The transit mall downtown is opening for genuine MAX traffic soon and it is lookin' good. Really good. The kind of good only lots of money can buy.

There's been a lot of discussion at the city over the cost of the the "furniture elements" of the transit mall - the trashcans, bus shelters, benches and bike racks. How much money is too much money to spend on a trashcan or a bike rack? Well, TriMet architect Bob Hastings points out that the transit mall is "the most important thing we're doing for streetscape improvement in downtown Portland" and wanted to have the everyday elements "look good and stay good for 25 years." That's how the transit mall team wound up mandating very classy stainless steel elements. Sadly, stainless steel is expensive. Here's how the transit mall costs break down:

188 trashcans at $2000 each ($376,000 total)

30 benches at $2600 each ($78,000 total)

53 bus shelters of varying sizes costing $3,844,780 total

and yes, 117 bike staples that clock in at $367, plus $100 installation costs. (about $55,000 total)


Current TriMet budget deficit: $13.5 million.

Anyway, the bike racks present an interesting dilemma. TriMet ordered 117 of them, but the city saw that is not nearly enough to meet demand and wants to install 100 more. Sadly, in the two years since the contract was signed, the price of the stainless steel bike racks has jumped to $900 each, plus installation fees. And while federal funds covered 60 percent of the initial costs of building the transit mall, it's not clear who will pick up the tab for future work (like, say, one of the trashcans gets set on fire). Not the federal government, that's for sure. Right now the Portland Bureau of Transportation is looking around for transit mall bike rack funding - maybe the PDC can shell out? According to PBOT's Sarah Figliozzi, Portland's famous blue staple bike racks cost only $150, including installation, and start to look shabby after about 10 years. But the city can't use those ubiquitous racks on the transit mall because of the strict, stainless-steel only design guidelines.

While the city and TriMet sort this out, Portlanders have found a practical solution: