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The City plans for streetcar: What’s at stake for bikes?

Posted by on March 27th, 2008 at 4:00 pm

Buses, cars, big-rigs, trucks, light rail, bikes, pedestrians — Portland’s roads are in high demand, and it’s about to get even more crowded.

Bicycle Master Plan ride #3
Ahh, streetcar tracks.
(Photos © J. Maus)

In case you haven’t heard, the City of Portland is expanding our streetcar system. They’ve just announced a series of workshops to gain community feedback and to present which routes they’re considering as part of their “big picture” Streetcar System Plan.

I’m all for mass transit — after all, having more people in streetcars means less cars on the road — but I also know that any additional use of the roadway, especially one that requires dedicated infrastructure (that likes to gobble up bike tires), needs to be planned for in a way that doesn’t negatively impact biking conditions.

You might think that the City’s streetcar planners and bikeway planners are walking hand-in-hand, joined together in common cause for a more sensible transportation future — but that’s not exactly the case.

A major story about the city’s streetcar plans made it’s way into the Oregonian today and there was no mention of how the bike network might be impacted.

Unfortunately, in the past years, bike advocates have cried foul at how streetcar plans have been carried out with less-then optimum results for cyclists. The fact is, streetcar infrastructure will alter the roadway in a major way and bicyclists must speak up and be a part of the planning process to make sure it co-exists with both the existing and future bikeway in a sensible, safe, and efficient way.

To get an idea of what’s at stake for cyclists, check out the map below. The lines in green are routes that PDOT is still considering as streetcar lines:

A quick once-over reveals that many of those streets currently have bike lanes or are designated as official city bikeways. Will the streetcar network be designed to play nicely with bikes? That will be (mostly) up to Portland Streetcar Inc. (PSI).

“The highest concentration of cycling in Portland occurs in old Streetcar neighborhoods. Now we’re going to create new Streetcar neighborhoods and main streets.”
–Chris Smith, Chair of Portland Streetcar Inc. (and City Council candidate)

PSI was selected back in 1995 as the developer of Portland’s streetcar system. They work with PDOT to design, build, operate and maintain streetcars. They also have a Citizen’s Advisory Committee that is chaired by none other than blogger, activist, biker, and City Council candidate Chris Smith. I asked Chris for some insight on the streetcar/bike equation.

Smith is an ardent streetcar supporter and he says that while they offer “great potential for bikes,” he also admits that they present challenges.

On the plus side, he says that more streetcars will bring a “less auto-dominated environment,” to our city. Chris also says that streetcar development leads to denser, more well-connected neighborhoods — exactly the type of context where bicycling thrives.

Chris Smith

Or, as he puts it, “The highest concentration of cycling in Portland occurs in old Streetcar neighborhoods. Now we’re going to create new Streetcar neighborhoods and main streets.”

But Chris also points out that “physical interaction issues” exist between streetcars and bikes. He’s referring, of course, to something many of us are all-too familiar with — getting our tires caught up in streetcar tracks. To minimize this and other conflicts with bikes, Chris says PSI is learning new design methods that improve with each new extension they complete.

To develop bike-friendly streetcar designs, Chris says, “we still have a long way to go, and we need people who are passionate about both modes to help us figure this out.”

That’s where you come in!

Consider attending one of the upcoming workshops to learn more about streetcar plans and to weigh in with your concerns and feedback.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

  • Dag March 27, 2008 at 4:25 pm

    I bet we\’ll see a full system of bike boulevards long before we see streetcar tracks on most of those streets. In my view, bikes should have totally separate main thoroughfares from other modes. Of course bikes have to mix with cars on side streets, but we shouldn\’t have to go far on the same street as the streetcar. I hate NW Lovejoy.

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  • BURR March 27, 2008 at 4:49 pm

    Vicky Diede is not a friend of cyclists. There has been a huge rift between the streetcar developers and the cycling community since day one of planning for the first streetcar route.

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  • jleiss March 27, 2008 at 5:26 pm

    I just got back from Vancouver, BC, where they have electric-powered buses: cheaper to build than a streetcar but still a permanent investment of infrastructure; quieter and cleaner than a bus, but no tracks to get caught in. I think it sounds like a good way to go.

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  • DJ Hurricane March 27, 2008 at 5:31 pm

    The expansion of the streetcar system is going to be a great thing for Portland.

    It seems like the problem that streetcar tracks make a street very difficult to ride is solved by separating the streetcar routes from the dedicated bike routes.

    The streetcar routes should go on high traffic roads, so people in their single-occupancy vehicles can easily see a more community- and environmentally-friendly, and less expensive, transportation mode.

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  • G.A.R. March 27, 2008 at 5:49 pm

    What is the problem with rubber tires?

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  • joel March 27, 2008 at 6:12 pm

    first offf, let me be clear: I LOVE STREETCARS. it pains me to look at old photos and maps showing the streetcar networks that used to exist in american cities. swapping to buses, in my eyes, was/is one of the worst public transit decisions ever.

    but yes, get those streetcar routes on major traffic roads, have them replace a lane of car traffic – but at the same time, proliferation of streetcar tracks will have people paying attention to them, thats for sure. in cities like amsterdam and toronto, where ive spent ample time riding amongst significant downtown streetcar lines, cyclists have adjusted admirably, and ive very rarely seen crashes due to the tracks.

    had we not torn out the streetcar tracks to begin with, it wouldnt seem like such an adjsutment 🙂 wed all be really really good at crossing tracks 🙂

    plus – as opposed to cars and buses, you KNOW where a streetcar is, and where its going. its a moving obstacle on a fixed path – no chance of it changing lanes into you and the like… 🙂

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  • M8Adam March 27, 2008 at 6:20 pm

    I have to argue that switching to buses was a very practical decision. I\’m an urban studies major at PSU focusing on city planning and I\’ve had the streetcar vs. bus discussion in several classes. Buses are more economical and they can be diverted to alternate routes. It might seem like they pollute more, but consider where all the electricity powering the streetcars is coming from (coal-fired power plants) and it\’s not that big a difference.

    Don\’t get me wrong, I too pine after the days when Boise/Eliot and Hawthorne were streetcar suburbs, but honestly buses are a better choice. They just don\’t look as nice.


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  • Chris Smith March 27, 2008 at 6:21 pm

    There\’s no question that the design of the initial Streetcar alignment was not nearly as sensitive to bikes as it could have been.

    But we\’ve been learning. The Harrison St. extension with center platforms works very well with bikes, and in South Waterfront we experimented with a treatment that runs the bike lane behind the Streetcar stop with grade separation and that seems to be working very well.

    As we plan for the east side of the Loop, we\’re looking at opportunities where we can enhance bike connectivity as we put the Streetcar in.

    The cooperation is getting better and better and I hope the bike community will help by getting involved in the system plan effort.

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  • Paul March 27, 2008 at 6:25 pm

    Most power in the northwest is not coal – its largely hydro, which has its issues.

    But the benefit with electric power is that you can switch the generation without switching out the transportation technology. So the carbon argument does work out.

    My main challenge on streetcars is that they are poorly implemented as transportation tools and are rather redevelopment tools. But streetcars do get one demographic on transit (and out of cars) that buses will never attract.

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  • mmann March 27, 2008 at 6:32 pm

    I\’m with DJ Hurricane. I think streetcars could be a great addition to Portland\’s transportation picture. I also think they\’d work well on busy, business-centric streets that are already poor bike thoroughfares – think Hawthorne/Belmont/Stark, etc. All these streets have close proximity bike routes that make access to them easy for cyclists. My hope would be that the streetcars would encourage cyclists who don\’t already to use the safer routes. I\’m thinking of those who insist on using Hawthorne for east-west travel when much safer (and more scenic) routes exist a couple blocks north or south.

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  • Randy March 27, 2008 at 7:13 pm

    What\’s safe, sustainable, and least polluting? It\’s bike, work together, and ride in Puddletown. The current bus model is not sustainable: it tears up the streets for bikes and the diesel exhaust creates alot of air pollution. We need to de-bigbox this town – bikes shops, small farms, and grocery stores on every corner. Then people won\’t need cars.

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  • BURR March 27, 2008 at 7:17 pm

    I love it when cyclists themselves encourage the banning of other cyclists from public streets leading to our city\’s main commercial destinations.

    The streetcar should not be expanded on the east side until a viable flange-filler material that is cyclist-safe is available and approved for use. Center platforms would be a step in the right direction.

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  • bikes on the cars? March 27, 2008 at 8:52 pm

    I don\’t go on the westside much, so I\’ve never actually been on a streetcar in pdx. Can you take a bike on the streetcar? Is this an option being considered on the new streetcars?

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  • mmann March 27, 2008 at 9:00 pm


    Who said ban? Not me, and I don\’t see it in any of the other post either. By all means, those who want to ride on streets with tracks should have the right to do so. I\’m just saying that IF streetcars go in, put them on the narrow, busy traffic streets without bike lanes.

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  • Stacy Westbrook March 27, 2008 at 9:03 pm

    How about if street car tracks just don\’t run parallel to bike lanes? On a wet day, even taking a wide turn, my tires still slipped on the tracks and I wound up with a concussion. I\’d love to see street cars on the east side, but probably not on the bike boulevards.

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  • BURR March 27, 2008 at 9:24 pm

    the city should be working to make all public streets safer for cyclists, not less safe.

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  • BURR March 27, 2008 at 9:34 pm

    and not just some streets.

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  • Paul March 27, 2008 at 9:41 pm

    I live on the west side. The street car is a JOKE. You can walk faster than this thing. They are a costly waste. Mass transit is great, the street car is not. Too bad our MAX is more like a street car and not a high speed subway like major cities. Then we would really have something worthwhile. Let\’s start thinking big, Portland.

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  • wsbob March 27, 2008 at 10:42 pm

    (About buses:)\”They just don\’t look as nice.\” M8Adam

    They don\’t look as nice? That\’s their least offense. They also don\’t smell as nice or ride as smoothly. They\’re noisy too, not that the streetcar is very quiet(it would be nice if it was a quiet as the MAX).

    Buses might pencil out better on paper, but I think people will prefer to ride a streetcar. It may be slower than some people can walk, but there\’s a whole lot of people that need or prefer to ride.

    What about a hybrid street car? It would take it\’s power from the overhead lines until it got to a secondary route point, disconnect from the overhead lines and drive off on battery or an internal combustion engine to deliver passengers on its route where overhead lines weren\’t installed.

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  • Seth Alford March 28, 2008 at 3:41 am

    I\’m with BURR on this one. For example, before the street car, SW 10th was ride-able. With the street car, I find SW 10th much more bike hostile. Putting a street car on a street goes a long way to effectively prohibiting bicycles on that street. Bike tires get poor traction on wet steel tracks. This is an issue even when riding across tracks on a street which intersects a street car (or light rail or regular railroad) line.

    The bicycle community should be against any further rail transit development. I continue to be disappointed that the BTA (\”Opening minds and roads to bicycling\”) does not do more to oppose these proposals.

    Furthermore, a street car is much more expensive than running buses. Think about how many miles of bike lanes or bike boulevards could be built with the money street cars (and other rail transit) consume. For example, the PDOT map shows a street car going down Barbur. I\’d much rather see the existing gaps in the bike lanes on Barbur filled in.

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  • G.A.R. March 28, 2008 at 5:56 am

    wsbob #19 suggests that if the street car is slower than walking then maybe instead of replacing cars it is replacing slow walking. This is a valid point, though wsbob might not have intended it. I think this really is the demographic the streetcar addresses. Few people in a hurry take the streetcar. It is not for them. To avoid delays you need either a deicated lane (Max) or rubber tires (bus). It is for redevelopment (Paul #9 #18) and for people who accept its slow pace.

    Regarding the \”hybrid streetcar\”, like all heavy vehicles (too heavy to pedal) the streetcar should have regenerative braking. As far as going off-grid I\’m not so sure. Why would we build tracks and no power source for them. Sounds zany. Or is this a rubber-tired streetcar (my favorite) like the trolleys in Seattle? Now we\’re talking bike-friendly AND eco-friendly! Sorry rail fans, but this is a bike blog. Rails are nasty.

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  • BikingViking March 28, 2008 at 7:15 am

    I\’m with Stacy (post #15). I took a header on SW 4th last week when I wasn\’t paying attention and my front tire got caught in the tracks. I go over those damn tracks every day, but the one day I wasn\’t being vigilant…

    As long as streetcar tracks are laid down on main roads than bikes rarely use anyway, we should be able to coexist quite nicely. Especially if bike paths do not cross intersections where the streetcars turn. Hawthorne would be great, as there are bike routes a few blocks on either side.

    As for speed, the Oregonian article mentioned that east side streetcars are likely to be much faster due to the traffic patterns. There was something mentioned about a dedicated lane and speeds reaching 45 mph. I don\’t know if I want a streetcar reaching that speed on Hawthorne, but it\’s nice to know the capability of it being faster than walking is there.

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  • Qwendolyn March 28, 2008 at 7:19 am

    The street car is a JOKE.

    I agree. I am one hundred percent for mass transit. But it should be pragmatic, not something built for the sake of nostalgia.

    The streetcar is not practical.

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  • Jasun Wurster March 28, 2008 at 7:44 am

    Anyone have access to what the per rider subsidy for: Street Car, MAX and Bus?

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  • Laura March 28, 2008 at 7:55 am

    I\’m with GAR and others. Seattle\’s dual-power buses are a great, trackless solution. Also, I noticed that the streetcar project eliminated much of SW Portland as viable because of the steep slopes. For years, Seattle has used the electric \”trolley\” buses on the steep slopes (Queen Anne, First and Capitol Hills) because their engines are more efficient at hauling up (and regen. braking down) the hills.

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  • hickeymad March 28, 2008 at 8:20 am

    How cool would a streetcar up Sandy Blvd be? By themselves, streetcars would slow traffic, increase pedestrian access and walkability, and in turn result in an increase of neighborhood service-type businesses (instead of auto-centric businesses like gas stations and 7-11 stores). I believe cyclists can adapt to the challanges of street-car tracks without much difficulty. Sandy is already cyclst un-friendly, and a Sandy Blvd streetcar would only make cycling easier and safer.

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  • DJ Hurricane March 28, 2008 at 8:20 am

    I think the bottom line here is that Portland is getting more streetcars because they do facilitate the kind of growth that is best for the City and there is no reason why bikes and streetcars can\’t co-exist.

    Sharing the road means just that, sharing. The real threat to sharing, and to safety – and hence to more bikes on the roads – is the illegal and irresponsible behavior of some drivers. That\’s where we should focus our efforts.

    And, I have tested it: The streetcar from downtown to NW is indeed slower than walking at times. But many people do not want to walk (or bike), and if there is no streetcar, the chief alternative for most of those people is a single-occupancy vehicle. There is no doubt that the streetcar takes cars off the roads. And that\’s good for biking.

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  • Spencer March 28, 2008 at 8:24 am

    With all this discussion, how much is this new rail network going to cost? What is the cost benefit relationship between busses. Don\’t forget that busses burning biodiesel are much cleaner than with diesel.

    I live in St. Johns near the proposed Lombard street car route. The problem is transit time. Downtown to St. Johns via bus is 30 to 70 min. depending upon which bus route I take. I just don\’t see the street car improving transit time despite the 45 mph argument. The problem is that both modes are always having to stop all along the way. Biking for me is usually faster than all but the express (16) bus for my 9 mile, one way commute.

    I think the Maxx is a good idea for a trunk line, but the street car to serve the areas adjacent to trunk line jsut doesn\’t make economic sense. Also, does this mean a loss of the bus routes?

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) March 28, 2008 at 8:30 am

    I think the biggest issue with streetcars is funding. They are a much more expensive \”alternative\” transportation solution than bikes.

    Unfortunately bikes are completely outgunned when it comes to getting money for major projects.

    Bikes have no deep pocketed money interests behind us (like the developers and contractors behind light rail and streetcar).

    Where is the TriMet or Portland Streetcar Inc. for bikes?

    Why should the cheapest, cleanest, most fun mode be left out of the party simply because we don\’t have big money behind us?

    TriMet and PSI get to implement projects that cost hundreds of millions of dollars in the name of alternative transportation… yet bikes fight and scrap and have to defend even a few thousand dollars.

    I think we need an agency similar to TriMet, but whose primary mission is to develop, implement, and improve our regional bikeway network.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) March 28, 2008 at 8:32 am

    I would also love to see a cost/benefit analysis done that compares bikes, cars, light rail, bus, and streetcar.

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  • Duncan March 28, 2008 at 8:42 am

    To all those who \”cant bike across a street car track\”: What? I mean I have got caught going parallel to the tracks on occasion, but never perpendicularly.

    I think that would be great To have a street car network- each rider is ONE LESS CAR on the road, and while I agree the tracks can be an issue, they are a static issue- I know where it is all the time. It isnt like some cell phone-talking, gum chewing teenager right hooking me when I least expect it.

    and spencer- I bet that the streetcar to Max on interstate to downtown will be faster, at least nicer.

    And someone said that Seattles busses are great? Why then does Seattle have the 5th worst traffic in the country? Because there transportation options suck!

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  • Moo March 28, 2008 at 8:48 am

    I think the streetcar is first and foremost a goofy photo-op for tourists and secondly for the lazy penny-loafers from the Pearl. When the transit mall comes back, the streetcar will seem even goofier.

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  • dsaxena March 28, 2008 at 8:51 am

    I say bring the street cars on. I visited Melbourne, AUS a few months ago and they had street car network that connected the city and provided service every 3 minutes during peak hours.

    The one major difference there is that in the major areas, the streetcar is on a completely separate lane on which cars cannot drive and they have priority at lights. Our street car (and light rail in downtown) needs be designed the same way or it becomes fairly useless in my opinion. When I lived in NW, I could walk to downtown faster then the street car during peak hours….

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  • woogie March 28, 2008 at 8:55 am

    As someone who dealt with street cars growing up in Toronto I can see that they get a thumbs up when it comes to quaint, but thumbs down when it comes to value.

    Sure they run on electricity but think of the costs needed to get the electricity to the routes, that infrastructure is expensive and need upkeep.

    The rails themselves pose even more problems. Road maintenance and infrastructure maintenance (think of all the utilities underground, sewer, phone etc) becomes more difficult when having to work around the rails and can cause major disruption because the route cannot be moved to a street that is not undergoing construction. Rail maintenance itself causes long periods of roads being in disrepair due to the nature of the construction.

    Toronto also runs their streetcars on two lane roads in the left hand lane. When the cars stop to load or off load, both lanes of traffic must stop, that includes cyclists. This slows any movement on these streets to a crawl and adds to the overall pollution problem by causing more cars to sit longer idling.

    The better solution, which is also used in Toronto, is buses powered by natural gas. No smell, reduced pollution over diesel buses, and the flexibility of not being tied to the rails if a route change is needed.

    Is compressed natural gas ever mentioned as an alternative fuel?

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  • DJ Hurricane March 28, 2008 at 9:02 am

    Bikes have no deep pocketed money interests behind us (like the developers and contractors behind light rail and streetcar).

    You just nailed it. This is why we are fighting on the margins for some public funding to create minor engineering fixes in the wake of our fellow cyclists\’ deaths and the streetcar folks are getting dedicated rights-of-way throughout the City. This is an issue that deserves much greater focus from the bike community.

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  • Kris March 28, 2008 at 9:08 am

    Great discussion topic…

    I lived a good part of my life in European cities where streetcars (or what we called \”trams\”) where a major part of the urban transit grid. I definitely see their value, both as an environmentally friendly mode of public transit and as a neighborhood redevelopment tool (which is not per se a bad thing), though I see some differences in how they are implemented here vs. there.

    In Europe, trams are typically running on busy arterials (think Broadway, Burnside or Sandy) or on wide one-way streets, often with a dedicated right of way and with greater distance between stops. I am with Paul and others that the slow pace and frequent stops of the NW streetcar (and downtown MAX) is problematic if you have to get somewhere in time or in a hurry, making it a non-starter for a fair chunk of the urban commuter crowd or \”people on the go\”, who often will revert to their car to run their downtown errands.

    Personally, I think that the rubber-tired trolley buses are a much overlooked option, both here in Portland and in many European cities. From my experience in Seattle and Vancouver BC, they are much more versatile than streetcars (especially in mixed traffic), more bike-friendly (no rails to get caught in), relatively quiet, and definitely environmentally friendly.

    BTW: my fast-route morning commute gets me into town over NW Lovejoy and the narrow space between the rails and the parked cars/boarding platforms makes this street (at least westbound) not very bike-friendly. I always wonder why they didn\’t turn NW Lovejoy and Northrup into one-way streets when they put in the streetcar, at least the section between NW 23rd and I-405. That would provide plenty room for a center platform and more space for bikes.

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  • Stripes March 28, 2008 at 9:09 am

    It makes me uncomfortable to see bikes being pitted against streetcars like this. We need BOTH transportation options if we are to have a walkable and bikeable city.

    The streetcar has been a great means for creating more transit-oriented development, and thus increased urban density here in Portland, which translates into a much more walkable and bikeable city, with services like grocery stores, dry cleaners & coffee shops closer together.

    I realize there is the danger of wiping out if yr not careful, & boy does that suck! But it\’s my understanding that these potential streetcar lines will be laid down on the more **major** arterials – the Burnsides, the Broadways, the Hawthornes.

    Why any cyclist in their right mind would choose to ride for a prolonged period of time on any of these major streets, when every single one of them has a direct and fast bicycle boulevard between one and three blocks parallel to them (Ankeny, Tillamook & Salmon/Taylor, respectively) beats me.

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  • maxadders March 28, 2008 at 9:11 am

    Will west-side yuppies feel safer in a shiny orange pseudo train than the #6 bus? You bet. Watch them stream into Alberta (where one of the lines under consideration goes) and drive out first the working class and then hip young people with even more condos and upscale \”we\’re-almost-retired\” entertainment.

    Yes, what we need is a direct connection between the people with money and the neighborhood their developer buddies are bulldozing.

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  • bs March 28, 2008 at 9:17 am

    One point I see repeated over and over is how everyone should get out of their car and ride a bike, screw everything else. That may be a harsh interpretation but the attitude definitely exists in a large group.

    That is not realistic. Can you see a grandma using a walker getting on a bike? No. This just one example of why a streetcar is useful. No step up to get in and she can still use her walker to maintain balance. Let\’s see her maintain balance on a bike.

    Public transit needs to accommodate many different people. Believe it or not some people simply will not get on a bike. Many people won\’t use them to commute because they are in \”business attire\” and showers aren\’t available at work (and not every business will offer showers).

    The streetcar is viable. The first implementation is meant to provide local transport between the South Waterfront and the Pearl through downtown. Because it is designed for local trips it has frequent stops and moves slow. Other routes intended for longer trips will have less stops and higher speeds.

    It takes time a patience to develop a public transit system, especially when it needs to be shoehorned into an existing city. Get involved, work with the designers to provide input. Just bitching and doing nothing doesn\’t solve any problems or making any changes.

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  • Stripes March 28, 2008 at 9:19 am

    Also, regarding the whole buses versus streetcar debate…

    One very interesting thing that I read a few years ago, and that is backed up annecdotally here in Portland, is the issue of transportation \”snobbery\”.

    I know it seems incredible, but please bear me out. There are a lot of people out there who would willingly hop on a beautiful, modern, clean streetcar, yet who would feel very reluctant & uncomfortable & embarrased at taking the bus. I know, go ahead and laugh, but it\’s true. This is one big reason that rail, light rail, and trams have been invested in so much in many European countries. It may be much more of an initial investment in terms of construction, but they prove to be better drawing ridership than buses when they begin operating. Put simply, streetcars don\’t carry the stigma that buses do. The \”loser cruiser\” label, if you will.

    If we want to get those 71% of Portlanders who currently drive to work every day to take public transit, there is evidence out there that they will far more likely make the switch if they have the option to hop on a streetcar two blocks from their house on Belmont, rather than if they have to hop on a bus two blocks from their house.

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  • GLV March 28, 2008 at 9:28 am

    #20 \”I find SW 10th much more bike hostile.\”

    I disagree…I find that riding in between the tracks is a great option, because it is among the only stretches of road in downtown that isn\’t filled with potholes.

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  • Citizen Gregg March 28, 2008 at 9:43 am

    I personally like riding my bike on the streets where the streetcar runs. Cars like to avoid the steetcar lane because they don\’t want to get stuck and the streetcar is one of the few vehicles in Portland I know can\’t cut me off.

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  • Chris Smith March 28, 2008 at 10:04 am

    TriMet and PSI get to implement projects that cost hundreds of millions of dollars in the name of alternative transportation… yet bikes fight and scrap and have to defend even a few thousand dollars.

    Two thoughts on that:

    1) Streetcar has successfully attracted significant investment because our political leadership sees a clear payback – a $100M investment in Streetcar has leveraged $3.5B in private investment in development along the alignment. We need to begin making the case that cycling also generates economic value and TELL THAT STORY.

    2) Why make it an either/or? I\’d love to move us into a mode of planning \”car-lite\” corridors that COMBINE coordinated investments in bikes and streetcars (either on parallel streets or on the same street in those cases where we can make them work well together.

    Think about it – both bikes and Streetcars have the same end goal – reducing reliance on the auto and creating livable, safer neighborhoods.

    We are much stronger together than making our cases separately!

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  • Kris March 28, 2008 at 10:08 am

    I agree with Stripes (#39) that buses often have a social stigma. But some of that has to do with the design of the buses and the boarding infrastructure. If Trimet would invest in low-floor bus models with level boarding platforms – so people can walk or roll on the bus, instead of having to climb on it – buses would be much more inviting for hop-on/hop-off type of use.

    Further, I agree with Jonathan and wished that cyclists had a much stronger representation in the transit debate, at par with agencies like Trimet and PSI. I know that many folks at the BTA and PDOT are doing a great job in getting our voices heard, but at the end of the day it seems like money still speaks the loudest… however, that\’s where we need to get officials elected who really get it when it comes to the role and power of bicycles and who won\’t be swayed by Trimet/PSI (or other special interest $$) to divert from that vision. Here is to hoping!

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  • LE-OH! March 28, 2008 at 10:41 am

    I live on the website too, and my biggest issue with the streetcar isn\’t the tracks- living among them for a while, you get used to them and you either learn to always cross them as perpendicular as possible (slowly and carefully, especially in the rain) or to just ride in the adjacent lane if you need to go quicker. The slow service can definitely be attributed to most of the line/stops being in downs. But the biggest issue is actually the service itself- the streetcar is altogether useless and awful after, say, 9pm. One of my biggest gripes with Portland\’s mass transit system is that there are no viable options available for the late night crowd, and in my opinion, that\’s one of the biggest factors holding Portland back from attracting a bigger, better nightlife, and placing itself amongst much larger cities. Imagine if this is the only city in the U.S. outside of New York where after hanging out all night at the bar until last call, there\’s no worries about drunk drivers or anything on the road because the streetcar/MAX runs until 3am. Putting them in the fun neighborhoods such as Alberta and Belmont/Hawthorne is going to help a lot, and is going to be great for commuting, but there could definitely be some benefit in adding on a lot more service, and later service, to the lines. The other day, around 9:30pm or so, my girlfriend and I were trying to flag down the streetcar around PSU to take to the Pearl to go to Powell\’s- instead, it just flew RIGHT past us, and I don\’t think that\’s the first time it\’s happened, either. Want to get more cars off the road, especially at such a dangerous time as night? Implement more transit options at night, and it\’d be great. And I don\’t even want to hear that crap about \”safety concerns\”- please, the subway runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in New York City and that is a much more dangerous city than Portland. If they\’re concerned about there not being enough ridership at those times, there\’s no reason why they can\’t reduce the number of streetcars at that time on each line, either. Every 20-30 minutes instead of 10-15.

    Oh, and to answer a question up above, bikes can go on streetcars for the most part, but if they\’re too crowded, say, at rush hour, forget about it. Most of the time, people on bikes take the streetcar to avoid climbing uphill (especially novice commuters on heavy mountain bikes), which I suspect will be a large attraction in having the Hawthorne line since most people I know absolutely hate the climb uphill from the bridge and like to take the bus instead (or worse yet, drive) as a result.

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  • Pete March 28, 2008 at 10:48 am

    I see DJ Hurricane noticed Jonathan answered his own question in asking \”Why should the cheapest, cleanest, most fun mode be left out of the party simply because we don\’t have big money behind us?\”

    I don\’t know much about transportation infrastructure, but power and its transfer is a big factor in cost/benefit analysis (and cost projections). On one hand generating and moving energy to the streetcar has growing costs, while clean bus technologies continue to be developed (at what rate/cost though?). Pollution also weighs in; it\’s my understanding most NW energy is from the natural gas- and coal-fired plants in eastern Oregon whereas a large portion of our hydro power is sold to California (which they oversold last summer, resulting in more gate openings screwing up river currents we windsurfers play on, but I digress).

    Bicyclists, on the other hand, can be powered by good food and locally brewed beer.

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  • wsbob March 28, 2008 at 10:50 am

    re; my post #19; I definitely meant a streetcar with rubber tires. I should have said electric bus. The thought I had was that an electric bus that could draw power from overhead lines, but also had batteries to power the electric motor or an auxiliary internal combustion motor could more efficiently service routes off of a main line.

    It\’s a very myopic complaint that the streetcar is slower than some of the people making that complaint can walk. Take a look at yourselves: A great percentage of the public is not able to walk as you do, due to age, health, safety and convenience related reasons.

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  • Matt Picio March 28, 2008 at 10:53 am

    With all due respect to Chris Smith, streetcars will not bring a less auto-dominated environment to our city. They will provide more options, sure, but the majority of commuters will continue to use the automobile due to the flexibility it provides. The main factor to reduce car use is cost – when cost is high enough for less convenient options to become more viable, then those options will become more popular.

    Likewise, denser, more well-connected neighborhoods are not what we want inside of 39th Avenue. Inner Portland is dense enough already, and has a wonderful mix of housing stock, both in terms of age/style and density. Metro Portland doesn\’t need more growth. In fact, we need to discourage growth and move towards a steady-state, sustainable metropolitan area.

    In all likelihood, most of the streetcar options are not going to happen in the near term, unless Portlanders want to foot a greater portion of the bill. The economy is tanking big time this year, and FHWA funding will dry up over the next 2-5 years, killing or severely limiting a lot of new construction projects. (Possibly even the CRC if construction doesn\’t begin before the administration starts looking for high-cost programs to axe)

    Streetcars are a great option, but the trackage is expensive and not amenable to rerouting. I\’d rather see hybrid busses like Seattle has in the downtown core, with the ability to switch to electrical power in the inner city. It\’s quicker and cheaper to string new catenary wires than to lay new track. In a climate of reduced funding, cheaper, more flexible solutions will be the order of the day. Hopefully Tri-Met and PDOT will come to realize this before too much money is spent on a less-flexible, immovable system.

    BTW, if the streetcar is substantially cheaper than a hybrid bus fleet, would someone please point me to the hard numbers that prove it? Thanks.

    Stripes (#37) said \”Why any cyclist in their right mind would choose to ride … any of these major streets, when every single one of them has a … boulevard … parallel to them … beats me\”

    Look on a topographic map – Belmont, Hawthorne, et al are shallower grades than Salmon, Harrison, or Clinton. Sometimes it\’s easier and faster to ride the major streets. Also, if your destination is on one of those streets, and you can\’t remember which cross street gets there, it\’s easier to ride Belmont than to go parallel and backtrack once you\’ve accidentally passed your destination.

    bs (#39), talking about grandma w/ a walker using streetcar: why can\’t she use a hybrid bus? Streetcars will never have the service frequency or flexibility that busses have. The streetcar is a future solution to today\’s problems. By the time it\’s actually built, the demographics may have changed (and on some lines probably will), and it may not serve who it was intended to serve.

    Chris Smith (#43) – On point 1, you\’re right – but how much of that was in the Pearl? You\’re not going to have the same level of development on the east side, and if you did, I\’d stop living here. I *like* Belmont and Hawthorne the way they are now – $3.5B of investment means all the small eclectic shops will be replaced by higher cost establishments. It means lots of tax breaks, increasing the cost of city services for residents. Investment for investment\’s sake is a problem, and one that all of us pay the cost for.

    Let\’s get more value out of our transit – stop subsidizing inflexible, immovable options, and start funding a service network that is responsive to the needs of the community.

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  • joe (from toronto) March 28, 2008 at 10:55 am

    Hi everyone,

    Just a note from Toronto (we have lots of streetcar tracks)… cyclists do just fine with the tracks – and you guys will adjust quickly. Just go over them at a bit of an angle and you\’ll be fine.

    joel (one of the early commenters on this post) is exactly right when he says that streetcars are safer than cars – you always know exactly where they\’ll be (ie. they can\’t turn into you).

    All the best,


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  • DJ Hurricane March 28, 2008 at 11:07 am

    We need to begin making the case that cycling also generates economic value and TELL THAT STORY.

    IMHO, this is the gaping hole in bike advocacy in Portland. This is the difference between the lip service most of the politicos pay to improving road safety and other bike conditions and actually making cycling a mainstream transportation option.

    Someone, probably BTA, needs to author an authoritative report on the economic impact of cycling, from all its myriad benefits, from reducing deadly toxic air emissions to employing local frame-builders.

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  • DJ Hurricane March 28, 2008 at 11:08 am

    Oh, and also, Chris\’s statement above illustrates a key reason why I\’m voting for him for City Council. He gets it.

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  • GLV March 28, 2008 at 1:05 pm

    \”an electric bus that could draw power from overhead lines, but also had batteries to power the electric motor or an auxiliary internal combustion motor…\”

    The silver line in Boston is exactly that. So, the technology exists.

    And FHWA won\’t fund streetcars, FTA will. I believe most of FTA\’s funding comes from the federal gas tax.

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  • seeshellbike March 28, 2008 at 1:26 pm

    To preface my comments,even as an experienced cyclist I have crashed and am still nervous around streetcar tracks and consider them a hazard to most cyclists. Now that being said here are a few short observations:
    1) If we are going to reach out to the 60% interested but concerned people out there to get new riders then we need to address how make interactions with tracks safer. I don’t think that we have good examples for this in Portland yet. I also know of two people that were relatively new cyclists who dumped on tracks and haven’t been back on a bike again in town.
    2) Busy arterial streets, many of us still ride these routes because, we don’t have a good parallel bike street (e.g., N Lombard), this is where our destinations/services are located, or my bicycle is considered a vehicle and have every right to use these routes if I so choose. We should have concerns with a system or “improvements” that restricts access or degrades these routes by making them less safe for cyclists.
    3) The city and the public need to discuss whether street car is cost-effective and efficient transportation option or is it just an expensive tool for economic development. I can hardly think it is the former since there are three stops planned within 8 blocks in the Lloyd district and all the stories about poor fare recovery. If it is a valid tool for economic development then we need to discuss if it too expensive of a tool or if there are others that are cheaper. I definitely think that businesses along streetcar routes are going to be attracting bicyclists that are concerned about their safety. Is it okay to disfranchise cyclists for the sake of economic development?
    4) The cost and time to develop the streetcar networks means less for bicycle infrastructure and other programs. Many people complain about the amount of money that is spent on bicycle improvements and we have been able to illustrate how the comparatively small investment has yielded good results in riders and reduced SOV(single occupancy vehicles). Can streetcar show the same thing? Lets face it in a world where everyone is competing for scarce funds, streetcar is sexier to many traditional businesses and developers than bicycles and gets their support financially and politically.

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  • Paul March 28, 2008 at 1:30 pm

    There is a discussion going on in the community about how the Sullivan\’s Gulch Trail (parallel to I-84 from Gateway to the river) could spur bicycle oriented development opportunities. This route would be separated from all other modes (except walking) and allow for quick, convenient access through the core of the city. This idea is the first, I hope, in many proposals to take certain roadways and make them cycle/ped only.

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  • woogie March 28, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    Joe from Toronto,

    They certainly can and do turn into you. Plenty of accidents with street cars in Toronto making turns, because they make them from the inside lane across through lanes. (Kinda like cars having to turn right across the bike lanes in Portland).

    And while the tracks are a minimal issue when you cross them at the perpendicular, the intersections where the streetcars can turn or go straight are a nightmare to navigate on a bike.

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  • brettoo March 28, 2008 at 1:40 pm

    We need to think big here. Chris is right: bike riders and streetcar riders should be allies because we\’re all working for less car dependent development. I mostly ride my bike, but I use the streetcar a lot more than the bus when possible, even if it means walking a bit farther. It may be a psychological thing, but streetcars are just more pleasant and fun to ride. It has nothing to do with class (for me, anyway), as I feel the same way when I ride them in Europe or in the old days when I rode what were then called trolleys. There\’s something about the open-ness and being on street level that makes them much more inviting to many people. I\’m sure the streetcar advocates have numbers that back this up. You can advance all the theories about cost-effectiveness you want but ignoring this psychological reality is a tremendous mistake. Streetcars, unlike buses, will get a large group of drivers out of their cars that buses NEVER will.

    They\’re also superior to buses for wheelchair users and facilitating the mobility of Portland\’s large but often shut in disabled community is an important social goal. I\’ve also heard that streetcars are a better long term investment than buses when factoring in rising fuel and maintenance costs for roads etc but I\’d like to see the numbers. Chris?

    The downtown streetcar, as the O article notes, is a very different animal than what\’s planned to connect Hawthorne etc. It\’s specifically designed as a collector to facilitate shopping (frequent stops — too frequent if you ask me) whereas the new ones will have far fewer stops and be much faster to facililate commuting.

    The flexibility issue is bogus here. The secret of Portland\’s success is making development and transport go hand in hand. Much of Portland, fortunately for us, was originally designed along streetcar routes and that\’s one reason we have great neighborhoods there and the possibility of bringing them back along Hawthorne etc. The development happened (and is happening) because of the streetcar tracks so flexibility isn\’t an issue. It\’s based on the tracks being there. That permanence is what attracts businesses.

    Streetcars and bikes can coexist. I put my bike on the streetcar all the time, though usually not at rush hour. (Much quicker to bike at rush hour anyway.) Go check out the new stop on the So Waterfront — it works well. I don\’t ride on streetcar streets — why use 10th or 11th when I can ride one street over?

    What I\’d love to see is whole streets that ban cars and devote half the street to streetcars (which then could move a lot faster and smoother, not getting stuck behind cars), and the other half to bikes. True alternative transport corridors. I doubt business owners would go for it — too many probably think they need drivers going by their front windows.

    But the main thing is to think big and long term. Imagine a city where you know that it\’s easier to get where you\’re going without a car, whether it\’s bike, streetcar or bus, and the car becomes the last resort rather than the default. That builds political capital for further bike friendly improvements, like separated cycle tracks. Lots of people around the world live happily car free in such cities, and we even used to have \’em here. Right here, in fact. And we can have them again if all us bikers and other alternative transport types will just work together against the real problem — car addiction.

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  • wsbob March 28, 2008 at 2:07 pm

    GLV, Hey, thanks for that information. Wikipedia has a page on the Silver Line in Boston. Apparently those kinds of vehicles are called \’dual mode trolley buses\’. A German company called \’Neoplan\’ makes them. There was a branch in Denver, but it seems it went bankrupt in \’05.

    The Neoplan Electroliner seems closest to what I was thinking of, but, I think it uses battery rather than an internal combustion engine for when it\’s not drawing power from overhead lines.

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  • Chris Smith March 28, 2008 at 2:47 pm

    I\’ve also heard that streetcars are a better long term investment than buses when factoring in rising fuel and maintenance costs for roads etc but I\’d like to see the numbers. Chris?

    If you don\’t include the land use/economic benefits, buses are generally a more cost effective solution if you\’re in a mixed operation environment (i.e., on the street, mixing with cars). In a dedicated right-of-way context (for example on the proposed Lake Oswego/Willamette Shoreline alignment) Streetcar has advantages that pencil out over the long run.

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  • Elly Blue March 28, 2008 at 4:10 pm

    Brett(oo)\’s right — the problem for cyclists isn\’t streetcar tracks on the street, the problem is that so much street space is given over to cars that other mode users have to compete for the slivers of roadway we\’ve managed to reserve for ourselves (or not even that, as people can still drive their cars on these ungainly shared streetcar/bike routes).

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  • John Russell March 28, 2008 at 4:28 pm

    I don\’t have much of a problem riding downtown on 10th or 11th. I would just rather not be stuck between the tracks in bad situation. That\’s why I just ride in the far left lane, which is perfectly acceptable on a one-way street.

    Looking at the map, most of these routes shouldn\’t cause much of a problem (at least where I ride most). The only this I\’m worried about are the streetcar tracks on bike-laned roads. Might they be able to use an island-based stop like on Harrison down to the South Waterfront? What about putting the streetcar on the left side of a one-way street with bike lanes such as Vancouver and Williams?

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  • Aaron Goss March 28, 2008 at 6:39 pm

    I was surprised to see RR tracks (aka streetcar) weaving all across the street as we rode our bikes from Union Station to our friends house this last NAHBS.

    It seems that even with Portland\’s experience with streetcars, they are still making SLUT mistakes.

    I live in Seattle but am from PDX and visit often. Both cities are QUITE bikeable!

    I would rather have streetcars everywhere than cars!

    Regarding the tracks, it seems to me that angled track crossings for bicycles are the biggest issue. Where the tracks run parallel, there should be a bike lane or sharrows that show drivers and bikers where the best place to ride is.

    Blue pavement with rubber inserts at crossings for bikes? Just make sure they are NOT in the car tire path or they won\’t last a year.

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  • Beefa March 28, 2008 at 10:21 pm

    #6 Joel

    On several of the streets of this city. the tracks of these old streetcar lines have not been torn up. but actually paved over. On monday take a look and you will see strange indentations in the road running parallel to each other. I cannot remember off hand the exact streets, but I know when PDOT repaved third a few years back it exposed the old rail line. Its still there. Also on broadway up by PSU the old Council Crest tracks are still there just below the surface.

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  • Matt Picio March 28, 2008 at 11:33 pm

    brettoo (#56) – Streetcars are a great idea in moderation, but they have problems and weaknesses just like buses do. As part of an integrated transportation system, they\’d be great, but they aren\’t the end-all, be-all of transit. I question whether they\’d work well in SE, because unlike Pearl, South Waterfront, and the Eastside Warehouse District, Sunnyside is already fully built out – it\’s not an underutilized nor a decaying neighborhood. (Neither is Buckman east of 12th) Putting the streetcar on Belmont and/or Hawthorne could radically change the character of those streets, and if car traffic on those streets is reduced, then a portion of that traffic is going to start taking Salmon and Harrison/Lincoln unless steps are taken to make those roads less appealing to motorists. A certain segment of the population is never going to use transit regardless of what form it takes.

    And despite your blanket dismissal of flexibility, there are advantages to a flexible transit mode, not the least of which is the ability to route around a stuck or broken-down vehicle, or to take an alternate route in inclement weather – an option that MAX and streetcar do not have. You can certainly argue that flexibility shouldn\’t be the most important factor, but to dismiss it as \”bogus\” does everyone a disservice.

    matt p.

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  • Matt Picio March 28, 2008 at 11:57 pm

    Elly (#59) – I don\’t know, I think the problem is that any mode is able to reserve space for itself at all.

    We shouldn\’t have to compete. Either traffic speeds should be low enough to permit safe travel by human-powered vehicles alongside motorized ones, or a separate parallel infrastructure affording equal access should be provided when the public thruway is restricted to one class of vehicle.

    Do I think it\’ll happen? Not unless we demand it.

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  • Randy Morgan March 29, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    How about if street car tracks just don\’t run parallel to bike lanes? On a wet day, even taking a wide turn, my tires still slipped on the tracks and I wound up with a concussion.

    I feel your pain .. literally. I just wiped out this morning. I thought I was using appropriate caution when crossing the tracks, but when you have to cross them in the wet when they run parallel you will always be taking a big chance. My wife will be picking me up from work tonight as my knee and hip are too messed up to ride. What the hell were they thinking? I will be finding another route to get to the east side.

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  • mark March 29, 2008 at 9:27 pm

    I usually avoid the streets where there are streetcars, so this would just give me more streets I\’d have to avoid. streetcars suck. electric buses rule!

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  • Erik Sandblom March 30, 2008 at 12:22 pm

    #39, you might be interested in this photo and blog entry about a guy with only one hand and who rides a tricycle. Riding a bicycle/tricycle is 90% deciding to do it, 5% having the right bike and 5% having the physical ability.


    Having said that, I agree that rail transit is going to be part of the solution for decades to come.

    Tram tracks are no problem if you just take an hour or two to practise. After that it\’s no problem.

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  • Icarus Falling March 30, 2008 at 4:50 pm

    Why is the city so concerned with adding tracks for the antiquated idea of street cars that are just going to impede the forward progression of the largest growing form of alternative and \”green\” (as much as is possible) transportation? ( I am not asking you for an answer to that question, I know the answer. I am suggesting you ask yourself this question.)

    Any street that has new tracks laid on it is one less street that can offer safe passage for \”all\” cyclists. I don\’t care how it is built, the tracks will cause problems for cyclist. Tracks will result in less bicycle travel down roads that they are laid on.

    Why do we have politicians trying to straddle four sides of the fence? Must they just appear to please everyone, instead of actually backing the right thing?

    A politician\’s vote for, or approval of, more overpriced streetcars is a loud vote from me against their election.

    Is attracting tourism dollars really more important to these people making decisions for us that they are prepared to forgo the wishes and needs of actual residents?

    The answer to my last question is a overwhelming yes. How many signs point to this?

    Look around you. Old Portland money and tourism
    call the shots around here. Look in your neighborhood. Look at the hotel zones/bike lanes downtown on SW Broadway. Look at Downtown 2, Electric Boogaloo. Look again at the Sham Tram.
    And look at the new idea for Burnside/Couch

    Look at these new implementations, and those planned for the future, and ask yourself why?

    Then confront your local politician/wanna be politician, and ask them why, with conviction.

    Then wait for the backpedaling to start……..

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  • Helen Wheels March 30, 2008 at 7:27 pm

    I don\’t understand why the city is building streetcar as opposed to Max lines. As one writer said, you can walk faster than the streetcar; I know that from personal experience.
    In all the past Oregonian articles about the bus mall redesign for cars, bus and Max, never once was there mention of bikes, which made me suspicious of what the plan is for us.
    NW Lovejoy was ruined for bikers and one-occupant cars still plod back & forth on it.
    I don\’t like the fact that you can\’t turn right on the rails from the same lane. Sometimes you have to stop, with cars behind you, to turn right. NW used to be a nice place to ride but it isn\’t anymore.
    Is there some kind of metal plank/panel bikers could ride over the rails on that the streetcar could open as it goes through it? There must be some kind of mechanical solution.

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  • brettoo March 31, 2008 at 1:31 am

    Agree with Matt: streetcars are great but no panacea –only in conjunction with the other modes. Buses are more appropriate for some areas, streetcars for others, Max for others, bikes for almost all. I don\’t know the political history of why streetcars weren\’t made part of TriMet originally, but I hope that these planning sessions mean that the folks in charge are considering how everything works together as a system, including mitigating the effects of drivers taking neighborhood unfriendly alternative routes. Different people will use different modes more (and even change modes depending on the weather, number of errands they have to run etc. etc), so the more alternatives and choices, the better.
    Oh, and Matt\’s right — \”bogus\” was the wrong term. Apologies; I was trying to use one word to make a point that needed a sentence in an already too-long post. Flexibility is important, as in the cases Matt names, but I\’ve seen others argue that it\’s all-important, failing to recognize that development can mold itself to permanent transit installations.
    In any case, I hope the bike advocates who show up for the discussions can focus on how streetcar development can be accommodated to our biking needs rather than thinking in either-or terms.
    Even though I think streetcar vs. bike is a false dichotomy, it\’s kinda cool that we\’re having this discussion at all. Just about any other city in the US would be happy to have even a fraction of any of our alternative transportation options.

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  • Sasha March 31, 2008 at 9:04 am

    One thing I see missing from this discussion is the actual city politics behind Streetcars. They have been used, so far, as a development tool not a transit tool.

    Chris Smith is correct in quoting the related development that streetcars have brought in. The reason we have one now is because it was a central development tool for the Pearl District.

    The City and PDC look at it that way first and foremost. PDC\’s charter is development, not transit. All too often, they\’ve been one of the driving forces behind Streetcars.

    So, when looking at future placements, and then arguing about them, try to remember that sex appeal, development dollars, and related urban renewal (with possible PDC URAs) are all placed at the front of the line in the City\’s political discourse about Streetcars. Transit benefit is much further down the line, no pun intended.


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  • Josh March 31, 2008 at 10:23 am

    So I got to comment 30 something and then skipped the rest so this May have already been said. But I work at OHSU down in the south waterfront (best for the streetcar) and commute by bike. The streetcar is great because I can take it in my shirt and tie and not worry about changing to bike in the rain / dirt or walking in it. Yes its slow but thats fine when used for this purpose. It is also much cleaner than and better functioning in my opinion than the bus system which I also frequent. I think it is a great alternative. As for the tracks issue I ride down tenth and other track ridden streets and a competent cyclist can hop the tracks even while running parallel to them. It just takes concentration and skill, which I do realize is not the entire cycling population. I say the streetcar system is great when used in conjunction with other systems

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  • Anonymous March 31, 2008 at 9:56 pm

    I love streetcars, but what about the current streetcar route leads me to think that replacing buses on existing high ridership routes will let me commute by transit quicker than I already do? Streetcars, will however, increase conflicts with cyclists and increase my commute time. On top of that, the cost of the streetcar infrastructure is so great that money will be diverted from purchasing and operating new buses to keep up with overcrowding that\’s occurring on some of these lines. In fact, instead of 8-10 minute headways during peak hours, we\’ll be stuck with 15 minute headways like the current streetcar. Neither TriMet nor the City will be able to afford to purchase and operate enough streetcars to provide enough service. I\’m all for transit, but the current streetcar route leaves much to be desired for that mode of transit.

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  • zilfondel April 1, 2008 at 12:13 am

    Every major MAX stop and streetcar stop outside of downtown should have massive amounts of bike parking. That would allow people from a larger geographic area to access each station without having to resort to waiting for a bus or driving to a park\’n\’ride lot.

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  • huh? April 1, 2008 at 9:40 am

    I hate leaving comments on blogs, because it\’s so often a waste of time– just playing with the trolls. But I have to say something here.

    Streetcars are a \”joke\”? Buses are better? You guys need to spend a little time living outside of Portland. Seriously, you obviously cannot appreciate what you have. Portland got an early start on doing things right; nobody else in the country (nobody!) has the kind of transit infrastructure you have.

    You can walk faster than a streetcar? I see that one all the time on Portland web comments. PLEASE. Start at 23rd and Lovejoy and try to beat the streetcar to PSU. Or from the S Riverfront to your office. With a bag. In the rain. Come on, guys.

    Electric trolleybuses? Take a trip to Seattle sometime, you\’ll soon see what\’s wrong with that idea. Catenary wire is not \”permanent infrastructure\”, and it does not promote transit-oriented development the way rail lines do. Look at a map of Portland, and you can *still* see where the streetcar lines used to run, even decades after they were torn up.

    Streetcars are a bad idea, say the haters. Gee, I guess that\’s why Zurich is such a dump.

    Argh. Sorry. But I would love it if my city had even half the quality transit you have.

    Lobby for bike infrastructure. But don\’t lobby against transit infrastructure. Set an example for the rest of us!

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  • DJ Hurricane April 1, 2008 at 9:59 am

    huh?, I totally agree with you.

    But I want to tell you that I have tested the speed of the street car vs walking with a friend at 11:30am on a weekday this winter. He walked from SW 10th & Salmon and arrived at our destination on Flanders & 14th in the Pearl faster than I did by walking. That\’s not to say walking is always faster, and definitely not better in the rain, but it *can be* faster.

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  • wsbob April 1, 2008 at 12:01 pm

    Mr. huh? #75, maybe you could tell us what city you live in. Would that be Seattle?

    Hurricane, to introduce a little balance into the equation, since you\’ve given us the results of you and your friends timing test of the streetcar vs walking, maybe you could also give us some details about the walkers in the test; age, weight, general physical condition, were you carrying anything or walking free-handed? Did you cross streets on all intersections, or did you cut diagonally across blocks and jaywalk.

    Those things have something to do with the fact that some people can beat the streetcar over certain distances. Also, the test route huh? recommended was to \”Start at 23rd and Lovejoy and try to beat the streetcar to PSU.d\”

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  • brettoo April 2, 2008 at 1:17 am

    This discussion of streetcar speed is irrelevant to the expansion under discussion, because as has been noted several times in the thread and original article, commuter streetcars on the east side will have serve a different purpose (namely commuting) than those in the Pearl and therefore will have a lot fewer stops and will go a lot faster. And if we get some with dedicated rights of way — even faster.
    On a different note…
    I definitely agree with the post above that streetcars (and some buses for that matter) should run more often late at night. I go out a lot to movies and shows and sometimes it\’d be easier to ride home on public transport than on my bike if it was available more frequently. I\’ve even driven the car a few times when I\’d rather have been taking the streetcar or bus back from a show if one had been available at the right time. It shouldn\’t be all about commuting to work and back, although I understand why that\’s the priority. Portland\’s supposed to be a 24 hour city, right?

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  • Erik Sandblom April 2, 2008 at 2:28 pm

    There seems to be some confusion. If I understand correctly, trams are modern and fast, and MAX is a tram of the kind they have in Zurich and other places. Streetcars are traditional and slow and can be slower than walking, like in San Fransisco.

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  • Icarus Falling April 2, 2008 at 3:26 pm

    There used to be 24 hour, and then cut to late night Tri Met service. Through the 80\’s you could get home from clubs downtown very late at night, on public transportation, with out worries of the dreaded, and worst offense, drinking and driving. Not to mention a ride home for those working swing and or graveyard shifts.

    Now, of course, we know the priorities of Tri Met, and I am certain that the lack of regular ridership during the late night hours would be the core of why this is not offered…This was proven recently when they offered late night service, then quickly pulled it due to exactly this reason.

    As a supposed public transportation, services should be offered during off peak and late hours just as much as it is during commuter and evening times. When the public needs it. All of the public!

    Even if just up the major arterials, as a 5 or so block walk home from the bus stop would be a much better alternative to what many late night travelers choose, which is driving intoxicated….

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  • sergio Valente October 1, 2008 at 11:30 am

    We need to begin making the case that cycling also generates economic value for people who live in the city

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  • Peter November 14, 2008 at 10:38 am

    alta planning has a newish bike+streetcar document:


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  • Joe September 28, 2011 at 9:02 am

    check out 6th st. ouch.. today a bus zipped past me.
    not even a friendly beep beep.. scary somedays.

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