Can We Please Drive a Stake Through The Heart of Light Rail?

by lewwaters

I am convinced that light rail, whether we like it or not, must be a part of the project. As such the responsibility, again whether we like it or not, falls on the community to cover the cost of the operation and maintenance…” Former Port of Vancouver Director Larry Paulson March 26, 2012

Light Rail HellThe words above spoken by former Port of Vancouver Director Larry Paulson is indicative of the uphill battle we waged for nearly 20 years against forcing us to accept Portland, Oregon’s financially ailing light rail system a few blocks into our community, across state lines.

“It’s a done deal,” “Nothing you can do will stop it,” “Hounds of Whinerville,” and of course, “like it or not” were repeatedly heard as we plowed ahead, elected representatives that supported us over Portland and eventually, saw the ill-fated Columbia River Crossing project die painful death.

Or so we thought.

This blog is one that has steadfastly maintained it was not dead but was merely placed in a politically motivated coma, awaiting a change of the guard to see new life breathed into the effort to force us into accepting that light rail we fought ever since 1995, defeating every single funding measure placed before us on ballots.

I am also not alone in my belief that downtown special interests as well as from Oregon were quietly working and scheming to resurrect their scam and bring it on over regardless of what citizens said.

We the effort recently by the Lazy C to ridicule an Oregon resident over her understanding of measures proposed on their side of the river as they made her facebook post the top headline.

Col, Facebook CRC Alive

Those Oregon measures died, but apparently the notion of light rail those few blocks into our community has not.

Recently released by the City of Vancouver, their 2016 – 2021 Strategic Plan lists under “Executive Summary;”

GOAL 1: Ensure our built urban environment is one of the safest, most environmentally responsible and well maintained in the Pacific Northwest

Objective 1.1: Develop and maintain a safe, balanced and innovative transportation system that will meet the needs of future generations

Objective 1.2: Ensure our infrastructure, including buildings and utilities, is safe, environmentally responsible and well maintained

All of that sounds fine and dandy, pretty much what we would hope for with responsible City Government. However, dropping down to page 13 of the plan we find;

2016 Vanc Strategic Plan, Light Rail, Trolley

As seen in the highlighted word above, not only is light rail still in their planning, but now we seem to have added a “Downtown/Uptown/Historic Reserve trolley system.”

And yet, these same people are the same ones that keep lulling us into a slumber by claiming the project is “dead” and will not come back, at least in our lifetime.

But yet, there it is right in the middle of their own “Strategic Plan” for the City of Vancouver.

A problem this time around though, some of the latecomers to the battle that seized credit for stopping it last time have gone out of their way to alienate and purge the very ones that did much of the grunt work that actually did stop it last time.

More that never it appears that words spoken by Mr. Paulson back in 2012, quoted above revealed some insight missed by many that fooled themselves into believing the project really did die.

And even more cause for wondering, light rail where it actually makes sense, Southern California has seen a steady decrease in ridership over the last decade, as reported in the LA Times, and the CATO Institute.

Still missed by City and County planners is that what we urgently need before replacing the aging I-5 spans across the Columbia River is additional river crossings, “like it or not.”

They must be in place prior to construction of a new bridge alongside the existing the spans to handle the increased congestion during all of the years it will take to build any new span.

But make no mistake about it; light rail is still very much in the plans for our future.

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8 Comments to “Can We Please Drive a Stake Through The Heart of Light Rail?”

  1. THANKS LEW. You are spot on!

    Liz Pike WA State Representative, District 18 Cell (360) 281-8720 26300 NE Third Street Camas, WA 98607 Campaign Address: PO Box 662, Camas, WA 98607 WEB:

  2. Spot on is right.

    There’s two issues that Republicans need to hammer away at in upcoming election(s). One is lite rail and the other is the men in the women’s shower rooms (and vice versa). Voters need to know where candidates stand on each. Sledge hammer away at.

  3. I am not really for a light rail and in the previous plan they were going to create a toll bridge which I think is counter to the goals described to the citizens, mainly of reducing traffic and commute times, but I am also curious what you think would constitute a plan that would be good for future generations, dealing with continued increase of traffic and commuters, if not a light rail? Just a bigger bridge? I would love to see some form of positive environmental impact.

    I also feel it gets lost I’m the discussion about paying for the bridge that most of the people commuting from Clark County are already paying Oregon income tax and the only benefit those Oregon tax payers get is in roads and bridges. I know this because this is our situation. We are fine with this arrangement because we prefer our small town over the larger population in Portland, but then adding a toll cost to get to work everyday feels like an additional tax when our taxes should be used to create the new bridge rather than putting a toll on the bridge which will not help traffic from my experience with the Bay area tolls everyday for 2 years.

    The only solution I could see to the tax in addition to toll is if they created a tax credit for people working in Portland and living in WA to cover the cost of the daily toll.

  4. I first moved out here in 1977 when I got out of the Army. This was well before the I-205 bridge was constructed.

    As far as I am concerned, we need more bridges. The I-205 was a good beginning, but it can’t handle the increase in congestion building a new bridge adjacent to the current I-5 spans will create.

    One fallacy we were fed that light rail was a requirement to obtain federal dollars for it. That is false as we uncovered. We could have gotten federal dollars with either BRT or even an Express Bus.

    As for tolls, we paid 25¢ for tolls back in the 60’s and according to inflation that would amount to around $1.85 today, far less than the predicted $8 and more they could reach. Still, we pay among the highest gas tax in Washington with the bulk of it always going up to King County for their massive boondoggles.

    As far as I am concerned, Oregon ha been very wasteful with the taxes they receive and want access to us in order to receive more revenue for their wants, not ours. They forget, they need our workers just as much as we need their jobs.

  5. As former County Commissioner Steve Stuart, a strong supporter of light rail said campaigning for reelection 2010, “if Clark County residents don’t support it (light rail), then the states have the wrong project.”

    Yet, how many years did he ignore it himself that residents did not support it?

    As for the bathroom/locker room issue, that is about the most outrageous thing I’ve heard of yet. Why we keep catering to those with such mental issues is beyond me. As my wife says, if they desire to be women, they should have to go through menstrual periods, PMS and the rest that nature threw at women.

  6. The ‘progressives’ like “light rail” because these big projects generate lots of revenue for their preferred contractors. It feeds union coffers with all the union-required workers used to build the project. Once the “light rail” project is completed, it requires unionized staff to operate and maintain the trains and stations, along with highly paid bureaucrats (perfect for has-been politicians to be appointed). The progressives see these big projects as “money machines” that feed the system that elects more progressive politicians.

    Service? Well, that’s not so much of an advantage:

    1. Most Clark County users of the light rail will need to ride a bus (or drive a car) to the transit terminal, then transfer to the light rail system. This generally takes longer than either busses that go directly to the downtown destination or to drive to a work destination that may or may not be downtown. Note that the parking will initially be offered for “free.” Eventually, the parking will be charged at ever increasing rates. (There is plenty of history with this one.)

    2. Cost, even though the farebox charges will be heavily subsidized by the general taxpayers, the resulting combined cost of driving and/or riding a bus to a terminal, etc., will end up costing considerably more than the non-rail options, that a is the “out of pocket” cost to the commuters. Further, the high operating and maintenance cost of the rail operations will divert funds that previously supported bus transit to the rail system. (This has happened consistently in every system where “light rail” or other commuter rail operations where imposed on a comunity.) The net result is that bus transit suffers at the expense of the light rail system, hurting those most in need of public transit. The subsidies inherent in the high priced rail transit system generally benefit “middle class” who could afford to drive to work anyway.

    3. Rail transit systems are not flexible. Once the infrastructure is built, then adding or moving rail lines to accommodate changes in growth patterns is incredibly expensive. In contrast, bus routes can be easily adjusted to balance loads and maintain the best schedules. Likewise, accidents or maintenance problems with a rail system, shuts the whole thing down. Busses (either held on standby at great cost — or taken from other services) are called in to create a “bus bridge” around the incident. Bus transit, in contrast, can simply detour around a problem, in most cases. Adding “feeder busses” simply increases the cost and travel times, with little benefit to the riders.

    4. Rail transit is most efficient when the supporting population lives in high density in close proximity (walking distance) from stations. The central planners have “Agenda 21,” where they “plan” for the sheeple (that’s us) to live in tightly packed rabbit hutches, stacked over retail shops, with public transit as the primary means of transport. I note that the development plans in Clark County do not seem to correspond to most Agenda 21 priorities. The result is that the rail transit system will be highly inefficient with no prospect of the efficiency ever improving. Numerous “transit villages” have been built throughout the U.S. (and even in the vicinity of Portland) that usually have not been that successful. (e.g. built with limited parking, the streets are filled with cars that “villagers” still want to have access to.)

    5. A new “Interstate Bridge” may or may not add any lanes to the existing capacity crossing the Columbia. If no lanes are added, then a new bridge will be just as congested as the old bridge. If lanes ARE added, they will most likely be designated as “HOV Lanes”, effectively eliminating most of the advantage of the additional lanes. (Since I’m retired, I LOVE the HOV lanes as I often have my wife accompany me, and I can then use the existing HOV lanes to pass a lot of traffic. However, my experience with HOV lanes when I was regularly commuting during “rush hour” is that they tend to be under-utilized and simply add to the congestion of the adjacent non-HOV lanes.)

    6. Our real need is for more lanes, preferably at a convenient distance from the current crossings, to allow traffic to be more diffused and eliminate the bottlenecks. (I note that the current Interstate Bridge does suffer from high-volume onramps quite close to the bridge in both the north and south directions. That situation simply exacerbates the “normal” slow down as people enter the bridge. The I-205 bridge reduced the negative effects by having additional lanes so that onramps do not have to merge into the existing traffic flow. An *additional* crossing would alleviate the congestion and (hopefully) would not include the stupid design with onramps right at the point of maximum constriction caused by the bridge itself.

    7. The proponents of light rail completely overlook the impact of the automation of passenger vehicles. Such vehicles will likely be in significant use by the time the major project of a new bridge with light rail is built. The mostly middle-class people who might use light rail to commute to work may well find that a “Uber” type service (that uses software to efficiently gather several riders) will be more convenient and less expensive, overing direct pick up of riders from their homes and delivery to their workplace. The vehicles then could continue on to bring other passengers to their various work locations or otherwise provide transit services. (Indeed Uber has reported high-interest in driverless cars.) In addition, when a sufficient number of autonomous automobiles are in use, they’ll communicate with each other, and be able to travel in “caravans” with minimum spacing between vehicles, potentially increasing road capacities by 10% to 25%.

    Ultimately, the free market will find practical and cost effective solutions, so long as the planners and dictatorial politicians are not allowed to run roughshod over the people.

  7. If TriMet wants to totally fund the bridge including the light rail portion, never charge C-Tran or any other Washington entity in perpetuity, never charge Washington residents for riding on the Clark County portion of the rail system, and build and maintain all rail facilities, parking garages, and any other attachment at their own expense, I say let them do it. Make sure you get it in writing though…

  8. That was never the plan, though. All along it was to extend their system just a few blocks into Clark County and access more revenue for them from us. While they touted their one third share claim, ignored was the bulk of tolls would be on the backs of Clark County as well as fares for light rail.

    Our community simply does not have the population to support such a charge for generations, but Portland only cared about more money to fund their unfunded liabilities.

    We need our citizens spending their money on our side of the river for our community and not being encouraged to go spend more in Portland by our leaders. We need revenue as much as they do to maintain our own community.

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