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CRC gets thrown overboard--what's next?

A good way to look at the failed CRC project: a very expensive process that will someday lead to the "third bridge" over the Columbia option
I think the way to look at the CRC project is that it was an expensive process that will someday lead to another bridge over the Columbia, probably west of the I-5 bridge. The fact that there were no alternative plans to the CRC shows how arrogant the planners and backers of the project were. As for its failure in the Washington senate: it's well known that Republicans are less enthusiastic about mass transit than Democrats, and the fact that this truth is what ended the CRC shows how fragile the project was.

From what I've read, the planners of the CRC spent between 170-175 million before the project was ended. Much of that on consultants.

I'm glad that the bridge will not go forward, but it's chilling to think of why the Republicans in Washington were/are against it, (and from what I've read, state senate Republicans from Clark Co. played a big part in killing it): they were against the light-rail part of the plan, because mass-transit discourages people from buying and driving cars, and would have encouraged urban Portlanders to come to less urbanized Vancouver. They were against an increase in the gas tax which would have helped pay for the overall transportation budget. And they were against a bridge toll, presumably because that also would have discouraged people from driving.

My Take 10.Jul.2013 07:22

Dude

I think the people did not want to give interest money to billionaires.

Certainty the car interest plays a large systemic demand for a bridge.

The toll with out end is a great fear.

Bus service to cascade station would serve.

You’re just making that up. 10.Jul.2013 10:37

Fidelity

"they were against the light-rail part of the plan, because mass-transit discourages people from buying and driving cars, and would have encouraged urban Portlanders to come to less urbanized Vancouver."

That is totally inaccurate. Can you cite a single Republican, or anyone else, who stated that?

Read what an actual conservative group stated, and find a single quote about discouraging driving:
 link to www.washingtonpolicy.org

The real problem for Clark County and the State of Washington was TriMet. TriMet is on the hook to pay out over a billion dollars in healthcare and retirement benefits for their union workers, and they have no plan, and no capacity, to pay that amount of money. TriMet is already financially insolvent, the managers of TriMet are deeply corrupt, and the TriMet board of directors totally ignores the needs of the communities in order to boost their own pet projects.

Ask yourself this: if the city of Portland didn't have TriMet, would you really want to invite TriMet in to start running the show?

When TriMet inevitably collapses due to financial mismanagement, the union is going to sue whatever public agencies they can in order to get their benefits. This will result in a very real tax-increase for the people living within the bounds of Metro and specific counties that TriMet serviced: Multnomah and Washington. If those counties are unable or unwilling to pay the benefits, then the tax payers in the State of Oregon will flip the bill.

Ultimately, the people of Vancouver were willing to accept mass-transit alternatives, but the only viable alternative form of mass transportation is the bus system (what is called a Bus Rapid Transit, or BRT system). A BRT service is actually better for the environment than light rail, it runs faster, and moves more people. If you don't believe me, just look at the research done by the LA Bus Riders Union - the LA BRU supports compressed-natural-gas buses, they put out little carbon and are cheap to run. People who support light rail within transportation policy usually fall within two categories: those who profit directly from the construction or maintenance, and urban planners that want to use light rail to create poverty neighborhoods.

Ironically, light rail actually encourages people to buy cars - the opposite of what you stated. Think about how light rail works in real terms for most of Portland: at every major MAX stop there is a parking spot, because light rail does not actual serve a "neighborhood", it serves a city - so if you don't live within a quarter mile of where the light rail line is, you're likely to drive there, that's standard human behavior in a car-saturated world. Whereas, with a bus system, buses can operate on the regular neighborhood roads already in place, so I have a bus stop about 100 yards from my house that drops me off about .25 miles from my work. When TriMet discussed installing a lightrail line to service my area, the stop would have been over a mile and a half away. It would be impossible to create a light rail system that services as many people as bus service does.

Or, look at this way: $1 billion to build the light rail line across the bridge, or the city could have bought 1,000 new buses (@ $250k ea) and had 3/4 of a billion dollars left over to pay for the maintenance and operation of those buses. TriMet currently owns about 1,000 buses right now.

What's not being brought up. 10.Jul.2013 11:51

Exile

What's not being brought up:

The impulse behind the CRC, wasn't unions, it wasn't trimet, and it wasn't engineering firms. It's all about profit on property investment. Thousands of exurban homesites, that sit vacant in rural County, cannot be sold at a profit, unless the corridors to employment are fast, cheap, and abundant. Metro's urban growth boundary, has a glaring hole, north of Portland. Clark County's urban growth boundary is paper-only, and is unenforced. The result, is this:

 http://www.sightline.org/research/graphics/exurban-growth-in-portland-1990-2010/

The Conservative's in Washington, were all for the 17 lane bridge, with a lot of enthusiasm, UNTIL, Light Rail, and tolls were permanently adhered to the project.

So, why all the opposition to light rail? It's not really the cost, that is the problem. It's not crime either. It's money. There's been a concentrated effort to stop light rail expansion, nation wide. It's being spearheaded by the CATO institute, and funded by petroleum dollars. Anyone remember "Stop the Crime Train"? Yep, that was CATO. American Dream Foundation? Yep, CATO. newgeography.org? Yep, more CATO. ortem.org? Yep, registered to Randall O'Toole, an adjunct professor, to the CATO institute. It's astroturfing, at the most efficient method possible. Light Rail, doesn't benefit this exurban property investors. Light Rail encourages more compact development. Often, these folks, with try to substitute BRT in exchange, but there's a problem. BRT, is a great way to eliminate public transit, as it's tied to petroleum prices (rates vary considerably). Most proposed BRT systems, share rights of way with automobiles, so it gets stuck in the same traffic that cars do. Light Rail, done properly, is the second most efficient way to move human beings over distances that aren't comfortable on a bicycle.

Now, as to the original question: What Next?

Quite simply, these exurban property developers aren't going to fold their hands and lose on their investments. A new project will be announced soon, most likely at 192nd, to Troutdale, carrying only trucks and automobiles, without pedestrian access or transit. This will be wildly popular with conservatives, as it pleases the out of state investors in rural property north of east Vancouver, and Camas. I have serious doubts that any project west of the i-5 bridge will make it beyond the pencil-sketch phase, as it fails to benefit the prior mentioned investors. The original CRC, may be modified, slightly, re-introduced, minus the pedestrian/transit option and re-activated as a "new project" as well.

.... 10.Jul.2013 13:54

Fidelity

Well we can agree that there was a lot of reasons not to move forward with the current CRC.

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Though I completely disagree with your assessment of light rail: Cato is not the only organization showcasing the failures of light rail, so does the LA BRU and every "Transit Justice" organization out there, including the two in Portland.

You're suggestion that bus systems must be tied to petroleum prices is not accurate; there are several substitutes besides gasoline/diesel buses; for example compressed natural gas:

 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compressed_natural_gas

CNG is used by cities all over the world, and is the cheapest form of energy currently available. Just about every mass-transit agency in the world will switch to CNG buses over the next 15 years. CNG is a byproduct of the petroleum industry, specifically fraking, but even if we stopped drilling for oil and fraking we would still have a massive surplus of natural gas, enough to last us for decades. There's so much natural gas right now that most drilling operations just burn it on the spot, because it's not profitable to contain it or sell it.

There's also electric bus services, as used in Seattle and other cities - if you think electricity is the way to go. There's also battery powered buses, though the technology hasn't proven itself.

There's also hybrid buses that use less gas, although the actual savings from these buses is disputed.

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To dispute @Exile's claims about Light Rail:

The concept that "light rail, done properly" means that light rail is divided between regular traffic and mass-transit - the exact same thing can happen with bus services, and we routinely see this done successfully all over Cascadia and the world. On our highways we have bus and car-pool lanes that still move people faster than light rail does. We can also look at Portland's SW 5th and SW 6th avenues, where we have bus only roads. Light rail does not move people faster or more efficiently, that's a fallacy repudiated by observation here in Portland: more people ride buses, and it's faster to take a bus, and buses will always serve more people. To do "light rail, done properly" means an enormous investment of money and burdening a massive amount of debt; plus you can observe the "done properly" HAS NOT BEEN THE CASE for most cities using light rail: Like Portland, most cities build light rail that shares right of way with vehicles. It's too expensive to do it "properly", so it never is.

I look at Light Rail as a form of class warfare, and this analysis was really started by the LA Bus Rider's Union. Light Rail is too expensive to start or maintain for a poor community: some projects cost millions of dollars per mile, and take specialized technicians. You'll also notice: poor people are deliberately excluded from light rail systems all over the world. In order for Light Rail to work effectively, the community must be extremely high density (think Tokyo, New York City), and high-density places with lots of investment rarely include low income people. Even in high-density areas like the Pearl or South Waterfront or NW Portland, few people actually use the Street car except during rush hour. When light rail is established it permanently creates low-income areas; just look at the cheap apartments that surround Portland's existing MAX stops, many of those apartments are Section 8 - and due to enforcement, many of the young people in these apartments are excluded from riding the mass transit. Most damning against light rail is how we see it used in practice in Portland: EVERY SINGLE NEW LIGHT RAIL LINE THAT OPENS, BUS SERVICE IN POOR COMMUNITIES IS CUT. Follow the headlines and you'll see it yourself.

Light Rail is also apt for corruption: once Pandora's box is open the city finds ways to finance these massive projects that are entirely worthless. 1,000 people ride the WES daily, and the East Side line is usually empty. If you ride the Street Car south-bound past PSU, the thing moves at about 3 mph, literally slower than some people walk, as it twists around corners. The Portland Mercury found it was often faster to take any other form of transportation that our street cars. In plain observation in virtually every trip imaginable across the city of Portland, the fastest form of transportation is private automobiles, then there's a toss-up between biking and riding the bus, light rail is only faster than walking (and in some cases, walking is faster than light rail). Yet our city spends billions of dollars to build these systems - Why? Because of the billions that lines the pockets of developers and investors, so they find new excuses to build them, even if they're not going to serve the public good.

Bus service is easy to maintain without specialized workers, and can be extremely affordable: as you can easily observe that for-profit businesses can make bus service profitable with a low fee. Lots of businesses operate for-profit bus services. In addition, it's easy to observe how 3rd world nations leverage bus systems successfully. If light rail was an equitable alternative, you'd see poor nations jumping on the bandwagon: but it's not an alternative, it's an expensive joke.

Bus systems work! The only criticism is that buses run on gasoline, and yet there have been non-gasoline/diesel options for 30+ years.

Streetcars/Light Rail 10.Jul.2013 15:41

Exile

Pulling data on the streetcar, is not exactly accurate. The streetcar, is, in my opinion, an amenity. It's often faster to walk. MAX, or metropolitan rail is much different. It connects two separate areas, rather than moving people around a specific area. So, those aren't valid comparisons. That's also why Portland Streetcar, and Tri-met are related, but largely separate systems.

Light Rail, is also largely permanent. Opponents argue, that it's "inflexible", and Bus lines can be changed much easier, but this is the failure of public transportation with buses. How can you plan development around transit, if your line can be changed without notice, service may get cut, or re-routed. Once the rails are in, you know where it's going, and in most cases, exactly when it's going. Dedicated rights of way, decrease the risk of delays as well.
Having too much flexibility, is why C-Tran is such a dismal failure. Clark County, is so suburbanized, that no transit agency can properly provide services that work. I've used both C-Tran, as well as Tri-met (both bus and rail). C-tran adds two hours, to go just about anywhere. Trying to go any reasonable distance, adds three. I used it for work for a short time, and the time away from family wasn't worth it. I've ridden MAX a number of times as well. It's fast, reliable, comfortable and took me where I needed to go with minimum transfers.

As for Compressed Natural Gas, it's not a byproduct. It's drilled for, extracted, for it's own value. Yes, some drill sites provide both, but the material isn't something that would be discarded otherwise. CNG vehicles, must be refueled much more often, as the energy density is lower than standard liquid petroleum. As well, the true amount of natural gas available from hydraulic fracturing is turning out to be much lower than initially indicated, as the wells play out very quickly compared to earlier traditional wells. Electrified buses, which are in use in some cities do indeed mitigate, and improve the standing of these as public transport.

As for Tri-met, yes, they need a management shakeup. The audit, should show quite a few anomalies when it comes to management pay, but that's not a light rail problem, that's a lack of proper oversight.

3rd bridge 12.Jul.2013 19:56

PDXpop

well well. if you think the fight was bad now . just try to get oregon much less portland to do a bridge under/thru forest park. will not happen portland will let the I-5 and the I-205 bridge fall into the river before that happens. a bridage west of I-5 would have to go under/or/thru forest park.as the last mayor of portland said in CRC meting on that issue " not in my lifetime"
now a bridge east fine .or we try to redo the CRC .most of portland would give up light rail but not tolls ( as we not the ones useing the thing)\

class warfare 12.Jul.2013 21:00

fidelity

I also look at food stamps as a form of class warfare. If we are not going to feed everybody for free, then we shouldn´t feed anybody for free.