portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article commentary united states

bikes/transportation | sustainability

Uncle Fred's Angry Tri-Met Rant (and rail)

I read yet another letter from a distraught taxpayer to the editor in the Oregonian about how mass transit in general and rail in particular a waste and we need more lanes on the sunset hwy. I always find myself defending public transit, particularly rail, to these folks. Tri-Met makes this harder every day.
Oh- gee gosh golly darn- I'm so sorry trimet, I forgot you spent a bunch of money taking the hyphen out of your name to improve your image.

First a little about me. I choose to live close-in in an area well served by trimet order that I can ride the loser-limo (bus) into and around town. For this you pay more and get less. I'm not alone, many people are waking up to sixty odd years of bad planning and therefore a house close in costs a lot more than in the suburbs. Areas around North and Southeast Portland which were looked down on twenty years ago are now more expensive than Beaverton, where you get good schools and lower taxes. I actually enjoy riding the bus and train, You can read the newspaper, talk to your neighbors, or just zone out free of the worry and responsibility that comes with operating a motor-vehicle.


While the planners and big-wigs are patting themselves on the back about the bus mall move, money is being wasted and people are avoiding downtown alltogether. For what? PSU, the #1 destination, is much less served by the new routes. Theyre putting rail in 5th and 6th for the Max? So it can spend a half an hour turning around? I'll tell you why. The bus has a social stigma here. I didn't call it the loser limo for nothing. Normal people here will ride the train, but not the bus. This is the whole reason for the "portland streetcar."

The portland streetcar is a JOKE. In fact I know a prominent engineer here in town that refers to the thing only as the "silly-trolley" A good portion is SLOWER THAN WALKING. Mr. Rodgers Neighborhood had a better train than that little blue eastern-european piece of crap. It dosent carry any more people than a bus. The "tram" deserves it's own rant and will not be adressed here


People look at these sorts of things and assume that public transit, especially rail is a waste. It doesn't have to be. First of all rail does not have to be put in at a snails pace by incopetent whoever becuase of them playing golf with the right people or being a minority owned contractor or whatever else. I was on a job last year at a steel mill. They added a some rail to serve the new spiral pipe mill. There were maybe 10 people working on the railroad, and in a couple weeks seemingly a mile of railroad tracks were constructed. Contrast this with the trolley on 10th and 11th, where they'd block traffic dig up the same section of street 10 times over a period of two years. In another example of how it should be, after the WTC disaster in New York, all the tunnel and tracks were reconstructed in something like seven months.

This country has suffered from sixty years of atrocious urban planning. It's all based on everyone having thier own car, or two, and driving to work every day. Go look at a stack of old popular science magazines, every other one has a big spread on the "car of the future" These cars of the future all look like a 4000 pound box with one person in them. Eventually this will no longer be sustainable. With the kind of waste money and feel good transit projects going in today we are ensuring an expensive hassle to catch up in the future.

There are solutions.

One is to embrace density downtown. Moyer wants to put in a 30 story building, great! instead of whining about "dark towers" or spoiling the view, etc, lets talk about how we can instead make it a 50 story building and maximize the space. Take the current density limits and reverse them. Instead of a maximum number of square feet per block we should have a minimum square feet per block. We can replace these suburban office parks with space downtown. for every 200 square feet of office space in lake oswego, theres a ford explorer in a 3 hour traffic jam on the way to east vancouver. By the way the "bike path" in the center of the 205 bridge- that was intended to have train tracks when they built it.




Rail. Rail is the most efficient way to move people. I think we can have a nice subway system here, underground close in and with dedicated right-of-way in the suburbs. We're talking about a standard 600 volt DC "third rail" like in real citys, basically the same for 100 years. Look. its not impossible. look at the "big pipe" sewer they put in. How come our poop is important enough to dig a tunnel but we have to wait for a surface train stuck behind a cab dropping off grandma to shop at Meier and Frank? It can be done here. New York was a bigger and more complex and more crooked city one hundred years ago than Portland is today.

With the amount of time being wasted on the bus mall, and traffic blocked, standard cut and cover subway construction would be no more invasive if it was done under competent management and engineering.

Competent managment and engineering. This means Youre FIRED to a lot of people.

Are you an Arcitect? Youre FIRED We are hiring an ENGINEER

Are you a Planner? Plan your early retirement. We are hiring an ACCOUNTANT

Are you a Designer? Take your etch-a-sketch somewhere else Youre being replaced by MEAN BOSS.

"Mean Boss" must have skills in yelling, threatening and firing people, and has to be able to shout louder than "accountant" He (or she) can also be used to beat down nimbys at community meetings.


Seriously though, get a good UNION contractor so it's done right the first time.


Subway still too much $? (I don't think so) Build an El. OK, I hear all you 1970's urban planners (werent you fired in the last paragraph here?) screaming. "instant bad neighborhood" I dont think so. The train is now considered a novelty appreciated by yuppies thinking they are living in an "urban neighborhood" Look at that condo in the "pearl district" that put up the neon "go by streetcar" sign which reminds me of the special feeling I got after swallowing some copenhagen in junior high school.


increased bus services from outlying transit centers... Nike and Intel have thier own shuttles, these ought to be expanded and scheduled to carry all the contractor personell as well. Places like old paper mills built before everyone got cars in the 1950's, you park a mile away and ride the crew bus in. This stuff is reality based.

Set the price of the bus and at 50 or 75 cents and leave it there. Keeping cars off the road saves everyone.

We used to have rail all over the place. We can use the old grades- My house is close to one (bertha) which helped a train find its way to the exotic land of Forest Grove. My grandfather rode the trolley into town from Laurelhurst. The rest of the country was the same. Until the 1950's, not everybody had a car. Hope I can get this fuzzy picture of transit tokens to attach. most of the little ones are from the 30's I think, and they are so common that a scrap-metal yard would give you more money than a coin shop.





We are the greatest civilization on earth. We can have good transportation if we want it. More freeways are NOT the answer. Neither is trashing downtown to move the bus mall, and have a train thats stuck in traffic.