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Last weekend was the opening of the new street car route in Portland, Oregon.  I rode the whole new route with Mrs. Peril.  The new route runs north from approximately the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) up to a point just past the Oregon Convention Center, then runs across the Broadway Bridge into the Pearl District.  The new route then runs south through the Pearl District, past Powell's Books (largest bookstore in the world, I'm told), eventually reaching Portland State University, where it turns and returns back east across the river.

Here's an image of the cars in use:


As the route ran north on the east side, I noticed there were a lot of "for lease" signs and I wondered if the street car would bear out its promise.  I joked with Mrs. Peril that the "free rides" they were giving out that day might cost $10,000 each the way money had been spent on the project.  Well, we'll see.  I was a bit dismayed the next day to see a street car going by with just 3 or so people on board.  I rode it again yesterday (Sat., 9/29/12) and was pleased to see a fair number more people using the system.

The city's plan for the street car.
The city has a street car plan (link warning: large .PDF file).  This states, on page 65:

A streetcar system is a particularly effective tool to connect and shape neighborhoods. Streetcars connect neighborhoods by linking activities, destinations, and the regional transit network. They shape neighborhoods by stimulating redevelopment, supporting active uses, promoting public-private investments and creating places where people want to be. These types of neighborhoods make our community more livable and help the surrounding region by preserving farm and forest lands, protecting area rivers and streams, and reducing air pollution. They also directly reduce the threat of global warming.
Streetcar-oriented development will best integrate into the neighborhoods through careful consideration of the types and characteristics of the architectural and urban form and function of the surrounding neighborhoods. Several building design techniques can be used to reduce the impact of new development on established neighborhoods, such as incorporating elements of nearby quality buildings, including their details, massing, proportions and materials.
Many neighborhoods are already experiencing in-fill development. The streetcar can serve as a catalyst for organizing the new development along transit corridors.
I'm not sure I buy all of that, but if the street car is to succeed, it must be part of a much larger scheme of development.  This cannot be the form of development that we generally see -- a farm or orchard is bulldozed over, streets are laid out, sewers, water lines, electric power and telephone lines run, and before long, another Levittown is inflicted upon the country -- low density, with every resident therein dependent on the automobile for everything, and everything made out of ticky-tacky.  

But along the route, I saw other things.  Here's a newer building, high density, non-automobile-dependant near the Grand and Burnside stop, that is, at almost the exact center of the city.

Changing transportation patterns?
And here is one of the micro cars, this one owned by Car2Go, one of the car sharing services which are becoming increasingly popular in Portland.
Car sharing represents a significant breaking of the traditional American-style dependence on the automobile; as such, one would think it would have been concocted by some west-coast Trotskyite.  Car2Go however is owned by Daimler AG, and Zipcar, by far the largest service, is publicly traded on Nasdaq.

Still an industrial city!
One of the legends that the right wing loves to tell itself about the blue states, and the west coast in particular, is that we are a bunch of wine-sipping, pinkie-ring wearing liberal twits.  But Portland is very much a working city -- here's one example, visible from the new street car, of a grain elevator and loading facility, just north of the Broadway Bridge.  
This elevator, one of several in the vicinity, accepts wheat deliveries by rail (and I presume truck) as well as in huge barges (you can see one in the photo) brought down the Columbia River from the inland wheat loading ports of Oregon and Washington.  The wheat is stored in the large silos seen in the image, and when a ship comes in, the wheat is loaded into the ship.  The wheat trade is the very reason for the existence of the city of Portland, and, as a key export, it is one of the important supports of our national economy.  The grain elevators of Portland, often ignored as just another riverside industry, are in fact critical economic facilities.        

Criticism -- too expensive, too little use.
One of the selling points of the street car expansion in Portland, at least in terms of getting a large amount of federal money as a subsidy, was that a local firm (United Streetcar could (and was) contracted to produce a new set of street cars for the line, will be the first  such cars built in the United States in some 40 or 50 years.  (The previous cars on the Portland line were all made in the Czech Republic by Skoda.)  After many delays, the company's first streetcar was placed in use last weekend.  But it hasn't been a complete success, and it has many critics, and the best stated criticism may be here (The Oregonian, 9/21/12).  

They've built it. Now, who will come?

Or, better yet, who's going to choose the sexy but slow-moving electric streetcars in a corridor -- from the Pearl District over the Broadway Bridge to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry -- already heavily served by TriMet buses and light rail?

Skeptics predict the Portland Streetcar's eastside extension will be little more than a glorified shuttle for bar-hoppers and conventioneers. Privately, even some of the project's advocates say they're still uncertain about the new line's role in the city's commuting culture.

Mechanical/quality issues?
Critics of the streetcar were given a blast of schadenfreude when the brand new US-built streetcar proceeded to break down twice due to wiring problems.  I myself rode this car yesterday (9/29/12) -- and I tried the best I could to tell if there were any differences from the Skoda cars, which the American car closely resembles.  I noticed a couple of things.  The American car seems to have a louder interior whirring noise, maybe from an air conditioner or ventilator.  

There were signs that the American car had been rushed into service -- I mentioned the mechanical details, but there was for example (and quite unlike Skoda's proud announcement of the date and place of manufacture) no builder's name plates that I could see -- a rather telling detail for the first American-built streetcar to be placed in modern service.  There were also what appeared to me to be tooling or installation marring on the seats, which I did not see  on the Skoda cars.  All petty I suppose, but this is a situation where a nascent American industry is being heavily subsidized to match one of the top manufacturers in the world, and quality and attention to detail will be the key if there is to be a success.

Some criticism misplaced.
One of the more baseless criticisms of the streetcar is that "it doesn't go anywhere I want to go."  But a street car line isn't built overnight.  The critical link for the Portland Street Car system won't come until 2015 when the new Caruthers Bridge, a transit /bicycle/pedestrian only span, will be complete, and the streetcar will be able to make a complete loop around both the east and west sides of the central city.  This will also form a link with a new light rail line to be built down the east side of the Willamette river to link communities in the northern part of Clackamas County to the system.

Another criticism which I find off-base is that the streetcar line is a tourist boondoggle.  My response is the Cheneyesque "So?".  What community doesn't need tourists?  Love Canal?  Chernobyl?  People come to Portland for a lot of reasons, and what could be wrong with adding another one?  

An example of a good tourist tie-in.
The streetcar is going play a role in restoring a whole area on the SE side of the city near the Willamette river.  There already is a brand new train museum, the Oregon Rail Heritage Centerclose to the (current) southern terminus of the line.  Opening day for the center was last Sunday, September 23.  Here's a photo of one of their engines, which had steam up for the occasion.


This shows the magnificent former Southern Pacific steam engine 4449, built in 1941, and still kept in working order by the labor of many volunteers, and still wearing the colors of the famous Daylight passenger trains.  You have no real idea of the size and power of these engines until you see them up close.  This particular engine, the 4449, was housed at an inaccessible and quite filthy old roundhouse in a nearby rail yard until this year.  Now with this new facility which, includes several other historic (and operational!) engines, as well as other equipment, Portland will have one of the finest rail museums in the country -- and all this is within easy walking distance of the street car.

Again, there is no magic formula, and it will take a lot of work and money to make the streetcar succeed. I think it will work and it's worth the money to make the effort.    

FYI, there is now a scale model of the Portland Streetcar, and for somewhat less than $148.3 million you can put your own urban transit system together!


Originally posted to Plan 9 from Oregon on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 09:12 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Manifesto Initiative and Community Spotlight.


Should the federal government continue to be involved in subsidizing streetcar manufacturing in the USA?

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Comment Preferences

  •  Mass Transit WORKS... (24+ / 0-)

    Sorry, but I am tired of taking my bicycle everywhere, because it's faster to ride for half an hour than wait for the bus.

    Which charges so much that it's pretty much pointless to take it in the first place...  and requires at least 2 hours dedicated to riding EACH way.  (Time waiting, bus comes once an hour, etc... etc...)

    And what drives me crazy is the rail lines, which go exactly where I want to go.  unused for over 40 years.

    I don't blame Christians. I blame Stupid. Which sadly is a much more popular religion these days.

    by detroitmechworks on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 09:17:08 AM PDT

  •  Thanks for the update! (22+ / 0-)

    Nice to see the new line is up and running. Now, does it have an on-board espresso bar yet? That addition alone would bring the rider count way up.

    And a big thank you for the picture of 4449! Nice to see it so clean and in it's new digs. I feel it is the most beautiful steam locomotive in the country, especially in a new coat of Daylight colors! My hat's off to Dale Macormack and crew for keeping her going.

    Oh, and yeah, I'm a train guy...

    •  That train museum is HUGE. There was a B&O (11+ / 0-)

      museum in Baltimore in an old roundhouse that I went to many years ago, (link here)it's the only think quite like it.  (Of course there are the operating railroads such as the WP&Y and the Colorado NG lines).

      The good thing about this new museum is the location, which when the East Side loop is complete will be short ride from downtown.

      You have exactly 10 seconds to change that look of disgusting pity into one of enormous respect!

      by Cartoon Peril on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 10:01:53 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'll be sure to stop in next time... (7+ / 0-)

        I'm in PDX. A sister and her family live in NE, so a visit is always good. I'm currently in SE Arizona, where the closest trains are on the Sunset Line at Benson, 60 miles to the northwest of me.

        Well, closest US trains that is: NdeM runs about 10 miles south of me between Agua Prieta and Nogales, Sonora. Very occasionally I've heard the sweet sound of EMD's chugging by, only to be lost in the hills across the border. Railfanning down there would be interesting, but I'd want a local to go along with me: the border region of Mexico is not an easy or safe area to be a gringo with a camera.

        •  If you go to Strasburg, Pa... (8+ / 0-)

          The Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania has a huge collection in a big train shed and more outdoors.

          Literally across the street is the Strasburg Rail Road, which runs live steam excursions all the time.

          Down the road around the corner is the Red Caboose Motel, where all of the rooms are converted cabooses.

          Right next door to the motel is the National Toy Train Museum, with a huge collection of all kinds of toy trains, and several operating layouts.

          And just down the road from the Strasburg Rail Road is the Choo Choo Barn with a huge O gauge layout with all kinds of animated scenes on it.

          I can't think of any other place that offers so many railroad attractions for all ages in such a concentrated area. Plus, it's all in scenic Amish country of Lancaster, PA.

          But if that's not enough for you, just head up to Scranton, PA and Steamtown National Historic Site. A working turntable, tours of the shop facilities, trains on display (including a Big Boy!) and steam excursions. The Electric City  Trolley Museum is just across the parking lot.

          "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

          by xaxnar on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 01:35:46 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Not to forget The Skunk Train (5+ / 0-)

        here in the wilds of Willits and Ft. Bragg, CA.; still operational and a magnificent ride through the redwoods. You can even charter it for private parties. But, back to PDX, where I was born then raised next to the tracks out in Columbia County, I gotta say I'm thrilled with the new streetcar line, the link to the (undeserved) east side, the rail museum and OMSI. I acquired a lifelong life-shaping interest and career in science and engineering sparked while visiting the old OMSI up at the Zoo with the Focault Pendulum and the Visible Woman, lo these many decades ago and and a lifelong love of trains from growing up alongside a living railroad, complete with the occasional hobo treed up the big old maple by our Great Dane Mitsu. Much of the progressive urban planning impetus expressed so notably in both Eugene and Portland arose from the U of O School of Architecture and Urban Planning (as well as Portland State and Lewis and Clark College) which I attended beginning in '76. Again these Oregon ideals have influenced the shape and direction of my life and career. So, though a (shudder) Californian now, I'm a better engineer and human for having come from the Beaver State, and will be taking my granddaughters for a ride over to OMSI and the Rail Museum when I visit them in November.

        Just getting a handle on the knobs and dials.... Hey, don't touch that!

        by Old Lefty on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 01:48:21 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I grew up on the GN, between Everett and (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Judge Moonbox, KenBee

          Vancouver, BC, in Bellingham. There were FT's, F's of all kinds, and E7's on the International going by the backyard. Geeps were the local switchers, and hood units other than them were a little rare until the mid 70's.

          We also an isolated Milwaukee line that ran up to Sumas at the Canadian border, and depended on car barges and then trackage rights to connect to Tacoma. When the Milwaukee began running U25B pairs from Tacoma, things got interesting.

          We had the NP too: they ran freights into town with Geeps, but the route from Auburn was long and slow, and they had trouble keeping up with track maintenance.

          BN's arrival changed all that of course, and things got busier. Still getting busier, what with actual and proposed coal train traffic on the line.

          I'm no engineer, but having them run by the house led to a lifelong fascination with machines of all kind, especially the iron horse.

      •  Is there an admission charge? (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Judge Moonbox, Cartoon Peril, KenBee

        For the train museum, that is? My 2YO grandson loves trains, and I haven't seen #4449 since I got up at 0400 on an icy winter day in Sacramento probably 20 years ago to see it get a head of steam up to go out to wherever it was being used in a movie. That was a magical morning and I'm darned glad I went to see it--and it would be awesome to visit the big bastard again. That is one beautiful engine.

        Their web site needs some work, there's darned little info on there about the trains or, well, anything! I did check out the Holiday Express schedule, I might have to take the kids out on that jaunt.

        "Nothing's wrong, son, look at the news!" -- Firesign Theater

        by SmartAleq on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 03:27:05 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Another reason for the spouse (0+ / 0-)

        and I to get back up to Portland one of these years.

        "If we ever needed to vote we sure do need to vote now" -- Rev. William Barber, NAACP

        by Cali Scribe on Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 11:16:30 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  :-) I'm down at Daimler a lot (11+ / 0-)

    and, of course, there are tons of Car2go cars down there.  I love that if you pull or back them in perpendicular to the curb, you can fit 2 of them in a normal parking space.

    Can you call yourself a real liberal if you aren't reading driftglass?

    by CJB on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 10:03:50 AM PDT

    •  I think you can fit them in a backpack! (7+ / 0-)

      You have exactly 10 seconds to change that look of disgusting pity into one of enormous respect!

      by Cartoon Peril on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 10:06:41 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  But are probably still good for 95+% of trips (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Cartoon Peril, KenBee

        No? Remember the Honda "Baby Booty"? Least that's what we called it: Honda 600

        Then Hondas and the rest of that early Japanese fleet of vehicles got bigger and bigger until they were nearly indistinguishable from GM, etc.

        Time is an enormous, long river, and I’m standing in it, just as you’re standing in it. My elders are the tributaries, and everything they thought and every struggle they went through & everything they gave their lives to flows down to me-Utah Phillips

        by TerryDarc on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 03:44:34 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  butt I cain't tow my boat!!! (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          koNko, Cartoon Peril

          if I had a vacation

          if I had a boat

          This machine kills Fascists.

          by KenBee on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 10:47:57 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Yes and no. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Cartoon Peril, offred, llywrch

          Honda and other JP automakers withdrew these cars from the North American market because they didn't sell, but continue to make Kei cars to this day for the domestic market and export to some target markets in Asia and Europe.

          One Kei car being introduced to the US is the electric version of the Mitsubishi i-Car, ori MiEV, although I read they slightly enlarged it for the US.

          Kei cars evolved from basic personal and delivery transportation to more complete lines including sport and mini luxury models.

          Some (mostly English) information and eye candy of notable Kei cars:

          Daihatsu The kei car leader and little brother of Toyota, Daihatsu only makes small cars and has consistently the highest overall Kei car sales. These are very well-made cars equal in quality to larger cars, proving it can be done.

          Copen - Last chance to buy, out of production this year, pretty
          Move- the basic Kei car platform in it's various forms including the luxury Conte
          Tanto Van - based on the Move platform, comes in passenger and delivery models including a hydrogen fuel cell version
          Mira - slightly larger than Move with 1000cc engines in some export markets
          Mira Gino and it's replacement Mira Cocoa - the awesome retro styled luxury kei cars, and yes, they can match Mrs Darc's nail polish
          Cuore - modern style family car, sold as both Daihatsu and Toyota models


          Parent company of Daihatsu, much of their Kei car line has been rebranded models, but they have some distinguished designs of their own.

          Pixis - For example, is a rebranded Daihatsu Move.
          iQ/iQ EV - Are the iQ and iQ EV the best designed Kei cars for a global market? Toyota aims to take these global and they have a good chance of success, really excellent design.


          Life - Honda's answer to Daihatsu Move, the basic Kei car platform model
          That's - Luxury version of Life aimed at Mira Coco buyers, now replaced by N Box
          N Box - Sporty version of Life targeting young families and retired. Is there a market for wheelchair version in the US? N box is the best selling single model Kei car.
          N-One - Good news! The Honda 600 lives in the up-coming N-One.
          Vamos/Hobio - Kei van line with passenger and delivery models, Vamos is the luxury model
          Zest - sporty (turbo) version aimed and young buyers. Is the Zest Spark the Kei car answer to BMW M3?
          Beat - Long out of production, the first Kei 2 seater sports car, real collector's item


          Alto - is the basic Kei platform for the global market and basis of other Kei cars
          Lapin - the basic Kei luxury platform in the family car version, very nicely finished reto style
          Alto - "Ladies" version of the Lapin and basis of the Nissan Micra.
          Wagon R - was the car that really launched the Kei minvan boom in the 1990's with the most popular version styled like the Chevy Van II, but cute! A perennial favorite.
          MR Van - the basis of the Nissan Moco noted below.
          Bandit - is the sports version of the Wagon R platform
          Palette - luxury version of the Wagon R and basis of the Nissan Roox.


          Nissan has never been a Kei car leader but has produced some influential designs in the Kei and City Car classes, usually working with Suzuki or Mitsubishi and recently made a JV with Mitsubishi for future Kei car development.

          Pino - Jointly produced with Suzuki, now discontinued, very popular with the ladies, replaced by the Otti/Moco - is the current passenger car platform developed with Misubishi
          Roox - Nissan version of Suzuki Palette minivan, targeting the Tanto
          Hypermini - an EV predecessor to the Leaf, qualified as a Kei car
          March/Micra- successor to March and Vicki. Based on Suzuki Alto.

          Also notable, the slightly larger 900cc Figaro and Pao city cars greatly influenced the Retro styling trend of Kei cars, both are now collector cars.

          But I don't own a car, I share one or ride my bicycle.

          What about my Daughter's future?

          by koNko on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 11:42:19 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Yesterday we (8+ / 0-)

      went to our local in city hardware store and there was a electric pick up truck parked in front. It looked just like the tiny cars pictured here but with a nice sized truck bed in back.

      I want one. I'm a gardener and DIY home renovator. My neighbor's who don't have a car told me that they use Zip Car for their frequent hauling trips. Zip Car is another share car co. in Portland.

      We have one car, a Pius. As much hauling as we do I'm joining Zip Car and renting for really low cost a tiny zip pick up when I next need to get mulch or haul off debris or bring home paint etc.. We rarely drive as we live in close in the SE and can walk or bike for most of our needs.

    •  have developers started using them to claim densit (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Cartoon Peril

      density bonuses for new construction?

      It would seem they would really like this idea as a way to cram more student housing closer together.
      I saw a 2nd home condo clusterfk get approved with an extra (new yacht profit) unit because they could squiggle more parking with a parking elevator system...where one covered parking space has a lift mechanism so two fit the footprint. Money talks, everybody else gets the subway.

      Yay Portland!

      This machine kills Fascists.

      by KenBee on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 10:46:56 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I rode the train last week. (17+ / 0-)

    It stops 2 blocks from my building, and it's cheaper than the MAX now, so if i save my cans and get a rebate, i can afford a round trip. If you think the light rail is sparsely populated, have you seen a MAX train since they ended the free fare zone? Trimet is eating it big time. Downtown business is going to be hurt this holiday season if they don't go back to a free fare zone.

    "Let us never forget that doing the impossible is the history of this nation....It's how we are as Americans...It's how this country was built"- Michelle Obama

    by blueoregon on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 10:23:38 AM PDT

  •  Good for the East Side (13+ / 0-)

    I am happy to see the east side of Portland included in the streetcar route. I think it will be a welcome boost there. We need that new bridge to get built to close the loop. I also like that there is a stop near the train station. We are starting to get hooked up.

  •  I am a big fan of steam trains despite... (13+ / 0-)

    ...the impact of burning the fuel they use.

    This working train (with three narrow-gauge locomotives still in operation) runs between Chama, N.M., and Antonito, Colo., 64 miles. While it survives on tourist dollars and has for 40 years, it still carries some freight, including lumber, between the two towns.

    Not exactly mass transit. But fun nonetheless.

    Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

    by Meteor Blades on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 10:59:58 AM PDT

  •  Regarding the Oregonian quote: (16+ / 0-)

    "a glorified shuttle for bar-hoppers and conventioneers"

    Is that really so wrong? Aren't those valid uses of public transportation?  Isn't getting bar-hoppers out of cars a good thing? Isn't getting out-of-towners out and about a good thing?

    There are two kinds of people in this world: Those who fit into one of two mutually exclusive categories, and those who don't.

    by zhimbo on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 11:08:15 AM PDT

    •  to continue my point... (16+ / 0-)

      Is this "skeptical" viewpoint reflecting a fixation on the function of mass transit being for "commuting" (i.e., getting to and from work),  as opposed to making a city livable for residents who don't want to own a car?

      There are two kinds of people in this world: Those who fit into one of two mutually exclusive categories, and those who don't.

      by zhimbo on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 11:13:02 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Not to mention contributing to attracting (5+ / 0-)

        conventions as one more attraction and convenience as it also connects the Convention Center in NE to downtown hotels, I believe.

        •  Problem is that the MAX... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Cartoon Peril

          ....goes right by the Convention Center, runs more often, and doesn't go in as circuitous a route.

          9-11 changed everything? Well, Katrina changed it back.

          by varro on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 04:11:14 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  That's what I don't get... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Cartoon Peril

            The streetcar parallels some Max lines and Max is faster and quieter.  Not sure why we needed a streetcar to go over the bridge.  I think of the streetcar more as a replacement for long walks within an area.  Would be great to have one from Union Station going west down Glisan or something.  And having one running around the East end would be good... say MLK/Grand and over to 11/th and 12th.  Oh well.  I hope this works out.  I'm especially hopeful for the Oregon Iron Works manufacturing operation.  

            I'm still mad about Nixon.

            by J Orygun on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 09:27:19 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Street car can do things Max can't, runs easier (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              with auto traffic, rail is lighter and cheaper to build, turns in much tighter radius.  The routes are only parallel for about 12 blocks downtown, although this will be extended somewhat when the new bridge is finished.

              You have exactly 10 seconds to change that look of disgusting pity into one of enormous respect!

              by Cartoon Peril on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 09:57:53 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  So the convention center is now served (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Cartoon Peril

            by 2 mass transit systems. Bus also? And of course taxi. That's the start of effective functionality.

      •  I agree. The point is to merge more closely (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Aunt Pat, prettyobvious

        work and residences, hence the emphasis on multi-use structures, so that the city is in use 24/7/365, and not just a collection of office boxes used 9-5.

        You have exactly 10 seconds to change that look of disgusting pity into one of enormous respect!

        by Cartoon Peril on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 02:24:43 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  just like subsidizing the building of train cars (10+ / 0-)

      is way better than subsidizing the manufacture of superfluous armaments, IMHO.

      When the Senate cries fowl over budget cuts to the military construction budget because it would result in layoffs, I keep wondering why they're so averse to subsidizing creation and building of public rail cars instead.

      They at least would provide something beneficial for us, rather than lethal for others.

      "There's nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires." - President Obama

      by fhcec on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 12:03:08 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Most of the people saying that will never (5+ / 0-)

      ride them. They will never look at them rationally regardless of what they do or how much they cost. They could bring in $100 million a day to the city w/ $0.05 fares and they would complain about the processing costs.

      The streetcars around downtown are effective, this isn't really debatable to anybody that has ridden them. When I lived there it was very rare to find an "empty" car, and I wasn't just using them during peak, or busy hours. It was pretty rare that I could get onto one and sit down in a seat without going at least 1 stop because there were enough people on the car.

      A also agree with a point below about the system being good for both people who want to live without a car, which should be encouraged by anybody living in a reality-based world where climate change exists. If they don't acknowledge this I don't care about their opinion because it is not based in reality. When I lived in PDX I commuted solely by bike and public transit, I wish the new line had been completed before I left because looking at the plans they had it would have helped me out a lot on my commute.

      There are some areas where you have to walk, or switch a little to make your commute work, but it is worth it IMO. Now that I am in a place where there are legitimate 1 hour waits for the horrible transit system I have to drive everywhere. I constantly find myself asking how anybody does this voluntarily. I would rather spend an extra 10-15 minutes on my already long commute if I can just read a magazine or book, or look at the internet while I ride. The person commenting on 1 hour waits may have meant on the weekend when many lines cut in half, which is a major pain.

      •  Naysayers (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        It's striking reading the comments on Oregon Live when anything about light rail comes up.  It is filled with hateful stuff from people who obviously have never ridden it in their lives.  Portland is really close to being a place where you can get along fine without a car.  I would be delighted if in a couple of years, as I approach the age where I really shouldn't be driving (nb to Jefferson Smith: you got there early), I can give up my automobile because it's no longer useful.

        I'm still mad about Nixon.

        by J Orygun on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 09:34:18 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Consider the alternative... (4+ / 0-)

      All those bar-hoppers and conventioneers driving.  Drunk.

      There are five reasons why my area has a good transit system:  30,000 newly-minted drivers (called "students"), Thirsty Thursday, Fried Friday, Breakfast Club (beer at 8 am) and Tailgate.

      "Politics should be the part-time profession of every citizen who would protect the rights and privileges of free people and who would preserve what is good and fruitful in our national heritage." -- Lucille Ball

      by Yamaneko2 on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 06:13:40 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Regarding The Oregonian (0+ / 0-)

      After drifting to a slight, but detectable, left-of-center political POV, the paper has overcompensated & swerved sharply to the radical right. It's gotten to the point where I read the articles more to determine the paper's political agenda than for basic information.

      Not that there hasn't been problems with the local progressive political establishment (I've never been think of Sam Adams as anything but a political hack), but I find it noteworthy that their latest columnist is a college undergraduate attending Ohio State (but born in Lake Oswego!) whose articles so far are colorless rehashing of the editorial line. (As if there aren't enough adult pundits out there with real experience ho could write much better columns!)

      And The Oregonian is routinely scooped by the local weeklies.

      I need to save some money & cancel my subscription.

  •  I'm riding it today (12+ / 0-)

    thanks Cartoon Peril I didn't know it was finished and operating. I live in the SE and we both work out of our home so we can get by with mostly walking and biking and I use my handy Red Rocket Speedway wagon for the big stuff I need.

    I do go downtown and to the Pearl every once in a while. I confess that I usually drive it. Last week we went to our tax accountant downtown and I vowed to get a freaking bus pass as the traffic and parking was nasty.

    I love the street cars and don't pay much attention to either the Boragonian or the Willamette Weekly as far they are just mouthpieces for the savvy businessmen who have no interest in keeping our city livable and weird.

    I think that the direction of our public transportation system and our urban development will help neighborhood businesses and communities develop. The people who live in these neighborhoods work hard to keep the greedy corrupt crooks from wrecking this great city, neighborhood by neighborhood.  

    Thanks for the dairy. I'm excited about taking the trip to the other side where I can check out how the West Side richie rich's shop and live. Just joking kind of. I liked the Pearl a lot better when it was not like a high end vertical mall.  


  •  new route (6+ / 0-)

    Good to hear about the new route. When possible, I use the street cars after driving up from Eugene. It's easier to park the car once and use public transportation to run around. Unlike even ten years ago, parking spots are hard to come by, so street cars and walking are a better way to day-trip.

    •  Next year on Amtrak (12+ / 0-)

      New Talgo trainsets (funded by the stimulus) are coming soon to the Cascades route. They will add two more trips each way from Eugene to Portland and Seattle. With any luck, you'll be able to leave your car at home.

      Intercity rail complements intracity rail.

      •  Yea! More secret Obama accomplishments (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Cartoon Peril, Woody

        In Seattle we hear arguments against using public money for ferries. Incredible. As if the ferry riders could support ferries - as if highway drivers pay for even trip in their cars. Public means we all pay for the public commons whether you use concrete highways or ferry marine highways or not, or never or sometimes. I hate the complaining.

        But I love Portland & Seattle.

        “My first choice is a strong consumer agency,” she said. “My second choice is no agency at all and plenty of blood and teeth left on the floor.”

        by mrobinson on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 11:22:28 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The Cascades cost less and less and less (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Cartoon Peril

          The Cascades trains have been running for about 15 years. With on-going investments by the State of Washington, Amtrak, and Oregon, they have slowly been getting better and better and better.

          In recent years, four Talgo trains a day each way Portland-Seattle, plus Amtrak's Coast Starlight long distance train from L.A.. Every year ridership has increased, to over 850,000 a year now. With such good patronage, the service has been moving ever closer to break-even.

          Next year will see six Talgo tilting trains Portland-Seattle plus the Starlight. Down the Willamette Valley to Eugene it'll be four daily Talgo runs, up from two.

          (Yeah, a secret Obama accomplishment. A foul-up in failing to specify wi-fi delayed delivery of the first trains from before Election Day to early next year. Damn, damn, damn.)

          Added frequencies attract many more riders. It's the convenience of departures when you want to go, not having to wait another couple of hours for the next train, or booking another train close enuff to what you want when the best-timed one is sold out. When they increased the number of trains by 67% St Louis-Chicago, ridership went up 100%.

          Conservatively, Amtrak's Cascades ridership should break 1 million next year, and continue growing, with every added passenger reducing the operating loss.

          Not too far down the line, a couple of projects to reduce congestion and improve reliability will greatly improve their on-time performance.

          Then the Cascades route could use another billion or more in upgrades to cut the travel time. We can hope that Obama and a Democratic house will get us more infrastructure investments next year.

          And hold onto your ferries. That's a great way to travel.

  •  Hope it works for Portland (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    xaxnar, Cartoon Peril, Aunt Pat, tofumagoo

    The streetcar issue in Cincinnati is also contentious, given the cost and routing of the system.  That and while the system may work in Portland, a sizable number of Cincinnatians expect the city council to screw it up somehow.

    •  The Current Line (6+ / 0-)

      Through the Perl district to PSU is already successful. I am pretty sure that this one will be as well. As was mentioned above, deriding the train as only being useful for bar-hopping is ridiculous. That is a legitimate use for public transportation, of course.

      "I'll believe that corporations are people when I see Rick Perry execute one."

      by bink on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 12:48:16 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Appears like I'll be offered a permanent job (9+ / 0-)

    in Portland very soon. As I've been a perma-temp for many years, this will be a welcome change in a lot of ways.....

    Looking forward to a PDX Kossacks meetup sometime in November, maybe?

    Wish me luck, moving a rather large household is always a challenge!

    The "extreme wing" of the Democratic Party is the wing that is hell-bent on protecting the banks and credit card companies. ~ Kos

    by ozsea1 on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 12:51:45 PM PDT

  •  I havent had a car in over a year! (8+ / 0-)

    Portland's public transpo is outstanding.  The streetcar is slow, but it has the lowest weirdo factor. The bus is a freak show and the MAX is the wild, wild West (anything could happen).  But I'm certain public transpo is a LOT "scarier" in other cities.  

    I am so grateful for the reliable bus system here that I gave up my car and still haven't even used Zipcar or Car2Go yet, although I have memberships to both.  I will occasionally take a cab - for example, if I have several bags of groceries. But mostly, I've learned to shop one bag at a time.

    The best psychiatrist in the world can't compete with a puppy licking your face.

    by AmyVVV on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 01:14:47 PM PDT

    •  I rode MAX to work once (0+ / 0-)

      From Hillsboro into downtown.  

      Being accosted (not physically, but "too close/weird for comfort") by no less than 3 weirdo's on the train on the 45 minute journey who kept eyeing my iPhone/messenger bag, plus several personal accounts of co-workers witnessing assaults on the trains... yeah.

      I'll be driving, thank.

      GOD! Save me from your followers.

      by adversus on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 06:53:12 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Me too - for 6 years (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Cartoon Peril

      I live downtown Seattle.

      “My first choice is a strong consumer agency,” she said. “My second choice is no agency at all and plenty of blood and teeth left on the floor.”

      by mrobinson on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 11:23:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I mean me too about the car (0+ / 0-)

        not the people under the influence of drugs and/or mental illness on the bus here in Seattle. Our county sheriffs have taken over security for city transport and I'm mighty glad to see them - and tell them so. Like, "Hi - nice to see you."

        “My first choice is a strong consumer agency,” she said. “My second choice is no agency at all and plenty of blood and teeth left on the floor.”

        by mrobinson on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 11:25:46 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  That's not just any steam engine (6+ / 0-)

    That is Southern Pacific #4449 in "Daylight" paint scheme, considered to be the most beautiful steam engine ever built.

    Why did the Washington Post hire Bellatrix LeStrange? And why did she change her name to Jennifer Rubin?

    by NoFortunateSon on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 01:17:34 PM PDT

    •  No doubt! Here is the 4449 at Roberts, Oregon... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Aunt Pat, J Orygun, KenBee

      You have exactly 10 seconds to change that look of disgusting pity into one of enormous respect!

      by Cartoon Peril on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 02:35:28 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Wow. Great video. n/t (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Cartoon Peril

        I'm still mad about Nixon.

        by J Orygun on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 09:39:31 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  geez, look at the 'close call in Wisham' (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Cartoon Peril

        it just appears, huge and relentless, I jumped!

        for some train wrecks and a history of the NPR/Northwestern Pacific Railroad from Novato to Eureka section see this great story and picture blog from the 80's.

        The Eel River area gave way and was deemed too expensive to fix, and now the local Boomers are trying to build a new 3billion$ line 180 miles east to Redding thru almost virgin wilderness.
        This is a stealth back up E/W coal train imo, but we will, and they keep going to the public to 'study it'. Quoted fixing the Eel River section was 'undoable' at $20 million...and connecting the N/S parts of the west coastal rail line.

        Anyway, see this Northwestern Pacific Railroad train is this again this blog:
        The Eureka Southern - The North Coast Daylight.

        Seriously, you train and history lovers will want to read this, 1964 flood:

        Trains aren't the only thing to use Tunnel 27 as a huge flood Christmas Week 1964 when a 100 year flood of over 50 inches of rain during that week destroyed the bridge here and sent water through the tunnel which is about 84 feet above the river as the water rose above the tunnel entrance. The torrent of water carrying logs inflected damage all along the route. There were airborne rails all through the canyon. 100 miles of rails were swept away by the waters of the Eel River. One third of the Northwestern Pacific would need to be rebuilt. The Island Mountain Bridge lost two trusses, a span girdle and a pier. The Cain Rock Bridge was severely damaged and the South Fork Bridge lost two truss spans and a pier. A call went out to Morrison Knudsen to rebuild the line. Machines were taken off projects from all over the west to be bought in to rebuild the railroad through the Eel River Canyon. Thirty miles of new access road had to be built to get the smaller machines in to do the job. The line when built in 1915 took four years to build the 106 miles through the canyon. The workers just needed 177 days to rebuild the line and on June 16th, 1965 the Northwestern Pacific was reopened for business.
        Subsequent landslides damaged the Eel River area and the line was taken out of service in 1998 if I read that right.

        The blog shows the line when it was still running in the 80s and is no more. The rails are there, the portions I have seen are intact but overgrown.

        There is a small local spur going from Arcata to Manilla..a couple of weeks ago the local train buffs couldn't get the engine going and towed the cars by track/truck. Still a cool ride along the Humboldt Bay and the kids loved it.

        Here's the wiki about the Eureka Southern Railroad portion..descriptive of some of the wrecks seen on the first link-photo blog.

        The line was renamed the North Coast Railroad, and many of the GP9s can still be viewed along the yard in Eureka. The "northern" segment of the NWP and formed Eureka Southern has been out of service since 1995. Plans were underway to possibly turn this section of track into a tourist train operation, but have since been halted. The Eel River canyon part of the line is wrecked, and would cost an estimated 20 million dollars to repair and to have trains running on the line. Rumors have been heard that the NCRA (North Coast Railroad Authority) is planning to abandon the section of the line. Many freight cars dot the line, including a boxcar still lying in the river from a 1987 derailment.

        Hopes to reopen the line between Willits and Eureka are fading fast, with nature doing more and more damage to the railroad.

        Another local section is being fiercely fought over as a rails to trails conversion between Eureka across the Bay to Arcata.

        Some of the older engines and some cars are sitting in elegant decay along the Eureka waterfront railyards..I have pictures somewhere...

        More railroad history Railroading in the Redwood Empire-The Redwood Empire Route where those yard pictures are from.

        This machine kills Fascists.

        by KenBee on Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 12:34:03 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  They were still putting in the MAX system (6+ / 0-)

    when I moved to Portland.

    I remember buying the Oregonian for some other reason one day and reading a couple of opinion pieces and news articles about MAX.  One thing I remember was that people were complaining that the trains were too small for enough people to ride for them to ever hope to turn a profit.

    Me, I thought that having the trains short enough to actually fit in one of our city blocks was an excellent idea.

    I own a car, but I rarely drive it during the week.  In fact, I share it with my daughter, who lives in the same apartment complex that I do, and she puts more miles on it than I do.  I have an annual transit pass through my employer, and I ride the bus to work (I'd have to be totally out of my mind to try to drive, considering where my job is), and I take public transit all over after I get off work.  My daughter rides the bus to work, too - though she gets discounted monthly passes rather than an annual one.

    Strength and dignity are her clothing, she rejoices at the days to come; She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the law of kindness is on her tongue.

    by loggersbrat on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 01:46:06 PM PDT

  •  Wonderful diary. Thanks. (5+ / 0-)

    I live just south of the Broadway Bridge, and I see the mills and barges and other ships and boats every day. As well as planes, trains, Max, now the streetcar -- and, of course, automobiles.

    "It doesn't matter what I do....People need to hear what I have to say. There's no one else who can say what I can say. It doesn't matter what I live. --Newty

    by Vico on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 01:48:43 PM PDT

  •  The Loop has significantly changed our long-term.. (6+ / 0-)

    planning. Mrs. 2020 will be opening a medical practice in about five years. We'd toyed with the idea of doing industrial inner-SE, but weren't sure how long it would be, before it takes off as a neighborhood or gets beyond its current industrial feel.

    We figured it'd probably be smarter to consider heading either toward the Pearl or out into the meat of the East Side. The idea that we'd be able to pull in downtowners and east siders in a single location has made the area west of 12th significantly more attractive.

  •  Sad we can't celebrate HUGE new high-speed (4+ / 0-)

    rail lines or metro systems opening, like in China or Europe. Still this is progress, albeit small....

    •  China high speed train (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Cartoon Peril, llywrch

      was their stimulus pkg. Sigh. I want to high- speed from Seattle to Portland and especially Seattle to Spokane where I've never been! I want our state unified by high speed trains. I'd like to be more connected to Oregonians - not just virtually. I used to drive yearly along the coast - but no more now since I don't have a car.  

      “My first choice is a strong consumer agency,” she said. “My second choice is no agency at all and plenty of blood and teeth left on the floor.”

      by mrobinson on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 11:34:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I live in the near East Side (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    varro, Henry Reed, tofumagoo, KenBee

    and have lived in Portland since 2003.  The traffic issues facing this city, IMO, go way beyond street cars and the downtown area.  They are mostly tied to narrow freeways and a sprawling suburban area.  Truck traffic through the Terwilliger curves should be limited to only the right lane until such a time as I-5 can, if ever, be widened.  

    I'm not a traffic engineer, but Portland has challenges that no amount of trolleys or street cars can or will address.  Geography no doubt exacerbates many of those challenges, between the hills and the river.  

    But it seems as though the city planners simply desire to wish away the cars here, rather than figure out how to really deal with them.  As for the bus system, it has just recently cut back on routes and service frequency, as well as raising fares by 10 cents.  

    For a city the size of Portland, which isn't huge, it has its share of traffic problems.  This street car will not solve them.  

    Oregon:'s cold. But it's a damp cold.

    by Keith930 on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 04:00:28 PM PDT

    •  Portland's problem isn't with traffic.... (4+ / 0-) much as the job creation has been uneven; jobs don't pay enough for people to be able to afford the development in the inner sections of the city.

      And if you're out past 82nd, you might as well be in Gresham - the city doesn't care about you one bit.

      9-11 changed everything? Well, Katrina changed it back.

      by varro on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 04:16:06 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  So, all Portlanders need to be (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Cartoon Peril, varro

        informed and politically active. Don't let the moneyed interests and their politicans decide for you.

        •  The problem is that the moneyed interests... (0+ / 0-)

          ....want things like streetcars and high-density luxury condos.

          We managed to fight off an ugly piece of "art" they wanted to put in our neighborhood - a bike rack with an abandoned car on top of it - said to be symbolic of bicycles taking over after cars become rotting junk.  After people complained, the car was removed.

          9-11 changed everything? Well, Katrina changed it back.

          by varro on Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 12:55:02 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Most of the shipping areas... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ....and logistics centers aren't there, though - the big shipping areas are farther north - Port of Portland Terminals 4, 5, and 6.  

    Those aren't served well by public transit; only the #11 bus to T-5 and T-6, and those only during rush hour.

    I see the streetcar as an engine of genrtification, pushing poor people out past 82nd, or working people into the suburbs because of property values too high compared to wages.

    9-11 changed everything? Well, Katrina changed it back.

    by varro on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 04:09:56 PM PDT

    •  I don't think so. For example, the local homeless (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      KenBee, llywrch

      assistance project (link) is located on the new streetcar line.  There are a large number of subsidized housing projects in the area -- lots to read about on this right here.

      You have exactly 10 seconds to change that look of disgusting pity into one of enormous respect!

      by Cartoon Peril on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 05:26:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Nice work on this. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blue denim, Cartoon Peril, KenBee

    I'm an occasional visitor to Portland and try to get around by bike and transit when we are there.  It's a fine city for both if you stay in the city and eschew the suburbs - which is fine with me.  We stay at the AYH hostel in Northwest and have just a fine time along 21st and 23rd streets in the evening.  Love the transit and bike facilities.

    "Wouldn't you rather vote for what you want and not get it than vote for what you don't want - and get it?" Eugene Debs. "Le courage, c'est de chercher la verite et de la dire" Jean Jaures

    by Chico David RN on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 04:31:03 PM PDT

  •  I take offense to this (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cartoon Peril, Susipsych
    One of the legends that the right wing loves to tell itself about the blue states, and the west coast in particular, is that we are a bunch of wine-sipping, pinkie-ring wearing liberal twits.
    I'll have you know I don't sip wine.

    You and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children's children what it was once like in America when 25% of the population was batshit insane.

    by Omir the Storyteller on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 04:34:45 PM PDT

  •  Ridership looked strong today. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cartoon Peril

    I was wondering how the elimination of the fare-less square would impact ridership so I took notice of every streetcar I saw today. The NS (old) line cars  were always half to 3/4 full which is about normal for a Sunday. The new CL line to the east side had less riders, but frankly I was surprised to see how many people were on those cars. Portland is such a walkable city that I only use the streetcar when the weather is nasty, so it will be great having this new line when the winter rains start.

  •  Ambivalence (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cartoon Peril

    I love shiny new electric toys like the Streetcar.

    But I have to wonder whether the cuts in bus service, which serves so many more people, and a very different income group, arguably, are a cost we should be willing to pay for the shiny toys for the inner Portland area?

    Yes, I understand that fixed infrastructure transport is supposed to magically increase development along the route.  I think the idea is that developers don't trust a bus line to stay there, but they figure the city has so much sunk cost in electric wires and track that anything they build on that route is a safer bet.  And all of that would be great if it really spurs new development, and doesn't just rearrange development that was going to occur anyway.  And I just don't know the truth of the matter.

    I do know that downtown it used to seem that I could almost always walk faster than the streetcar, or almost as fast, so its value as a transport system is really questionable from that perspective.    That's particularly true when you factor in wait times.  

    I want to believe that there is a reason to put in electric street cars.  I want more of them!   And more lines.  But, the case for doing that is really unclear to me.  And the hit to bus service is real.  And buses really do meet a need.  Streetcars may meet a need, but it is often a need that they may be seeking to generate, and that may not even be related to the problem of getting from here to there.  If there is a reason to build them, it is somewhat obscure.  

    •  The street car moves people about who are already (0+ / 0-)

      downtown, or in nearby areas such as Pearl District, and now the inner East Side.  Once the new bridge is complete, some actual commuting will be possible on the street car.  There is discussion of extension of the lines to areas now served by current bus routes -- this in particular would depend on whether you believe the street car magic pixie dust would work economic improvement.  

      You have exactly 10 seconds to change that look of disgusting pity into one of enormous respect!

      by Cartoon Peril on Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 05:15:59 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I'm thrilled by the success of United Streetcar (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cartoon Peril, llywrch

    and the resurgence of a US light rail manufacturing industry.

    I live in Pittsburgh, where the local Bombardier plant (a transnational that is headquartered in Montreal) makes light rail trains and systems also, but more like the rubber-wheeled people-movers you see at airports, not streetcars.

    These are the types of manufacturing industries that America must retain if we want to determine our own destiny.

    Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room!

    by bigtimecynic on Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 06:11:06 AM PDT

  •  Ring of death (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cartoon Peril

    I like the streetcar and all, and I appreciate it as an economic engine for the neighborhoods it goes through, and as a factor to promote increased density in the city (essential for eliminating auto dependence); however, it has been a major impediment to the safety of the best and most efficient urban transportation mode: the bicycle.

    "Ring of Death" may be overstating it a little, but I do know people who have sustained some pretty bad injuries when their tires got caught in the tracks. I myself have had three track-related crashes over the years, and I consider myself a very experienced and alert rider.

    Portland has a high percentage of people who ride bikes to work (something like 6.8% commute mode share), and the goal is much higher. To get more people to ride, the city has to reassure the cautious people that it's safe, and putting up a wheel trap around the inner city isn't really the way to do it.

    And it didn't have to be that way -- we could have had the streetcar without all the danger. Look at older streetcar systems: they ran down the middle of the street, with a center platform for people to board. This puts the track danger out of the way of where most people ride - the right lane. It also makes for more pedestrian-friendly streets. The people who planned the Streetcar layout knew this; they were counseled on bike-friendly configurations, but they chose for the right-lane layout because the car lobby felt it would have the lowest impact on the average driver.

    So, convenience to the car user trumped safety for the cyclist. For that I am disappointed, but for everything else, I support the Streetcar.

    I won't use it much, though, because I generally can walk faster than it travels. (This would not be the case if it were in the center lane, and not sharing the lane with cars, but that's another story.)

    •  I'm a slow walker, so the streetcar always beats (0+ / 0-)

      me.  My experience with the streetcar has been that I use it when I'm downtown to go to places that are too far to walk but not far enough to justify my bringing a car into town (normally I ride bus).

      Right now, the streetcar can't really be claimed to be a commuter tool, but that may change.

      The bike issue is significant, one would hope there could be a work-around on that.

      You have exactly 10 seconds to change that look of disgusting pity into one of enormous respect!

      by Cartoon Peril on Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 10:03:51 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I feel most commenters miss the point! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cartoon Peril

    It's not about the streetcar or its actual route but the idea of creating transportation options. In 10 years the entire route of the new streetcar line will be thriving and that I feel is the ultimate goal here.
    transportation options - no one mode works for all but several choices will work for all.
    Over the past 30+ years, transportation choices other than the car and airplane have gotten short-changed or robbed.
    I currently live in chicagoland with a adequate system of mass transit yet development is hapazard and disjointed and the "system" if one could call it that serves the 9-5 M-F work commute.
    Continuing to depend on the petroleum fueled internal combustion engine is a losing plan.
    The central issue is funding! Imagine 5% of defense spending directed to mass transit construction, equipment manufacturing, maintenance, fare subsidies. Then think 10%.
    Mass transit is the key to rebuilding american cities!

  •  Light Rail in Houston (0+ / 0-)

    The naysayers in Houston blocked Light Rail for many years with claims that no one would like the proposed Light Rail in  Houston.

    We originally voted to go forward in the late 1980's and finally went live in 2004. The short starter line from downtown Houston to the Art and Science museums, past multiple universities and parks  and through one of the largest medical centers in the country is only 7.5 miles long. But this short Light Rail line now has the 2nd highest ridership per mile in the United States with 4,987 boardings per mile per day.


    While Houston went with Light Rail instead of street cars, they are now rapidly expanding with three more lines under full construction and to open in 2014.

    RideMetro Houston:

    The Light Rail cars are manufactured in the United States by Siemens in Sacramento, California.

    Being a  daily rider from the Park and Ride lot in an outlying suburb but still in the city of Houston limits, then skipping to the Light Rail downtown, I and my most of my fellow passengers enjoy not having to venture in the long vehicle commute every day in a single passenger car.

    Houston has it's massive sprawl but our Metro system has tied together the vast city with Light Rail, High Occupancy Lanes (HOV), city buses and Park and Ride lots.

    I would envy the day I could climb aboard a street car like in Portland instead of an hour commute by living downtown or near town like many Houstonians have done, especially many younger folks in Houston.

    Portland sounds like a very invigorating city that has planned well for their smart growth without the sprawl that other American cities have become. I know there is a constant battle in Portland between the developers versus the Smart Growth movement but hopefully Portland will prosper and keep their city a livable city.

    Mass Transit hopefully will be a major ingredient of the rebirth of many American cities.

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