Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Share the Tracks

An interesting proposal in Portland that would be pretty inexpensive introduction of Commuter Rail:

A representative for Portland & Western Railroad approached local leaders about the idea this summer. Larry Harvey, a senior consultant with PacWest Communications, said the railroad's line just north of Oregon 8 is deteriorating.

Without an upgrade, it will no longer be able serve the five or so companies now using it for freight, he said, forcing them to relocate or start contracting with truck companies.

"Portland and Western said, 'Gee, if we committed to only running freight on that line between midnight and 4 a.m., then passenger cars could run between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m.," Harvey said.

The railroad has approached local governments about cooperating to find funding for what Portland & Western estimates would be a $30 million project, in 2008 dollars.

They will have to deal with the FRA which means they wouldn't be able to use lightweight vehicles. It is a rather short route and I wonder if they should just run the line all the way to Beaverton catching a lot of the commercial corridor left unserved by the light rail line (represented by the red extension to the yellow).


AJ said...

Why wasn't this idea around when I was living at Murray and TV Highway?

Well, actually, I've no clue where I would have gone-- the Milky Way MAX station was a quarter of a mile away...

ABC said...

The fact that P&W is talking time separation makes it sound like they were angling for MAX and not DMU service. Who knows. Sounds more like fishing from P&W to me.

As for the proposal as it stands, it's a non-starter. It's too short for commuter service. If the hook is time separation to eliminate conflicts between freight and passenger schedules, then running past Hillsboro to Beaverton isn't going to work, as that segment is home to some large and slow freight that moves on unpredictable schedules.

Long term, running WES out to Hillsboro and possibly Forest Grove might make sense, but it would require an expensive WES-like rebuild program of the entire corridor. Given that MAX already exists in that corridor, and that this is not envision in the current Metro long-range plans, it's unlikely to get any traction any time soon.

Looking at this from a transit perspective, extending service from Hillsboro to Forest Grove would be best accomplished either through BRT (wow I feel dirty for saying that) or by extending MAX outright and just shutting off freight service on the P&W line in question. Given the overall pattern of industrial consolidation, the decline in small shippers, and the increasing cost of maintaining such marginal lines, it's likely that TriMet won't have to wait more than five or ten years to have the corridor to themselves with no P&W to have to accommodate.

Pantograph Trolleypole said...

I don't think its a duplication of service. The reason being you wouldn't call two arterial roads that far apart a duplication. That Corridor has frequent bus service but could include commuter rail as well as a faster alternative to MAX. MAX is useful but duplication and different service types make for good service overall with different types of trips accommodated.

I agree that Wes could probably go that direction at some point. Perhaps that is the way to go about it.

ABC said...

I think WES will, eventually, get there. And I agree with you regarding duplicative services, however, many at the agency don't. Heck, some greeted the news of a Barbur Blvd. MAX line with skepticism. "Why? They already have WES."