Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Magical Density Machine

In a recent email exchange on one of my numerous listserves, a bus booster has been trying to downplay the impact of light rail and streetcars on new development and shaping growth. If this is really the case, I have to wonder why those in opposition to such lines are always so worried about them changing the neighborhood. In a local Milwaukie paper (Milwaukie, Oregon not Wisconsin) a citizen worries about the density and character changes that will come with the rail line.
...all are part of a thrust by the regional government to dictate the forced density they advocate. Light rail is basically a density tool, and Metro’s vision of Milwaukie is as one large Transit Oriented Development hub and over-populated switching yard.
Much like the Berkeley regressive progressives (TM), its understandable that people are worried about change. But I believe this mans fears are unfounded.
As they expound on the wealth that density and rail will bring to Milwaukie, the throngs of people who will come to shop, the jobs that will be created here, I cringe. They have it backwards. Our valuable downtown property will be converted into park-and-rides or jam-packed transit-oriented developments with inadequate parking; the shoppers and jobs will go to Portland, along with the money. Remember, all roads lead to Rome.
Anyone who would take valuable land and turn it into a park and ride doesn't really want to make money. Also, regional centers don't drain to the downtown and the constant worry about parking belies a autocentric thinking that is all too common in this country. I would be surprised if Milwaukie's downtown didn't turn into a vibrant center.

If I were in opposition, I would just do what all opponents do, say the next lowest mode on the totem pole would be better and cheaper. This would effectively kill the density and the transit project keeping the status quo, just like the Nimbys want.


Matt Fisher said...

I suspect that bus booster you're talking about wants BRT instead of light rail. You know I don't want more busways, and I'll admit it, since I live in a city known for its Transitway BRT (Ottawa). Either way, these opponents are aspirants for the Cox/O'Toole status, seeking to perpetuate auto dependence.

I'll also say that buses don't attract development like rail transit, notably light rail & streetcars, does.

AJ said...

Milwaukie of late has smelled constantly of asphalt as they pave and repave every corner of the town. It's cute, and I've gone down there for computer parts at my secret little store quite a few times, but it leans heavily on cars and road traffic.

Yes, it will change and yes it will grow more dense, but character comes from within. If your city is engulfed by some kind of external culture, you have to take a step back and consider what exactly has transpired and why your town's culture became second to another's.

Personally, I'd tell Milwaukie to do things like create public art that says "MILWAUKIE" and make sure every corner says "MILWAUKIE" as loud as possible.

Mike said...

i live in Milwaukie, have most of my life. I don't oppose light rail but I do oppose the antiquated thinking typical of Metro's approach to public transit. Metro wants to build the same light rail system they built twenty years ago when the Eastside light rail project was completed.
The Milwaukie line is no different, it will whisk you from Milwaukie to downtown Portland in a swift jiffy. Why do we need a multi-million dollar light rail system with a dedicated right of way to travel 6 miles to Portland? There is already excellent bus service to downtown. And what makes Metro think I want to go to downtown Portland in the first place? I don't work there, I don't shop there. I do work at a local large hospital barely 7 miles from my home in a nearly straight line along existing streets. How long does it take me to get to work? By auto; 12-15 minutes. But I don't want to drive, I want to take mass transit so how does that work? 2 bus transfer and over an HOUR later I'm finally at my job. This is where the rapid streetcar comes in. Built along existing rights of way with a much smaller and less expensive footprint the rapid streetcar could provide me with the opportunity to get out of my car and actually take me someplace I need/want to be.
A rapid streetcar could service all the great shopping areas outside of downtown Portland; Bybee-Woodstock, Sellwood-Moreland; Hawthorne-Division; Clackamas Town Center; Milwaukie MarketPlace; Lake Oswego-West Linn. These are the places I want to get to but with the exception of Clackamas Town Center, the light rail system will whoosh past all of them. EVERY single trip to these locales is an auto trip for me.
Dump the uber-expensive Milwaukie Light Rail and give us a neighborhood friendly, pedestrian oriented, utilitarian, less expensive rapid streetcar system.

Pantograph Trolleypole said...

Thanks for that comment Mike. I actually wondered why Light Rail is the right mode for that corridor and if rapid streetcar could be implemented. Have you asked that question with Tri Met? What did they say if you have?