‘Purple Line’ would alleviate I-5 congestion without widening freeway, veteran activist says

Posted by on January 18th, 2022 at 3:59 pm

Proposed Purple Line would be an alternative to I-5 through Rose Quarter and central eastside.
(Graphics: Association of Oregon Rail and Transit Advocates)

How do you solve a problem like congestion?

“If people had a better way of using public transit, they wouldn’t be in their car in that corridor.”
— Jim Howell, rail advocate and freeway fighter

As we know, the Oregon Department of Transportation says the answer to the traffic on I-5 between the Rose Quarter and OMSI is to expand the freeway. This has been a contentious plan for years, and has now faced even more scrutiny from activists and more assistance from Metro Council and the governor’s office.

Environmental activists say ODOT hasn’t done a sufficient job assessing the environmental impacts of this expansion project and looking into reasonable alternatives, like transit. No More Freeways PDX is suing ODOT on these grounds. But what could this transit alternative look like?

Enter the proposed MAX ‘Purple Line,’ which would run from Hayden Island to the South Waterfront, providing an alternative that the transit advocates behind the proposal say would unclog the freeway and patch up holes in the regional light rail system. It was a solid idea when we first looked into it eight years ago and it’s been bouncing around the inboxes of influencers and policymakers ever since.

Jim Howell, who we’ve called ‘Portland’s Idea Man,’ is the veteran transportation activist and retired strategic planner for the Association of Oregon Rail and Transit Advocates (AORTA) who dreamed up the “Common Sense Alternative” to the Columbia River Crossing and has led the charge behind the Purple Line concept. He agrees with the sentiment that ODOT still hasn’t done enough too consider alternatives to freeway expansion in the Rose Quarter.

In addition to transit, the proposed Purple Line would also add a parallel ‘bicycle freeway’ in the form of a neat elevated cycling and pedestrian platform that would, at one point, run above the Union Pacific rail tracks in the central eastside (see image below). Howell has compared this element of the plan to the High Line in New York City: a former freight rail line-turned public park and tourist attraction. A similar concept in Portland would bring business and recreation opportunities as well as improved transit.

Eventually, Purple Line proponents want to take it all the way down to Tigard or Wilsonville, but addressing the Rose Quarter is the first priority.

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“ODOT has never dealt with any kind of alternative to widening the freeway,” Howell says. “If people had a better way of using public transit, they wouldn’t be in their car in that corridor. If you could reduce demand on the freeway in this corridor, [ODOT] wouldn’t even be thinking of spending a billion dollars to widen it there.”

Howell says there are two alternatives to freeway expansion in terms of reducing congestion: adding congestion pricing or providing a transit alternative (or both). Howell, along with many other activists and transportation experts, point out that not only is the increased capacity approach of adding more lanes to I-5 indicative of a long-term commitment to car-centric transportation – it also wouldn’t even reduce congestion in the long-run.

Without a transit alternative accompanying congestion pricing, only half of the transportation reform equation would be solved.

“We don’t only have to make it harder to drive, we also have to make it easier to use public transit,” Howell says.

Slides from an AORTA presentation on the Purple Line.

Right now, you have to cross the river twice and go through downtown in order to take the MAX through the Rose Quarter area. The Portland Streetcar covers this distance on the east side of the Willamette River, but Howell says it ineffectively links up with the MAX. He sees the Purple Line as a way to fulfill Portland’s potential to have great public transit.

Howell, who was on the front lines of the fight against the vanquished Mt. Hood Freeway, knows freeway projects can die, and he says he expects the Rose Quarter project to stall for quite some time, and hopefully change course in the future.

“I’ve been involved in killing highways for 40 years,” Howell says. “This project is going to waste millions and millions of dollars and go nowhere until ODOT gets good leadership.”

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RipCityBassWorks
Guest
RipCityBassWorks

Even better: run just the Yellow Line to Hayden Island and run the Purple Line along Lombard to St Johns. Finally a quality transit connection for a section of Portland that is sorely lacking it.

cmh89
Guest
cmh89

All St. Johns needs is BRT. Get the project completed in a couple years instead of a couple of decades. TriMet MAX lines are just less flexible bus lines because they move so slowly so there is no loss really by not building rail.

Unfortunately for everyone TriMet has no interest in building low-cost short spurs in high density areas that are already designed to utilize public transit. TriMet only wants to build high-cost rail through low-density suburbs that will only be used a couple hours a day M – F because as an agency it mainly exists to help suburbanites get to work faster and make land more value for the developers who own TriMet.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

BRT between Interstate and downtown St. Johns that then expresses into downtown on HWY 30 would be faster and cheaper than any MAX line options. Heading east to Interstate and then south to downtown on MAX would be slower than even the current bus option on HWY 30 (which doesn’t run often enough, of course).

cmh89
Guest
cmh89

I agree. N Interstate and N Lombard should be a major transit center – allowing riders to go east, west, north and south along major corridors is a major no-brainer. Connecting the yellow-line MAX to Vancouver and building BRT between N Interstate and the airport would make the full loop and then we could build BRT N/S spurs in between

Psmith
Guest
Psmith

It would be better to put the freight and passenger rail (Amtrak) line in an underground cut-and-cover tunnel through the Central Eastside, so the trains don’t continue to block all the streets for long periods of time. Then put the light rail line on top, where the freight trains run now, since those don’t block the streets more than a few moments, and you would want the stations to be at street level. I also think you might want that line to continue south along the Orange Line alignment, avoiding downtown entirely. The Yellow Line could be the one that goes downtown, and this line would be a crosstown that avoids downtown. Not everyone wants to go downtown!

Also, I absolutely don’t like this idea of forcing a transfer between light rail and the Vine bus on Hayden Island. If we ever want Vancouver to feel like an integrated part of the region, it should be connected by light rail. It would be so annoying to have to transfer between bus and light rail for no reason on Hayden Island, just short of downtown Vancouver which is a more major destination. Also, we simply shouldn’t replace the I-5 Bridges without including light rail. What a waste to spend all that money and not do that one obvious thing.

Doug Allen
Subscriber
Doug Allen

I think the Purple Line proposal is a good balance between the ideal and something affordable. It would work about the same if light rail were extended to downtown Vancouver, but some reasons to have the transfer at Hayden Island are to save money and the fact that Clark County residents don’t seem to want light rail.

This proposal would actually work fine with the existing bridges if bus bypass lanes were built so that buses had priority to enter I-5 southbound from downtown Vancouver, and enter I-5 northbound from Hayden Island. Then there could be a direct connection between C-Tran’s BRT service and the MAX Yellow Line, without risk of major delays to the BRT. And cost a fraction of what the Interstate Bridge Replacement Project would cost.

The current situation requires two transfers, one between the “Vine” BRT and C-Tran’s route 60 in Vancouver, and another between route 60 and the Yellow Line at the Delta Park station. C-Tran does this to keep the BRT from getting bogged down in I-5 congestion.

Watts
Guest
Watts

It would be better to put the freight and passenger rail (Amtrak) line in an underground cut-and-cover tunnel through the Central Eastside

I agree this would solve a lot of problems, but if you want to bury the UPRR tracks, you need to find a place to run the mainline trains for the year or two it will take to construct. This would be a very expensive, difficult, and disruptive process.

Portland has neither the vision nor the money for such a project.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

The grades are also an issue. Anything in a trench would need to then climb back up for the crossings at Powell and the Y interchange under I-5/I-84. Freight trains can’t do that.

Sigma
Guest
Sigma

“It would be better to put the freight and passenger rail (Amtrak) line in an underground cut-and-cover tunnel through the Central Eastside, ”

You can’t do that because of the grades required. Between Brooklyn Yard and the Steel Bridge, you might have enough distance to briefly get to tunnel depth before you have to start going back up. The profile would be a giant parabola.

Chris
Guest
Chris

It would be easier and less expensive to elevate the tracks. Digging down will probably push them below the river level and will probably require a cement basin to prevent flooding. You should also be able to build an elevated line while continuing to run the line at street level.

The connection to MAX is going to be difficult regardless of where it is. The original CRC light rail plan called for a two-block parking garage in downtown Vancouver that required commuters to drive through downtown to park and catch MAX. The other option is to beef up existing park and rides, but that will require commuters to park and then catch a bus to MAX

squareman
Subscriber

This makes so much sense that surely it will be wholly ignored by the planners that be. I’m so jaded at this point.

kernals12
Guest
kernals12

It only makes sense if you know nothing about how the vast majority of people think and act.

People don’t like using transit, especially in a place like Vancouver with a low population density.

Luke
Guest
Luke

People DO like using transit–when it’s run well. That just doesn’t happen in America because we plan our cities crappily and run our transit accordingly.

kernals12
Guest
kernals12

No they don’t. People like getting around in the comfort of their own cars and they like how it takes them door to door whenever they want.

Kev
Guest
Kev

Most people are not car people nor bike people nor transit people. Most people just want to take whatever will get them there fastest and with the most comfort.

We have to make transit more efficient and driving more costly. That’s not we will see behavior change.

kernals12
Guest
kernals12

Why can’t we just make driving more efficient?

Fred
Guest
Fred

kernals12 wrote: “Why can’t we just make driving more efficient?”

Because driving a car is inherently inefficient. Every gallon of gasoline you burn creates 20 lbs of CO2 – mostly b/c you have to move a heavy steel cage. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg of motor-vehicle-related evils.

Driving cars is killing the earth, and eventually all of us.

Ken S
Guest
Ken S

…because cars are inherently inefficient and “make driving more efficient” is a fool’s errand?

Cars take up tons of space, can’t carry many people, sit idle in parking lots for most of their lives, they’re expensive to own and operate, a moment’s inattention can cause a deadly crash, a single crash can block a whole freeway for hours, they’re the #1 cause of death for people 0-19 years old, being stuck in a car all the time is bleak and soul-crushing, I could go on and on.

Planners, elected officials, NGOs, should all be doing everything they can think of to make alternatives to driving as convenient and appealing as possible.

Cars ruin cities.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jXjzy5LgxHg

kernals12
Guest
kernals12

Cars are the fastest and most comfortable way of getting around. People love their cars, some even give them names. This has spawned countless movies, magazines, and sporting events devoted to peoples’ fascination with the automobile

Luke
Guest
Luke

Culture has a weird way of perpetuating itself, doesn’t it? Doesn’t mean it’s the best way to do things. Not to mention the history of this country–in particular–is littered with examples of the automotive industry (and associated industries like steel and oil) ensuring that people think the car is the only legitimate way to move around. Believe me, I’m a car lover–got my first magainze when I was 7, still reading about them all the time decades later–but that doesn’t mean I think they’re the best means of transportation.

kernals12
Guest
kernals12

A car combines the convenience of a bicycle with the speed of a train. You can’t beat that.

cmh89
Guest
cmh89

Why can’t we just make driving more efficient?

How would you make driving more efficient?

kernals12
Guest
kernals12

More freeway lanes and converting arterial streets with median u turns where possible.

cmh89
Guest
cmh89

More freeway lanes and converting arterial streets with median u turns where possible

That isn’t make cars more efficient is it? It’s just making the roads bigger.

You’re really just advocating for making the roads bigger, which, ignoring the lack of public support, has nothing to do with efficiency.

kernals12
Guest
kernals12

Lack of public support? Maybe on this website, but the vast majority of Portlanders support freeway expansion.

cmh89
Guest
cmh89

Lack of public support? Maybe on this website, but the vast majority of Portlanders support freeway expansion.

Lots of people in the Portland metro do for sure. Lots of people wants bigger freeways but almost no one wants bigger freeways near them.

I-5 is not getting bigger in Portland for multiple reasons but the biggest is that you’d have to use eminent domain to seize homes from families which is not going to be popular in Portland for a multitude of reasons.

It’s like every other issue for NIMBYs. People like projects that they benefit from but don’t feel any costs from like freeway expansions in other peoples neighborhoods. Those same people generally oppose things like freeway expansions in their neighborhood. Portland is too rich and white for the US government to steamroll today.

squareman
Subscriber

More freeway lanes and converting arterial streets with median u turns where possible.

Go back to California or Arizona if that’s what you want. I was just there. I saw 14 lane freeways where there was no shortage of noise pollution, aggressive and dangerous driving, traffic snarls everywhere, and having to wait minutes at every intersection that could serve as a site for 4-6 family home sites or a large multi-family development.

kernals12
Guest
kernals12

And where exactly did you see this traffic in Arizona? Was it caused by them closing down i-17 for a light rail bridge?

John Carter
Guest
John Carter

Cars would only work efficiently if they significantly reduced size and speed – so that they could run on very low power and take up much less physical space.

damiene
Subscriber
damiene

How would you make driving more efficient?

Dramatically reduce the size and weight of the vehicle. Would only need two wheels at that point. Ditch the weight of the combustion engine. Could make it pedal-powered to make transportation double as exercise. Smaller, thinner wheels, replace the steering wheel for some handle bars for stability and…

kernals12
Guest
kernals12

Can a bike go 70 mph? Can a bike carry a week’s worth of groceries? Can a bike protect you from the elements?

damiene
Subscriber
damiene

Can a bike go 70 mph?

No, but that’s not a downside. With very few exceptions, no road vehicles should ever be going that fast.

Can a bike carry a week’s worth of groceries?

Yes.

Can a bike protect you from the elements?

Yes.

kernals12
Guest
kernals12

Most states have speed limits of 70 or more. Some are going up to 80.

And what bicycle can carry a week’s worth of groceries and has a roof?

rick
Guest
rick

The Kranked ebike can go 49 mph. Other ebikes can go faster. A cargo bike can carry hundreds of pounds of gear around urban and suburban cities sometimes faster than cars. What payment is given in Oregon by usage of metal-studded car tires for the damage caused by metal-studded car tires?

Ken S
Guest
Ken S

Avg speeds on most drives in and around the city are in the 20-35mph range, due to things like stop lights and traffic.
Traffic jams are often so bad _because_ people altey to drive 70mph, then have to slam on the brakes.

Yes, you can absolutely carry a week’s worth of groceries on a bike.

“Can a bike protect you from the elements?”
What are you made of, cotton candy?
Do you seriously need a 2-3 ton car to act as a umbrella?
Ever heard of fenders and a rain jacket?

Also, it’s not that bad out, unless it’s raining 1-2 inches a day. But then it also sucks to drive and it sucks to walk through the parking lot once you park your car.

kernals12
Guest
kernals12

Most people enjoy driving.

Ken S
Guest
Ken S

My observation of other drivers is that most people would rather be doing something other than driving.

They don’t look happy. Many are looking at their phones instead of the road. Many look like they barely know how to drive. Damn near 100% of drivers I see look bored to death.

Maybe you enjoy driving, and that’s fine.
You don’t need everyone else to enjoy driving for your preference to be valid.

And, as I stated in an earlier comment, if more people take transit or bike or walk, there are fewer cars on the road.
That means people who enjoy driving, or really can’t get where they’re going without a car, won’t have roads clogged with cars and drivers who don’t want to be there.

Trying to make driving easier, ironically, makes it worse.

rain panther
Guest
rain panther

Most people seem to think they enjoy driving, despite looking miserable a lot of the time they’re doing it.

Watts
Guest
Watts

How would you make driving more efficient?

Electrification will make cars (and other vehicles) significantly more energy efficient.

squareman
Subscriber

Electrification will make cars (and other vehicles) significantly more energy efficient.

It won’t make them more space-efficient. It won’t make their manufacture more environmentally efficient. It won’t make their delivery to consumers more efficient. It won’t make their storage in the public right of way more efficient.

Watts
Guest
Watts

It won’t make them more space-efficient. It won’t make their manufacture more environmentally efficient. It won’t make their delivery to consumers more efficient. It won’t make their storage in the public right of way more efficient.

All true; but automation will solve the storage issue, and probably the manufacture issue (a shared fleet will require many fewer vehicles than the current model) and also the delivery issue (not sure if that’s really a big one). Maybe also the cost issue, as well as the dangerous driving issue. And probably many of the issues with the 19th-century transit model.

Space efficiency might still be an issue, but maybe with reduced need for parking and more flexible (i.e narrower) designs, that issue might be addressed as well.

The transportation future is bright!

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

It COULD. But it isn’t happening nearly fast enough. Without massive government intervention (unlikely to happen), we can hope for 30% by 2040:
https://www.statista.com/statistics/736219/ev-share-of-global-light-duty-vehicles/

SolarEclipse
Guest
SolarEclipse

That could happen if the auto industry didn’t squak evertime they are required to meet MPG goals (which are rediculously low to begin with).
Electric/Hybrid vehicles shouldn’t be the ultimate goal, but they are a start to get people looking to alternatives to gas/diesel. As companies are finding, producing those kind of vehicles does have a market. So maybe they’ll get the mindset that producing the XX powered vehicle of the future might not be far off.

SERider
Guest
SERider

Do people like paying for parking? Do people like the hassles of parking garages?

kernals12
Guest
kernals12

Good thing most parking is free

squareman
Subscriber

Try going to any other major city and see how free parking is; try it in Seattle, San Francisco, NYC, or Chicago anywhere near their cities’ cores. That Portland is still stuck giving drivers a free ride to store their private property in the public ROW is an exception, not a rule. It’s time that people start paying for it. (and no, your driver fees don’t even come close to covering any one thing it purports to pay for).

kernals12
Guest
kernals12

The suburbs of those cities have free parking.

Watts
Guest
Watts

And no, your driver fees don’t even come close to covering any one thing it purports to pay for

How much money do the residents of Portland pay from other sources to maintain the streets? My understanding is that vehicle fees/taxes do pretty much pay for the lion’s share. This has been discussed here before, and, disputes about whether freight taxes should count as vehicle fees aside, that seems to be the conclusion.

oliver
Guest
oliver

“Comfort”
People who think that spending 8 hours a week in an automobile in traffic is “comfortable” are insane.

People who think they go to work and return home “whenever they want” are lying to themselves.

kernals12
Guest
kernals12

I do just that. The beauty of living and working in the burbs

squareman
Subscriber

So, if you live in the burbs, stop asking Portland and its residents to foot the cost of (financially and living quality) of your transportation choices. We don’t need it.

kernals12
Guest
kernals12

The Columbia River bridge impacts more than just Portland dude.

Boyd
Guest
Boyd

They don’t live anywhere near Portland. They are from suburban Massachusetts (just Google kernals12, you’ll see they troll transportation blogs and chats all over the country).

squareman
Subscriber

This. So much this. When I was MAXing it out to Beavertron, I was able to do my email, do work, play games, text with friends, and so on. About the most productive activity that can be had safely driving alone is listening to a podcast or audiobook.

SD
Guest
SD

If there was a way that this could bloat the ODOT budget and enrich ODOT associated grifters, the purple line would already have been built.

kernals12
Guest
kernals12

Transit boosters always promise that and it never happens.

SolarEclipse
Guest
SolarEclipse

When TriMet became a development organization (heard of transit oriented development?) their focus became property acqusition and funneling project money to developers.
When that happened they lost their focus on being a transit agency to get folks from point A to point B. Everything revolves around the MAX lines as they will bend over backwards attempting to show them to be a success (they aren’t) at the expense of busses.

Don Courtney
Guest
Don Courtney

Portland has a density of 5k people per square mile, until that increases, rail transit is not going to be popular. One cannot point to somewhere with population density like this that has a busy rail system. NYC is 60,000, Paris same, Vancouver, London 20k. Even Seattle is 8k. And they built a train that goes exactly where you want to go unlike our useless one that takes 11 miles to go from Lents to downtown which is 5 miles away. Even before the trains got filled with scary situations, the per mile ridership was low, really low. The thing is propped up by income taxes.

And frankly, with the way the city is now with screeching activists fighting for more camping rights, the glacial pace of apartment construction with the city’s typical lazy response being to change zoning (who has the money to pay $250k to build an ADU in their backyard?) our population is not increasing—Seattle city limits is already 800k. And no, our home values are not increasing as I often hear people argue, last year 6%, Beaverton, Clackamas and the rest of the USA at 19%. I have seen this by comps, many parts of Portland have flatlined, my moms house near Gladstone, split levels are pushing 700k from 350k three years ago.

Who knew, constant protesting by people who just hate injustice so much more than everyone else, mistake volume for coherency and love ineffective, virtue signaling regulations, and hate business means we get stuck with aging infrastructure and stagnant housing.

Joseph E
Guest
Joseph E

NYC population density is 27k per square mile, not 60k, and it’s a much, much bigger city. Better comparisions exist. For example, Stockholm is much closer in size (under 1 million municipal population with 2.4 million in the metro area, similar to Portalnd) and density (13,000/sq mi), yet has over 2 million transit trips per day by 900k riders, 44% on the Stockholm Metro with 10 radial lines, and another 11% on the commuter rail system. That’s a substancial portion of all trips: 43% modal share for transit.
Certainly it would help if Portland would allow enough new development to triple the central city population density to match Stocholm, and we would also need to build another half-dozen rail lines, including 2 more central city tunnels – but we are already halfway to Stockholm.
And this isn’t the only similar example:
Copenhagen has 2M and 700k city pop, 12k per square mile, and 36% transit mode share + 30% cycling. They have 6 regional train lines and 5 metro lines.
Prague has 2.7 million in the metro area, 1.3m in the ciyt, and a density of only 7,000 per sq mile in the city, but a 52% public transit mode share (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modal_share).
Lisbon has 544k in the city and 3M in the metro, 14k per square mile in the small central city, and 46% of trips are by transit.
Edinburgh has 30% of trips by transit, in a core city of 1/2 million at 4700 per square mile, and does it with mostly buses and commuter rail.

Lisa Caballero (Southwest Correspondent)
Editor

I’m enjoying this discussion, from Paris. The Wiki modal share chart you link to is a good resource, but people should be aware of the dates the data were gathered—column on the far right. Most of these figures are pre-pandemic. The data on Paris, in particular, is from 2010. A lot has happened since then, including Plan Vélo I, and the launch of Plan Vélo II. During the pandemic Paris has seen >50% increased bike count numbers at its meters. Plan Vélo II plans to remove 70% of on-street car parking. The goal is to make the city 100% safely cyclable.

https://www.paris.fr/pages/un-nouveau-plan-velo-pour-une-ville-100-cyclable-19554

squareman
Subscriber

I can hardly wait to go back to visit my friend in St. Germaine (NW suburb) and experience it. I didn’t even go into central Paris last time I visited because it was such a short trip – but I did spend a lot of time riding up and down either side of the Seine near his place. There were only a few places that were sketchy as far as figuring out how to get across some major highways/arterials (but that’s more just unfamiliarity for the streets) and only one place where a bike path unceremoniously dropped (much to common around here).

cmh89
Guest
cmh89

Density of an entire city is less important than the density of where you are are trying to build your transit project.

Manhattan island has a population density of 74k per square mile while Queens, NY is only at 22k per square mile.

Building more transit is going to be a lot more effective in the City of Portland than it will be in the less dense, car-focused suburbs around it. People in NY use transit for all sorts of things. TriMet has thus far only focused on getting people from the suburbs downtown to work, and the ridership reflects that.

Watts
Guest
Watts

I am willing to bet the experience of riding transit in Stockholm is much more pleasant than the barely controlled chaos I see every time I’m tempted to dip my toe back into the world of TriMet. I’m willing to bet that Stockholm trains and buses are clean, devoid of untreated addicts and the mentally ill*, and feel at least somewhat safe from the global pandemic roiling around us.

*Because Sweden seems able to provide services and treatment for those who need it rather than helping them be slightly more comfortable living in squalor on the streets while their underlying maladies go unaddressed.

kernals12
Guest
kernals12

I used Stockholm’s transit. It was not as pleasant as driving in a typical American city

Luke
Guest
Luke

There’s a definite lack of transit-oriented development, here. I still see loads of station areas that haven’t been significantly redeveloped to accomodate more people than have likley been there since before the MAX even existed. Hell, take the Blue line through Beaverton and Hillsboro, and there are plain old empty lots next to stations. This issue of land being squatted on by private owners waiting til the end of time for a bigger payoff is a national issue when it comes to reorienting our cities away from cars and towards transit. Changing the zoning was necessary, but it’s not enough. We need some actual punitive recourse against people who are depriving urban areas of investment and tax revenue.

damiene
Subscriber
damiene

This issue of land being squatted on by private owners waiting til the end of time for a bigger payoff is a national issue when it comes to reorienting our cities away from cars and towards transit. Changing the zoning was necessary, but it’s not enough. We need some actual punitive recourse against people who are depriving urban areas of investment and tax revenue.

I read an article a while back that showcased how various cities dealt with their housing crises – most of the examples were from abroad, but one particular example stood out to me here in the US – their solution was to tax land instead of property, which strongly disincentivized sitting on land (because you were getting taxed for that empty lot the same as if you built a big apartment complex on it, so people built big apartment complexes).

Racer X
Guest

Please please please don’t think The Vine to Hayden Island option will be as good as The Max to Downtown Vancouver option. The Vine’s articulated cars fail to reach its core station in any type of traffic congestion and anyway in ice/ snow conditions.

Racer X
Guest

Do keep thinking creatively…like moving the Amtrak Station/ repairing the BNSF Bridge, keeping the new Purple MAX lines to the east of the Willamette (and running longer trains – avoiding the limitation of downtowns blocks) and adding a few sections of triple/ four track to run express or add storage capacity.

And there should be an additional rail siding / small repair facility in Vancouver or in Delta Park…just for resiliency….in case a big earthquake cuts off the north from the west and south.

Practical Pete
Guest
Practical Pete

A big earthquake may put the Columbia River bridge in the river. That will be out of commission for months.

J_R
Guest
J_R

The Westside Rail from Wilsonville to Beaverton was billed as the way to avoid widening of 217 and daily ridership was projected to be some really high number. That was slashed to a lower, but still unbelievable, number and even that was never realized. Ridership peaked at something in the neighborhood of 1500 daily riders and it costs a fortune to operate.

We reached peak transit ridership in 2019 and may never get back to those numbers again. Between COVID and downright scary happenings on transit and at transit stations, people are simply unwilling to risk riding. Same thing with cyclists abandoning multi-use paths that have been taken over by the campers.

BreadBoi
Subscriber

WES has the potential to be a useful and popular service, but it’s hindered by the double whammy of infrequent service, and having a desolate wasteland of parking lots and stroads surrounding each of it’s stations. It’s possible to fix these issues, but it requires cities to legalize walkable development around stations, and for it to be run frequently like MAX.

kernals12
Guest
kernals12

Keep making excuses. Highways have no problem attracting users, in fact, you guys make that ability out to be a bad thing.

Ken S
Guest
Ken S

Highways are free to use, so everyone uses them.
Then they get congested.

Without some disincentive to use, like congestion charges, highways will always fill up with cars. Add more lanes and you’ll add more cars.

If transit was as accessible and extensive as driving, more people would use it.

For people like you, who seem hell bent on driving all the time, fewer people driving will make the roads less crowded for you.
You should want better public transit because it makes your life, as a motorist, nicer.

kernals12
Guest
kernals12

They’re not free to use, I pay gas taxes and registration fees. And no city on earth has ever reduced congestion by expanding transit whereas plenty have done so by highway expansion. Phoenix has twice as many people as Portland but hardly any traffic jams.

cmh89
Guest
cmh89

I think it mostly comes down to what you value. You, a suburban guy who loves driving and doesn’t particularly care about all the ways you driving everywhere hurts others are of course going to like Phoenix.

Others, who hate wasting their lives sitting in a car and living in a soul-less hellscape of strip malls and mega-highways that is Phoenix are of course going to prefer Portland or other cities where people don’t really have to drive far very often.

I personally view Phoenix as the worst major city in the US and one of the ugliest places I’ve ever been.

I gotta say, you’re in the minority when it comes to transportation in this part of the world and you’d probably be happier somewhere else.

kernals12
Guest
kernals12

Actually, you’re in the minority. Portlanders love their Subarus and they support more freeway lanes to drive them on.

cmh89
Guest
cmh89

Actually, you’re in the minority. Portlanders love their Subarus and they support more freeway lanes to drive them on.

I’m not sure how you’d know as you don’t live here. I googled your reddit account, its hilarious that you are pro-climate change. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that opinion before.

Ken S
Guest
Ken S

You have it exactly backwards.
No city has ever solved congestion by adding lanes for cars.
If that worked, LA and Houston would never have traffic jams.

In fact, places that removed roads and capacity for cars saw traffic congestion decrease.
https://www.rapidtransition.org/stories/reducing-roads-can-cause-traffic-to-evaporate/

Gas tax and registration are not the same as a toll road. Once you pay registration, you can drive any road as much as you want.
You don’t pay a fare like on a bus or train. So, my bad on wording it poorly the first time.
“Highways are fareless, so people have incentive to use them more”.

kernals12
Guest
kernals12

LA has fewer miles of freeway per capita than Boston or Washington DC. And the theory of traffic evaporation is easily debunked by the horrible backups caused by construction projects that force the closure of lanes.

And you’re splitting hairs, driving requires gas, and a tax on gas is effectively the same thing as a toll.

Watts
Guest
Watts

You don’t pay a fare like on a bus or train. So, my bad on wording it poorly the first time.
“Highways are fareless, so people have incentive to use them more”.

You do pay for gas on a per-mile basis. Arguably, that’s different than putting a fare in the farebox, but if you use a hop card, payment is sufficiently abstract it feels a bit like a monthly charge. And if you are a regular rider, your rides are effectively “all you can eat” under the new fare model*.

So you have an even bigger incentive to ride more and drive less.

*And under the new enforcement model, payment is voluntary, especially on Max.

squareman
Subscriber

“Phoenix has twice as many people …”

So what.

The population density of Phoenix has always been significantly lower than that of Portland, and the projections say it will stay that way.

Sources:
https://www.opendatanetwork.com/entity/1600000US0455000-1600000US4159000/Phoenix_AZ-Portland_OR/geographic.population.density?year=2018&ref=compare-entity

“I pay gas taxes and registration fees”

Again, so what. So do I. And I also know that they don’t even pay close to the actual costs to support the infrastructure costs of driving before even getting to the deferred costs of pollution and loss of livability in supporting ever more traffic. Go back to Phoenix.

kernals12
Guest
kernals12

Ken said that highways are free to use, I’m explaining that that’s not true.

squareman
Subscriber

Yes, but everything you said in response was demonstrably wrong, which is what my reply was. Get a grip.

kernals12
Guest
kernals12

The urbanists tell me that density reduces congestion

Boyd
Guest
Boyd

Urbanists say nothing of the sort. That’s a straw man.

kernals12
Guest
kernals12

Yeah they do. They forever insist that if we lived more densely we’d drive less and our streets would be less congested

Boyd
Guest
Boyd

First part, yes. Second part, no.

kernals12
Guest
kernals12

thank you

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

WES was always a terrible idea. They saw a underutilized rail corridor and tried to make a service fit it. That’s not how mass transit should work. WES stations have essentially zero walk shed, so everyone has to drive and park. It doesn’t go downtown, but rather to a suburban transit center that then requires a transfer to get anywhere where people actually work. On top of that, they got screwed over by the original railcar supplier. The service was doomed from the beginning.

Luke
Guest
Luke

Agreed. The freight rail line it uses ought to be bought out by the state and turned into an extension of the Red Line down to Wilsonville. In addition to that, the freight rail line running west through Beaverton needs to be bought and destroyed; it’s completely inappropriate to have freight rail running through major downtowns in the 21st century. The two companies that ultimately own the freight rail that runs on that line are both enormous: the GIC is a Singaporean sovereign wealth fund with 3/4 of a trillion in assets, and Brookefield is part of an asset management company with tens of billions in annual income. Assuming fairly standard freight rail construction costs, it’d cost a pitifully small amount of money to get the freight rail out of the middle of the area and build a spur from Wilsonville at least out to Hillsboro.

There needs to be much better coordination between land-use and transportation planning in greater Portland.

Philips
Guest
Philips

Ok, I really respect Mr. Howell but this just makes no sense.

The majority of traffic on I-5 in this section is to/from Vancouver. The reason these commuters aren’t flocking to the Yellow Line is due to the platform frequency and slow design speed of the alignment. The Yellow is poorly planned, executed and operated. It takes 20-something min from Expo to Rose Q and that’s on a good day. Toss in an “incident” and you may never arrive.

This is the reason the Yellow is such a bad design and will never be extended to Vancouver. The Portland segment is too slow and impossible to speed up. They designed themselves into a dead end. This is perfectly in keeping with all the MAX lines, every single one has an Achilles heel which prohibits expansion.

Furthermore, TriMet has never operated the Yellow at the frequency promised to the Feds. Can you blame them? There was hardly enough ridership as it was before the pandemic to say nothing of the new WFH reality we apparently are all heading toward.

I am not a freeway fiend but hard pass on this one!

Laura
Guest
Laura

I agree. If you go back to the original adoption of the MAX concept, nearly 40 years ago, it was primarily created as a tool to densify development, and secondary was the actual people moving ability. Other than the segments that parallel I-84, US-26 and I-205, it was never meant to be “rapid” transit. Things like crossover tracks to allow skip-stop operation or express trains were never implemented. So, we are stuck with the “milk run” yellow line.
Metro and ODOT put all of their proverbial eggs into the Max basket, and gave a hard “no” to things like HOV or bus only lanes. Imagine how great the Vine would be if the left lane of I-5 was transit-only, or even 3+, from Tualatin to Vancouver.

Fred
Guest
Fred

This is a nice idea but it doesn’t go far enough. What’s needed is a high-speed rail link between downtown Vancouver and downtown Portland that runs every five minutes, with no intermediate stops, and takes ten minutes to travel the nine miles – a straight shot. Run the new rail link over the new I-5 bridge and build a new RR bridge over the Willamette. Simple!

I work in Portland with three busy moms who commute from Vancouver. They are not going to make a bunch of changes that slow them down. But give them a truly fast alternative and they will take it.

J_R
Guest
J_R

Do all three of those busy moms live within walking distance of your proposed Vancouver terminal? Are their commute trips combined with anything else, like dropping off kids at daycare or school? Are they making multiple stops at schools for multiple kids? You are right about the need for a truly fast alternative, but I don’t think your proposal for a non-stop rail link between one terminal in Vancouver and downtown Portland will meet the definition for more than a very small number of Vancouver commuters.

Bruce
Guest
Bruce

We already have WES running heavy rail lines in Tigard, no need for light rail too. It’s just a vessel for dispersing bad elements. The orange line ruined Milwaukie, I lived there pre and post MAX. MAX has outlived it’s usefulness as a means of improving neighborhoods.

Boyd
Guest
Boyd

How did the orange line ruin Milwaukie? My impression is that it has had minimal impact to development patterns or transportation mode share. I’d be interested to know exactly what you think the orange line has done to Milwaukie.

Beaverton Bill
Guest
Beaverton Bill

There is frequent police activity, noise, kooky people, and trash at most MAX stations unfortunately. Does not give potential riders a feeling that it’s safe. With COVID, nobody would ride it even if they thought it was safe. MAX has become what you ride when you have to drop your car off at the shop and need a ride back home (if you live near a MAX station).

Boyd
Guest
Boyd

Alright. So you note some bad stuff happening at the Max stations. Duly noted. I sometimes feel unsafe in Max platforms and I wish the platforms were actually fare restricted, and that there was more frequent and assertive enforcement of rules. But these issues are about making the experience of transit riders better.

The person I was responding to asserted that the orange line has ruined Milwaukie. There are only a couple Max stations in the while city of Milwaukie. Unless the issues that you describe extend miles away from the Max stations, your anecdotes do not support the post I was responding to.

Practical Pete
Guest
Practical Pete

Other bad ideas commonly seen around MAX stations are dense building projects that are built about 6 feet from the local street – usually high-rise apartments. They are butt ugly, are right next to busy street noise and air pollution, have no room for trees, etc. Really poorly thought out designs that should not have gotten building permits. And most MAX stations in the burbs are not close to stores so the VAST majority of people will drive for most trips.

Boyd
Guest
Boyd

I don’t know what your definition of “high rise apartment” is, but there aren’t anything close to what I would consider a high rise apartments anywhere near Max stations, other than in the heart of downtown Portland. The typical 4+1 apartments and condos that you see around Portland and places like Orenco Station are decidedly not high rise or high density. They are medium density, or on the low side of medium density, when you look at the full range of urban development in Portland or other similar urban areas. And yes, when you build medium or low-medium density in isolation, and you don’t have any adjacent, or better, integrated commercial development, then indeed, the residents will most likely opt to drive for the majority of their trips, rather than take transit, walk or bike.

Sounds to me that you generally don’t like the way that structured urban development looks, and that even if it functioned as an ideal commercial mixed use unit, you still wouldn’t like it. That’s cool. Urbanism isn’t for everybody. That’s why there are suburbs. Not everyone has to live in dense urban development. But smart city planning allows for a range of options, including both dense dwellings for those that want to live in urban areas, and less dense dwellings, for those that really like to drive all the time. This is not a zero sum game. We can have houses AND apartments. We can have trains AND roads. It’s not all or nothing.

It always amazes me how offended suburbanites or car-loving old guard Portland residents get at the idea of infill development. That their neighborhood should be sullied by the inclusion of multi-dwelling development is an abject offense to their sensibilities. If an eighty year old dilapidated bungalow is torn down and replaced by a duplex, or god forbid, a triplex, it’s the end of the world.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

*Citation needed.

Have you been to Orenco?

Brandon
Guest
Brandon

As a resident of SE Portland who often spends time in Milwaukie I strongly disagree with this sentiment. Milwaukie seems to be thriving, with new development, improved streets, and plenty of recreation opportunities. I have been in the area for 15 years, and have seen lots of improvements.

Catie Gould (Contributor)
Guest
Catie

I commuted to Vancouver for many years, and the biggest barrier for me to take transit was the frequency. Add in a couple transfers and now your 20-25 minute drive is a 1hr+ transit trip each way.

Watts
Guest
Watts

My son did the same last year; much to my surprise, he found C-Tran from downtown to be much preferable to driving, even when he had access to my car for free.

Beaverton Bill
Guest
Beaverton Bill

That’s the case for most people’s commute. Doesn’t matter if their options are bus or MAX, typically it will take at least an hour longer to take public transportation than to jump in their car and drive. If you drive, you get to crank up the heat, listen to music, sit in a comfy seat, and you don’t have a crazy person threatening you or others. Unless forced by the guns of government, Americans are, for the most part, not going to use public transportation.

Boyd
Guest
Boyd

My commute is into downtown Portland. I have lots of options when commuting. I can drive, bike, take a bus, or even walk, if I really wanted to. Depending on the situation, I have used all of those modes of transportation at one time or another. I like having options. If I lived near a Max station, I’d use that to get to work from time to time, as well. I’m an American.

Your choice
Guest
Your choice

Options are great! BB above is correctomundo when it comes to the VAST majority of ‘Muricans. 😉

Boyd
Guest
Boyd

Due to lending practices of major banks and the federal government, and transportation development decisions that shaped American development in the 1950s-2010s, the vast majority of Americans live in places where they have poor access to transit and they don’t have much of an option when it comes to transportation. The preferences of Americans are shaped by the places they live, which are auto centric but design.

James
Guest
James

This terrible, terrible, terrible city (PBOT) is not going to willingly do anything nice for East Portland.

Beaverton Bill
Guest
Beaverton Bill

Public transportation is not going to EVER catch on in the USA unless using a private car becomes unaffordable, highways become TOTALLY congested, or unless the government points their guns at us and says: “No more car use”. Public transportation is inconvenient for the VAST majority of us. When I go to the grocery store, I commonly hit 2 or 3 stores to buy items at the lowest price, then may need to go to the library, Home Depot or Lowes, the pharmacy, a big box store like Walmart or Frddy’s, etc. Multiple stops all over town. No public transportation system works for that.

For freeways, add more lanes where you can – it will help for a while. In 50 years those freeways will help move our autonomous electric cars. See Hwy 26, the Sunset Highway, as an example – the added lanes really do help. It was awful before they added them – it’s still slow at times, but FAR better than the old 2-lane.

squareman
Subscriber

“In 50 years”? In five years after completion, they’ll be jammed up and gridlocked again. You can’t keep adding cars to lanes (autonomous or not) and expect to not have traffic jams. Trains and busses are far more space efficient.

I hear you on being able to get to many different stores, but that’s part of the problem with the design of suburbia. I grew up in suburbia. Having to drive across town to go from one store to another type was so annoying to me.

Living in a downtown core (and Portland isn’t my first – actually, I’m not downtown here, but close enough) I can do all that same thing but on my bike, with a whole lot less driving. Rather than stringing a bunch of unrelated errands into one trip, I more commonly just hop on the bike and run the one errand that I need. My prescription is ready? Okay, get on the bike and go the one mile to the pharmacy and back. Oh, I need some milk and eggs? Okay, I’ll walk to the grocery store and pick some up (but damnit if I don’t end up always grabbing more beer too). When things are more densely packed, I don’t need to always rely on a car and once-in-a-while trips that necessitate a huge cargo haul back to my house. And even then, most of those cargo hauls could be handled with the right cargo bike.

Extra special bonus, I’m getting little bits of exercise and activity every time. I get none of that sitting on my ass in the car.

kernals12
Guest
kernals12

I’ve been to Phoenix, you can pave your way out of congestion.

squareman
Subscriber

You are exhaustingly wrong. You cannot do that and avoid environmental collapse. It is mathematically and historically provable that you cannot build your way out of car congestion with more lanes. It has been shown so in numerous studies; I’m not going to do the work trying to show you if you’re just going to keep coming back with how much you love Phoenix. Go read up so you can move to a less embarrassing part of that Dunning-Kruger curve. Live in Phoenix while you do it.

kernals12
Guest
kernals12

You want more examples? Pretty much every city in the Midwest, besides Chicago, has paved its way out of congestion.

And car pollution is low and getting lower all the time.

squareman
Subscriber

I am now convinced you are just trolling. I’m done.

kernals12
Guest
kernals12

Buffalo has America’s shortest commutes. It’s not because of walkable neighborhoods, bike lanes, or public transit. It’s because of the numerous highways they built in the 60s and 70s in anticipation of a surge in population that never came to pass.

Practical Pete
Guest
Practical Pete

That is definitely true for Cincinnatti. Huge loop around the city means traffic usually moves. People back there have HUGE yards and that is awesome. They don’t have much public land like our national parks, and that sucks, but they have really nice home places where they can have yards, gardens, horses, privacy, etc.

Last time I was in Phoenix (30+ years ago) I do remember a freeway with concrete walls on both sides much like I-84 thru Portland where traffic was moving 70 mph on narrow lanes – I think only 3 in each direction – it was kind of scary – don’t know how they’d widen it with those concrete walls.

Brian C
Guest
Brian C

Car pollution is low? Have you ever heard of CO2 emissions? Carbon emissions are growing to all time highs. How do you reduce overall Co2 emissions in your car nirvana?

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

He doesn’t actually care about vehicle emissions. He will talk about electric cars, but ignore all the facts:
1. We are not buying enough electric cars and they will not be a majority of vehicles on the road during our lifetimes.
2. There is not enough lithium in places we can get to it to make it happen.

Freeway expansions will fill up with increasingly large SUVs and trucks, spewing CO2 and particulates into the surrounding neighborhoods.

kernals12
Guest
kernals12

That’s not true and you know it. Dozens of automakers have announced they will stop selling fossil fuel powered cars. Ford has doubled sales estimates for the F-150 lightning. And Lithium is an extremely abundant substance and can be recycled.

kernals12
Guest
kernals12

The fact that you’re whining about CO2, an inert gas that fuels photosynthesis, shows how far we’ve come cleaning up automobile exhaust fumes.

Boyd
Guest
Boyd

It’s an existential threat to human civilization

kernals12
Guest
kernals12

So why is there so little concern about it in the world’s hottest places? Portlanders are freaking out about widening a freeway from 4 lanes to 6 while Phoenicians are widening a 10 lane freeway to 16 with no controversy. In India, they are laying down 40 kilometers of highway *a day*

Watts
Guest
Watts

If India is building highways, that means climate change is not happening? How does that follow?

kernals12
Guest
kernals12

It means they don’t think it’s a big deal, not something to prioritize over expanding mobility

Watts
Guest
Watts

You could say that we still use airplanes, therefore “we” don’t think climate change is a big deal.

Making broad claims about what giant bureaucracies, governments, or populations “think” is a nonsensical task, and even if it wasn’t, your statement is so hugely reductive as to render it ridiculous.

And really, what India is doing in one particular sector has no bearing on what we should do. Unless you’re worried about a “road gap” opening between us and India that we somehow need close by widening I-5.

Boyd
Guest
Boyd

Why does my neighbor keep eating junk food and drinking beer when his doctor tells him to watch his weight and keep his blood pressure down?

kernals12
Guest
kernals12

You’re really going to equate travelling to work and seeing relatives to eating junk food?

Boyd
Guest
Boyd

When people order food, they have a choice: get the triple cheeseburger with a side of fries, or get a nice healthy salad.

When people take trips, they have a choice: use an energy efficient mode that might be slightly less enjoyable, or get there in style, comfort, and luxury in a private automobile.

I think it’s a perfect analogy. You pretend that choosing to not widen a perfectly good freeway will prevent people from getting to work or visiting grandma. That’s a false dilemma.

If the restaurant makes juicy, mouthwatering burgers and crappy salads, most people are going to order the burger. That doesn’t mean that everyone prefers burgers to salads. It just means that the restaurant didn’t really provide them with a reasonable choice. Even if the salads are super gourmet, some people will still order the burger, or vice versa. But we need burger and salad options. And if we are going to publicly subsidize and promote one of the options, it probably shouldn’t be the burger.

kernals12
Guest
kernals12

Actually, transit is not energy efficient. Thanks to all the empty seats, transit uses more energy per passenger mile than private cars, that’s especially true for my Honda Accord Hybrid

Boyd
Guest
Boyd

Actually, transit is more energy efficient than SOVs. I don’t feel like doing a research project today, but there are a bunch of links to ten year old FHWA studies that were posted in the chat for a previous article that demonstrated that most transit systems in the US have lower carbon emossions per passenger mile than cars do (the study used comparisons that were based on average occupancy rates of commuter vehicles and average occupancy rates of actual transportation systems (including trimet, which has a higher than average system wide occupancy rate)). Now if you regularly carpool and pack significantly more people into your car than the average commuter does, you might be correct. But I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that you don’t carpool regularly.

kernals12
Guest
kernals12
Watts
Guest
Watts

I’m sure the transit curve is much different now that ridership is half of what it was. Assuming the same number of vehicles, that would potentially double the energy per passenger.

Caleb
Guest
Caleb

That’s not true
http://ti.org/antiplanner/?p=16709#more-16709

Ah, The Antiplanner, “Dedicated to the sunset of government planning”. At least you’ve made clear you prioritize directing argument toward foregone conclusions rather than seeking what’s true.

Further, thank you for sharing that link, because earlier you claimed “transit is not energy efficient”, which is a vague claim since “transit” could refer to potential transit function or current transit use. Now you’ve made clear you only care about how efficiently people have historically used transit options, and that you don’t care about how much more efficient transit would be than cars, trucks, etc if humans optimized transit function.

Caleb
Guest
Caleb

kernals12, you either offer disingenuous argument or suffer ignorance of propaganda’s affect on public opinion.

Across decades powerful organizations have effectively manipulated a large portion of the public, perhaps even a majority, into loving their automobiles and believing humans have no effect on climate change, and they persist in those efforts. That along with selective suffering of climate change’s effects are why even in the hottest places, there appears to be so little concern: those with the power, who don’t care because they’re largely shielded from suffering, dominate the messaging and decision making.

Please…try and find the edges of your myopia and expand them. I’d recommend starting with studying up on Edward Bernays’s effect on the public.

Watts
Guest
Watts

The fact that you’re whining about CO2

We should all be concerned about CO2. While less immediate, it’s far more of a threat than particulates or NOx.

Practical Pete
Guest
Practical Pete

That is EXCELLENT and works great for YOU. Your neighbor may not want to do it that way. Your neighbor may not like biking or walking the neighborhood – they may get their exercise at the gym or in their house. They may think it’s safer to drive their car. They may not like being out in the cold.

In 50 years, IF we have autonomous cars, and IF they have ironed out all the bugs so the vehicles can tail-gate each other at high speed, then the freeway lanes we build today may be very useful. All speculation at this point of course.

On suburbia, many people prefer to have a yard (rare today in most newer developments), prefer to not live above a 24/7 busy street, may want a garden, or a good place for their pets, may prefer to live where traffic is less dense so they breathe less pollution, etc.

I caution everyone to not judge others by what YOU like to do. Every one of us is different. The fact is that the VAST majority of people prefer going by car – because it is more comfortable and convenient. Eventually cars will be electric so the CO2 problem will be greatly reduced. One way is not “better” than the other – they are just different.

SD
Guest
SD

Framing this as personal preference ignores how the suburbs and suburban transportation were/ are subsidized, how they were built in part by destroying urban communities and how many suburbs are unsustainable and climate destroying in their current configurations.
Many people who live in the city don’t want to be breathing the pollution form suburban commuters that have to bring their cars with them everywhere they go.
Portland and many US cities have many of the problems that they are facing now because wealthy people moved to the perimeter of cities and then destroyed urban neighborhoods by turning those cities into car sewers for their convenience. -And still oppose public transportation to their neighborhoods to openly perpetuate economic segregation.

Beaverton Bill
Guest
Beaverton Bill

Look at the MAX line map above. At the Rose Quarter Transit Center, it appears that you can catch a red, blue, green or yellow line. IF you want a connection to Vancouver, extend the yellow line north. I see no need for a “purple” line. Who agrees?

You have to realize something about government agencies – they are in the business of creating work to justify their existence, so it “looks like” they are working hard for the people. Very little of what they do is of much benefit, and very little of it is done at a reasonable cost. Example: How many billion$ have they thrown at reducing “violence”, reducing traffic deaths, eliminating poverty, etc with little effect, or even made the “problem” worse – justifying even MORE money to be thrown at it?

Yes, I know, this is controversial, but take a moment and look at the “bills” in the Oregon State Legislature and the US Congress. We are paying these people (at least in Congress) huge salaries with lavish benefits and pensions to write this stuff. Take a moment and scroll down through this list – do we need this type of micro-management from Salem and Washington, DC? I don’t think so. I agree with this statement, made by a famous guy in history: “That government is best which governs least”. Who said that?

Oregon Legislature Bills 2021 regular session:
https://www.oregonlegislature.gov/bills_laws/listbills/2021R1SessionBills.html

US House of Representatives – 6,420 bills in the 2021 session:
https://www.congress.gov/search?q=%7B%22congress%22%3A%22117%22%2C%22chamber%22%3A%22House%22%2C%22type%22%3A%22bills%22%7D&pageSort=documentNumber%3Adesc

US Senate – 3,508 bills in the 2021 session:
https://www.congress.gov/search?q=%7B%22congress%22%3A%22117%22%2C%22chamber%22%3A%22Senate%22%2C%22type%22%3A%22bills%22%7D&pageSort=documentNumber%3Adesc

When government proposes ANY project, ask yourself: Is this going to be of benefit? Will this solve a problem? Is the benefit worth the cost?

Thanks for letting me rant. Beaverton Bill.

Ken S
Guest
Ken S

Every time I hear a new MAX line idea floated, I get bummed out.

Surface-level trains, 1 block long (220ft), that gets stuck in traffic, and don’t actually connect much.
Trimet has been infatuated with the MAX, since I can remember, and it’s gotten in the way of the thing that actually works, which is buses.

For the billions of dollars a MAX line costs to construct, you could run multiple Bus-rapid-transit lines, 24hr/day, every 10 minutes, through a priority lane or dedicated corridor.

In addition, route expansions or revisions can happen overnight, since, ya know, buses can drive on roads.

Add level pavement on the MAX tracks and you could run trolley buses on every MAX route, then have an exit ramp off the tracks at the end-of-line.
Orange line at Milwaukie suddenly could connect to Oregon City.
Yellow line at the Exop center could connect to Vancouver.
Blue line at Hillsboro could keep rolling to Forest Grove.
No disembarking and connecting to a different transit service – get the transit service as close to door-to-door as possible.

squareman
Subscriber

I’m with you. BRT makes so much more sense than MAX (particularly because of how choked and limited MAX is by our local infrastructure design as you mention). A new BRT can be set up with a tiny fraction of the cost of the planning and cost of a new MAX line. Let the BRT establish where and how often a line needs to be served first, then we can use the cow paths established by BRT to build a longer-lasting, more efficient MAX line (rail does last a lot longer per dollar than asphalt, but it’s a really high up-front cost). I really don’t understand why transportation planners aren’t doing this here.

Luke
Guest
Luke

Probably because that ship has sailed? The MAX is already here, and by American standards of urban rail systems, it’s pretty good. The rolling stock is competitive and seems fairly reliable, and the network is fairly extensive (though it could be even more so). What’s lacking is frequency–15 minute headways even during rush hours is nowhere near enough–and probably most crucially, land-use planning that emphasizes TOD and pedestrian/cycling-centric road design around stations. ODOT needs to be lassoed into cooperation with Metro, and Metro needs to get its head out of its rear end about urban planning.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

The major drawback of LRT (when compared to BRT) are the capital costs. Once you have a system up and running, it is almost always cheaper to run LRT. You have 3-4x the passengers per driver, it’s all-electric, shorter dwell times at stations, and the vehicles last 3-4x longer than busses. Trimet is just now talking about retiring the series I cars, after 40 years in service.

Trolley busses can’t mix with LRT because they use a different overhead wire design. Technically, it could be done, but you would have to run a second set of wires everywhere we have a MAX/trolley bus line. We could run diesel-electric hybrid busses on most of the MAX corridor (battery operations in the tunnels), but they would cripple the MAX headways outside of downtown, because that’s where MAX uses block signaling. The MAX corridor is already at capacity between Old Town and Gateway, anyway.

Projects like the SW corridor probably make more sense as BRT, but we don’t want to start throwing busses on our existing MAX lines.

Douglas Kelso
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Douglas Kelso

I agree about BRT on the SW corridor. The main reason to put MAX there would have been to serve underground stations at OHSU and PCC Sylvania. Since the final proposed MAX route didn’t directly serve either destination at all, there wasn’t much point to building it … particularly given the preposterous $2.8 billion price tag. Better to just put a BRT line on Barbur.

Andrew
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Andrew

The issue with LRT is that it’s the worst of both worlds. You have high capital costs, but none of the benefits of more robust rapid transit, like subways or grade separated regional rail. Lack of grade separation causes high trip times, which reduces the appeal. It also causes things like automation to be off the table (since you need a human to be around for all the grade crossings), which limits things like frequency due to higher operation cost of the line.

All of this is to say that if Portland had invested in a fully grade separated rail transit project, like Vancouver has, we might be in a situation where further MAX expansions actually make sense.

It is incredible to me how bad and slow the service is. It takes 45 minutes to get from downtown to the airport on the MAX (compared to a 17 minute drive). Unless there are major changes to alignment and priority to the system it will never be able to compete with a car – and that is the ultimate issue with transit in the region (in one grumpy 20 somethings opinion)