Portland’s Regional Planning Agency Highlights Two New Corridors for Light Rail – From the Transport Politic


Interesting news from Portland Oregon, where their light rail system keeps on growing at a steady pace, with taxpayer’s approving construction on every new line. It must be remembered that Portland’s original light rail line cost one quarter of that to build than Vancouver’s SkyTrain and the regional taxpayer has never been allowed to vote on any ‘rail’ transit project.


13 July 2009

Second line to Gresham and new path to Sherwood would extend city’s high-capacity network.

Portland’s Metro regional planning authority has picked two corridors for future major transit investments, plotting the region’s path towards better public transportation. The new routes would extend east and southwest from downtown and will be developed consecutively after the completion of projects already in the engineering stage today. Metro also selected a number of other corridors for long-term consideration.

Along with the I-205 Green Line light rail scheduled for opening on September 12, the Portland region is currently planning a new light rail line south to Milwaukie, another north to Vancouver (WA), and a streetcar extension south to Lake Oswego. These projects, already being readied for the New Start funding process, will be the first completed.

Metro’s new plans confirm that new routes between downtown and Gresham along Powell Boulevard and another between downtown and Sherwood via Tigard along Barbur Boulevard and Highway 99 will be the next to enter engineering. These routes were chosen after a close analysis of 18 possible corridors in the region and were determined to be the most cost-effective in terms of attracting ridership. Unlike the routes mentioned above, however, these lines have yet to be guaranteed funding. They also could theoretically be built as bus rapid transit, but Portland’s success thus far with light rail indicates that the city will continue investing in the latter mode.

The plan also argues for future consideration of other corridors in the southern and western parts of the region, though those projects are a long ways off.

Portland’s pursuit of advanced planning for its light rail program fits well with the city’s strict adherence to the Oregon-mandated urban growth boundary, which ensures that the countryside remains rural, rather than becoming exurban. Strong transportation investments in the right areas can allow for future growth in dense, infill neighborhoods and prevent suburban sprawl. The city’s streetcar expansion project follows a similar vein of thought.

The city and region could be doing a better job making that infill happen, however, and one hopes that the new lines will be the setting for a significant densification of the existing urban fabric. Though light rail has brought intense development to downtown and a few isolated spots along the routes, it hasn’t been enough of a game-changer to reorient the auto-centered lifestyle that’s still present in much of the area. Part of the problem is that many of the light rail routes — including the soon-to-open Green Line — are located adjacent to or in the median of grade-separated highways. This makes them less than ideal places for transit-oriented, walkable neighborhoods.

But Powell Boulevard and much of Route 99, by virtue of their tighter girth, are connected to the neighborhoods around them, unlike I-205, for instance. It’s easy to imagine them transformed into urban boulevards, with four and five-story buildings facing the street and commercial districts situated around light rail stations. As downtown reaches its developmental limits, these corridors could become extensions of that core, adding a bit of mixed-use urbanity to neighborhood around the whole region.

http://thetransportpolitic.com/<!–Yonah Freemark–>


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3 Responses to “Portland’s Regional Planning Agency Highlights Two New Corridors for Light Rail – From the Transport Politic”

  1. David Says:

    I would welcome the opportunity to vote on transit initiatives here in Vancouver, but I’m deathly afraid that highly inaccurate business cases like those done for the Evergreen Line would be used as the basis for them. If the public was presented with such numbers support for more SkyTrain would only grow stronger.

    Clearly someone has pulled the wool over the eyes of voters in Seattle who approved a light metro that is expected to run mostly empty for the next decade. Seattle is also going ahead with an insane plan to replace their crumbling elevated freeway with yet another multi-billion dollar tunnel under downtown. Clearly there is no common sense in the Emerald City.

    Zweisystem replies: Yes you are correct, but with a public vote, there would be many sides to the issue that the voters could listen too. Certainly voters turned down transit initiatives in Portland, yet with some rework, the same basic initiatives have passed at a later date. Certainly if a SkyTrain/light rail debate were to take place here, the voters would be offered some real facts about light rail instead of grossly inaccurate babble such as “SkyTrain is better than LRT because it carries more people and faster than a car”, which was used by the NDP to sell the SkyTrain Millennium Line project.

    As for Seattle, I am afraid that the light-metro crowd from Vancouver have overly influenced transit planners south of the boarder and I’m afraid the Seattle’s hybrid light metro/rail system is going to be an embarrassment.

  2. Max Says:

    taxpayer’s approving construction on every new line


    Taxpayers voted upon, and approved, the initial downtown to Gresham line. Once we saw how that panned out, we defeated two additional proposals.

    The politicians found ways to subvert the expressed wishes of the taxpayers and built the two lines anyway.

    Since that time, not one “extension” has been placed for vote. Aside from the initial vote for approval of the downtown-Gresham line, taxpayers have NOT approved any further light-rail construction.

    You do your readers a grave disservice by stating otherwise.

    Zweisystem replies: Well don’t shoot the messenger, in fact voters voted for tax increases and to approve issuing of bonds to fund MAX construction, defacto approving new lines. Even in your reply you admit that voters did indeed turn down two MAX proposals, both overly ambitious (overly costly!) plans to send LRT across the Columbia River to Vancouver WA.

    Strange that your newspapers in Portland and the transit press in general, have indeed reported on voters approving new lines by initiative. By the tone of your reply, I would guess you are anti-MAX, anti-LRT thus refighting old battles, long lost.

  3. Max Says:

    I’m hardly shooting the messenger, as you put it – merely providing factual information. Voters approved the original Blue line (downtown to Gresham). The second “extension” to the Blue line was rejected. Voters were asked to approve funding for the 5.8 mile Yellow line (and Clark County, WA. residents were, as well). Everyone turned that down.

    Yet the line was built at a cost of $350 million, or $60,344,828 per mile (although not into Clark County). Funding was picked up by the Federal Transit Administration (74%), tax dollars) regional transportation funds (11%), (tax dollars) TriMet capital funds (7%) (tax dollars) and urban renewal funds (8%)(tax dollars).

    You could build a lot of busway for that, and use the lanes as well for freight, goods, and service providers. Moreover, when a train encounters a problem, the line’s shut down. What does TriMet do then? Why, they bring in buses to transport riders around the problem.

    It’s hardly strange that our newspapers report voter approval where none was given (or even offered) – seeing the way they mess up the small stories gives me little confidence in their ability to accurately report the big news stories. It’s even less surprising that the transit press promotes such fallacies.

    In contrast to your assumption, I’m by no means anti-transit. I’m just anti-waste.

    I’m not even anti-rail (if appropriate). The airport extension to PDX made sense, and was therefore able to attract private funding to assist in its development and construction.

    Unlike any of the other “extensions” and TriMet’s ill-conceived WES line.

    It is simply wrong to claim that “Taxpayers (have been) approving construction on every new line”. It would be accurate to note that politicians and planners have approved.

    Zweisystem replies: I think you are splitting hairs as my correspondents in Portland Oregon say otherwise. As for busways, they cost more to build than light rail and just do not attract ridership!

    Addendum the person posting this note has a right-wing anti-LRT or as he calls it, Loot-Rail blog. As stated, as reported in the media and by correspondents, voters in Portland have been included in all LRT expansion and certainly MAX has used three (3) examples of voter participation. As for BRT, evidence is now mounting that busways and BRT operation is more expensive than LRT.

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