Near Miss

Saw this scene while in NW Portland…
Who'd you take in a bet

This fire truck had been sitting, parked on the street, for several minutes as the Portland Streetcar approached. A fireman stood in a building nearby, watching out the window. Perhaps because he was watching for the Streetcar, perhaps for another reason.

As the Streetcar approached, I sensed trouble. Having been in vehicles with mirrors that jut out, and seeing that they can often make contact with things never intended, I realized that between two vehicles with jutting-out mirrors, some sort of collision would probably ensue.

The Streetcar driver appeared to have the same calamitous vision in his mind, because he slowed down with a few feet to go, and came to a stop, and sat there, looking quite taken aback. What to do?

He first got out of his seat and appeared to try to size up whether he could get past. He got on hs radio. Then he got up and leaned again.

I continued to watch, transfixed (and, of course, waiting for the streetcar).

And te fireman watched, at least for a minute or so. Perhaps sensing the pain in the keister his truck was causing, he finally came out.

Of course, not with keys in hand. Instead, he stood between me and the truck (that’s him with the blue shirt) and gave assuring gestures to the Streetcar driver, beckoning him forward.

And, thus, the Streetcar advanced. Slowly. Painfully slowly, And, indeed, it hit the firetruck’s mirror, which bent backwards, but I was able to see after that it was easily bent back.

Was this interesting? Worthy of a blog post? Maybe. Maybe not. But here it is.

A couple of thoughts I walked away with:

1) Were the firemen driving the truck completely oblivious to the large, thick white line they were nigh-straddling with their tires, and clearly crossing with their mirrors, and the tracks next to it, and the doom such items represented?

2) Could they not have pulled onto the curb? They have big, big tires and emergency powers that surely would make it both physically and legally doable.

3) If there was a fireman assigned ot watching the truck, why didn’t he have the keys?

Maybe this was some sort of sting operation.

Your thoughts are, as always, solicited.

10 Comments so far

  1. Aaron B. Hockley (unregistered) on June 6th, 2007 @ 5:24 pm

    Another solution would be for Portland to stop wasting millions of dollars on rail-based transportation. Had this been a bus, they simply could’ve driven around it.


  2. reece (unregistered) on June 6th, 2007 @ 6:51 pm

    i’ll answer #3. chances are the engine wasn’t locked, and therefore there was no need for keys. just think of how much it would suck to have to unlock doors for everyone to get in if there is an emergency. surprisingly enough, big fire apparatus such as this just don’t have the wonderful keyless entry that your passenger cars do. they’ve got old fashioned locks.


  3. Bob R. (unregistered) on June 6th, 2007 @ 6:53 pm

    “Had this been a bus, they simply could’ve driven around it.”

    Had this been a bus, far fewer people would be riding it, and far less development (the source of future property tax revenue as well as meeting goals for increased close-in population) would have occurred along the route.

    As for whether the fire truck could have pulled up onto the curb, it is doubtful… there are a lot of signs and sidewalk furnishings to try and avoid.

    The design of the streetcar takes into account the width of emergency vehicles, but it would have helped immensely if the mirrors had been retracted first.

    Portland Streetcar, Inc. actually maintains statistics about these kinds of service interruptions… the frequency of interruption and the level of service reliability is quite high, even compared to buses.

    A number of people on the Portland Streetcar Citizens Advisory Committee, including myself, are developing a plan to independently verify schedule reliability using a webcam to record arrivals/departures and software to synchronize this with the officially-predicted times.

    – Bob R.


  4. Jack Bog (unregistered) on June 6th, 2007 @ 7:37 pm

    “Had this been a bus, far fewer people would be riding it, and far less development (the source of future property tax revenue as well as meeting goals for increased close-in population) would have occurred along the route…

    “A number of people on the Portland Streetcar Citizens Advisory Committee, including myself,…”

    Mmmmm… KoolAid.


  5. Bob R. (unregistered) on June 6th, 2007 @ 8:45 pm

    Hi Jack Bog –

    If you want to have a serious discussion about the pros/cons of streetcar operation, I’d be happy have it with you. Also, as you know, the meetings are open to the public and you can come give your feedback.

    If you’d rather just sit back and lob “KoolAid” insults, that’s fine too. We have a mutual friend or two, so if you want to insult me in person sometime, it can probably be arranged. Then you can feel real good about yourself and I can get back to a yummy glass of KoolAid.

    – Bob R.


  6. Jack Bog (unregistered) on June 6th, 2007 @ 9:49 pm

    Bob, you poor, misguided child: Streetcars are a waste of money. All they do is sell condos for your uncle, Homer Williams. Either you are in on the scam, or you’re being used. Have a nice ride.


  7. Bob R. (unregistered) on June 6th, 2007 @ 10:21 pm

    Hi Jack –

    I’ve been discussing transit issues online for more than two decades now… it’s actually quite an honor for a famous young (in ‘net years) whipper-snapper like yourself to criticise me.

    If you’d bothered to show up at public meetings regarding light rail and the streetcar (or at least read the minutes, readily available online), you’d see that I’ve been critical of streetcar/rail policies just as often than I’ve been supportive over the years.

    Just today at the CAC meeting there was a great deal of time spent debating/discussing whether a streetcar to Lake Oswego is actually feasible, for example, and a formal process was discussed to establish more clear criteria for what makes a transit corridor appropriate for a streetcar.

    I’m just a small businessman and homeowner who is lucky enough to have enough free time to get involved in the public process. I don’t have the luxury of a tenured position from which to hurl insults and call people children – but then you’re lucky too.

    – Bob R.


  8. Aaron B. Hockley (unregistered) on June 7th, 2007 @ 7:59 am

    Wow… it’s great to see Bob admitting that streetcars really aren’t about transportation, and are more about getting development dollars for more condos!


  9. warner (unregistered) on June 7th, 2007 @ 9:56 am

    What’s interesting is watching a seemingly innocent blog about a near miss on the street turn into a battle of personal insults over the merits of streetcars.

    Fascinating!


  10. Bob R. (unregistered) on June 7th, 2007 @ 10:19 am

    Wow, it’s fascinating to see Aaron completely lie about what I said. Par for the course, I guess.

    Hint 1: Show me where I ever said that streetcars aren’t really about transportation.

    Hint 2: Streetcars can be about more than one thing.

    Hint 3: If someone says “computers are great for doing spreadsheets”, this does not mean that they have admitted that “computers aren’t really for word processing”.

    Thank you for your time and consideration.

    Bob R.



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