Bus vs. light rail

An article published yesterday in the Portland Tribune directly addressed one of the more popular debates of the pro-transit crowd: buses vs. light rail. The author compares the two modes on several different aspects and assigns a winner to each category, eventually concluding with an “overall” winner. Despite the competitive overtones this is no grudge match, and the author tosses in a disclaimer that we would all be wise to heed:

“…buses and trains are really on the same team in terms of sustainable transportation — either option a vast improvement over the one-car, one-rider model…”

Here’s a taster:

Access

A fixed-rail system never will have the reach of a city bus, which can get just about any place there’s a paved road. For folks in some parts of the Portland area, this debate is academic:

If there’s no MAX train nearby, their mass-transit commuting will have to be done by bus.

Advantage: Bus

Comfort

Studies suggest that light rail appeals to actual riders in a way that buses do not. Commuters tend to see light rail as more modern, more upscale and safer, with no real possibility of operator error.

Rail cars are more spacious, offer more freedom of movement and are easier to board and exit. And the ride is smoother: fewer sharp turns, no potholes, no sudden stops.

“People tend to like the quieter transit,” says Mary Fetsch of TriMet.

Advantage: Light rail

Find out who wins: Bus vs. light rail

106 Comments

106 Responses to Bus vs. light rail

  1. Jason Barbour
    November 15, 2007 at 4:21 am Link

    IMO, it comes down to personal preference.

    Since I ride transit, I ride the bus everywhere and don’t have a problem with it. When I’m somewhere that taking light rail goes where I want to go and doesn’t make my trip longer (due to going in the general direction I’m going, but not the exact direction), then I’ll use that.

    But sometimes I simply prefer to ride the bus.

  2. Lenny Anderson
    November 15, 2007 at 10:13 am Link

    The Bus vs MAX discussion is useful in transit corridors with high ridership…Barbur, Powell/Foster, etc. So it is really a BRT vs LRT discussion. The Metro study for the Milwaukie line started with no MAX option and with BRT at the top of the list. As I recall two things turned that around. 1. capital costs for REAL BRT were comparable to LRT in large part due to the need for exclusive ROW. 2. community perception that LRT is a better quality product, i.e. the “real deal” vs an “imitation spread.” But it is really on the operations side that the cost differential jumps out….it boils down to “riders per operator” which is close to 4 times better with LRT even with our short two car MAX trains. Even using a smaller Streetcar vehicle to Lake Oswego, the operational costs of of “sorta BRT” ran much higher. If you want more service, more security, more of anything from a transit agency, you must look for ways to reduce costs/ride. LRT appears to do that.

  3. djk
    November 15, 2007 at 11:09 am Link

    A silly article, where the comparison was designed to favor light rail. The article “measures” eight traits, and apparently determined light rail the winner because of its 5-3 advantage:

    Access – Advantage: Bus
    Comfort – Advantage: Light rail
    Initial cost – Advantage: Bus
    O & M cost – Advantage: Light rail
    Style – Advantage: Light rail (“kind of cool”)
    Environmental impact – Advantage: Light rail
    Safety – Advantage: Bus
    Vision – Advantage: Light rail

    Verdict – Winner: Light rail

    The thing is, “style” and “vision” are both highly subjective traits. Neither can be quantified in any meaningful sense and ultimately come down to one person’s opinion.

    And without those two factors added, it’s a 3-3 tie. No winner. Buses provide better access, lower capital cost, and greater safety (probably). Light rail wins for comfort, O&M costs, and environmental/natural resource benefits (probably).

    Verdict: a trade-off.

  4. Bob Tiernan
    November 15, 2007 at 11:56 am Link

    djk Says:

    “A silly article, where the comparison was designed to favor light rail.”

    Bob T:

    Exactly. And as you’ve said, style and vision are
    subjective and toss in comfort and you have three
    items that really aren’t as important as items
    like access. These should have been assigned points, such as two for comfort, one for style,
    five for access, and so on. In that match-up,
    buses would win.

    This list was like comparing two jobs, putting
    equal importance to categories such as “Pay
    is better” and whether or not there’s a dress code. Low pay and no dress code does not
    equal better pay with dress code. Get it?

    Regarding this debate, it’s interesting to note
    that a lot of this started during the debate
    on North-South. I recall numerous bus
    champions suddenly bath-mouthing them so as to
    elevate the idea of light rail. Buses were
    suddenly uncomfortable and smelly and stuff.

    One had to be trashed in order to elevate
    another. That’s politics, and it was sad to
    see bus fans (even those who liked buses as
    a second choice — they still liked them)
    demonize buses all for politics.

    Bob Tiernan

    The article “measures” eight traits, and apparently determined light rail the winner because of its 5-3 advantage:

    Access – Advantage: Bus
    Comfort – Advantage: Light rail
    Initial cost – Advantage: Bus
    O & M cost – Advantage: Light rail
    Style – Advantage: Light rail (“kind of cool”)
    Environmental impact – Advantage: Light rail
    Safety – Advantage: Bus
    Vision – Advantage: Light rail

    Verdict – Winner: Light rail

    The thing is, “style” and “vision” are both highly subjective traits. Neither can be quantified in any meaningful sense and ultimately come down to one person’s opinion.

    And without those two factors added, it’s a 3-3 tie. No winner. Buses provide better access, lower capital cost, and greater safety (probably). Light rail wins for comfort, O&M costs, and environmental/natural resource benefits (probably).

    Verdict: a trade-off.

  5. dick barnard
    November 15, 2007 at 12:49 pm Link

    In the worst case scenario, the day may come when petroeum products become prohibitably expensive, in fact may be here now… Light rail used power from the dams, so may be there when it is no longer practical to run buses or cars… think it over….

  6. kitty
    November 15, 2007 at 2:45 pm Link

    like it or not, STYLE and VISION are more important to actual riders than O&M / capital cost.

    the only people who care about those, are transit nerds.

  7. Michael Wilson
    November 15, 2007 at 7:39 pm Link

    dick barnard Says:

    “In the worst case scenario, the day may come when petroeum products become prohibitably expensive, in fact may be here now… Light rail used power from the dams, so may be there when it is no longer practical to run buses or cars… think it over….”

    Light rail uses power from the Boardman plant which is one of the dirtiest coal fired plant in the nation as I recall. Apparently it helps screw up the gorge and is dumping a fair amount of mercury in the air along with a bunch of noxious gases.

    MW

  8. EvergreenTransitFan
    November 15, 2007 at 8:37 pm Link

    Tonight, on my way home from a temp job, I could have used a Light Rail train. It took me 3 hours to get from roughly 6th and Industrial Way to Seward Park, when it should have taken me less than 1. A standoff had the Northbound on-ramp to I-5 from Spokane shut down, and the one bus route that uses that ramp(not to get on the freeway, but up to Beacon Hill), had to divert, and that diversion was tiring. It was a slow and grueling climb up Holgate St, while LINK would have just punched through the hill. Had I known it would take that long for my bus to show up, and Light Rail was operating, I would have had that option. In this case, the advantage gos to the bus because our first LRT line does not start until 2009.

    Now I noticed the last time I was down in Portland, there is that NextBus display at almost every station. Can they send delay info to the waiting passengers?

  9. Ross Williams
    November 15, 2007 at 8:51 pm Link

    Electricity is neither clean nor penny-cheap. But in the long run it is likely to be a more reliable and plentiful source of energy than oil.

    As one of the people who started out advocating bus rapid transit in the Milwaukie corridor, I don’t recall anyone bad-mouthing buses. As Lenny points out, the reality of the costs and benefits eventually left it without support even among folks who had initially opposed light rail.

    Buses and MAX are really not in competition. They compliment one another quite well. But the Milwaukie experience has made me very skeptical that BRT is going to be a viable alternative to light rail in Portland. And when I say BRT, I mean with a dedicated right-of-way. There may be places where signal preemption, bypasses, etc. for buses will improve transit service where a dedicated right-of-way can’t be justified.

  10. Nick theoldurbanist
    November 15, 2007 at 9:38 pm Link

    EvergreenTransitFan, maybe you can clue us in on this: I read someplace a while back that some were questioning whether Tukwila and Federal Way had enough density for rail operation.

    Thanks, Nick

  11. Chris Smith
    November 15, 2007 at 10:00 pm Link

    Now I noticed the last time I was down in Portland, there is that NextBus display at almost every station. Can they send delay info to the waiting passengers?

    Yes, NextBus can be used to send service messages to customers on platforms.

  12. Jason Barbour
    November 15, 2007 at 10:30 pm Link

    And without those two factors added…
    Any of us here can slice and dice this any way we want to make our personal preference seem to be on even footing and/or come out ahead.

    As an example, I almost added to my original comment here that with buses, you can have express service and/or if one breaks down, another can get past it. I didn’t post it, because I realized that the reason buses can do that is because the road is built in such a way that the buses can do that in most places.

    Now, if a bus were to get stuck somewhere like Capitol Hwy., trying to get traffic (much less another bus) through isn’t going to be terribly wonderful. Same is true with light rail, since only two tracks are built. I bet we could have express light rail trains if people were willing to authorize 4-track rail corridors (2 tracks in each direction), much in the same manner as a 4-lane street (2 lanes in each direction).

  13. jim karlock
    November 16, 2007 at 1:42 am Link

    “…buses and trains are really on the same team in terms of sustainable transportation — either option a vast improvement over the one-car, one-rider model…”

    JK: Says who?
    A one-car, one-rider beats the pants off of transit if that one car is a hybrid, as a growing number of cars are. Even economical, small cars are pretty good:
    Energy:
    Hybrid energy:………..1,326 BTU/Passenger-mile Honda Insight
    Car, efficient………….2,488 (2006 KIA Rio-see below)
    Light rail:……………..3,228 BTU/Passenger-mile (national data, Trimet claims better – leaves out electrical loss)
    TriMet bus…………….3,792 BTU/Passenger-mile
    See: DebunkingPortland.com/Transit/BusVsCarTEDB.htm

    Cost:
    Car (using national data – adjusted for Portland)..$0.254 per passenger-mile
    Lowest cost BUS line in Portland ………………$0.34 per passenger-mile
    Rail (system average)…………………………..$0.434 per passenger-mile
    Bus (system average)……………………………$0.835 per passenger-mile
    Rail, with construction …………………………$1.11 per passenger-mile
    See: DebunkingPortland.com/Transit/Cost-Cars-Transit(2005).htm

    Externalities (from to[avg.]):
    GASOLINE AUTO……………5 to 28.4 [6.9] cents per passenger- mile
    ELECTRIC AUTO……………..8.8 to 24.8 [16.8] cents per passenger- mile
    TRANSIT BUS………………33 to 57 [40] cents per passenger- mile
    LIGHT RAIL……………….27 to 109 cents per passenger- mile
    See: DebunkingPortland.com/Roads/Docs/Delucchi_Chart.htm

    Of course, all of the above compares a whole car to a single seat on a transit vehicle. If one were to compare a single seat car to a single seat on a transit vehicle, the numbers would be truly awful for transit.

    Thanks
    JK

  14. Lou
    November 16, 2007 at 11:03 am Link

    What happens to light rail when the electricity goes out?

    I assume the light rail goes out along with it.

    Big negative for light rail.

  15. Ross Williams
    November 16, 2007 at 11:44 am Link

    Big negative for light rail.

    Only if you are looking for imaginary problems.

  16. Bob R.
    November 16, 2007 at 11:54 am Link

    What happens to light rail when the electricity goes out? I assume the light rail goes out along with it.

    This seldom happens, but it does indeed happen. (Most noticeably during the big ice storms we’ve had in recent years, but also when there is a substation failure or a localized power interruption.)

    For light rail service outages, TriMet dispatches regular buses to shuttle around the problem area.

    More importantly, we should be looking at schedule reliability and system uptime. These are relatively good for light rail in Portland, but may diminish as congestion increases at bottlenecks like the Steel Bridge / Rose Quarter as new lines come online.

    – Bob R.

  17. Dan
    November 16, 2007 at 1:03 pm Link

    Lou,

    I’m not sure how the power sources work, but we had a couple outages this summer on Interstate Avenue, each several hour long, and MAX kept running while the rest of the neighborhood had no power.

    Street lights didn’t work however. So Tri-Met set up flares and the trains honked a lot before proceeding slowly through the intersections.

  18. djk
    November 16, 2007 at 1:14 pm Link

    Yeah, I was in North Portland during a power outage last winter. The trains kept going even when all the streetlights were out.

  19. JHB
    November 16, 2007 at 1:15 pm Link

    JK: Says who?

    Says everyone who isn’t paid to say otherwise. Care to deny that you receive compensation to advocate your ridiculous position?

  20. Lou
    November 16, 2007 at 1:15 pm Link

    OK then, supposedly the Portland area is in line for a large earthquake!

    Wouldn’t buses be much more versatile in the event of a major disaster such as that?

    Say the Steel Bridge is knocked out of service, does that not mean that the light rail system is KAPOOT?

  21. Bob R.
    November 16, 2007 at 1:22 pm Link

    Lou –

    You are falling for the false premise that this is really about buses “vs.” light rail.

    You really can’t have a total transit system without buses, and nobody is arguing to totally get rid of buses. The two modes complement each other.

    In the event of a total disaster, I imagine that it is going to be buses more than trains that see us through it.

    But for the rest of the time, for day-to-day operations, our rail system provides reliable transit capacity in a relatively cost-effective manner. It could certainly be better, and there have been a number of lengthy debates here about that, but for the most part light rail in Portland does the job it was intended to do.

    Also, regarding disasters, people (including me) have advocated that the new Caruthers crossing transit bridge be able to physically accommodate standard motor vehicles. Even if they aren’t allowed on the bridge during normal operations (or just buses and trains), this will be our newest and most seismically-engineered bridge, and therefore a critical link for the use of emergency vehicles in the event of an earthquake.

    – Bob R.

  22. Bob R.
    November 16, 2007 at 1:23 pm Link

    JK –

    Your car cost data has been debunked here time and time again, and you continue to repost it without acknowledging the numerous valid criticisms.

    – Bob R.

  23. Chris Smith
    November 16, 2007 at 2:59 pm Link

    Care to deny that you receive compensation to advocate your ridiculous position?

    That’s a violation of our rules. We give everyone the benefit of assuming sincerity. Please keep the debate on policy, not personalities.

  24. Matthew
    November 16, 2007 at 4:16 pm Link

    “I’m not sure how the power sources work, but we had a couple outages this summer on Interstate Avenue, each several hour long, and MAX kept running while the rest of the neighborhood had no power.”

    Short answer:
    Big redundant dedicated equipment.

    Long answer:
    Every mile or so, there is Transit Power Substation (TPSS) that gets a dedicated line from a [different] PGE or Pacific Power (regular) substation. Each of the regular substations has two feeders into it, so those substations tend not to not fail in the first place, but sometimes they do, which will then take out about a square mile of the city, (including the TPSS.) As power outages go, much more common are smaller outages, which just tend to take out a couple city blocks.) But if a TPSS goes offline, the two TPSSes on either side can fill in the gap and everything works great, in fact, they can continue to operate the Yellow line every 5 minutes at full speed with one of them down:
    http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/circulars/ec058/14_05_Porter.pdf

    If two TPSSes next to each other go down, then there could be a problem, although my understanding is that sometimes they can, “limp through it…”

    They did shut down the Yellow light one night in the last year, (during a big storm that was supposed to take out a lot of the power grid,) but the actual problem that they were worried about was winds: If the wires move too much, they can end up on the wrong side of the pickups on the cars, and then they have to turn off the power and move the wires back to the right side, and it is easier to just not risk it in the first place… It was a great storm though, all of downtown flickered a couple of times…

    Jim K:
    How many people do you know that have Honda Insights? One of my neighbors does, but they don’t even make the thing anymore, so it isn’t getting more common. And your passenger numbers don’t work for that car, the thing only has two seats, so averaging in 3 person carpools is kind of illogical. If you are going to compare that car to light rail, you might as well make it even more blatantly rigged and compare it to a light rail train at the beginning of the line at 3:30am, and come to the conclusion that it is using 100,000 BTUs/passenger/mile.

  25. Lou
    November 16, 2007 at 6:21 pm Link

    Mathew, thanks for that answer.

    I am a firm believer that one of these days the electrical is going to go out, and its not going to be for just a few hours, or a few days, its going to be OUT OUT.

    George Carlin did a great act on this subject, which he made quite evident the fragile nature of our entire civilization.

    If the electricity was to fail, life as we know it is over.

  26. Bob R.
    November 16, 2007 at 6:44 pm Link

    Lou –

    If you’re worried about several days of region-wide power loss, you’d better start worrying about refinery and fuel distribution systems which are affected by electricity as well.

    Granted, people will find a way to hand-pump the stuff from existing tanks in a crisis, and if generators are needed to bring refineries up to full capacity you can bet they’ll be trucked in, but if you’re talking days and days and days, you can bet there will be widespread fuel supply disruption.

    Nonetheless, in such a long-term outage situation, we’ll still have buses to provide transit service. (Demand for transit may actually be reduced, because people won’t be needing to go to work in all the darkened offices and industrial areas.)

    This who “bus vs. light rail” thing is nonsense. Nobody here is arguing that the whole bus system should be replaced with rail. Even the most rail-friendly cities in the world still have buses, and that’s fantastic.

    But if you’re going to hold a daily-use system (which has been operating quite well for over 20 years) hostage to theoretical future emergencies, you’ve got to think how those emergencies will affect other modes as well.

    – Bob R.

  27. AL M
    November 16, 2007 at 7:42 pm Link

    And whoever thinks that buses are slower than light rail never saw this video:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zGHi19dDZ7w

  28. Bob R.
    November 16, 2007 at 7:56 pm Link

    Gee, Al, I sure hope that’s not how you drive. :-)

  29. AL M
    November 16, 2007 at 8:03 pm Link

    Moi, Pardon monsieur, vous il faut que elle erroné!

  30. jim karlock
    November 17, 2007 at 3:15 am Link

    November 16, 2007 7:42 PM
    AL M Says:

    And whoever thinks that buses are slower than light rail never saw this video:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zGHi19dDZ7w
    JK: Don’t miss this video either:
    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=674884035590759815&q=metro%27s+greatest+hits&total=19&start=0&num=10&so=1&type=search&plindex=3

    THanks
    JK

  31. Matthew
    November 17, 2007 at 3:40 am Link

    “I am a firm believer that one of these days the electrical is going to go out, and its not going to be for just a few hours, or a few days, its going to be OUT OUT.”

    I’m a fan of a good doomsday theory too, but I don’t think that is how it is going to happen, at least not all at once. I have two theories about how it will go down: Iraq or India. In Iraq, the grid just became less and less reliable. The rich bribe the electric company, and they tend to get a greater share of the power that is available, but rolling blackouts and lack of parts just means that what used to be 24 hour power system has become a not-24 hour power system… TriMet isn’t that rich, I doubt they’ll be able to afford the bribes. They may be able to play some sympathy cards, but I kind of expect them to be a loser under this system. India is a very poor country, many people can’t afford power, but their government has spent a lot of money on generating capacity, so they’ve got an oversupply… Their problem is that people steal the power, and so large sections of the distribution grid are dark, (it is the only way to keep theft from happening.) The problem is that the paying customers in that section of the grid can’t get power either. MAX does fairly well under this, MAX is DC, so to steal the power involves investing in a lot of equipment to convert it back to AC so you can use it, and then installing that equipment near the tracks exactly where people would be looking for it. And if you have money to invest in the equipment, you can afford to pay for your power…

    The question is, will peak oil (or whatever you think is going to cause the end of civilization as we know it,) destroy our energy supply or our economy faster? One just has to fail slightly faster than the other to make all the difference… Of course, the other big question: What is the value of MAX in that situation? If people don’t have jobs, (either cause they’ve lost them in the depression, or cause their job depended upon the electrical grid working in the first place,) then making sure that MAX can still run may not be our biggest problem…

  32. shooter
    November 17, 2007 at 6:08 pm Link

    Lou,
    About that earthquake scenario. I was living in San Francisco when the 1989 World Series earthquake hit. A friend and I had taken a bus from downtown to the ballpark. Buses don’t win in that scenario. Nothing wins because every overpass or bridge is closed so it can be inspected for damage, and if there is damage nothing goes across it. We spent about 4 hours in the bus trying to get back downtown, when it normally would take 20 minutes max. Had there been light rail it would have been just as bad.

    Its kind of silly to go to extremes to judge which system is “better” because the extremes don’t happen very often (which is why they are extreme scenarios). The best measure is day to day typical use, efficiency,etc which has been discussed. Personally I don’t think there is a “winner” because they are complimentary.

    I used the buses in San Francisco and BART to go longer distances, but also used Muni Metro (light rail) in town too. Selection depended on convenience. I also used the bus system to commute from the East Bay in to SF, and I can tell you BART was far more comfortable and reliable than the bus. In my mind the bus is good for shorter distances. When you are going further or a high volume line then some sort of train is better.

  33. jim karlock
    November 18, 2007 at 1:39 am Link

    JHB Says: JK: Says who?
    Says everyone who isn’t paid to say otherwise. Care to deny that you receive compensation to advocate your ridiculous position?
    JK: Yeah, fella, I deny that I am paid to advocate any of my positions – can you say the same?

    Also, care to tell us what you consider “ridiculous”?
    ** Perhaps the fact that Trimet buses cost an average of $0.835 per passenger-mile, far above the high-ball AAA driving cost of $0.522 per VEHICLE-mile?
    ** Perhaps the FACT that MAX costs $0.434 per passenger-mile, still above the high-ball AAA driving cost, when you consider that the average car has more than one passenger. At Portland’s 1.3 per car, that is $0.40 per passenger-mile.
    I’m sure you will want to dispute the above FACTS, so why not start with:
    Trimet’s busmaxstat.pdf (I used 2006 data which was current when my web page was created). The AAA data is from, well the AAA. It is also 2006, the most current when my web page was created. Note that the AAA cost is above the real national average cost because it assumes choices representative of its members, not the actual average USA driver.
    ** Another fact: MAX kills people at about 2 1/2 times the rate of cars. See DebunkingPortland.com/Transit/MAXSafetyChart.html
    For the list of victims, see: DebunkingPortland.com/Transit/MaxKills1998-2006-04.htm

    Have a nice day
    JK

  34. jim karlock
    November 18, 2007 at 1:40 am Link

    Bob R. Says: JK –
    Your car cost data has been debunked here time and time again, and you continue to repost it without acknowledging the numerous valid criticisms.
    JK: You keep saying that. But, as I recall, you have not been able to come up with any better data sources or changes in my presentation that would alter the conclusions that:
    1. Transit costs more than a car and
    2. Buses do not save energy over most cars and that buses are much less efficient than an efficient car.

    I am still awaiting real criticism, not the “you made a 1% mistake” type.

    Thanks
    JK

  35. jim karlock
    November 18, 2007 at 1:42 am Link

    Matthew Says: Jim K:
    How many people do you know that have Honda Insights? One of my neighbors does, but they don’t even make the thing anymore, so it isn’t getting more common. And your passenger numbers don’t work for that car, the thing only has two seats, so averaging in 3 person carpools is kind of illogical.
    JK: What page are you referring to? I could not find a 3 person car pool associated with the Insight on my main energy comparison page (there may be others!) From: DebunkingPortland.com/Transit/BusVsCarTEDB.htm :
    The car number is an average based on the average current fleet and an average number of passengers. More efficient cars are readily available, for instance the $10,770, 2006 KIA Rio is listed at 32 MPG city. This is 3906 btu/vehicle-mile, or 2488 btu per passenger-mile using 1.57 passengers per vehicle, only 60% as much energy as a transit bus.

    For Portland where we drive alone more, the passengers per vehicle is about 1.3, so the following apply:
    With an average of 1.3 passengers, the 2006 KIA Rio becomes 3004 btu per passenger mile which is 26% less energy than Trimet busses per passenger mile. The Honda Insight at 60 MPG city is 2083 btu per vehicle mile (1602 per passenger-mile@1.3passengers), uses less then one-half the energy of a Trimet bus. At two passengers it consumes only 1042 btu per passenger mile – less than 1/3 that of a Trimet bus.

    Do you find any problems with the above, except for my, unfortunate choice of my example car shortly before it was discontinued.

    Matthew Says: If you are going to compare that car to light rail, you might as well make it even more blatantly rigged and compare it to a light rail train at the beginning of the line at 3:30am, and come to the conclusion that it is using 100,000 BTUs/passenger/mile.
    JK: Actually a more fair comparison would be to a ONE SEATED car, since ONE SEAT is all you get on the toy train.

    Thanks
    JK

  36. Matthew
    November 18, 2007 at 3:13 am Link

    “Do you find any problems with the above, except for my, unfortunate choice of my example car shortly before it was discontinued.”

    Well, that car has been discontinued for more than a year, so I kind of expected that if you were going to use it as an example, that you’d try to make your examples relevant… However, given that this is the first time you’ve posted it here, and I’ve read your site in the last year, (and it wasn’t there,) I have to wonder when exactly you created that page… But you didn’t answer my question, do you know anyone that owns an Insight?

    “Perhaps the fact that Trimet buses cost an average of $0.835 per passenger-mile, far above the high-ball AAA driving cost of $0.522 per VEHICLE-mile?”

    I don’t see that number in busmaxstat.pdf, but if I divide that out based on the average boarding ride cost of $2.58, I get that the average bus ride is 3 miles. That seems a little low, but in any case, I’m not sure where exactly AAA includes the parking costs for those trips, but given that a lot of them start or end downtown, and parking downtown is $2 or so even if you don’t stay very long, that 3 mile trip should cost at least $0.66/mile… Ohh, I got an idea, maybe you are confusing urban and rural trips again.

  37. shooter
    November 18, 2007 at 8:21 am Link

    JK
    Hilarious video. But just curious, are you just sharing a funny video or do you see it as another argument against light rail?

    To me it shows a bunch of stupid drivers who don’t pay attention.

    Also, one of the comments after the video says it was from 2004 just after Houston installed the system and was still working through signaling issues. So what’s your take on the video, just fun or an argument against trains?

  38. Bob R.
    November 18, 2007 at 8:39 am Link

    Yes, JK’s video link is quite hilarious … but as an indictment of rail it fails.

    It shows a series of motorists making various types of illegal left turns (crossing yellow lines, crossing bollard lanes, turning against lights, turning against “no left turn” signage, etc.)

    I remember reading that to combat the huge number of accidents when the system first opened, Houston had to change the traffic lights to remain red (even in the no-left-turn areas) when a train was approaching so that the motorists would be less likely to do something illegal and dangerous.

    Sad for everyone involved. But thankfully, the collisions were not between illegally-turning cars and bikes … the fatality and injury rate would be horrible in such collisions.

    – Bob R.

  39. Bob R.
    November 18, 2007 at 8:47 am Link

    Sarcasm: I propose that for all rail lines there be clear visible markers placed directly into the roadbed to alert motorists to the possible presence of a train. I suggest that these markers be continuous ribbons of steel, placed about 4′ 8 1/2″ apart, and run continuously for the length of the rail line.

    But seriously, lest we scoff at Houston’s notoriously poor drivers too much, we must be cautious when the new transit mall opens here because we will be facing a new situation Portland hasn’t seen before.

    Up until now, it has been relatively easy to distinguish the rails you _can_ drive on from the rails you _can’t_. MAX tracks are either embedded in cobblestone, have bump strips, or are in a clearly designated median. Streetcar tracks are in smooth concrete and run between the normal lane markings.

    However, because buses and trains have to share the same space on the transit mall, the new MAX tracks on the mall will be smooth. In addition, there will be a few short stretches where streetcar tracks are on the mall, in the left lane, while light rail tracks are in the right lane.

    It may not be immediately obvious to some drivers, especially those unfamiliar with downtown, which tracks they should be driving on.

    Now, the new mall will have signals which remain red (as Houston had to learn the hard way) until after a train has already entered an intersection. It will also have markings (and perhaps bumps, I don’t know the final design) between the multi-modal lane (cars, bikes, streetcars) and the transit-only (max and bus) lanes. Vehicles will also be moving at a slower speed through the mall than the ones seen in the Houston video.

    So – Laugh while we can — and let’s do what we can to prevent being the _next_ collision video montage.

    – Bob R.

  40. Nick theoldurbanist
    November 18, 2007 at 10:10 am Link

    “This “bus vs. light rail” thing is nonsense. Nobody here is arguing that the whole bus system should be replaced with rail. Even the most rail-friendly cities in the world still have buses, and that’s fantastic.”

    >>>> No, it is NOT nonsense to me as a transit user. It seems that every time a new light rail line goes into operation in Portland, the service is degraded for many riders.

    And don’t forget about the opportunity cost of lost potential ridership, due to addtional transfers and travel time in many cases with LRT.

  41. Bob R.
    November 18, 2007 at 11:14 am Link

    Nick –

    It’s been pointed out before, but it seems to bear repeating here, but over the last 20 years the ratio of boarding rides to originating rides has remained reasonably steady … in fact, it has declined ever so slightly from 1.35 to 1.27 although I haven’t checked every year to see how much fluctuation is in there.

    What this means is that the average number of transfers people make in a transit journey has remained basically unchanged during the 20-year development of light rail in this region.

    There’s just no such thing as “additional transfers” in the case of light rail, not in aggregate. For every specific instance you might be able to find of people who have to transfer more, there are people who are transferring less.

    If light rail was forcing huge numbers of people to make transfers (or, as some critics charge, if light rail ridership was being propped up by “feeder buses”), then the ratio of boarding rides to originating rides would have shot way up over the years.

    – Bob R.

  42. William
    November 18, 2007 at 11:16 am Link

    Jim,

    One major problem (of several) that I have with your automobile versus public transit numbers is that they look at the car option as it could be while they look at the bus/train more as it is.

    If you want to remove bias, please take the average costs and efficiencies of all private transit options on the road today. Make the car stats as they *are* as opposed to how they *could be* if everybody had an efficient vehicle. That’s how to make the numbers a bit more logical of a comparison for today’s reality.

    Looking to the future, you could assume more efficient private vehicles. You could also, perhaps, assume more riders per bus or train, too.

    You may disagree, and probably do, but I think a reality-based approach would factor the present vs the future. I’m not sure how you can feel comfortable in putting forth numbers that do not.

  43. Nick theoldurbanist
    November 18, 2007 at 12:42 pm Link

    “It’s been pointed out before, but it seems to bear repeating here, but over the last 20 years the ratio of boarding rides to originating rides has remained reasonably steady …”

    >>>> And like I’ve said before, Trimet has no way of knowing what is an originating ride, and what is a transfer, unless it has an electronic fare card system like New York and Chicago do. Also, Fred Hansen said that half of MAX riders use passes.

    Trimet is thus free to use any methodology it wants, and skew the numbers as it sees fit.

    In fact, it has gotten to the point where I approach at Trimet and Metro ‘figures’ with a jaded look.

  44. Bob R.
    November 18, 2007 at 12:45 pm Link

    TriMet uses rider surveys, and I’ve been the recipient of such surveys on more than one occasion. They are quite thorough about making sure as many people as possible on a given bus or train participate.

    – Bob R.

  45. AL M
    November 18, 2007 at 12:59 pm Link

    JK!

    That video was awesome!

    Maybe it would be possible to get TRIMET to pony up some of their ‘greatest hits’ video’s!

    Freedom of Information Act anyone?

  46. jim karlock
    November 18, 2007 at 2:36 pm Link

    Matthew Says: “Do you find any problems with the above, except for my, unfortunate choice of my example car shortly before it was discontinued.”

    Well, that car has been discontinued for more than a year, so I kind of expected that if you were going to use it as an example, that you’d try to make your examples relevant… However, given that this is the first time you’ve posted it here, and I’ve read your site in the last year, (and it wasn’t there,) I have to wonder when exactly you created that page…
    JK: Look at my supporting documnet – a Yahoo listing of new cars:
    DebunkingPortland.com/Transit/HondaInsight.htm It was downloaded from Yahoo on 10/5/06

    Matthew Says: But you didn’t answer my question, do you know anyone that owns an Insight?
    JK: Not relevant. It was used as an example of what is out there if one wants to save more energy than transit. And you get two seats instead of one. And no (unwanted) drug deals or panhandlers. (As I review this, I recall that I actually know one deluded radical enviro/socialist/peak oil/warmer who drives one)

    Matthew Says: “Perhaps the fact that Trimet buses cost an average of $0.835 per passenger-mile, far above the high-ball AAA driving cost of $0.522 per VEHICLE-mile?”
    I don’t see that number in busmaxstat.pdf, but if I divide that out based on the average boarding ride cost of $2.58, I get that the average bus ride is 3 miles. That seems a little low
    JK: Look at the units on the various data items and treat the units like you treat fractions. In this case:
    Bus system cost / bus passenger-miles = cost/passenger-mile:
    $197,597,326 / 236,736,000 = $0.835 This is all laid out for you at: DebunkingPortland.com/Transit/Cost-Cars-Transit-Details(2005).htm which you apparently didn’t bother to check.

    Matthew Says:, but in any case, I’m not sure where exactly AAA includes the parking costs for those trips, but given that a lot of them start or end downtown, and parking downtown is $2 or so even if you don’t stay very long, that 3 mile trip should cost at least $0.66/mile
    JK: Are you agreeing with some trimet critics who claim that trimet’s primary function is to export parking spaces out of downtown?

    Matthew Says: Ohh, I got an idea, maybe you are confusing urban and rural trips again.
    JK: Ohh, I get the idea – you still think that downtown is relevant to most people, even as few people shop or work downtown anymore. Apparently you haven’t noticed that most people shop at regional centers – Fred Meyer, Costco, Winco, various ‘Town Centers”. And parking is free. (Actually included in the dost of doing business – like Trimet’s payroll tax that pays a big chunk of Trimet’s wasteful costs)

    Only a few percent of jobs are downtown anymore. And parking is also generally free for those who have left downtown. (Actually included in the dost of doing business – like Trimet’s payroll tax that pays a big chunk opf the toy train) The reality is that if an employer is going to charge me for parking – he is going to pay me more to make up for it, or I’m going elsewhere – just like I won’t shop if I have to pay to park. (The only parking I can remember paying in years is to attend government stuff downtown.)

    Thanks
    JK

  47. jim karlock
    November 18, 2007 at 2:45 pm Link

    shooter Says: So what’s your take on the video, just fun or an argument against trains?
    JK: Yet another example of crappy, unsafe designs coming out of the transport zealots. The same errors are made time after time. In some cases they even lie about previous experience to justify a new design. For instance one California bus rapid transit has at grade crossings. One expert pointed out the inherent safety problem and got told they were used in one Florida system with no problems. Said expert called Florida and found that they had extremely bad safety problems (had to shut down the system??) The went ahead with the at grade crossings and had so many accidents that the buses eventually had to slow to some ridiculously low speed at the crossings.

    As to Trimet – any system that is not 100% grade separated invites accidents. That is part of why MAX kills people at around 2 ½ times the rate of cars.

    Thanks
    JK

  48. Bob R.
    November 18, 2007 at 3:03 pm Link

    JK wrote: As I review this, I recall that I actually know one deluded radical enviro/socialist/peak oil/warmer who drives one

    Gee, JK, you have such high praise for someone you mention as a supporting example. I’d hate to know what you think of people whose lives are contrary to the point you are trying to make.

    Way to keep on making friends and converts there, JK.

    JK about the video: Yet another example of crappy, unsafe designs coming out of the transport zealots.

    Sure, JK … the crashes in Houston must have nothing to do with the fact that according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics, Houston motorists have an accidental death and injury rate 2.5 times the national average, train or no train.

    JK also wrote: For instance one California bus rapid transit has at grade crossings. … The went ahead with the at grade crossings and had so many accidents that the buses eventually had to slow to some ridiculously low speed at the crossings. … any system that is not 100% grade separated invites accidents.

    If you 100% grade-separate a BRT system, you’ve got a system with capital costs as high as a grade-separated light rail system, plus much higher operating costs over time.

    Is it safe to say you’re opposed to all publicly-subsidized transit? Buses as well as light rail? Or are you instead advocating for massive public investment in a network of elevated busways?

    As to your claim that MAX kills at around 2.5 times the rate of cars (I guess if you’re not in Houston ;-) ), are you (yet again) using figures for automobiles which combine urban and rural driving statistics? If so, you’re distorting the statistics in favor of cars, because rural trips inherently amount to more passenger-miles than urban trips, but transit only competes for urban trips.

    – Bob R.

  49. jim karlock
    November 18, 2007 at 3:04 pm Link

    William Says: If you want to remove bias, please take the average costs and efficiencies of all private transit options on the road today.
    JK: The discussion is about cars vs transit, not trucks, light trucks or SUVs. One can argue about SUV, but the truth is that it will be easier to get people into more efficient cars than to convince them to change their entire life to use transit, especially since transit has little to offer.

    William Says: Make the car stats as they *are* as opposed to how they *could be* if everybody had an efficient vehicle.
    JK: What are you talking about? I have given a wide variety of comparisons, all available today:
    1. Average USA car today
    2. Adjusted for Portland occupancy.
    3. AAA’s inflated numbers
    4. Low cost, efficient
    5. Hybrid
    They are all at:
    DebunkingPortland.com/Transit/Cost-Cars-Transit(2005).htm
    DebunkingPortland.com/Transit/BusVsCarTEDB.htm
    DebunkingPortland.com/Roads/Docs/Delucchi_Chart.htm

    William Says: Looking to the future, you could assume more efficient private vehicles. You could also, perhaps, assume more riders per bus or train, too.
    JK: If you want the future, assume everyone drives a hybrid and buses doubles their efficiency ( real stretch) then you get:
    Bus 1896 BTU, Car 1326 BTU Transit is still looser. But remember there is more than just energy – costs matter too and transit is much more costly than simply owning a car and paying your share of road costs through taxes and fees – plus a big bunch of transit which takes 20% or more of gas taxes.

    William Says: You may disagree, and probably do, but I think a reality-based approach would factor the present vs the future. I’m not sure how you can feel comfortable in putting forth numbers that do not.
    JK: What the hell are you talking about? Is that an illusion to popular delusions like peak oil (simply ridiculous when you consider basic economics) and Al Gore’s global warming (greatest scientific fraud of all time)?

    Thanks
    JK

  50. jim karlock
    November 18, 2007 at 3:07 pm Link

    Bob R. Says: TriMet uses rider surveys, and I’ve been the recipient of such surveys on more than one occasion. They are quite thorough about making sure as many people as possible on a given bus or train participate.
    JK: And such surveys are notoriously in accurate.

    Thanks
    JK

  51. AL M
    November 18, 2007 at 3:11 pm Link

    “JK: The discussion is about cars vs transit, not trucks, light trucks or SUVs. One can argue about SUV, but the truth is that it will be easier to get people into more efficient cars than to convince them to change their entire life to use transit, especially since transit has little to offer.”

    That’s a pretty interesting argument I have to admit, it might be more practical in that all Americans can take advantage of it rather than the select few who live by transit lines!

    Not bad JK!

  52. Bob R.
    November 18, 2007 at 3:24 pm Link

    And such surveys are notoriously in accurate.

    Notoriously “in accurate” according to who? Have you gone over the methodology?

    When I’ve been surveyed, the survey team has multiple persons on the vehicle, and makes sure that everyone riding is offered a survey, a writing implement, and a clipboard. There was a high rate of compliance, I personally didn’t see any refusals to participate. At each stop, surveys were offered to each new boarding passenger, and each person preparing to leave was asked to turn in their survey.

    As I recall, the questions where quite straightforward — the most important stuff was at the top (where did you board, where are you going, will you be transferring, to what kind of vehicle, etc. — all multiple choice) with less important optional stuff like demographics lower on the page.

    I guess if the vehicles selected for the survey teams were not a true representation of the system as a whole, you’d have problems, but is that what you’re alleging, or are you just tossing out the word “notorious” and hoping it sticks?

    – Bob R.

  53. Bob R.
    November 18, 2007 at 3:29 pm Link

    JK says: The discussion is about cars vs transit, not trucks, light trucks or SUVs

    That’s a pretty bizarre goalpost. There are many one-vehicle households that need a larger vehicle such as a light truck or SUV. Such households will use that vehicle for a variety of trip types, including solo trips. If transit is available and reliable for the trip type needed, then the person switching to transit for that particular trip is only adding an small incremental energy cost to the transit system, whilst simultaneously keeping their vehicle off the road.

    You’re really cherry-picking if you only want to narrowly define “cars” (which is a term that is applied in common speech in many different ways) to not include SUVs or pickups.

    You also seem to be implying a false choice: People don’t have to give up their cars to use transit. Transit can help facilitate reduced reliance on a primary personal vehicle, or eliminate the need altogether for a 2nd vehicle (or a 3rd in some cases.)

    – Bob R.

  54. Bob R.
    November 18, 2007 at 3:31 pm Link

    I also notice in your comments above that you conflate “bus” with “transit”. If you’re going to argue about cars vs. transit, you need to use stats which include energy use of rail transit.

    – Bob R.

  55. AL M
    November 18, 2007 at 3:38 pm Link

    Bob R reminds me of one of those chess grand masters, you know, the ones that used to play 20 games at once, and win them all!

    Except his game is blog!

  56. Matthew
    November 18, 2007 at 4:05 pm Link

    “The discussion is about cars vs transit, not trucks, light trucks or SUVs. One can argue about SUV, but the truth is that it will be easier to get people into more efficient cars than to convince them to change their entire life to use transit, especially since transit has little to offer.”

    So people should buy another car to drive just 3 miles? You do know, cars aren’t free. A $10k car, that you own for 10 years, costs $2.73/day just to pay for the purchase costs at 0% interest. If you drive it for 3 miles, twice a day, every weekday, the purchase costs alone run $0.64/mile. And if you can get insurance for $25/month, that will run add another $0.20/mile to that cost. That alone is above your $0.83/mile for the bus…

  57. William
    November 18, 2007 at 4:49 pm Link

    Jim,

    I happen to agree with Bob regarding the “cherry-picking” and “bizarre goalpost” comments.

    Thanks for clarifying that you’re talking about “today” and not some point in the future.

    Bob pointed out that jumping onto a bus/train only adds a “small incremental energy cost to the transit system”. I’d like to add that that small incremental cost is far less than the energy cost of driving an Insight. 200 more pounds for the MAX to haul, versus the Insight itself + 200 pounds. The Insight energy usage might still trump the train’s per rider average, but I *know* you’re not arguing that we ditch public transit for a Portland fleet of half a million Insights. What about all the people who can’t afford a car, period? Would you leave them up the creek?

    That having been said, I still think it makes more sense to look at the entire system on our roads and railways today. That includes gas guzzlers. And that’s the reality of the system as it exists today.

    Jim, in reference to my “reality-based approach” plea, you ask, “What the hell are you talking about? Is that an illusion to popular delusions like peak oil (simply ridiculous when you consider basic economics) and Al Gore’s global warming (greatest scientific fraud of all time)?”

    No. It’s a reference to how it makes sense to consider things as they are. I agree very strongly with you that economic reality drives a lot of our behavior. That reality is why there are still lots of gas guzzlers on the road, and it’s why there will continue to be for years to come. And it’s why I think it makes more sense to look at the whole set of data rather than choosing to focus on energy efficient vehicles.

    But, since you mentioned “peak oil” as being a delusion because of basic economics, I have to disagree. Peak oil refers to the point at which output will decline regardless of our efforts. To frame it in terms of economics implies that we *could* avoid this decline in oil production if only we were willing to spend the money/energy on it. That just isn’t reality. I hope you don’t believe in plentiful abiotic oil?

  58. Nick theoldurbanist
    November 18, 2007 at 7:14 pm Link

    “TriMet uses rider surveys, and I’ve been the recipient of such surveys on more than one occasion. They are quite thorough about making sure as many people as possible on a given bus or train participate.”

    >>>> Not that I have much faith in Trimet’s surveys, but a survey taken of #6 bus riders showed that 43% of riders had to transfer TWICE! How much potential lost ridership is there because of things like this (if these numbers are even somewhat accurate)?

    And remenber, it is Trimet’s goal to put its’ light rail system in the best possible light.
    I can imagine how it would disqualify entries that it did not like for the most spurious reason possible. Just like the GOP does with ballots in Florida.

  59. jim karlock
    November 18, 2007 at 7:14 pm Link

    Bob R. Says: And such surveys are notoriously in accurate. Notoriously “in accurate” according to who? Have you gone over the methodology?
    JK: Nope, just repeating what I heard a professional transit system auditor say. He is a CPA who has also headed transit systems.
    It also doesn’t stand to reason that as more people are herded from feeder buses to toy trains, that transfers would not increase.

    Thanks
    JK

  60. jim karlock
    November 18, 2007 at 7:19 pm Link

    Bob R. Says: There are many one-vehicle households that need a larger vehicle such as a light truck or SUV. Such households will use that vehicle for a variety of trip types, including solo trips. If transit is available and reliable for the trip type needed, then the person switching to transit for that particular trip is only adding an small incremental energy cost to the transit system, whilst simultaneously keeping their vehicle off the road.
    JK: Lets look at a rational person’s decison:
    20 mpg car. Incremental driving cost: $3.00 gal/20 miles/gal = 15 cents/mile. Make it 18 to include maintenance.
    Transit fare: $1.75 – $2.00 (real cost is actually 5x that; $8.75 – $10.00)
    If the trip is less than 10 miles it is cheaper to drive. It is also quicker and you are less likely to have to deal with criminals, obnoxious people etc. You also don’t have to wait around in the rain, cold etc.
    Why would any sane person with a car take transit?

    Bob R. Says: You also seem to be implying a false choice: People don’t have to give up their cars to use transit. Transit can help facilitate reduced reliance on a primary personal vehicle
    JK: And why would a rational person want to spend more money using transit, than the cost of driving – see above?

    Thanks
    JK

  61. jim karlock
    November 18, 2007 at 7:22 pm Link

    William Says: , I still think it makes more sense to look at the entire system on our roads and railways today. That includes gas guzzlers. And that’s the reality of the system as it exists today.
    JK: And when you look at the real data, that actual mix on the roads today costs less than transit and uses about the same energy. What is the point of transit anyway? The reality is that the real reason for transit is to serve the low income. All that stuff about relieving congestion, sparing the air, saving money or energy is pure BS from the PR people to sell a service for the poor. Please watch “Transit’s dirty little secret” at .mediadownloads.pdx.edu:8080/archive04/events/Transportation_111607.wmv

    William Says: But, since you mentioned “peak oil” as being a delusion because of basic economics, I have to disagree. Peak oil refers to the point at which output will decline regardless of our efforts. To frame it in terms of economics implies that we *could* avoid this decline in oil production if only we were willing to spend the money/energy on it. That just isn’t reality.
    JK: We may only need lots of oil until we get better batteries for plug in hybrids. The reality is that there are plenty of sources of oil that will carry us hundreds of years:
    1. Oil sands. Canada currently in production and ramping up.
    2. Shale.
    3. New discoveries. The USA recently DOUBLED its known reserves with a single discovery. Many known reserves are off limits for political reasons.
    4. Oil from coal. Huge coal reserves. Hitler ran his war machine on this process.
    5. Abandoned oil wells become practical as the price increases.

    In short higher prices bring more supply and reduce demand. Econ 101. Why do so many people have trouble understanding this?

    William Says: I hope you don’t believe in plentiful abiotic oil?
    JK: Whats to believe? You are entitled to your opinion but not your facts. Facts just are.

    Don’t forget one very relevant, well accepted fact: Some planets have vast stores of methane which is a pre cursor to liquid fuels. So, we know that abiotic hydrocarbon fuels exist. You just have to mach five of those methanes together to get a liquid fuel (and some extra hydrogen).

    Thanks
    JK

  62. Bob R.
    November 18, 2007 at 7:35 pm Link

    Why would any sane person with a car take transit?

    At the risk of having the mighty JK call me “insane”, I own two vehicles and still prefer to take transit for some trip types on an average of more than once a week.

    I also enjoy walking from time-to-time, and I’m an occasional fair-weather recreational cyclist.

    20 mpg car. Incremental driving cost: $3.00 gal/20 miles/gal = 15 cents/mile. Make it 18 to include maintenance.

    Sorry, JK, that’s not even the incremental cost of driving, because cars have a fixed lifespan. You’re using up a part of the purchase price of the car with every mile. If you’re planning on selling the car for anything, your incremental cost is heavily front-loaded due to depreciation.

    $1.75 – $2.00 (real cost is actually 5x that; $8.75 – $10.00)

    Since we’re discussing incremental trips, that is untrue. The bus or train is already operating whether our hypothetical traveler chooses to take it.

    However, you’re also seriously conflating two numbers again: Fare price and farebox recovery, to get your “5x” figure. If our hypothetical rider is paying a full fare, rather than riding in fareless or buying a discounted pass, they are contributing much of the cost of their ride.

    The system operating cost per boarding ride is about $2.22. If the user doesn’t transfer, their $1.75 is covering almost 80% of that journey. If they do transfer, they’re covering 40% of that journey.

    Most of the operating cost of delivering transit service is running routes in low-density suburban areas. As infill occurs and density increases, transit becomes naturally more efficient. Because we have an urban growth boundary, the rate at which density increases is greater than the rate at which transit routes must expand by length. Further, as planning/zoning concentrates higher density development along transit corridors, the efficiencies amplify.

    Thus, over time, the inflation-adjusted cost per boarding ride of transit should decline, given current development trends and regulations.

    – Bob R.

  63. Bob R.
    November 18, 2007 at 7:37 pm Link

    JK wrote: Some planets have vast stores of methane which is a pre cursor to liquid fuels.

    I’ll give JK the benefit of the doubt here and assume he’s talking about “plants”, even though the sentence is correct also with “planets”, getting the methane here from other worlds would be a tad difficult at this time.

    – Bob R.

  64. Bob R.
    November 18, 2007 at 7:38 pm Link

    but a survey taken of #6 bus riders showed that 43% of riders had to transfer TWICE! How much potential lost ridership is there because of things like this (if these numbers are even somewhat accurate)?

    Do you have a link to that survey?

    Does the survey indicate the ridership patterns of these people before and after light rail?

    – Bob R.

  65. Bob R.
    November 18, 2007 at 7:42 pm Link

    In short higher prices bring more supply and reduce demand. Econ 101. Why do so many people have trouble understanding this?

    Because oil is a limited resource. Higher prices doesn’t mean oil magically appears. It does mean that oil which was previously too expensive or too dirty to extract becomes more and more attractive. We are consuming oil at a far greater rate than the planet is producing it (we’re using up a backlog of millions of years of “production”).

    Simple math says that if you consume something at a faster rate than it can physically be renewed, you will run out. Why do so many people have trouble understanding this? It’s as though they took an “Econ 101” class once and never went beyond it.

    – Bob R.

  66. Erik Halstead
    November 18, 2007 at 8:25 pm Link

    This article should have been titled “Portland’s Love Affair with Light Rail vs. Portland’s insistence on using 40 foot busses of a mid-1990s design and its refusal to consider high-capacity articulated busses, energy efficient and clean hybrid-electric busses”.

    Of course LRT wins. When is the last time that TriMet made a significant investment towards bus improvements; or that Metro actually talked about improving bus service? The Tribune is simply comparing Portland’s plans for light rail service as compared to Portland’s non-existant plans for better bus service which could include articulated busses, hybrid-electric busses, trolley busses (use the same power source as MAX/Streetcar – electricity), improved bus routes/stations/stops, improved bus designs (instead of relying on a early 1990s design for a bus), etc.

  67. jim karlock
    November 18, 2007 at 8:26 pm Link

    Bob R. Says: JK wrote: Some planets have vast stores of methane which is a pre cursor to liquid fuels.

    I’ll give JK the benefit of the doubt here and assume he’s talking about “plants”, even though the sentence is correct also with “planets”, getting the methane here from other worlds would be a tad difficult at this time.
    JK No I am talking of planets as in the solar system.
    You completely missed my point: There is abiotic methane on other planets, so it could also be here. Further methane is a precursor to oil, so the concept of abiotic oil should not be automatically dismissed.

    Bob R. Says: In short higher prices bring more supply and reduce demand. Econ 101. Why do so many people have trouble understanding this?
    Because oil is a limited resource.
    JK Gotta keep preaching coming disaster to get people to buy into that smart growth crap. Oil is not limited because we can make it when it becomes cheaper to make than to mine. Econ 101.

    Bob R. Says: Higher prices doesn’t mean oil magically appears. It does mean that oil which was previously too expensive or too dirty to extract becomes more and more attractive.
    JK Actually it does make oil “magically appear” because of increased exploration. Econ 101.

    Bob R. Says: We are consuming oil at a far greater rate than the planet is producing it (we’re using up a backlog of millions of years of “production”).
    JK So what? First you don’t know the rate of production. Second “the planet”isn’t the only source of oil. You conveniently ignore tar sands, shale and coal as source of oil.

    Bob R. Says: Simple math says that if you consume something at a faster rate than it can physically be renewed, you will run out.
    JK You have more assumptions in that line than climate modelers have in their models. See above.

    Bob R. Says: Why do so many people have trouble understanding this?
    JK Because it is BS. It ignores the increasing supply and decreasing demand as price increases part of supply and demand. Econ 101. Just like Portland’s planners ignore the supply side of supply and demand when they claim that increased demand is the reason for Portland’s housing prices being about double what they should be. If there were adequate supply – the price would not have doubled.

    Bob R. Says: It’s as though they took an “Econ 101” class once and never went beyond it.
    JK So typical of planners – completely ignorant of economics.

    BTW, how are you doing at coming up with meaningful problems with DebunkingPortland.com? You have been a bit silent on that point as you spewed out dozens of replies today.

    Thanks
    JK

  68. Bob R.
    November 18, 2007 at 8:30 pm Link

    Oil is not limited because we can make it when it becomes cheaper to make than to mine.

    And we should stop building cancer wards because a cure is right around the corner.

  69. Bob R.
    November 18, 2007 at 8:40 pm Link

    JK asks: BTW, how are you doing at coming up with meaningful problems with DebunkingPortland.com? You have been a bit silent on that point as you spewed out dozens of replies today.

    I was “silent” on that point because I felt it unnecessary to repeat myself yet again about the flaws I’ve found there when examining your site in detail. (DebunkingPortland.com is _your_ site, right? You’re the listed domain registrant. It’s kind of weird how often you refer to it abstractly without using terms such as “my site”.)

    But, since you asked, here is a collection of several comments/excerpts from when we went over this topic last August:

    …..

    I’ve been over the figures on your web site in detail. Here are a few issues you have yet to address:

    1. Your $0.25 per passenger mile figure comes from dividing the results of two different values published by two different agencies. You divide the BEA (Bureau of Economic Analysis) User-operated transportation cost by the FHA (Federal Highway Administration) Person Miles of Travel and then by ODOT figures for Portland-area cities’ rates of passenger occupancy. (I do acknowledge that you are now using the ODOT figures, which is an improvement over past errors.) There is NO indication as to why it is appropriate to divide these two figures to get your result, and to what underlying data may be omitted or duplicative or unresolved. I’ve done a fair number of Google searches trying to find any serious article or study (peer-reviewed or otherwise) that uses those two values like you have, and I can’t find one.

    2. A serious flaw: You are using the FHA value of 2,989,807e6 vehicle miles as your denominator. That is the total miles of “All Motor Vehicles”, including “PASSENGER CARS MOTOR- CYCLES BUSES OTHER 2-AXLE 4-TIRE VEHICLES 2/ SINGLE-UNIT 2-AXLE 6-TIRE OR MORE TRUCKS 3/ COMBINATION TRUCKS” — this is not reflective of a comparison between cars and transit. There is also no proof that this large total including all motor vehicle types in any way relates to the BEA cost figures that you use as your numerator.

    3. Your figures represent all types of miles travelled, including both Urban and Rural. Rural mileage tends to have higher vehicle occupancies and lower costs per vehicle mile. You can’t take a total figure with all mileage types like that and then simply divide it by the Portland Metro area’s vehicle occupancy and get a true reflection of the type of driving done here.

    4. Somewhat related to the above: Most transit miles are urban miles. You cannot compare totals which include a significant number of rural miles directly to transit, which is inherently urban/suburban nature.

    5. TriMet’s transit trips in this region are on average 5.42 miles per originating ride. Short trips like this are inherently higher-cost for autos, because the starting and warm-up wear and tear are spread over fewer miles. They are also lower MPG and higher pollution. Even highly-tuned, highly efficient cars like the Toyota Prius get their worst MPG (sometimes 25% or more below average) in the first 5 minutes of travel due to high idle and emissions warm-up, time spent in the driveway, etc.

    So your figures, while representing an interesting starting point for discussion, need a lot more adjustment and supporting evidence.

    …..

    JK asks, five times in a row: “Do you know of a better source for the data? How much do you believe the result will change?”

    JK, you are the one who has been frequently asserting your cost figure as though it carries great authority… it is up to you, the one making the original assertion, to make corrections or provide supporting evidence when obvious and inherent flaws are brought to your attention.

    …..

    August comment from Matthew:

    I know of a better source for the average occupancy data: The census. They say 1.09. I’ve seen Mel Zucker use that number. And no, there is a big difference between 1.3 and 1.09, given that no cars have 0 people, (and 48.5/25 isn’t 1.3, it is 1.94.) If you compare the most optimistic numbers for your argument to the most pessimistic numbers for the other side, you can prove anything. For instance, I’ve seen proof that coal is cleaner than Natural Gas. (If the Coal is from Powder River, which is running out, and not from most of the rest of our country which has considerably higher carbon/btu, and the Natural Gas is from Quatar, shipped by ship…)

    …..

    JK: Feel free to point out some “obvious and inherent flaws” which actually affect the validity of the conclusions. Instead of nits.

    The aren’t “nits”, JK, they are fundamental.

    If you exclude “SINGLE-UNIT 2-AXLE 6-TIRE OR MORE AND COMBINATION TRUCKS”, that increases the cost per passenger mile by 8 to 9%, and still included within the remaining total are buses, which (according to your own table) have an average occupancy of 21 passengers.

    In other words, you are using totals WHICH INCLUDE TRANSIT FIGURES to arrive at a cost figure which you then use to argue against transit. That’s double-counting.

    On the other side of the equation, the BEA numbers you reference explicitly do NOT include the purchase of buses, trucks, etc. So the BEA figure is low-balled compared to the FHA mileage you are using.

    If you are so certain of your numbers, why can’t you produce a report from a single agency, university, or peer-reviewed journal that divides the figures as you do? Frankly your analysis wouldn’t make it out of a freshman economics class.

    Finally, and this is not a “nit”, if you want to make comparisons to transit, you must do so for the kinds of trips transit serves. I don’t run around comparing a light rail trip from Sunset Transit Center to a trip from, say, Eugene to Ashland, but you are using numbers that include those kinds of trips in the total.

    …..

    I suggest you check out the extensive study of transportation costs (focusing on a variety of modes, not just autos) done by the Victoria Transport Policy Institute.

    In the study, they go to great effort to identify various cost factors, fixed, variable, and external, and apply them to all modes. Further, they separate out Urban Peak miles from Urban Off-Peak and Rural miles.

    You can see a lot of the cost conclusions in Chapter 6.

    Now, your figures don’t include external costs, so I’ll show the study’s costs both excluding and including external costs for a more direct comparison…

    I believe these figures are in 1996 US dollars.

    They show that average Urban Peak car costs per passenger mile are in the 60+ cent range (close to $1.20 including external costs), while Rural costs per passenger mile are closer to 40+ cents (50+ cents with external costs.)

    Transit, by the way, doesn’t receive glowing cost treatment… they include all subsidies as external costs, so the average passenger-mile cost of transit is very close to automobile. (Although I don’t see if this compares to average miles or urban miles at first glance.)

    …..

    End of collection. There’s more from other discussion threads, but I think I’ve made my point. Thanks for asking.

  70. jim karlock
    November 18, 2007 at 9:12 pm Link

    Two quick comments:
    1. Victoria Transport Policy Institute is a highly distorted source of mis-information. I am surprised you present it with a straight face.

    2. Which of the many nits you pick, do you claim would alter the basic conclusions that:

    Transit does not save energy.

    Transit costs more than driving.

    Thanks
    JK

  71. Bob R.
    November 18, 2007 at 9:19 pm Link

    JK –

    Those are your conclusions, not mine. The data you’ve presented to back up your claims has been shown by me and by others to have serious flaws.

    If you wish for me to accept your conclusions, you’re going to have to come up with better data. Plain and simple.

    – Bob R.

  72. jim karlock
    November 18, 2007 at 9:29 pm Link

    Lets try this again:

    Which of the many nits you pick, do you claim would alter the basic conclusions that:

    Transit does not save energy.

    Transit costs more than driving.

    PS: I am just finishing transferring about 500G of video from the last American Dream Confernece to my hard drive, so I will be editing for the next few weeks and have little time to play on the blogs. Watch Comcast ch 11, 10 pm Sundays.

    Thanks
    JK

  73. Bob R.
    November 18, 2007 at 9:47 pm Link

    Jim,

    Do you think that repeating yourself in big bold letters will somehow change the facts in the debate?

    These are not “nits”, these are exposures of fundamental flaws in your presentation. If it will help you follow the discussion, I can repost everything yet again in big bold letters but I’d rather not as it would very likely annoy many of the readers of this blog.

    Have fun with your editing. You’ve videotaped me a few times now as well — I hope I’m not wasting too many of those gigabytes. See you in a few weeks.

    Thanks,
    Bob R.

  74. jim karlock
    November 18, 2007 at 9:55 pm Link

    Lets see now, transit costs about 3 times what driving costs, but you found something that, perhaps, makes a 10% difference.

    That is a nit.

    Do you still refuse to point out any NON nits?
    Do you even have any NON nits?

    Thanks
    JK

  75. Bob R.
    November 18, 2007 at 10:24 pm Link

    Let’s see now, you restated your conclusions (which were based on invalid data), but you didn’t do the math and instead relied on “perhaps” to say that there was a “10% difference”, in order to arrive at a new conclusion about “nits”.

    That is a cop-out.

    Do you still refuse to acknowledge the fundamental flaws in your original presentation?
    Do you even have any new data?

    Thanks,
    Bob R.

  76. Bob R.
    November 18, 2007 at 11:23 pm Link

    At the risk of beating a thoroughly unrevived Equus Caballus, it was news to me when JK said this:

    “Victoria Transport Policy Institute is a highly distorted source of mis-information. I am surprised you present it with a straight face.”

    Now, JK has videotaped me on several occasions, so he should know by now that my face is neither straight nor symmetrical, but I forgive him this little error.

    However, his comment did cause me a bit of concern because I had thought that the Victoria Transport Policy Institute was fairly well-regarded in transportation circles.

    So, in the name of due diligence, I went out and Googled “Victoria Transport Policy Institute” (in quotes) and quickly surfed the first 100 results.

    Out of those 100, I found one, only one reference critical of VTPI, and it wasn’t in the top 10. It was down closer to 30. All the rest were either neutral descriptions, copies of various reports filed with various government agencies, news articles about the organization, or praise/commentary from various groups and blogs.

    The negative opinion? Why, from JK’s frequent source: Wendell Cox. Here’s what Wendell’s web site had to say:

    If our position is inconsistent with what VTPI considers to be “conventional economic analysis,” then so be it. We recall that Copernicus held views inconsistent with the establishment of the time, the church. The “high priests” who guard the conventional wisdom have been wrong before.

    The rest of the web page is equally thorough and factual.

    Thanks for the tip. Keep ’em coming, JK, keep ’em coming.

    – Bob R.

  77. Matthew
    November 18, 2007 at 11:45 pm Link

    Jim K:
    The reality is that there are plenty of sources of oil that will carry us hundreds of years:
    1. Oil sands. Canada currently in production and ramping up.

    By 2015, they hope to get it up to 4 MB/day, or about 5% of the oil we use now. They don’t think they can go much higher, it has to do with water usage, (a renewable resource.)

    2. Shale.

    There has been a couple of demo projects over the years, none of them have made money. Part of the problem is that it just takes a lot of energy to make the shale into oil, and there is only so much energy in the oil, so regardless of how expensive oil gets, they still aren’t profitable. And the other costs, (metal, skilled labor,) aren’t getting cheaper either, so… But in any case, it uses more water than the oil sands, so to seriously exploit the US oil shale reserves, we’d pretty much need to divert the Mississippi river into Utah…

    3. New discoveries. The USA recently DOUBLED its known reserves with a single discovery. Many known reserves are off limits for political reasons.

    I think that fact says a lot more about the state of US reserves than our ability to find new sources. And that huge discovery wasn’t recent, it was like 3 years old, the test well into it was more than a year ago, and it won’t go into production for another couple years because they can’t afford to build the platform for it. But in any case, it had less than a years worth of oil in it, so you haven’t exactly made a point.

    4. Oil from coal. Huge coal reserves. Hitler ran his war machine on this process.

    Godwin’s law. (Ohh, and South Africa used it too, back when they had Nelson Mandela in jail.) But peak coal is in about 20 years, so that doesn’t prove much…

    5. Abandoned oil wells become practical as the price increases.

    Most of the wells that have been abandoned produced on the order of 1 barrel/day, and given that there are less than a million oil wells in the world, that officially counts as a “1% nit.”

    What else you got?

  78. AL M
    November 19, 2007 at 12:09 am Link

    Man oh man, I can’t believe this ‘conversation’!

    You guys might as well collaborate on writing a book!

    It shouldn’t be hard to find a publisher.

  79. Lenny Anderson
    November 19, 2007 at 9:19 am Link

    Thanks Bob for the patience of Job on this thread.
    Some posters here are so far on the wrong side of history that most of us just don’t waste our time.
    Bus vs MAX?…a pretty stupid question. Of course, the answer is both.
    The real question is at what point in ridership growth in primary transportation corridors do you try to accommodate more riderswith more service and achieve a lower cost per ride .
    At that point BRT in its various forms needs to be evaluated and compared to LRT in its various iterations. This was done for the proposed Milwaukie line, has been done for Lake Oswego, is being done for Vancouver and will be done for Barbur, Powell/Foster.
    Generally, BRT, when given its own ROW is not much cheaper to build than LRT and is more costly to operate. Some data from the Eugene/Springfield line would be helpful.

  80. William
    November 19, 2007 at 10:03 am Link

    Wow. I don’t even have to expand my comments because those before have done well at it. I would like to add that, yes, we *do* roughly know how much oil is produced on Earth per year. I could dig up a link to the paper if anybody would like.

    As far as abiotic oil on Earth being demonstrated by abundant oil precursors on other planets & moons, that’s a bit of an odd argument. Why must abundant methane turn into abundant oil? I wouldn’t go so far as to say that there’s *no* abiotic oil on Earth, but I would like to point out that we know it’s not abundant. Radioactive isotopes are present in small concentrations in oil & these isotopes would not be present in abiotic oil.

  81. nwjg
    November 19, 2007 at 5:15 pm Link

    From the Tribune site:

    Eric Bartel’s comparison of rail vs. bus contains several factual
    errors that must be corrected.

    Bartels claims rail “appeals to riders” more than buses. In fact, all
    else being equal, there is no evidence that transit riders prefer
    steel wheels over rubber tires. TriMet has gained significant
    ridership increases through low-cost improvements to bus service.

    Bartels claims rails cost less to operate. In fact, rails cost far
    more to operate than buses on comparable routes, a problem plaguing
    BART and other rail systems today. Railcars may last a little longer,
    but they cost ten times as much to buy. And rail maintenance is far
    more expensive, whereas buses share the cost of road maintenance with
    autos and trucks.

    Bartels claims light rail has lower environmental impact. But rails
    must be served by feeder buses that often run nearly empty. Taken as
    a whole, transit systems with light rail consume more fuel and emit
    more pollution per passenger than systems that rely only on buses.

    Bartels says “light rail is a breakthough” vision. Yet the technology
    behind light rail is more than 60 years old, and there are good
    reasons why 700 cities gave up streetcars during the 20th century.

    Buses can do everything light rail can do except spend a lot of
    money. Taxpayers, transit riders, and commuters all lose when transit
    agencies divert funds from efficient buses to wasteful rail lines.

    Yours,

    Randal O’Toole

  82. Bob R.
    November 19, 2007 at 5:50 pm Link

    Randal O’Toole tosses out a few whoppers:

    Bartels claims rail “appeals to riders” more than buses. In fact, all else being equal, there is no evidence that transit riders prefer steel wheels over rubber tires.

    An extensive study (PDF) by VTPI concludes otherwise:

    Compared with Bus Only cities, Large Rail cities have:
    • 400% higher per capita transit ridership (589 versus 118 annual passenger-miles).
    • 887% higher the transit commute mode split (13.4% versus 2.7%).
    • 36% lower per capita traffic fatalities (7.5 versus 11.7 annual deaths per 100,000
    residents).
    • 14% lower per capita consumer transportation expenditures ($448 average annual
    savings), despite residents’ higher incomes.
    • 19% smaller portion of household budgets devoted to transportation (12.0% versus
    14.9%).
    • 21% lower per capita motor vehicle mileage (1,958 fewer annual miles).
    • 33% lower transit operating costs per passenger-mile (42¢ versus 63¢).
    • 58% higher transit service cost recovery (38% versus 24%).

    TriMet has gained significant ridership increases through low-cost improvements to bus service.

    Yes this is true, but does not contradict whether or not people prefer rail to buses. Stick to the argument at hand.

    Bartels claims rails cost less to operate. In fact, rails cost far more to operate than buses on comparable routes, a problem plaguing BART and other rail systems today.

    Source?

    Railcars may last a little longer, but they cost ten times as much to buy.

    A “little” longer? Boy that’s stretching it. TriMet has kept some buses running a bit longer than half of MAX’s current age, and because of that some people criticize TriMet for running old buses and therefore hurting ridership.

    If by “little” you mean “more than double, sometimes triple or quadruple”, you’re right.

    Ten times as much? Not for comparable service. Eugene’s EmX busway features buses costing about $1 million each, and those buses have less than 2/3 the capacity of a single $3.5 million light rail vehicle, and last well under half as long, so you end up buying multiple bus units to serve the same purpose, and hiring more operators to drive them.

    It’s sort of like saying a 737 costs more than 10X what a Dash 8 costs. Both are workhorses in aviation, but both serve different levels of capacity and different purposes. In fact, Dash 8’s often act as dreaded “feeder” routes.

    And rail maintenance is far more expensive, whereas buses share the cost of road maintenance with autos and trucks.

    How much to bus transit agencies chip in for street maintenance along bus routes? Just because the cost can be passed on to other road users doesn’t mean it’s not a cost.

    Bartels claims light rail has lower environmental impact. But rails must be served by feeder buses that often run nearly empty.

    If “feeder buses” are running nearly empty, why is ridership so high on rail? Time and time again we’re told that rail depends on these “feeder buses”, and yet mysteriously, these feeder buses are “often empty”.

    If high-capacity transit corridors are served by buses instead, then those buses must either leave the corridor or the bus stations must be fed by *gasp* “feeder buses”. Eliminating trains doesn’t change the situation.

    Taken as a whole, transit systems with light rail consume more fuel and emit more pollution per passenger than systems that rely only on buses.

    Again, Source?

    Bartels says “light rail is a breakthough” vision. Yet the technology behind light rail is more than 60 years old, and there are good
    reasons why 700 cities gave up streetcars during the 20th century.

    And the technology behind the private automobile is more than 60 years old, and the technology behind buses is more than 60 years old, and the technology behind airplanes is more than 60 years old. What on earth does any of that have to do with anything?

    Buses can do everything light rail can do except spend a lot of money.

    Pittsburgh spent about as much on a busway as we spent on the MAX Yellow Line, for a transit corridor of the same length, that carries 40% fewer riders than MAX does.

    – Bob R.

  83. Erik Halstead
    November 19, 2007 at 8:27 pm Link

    A “little” longer? Boy that’s stretching it. TriMet has kept some buses running a bit longer than half of MAX’s current age, and because of that some people criticize TriMet for running old buses and therefore hurting ridership.

    If by “little” you mean “more than double, sometimes triple or quadruple”, you’re right.

    Not true. The 100 series LRTs are being completely rebuilt.

    Otherwise the 100s have lasted just over 30 years. While the FTA states a transit bus SHOULD last about 12-15 years, TriMet is demanding 17+ years before a transit bus is replaced.

    30/17 is slightly less than “twice” and it’s certainly not “triple or quadruple”. TriMet does not rebuild their busses in the same manner as it is the 100 series LRVs.

    (Seattle has successfully rebuilt a type of its busses, but only because the bus type was a special model – the articulated trolleybusses that were built as dual-modes, however in the rebuild process the diesel engine was removed making the bus an electric-only trolleybus.) So technically it is possible and TriMet could rebuild their busses for extra life, but in general the cost/benefit ratio for a bus rebuild just isn’t there.

    Ten times as much? Not for comparable service. Eugene’s EmX busway features buses costing about $1 million each, and those buses have less than 2/3 the capacity of a single $3.5 million light rail vehicle, and last well under half as long, so you end up buying multiple bus units to serve the same purpose, and hiring more operators to drive them.

    And as you insist that Mr. O’Tooele stay on topic, I respectfully ask you do the same.

    Mr. O’Tooele never mentioned Bus Rapid Transit in his letter. Why must you insist that the issue is LRT vs. BRT? A high capacity, articulated bus costs about $500-600K. Add about $100K or so for a hybrid drive. BRT models cost more (I’m not entirely sure why, except that “they look cool” – they have different body styling but that’s about all that is different.)

    While in high-usage corridors it makes sense to consider a separate transit route (whether it is BRT or LRT) there are still heavy usage lines that don’t warrant BRT/LRT conversion, or still have considerable benefits as a regular bus route service. Line 12-Barbur is a good example – it has numerous grades that make the route difficult for LRT service.

    TriMet’s philosophy is “don’t spend anything on improving bus service”. Instead, we should change that philosophy to improve current bus services to build ridership, in preparation of future growth towards BRT/LRT. This can be done by adding capacity (i.e. articulated busses, increased headways – keeping in mind that a 40′ bus and a 60′ bus have the same labor costs – three articulated busses per hour vs. four non-articulated busses per hour have roughly the same capacity but TriMet’s choice has higher operating costs, and some routes are more frequent than 15 minutes!!), off-bus improvements such as improved bus stops and sidewalks, and other improvements. Even if TriMet converted the 12-B line into a special route (a hybrid of BRT and regular line service) with a dedicated fleet of busses and stop improvements, it could easily improve service for less than $20M.

    $20M will buy you ONE MILE of light rail track (and that’s a low estimate). The 12-B line from Portland to Tigard is over nine miles. To King City is 11.5 miles. To Sherwood is 16.5 miles.

    Should we spend $20M to improve bus service, or wait the who-knows-how-many-years to raise the $350M (again, very low estimate, and in addition doesn’t take into the consideration increased construction costs, and bridges that would have to be constructed to support LRT trains, and how to get MAX over the P&W/WES track in Tigard – it can’t be done at grade) and suffer with poor quality transit service until then?

    How much to bus transit agencies chip in for street maintenance along bus routes? Just because the cost can be passed on to other road users doesn’t mean it’s not a cost.

    Mr. O’Tooele isn’t denying that there is a cost.

    What he is saying is that a bus uses the same exact infrastructure that ALREADY EXISTS – the same road that cars and trucks use.

    LRT infrastructure can’t be used for anything else but a light rail train. (For those who are going to argue this point, Streetcars are light rail.) Yes, in San Diego they successfully combined light rail with freight rail, but that is being separated so that freight trains don’t use the same tracks as the light rail trains.

    A=Roads
    B=Rails

    A+B is greater than A. That’s all that Mr. O’Tooele stated. Unlike the roads that can spread the cost, TriMet can’t spread the cost of its LRT infrastructure – except to bus passengers (who may or may not use it).

    You are trying to suggest that busses incur a significant cost towards roadway maintenance – what exactly is the cost of TriMet’s bus service against the metro area’s roadway system? Given that TriMet busses are such a small percentage of the total vehicle count, my guess is not much.

    (However, I will say that the rutting problem that exists on N.W. Cornell Road turning left onto N.W. 158th Avenue in Beaverton just off the Sunset Highway is clearly a TriMet problem but that TriMet isn’t fixing – it was bad when I lived in that part of town prior to 2000, and it’s now 2007 and still horrible!)

  84. Bob R.
    November 19, 2007 at 8:55 pm Link

    Not true. The 100 series LRTs are being completely rebuilt.

    “Replaced” and “Refurbished” are two very different things. And your characterization of “completely” is way off the mark: Most of the cabin equipment is still original, from the lights to the seats to the floor panels to the doors.

    Otherwise the 100s have lasted just over 30 years.

    Although your statement is in my favor, it is incorrect. MAX is 20+ years old, not 30+.

    While the FTA states a transit bus SHOULD last about 12-15 years, TriMet is demanding 17+ years before a transit bus is replaced.

    Like I said, some people have complained that TriMet doesn’t replace buses soon enough.

    but in general the cost/benefit ratio for a bus rebuild just isn’t there.

    Absolutely correct. Advantage: Rail.

    And as you insist that Mr. O’Tooele stay on topic, I respectfully ask you do the same.

    Never left it.

    Why must you insist that the issue is LRT vs. BRT?

    Because any other comparison is apples-to-oranges. We’re talking about equivalent levels of service and capacity. I think I made that point clearly enough with my example of Dash 8 vs. 737.

    A high capacity, articulated bus costs about $500-600K. Add about $100K or so for a hybrid drive.

    That still doesn’t get you to “10X” as O’Toole claimed, not at all.

    BRT models cost more (I’m not entirely sure why, except that “they look cool” – they have different body styling but that’s about all that is different.)

    Erik, if there’s one thing you’ve demonstrated here over the years, it’s that you’re an expert about buses.

    And you should know full well that Eugene’s EmX buses, like light rail cars and streetcars, have multiple boarding doors on both sides of the vehicle with deployable wheelchair ramps on both sides.

    You’ve already put the cost of hybrid articulated buses at up to $700K. Is it really such a surprise that BRT-style buses that can board like a train cost more?

    While in high-usage corridors it makes sense to consider a separate transit route (whether it is BRT or LRT) there are still heavy usage lines that don’t warrant BRT/LRT conversion, or still have considerable benefits as a regular bus route service.

    I agree in principle. There are also corridors that merit evaluation for conversion to streetcar service rather than light rail. As you know, I believe the Hawthorne/Foster corridor is a prime candidate for this.

    TriMet’s philosophy is “don’t spend anything on improving bus service”.

    So you’ve said. I disagree. Just because they aren’t focusing on bus service expansion at this very moment doesn’t mean they refuse to do so in the future.

    Instead, we should change that philosophy to improve current bus services to build ridership,

    Fine by me.

    in preparation of future growth towards BRT/LRT.

    Glad to know you see a future in which LRT is at least possible.

    This can be done by adding capacity (i.e. articulated busses,

    It depends on where the articulated buses will go. They’ve been shown to be problematic on the transit mall and along narrow congested arterials like Hawthorne.

    increased headways

    Do you mean decreased?

    keeping in mind that a 40′ bus and a 60′ bus have the same labor costs

    Yes, and also keeping in mind that by the same standard a 40′ bus and a 200′ LRV have the same labor costs.

    three articulated busses per hour vs. four non-articulated busses per hour have roughly the same capacity

    Only if you have multiple boarding doors and non-driver fare enforcement.

    but TriMet’s choice has higher operating costs, and some routes are more frequent than 15 minutes!!)

    Frequency is as important as individual vehicle capacity. I’d much rather live along a route with 40′ buses every 8 minutes than 60′ buses every 12. But once you’re down to less than 5-8 minute headways, I agree that articulated buses should be considered if the route is appropriate.

    off-bus improvements such as improved bus stops and sidewalks,

    I’m not fully aware of what’s gone on outside the city limits of Portland, but you’ll be pleased to know that Portland and TriMet have cooperated to provide enhanced bus stops, curb extensions, pedestrian access amenities, and shelters along a number of important bus corridors, including most recently streets like Alberta, Hawthorne, and Sandy.

    Mr. O’Tooele isn’t denying that there is a cost.

    He is deflecting the argument, and not pointing out the costs. Hand waving at best.

    LRT infrastructure can’t be used for anything else but a light rail train.

    That’s called “dedicated right of way” and one of the reasons that light rail has a higher average operating speed and better schedule reliability than buses that mix with traffic.

    If you want dedicated ROW, it’s going to cost money, whether for bus or rail.

    (For those who are going to argue this point, Streetcars are light rail.)

    Really, Erik, why present an argument that is so easily disprovable? People drive on the streetcar tracks every day. You just said that “LRT infrastructure can’t be used for anything else” and then you said that “Streetcars are light rail”.

    I personally think that streetcars make an idea “light rail lite” in certain circumstances, but you’ve just made a completely self-contradictory set of assertions.

    A=Roads B=Rails A+B is greater than A. That’s all that Mr. O’Tooele stated.

    Where in the heck did he state that?

    You are trying to suggest that busses incur a significant cost towards roadway maintenance

    Yes.

    what exactly is the cost of TriMet’s bus service against the metro area’s roadway system?

    Because of all the weight in the rear of a bus all put on a single axle, the wear-and-tear on roads is comparable and sometimes exceeds that of an 18-wheeler. Take a look at the pavement deterioration that happened along the mall, which was repaved several times, for a good example.

    Given that TriMet busses are such a small percentage of the total vehicle count, my guess is not much.

    Guess again.

    (However, I will say that the rutting problem that exists on N.W. Cornell Road turning left onto N.W. 158th Avenue in Beaverton just off the Sunset Highway is clearly a TriMet problem but that TriMet isn’t fixing – it was bad when I lived in that part of town prior to 2000, and it’s now 2007 and still horrible!)

    Fortunately, on the mall rebuild as well as at some points on recently reconstructed streets, some major bus stops are being rebuilt with concrete pads rather than asphalt.

    – Bob R.

  85. The Smooth Operator
    November 19, 2007 at 9:33 pm Link

    Erik,
    The 100 series LR cars were designed to be maintainence and rebuild friendly. This is in contrast to busses, which are, for lack of a better term, a disposable capital expense(a 10 year old city bus at the end of its service life is worth about 5k at auction). ***As a side note; when Portland Traction discontinued city trolley service in the early 1950’s they were still using rolling stock that was 50+ years old!

    As for Trimet’s busses they DO get limited rebuilds-mainly there is a contract with Cummings to swap old engines for new “cores”-I do not know the details though. I do know that the maintainence folks at Trimet are the reason that our busses last so much longer that the national average. They are some of the best in the nation.

    I do not know where you are getting your numbers for articulated busses, but they seem very low. I recently talked to a manager in the maintainence department at Center, and asked him what the price of a 2800 series bus was. The answer-500K to 550K. The two hybrids at Center were given to Trimet as test vehicles by the manufacturer. Their price tag? 620K. I looked up the price that Eugene paid for the EmX (on the Lane Transit website)-920k. It seems to me that articulated/hybrid drive busses are VERY spendy-a little less that twice as much for half a bus. Isn’t that the same complaint that you have for LRT?

    Also, if Trimet DID put artics on 12B as you suggest-3 per hour instead of 4 forty-footers-that would mean less frequent service. So, would you then blame Trimet for “wasting” your time waiting for a bus?

    Finally, I called the scheduler in charge of the 12 line to ask-just for you-if there were any improvements in the works. The answer was “yes”. The schedule for the 12 is getting a total rebuild including added busses, dwell time at Barbour and Parkrose TC’s and hopefully better ontime performance. This was supposed to take effect Dec. 1, but the whole thing had to be delayed due to the major re-route on line 71. Extra busses are needed there for now. So it looks like March 1 or there abouts.

    Now that you have some good answers to your complaints about line 12-could you please come down from the cross? We could use the wood…for Light Rail ties…

  86. Erik Halstead
    November 19, 2007 at 10:59 pm Link

    Because any other comparison is apples-to-oranges. We’re talking about equivalent levels of service and capacity. I think I made that point clearly enough with my example of Dash 8 vs. 737.

    So you’re saying there is absolutely no comparison between light rail and bus service? Then why did TriMet abolish any bus lines when MAX was inaugurated, if there is no comparison?

    Those express lines to Gresham? Should still be running.

    The 5-Interstate? Should still be running.

    58? Shound be the Sunset Highway Express. 57 should be a through route from Portland to Forest Grove. 88 shouldn’t turn at Willow Creek, it should continue all the way to Portland.

    Bus and LRT is a comparison and it’s a comparison that TriMet and Metro make daily. It’s only apples-to-oranges because I’m forcing you to come clean and you don’t want to.

    You’ve already put the cost of hybrid articulated buses at up to $700K. Is it really such a surprise that BRT-style buses that can board like a train cost more?

    You’re telling me that a freakin’ DOOR costs $100,000?!!!!!!

    Glad to know you see a future in which LRT is at least possible.

    Never denied it. In fact you should clearly known that my argument is not anti-light rail, rather TriMet’s total insistence on light rail projects, which has eroded all financial support for bus projects.

    I was a huge supporter of the blue line extension to Hillsboro – and TriMet also launched numerous bus routes to coincide with Westside MAX. However after South|North failed, TriMet decided to self-fund both the Red and Yellow Lines – using money that should have gone towards bus improvements.

    It depends on where the articulated buses will go. They’ve been shown to be problematic on the transit mall and along narrow congested arterials like Hawthorne.

    State your source. Why would an articulated bus be a problem on the Transit Mall, where they operated successfully from 1981 to 1997? If they were such a problem, why did they last 16 years?

    Where in the heck did he state that?

    Quoting Mr. O’Tooele: And rail maintenance is far more expensive, whereas buses share the cost of road maintenance with autos and trucks. Just like I stated in my post that you conveniently overlooked.

    Really, Erik, why present an argument that is so easily disprovable? People drive on the streetcar tracks every day. You just said that “LRT infrastructure can’t be used for anything else” and then you said that “Streetcars are light rail”.

    Do cars use the Streetcar rails? No. Do cars require the Streetcar rails? No. Can those Streetcar rails be used for anything but a Streetcar? No. Do those Streetcar rails require maintenance? Yes. Does it cost more to maintain a street with streetcar rails than a street without those same rails? Yes.

    Because of all the weight in the rear of a bus all put on a single axle, the wear-and-tear on roads is comparable and sometimes exceeds that of an 18-wheeler. Take a look at the pavement deterioration that happened along the mall, which was repaved several times, for a good example.

    Bob, I asked:

    what exactly is the cost of TriMet’s bus service

    You are obiviously fishing without answering the question. Let me ask the question again.

    WHAT EXACTLY IS THE COST OF TRIMET’S BUS SERVICE AGAINST THE METRO AREA’S ROADWAY SYSTEM?

    A dollar amount will suffice.

    Guess again.

    Again, do you have an actual statistic to show that TriMet busses are a significant amount of motor vehicles on Portland area streets?

    Since you obiviously are fishing for assumptions rather than hard data, I’ll take a look at Highway 99W through Tigard and compare with the number of line 12 and 94 busses.

    According to ODOT, 99W carries anywhere from 17,000 to nearly 54,000 ADT each day.

    According to TriMet, there are 17 morning/inbound 94s (two of which originate at Barbur Blvd TC), 19 afternoon/outbound 94s, 74 outbound 12s, and 72 inbound 12s. That’s a total of 182 revenue runs.

    Now let’s just assume that every 94 has a deadhead run associated with it, so take 17+19 (36) and multiply by two or 72. So we’re up to 218. And for kicks, we’ll just assume there are 32 other busses that are non-revenue deadheads, or busses that are using Barbur for whatever reason (i.e. a 61 or 64, or a deadheading 96). So 250 busses. Heck, for your sake I’ll say 300.

    300 against the LOW traffic count of 17,200 (99W @ MP 3.20, south of Capitol Highway/Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway) is 1.74%.

    300 against the HIGH traffic count of 53,800 (99W south of I-5, Tigard/Portland City Line) is one-half of one percent.

    Back in my high school Alegbra class, both of those numbers would have been termed “statistically insignificant”. I’ve done my homework, so where are you on your cost numbers?

    —–

    I do not know where you are getting your numbers for articulated busses

    http://www.metrokc.gov/kcdot/news/2004/nr040527_hybrids.htm
    The hybrids cost $645,000 each – approximately $200,000 more than a new diesel bus.

    http://www.metrokc.gov/procure/green/BUL102.pdf
    Metro Transit will pay $719,000 per bus for its initial order of 22 buses to be delivered next Spring,

    http://www.isecorp.com/hybrid_information_center/hybrid_benefits/economic-benefits.php

    http://townhall.townofchapelhill.org/agendas/2007/01/22/4d/
    (16 busses @ $5,869,178 = $367,000/each)
    (3 articulated busses @ $618,010/each)

    So, would you then blame Trimet for “wasting” your time waiting for a bus?

    I don’t support running three artics to replace four 40-footers, but it can be done and maintain capacity while reducing operating cost (25% reduction in labor, similar reduction in fuel cost). However on lines like the 12, 57 and 72 where there is clearly sufficient ridership, the 15 minute headway should still remain (frankly it’s a bit ridiculous that the 72 is running at a less than 10 minute headway on 82nd Avenue!! That should be reason enough for articulateds!)

  87. Bob R.
    November 20, 2007 at 12:49 am Link

    So you’re saying there is absolutely no comparison between light rail and bus service?

    No.

    Erik first stated that Mr. O’Toole said: “A=Roads B=Rails A+B is greater than A. That’s all that Mr. O’Tooele stated.”

    I asked “Where in the heck did he state that?”

    Erik replied with: “And rail maintenance is far more expensive, whereas buses share the cost of road maintenance with autos and trucks. Just like I stated in my post that you conveniently overlooked.”

    Erik, where in that quote do you see “A+B is greater than A” ?

    As for your ADT counts you’re neglecting the impact of axle weight, which has a disproportionate affect on pavement wear.

    And the figures you quote for bus costs do nothing to back up Mr. O’Toole’s “10X” claim.

    – Bob R.

  88. Matthew
    November 20, 2007 at 2:28 am Link

    “You’re telling me that a freakin’ DOOR costs $100,000?!!!!!!”

    No. 3 doors, (one of them in the front left side, requiring a complete redesign of the driver’s area and the bus frame,) and a lift costs $100,000. One door is quite a bit less than that.

  89. Scott
    November 20, 2007 at 9:32 am Link

    While not entirely on topic, I found this to be one of the better takes on the pro/anti-Light Rail debate:
    http://www.mindspring.com/~tbgray/dumbrail.htm

  90. Erik Halstead
    November 20, 2007 at 9:22 pm Link

    As for your ADT counts you’re neglecting the impact of axle weight, which has a disproportionate affect on pavement wear.

    And ONCE AGAIN you are refusing to answer the question – you have now twice skated around answering the cost figure, so I will presume you are unable to back up your claim, and we will move on.

    And the figures you quote for bus costs do nothing to back up Mr. O’Toole’s “10X” claim.

    Nor have I tried to; in fact my statement of bus prices was not even directed towards your “10X” claim but to respond to another contributor with regards to the sources of bus prices I have seen versus what he has been told through internal sources at TriMet.

    However a 40′ bus can be acquired for around $350,000 and a LRV costs around $3.5M – that’s a ten-fold difference – in very simple terms. Do I subscribe to the simple logic? No – because as you stated, a bus and a LRV serve different purposes; just as Alaska Airlines’ B737 fleet serves a very different purpose than the fleet of its sister company Horizon Air. A Bombardier Dash 8-Q200 is not appropriate on a Seattle-Anchorage flight; just as a Boeing 737-900 is overkill for a Portland-Eugene flight.

    I just read on http://www.airliners.net that a Q400 (Horizon’s mainstay flight model) runs about $20M; Boeing’s website reports the cost of a B737 around $45M. But again, it’s not that simple – the 737 range is much farther, the altitude/speed much higher, the passenger/cargo capacity greater ; but the Q400 serves smaller communities far better than a 737 and requires far less ground support (a Q400 can literally serve a community with no ground support but a 737 can’t without extensive modifications – that’s why Alaska Airlines has a subfleet of self-contained 737s in intrastate Alaska service.)

    The same analogy is true of bus versus rail – there is a right place and time for rail and as I’ve said numerous times, I am NOT ANTI-LIGHT RAIL. I am against disinvestment in the bus service as a whole to favor the limited rail service – it would be akin, once again using the Alaska Air Group analogy – to Alaska Airlines getting a fleet of B737-800s or -900s while Horizon Air has one of the oldest fleets in the nation, one of the poorest reliability records, and the worst fuselage interiors of any airline in U.S. service. Alaska Air Group isn’t TriMet, however – it has invested equally in both, and has expanded Horizon service. In some communities it has replaced Alaska service with Horizon (some people complain because they don’t like turboprops, but in smaller communities the jets don’t make sense) and other communities have seen Horizon service replaced with Alaska service – because ridership grew over what Horizon’s fleet could support.

    I should also mention that Alaska Air Ground has been more or less consistently profitable despite the turmoil in the aviation industry, and it didn’t have to declare bankruptcy.

    I would not have my beef with light rail service in Portland if TriMet would simply invest in the bus service like we’ve been promised all these years. The only reasonable way is to “catch-up” the bus system by putting a hold on light rail development; unless you know of a way to improve MAX service while simultaneously undertaking a massive bus investment program.

    That was done in 1997 when TriMet built Westside MAX and built a new network of bus routes in Washington County and in Clackamas County (I still remember the ad TriMet ran in the newspaper showing a picture of a cul-de-sac with a minibus in each driveway promoting “The Local”.) The only thing stopping TriMet from doing it again is Fred Hansen’s ego and the “transportation planning” folks at Metro that have a bias against bus service.

    And the “transit advocates” that justify stripping bus service in favor of light rail and streetcar.

  91. Bob R.
    November 20, 2007 at 9:47 pm Link

    And ONCE AGAIN you are refusing to answer the question – you have now twice skated around answering the cost figure, so I will presume you are unable to back up your claim, and we will move on.

    Sorry, Erik, if I don’t have a data point immediately available for every one of your arguments.

    Nonetheless, clearly it’s in the tens of millions just for the transit mall alone.

    – Bob R.

  92. Erik Halstead
    November 25, 2007 at 9:56 am Link

    Let’s compare two Portland area projects.

    Sandy Boulevard – Burnside to NE 47th Avenue. Cost: $7.9 million, or over $3.6M/mile

    Project Accomplishments:

    Improve pavement conditions,
    More curb extensions
    Concrete bus pads
    Increase pedestrian crossings
    Enhance Transit access/stops
    Reconfigure intersections

    Portland Mall – Install MAX and improve 5th & 6th Avenues.
    Cost: $557M (this is the total cost of the 8.3 mile corridor), or $67M/mile

    Unfortunately TriMet/City of Portland won’t break out the cost of just the 5th and 6th Avenue stretch, but I would imagine it is the most expensive since the I-205 corridor is being built in an existing but undeveloped right-of-way requires little in the way of utility relocation, demolition of existing development, etc., and is therefore less expensive (and faster) to construct.

    Let’s look at the original Portland Streetcar cost:

    Line from NW 23rd Avenue to PSU (Montgomery Street stub) – 4.8 miles, $57M or $11M/mile.

    Again, even the “low cost” Streetcar comes in at four times the cost of simply repaving the street – the Streetcar did not include a width-of-street rebuild or sidewalk improvements (except at the Streetcar stops), so the $11M/mile was essentially a cost to rebuild one lane of street, whereas the Sandy Boulevard’s $3.6M/mile lane was for the entire width of the street (four to five lanes) – and included improvements to sidewalks and bus stops.)

    So to summarize, your argument that the Portland Mall project “had” to be done – would have been a far less expensive project had it been simply a refurbishment project for busses only. However in typical Portland fashion – there is no expense spared for the light rail system, but it’s always “nickel and penny” the bus system. After all, who paid for the bus stop improvements on Sandy Boulevard?

    (Hint: it wasn’t TriMet, and it wasn’t even PDOT or Metro. Thank God that Sandy Boulevard used to be a State Highway.)

  93. AL M
    November 25, 2007 at 11:16 am Link

    The only good thing about the Mall re-do is that it gets rid of the old mall. The old transit mall was a nightmare to drive through and pretty much a dead zone for retail. Good for drug dealers though!

    Putting the Max through there seems to me like typical pork barrel spending.

    And the streetcar, I think that thing is a complete joke, although loads of people ride it, free transit is pretty popular I guess.

    The streetcar was a complete duplication of already existing bus service.

  94. Bob R.
    November 25, 2007 at 11:26 am Link

    Erik –

    I specifically claimed that bus impacts to the pavement of transit mall were in the “tens of millions”. I did not lay the entire cost of the project at the feet of buses. I even lobbied hard to preserve existing elements of the transit mall, including shelters, rather than develop expensive replacements.

    Streets downtown have a higher trim level for everything from sidewalks to street trees to signal masts and streetlights, plus all utilities are underground. This affects project costs considerably. The level of heavy vehicle traffic on the transit mall is also significantly higher than along Sandy — at peak times in the past it has exceeded 100 buses per hour.

    – Bob R.

  95. Nick theoldurbanist
    November 25, 2007 at 12:07 pm Link

    The big joke about the new mall is that everyone is going to be terrified of cauing a crackup between a bus and a MAX car. So everyone is going to crawling along like snails–I hear the TOP speed is going to be 15 MPH!

    MAX screws up the bus sytem again. This is why, AS A RIDER, I am so opposed to MAX; plus, Portland does not have the density for rail.

  96. djk
    November 25, 2007 at 12:14 pm Link

    So everyone is going to crawling along like snails–I hear the TOP speed is going to be 15 MPH!

    The old transit mall had buses stopping every two blocks whether there were people waiting or not, and they frequently wound up waiting at lights. What was the top speed of mall buses prior to MAX going in? I doubt it was very fast.

  97. Ross Williams
    November 25, 2007 at 12:46 pm Link

    No vehicle should be going faster than 15 mph on the transit mall.

  98. AL M
    November 25, 2007 at 1:20 pm Link

    “The big joke about the new mall is that everyone is going to be terrified of cauing a crackup between a bus and a MAX car. So everyone is going to crawling along like snails–I hear the TOP speed is going to be 15 MPH!”

    What they need to do IS BAN AUTO TRAFFIC.

    What a bunch of dolts running things around here if they think that buses, auto’s and trains are going to make for efficient operations!
    “““““`

    “The old transit mall had buses stopping every two blocks whether there were people waiting or not, and they frequently wound up waiting at lights.”

    The old transit mall was completely non functional, it had to go!

  99. The Smooth Operator
    November 25, 2007 at 1:20 pm Link

    **So everyone is going to crawling along like snails–I hear the TOP speed is going to be 15 MPH!**

    This is pure bosh!!!! The average speed for the Trimet bus fleet is only 18mph!

  100. AL M
    November 25, 2007 at 1:25 pm Link

    “The average speed for the Trimet bus fleet is only 18mph!”

    Really? I didn’t know that, where did you get that info?

  101. Bob R.
    November 25, 2007 at 1:37 pm Link

    According to the TriMet web site’s ridership statistics summary (PDF), the average vehicle speeds (fleet-wide, FY2006) were:

    Bus: 15.8mph
    Rail: 19.4mph

    These averages do not reflect top speeds, rather they reflect the average speed including all stops.

    As for the transit mall itself, when passing it is (was) possible to observe buses exceeding 15mph, but the timing of downtown traffic signals would prevent an average speed much in excess of that number — drive sufficiently fast and you’ll always catch up to a red light. This will be true for both buses and trains when the mall reopens.

    One thing which should improve average speeds slightly is that the stop spacing on the new mall will be approximately 4 blocks, depending on the particular bus route or rail line. This will equate to more time spent in motion and less time stopped.

    However, it does mean a longer walk for some patrons. (On the old transit mall, you were rarely more than a 1 block walk from your stop, once you reached the mall. Now, you may be a 2 block walk away from your stop.)

    – Bob R.

  102. AL M
    November 25, 2007 at 1:43 pm Link

    Bob I just looked at that chart and don’t see where the average miles per hour are?

    You know what I like about that chart?

    HOW LOPSIDED IT IS FOR BUS RIDERSHIP VS RAIL RIDERSHIP.

    8:1 more bus boardings than rail boardings, which gives credibility to Nick and Erik’s complaints.

  103. AL M
    November 25, 2007 at 1:47 pm Link

    woops, i found it, on the last page….sorry

  104. AL M
    November 25, 2007 at 1:50 pm Link

    Wow, that’s actually surprising, rail is not that much faster than bus!

    That’s really surprising, so no wonder its on the last line of the last page!

  105. Bob R.
    November 25, 2007 at 1:51 pm Link

    Um, Al, I think you were looking at the stats for 1987, it is a 6-page document … look again.

    Currently, MAX carries 34% of all system boardings, and 36% of all originating rides, but does so with less than 12% of revenue hours. (Meaning, generally, that 12% of operators in service are MAX operators, but they are carrying 34%+ of the boardings.)

    The average vehicle speeds, depending on the year, are at the bottom of pages 3 and 6 of the document.

    – Bob R.

  106. Bob R.
    November 25, 2007 at 2:05 pm Link

    Wow, that’s actually surprising, rail is not that much faster than bus!

    To hear the way some critics complain, you’d think that buses would be faster. But, in spite of the much-discussed slow running across the surface streets of downtown, MAX still comes out 23% faster than buses. And if you aren’t crossing downtown, your real speed is much faster.

    For example, a scheduled weekday rush hour trip from Lloyd Center to Cleveland Avenue (end of the line in Gresham) is 33 minutes, for an average speed of 23.5 mph, including all stops.

    so no wonder its on the last line of the last page!

    It’s on two pages, 3 and 6, and the fact that it is included in a “ridership statistics” document (which by definition doesn’t really need to have speed statistics included) shows that TriMet isn’t trying to bury or hide this information. This document, in one form or another, has been available on the TriMet web site for over 5 years (probably longer) and has never needed more than 2 clicks to access from the homepage.

    – Bob R.

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