The Classic - Cycle Oregon

Photos and notes from my ride on the new streetcar line

Posted by on September 6th, 2012 at 5:28 pm

Riding the new streetcar line-9

I got a new view of the Pearl District today from inside the yet-to-be-opened eastside streetcar line.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

This morning I took a ride on the new, $148 million eastside streetcar line. PBOT and Portland Streetcar Inc. (the non-profit that runs the system) set up the event as a way for local journalists to get an up-close look at the new line and get questions answered by planners and insiders.

While on the ride, there were a few things I was curious about: How it will compete with bicycling and driving in the quest for transportation consumers? How will the physical presence of the streetcar (and its tracks) impact bicycling along the line? How convenient will it be to take bikes on-board?

We began our trip at NW 9th and Lovejoy. Total time for us to get down to OMSI (about three miles) was about 30 minutes. Despite being slower than I’m used to, the trip was safe, smooth, scenic and air-conditioned — attributes I can’t claim on a similar bike trip. Going over the Broadway Bridge, the operator slowed to an almost crawl (around 5 mph) through the middle section. It was so slow that several bikes easily passed and cars went by like we were standing still. But other than that, the streetcar kept a nice pace up Weidler, through the Lloyd District, and then down to OMSI.

While traveling down the right-most lane of Martin Luther King Jr Blvd and back up on Grand, I couldn’t help but recall that I used to use those lanes when I had an office in the central eastside. Riding up MLK and down Grand was unfortunately the quickest, most direct way for me to get home in north Portland. With the streetcar tracks and other infrastructure now in those right lanes, riding on these streets is even more scary than it used to be.

Riding the new streetcar line-5

A very happy Rick Gustafson.

I asked Rick Gustafson, long-time executive director of Portland Streetcar Inc., about that and other bike-related issues. But before I talked with him, I overheard him talking to other reporters about how important and transformative he feels the streetcar will be.

“This will shape the city for the next 100 years,” he said, “Over the long-term it’s going to bring great benefits.” He spoke about how streetcar encourages not just development and density, but the kind that makes places. “It’s a vitality catalyst,” he proclaimed and spoke about how the mix of residential and commercial development that is coming — and will come — along the line will create pleasant places to walk. Gustafson referred to streetcar as a “walk extender.” Once up and running, he said the new line will connect people on foot with 163 restaurants.

As for ridership, Gustafson tamped down expectations, saying that it’s a new line, so it could take a while to build ridership. At this point, they estimate the new line will add about 4,000 to 5,000 new riders per day to their system (which currently serves 11,000 people on the west side of the river alone). Another interesting stat related to ridership is that 80% of transit riders in the region cross through the new streetcar line.

On that note, I asked Gustafson how someone would take their bike on board. “The bikes are perfectly welcome,” he said. The cars don’t have hooks or designated bike areas like MAX trains do, but bikes are allowed on the main boarding area of the streetcar. “Every space we have here is shared,” he said, “This space down here [the lower portion with room for people in wheelchairs and so on] is universally available.” Gustafson said bike hooks would run counter to that shared space philosophy. “Putting a hook up somewhere would create interference and would tend to create entitlement to one use.”

The largest issue with bikes and streetcars in Portland are the high number of crashes that happen when people get their tires caught in tracks. On that topic, Gustafson didn’t really have any good answers. “The tracks are always a threat to bikes,” he said. Beyond the tracks, asked how the streetcar impacts bicycling overall, Gustafson chose his words carefully: “We’re very committed to making sure that there is a safe route and safe opportunity for all bikes in the system. We did a lot of work in the Pearl [District] with the 9th Avenue turn and improving Marshall for bikes and creating the bike boulevard concept in the Pearl.”

To make room for the new streetcar line, PBOT and Portland Streetcar decommissioned the popular Lovejoy bike lane and have tried to route all bike traffic to NW Marshall — a side-street one block over. Not only is the re-route not working (people still use Lovejoy, to their peril), but Marshall should never be mistaken for a bike boulevard. When I told Gustafson that the current design of Marshall is flawed (it has a lot of auto volume and isn’t an efficient bikeway), he said they’ll continue to work in it and that, “That’s all part of the whole process of figuring out how to live together.” (Turns out he personally didn’t like the Lovejoy bike lane to begin with.)

Another place where the streetcar has impacted bicycling is on the MLK/Grand couplet (as I mentioned above). When I shared with Gustafson that a difficult place to ride is now even worse with the of addition of the streetcar, he dismissed the concerns by saying, “I thought it was difficult to bike there regardless.” He quipped that the “strong and fearless” riders, or what he calls “the immortals” still wouldn’t have any problem riding on MLK and Grand because, “They’d take any lane.”

Riding the new streetcar line-3

Looking north on SE Grand Ave.

As for how the forthcoming bike share system will impact and integrate with the new streetcar line, Gustafson said he feels the streetcar will help it succeed. Streetcar will promote density he said, and density is a key ingredient for bike share success.

As we rolled back into the Pearl District, I was curious how the new streetcars would fit onto the Lovejoy ramp west of the Broadway Bridge (we’ve already reported how the tracks cause people in cars to straddle them and drift over into the bike lane). From my perch inside the car, I couldn’t even see the outside of the bike lane striping. It’s a very snug fit between the steel exterior of the streetcar and the bike lanes. I’m curious how it will feel to someone to be biking down (or up) NW Lovejoy and have a multi-ton steel train a few inches from one of your elbows and a concrete wall next to the other. Have a look…

Riding the new streetcar line-8

Riding the new streetcar line-7

Riding the new streetcar line-6

Despite my concerns, I think/hope the streetcar will be a good thing overall for the eastside because it gives people another option to driving. Stay tuned for more coverage once the new “Loop” opens to the public on September 22nd.

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  • Alex Reed September 6, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    I just can’t thinking about all the beautiful bike infrastructure those millions of dollars could have bought….

    (Yes, I am aware of federal funding requirements. However, the local contribution was still millions of dollars and in my opinion would have been better spent on bikes, walking, and busses.)

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  • AG September 6, 2012 at 5:47 pm

    In May I crashed in the Lloyd District while slowly crossingy at an angle and my shoulder is still recovering. Medical bills weren’t factored into my bike commuting costs.

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  • Indy September 6, 2012 at 6:05 pm

    That same route walking is just over 30 minutes. Google maps has it at 43 minutes, and I generally cut 10-15 minutes from their estimations.

    Fairly amusing.

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    • Adron September 6, 2012 at 6:14 pm

      Ouch. That’s another bit that has me kind of perplexed too. I’m not sure how Portland decided that a streetcar “loop” was the ideal configuration for a streetcar.

      It would seem that if they’re working to bring streetcars back, they ought to bring it to some of the areas and routes that they know ridership is strong. The #9, #14, #4, the Mississippi area and others are great areas that could benefit from a streetcar, but instead they’re running a loop that has no known commuter value whatsoever, and a questionable tourist value….

      but alas, I’m holding my judgement at this point.

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      • Pacforth September 7, 2012 at 1:19 pm

        No known commuter value? That’s a highly dubious statement, because there are people who commute daily from North Pearl and NW to Lloyd District who have had their only bus option (the faster 77) relocated 10 minutes to the south by walking. Please educate yourself.

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    • John Lascurettes September 7, 2012 at 12:05 am

      Don’t forget to add in the time it takes for the next car to even show up. I haven’t planned a streetcar trip, ever, that I didn’t end out just walking and doing so faster.

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  • Adron September 6, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    Interesting… I’ll hold my judgement, because I was definitely wrong about the light rail + bus + bike + car bus mall. It is amazingly, working very well. Hopefully it doesn’t cause problems and they have good ridership. I’ll for sure be giving it a ride or two on the 22nd. 🙂

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  • Adam September 6, 2012 at 6:21 pm

    I think it’s a good thing.

    Not everyone loves to bike, and anything that gets people out of their freaking cars is a-okay by me.

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  • Chris I September 6, 2012 at 6:35 pm

    I’d rather ride next to a streetcar that will travel predictably on tracks than a 2-ton SUV that drives in a path that is anything but predictable…

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    • John Lascurettes September 7, 2012 at 12:06 am

      Indeed. It may feel cramped, but that thing drives like it’s on rails. Because it is!

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  • matt September 6, 2012 at 6:51 pm

    I don’t think riding down the Lovejoy ramp will be too rough. There’s plenty of room, and it’s not like anybody is doing any passing on the downramp… the upramp will be interesting however.

    When I lived a block away from the streetcar I would usually walk unless I happened to time it perfectly. I was faster on foot during high-traffic times and it was often packed to the brim anyways.

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  • Bjorn September 6, 2012 at 6:57 pm

    Streetcar isn’t about moving people it is about moving development dollars, which is why it isn’t run by Trimet, at least he seems like he is being fairly honest about that even if he spins it slightly.

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  • Todd Boulanger September 6, 2012 at 7:11 pm

    I had open expectations that the Eastside tracks would be as easy to navigate as the Westside tracks, but having the last few months to try them out without trams, I can say I was very very wrong. I ride between the rails in the Pearl, like I do in Amsterdam, but not yet on the eastside.

    The grade along with multiple lanes of faster arterial traffic makes it very tough for this “fearless and strong rider”. This is most acute north of Burnside. I can no longer safely eat my dinner south of 84 without the burn of almost tossing my cookies as I try to keep pace and dodge cars intent on merging with the ramps or leaving the ramps.

    PBoT how about adding some bike love here? Sharrows? Or mini speed cushions flanking the tracks for a slower outside lane? Crazy stuff but this project has set cycling back on this arterial.

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    • sabes September 6, 2012 at 10:54 pm

      Ride on a different road?

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      • Bjorn September 7, 2012 at 7:40 am

        There really is not another option that is as fast and direct as MLK/Grand. All the side streets are littered with difficult crossings where you have the stop sign and cross traffic does not stop, plus when you get up to the 84 you have to detour close to an extra mile to cross on a street other than grand or go down and take the already overcrowded esplanade which is still a considerable detour. I am very concerned that when the street cars are added to Sandy they are going to use this same dangerous right hand lane alignment because they are not giving any consideration to cycling on these routes and there is absolutely no similar option to Sandy, the detours add miles to the route.

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        • Terry D September 7, 2012 at 11:26 am

          That is why we need the new bridge built ASAP. Since the Sullivan’s Gulch planing study argued for a two tiered path here: as in one at train tracks grade and one at street grade from MLK to 16th to allow for multiple access points, we should make it a requirement that before any more construction or expansion is done in the rose quarter (as in I 5 widening), that this upper path and the corresponding bike bridge overcrossing be built. The shortest bridge because of the angel of the freeway would be from about 7th SE to the corner of Glisan and NE 8th (all in public ROW). If the 9th avenue greenway is also built there would be a parallel route both north and south of the couplet.

          This would also allow cyclists coming out of the waterfront to by-pass the Rose Quarter completely if they are heading north or ne.

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          • Andrew N September 7, 2012 at 12:53 pm

            The 7th Ave bike/ped bridge always seem to be stuck in the “6-20 years out” category. It would take an organized public push, I think, to get the process moving towards design and funding. It’s on the BTA wish list but I don’t think anyone there is really thinking about it. I’ve done some minor advocacy with this project over the years (Jonathan even interviewed me about it) and part of the problem is that the powers that be in the Lloyd would prefer auto access on the bridge, too, which would make it a totally different project and much more expensive. There was even a feasibility study done, believe it or not. Last year I made this simple rendering to show what the bridge might look like:


            Theoretically, with some improvements on 7th north of Broadway, at the curve where SE 7th becomes Sandy, and particularly where 7th crosses the Broadway-Weidler couplet (you know, where the streetcar-funded “cycle track” bike lanes suddenly end), we could have a close-in/east-of-MLK bikeway from Division to Alberta. I know I would use it all the time as my N/S route and it would make crossing 84 much easier than 12th for the “interested but nervous” demographic.

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            • Terry D September 7, 2012 at 1:53 pm

              Those bike lane improvements would be great for short term capacity. For long term, I would advocate for a greenway on 9th from Mall in Brooklyn (with replacing that Powell overcrossing at a later date) north through the Industrial eastside to Glisan with a “green wave” of timed bike lights from Hawthorne to Morrison. Long term it would have much greater capacity, plus there can be a nice micro-park at 9th/Sandy/Oak (Similar to the one on Holman) where that Lonely mailbox in the middle of cement is. 9th north of Broadway also is much better than 7th for a greenway since Irving Park acts like a giant diverter. With the recommended MUP through the park and a HAWK at Fremont a nice route can be constructed from Holman south all the way through Brooklyn.

              That bike bridge rendering is exactly what I am envisioning and needs to happen. There is no way we need a new auto crossing there, but I can see that that if the same conservative backwater business types that torpedoed Holiday and control the NE Multnomah bikeway project are involved, I can see them blocking it unless their 1950’s demands are met.

              I say block any highway expansion until this bike bypass is built. As a percentage of the overall cost of the highway project it would be minimal and would be a great bribe to cyclists. It can can be looked at as carbon mitigation long term for the highway widening.

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              • Andrew N September 7, 2012 at 2:25 pm

                I’d like to see 9th become a true “neighborhood greenway” north of Broadway/Weidler (from what I understand the mall torpedoed any talk of bike lanes on 9th below Broadway because of entrances and exits to their garages) and 7th, which is considerably faster without the Irving Park barrier and already has more bike traffic, get some very basic improvements to make it safer for multi-modal use.

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              • Terry D September 7, 2012 at 9:09 pm

                Then make it a two way cycle track on 9th on the west side. All the parking entrances are on the east side, thus the argument is rendered mute. It would be more separated from autos anyway encouraging the more nervous to bike through the district….but yes, bike lanes on 7th would be faster.

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  • chrismealy September 6, 2012 at 7:31 pm

    Streetcar infra should be improving bike infra, not the other way around. I wish American planners would read Dutch bike blogs so they wouldn’t come up with terrible stuff like this.

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    • Unit September 7, 2012 at 1:40 pm

      Is this tongue-in-cheek? The problem isn’t the planners – they are largely aware of what other counties are doing, especially the Netherlands. It’s the public, who still supports the 99%+/- investment in highways.

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  • CaptainKarma September 6, 2012 at 7:35 pm

    I’d ride it if it was free, but alas.

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    • Indy September 7, 2012 at 5:54 am

      I’ve never rode the streetcar and never would. I would always choose to walk (or bike) a distance of that length. Exercise = happiness at your destination.

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  • A.K. September 6, 2012 at 8:23 pm

    “Despite being slower than I’m used to, the trip was safe, smooth, scenic and air-conditioned — attributes I can’t claim on a similar bike trip.”

    I don’t know what type of bike rides you take, but all mine are air-conditioned!

    Sorry… couldn’t help it… 😉

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  • pixelgate September 6, 2012 at 8:24 pm

    Re the pitfalls of Marshall after Lovejoy was decommissioned: It amazes me that cyclists are too lazy to take 15 seconds out of their time to cruise on over to Overton which is easily the best (and quickest) way to get from 23rd to 9th, and from there it’s easy as pie to turn left onto Lovejoy and up the ramp.

    I love my bike but it seems like cyclists need to realize traffic flow and safety is all about compromise. I live on Marshall, to get over to Overton takes mere seconds. Why anyone would find this too cumbersome and instead insist on taking Marshall comes off nothing more than lazy.

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    • Spiffy September 6, 2012 at 8:41 pm

      traffic flow and safety is all about compromise.

      unfortunately they usually compromise safety in favor of traffic flow…

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      • pixelgate September 6, 2012 at 9:33 pm

        “They”? If you’ve cycled in other cities you should know that while no system is perfect, ours is pretty damn amazing. I just don’t see why riding 2 tiny blocks from Marshall to Overton poses any issue. If cyclists refuse to endure a 10 second inconvenience then what kind of compromise are we really discussing here? Sounds more like entitlement.

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        • Indy September 7, 2012 at 5:56 am

          I think most people are just upset because they had an opportunity while ripping up streets to give us a bone and add a small bike lane/throughway. As long as you are doing the massive change of light rail construction (again!) why not give bikers some room also to fit your goals of a bike city?

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        • Spiffy September 11, 2012 at 1:01 pm

          it IS entitlement… I’m still entitled to use Lovejoy on my bike…

          I always used to use Overton when I went there often… but for some reason now that I’m not in the area regularly I often end up on Lovejoy… probably because I can stop easily for a burrito half a block south and then a drink half a block north and have easy access to the bridge…

          my god, it’s almost as if I’m using the most convenient facilities that the city gave me!

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      • are September 8, 2012 at 7:52 pm

        i have always used overton to head west from 9th, even before they made lovejoy one way east. if i was headed farther north. but if my destination is just a few blocks west on lovejoy itself, i would have preferred to stay on lovejoy, and marshall is not an ideal substitute, though not as bad as all that.

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  • spare_wheel September 6, 2012 at 8:38 pm

    ‘He quipped that the “strong and fearless” riders, or what he calls “the immortals” still wouldn’t have any problem riding on MLK and Grand because, “They’d take any lane.” ‘

    Perhaps someone should mention to Rick Gustafson that there was a bike lane on Grand. And mocking people trying to get from point A to point B with the term immortals is infuriating. Was Sparling immortal? How about Kathryn Rickson, Dustin Finney, or Brett Jarolimek? What a jerk.

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  • Spiffy September 6, 2012 at 8:38 pm

    “Every space we have here is shared,” he said, “This space down here [the lower portion with room for people in wheelchairs and so on] is universally available.”

    good to know that a streetcar full of bikes won’t get kicked off in favor of a curb full of wheelchairs and mobility scooters everybody else…

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  • Spiffy September 6, 2012 at 8:49 pm

    2 riders crashed on the new tracks last week within sight of each other…

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  • Kiel Johnson
    Kiel Johnson September 6, 2012 at 9:24 pm

    I passed you guys on the streetcar today at around 11. I was riding my bike on the Convention Center sidewalk because there is no bike lane on MLK.

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    • sabes September 6, 2012 at 10:56 pm

      How were you able to pass the streetcar? I’m sure you were obeying the law and only riding at walking speed, right?

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      • Psyfalcon September 7, 2012 at 12:03 am

        You do not need to remain at walking speed on a sidewalk. Just the crosswalks.

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        • Spiffy September 11, 2012 at 12:35 pm

          only when there’s a car present, just like where it crosses a driveway…

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      • John Lascurettes September 7, 2012 at 12:12 am

        Read that law very carefully. The walking speed requirement of the law is when crossing driveways and entering crosswalks when motor vehicles are present.

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      • are September 8, 2012 at 7:54 pm

        so now, sabes, your assignment is to figure out why that is the requirement, rather than what you thought it was. then apply the same reasoning to cycletracks.

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  • jim September 6, 2012 at 9:56 pm

    The lovejoy ramp will be hairy when there are 2 bikes riding side by side, or passing like they naturally do with old people like me going uphill, perhaps this should be a single file zone? Any thoughts?

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  • jim September 6, 2012 at 10:10 pm

    Where do you buy tickets for the trolley?

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    • Spiffy September 11, 2012 at 12:37 pm

      probably on the inside like on the existing ones…

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  • shetha September 6, 2012 at 10:13 pm

    oooh I saw a streetcar full of people at MLK/clay around 10:20ish – was that all press folks? Seemed pretty full. I made probably too much noise pointing it out to my 5 year old… but it seemed so “new”. (Then I got buzzed and cut off by a car trying to jump in front of the three bikes waiting at the red light at clay/MLK.)

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  • Lance P September 6, 2012 at 10:15 pm

    I always ride in the far left lanes. It works just fine. The far left lane both north and south are fairly empty of traffic. The city could at a minimum add sharrows in those lane.

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    • spare_wheel September 12, 2012 at 1:30 pm

      I believe that PBOT and many bike transportation planners do not want to install sharrows or bike lanes on arterials. They want every last penny of cycling infrastructure funding to be spent on the next 500 feet of cycle track.

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  • Hart Noecker September 6, 2012 at 10:34 pm

    I’ve been noticing fewer cars driving in the right lane where the tracks are long before they started testing the line. I’ll bunny hop right in between the tracks and will observe no cars getting behind me at all for blocks behind. Streetcar is about moving people, but it’s also about slowing down traffic, about reducing the amount of cars on the road. And what bike advocate doesn’t want that? Bikes and light rail are allies, not enemies.

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  • Collin September 6, 2012 at 11:35 pm

    My girlfriend broke her arm in five places back in May when she was pushed into the streetcar tracks by a car almost hitting her, and her back tire skidded on some debris that were left in the rode. She will be recovering for years and is still in large amounts of pain daily, not to mention medical medical bills in the 30k range.

    The city can’t even do an adequate job of paving roads in many places or keep streets clean — but a huge expensive streetcar project with questionable benefits for anyone is a priority? And — once they decided to move forward with this project — the investment of rail-track flanges to make crossing the tracks less perilous for bikers didn’t make the cut? Shameful.

    I’m sure that there’s a lot to these issues that I’ve missed but, regardless of any circumstances with funding etc, when you can’t provide the basic services to keep your streets safe and clean for thousands of cyclists and motorists alike, it is _insulting_ to make a priority of something like this.

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    • Hart Noecker September 6, 2012 at 11:53 pm

      A long time ago, streetcars were the “basic services”. You say we can’t afford infrastructure like this, I say we can’t afford not to build multi-modal active transit options if we want and chance of curbing carbon emissions and getting people out of the antisocial environment of the automobile.

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      • Spencer September 7, 2012 at 2:15 pm

        We can’t afford such poorly planned infrastructure. I would much rather have clean streets and paved roads over this street car that basically goes no where. It is getting exactly no one out of their car while driving a segment of cyclists back into there car with lack of a safe route to use instead of MLK/Grand.

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      • Collin September 7, 2012 at 4:05 pm

        It would be better to do nothing at all than build a streetcar to nowhere that doesn’t get you anywhere very fast, and endangers the lives of cyclists and motorists. How is something with such minimal value to commuters possibly going to cut down on car traffic in a way that the current bus and MAX system is not? When it comes down to it, if all other things were equal (safety wise), I would prefer people use something like this rather than a car, but those things are not equal, and my number one priority is being able to ride my bike without getting killed.

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        • Spiffy September 11, 2012 at 12:50 pm

          the “streetcar to nowhere” goes lots of places…

          it’s not supposed to be fast… why is everybody in such a hurry to get far away from where they are and then back again?

          it’s generally more reliable than the bus, and way more predictable… it’s not specifically for commuters, it’s for shopping and socializing…

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  • 9watts September 6, 2012 at 11:57 pm

    “Gustafson said bike hooks would run counter to that shared space philosophy. “Putting a hook up somewhere would create interference and would tend to create entitlement to one use.”

    I think we’re making progress with Gustafson.

    It was Gustafson, remember, when discussing the pole that jutted into the bike path across the Broadway Bridge, said:
    in the end, “Due to structural constraints of the Bridge, the current placement was the only option that was viable and approved by all parties.”

    Then, when enough people got upset about the pole placement he said moving it would cost “a couple-hundred thousand dollars.”
    which some of us predicted would turn out to be wildly exaggerated. And it was ultimately closer to $17,664 in the end.

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    • are September 8, 2012 at 7:57 pm

      a bike on the floor with a person standing next to it takes up a bit more space than a bike on a hook. an empty hook takes up zero space. an empty hook with a sign on the wall indicating the space is to be shared takes up zero space.

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      • Spiffy September 11, 2012 at 12:46 pm

        many people want to stay clear of swinging bikes but will happily stand next to one on the ground…

        also, I feel better having my lower body crowded rather than my upper body…

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  • Andrew K September 7, 2012 at 8:06 am

    The way I see it, the new street car has its flaws, but it is a step in the right direction. After the street car is finished and is up and running we will take another step, and then another, and another. Be thankful we are at least moving down the right path.

    Improvements happen slowly and you have to fight for them.

    As soon as we have a new mayor I encourage everyone to write letters and provide CONSTRUCTIVE feedback. Make sure you let them know we want even more options (street cars, light rail, bikes, and places to walk).

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  • Stretchy September 7, 2012 at 8:15 am

    Reason magazine has a good article about streetcars in their October 2012 edition (alas, not available yet online). The basic gist: Most streetcar projects are expensive boondoggles. The ones that work are either in college towns (Portland isn’t) or small cities with a strong urban core (Portland probably is). The ones that work focus on moving people long distances quickly with a mile or so between stops (Portland’s doesn’t). The ones that fail act like a grossly overpriced bus route, moving slowly and stopping every few blocks (Portland’s moves little faster than walking). The ones that succeed serve an actual transportation purpose (Portland’s doesn’t) The ones that fail are justified with a bunch of ‘economic development’ claptrap (Portland’s definitely is). The ones that succeed have quick loading and unloading with large doors and prepaid fares. The ones that fail have long boarding times because drivers are expected to handle tickets as well, like on a bus. (I’m not sure which model Portland uses)

    One final note, many of the subsidies that go to the streetcar project come out of trimet’s budget. This means the streetcar, which serves the Pearl to downtown and inner eastside to downtown routes actually pulls money away from bus service which serves much poorer parts of town. Which means we’re cutting bus service to poor parts of town so rich people can have a shiny new toy.

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    • David Parsons September 7, 2012 at 8:41 am

      Libertarians, almost to a man, have a tremendous hate for streetcars. I would take Reason magazine as about as much as an authority about mass transit economics as I would take the Cascade Policy Institute about, well, anything. The Libertarian dreamland is everybody in a car, with MTBs reluctantly allowed as long as people use their cars to drive to the trailheads — the concern over reducing mass transit access for the poor is a pitiful joke since one of the basic Libertarian axioms is that the taxation you need to pay for that mass transit is outright theft.

      tl;dr: Reason magazine is not a trustworthy source.

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      • Stretchy September 7, 2012 at 8:55 am

        Thank you for showing you total ignorance of libertarians and libertarianism in general. Try getting your opinions from something other than msnbc once in a while.

        If you’d bothered to read my post instead of just stopping once you saw “reason magazine” you would have read that some streetcars work and there are common elements of those that do.

        You’d have also read my conclusion, which those evil Koch brothers backed reasoners agree with, which is that streetcar projects tend to be money pits that serve the wants and egos of rich liberals at the expense of bus service that mostly serves the poor.

        In short, this libertarian doesn’t hate streetcars or public transit. I hate taking taxpayer money and wasting it on crap that doesn’t work. Every dollar we waste subsidizing the streetcar is either a dollar that I don’t have to spend on my own wants and needs or, a dollar that we aren’t spending to help people who actually need help.

        But, I guess I’m the greedy heartless one.

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        • Unit September 7, 2012 at 1:49 pm

          Let’s be clear. What you claim to support is the idea of streetcars. You just don’t support any real projects. Feel free to prove me wrong and suggest a real project that you would support.

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          • Stretchy September 7, 2012 at 2:54 pm

            I wish the article were available online because it actually cites several projects that are successful. Remarkably, all of those projects share the characteristics I listed above.

            They are all focused on getting people to and from either a vibrant urban core or a college campus. +1 for vibrant urban core

            They are all focused on getting people there quickly and from the far reaches of the city. -1 because the streetcar moves slowly and only moves people from near the urban core to the urban core.

            They are all focused on transportation rather than ‘urban development’ which is just code for handing taxpayer money to friends of politicians. -1

            I would support a streetcar project that was focused on getting people quickly and efficiently to and from the downtown core from the farther reaches of the city. This one doesn’t. It’s a waste of money.

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    • Pacforth September 7, 2012 at 1:38 pm

      If you don’t even know that Portland streetcar drivers don’t take or handle tickets then you probably have very little experience with the system and are content with repeating CPI talking points to confirm your existing bias.

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      • Stretchy September 7, 2012 at 2:39 pm

        You’re right, I have no experience with the system other than dodging the tracks and construction. I never claimed to have ridden it. I’m not familiar with the CPI (I assume cascade policy institute?) and, am certainly not echoing their talking points since I’ve barely even heard of the organization.

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    • Stretchy September 7, 2012 at 3:00 pm

      This looks like an online copy of the article I referenced. It cites several successful streetcar lines and many more that are basically wastes of money. It’s by the same author and looks broadly the same but, I haven’t had a chance to verify it.

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  • Skwirl September 7, 2012 at 8:46 am

    I remember that the original plan was to truncate the #6 line in favor of the streetcar. Is that still the case? Because it was a great insult to working class people in N/NE to add a transfer to a slower-than-walking streetcar between their homes and jobs in the downtown core.

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    • Pacforth September 7, 2012 at 1:39 pm

      No, not the case anymore.

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    • Pacforth September 7, 2012 at 1:44 pm

      And in any case, the proposed shift would not have effected those riders because the 6 bus still would have gone downtown, it just would have taken the Steel Bridge and rode down the Mall instead of taking MLK-Grand in the Central Eastside. So you would have had a faster commute downtown if the change had occurred. So be careful what you wish for.

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  • Terry D September 7, 2012 at 11:09 am

    Streetcars are wonderful and should be built……but taking in the “cost to move one person one mile” they are extremely expensive to build.

    I support streetcar expansion, and they should radiate out in all directions from this new loop but bike infrastructure needs to be part of the mix as well for each project as they expand over time.

    I have been flabbergasted by the shear lack of bike improvements that came with this project. Every other major infrastructure project has included some bike elements to it. This one almost has none. At minimum this is what needs to happen ASAP and should have been part of the Eastside loop construction.

    Salmon needs to be extended as a Greenway to the waterfront with two new lights at MILK and GRAND. Why this was not part of this project is beyond me. It is just plain dumb not to include them in the first round of construction. You want pedestrian conductivity and yet you do not include a protected crosswalk from Taylor to Madison?

    Secondly, the new overpass at 7th’ish over the Banfield freeway needs to be built ASAP and a parallel route to MLK and Grand needs to be established. The Masterplan says the 9th avenue Greenway, but build the bridge at least to mitigate the streetcar line and 7th will work for now. Crossing the Banfield on MLK or Grand has now been made significantly more difficult by the streetcar. The fact that there is no clear connection from the Central Eastside to Lloyd district is just plain DUMB.

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  • dwainedibbly September 7, 2012 at 11:28 am

    For the young & healthy, streetcar is not any faster than walking, but my 70+ year old mom visited recently and for her the streetcar calculus was very different. It’s the same for people with little kids, lots of bags or packages, etc.

    I wish they hadn’t used the right lanes on MLK/Grand. On 10th & 11th downtown it’s easy enough to take the other lane, but MLK & Grand are much busier with faster traffic. Now you’re stuck with tracks.

    The “streetcar tracks right next to the bike lane” problem also occurs on the SW Harrison stretch east of Naito.

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    • Spiffy September 11, 2012 at 12:56 pm

      if people are “strong and fearless” enough to ride on MLK/Grand then they can take the left lane…

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  • maxadders September 7, 2012 at 12:26 pm

    Count me as another rider inconvenienced by the streetcar tracks on MLK. I now take the sidewalk over I-84, whereas I used to take the wide, mostly-comfortable rightmost lane. I still take the current rightmost lane on occasion, but that means I have to cross the tracks twice (I turn west down Couch just a couple blocks later to access the SE Industrial district). That’s too much risk to partake on a daily basis, especially once the rains start. I’m disappointed that the addition of the streetcar had an opportunity to make things much better– but instead ignored the situation and actually made things worse.

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    • John Lascurettes September 7, 2012 at 1:53 pm

      You are legally allowed to take the left-most lane on a one-way multi-lane road. Just FYI.

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  • Steve B. September 7, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    AROW continues to receive streetcar bike crash reports. The City and Portland Streetcar have acknowledged the issue, hung warning signs, and that’s about it. In order to become a truly multi-modal city, we need to make sure there is a safe bikeway along new trackways. It can be done!

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  • Unit September 7, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    All this rancor over tracks on MLK/Grand. Streetcar gets ONE lane on each. Cars get FOUR. And the streetcar facilities get the criticism. Streetcar tracks injure, I get it, but car lanes injure (and kill) many, many, many more.

    Maybe the solution is to take away one car lane on each road and build left-side cycle tracks.

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    • John Lascurettes September 7, 2012 at 4:52 pm

      On a one-way, multi-lane road, you are allowed to ride as far left as practicable (which means sometimes taking the lane too) in the left lane.


      When operating within a city as near as practicable to the left curb or edge of a roadway that is designated to allow traffic to move in only one direction along the roadway. A bicycle that is operated under this paragraph is subject to the same requirements and exceptions when operating along the left curb or edge as are applicable when a bicycle is operating along the right curb or edge of the roadway.

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      • Collin September 7, 2012 at 5:03 pm

        And have cars ride right up your ass whilst honking at you.

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        • John Lascurettes September 8, 2012 at 12:30 pm

          Never had it happen to me yet. In five and a half years of daily commuting, I’ve had one driver – one – lay on her horn while aggressively passing me … and it was on a side road (NE Knott just west of MLK), not a main arterial. Sure, I’ve had people pass too close and act in other passively aggressive manners, but I ignore it. The more frighteningly close calls I’ve had have all been due to ignorant driving habits (right hooks, not looking and yielding to bike lanes, cars rolling through stop signs on side streets, etc.).

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        • Spiffy September 11, 2012 at 12:58 pm

          you’re right, at that point it’s kind of like driving…

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  • adp September 9, 2012 at 1:52 pm

    After reading all these posts, can someone please explain why it makes sense to build a streetcar system in the first place? They are hugely expensive to build and that doesn’t even factor in the tremendous deferred maintenance costs. And they monopolize space in the transportation infrastructure. If the goal is fewer cars, why not just buy more hybrid buses with bike racks at a fraction of the cost? It seems streetcars are just a gift to political cronies disguised as green stimulus spending.

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  • Ted Buehler September 11, 2012 at 10:58 pm

    Jonathan — did you ride the streetcar back downtown?

    The 4 block/8 minute diversion up to Northrup in the Pearl District will come as a rude surprise to commuters who expected the route to be at least somewhat direct…

    Ted Buehler

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  • Ted Buehler September 11, 2012 at 11:18 pm

    “When I shared with Gustafson that a difficult place to ride is now even worse with the of addition of the streetcar, he dismissed the concerns by saying, “I thought it was difficult to bike there regardless.” He quipped that the “strong and fearless” riders, or what he calls “the immortals” still wouldn’t have any problem riding on MLK and Grand because, “They’d take any lane.””

    Rick’s a great guy, but he’s dead wrong on this one.

    I used to ride MLK and Grand all the time in the right lane, buying renovation materials in the SE industrial district. Bicycling was comparable to driving, time-wise.

    Now I usually drive my car if time is at all a concern.

    It sucks big time.

    Major design fail.

    Ted Buehler

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    • spare_wheel September 12, 2012 at 1:34 pm

      While we are still waiting for a bike lanes to be installed on some of the most heavily biked roads in PDX (e.g. Hawthorne and SE 20th) PBOT removed a bike lane on Grand without any public debate.

      Poof! It’s gone.

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