Friday, February 15, 2013

Portland, San Francisco, and "dummies in suits"


"Layers of planners, managers, and dopey rail projects." Sounds familiar! Jack Bog could be talking about SF. But on a per mile basis---at a billion dollars a mile---our Central Subway surely qualifies as the "biggest waste of money in the history of mass transit in this country." The California high-speed rail project would take that prize, but I still don't believe it's going to be built:
 
Tri-Met's general manager, Neal McFarlane, has been making the rounds trying to sell his story that the bus drivers' union is what's breaking his insolvent transit agency. We've expressed disappointment that the local mainstream media has run stories that allow McFarlane to make this case without also giving opposing views anything near equal time. Some of the other side has now been aired---the union's side---in at least one later piece, in the Oregonian. But there's still been precious little discussion of our main gripe, which is that Tri-Met has trashed its bread-and-butter operations, buses, for excessive layers of "planners" and managers, and for dopey rail projects. It's hard for us to believe that professional writers can interview McFarlane without crucifying him for the epically failed WES heavy rail project, of which he was in charge. That has turned out to be the biggest waste of money in the history of Tri-Met, and perhaps in the history of mass transit in this country. Then there's the empty east side Portland streetcar, and now the Mystery Train to Milwaukie, and next, the light-rail deck on the new bridge to the 'Couv---a deck that most folks in that suburb don't seem to want...
 
...When Tri-Met's hack board and its bungling management start talking rationally about terminating WES, slimming down their own house, and scrapping all their grandiose train plans for the future, maybe someone will listen to their whining about the unions. In the meantime, we find ourselves rooting for the bus drivers; although they are fat and greedy, they're far less of the problem than the dummies in the suits.

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