A little history of the growing push back against an out of control, debt ridden government that cannot bring itself to make rational, economically sensible decisions.
Tigard, OR – In a conversation on Saturday May 5th about Tigard’s initiative to require a vote on light rail expenditures, with Clackamas County activist Lauri Hein, Tigard City Councilwoman Gretchen Buehner said, “You will never get the signatures needed to put it on the ballot.” Buehner added, “If you do manage to get it on the ballot, I will make sure there is a companion measure to stop you.” Hein replied, “The Commissioners tried that in Clackamas County and we still beat them.”
Hein recognized the Cascade Policy Institute has concluded that lightrail is a colossal waste of money for a system that few people use. Noting that Buehner had been trying to get more bus service out to Tigard for 15 years, Hein observes, “If Tri-met doesn’t believe that adding buses would benefit Tigard why on earth would it make sense to sacrifice 99W for new lightrail lines?”
Art Crino, Chief Petitioner for the Tigard initiative, says, “The purpose of this effort is not to stop realistic transportation planning, but to let the people decide if light rail projects are appropriate when the costs and benefits are presented to a vote.” Crino added, “Councilwoman Buehner’s threat to mislead voters with a competing ballot measure is a ‘we know better’ attitude that demonstrates a complete lack of accountability to, and respect for, the people of the City of Tigard.
Background. Community activists in Southwest Washington County are engaged in a four-pronged effort to require a vote of the people before funds can be expended for any activities related to light rail. They are unhappy with the way TriMet and Metro are focusing on rail systems throughout the region when most voters would rather prioritize road improvements and maintenance. They intend to put any future use of city resources for light rail up to a public vote. The activists are tired of politicians treating citizens as obstacles who lack the judgment to make sound decisions about their own communities. Initiative petitions have been filed in four cities: Tigard, Tualatin, King City and Sherwood. In addition to Art Crino in Tigard, other chief petitioners are Aaron Crowley (Tualatin), Billie Reynolds (King City), and Doug Davina (Sherwood).
Light Rail vs. Bus
Let’s examine the “numbers” for Milwaukie Light Rail. The cost is rumored to be pretty high. The money to pay for it will come from taxpayers- so perhaps it would be good policy to have a complete and thorough understanding of just how much of our future income will be assigned to this “public” expense…
So what do you think? Does the cost of this project meet the “smell” test? Is this the best use of at least 1.5 Billion dollar tax bill required to fund it? Is there ever a limit to what government will confiscate from your future income in order to fulfill the public/government sector’s desire to “do what’s good for you”?
This is the sort of “planning” that promises that we join the other failed governments who have completely forgotten the reality that massive public debt destroys nations. A current example is Greece. Everything is fine, until the bills begin to woefully outstrip the income generating ability of the economy. Think about it.
The clip explains that the Governor appoints the Board of Directors, who in turn make the 1.5 Billion dollar spending decision for you.. Here’s the most recent appointment to TriMet (who is pushing this immense taxpayer burden)…
Lynn Peterson (former Clackamas Commissioner and Chair- subsequently tapped by the Governor to head up his “Green Initiatives”..) deliberately found the most “light rail friendly” person in the metro area to help fleece the unsuspecting taxpayers. Remember, you don’t vote for these people- the Governor decides who to put in charge. (But the appointment does need to pass the Senate..)
He’s a retired public employee, light rail zealot, with a unabashed desire to assess taxpayers for the cost of Light Rail on Barbur/99. Now he is being moved into Clacakamas County to help fight resistance to the boondoggle.
Advocate for Southwest Corridor MAX appointed to TriMet board
The next TriMet board member is likely to be a man with a long history in local government and a deep belief in running a new MAX line through Southwest Portland as far as Sherwood.
Craig Prosser of Lake Oswego was named to the board today by Gov. Kitzhaber. If confirmed by the state senate, Prosser would serve out the rest of the four-year term of the recently departed Hakeem Olanrewaju.
Prosser is a former city manager and finance director in Tigard and also served on Lake Oswego’s city council in the 1990s. On Twitter, Metro finance professional Brian Kennedy described him as having a “strong finance and budgeting background.”
I happened to speak with Prosser in July, and he struck me as a deep believer in public transit and urbanism, especially in rail service, which he described as a major dream for Tigard, the city he recently helped run. As we learn more, you should always be able to get the latest – including a bit of Prosser’s political donation history – at our new wiki page about him.
Posted by Michael at 5:04 pm October 31st, 2011. Comments
Editorial…… There’s not a single thing this guy has in common with 95% of Clackamas County residents, voters and taxpayers.
During the ground-breaking ceremony, economically illiterate politicians raved about how this project would “make Portland more competitive” (Portland Mayor Sam Adams), “reduce congestion on McLoughlin Boulevard” (Oregon Transportation Commission Chair Gail Achterman), and “show the rest of the country that this is not just spending, but a bridge to the future” (Congressman Kurt Schrader).
Any competent group of high school sophomores would know how silly these claims are. Building another rail line at a cost of $1.5 billion will make Portland less competitive than it would be otherwise, because the region has to allocate $750 million in “local funds” to match federal grants. All of that money could be spent on other more useful projects (like replacing the unsafe Sellwood Bridge) if light rail wasn’t constantly crowding them out.
Light rail has never reduced traffic congestion in the region and never will because it carries too few people. And contrary to the notion popularized by TriMet, the main corridor for this line – McLoughlin Boulevard – is not very congested, even at peak periods; it easily could be used for express bus service, which would travel at double the speed of light rail.
Finally, rail transit is not the future of cities. Passenger rail travel peaked in the Portland region and most other cities 100 years ago, and it will never come back due to the safety, speed and convenience of private auto travel.
Despite the vast expense, few people will ever benefit from Milwaukie light rail. TriMet estimates that in the opening year of 2015, the line will carry an average of 13,000 weekday “boardings.” Of those, 4,500 will be former bus rides diverted to light rail. Since each rider typically makes two “boardings” per day, the number of actual new transit customers will be around 4,250. So in construction costs alone, we will spend more than $352,941 per new rider.
I suspect that if we could locate these hoped-for riders and ask them how they’d really prefer to spend the taxpayer gift of $353,000, relatively few would choose a slow train to Portland.
The cost-per-mile numbers are staggering when compared with transit projects elsewhere. In 2002 Metro estimated that the same Milwaukie light rail project utilizing the Hawthorne Bridge would cost only $72 million per mile. The North Portland MAX line was built for $60 million per mile.
Express bus service is especially attractive in comparison. The Eugene Bus Rapid Transit line, known locally as the “Emerald Express,” cost $6 million per mile. The Los Angeles Rapid Bus system was implemented for a mere $335,000 per mile.
Because the LA Rapid Bus service is so economical, it has been implemented on 369 miles of routes in less than a decade. The service utilizes existing arterials and provides faster travel times than light rail by limiting passenger stops to no more than one per mile.
TriMet could have implemented a rapid-bus option on McLoughlin Boulevard years ago if good service was actually a priority, but it isn’t. In fact, during the past two years TriMet bus service has been cut by 14%, rail service by 10%, and the most recent new rail line – the Green Line to Clackamas Town Center – is operating 33% below planned-for levels. At certain times of the day, service is now down to one train per hour on the Green Line.
How many average taxpayers would vote to spend $1.5 billion on a slow train? We already know the answer. In both 1996 and 1998, the North/South light rail project to Milwaukie was on the ballot, and it was voted down each time. But those results clearly don’t matter to the seven members of the TriMet board, who are all appointed by the governor. They never have to answer directly to voters.
TriMet is taking a huge gamble with this project. The formal grant application for the $750 million in federal money has not even been submitted to the Federal Transit Agency; and local matching funds promised by Portland, Milwaukie and Clackamas County don’t exist. TriMet is building a transit-only bridge (no cars or trucks will be allowed) on pure speculation that more than a billion dollars will be forthcoming to finish the deal.
That speculation may prove fatal. Earlier this week the Oregon legislature revoked approval for $39 million in bond funding for another “iconic” boondoggle, the so-called Oregon Sustainability Center. Local proponents were shocked that the funding was pulled; they had assumed for years that the necessary tax subsidies for their green fantasy would be approved, and they were wrong.
TriMet could be building a bridge to nowhere. If it dies in mid-construction, it would be a fitting monument to the arrogance of the TriMet board.Related posts:
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Freshmen Hi School students are more than capable of doing the math on this one.. what an abuse. Beyond any rational way of thinking, this light rail is a colossal waste of taxpayer money. But it does get a nice “sound bite”.. as Oregon’s Democratic party once again prove their utter ignorance of economics.. or their contempt for the taxpayer. Well, ok.. both.
Get off the LO streetcar
Published: Monday, April 18, 2011, 5:06 AMhttp://www.facebook.com/plugins/like.php?href=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.oregonlive.com%2Fopinion%2Findex.ssf%2F2011%2F04%2Fget_off_the_lo_streetcar.html&layout=standard&show_faces=true&width=440&action=like&font=verdana&colorscheme=light&height=60http://platform0.twitter.com/widgets/tweet_button.html?_=1303189502528&count=horizontal&lang=en&text=Get%20off%20the%20LO%20streetcar%20%7C%20OregonLive.com&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.oregonlive.com%2Fopinion%2Findex.ssf%2F2011%2F04%2Fget_off_the_lo_streetcar.html
You’ve heard of Mad Coupon-istas, right? People so bent on a bargain hunt that they wind up making gratuitous purchases?
Sadly, as the debate on the Lake Oswego streetcar unfolds, it’s become clear that this project may fit that archetype — of an extravagance that started out, once upon a time, to be a bargain.
That’s not just because the price for the streetcar has gone up so dramatically through the years, although it has; the cost is now estimated at somewhere between $241 million and $458 million.
We say that because the project is fueled by, if not a bargain coupon, a bargain coup. In the late 1980s, the region acquired 6.3 miles of rail right-of-way between Lake Oswego and Portland. This was a farsighted acquisition. The property, bought for less than $2 million, may now be worth in the vicinity of $90 million.
That right-of-way is squirreled away and burning a hole in the region’s pocket. It is ready to be used, and ought to be used. But for good reason, most transit projects are fueled by transportation urgency, with acquisition of right-of-way a secondary or even tertiary concern, after the problem has been fully identified. The process has effectively worked in the reverse with the LO streetcar.
With this project, the bargain right-of-way remains the engine driving the project. Take out the right-of-way and the project wouldn’t be moving forward. And that is, in addition to being the wrong-way around, an insufficient rationale.
One can argue that the streetcar would be a nice amenity for Lake Oswego (although it’s far from clear that residents of this city of 38,000 are convinced of that), and also that the streetcar would trigger development beneficial to the region. But is it really a transportation necessity? That case has yet to be clinched.
What is really needed in the southwest corridor are rail connections — not necessarily light-rail but maybe something heavier and faster along Interstate 5 and/or Highway 99. The streetcar would be a slowpoke, traveling 13 mph on average — and taking 38 minutes — to get to the center of downtown Portland.
True, our region has had a golden touch in winning federal funds. Securing them for a Lake Oswego streetcar would not necessarily hamper the region’s ability to win more in the future for a more essential connection. But coming up with the local match is a real issue, as well as the funds to operate the streetcar, and TriMet has already said, quite properly, that it cannot contribute to the local match.
As the agency understands, TriMet has no business shouldering this project until it’s able to build back its badly battered bus system. The bus system is a necessity; the streetcar, at least by comparison, an extra.
The Lake Oswego streetcar is right-of-way in search of the best use, not a transportation imperative in search of the best possible right-of-way. This week, when the Portland and Lake Oswego city councils vote on this, both councils need to take a hard look and say:
It’s time to get off the Lake Oswego streetcar.
Another government agency trying it’s best to waste taxpayer assets for the benefit of a VERY narrow riderbase-at a cost way out of proportion to the benefit. You know, government work. Even the Oregonian says this should be derailed.. and that’s saying something..