus system and replacing it with an array of inconvenient and dangerous trains -- it's impossible to miss the message here. The Tri-Met general manager is going in front of the Portland City Club next week to speak on "Moving Forward While Cutting Back." And who is he bringing along to do some of his talking for him? A dandy dude from CH2M Hill.

Who is CH2M Hill? We'll give you a hint: they're not into bus maintenance. CH2M Hill is into real estate development and giant construction projects.

And therein lies the problem. Real estate developers want railroad tracks next to their apartment bunkers, just long enough to load in some tenants, flip the property, and move on to the next deal. They could care less how awful it is to ride the public buses and trains. They just want public money to make their lives "pencil out," and keep the lobster bisque flowing at the Arlington Club.

The future of Tri-Met is in bankruptcy. And you know what? CH2M Hill won't be there with them that day.

Comments (7)

Well, yeah.

They need planning and construction consultants. Just like they need legal advice.

So, where's the condemnation of the legal firms and/or individuals who are complicit in this? These clowns aren't operating without protection....who is providing legal coverage?

Jack's right, it is about developers wanting urban renewal, transit projects for their next projects in our great, intact neighborhood of our city to eliminate blight.

The proof is even written down in the newest January CH2MHILL/Leland Consulting Group document "Lake Oswego to Portland Transit Project-Johns Landing Development Assessment"-a recent taxpayer funded "study" to entice continuation of the "suspended" streetcar to LO.

"The Streetcar was seen by virtually all parties interviews as a strong positive asset for the neighborhood". Sure, all parties interviewed were a few developers.

"...the streetcar brings the following quantifiable and non-quantifiable benefits to their projects:

Ability to decrease parking ratios..

Ability to increase density...

The intangible or non-quantifiable benefits are the buzz, activity and place making influence of streetcars."

And one of the "TOD Challenges in Johns Landing" is "Zoning"...Developers interviewed stated that one of the ways to facilitate development in Johns Landing would be to adjust the zoning surrounding Macadam Avenue to allow five and six story buildings."

"FARs should be increased to 4:1 [from 2:1-100% increase]" and "building heights should be between 65 and 75 feet [now 35 and 45 ft]." The last planning bureau study of build out in Johns Landing at 2:1 FAR showed that Johns Landing was only 50% built out. Why does zoning need to be increased 100%?

"Streetcars and other rail transit are rightly viewed by policy makers, developers, and others as having a positive impact on adjacent TOD". Ah, what about the views of the 8000 people who now live in the South Portland neighborhood? Or the SW neighborhoods impacted by the congestion that would be caused by streetcar going down Macadam to the four major regional vehicular routes through South Portland?

This whole study was from the viewpoint of TriMet, Metro, CoP and the DEVELOPERS. Not one survey of the citizens impacted was ever made, but they foist it off to the City Council by stating:

..."the Portland City Council sought a better understanding of the potential for transit-oriented development (TOD) in the Johns Landing segment...", and

...The streetcar was seen by virtually all parties interviewed as a strong positive asset for the neighborhood...".
Again, where is the real neighborhood input?

David Knowles the "dandy dude" from CH2M-Hill:

  • Organizer of Rail-volution.
  • Former Portland Planning director, replaced by Gil "SoWhat" Kelley.
  • Candidate to head PDC. He and Charlie Hales lost out to Bruce Warner.
  • Cheerleader for Airport MAX.
  • Made enemies in SW neighborhoods for favoring "professionals" (e.g., developers) over citizens.
  • Oversaw the failure known as the Rose Quarter

Neil McFarlane was everything I predicted him to be. His past history is of a Project Manager - in other words, he's great at seeing projects started and built. But the very minute that the project is turned over from construction to operations, he jumps onto the next project.

He has ZERO actual day-to-day operations experience. None. He's a builder. He managed the Convention Center construction, several MAX lines, WES...but he has no concept of actually running a system that's already built.

And it shows, at TriMet. He has no interest in the bus system - a system that's now over 40 years old. He wants to build. He wants more rail. Damned be those bus riders. Heck, damned be those annoying Portland-Gresham light rail riders who want more security...he isn't concerned with those little details. But ask for new light rail cars, or new train stations - he lights up.

There's a lot of angry people in transit circles about how there is a proposal to remove transit funding from the gas tax. This is precisely the reason why I'm all for that. We have the situation right here in Portland where there is seemingly unlimited money to build...but no money to operate. Who gets the short end of the stick? Why, bus riders must feel like they are a pinata in Portland...getting smacked around by a bunch of transit planners ready for the bottom to burst out. McFarlane is the wrong guy for the wrong job at the wrong time...and TriMet made it clear that there was going to be no discussion when they named him GM. The Board knew exactly what they were doing, so the Board is equally guilty of dereliction of duty to the entire system and the bus riders - and those neighborhoods that are served exclusively by bus.

And the only guy that has any say in the matter - the Governor - is painfully ignorant of the situation, either because he doesn't care, or can't care. There are those folks who say Metro - and its elected board - can do better, but Metro is the agency that is egging TriMet on to build more light rail, as its role in the transportation system is only that of a funding partner for capital projects, and like McFarlane has zero operating experience, unless you count the zoo, some theaters, and some cemeteries. And Metro's track record with those cemeteries is not exactly great; Metro's financial oversight of the zoo has been questioned.

The Legislature doesn't want to burden itself with a problem that is confined to just three counties.

To paraphrase the "Occupy Somewhere" folks...maybe the 99%ers need to stand up to the 1% that is TriMet's Board, General Manager, Metro, the City of Portland...start demanding that transit actually serve the public and not be a corporate welfare scheme for developers and consultants to build rail at any cost...

I don't know about you, but I'm glad to see Mr. Knowles coming along. It's always so sad to see a puppet without someone hand jammed up its butt to make it talk.

How Portland got sucked into the CHURCH OF LIGHT RAIL- starring the SIMPSONS:

Simpsons - Monorail - YouTube

Here is the LONG version of that great Simpsons episode which pokes fun at the foolishness and wasteful nature of light rail construction.

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