Monday, May 15, 2006

MAX, Powell, Foster, Hawthorne and the Streetcar

In Sunday's Oregonian, Jim Mayer has an article about light rail in Portland. It mentions that Tri-Met is seriously considering light rail out the Powell/Foster corridor. Basically, after light rail is installed on the Portland Mall, the first branch would head south to Milwaukie. The second line would branch off of this where it crossed Powell, and head east, probably just past I-205 to 122nd Ave or somewhere thereabouts (see the .pdf here).


This article was the first time I've seen a serious discussion of light rail in the Powell/Foster corridor. (Did I miss something?)

This corridor has been a subject of much debate, in the Portland blogosphere and elsewhere, for some time now. However, I think this is a good proposal. While at first blush, this would actually seem to be a natural streetcar route... the more you think about it, the more you realize that, no, light rail out Powell/Foster makes the most sense.


Two reasons:

1. Capacity
2. Development Potential

1. Combined, that corridor already produces enough capacity on its bus lines to overload a streetcar-only solution. Two-car MAX trains would be the only solution for upgrading transit. The 14-Hawthorne could make a little loop out of 50th, Foster and 52nd, and then turn back around and increase headways down Hawthorne Blvd. (Or, a streetcar could do the same thing, as a Hawthorne-only streetcar line would probably have the capacity handle Hawthorne-only loads.)

2. Development potential. Both Powell and Foster have a *lot* of underdeveloped land, including large parking lots, strip malls, etc., which would be ripe for redevelopment into TODs. Light Rail could be the catalyst to add some significant density to these neighborhoods, and in doing so, raise the general standard of living by bringing the customers to make more and higher-quality services (shops, etc.) available to the neighborhood populations.

If Tri-Met builds a light rail line out the Powell/Foster corridor, then a Hawthorne-only, or Hawthorne to 50th to 52nd & Foster streetcar line would probably work like a charm, and also be able to handle all of the capacity in a basically Hawthorne-only corridor.

And I think that Hawthorne still has some room to densify... that Safeway on Hawthorne could probably be redeveloped to add a couple hundred units, ala the Safeway downtown. Ditto for Freddys and most of the other businesses that currently still have surface parking. So, there might be a little bit of room for additional infill TOD around a Hawthorne streetcar alignment.

Wow. What a great proposal. And finally, it could be funded by a Multnomah-county-only referendum, which would most likely pass, as opposed to recent tri-county referendums or referendums involving Clark County, which have failed.

Three cheers for Tri-Met on the Powell/Foster LRT idea!

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