Under New Management: TriMet and the Trust Gap

What ought to be of concern to TriMet’s riders and supporters was Friday’s front page article by Joseph Rose, who covers the transportation beat for the paper. The title says it all: Will TriMet bond measure get the support of those who actually ride TriMet? In the article, Rose (who is quite knowledgeable on the subject) interviews several regular TriMet riders who have expressed ambivalence or opposition to 26-119–despite the fact that a cursory analysis suggests that it would be beneficial to transit riders, particularly bus passengers.
Apologies in advance. This article is probably too long by far; and reflects lots of thoughts over the past week or so.

Last week, the Oregonian recommended a no vote on Measure 26-119, which would provide TriMet with $125 million to “improve transit services and access for elderly riders and people with disabilities”. PT covered the recommendation here. But given the libertarian bent the paper has taken in the past year or so, that they would oppose 26-119 isn’t terribly surprising.

What ought to be of far greater concern to TriMet’s riders and supporters was Friday’s front page article by Joseph Rose, who covers the transportation beat for the paper. The title says it all: Will TriMet bond measure get the support of those who actually ride TriMet? In the article, Rose (who is quite knowledgeable on the subject) interviews several regular TriMet riders who have expressed ambivalence or opposition to 26-119–despite the fact that a cursory analysis suggests that it would be beneficial to transit riders, particularly bus passengers. The measure’s title refers to the elderly and disabled, but a key part of the measure’s purpose is to permit the agency to retire more and more of its aging fleet of high-floor busses. All bus patrons, not just the disabled, benefit from the more modern rolling stock–everybody wins when (un)loading wheelchairs and walkers doesn’t require use of a mechanical lift to get up/down stairs. (And any new bus purchases would assuredly come with air conditioning–many of TriMet’s older vehicles lack this basic amenity).

So what is going on here? Why is an apparently significant group of TriMet patrons so apparently unenthusiastic about supporting the agency on which they depend?

A lot of it appears to have to do with trust. Many TriMet riders have seen their service degrade over the years, despite billions of dollars being spent on new investments. And there seems to be a fear that this will continue.

The bus/rail divide

Much has been written about the so-called “bus/rail divide”–a viewpoint which holds that busses and trains are in competition with each other for resources; rather than complementary parts of an integrated system. This writer thinks such a viewpoint is fundamentally wrongheaded. I care about transit, not about busses or trains, as do many others. When interviewed by Rose, TriMet GM Neil McFarlane noted that “this isn’t about one mode competing with another. It’s a system and we’re trying to optimize the efficiency of the system for the future”. But this article isn’t about what I think, or about what Neil thinks–it’s about what an apparently large (and vocal) number of transit users think.

In the public debate over the initiative, the bus/rail question is rearing its head. One cluster of opinions seems to be that the sort of things to be funded out of this measure are things that TriMet should have been funding in the ordinary course of business–and that funding for major new capital projects (such as rail projects) are what ought to be sent to the voters for approval or rejection. (I’m not entirely unsympathetic to that argument, though there’s something to be said for leveraging federal grants…) There’s also an expressed fear in some quarters that this measure itself is really about rail–that TriMet would make these purchases anyway using other sources (and that passage of the bond measure would free up funds for further MAX expansion), or that the wording of the ballot text is so loose that TriMet might simply renege on its promise to spend the proceeds on new busses and bus stops, and spend it on rail instead. Neil McFarlane indicated that the first theory at least is false in an interview with Rose; wherein he was clear that the bulk of the proposed bus stop improvements and new purchases would not happen were 26-119 to fail.

Listening to customers

There’s a well-known saying in the restaurant business: The Customer Is Always Right.

The saying doesn’t mean that customers necessarily know more than the kitchen staff about cooking–in most cases, they don’t. It means, instead, that in service industries–and transit is a service–one must pay attention to one’s customers, and address their issues. Simply aiming for the “sweet spot” of the market–a strategy which often works when peddling consumer goods–is inadequate when proving services, where winning repeat business is a must. Transit differs from restaurants in that switching to a competitor is harder and more expensive–but the same is true in the other direction. And many customers are telling the agency loud and clear, that like Michael Keaton trying to change a diaper in the movie–you’re doing it wrong.

And for many of the agency’s inner city patrons, “wrong” refers to the relentless expansion of rail transit. MAX. WES. Even the Portland Streetcar (many patrons, I suspect, don’t know or care about the difference between TriMet and Portland Streetcar, Inc). The merits to rail over local bus service are many (higher passenger volumes, greater operational efficiency, attractiveness to certain bus-phobic demographics, electric traction, better reliability†), but none of these things matter if the trains don’t run where you live. And they matter even less for passengers who see their service being cut, while ribbon-cuttings are taking place in other parts of town.

(†Many of the listed rail advantages are also shared by Bus Rapid Transit, which is not discussed in this post.)

Service cuts

But is new MAX service the “cause” of the recent service cuts? Or is it, as TriMet insists, the economy? It is apparent that new service openings are separate “events” from recent service cuts–reductions to bus service in Beaverton weren’t part of the financing plan for the Green Line, for instance. It stands to reason that had the economy not hit the skids during the latter part of the aughts, most of the service cuts would not have happened (or might be less severe–given that rising benefit costs are also a big part of the story). TriMet vows to restore services if and when the economy recovers–but that may be a big “if”; a significant number of commentators think that the present economic malaise may be a long-term condition.

For many riders, though, it simply doesn’t matter. Most riders don’t follow transit politics; they just use the service. And when they see fares going up, service hours being cut, and look! A new MAX line to Clackamas, and there’s Earl in a Hawaiian shirt!–it’s easy to assume that the two events are related; that their bus no longer runs on Sundays because of the Green Line. And many longstanding passengers, it seems, subscribe to a “seniority” model of service planning: only add service when it is certain that existing services won’t be impacted (even if there is a downturn); and the most recent services added should be the first ones to be reduced. Even prior to the Green Line’s completion, there were quite a few calls among riders to delay its opening and divert the operational funds to lessen service cuts elsewhere.

Some of TriMet’s other recent decisions, while technically defensible, likewise, have terrible optics–the decision to make Fareless Square rail-only was, in retrospect, incredibly tone-deaf and ham-handed. There’s a good reason it was done–free fare zones don’t mix well with pay-as-you-board fare collection. It’s too easy to cheat, and bus drivers have enough to worry about without remembering who in the back of their bus paid what. But it’s easy to come to the conclusion that TriMet views busses as second-class.

Going upscale

But the bus/rail divide is about more than the simple question of “how good is my service?”. There’s also the fundamental question of the direction of the agency, and what values it has. Over at the other blog, I’ve beaten an entire stable of dead horses on the subject of transit values; and a fundamental principle that undergirds much of this debate: Arguments about mode choice are really arguments about values. And for many inner-city transit users, who more and more are seeing train tracks extending out into the suburbs (and through the toniest parts of downtown), there is this primal fear that the agency no longer cares about them–that TriMet’s values are changing.

Getting back to the restaurant analogy: We all probably have a story about a favorite restaurant that “went upscale”–that transformed from a local neighborhood hangout that provided great food at low prices, to one that markets itself to an upper-class clientele (and is noticeably more expensive). For me, that restaurant is probably Pho Van, which once (and still does) served some of the best Vietnamese noodle soup in town out of a small storefront on 82nd. Back in the day, it was a popular hangout for my friends and I. When you went inside, many of the patrons were Vietnamese, and the furnishings wouldn’t look out of place in a fast-food joint. Then it moved to a newer, larger location down the street. And then it opened a new restaurant in the Pearl, and added “Bistro” to the name. (Today the Pearl District location is called “Silk”). Then it opened other restaurants throughout the metro area–and it seemed the pho became more and more of an afterthought–instead there was a greater focus on the entrees and on the wine cellar. Often times nowadays, the only people heard speaking Vietnamese are the staff. Pho Van is still a fine restaurant, and I still eat there (there’s one out here in Beaverton), but it’s… changed. It’s values are different. It’s not the same place I loved to hang out in while in college. It now markets itself to a wealthier clientele, many of whom wouldn’t be caught dead in the original hole-in-the-wall location out on 82nd.

And for many people, that sort of change is terrifying.

Such it is with many riders’ view of TriMet. Many voices are echoing the same point–that TriMet’s values are changing. That it cares more about suburban commuters (and trying to draw them out of their cars), and the “bohemian bourgeois” who inhabit places like the Pearl, than it does about the people who already use the system, who depend on it, and have done so for years. That it focuses too much on “being green”, that it forgets that the most important part of being green for a transit agency is getting people to use it in the first place. That the agency is more interested in placemaking than in providing transportation–and that rather than providing service to where people live, it is now trying to get people to live where it can efficiently provide service. That it’s captive to developer interests and politicians looking to pad their resumes. These views may well be unfounded or unfair, but they exist nonetheless–and they represent a fundamental challenge to the agency.

Under new management

If there is one bit of good news for TriMet in all of this, it’s that the recent departure of Fred Hansen gives the agency an opportunity to reconnect with the ridership from which it has alienated itself. Neil McFarlane, so far, has IMHO done a reasonable job in the 3 1/2 months he’s been on the job; his management style strikes me as quite a bit more open-minded than that of Hansen.

But–this is the last restaurant analogy, I promise–simply hanging a sign which says “under new management” isn’t good enough. We’ve all seen such signs hanging on the doors of local greasy spoons, trying to lure former customers back with the promise that “we’ve changed!” (It’s especially amusing to see these signs on chain restaurants). But people don’t choose restaurants due to the boss; they choose due to the quality of the food and the service. And if the food is still lousy and the service still slow, new management won’t help.

Discussion

Apologies, again, for the long rambling article. At this time, the floor is open for discussion on how TriMet can improve customer relations, and whether it needs to or not. If you think it’s hopeless, say so–and if you think that this whole debate is a tempest in a teapot, say so as well. If you think that MLR ought to be scrapped (quite a few readers here hold that opinion), say that; and if you think that certain patrons of the service are simply whining about changes to their line, say that (but do it politely). But I’m also hoping for some creative ideas, ones that haven’t been hashed out in the media and blogopshere already. One other thing: I’d rather not bog this discussion down with more detailed debate on TriMet’s finances–while it’s an important issue, the existing thread on 26-119 is a good place for that.

46 Comments

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46 Responses to Under New Management: TriMet and the Trust Gap

  1. Steve S.
    October 19, 2010 at 9:42 am Link

    Of course MLR should be scrapped.

    But I sure don’t think you explain the circumstance very well.

    For instance, how you can say Neil is doing a fine job?

    Many people see it different than you. I would say the majority. They recognize that he and TriMet are making all sorts of false claims. That matters.

    TriMet claimed the cuts were due to the economy when their funding rose and fringe benefits soared the same amount $27 million as the cuts.

    More are imminent.

    Neil and other Trimet staff continues to falsely claim TriMet only heard in this past July that the feds match would only be the 50%. Even though multiple stories have reported in detail they new at aleast 18 months earlier.

    When critics quote TriMet’s own audit the GM says

    “That’s adding apples, oranges and grapefruits together to get a completely unreasonable number,” said Neil McFarlane, TriMet’s general manager.

    Deceptively suggesting the numbers are a creation of critics.

    They’re right out of the audit.

    The auditors do not add fruit up to get unreasonable numbers. But McFarlane didn’t tell the auditors or the TM board this new spin of his.

    MLR is being propped up with every stunt the “partners” can cook up. That alone is a fatal flaw.

    Raiding future MSTP funding that is already always terribly short of needs, shifting imaginary Sellwood bridge savings to MLR, sacrificing the project itself.

    This in addition to the local match financing plan having no new money to back it up.

    All of it relies upon current revenue streams that simply cannot afford any more losses than the economy is already causing.

    Yet this reality never comes into the discussion. There’s been no due diligence ever aimed at the effects of taking so many millions from the lottery funded programs, schools, public safety and other essential services. There’s been no analysis to determined that MLR is a better use of those many millions. That’s usually called negligence.

    According to State treasurer Ted Wheeler the State is tapped out and that includes lottery backed borrowing. So with all of the things the State and lottery supports why would MLR be sustained ahead of so many other desperate needs? Many people recognize this as extraordinarily foolish and reckless.

    Yet in the big push to move this forward all the pushers are like deer in the headlights when confronted with the cold hard facts.

    The need for MLR has become embellished to represent a great and vital accomplishment for Portland’s “model for the nation” approach and it must go forward at any and all costs.

    While flying in the face of ALL of the challenges and flaws this has become increasingly insulting to many.

    The spin that supposed to make it appear prudent has been something.

    Carlotta Collette, as Metro approved the recent MSTP money grab, expressed her enamor over the idea Portland will have the first ped/bike/transit bridge in the country.

    We naysayers say big deal. No one has done it because it’s a foolish idea and a waste of money.

    Much like WES or building the Green Line in the wrong place. How do loyalists toss aside those whoppers anyway?

    And of course TriMet itself is on the precipice of fiscal collapse having made commitments they cannot possibly keep and now 60% of their staff working on things other than providing transit service.

    People who want better transit service service should be demanding a major overhaul of TriMet that only begins with scrapping MLR.

  2. Jason Barbour
    October 19, 2010 at 12:58 pm Link

    There’s also an expressed fear in some quarters that this measure itself is really about rail…
    That’s one of my concerns.

    Transit differs from restaurants in that switching to a competitor is harder and more expensive…
    In the case of transit, there is no competitor. One may argue cars and/or bicycles, however they are a totally separate category.

    …bus-phobic demographics…
    Long have I admired C-TRAN for their ability to run quality service and get people excited about riding buses. Sure, many of the 105/134/157/164/177/190/199 riders are going directly into cars at each routes’ respective park-and-ride, and many of them are riding less than every day of the week, but those are less SOVs going across the Columbia River. Compared to TriMet, their old buses look brand-new (I even thought the legendary 2080 was when I rode that in the mid 00s). And, they bought new buses with their ARRA funds.

    TriMet vows to restore services if and when the economy recovers
    There again, a tale of two agencies. Spokane Transit identified 2016 as the year they think revenues will return to 2007 levels, although no thoughts have been provided as to how much service that will buy in 2016. Granted, sales tax is different than payroll tax, however they are providing the public with a rough estimate of when they think things will sort out.
    http://www.spokanetransit.com/about-sta/view/proposed-september-2011-service-reductions/

    Neil McFarlane, so far, has IMHO done a reasonable job in the 3 1/2 months he’s been on the job…
    So far, I totally agree.

    I have to run for now, I might be back with more later.

  3. Jason McHuff
    October 19, 2010 at 4:42 pm Link

    trying to get people to live where it can efficiently provide service

    The real problem is that the marketplace should be doing it but the marketplace is broken (and that essay could be a post in itself). Maybe spending money on a Milwaukie MAX line isn’t the best idea, but it’s not possible to have a rational discussion as many outside factors (money from the Feds, riders who won’t use a bus solution, traffic congestion on existing roadways, etc) affect the choice.

    Also, I’d like to note that the Green Line is 2/3rds faster (fully half an hour in one direction) vs. Line 72 between Clackamas and Gateway. And that helps many retail workers and other non-upscale transit riders.

    Lastly, The Oregonian’s Anna Griffin did a column that mentions some of the issues raised here.

  4. R A Fontes
    October 19, 2010 at 5:36 pm Link

    Weekday ridership on the 72 was 17,080 for the 2009 summer quarter before Green went on line. It was 16,540 this spring. So for all but about 500 one-way trips, the 72 is still a better deal for most riders.

    Remember, too, that a good chunk – over 40% – of all Green trips are entirely within the FRZ.

    That said, I still believe that Green was a relatively good LRT investment compared with Yellow & Orange.

  5. Jason McHuff
    October 19, 2010 at 8:49 pm Link

    Weekday ridership on the 72

    I did some Fall 2008 vs 2009 comparisons. While I don’t know how much is diversions from other lines, the overall corridor (72+MAX) ridership is up over what was the best year on the 72.

  6. Steve S.
    October 19, 2010 at 9:28 pm Link

    Monday morning I drove into Milwaukie from the south on McLoughlin at 8:15 AM.

    There was no traffic to speak of.
    I drove right by Park avenue and into Milwaukie and no traffic.

    Modern buses could be coming from many neighborhoods in the greater area and south with no trouble at all.
    A tiny fraction of the cost could enhance transit service all around the region.

    RA

    Can you elaborate?
    “Remember, too, that a good chunk – over 40% – of all Green trips are entirely within the FRZ?

    Where is that?

    As for the Green being a good LRT investment, Metro now says it was built in the wrong place.

    Of course when it was being promoted with the farce that it would “spur development along 82” people like me called BS on that claim.

    Now Metro has discovered what was obvious then?

    I say they knowingly built it with full awareness of the difficulty for the development they like to see. That was just another obstacle they ignored and why they cannot be allowed to spend $1.5 billion on another experiment.

    Despite the perpetual campaign to create the illusion they do, these projects and plans are not well thought out with normal and reliable controls and considerations.

    It’s all ushered along with theoretical concepts without regard for much of what should be major considerations.

    Milwaukie Light Rail is the ultimate example and never has there been more effort to put lipstick on a pig project.
    If this project finds tooth fairy and proceeds it will be far worse than the Tram, Wes and building the Green Line in wrong place combined.

    There’s zero need for this MLR at all. The bridge part is a disgusting waste of resources on a lavish fantasy that it will be so special nothing else matters.

  7. EngineerScotty
    October 19, 2010 at 10:57 pm Link

    Now that others have had a chance to put in their two cents (hopefully this thread will stay open a while–quite a few folks are off at RailVolution this week), I’ll throw in mine.

    It took TriMet a while to frustrate a good chunk of its ridership, and it will probably take similar amounts of time to rebuild the relationship–there’s no speech or simple gesture that will work. Throwing MLR under the bus (can you throw trains under busses? :) might mollify some people, but that would be the wrong reason for doing so. I’ve discussed BRT in the Milwaukie corridor before; and there are reasons that a BRT solution would work well there–but it’s a corridor which I think demands real rapid transit–BRT-light won’t cut it, especially north of Milwaukie. And the Caruthers Bridge is IMHO the most important part of the MLR project, even if no trains ever cross it–it improves the performance of (bus) transit throughout the SE quadrant of the city.

    But back onto the topic of the thread…

    Regardless of what happens with Milwaukie, I think one thing TriMet ought to seriously consider is a capital project geared towards improving the distributed bus system–rather than targeted improvements in a corridor. There are many, many, many traffic bottlenecks in town where busses (and cars) get stuck waiting for lights and such–even out here in Beaverton. A project in which significant money is spent installing bus lanes, queue jump lanes, and other priority infrastructure at these known hotspots would significantly improve both the efficiency of the bus system, and the service levels. If you can speed up bus service, it’s a win for both customers (who get a faster, more reliable ride) and for the agency (who can provide the same service with fewer busses, allowing additional service to be provided elsewhere). I’m not talking about BRT here, where the improvements are concentrated on a single corridor; but throughout the system.

    A second idea relates to Fareless Square–whoops, I mean Free Rail Zone. The reason busses are now excluded makes sense–people were evading fares by boarding downtown and riding beyond the Square boundaries. But only being able to use trains makes FRZ far less useful–try getting from the Pearl to City Hall using only rail, for instance. To solve that, and to further improve the operational efficiency of the bus system in general, my humble suggestion is to introduce PoP (proof of payment) fare collection on certain frequent service lines (eventually, all of them would be nice, but this can be rolled out in stages). These lines would have onboard fare machines (like the Streetcar), have unique route numbers (9F, 14F), and possibly a different colorscheme–and would permit all-door boarding. And–since they are proof of payment, they could be ridden free downtown. (Of course, TriMet really ought to do a better job at fare inspection…)

    A third gripe: TriMet needs to lose the Monday-Friday habit. M-F schedules are fine for commuter lines which provide parallel service to existing full-time services, but an alarming number of busses in the system don’t run on weekends and have no usable alternative service. It’s far better IMHO to reduce frequency and maintain a seven-day schedule then it is to go to weekday only, when a bus line is the only one in a given neighborhood. Many of TriMet’s riders are low-income folk working service jobs–jobs which typically require working weekends; the agency does these patrons a disservice when they cut the weekend service. (The result is often that they buy a clunker in order to get to work, and then don’t take the bus at all anymore).

    Finally… TriMet (and Metro, JPACT, and all the other cooks in the kitchen) needs to weight QoS a bit more heavily in project evaluation criteria–and do a better job of future discounting. While it’s good to look ahead, I’m not sure that replacing half of a bus line with a slower rail line on the basis that a projected future traffic nightmare in 2030 will make the bus slower still, is a wise idea.

    At any rate: Actions, not words, are what matters. Given the long timeframes involved in project planning and delivery, the actions may take a while to occur, but they need to start sooner or later.

  8. jimkarlock
    October 19, 2010 at 11:05 pm Link

    Jason McHuff Says: (quoting another person) trying to get people to live where it can efficiently provide service

    The real problem is that the marketplace should be doing it but the marketplace is broken (and that essay could be a post in itself).
    JK: Not really, the real problem is that people are making the choices that they perceive as what is best for them. You disagree with the choices people make and thus claim the market is broken, when in reality the people simply don’t want to live like you think they should.

    Jason McHuff Says: Maybe spending money on a Milwaukie MAX line isn’t the best idea, but it’s not possible to have a rational discussion as many outside factors (money from the Feds, riders who won’t use a bus solution, traffic congestion on existing roadways, etc) affect the choice.
    JK: It’s actually fairly simple: What is the cost and what is the benefit of each way of solving the problem.
    First what is the problem we are trying to solve?
    Second what are the options.
    Third pick the best.

    It only gets complicated when planners have made a choice of mode and are looking for justification of their choice.

    Thanks
    JK

  9. Michael, Portland Afoot
    October 19, 2010 at 11:17 pm Link

    Scotty, where do you hear McFarlane saying that “the bulk of the proposed bus stop improvements and new purchases would not happen were 26-119 to fail”?

    The bus stop improvements would not happen if the measure fails. Everyone’s clear on that. So what we’re talking about is the bus and LIFT purchases.

    And in McFarlane’s response to Rose’s final question, McFarlane says that if the measure fails, the bus and LIFT improvements would happen slowly over many years, paid for by general funds. The measure would save $2 million in TriMet GF next year, and $8 million in the next five years. So, um, about $40 million to the general fund over the 20-year lifespan of the $125 million bond?

    As I’ve been arguing for two months, this is a lot of money! It is a huge share of the value of the bond. And unless I’m missing something, voters still have no specific promises about how it’d be used, other than to accelerate bus/LIFT purchases that McFarlane says are going to gradually happen anyway.

    Believe me, I’m sick and tired of making this argument. It will not effect my own vote for the measure.

    But it drives me crazy that TriMet keeps claiming that a large share of this ballot issue would not fall into its general fund, immediately before conceding (as McFarlane does in the Rose interview) that a large share of this ballot issue would fall into its general fund.

    I wish they would just say, “Not only will this improve bus stops and speed up bus purchases, it’d save money in our general fund, which we could use for neat things like service preservation and a new MAX line. Neat, huh?”

  10. EngineerScotty
    October 19, 2010 at 11:27 pm Link

    Scotty, where do you hear McFarlane saying that “the bulk of the proposed bus stop improvements and new purchases would not happen were 26-119 to fail”?

    I’m perhaps guilty of being a bit imprecise. You are correct that bus and LIFT purchases would happen, eventually–but the schedule for them would be (as you note) considerably delayed. Whereas if the levy passes, purchases would be accelerated, and the benefits of the new rolling stock would be seen fare more quickly.

    And yeah–TriMet could do better with the messaging.

  11. EngineerScotty
    October 19, 2010 at 11:29 pm Link

    Er, far more quickly. (But “fare more quickly” would work to, if nicer busses attract more paying customers…)

  12. Michael, Portland Afoot
    October 19, 2010 at 11:53 pm Link

    And Scotty, I apologize for disobeying your request not to get into the finance weeds.

    I don’t have great ideas for TriMet to reboot its brand. I do have my own diagnosis of its problem.

    TriMet’s ballot issue strikes me an example of an institutional mistrust of the public.

    Now, the agency’s policies could certainly be worse, and I know some are trying to make them better.

    But after several months of covering TriMet, I’ve found it unpleasantly reminds mme of the public housing agencies I’ve covered: A group of well-meaning public servants who are certain that voters, in their hearts, do not approve of their work.

    Public servants who therefore conclude that voters must often be kept in the dark, for their own good.

    This attitude does not tend to win voters’ trust.

  13. Jason McHuff
    October 20, 2010 at 1:41 am Link

    when in reality the people simply don’t want to live like you think they should

    So do you think its acceptable that when people a new housing development is built in a suburban school district, the developer isn’t required to pay for the new school capacity that becomes needed? That its OK for the cost to get passed on to all the residents in the district, even ones whose neighborhood schools have long since been paid for? Especially when a nearby district has so much extra capacity it can’t keep schools open?

    If the marketplace was actually functioning, I bet you’d see people making a lot different choices on their own.

  14. Jason McHuff
    October 20, 2010 at 1:51 am Link

    Or to put it another way:

    people are making the choices that they perceive as what is best for them

    …in the marketplace that they are presented with. A marketplace that does not show all of the costs and consequences of the choices.

  15. jimkarlock
    October 20, 2010 at 5:05 am Link

    Jason McHuff Says: So do you think its acceptable that when people a new housing development is built in a suburban school district, the developer isn’t required to pay for the new school capacity that becomes needed?
    JK: Why doesn’t the school bond against future property taxes from the NEW HOUSES? And if there are people in those new houses, they are paying taxes and that money is immediately available to be used to hire teachers and buy supplies. (If the classrooms get to 30-35 students, well Boo-hoo – I attended grade school in those sized class rooms and it worked just fine. We even had temporary buildings to handle the boom.)

    Jason McHuff Says: That its OK for the cost to get passed on to all the residents in the district, even ones whose neighborhood schools have long since been paid for? Especially when a nearby district has so much extra capacity it can’t keep schools open?
    JK: Are you hinting that people should be forced to live only where there is existing school capacity? If there is existing capacity, perhaps people are leaving for a reason – like high taxes (Portland) or crappy schools (parts of Portland)? Would you just force people to suffer crappy schools for their kids? Perhaps require a permit to move?

    Jason McHuff Says: If the marketplace was actually functioning, I bet you’d see people making a lot different choices on their own.
    JK: Alternatively, it is functioning and you don’t like the result. Sort of like the previous claims that the market wasn’t functioning when people choose the inferior picture quality VHS over the superior picture quality Betamax. Turns out people were choosing lower cost and longer playing time over picture quality. (Yes, this is relevant to this discussion as an example of a popular misconception about an alleged market failure. One I heard repeated by a planner.)

    Jason McHuff Says: (quoting JK) people are making the choices that they perceive as what is best for them

    …in the marketplace that they are presented with. A marketplace that does not show all of the costs and consequences of the choices.
    JK: If that is true, how is that the fault of the people making the choice? And why does the government not collect its true costs? In view of the rather high “system development fees” and being a government, perhaps is just claiming a need for more money, wether or not the need is real.

    BTW, a couple years ago the American Dream Annual Conference toured a planned development in Texas where the developer built the schools and the parks and the libraries and the churches and the lakes and passed the cost on to the home buyers. The cost of those home that completely paid their own way (and provided a nice profit to the developer) was about ½ of the cost of homes in Portland. Of course they didn’t have Metro driving up the cost of housing with their flawed artificial land shortage. And they cut a deal with the county to be exempted from any regulation that was not safety related – huge cost savings!

    Compare that with the housing that the City of Portland gets built – condos only affordable by millionaires in the North Macadam ghetto. Maybe the real problem here is too much government. And too many planners. And not enough evil developers building what people ACTUALLY want, instead of what the planners want. (Hint it is not a living over a garage in an infilled 15′ wide house without a backyard. Or side yard. Or front yard. In a house that destroys the neighborhood’s existing sense of place.)

    Thanks
    JK

  16. Paul Edgar
    October 20, 2010 at 8:03 am Link

    The people have lost faith in Tri-Met. The up-coming vote should pass on the message (we hope they understand) that we want Tri-Met to get their act together before they ever come back to the voter and/or legislature again.

    It is a self feeding entity who has lost track of its mission and the responsibility to move people quickly and affordably around its service area.

    MAX trans by the nature of the tracks cannot move most people to and from their homes to work without buses. When we reduce bus routes and bus frequency, we reduce the very connectors that enables MAX to work.

    Where is the problem with Tri-Met?

    To me it is in everything that is reflected in this building of a massive bureaucracy, that can only survive with new project to be justified in its scale. Then add-in unjustifiable salary cost and benefit structure and this organization is getting eaten up from from within.

    We need good transit capabilities, justified by marketplace and need, not hype. It must provide fast, convenient and affordable service, where it can compete with other alternatives. If this is not possible, then a whole new evaluation of what this organization should be, must happen.

    I for one believe that the Milwaukie MAX Line extension to Park Place in un-incorporated Clackamas County is stupid. This MAX Line plan is so far down the track and without leadership to change its course, more problems and embarrassment will raise its head.

    The plans call for Clackamas County to contribute $25-M to the project. Well Clackamas County plans to put in a Urban Renewal District along McLoughlin Blvd and the businesses, citizens and the Clackamas County Fire District #1 are not going to go along with this UR District.

    This means that the funding issues of this Milwaukie MAX Line into the City of Milwaukie are far less settled then most people understand. This is a real problem and it is a reflection on what is and has been held back from the citizenry, in responsible information releases.

    Paul

  17. Cameron Johnson
    October 20, 2010 at 10:10 am Link

    (Paul Edgar Wrote) The people have lost faith in Tri-Met. The up-coming vote should pass on the message (we hope they understand) that we want Tri-Met to get their act together before they ever come back to the voter and/or legislature again.

    (I, Cameron Johnson, am just now writing) I basically said this a million times, and I bet I’m annoying people by now, but by saying NO on this, it’s basically doing one of the following

    1) Being vengeful to TriMet by telling them “Take these improvements and shove it! You reduced my bus line last year!” This makes us as voters look like bad people who don’t care about anything more than vengeance.

    2)It sends the impression that we don’t care about bus service, so TriMet will care less about it as well. Need more cuts? Well, the bus is first on the chopping block, cause people don’t want new bus improvements. (However, MAX may lose a minute of frequency- the horror! O_o)

    3)It could very well do what Paul hoped and send TriMet a message that they can’t screw with our money for p.o.s. projects such as Milwaukie MAX (while I support transportation in general, this is ridiculous and wasted money, that could be going towards a million other transit or citywide projects) but, to be honest, the TriMet board is TriMet’s weakest point, and they’re very dim to transit. They probably won’t get it.

    I’d vote yes, but as I say every time I wish I could vote, I remember that while Teenagers pay Washington’s shopping taxes and soon soda taxes and sweet food taxes, we’re not allowed to vote on what to do with it because we’re teenagers, and society seems to deem us unworthy to decide to do with our own money. Sort of like your mother spending your allowance for you. (When you were a kid of course)

    And so concludes my mini-rant.

    Peace!
    Cameron Johnson

  18. R A Fontes
    October 20, 2010 at 10:22 am Link

    Steve asked last night about the source of the ” over 40% – of all Green trips are entirely within the FRZ.” It was calculated from TriMet’s Spring 2010 Passenger Census which shows numbers of riders getting on and off at each stop. Since Green ends at PSU, it’s easy to just add all the weekday inbound ons from Lloyd Center to PSU [4315] and outbound offs in the other direction [3305], then divide the total of the two by TriMet’s Route Ridership Report total for weekday Green [19440] and you get about 39.2%.

    That’s obviously less than the “over 40%” that I reported earlier. At that time, I just looked at inbound ons which ended up being a lot greater than outbound offs. So I just doubled the ons, and thought erroneously that using the words “over 40%” would include the margin for any error. Wrong.

    I’m sorry for misleading anyone.

    There are discrepancies with TriMet’s passenger counts. The passenger census data almost never have the same numbers of riders getting on and off the vehicles over the entire routes. They also have significant numbers getting on at the last stop or off at the first. In this case, it’s 119 and 33, respectively. So, if we took those out of the count we’d end up with 7468 FRZ passengers, or about 38.4% of the total count. What would be the most accurate way of counting this group?

    Yellow’s FRZ proportion would be 32.3%; 31.1% without the questionable terminus counts.

    Since the Passenger Census does not track individual riders, it doesn’t supply equivalent data for Red and Blue lines because they pass through downtown rather than terminate there.

    The Route Ridership and Passenger Census reports are not part of TriMet’s normal public information program. Citizens have to bug staff analysts to get them. I don’t expect to be asking for more unless a specific need comes up.

  19. EngineerScotty
    October 20, 2010 at 10:30 am Link

    Cameron,

    Wait until you start paying property taxes. :)

    I think Michael’s comments regarding a siege mentality at TriMet are probably spot-on. There are many other useful public agencies that seem to find themselves in this situation–especially those that work with the poor.

    OTOH, in a democracy, the people are entitled to the government they want (and deserve), so I would heartily advise TriMet to come out of the bunker if that is indeed the case. Portland has a strong pro-transit consensus; the agency almost certainly need not fear the prospect of the MAX tracks being paved over and the busses all sold on eBay.

  20. Bob R.
    October 20, 2010 at 11:06 am Link

    If the classrooms get to 30-35 students, well Boo-hoo

    Translation: Freeways must get more and more capacity at the mere hint of “congestion”, even double-decked through low-density suburbs, but public schools mustn’t reduce “congestion”.

  21. Lenny Anderson
    October 20, 2010 at 11:23 am Link

    Hey, its only fair that we give the new General Manager some time, and to his credit the first thing he does is ask the voters to fund new buses, new LIFT vehicles (a huge cost center) and better bus stops. I thought that is what some have been urging TriMet to do!
    re MAX…it is a simple fact that it serves more riders with better service at lower cost. A full train in the Milwaukie corridor will replace four plus buses, run in its own ROW, and attract riders who won’t go near a bus. In the private sector a company that shys away from making capital investments goes out of business.
    If you are unhappy about losing bus service, then look at how many seats are empty on the bus you ride…getting people into those seats is everyone’s job, not just the agency’s. It is irresponsible to expect TriMet to run empty buses.
    Last, critics of public transit from the “right” object to the “public” part of the deal, whether its transit, librariers, schools or whatever. So I always skip over their rants.

  22. Bob R.
    October 20, 2010 at 11:47 am Link

    Cameron (and anyone else interested in formatting your comments) –

    Here’s how you can italicize and boldface (although that’s seldom preferred) text when quoting replies… These are examples of “HTML” code:

    Preface any text you want italicized with this: <em> and then end it with this: </em> (the inclusion of a slash means “end this”…)

    Preface any text you want boldfaced with this: <strong> and then end it with this: </strong>

    To indent text, such as a quotation or excerpt, open with this: <blockquote> and close with this: </blockquote>

    For example:

    <blockquote>The <em>quick brown fox</em> jumps <strong>over</strong> the lazy dog.
    &lt/blockquote>

    Will display as:

    The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.

    Note: All of these things must be done within a single line of text without hitting return, otherwise our blog software will intervene and turn off your formatting. (At least it tries…)

  23. Jason McHuff
    October 20, 2010 at 12:37 pm Link

    bond against future property taxes from the NEW HOUSES

    Maybe because that money is expected to be allocated to different things? Also isn’t that like Tax Increment Financing, which I don’t think you support? (Its actually worse, since it costs a lot more to expand services than to just cover cost increases.)

    immediately available to be used to hire teachers and buy supplies

    I am not talking about operation expenses such as those. I am talking about capital (e.g. school building) expenses.

    Are you hinting that people should be forced to live only where there is existing school capacity

    While that would be most efficient, it would be OK if the new development paid for new (suburban) capacity.

    crappy schools

    How much of PPS’s problems are because declining enrollment, leading to lower funding and school closures?

    people choose the inferior picture quality VHS over the superior picture quality Betamax

    Was that marketplace affected by government interference (e.g. subsidies and/or favorable policies?)

    how is that the fault of the people making the choice

    Did I say it is their fault? And no, I think the subsidies, policies and other things that distort the marketplace should be blamed instead.

    And why does the government not collect its true costs?

    The true costs are not collected from the people who really create them because certain groups get laws/rules passed that are favorable to them.

    North Macadam ghetto

    I haven’t heard of that area being plagued with gangs or violence. Or being where Jews were required to live. Or being composed of minorities. Or being isolated.

    what people ACTUALLY want

    Well, what if I want a house trimmed with gold? Is it a problem that those aren’t being built?

  24. jimkarlock
    October 20, 2010 at 1:55 pm Link

    Jason McHuff Well, what if I want a house trimmed with gold? Is it a problem that those aren’t being built?
    JK: Metro hasn’t banned these yet, just find a builder and cut a deal.

    Thanks
    JK

  25. Bob R.
    October 20, 2010 at 2:37 pm Link

    JK is correct. It’s not Metro that dictates what exterior colors you can have on your house. It’s usually the private HOA’s which dominate so many so-called “free market” developments which try to interfere with homeowner’s taste preferences.

    Although when shopping for a home which is near a particular place (your school, your work, etc.), one must “take it or live somewhere else” when it comes to HOA developments, we get to vote for our Metro representatives and if Metro policy gets too far out of step with public sentiment, new candidates will arise and policies will change.

  26. Bob R.
    October 20, 2010 at 2:38 pm Link

    But I digress… I’ve gone way off topic here. Back to TriMet.

  27. John Reinhold
    October 20, 2010 at 2:58 pm Link

    Most riders don’t follow transit politics; they just use the service.

    During my tenure as a citizen member of Metro’s TPAC – I have been saying this until I am blue in the face. I think they are tired of hearing it.

    I know that the reality is that pots of money can’t just be moved around. There are laws and strings attached to every dollar.

    But the people who work at the local agencies – which includes ALL jurisdictions – seem to forget that the whole reason they are in their jobs is to provide services to the population.

    The whole reason we have Metro and TPAC and city governments and Tri-Met and DEQ and Port of Portland – is to serve the people.

    We need to start thinking about PEOPLE first.

    We need to meet *real* needs.

    I don’t know how I will vote on this measure.

    I support Tri-Met and am both a user and an advocate of public transportation. I strongly support increasing our bus system and our rail system, and everything in between.

    But I am also unhappy with Tri-Met and how they have run things, and how they plan their routes. The whole reason I got started in Transportation Activism is the 217 corridor and the complete failure of Tri-Met to serve that area.

    In 12 years of activism – I have begun to lose faith that anything positive will be done by throwing money at the problems.

    So while I support the measure in principle, I oppose it in practice.

    This is a tough one indeed.

    I agree with many of the comments thus far. This is a good article, and has been a pretty good discussion – even the people who usually are inflammatory are making well reasoned and thought out points. I appreciate that! I even agree with JK on a few points (which happens rarely)!

    Are we helping here? Are we sharing good information? I think so.

    In the end reality is usually somewhere between anecdote and statistic. So maybe we are all right and wrong.

    I would like to see busses run more hours in the day, and more service on weekends (especially why does Tri-Met stop running before bars close?), and much more frequent service. I like trains and streetcars too. I am willing to pay for all of these things.

    Cheers, and happy voting! (except for those of you who are not yet 18, you’ll get to waste your vote soon enough, don’t spend your youth wanting to be older because soon you will be! Also – awesome that youth are reading these stories and taking part in the discussion)

  28. jimkarlock
    October 20, 2010 at 6:42 pm Link

    We need to start thinking about PEOPLE first.
    Of course the problem is that there is intense pressure to spend buckets of Trimet’s money on politicians’ pet projects, whether or not they are the best way to serve people.

    For instance, Trimet has become yet another land use, smart growth, TOD advocate, instead of trying to just serve the transit dependent in the best possible way. They even had a TOD builder as their head a few years ago.

    And, if you count the local match money in the cost of rail transport, you get an additional cost of around $60 million/year or an additional $0.32 per passenger-mile. Added to the operating cost of the $0.39, this makes rail come in around $0.71 per passenger-mile, far higher than many bus lines and double that of the best bus line!

    People are finally starting to realize Trimet’s mistakes and are getting reluctant to give more money to support Trimet’s drug habit.

    Thanks
    JK

  29. Steve S.
    October 20, 2010 at 7:10 pm Link

    Lenny you couldn’t be more wrong about
    Milwaukie/McLoughlin being served by MAX.

    There is absultuely no need for it at all.

    You’re applying lipstick to this pig

    A few modern express buses could serve the area very well.
    There could begin and end from more places and
    always be adjusted.

    A $1.5 Billion MLR is not better service for less money. That’s nuts.

    Have you driven the Milwaukie area at all?

  30. Jason Barbour
    October 21, 2010 at 10:10 am Link

    Most riders don’t follow transit politics; they just use the service.

    During my tenure as a citizen member of Metro’s TPAC – I have been saying this until I am blue in the face. I think they are tired of hearing it.

    I have even come across individuals who refuse to participate, worried that they will become a crime victim or be subject to other societal penalties (i.e., loss of job, ridicule, etc.) if they are identified as a transit user. This should not be the case.

    Cheers, and happy voting! (except for those of you who are not yet 18, you’ll get to waste your vote soon enough, don’t spend your youth wanting to be older because soon you will be! Also – awesome that youth are reading these stories and taking part in the discussion)
    Agreed. In fact, probably the only advantage of getting older is voting. (IMO, smoking and drinking are overrated and lead to unnecessary trip generation.) When I was much younger, I was told that “nobody is interested in these things” (referring to planning), when the reality was obviously that the phrase “for the kids/children” was being thrown around as a political ploy, heaven/wherever forbid that someone that young would be interested enough to actually read a report and figure out what was going on. Those who told me nobody’s interested were so wrong.

  31. John Reinhold
    October 21, 2010 at 12:27 pm Link

    we’d end up with 7468 FRZ passengers, or about 38.4% of the total count.

    One thing to keep in mind, although I don’t know how to track – is that the yellow and green lines opened light rail to south downtown, which includes PSU.

    Riders may have been attracted to transit by the new light rail line going south in downtown but transfer within the FRZ. Someone could transfer from the Blue or Red lines (or even busses) onto the yellow or green line – within the FRZ. So a portion of that percentage of FRZ riders are actually fare paying riders who have transferred in – as a result of the new downtown alignment.

  32. Lenny Anderson
    October 22, 2010 at 9:11 am Link

    “Express buses” cost more to operate, carry fewer passengers, will get stuck in traffic in the peaks, offer nothing to riders in between end stations and…so on. What’s to like about them?
    re transit ridership in general, note that the biggest, most expensive transportation incentive in the region is free parking, especially in employment/industrial areas. When parking is free and transit is not, you have two strikes against you when you step into the box.
    Lloyd District is an example of what happens when you go from free parking/paid transit to paid parking/free or lower cost transit. Mode splits flip! To any outfit, public or private, to put more service out when it runs tons of empty seats is nuts, especially when public policy rewards the operator of a private motor vehicle.

  33. EngineerScotty
    October 22, 2010 at 10:36 am Link

    “Express buses” cost more to operate, carry fewer passengers, will get stuck in traffic in the peaks, offer nothing to riders in between end stations and…so on. What’s to like about them?

    They are a good way of handling rush-hour loads, especially if there is parallel local service. (And there are some suburban riders who are terrified of stopping in the “scary” parts of town, who thus view the point-to-point nature of express busses as an advantage. Whether or not transit agencies ought to cater to such attitudes is another question…)

    But parallel local service, which runs all day, is important, otherwise you run into the guy-who-works-late-and-misses-the-last-bus-and-is-
    stuck problem. Poor coverage (whether geographic or temporal) is a major disincentive to transit use.

  34. Bob R.
    October 22, 2010 at 11:07 am Link

    But parallel local service, which runs all day, is important, otherwise you run into the guy-who-works-late-and-misses-the-last-bus-and-is- stuck problem.

    This is a problem with WES as well… Although depending on where you are going you can kinda/sorta find an equivalent set of routes to take you there, but there is no such thing as a “WES local bus”. (Although there is substitute bus service when the WES trains are having mechanical problems.)

  35. Bob R.
    October 22, 2010 at 11:10 am Link

    RE: Hong Kong… Right, I thought of them, but that’s a slightly different model where the private companies are competing for contracts under the supervision of a public authority. That’s not unheard-of. But I took JK’s comments to mean that TriMet would have to compete with independent companies which it had no control over and no contracting relationship.

  36. EngineerScotty
    October 22, 2010 at 11:15 am Link

    Well, the 76 works as a parallel route to WES, so long as you’re not trying to get to Wilsonville.

    OTOH, since Wilsonville long ago decided not to be part of TriMet… I have a hard time feeling sorry about this state of affairs.

  37. Lenny Anderson
    October 22, 2010 at 11:27 am Link

    Yes, but in heavily traveled corridors like McLaughlin, running that kind of combine express and local service instead of light rail is a huge money drain. Cost per ride will be lousy.
    An important distinction between rail and bus is the roll of the operator. On rail there is little interaction with operators and little variation in the quality of the ride overall. With the bus…and I ride one every day…a lot depends on the Op. Is he or she in a good mood, are they smooth drivers, fast drivers or slow pokes, and so on. Having a regular Op is really a plus, but often between vacation, sick days, etc. you get a lot of Extra Board Ops who sometimes don’t even know the route! Quality may well be defined as lack of variability or greater consistency in product, and rail has that over bus just in the way the vehicles handle.
    Where the bus service cuts have hit here on Swan Island are with end of trip, especially on the trip home. The 85 Swan Island can get employees to work and back to MAX, but out on the westside or eastside for the commute home, there has to be more frequent distribution service. And that is very costly to provide.
    Again, density is key, both housing and employment to make transit pencil out. Without it we beat our heads against the wall. Add free parking at employment areas to low density in outer disticts of the region, and you don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of making transit work. When a welder at the shipyards tells me he lives in Mollala, I say forget the bus! Yet a guy who rides the 85 with me most days does just that…Candy transit to OR City, 99 to downtown, MAX to RQTC, then the 85! He loves it. He has a pickup that gets 10 M/gal, can do the fuel price math, and does not have his ego wrapped up in his rig.
    A key question for TriMet management is how to get better Ops at lower cost; figure that one out!

  38. R A Fontes
    October 22, 2010 at 12:57 pm Link

    According to TriMet’s Spring 2010 Route Ridership report, the 99 ops cost was $4.07 per boarding ride (PBR) with 15.5 passenger miles per revenue mile. Now let’s assume that we replaced all buses in that service with new $600,000 diesel hybrids, that service miles were double revenue miles, each bus lasted only 300,000 miles, and that residual value for each bus was zero. So we’d have 300,000 service miles/2 = 150,000 revenue miles. 150,000 x 15.5 pax per revenue mile = 2,325,000 boarding rides during the vehicle’s life. $600,000 / 2,325,000 = about $.26 total capital cost PBR, or $4.07 + $.26 = $4.33 total costs PBR.

    Now let’s compare that with Milwaukie MAX using the $1.3 billion figure for capital costs and Metro’s 27,400 daily rider projection by 2030. [Yes, weekend ridership should be lower than that for weekdays, but there’s no problem giving every possible break to MAX in this calculation.] So we would expect 27,400 x 365 or 10,001,000 rides per year. Since the 99 costs $4.33 total PBR and the average MAX ride $1.50 for operations alone (August 2010 TriMet Performance report), let’s allow $4.33 – $1.50 or $2.83 be the maximum amount of capital costs we can prorate without going over the total costs for the 99. 10,001,000 total MAX rides per year x $2.83 = $28,302,830 per year towards MAX capital costs. So it would take almost 46 years before we could break even not counting interest, capital equipment replacement, the fact that the 33 cost about $1 per hour less than the 99 to operate, or the fact that diesel hybrids cost significantly less to operate than regular diesels. In the real world, we’re looking at a minimum of 100 to 200 years to break even.

    Does anyone really believe that Orange will be around as anything other than a museum piece 200 years from now if it’s here at all?

  39. jimkarlock
    October 22, 2010 at 2:14 pm Link

    R A Fontes Says: According to TriMet’s Spring 2010 Route Ridership report, ..
    JK: How does one get a copy of that report?

    Thanks
    JK

  40. R A Fontes
    October 22, 2010 at 3:01 pm Link

    “How does one get a copy of that report?” (TriMet’s quarterly Route Ridership report)

    You have to ask, and you have to be patient as TriMet’s PR people try to figure out who would be the appropriate person to whom you’ll be referred.

    As has been said here more than once, it really would be helpful if TriMet made its non-sensitive (?) performance reports available online without having to bug people. This stuff is already on computers and it really wouldn’t take that much extra to make it directly accessible.

  41. EngineerScotty
    October 22, 2010 at 3:14 pm Link

    “non-sensitive performance reports”…

    I am assuming that your definition of “sensitive” only includes those things which might be traceable to a single driver.

  42. EngineerScotty
    October 22, 2010 at 3:23 pm Link

    Regarding MAX vs the 99; the idea is not simply to “break even” on capital vs operating costs; the idea is to provide a superior service which benefits far more customers. Exclusive-ROW rapid transit (whether rail or BRT) is a far more useful thing than a peak-only, mixed traffic commuter service (including commuter rail running on freight lines, such as WES). It runs all day; it’s more reliable; and it offers similar end-to-end speed while serving far more customers–there is really no comparison.

    If you’re driving to a suburban park-and-ride and heading downtown, and are assured of heading back home before the last bus runs, perhaps stops along the way aren’t important to you. But a rapid transit line is more useful to more people–and increases the value of the system far more–than commuter-only service.

    BRT vs LRT in the Milwaukie context is an interesting debate to have. The 99 vs LRT is apples-and-oranges; the two are fundamentally two different types of service.

  43. R A Fontes
    October 22, 2010 at 5:41 pm Link

    The point was in reply to the oft stated claim that rail is cheaper than bus PBR. It can be, but only when ridership goes way, way up. As it’s cheaper to operate two buses than one MAX, there needs to be at least 110 passengers before MAX can compete on cost – – and that’s operational costs, only. Somehow TriMet and rail advocates all too readily “forget” to include capital costs.

    The 33 & 99 together provide about 6,300 rides weekdays. Metro’s projection for 27,400 rides daily only 20 years from now is astounding.

  44. EngineerScotty
    October 22, 2010 at 10:26 pm Link

    RA wrote:

    The point was in reply to the oft stated claim that rail is cheaper than bus PBR. It can be, but only when ridership goes way, way up. As it’s cheaper to operate two buses than one MAX, there needs to be at least 110 passengers before MAX can compete on cost – – and that’s operational costs, only. Somehow TriMet and rail advocates all too readily “forget” to include capital costs.

    The 33 & 99 together provide about 6,300 rides weekdays. Metro’s projection for 27,400 rides daily only 20 years from now is astounding.

    Not really. The Red, Green, Blue, and Yellow lines are now doing 130k boarding rides/day, and that’s during a recession. MAX does attract new riders, and not just on the train–it makes the entire system more useful, and thus attracts riders to the busses as well.

    System ridership now is DOUBLE what it was 20 years ago. How much of that is attributable to MAX vs other factors (population growth, fuel prices, etc). I have no idea, but MAX lines generally attract many more riders than the bus lines they replace. And ignoring any “social” advantages of rail (which seem to exist but are hard to quantify and to many, difficult to justify on ethical grounds–and why I also like to include BRT in the discussion), a faster, more reliable service is going to attract more riders than one which frequently gets stuck in traffic.

    MAX (or BRT) costs more than plain old bus service, but it provides more value (beyond lower operational costs). Whether its worth the additional capital cost is a matter of debate, but the investment does produce a return.

  45. R A Fontes
    October 23, 2010 at 9:11 am Link

    I really don’t understand why this particular project should generate the forecast numbers.

    The majority of 33/99 riders come from south of Park Avenue and would therefore have to waste time transferring. In fact, most runs of the 33 are faster than the 33/Orange combination.

    From which other lines that currently have through service will TriMet force riders to transfer to Orange? The 31 & 32 are obvious candidates. How about the 19, 10, and even the 17? If we force enough people onto Orange it could reach projections….maybe.

    MLR would have the advantage of providing a direct route to SOWA and PSU which the 33/99 does not. But jobs continue to migrate out of Portland, the internet is eliminating reason after reason for travel, and other technological alternatives to transit-as-we-know-it are coming; it’s just a matter of what & when.

    If transit operated at a profit; if it were faster and more convenient than alternatives; if it provided the highlight of the average rider’s day; if riders didn’t have to feel that they were surrendering control of part of their lives to entities which all too often give the impression that they just don’t really care; if, if, if. I really believe that the long term prospects for most transit are very bleak while those for transportation for people have never looked better.

    Sorry for the lapse onto the soapbox, but the point remains: “Metro’s projection for 27,400 rides daily only 20 years from now is astounding.”

  46. Lenny Anderson
    October 23, 2010 at 3:35 pm Link

    For LRT or true BRT you need exclusive transit ROW and that is where the bulk of the capital costs come into play. Add to that the reasonable decision to rebuilt entire streets rather than just lay track, and buidling a high capacity transit system that can drive landuse change is not cheap. It will be interesting to see of the residents of SW Portland will be happy with a low cost BRT option when that corridor gets its turn or whether they will push for inclusion in the MAX system. My guess is they will prefer the latter.

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