It is patently silly public policy
Thank you for your informative article on March 10th. I found it fascinating that there appeared to be no discussion of projected ridership on the proposed streetcar.
Proponents are keen at the thought federal funds might be able to support 50 to 60 percent of the costs. But what about the drag upon regional transit agencies who would likely face multi-decade streetcar line operating deficits as a result of likely losses associated with the line?
As an occasional user of the 35 bus to downtown, would I prefer to ride a streetcar? Perhaps. But not if I had to walk another 5 to 10 minutes each direction. And not if the headways were lengthier than the bus. Would a streetcar line cannibalize existing bus service and headways? How could it not, unless TriMet were to pour yet more subsidies into serving Lake Oswego. Are any public agencies analyzing the project as if it were trying to protect its 'shareholders' - its citizens - by trying to assess the winners, losers and net costs to the commnuity.
Another concern not addressed in the article was the cheerful topic of potential cost overruns - always likely on major public works projects. What was the cost overrun and 'mission-creep' experience with the Milwaukie and other light rail projects? Might the ultimate cost more likely be $700 to $800 million? Why should the city take comfort in current estimates? Who would bear the costs of such overruns? And why should Lake Oswego's citizens expect that the city can manage a massive redevelopment project in the Foothills area when it can't even figure out what to do with the West End facility?
It is obvious why Foothills landowners and developers are keen on the streetcar idea, but as much as I enjoy riding trolleys and streetcars, it is patently silly public policy to spend nearly a half billion dollars or more - regardless of whose it is - when the current bus routes are more than adequate, pleasant enough, and far more versatile.
The best use of the WSL right of way would be as a cyclist and moped path to downtown - a safe, pleasant, largely level bike path would surely significantly boost two-wheel commuting to downtown, and have positive health care benefits for the fortunate riders, protect the paths' neighbors, and do so for a fraction of the cost of a duplicative and vastly more costly alternative to current and expanded TriMet bus service.
Anthony Fisher is a resident of Lake Oswego.
Editor's note: In his piece, Mr. Fisher wondered why the streetcar story in the March 10 Review 'appeared to (have) no discussion of projected ridership on the proposed streetcar' and noted there was no discussion of 'potential cost overruns' for the streetcar project. The Review has run countless stories about the streetcar and the issues Mr. Fisher has asked about have indeed been discussed in previous articles and will undoubtedly come up again in future articles. There's no way that this newspaper has the space to cover all aspects of any repeating subject in one story.