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  #41  
Old Posted Oct 17, 2013, 4:40 AM
maccoinnich maccoinnich is offline
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This is an interesting blog post I read recently which directly touches on a bunch of issues discussed here. Now, the comparison is a little unfair at times (Portland and LA are totally differently scaled cities), but a couple paragraphs really stand out:

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But even those station spacings aren’t that bad compared to downtown Portland, where the Blue Line has 10 stations in less than 2 miles. Some stations aren’t even 600 feet apart, so close that an NYC subway train would straddle them. They’re equivalent to taking a train from one end of a subway platform to the other. Across the Steel Bridge, it’s the same thing in the Lloyd District, where there are four stations in 0.54 miles. This spacing is awful even by the lowly standards of US bus stop spacing. In effect, it makes transit almost useless for trips going through downtown and the Lloyd District because the time penalty is so high (see, for example, the previously linked Keep Houston Houston piece where the author describes using a bike to bypass the downtown light rail).

TriMet’s schedules suggest that the Blue Line averages about 6 or 7 mph in this area. That was acceptable in 1890, when traveling at 10 mph through an urban environment was revolutionary (and someone said, the dream of the 1890s is alive in Portland). But good god, in 2013, you need to be competitive with driving.
and

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Portland does have some places where the lines are completely grade separated, where following freeways. The Blue Line, Red Line, and Green Line all have long sections that follow freeways and are grade separated. But in the town centers and downtown Portland, it’s all at grade. In many places, nothing separates the rail ROW from traffic other than striping or pavement textures, which allows cars to enter the train’s space and cause delays. This, combined with the close station spacing, increases travel time and decreases reliability.

In downtown Portland, there are also many places where the rail lines cross each other at grade. The Yellow/Green Lines cross the Blue/Red Lines at Pioneer Square, and all four lines merge to cross the Steel Bridge. The streetcar crosses both the Blue/Red Lines and the Yellow/Green Lines at other locations downtown, and crosses itself at-grade in several locations. In addition to affecting travel time and reliability, these decisions will constrain the ability to increase service in the future. Then again, with 15 minute headways on MAX and the streetcar, it’s not like demand is that high now.
The whole thing is worth a read.

Anyway, the only real way to solve these issues is by grade separation - whether above ground or below. Given that all the urbanists would have conniptions at the idea of MAX being elevated through downtown, underground is the only realistic option.

Would I place a downtown subway as a higher priority than MAX along Powell and Barbur? No, and certainly not at today. But at some point in the future, if ridership grows and Trimet needs more capacity through downtown, then a subway is pretty much the only solution.
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  #42  
Old Posted Oct 17, 2013, 4:43 AM
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Originally Posted by 65MAX View Post
Yes, I get that you doubt it. But we're already expanding the MAX system and adding streetcars. So what happens when we reach maximum capacity downtown with all these expansions? Nothing? We just give up on any additional MAX improvements?

You say it's "silly", but then why does ANY subway get built anywhere? Not because it's "cool" to have a subway (which we already have through the West Hills, BTW. So technically, we're already "cool"). It's just like you said, to increase speed, and also along with that, capacity and operational efficiencies. We're gonna need that extra capacity sooner than most people realize since we're already bumping up against that limit during rush hour now, as in today. Add Milwaukie (extended to OC), Vancouver, Tigard/Tualatin, Powell, a possible conversion of the WES corridor.... how are all of those new MAX trains, not to mention the additional trains that will be necessary on the lines we ALREADY have, going to thread their way through the constraints of the current downtown configuration? They can't. And the straw that will break the camel's back is going to be the Steel Bridge. That's what will force the issue more than all of the other logical reasons combined. Every single MAX train will need to go through the increasingly congested RQ and cross the Willamette there to get into downtown. And a new transit-only drawbridge isn't the solution there.

Look, nothing is preventing Metro and TriMet from expanding MAX and Streetcar service for the foreseeable future, but why does that make a subway less likely? If anything, it'll make a subway MORE likely the bigger the rail network becomes. Each additional line that gets built increases ridership exponentially because the system become more comprehensive and user-friendly. You can say it's too costly, or too pie-in-the-sky all you want, but it's really not. It's just one more infrastructure project in a long line of mega-infrastructure projects. So 20 years from now, I'll be here on SSP in 2033 telling you "I told you so".
The two light rail routes through downtown could each handled 4-6 lines on each of them, which is about 8-12 different lines for the city. Also, the streetcar runs on its own lines. I could see a new set of streetcar lines being built in the city either down 3rd and 4th or along some of the east and west streets.

All of this means that the city has a long way to go before the current routes through downtown are at capacity and need new ideas for downtown expansions.
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  #43  
Old Posted Oct 17, 2013, 4:59 AM
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Originally Posted by hat View Post
65MAX and 2oh1 both have excellent points. Given the current organization of money, and priorities of our government and culture, a subway--transit in general for that matter--is not a priority. How best to make it a priority...

On the one hand, the MAX is a far more efficient and quick transportation mode (and attracts quite a lot more potential riders) than the bus. This is may be related to its ability to compete with the SOV in speed. With more options around the metro area to get some place other than via SOV, we all benefit. This means expanding the peripheral system should be a priority, and this will create more demand for expanding in the future.

On the other hand, limiting MAX travel downtown to an average of 6mph often (I must assume) dissuades potential riders from traveling through the CBD. I don't know the demand for this (and would love to know). This variable (and quite a few others) must be weighed in view of any future improvement of MAX connections downtown.
Actually that is standard for cars as well downtown, the timed lights through downtown controls the speed of everything on purpose. I am starting to think some people think everyone drives 35-40mph through downtown and that just isn't true unless you are on the highway. Heck, it is sometimes hard to get going that fast even on Naito Parkway.
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  #44  
Old Posted Oct 17, 2013, 5:05 AM
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Originally Posted by urbanlife View Post
Actually that is standard for cars as well downtown, the timed lights through downtown controls the speed of everything on purpose.
The lights downtown are timed for 12 mph (ie, twice as fast).
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  #45  
Old Posted Oct 17, 2013, 5:10 AM
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Originally Posted by maccoinnich View Post
The lights downtown are timed for 12 mph (ie, twice as fast).
The only thing that technically makes the MAX slower is the stopping at stations, but it too travels at the same speed as cars. Also 12mph is still really slow driving.

If you drive along 6th Ave, chances are the train will keep up with you much of the way due to lights and traffic.
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  #46  
Old Posted Oct 17, 2013, 6:34 AM
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Originally Posted by maccoinnich View Post
.... Anyway, the only real way to solve these issues is by grade separation - whether above ground or below. Given that all the urbanists would have conniptions at the idea of MAX being elevated through downtown, underground is the only realistic option.

Would I place a downtown subway as a higher priority than MAX along Powell and Barbur? No, and certainly not at today. But at some point in the future, if ridership grows and Trimet needs more capacity through downtown, then a subway is pretty much the only solution.


Exactly!! That's all I'm saying.

I'm completely in favor of building out all the major corridors first. But then once that's done, the surface alignments downtown start to strangle the entire system. I never once said that the subway needed to be built now, and/or instead of expanding MAX and streetcar. That's not even being proposed here, by me or anyone.

And no, you cannot have 8-12 MAX lines running on the existing two surface alignments. That is physically impossible unless you're only running each line only once or twice an hour. It was a challenge just maintaining 3 lines (the Red, Blue and Yellow lines) on the same tracks downtown before the 5th/6th alignment was built, let alone SIX lines on the Morrison/Yamhill alignment. Also, adding the second surface alignment did not double the capacity because ALL the lines still use the same Steel Bridge tracks and they cross paths again at the Pioneer Courthouse, severely restricting any real gains in capacity. Simply adding more tracks to surface streets does nothing to improve MAX service if they're still held up at the same traffic lights, still conflicting with 1000's of cars, pedestrians, bikes, buses and streetcars, still crossing other MAX tracks at multiple congested downtown corners, still having to wait till the train at the platform 500-600 feet in front of it clears that platform before it can then proceed, still having to wait through 2 or sometimes 3 red light cycles to do so, still constricted to 2-car trains by the short 200' blocks.

As maccoinnich said, the ONLY solution is grade separation, and since elevated trains will never be considered for downtown, that leaves a subway alignment. 6mph from one end of downtown to the other (3 miles) means a 30 minute trip. That may be fine for streetcars as local circulators, but that's not acceptable for a regional rail system.
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  #47  
Old Posted Oct 17, 2013, 6:52 AM
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Originally Posted by urbanlife View Post
The only thing that technically makes the MAX slower is the stopping at stations, but it too travels at the same speed as cars. Also 12mph is still really slow driving.

If you drive along 6th Ave, chances are the train will keep up with you much of the way due to lights and traffic.
Actually, I've driven down 6th Ave many times and no, the train does not keep up with the cars. But worse than that, you seem to be content with having really slow MAX service downtown, as if that's a problem that can never be fixed.

I understand people thinking it's just too expensive. Yeah, EVERY major infrastructure improvement is gonna be expensive. But magically, they still get built anyway. When the subway becomes the next major priority (and it will sooner or later), the funding will be pieced together to fund it.
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  #48  
Old Posted Oct 17, 2013, 7:02 AM
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Originally Posted by 2oh1 View Post
.... Really now, is there any discussion of this anywhere other than in this thread? Has anyone at Trimet proposed burying MAX downtown?
Yes, Trimet, Metro and the city of Portland have all said that there will eventually have to be grade separation of the MAX system (i.e., a subway) downtown. It's not a question of "if", but "when". Obviously opinions vary as to "when", but there shouldn't be any question about "if" unless you don't understand how mass transit systems work and/or you're content with a no-growth future for Portland.
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  #49  
Old Posted Oct 17, 2013, 8:13 AM
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Originally Posted by 65MAX View Post
Yes, Trimet, Metro and the city of Portland have all said that there will eventually have to be grade separation of the MAX system (i.e., a subway) downtown.
There's an enormous difference between saying it needs to happen eventually, and anyone in any position of authority at Trimet or Metro discussing how to fund it and plan it. Is there any evidence that anyone has actually discussed doing it? Has there been even one - ONE - serious discussion at Trimet that included talk of funding it? Of course not. C'mon now. Yeah, this is a neat topic, but there's a reason it's not even under consideration.

I think we'll see the 405 or even I5 in inner SE buried first. God, I wish we could bury I5. Riverside SE could become an amazing and vibrant neighborhood.


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Originally Posted by cityscapes View Post
This would obviously cost billions but it would be worth it.
Bus routes are being cut back.
Fareless Square was eliminated.
Ticket prices are increasing.

...and you're talking about spending BILLIONS and then increasing service, which means increasing costs. With what money? I'd love to have a subway through downtown, and anything that increases service is a huge win... but I'm really surprised by the lack of common sense in this thread. Sure, it's a really neat idea, but not at the expense of other transit priorities. There are so many transit needs that come higher on the priority list.
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  #50  
Old Posted Oct 17, 2013, 3:17 PM
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Originally Posted by 2oh1 View Post
There's an enormous difference between saying it needs to happen eventually, and anyone in any position of authority at Trimet or Metro discussing how to fund it and plan it. Is there any evidence that anyone has actually discussed doing it? Has there been even one - ONE - serious discussion at Trimet that included talk of funding it? Of course not. C'mon now. Yeah, this is a neat topic, but there's a reason it's not even under consideration.

I think we'll see the 405 or even I5 in inner SE buried first. God, I wish we could bury I5. Riverside SE could become an amazing and vibrant neighborhood.
Burying I-5 (basically an 8-lane subway for cars) would be orders of magnitude MUCH MUCH more expensive than building a subway for MAX through downtown. So you're advocating something that would not even add capacity to the existing freeway system, but you don't see the logic in building infrastructure that triples or quadruples the capacity of our existing mass transit system? At a much smaller price tag no less?

You do realize that we could build a more functional, comprehensive and accessible mass transit sytem (including subways, plural) that would make I-5 obselete for the same or less money than burying I-5 on the east bank and under the Willamette? Wouldn't that be a much better way of getting an amazing and vibrant new East Waterfront district (including subway access) than simply trying to hide an ugly freeway without removing it altogether?



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Originally Posted by 2oh1 View Post
... but I'm really surprised by the lack of common sense in this thread. Sure, it's a really neat idea, but not at the expense of other transit priorities. There are so many transit needs that come higher on the priority list.
You just described your own proposal to bury I-5. Sure, it's a neat idea, but at what cost? Like I said, you could build several new MAX corridors, a couple of MAX subways and tons more buses and trains to increase service systemwide for the same or less money than a Big Dig for I-5.
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  #51  
Old Posted Oct 17, 2013, 3:29 PM
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Originally Posted by 65MAX View Post


Exactly!! That's all I'm saying.

I'm completely in favor of building out all the major corridors first. But then once that's done, the surface alignments downtown start to strangle the entire system. I never once said that the subway needed to be built now, and/or instead of expanding MAX and streetcar. That's not even being proposed here, by me or anyone.

And no, you cannot have 8-12 MAX lines running on the existing two surface alignments. That is physically impossible unless you're only running each line only once or twice an hour. It was a challenge just maintaining 3 lines (the Red, Blue and Yellow lines) on the same tracks downtown before the 5th/6th alignment was built, let alone SIX lines on the Morrison/Yamhill alignment. Also, adding the second surface alignment did not double the capacity because ALL the lines still use the same Steel Bridge tracks and they cross paths again at the Pioneer Courthouse, severely restricting any real gains in capacity. Simply adding more tracks to surface streets does nothing to improve MAX service if they're still held up at the same traffic lights, still conflicting with 1000's of cars, pedestrians, bikes, buses and streetcars, still crossing other MAX tracks at multiple congested downtown corners, still having to wait till the train at the platform 500-600 feet in front of it clears that platform before it can then proceed, still having to wait through 2 or sometimes 3 red light cycles to do so, still constricted to 2-car trains by the short 200' blocks.

As maccoinnich said, the ONLY solution is grade separation, and since elevated trains will never be considered for downtown, that leaves a subway alignment. 6mph from one end of downtown to the other (3 miles) means a 30 minute trip. That may be fine for streetcars as local circulators, but that's not acceptable for a regional rail system.
Actually the city handled the 3 trains that ran on one line pretty easily, and each line could easily handle 4 lines. Heck the 5th and 6th lines currently have 3 lines on it now because they run a downtown loop train to fill the gap when there is a lack of trains.

I have pointed out that there needs to be a new bridge constructed to reduce the train traffic on the Steel bridge, but that doesn't mean we need a subway line.

Also, most people don't ride the MAX all the way through downtown, people usually jump on or off somewhere along the line downtown.

The two car trains is always going to be a limitation, but I don't think that is a big enough limitation to justify needing a subway. The only way it would remotely make sense if we were to build an express line, but that would be after everything is built out and we are at max capacity on most of the lines.
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  #52  
Old Posted Oct 17, 2013, 3:44 PM
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Originally Posted by 65MAX View Post
Actually, I've driven down 6th Ave many times and no, the train does not keep up with the cars. But worse than that, you seem to be content with having really slow MAX service downtown, as if that's a problem that can never be fixed.

I understand people thinking it's just too expensive. Yeah, EVERY major infrastructure improvement is gonna be expensive. But magically, they still get built anyway. When the subway becomes the next major priority (and it will sooner or later), the funding will be pieced together to fund it.
Obviously the trains have to make stops, but when there is traffic on 5th and 6th, you are definitely not driving faster than the train as we are waiting for a few light cycles.

I just think some people are trying to make this sound like it is a much bigger issue than it really is. I love subways, but I also understand the cost of them and understand that it is more important to have a system that reaches much of the metro than it is to blow a huge chunk of change on a small section of subway for a downtown that is barely a mile and a half, and 3 miles if you include the Lloyd District. That is a really small area and people are often times riding the MAX with downtown being the target location, thus they are typically not riding the full length of the line.

I do agree that there could be a few less stops, but I also understand the reasoning for each stop through downtown.
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  #53  
Old Posted Oct 17, 2013, 3:51 PM
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Originally Posted by 65MAX View Post
Burying I-5 (basically an 8-lane subway for cars) would be orders of magnitude MUCH MUCH more expensive than building a subway for MAX through downtown. So you're advocating something that would not even add capacity to the existing freeway system, but you don't see the logic in building infrastructure that triples or quadruples the capacity of our existing mass transit system? At a much smaller price tag no less?

You do realize that we could build a more functional, comprehensive and accessible mass transit sytem (including subways, plural) that would make I-5 obselete for the same or less money than burying I-5 on the east bank and under the Willamette? Wouldn't that be a much better way of getting an amazing and vibrant new East Waterfront district (including subway access) than simply trying to hide an ugly freeway without removing it altogether?





You just described your own proposal to bury I-5. Sure, it's a neat idea, but at what cost? Like I said, you could build several new MAX corridors, a couple of MAX subways and tons more buses and trains to increase service systemwide for the same or less money than a Big Dig for I-5.
I also agree, burying I-5 would also be a waste of money that could be spent expanding the light rail, streetcar, and bus system for the city. Plus I-5 runs through an active industrial area that should stay an active industrial area.

The only thing I would really want to see is the capping of I-405 because that would be a huge move for the west end of downtown and would help increase property values along the 405.
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  #54  
Old Posted Oct 17, 2013, 4:08 PM
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Originally Posted by urbanlife View Post

I am with everyone else, subways are cool but I would rather see the region spend that money expanding MAX and the streetcar systems as much as possible, as well as constructing another transit only bridge to alleviate the Steel Bridge issues.
Can you give some detail on this bridge? Where would you put it? What would it look like?
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  #55  
Old Posted Oct 17, 2013, 5:40 PM
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Originally Posted by 65MAX View Post
Burying I-5 (basically an 8-lane subway for cars) would be orders of magnitude MUCH MUCH more expensive than building a subway for MAX through downtown. So you're advocating something that would not even add capacity to the existing freeway system, but you don't see the logic in building infrastructure that triples or quadruples the capacity of our existing mass transit system? At a much smaller price tag no less?
I never said I don't see the logic in burying MAX downtown. I'm saying it isn't going to happen anytime soon - and by that, I mean not for decades. No one in authority is seriously discussing it. No one at Trimet or Metro is planning it. No one is even discussing a budget for funding it. Other than a few guys on an online forum, it isn't being discussed. Why? Because it isn't even in the realm of possibility at this point. Too many other transit priorities are far more important at this point in time.

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Originally Posted by 65MAX View Post
You do realize that we could build a more functional, comprehensive and accessible mass transit sytem (including subways, plural) that would make I-5 obselete
C'mon now. That's just silly. I'm a car-free mass transit guy, 100%, and even I don't believe that I-5 is going to magically become obsolete.

In the end, it's irrelevant. I-5 isn't going to be buried and neither is MAX. Not in the next few decades, anyway.
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  #56  
Old Posted Oct 17, 2013, 7:14 PM
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Originally Posted by maccoinnich View Post
This is an interesting blog post I read recently which directly touches on a bunch of issues discussed here.
Wow, that was a really great post. I can't argue with any of his criticisms. My only defense would be that his issues with MAX are the same we frequently express here as well. However, it does seem like, density and population aside, Portland is dealing with a different mentality up here. For one thing, LA's had decades of overwhelming traffic that I think most people can agree hasn't been solved by massive freeway investments; LA may find it easier to justify. For another, investing $2B (or whatever) on a rail line is easier for a metro area of 12m than it is for one of 2.5m. Finally, Portland's an easier target for O'Toole and CPI b/c again, it's smaller, it's had a rail system/UGB for longer, it's better known for liberal planning ideas &c. So in sum, the guy's right, of course, but given the political, demographic and fiscal environment, we haven't done too badly.
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  #57  
Old Posted Oct 17, 2013, 7:18 PM
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Originally Posted by 65MAX View Post
As maccoinnich said, the ONLY solution is grade separation, and since elevated trains will never be considered for downtown, that leaves a subway alignment.
I'm not sure that no one would ever consider elevated routes downtown. It's not like we have a huge number of historic buildings whose facades we don't want to hide. What about down Broadway? There are a couple of historic buildings, but not that many, and the street's probably wide enough to handle it. I'm just not sure, given how much cheaper it would be than a subway, with the same advantages, that we should just automatically say no.
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  #58  
Old Posted Oct 17, 2013, 8:05 PM
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Originally Posted by bvpcvm View Post
I'm not sure that no one would ever consider elevated routes downtown. It's not like we have a huge number of historic buildings whose facades we don't want to hide. What about down Broadway? There are a couple of historic buildings, but not that many, and the street's probably wide enough to handle it. I'm just not sure, given how much cheaper it would be than a subway, with the same advantages, that we should just automatically say no.
Elevated won't fly in the central city for several reasons, not the least of which is the Portland design review board, organized neighborhood organizations, and business leaders attacking it.

Sure, you can build elevated lines in industrial areas and the suburbs. However, Portland streets tend to be very narrow, so even if you can fit two rail tracks next to each other, you still need elevated walkways and supports, which will block the sidewalk, bike lanes, traffic or parking lanes.

Luckily, we have soil that is relatively easy to tunnel in, and tunneling can sometimes be cheaper than elevated.
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  #59  
Old Posted Oct 17, 2013, 8:09 PM
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Originally Posted by bvpcvm View Post
I'm not sure that no one would ever consider elevated routes downtown. It's not like we have a huge number of historic buildings whose facades we don't want to hide. What about down Broadway? There are a couple of historic buildings, but not that many, and the street's probably wide enough to handle it. I'm just not sure, given how much cheaper it would be than a subway, with the same advantages, that we should just automatically say no.
Broadway has a number of buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the Portland zoning code even has a special code section dedicated to standards for theatres on Broadway. I guarantee elevated anything through downtown Portland will never happen.
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  #60  
Old Posted Oct 18, 2013, 12:22 AM
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Originally Posted by 2oh1 View Post
Bus routes are being cut back.
Fareless Square was eliminated.
Ticket prices are increasing.

...and you're talking about spending BILLIONS and then increasing service, which means increasing costs. With what money? I'd love to have a subway through downtown, and anything that increases service is a huge win... but I'm really surprised by the lack of common sense in this thread. Sure, it's a really neat idea, but not at the expense of other transit priorities. There are so many transit needs that come higher on the priority list.
The orange line will cost billions. Most of you are in support of adding more lines which to me lacks common sense. Why would you overburden the system for around the same cost of improving the entire system?
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