Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Thinking about a carbon free Central City

Posted by on May 5th, 2009 at 1:23 pm

With plenty of transit and
bike options, there won’t be any
reason to drive.
(Photos © J. Maus)

With the impending completion of major streetcar and light rail projects in Portland, sustainable transportation advocates are starting to think big.

Chris Smith, well-known for his work as a streetcar and bike advocate and for his run at a City Commissioner spot last year, stopped by our office yesterday to share more about what he calls a Carbon Free Central City Mobility concept (I mentioned it in a story last week).

Smith believes that Portlanders’ relationship to the Central City will change dramatically once the Streetcar Loop comes across the river and runs down to OMSI (that’s the line that secured $75 million from the feds last week) and when the new Transit Mall in downtown opens later this year.

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“The funding of the [streetcar] loop changes everything, because people’s idea of what the Central City is is going to become the area encompassed by the loop.”


Chris Smith.

With the completion of those two projects, the Central City will be encircled and bisected (north/south and east/west) by rail transit. Smith says the confluence of those two projects give us “The opportunity to begin to rethink mobility in the Central City”.

Smith says the concept can be a “useful framework to look at supporting a dramatic reduction in auto reliance in the Central City.” It’s just an idea for now, but it’s the type of policy aspiration that a lot of key thinkers and leaders in Portland just might start to rally around.

One outcome of these completed transit projects, Smith says, is that the potential for a bike-sharing system in Portland becomes much more feasible. In addition to more bike infrastructure and bike-sharing, Smith has a list of “mobility ideas” that would fit under this umbrella. Those include:

  • Using renewable electricity for MAX and Streetcar
  • Measuring carbon dioxide emissions from the Central City
  • Encouraging pedestrian activity
  • Supporting the use of electric vehicles downtown
  • A carbon-free transit fare zone
  • A carbon-free mobility card that could be used to pay for a variety of downtown mobility choices (transit, car sharing, bike sharing, parking, etc…)

Smith presented an outline of the idea to Mayor Adams’ Transportation Cabinet last week. If you want to learn more about this idea, get in touch with him at chris[at]chrissmith[dot]us. Also check out his PortlandTransport blog.

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  • a.O May 5, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    Chris Smith for Mayor!

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  • amos May 5, 2009 at 1:39 pm


    I heart streetcars. They don’t just take people places, they build communities around people.

    Thanks for your great work, Chris. Shoutout to your portlandtransport.com, too!

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  • vanessa May 5, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    I’d like to see a very concrete plan on how to use renewable energy for Max/Streetcar; would it just be from buying offsets or pledging investment in renewable power sources?

    So much of our electricity comes from coal; I find that folks have a hard time remembering that if the electricity you use for your electric car/train/streetcar/whatever came from burning coal or natural gas, you aren’t exactly carbon neutral. Not even close.

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  • jayce May 5, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    yeah stupid electricity! i say stick pedals in the street cars at each of the seats and then theres no carbon problem.

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  • yay carbon free! May 5, 2009 at 2:04 pm

    http://www.nuride.com is an interesting approach to incentivizing good transit behavior.

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  • Ed May 5, 2009 at 2:09 pm

    Does anyone else find the streetcar somewhat useless?

    It is agonizingly slow. Walking is faster than taking the streetcar (seriously). It has no right of way over other vehicles or priority with lights. It gets stuck in traffic.

    I am all for public transportation and rail, but the speed of the streetcar needs to improve for it to make sense over other transportation options.

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  • Matt Picio May 5, 2009 at 2:26 pm

    vanessa (#3) – They already do use renewable energy. 85% of Portland’s electricity comes from hydroelectric sources. MAX and Streetcar are both served from those sources – only about 10% of Portland’s electricity comes from coal.

    Ed (#6) – according to the Streetcar people (I attended the first of the meetings, and I’ve spoken to involved parties), the forthcoming streetcars will be faster and have fewer stops. I hope they’re right. I like streetcar, but I have the same concerns and complaints.

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  • steve May 5, 2009 at 2:35 pm

    Not sure where your numbers come from Matt. Everything I have found shows roughly half our juice coming from Coal.


    Not to mention that dams are not very environmentally friendly sources of electricity. most of our ‘green’ energy is actually simply a commitment to maybe, hopefully, probably build something or another later.

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  • A May 5, 2009 at 2:45 pm

    Carbon free transportation in Central City is a good title. There are plenty of buildings down there belching out CO2.

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  • A May 5, 2009 at 2:50 pm

    #8 thanks. Energy mix is a bit misleading if IOUs and peaking generation is included in the percentage. Distributed generation can solve alot along with other energy conservation measures – demand response…

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  • tvhwy May 5, 2009 at 2:57 pm

    Yes, get that trendy carbon out of downtown. Everyone on steel and aluminum!

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  • gh May 5, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    What about the carbon footprint required for moving freight, or collecting garbage, or any other industrial-sized “mobility” requirement that big city’s have?
    Moving one person around independently by any combination of car, skateboard, bike, walking, golf cart whatever is, in terms of accomplishing work, by far the most efficient. But when I think about the footprint of a large truck making deliveries all day every day and I don’t understand Smith’s enthusiasm for putting me on a decorative, dawdling streetcar to go to the library. I mean, just one of those massive garbage trucks running all the time probably emits in a day what my little toyota emits in a decade of sporadic use. Smith’s enthused over a bike-sharing program? Come on! Prodding individual people around is easy. What is Smith’s proposed alternative to the UPS van?

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  • chriswnw May 5, 2009 at 3:08 pm

    I once defeated the streetcar in a race from the waterfront to the park blocks. Granted, I got a bit of a head start, walked fast, and didn’t tell the driver that he was involved in a race, but still…

    amos @ #2:
    “Communities”? You mean clusters of ugly subsidized bunker high-rises for yuppies and/or section 8 tenants, right? I’ll pass. And aren’t these structures going the way of the McMansion anyway, given the foreclosure crisis? Most of units in the newer SoWa and Pearl towers aren’t selling, and the retail units are vacant.

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  • Dave May 5, 2009 at 3:23 pm

    I’ve caught the streetcar a few times – as in, get to the stop just after it’s passed, and by walking moderately briskly caught up to it at the next stop.

    If I could take over the process for a year, #1 priority would be introducing express service on MAX between transit centers. It would also be #2, #3, and #4. I’d get back to the streetcar thing down around #10 or so.

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  • Krampus May 5, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    Chris Smith rules. I always agree with everything he says.

    The streetcar can serve a purpose I suppose.. especially if you live in NW, go to PSU and wake up one day just not in the mood to ride. It is slow though, and it seems to get stopped all the time because some moron parked their SUV wrong and the streetcar can’t get by.

    However, and dare I take any flack for this, the ridership on the street car is FAR more enjoyable than the MAX… where wannabe gangsters seem to live all day, harrassing women, pushing other riders around when its busy and just generally being annoying. The max disgusts me, I avoid it on general principle.. but I have no problem taking the street car if I’m caught without my bike.

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  • amos May 5, 2009 at 3:36 pm

    @chriswnw (#13), are the Hawthorne and Belmont clusters of ugly subsidized bunker high-rises? Portland neighborhoods exist as they do now because of the streetcar.

    I’m not qualified to explain exactly why the South Waterfront has not been immediately successful but something tells me it has much more to do with the economy than the streetcar line that runs to it.

    Your statement about the Pearl District is incorrect, that I know for sure and can back up.

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  • Bob_M May 5, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    Ed #6
    Yup, s l o w
    I was in Munich in December and took their street car all over. That baby cooks. It was on time and moved as fast or faster than traffic.

    It can be done

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  • chriswnw May 5, 2009 at 3:57 pm

    amos @16:
    Conditions were different in 1920. Streetcars made sense then. They don’t anymore.

    I didn’t say that the condos in SoWa were empty because of the streetcar. They are empty because a group of developers deluded themselves into believing that there were a sufficient number of people willing and able to spend $500k to $1 million on a shoebox that they could recoup the extremely high construction costs of building lots of high-rises. This construction style isn’t profitable without subsidy, and this case, not even with subsidy. If we want to live in a city where housing is affordable to people of modest income, we should encourage buildings of 1-10 units, not high-rises.

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  • bahueh May 5, 2009 at 4:10 pm

    “change drastically”? I hardly think so…..

    and Steve, you’re right, we’re about 50% powered by BPA, the rest is split up by a consortium of utility producers…some coal from Wyoming and Colorado, some wind from the Gorge, some geothermal out of the Snake River basin, a tiny bit of nuclear…

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  • Mark C May 5, 2009 at 4:13 pm

    I like the sort of development that the streetcar encourages, but the streetcar itself as a transportation option kind of sucks, as others have stated. Hopefully, when they expand it they can figure out how to make it operate faster.

    Also, there are too many MAX stops downtown. We don’t need a stop every other block like we have now. That really gums up the works.

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  • amos May 5, 2009 at 4:21 pm

    @chriswnw(#18) I thought this was a discussion about the streetcar. I’m not debating developer mistakes, they have certainly made plenty.

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  • vanessa May 5, 2009 at 4:22 pm

    @ Matt (#7): PGE’s website indicates that ~37% of Portland’s electricity is from hydroelectric sources, with ~39% coal. I’m with Steve (#8) – our numbers are coming from different places.

    Read it and weep:

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  • Paulo May 5, 2009 at 4:30 pm

    “Most of units in the newer SoWa and Pearl towers aren’t selling, and the retail units are vacant.”

    Right. Many are rentals, and I’m renting one of them 🙂

    Viva la central city! Now, we need some squares surrounded by storefront/cafes, instead of streets.

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  • Paulo May 5, 2009 at 4:30 pm

    “Most of units in the newer SoWa and Pearl towers aren’t selling, and the retail units are vacant.”

    Right. Many are rentals, and I’m renting one of them 🙂

    Viva la central city! Now, we need some squares surrounded by storefront/cafes, instead of streets.

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  • Laura May 5, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    I’m all for public transit, but like a lot of the above comments, I’m not so sure about streetcar. Seattle, Boston and several other US and Euro cities use articulated electric buses (rubber tires, overhead wire, no tracks) that they call “Trolleys.”

    I’m not convinced that our planners fully disclose the cost of construction when it comes to business impacts, lost travel time for all modes, safety issues for cyclists, etc, when they are constructing track in roadway.

    I’d like to see TriMets fleet supplemented with electric trolleys on high volume routes rather than the extra cost and disruption of streetcar.

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  • Hart May 5, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    I once defeated the streetcar in a race from the waterfront to the park blocks. Granted

    No you didn’t, because the street car doesn’t run from the waterfront to the Park Blocks.

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  • Starman May 5, 2009 at 4:59 pm

    No you didn’t, because the street car doesn’t run from the waterfront to the Park Blocks.

    I think he meant South Waterfront.

    I like streetcars but I hope this carbon strategy does not bias fare policy and funding against buses. Buses carry far more riders in Portland than streetcar and MAX combines yet they get no love.

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  • bahueh May 5, 2009 at 5:17 pm

    amos, the south waterfront has not been successful for a multitude of reasons….most becuase its FAR from complete. There are no grocery stores there, there are no commercial retail stores and only few basic services (3 or 4 restaurants, a mini mart, a bank, and a dry cleaners). Its still an active construction zone and industrial area…the streetcar was built for anticipated future residents/growth…..but it won’t be realized for probably 10-15 years honestly. It has not been successful due to the median asking price of ~$450,000 for 900 square feet in a lifeless box. There is upwards of an approximate 11-12% loan default rate currently on those condos with the craptacular economy……needless to say the south waterfront is going nowhere fast..

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  • Krampus May 5, 2009 at 6:46 pm

    amos #16 wrote: Portland neighborhoods exist as they do now because of the streetcar.

    I’m not qualified to explain exactly why the South Waterfront has not been immediately successful but something tells me it has much more to do with the economy than the streetcar line that runs to it.

    Your statement about the Pearl District is incorrect, that I know for sure and can back up.

    First paragraph = ?? Are you serious? You really think the street car had not just any influence but all the influence? Soley because of the street car? Couldn’t disagree more.

    Second paragraph: South Waterfront failed because that’s what happens when you try to “invent” an overpriced neighborhood out of thin air, especially when you base it on junk catch phrases like “urban green chic condo life”. Also, 85% of the wealthy folks snatching up condos merely to flip them for a higher price does not a neighborhood make.

    Third paragraph: There is an almost 2 year surplus of condos in the Pearl.

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  • Chris Smith May 5, 2009 at 7:51 pm

    Thanks for the post, Jonathan!

    This is decidedly NOT an idea about streetcars. While I think the opening of the Streetcar Loop will be a tipping point in people’s concept of the Central City. So rather than debate whether the Streetcar is useful or not, let’s brainstorm other ways to reduce the carbon footprint of movement in the Central City.

    I love the freight angle. How about pedicab freight delivery (or even towing freight containers behind streetcars).

    What else can we do to move people, goods and services around the Central City without carbon?

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  • Zach May 5, 2009 at 8:00 pm

    Towing freight containers behind streetcars? Pedicabs? Next time you take a walk around downtown, take a look at all of the activity going on in the scores of loading docks and delivery zones that dot every block. Even in our information economy, businesses are dependent on the ability to ship and receive large quantities of (often) heavy goods for long distances. Pedal power and tracks that are blocks away from these goods’ destinations won’t do the trick.

    This is the worst kind of utopian thinking.

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  • steve May 5, 2009 at 8:16 pm

    A better question would be- Why should we reduce the carbon footprint of the central city?

    Why have a carbon free bubble within a carbon belching system? So people can pat themselves on the back for accomplishing less than nothing?

    I honestly have no idea why this should be important. It would not address any of the underlying problems with the current system and the methods used to achieve it would not be applicable elsewhere.

    This is pure, unadulterated green washing. Lap it up suckers!

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  • S May 5, 2009 at 9:26 pm

    A debate on the utility of the streetcar is very pertinent, because what leaves a larger carbon footprint than a poor use of resources? Pick up the speed, give the streetcar traffic advantages and then it might begin to reduce rather than consume (energy and money).

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  • Matt Picio May 5, 2009 at 11:15 pm

    steve (#8) – I don’t have time to track down my source – it could be outdated. Let’s go with the link you posted – 41% coal kind of sucks, but MAX and streetcar are still running on 40% renewables.

    I’d love to see that improve. Even with renewables, though, there are environmental costs, and dams will only last another 100 years anyway due to silting. As you said, they also take a heavy environmental toll.

    chriswnw (#13) “I once defeated” – I love the way you put that, I got a vision of a person locked in hand-to-hand combat with the streetcar.

    bahueh (#19) – most of the coal power comes from Centralia if you’re a PGE customer, the Wyo and Colo power goes to Scottish Pow… uh, I mean Pacific Power.

    vanessa (#22) – yeah, I read the article, I’ll go with Steve and your numbers, mine are outdated or incorrect. 40% renewable still isn’t bad, though. I’d love to see it improve, but I’m glad I no longer live in Detroit, which is 80% coal (including the 3rd largest coal plant in North America) (blech)

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  • Anonymous May 6, 2009 at 7:52 am

    A Carfree Central City would be fantastic, but I think its time that added some extra ribs to our dedicated transportation lines. I’m personally a huge fan of adding 5-10 BRT lines of 5-10 miles each that would stem from large transit stations (39th, Beaverton TC, Gateway, etc) and connect farther out communities with cheap and efficient, dedicated-lane buses that show up every 2 minutes and shuffle people onto our already growing MAX/Trimet system. While the funding for the eastside streetcar is excellent news, i think its imperative to remember that the city of Portland continues eastward quite a ways past I205, let alone east of 39th. You could connect so many neighborhoods and create so many incentives for density and development by getting some of these high capacity corridors rolling. BRT is very cost-effective (emphasis on effective only if actually engineered correctly, Curitiba style), and with an increase in demand, these BRT routes could easily be converted into light rail in the later future. Plus, to relate it back to the topic above, the increase in these traffic nodes makes bike-share programs decentralized around the city. I’m just trying to be cautious that access to alternative transportation is something that should be available throughout the metro area, not just every four blocks in the city center.

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  • kenny May 6, 2009 at 8:11 am

    I would like to see the street cars as a convenient and charming way to go from one business district to another…downtown locations, N. Portland Hoods like St. Johns, NE Alberta and Mississippi, etc. SE locations like Belmont, Hawthorne, Clinton, Woodstock, Lents, and through Milwaukee/Sellwood…etc…
    Perhaps another rail could take people through the W. locations.
    Create a means of connecting many neighborhoods, enhancing small businesses as well as a connection to MAX and bus lines.

    Could be a major Portland tourist attraction. People have a different, almost romantic connection to street cars.

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  • GLV May 6, 2009 at 9:39 am

    Re: hydroelectric as renewable energy, there was an article in Science a few years back (can’t remember exactly when, maybe fall of 2006?) that estimated that hydro projects actually create more GHG per unit of energy generated than an equivalent natural gas plant would generate. The reason? All the methane emitted when the terrestrial biomass decays after being flooded behind the dam. I wish I could provide more detail, but the point is, hydroelectric is not carbon neutral.

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  • CS May 6, 2009 at 10:05 am

    Wow. It is so exciting to talk about this. Among my many dreams, a car-free/carbon-free central city is high up there. Thanks Chris for initiating this conversation. I’ve been to a couple cities in the world that do not allow cars in the center city and the experience is amazingly enjoyable.

    Clearly the first and easiest step towards a carbon free downtown would be to restrict personal cars. Freight could have limited access and taxis buses and emergency vehicles could run normal (for now). Just sayin.

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  • bahueh May 6, 2009 at 10:08 am

    Matt (#34) do you really think renewable energy is somehow mutually exclusive from the rest of the power grid?

    MAX and the streetcar are NOT running on unfiltered 40% renewable energy…sorry.
    they get their power from the same electricity grid as everyone else.

    only people selling renewable energy investments would like to have you believe that…

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  • CS May 6, 2009 at 10:10 am

    oh, and side note: maybe part of the reason the south waterfront has not been successful is that they haven’t built any of the affordable housing that they are supposed to build with the subsidy they received! much higher demand for that than overpriced condos and ‘luxury apartments’.

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  • […] and covered wagons. Never mind that you’re working hard on becoming one of the most environmentally friendly states […]

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  • wsbob May 6, 2009 at 11:32 am

    GLV #37, “…GHG…produced from methane emitted when the terrestrial biomass decays after being flooded behind the dam…” . That’s interesting, though after the initial decay, what then? It would be interesting to know more about how reservoirs compare to natural bodies of water.

    Dams seem like a great idea that has been used to excessively with much unnecessary environmental and ecological destruction. China and its ‘world’s biggest reservoir’ that it’s using to drown the Yangtze River, many ancient villages and the Three Gorges is something to keep in mind.

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  • Matt Picio May 6, 2009 at 11:58 am

    bahueh (#39) – No, I don’t believe that at all, but our local grid is fed primarily from local sources except when we use more than is locally produced. 40% of the electricity generated inside our local grid (“local” is used loosely, it covers portions of several states) is from renewable sources, mostly hydroelectric from the Columbia River dams. We can’t track individual electrons – only aggregate use in the local interconnect. Everything in the PacNW runs on 40% renewable energy, except during peak times, when we “borrow” energy from other sources (which have a more standard mix of electricity). Overall in the US, renewables are about 10%, but it varies a great deal by region.

    In Detroit, for example, DTE Energy supplies most of the energy for the metropolitan area, and they have 1 nuke plant, 1 natural gas, and everything else is coal. They have some renewable pilot projects, but nothing substantial. We see very little, if any, of their energy – the majority of electricity is produced locally to avoid line losses.

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  • Matt Picio May 6, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    I found out why my numbers were so off: I was using numbers from a 2000 report. According to the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, 64% of the Pacific Northwest generating capacity is hydroelectric. According to this Rand report from 2002, in 2000, 82% came from hydroelectric sources. It’s interesting that we’ve fallen from 82% to 64% in 6 years when Rand projected it would take 20. The article that Steve posted said roughly 40% of what we use here is hydro, so we’re obviously sending a lot of that hydro power outside of Washington and Oregon.

    Oh, and in my post #34, I meant to say “PacifiCorp”, not “Pacific Power”. They own the coal generating capacity in Wyoming and service much of rural Oregon and parts of Portland.

    Sorry to hijack the thread, this’ll be my last post on this.

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  • Diogo May 6, 2009 at 12:24 pm

    #47 “Buses carry far more riders in Portland than streetcar and MAX combines yet they get no love.”

    That’s because buses do not have the aesthetic appeal that can be bragged about latter. Unfortunately the city and many people are more concerned with superficial but symbolic measures than effective and substantial measures without the aesthetic appeal.

    As it was mentioned, an effective BRT system, even if the buses were running on regular gas, is more helpful to the environment and is more cost-effective than light rail, streetcar or a “carbon-free” city core. But it’s hard to get people excited about a massive but regular public transportation system – but a charming streetcar…

    It’s all show and no substance.

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  • djkenny May 6, 2009 at 12:56 pm

    I agree Diogo.
    Just to clarify…this is the “perception” St. Cars are a more charming means of being transported.

    Too many people think that busses are filled with people that think they are Jesus Christ, smell like they have been rolling around in an ashtray with cheap beer breath, women with turrets, and crack heads picking up on chicks on meth, stinky people rocking back and fourth repeating the grocery list out loud over and over again for the whole trip on the bus.

    Then again, on my commute from MHCC to SE PDX, it is not unusual to have said experience at times.
    Many claim the MAX is the same or worse in terms of the ridership.

    I like to see the world as it is however, not be disengaged from reality, see all walks in the community I live in and surrounds me. Not everyone fits my mold though.

    I think it would be beneficial if a police officer was consistently on busses to keep people in check and calm those who have negative perceptions so they consider riding the bus.

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  • beth h May 6, 2009 at 1:13 pm

    If the streetcar was developed in anticipation of growth 10 to 15 years from now, they should have designed the cars so they seat more than a handful of people. In its present configuration the streetcar looks like it was designed to serve a handful of tourists, and last time I checked, relatively few businesses were making any real money off the tourists. Design transit for residents and design it for greater capacity. Just like expanding roads brings in more cars, expanding transit capacity WILL bring more transit users.

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  • Lenny Anderson May 6, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    Its a bit early to call SoWa a failure…at least more is going on there than when it was mostly abandoned industrial land. With more to come…our only research institute, light rail and more housing, including affordable.
    Density is key to less carbon. Making density attractive is a challenge; ask the residents of any neighborhood.
    Pearl District went with a scale that respected the remaing warehouses in the area. SoWa opted for height with views/proximitry to nature, etc.
    Attracting private investment is essential to paying for public facilities, including affordable housing.
    re Streetcar speed…if you can walk faster for a half mile or more, congrats, but most people will opt for a nice AC/heated ride on the rails.

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  • ABC May 6, 2009 at 10:04 pm

    Personally, I tire of these blue sky conversations that lack focus. “Carbon free” isn’t a meaningful standard; sustainability is the standard that matters.

    If Chris Smith aims to replace Rex Burkholder when Rex aims to replace David Bragdon as Metro Council President we need to see a more grounded vision from Chris.

    Sorry for the forthcoming football metaphor but… There’s a big difference between armchair quarterbacking and being on the field in the game with the opposing team coming at you fiercely each down. You can’t just throw the ball as far as possible down the field each play and expect to win. You win with a strategic game plan employing a range of tools. One first down at a time.

    I wholly support this vision championed by cheerleaders like Maus and aspiring politicians like Smith. But you don’t win a seat – even a Metro seat – with a platform like this. You’re not electable.

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  • 007 May 6, 2009 at 10:31 pm

    How can we have a carbon-free central city when suburbanites AND inner city residents insist on driving to work downtown?

    And then you’ve got our lovely mayor who, like Bob Barker, practically exclaimed, COME ON DOWN! because he seriously proposed a sign be installed that drivers headed over the river to downtown would see and which would announce to them that there were plenty of parking spaces available in the city-owned Smart Park garages. Impressive, Sam.

    I agree that the Streetcar goes at a glacial pace. It seems like a waste of money. I’ve ridden it approx. once. However, It is clean and minus the scumbags that the Max caters to. I really wish Tri-Met would check fares on board. I beat the Streetcar walking from about 10th & Main to the Pearl at 11th & Lovejoy. I even stopped in 1 or 2 stores along the way.

    I listen to my co-workers whine about possibly losing their free parking and demand their right to drive to work even though they could walk across the Hawthorne bridge or take a bus from home. I can’t figure out why people refuse to stop driving. The only thing that stops them is when the price of gas goes up.

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  • DJ Hurricane May 6, 2009 at 11:33 pm

    What 007 said

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  • chriswnw May 7, 2009 at 8:32 am

    Another thing: Downtown Portland isn’t that special. A lot of people in this area try to avoid downtown, myself included (although I do work there). Ban cars in the suburbs, and expect more “job sprawl” in the burbs. Don’t think that downtown can’t be replaced by sprawly office parks — it can and it will.

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  • chriswnw May 7, 2009 at 8:32 am

    Sorry, I meant: Ban cars DOWNTOWN, and expect more “job sprawl” in the burbs.

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  • beth h May 7, 2009 at 10:01 am

    @ #50:

    >>I agree that the Streetcar goes at a glacial pace. It seems like a waste of money. I’ve ridden it approx. once. However, It is clean and minus the scumbags that the Max caters to. I really wish Tri-Met would check fares on board.<<

    Not sure how many of BikePortland’s readers actually lived here when our present fare system was first established in the mid-80’s, but we are reaping the results of that decision. Originally, ridesr were supposed to take their tickest and insert them into little fareboxes installed on each bus, where the ticket would be date-time stamped. The boxes failed early and often; fines were levied but seldom collected in courts, and fare inspectors could not physically hold a fare evader under the law, only report their activity and description to police. In spite of a greater number of fare inspectors back then, people still found ways to evade payment.

    The opening of MAX around that same time simply compounded the issue by giving scofflaws (and the desperately poor, who often couldn’t *afford* the fares) more places to hide from fare inspectors. As far as I know the ration of fare inspectors to riders is greatly reduced today. (I think there are perhaps twenty inspectors serving the entire Trimet transit system.) They can’t be everywhere.

    Another thing to remember is that for transit to really succeed in any American city it must, must, MUST be heavily subsidized by government. Fares do not even begin to pay the true costs of transit, especially when cars remain the ubiquitous first choice of most road-users. Blaming fare-evaders (of any stripe) for the true costs of transit is missing the point.

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  • Dave May 7, 2009 at 10:29 am

    wsbob #42 – the problem is that dams don’t maintain a static water level. As they draw down during dry periods, grasses grow on the banks. Then as they refill, those grasses are flooded and decay. The process releases an amazing amount of GHG – as much as three times what an equivilant fossil fuel power plant would, according to one study.

    New Scientist

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  • wsbob May 8, 2009 at 9:41 pm

    Dave…Thanks! I read the New Scientist article you provided the link to in comment #55. It never occurred to me that dam reservoir could be responsible for GHG in this way. I had in mind the reservoirs of Bonneville and the Dalles dams, which, though they may not totally be, I think of as having dry, minimally vegetated or rocky banks. Obviously, all the world’s reservoirs don’t have these same conditions.

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