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jj

You are absolutely 100% correct. The project hasn't had good #'s up to this point and had they started at lets say 40 million as it should have initially been... then the bruhaha would be less.

The Eiffel tower is the classic example of a similar project that was fought tooth and nail but has paid off bigtime. Besides most transit projects have major cost overruns (portland has gotten spoiled since trimet seems to be able to do things underbudget). Lets remember the tram is a rather unique project too.

justin

Two quibbles:

1) I don't think the tram is going to become the Eiffel Tower of America. I could be wrong, but doesn't seem like the best comparison.

2) Is this "lynchpin" really necessary? Can't Portland build a multi-billion-dollar, high-density neighborhood and biosciences campus without the tram? And if a tram is necessary, wouldn't it be better to build it after a lot of the development is already in place?

The Tram is gonna get built, and I sincerely hope it pays off. But I gotta admit, I'm skeptical.

Justin

Oh, it'll be successful... I just wonder if it'll get built.

I think once its built and working, and the South Waterfront area is built and inhabited, a TON of employees are going to ride it down to eat lunch every day on the future greenway park... I'd bet anything that they will prefer doing that to eating cafeteria food on the hill or taking the 8 bus downtown.

Brian

Hey, being skeptical is just fine. A city council member threatening to rip out the foundation with a tow truck is, in my humble opinion...not fine.

Brandon

If this was $55 Million for a freeway it would barely be mentioned by the Commissioners, Mayor or media.
Since we have already decided that we're going to do this we need to do it right and $15M will not seem like much when we look back. In fact the Tram will tremendously help to unclog streets as OHSU grows their campus along the waterfront. The more alternatives to the automobile the better the environment and time it takes to get from A to B.

Justin

Speaking of the tram... I think they also need to build an observation deck + restaurant up on pill hill, connected to the tram. That would be really cool... especially if you could see West over the hills.

Maybe this could be a nice $150 million public project? Any takers...? heh, oh well.

pdxstreetcar

I believe I heard that the owners of the portland city grill were opening a location at the top of the tram although I havent heard anything about it lately.

aa

Has anyone tried to estimate a project lately? It's brutal out there...absolutely brutal. A 22% leap doesn't entirely surprise me.

Gerald

I think the thing everyone forgets the most is that so far the city has not raised it's share at all. The city share has remained what it was from the beginning. Also, as you all know, OHSU would have expanded on it's land in Beaverton not in Portland. That loss would have been much more than $55million.

Brian

I think Gerald makes a good point. City council members have been acting so self-righteous about how the city's not going to kick in another dime, but I think they should have been paying more in the first place. Although OHSU is benefitting from the tram by far the most, it's still a public works project. And that's the government's responsibility. Instead of taking a hands-off approach to funding and then suddenly grabbing the reigns as if they're in command, I think the city from the beginning should have taken pride in investing in this. We do so with MAX. Why not the tram too?

Rich

Brian:

Basically, I agree with you regarding the tram. The prevailing public sentiment, though, even in "liberal" Portland, is to oppose public expenditures except on the most obvious things. And even some of the obvious things--like schools, police, public health--are underfunded.

I personally think the tram is a worthy public works project, but from what I can tell (from reading local columnists, reading local political blogs, talking to people), this isn't a widely shared belief. In part because it is such an unusual transportation project, and in part because it seems symbolic of the kinds of changes in Portland that many long-time residents don't like, the tram is an easy target for ridicule. Therefore, I think the city council's limited commitment to the project is politically wise.

There will be many public projects to be undertaken and political battles to be fought in the course of trying to make Portland a greater city as its population grows--moving the east bank freeway and expanding rail transit come to mind as examples. But I think our city leaders need to be cautious about getting too far ahead of public sentiment; otherwise, they risk a backlash against some of the good principles of urban planning that have taken root in Portland but which aren't yet firmly established.

Brian

Well said.

john

A few points.

Brian sings the OHSU tune. There is at present no biosciences being planned at SoWa. Many are skeptical that there will ever be biosciences. The first OHSU building is a clinic. The rest of the buildings are expensive condos. The tram is not necessary for the condos, not at all.


The Tram is 375% over budget. Not 22%. The record shows that the City's own planners deceived the Council, in cahoots with OHSU and the developers. How can this not spark anger?

The tram is not a "public transportation" project at all. It is not connected to TriMet. There is no indication that visitors get to it. There is no rain cover. The audit indicates that riders may be fearful. Maybe* in the future it *might* connect to the Streetcar.

The Tram is a basically a ferry service for doctors and nurses on Pill Hill. Indications are that the bulk of the riders will be morning commuters riding from the large parking lots in SoWa up to the Hill. Is that what we've paid 55 million for?

Estimates are that the ongoing cost of running the Tram will be one million/year, all paid for with your tax dollars. And PDC/TIF money is not "Free".

No one will ride the Tram down to have lunch at the Riverfront--the greenway at SoWa has been slimmed down so much that it's basically a narrow bike path (all the dollars have been diverted--this is in the public record. Check PDC's own statements on South Waterfront.)


There is no plan at present for retail at SoWa, and I'd expect to see little there since most residents will hop in their cars and drive the Sunset out to Washington County every morning.

Maybe it's because some of us DO see looming crises in "schools, police, and public health" that we are so frustrated with a massive and unneeded giveaway to wealthy developers. Perhaps some have judged that this is NOT a worthy public works project?

bob

Most of that land between the Marquam and Ross Island Bridge is OHSU's future Schnitzer campus and OHSU is going to start on second building this year in the South Waterfront.

TriMet fares are being used on the tram and yes it is open to the public.

Oh no plans for retail in the South Waterfront? what about this...
http://www.thesouthwaterfront.com/CommercialOpportunities.aspx

no general fund money is being used on the tram!!!! money is not being taken from schools or parks or roads to pay for it. ohsu and the south waterfront developers and sowa residents are paying for it thru their urban renewal local assessment.

do a little research before making false claims

Justin

Plus, a 100-foot wide linear park along the waterfront is hardly a simple bike lane. There will be tons of opportunity for architects to design small plazas & eating areasa opening out onto the riverfront... I hardly think that these opportunities will be overlooked, considering the kind of money they can bring in to potential restaurants & developers.

Also, there is already a streetcar stop next to the where the tram is being built. They've completely finished it already.

Chris McMullen

"no general fund money is being used on the tram!!!! money is not being taken from schools or parks or roads to pay for it. ohsu and the south waterfront developers and sowa residents are paying for it thru their urban renewal local assessment. do a little research before making false claims"

You should heed your own advice, Bob. If you dug a little deeper, you'd know that The PDC helps finance URDs with OUR property tax dollars!! The PDC's budget is around $600 million a year. Once again, financed by OUR tax dollars!!

Furthermore, the taxes paid in these URDs like SoWa go back into the district, and not into the general fund (ie schools, safety, infrastructure, etc.) -- even after their 10 to 15 year tax abatements expire. Basically, SoWa will contribute nothing to the general fund for years to come.

Your contention that SoWa doesn't negatively effect property tax rolls is just plain wrong.

SoWa could have been a privately financed project with no abatements. The Schintzer's and Zidell's were ready to go forward with their own development, but it didn't fit in with the 'vision' of the dumb-growth ninnies.

MarkDaMan

^Oh Chris you are so mistaken!

SoWa would not have increased in value nearly as much as it has without the city's investment. The city is using current tax dollars generated by increased land value that increased in value because of the city planned smart development. The previous plan by private companies would have left a downtown neighborhood looking much the way the Pearl did 10 years ago. The plan was for mixed industrial plots that would have created brownfields throughout the district. The industries might have thrived for another 20 years before eventual downtown development made the area unfeasible for additional industrial use.

By building infrastructure to support higher and more profitable densities, Portland is going to generate massive tax dollars in SoWa that could not be realized without city assistance. In 15 to 30 years, when the additional increased tax revenues are added to the city's coffers, Portland leaders in today's time will have left a huge and profitable development for our children. When the city's portion of the costs are paid off the additional increased tax money will then be added to the general fund and spent to repair roads, schools, and additional livability projects across the ENTIRE city for forever into the future. The increase in tax collections after these renewal districts expire should be so much that the city and MultCo actually will be able to significantly decrease property taxes in the future. In essence, through no costs from our general funds today and spending money solely through increased land values, we are creating piggy banks for our children.

Your approach to development is much like the Bush Administration's approach to the future. While I favor forgoing the easy no government involvement projects and instead building the infrastructure now that paves the way for new and thriving neighborhoods, you would rather leave the area with lower density "dirty" development in our downtown core, and leave the same problems we deal with today such as urban brownfields, for our children to pay for later. Instead of hounding the city for their less than $100 million investment for the entire SoWa district, which is expected to generate over 2 BILLION $$$ in private development, why don't you hound the Bush Administration for their spending of our children's tax dollars on unnecessary wars and poor spending controls? It amazes me that you would be criticizing Portland for leaving our children neighborhoods that are paid for, successful, and generating income for forever into the future instead of criticizing the same people that are leaving us with billions of dollars in national debt each year so that you and I can enjoy a minimal "tax break" until it too has to be paid back on the backs of our children. Please tell me, are you backwards like the Administration or is your half-brained opposition just because you are greedy?

bob

From PATI FAQ:
"OHSU will finance additional tram costs through a property financing arrangement (Local
Improvement District) spread out over 20 years. These funds will not come from OHSU programs,
city funds or state coffers. The City’s portion of the budget has not increased, and no money from
the General Fund or General Transportation Revenues will be used, ensuring that basic City
services are not affected."

I, too, dont want to see the $15 million shortfall in the tram budget paid for in anyway by the city general fund and I'm hoping that the city wont bail out the tram with city general fund money. as of now there is no general fund money going into the tram (maybe the money that you are talking about from PDC is going to other urban renewal projects but its clear its not going into the tram). the tram is 90+% OHSU's so rightfully they cover most if not all of its costs and its reasonable for the south waterfront residents to pay a small amount of it although again OHSU should cover 100%.

"Furthermore, the taxes paid in these URDs like SoWa go back into the district, and not into the general fund (ie schools, safety, infrastructure, etc.) -- even after their 10 to 15 year tax abatements expire. Basically, SoWa will contribute nothing to the general fund for years to come."
Well partly, the tax level based on the old industrial south waterfront neighborhood still goes into the general coffer. the difference between this level and the new property tax level stays in the south waterfront for improvements. so there is still a substantial amount of money going in the general coffers now, granted not the full value of the high rises but in the long term, the city will come out way ahead when they start collecting the full value of the high value south waterfront towers (with many times more residents than the alternative). in addition the south waterfront will provide thousands of jobs, much more housing, keep the largest employer in the city all of which the old proposal did not include.

Justin

Mark, I think their arguments run something along the lines of, 'these will fail, all the rich people will move out and squatters will setup tents inside these $100 million towers, which will never pay taxes...' -because for some reason they will get infinite years' worth of tax abatements. Which of course makes a lot of sense.

Oh, and I forgot - the tram cable will break, falling on Barbur Blvd and I-5, killing millions of people and causing the Pill Hill volcano to erupt, killing everyone in Oregon.

john

Bob,
I did not say TriMet fares could not be used on the Tram.

What I said is that the Tram does not link *easily* to any TriMet service. It will not be used by tourists unless they are willing to park in SoWa, ride 7 minutes, then stand on a (9 months out of the year) windy and uncovered platform with no amenities.

I don't think this is defended as a public transportation project. It is a 55 million dollar parking shuttle.

Has anyone committed to that retail space? I travel through the Union Square area daily, which is supposed to have sparked retail development. There is one lone store down near Albers Mill. Other than that, it's empty.

OHSU was not going to move. That was a poker bluff and the City blinked. To the tune of millions of dollars. Suckers!

by the way, all of the posts above still haven't demonstrated why the Tram is a "lynchpin" (sic).

MarkDaMan

"What I said is that the Tram does not link *easily* to any TriMet service. It will not be used by tourists unless they are willing to park in SoWa, ride 7 minutes, then stand on a (9 months out of the year) windy and uncovered platform with no amenities."

Hmmmm, the streetcar will have a stop within a block of the tram. TriMet also has indicated that certain bus lines will be reconfigured to drive them through the district.

The kind of things tourist do are ride streetcars/MAX and check out city views. This will be a huge pull for tourists that want a prime downtown and SoWa view and currently don't have an observation deck in a downtown building that allows them to see our beautiful city.

"Has anyone committed to that retail space? I travel through the Union Square area daily, which is supposed to have sparked retail development. There is one lone store down near Albers Mill. Other than that, it's empty."

Most of the time retail/restaurant tenants don't line up a year in advance and open a place in an unopened building along an unfinished future transportation line. If you have any doubts that some company will take over that space than your arguments are beyond the bogus way they are already presented.

In addition to the tourists that will ride the tram, OHSU also employs more people than any other company in Portland at a higher pay rate than most companies in Oregon. OHSU will have a two campus set up which will produce more jobs and are only connected, in a quick manner, by the aerial tram. It doesn't take a math genius to figure out that spot will probably be one of Portland's hottest corners in the near future unless you are daft? Are you daft John?

"OHSU was not going to move. That was a poker bluff and the City blinked. To the tune of millions of dollars. Suckers!"

So you are saying, let's play hardball with our largest employer. What if the city said no and OHSU left? You would probably be the first in line calling Portland anti-business. Washington County just gave over a half a BILLION bucks of taxpayer money to Intel, WashCo largest employer. Where is your rage? We spend $3.5 million to accommodate our largest employer and we are the sucker, hell give them 10 million more and I still say we are coming out ahead.

Justin

For specifics...

Willy Week - Washington Co. gives Intel a $200 million taxbreak in exchange for $12.5 billion in development:

http://www.wweek.com/html/leada100699.html

(given a cursory googling, I couldn't find any more recent specifics on the subject)

Note that was a reduction of $40 million previously offered.

Anyone know what kinds of subsidies Nike gets, besides suing the city of Beaverton so they can't be incorporated & pay city taxes on city services they receive, such as police, fire, etc...?

Perhaps a better venue for discussion on the validity of corporate tax breaks & incentives would be blueoregon, such as their previous post?

http://www.blueoregon.com/2005/10/state_official_.html

MarkDaMan

It took me less than 3 minutes on Google to find this Justin,

"Washington County commissioners and Hillsboro city councilors unanimously approved Tuesday a $579 million tax break for the county's largest employer, Intel Corporation, a manufacturer of computer microprocessor chips and wireless technology."

and that Intel actually expects to spend $23 billion on new equpiment during the time of the break. I actually think it's great that WashCo has has granted the tax break and I certainly am not arguing against that.

I'm pointing out the hypocracy of the anti-tram rhetoric when our neigbors to the west, were I assume a majority of they nay-sayers are blogging from, let this "gross abuse of govermental power" continue unchecked while at the same time pissing and moaning about small potatoes in Portland.

Steve Schopp

"""We spend $3.5 million to accommodate our largest employer and we are the sucker"""

The PDC SoWa budget shows $1/2 Billion in projects and interest during the first 20 years alone.
More years and millions beyond that willbe needed to clear the debt.

Mostly free infrastucture for the developers and nontaxpaying OHSU and doctors group.

All of which is borrowed money to be repaid by property taxes diverted from not only the 120 acres of the SoWa plan but from another 290 acres of real estate adjacent to the planned area.
Existing developed property currently paying property taxes will not have any of it's yearly increases go to basic services for at least 25 years.
Very little of SoWa taxes will either.
$1/2 billion=smallpotatoes?
You folks who promo this garbage
haven't even seen a valid spread sheet on it.
You fasly claim nothing would happen without this massive public "investment" then don't pencil in all of the revenue lost which would have been availble sooner and for decades without the UR approach.

john

Mark

I love how you always assume that naysayers are from the 'burbs or are Republican. NIce ad hominem.

It ain't true.

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