Letter to the Editor of
The Oregonian (Portland)
Published 20 July 1998
To the Editor:
Your editorial "Light Rail Still Right Track" (12 July 1998) is off track. Rather than dealing with the Richmond criticisms you simply repeated the usual mantra about light rail and how it removes traffic from roadways. As Richmond shows, little traffic has been removed by light rail and more was removed less expensively in the past by lower bus fares. Indeed, Federal Highway Administration data indicates that per capita automobile travel in the Portland area is rising at well above the national rate. Portland could have reduced traffic congestion just as much by building a string of publicly owned coffee houses. The point is that there is simply no material connection between light rail and reducing traffic congestion, in Portland or elsewhere.
The overblown claims with respect to light rail and its role in development are misleading. The proximate cause of much of the cited development is tax breaks, not light rail. If light rail is such an effective city shaper, why is the city of Portland granting 10 year tax abatements for development adjacent to stations? In Portland, as elsewhere in the nation, light rail is about abstract and unsupportable notions of city building.