Thank you: In place of an editorial last Wednesday, we published a personal perspective on Shirley A. Smith, who passed away recently at the age of 83. The outpouring from you, the readers, in appreciation for the perspective was fantastic. A big thank you for all the nice notes and messages. In the end, most of the issues we write about on the viewpoint page are either about or affect people, and hearing how much you enjoyed and appreciated reading about Shirley made our day. Again, thank you.
Portland’s TriMet: In a story by Oregonian reporter Elliot Njus, which published in TDN’s Saturday, Oct. 15 edition, we learned the MAX Orange Line light rail system is not meeting expectations. The Orange Line offers Milwaukie to Portland service and ridership is about 35 percent below expectation. To help gain funding from the federal government, the TriMet system substantiated spending on the system by indicating 17,000 passengers would use the system each day. A year after the line opened, ridership is averaging less than 11,000 commuters per day.
Planners blame the recession eight years ago and lower-than-expected gasoline prices as the major contributors to the ridership deficit. The original plan projected housing growth levels that didn’t pan out. Additionally, planners assumed gas prices would remain in the $3- to $4-per-gallon range, which hasn’t been the case. Both factors were assumed to push more people into using the Orange Line.
TriMet hopes the $1.4 billion project will live up to expectations from a ridership standpoint, but it certainly doesn’t look good so far. Light rail, and other forms of mass transit, are often talked about as the solution for getting cars off the road. However, the cost to build projects is very high, and clearly, predicting ridership levels isn’t easy. David Unsworth, TriMet’s director of project planning talked about the effect of lower cost gasoline saying, “People are motivated by convenience and cost, and people weigh those differently.”
The other issue often not discussed is the cost to maintain the system. A new $1.4 billion asset will cost hundreds of millions of dollars to maintain over its life, so the real cost of the project is much higher than the original price tag.
All this comes at a time when Sound Transit, up in King County, is looking to get a $53.8 billion dollar project passed by voters. The project, called ST3, would also include 62 miles of new light rail. More to come on this.
NFL TV ratings: America’s most popular sport is facing a big decline in television ratings. TV ratings for the NFL are down about 11 percent compared to last year, which is a significant drop.
The NFL has faced a fair amount of controversy in the last few years. Former NFL running back Ray Rice brutally assaulted his fiancé last year and the incident was caught on tape. The issue became national news and the NFL took quite a bit of criticism for how the issue was handled.
This season, controversy started with players boycotting the national anthem. Both local and national media chimed in with thoughts about the boycotts, interviews of players and thoughts from important people across the country. Much of the public reaction to the boycott was negative, including from TDN. It’s hard to tell if this has negatively impacted ratings, but it’s likely.
The other big national issue going on right now is the presidential election, which millions of people are watching, and is clearly taking some viewership away from the NFL.
Others may have turned off the NFL due to the concussion issue.
For years the NFL deflected and minimized the concussion problem and this may have turned off some fans.
Regardless of the issue, many folks are no longer tuning in. We will keep track of this and let you know.
Kalama methanol project: In an announcement carried in Tuesday’s edition of The Daily News, Northwest Innovations decided to spend additional millions to upgrade their plans so no water will be discharged into the Columbia River. This was another piece of good news about a project that already looks great for the community. Changing the project plans to “no discharge” also means the plant will use less water overall. The Port of Kalama has permits to use about 15 million gallons of water per day, the methanol plan will now use less than 5 million of those gallons. The water the plant uses will not come from the community water system either, which is great.
The cost of the plant upgrades is estimated at another $25 to $30 million, which is a lot of money. We hope you support this project – we certainly do.
YMCA scanning: Last week TDN published a story by reporter Quinn Welsch about the YMCA using driver’s licenses to check to see if visitors are sex predators. The goal of the program is to minimize the chance children will be harmed – clearly a good goal.
The story attracted both very positive and negative comments from readers. Wishin’IwasFishin’ liked the new process and commented, “This is excellent! So much better to be proactive then to have to address victimization later!”
At the same time, others in the community were upset that sex offenders are being “targeted.” Stella said, “This is just out right discrimination. A SO (sex offender) label can mean so many things including urinating in public, having a consensual relationship with a 16-year-old when they were 18. I think it’s a waste of their time and money. Most child molestation is by someone they know and trust.”
We weren’t surprised by the contrasting comments. But when it comes to protecting children, we need to do whatever we reasonably can.
As citizens and YMCA members, we applaud the Y’s efforts to keep kids safe.