Thursday, March 23, 2006

The Sentence that Unmasks the Tram

OHSU President Kohler has written a letter to his “colleagues”, business people impacted by the tram. As usual, the whole thing is posted on Jack Bog’s stellar site where his loyal group of fans – of which I am one – will pour over it and respond during the course of the day.
Buried in the letter is the crux of the tram sales job – an illogical leap much greater than from Pill Hill to the river. It’s in the simple sounding sentence, “We need space to expand either in Portland or on our own West Campus in Hillsboro.”
Why is that so damning? Because we have been told that without the speed of the connection between OHSU’s main home and the waterfront, the expansion there would not be possible. It is a vital linchpin, remember? Why then would Hillsboro be mentioned as a possible site at all?
Would OHSU be forced to move entirely to Hillsboro so they could be within the magic 200 second window for getting between the two campuses?
200 seconds was the figure one of the presenters at the recent tram meeting pulled out to illustrate the savings in time it would take for him to get from the new site to OHSU. Apparently it takes him 15 minutes on surface roads to do it. You can argue about those numbers but you couldn't get from Pill Hill to Hillsboro in less than 15 minutes unless you had a helicopter. The fact that it was a possible site for the expansion means the vital linchpin angle of the tram is a P.R. snow job.
This is what I believe really happened: You know when you’re dealing for a new car, and you try to get them to throw in the fancy hubcaps?
The tram is the fancy hubcaps. It’s the neat, gimmicky, slick extra that will make this project that much more exciting for OHSU. But if they could have expanded in Hillsboro, they didn’t need to get anywhere in 200 seconds, and the entire tram sales job has been unmasked for what it is: A load of B.S.


At 10:12 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

I don't think you have this right:

"Because we have been told that without the speed of the connection between OHSU’s main home and the waterfront, the expansion there would not be possible."

The expansion is obviously POSSIBLE; the question was whether it was desirable, and whether it made the nut over expanding in Hillsboro. Point being, if it was going to take 15+ minutes to get to SoWa, they might as well expand in Hillsboro instead for all the time it would save.

The impetus was for OHSU to STAY in Portland. That task was sealed by the agreement to build the tram.

At 10:36 AM, Blogger Bill McDonald said...

I think the agreement to build by the river had a lot more to do with the city handouts that will eventually cost Portland 500 million. The tram is a gimmick, that I doubt very much the people at the top will use. It is a shuttle bewteen parking garages and OHSU, not a vital linchpin.
If the sentence was in line with the rhetoric the paragraph should have read, "OHSU absolutely had to have a connection to the new location that could get these patients and doctors there in seconds. That is why Hillsboro was out of the question. That is why the tram has to happen. Nothing else will work." If Hillsboro would have worked, we could have done it here without the tram. Whether or not that was the difference maker, is a matter of opinion. Our council regularly gets pushed around in negotiations so they probably never called this particular bluff either. Besides, they love a good amusement park ride when they see it.

At 10:57 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

No, the rhetoric is without the tram, you might as well move to Hillsboro because it will take you as long to get there. So to make staying in Portland worthwhile, to gain the benefit of having the campuses close to each other, the tram makes that possible in their view.

At 12:19 PM, Blogger Bill McDonald said...

I'm basing this on having driven to Hillsboro. The fact that they mention it as a possible site indicates that time isn't as big of a factor as they implied. We're not talking about rushing patients from one place to another, or employees dashing back and forth. I believe like most places that open a second location, some people will work in one, and others will work in another. The tram was seen as slick, but not vital. If it were traveling over your house, you might not see how slick it really is. Are you suggesting that the phrase "vital linchpin" is accurate, and that if the tram doesn't happen the South Waterfront project will have to be abandoned?

At 1:18 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Are you suggesting that the phrase "vital linchpin" is accurate, and that if the tram doesn't happen the South Waterfront project will have to be abandoned?

No, I'm suggesting that the tram was the vital linchpin for making the decision to stay in Portland, since the issue of being inconveniently far from the new campus could be alleviated by it.

It's a fairly simple equation:

Portland time ~ 15min
Hillsboro time ~ 25min

Under this scenario, the benefit of staying in Portland--keeping the expansion campus close to the original--is washed out by the inconvenient mode of travel. Thus does Hillsboro become a roughly equal possibility.

Portland time ~ 3 min
Hillsboro time ~ 25 min

With the tram, all of a sudden the proximity argument for Portland looks much better, giving SoWa a decided convenience edge over Hillsboro.

At 1:44 PM, Blogger Bill McDonald said...

Okay, so the tram's not vital. Great. What we do is make them eat the 12-minute difference, cancel the tram and proceed with the rest of the project. Then the next time they float one of these scams maybe they'll have some real numbers going in. In fact they can use the extra 12 minutes every day to think about what a bad move that was.

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