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Murmurs: All The News We Found Weeping Over Our Bracket.

  1. Who thinks the Portland Aerial Tram is part of a regional transportation strategy? Metro does. As first reported by Metro News, planners have found the tram—ferrying passengers from South Waterfront to Oregon Health & Science University—is getting too crowded at rush hour. The tram’s two cars carry 6,000 passengers a day and 2,400 during rush hours. “It’s near capacity during rush hour right now,” says Malu Wilkinson, Metro’s principal regional planner. What’s the solution? Dave Unsworth, TriMet director of project development and permitting, says planners are discussing erecting a 90-foot elevator tower with a walkway, leading from Southwest Barbur to Terwilliger boulevards. “This is really conceptual,” he says. “As you can imagine.”
  1. Portland energy consultant Robert McCullough is still stirring up trouble at the Columbia Generating Station, the region’s only nuclear power plant (“Costly to the Core,” WW, Dec. 11, 2013). The Tri-City Herald reports that Energy Northwest, the utility that operates the nuclear plant, has estimated it could cost up to $3 million to comply with McCullough Research’s request for public records about its purchase of nuclear fuel from a financially troubled producer in Kentucky. McCullough produced a report in December calling for the plant’s closure, saying shutting it down could save ratepayers $1.7 billion over 20 years. But he’s still not satisfied with the utility’s explanation of the $700 million transaction that provided it with a long-term fuel supply. “This deal was pushed through so fast and with so little review that I want to know more,” McCullough says. “[Energy Northwest] promised its board there would be rate reductions. As far as we can see, there haven’t been.”
  1. Portland is rolling out the red carpet for home-rental marketplace Airbnb—and that means rolling back the red tape. The San Francisco online startup, valued at $10 billion, is moving into new Old Town headquarters even as city inspectors issue citations to homeowners using the website to rent out guest rooms (“Suite Surrender,” WW, March 19, 2014). The city has said many Airbnb sites violate city code by operating an unauthorized business in a residential area. Proposed regulations released by the city Bureau of Planning and Sustainability on March 21 would allow rental of up to two bedrooms a night without a $4,130 zoning review. The only caveats: The hosts must live on the property, and they have to inform their immediate neighbors and their neighborhood association. Some foes of Airbnb rentals say the city’s proposals are sensible. Says Tamara DeRidder, Rose City Park Neighborhood Association land-use co-chair: “It actually looks like they’ve threaded the needle pretty well.”