Portland’s regressive rail

I love Portland. Who doesn’t? I love everything about it: We have been referred to countless times as the most “green” city in the United States, and second in the world.

I love Portland. Who doesn’t? I love everything about it: We have been referred to countless times as the most “green” city in the United States, and second in the world. There is always something happening here—festivals, concerts, excellent restaurants, wine bars, the blues at downtown’s Waterfront Park all summer long, Voodoo Doughnut and, of course, beer. What could be better, right? Wrong. I am tired of Portland’s fascination with 19th-century transportation.

Personally, I think public transportation is great, and Portland does have a lot of it. However, it’s pretty bad when I get from point A to point B faster by walking than patiently riding the streetcar. And once again, Portland has decided to build a new one. Can somebody tell me why we are stuck in the 19th century?

The Oregonian reported on Oct. 23 that, “This week, after years of delays, the nation’s top transit official signed a contact [sic] that guarantees $75 million in federal money for the planned $150 million eastside extension of the Portland Streetcar. The new route will run from the Pearl District over the Broadway Bridge, past the Rose Quarter to Lloyd Center, and south to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.”

Despite my opinion on the whole 19th-century streetcar fascination in Portland, there is another thing I would like to ask: Why are we building a streetcar to Lloyd Center when there are already three MAX lines that go to it? Besides, it’s federal money that is going toward the project so I think a better place for the streetcar to go is Lake Oswego.

The Oregonian said that “much of the eastside line, in contrast, will travel parts of the city—the Rose Quarter, the Lloyd District, the central eastside—where few people live and where commercial development has struggled. This won’t be a streetcar coming to the people but, the city hopes, people and development coming to the streetcar.” If there are few people living there, what people are coming to the streetcar? Weird.

More so, the benefit of having a route instead extended to Lake Oswego is a lot bigger than to an underdeveloped area. I am not saying we shouldn’t in the future, but it makes more sense to me to extend a route someplace where there are people and industry.

Another article in The Oregonian, published on Oct. 22, reported that, “Federal money will pay for half the project. The other half comes from a variety of sources, including property owners along the route, the Oregon Lottery and urban renewal money from the Pearl District and the inner eastside.” This seems doable, but if there are not many property owners living in the area, as the previous article pointed out, I could only imagine what they are charging the ones who do.

Another option to consider is having a bus instead of a streetcar. How many people actually pay for their fares on the streetcar? I know of people like myself who have taken the streetcar countless times without paying. The only time I was ever asked about it was by the extremely obnoxious guy who embarrasses you in front of everyone while taking a survey on how many people pay. He never asked me to pay afterwards. With a bus, people are required to pay or show proof of payment before boarding. This is guaranteed revenue for the system, unlike all the people getting a free ride on the streetcar.

What it comes down to is that either way, it is not up to me where to build a streetcar track. I just have my own opinions. But at the end of the day, public transportation is great. You should use it if you don’t already.