Let Me Say that Again


It’s my fault, I buried the lead. In yesterday’s post, I laid out what I think are four legitimate policy questions about how we manage our transit system. And I saved what I thought was the best for last.

Apparently, no one could get past the first one, as that was the focus of all the comments. So let me call out the one that I think is significant. My hypothesis is that the correct debate is NOT bus vs. rail, but rather:

Is it good policy to focus the overwhelming portion of new available service hours in one new corridor every few years, versus spreading it through the system?

That’s really the issue, it’s not train versus bus. Essentially TriMet saves up most of its growth in available service hours and spends it in one big blow-out a few times per decade. I think a policy debate around that pattern would be a very good thing!

What that pattern does for the overall equity of service delivery in the region is one of the things I hope our equity analysis will shed light on.

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79 responses to “Let Me Say that Again”

  1. What would be the alternative: 50 feet per month added on to each HCT line on Metro’s wish list?

    It really does come down to large complex projects v. imperceptible incremental improvements to existing services; i.e. “rail” v. “bus”.

    Is the question really one of allocation percentages?

  2. I think you could get a lot more nuanced. For example: add one new frequent service line per year (really an upgrade to an existing line), put the rest into rail expansion. That would mean there are longer gaps between opening new LRT corridors, but perhaps better service region-wide. Maybe, maybe not, but someone ought to at least model the scenarios and have a discussion!

  3. Metro and TriMet seem to have bought into a schedule along the lines of Chris’s posts. There are a series of projects in different stages in the pipeline. Right now, we have Eastside streetcar about to be completed, MLR about to get the first shovel into the ground, LO to P streetcar extension DEIS scheduled to come out for public comment in about a week, and Barbur Blvd. in initial planning.

    This keeps a bunch of staffers and contractors busy. If we went to a more drawn out schedule to accommodate incremental system wide improvements, then we wouldn’t need quite so many of those folks working on local projects and it would be more difficult for Metro/TriMet to ramp up when a massive project comes along. This reality may be driving the process more than we realize.

  4. I think spending money throughout the existing system is a better option. Expanding into new service corridors just encourages sprawl out in the suburbs. If the money is focused instead on increasing service to those folks already used to seeing and using transit, then I would assume you’d have a more significant and positive impact on ridership. It also seems like the money could go further – adding a few buses and drivers has to be cheaper than buying land, laying rail, or even installing dozens of new bus shelters.

    Of course, I could argue for expanding service corridors. I’m living in Tigard, currently, and would love to see a MAX line down Hwy 99! And one could assume that more riders coming in on a MAX means more folks will be in the city center and that will increase ridership in core areas.

    …I’m conflicted. :)

  5. Of course you need to do both. Building a HCT network takes time and lots of capital dollars, and the more time, the more dollars. Once in place, transit riders along HCT lines have better service at a lower operating cost.
    Adding FS bus lines and/or getting the FS network back to 15 minute frequency, even to 12 minute frequency takes operational dollars. These are scarce, especially now. But this is the worst economic slow down since the 30’s, so we should not base our strategic plans on current budgets.
    But the two can complement each other. When Interstate MAX opened in 2004, all the service hours from the old 5 bus were distributed to other bus lines in N/NE including several that went to FS status.
    BTW the same discussion applies to the regional trails network, but in that case the region has tended to build a mile here or half mile there with the only one complete or almost complete trail to show for it, the Springwater Trail. Some suggest that doing one corridor at a time would make more sense and get you more bang for the buck; you just have to wait your turn.

  6. I think Lenny is right. When times were good and Trimet had the resources it was making more frequent service bus routes lines at the same time it was adding rail service. And the rail service displaced buses and operating costs that were used to expand bus service elsewhere.

    In other words, the premise of this statement is questionable. Trimet historically has not focused “the overwhelming portion of new available service hours in one new corridor every few years”. In fact, to the contrary. The new available service hours from the Interstate MAX were disbursed. The MAX itself simply replaced service that had been provided by buses at greater cost.

  7. As I see it, MAX expansion is more important than this question about equity of investment in various bus routes and/or bus vs MAX. If Mr Hughes becomes the next Metro presiding officer, I want to hear his explanation why Hillsboro is still such a dumpy nowhere-ville with highway traffic passing through. Maybe a MAX extension to Forest Grove should move higher up the priority list? My perspective on transit design stresses the importance of transit-oriented development and I question whether Mr Hughes understands or favors that perspective.

  8. When times were good and Trimet had the resources it was making more frequent service bus routes lines at the same time it was adding rail service.

    I would argue that this has not been the case for several years (even prior to the recession). I suspect the agency became overextended (in terms of service hour budget) by the combination of opening WES and the Green Line.

  9. I don’t know if it pans out, but I think a capital project to improve the bus system is long overdue–some stop improvements (and some new busses), but moreso than that–creation of bus lanes and transit-only (or transit/bike/ped) infrastructure, particularly in known bottlenecks.

    For one example near my place: How about a transit bridge crossing OR217 and Scholls Ferry Bridge just south of Hall Boulevard, near Washington Square–eseentially connecting the mall (and the Washington Square TC) with the Nimbus WES station. Improvements to the Washington Square area have been on the county’s list for a while; and this would solve numerous problems, including the issue of 76/78s getting stuck on Hall approaching the Square from the north. (There is a permanent traffic jam, it seems, in this location). Or if that’s too much; how about widening the overpass to provide bus (and bike) lanes?

    If you do enough of these things in strategic locations, you can improve the performance/reliability of routes and reduce the number of busses needed to maintain a given level of service–allowing either an increase in frequency, or better (or new) service elsewhere.

    There’s probably lots of examples of intersections which are bottlenecks for bus service which could be improved.

  10. Yes, IT IS all about rail vs. bus. Despite the musings of “railfans,” I strongly believe that rail is a totally inappropriate mode for low-density Portland.

    Aside from the arguments about Trimet’s financial priorities, construction of rail lines here has had a very deleterious effect on transit service here. I know this from experience, being a non-driver and frequent user of Trimet.

  11. “I would argue that this has not been the case for several years (even prior to the recession). I suspect the agency became overextended (in terms of service hour budget) by the combination of opening WES and the Green Line.”

    Doesn’t this imply that we’ll be even more hosed when the new under-construction lines open up? Why do we keep building more rail then? If we stopped for a while, in theory the existing FS routes and rail lines would gain ridership which would allow the funding to come back in line with reality. Just a thought

  12. First of all, I thought about making this comment on your original post.

    But in the TIP (Transit Investment Plan), TriMet has stated that they get more return focusing on one corridor than adding service here and there to different lines, though that was really about Frequent Service and not necessarily big capital projects.

    But I think the overall problem is (and thought about testifying at this morning’s board meeting) that there’s so many outside (as in beyond TriMet’s control) factors that affect how transit and development performs, from the fact that the Feds are willing to make large contributions to centralized projects to people not willing to use and build around basic-quality service.

  13. Increasing bus service is an on-going project. Building rail lines is a finite project, done in segments, with an end in sight. Depending on one’s assumptions about what the “final” rail map in this region will look like, we’re one-third or one-half or three-fifths finished. The point is, right now we’re building a rail-based mass transit “spine” for our largely bus-based system. At some point, it will be finished — no more rail projects to build. (And no, I don’t expect a clear consensus on what “finished” will look like — I suspect if everyone on this board came up with a list of “all the rail projects we should build” we’d wind up with at least a dozen different lists. But there will come a point when regional majority opinion is “we’re done” and no more rail will be built.)

    The question is, do we try to finish the rail network sooner or later? I personally support “sooner.” Every time we open a rail line, we free up buses and operators to enhance service on other bus routes. And once it’s done and paid off, we can shift away from capital intensive spending and put everything into improving service, operations and maintenance.

  14. “Would BRT in the same corridors as MAX have been any different? I don’t think it’s the mode, I think it’s the pattern of service.”

    >>>> Of course BRT in the same exact corridors would have been different and MUCH BETTER. For example, if demand warranted, one could go from Oregon City to the Airport with a one seat ride, instead of taking the 79 bus to Clackamas TC and transferring to the Green line, and then again to the Red line.

    This is just one of many, many examples of how much better BRT would have been.

  15. Nick, I’ve asked you this before, but didn’t get an answer.

    Instead of putting out this or that hypothetical journey and how great it would be to be a one-seat-ride, instead please allocate the capital and operating dollars and compare how many routes we’d have along the BRT trunk and then fanning out into the various areas, how that compares to today’s service, and just what kind of headways you’d get for these “one seat rides”.

    What I’m getting at is this: If you run buses on a dedicated high-capacity busway at about 2-minute headways, but then fan them out to 15 different destinations as they leave the busway, those “one seat rides” are suddenly only at 30-minute intervals, in which case a transfer might be preferable. (And if a transfer is preferable to reduce the waiting time, you’ll wind up running “feeder buses” and such, BRT or rail is not the issue there.)

    Furthermore, there is little short of allocating operating hours (and a switch of operator cab ends at one station) keeping TriMet from running a Clackamas TC-to-Airport line on MAX today.

    But instead what they’re doing is a same-platform transfer at Gateway.

    Some transfers are inconvenient, like the 300ft or so transfer from the Blue Line to the Yellow Line at Rose Quarter, but transfers between the Green and Red lines are pretty darned easy.

    So, please, total up the operator hours on MAX and allocate those to a sampling of routes and figure out the headways rather than just uniformly declaring, in all caps, that BRT would be “MUCH BETTER”

  16. Bob,

    You have always been overly fixated on the operating costs of MAX. I focus on providing the best possible service and attracting the greatest number of potential riders to the system. You have also neglected to acknowledge the expense of operating the poorly performing feeder bus lines to the MAX.

    Furthermore, before LINK was built in Seattle, many services used to branch out from the bus tunnel and serve different areas. The times I have been up there, I didn’t notice a marked deterioration in headways.

    It appears that bus ‘throughput’ would be much better than the MAX equivalent, the latter being as clunky and cubersome as it is.

  17. You have always been overly fixated on the operating costs of MAX. I focus on providing the best possible service and attracting the greatest number of potential riders to the system.

    Nick, stop trying to make this a fight.

    I genuinely want to see a proposal from you as to how BRT would be better. Far from being “overly fixated”, you’ve done nothing at all to demonstrate what a superior BRT system (in your opinion) would look like or what it would cost.

    You have also neglected to acknowledge the expense of operating the poorly performing feeder bus lines to the MAX.

    Apparently you didn’t even read my comment in its entirety. (Hint, I mentioned “feeder buses”.)

    In any case, the whole “feeder buses” thing is a red herring. I’ve documented this before, but over time the number of transfers per complete transit journey in the entire TriMet system, from before the time of MAX to the present, has remained relatively steady.

    Overall people aren’t being forced to transfer more. The allocation of services has shifted, and there have been “winners” and “losers”, but the mode share has also increased relative to population growth and VMT growth.

    I’m open to seeing a real BRT proposal. What I’m not open to is being dismissed as a “railfan” or blanket unsupported shouting of “MUCH BETTER”, accusations of being “overly fixated”, etc.

    Provide some evidence and a proposal, stop getting personal.

  18. “I would argue that this has not been the case for several years (even prior to the recession). I suspect the agency became overextended (in terms of service hour budget) by the combination of opening WES and the Green Line.”

    That may be the case. Both of these projects added service in a new corridor rather than replacing existing service. In many ways, you are criticizing the results of doing exactly what you seem to be advocating.

    Didn’t both the Green Line and WES open after the recession started? I think this is a conclusion looking for factual support.

    I think there may be a real argument that Trimet has spent a lot of service dollars expanding service to new areas rather than better serving existing neighborhoods. The streetcar, WES, some suburban bus route expansion and the Green Line (at least the I205 portion) all fit into that pattern. If that is the argument, then it might have some merit.

  19. BRT, by the way, is not exempt from having “feeder buses”.

    Here’s a very pro-BRT web site, the “BRT Policy Center”, describing Eugene’s EmX system:

    As we noted, the Green Line has been a success in its first 9 months. with a 46% ridership increase along the corridor. The popularity of the EmX has filtered over to the feeder bus routes. In a recent article for Mass Transit magazine, GM Mark Pangborn noted he had to add buses on some of their local routes to meet increased passenger demand.

    So apparently “feeder buses” feeding a BRT trunk line are good, but “feeder buses” feeding a light rail trunk line are bad?

  20. “Nick, stop trying to make this a fight.”

    >>>> I’m not trying to make this a fight; this is a debate, and please stop acting so sensitive.

    “…you’ve done nothing at all to demonstrate what a superior BRT system (in your opinion) would look like or what it would cost.”

    >>>> Let’s just say a hypothetical BRT system would use the same current MAX routes for ‘busways.’ It would probably cost a similar amount for construction.

    “(And if a transfer is preferable to reduce the waiting time, you’ll wind up running “feeder buses” and such, BRT or rail is not the issue there.)”

    >>>> A lot less unproductive feeder bus lines, IMO.

    “…but over time the number of transfers per complete transit journey in the entire TriMet system, from before the time of MAX to the present, has remained relatively steady.”

    >>>> That’s news to me, and not my experience at all as a transit rider, and I use Trimet to EVERYWHERE in the Metro area. In fact, when the Green Line opened, the #10 (now #73) bus, got truncated at the Rose Quarter. Add one more to the collection of service decimation.

    “What I’m not open to is being dismissed as a “railfan.””

    >>>> I am not dismissing you as a railfan. I have known damn well and have said in the past that you were one of the more moderate transit advocates when it came to this subject.

    And Bob, I do think that you do rely on numbers at lot. I just cannot avoid that impression after having been on the blog for a number of years. Plus, I have a gut feeling that MAX is more expensive to operate than Trimet is showing. I believe its more about TOD than service.

  21. And Bob, I do think that you do rely on numbers at lot. I just cannot avoid that impression after having been on the blog for a number of years.

    I’ve been here hardly any time at all and I sure came to the same conclusion — but I thought that was a good thing. How is relying on numbers worse than relying on personal anecdotes?

  22. That’s news to me

    I’m sorry that it’s news.

    Back in 2007, I commented to you that:

    over the last 20 years the ratio of boarding rides to originating rides has remained reasonably steady … in fact, it has declined ever so slightly from 1.35 to 1.27 although I haven’t checked every year to see how much fluctuation is in there.

    And you replied (excerpted):

    Trimet has no way of knowing what is an originating rideTrimet is thus free to use any methodology it wants, and skew the numbers as it sees fit.

    Feel free to reject TriMet’s number (as I mentioned at the time, the “Originating Rides” value is based in part on regular rider surveys), but those are indeed the reported numbers and I’ve reported them in debates with you about half a dozen times already.

    These numbers are published annually on the TriMet web site. They only report a dozen years at a time, older years drop off, but I’ve saved reports with years going back to the late 80’s.

    But even the period of FY1999 to FY2010 as shown on the current chart has seen the opening of the Yellow Line, Red Line (and later expansion to Beaverton) and the Green Line. And in that period the ratio of originating rides to boarding rides has remained about 1.27.

    Also in that period overall originating rides have gone up over 30% (and that’s including the economy/cutbacks-induced ridership drop that occurred in FY2010).

    And Bob, I do think that you do rely on numbers at lot. I just cannot avoid that impression after having been on the blog for a number of years.

    Why yes, I do. Other people’s gut feelings and beliefs tend to have less sway on my conclusions than numbers, it’s true.

    In fact, when the Green Line opened, the #10 (now #73) bus, got truncated at the Rose Quarter. Add one more to the collection of service decimation.

    Well since we can’t seem to avoid anecdotes: When I was a kid TriMet cut the #34, my bus, from going all the way downtown, instead having a “forced transfer” at Milwaukie to the #33. That was before MAX. And it was at a time when TriMet was experimenting with multiple-door boarding and articulated buses. BRT-lite in a way.

    It was a service reallocation of resources made based on decisions about ridership volumes and such. But there was no light rail to blame for it.

  23. I remember taking the #34 downtown, too. (sniff).

    That doesn’t mean I don’t think LRT (or true BRT if that what is needed) to OC isn’t a good idea…

    At any rate, if you have a downtown focused system, where all trips are between the downtown core and some place outside the core–a “starburst” topology, then you can give everyone a one-seat ride (meaning one-seat between downtown and wherever).

    Building a system which can get you from some point A to some point B, regardless of where–isn’t practical unless transfers are part of the system.

    Given that, making transfers pleasant (covered platforms, timed transfers, frequent services) is probably an important concern; TriMet could do a better job here in many cases. (In particular, many of the feeder routes are infrequent).

    But the one-seat-ride-everywhere system doesn’t scale well; especially if service is to be extended beyond Portland’s core. Suburbanites are paying for TriMet, after all, and will be depending on it more and more when gas goes back up about $4/gallon–so it’s useful to built a network that the entire metro area can actually use (modulo limitatins in the ability to serve low-density sprawl), not just one that gets urbanites around the city.

  24. “Building a system which can get you from some point A to some point B, regardless of where–isn’t practical unless transfers are part of the system.”

    >>>> I’m not arguing that statement; for instance, if I want to go from my apt. in the NW District to NE 15th & Alberta, I accept that fact that I will have to transfer.

    What I object to is that construction of light rail lines in many cases causes additional transfers, i.e., one transfer now becomes two, a real deal-breaker. How many people decide to drive instead?

    Why should one have to transfer once to go downtown, or twice, from TV Highway or Cornell Road to go to a location that is not directly on a MAX line? Those are major Wash. County arteries, BTW.

  25. Why should one have to transfer once to go downtown, or twice, from TV Highway or Cornell Road to go to a location that is not directly on a MAX line? Those are major Wash. County arteries, BTW.

    For a good many years, TriMet has been criticized for being too Portland-centric, requiring suburban riders to travel into downtown in order to transfer back out to their originating area. With routes like Line 57, Beaverton TC acts as a sub-hub for people (for example) on the TV Highway heading for Tigard. So, yes, this means you have to transfer to go to downtown Portland.

  26. Nick does make a good point, though–many trips require multiple transfers, even a short distance. From my house in Beaverton, I would need to transfer twice to get to destinations along Barbur Boulevard. Now if the 62 intersected directly with the 12 somewhere (either at Tigard TC, or further south near Bull Mountain), it would be more useful as a radial line. But it presently doubles back along Scholls Ferry to Washington Square TC.

    But that doesn’t have anything to do with rail per se…

  27. If we’re arguing about whether it would be nicer to have more one-seat ride opportunities distributed in an equitable fashion, I’m on board with that.

    But Nick has just restated his original argument:

    What I object to is that construction of light rail lines in many cases causes additional transfers, i.e., one transfer now becomes two, a real deal-breaker.

    And what I’ve been trying to say (for years now, apparently to no avail), is that the stats do not support Nick’s assertion. If they did, we’d have seen the boardings per originating ride shoot way up over the last 30 years. They haven’t.

    There is absolutely no doubt that _some_ people transfer more after routes are adjusted. But this has been balanced by _other_ people having fewer transfers. And all coinciding with a proportionately increasing ridership. And this sort of thing happens with bus routes in cities without light rail, too, such as with Eugene’s EmX line and with the #34 a few decades ago, before MAX.

  28. Regarding “feeder buses”, I’d like to add that all of the buses that terminate at Clackamas Town Center (e.g. 79, 155) also did so before the Green Line started. Furthermore, many people at Clackamas still had to make another transfer (after possibly a long, crowded ride on the 72) to get to downtown or Gateway. Now, people on the suburban lines can transfer once to a direct, fast ride to Gateway or downtown.

    And on the Westside, not all the buses went downtown and, although some through service was cut, service overall improved, giving more options.

  29. The reference to the boarding/originating ride ratio is definitely worth some investigation.

    Has the experience to date been one where some of the would-be multiple-transfer riders have abandoned TriMet while new riders close into MAX have made up the difference?

    The current MAX system does a somewhat reasonable job of going pretty far out from downtown Portland while MLR doesn’t quite reach many of the expected riders. According to the MLR FEIS Transportation section, the plan is to:
    1. Replace the 33 between Oregon City and Milwaukie with a new southbound leg of the 31.
    2. A separate 33 would continue, in some fashion, from Milwaukie to downtown Portland.
    3. The 31, 32, 33, and 99 would lose through service to Portland.

    These lines currently provide about 8500 boarding rides so there are about 4250 riders, most of whom will have a new transfer. Current noon travel time OCTC to the Pioneer Courthouse area is now 43 minutes; with MLR it would go up to about 56 minutes, including 8 minutes average transfer time and using projected in-vehicle times. Metro uses peak times in its projections, so it’s possible that a projected noon MLR trip might be a minute or two faster.

    This project might have a significantly higher boarding/originating rides ratio than TriMet’s average. However, given that TriMet provides more than 300,000 boarding rides weekdays, MLR’s projected 27,000 riders wouldn’t move the system average very much.

    I would expect the LOPT streetcar to have a surprisingly low ratio. The project team has all but completely written off OC riders because of their access to MLR. While OC transit users will lose almost all single-seat service, streetcar will require two transfers to get to the heart of downtown and is much slower along its alignment than the 35/36. The same noon trip on the 35 is now scheduled at 45 minutes (SW 6th & Salmon) but would take a whopping 69 minutes via streetcar including 7 minutes transfer time in LO and 4 at PSU.

    [Streetcar LO-PSU time of 33 minutes assumes Macadam alignment. Again, it could be a couple of minutes less than calculated as an off-peak trip. Even with a WSL ROW alignment and adjusting for off-peak, we’d still expect at least a 63 minute trip, or some 18 minutes more than the current bus.]

    An extra 40 to 50 minutes a day commuting time is a lot to some people. We can expect to lose some of those who have other transportation options. That would help to keep the ratio down.

  30. “The current MAX system does a somewhat reasonable job of going pretty far out from downtown.”

    >>>> I would agree that it does a somewhat reasonable job of getting people from downtown to Beaverton and Gateway. IMO, BRT busways would do it much faster and better.

  31. Thanks, Fontes, for the very informative post about MLR & LO Streetcar. All of this just goes to prove my point that whenever a new rail line goes into operation around here, service is seriously degraded for a lot of riders.

  32. Bob –

    While I agree with you on the subject of transfers I am not sure this is really the correct conclusion:

    “If they did, we’d have seen the boardings per originating ride shoot way up over the last 30 years. ”

    I think light rail has generally been associated with significant increases in ridership. So it is possible that many more people who previously road buses are now being forced to transfer. But there is also an increase in the originating rides from the added boardings generated by light rail. So the ratio is the same, but the individual experience is different. Isn’t that possible?

  33. “These lines currently provide about 8500 boarding rides so there are about 4250 riders, most of whom will have a new transfer.”

    I don’t believe that is correct. Many of the rides on those buses originate after they leave the Milwaukie Transit Center. I don’t know the exact numbers, but I would not be surprised if it was the majority of trips.

    My understanding was the light rail was faster between Milwaukie and downtown. But you have it taking longer than the bus even without a transfer. Perhaps you could provide a source for your the time estimates you are using?

    “The project team has all but completely written off OC riders because of their access to MLR.”

    Is there something inappropriate about assuming people in OC will make use of light rail rather than continuing to take the bus?

    The streetcar does not go to 6th and Salmon, so you are choosing a trip that specifically requires more transfers than the current bus service. On the other hand, it does go past the library, which would require an additional transfer if you were using the current bus service.

  34. “So the ratio is the same, but the individual experience is different. Isn’t that possible?”

    Yes, that is possible. That’s one thing that I was getting at when I said:

    There is absolutely no doubt that _some_ people transfer more after routes are adjusted. But this has been balanced by _other_ people having fewer transfers. And all coinciding with a proportionately increasing ridership.

    I did a post about the Yellow Line a few years ago where I quantified the “winners & losers” compared to the #5 and to an extent the #6.

    Quantifying the difference system-wide is a job perhaps best reserved for Chris and his number crunching skills! :-)

  35. Re: Just Saying’s questions:

    The source of the 8500 number is the Spring Route Ridership Report. It’s the weekday total both ways on all four routes.

    The Spring Passenger Census shows that for the northbound weekday 33, 2074 passengers got on before the Milwaukie TC, 258 at the TC, and 414 north of the TC. [I figured this out by hand so they could be off a little bit.] About 2/3 of all the riders from the four routes take the 33. More detail is available if anybody wants anything specific.

    The FEIS has Lake Rd to Pioneer Square on MLR at 24 minutes. The current TriMet schedule shows northbound midday 33 runs taking 19 minutes. Metro’s projections are for the year 2030 and, again, are generally peak commute estimates. They show no-build bus at 28 minutes compared to today’s 25 minutes for the slowest scheduled runs. Since MLR would be almost all on exclusive ROW, we can expect little if any difference throughout the lifetime of the line while bus service definitely should get slower with increasing vmt in the corridor.

    Over 200 riders currently board the 35 in OC. We can’t tell directly from the Passenger Census exactly how many stay on through the streetcar extension corridor, but it looks like the probable number is in the area of 150 to 175. The LOPT project team says that number will drop to 10 with streetcar.

    The Passenger Census shows that more riders get off the 35 at 6th & Salmon than any other stop. The trip was chosen to compare the same destination using services on both sides of the Willamette. The 33/99 don’t serve PSU, SOWA, or Johns Landing which probably goes a long way in explaining why 150 plus OC riders use the 35 through the corridor. MLR will serve SOWA and PSU, but the 35 will continue to save time and be more convenient for most passengers throughout the interim when MLR is up and running but streetcar is not. I believe that a significant number, but not all, OC riders will choose faster single seat bus service on the 35 over slower and less convenient MLR based trips during the two years or so that they have the choice.

    Streetcar does go around the periphery of downtown and serves certain locations better than mall buses do. However, these are not prime destinations for most riders. Otherwise we’d have hundreds more transferring to streetcar on Harrison rather than continuing on the mall. Please note that several significant bus routes (4,14, etc.) do not have good connections with streetcar but do with mall transit.

    Additionally, the best east and northbound MAX connections for route 35 riders is usually the Rose Quarter TC. For example, in vehicle time from the LOTC to PDX is under an hour off peak. With streetcar, that will jump to about 80 minutes, depending on Johns Landing alignment.

  36. Streetcar does go around the periphery of downtown and serves certain locations better than mall buses do. However, these are not prime destinations for most riders. Otherwise we’d have hundreds more transferring to streetcar on Harrison rather than continuing on the mall.

    I disagree with this assertion. Only four blocks separate the bus mall and the streetcar, which comes to about a quarter of a mile and a four minute walk (according to Google maps, anyway). A transfer in that case wouldn’t make sense unless you timed it perfectly. I think most people would just stay on the bus.

  37. wells, “I want to hear his explanation why Hillsboro is still such a dumpy nowhere-ville with highway traffic passing through.”

    Is it not clear YET that TOD is a flop? Why in the world would a MAX extension to Forest Grove change anything about HIlsboro?

    Market rate TOD housing in Hillsboro was cancelled and replaced with parking garage. The Round TOD saw a 1 & 1/2 buildings of market rate housing changed to routine office and a 7 story parking garage added.

    j

    From Rockwood to Hillsboro to the GreenLine (that is so lacking in TOD potential that Metro has confessed that it was built in the wrong place), the LRT/TOD model is a BIG FAIL.

    Yet the “perspective on transit design stresses the importance of transit-oriented development”? Why? Just because? To spend millions in hope?

    What is Mr Hughes supposed to understand? The politicaly correct TOD vision that never arrives?

    Jason admits “people not willing to use and build around basic-quality service”

    Thank You.

    Buy then why after 25 years of MAX ruining Rockwood would a new Urban Renewal district attampt to force it and fail again?

    If Hillsboro is dumpy what is Rockwood?

    Yet, chris, “On a cost-per-ride basis, I’m sure MAX offers the best return.”

    What return? Longer trips, massive debt, degrading systemwide transit & eyesore infrastructure that serves more as an obstruction to community devleopment that enhancment?

    nick, “I believe its more about TOD than service.”

    You’re right but it is only the attempted TOD.

    Nick theoldurbanist Says:

    Thanks, Fontes, for the very informative post about MLR & LO Streetcar. All of this just goes to prove my point that whenever a new rail line goes into operation around here, service is seriously degraded for a lot of riders.

    If built the MLR will be the ultimate example of these failed concepts. Every single ginned up claim by TriMet about this line will collapse under the reality of cost, service and light rail imposition on the community. Milwaukie has nothing to look forward but the Rockwood or “dumpy” Hillsboro stories we all acknowledge.

    And it will only happen if forced upon that community http://www.clackamasreview.com/news/story.php?story_id=128934083675964700

    and the budgets of essential servies are raided and TriMet operations cut by bonded debt servicing.

    Wit TriMet bonding $40 million it was problem for many here. At the new $60 million it should be more of a problem. At the likley $100 million because other shares will not appear, you should all be screaming.
    Yet there appears to be “investment” too high even when it devours the very resources TriMet needs for it’s own survival.

  38. Yet there appears to be NO “investment” too high even when it devours the very resources TriMet needs for it’s own survival.

  39. I agree with doog that many passengers going to locations closer to 10th & 11th than the mall would stay on the bus. However, the relative closeness of the alignments comes to an end as streetcar continues into the Pearl and turns toward Good Sam. People going to sites in those areas would be more likely to transfer. My point was and still is that the destinations served by streetcar are not the primary ones for most bus riders.

    The desirability of transferring will reverse when we lose our bus service to streetcar. Mall transit is faster than streetcar, far more frequent, and does a much better job of serving riders’ destinations. This is a real concern of many 35/36 riders, especially after the forced transfers and longer walking distances at the south end of the extension as well as the longer in-vehicle times between LO and PSU.

    Another matter: I realized a few minutes ago that we’d get a much more accurate picture of how many people would need to transfer to MLR if I subtracted those who got off at or before the Milwaukie TC from the totals. That number is 1401, giving us 673 northbound net weekday boardings south of the Milwaukie TC, and still 258 at the TC, and 414 north of the TC. So about half of the current 33 riders who are potential MLR passengers start their trips south of the Milwaukie TC and will need to transfer.

  40. “Mall transit is faster than streetcar, far more frequent, and does a much better job of serving riders’ destinations.”

    >>>> In addition, once upon a time the #14 used to go up the bus mall to Union Station. Also, connections could be made to go to the Pearl and NW District. Today, it just runs crosstown up to SW 6th Avenue and loops back. This is all on account of the stupid MAX tracks; apparently, not enough capacity exists on the mall anymore. I consider this one of the most egregious examples of how service is degraded with the opening of a new rail line. The #14, a prime bus line, got the royal shaft.

  41. Hey,can Trimet declare bankruptcy? If possible, it might be a good way to reduce of all those excessive benefits and other liabilities.

  42. This is all on account of the stupid MAX tracks; apparently, not enough capacity exists on the mall anymore.

    Your source for this? Last time I checked, the Transit Mall still had excess capacity available.

  43. “Your source for this? Last time I checked, the Transit Mall still had excess capacity available.”

    It does? then how come they don’t put the #14 back to Union Station?

  44. I have a copy of the 2004 TriMet ridership figures, from well before construction started on the mall or the #14 was realigned. Here are the weekday “offs” for each downtown stop:

    Madison & 11th: 119
    Madison & 7th: 39
    Madison & Grand: 117
    Hawthorne Bridge: 18
    Main & 3rd: 426
    Main & 4th: 821
    6th & Taylor: 564
    6th & Morrison: 272
    6th & Washington: 178
    6th & Oak: 125
    6th & Davis: 118
    6th & Flanders: 65
    6th & Hoyt: 115
    Irving & 5th: 74
    North Terminal & Not A Stop: 112

    As you can see, the majority of “offs” fall within a block or two today’s route alignment (I’m using Madison & 11th as the start because that’s where the big exodus of inbound riders appears to pick up, and 6th & Taylor as the cutoff.)

    That’s 2,104 offs by 6th and Taylor, and 1,059 by the end of the line, or a 2/3 to 1/3 ratio.

    Now, clearly, those 1,059 riders are going to be inconvenienced a bit by a transfer on the mall (but there’s dozens of opportunities at peak hours) or a longer walk. But I don’t consider it “egregious” or a “royal shaft”.

    Also, connections could be made to go to the Pearl and NW District.

    They still can. The #14 connects, for example, with the #17 and #15, which serve the Pearl and NW districts, respectively.

    [Comment updated: First four stops in ridership table were accidentally omitted.]

  45. It does?

    You tell me, Nick, you were the one making the assertion that there was no more capacity on the mall. What’s your source?

  46. Excessive benefits?

    Like actual healthcare?

    I know, it is a shock, taxes going to actual American’s for health care!

    Only immigrants and welfare folks should get that, of course, what was I thinking?

  47. Only immigrants and welfare folks should get that (healthcare), of course, what was I thinking?

    I’m not aware of any healthcare reform or system–whether implemented, planned, proposed, or recently pulled out of someone’s backside–which give preferential treatment to immigrants. (“Welfare folks”, by which I assume you mean the poor, are eligible for Medicaid; but that has nothing to do with one’s legal immigration status).

    Many benefits are, of course, denied to illegal immigrants–and during the HCR debate there were numerous attempts to demagogue this issue by having the legislation take a tougher line on illegal immigrants (such as requiring participating care providers to collect proof of immigration status as a condition of funding).

    But HCR reform favoring immigrants (legal or otherwise) over native-born US citizens? Only in Rush Limbaugh’s wildest imagination.

    At any rate, this is venturing off-topic for the thread. It, and other wage/benefit discussions, are more on topic for this thread–though even there, HCR is a bit outside the scope of the discussion.

  48. which give preferential treatment to immigrants.

    ~~~>I was making fun of the right wings own propaganda.

    And don’t get all excited Scotty, Nick was the one that made the original comment, I am entitled to respond to his comment!

    At this rate your gonna be worse than Bob R as a moderator! (sic!)

  49. “You tell me, Nick, you were the one making the assertion that there was no more capacity on the mall. What’s your source?”

    >>>> And what is your source? And why were so many bus lines rerouted crosstown to Jefferson and Columbia Streets?

  50. Ah, gotcha.

    And so far (excluding spam) I’ve only edited one remark due to content.

    Actually, I think that an east/west transit mall would be a good idea. Not sure what the best street(s) for such a thing would be–on the west side, Yamhill/Morrison are an obvious choice because they have trains already; but whether or not that’s politically doable is another question.

  51. And why were so many bus lines rerouted crosstown to Jefferson and Columbia Streets?

    Because, in part, TriMet has been criticized for years for not having enough cross-town service.
    (Just how many was “so many”, anyway?)

    @Scotty –

    Columbia/Jefferson are a good choice because of connections to MAX in Goose Hollow and also, if development continues southward in the long run, filling in between central downtown and the South Waterfront, Columbia/Jefferson becomes more and more of a mid-point.

    Yamhill/Morrison, as you mention, are also a good choice (perhaps continuing onto Burnside somehow after PGE Park?), and have the advantage that standard buses which have right-hand doors only can use those lanes immediately.

    (I’ve often mentioned that if we seriously need more N-S Transit Mall capacity rapidly, say after a long term oil price shock, then BRT-style buses could be run in the left lane. But you need left-side boarding doors for that to work. Eugene’s EmX-style buses would work, for example.)

  52. And what is your source?

    The transit mall DEIS and comments made back in 2006 here on this site and by Neil McFarlane and Jim Howell.

    There was some dispute over the true ceiling of buses per hour but TriMet’s official upper end was 130BPH on the mall. We’re not at that.

  53. Columbia/Jefferson are a good choice because of connections to MAX in Goose Hollow

    Though it would be better if the additional service actually served the MAX station. The only lines that serve the two stops in Collins Circle (1114 and 10118) have always stopped there.

    (In fairness, TriMet’s argument is that the circle is full; what would need to happen is moving the Line 6 layover and using the circle for drop off, pick up and short-term waits.)

    Another improvement would be to have Line 14 continue to Goose Hollow, allowing many people to have direct trips to Westside MAX.

  54. Lines 45, 58, and 96 were shifted to Columbia and Jefferson. Line 10 was truncated on both ends, being kicked off the mall. Line 14 was truncated to 6th and Main, again off the mall.

    And why can’t Trimet loop the #14 around to 10/11th Avenues, to at least connect with Streetcar to go the Pearl and NW Districts?

  55. And why can’t Trimet loop the #14 around to 10/11th Avenues, to at least connect with Streetcar to go the Pearl and NW Districts?

    On this point we agree.

    TriMet’s route planning doesn’t seem to take the streetcar very much into account.

    (Of course, it could be argued that the original streetcar’s planning didn’t take TriMet’s routes much into account either, with the oddly-placed transfers between MAX and the 11th Ave. streetcar.)

  56. The N/S bus mall serves the most popular destinations: Union Station, Burnside area, Pioneer Courthouse Sq. area, PSU, etc. It seems that buses and Columbia/Jefferson are never really that crowded, with the notable exception of the 68, a rush hour only line which has always run there.

  57. I’m old enough to remember when, after the original Transit Mall’s completion, people complained that their bus line had been rerouted _onto_ the mall, and writers editorialized that Tri-Met (hyphenated, at the time) was consolidating too much service into too small of an area.

    Of course, I can also remember a time when seniors rode for free and kids paid 10cents. Times, they do change.

  58. This is all on account of the stupid MAX tracks; apparently, not enough capacity exists on the mall anymore.

    Your source for this? Last time I checked, the Transit Mall still had excess capacity available.

    I remember hearing this from TriMet itself in 2009 before 5th and 6th re-opened. I still think it’s a load of (self-deleted), almost two years later.

    They still can. The #14 connects, for example, with the #17 and #15, which serve the Pearl and NW districts, respectively.

    No. Route 17 has been severely decimated with service cuts (especially the NW Portland portion of the route), and the section of route 15 that’s one block away is outbound to Belmont and Gateway TC (used to go to Parkrose TC). Route 15 service to NW Portland is on Washington St., a 7 block walk away from the 6th & Main stop (the route 15 stops on Washington are at 5th and Broadway, one block away from 6th, adding an extra block). BTW, this is 7 long blocks of missed signals and panhandlers.

  59. I stand corrected on the #15, at least it is good for outbound.

    But the #17 isn’t so decimated… I just checked the schedule and it runs about every 10 minutes at peak hour and about every 20 minutes mid-day, and does serve the Pearl which was the original point of contention.

    (Unless by Decimated you mean the true and correct definition of killing off 1 in 10. :-) )

    (Or is the #17 slated for more cuts in the near future?)

  60. Jason, which do you remember hearing? That there’s excess capacity on the Mall, or that there wasn’t enough capacity to run the #14? (Sorry but your wording could go either way.)

  61. Way up this string, Chris mentioned equity. It should be noted that the first MAX line to Gresham brought HCT to east Multnomah county, putting residents around 122nd & Burnside within 30 minutes of the jobs in Lloyd and Downtown.
    The Westside extension brought HCT to an area with the highest Hispanic population in the region as well as at least an edge of inner NW where many modest income renters live. Airport MAX stops in Parkrose in outer NE; Interstate MAX serves north & inner NE Portland, and finally the Green Line puts residents in outer SE within 30 minutes of the Rose Quarter, with good connections to Swan Island, etc. Last Milwaukie has never been a high tone suburb as far as I know. So I’d say the region’s investments in HCT has a pretty good record of bringing better transit to more of the people who need it most.

  62. “But the #17 isn’t so decimated… I just checked the schedule and it runs about every 10 minutes at peak hour and about every 20 minutes mid-day, and does serve the Pearl which was the original point of contention.”

    >>>> Outside of base and rush hours, it is decimated. Once a hour to NW weeknights and Saturday, ans no service on Sundays.

    Try going from Hawthorne to NW district around 9 at night, like I’ve done a few times. Now, I have to walk four blocks to MAX to do the transfer. At least I’m lucky enough to live on the south end of the NW District, close enough to the PGE Park station.

    The most recent time last Monday, I just walked dark blocks, with a flashlight, from Hawthorne to Belmont to get the #15.

    Yes, things have definitely become more inconvenient for many riders.

  63. I feel like the goalpost is moving here… First the criticism was that you couldn’t transfer to NW from the #14 as currently configured, then when I gave the #17 as an example transfer, it was stated without qualification that the line was “decimated”. When I pointed out the schedule didn’t look so bad, then the criticism became about weeknights (after 7:45 according to the schedule) and weekends.

    Remember, this started out as a criticism that the routing of the #14 was “one of the most egregious examples of how service is degraded with the opening of a new rail line.”

    Clearly some riders have been inconvenienced (and a subset of those have been very inconvenienced) by the change in #14 routing, but if this is the “most egregious” thing, then I submit that the situation is not so bad as some of the rhetoric implies.

  64. At the risk of inserting myself into this raging debate, I think it’s off topic from the core point of my post. The question is not whether LRT screwed up the transit mall, but whether it made sense to add LRT on top of existing transit service (concentrating in one corridor) on the mall or spread it out, perhaps doing something like Jim Howell has proposed and creating a N/S LRT connection on the east side (Jim likes Water Ave).

  65. “Clearly some riders have been inconvenienced (and a subset of those have been very inconvenienced) by the change in #14 routing, but if this is the “most egregious” thing, then I submit that the situation is not so bad as some of the rhetoric implies.”

    >>>> If one works in the vicinity of the US Bank Building (Oak-Burnside), for example, I would say that that person has definitely been inconvenienced. Remember, we are talking about a bread-and-butter bus line.

  66. If one works in the vicinity of the US Bank Building (Oak-Burnside), for example, I would say that that person has definitely been inconvenienced

    Then that work commuter can transfer without walking far to any of dozens of transit vehicles headed down the mall to the US Bank building.

    Transfers are inconvenient compared to a one-seat-ride, but transfers with very frequent service aren’t so bad.

    A little inconvenient? Sure. “Most egregious” and “gross”? No.

  67. This is a bit off topic, but I think the greatest failure of the MAX system is the use of freeway alignments. The reason Metro’s CEO expressed unhappiness about the Green Line down I-205 is that the alignment almost precludes any station area development…who wants to live next to the toxic rivers that are our urban freeways? The same shortcoming exists for the Banfield line as far as Gateway, the Westside line from the west portal to Beaverton TC, and for the planned Milwaukie line where it runs next to McLaughlin Blvd. LRT Stations next to freeways just don’t work for reshaping adjacent neighborhoods and commercial districts. This is where Streetcar really shines as does the Interstate MAX line. The pace of redevelopment there has been slowed by the City’s failure to rezone station areas in a timely manner.
    But back to Chris’ main point. You either build a HCT system (heavy rail, light rail, BRT) almost all at once (like BART) or in pieces. The former requires a huge bond/funding scheme; the latter allows you to do funding in an ad hoc manner which is Portland’s forte.

  68. Lenny,

    It’s useful to distinguish between trunk lines and branch lines in determining whether or not a freeway-running LRT line is a good idea. For a “trunk line”–one that serves lots of traffic, and one where throughput is more important than local access, freeway running (or tunnelling under hills) is highly appropriate.

    By this analysis, the Banfield segment works well–the stops along the freeway all have good bus service; and by running fast in these segments provides better transit for those beyond Gateway. And the Banfield MAX “branches out” at gateway into three separate lines.

    Westside MAX from Goose Hollow to Beaverton TC has similar trunk line potential, though it presently has no branches. It does connect to WES and the 57 at Beaverton TC; and numerous other potential routes are on the long range map. A similar argument can be made for MLR–the segment between Brooklyn and Milwaukie is (like Banfield MAX) stuck between a highway and a railroad, and thus optimized for high speed rather than local access. If the line only goes to Milwaukie/Oak Grove, this doesn’t make much sense, but if branches in the future go to Oregon City, or to Clackamas, or even across the river to Lake O, it does make sense.

    The Green Line, OTOH, doesn’t make as much sense in its present form. Here, the tracks were laid where there was a right-of-way. The line attracts riders, but long term it would not surprise me if the Green were reconfigured. (And I-205 line, running between PDX and Oregon City, or even to Tualatin, for instace–that would be a LONG way off though).

    And since you mentioned the Yellow Line–it suffers, IMHO, from the opposite problem. It works well as a branch line serving North Portland. As a trunk line serving Vancouver, not so much. Given that Clark County seems intent on building BRT; I’m of the opinion that a) the CRC needs to have “transit lanes” supporting both rail and bus, not just one or the other, and b) a dedicated busway (either along I-5, or perhaps parallel to or on top of the BNSF trench near UP, then along Swan Island to downtown) should be built. Interstate MAX would be a great streetcar line, but as an interurban trunk it’s way too slow.

  69. Good points, but remember that the attraction of light rail, as opposed to heavy rail, is its ability to adapt to high speed or low speed and of course everything in between operation. It has compromise built into its very heart.
    re Interstate. Even the freeway alignment had stops planned every 1/2 mile, so while it might have been a bit faster, not by much. Extend it to Hayden Island with a transfer terminal if Clark decides to go BRT; you will loose some ridership and add to C-Tran’s costs. Or put the rails in the “transit bridge,” then they can go either way. MAX to the Couve will have double its current ridership.
    The “trunk lines” regardless of value for bringing people in from outer districts, do little for the reconstruction of closer in areas that lie between the Central City and the outer reaches.
    FYI, the Green Line was built due to a last minute demand from the Clackamas county commission…I suspect at the behest of CTC. The ROW was set aside when I-205 was built in the late 70’s/early 80’s, before we understood the impact of freeways on transit development very well. However, a lot of effort went into mitigating those impacts in the Green Line design, so we shall see. If Metro had had its way, we would now have the Orange or whatever color line in operation to Milwaukie with the Green to CTC about to go into construction.

  70. I don’t have as much of a problem with Green as some others do. By integrating construction with I-205, capital costs were minimized. It doesn’t have the ridership of Blue but has a lower ops cost per boarding ride than any of the other MAX lines. It took some riders from the 72 but there are enough remaining so that the bus can continue with real frequent service and headway dropping well below 10 minutes during commute hour peaks.

    All in all, it represents a fairly reasonable compromise with real future potential.

  71. To clarify–my desire for the CRC is to have a combined bus/rail transitway, and complete the Yellow to downtown The Couv as planned–but if SWRTC wants to build BRT, it makes sense to accommodate it into Portland. It would be kind of an inversion of the usual state of affairs to have rail providing more local service and bus providing more limited service, but whatever works.

  72. R A Fontes on the Green Line: “[it] has lower ops cost per boarding ride than any of the other MAX lines”

    Given the current ridership, I find that very intriguing. I would have thought that the Blue Line had sufficiently higher ridership to have the lowest cost.

    All kinds of reasons speculatively leap to mind (happy to list them) but I’m wondering if you know the actual reason(s) before I launch into fanciful conjecture?

  73. On question regarding MAX and operating costs: How are trips within Fareless SquareFree Rail Zone handled? Are they booked as free trips, which contribute zero to farebox recovery, or are they booked as normal trips for purposes of operations analysis, with the accounting for their fareless nature dealt with externally?

  74. How does BRT get south of a new bridge? Down the MAX tracks? probably not. On I-5? that’s hardly BRT. On a whole new ROW? not on my dime.

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