The $1.5 Billion Milwaukie Light Rail Alternative

The video above is to help illustrate the enormity of $1.5 billion, and how little we will actually get for putting in the Milwaukie Light Rail line. We realize many of you will want to know how we arrived at the video above, so here are the assumptions below.


Spreadsheet Annual Cost Calculation
Spreadsheet Principle Calculation
Assumption Explanations

No matter how you look at the numbers (we tried to be as accurate as possible, but I’m sure people will find problems with one thing or another), the cost of this line is enormous compared to what you could get for it. If you have a problem with the way we broke down the numbers, do your own analysis and let us know about it!

We also realize the money is earmarked for transportation only, but it was getting difficult to spend it all, so we decided to give some to the schools.

Contact the Governor
Call Governor Kitzhaber (503.378.4582) and demand more for your money!!

Transcript from Video

TriMet is looking at a $1.5 Billion dollar expansion of the MAXX to add 7 miles of light rail into Milwaukie. But is this the best public transit service that $1.5 billion can buy? Here’s another idea:

Currently, there are three morning rush hour routes, and one local route, that run between Milwaukie and downtown Portland.

First, lets buy them new buses.

But let’s not just buy them any buses, lets buy them VanHool double decker luxury buses. These buses are nice, but not nice enough, lets upgrade them with headrest tv’s, crushed velour interior, tthe works.

We’re going to dedicate 16 buses to running the route between downtown Portland and Milwaukie. This should more than double service… and we’re going to have ALL 16 buses running this route 24 hours a day / 7 days a week, not just during peak hours.

If the buses are running all the time, when will we repair them? We’d better double our bus total again (32 buses), so we can have two bus rotations, one running while the other is cleaned/repaired. And let’s add another 4 buses (36) just in case something goes wrong.

These buses are also going to need drivers, mechanics, and janitors… to keep those buses really nice. And let’s give all these people TriMet’s standard benefits (which just happen to be the best in the nation).

Improved service is nice, but we need people to enjoy riding the bus. We should probably have Direct TV service. With NFL Sunday ticket. And wi-fi. And every person that rides should have coffee and a donut.

That’s pretty good service… but what if we also made it all totally free. Everything is totally free.

What if we also gave every freshman in Portland Public Schools a new Macbook Air. And an Ipad. Every year.

What if all of this was ongoing and free… for the next 150 years.

That’s right, we could all this with the money from the Milwaukie Light Rail line.

What would you do with the $1.5b?

This entry was posted in Cascade Website, John Charles, Satire, Transportation, Video and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to The $1.5 Billion Milwaukie Light Rail Alternative

  1. Carol Povey says:

    I grew up riding the Portland/ milwaukie streetcars. I don’t know what madness eliminated them. But why can’t we replicate that system for less. This is sick. Reevaluate.

  2. Nancy Wheaton says:

    This video is fantastic! What a creative way to show the hideous misuse of transportation dollars in our community. Thank you Cascade. I will pass this on.

  3. Pingback: The Portland-Milwaukie light rail $1.5 billion alternative | COUV.COM video, audio, insightful commentary on local issues in Vancouver, WA

  4. I think you miss one key benefit to LRT: street presence and development potential. Light rail provides elegant passage through communities once not served by mass transit. This means more traffic to those communities and greater incentive for investment in those communities. While I agree that we could easily accommodate transit needs with buses only, public perception of LRT is higher.

    My reluctance to use Tri-Met for everyday transit is mostly due to inadequate service frequency. If trains came every 5 minutes instead of 15, I’d be much more willing to use Tri-Met every day. But the fact that a 10-minute trip could take 25 minutes if I miss a train means I’m not so keen on relying on Tri-Met for everyday use.

    Anyway, I see what you’re saying. I just think there are fringe benefits to light rail which sheer numbers cannot refute.

    • dennis says:

      These articles are clearly written by someone that has very little experience with public transportation. The numbers are somewhat misleading. The Vancouver to Downtown Portland express bus runs on the I-5 bridge. In traffic. Those mph ratings for the express bus must have been recorded at midnight, on a wednesday. I’ve used the express bus, to commute. Often, you can spend 25 minutes or more, going less than a half of a mile per hour. This is because it lacks a dedicated right of way. You may have just driven your own car, as you’d get there much more quickly. The other thing, is C-tran, has moved the the primary location of the transit interchange, three times. So, where do you catch the express this week? The buses, are rarely on time, and if you are having to change buses, you’re looking at between a thirty, to sixty minute wait, and a transit center. The new, deluxe transit center in Hazel Dell(new location this time) is a vast field of concrete, and you’ll most likely be all by yourself, while your waiting. You’ll have to decypher the transit schedule, which has different times, for weekdays, holidays, saturdays, and yet another for sundays. A certain percentage of the time, the bus you’re waiting for, will simply not show up at all. You can catch the next one. Twice on the express bus, the seat was covered in what I’d imagine was urine. A majority of the fellow passengers on C-tran, were people that weren’t allowed to drive, either from some disability, or perhaps a DUII, and very few were commuting to work. This isn’t so much an inditement of public transit, as it’s an inditement of bad transit. On another series of occasions, I just rode my bicycle, from near Hazel Dell to The Expo Center, to catch the MAX train into downtown Portland. The bicycle far exceded the speed of the bus, despite the backwards traffic handling of Vancouver (where every light is a red light). Each time that I boarded the Max, there was a place specifically for my bicycle, and a clean seat available. The ride on the train wasn’t especially speedy, but we were easily doubling the speed of the cars (and express bus) on I-5 nearby. the ride was smooth, and quiet, and most of all, consistant, which cannot be matched with a bus.

      This all aside, the push to stop light rail, is because it’s cost is bearing on residents that won’t be using it. If that was an issue, why no complaints about the Padden expressway? I’m paying for that, yet I’ll never use it. What about SR-503 through Battle Ground? I never go there either. If you’re going to claim liberty, then you have to go all the way. Make those residents in exurban locations pay the ENTIRE cost of living out there, rather than forcing people inside of the city to subsidize that. I’m sure that it would be tough to afford to keep propping up these massive suburban developments.

  5. Richard Hall says:

    We have the very same madness occuring in Marin county, California – spending $1.2bn on a heavy diesel serving a tiny 700k suburban/rural area and not connecting to any major employment centers.

    Any discussion of buses was summarily dismissed or not considered even though buses would have provided superior service at a fraction of the cost. (A fleet of helicopter taxis would have been cheaper than this train!)

    The project was “greenwashed” to appear to reduce greenhouse gases and traffic – yet is being used as an excuse to justify extensive “transit oriented development” turning rural Marin into a 5 story urban jungle (to justify ridership and secure grants). Once approved by voters the line magically shortened to just half the length. Major parts of the track have been submerged underwater regularly during winter storms. Work is occurring in very environmentally sensitive wetlands where there are federally endangered protected species.

  6. Brian Smith says:

    If I had the investment capitol I would provide a “Water Transporter” Oregon City to Vancouver, powered by Natural Gas; where the passenger would be a regular employed commuter vetted in a data base where it’s a privilege to ride not a right.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>