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PBOT’s Active Transportation manager hired to run Portland Streetcar

Posted by on March 5th, 2014 at 2:22 pm

Dan Bower, at the National Bike Summit in 2009.
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

The new executive director of Portland Streetcar Inc (PSI) is a familiar face and name for many regular BikePortland readers. Dan Bower, formerly the head of PBOT’s Active Transportation Division, will be PSI’s first full time executive director according to a statement made by the non-profit today.

Bower will take over for the outgoing leader of PSI, Rick Gustafson, who announced his retirement yesterday. PSI has operated Portland’s streetcar system since 1995.

While at PBOT, Bower was the key staffer behind many of the agency’s largest bicycle initiatives. His many responsibilities included Sunday Parkways planning and a project that will invest over $6 million to update and improve bike access in downtown Portland. Notably, Bower was the point-person for developing Portland’s plans for bike share. From securing the funding to negotiating the operations contract with Alta Bicycle Share — Bower was the man pulling the strings. It’s unclear to us at this point how/if his absence might impact bike share and whether or not the tumultuous project played into on his decision to leave PBOT. Just yesterday, we reported that Portland’s bike share plans are likely to be delayed once again and the system isn’t expected to be launched until 2015.

Bower, who has been at PBOT for 11 years, was a central figure within PBOT’s Active Transportation Division and his absence — and the relationships and institutional knowledge that goes along with it — will leave a big hole at the agency.

One possible silver lining is that Bower might be the just the right person to help PSI finally address the safety issues their tracks cause to bicycle routes all over town. Bower is a daily bike rider himself, which means it’s highly probable he’s crashed on the tracks he’ll know have the control to improve.

Here’s what Bower will be doing in his new role, according to an official description of the position:

The Executive Director reports to the Board of Directors and will be responsible for leading and managing PSI’s development and operations. This seasoned professional will be instrumental in employing a “Customer First” approach to managing PSI while demonstrating the capabilities to oversee finance, operation, board development/engagement, and importantly, the key regional partnerships that include TriMet and the City of Portland. This is an excellent opportunity for an experienced transit and/or not-for-profit leader/administrator to use excellend relationship building skills to work closely and creatively with diverse stakeholders.

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  • Gerik March 5, 2014 at 2:32 pm

    Dan will be missed at PBOT, that’s for sure. I look forward to his leadership at PSI.

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  • Peejay March 5, 2014 at 2:52 pm

    Perhaps now, we’ll get some admission from PSI that tracks have consequences. I’m Glad that the streetcar exists, but not thrilled that there is zero effort to ameliorate the risks to bicycle users caused by track placement.

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  • Granpa March 5, 2014 at 3:14 pm

    “Customer First” is the new PSI directive. Who is the customer? Is it the rider who’s transportation is largely subsidized? It is the tax payer who finances these huge projects? Is it the other road users who have bequeathed their right-of-way to these lumbering behemoths? Perhaps the customer is PDC and developers who profit by having the street cars service their properties. It is clear the cyclist is not PSI’s customer or highly regarded priority.

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    • Chris I March 5, 2014 at 3:19 pm

      They are in the business of moving people around on streetcars. If you expect them to care about cyclists, you are wasting your time.

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    • i ride my bike March 5, 2014 at 4:25 pm

      Welcome to earth, all transportation modes are subsidized. Lumbering behemoth HOVs carry a lot more people in less space than in cars or bikes. Looks like you are the one clogging up the streets. We need a variety of ways to get around.

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      • Grandpa March 5, 2014 at 5:44 pm

        I may have a big ass on my black Cannondale, but I contest your assertion that I am responsible for clogging traffic. I easily ride faster than a streetcar, and it is not uncommon that my bike has just as many riders. (OK that is a snarky exaggeration with the seed of truth that the streetcars operate FAR under capacity)

        Your reply fails to aknowledge that cyclists are among the road users who have given up ROW and safe passage for the street car program. Streetcar has appropriated many of the best bike routes and turned them into high hazard obstacle courses. If I were the love child of David Blane and Danny McKaslill I would bunny hop the wheel grabbing rails, But these slick steel traps break enough collar bones without needing me to add to the carnage.

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        • Reza March 5, 2014 at 6:33 pm

          Take a streetcar during evening rush and tell me how under capacity it is. LOL

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        • Chris I March 5, 2014 at 9:03 pm

          Please quit it with the dramatics. Railroad tracks have existed in this city for over 100 years. There are fewer embedded rail lines on Portland’s streets now than there were in the past. Tracks are just one of a number of hazards that we face while riding. How many people have died because of tracks? Let’s try to keep things in perspective. We have bigger enemies: AAA, PBA, and anyone else that tries to marginalize cyclists or oppose safety projects that will separate us from the real killers: Trucks and other large vehicles.

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          • Granpa March 7, 2014 at 8:46 am

            Chris I apologize for the histrionics. I forgot that discourse on the blogosphere is restricted to dispassionate language in the most clinical terms. Also it escaped me that a blog thread about a new Street Car director was an inappropriate place to discuss hazards to cyclists of streetcar tracks.

            Anyway Congratulations Dan. Fight the good fight.

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      • 9watts March 5, 2014 at 10:11 pm

        “all transportation modes are subsidized.”


        News to me. Bikes and feet and skateboards weren’t subsidized the last time I checked. And neither were roller skates.

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        • Todd Boulanger March 6, 2014 at 10:27 am

          …an indirect case could be made that the sidewalks a lot of “skateboarders et al” use subsidize their travel especially if such were constructed privately as part of the original building construction (1901 thru today) …since much of the pedestrian facilities in the public right of way we regionally have are off the books of most Cities / public works department. (Even though they should not be.)

          As with any urban business, it is hoped that there are customers using sidewalks are then buying services at that business that then pay rent to a landlord that has purchased / built and maintains these quasi public transportation facilities.

          The same may be said of parking lots in suburban retail areas…all the customers of a said business pay for them indirectly…so why not allow access by skateboards, bikes and feet unless separate facilities are provided.

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    • hroðberacht March 9, 2014 at 9:01 pm

      you’re about sixty years late there, Granpa, but you’re right about road users giving up their right-of-way to the lumbering, pollution-spewing, behemoths now clogging our streets. many of our streets, neighborhoods, and bridges were built for streetcars. it’s the private automobiles that have literally run almost everyone else off the streets.

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  • kiel johnson
    kiel johnson March 5, 2014 at 3:14 pm

    damn! dan is a great guy. I wonder how many good city employees we lose to the fact that the portland building is an inhumane place to work in terms of lighting and fresh air. I propose a googlisc campus HQ for PBOT, then we would stand a better chance of retaining some awesome talent. see you on the streetcar dan!

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  • nuovorecord March 5, 2014 at 3:20 pm

    Dan’s a bright guy, who’ll do a great job at PSI. Congratulations!

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  • Rebecca March 5, 2014 at 4:28 pm

    Wishing Rick Gustafson a happy retirement and thanks for all those years teaching the Traffic & Transportation class!

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    • Reza March 5, 2014 at 6:32 pm

      Hear hear!

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  • Reza March 5, 2014 at 6:48 pm

    “One possible silver lining is that Bower might be the just the right person to help PSI finally address the safety issues their tracks cause to bicycle routes all over town. Bower is a daily bike rider himself, which means it’s highly probable he’s crashed on the tracks he’ll know have the control to improve.”

    I know why Bike Portlamd keeps bringing this up over and over, but if this is the only thing that Dan accomplishes in his tenure at PSI, then he would have failed at his job. Streetcar has many pressing issues at hand, including preparing for Close the Loop, buying additional vehicles and making other enhancements to improve service, planning for eventual fare increases and other expansion opportunities, finding new potential sources of money to fund operations, and so on. Spending a lot of money in an effort to completely eliminate all bicycle-rail crashes is not the agency’s highest priority, and that’s as it should be.

    Their highest priority shouldn’t be spurring new economic development, either. Streetcar is fundamentally a part of our city’s transit network and their #1 purpose needs to be serving their riders, whether it’s weekend tourists or weekday commuters.

    That said, I welcome the announcement and look forward to working with him in the future. Congrats Dan!

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  • Lenny Anderson
    Lenny Anderson March 6, 2014 at 8:12 am

    Congrats Dan! Dan Bower will make an excellent ED for Streetcar in these exciting times. Streetcar has transformed the Central City; 18K times a day someone boards, with more to come as the Loop is closed in 2015 and Eastside is built out. re bikes & tracks, how is NE 7th Avenue working? Suggestions to this Streetcar CAC member, who has biked in PDX for 60 years, are welcome.

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  • Zef Wagner March 6, 2014 at 8:27 am

    While I’m generally a streetcar critic, that has more to do with the quality of service than anything inherent to the mode. I’m very hopeful that this change will lead to substantial improvements to the existing lines and better planning for future lines.

    We need 10-minute headways, not 18-minute headways. We need exclusive lanes, especially on Grand and MLK where one lane in each direction could easily be taken away if we actually wanted to prioritize transit. We need better integration with the bus system. Finally, when we expand the system, we need to put it in places that could use it (Broadway/Weidler out to Hollywood comes to mind) rather than places that don’t (Belmont and Hawthorne are developing just fine without streetcar, thank you very much).

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    • Jayson March 6, 2014 at 8:38 am

      Agreed. I take streetcar more often than I bike during the winter. We need much better service. Improvements to service (speed primarily/traffic preemption) on 10th/11th need to be prioritized, as does the need to double-track the section near PSU.

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  • Todd Boulanger March 6, 2014 at 10:28 am

    Dan, congrats on the new job!

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  • Lenny Anderson
    Lenny Anderson March 6, 2014 at 12:38 pm

    Starting June 1, headways on 10th and 11th between Lovejoy and PSU will be 7.5 minutes, but by all means lets put more resources into Streetcar and get it out to Hollywood and Providence Hospital.

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