An Open Letter to the Skeptics

We’re still early in the life of this site. I’d like to clarify its purpose and ask for the help of our users in achieving that purpose.

This site unquestionably has a point of view. The agenda is not hidden. The contributors in large part are advocates for, or responsible for implementing, alternative modes of transportation. My intention in creating this blog was to give those folks an opportunity to converse with each other and cross-pollinate their ideas, while allowing a more public audience to share in the conversation.

In our first few weeks, we have attracted the attention and participation of what I will call ‘transit skeptics’ (I apologize if you feel that’s not an appropriate label). This has led to some long and heated debates about the appropriateness of investments in transit and light rail in particular.

While I recognize that this is an important debate, I would strongly suggest that this blog is not the appropriate venue. While we want to keep the site open to everyone, if every post that mentions transit descends into a debate about whether transit is or is not a good investment, the site will never serve its purpose of exchanging ideas to make transit and other modes even better for our community.

To put it another way, it just isn’t good manners to be invited to a party and then start an argument that drives the other guests away. If everyone who posts an idea here has their thoughts dissected line-by-line with a view to discrediting them, I expect that the quality and quantity of the contributions is going to drop pretty quickly.

I absolutely believe that folks who do not share our views on transportation have a right to speak, but perhaps another forum may be more appropriate?

So my request to the skeptics is to understand what this particular conversation is about, and be respectful of that. By all means hang around and keep us honest, but please be good guests.

Thanks.

72 Comments

72 Responses to An Open Letter to the Skeptics

  1. steve schopp
    July 19, 2005 at 9:19 am Link

    Your point is clear yet also muddled.

    Almost everyone I have read or spoken to who are critics of our local approach to transit are primarily objecting to the excessive focus on “alternative modes” at the expense of a sound bus system and efficient transit.
    Yet every time dialogue with rail advocates gets to this point, rail proponents cast the opposition as against transit.
    Every time. You just did it again.

    If you want blog away at advocating more rail you are going to continue getting an increasing number of transit advocates who voice a different approach with the same objective in mind.

    Where the breach happens is when the discussion arrives at the facts and numbers which measure the effectiveness of rail Vs bus and other methods.

    Personally I think the numbers behind TriMet doors show a tremendous loss of opportunity to expand bus service to neighborhoods and transit uses because of the disproportionate emphasis on and high cost of fixed rail.

    If your message is you don’t want to talk about that then you should make that clear.

    If that is the case perhaps you should change the blog name to Portlandrail.com

  2. Chris Smith
    July 19, 2005 at 11:16 am Link

    Steve,

    I’m happy to have you participate and advocate for better bus service. Buses are clearly critical to transportation in our region. But understand that part of the culture at this site is the idea that rail is about more than just moving people. It’s also about facilitating land use patterns that create communities where services are within walking distance.

    And we’re also about bikes, walking, car sharing, jitnies and other creative ways to access resources and services in the region.

  3. cab
    July 19, 2005 at 11:24 am Link

    This is actually a good topic. Do we know any large functioning city without basic rail infrastructure? Can a city survive and prosper without a solid rail infrastructure spine? A quick look at the great cities of the world, all have very good train connections. HK, NY, Paris, London, Tokyo, Sydney, Berlin, Chicago, San Fran. I think the assumption for most is a city must have a basic rail system to compete.

  4. Gene
    July 19, 2005 at 12:25 pm Link

    I am very pleased to have come across this site. I currently live in Oklahoma City but plan on moving to Portland in January. I am such a passionate proponent of public transportation that I find it difficult hidding my elation that Portland has made a good invesment in it and that there is a community online devoted to its advancement. A very large reason I’m moving there is because I have developed a hatred towards cars and traffic in general. I’m extremely weary to be living in a city with only a handful of buses and absolutely no trains. The absence of adequate sidewalks and absolute absence of bike paths has taken a serious toll on the Oklahoman quality of life and wealth distribution problem. Forcing people, rich or poor, to buy, maintain, insure, and fuel a vehicle that only makes the roads worse and the air darker is not my idea of freedom. I’ve lived in Calgary, Montreal, New York City, Guatemala, and Oklahoma City. I’ll tell you first hand that you have no idea what you have until you lose it. Please keep up the good work.

  5. djk
    July 19, 2005 at 1:47 pm Link

    cab: Do we know any large functioning city without basic rail infrastructure? Can a city survive and prosper without a solid rail infrastructure spine?

    Freight rail is necessary. But for commuting, a bus-based system can work.

    Curitiba, Brazil (population 1.6 million, and the heart of a metro area of 2.7 million), sets the world standard for bus-based transit. They have no rail system, but used dedicated transit lanes and specially designed buses and stations to create a bus-based transit system with speed, service and passenger capacity comparable to a subway system. As I recall, the per-mile public investment in the bus system was about one half of one percent of the Rio de Janiero subway. (The total cost would have been higher, because the buses were paid for by private companies. Farebox revenue is high enough to support the system with little or no public subsidy.)

    Not every city could copy Curitiba’s system (for one thing, you need pretty wide streets to make room for the bus-only lanes), but it is a worthwhile model. Right now, Eugene is building a bus-based rapid transit line that will strive to provide light-rail-like service on the cheap.

    Personally, I prefer rail. I take MAX to work every day. Given a choice, I’ll take a streetcar, subway or light rail over a bus, and I ride Amtrak rather than Greyhound to Seattle. But I recognize rail costs substantially more than a bus-based system, and there probably are ways to get more bang for the transit buck with investments in buses and an extensive network of dedicated bus lanes.

  6. jim karlock
    July 19, 2005 at 2:35 pm Link

    But, Chris, you invited us her to liven up the conversation.

    Now it turns out the goal was not to improve the knowledge base of participents. It appears that this is a site dedicated to relegion, not rational search for solutions.

    We still have not heard why we should remake our society to some planner’s dream imitation of LA.

    Did you ever hear from Fetch & co whether or not Tri-Met agreed with my analysis of the cost and energy comparison between cars and transit at http://www.saveportland.com/Car_Vs_Tri-Met/TriMet_vs_Car5.htm

    Thanks
    JK

  7. Chris Smith
    July 19, 2005 at 3:10 pm Link

    Jim, I think there is a difference between livening the conversation and shouting over the other people in the conversation. That’s the distinction I am trying to make.

    I also have no expectation that we are going to convince you that our worldview is right and yours is wrong, or vice versa. Which is why I don’t want to make this site about that debate.

    Mary tells me that she is indeed gathering the data, but that vacations, etc. are making it a slow process.

  8. cab
    July 19, 2005 at 3:25 pm Link

    JK,

    Just curious, what city do you look up too? Who do you want Portland to emulate?

  9. steve schopp
    July 19, 2005 at 3:27 pm Link

    Cab said—-“I think the assumption for most is a city must have a basic rail system to compete.”—

    Infortunatly our system is “assumption” based.
    Poor ones at that.

    Again I’ll ask, where is the wisdom in sacrificing bus service and and overall efficient transit use in order to have rail?

    Honk Kong? NY? Paris? Chicago?
    Those are the models for Portland transportation.

    This is Portland Oregon.

    Gene, You may have been told a Cabolot tale if you think we have fewer cars and less traffic here?

  10. cab
    July 19, 2005 at 3:40 pm Link

    So again, who is your model? What cities do you think are worth emulating?

  11. Adventuregeek
    July 19, 2005 at 4:24 pm Link

    One idea had for making buses better is to put a special stripe on the street (maybe green or some special color) that designates a bus route. One of things about rail is that it’s very easy to find and obvious what directions it’s going in. Buses are almost imposible to find if you’re unfamiliar with the routes.

  12. ccl
    July 19, 2005 at 5:11 pm Link

    I agree with Chris. I do not believe he is anti-bus/car. This blog concerns public transportation here and now in Portland. It is obvious that there are problems with all forms of public transportation. This board should be a conversation on what those issues are and how these transportation modes could be enhanced, changed, altered, and/or built upon.

    To be completely honest, I had never even taken a bus until I moved to Portland. I have been to NY, Chicago, Paris, Rome, and London, and never did I take a bus to explore…I rode the rail systems. I never even thought to take a bus. I do not have an answer why, but it seems people just love trains. They are predictable. It is easier to decifer a rail map and schedule. It is easier to find a MAX or streetcar stop than a bus stop. You put less faith in the driver’s well being and driving abilities, and more in the entire rail system. The MAX won’t hit a slippery patch and slide off the bridge into the river. For auto drivers, the streetcar is easier to navigate around than a bus. It will not jump out into your lane with little warning. I say all of this, but I still choose the #8, outside of peak times, to get home from downtown over the MAX (both stop less than 2 blocks away). During peak times, I will ALWAYS choose the MAX…they are more comfortable when crowded and easier to exit at your stop.

    Small 40+mpg cars would be beneficial too, but when was the last time people were surrounded by small cars? In a two block stretch outside of my office, I counted 13 SUVs and minivans and 5 cars (only 2 would I consider small). How do we change people’s perception of their reliance on the ancient (in technological years) internal combustible engine? Why do people feel they need a 5 liter V8 with 300 cubic feet of cargo space to commute to work…by themselves?

    Yes, rail is subsidized by non-users, but it was a integral part to create the peal district. You can love or hate the Pearl, but there are people from all over the world now coming to see what all the hype is. South Waterfront is creating alot of buzz around the country as well…it is not even built. It is true buses could have served the Pearl District just fine, but the district would have a different perception. I think the physicality of the rail line itself (not the streetcar) enhances the perception of the connections between districts.

    Why should we model any city? This is Portland. This passionate citizen debate, on the blog, over public transportation does not occur in other parts of the country and is proof that we should follow our own direction. As a whole, we are doing something right. Lets figure out how we can make it better.

    Let the harsh criticism begin…unfortunately

  13. Gene
    July 19, 2005 at 5:18 pm Link

    I know for a fact that Portland offers many more alternatives to driving than Oklahoma does and has a lower population as well. This lets me come to an educated guess that there is less traffic. There is also the fact that I have friends who travel frequently between both cities and have attested to this.

  14. ccl
    July 19, 2005 at 5:20 pm Link

    Good idea on the “special” stripe or something to designate bus routes along the ground.

  15. steve schopp
    July 19, 2005 at 6:02 pm Link

    cab asked—“So again, who is your model? What cities do you think are worth emulating?”—-

    Not Paris or NY. I can’t get why you would bring up them. They are totally irrelevant.
    There are many cities around the country without rail. Better transit systems too.
    San Antonio has an excellent transportation system and no rail.
    We do not. We have a failed system that cannibalized bus routes to build expensive and inefficient rail.
    I don’t know the purpose in all this sujective comparing.
    Our rail doesn’t work. I don’t care what you compare it to. It’s slow, serves relatively too few, costs way too much and you don’t care.
    You want more of it anyway because you like it.
    That’s irresponsible and a poor way to form policy.
    The Pearl grew from huge public subsidies not running streetcars through it.
    The national attention comes from here. That’s one of the long used scams. Declaring ourselves a model for the nation, circulating the declaration around the country and then claiming we have been anointed.
    This is such baloney.
    ccl said —“People are coming from all over the world to see the Pearl”—
    Nice PDC propaganda. Not true of course because there is nothing to see. It’s just another downtown renovation with shops and restaurants which are found all over the place. Bid deal.
    —–“South Waterfront is creating a lot of buzz around the country as well”—-

    Really? Show me some buzz that didn’t come from here.
    I swear this is comical.
    Metro years ago spent big bucks designing and printing multipage brochures declaring themselves and the region a model for the nation.
    They sent them to every sizable municipality in the country. That tactic continues.
    The problem is it’s not working.

    If more rail is built over good transit and road capacity increases we will pay a huge price.
    The Eastide has not benefitted one bit from eastside MAX. The Westside MAX has replaced express buses and little else.
    Airport Max is a practical joke and Interstate Max has fewer genuine riders than the buses it replaced.

  16. jim karlock
    July 19, 2005 at 6:05 pm Link

    ccl July 19, 2005 05:11 PM: Small 40+mpg cars would be beneficial too, but when was the last time people were surrounded by small cars? In a two block stretch outside of my office, I counted 13 SUVs and minivans and 5 cars (only 2 would I consider small). How do we change people’s perception of their reliance on the ancient (in technological years) internal combustible engine?

    JK: I don’t know how to get people into smaller cars, but I’ll guarantee that it is easier than getting people to sacrifice their time and comfort by switching to transit.

    ccl July 19, 2005 05:11 PM: Why do people feel they need a 5 liter V8 with 300 cubic feet of cargo space to commute to work…by themselves?

    JK: For the same reason that TriMet runs BIG busses in off hours instead of more efficient smaller buses. It is too expensive to purchase two (or more) vehicles, each matched to some special purpose. So you have to purchase one that can handle the peak load.

    ccl July 19, 2005 05:11 PM: Yes, rail is subsidized by non-users, but it was a integral part to create the peal district.

    JK: Are you saying that the $150 million from the city had no vital function in creating the Pearl? And the tax free status of the million condos were also irrelevant?

    ccl July 19, 2005 05:11 PM: You can love or hate the Pearl, but there are people from all over the world now coming to see what all the hype is. South Waterfront is creating alot of buzz around the country as well…it is not even built. It is true buses could have served the Pearl District just fine, but the district would have a different perception. I think the physicality of the rail line itself (not the streetcar) enhances the perception of the connections between districts.

    JK: Will you please state whether or not you work for, or are related to, any company involved in city planning, development, rail, streetcars etc. And whether or not you work for any government.

    Thanks
    JK

  17. Chris Smith
    July 19, 2005 at 6:44 pm Link

    There are 30+ cities from around the world that have sent delegations to Portland to look at what we did in the Pearl and with Streetcar, so clearly someone thinks we have something going here.

    By the way, the Mayor of Atlanta chaired the Rudy Bruner award selection committee that gave Portland Streetcar the gold award.

    Jim, you are once again questioning the motives of a participant. I have already made clear that this is a violation of the site’s rules. I am banning you from posting comments for 24 hours.

  18. cab
    July 19, 2005 at 6:47 pm Link

    Steve I guess you don’t like MAX :)

    SA is nice check out the transit comparisons

    Population
    SA 1,144,646 PDX 529,121

    Transit Trips
    SA 40,262 PDX 105,635

    Miles traveled
    SA 161,878 PDX 452,794

  19. Michael Wilson
    July 19, 2005 at 9:02 pm Link

    I think one of the things that might help is to get a good background in the history of mass transit and see how the government came to dominate the market. I doubt that the government ran the business from the start.
    I need to ask is any criticism of the system not to be tolerated? What if the contractors who build it are also big contributors to local political campaigns? Are comments in that area off limits? In my estimation service to some areas is poor, or non existent while downtown gets all the trimmings. Are those of us who work outside of the downtown core suppossed to sit on the sides while our tax dollars go to subsidize others and not say anything?
    Personally I think mass transit is too important to be left up to the government. They’ll just make a mess of it like most things they get their hands on, but I also feel that half of us in the city should be taking it and I want greater variety in vehicles, service times and locations serviced. Is that discussion off limits?
    Is it possible to discuss why it is so dificult if not impossible to own and operate a private transit business in Portland? What are the laws and what were the social circumstances at the time they were passed? Are those laws still effective?
    Thank you.

  20. Chris Smith
    July 19, 2005 at 9:16 pm Link

    Michael,

    Disagreement is welcome and encouraged. But when every single comment positively disposed to rail or transit winds up getting met with a rebuttal, it’s gone over the top.

    I don’t know all the Portland history, but I believe that there was a bus company called ‘Rose City’ that went bankrupt, and TriMet was created through the government purchase of its assets in combination with the assets of several smaller systems. TriMet is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year, so that should place this event in the early 70’s.

    I’m sure others with more detailed knowledge of the history can supply it here.

  21. Bob R.
    July 19, 2005 at 9:50 pm Link

    As a transit supporter, types of discussion and disagreement I’d like to see would be statements like:

    “Bus would be better than rail in corridor X because…” or “rail would be the best next step for corridor X because”…

    “MAX service could be improved by (eliminating/adding/moving) station X because…”

    “The best plan for the transit mall would be X”…

    That sort of thing.

    To continuously have to defend the very existence of transit, rather than having a healthy discussion of where transit can be improved in Portland, is the problem.

    (I have had, and continue to have, that debate in other forums. Having a forum dedicated to a topic within framed assumptions does not mean that the assumptions are indefensible, it just means that this is a safe space for taking the discussion to the next level.)

    – Bob R.

  22. ccl
    July 20, 2005 at 8:44 am Link

    I agree with Bob R. These discussions need to discover and find issues and problems, then we can hopefully offer up solutions. Example: JK brought up the fact that Trimet runs big buses late at night. That is an issue to which this board could offer possible solutions. To answer one question…I do not work for any city agency or am affiliated with the Portland government in any way.

  23. steve schopp
    July 20, 2005 at 10:03 am Link

    Cab,
    No I don’t like MAX because, on whole, despite your comical numbers it has led to reduced mobility. I don’t like it because it is promoted with dubious information.
    You can’t even be honest with the population in the transit regions and I’m sure you use TriMet’s ridership numbers. So what. Where is it easier to get around for ALL uses? Not in a small cherry picked area, but the region as a whole?

    San Antonio takes up what the Portland region does. Your comparison is skewed. They are both little over a million people and you use Portland only? Typical. That’s the kind of shenanigans planners rely on around here.
    They are roughly the same size and SA has a far superior transportation system. For commuters, for commerce, for businesses, for soccer moms, for homeowners, for livability.
    Portland/region has wasted billions on inefficient rail transit which serves a very small percentage of commuters and zero percent of commerce. All justified because not from system transportation system measurements but because “you” or “some” like it, dubious funding schemes and the dubious numbers you wallow in.
    And you “believe” it to be doing things it is not.
    Some kind of science!

    The problem with you and yours is you don’t want to really determine what a working transportation “system” is. Spending billions, and declaring success by decree and campaign is
    not honest or success.
    Your foggy enamor with rail hobbles your ability to objectively analyze.
    Embracing the perpetual TriMet campaign as if it were factual and reliable is where you really stumble.
    The many persons and organizations who have committed resources and time to real world analysis repeatedly show the failure of this experiment you promote and the dishonest means by which the experiment continues in the face of that failure.
    Hopefully as the scheming continues around here the money schemes which fund it will dry up and your game will close down.
    I suspect with the stretch on Urban Renewal, (one of the favorite funding schemes) dollars reaching critical mass and harm to basic services your gig is just about done.
    However I never underestimate the ability of your Metro and PDC champions to come up with back room ways to channel tax dollars their way. No matter where they have to come from. Schools, parks, libraries, our future. It’s all fair game isn’t it.
    Especially with the aid of the mulit-agency, tax funded, full time campaigns to make it happen.

  24. Chris Smith
    July 20, 2005 at 10:28 am Link

    Steve, I think a look at a little bit larger frame helps a bit. As was just posted on another thread, there are real energy advantages to rail, which only become more important as fossible fuels get depleted.

    Also, while I understand (but don’t completely agree with) your concern about Urban Renewal, it’s going to be a moot point soon. Portland has pretty well tapped out its statutory limit on Urban Renewal disricts. Cash flows from Urban Renewal are now about $225M per year, and will drop to about $60M per year in five years. They won’t come back up until the current districts are closed and their bonds paid off – 15 years+. So TIF won’t be a transportation funding tool for very long.

  25. PKR
    July 20, 2005 at 10:33 am Link

    This thread is really funny.

    It is obvious from reading the posts that the church of light rail crowd who populate this site have no interest in subjecting the dogma of their religion to the scrutiny of empirical reality.

    Just go back and read through it – constant rejoinders of “let’s not debate that” and “that is not what this site is for”.

    I especially like the joke about the site being for “cross-pollinating” ideas! That is very funny indeed! We all agree that light rail is how we can remold Portands neighborhoods into our vision so lets pollinate each other!

    I’ve seen zero response by the church officials to the very valid criticisms about light rail cost, ridership, cannibalization of bus trips, and the fantasy about supposed transit-oriented devlopments.

    You just brush it all off without responding….just as good religionists always do.

    I guess empirical reality will never ever convince someone that their god does not exist.

  26. Cab
    July 20, 2005 at 10:38 am Link

    Chill out Steve. Either way our numbers crush San Antonio. I know you hate it, but we really are well respected around the world for our transportation system. Sorry. Its about choice and I’m so glad I live in a region that provide choices beyond the auto dominated suburban form. Can’t wait to expand the system to Milwaukie and the streetcar to the eastside and Lake Oswego. More and more options will only benifit this great region.

  27. Bob R.
    July 20, 2005 at 10:50 am Link

    I think the “church officials” here would say the same thing about the Church of the Automobile crowd.

    I have seen no actual point by point criticisms of light rail on here to refute, just blanked assertions and links to documents that fudge the numbers.

    I attempted at one point to take on JK, whose post about supposed superior cost effectiveness from private autos didn’t take into account fuel, insurance, or maintenance. When I pointed this out, his reply indicated that a 100K-mile warranty meant the same thing as “no maintenance” and did not concede my other points. How can one legitimately debate a person so divorced form reality?

    Lest you think I am a “church official”, let me toss out a few of my “real world” qualifications…

    1. Our household owns two cars. An economy car and a van. I like to drive.
    2. I am a homeowner on a 5,000sf lot.
    3. I own my own profitable small business and contribute to the local tax base on all fronts – property tax and income tax, as well as TriMet tax, etc.
    4. I do not work for, nor do I have bids with, any transportation agency. (However, in full disclosure, in the past I have applied for open positions with various agencies.)
    5. If asked, I can readily name things that I don’t like about MAX or public transit as managed in Portland in general, including things that are against “church” teaching.
    6. Vans are cool. You can haul stuff around in them and not get it wet like in a pickup, and not worry about ruining the interior like an SUV.

    Now, for my “church” qualifications…

    1. I purchased my house _specifically_ to be located near transit. I put my money where my ideas were. A major bus stop is right in my front yard, and I am less than 2 blocks from a MAX station.
    2. This household uses public transit nearly every day, and not less than twice a week, despite having cars available at all times.
    3. There are infill developments going on around this neighborhood, and I actually like them.
    4. I own a bike. Even ride it now and then.
    5. I attend public meetings and give my input as a citizen on transit projects.
    6. I am actively involved in our neighborhood association.
    7. Priuses are cool. Rented one for a weekend just to take an extended test drive. When the old Neon finally dies, I may get one, provided I have enough saved up to afford it.

    So, which am I? Normal productive citizen with critical thinking capabilities, or “church” member?

    – Bob R.

  28. steve schopp
    July 20, 2005 at 11:07 am Link

    Yes PKR, and Cab is one of the head brushers.
    I think he is Homer Willaims.

    “Choices” Cab?

    How about the “choice” voters made when they voted down light rail?
    Should they also “chill out”?

    How about he “choice” of city officials to build it anyway and to skim off property taxes which would have gone to general fund budgets to pay for it?
    How about the choice to drive people are forced to make because there is no bus service?

    Respected around the world?

    Yep, it’s religion all right.

  29. steve schopp
    July 20, 2005 at 11:44 am Link

    Bob R asked—“So, which am I? Normal productive citizen with critical thinking capabilities, or “church” member?”—

    Well, Bob if you think all it takes to assess the merits of a major public investment with critical ramification is the testimony of users then you are a church member as well as a likely fairly normal citizen.

    Unfortunately I’m not so sure about the critical thinking part.

    Suppose I advocated a system of electric limousines for public transit.
    Would judgment on the merits of such a system not include the cost and ridership levels?
    Or would it only involve the testimony of those enjoying the ride and the fact that they are electric?
    I’m sure that my limo system would spawn all sorts of accolades by those enjoying the daily ride. Who would argue the ride is not enjoyed.
    Likewise I don not question your enjoyment or usefulness of our MAX.

    Cost and effectiveness matters and TriMet is not coming clean about either.

  30. Bob R.
    July 20, 2005 at 12:04 pm Link

    Steve Schopp wrote:

    “Well, Bob if you think all it takes to assess the merits of a major public investment with critical ramification is the testimony of users then you are a church member”

    I have not posted about the testimony of users.

    “Unfortunately I’m not so sure about the critical thinking part.”

    Thanks.

    “Suppose I advocated a system of electric limousines for public transit.”

    For the purposes of discussion, I’ll play along…

    “Would judgment on the merits of such a system not include the cost and ridership levels?”

    Of course it would.

    “Or would it only involve the testimony of those enjoying the ride and the fact that they are electric?”

    To the relevant extent that A) If users don’t enjoy the ride, they are far less likely ride it, therefore limiting effectiveness, and B) the effect of electric systems to _displace_ pollution to remote point sources that can more easily be controlled than on many independent vehicles, yes. Not “only”, but a necessary component of the discussion.

    “I’m sure that my limo system would spawn all sorts of accolades by those enjoying the daily ride.”

    Only if the limos were usually on-time and consistent in performance, were regularly cleaned and maintained, and operated by professional staff. Get too many details wrong, and users won’t like them.

    “Who would argue the ride is not enjoyed.”

    Presumably, those who did not have a good experience.

    As a dangerous tangent, getting back to the real world, I have had rides on TriMet that I did not enjoy. When appropriate, I have relayed my observations to TriMet via phone and email. I have also had negative experiences while driving a private automobile… who hasn’t?

    “Likewise I don not question your enjoyment or usefulness of our MAX.”

    Gee, thanks again.

    Incidentally, in case you missed it, I pay TriMet tax directly as a result of being a small business owner. I do realize that tranist costs much more than farebox, so dispense with treating me like a naive child.

    “Cost and effectiveness matters and TriMet is not coming clean about either.”

    You say this, but what evidence do you have to support the statement?

    Things that would convince me:

    1. Important factors completely left out of budgeting and forecasting models.
    2. Major flaws in ridership numbers as compared with independent unbiased data.
    3. Flaws in methodology of counting and surveying techniques.
    4. Public statements on matters of fact by transit management that were later shown to be incorrect by independent data.

    – Bob R.

  31. brett
    July 20, 2005 at 12:36 pm Link

    What a lame post. This isn’t a party, it’s a public forum. If you want a private party, start a private forum and don’t open up a public blog. You’re essentially saying that only some views are allowed on this web site. Did you not anticipate that transit opponents would be more vocal than supporters? They are dissidents in this town. Have you never read comments sections before?

    If you can’t take the heat, don’t build a kitchen.

  32. Bob R.
    July 20, 2005 at 12:44 pm Link

    Brett –

    Wouldn’t it be just as easy to say the opposite? If you can’t stand the theme, don’t go to a theme event?

    If you started a football site to discuss issues around football, including ways to improve the game, issues regarding stadium and team financing, forming new leagues, government involvement in sport, etc., but were barraged with comments from those insisting that you must first justify football’s very existence, would you not want to limit debate to more specific parameters?

  33. Chris Smith
    July 20, 2005 at 2:16 pm Link

    On the thoughts about the cost effectiveness of rail, doesn’t it depend on what you think you’re buying?

    If you’re just buying moving people from point A to point B, I agree that rail gets beat by buses (although we do pick up some folks who ride rail who will NOT ride buses).

    But I think I’m buying a better urban form, less energy dependence for my kids and a cleaner environment. I think my tax dollars are being well spent.

    These are value differences, not factual differences, and that’s my point about the purpose of this site. There is an assumption about values. If it doesn’t fit your values, I understand and respect that, but the answer is to find (or build) a site that does reflect your values, not to take over this one.

    Thanks.

  34. Kent Lind
    July 20, 2005 at 2:45 pm Link

    I lived in Washington DC for a year without a car and commuted to Silver Spring on a daily basis from Dupont Circle (central DC) on the red line of the DC metro. I took the metro all over the city and once in a while took a cab late at night if the metro was closed. But in the entire year I lived in DC I never once boarded a bus, even though the streets are full of them. I suspect I’m not alone. Why is that?

    First, I think it is relatively easy for the average person to learn an entire rail system and commit it to memory and if you forget, there’s a convenient system map at every station and on every car. So you can ride trains around and never get lost. By contrast, most large city bus sytems are so complex that you can’t even get a full system map much less memorize one. The maps at the bus stops have route maps for the line you are on only. So if you are unfamiliar with the system you actually have to really take the time to study the maps and timetables to figure out how to get from point A to point B.

    Second, rail lines usually have more frequent service than bus lines. So you can usually just walk to the nearest rail stop and expect a train shortly. With buses you might be waiting a long time if you don’t have the schedule memorized. For someone without a regular schedule this is important.

    About when I was leaving DC I happened to actually study the bus schedules once and discovered that I actually had bus service to my office that stopped closer to my apartment and would get me closer to my office in less time. Who knew. I didn’t mind walking the extra blocks or the extra 5 minutes so I never bothered to switch to the bus.

    I suspect that I’m pretty typical.

  35. steve schopp
    July 20, 2005 at 2:55 pm Link

    Chris said, —“But I think I’m buying a better urban form, less energy dependence for my kids and a cleaner environment. I think my tax dollars are being well spent.”—

    Exactly. You “think” you are.
    But what if you actually are NOT getting what you think?
    With the spending of billions on a system which serves so few a whole slew of adverse effects occur.
    Least of which is more dependence and more pollution due to traffic sitting idle during rush hour, more people having to drive due to lack of bus service, and the loss of opportunities to fund genuinely effective clean air efforts.
    TriMet and Metro do not take into consideration the broader picture in order to discover the net effects of what they implement.
    Witness the near total absence of traffic planning and the truth be told. South Waterfront for example, did not even undergo a full and genuine traffic impact study.
    Would anyone argue that traffic growth without planning is not doomed to be worse and more polluting than planning for it?
    The numbers TriMet dreams up to show elevated ridership is truly despicable. Tax funded BS used to perpetuate inefficiency and waste.

    Bob R, my electric limousine analogy was meant to demonstrate that something can cost too much
    relative to what it provides and relative to other means and needs.

    We don’t have a transit fleet of electric limos because it would cost too much and serve too few.
    Otherwise it would be swell and be more flexible.

    Our versions of fixed rail are likewise too expensive and serve too few. That are also fixed and inflexible. With TriMet & Metro providing the talley on the costs and ridership the egregiously low merit is perpetually obscured.

    The trouble is they are good at deception.

  36. Chris Smith
    July 20, 2005 at 3:01 pm Link

    Steve, you need to have some data to backup your accusations. Otherwise you are just calling TriMet names and that will get you crossed up with Rule #1.

  37. Chris Smith
    July 20, 2005 at 3:05 pm Link

    Kent makes a good point about the importance of understanding the system, and the easier comprehension of rail.

    But it raises a third alternative, which is to take your $$$ and spend them on education rather than infrastructure. PDOT, TriMet and Metro have done some interesting pilot projects on 1-on-1 education outreach with some pretty impressive improvements in mode share. These were based on similar efforts done in Europe and Australia.

  38. Bob R.
    July 20, 2005 at 3:27 pm Link

    Steve Schopp wrote:

    “Bob R, my electric limousine analogy was meant to demonstrate that something can cost too much relative to what it provides and relative to other means and needs.”

    Well, duh. And my reply to you was to show you that I would review transportation proposals with an open mind as to costs and benefits.

    “Our versions of fixed rail are likewise too expensive and serve too few.”

    Says you. Yes, rail is very expensive to build, but, once built, costs per passenger-mile are generally much lower, and the infrastructure lasts much longer. You have to look at the total system lifetime cost, rail vs. bus.

    For rail, this can be broken down into:

    1. Initial infrastructure capital costs (right of way acquisition, utility relocation, rails, stations, lighting, wiring, substations, maintenance facilities all that stuff…)
    2. Initial rolling stock capital costs.
    3. Costs of financing (bonds, administrative costs)
    4. Operational costs (service hours, number of operators, infrastructure maintenance, rolling stock maintenance, fare collection/inspection, security)

    Amortize these total costs over the system lifetime (each component of the system will have a different lifespan)… system lifetime can be considered the point where maintenance/replacement costs equal initial acquisition and construction costs.

    Then, divide your amortized costs by the number of rides delivered and compare with doing bus in the same corridor.

    At some magic point given a certain number of rides, the cost for rail will fall below the cost for bus.

    The question of whether or not to do rail _before_ that magic number is hit is a reflection of less tangible values, such as impacts on land use, pollution, rider preference, projections of future growth, etc. That is where much of the debate and contention lies.

    “The numbers TriMet dreams up to show elevated ridership is truly despicable.”

    Wow, that’s quite an accusation. “Despicable”, eh? Sinister. Got any scholarly research on that? Any evidence whatsoever? Perhaps a class-action lawsuit is in order from taxpayers. Or are you just blowing hot air?

    “That are also fixed and inflexible.”

    Could you flesh out that “inflexible” argument for me? It seems to me that established transit corridors tend to stay that way in terms of population density and demand. Buses, by your definition, would be far more flexible than rail, but look at the most popular bus routes over the years in Portland and they are still basically the same. The #33 bus I used to ride as a kid still goes the same places. The #6 bus still goes up and down MLK. The #15 still provides frequent service on Belmont. Any of these major streets going to move anytime soon? Many current bus lines virtually copy routes once served by streetcars, and those streetcars replaced horsedrawn carriages along the same routes.

    Not that I have anything against busses. They are great for lower frequency routes, getting around obstacles, trying new service, areas with steep grades, and seasonal service. But rail is great for serving larger numbers of people in well established corridors, and, in my opinion, as a spine for new development in areas zoned for dense population.

    “With TriMet & Metro providing the talley on the costs and ridership the egregiously low merit is perpetually obscured.”

    “Egregiously”? Methinks your choice of language doesn’t leave much room for amplificatoin. If TriMet and Metro are already egregious, that doesn’t leave much room for them to get worse, does it?

    “The trouble is they are good at deception.”

    The trouble is that you haven’t given any hard facts or serious analysis to back up these strongly-worded assertions.

    – Bob R.

  39. Craig B
    July 20, 2005 at 3:53 pm Link

    Federal Dollars do offset much of the cost of Rail. We are talking Billions of dollars of cash into the local economy that would not come here if not for MAX.

  40. steve schopp
    July 20, 2005 at 4:19 pm Link

    Bob R said,—“The trouble is that you haven’t given any hard facts or serious analysis to back up these strongly-worded assertions.—”

    And you have never read any of it either have you?
    So once again we have another champion of transportation once again asking someone to yet again go spend their own private nontax funded time gathering and re-presenting what you have been ignoring all along.
    You have never seen any works of tranportation experts and advocates who challenge Metro and TriMet numbers and thinking?

    It’s been readily available and growing for years but you haven’t seen any of it???

    So you are starting with nothing from the opposition, I’m supposes to bring you up to speed, but you have an open mind?
    You believe TriMet ridership numbers even though they count boardings and not riders,

    $2 billion to provide 1% of commuters a train ride (US census) Vs bus rides should be enough to make you at least look for yourself.
    TriMet has continually turned down requests for more bus service because they are told the ridership doesn’t merit it. There is no such measurment when it comes to rail.

    What is it that would propell you to be curious?

    Out of curiosity, would you question the counting methods for Interstate MAX if those methods included adding in a large numbers of Lloyd Center-Downtown trips to pad the new line ridership numbers?

  41. steve schopp
    July 20, 2005 at 4:22 pm Link

    —“We are talking Billions of dollars of cash into the local economy that would not come here if not for MAX.”—

    Yeah, as a construction project, but then you have to do is assume we would do nothing else with the billions if it were not MAX.

  42. Bob R.
    July 20, 2005 at 4:39 pm Link

    Steve Schopp wrote:

    “And you have never read any of it either have you?”

    Actually, I read a lot of things. Try me. I’ve been reasonable with you and I have provided information about myself and what criteria I use to evaluate transportation systems and you have yet to provide me with anything.

    Why not start with something by Randall O’Toole or something from the Cascade Policy Institute? I’ve read their stuff.

    “So once again we have another champion of transportation once again asking someone to yet again go spend their own private nontax funded time gathering and re-presenting what you have been ignoring all along.”

    I’m asking for facts to back up your assertions that TriMet and Metro are “egregiously” misleading the public.

    “You have never seen any works of tranportation experts and advocates who challenge Metro and TriMet numbers and thinking?”

    You seem to know a lot about me that is incorrect. Perhaps you are just making things up about me.

    I, on the other hand, have not projected your thoughts or motives. I am only relying on what you write in this space.

    I even said in a previous post in this very discussion that there are aspects of TriMet and public transit that I do not like, yet you did not pick up on my attempt at forging common ground. I also conceded that I like buses and they have a purpose, and yet you did not respond to that.

    “It’s been readily available and growing for years but you haven’t seen any of it???”

    If it is so readily available, can’t you provide a simple link to the article in question?

    “So you are starting with nothing from the opposition, I’m supposes to bring you up to speed, but you have an open mind?”

    It is the burden of the person making a bold assertion to provide the references. Debate 101.

    “You believe TriMet ridership numbers even though they count boardings and not riders,”

    Boardings is a standard transportation measurement. So is vehicle trips. So is passenger-miles. So is person-trips. The data can be broken down various ways. No one seriously involved in the topic believes that boardings per day = persons transported per day. If TriMet has specifically told you otherwise, that would be false, but you haven’t provided such a reference.

    “$2 billion to provide 1% of commuters a train ride (US census) Vs bus rides should be enough to make you at least look for yourself.”

    I have looked for myself. I have even laid down my criteria for judgement, including issues related to life-cycle costs, maintenance, ridership, etc. And yet you still treat me as though I were an inflexible zealot.

    Where do you get your “1% of commuters” figure – is it limited to the TriMet service area / tax base, or is that a statewide figure?

    “TriMet has continually turned down requests for more bus service because they are told the ridership doesn’t merit it.”

    As I would expect them to.

    “There is no such measurment when it comes to rail.”

    Untrue. For example, several groups have advocated for subway service and TriMet has argued that ridership would not be sufficient right now to justify the cost of a subway. I’m not going to get into the merits of that argument right now, but it goes against your assertion that TriMet make “no such measurement” when considering rail projects.

    “What is it that would propell you to be curious?”

    Data.

    “Out of curiosity, would you question the counting methods for Interstate MAX if those methods included adding in a large numbers of Lloyd Center-Downtown trips to pad the new line ridership numbers?”

    Sure, I would. Especially since Interstate MAX does not stop at the Lloyd Center station, nor does it stop at the 7th Ave station, nor does it stop at the Convention Center. If TriMet included boardings from any of those 3 stations, I’d have a serious problem with that. So, where and when did they do this?

    Pardon my strong language, but since you have continously questioned my motivations and have projected my internal thoughts, I will tell you that it is time to Put Up or Shut Up.

    Oh, and one last tiny offer for some common groud – why not ask me what highway/road projects I would support?

    – Bob R.

  43. Craig B
    July 20, 2005 at 5:28 pm Link

    Steve,

    That money would go to another state. I’d rather we recieve it. The Money creates a lot of good local jobs, especially for minority contractors

  44. brett
    July 20, 2005 at 5:41 pm Link

    If you started a football site to discuss issues around football, including ways to improve the game, issues regarding stadium and team financing, forming new leagues, government involvement in sport, etc., but were barraged with comments from those insisting that you must first justify football’s very existence, would you not want to limit debate to more specific parameters?

    Bad analogy. Your site is called “Portland Transport.” Your tagline is “a conversation about mobility in the Portland area.” Neither of those suggest any limitations on the areas of debate. No one is arguing that we should not be mobile; the argument is over what mode of transport is best, where government money should be applied, etc, etc. Feel free to start banning people, deleting comments, and whatever else you think you have to do to enforce your POV, but don’t fool yourself into thinking that it’s debate.

    Do you really want an echo chamber? Do you really want only people who agree with you to read the site? Wouldn’t you rather expose a larger population to your arguments about transit? Why preach to the choir?

  45. Justin Wells
    July 20, 2005 at 7:22 pm Link

    Don’t forget that in Curitiba, they are planning on converting part of the bus system to light rail, to increase capacity and so on. (Not all, part)

  46. Justin Wells
    July 20, 2005 at 7:46 pm Link

    If you are going to talk about the difference between bus and rail, you need to talk about more than just numbers. There is a huge difference between a train – light rail, sub/el or amtrak versus a plain, old & stinky bus.

    And that’s where the difference lies: imagability. People respond to an image VERY strongly. This is obviously why marketing and commercials now infest every part of modern American society: they work!

    Now, if you are running a medium-sized city in America, faced with rising pollution and congestion from cars, and are quite aware of some of the downsides freeways bring – among others, development access to the countryside that leads to its suburbanization – wouldn’t you be looking for something DIFFERENT?

    That’s what Lightrail is – something different. We are not building a purely functional ‘move poor people from point A to B for the cheapest amount of money.’ This is a REVOLUTION (or, if you are Blumenauer, http://www.railvolution.com) in progress. Let’s remake the city! Make it beautiful! Attractive! Let’s make ABSOLUTELY CLEAR to people that we are going to get around this metro area in a different way – and make a statement about it!

    Busses move people from point A to B. Rail is a statement, pure and simple. While a bus route can potentially change every month, or even be elilinated, rail does not change very fast: since it is the product of long-range planning, citizens, businesses and developers can come to know how serious the city is about change with the amount of money it invests.

    Again, light rail is not really a transportation system: it’s a development tool. This is why they [metro, city, etc] endlessly have cited the original Hillsboro expansion as leveraging X dollars of private investment for every Y public dollar spent.

    Busses don’t do that.

    To think of it another way – building light rail is like building a street, or a freeway. It’s the whole package – hard infrastructure for the trains to run on, stations for the people to board, trains to ride on, and an entire army of personnel to keep it running, including security people. Besides Curitiba, there are VERY few cities that have bus-only lanes/roads. Those that do were usually preexisting and used for autos. This is why Rail will always be more expensive than busses, because bus lines never include the level of development and city beautification (that the city residents DEMAND) that accompanies it.

    I apologize for the length of this post, but it’s been pissing me off for so many years now when both transit advocates and critics just never get it right – they are always comparing a pipe wrench to a Monet painting!

  47. Bob R.
    July 20, 2005 at 7:55 pm Link

    Brett –

    You have completely misidentified me as someone who owns or controls this site. I am not.

    As I have already stated (in this very thread), I am a private citizen and small business owner and do not work for or contract with any transportation agency.

    Leaping to conclusions about me seems to be the order of the day.

    – Bob R.

  48. Chris Smith
    July 20, 2005 at 9:06 pm Link

    Brett, you raised the analogy of the choir, so let me extend it. Yes indeed, this is the choir loft to some extent. So while I think it is perfectly valid for music critics to write negative reviews of our concerts, it is bad form to come up into the choir loft and purposely sing off-key to disrupt rehearsal.

    That’s what I would call the difference between keeping us honest and trying to shout us out.

  49. Jonathan Maus
    July 21, 2005 at 9:29 am Link

    Why don’t all the dissenters in question just start their own blog? Let them take the risk of publishing their views on transportation and see what kind of comments they get.

    Instead of shouting and heckling from the audience, I encourage you to join PortlandTransport.com on the podium.

  50. steve schopp
    July 21, 2005 at 10:59 am Link

    Bob, I meant the Rose Quarter.

    Tri Met report shows 5,040 boarding rides on Interstate, 6,620 in fareless square (Rose Quarter to Galleria).

    Rail will reduce congestion? Actually, Portland congestion grew more than any US metro area since rail was initiated in 1986.
    see http://www.hevanet.com/oti/portlandcongestion.htm

    Commuters use rail?
    Look at the US 2000 census. It shows work trips on rail in Portland metro area are only 7,700 per day. Not much for a metro area with 1.7 million people.

    Is our rail energy conservation? Just because it is generated in Boardman at the coal fired power plant and not in the individual cars doesn’t mean that energy is not expended.
    If you looked only at the peak hour loads, rail would save energy per person. But for every hour with a lot of people, rail or bus travels three hours with hardly any load. By the way, although Tri Met trumpets light rail, buses carry the preponderence of riders.

    See http://www.publicpurpose.com/ut-energy2000usa.pdf

    Joel Schwartz joel@joelschwartz.com, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, can provide you with chapter and verse on energy.

  51. Bob R.
    July 21, 2005 at 12:26 pm Link

    Steve –

    Thanks for correcting your self re: Rose Quarter vs. Lloyd Center. No, I don’t have a problem with TriMet reporting boardings on the Yellow line between Rose Quarter (a new, separate station from the Blue/Red station) and Galleria, so long as those numbers are separated out, which they appear to be.

    Note that the line #5 bus which was largely replaced by the Yellow line also went downtown and also travelled through fareless square. Note also that the Rose Quarter is a transit center where a number of bus lines connect.

    “Rail will reduce congestion?”

    That is not a direct statement that I ever made, nor do I believe that additions to any mode of transit (including roads) can actually _reduce_ congestion in the long term. Good transportation usually promotes economic growth, which in turn increases demand on the transportation network.

    It can be argued that wise investments in public transportation (of which rail may be a component) rechannel some of that increased demand away from roads, but no, in the long term I would not expect a reduction in congestion in ANY mode expansion program. I’ve never pretended otherwise.

    “Commuters use rail?
    Look at the US 2000 census. It shows work trips on rail in Portland metro area are only 7,700 per day. Not much for a metro area with 1.7 million people.”

    OK, I’m looking at the 2,000 census here:
    http://factfinder.census.gov/servlet/QTTable?_bm=y&-geo_id=16000US4159000&-qr_name=DEC_2000_SF3_U_DP3&-Tables=('DEC_2000_SF1_U_DP1‘)&-ds_name=DEC_2000_SF3_U&-_lang=en&-redoLog=false&-_sse=on&-CONTEXT=qt
    (Long URL, I know. If that doesn’t work for you, try Here.)

    I do not see a line item for rail, but there is one for “Public transportation (including taxicab)”. If there is a different table I should be looking at, please provide a link. Thanks.

    But, using this table, let’s take a look…

    In 2000, there were 270,996 people who commuted to work. That’s about 63% of the “16 and over” employment population.

    Of those 270,996, 33,410 reported commuting by Public Transportation (Including Taxicab).

    I’m going to make an assumption (my apologies in advance) that the Taxicab portion of “public transportation” is under 5% of this class of commuters. Taking 5% off the 33,410 gives us 31,740 commuters.

    Now, let’s look at sime TriMet FY2000 numbers here:
    http://www.trimet.org/inside/pdf/busmaxstat.pdf
    (In my browser I get the following numbers on Page 5 of the PDF report)

    Avg. Weekday Originating Rides:
    Bus: 153,600
    Rail: 53,800
    (Total: 207,400)

    So, in 2,000, rail carried about 26% of originating rides. (In FY2004 it was about 31%).

    If we assume that 26% of those 31,740 non-taxi public transportation commuters originated their trips on rail, that gives us 8,252 rail commuters in 2000.

    Another assumption I’m making is that each of these commuters, on a daily basis, not only commutes TO work but commutes FROM work.

    That would translate into 63,480 daily originating rides on some form of non-taxi public transit, or 16,504 daily rail commuter trips (about 30% of FY2000 rail originating rides.)

    Now, I’ve made a number of assumptions (although they seem like reasonable assumptions to me) using the numbers that I could find on the US Census web site. As I stated before, I would welcome other references to tables within the census data.

    But I arrived at a total (over 16,000) of rail commuter trips that way exceeds your “7,700” figure.

    But I’d like to also add that non-“commuter” originating rides are also important. A significant portion of those other daily originating rides would be going by car if quality public transportation was not available.

    “Is our rail energy conservation? Just because it is generated in Boardman at the coal fired power plant and not in the individual cars doesn’t mean that energy is not expended.”

    As I already stated, electric modes of transit _displace_ pollution to the power plant. I am still waiting to see consistent numbers on energy usage that compare real BTUs used by MAX to average motor vehicle fleet economy inside the TriMet service area, it it appears from preliminary numbers posted by various individuals on this site that MAX is consumption-competitive with compact cars, at the very least, and as a general rule it is easier to control pollution and efficiency at a few power plans than on many, many individual vehicles.

    “By the way, although Tri Met trumpets light rail, buses carry the preponderence of riders.”

    And TriMet has never denied this. In fact, the new TIP report released today shows all kinds of bus improvement projects.

    However, on a route-mile basis, the rail system carries more passengers per bus, and does so with a lower operational cost per passenger-mile than bus.

    Yes, there are some very high initial capital costs for building rail (as I have also already mentioned early on), but these when amortized over the life-cycle of the infrastructure are cost-competitive with bus.

    Good public transportation cannot exist without solid bus service. But rail investments (even “light” rail) offer advantages over bus at a certain point.

    – Bob R.

  52. Bob R.
    July 21, 2005 at 1:39 pm Link

    Correcting my typo from above:

    However, on a route-mile basis, the rail system carries more passengers per bus, and does so with a lower operational cost per passenger-mile than bus.

    Should read:

    However, on a route-mile basis, the rail system carries more passengers per route-mile, and does so with a lower operational cost per passenger-mile than bus.

    – Bob R.

  53. Lenny Anderson
    July 21, 2005 at 2:04 pm Link

    If you are of the “bus is better than MAX” school, then my guess is that you have never been on either one!
    I ride both all the time…I love the 85 Swan Island Express, a bus…but for comfort, predictability, ride, etc., there is just no comparison, except for those times you get a really sooth bus operator, rail is a superior product.
    I hear this over and over as I help folks explore their options for the commute to Swan Island…”never rode a bus, but yes, I love MAX!” There is just something about rail that people like.
    And as for the so called “flexibility” of bus routes…that can only be claimed by someone who has never tried to change one. “Hey, let’s put the 15 on Stark, so cars can get up Belmont faster!” Good luck.
    Lenny Anderson, Swan Island TMA…”moving freight by creating & promoting commute options to Swan Island”
    Funded by area businesses and a CMAQ grant from Metro’s Regional Travel Options program

  54. Ross Williams
    July 21, 2005 at 2:42 pm Link

    “Rail will reduce congestion?”

    BOB R: That is not a direct statement that I ever made, nor do I believe that additions to any mode of transit (including roads) can actually _reduce_ congestion in the long term. Good transportation usually promotes economic growth, which in turn increases demand on the transportation network.

    It can be argued that wise investments in public transportation (of which rail may be a component) rechannel some of that increased demand away from roads, but no, in the long term I would not expect a reduction in congestion in ANY mode expansion program. I’ve never pretended otherwise.

    I agree that reducing congestion is a lost cause. I think the claim that transit reduces congestion is when compared with the same number of people trying to get to the same place in their automobiles. Just as adding road capacity allows more people to make use of the road, adding transit simply does the same thing. It allows other people to make use of the road instead of the people using transit.

    This becomes important when you start looking at the expected benefits from transit. New transit capacity will not reduce pollution or traffic in neighborhoods unless it replaces additional auto capacity. If you add another lane to I-5 it will increase traffic on it, regardless of how much you also invest in transit in the corridor.

  55. jim karlock
    July 21, 2005 at 2:57 pm Link

    Bob R. Says July 21, 2005 12:26 PM:

    It can be argued that wise investments in public transportation (of which rail may be a component) rechannel some of that increased demand away from roads, but no, in the long term I would not expect a reduction in congestion in ANY mode expansion program. I’ve never pretended otherwise.

    JK: Suppose we were to double the number of lanes on all roads. Would that solve congestion, or would you expect that people would suddenly start commuting to work TWICE EACH MORNING and TWICE EACH EVENING?
    End JK:

    OK, I’m looking at the 2,000 census here:
    http://factfinder.census.gov/servlet/QTTable?_bm=y&-geo_id=16000US4159000&-qr_name=DEC_2000_SF3_U_DP3&-Tables=('DEC_2000_SF1_U_DP1‘)&-ds_name=DEC_2000_SF3_U&-_lang=en&-redoLog=false&-_sse=on&-CONTEXT=qt
    (Long URL, I know. If that doesn’t work for you, try Here.)

    I do not see a line item for rail, but there is one for “Public transportation (including taxicab)”. If there is a different table I should be looking at, please provide a link. Thanks.

    JK: Look here: MEANS OF TRAVEL TO WORK, Chapter 4 http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/ctpp/jtw/jtw4.htm
    It gives total workers at 1,105,133 with 85.2% being in cars (I combined drive alone+carpool) and 5.1% on bus and 0.5% on rail. Combine bus and rail and you get 5.6% on transit. This is 61,887 round trips. Note that this is regional data, not city of Portland like your source. I feel that region wide data is a better fit since TriMet is region wide.
    End JK:

    But, using this table, let’s take a look…

    I n 2000, there were 270,996 people who commuted to work. That’s about 63% of the “16 and over” employment population.

    Of those 270,996, 33,410 reported commuting by Public Transportation (Including Taxicab).

    I’m going to make an assumption (my apologies in advance) that the Taxicab portion of “public transportation” is under 5% of this class of commuters. Taking 5% off the 33,410 gives us 31,740 commuters.

    Now, let’s look at sime TriMet FY2000 numbers here:
    http://www.trimet.org/inside/pdf/busmaxstat.pdf
    (In my browser I get the following numbers on Page 5 of the PDF report)

    Avg. Weekday Originating Rides:
    Bus: 153,600
    Rail: 53,800
    (Total: 207,400)

    So, in 2,000, rail carried about 26% of originating rides. (In FY2004 it was about 31%).

    If we assume that 26% of those 31,740 non-taxi public transportation commuters originated their trips on rail, that gives us 8,252 rail commuters in 2000.

    Another assumption I’m making is that each of these commuters, on a daily basis, not only commutes TO work but commutes FROM work.

    JK PM: It is my understanding that originating rides means complete ONE-WAY TRIPS, so you can’t double it to get the return trip. However you can cut it in half to get the number of round trips (or daily commuters), since it counts once to work and once from work.
    End JK:

    That would translate into 63,480 daily originating rides on some form of non-taxi public transit, or 16,504 daily rail commuter trips (about 30% of FY2000 rail originating rides.)

    Now, I’ve made a number of assumptions (although they seem like reasonable assumptions to me) using the numbers that I could find on the US Census web site. As I stated before, I would welcome other references to tables within the census data.

    But I arrived at a total (over 16,000) of rail commuter trips that way exceeds your “7,700” figure.

    JK PM: The differencs is in the definitions. Each commuter makes two originating rides, so you shouldn’t double them above. That puts you at around 8250 which is close enough to the 7,700 number.
    End JK:

    But I’d like to also add that non-“commuter” originating rides are also important. A significant portion of those other daily originating rides would be going by car if quality public transportation was not available.

    “Is our rail energy conservation? Just because it is generated in Boardman at the coal fired power plant and not in the individual cars doesn’t mean that energy is not expended.”

    As I already stated, electric modes of transit _displace_ pollution to the power plant.

    JK: Depends on what your concern is. If it is CO2, then the location does not matter. If it is pollution in the city, then location does matter. What I have not seen is data on how much pollution comes from each major source, now that cars have been so clean for so many years. I do recall reading a Seattle article about someone looking at their bus pollution and found it worse then the cars that the riders wopuld have been in.
    End JK:

    I am still waiting to see consistent numbers on energy usage that compare real BTUs used by MAX to average motor vehicle fleet economy inside the TriMet service area, it it appears from preliminary numbers posted by various individuals on this site that MAX is consumption-competitive with compact cars, at the very least, and as a general rule it is easier to control pollution and efficiency at a few power plans than on many, many individual vehicles.

    JK: Hopefully Mary Fetch’s people will give us more soon.End JK:

    By the way, although Tri Met trumpets light rail, buses carry the preponderence of riders.”

    And TriMet has never denied this. In fact, the new TIP report released today shows all kinds of bus improvement projects.

    (JK: corrected version) However, on a route-mile basis, the rail system carries more passengers per route-mile, and does so with a lower operational cost per passenger-mile than bus.

    Yes, there are some very high initial capital costs for building rail (as I have also already mentioned early on), but these when amortized over the life-cycle of the infrastructure are cost-competitive with bus.

    JK: They re-routed the bus lines to force people to transfer to rail, so it does carry more. As to cost, lets ask Fetch & co. for costs that include all construction and hidden costs like the contributions from urban renewal districts, utility companies having to move their power lines (and maybe water/sewer?) before TriMet built Interstate Ave rail. As far as I can tell, if you include these costs, they drive up the cost of light rail to being close to that of taxi fare on a passenger mile basis. End JK:

    Bob R. Says July 21, 2005 12:26 PM: Good public transportation cannot exist without solid bus service. But rail investments (even “light” rail) offer advantages over bus at a certain point.

    JK: Could we have better service at lower cost by encouraging some alternatives such as jitneys? And allowing taxis to pick up more that one fare during a trip.
    End JK:

    Thanks
    JK

  56. jim karlock
    July 21, 2005 at 3:11 pm Link

    Lenny Anderson July 21, 2005 02:04 PM:

    If you are of the “bus is better than MAX” school, then my guess is that you have never been on either one!
    I ride both all the time…I love the 85 Swan Island Express, a bus…but for comfort, predictability, ride, etc., there is just no comparison, except for those times you get a really sooth bus operator, rail is a superior product.
    I hear this over and over as I help folks explore their options for the commute to Swan Island…”never rode a bus, but yes, I love MAX!” There is just something about rail that people like.

    And as for the so called “flexibility” of bus routes…that can only be claimed by someone who has never tried to change one. “Hey, let’s put the 15 on Stark, so cars can get up Belmont faster!” Good luck.
    JK:
    That is the political part which affects both rail and bus. After the political decision is made, then you have a few dozen million dollars moving the tracks from Belmont to Stark. For the bus, you just move a few signs and give the driver a new instruction. Of course Trimet is reducing this difference by putting in “transit supportive extended 40 foot curbs”

    The other part of flexibility is the ability to go around the block when there is an obstruction. The rail is stopped dead in its tracks until the obstruction is cleared. We see this all the time.
    End JK – private citizen, making no money off of any topics discussed here.

    Lenny Anderson, Swan Island TMA…”moving freight by creating & promoting commute options to Swan Island”
    Funded by area businesses and a CMAQ grant from Metro’s Regional Travel Options program

  57. Bob R.
    July 21, 2005 at 5:23 pm Link

    JK: Suppose we were to double the number of lanes on all roads. Would that solve congestion, or would you expect that people would suddenly start commuting to work TWICE EACH MORNING and TWICE EACH EVENING?

    Well, JK, that is a really tough supposition for me to make. It would be hideously expensive, and would displace many (probably most) homes and businesses in the area.

    But, supposing we did? Note that in my argument I stated “long term”… there will always be immediate short term reductions in congestion in any mode of transportation. Economic development will cause those short term gains to be lost in the long term. (This is not a bad thing, necessarily. The debate we are having is about the impacts of growth more than it is an argument against growth.)

    If we were, as you suppose, able to double lane capacity on all roads, the congestion reduction would probably be noticeable. BUT, and this is a big BUT, most of the problems on our road system today are related to bottlenecks and intersections. Doubling the number of lanes will do relatively little if people are getting backed up at the same intersections and interchanges as they were before.

    I would rather see highway dollars devoted first to removing bottlenecks and upgrading known problem areas, and maintaining infrastructure such as bridges, before adding lane capacity.

    I pay all manner of local, state, and federal taxes directly: Gas Tax, County Property, TriMet, State/Fed Income, etc. Of those taxes, I want my transportation dollars spent first on improving efficiency in the existing network, then on developing “alternative” modes as I view the impacts of those modes to be more positive than highway expansion, and lastly on highway expansion where there is a clear existing demand in the affected communities.

    JK: Look here: MEANS OF TRAVEL TO WORK, Chapter 4 http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/ctpp/jtw/jtw4.htm
    It gives total workers at 1,105,133 with 85.2% being in cars (I combined drive alone+carpool) and 5.1% on bus and 0.5% on rail. Combine bus and rail and you get 5.6% on transit. This is 61,887 round trips. Note that this is regional data, not city of Portland like your source. I feel that region wide data is a better fit since TriMet is region wide.

    Thank you for that link. There is something about these regional numbers (as well as the Portland-specific numbers I posted earlier) that makes me really want to see precisely what questions were asked…

    All of the numbers for all of the modes add up to “100%”. This means that the survey either assumed that unique persons only commuted by a certiain mode 100% of the time (ie., car user never use rail, rail users never take a bus, etc.), or it was asking users for the “primary” mode of commute transportation.

    Either case would underrepresent those who use transit occasionally, even twice a week.

    In other words, these numbers cannot be used to accurately determine how many unique commuters in the Portland metro region actually benefit from direct use of transit.

    I do see from these numbers that the Portland mode share for Taxi came in at 0.0% for commuters. So my previous statement that it was well under 5% is validated, though I was off by infinity. :-)

    JK PM: It is my understanding that originating rides means complete ONE-WAY TRIPS, so you can’t double it to get the return trip. However you can cut it in half to get the number of round trips (or daily commuters), since it counts once to work and once from work.

    We already know the # of daily commuters from my analysis. I doubled that number of commuters to get rides per day because of what Steve said in his originall comment:

    Steve: [regarding census regional figures] It shows work trips on rail in Portland metro area are only 7,700 per day.

    He said “trips”, not “commuters”. So when I arrived at a number of Portland-only commuters, I doubled it to get trips.

    Still, using the nubmers you provied, JK, I still don’t see where steve is getting his 7,700 trips figure, which would imply an appallingly low 3,850 commuters.

    If the rail mode share really is .5%, then 1,105,133 area commuters should get you 5,525 rail commuters, or 11,050 trips.

    All this proves is that your numbers, my numbers, and Steve’s numbers don’t come out the same.

    But, let’s assume the worst. Let’s assume that there are only 5,525 rail commuters (11,050 originating rides) in the entire Portland metro area. Who then comprised, in FY2000, the other 42,750 (of 53,800) originating rides???

    Surely most these people were commiting acts of economic activity in some way, and surely a good portion of them would otherwise have been driving.

    Conclusion? None. I want to see better numbers.

    JK: They re-routed the bus lines to force people to transfer to rail, so it does carry more.

    Rerouting bus lines to take advantage of rail does not “force” people to take the train. You can’t run a bus directly from every starting point to every destination. People will have to make transfers. People making bus-to-train transfers are getting better service (in general) than people making bus-to-bus transfers.

    Yes, a few limited express busses were cancelled when MAX opened, but express busses serve very few users and are among the most expensive type of service to operate on a passenger-mile basis.

    And if you look at “originating rides”, you’ll see there has been strong growth in rail usage that is not explained by “forcing” people to make transfers.

    JK: As to cost, lets ask Fetch & co. for costs that include all construction and hidden costs like the contributions from urban renewal districts, utility companies having to move their power lines (and maybe water/sewer?) before TriMet built Interstate Ave rail. As far as I can tell, if you include these costs, they drive up the cost of light rail to being close to that of taxi fare on a passenger mile basis.

    Not if you divide the costs over the life cycle of the infrastructure. Those relocated utilities will not have to be relocated again, so you can run that out to near-infinity.

    Subsequent rebuilding of those same utilities at the end of their life-cycle will be independent of rail costs.

    Railcars last many times longer than busses. We are still using the original MAX rolling stock after 19 years. How many 19 year old busses are still rolling around? What kind of shape are they in? The original MAX cars, with routine maintenance and some enhancements over time like air conditioning, are as good as new.

    Track needs to be reground and rebedded periodically, but this is far less expensive than the equivalent street maintenance (repaving of areas of heavy bus use, upgrading concrete pads at bus stops, etc.) And the steel has been paid for already, it will last for many decades.

    The taxi analogy just doesn’t add up in the long term.

    JK: Could we have better service at lower cost by encouraging some alternatives such as jitneys? And allowing taxis to pick up more that one fare during a trip.

    Experiments with new ideas for other modes are always fine with me.

    – Bob R.

  58. steve schopp
    July 21, 2005 at 7:11 pm Link

    Bob R -said—“No, I don’t have a problem with TriMet reporting boardings on the Yellow line between Rose Quarter (a new, separate station from the Blue/Red station) and Galleria, so long as those numbers are separated out, which they appear to be.”—-

    They are not separated out to the public. This is internal information never released to the public.

    The Rose Quarter and all the stations in fareless square were there prior to the construction of Interstate MAX. The people there were already being served by the Eastside MAX and were counted as Eastside MAX riders. The money for Interstate did not go to obtain those riders, yet they are now included in that line to make the investment seem more worthwhile. Everyone in that area was being served.
    It would not surprise me if TriMet were also still counting those same riders on the Eastside MAX.
    Perhaps Mary Fetch can clarify this creative counting method.

    A “transit center” is a place where feeder buses go to deliver people that, formerly, went directly to there destination. When people use a feeder bus and, then, Interstate or any other rail line, they double the number of boarding rides as counted by TriMet.

    I can send you an attachment map showing the number 5 bus, eliminated by Interstate rail. You will note that the route was more direct, and actually going faster with fewer stops than rail once it goes west from the Rose Quarter. The number 5 covered more of downtown eliminating another transfer to a bus going north south from the rail line on Morrison.
    Now, do you have a problem with TriMet counting preexisting Eastside MAX riders as newly created Interstate riders?

    If you looked at the 2,000 census you better look more carefully.
    Where can I send you a report?

  59. Bob R.
    July 21, 2005 at 7:34 pm Link

    “It would not surprise me if TriMet were also still counting those same riders on the Eastside MAX. Perhaps Mary Fetch can clarify this creative counting method.”

    If you’re going to go around accusing TriMet of lying, then it is your responsibility to provide the proof. If you are so sure they are hiding something in unreleased data, file a freedom of information act request.

    If you looked at the 2,000 census you better look more carefully.

    What do you mean _IF_ I looked at the 2,000 census? Not only did I look at it, I provided you with a direct link to the table I was looking at, directly from the US Census web site.

    I’m through with you. Honest policy debate is one thing. Dealing with cranks is another.

    – Bob R.

  60. steve schopp
    July 21, 2005 at 9:43 pm Link

    Bob
    You are misreading my tone? and intent.
    But if you’re through, so be it.

    If you would simply provide me an e-mail address I could send you a TriMet report.

    Stevescare@aol.com

  61. jim karlock
    July 21, 2005 at 10:45 pm Link

    2000 CENSUS JOURNEY TO WORK TRIPS

    IN THE PORTLAND METRO REGION

    CLACKAMAS COUNTY
    %
    DRIVE ALONE128,25182.071%
    CARPOOL13,0658.361%
    BUS3,8212.445%
    WALK1,4600.934%
    RAIL *00.000%
    WORK AT HOME8,4215.389%
    OTHER1,2510.801%
    TOTAL156,2691

    WASHINGTON COUNTY
    %
    DRIVE ALONE164,12074.726%
    CARPOOL30,82914.037%
    BUS5,9192.695%
    RAIL *3,5851.632%
    WORK AT HOME9,7054.419%
    OTHER5,4712.491%
    TOTAL219,6291

    MULTNOMAH COUNTY
    %
    DRIVE ALONE215,33562.784%
    CARPOOL39,71211.579%
    BUS34,94310.188%
    WALK12,7883.729%
    RAIL *4,1071.197%
    TAXI1050.031%
    WALKED12,7883.729%
    WORK AT HOME13,8694.044%
    OTHER9,3302.720%
    TOTAL342,9771

    CITY OF PORTLAND
    %
    DRIVE ALONE167,61263.255%
    CARPOOL30,96511.686%
    BUS32,17512.143%
    WALK11,6604.400%
    RAIL *2,7401.034%
    TAXI1050.040%
    WORK AT HOME11,5194.347%
    OTHER8,2023.095%
    TOTAL264,9781

    * Includes railroad, streetcar and subway.
    Commuters 16 years and older
    Based on US Census 2000 Preliminary data.

  62. jim karlock
    July 21, 2005 at 10:47 pm Link

    Sorry about that posting, I ment to hit preview to see how the formatting looked. (I looks ugly)

    Sorry
    JK

  63. jim karlock
    July 22, 2005 at 2:05 am Link

    Posted by Bob R. at July 20, 2005 10:50 AM
    I think the “church officials” here would say the same thing about the Church of the Automobile crowd.

    I have seen no actual point by point criticisms of light rail on here to refute, just blanked assertions and links to documents that fudge the numbers.

    I attempted at one point to take on JK, whose post about supposed superior cost effectiveness from private autos didn’t take into account fuel, insurance, or maintenance. When I pointed this out, his reply indicated that a 100K-mile warranty meant the same thing as “no maintenance” and did not concede my other points. How can one legitimately debate a person so divorced form reality?

    jk:
    I have been spending too much time blogging lately and have to get some real work done, so that answer may have been a bit short.

    Referring to http://www.saveportland.com/Car_Vs_Tri-Met/TriMet_vs_Car5.htm and its supporting document:
    As the document says, the car has a five year “bumper to bumper warranty with roadside service” That should take care of 5 years worth of repairs.

    Because it was not meant to be a comprehensive study, I left out a lot of things. It is a preliminary look that indicates that we should look deeper. I left out mention of insurance, gas and oil, but I also left out things on the other side:
    1) I didn’t list all of TriMet’s income.
    2) We would not have to buy a small car for the lawyers, well paid bureaucrats that populate many downtown jobs and other people that can afford to buy their own car – they can get off of public welfare transit and pay their own way. (if I recall government is about 20-30% of downtown jobs) I know it will be a shock for these people to have to pay their own way, but why should low income taxpayers pay to support million dollar lawyers’ free loading on transit? It might be good public policy to offer incentives to encourage smaller cars – that is another subject that I won’t go into.
    3) We certainly should look at alternatives to Trimet. Jitneys come to mind because they can be very low cost and probably fuel efficient.
    End JK

    Lest you think I am a “church official”, let me toss out a few of my “real world” qualifications…

    1. Our household owns two cars. An economy car and a van. I like to drive.
    2. I am a homeowner on a 5,000sf lot.
    3. I own my own profitable small business and contribute to the local tax base on all fronts – property tax and income tax, as well as TriMet tax, etc.
    4. I do not work for, nor do I have bids with, any transportation agency. (However, in full disclosure, in the past I have applied for open positions with various agencies.)
    5. If asked, I can readily name things that I don’t like about MAX or public transit as managed in Portland in general, including things that are against “church” teaching.
    6. Vans are cool. You can haul stuff around in them and not get it wet like in a pickup, and not worry about ruining the interior like an SUV.

    Now, for my “church” qualifications…

    1. I purchased my house _specifically_ to be located near transit. I put my money where my ideas were. A major bus stop is right in my front yard, and I am less than 2 blocks from a MAX station.
    2. This household uses public transit nearly every day, and not less than twice a week, despite having cars available at all times.
    3. There are infill developments going on around this neighborhood, and I actually like them.
    4. I own a bike. Even ride it now and then.
    5. I attend public meetings and give my input as a citizen on transit projects.
    6. I am actively involved in our neighborhood association.
    7. Priuses are cool. Rented one for a weekend just to take an extended test drive. When the old Neon finally dies, I may get one, provided I have enough saved up to afford it.
    JK
    Let me know much that the battery costs and how long it lasts. Also, assuming $4.00 gasolene, how many miles will it take to pay off the increased cost of the car compared to similar model that isn’t hybrid.
    End JK

    So, which am I? Normal productive citizen with critical thinking capabilities, or “church” member?

    – Bob R.

    Posted by Bob R. at July 20, 2005 10:50 AM

  64. Bob R.
    July 22, 2005 at 10:41 am Link

    JK: “As the document says, the car has a five year “bumper to bumper warranty with roadside service” That should take care of 5 years worth of repairs.”

    “Repairs” is not the same thing as “Maintenance”… Maintenance includes oil changes, brake pads, wipers, light bulbs, filters, belts, tires, other fluids, etc. Plus, most “bumper to bumper” warranties I’ve seen include a deductible and often include a proration linked to the age of the car and/or mileage.

    JK: “It is a preliminary look that indicates that we should look deeper.”

    That much I agree with. But I got the impression from your first post that you had considered this the final word on the matter.

    JK: “Let me know much that the battery costs and how long it lasts.”

    The battery is guaranteed by Toyota for the life of the vehicle. On the Prius chat boards and blogs I’ve checked in with, there have been no reports of premature battery failure.

    Here is a press release from Toyota’s own web site (emphasis added):

    The Prius battery (and the battery-power management system) has been designed to maximize battery life. In part this is done by keeping the battery at an optimum charge level – never fully draining it and never fully recharging it. As a result, the Prius battery leads a pretty easy life. We have lab data showing the equivalent of 180,000 miles with no deterioration and expect it to last the life of the vehicle. We also expect battery technology to continue to improve: the second-generation model battery is 15% smaller, 25% lighter, and has 35% more specific power than the first. This is true of price as well. Between the 2003 and 2004 models, service battery costs came down 36% and we expect them to continue to drop so that by the time replacements may be needed it won’t be a much of an issue. Since the car went on sale in 2000, Toyota has not replaced a single battery for wear and tear.

    I don’t know how much the battery costs to replace. There are reports of a 1st-generation Prius used as a taxicab that got over 200K miles before needing an overhaul, but in that case Toyota wanted to do lab tests on the vehicle and gave the owner a new, 2nd generation Prius.

    JK: “Also, assuming $4.00 gasolene, how many miles will it take to pay off the increased cost of the car compared to similar model that isn’t hybrid.”

    That depends on how often you drive and how often you buy a new vehicle, of course.

    In may specific case, I have already run these numbers at various gas prices.

    I tend to buy vehicles and then hang onto them until the bitter end. My economy car (purchased new) has over 150,000 miles on it and my van (purchased used) has well over 250,000 miles on it (now on it’s 2nd engine.)

    Assuming I get the Prius, I would probably own it for 150,000 miles, too, so that’s the number I use for comparison.

    We rented a Prius for a whole weekend and drove it a lot, and in a variety of driving conditions: Downtown, suburban, freeway, over hills, winding roads, high speed (I’ll take the 5th amendment on that one), etc. Up to 5 passengers (our passengers were too large to make that test last very long), air conditioning on, etc.

    At the end of the weekend, the vehicle was returned to the rental car agency with a few hundred additional miles and a weekend-average fuel economy of 49MPG.

    Based on this, I am assuming a lifetime average fuel economy for the Prius of 45MPG.

    The closest Toyota in terms of size and perceived performance to the Prius is the Corolla. It is rated at 26mpg city, 34 highway. I assumed a real world figure of 30mpg average, but I have not driven a Corolla in a similar weekend test.

    A standard Prius is about $21,000. Toyota dealers are getting prety much exactly retail for the Prius. Gone are the days (at least in this market) where people had to pay way over sticker to get in line, and the line is much shorter now.

    The Corolla has less sticky of a price point, depends on options, dealer, etc., but it is safe to say that you can get a Corolla for about $6000 less than a Prius at about $15,000.

    So, let’s run some numbers:

    Costs of financing (assuming $1,000 down payment, 48 month term, 5% APR):

    Corolla: 1475.69
    Prius: 2108.12

    That puts the final purchase costs difference between the two vehicles at about $6,600.

    Now, there are currently a number of government incentives for purchasing a Prius, but I am going to LEAVE THOSE OUT of this comparison. I don’t want this to turn into a debate about subsidies. In my mind, a Hybrid must be able to stand on it’s own for the technology to be mature. However, I will be gald to avail myself of any incentives come purchase time. :-)

    Gas needed for 150,000 miles of travel:

    Corolla (30mpg): 5,000 gallons
    Prius (45mpg): 3,333 gallons
    Difference: 1,666 gallons

    Fuel cost savings of Prius based on 1,666 gallons of gas at various prices:

    $2.50 – $4,165
    $3.00 – $4,998
    $3.50 – $5,831
    $4.00 – $6,664

    So, at somewhere between $3.50/gal and $4.00/gal, WITHOUT SUBSIDY, the Prius becomes price competitive.

    But there are other considerations besides fuel consumption.

    The Prius (according to Toyota) also has cleaner tailpipe emissions per gallon of gas consumed because of the engine design and the RPM range in which it operates. The Prius is a certified ULEV vehicle and the Corolla is not.

    A number of Prius owners report far lower maintenance costs: The Prius uses regenerative braking and only uses pads for rapid braking and the final stages of normal braking. It is not unusual for Prius owners to report 80,000mi+ without needing brake service.

    Although the hybrid system, by design, is more complicated than a direct gasoline-only vehicle, the electric motors and gasoline engine in the Prius appear to be more reliable thus far. (There have been some reports of software problems causing shutdowns for a couple of dozen owners, however. This is under investigation.)

    And the transmission (called a “power split device” in the Prius), really a set of planetary gears, has proven to require less maintenance and repairs than an automatic transmission, and there is no clutch to need replacement either.

    So, my personal expectation of the Prius is that the fuel costs will mostly pay for the price difference, and reduced long-term maintenance costs will be the “profit”.

    You can see I’m being very realistic about this… I don’t expect to hit the really high MPG numbers that some people try to get, and I expect to drive the car in the way that I usually drive, and I’m not factoring subsidies into my equations.

    The Prius, to me at least, is also _fun_. I like being able to pull in and out of the driveway almost silently. I like how the engine does run when I’m idling at a stoplight. The moments of quiet (and of no vibration) make it feel like you’re in a high-end luxury sedan. (The trim level, sadly, does not…)

    I would expect that as production increases, and as some of the novelty wears off, prices on the Prius will continue to decrease.

    Some of the subsidies (tax credits) that are currently available expire at the end of the year. I expect (hope?) a lot of last-minute buying will keep prices up for the rest of this year, and then sometime next year Toyota will drop prices slightly to make up for the missing subsidies.

    If there is a sudden surge in gas prices, however, Toyota can continue to hold out for full sticker.

    – Bob R.

  65. Bob R.
    July 22, 2005 at 3:54 pm Link

    An update to my previous post, above:

    It appears that Toyota’s EPA ratings on the 2006 Corolla with 4-speed automatic are 30/38. The 26/34 figure I have been using came from web research done a year ago.

    I do not know what the real world mileage works out to on this model, or how it will affect my calculations. I am being very conservative in my Prius MPG estimates, putting them at 4MPG _lower_ than what I actually experienced, and 6MPG lower than EPA highway estimates for that model.

    If there are any 2005/2006 Corolla owners out there who have real world _average_ MPG figures to report, I’d love to hear them.

    – Bob R.

  66. jim karlock
    July 23, 2005 at 4:17 am Link

    Bob R. July 22, 2005 03:54 PM:I am being very conservative in my Prius MPG estimates, putting them at . . . 6MPG lower than EPA highway estimates for that model.

    JK: Standard practice would be to use the EPA figures for both, as systematic biases would tend to cancel. Further adjustmet could be done if there is reason to believe that some sort of error did not cancel. Also one may want to assume both are off by some percentage and adjust on that basis.

    Thanks
    JK

  67. jim karlock
    July 23, 2005 at 5:42 am Link

    I found this littleTriMet history on an Emial list. The writer is a Portlander.

    Before Tri Met, for those who did not live through this period, there was Rose City providing bus service for the Portland area under a franchise from The City of Portland.

    Rose city charged 30 cents per ride, including free transfers. The union representing the Rose City employees fought for and got a raise. Rose City went to the City to ask for permission to raise the rates from 30 cents to 35 cents. The City said NO. Rose City, not having a profitable mustard business to compensate for the loss of each frankfurter it sold, said it would have to go out of business. The City said great, now we can form an efficient government transit agency. Thus, Tri Met was formed with legislation to impose payroll taxes on the businesses in the area.

    In the first year of Tri Met operation, the fare did not go up to 35 cents but the cost per ride went to 53 cents. The rider paid 30 and the taxpayer paid 23 cents. All Rose City wanted was to raise fares to 35 and asked nothing from the taxpayer.

    The moral of the story is that government versight is almost always involved with matters that have little to do with efficiency, effectiveness
    and economic principles.

    As you say, providing the information is one thing — what they do with it is another.

    Thanks
    JK

  68. Bob R.
    July 23, 2005 at 9:14 am Link

    JK: Standard practice would be to use the EPA figures for both, as systematic biases would tend to cancel. Further adjustmet could be done if there is reason to believe that some sort of error did not cancel. Also one may want to assume both are off by some percentage and adjust on that basis.

    I agree that in normal circumstances, that would be a good standard practice.

    But hybrid owners and other sources have reported an unusually large disparity betwteen EPA figures for hybrid cars and reality, much more of a difference than could be expected from a traditional vehicle.

    The reason most often cited for this disparity is that the EPA tests (especially the “city” tests) are not long enough in duration for the hybrid system to have to recharge the batteries. The hybrid cars are arriving at these tests with a fully charged battery, and the test isn’t long enough to where the engine must kick in to support full recharging.

    Thus, you get ridiculous EPA figures like 60 city, 51 highway.

    One of the reasons we did the weekend rental was to discover what kind of mileage we really would achieve under normal driving conditions.

    If I was relying solely on EPA figures, the Prius would win hands down even near current gas prices.

    – Bob R.

  69. Justin Wells
    July 25, 2005 at 7:09 pm Link

    My god, what a bunch of crap. Bob & Jim should go duke it out to the death and be done with all this mindless fighting with… of all things… statistics!

    Hasn’t anyone ever told you the old adage:

    “There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.” There is a reason this saying exists. You cannot prove a point by just pointing to numbers (especially if you have to make some up), but talk about the fundamental, underlying philosophies of them.

    This pointless bickering is probably going to kill this blogsite if it continues.

    ===================================================

    After saying that, I’d like to offer this up: Approximately 40% of PSU students and faculty use mass transit regularly. I’m not sure if this is on a daily basis, but 40% of 24,000 students + faculty is quite a few people. I personally know dozens upon dozens of people who ride the max to school.

    If you’re going to user ridership numbers, it seems to me that more accurate figures would be gotten from polling the downtown workforce population to see how many people use it, and how frequently. I’ve heard figures of over 50% of the commuters using some form of transit.

    On another note, I’d really like to know if Jim has ridden the max and busses enough to be able to compare the differences between them. I’ll tell you this: the max is generally less stinky and offers a much smoother ride than the bus. It’s also very difficult to stand on a bus, and they are frequently delayed 20 or 30 minutes during rush hour (line 12 especially!)… which the Max never is.

  70. Bob R.
    July 26, 2005 at 12:20 am Link

    Hasn’t anyone ever told you the old adage:
    “There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

    Haven’t you yet come to realize that the proper response to this saying isn’t to simply ignore statistics from then on, but to use critical thinking skills to identify when statistics apply to the matter at hand?

    And who, specifically, are you accusing of just making stuff up?

    – Bob R.

  71. jim karlock
    July 26, 2005 at 5:57 am Link

    Justin Wells July 25, 2005 07:09 PM: >/b>

    My god, what a bunch of crap. Bob & Jim should go duke it out to the death and be done with all this mindless fighting with… of all things… statistics!

    Hasn’t anyone ever told you the old adage:

    “There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.” There is a reason this saying exists. You cannot prove a point by just pointing to numbers (especially if you have to make some up), but talk about the fundamental, underlying philosophies of them.

    This pointless bickering is probably going to kill this blogsite if it continues.

    ===================================================

    After saying that, I’d like to offer this up: Approximately 40% of PSU students and faculty use mass transit regularly. I’m not sure if this is on a daily basis, but 40% of 24,000 students + faculty is quite a few people. I personally know dozens upon dozens of people who ride the max to school.

    If you’re going to user ridership numbers, it seems to me that more accurate figures would be gotten from polling the downtown workforce population to see how many people use it, and how frequently. I’ve heard figures of over 50% of the commuters using some form of transit.
    JK:
    Just what you heard is not data. Try some scientific data. I have been using the gold standard, the U.S.Census. You got something more ACCURATE?
    End JK:

    On another note, I’d really like to know if Jim has ridden the max and busses enough to be able to compare the differences between them. I’ll tell you this: the max is generally less stinky and offers a much smoother ride than the bus. It’s also very difficult to stand on a bus, and they are frequently delayed 20 or 30 minutes during rush hour (line 12 especially!)… which the Max never is.
    JK:
    Except, of course, when MAX hits a fire truck and shuts the whole line down for a few hours. Or when an overhead wire fails, or when MAX kills a rider at PGE park. OR a bike rider in Gresham. ETC.
    End JK:

  72. jim karlock
    July 26, 2005 at 6:01 am Link

    Bob R. July 23, 2005 09:14 AM:

    JK: Standard practice would be to use the EPA figures for both, as systematic biases would tend to cancel. Further adjustmet could be done if there is reason to believe that some sort of error did not cancel. Also one may want to assume both are off by some percentage and adjust on that basis.

    I agree that in normal circumstances, that would be a good standard practice.

    JK: BTW, thanks for the info on the Prius. I learned from it.

    Thanks
    JK

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