Apparently it's Streetcar Week here on my blog.
The Lake Oswego Review reported yesterday that two groups are providing recommendations on a proposed Streetcar route from Portland to Lake Oswego. Rather than use existing rail right-of-way where the Shoreline Trolley runs, both committees are recommending building new tracks in the pavement of SW Macadam. The Willamette Shoreline right-of-way is already owned by the public, having been purchased by a consortium of jurisdictions in 1988 (Update: per information in the comments, the consortium of governments purchased the right-of-way for about $2 million. Its current value has been estimated as $50-75 million. Yay, jurisdictions!).
Trolley tracks to South Waterfront - how convenient
Yet apparently the political will to use it is lacking. The argument in the LO Review is that the Streetcar would be more of a development engine if placed on Macadam.
"The alignment, according to the Project Management Group report, would “leverage the most potential transit-supportive development, approximately 2.2 million square feet of total new development in Johns Landing.”
Right. More development in Johns Landing, "leveraged" by yet another huge public subsidy, no doubt. Like there isn't enough development and commercial activity going on along Macadam already.... and certainly enough traffic on that street, even before South Waterfront is built out. Can we get real? Oh, right -- the article continues:
"It would also “mitigate some of the potential property impacts associated with the use of the Shoreline Trolley right-of-way,” the group said."
Translation: affluent landowners along the waterfront don't want riff-raff riding past their homes in Streetcars.
Wanna bet who wins on this one?
The article continues:
"Early cost estimates are about $205 million for the streetcar and trail, with more than half coming from the federal government."
Chris Smith covered the issue on Portland Transport in June. He noted, "If the alternative chosen is to run in Macadam through Johns Landing - avoiding the political challenge of running next to the existing condos and likely contribution to a higher development potential - the price is several minutes in travel time." The plethora of comments on that post is informative. One of them notes that putting the Streetcar along Macadam might force current users of the 35 and 36 bus lines to transfer to it. Again, sounds familiar.
The Portland to Lake Oswego route along the Shoreline right-of-way is a situation where a Streetcar or improved trolley service can stand alone, as transportation. It doesn't need to be justified by selling it as a development engine. Macadam is constrained by existing, functioning development on both sides - there's very little space to add capacity in extra lanes. The Willamette River is close nearby to the east, the hills form a barrier to the west. Drivers have no alternative direct routes between downtown Portland and Lake Oswego, and transportation planners have few other ideas to relieve gridlock -- other than a river ferry, or perhaps teleportation like on Star Trek. Adding a smooth Streetcar ride unimpeded by stop-and-go automobile traffic, running with frequent service, would provide a new transportation option attractive to commuters and shoppers, and really would help get people out of their cars. There is already PLENTY of new apartment/condominium development being built in the neighborhood formerly known as CTLH - Corbett-Terwilliger-Lair Hill, which changed its name to South Portland. How could anyone call that section of Macadam blighted, or in need of stimulus to increase development? The zoning has capacity, and market forces will encourage it to max out whether there is a Streetcar on Macadam or closer to the river.
And hey, here's a thought - the Streetcar route along the river would be a tourist attraction, just like the OHSU tram only more so because it would have places tourists actually want to visit at both ends, and interesting stops along the route, as well as a very cool ride. The businesses in the Water Tower could add a double-decker London bus shuttle or suchlike to carry shoppers from the railway-by-the-river to the shops. More fun for tourists! Spend the entire day seeing how many flavors of delightfully-different transportation options you can ride in Portland!
I would support putting public money into a fixed-rail service along the existing trolley alignment. Putting it on Macadam would add to already-severe congestion, both by adding vehicles in the right-of-way and by overloading adjacent development potential. And adding more buses there isn't going to help, because the street is slow and congested, and it's commonly accepted that rich people will ride Streetcars where they don't ride the bus.
WARNING: Your last chance to comment on this before it becomes a done deal may be imminent:
"[the committee]'s recommendation next goes to a steering committee, which meets from 3 to 5 p.m. Sept. 10 at Metro, 600 N.E. Grand Ave. The meeting is open to the public." [but note it doesn't say public testimony will be taken]
"Metro will review The Project Management Group’s recommendations. Ultimately, Metro will select the preferred alternative and conduct an environmental impact statement (EIS). The EIS will take about a year and a half."
And if you wait until that is done, very likely it will be too late. May already be too late, in fact. Dunthorpe has spoken.
Still, you can review information and provide input directly to Metro here. Might help, can't hurt.