Up Sucker Creek

Up Sucker Creek
Photo Courtesy of the Lake Oswego Library

Monday, October 14, 2013

Trains are Dead - Long Live Buses

Interesting editorial in this week's (October 10) Portland Tribune:
Buses could be better option than rail.

"Here we go again:another proposed light rail  line, another epic battle.

The destination this time is Southwest Portland and the Tigard-Tualatin-King City area.  Already, people who view trains as inherently undesirable are mobilizing to block them from encroaching on their communities.  A Washington County citizens' group has gathered the necessary signatures to place a measure on the ballot that would give Tigard residents the final say on whether high-capacity transit makes it to their area.

On the other side of the issue are the seemingly unstoppable forces that have succeeded in pushing light-rail and streetcars into many - but not all - corners of the metro area.  They've faced critics, ballot measures, legal challenges and funding shortages before, but somehow managed to survive."  

Good news for the Tigard folks.  A bit of Clackistani Fever Has spread to Washington County.  It takes a lot of work and coordination to get a measure on a ballot.  Several people have talked about doing something similar with hot button issues in Lake Oswego, but so far, nothing has emerged.  I know it takes time and effort, but if the cause is good, good people will follow.

The Tribune is now pushing the concept of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) as a cheaper, effective and more flexible alternative to rail transit.  About time someone started thinking straight.  The infrastructure is already there, buses can go places trains cannot and can change routes as needed, there are drivers on buses that provide a level of security, and a necessity to pay for fares that keep freeloaders and most thugs off the buses.  If anyone has been on a modern bus recently, it looks and feels just like a light rail car.  Too bad if it's not cool.  Too bad if Portland loses its moniker of the darling of the "Smart Growth" movement.  If it works and we can afford it, that's all that matters.  The downside of the true BRT is the removal of a lane of car traffic for exclusive use of buses.  There are hybrid systems where buses share the road with cars, so the implementation of a BRT bears watching.

Whether or not a BRT works in Lake Oswego remains to be seen.  There are still the "seemingly unstoppable forces" ready to lay tracks to Foothills if given a chance, and developers willing to build Transit Oriented Developments (aka Wizer Block and Foothills Development and ?) to help the needed density along.

The editorial concludes:
"Bus rapid transit could be the key to completing the remaining corridors in Portland's renowned transit system.  It's doubtful this region can continue to bear the cost and controversy of large light-rail projects.  BRT, however, can tie into a system that's already in place - saving taxpayers' money and potentially mollifying at least some of the rail critics who are on record as advocating buses over trains."  

I'd rather not be mollified however.  I'd rather have the certainty that Tigard citizens may have - to be able to vote on the future of our town rather than have Metro tell us what it will be.  

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