Choking Portland with Light Rail | The Antiplanner
. . . one billion dollar light rail folly at a time.
More beneath the fold.
This is one of the most concise evaluations of Portland's transit follies written, and it points out the basic folly underpinning the entire transit/Unicorn industry.
To recap: The city of Portland has 301,000 daily commuters, the metro area has 895,000, of those the city has 8,500 transit commuters, and the metro area has 18,000, or 8,500/301,000 for the city, 18,000/895,000 for the metro area. This translates into a fraction more than 2% of trips in the metro area are on public transit. To make matters worse, since beginning to build light rail lines back in the 1980s Portland's share of commuters riding transit has dropped from 9.9% of commuter trips, to 7.6% of commuter trips. During the same time, costs soared. While he doesn't say it, Portland has more bicycle trips than transit trips, it may have as many skateboard trips as transit trips.
None of this would matter much if all things had stayed the same, but they did not. Total trips in Portland have been increasing, 60% since 1990, 15% since 2000. Transit has taken an infinitesimal share of these trips. Frankly, if Portland transit disappeared tomorrow, it would only be noticeable at rush hour, and then only marginally, adding an additional 7.6% of total rush hour commuters back into the road mix after removing the buses, and light rail cars which are constantly hampering traffic, and it is likely commute times would be a pretty close wash. That is not to say that it would not be a significant inconvenience on many of the individual who would need to find alternative transportation.
Living here, I know many people who bike commute. They seem to come in three flavors, progressive true believers who know that they are saving the planet by riding a bike, and who like the health benefits (mostly over 35). Second, the tight budget, lower payed who are in a long term stable relationship, and likely want, or have a family. Third, the single, rugged individualist, urban, conformists, yeah, obvious oxymoron, but that defines the progressive (mostly under 35).
This quote caught my eye as it did the Antiplanner's: “A single person in a single vehicle is the least effective transportation system we have.” I cannot determine how one would define "effective" in this sentence. Clearly the auto is the most "effective" transportation modality, it takes the occupants from where they are to where they want to go quickly, efficiently, and for a reasonable cost. Sure the transit fare is less but it does not include the actual cost necessary to pay for the ride. Plus transit frequently requires the rider trek long distances from where they are to the transit stop, and then long distances at the other end from the transit stop to where they wanted to go. Most light rail lines, if they charged the actual cost of the ride would need to increase the fare to between $12 and $40 per one way trip.
Portland's last light rail project was 7 miles long and cost $1.4 billion. There is simply no way to amortize that cost over the riders for the next 35 years and come in with a reasonable fare. So, public transit cheats, and does not add in the capital costs. Actually, the fare box revenue only covers about 18-20% of total costs minus the costs of capital construction. So to simply pay the actual operating, and non capital maintenance costs the fare should be 4X to 5X the current fare.
Commute speed is an important aspect of the equation as well. Autos, and bikes are clearly preferential modes of transportation because they are relatively quick and efficient. Transit is obnoxiously slow (light rail travels at under 15 mph, and the streetcar at about 6 mph), and as Maddogsson found, unreliable.
The article also points out a key reason newspapers are failing. It is difficult to believe, but Portland's best newspaper writer is utterly incapable of seeing what is happening, analyzing the problem, and finding the root cause. This is the primary function of newspaper writers, and this now common failure is a key reason that people stopped reading the newspaper. Today, newspaper journalist, and editorialists both are more likely to simply regurgitate prepackaged claptrap. This is one of the key reasons Portlandia has such a large amount of garbage transit that carries no one to nowhere. The Oregonian, the regions large newspaper, simply regurgitates the light rail mafia glowingly radiant BS.
Over the past month or so, both of Maddogsbrers came up to Portland and spent some time driving around visiting family and friend. They both were shocked by Portlandia's congestion. I was most amused by that statement coming from the brother who only moved from Portland to the San Jose metro area a few years ago. Traffic is so bad here, that Bay Area Californicators complain about it!
A few related posts:
I was pleasantly surprised to find a solid article supporting plain bus transit . . .
More lunacy from the Portland Clown College: Smart Growth: Driving up housing prices, and increasing congestion! Twofer!!!
The Antiplanner reports that Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx came to Portland selling more choo-choo transit BS . . .