Milwaukie City Council Votes on Light Rail

Deborah Barnes

The Milwaukie City Council will be wrapping up the preliminary work on a recommendation for the path of the Portland to Milwaukie light rail line with public hearings on Monday and Tuesday of next week. It's been a long process that has been the focus in Milwaukie for over a decade.

The Portland-to-Milwaukie Light Rail Project Steering Committee recommended in June that the light-rail line should follow the Tillamook Branch railroad alignment, entering the city through Milwaukie's north industrial area.

The line would continue along the railroad tracks through downtown near the Portland Waldorf School and behind Milwaukie Lumber, crossing Lake Road and Kellogg Lake. The line would extend south to Park Avenue along McLoughlin Boulevard into Oak Grove. A station could be located on Lake Road.

Last week I had the opportunity to travel to the NEA convention in Washington, D.C. where I had the opportunity to ride that City's Metro system. Yes, it is located below ground, but I found some interesting differences beyond the location of the system. Washington's transit system, in a City known for criminal activity, seemed like one of the safest locations I have seen. Transit employees take their responsibilities of enforcing the rules, making sure ticket machines work (and when they don't they are right there helping), and being cordial. I never saw a law enforcement officer on the trains or in the stations. Apparently, the high expectations of riding a transit system in Washington are understood and followed. Which leads me to my point.

If Tri-Met fixed their ticket machines, enforced their own rules with consistency, and found innovative ways (i.e., cameras that could be send the video to a live source for real-time review) perhaps the issues with our Metro would be less common.

I support light rail because it is needed to give us more transportation options. The cost of gas will do nothing more than continue to rise. Our environment needs more than cars. Our population in the region is estimated to grow at an alarming rate.

If you believe light rail is an option from Portland to Milwaukie (and eventually into Oregon City) add your voice to the hearings Monday or Tuesday evenings beginning at 7p.m. at City Hall. And, if you don't agree, feel free to share your thoughts with the Council as well. We will be making a final decision at the end of the hearing Tuesday evening.

  • Steev (unverified)

    g"in a City known for criminal activity, seemed like one of the safest locations I have seen."

    How would you compare this to MAX out thru Rockwood to Gresham? Most cases crime rides the MAX, I hope you realize what you are bringind right into downtown Milwaukie.

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    "Crime" doesn't ride MAX...people do. That was my point. If the expectations are low enabling crime to occur then that is what you will get. If we set higher expectations for acceptable behavior then the situation will lead to better circumstances.

    Tri-Met should improve the conditions with additional safety measures (something Milwaukie is working on now) so the entire system improves.

  • RinoWatch (unverified)

    Perhaps running the "crime train" into Milwaukie will move some of the crime out of Beaverton & Hillsboro. I'm all for that.....

  • DemocraticLuntz (unverified)

    The DC crime situation is somewhat exaggerated these days

    More specifically, the crime is mostly limited to Southeast outside of the Capitol Hill area. Northwest DC/Capitol Hill area, where you probably spent most of your time, is pretty safe.

    That being said, only an idiot would oppose expansions of your area's rail transit system.

  • lightrailforPDXgood (unverified)

    I lived in Washington, DC in the 1980's when the crime statistics were not exaggerated. It was the murder capital of the US (sometimes more than one a day), and low expectations for citizen behavior were set by then-Mayor Marion Barry's well known crack problem.

    But I rode the metro almost every day, in all parts of town for work and school and riding multiple lines, and on weekends to get around town for shows. It was extremely safe and effective. The signs for metro were a welcome sight if you were out at night or day in rough neighborhood and getting a little nervous (and I'm talking rough by DC standards not Portland).

    Crime is not a legitimate reason to oppose light rail in the PDX area, its a xenophobic straw man argument as demonstrated by two of the buffoons posting above.

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    The DC crime situation is somewhat exaggerated these days

    Ah yes, if you take out the killings, Washington actually has a very low crime rate.

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    Yesterday I had a conversation with Jenni Simonis about the contrast between MAX and the T in metro Boston, which has underground stations, above ground stations (elevated) where track access is limited by turnstiles like the underground ones, and some open access above ground stations comparable to MAX. The trains also have fare takers comparable to the drivers on Tri-Met buses on the lines that run to the open-air stations. (On a couple of lines that run heavier trains more like the NYC trains, the driver compartment is physically separated, and there may not be "drivers" in each car, but these lines all have closed track access stops).

    A number of these systems also have their own police forces with actual enforcement powers that go beyond those of MAX fare inspectors.

    It may be that MAX needs some physical reforms such that payment is required prior to track access at more places, or fare-takers, or both, and that in one form or another persons with greater enforcement powers need to have more presence on the trains & along the routes. Right now the latter function is being provided by certain municipal police forces in some areas, but I am not sure if that's the best way to go, in terms of other uses of those officers the cities & towns in question might have.

  • iwmpb (unverified)

    I think whether it's the Subway in NY, Metro in DC or BART/Muni in San Francisco, the common theme is turnstiles (in general) and cameras. While they do have their own police, the presence is generally not that overwhelming. However, you actually have to be a paying customer to access the loading areas for the trains.

    I know that I've been in neighborhoods that wouldn't be considered the safest in all of those cities at a late hour, and always felt quite safe down at the loading areas (or above ground areas in SF) Now, would I take the MAX out to Gresham late at night? Probably not!

  • Unit (unverified)

    First of all, is there any way to expose one's ignorance and lack of credibility more quickly then by using the term "crime train"? This is the same red herring used by people who think they're too good for transit throughout the country. If you don't want those people who look different than you in your neighborhood, why don't you just say so?

    Second of all, please refrain from this talk of marionberries - it is making me hungry.

  • Steve (unverified)

    "If we set higher expectations for acceptable behavior"

    Uh, hello, welcome to the real world. Crime is getting worse on MAX and we have no plan to fix it. Today TriMet security are told not to do anything but watch and call the police.

    So obviously your solution is to play big with taxpayers money and build more new lines while we can't manage existing lines. Crazy idea, but if you are so forward thinking, how about asking the taxpayers what they think and put this up for a vote?

    I think you are looking 10 miles down the road and not noticing the pothole in front of you.

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    Yea, when I was catching the T over near Fenway where it's aboveground, they had an employee in every section of the train. Only one door on each section would open, and you had to enter the train where the employee was situated. That sure made me feel a lot safer using public transportation late at night by myself in a city I'd only been in for 2 days.

  • Steve (unverified)

    "f you don't want those people who look different than you in your neighborhood"

    Fascinating assumptions - Are you implying criminals are only people who don't look like the writes of comments? Love the logic.

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    Like I was saying to Chris Lowe last night, maybe it is time that TriMet stops hiring various levels of security. I'd rather have 12 officers who can check fares, write tickets, make arrests, etc. than 16 security guards than can just stand there and do nothing more than the average citizen - call for police.

    Light rail isn't bad - it's just being managed badly. Milwaukie is in the position of being able to require certain levels of security before they agree to a line through their city. The other cities with light rail through them need to work together to force TriMet to do what it keeps saying it is going to - fix machines, put more officers on the trains, etc.

    The "Rockwood problem" always gets looked at as if it's just Gresham's problem. But Rockwood is in Portland as well as Gresham - and it's where the two cities could be working together.

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    I have also had the chance to ride DC's Metro trains and I felt safe on them. While I haven't been around in Oregon much these past years, I was back in Portland last year for a few months. It seems like Trimet is still failing to take proper measures to ensure the safety of the public.

    Because I love Milwaukie and pretty much think of it as a place I'll live again someday, I hope the city council supports lightrail. The transportation options out that direction are bleak.

    Here in Korea the Seoul Metro Subway system is very safe and convenient. As someone else pointed out, you physically have to go through a turnstyle to get in and out of the station.

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    I've been traveling to DC extensively this year and ride the Metro all the time, and at all hours.

    I'm in Paris now (sorry, couldn't resist) and have been riding the Paris metro for a week. I've ridden BART, MARTA (Atlanta), Chicago's "El" (grew up there and that's what we call it dammit), Boston's T, the NYC subway.

    I've never witnessed anything untoward on any of these lines. But keep in mind that all of them, except perhaps MARTA, are truly ASS transit--it's used by everyone from the rich to the poor, white black and hispanic, and all in between.

    Portland's system has a long way to go before we get to that point, if we ever will. Max trains that I have been on run mostly half empty or less and (again purely impressionistically) have a higher proportion of down and out Portlanders.

    Fact is, much as we try to convince people to use transit here, it's still much quicker and often cheaper to hop in your car.

    I've thought about doing a posting after my trip commenting on the VELIB bike system and the proposal to adopt such a system in Portland, and for many of the same reasons, I'm convinced it will never work.

    Density, residential patterns, and work and shopping habits are just so dramatically, radically, historically different between Paris, a city of more than a millenia, and Portland, a city barely into it's second century.

    You want density--walk around this city. We aren't even in the same universe.

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    Hey, that should say "MASS" transit, not what I typed instead ... SORRY!!!!

  • D.J. (unverified)

    I agree with a lot of the other commenters - the difference between DC and Portland is that the DC metro has limited access platforms. Everyone at the station has paid.

    That said, I don't think that's the be-all and end-all of transit safety. NY's Subway has entirely limited access platforms, and it's more than a little sketchy.

  • Erik Halstead (unverified)

    I support light rail because it is needed to give us more transportation options.

    What's ironic, given this forum's "democratic" slant, is that light rail does not provide more options but it is a discriminary action that removes options from some people, to provide a better option that the status quo to others.

    TriMet has a history of disinvesting in the total transit system - which includes busses, which provides service to two-thirds of Portland's transit ridership and the vast majority of the geographic reach of the district - to gold-plate a light rail system that serves a smaller group of people.

    Is it right to "serve the people" by telling 2/3rds of TriMet's ridership that they must rely on busses that are increasingly unreliable, often lack basic amenities like air conditioning, are frequently packed because TriMet refuses to buy high-capacity articulated busses, and that TriMet refuses to "go green" by purchasing hybrid busses unlike progressive transit agencies like Seattle (which is investing in both busses AND light rail)?

    Is it right to spend $117 million on a commuter rail line that (1) operates only weekday rush hours, (2) requires a credit or debit card, or pre-paid tickets that cannot easily be acquired within a short distance of any station, (3) provides plush seats, air conditioning, power outlets and free wi-fi access -- when many TriMet riders "get" the "opportunity" to ride an 18 year old, non-air conditioned, high floor bus, while boarding at an unimproved bus stop that lacks even a shelter or bench (particularly true on those rainy winter nights?

    It is ironic that TriMet's current state of affairs is often brought out by politicians and civil servants who are members of the Democratic Party, yet chooses to spend money that generally favors only a select few individuals, and more importantly helps line the pockets of rich developers who take advantage of targeted tax breaks used to encourage development along these light rail lines in order to stimulate ridership which doesn't necessarily materialize to the desired extent?

    I am not stating that light rail is a bad investment; it has proven well and does attract ridership in Portland. But Seattle has proven that investing in their bus service also attracts ridership; the attraction to transit is investment in quality, not bus versus rail. This has been proven elsewhere, but the pro-rail advocates would make you believe that all busses are an evil cancer.

    So, congratulations, Milwaukie. You get light rail. Too bad for Troutdale, Happy Valley, Damascus, Oregon City, West Linn, Lake Oswego, Wilsonville, Tualatin, Rivergrove, Durham, Tigard, Forest Grove, Cornelius, and apologies to any communities that I didn't name. You will get to see less TriMet service and higher fares, to subsidize the light rail line that Milwaukie gets, and to pay for the lines to the Airport (that supposed "public/private partnership" that was only 25% private) and to North Portland.

    Is it right to deny those other communities quality transit? Is that democratic, that one city (Milwaukie) which has the political backing of Metro and the City of Portland, gets to squelch those other communities? Is being "democratic" allowing Portland, as the largest community in the region, to dictate its wishes to other communities even if it is against their will? (Surely, our Democratic friends in the rest of the state would beg to differ; our friends in Salem often cite that they do not want Portland dictating their policies.)

    Of course, it doesn't help that TriMet by its nature is hardly democratic; its Board of Directors is appointed by the Governor and not directly elected.

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    <h2>Excellent point(s) Erik. Maybe Portland needs an equivalent of L.A.'s Bus Riders Union.</h2>

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