Transit debate goes round
- Portland Tribune - Opinion
WEB COMMENTS • Check out what online readers have to say
The April 3 story 'Growth guru comes to town' spawned 69 online comments and a number of e-mails about those comments. Readers had a lot to say about smart growth and mass transit - both pro and con. Here are some of their thoughts.
Try to imagine a day without TriMet
Someone mentioned in an online comment that we should shut down TriMet for a day to see what would happen. I like that idea.
I manage an apartment building on Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard. Out of 29 tenants, 23 rely on public transportation. So here's what I think would happen from my point of view if TriMet were shut down:
Three baristas would not be able to make your latte.
One chef at a popular Southeast fine-dining establishment would not be able to cook your meal.
One delivery driver would not be able to deliver your produce to local markets.
Three grocery-store employees would not be able to ring up your groceries or slice your Black Forest ham.
One phlebotomist would not be able to draw your blood at Oregon Health and Science University.
One restaurant manager would not be able to take your reservation at a popular Northwest restaurant.
One baggage handler would not be able to unload your plane at Portland International Airport.
One Home Depot employee would not be able to mix your paint.
Two bank employees would not be able to count your money.
One bike-shop employee would not be able to fix your bike.
Two nannies would not be able to take care of your children.
One teacher would not be able to teach your children.
One carpenter would not be able to install your drywall.
One site coordinator would not be able to do, um, whatever it is he does.
One administrative assistant couldn't do whatever those people do.
Two full-time students couldn't go to school.
One FedEx employee couldn't deliver your stuff.
And one mechanic, ironically, wouldn't be able to fix your car.
I suppose they could all get cars, but they'd probably have to move out to Gresham in order to afford the insurance, gas, upkeep, etc. That would be quite a commute. Not to mention all the other additional car trips they'd have to make each day for basic services, since the suburbs are, by definition, pretty spread out.
I realize that my 23-out-of-29 example is probably a little extreme, but it seems like the anti-choice, pro-freeway people are giving a big middle finger to the people who allow them to live their daily lives.
Money talks where transit is concerned
We're all in this transportation debate together. I need roads to drive my car on, and sidewalks and trails to walk and bicycle on, as well. And yes, a person can utilize more than one form of transportation - these are not mutually exclusive goals.
No doubt the devil is in the details - how to pay for maintaining old roads and create new ones, along with maintaining old mass transit systems and paying for new ones. It would be good to know some actual dollar figures on costs of various modes of transport.
I have a feeling that adding partial lanes here and there to help bike riders isn't costing millions of extra dollars - the bike aspect seems to be more emotional than fiscal, a symbol that irritates some beyond its cost in dollars.
Light rail, buses and streetcars are where the real dollars come into play. It seems reasonable to use (and pay for) those mass-transit tools we can, as part of the ongoing solution to moving all of us from point to point.
Beyond a lifestyle issue, are we all realistically willing to pay in taxes for what we all say we want - an improved and grand system of superhighways and/or supermodern 'mass transit' systems? If we don't talk money, and billions, then we're avoiding the issue.
Crowded MAX cars tell the real story
If light rail does not work, as comments on the Tribune Web site claim, why are the trains always packed, with people standing?
There obviously is a demand for it.
Cars are the best way to get people around
Our family moved to a suburban community to be closer to my husband's work just a few miles away. I lived in Portland for 35 years and have friends and elderly relatives there, so I frequently drive into town.
There is no public transportation from our rural community to Portland. If there were, it would still be extraordinarily inconvenient and time-consuming to use it.
Cars are still the cheapest, fastest and best way to move people. Even Portlanders can't get to the beach, Mount Hood or Bend without driving.
Some favor cars that are energy-efficient
I like walking and biking when my trip is only three to five miles. For longer trips, I prefer cars over light rail, street cars and buses.
Once you sink capital into a car, it's actually less expensive to drive than to pay for a mass transit fare. At $3 per gallon for gasoline, I can go about 15 miles for the $1.50 operating cost in my car, versus almost $2 for mass transit. If you have to pay to park, then the economics switch, but most times you don't have to pay to park.
You also save a whole bunch of time driving rather than waiting on buses and other mass transit. You also don't have to stand squeezed into crowds.
So I favor a shift toward smaller cars or other individual modes that would be energy-efficient/low emission.
Streetcars seem so monolithic. Just my preference.
Public transit is a big waste of time
I'm a small-business owner who's paid the TriMet tax for close to 19 years now. Even though I have offices right on Southwest Barbur Boulevard, with five TriMet buses running by my door (and bike lanes on each side of the road), I am lucky to have one or two clients out of several hundred visits each month arrive by public transit. I regard public transit as a basic necessity and little more.
Though I directly pay between $400 and $500 in TriMet taxes each year, I see little benefit for my money. And I know of dozens of other business owners who say the same thing.
I find public transit in general to be a huge waste of time. I'm not sure about other people, but my time is valuable - I have better things to do than spend twice as much time to get to the office via TriMet.
I won't even mention the numerous undesirables on TriMet, like marginal security.
As a taxpayer who pays part of the 70 percent of TriMet's funding, I'm completely appalled at their casual dealing with collecting fares. You would think that a public agency that is supposed to conserve public funds would at least make an effort to do the right thing - but not TriMet!
Solutions could make roads more efficient
There are several solutions to make our roads more efficient:
1. Pave over the MAX tracks and run buses on them. That would leave room for about 1,500 cars per hour, so they could be high-occupancy vehicle or high-occupancy toll lanes, or (gasp) ordinary lanes.
2. Doubledeck key points of the freeways. It would probably have been cheaper than building the toy train (the MAX, because it costs too much and does too little).
3. There is actually a lot of space next to U.S. Highway 26 to add lanes. The tunnel could be duplicated next to the current one, probably for a lot less than the MAX tunnel.
The only problem preventing us from solving congestion is political. We have already spent millions on the MAX toy train, and we are one of the most congested cities of our size. Rail has failed to relieve congestion. See www.debunkingportland.com. Had that money been spent on roads, I suspect that we would have little congestion today.
To reduce traffic, we have three options:
1. Quit promoting Portland to the rest of the country.
2. Quit paying developers to build high-density garbage.
3. Quit giving tax abatements to build high density.