The citizens of Lake Oswego deserve a civil and measured discourse on the streetcar issue instead of the hyperbole we are getting. Of course there are opposing issues here but the long term, big picture favors efficient public transportation and that means the streetcar. It is a better option in the long term in every way with the possible exception of the up-front costs.
Amortizing construction costs over 30 years spreads out our $15 million contribution to only $500,000 per year or $12 per person in today's dollars. And, we are spending tomorrow's cheaper dollars. Does that sound so expensive?
What we get is a lot of savings over the long term. By 2035 it is estimated that we will have 104,000 rides per week (DEIS table 4.2-5 pg 4-19) which means 20,000 fewer trips per day. At half a gallon of gas per trip we will save 10,000 gallons of gas a day or 2.5 million gallons per year. Gas is at $4 a gallon now and will cost much more in the future. That translates to $10 million per year savings and is really a minimum. These are rough estimates but the price of gas is certainly bound to rise and is already $8 to $10 dollars a gallon in Europe. It could go much higher.
The streetcar is cheaper to run than the proposed bus service even at today's gas price. Trains are less polluting, don't foul the air and decrease road congestion unlike the proposed bus service. We will need to purchase fewer automobiles and drive less miles. This all adds up. Finally, a diversified transportation system is inherently better in the long run. We cannot put all our eggs in the petroleum basket.
I am sympathetic regarding those citizens who will be negatively impacted in the short term, but the homeowners along those streetcar tracks have known the tracks were there for 50 years. We really ought to do what is best for the future of everyone in our community and that means building the streetcar. Overblown rhetoric will not change this truth.
William Mathers is a resident of Lake Oswego.