Opposition to Light Rail Grows in Oregon
Welcome to Portland, Oregon, bastion of the green movement and choo-choo trains.
The Portland metro area has been moving forward with its light rail system. Proponents of this system claim that it relieves traffic congestion. The first system, MAX, was built on the east side of the city, running from downtown Portland all the way out to Gresham, part of East Multnomah County. The claim was that it would relieve congestion on I-84. The freeway is still backed up just about every morning and evening during rush hour.
Then they expanded to the west side, running from downtown Portland out to Hillsboro, Oregon. It would relive traffic congestion on Highway 26, they said, but every morning and evening commute is still backed up. Honestly, I think traffic was better before MAX was built on the west side.
They even built one that runs north along highway 217 from Wilsonville to Beaverton, called WES. Every time I see it, it’s empty. Of course, it only runs every 30 minutes from 5:21 AM to 8:51 AM, then there is no service again until around 3:30 PM when it again runs every 30 minutes until about 7:00 PM. During these rush hour commutes, highway 217 is still backed up both ways, every day.
More and more trains. Out to the airport, a trolley rolling around downtown, and now they are building one down the I-205 freeway to Milwaukie, Oregon, once again claiming it is going to relieve congestion.
Billions of dollars and way over budget.
The City Councils of all the respective areas want people to take light rail everywhere, like to Ikea out by the airport.
How is it feasible to take the train to Ikea, purchase a product, them transport that product home via the train?
These things are not as efficient as proponents say they are. During the winter, if ice builds up on the rails or the overhead power lines, it shuts down. If it snows, it shuts down.
During the summer, if the rails get too hot, it shuts down. If a blackout hits, it’s done.
The whole thing is dependent on electricity, and yet at the same time, the respective state and local governments are trying to push us off of coal generated electricity to “green” electricity. So far, green energy has not shown that it can produce the amount of electricity that we need, without sprawling ugly windmills all over the place. Oregon is not an ideal place for solar panels.
But the biggest problem that this system has is that it has become a magnet for crime. People are being assaulted, not just on the trains themselves, but on the platforms where people are waiting. Homeless people urinate and defecate on those platforms. People are assaulted and robbed while waiting for the trains. Not to mention the number of people who are killed while walking down the tracks.
Is it worth it?
According to Tri-Met’s statistics (Tri-Met is the organization that runs the buses and trains in the Portland Metro area), Max carries about 700,000 riders a week. There are four different routes, but I have broken the “Blue Line” that runs from Gresham to Hillsboro into two separate lines, radiating from downtown Portland). [http://trimet.org/about/dashboard.htm]. If one breaks it down, MAX serves about 14,286 people per day, or about 3000 per line per day. That’s just an average, because the Blue Line, the primary route is the most used line of the four. This represents only 2.37% of the population of Portland, and a mere 0.62% of the entire Portland Metro region.
Let’s look at WES now. It serves just under 11,000 rides per week. It does not run on Saturday or Sunday.
There are a total of 32 trains (from beginning to end) than run on any given day. About 2200 people are served, which, after doing the math, means that each train averages about 69 people per run.
Light rail supporters have cited studies that say that light rail reduces traffic congestion. Well, there are studies that say that monkeys could fly out of my butt, but that doesn’t mean those studies are right.
Is it worth it? That’s the question. I’m sure that to the people that use it, it is. Is it worth it to the rest of us who have to foot the bill?
This last Tuesday, March 11, 2014, Tigard voted on the issue. Not to decide if we should build light rail or not, but to stop the Tigard City Council from approving any such adoption without the approval of the voters. Of course the City Council was against it, but it passed 51% to 49%. The sad thing is that only 36% of voters bothered to vote on the issue.
Why did it come to a vote?
People are frustrated with what they see as government waste, then the governments cry poverty and want to raise taxes.
In Clackamas County, where Tri-Met was building a light rail line to Milwaukie, where the Milwaukie City Council wanted it, voters got together and wanted to vote on it, but ahead of the vote, the county went to Bank of America and issued bonds through that agency to Tri-Met to proceed with the project. Voters went on to reject the issuance of bonds from the county. Voters in the county also bounced county council members who were in favor of the project for some who were not in favor of it, prompting Tri-Met to sue Clackamas County.
Voters in Vancouver, Washington, just across the Columbia River, have repeatedly rejected a MAX line to their city. As part of upgrading the Interstate bridge between Washington and Oregon, the plans were to include space for a MAX rail line to Vancouver. Washington balked, and backed out of the project. Oregon’s governor John Kitzhauber has been trying to go it alone, but the state legislature is not cooperating.
The thing is, Vancouver has it’s own bus system. The Tri-County area (Washington, Multnomah and Clackamas Counties) has it’s own bus system, as well as it’s own government (Metro). That means this area has four layers of government. Vancouver, and Washington in general, do not want Metro (or Tri-Met) getting their hooks in Vancouver. The Oregon governments will not stop trying to push their green agenda onto our neighbors to the north.
So, light rail service to Vancouver, Washington has been nixed, so far. Clackamas County residents have voted and said they don’t want light rail, but that is not stopping them from proceeding. If Milwaukie, which neighbors Portland, wants light rail, then the rest of Clackamas County should not be able to stop it. However, Milwaukie should have to come up with the funds for it, not the county.
Voters are turning against these projects, because they are so expensive, and at a time of high unemployment, people don’t want their tax dollars going for projects that are a poor return for your investment. Congestion still exists.
People were opposed to the Tram from the South Waterfront District to Oregon health Sciences University up on the hill. Poor return on investment, and called a boondoggle by many.
Vancouver and Clackamas County against light rail, and now Tigard.
The State Representative from Tigard has warned that if it were approved, then the State could run light rail right down 99W, because it IS a state highway.
Well, it is not the state that has planned all of these light rail lines, it’s Metro.
And if it is a STATE highway, then why is Tigard paying to expand it through Tigard rather than the state? [http://tigard-or.gov/city_hall/departments/engineering/construction/default.asp]
The sad thing is, though, that if Metro decides to put light rail in Tigard, it is going in, no matter what people want. That’s the problem of having yet another layer of government. Especially one that disregards voter wishes and proceeds anyway, displacing homes, businesses, and disrupting traffic even worse for years on end. The number of voters were small, but 51% is still a majority. The other 64% didn’t care enough to say anything, and you cannot, I repeat, CANNOT ignore those of us who did vote and pretend that the other 64% would have wanted something different. They had their opportunity to speak up, and failed to do so. Now they must live with the consequences of their failure to perform their duty as a citizen of Tigard.