How important are new riders to transit, and how hard should the region work to attract them?

A discussion of the importance of new ridership to TriMet, and how hard the region should work to woo them.

At the center of many of the debates concerning TriMet’s future plans, and how transit dollars (both capital and operating) ought to be spent, are a fundamental pair of questions:

  • How important is attracting new riders to the system–both in general, and in the specific case of wooing motorists out of automobiles?
  • How much should this factor play in the region’s planning?

The agency–and many of its partners and funding sources–consider new ridership to be a fundamental concern, for myriad reasons, and the quest to attract them affects lots of things the agency does. But a longstanding complaint of many existing riders is that the desire for new riders frequently results in the dilution of existing services–and may be counterproductive.
The Fabled New Rider

Throughout the transportation planning industry, and especially in transit, the ability of a new or enhanced service to attract new riders is considered a key performance metric. Many federal funding schemes, such as New Starts, apply cost-effectiveness criteria in selecting projects for funding, and a key parameter used in evaluating cost-effectiveness is new ridership. On the surface, this seems reasonable: one of the key reasons for capital improvement in transit systems is improved service, and the ultimate purpose of transit is to move people. Given that for many potential users, transit demand is elastic (a better ride will attract more riders), ranking projects based on additional ridership is a reasonable way to approximate service improvement. There are other reasons for spending money on capital projects that aren’t directly related to ridership, such as operational efficiency, but many of the technical criteria by which transit can be evaluated (throughput, capacity, reliability) correlate rather directly with perceived service quality–and thus should be reflected in ridership totals.

Ridership (and new ridership) is also used in ex-post-facto evaluations and analyses of transit projects and modes. A recent post here at Portland Transport, Can We Intersect the Politics of Bikes and the Politics of Thrift, contained the following factoid:

Regional spending per new commuter, 1995-2010: bike/ped $5,538, auto $18,072, transit $84,790. Yes, read that again. http://bit.ly/fvszwa

Here, the cost-effectiveness of different modes are compared, with the metric of cost per new user being used. (And yes, the transit number needs to improve).

New ridership is important for other reasons as well. When the new riders are shifting from automobiles, resulting in cars being left in garages, there are numerous benefits–less congestion, less greenhouse gases emitted, less energy consumed. Regional policy considers environmental outcomes to be important, and actively seeks to encourage commuters to leave the keys at home and use transit (or human-powered transportation instead)–capital projects thus consider environmental outcomes in their analysis criteria and rate them highly.

Another reason for a transit agency to desire additional riders is to broaden its base of political support. Many transit agencies around the country operate on a subsistence basis, and are caught in a vicious cycle that works like this:

  • Transit is underfunded.
  • Transit agency can only afford to provide bare-bones service that is slow, infrequent, and unreliable. (And often crowded due to a low capacity resulting from a lack of frequency).
  • Transit is only used by the desperate or dedicated–service quality is so poor that anyone with the ability to use something else, will.
  • Transit is therefore widely viewed as a signifier of poverty, and something which stigmatizes its users. It also may be viewed as a form of “welfare”, or become associated with crime or other social pathologies that go along with poverty–causing the whole enterprise to be viewed with contempt.
  • Transit garners little political support
  • Transit is underfunded.

Transit which attracts so-called “choice riders”, on the other hand, is able to avoid this cycle. To the extent that transit is viewed as a public good, rather than a social service, it can attract broader political support, be better-funded, be able to offer more attractive service, draw more riders, and further upgrade its standing. Roads, despite their numerous drawbacks, benefit from a presumption of public good–nobody complains when the roads are empty at 2AM, or blames highways for causing crime when ruffians use them to get around. Even in the Portland metro area, a significant number of residents view transit as a needless expense rather than an essential service.

And the last reason I’ll give is probably the most obvious: More riders mean more farebox revenue. The marginal cost of an additional rider on a bus or train with empty seats is almost nil. Things get a bit more dicey when transit approaches crush loads, as an excessive number of passengers can severely impact dwell times at stops, and if you add enough passengers you may need to add additional capacity–but in general, each empty vehicle starts out well in the red, and each fare-paying passenger on board pushes it closer to the black.

Given all of that, it’s not hard to see why increasing the ridership basis–which means attracting additional riders to the system–is considered a goal of paramount importance.

Easier said than done

Given that, how does a transit agency attract new riders? We’ll focus on parameters that are within the purview of transit agencies in this article–actions to make driving more inconvenient or expensive will also shift people to transit, but we’ll not consider those. Many of these items are more fleshed-out here, but here’s a brief summary of how transit can be made more attractive.

Among the possibilities:

  • Expand where transit goes. There are many neighborhoods in the Portland metro area in which the only realistic way to reach transit is to drive to a park-and-ride–a tolerable solution for the daily commute, but not for many other types of trips.
  • Expand service hours. Likewise, TriMet has far too many services which only run five or six days a week–ruling out the service for many types of trips. Weekday schedules, in particular, are incompatible with many retail jobs, and retail workers earning low wages are more likely to be transit users.
  • Improve performance and reliability. Transit riders don’t ride transit because they like the bus or train; they do so because they have a desire to get somewhere else–so the lesser amount of time spent riding or waiting, the better. And in many cases, riders have schedules of their own to keep, so reliability is important as well.
  • Reduce cost. The higher the fares, the lower the demand for the service. Basic economics. And it’s important to note that auto ownership is dominated by fixed costs–many costs associated with driving (insurance, license fees, and for consumer autos, depreciation) don’t vary with distance driven. For someone who has an auto waiting in the garage, the car is often cheaper than the bus, especially for short trips.
  • Ensure sufficient capacity. It is annoying, and discouraging, to be waiting for a bus and see one drive by, so loaded to the gills that the driver won’t stop unless someone rings the bell to get off. It’s equally annoying to get to a park and ride or other multimodal transfer point and find no place to park; or no room to take your bike on board. Being unable to complete a journey due to insufficient capacity–especially if the journey is partially started–is frustrating, and if it happens regularly, will cause people to abandon the system.
  • Make it easier to ride. Transit use, especially for casual users, has many barriers. Ticketing is often confusing; route maps and timetables difficult to understand. Ticket machines malfunction. Platforms are hard to reach or are too far to walk (this is an important concern for limited-mobility passengers). Removing obstacles to transit use will attract riders.
  • Improve safety and security. People are less likely to use transit (or engage in other endeavors) if they think that doing so increases their chances of being mugged, harassed, or injured in an accident. Transit gets a lot of bad press here, much (though not all) of it undeserved–and many perceptions of (perceived) security spring from cultural prejudice, unfortunately. But a system which is viewed as unsafe will not attract riders.
  • Make it pleasant to rideWhen transit offers an unpleasant experience, this too discourages riders. Causes of unpleasantness include poor climate control, a rough ride (especially if you need to stand), excessive noise or fumes, uncomfortable seating, and overcrowding. Likewise, certain amenities may improve the rider experience. Transit offers one significant advantage over driving–you can use the time for other things besides operating a vehicle. But this advantage can be easily negated if you’re packed like a sardine on a crushloaded train.
  • Make it “cool” to ride. Here, “cool” is shorthand for a whole lot of personal foibles or itches that need scratching. It could refer to self-actualization (thinking transit is cool because of environmental outcomes), social status (avoiding the bus because you believe it signifies poverty), and numerous other things which are highly personal. Some of the conditions for “coolness” (or as NY transit blogger Cap’n Transit calls it, glamour) are things that its bad public policy to encourage–but regardless, someone who thinks that a given transit service is “uncool” is unlikely to ride, no matter its technical qualities.

The big difficulty, of course, is that advancing on all of these fronts is difficult with a fixed budget. There are only so many vehicle-hours available in a given service week. If TriMet spreads them out over a wider geographic area and/or expands service hours–then frequencies need to go down. Increase frequency here, cut frequency there. Providing service which is both optimal and equitable is hard.

So what’s the problem?

Given all of that, one might think that transit riders and activists would be eager to support initiatives to attract new users to the system. And indeed, TriMet is engaged in many programs which attempt to do just that (or at least purport to). But in some circles, there seems to be a backlash.

TriMet has several initiatives to advance the perceived quality of service, including bus replacement programs, support for TransitTracker and similar applications, and an increased security presence at trouble spots on the system. Recent budget cuts have had an opposite effect, with reduced service hours, canceled lines, and significant reductions in fare inspection.

But the biggest and most visible part of the region’s attempts to improve transit service is via development and construction of rapid transit. Quite a few riders are unhappy about this. And there are many good reasons why.

Rapid transit technologies, including (though certainly not limited to) light rail, offer significant advantages to their users over mixed-traffic bus service, including faster travel times and more reliable schedules. Rail has comfort advantages over bus–trains are bigger inside, don’t have to deal with potholes or rutted streets and the bouncy suspensions required to safely navigate public roads, or pull over to curbside stops and “kneel” to reach curbs. Likewise, electric traction has advantages over combustion-powered engines–no fumes, no jerky transmissions, quieter motors. And rapid transit technologies, especially rail, support far higher passenger capacities than can local bus (or streetcar) service. Many users consider rail to be a premium service over similarly-configured bus lines. As noted in a prior post ridership estimates for the Milwaukie MAX project were 33% higher for light rail than they were for a BRT solution of similar quality, and it was a major reason for the selection of light rail.

Yet a vocal portion of TriMet’s ridership opposes MAX expansion, and many other proposed capital projects. While many objections are given (some of which, such as concerns over transit workers’ jobs and allegations of pork-barrel projects, won’t be further discussed in this article), a common theme seems to be that TriMet is spending most of its money trying to attract new riders, when it should be improving the lot of existing ones. Many existing riders would rather see money spent on improving existing services in the system core, or providing basic service to areas where none presently exists, rather than building expensive rail lines out to suburban park-and-rides. In some ways, TriMet acts like telecom companies offering teaser rates to new subscribers, while insisting that loyal customers pay full price (unfortunately, rewarding loyal customers with higher prices is a time-honored tradition in business). TriMet is hardly unique–transit agencies over the world have the bad habit of segmenting their ridership into “choice” and “dependent” riders, and then focusing energy on the former while taking the latter for granted.

Objections along this line include:

  • New light-rail lines are alleged to dilute existing service. While TriMet doesn’t go about reducing service hours on non-redundant bus lines to provide operating revenue for MAX–the new services nonetheless need to be funded. And when revenue goes down, such as during a recession, all services are affected somewhat–it’s not hard to juxtapose the two events and conclude that TriMet is reducing bus service to pay for MAX. The opening of the Green Line, which occurred right in the middle of the Great Recession, provides an example–many users of the system were calling for TriMet to delay the Green Line’s opening and divert its funding to preserve existing services.
  • Existing bus riders resent the idea that one justification for the expense of rail is to attract riders who won’t use a bus. This is a tricky one to deal with–but there is a certain portion of the public who consider busses low class or otherwise undesirable–and thus won’t ride them, no matter how good the service–but who are willing to ride trains. And at least part of the allure of light rail is that it attracts these riders to the system. Many existing users, especially bus riders, find this an objectionable endorsement of unenlightened social attitudes; that the region should have no part of–especially when in many cases, bus technology (including bus rapid transit) can do a similar job for less money. To further this argument–if peak oil is really coming, expensive gasoline is likely to “cure” these retrograde attitudes in all but the wealthy, so why spend the extra money for rail?
  • Concerns about transit oriented development and “placemaking” agendas. To planners concerned with long-range environmental and land use goals, TOD can be a powerful tool, in that it adds to the supply of transit-convenient housing stock, permitting a higher quality of service to more residents. To existing riders who don’t live in the TODs (or nearby) and don’t want to move (or are unable to do so), the notion of building transit lines to serve new development (whether as part of the transit project, or lines running through greenfields or brownfields) rather than to existing neighborhoods, is viewed as particularly obnoxious. It’s one thing to try and attract new customers where they live; its another to supply transit to places where nobody lives (yet). This is especially a concern in a glutted housing market, with lots of vacant real estate. (TOD makes more sense if there is a true need for additional housing; better to have it transit-friendly than otherwise).

Other technical objections to rail (or rail as implemented in Portland) also arise:

  • A belief that rail should be reserved for capacity issues. One of the most important technical advantages rail has over bus is capacity–train cars are bigger than busses, and trains can consist of multiple cars. When you need to move large volumes of people along a corridor (with stops along the way), rail does the job more effectively. (One can get high levels of throughput with the “freeway of busses”, but that model breaks down when you have to stop somewhere). But dedicated rail lines which only see trains on fifteen minute headways, even at peak hours (and TriMet has several of these), are seen by many to be a waste of money–it is often argued that rail shouldn’t be built until the number of busses needed to serve a corridor reaches a tipping point.
  • Skepticism to mid-tier services. Mid-tier (or “class B”) services–where transit is moved out of mixed traffic, but still integrated with the urban environment rather than grade-separated, are a big part of Portland’s reputation in North American planning circles. Prior to the opening of MAX, most US transit agencies with rail systems ran mixed traffic (“class C”) bus service, coupled with fully grade-separated (“class A”) rail. Portland famously defied that conventional wisdom and ran surface rail lines through the middle of downtown, and down the medians of urban boulevards, providing service that is faster and more reliable than the bus, but nowhere near as speedy as traditional subway systems. Some users consider this a mistake, and believe that if we’re going to spend money on rapid transit it should be “done right” and be grade-separated and fast.
  • Concerns about service re-organization. This is another tricky one to deal with. Rapid transit invariably involves service reorganizations. Busses may be converted from downtown service to feeder service. Local-stop service parallel to the rapid line may decrease in frequency or vanish altogether. Express bus service in the corridor is generally canceled. A bus stop in front of someone’s apartment may be replaced by a train station half a mile away. And if the frequency/speed of the new transit service isn’t significantly better than the old local service, the net quality of service may well be worse than before. This is especially true for riders who use the system in off-peak hours, when local bus service isn’t as slow due to fewer boardings/disembarkings and less traffic.

On the other hand…
In defense of TriMet, there are several things forcing its hand.

  • Many sources of federal funding are only available for capital projects. The US government has, for more than a decade had a policy against funding operations–reportedly out of concern that operational subsidies would be used to give pay-raises to transit workers, not to expand or improve service. (For some reason, the same concern doesn’t seem to exist about construction wages…) Given that, its no wonder that TriMet has a focus on capital projects–like Dillinger’s justification for robbing banks, that’s where the money is. That said, it would be nice IMHO if there were a greater focus on spending capital dollars to improve the efficiency of operations, as opposed to using operating revenue to back bonds to pay for capital projects.
  • Suburban political pressure. TriMet gets quite a bit of its funding from suburban communities–particularly in jobs-rich Washington County, and many of these communities want better transit service. (Some, such as Tualatin and Sherwood, presently have lousy service). Many of the region’s poor, who need transit, live in the suburbs. And unfortunately, land use patterns in the suburbs are not transit friendly (and many who live there like it this way). Several suburban areas which haven’t gotten what they want have left TriMet over the years, or are threatening to. And its these communities where a disproportionate number of the won’t-ride-the-bus crowd lives. Given that–a mixture of light rail lines to the suburbs, coupled with upzoning/TOD along the lines and a few park-and-rides, is a useful solution–especially where there’s a well-traveled bus corridor. And the existing suburban MAX lines have been quite successful at getting suburbanites to use transit.
  • Mandatory goals. Getting back to the lead; many of the regions environmental goals have force of law–TriMet, Metro, and the other agencies involved in planning, are required to act in furtherance of things like increased transit mode share, decreased pollution, and such–like it or not, TriMet is more than just a transit agency. And these goals, like TriMet’s funding, are regional in scope–the region can’t depend on the city of Portland being green in every way it can, if other parts of the region continue to promote auto use. So getting people out of their cars is a fundamental concern, and transit is a big part of that. Given that the stick is politically difficult to wield, the region is left with carrots.

Thoughts? Is the region’s transit planning too fixated on attracting new riders to the system, and ignoring the needs of existing users? What mixture of improving existing service for established users vs trying to attract the hard-to-get ones is appropriate?

25 Comments

25 Responses to How important are new riders to transit, and how hard should the region work to attract them?

  1. Chris I
    April 28, 2011 at 7:18 am Link

    I don’t really understand the argument that MAX lines degrade bus service. The Seattle Transit Blog compared Portland’s light rail to Seattle’s, and the results were interesting:

    http://seattletransitblog.com/2011/02/15/portlands-federally-funded-rail-system/

    The vast majority of capital costs have been federally or privately funded. We have been able to build 52 miles of light rail using a tiny amount of local money, especially when compared to Seattle’s system.

    MAX has a lower cost per boarding, and provides a higher quality service. When I need to get to PSU from my house in Hollywood, I almost always take MAX. I could take the 12 or 19 (they are just as fast), but I prefer MAX, due to the schedule reliability, and smoother ride (it’s easier to study while riding). My wife takes MAX all the way to Hillsboro every day, and would most likely drive if her only option was a slower bus, possibly involving a transfer.

  2. AL M
    April 28, 2011 at 1:02 pm Link

    Another in depth article by Scott here, can’t read it all right now but expanding services while in a budget crisis (supposedly) is fundamentally flawed.

    There is a huge unfunded liability issue also, so not only expanding while in fiscal crisis but also increasing future debt.

    Long term riders have been abandoned, people that actually need transit services are being sold out to the “choice” rider concept.

    Transit has gone in the wrong direction for quite awhile now.

    Developers have hijacked the riders, its typically the way Amerika works now.

    Monied interest control everything, from the feds to the states, to the locals.

    Weather its tax cuts for billion dollar corporations or cutting bus service so they can support rail, its all the same in my eyes.

    They say on the side of the equipment now “#1 Transit system”.

    Can anybody actually take that seriously when you can hardly use the transit system on weekends and at night?

    Propaganda does not move people.

  3. Allan
    April 28, 2011 at 1:58 pm Link

    I think what we really need is a crush of congestion to merit congestion tolling. I wonder if we’ll ever get it with increasing gas prices. Improving service for existing riders will help them convince their peers to ride. I think that is the key to increasing ridership.

    Like you mentioned in the article its a choice. I think we are a bit too new-construction oriented. Given that the federal match seems to be headed downward to 50% or less, perhaps focusing on existing riders for now might be a good idea

  4. jimkarlock
    April 28, 2011 at 2:29 pm Link

    Just a quick note:

    1. The average operating cost of transit is much higher than an automobile. And will be at any gasoline price under about $15/gal (at which price few people will have jobs anyway.)

    2. Most transit trips take more time than an auto trip.

    3. Autos are door-to-door (except in downtown where parking is a problem)

    4. Transit does not save energy compared to the new federal mandates.

    The question then becomes:
    What is the public good of getting people out of their low cost, fast, convenient cars for slower, more expensive transit?

    Especially when that money could be better spent better serving people without other options.

    I say transit needs to redefine its mission back to the original purpose, when it was socialized, to serving needy people instead of re-configuring the society into one of more expensive, less convenient, slower travel.

    As to TODS, transit agencies need to quit pushing this form of HIGH COST housing just to make it easier for them. (Multi story always has a higher construction cost than single story – the choice, under free market conditions, becomes one of land cost vs construction cost. That free market gets bypassed with tax money subsidy to “make it pencil out” and we end up overspending for housing.)

    PS: I just got my hands on some video of Portland developers, a councilor and planning staff saying light rail did NOT cause development along the East side line. See http://www.portlandfacts.com/transit/lightraildevelopment.htm

    Thanks
    JK

  5. Bob R.
    April 28, 2011 at 4:52 pm Link

    JK’s assertions ignore the externalized costs of all the modes for comparison. (Read “the high cost of free parking” sometime, just for starters.)

    But more importantly, it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison. Transit offers a different type of service than self-driving. Someone else does the driving, freeing you to read, send emails, etc., which is becoming more and more commonplace and important, things which are very difficult to do when driving. Yet transit is way less expensive than private car services and cab rides, but nobody is suggesting we eliminate cabs.

    The private automobile will never go away (nor should it), but efforts to provide comprehensive transit to more than just the most “needy” people are worthwhile. (And, generally speaking “social service” transit is also the most expensive to provide on a per-ride or per-passenger-mile basis.)

    Now, back to actually discussing the relative merits of different types of transit rather than trying to dismantle most of it.

  6. Chris I
    April 28, 2011 at 5:26 pm Link

    JK,

    The costs of driving will always be higher than the costs of cycling. Does that mean that we should not subsidize auto travel and only build bike routes using the non-user revenue based local funding that we currently use on highways and transit?

  7. Erik H.
    April 28, 2011 at 8:19 pm Link

    I’m sorry, but this post is just a flat out joke.

    The “Among the Possibilities” list is an excellent list of the problems related to transit in general.

    And in fact as I read them, my little imaginary light bulb on top of my head was blinking on, thinking “YES! These are the things we need to address!”

    And then…

    the old, tired, anti-bus rant that is so typical of http://www.portlandtransport.org:

    Rapid transit technologies, including (though certainly not limited to) light rail, offer significant advantages to their users over mixed-traffic bus service, including faster travel times and more reliable schedules. Rail has comfort advantages over bus–trains are bigger inside, don’t have to deal with potholes or rutted streets and the bouncy suspensions required to safely navigate public roads, or pull over to curbside stops and “kneel” to reach curbs. Likewise, electric traction has advantages over combustion-powered engines–no fumes, no jerky transmissions, quieter motors. And rapid transit technologies, especially rail, support far higher passenger capacities than can local bus (or streetcar) service. Many users consider rail to be a premium service over similarly-configured bus lines. As noted in a prior post ridership estimates for the Milwaukie MAX project were 33% higher for light rail than they were for a BRT solution of similar quality, and it was a major reason for the selection of light rail.

    I thought that there could have been a serious discussion about ways to make the total transit system better but it appears this post is just another “why rail is better than bus…why we need more light rail lines…” argument.

    Phuleeze.

    TriMet has every tool in the book to attract new riders without new, expensive light rail lines. The fact that we spend eight times more money to attract a new rider (while ignoring the fact that bus ridership has been in freefall for years, directly in part to the perceived and actual decline in service quality) ought to speak volumes – are we getting our money’s worth? Simple, cost-effective improvements that we can plop down in any neighborhood without having to rip up a whole corridor for train tracks can make a huge difference in neighborhoods – and transit.

    Just to use the bullet points:

    Expand where transit goes.

    Simply put, it takes little effort to put in a bus line. New MAX, WES and Streetcar lines don’t expand the transit system. Are we really pushing to extend MAX as a way of inducing urban sprawl (which is exactly what happened in Quatama and Orenco – replacing hundreds of acres of farm land with apartments and condos)? Meanwhile, large parts of Forest Grove are over two miles away from the last 57 bus stop; the same is true of Sherwood and the last 12/94 stop. Large parts of Tigard are without reasonable service. A $100,000 Freightliner Sprinter running a shuttle bus is an inexpensive way to extend service.

    Expand service hours.

    Well, thanks to WES, the Green Line and the Portland Streetcar, we’ve been cutting a lot of bus service hours which directly translated into lower ridership. A bus running on a 75 minute headway is not exactly convenient nor encourages bus ridership (yet TriMet has a number of bus routes that run on 75 minute headways.)

    Improve performance and reliability.

    Running 21 year old 40 foot buses on peak-hour, crush-load buses is an embarrassment. We need new, reliable buses. We need buses that match capacity. And we needed them nine years ago – so why don’t we have them? Oh, it’s because of MAX, and then the Portland Streetcar, and then WES. (But it must be nice on WES to have four seats for every passenger.)

    In addition, TriMet has all but abandoned projects to improve bus running times on streets. I’ve noticed in the last few days that at least two queue-jumper lights on Barbur/Pacific Highway no longer work properly and no longer allow buses to queue-jump. All of the money TriMet has spent on using buses to probe traffic conditions (and thus improve traffic flow) and to track buses with GPS seems to be for naught – I once had a TriMet Operator just break down laughing because she was 20 minutes late, called Dispatch, and Dispatch was unaware that she was so far off schedule.

    Reduce cost.

    Newer, more reliable buses that are more fuel efficient and require less maintenance do just that. Hybrid buses are popular because of the demonstrated reduction in maintenance (fewer mechanical items that need ongoing maintenance; brakes don’t need replaced as often, no transmission.) Yet TriMet eschews them – never mind that the top ten transit agencies in the nation believe in them.

    Ensure sufficient capacity.

    Articulated buses carry more riders at no additional cost. There are many routes and trips that could take advantage of articulated buses.

    Likewise, some trips don’t need a 40′ or even a 30′ bus. TriMet seems to think that “one-size-fits-all” which to the best of my knowledge only works for one other transit agency – the New York City MTA. Of course it helps that the MTA has a massive subway network that’s over 100 years old, so buses as a whole are feeders; TriMet has bus lines that are equivalent to MAX lines in their own right (i.e. the 4, 9, 12, 33, 54/56, 57/58, 72, 76/78) in function and purpose; while routes like the 84 get a 40′ bus that could probably operate successfully with a minivan.

    Make it easier to ride.

    Installing proper bus stops, proper shelters, with full schedule and route information is key. TriMet has engaged in a policy to actually remove bus information from bus stops – how does this help attract ridership? TriMet even removed Transit Tracker signs from at least one major transit center (because it wasn’t served by a train); and at others (Beaverton, Tigard) there are only Transit Tracker signs on the WES and MAX platforms but not near the bus areas. (In Tigard, this represents a cost to operate and maintain the WES platform on weekends that goes unused, while buses come and go all day long even on Sundays and Holidays.)

    Having improved, designated bus stops with shelters, benches, and other amenities makes it clear that this is where the bus stops. The City of Anaheim did a great job of installing some very large bus stops in the Anaheim Resort (Disneyland) area and the bus stops are always busy and used; they are attractive, clean, and prominent. Here in Portland, bus stops can be neighborhood centers – with neighborhood kiosks and bulletin boards, or business centers with kiosks for nearby businesses that are within a block or two of the bus stop. But they aren’t…more often than not, the TriMet bus stop is nothing more than a six inch by 18 inch blue and white sign mounted on a PGE light pole.

    Improve safety and security.

    Let’s face it – would you rather be at a well-lit, prominent bus stop, or a dark, unlit street corner waiting for a bus?

    Make it pleasant to ride

    This starts with the bus stop as I’ve pointed out above. It continues with the vehicle – 21 year old buses are not pleasant. New, hybrid buses with up-to-date climate control, that have smooth acceleration and deceleration, plenty of seats, comfortable seats – and then upon arrival having a bus stop that provides safe passage to your final destination.

    New bus stops can be neighborhood centers. Sidewalks to/from bus stops improve the neighborhood right to the front doors of people’s homes and businesses – not greedy developers, but everyone. New buses are comfortable, interesting, attractive, and easier to ride.

    Make it “cool” to ride

    Many cities have promoted their bus systems; only Portland seems to claim being “transit-friendly” and then going on an all-out attack on bus service. Metro, the City of Portland and TriMet need to stop their little petty attitudes towards this. If the bus isn’t good enough for Sam Adams, why should anyone else ride the bus? If the bus isn’t good enough for Metro, why should anyone else ride the bus? The public and inferred statements made by these governments is clear – the bus is for, to paraphrase a General Motors advertisement in Canada for a economy car, “Creeps and Weirdos”. Los Angeles’ Mayor made it clear in his campaign that he rode the bus – and won an election because he made it clear he listened to every citizen. (And LA’s bus system quite literally went from ‘worst to first’ thanks to billions in capital reinvestment, new buses, new bus stops, new services – today Los Angeles has a greater percentage of trips taken by auto than Portland, yet somehow Portland gets the credit and Los Angeles doesn’t.)

    It doesn’t take much to attract ridership. Portland has everything it needs to attract ridership. We have a sprawling bus system. We have an attitude that reflects the values that should support public transit. We have the awareness of the impacts of driving. So why is Portland’s bus ridership in freefall? All we have to do is stop putting down the bus system and start investing in it.

    Before long, the bus system will be so popular that light rail expansion becomes natural (and not perceived as a handout to developers and political donors). Not to mention, much more acceptable even by those who currently oppose light rail expansion because of what it represents today.

  8. Bob R.
    April 28, 2011 at 9:33 pm Link

    the old, tired, anti-bus rant that is so typical of http://www.portlandtransport.org:

    And the same old, tired, anti-Portland Transport rant from those who are nonetheless welcome to comment here, but can’t somehow resist attacking the messengers. Why distract from your own message by consistently attacking pro-transit allies who raise issues you acknowledge being concerned about as well? Eternal mysteries.

  9. Chris I
    April 28, 2011 at 9:47 pm Link

    [personally directed comment removed]

  10. jimkarlock
    April 28, 2011 at 10:41 pm Link

    Chris I Says: JK, Does that mean that we should not subsidize auto travel
    JK: This keeps coming up time after time. Let me be clear: any subsidies to auto travel are tiny compared to subsidies to transit.

    Some put it a 1cent/passenger-mile (vs about 60 for transit): ti.org/antiplanner/?p=2199

    Others put it at road users overpaying: portlandfacts.com/roadspaidbyusers.html
    (BTW, the guy who wrote this was the CFO of the LA transit system when they built their first LRT & founded the transit audit division of one of the (then) big eight accounting firms.)

    Chris I Says: and only build bike routes using the non-user revenue based local funding that we currently use on highways and transit?
    JK: It is pretty clear that the Federal highway system users pay MORE than they cost:
    portlandfacts.com/roadsubsidy.htm

    And were NOT built with NON user money:
    fhwa.dot.gov/programadmin/interstate.cfm#interstate_funding

    BTW, cars caused a massive reduction in pollution in our cities:
    uctc.net/access/30/Access%2030%20-%2002%20-%20Horse%20Power.pdf

    Thanks
    JK

  11. Aaron
    April 28, 2011 at 11:45 pm Link

    Another in depth article by Scott here, can’t read it all right now but expanding services while in a budget crisis (supposedly) is fundamentally flawed.

    It’s not always bad to spend when the economy is down. There are a few quotes often attributed to Warren Buffet about this. Lots of businesses choose these kinds of down-periods to make capital investments, even if they have to borrow to do it, while things are cheaper and business is slower, and come out of things ahead.

  12. EngineerScotty
    April 28, 2011 at 11:48 pm Link

    Erik,

    I think the meat of your post is the sort of discussion, the sort of fleshing out of your (and others) position that I was hoping to see. I can’t wear your hat, obviously; I’ll critique it below.

    That said, I disagree with your characterization of my post as “anti-bus”. Nowhere do I suggest busses are bad. In the quoted paragraph, I write (with emphasis added):

    Rapid transit technologies, including (though certainly not limited to) light rail, offer significant advantages to their users over mixed-traffic bus service, including faster travel times and more reliable schedules.

    I don’t think that this is in dispute–rapid transit, properly designed, is faster than mixed-traffic bus service (or streetcar service for that matter; though Portland has very little of that at present). This applies to busses, rail, or whatever else you might think of. Also, note that “rapid transit has advantages over local service” is not an endorsement for the idea that we should not have local service–indeed, we should have both, and most route-miles should be local.

    The next sentence does discuss bus vs rail (or more generally, fixed-guideway vehicles vs untethered ones; with trolleybus being somewhere in the middle):

    Rail has comfort advantages over bus–trains are bigger inside, don’t have to deal with potholes or rutted streets and the bouncy suspensions required to safely navigate public roads, or pull over to curbside stops and “kneel” to reach curbs.

    Comfort is in the eye (or the butt) of the beholder, but fixed guideways do permit a ride with less vertical or sideways jostling. And in fairness, I’ll add that with fixed guideways, you lose the flexibility to travel outside the guideway, or even to avoid obstacles. And it’s expensive.

    Likewise, electric traction has advantages over combustion-powered engines–no fumes, no jerky transmissions, quieter motors.

    This is basic powertrain design. Electric motors have numerous advantages over fuel-powered motors–with the one disadvantage that high-capacity portable electric power sources elude us to this day. This has nothing to do with bus/rail in the abstract. (In practice, it does have an impact, given the make-up of TriMet’s fleet).

    And rapid transit technologies, especially rail, support far higher passenger capacities than can local bus (or streetcar) service.

    Again, basic transit design. Railcars are simply bigger and can be entrained. This is probably the most important advantage of rail–but it’s only an advantage if you need the capacity, otherwise its added weight and extraneous infrastructure.

    Many users consider rail to be a premium service over similarly-configured bus lines. As noted in a prior post ridership estimates for the Milwaukie MAX project were 33% higher for light rail than they were for a BRT solution of similar quality, and it was a major reason for the selection of light rail.

    I’m not defending these attitudes–merely noting they exist. And I’m not endorsing Metro’s conclusions in the Milwaukie SDEIS, simply citing them. Bus-phobes are an unfortunate fact of life.

    Now, on to your remarks:

    Simply put, it takes little effort to put in a bus line. New MAX, WES and Streetcar lines don’t expand the transit system.

    Depends on where they go. Fixed-guideway systems tend to be mainly built where there is existing, established transit service, so by that metric they don’t typically increase the service footprint. Rapid transit (whatever mode) along a corridor does increase the number of destinations reachable within a certain amount of time, however.

    Are we really pushing to extend MAX as a way of inducing urban sprawl (which is exactly what happened in Quatama and Orenco – replacing hundreds of acres of farm land with apartments and condos)?

    Quatama and Orenco were lost causes–legacy rural-ish enclaves surrounded by (sub)urban development. If they hadn’t been turned into apartments and condos (and other types of high-density housing), they probably would have turned into single-family sprawl at some point.

    Meanwhile, large parts of Forest Grove are over two miles away from the last 57 bus stop; the same is true of Sherwood and the last 12/94 stop. Large parts of Tigard are without reasonable service. A $100,000 Freightliner Sprinter running a shuttle bus is an inexpensive way to extend service.

    And I’m all for service expansions in these areas–and for use of smaller rolling stock for low-traffic routes–though you pointed out in that DHT thread that previous TriMet experiments with that sort of service did poorly.

    Well, thanks to WES, the Green Line and the Portland Streetcar, we’ve been cutting a lot of bus service hours which directly translated into lower ridership. A bus running on a 75 minute headway is not exactly convenient nor encourages bus ridership (yet TriMet has a number of bus routes that run on 75 minute headways.)

    As noted above–given a fixed operating budget, a service running here may prevent a service running there. However, you frame the argument as though bus ought to get first “dibs” on operating funds, and the mentioned rail services are encroaching on what they are not entitled to. One could turn around and argue that if TriMet wouldn’t waste money running so many social-service bus routes through sprawlville, they could add frequency on MAX. I’m not making that argument, to make it clear. Also, I think that TriMet could find better things to spend money on than WES (though we appear to be stuck with it), but I think you proceed from an incorrect assumption if you think that one particular transit mode is more entitled to funding than another.

    Running 21 year old 40 foot buses on peak-hour, crush-load buses is an embarrassment. We need new, reliable buses. We need buses that match capacity. And we needed them nine years ago – so why don’t we have them? Oh, it’s because of MAX, and then the Portland Streetcar, and then WES. (But it must be nice on WES to have four seats for every passenger.)

    Don’t worry–after Milwaukie MAX, TriMet’s going to fix the capacity issues on the #12 next. :)

    But seriously–how many busses do you think it would take to replace the 20 full trains/hour across the Steel Bridge during peak hours? Dealing with capacity issues is one of the best justifications for building mass transit. Running articulated busses certainly would make sense on some routes (the 72 comes to mind as a good example), but that only gives you a 50% or so increase in capacity.

    In addition, TriMet has all but abandoned projects to improve bus running times on streets. I’ve noticed in the last few days that at least two queue-jumper lights on Barbur/Pacific Highway no longer work properly and no longer allow buses to queue-jump. All of the money TriMet has spent on using buses to probe traffic conditions (and thus improve traffic flow) and to track buses with GPS seems to be for naught – I once had a TriMet Operator just break down laughing because she was 20 minutes late, called Dispatch, and Dispatch was unaware that she was so far off schedule.

    Maintaining the transit signals on Barbur is the responsibility of ODOT, not TriMet–and ODOT’s legendary neglect of Barbur north of the Tigard interchange extends well beyond the queue jump signals. Many agencies responsible for streets and highways don’t always have an enlightened view of transit operations, and ODOT is a particularly egregious offender.

    “Reduce cost”: Newer, more reliable buses that are more fuel efficient and require less maintenance do just that. Hybrid buses are popular because of the demonstrated reduction in maintenance (fewer mechanical items that need ongoing maintenance; brakes don’t need replaced as often, no transmission.) Yet TriMet eschews them – never mind that the top ten transit agencies in the nation believe in them.

    By reduce cost, I was referring to fares (the cost paid by users), not TriMet’s own expenses, though the two are obviously connected. As far as the cost/benefit analysis of hybrids go, I don’t have sufficient knowledge to comment. If hybrids do make sense for some routes, I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing them deployed.

    Expand capacity: Articulated buses carry more riders at no additional cost. There are many routes and trips that could take advantage of articulated buses.

    Likewise, some trips don’t need a 40′ or even a 30′ bus. TriMet seems to think that “one-size-fits-all” which to the best of my knowledge only works for one other transit agency – the New York City MTA. Of course it helps that the MTA has a massive subway network that’s over 100 years old, so buses as a whole are feeders; TriMet has bus lines that are equivalent to MAX lines in their own right (i.e. the 4, 9, 12, 33, 54/56, 57/58, 72, 76/78) in function and purpose; while routes like the 84 get a 40′ bus that could probably operate successfully with a minivan.

    Already discussed above.

    Make it easier to ride: Installing proper bus stops, proper shelters, with full schedule and route information is key. TriMet has engaged in a policy to actually remove bus information from bus stops – how does this help attract ridership? TriMet even removed Transit Tracker signs from at least one major transit center (because it wasn’t served by a train); and at others (Beaverton, Tigard) there are only Transit Tracker signs on the WES and MAX platforms but not near the bus areas. (In Tigard, this represents a cost to operate and maintain the WES platform on weekends that goes unused, while buses come and go all day long even on Sundays and Holidays.)

    Having improved, designated bus stops with shelters, benches, and other amenities makes it clear that this is where the bus stops. The City of Anaheim did a great job of installing some very large bus stops in the Anaheim Resort (Disneyland) area and the bus stops are always busy and used; they are attractive, clean, and prominent. Here in Portland, bus stops can be neighborhood centers – with neighborhood kiosks and bulletin boards, or business centers with kiosks for nearby businesses that are within a block or two of the bus stop. But they aren’t…more often than not, the TriMet bus stop is nothing more than a six inch by 18 inch blue and white sign mounted on a PGE light pole.

    I can’t comment on the TransitTracker signs, other than to agree that it’s silly not to have them for bus service at multi-modal transit centers. As far as improving bus stops go–that is easiest to do when coupled with stop consolidation; many bus lines have stops ever 250m or so. What do you think of low-end BRT lines that run in mixed traffic (but have signal priority), but have greater stop spacing, all-door boarding, and well-marked, halfway-decent stations?

    Let’s face it – would you rather be at a well-lit, prominent bus stop, or a dark, unlit street corner waiting for a bus?

    The former, obviously. How many stops should be upgraded in this fashion, in your opinion?

    “Make it pleasant to ride”: This starts with the bus stop as I’ve pointed out above. It continues with the vehicle – 21 year old buses are not pleasant. New, hybrid buses with up-to-date climate control, that have smooth acceleration and deceleration, plenty of seats, comfortable seats – and then upon arrival having a bus stop that provides safe passage to your final destination.

    Much of this applies to other modes of transit as well.

    New bus stops can be neighborhood centers. Sidewalks to/from bus stops improve the neighborhood right to the front doors of people’s homes and businesses – not greedy developers, but everyone. New buses are comfortable, interesting, attractive, and easier to ride.

    And likewise–newer vehicles of any sort are nicer to be on. (The city of Amsterdam recently replaced its trams with modern streetcars; prior to that, its streetcar system was one of the most uncomfortable things in the world–with uneven, worn rails; hard, narrow seats, and virtually no suspension whatsoever).

    Many cities have promoted their bus systems; only Portland seems to claim being “transit-friendly” and then going on an all-out attack on bus service. Metro, the City of Portland and TriMet need to stop their little petty attitudes towards this. If the bus isn’t good enough for Sam Adams, why should anyone else ride the bus? If the bus isn’t good enough for Metro, why should anyone else ride the bus? The public and inferred statements made by these governments is clear – the bus is for, to paraphrase a General Motors advertisement in Canada for a economy car, “Creeps and Weirdos”. Los Angeles’ Mayor made it clear in his campaign that he rode the bus – and won an election because he made it clear he listened to every citizen. (And LA’s bus system quite literally went from ‘worst to first’ thanks to billions in capital reinvestment, new buses, new bus stops, new services – today Los Angeles has a greater percentage of trips taken by auto than Portland, yet somehow Portland gets the credit and Los Angeles doesn’t.)

    Who says the bus isn’t “good enough” for the region? Roughly 3/5 of all boardings on TriMet are on a bus. That number has decreased as new MAX lines have opened, but bus is still a very important part of the system. Nobody is suggesting that TriMet stop running busses. Even if MLR is build, the Yellow extended into the Couv, and the Green extended to Sherwood, I still expect the majority of trips in the region to involve a bus.

    Not to be rude, but your position on this reminds me of a rather silly dispute between US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and WaPo reporter Ezra Klein last month. Klein reviewed a book by Harvard economist Ed Glaesar called Why We Still Need Cities, which discussed the important role of urban areas to the US economy–a position Klein endorsed in his review. This offended Vilsack (a former Iowa congressman), who “took it as a slam on rural America”. Except that neither Glaesar nor Klein said anything about rural America–they merely praised cities. Vilsack was offended that equal amounts of praise weren’t simultaneously doled out to the heartland, a demographic that has a long history of considering itself more noble and patriotic than the hedonistic cities. You seem to view support for rail as attacks on the bus system–when I can assure you, I consider a healthy bus system to be importance. And a healthy rail system. To be more precise, I want a healthy transit system, and I have no particular preconceived notions as to where the mode split ought to lie.

    It doesn’t take much to attract ridership. Portland has everything it needs to attract ridership. We have a sprawling bus system. We have an attitude that reflects the values that should support public transit. We have the awareness of the impacts of driving. So why is Portland’s bus ridership in freefall? All we have to do is stop putting down the bus system and start investing in it.

    I wouldn’t characterize bus ridership as in “freefall”; nor do I really care about bus ridership or MAX ridership–I care about TRANSIT ridership. And other than the past couple of recession years, system ridership has been on a steady climb, and the recent drop is showing signs of levelling off and reversing. Obviously, if service is cut then ridership will drop; but service cuts were made largely across the board. The major “step function” in the past several years are the opening of the Green Line and the Portland Mall alignment, and the Fareless Square/Free Rail Zone change, which caused some trips to shift from bus to rail. But again, I don’t care about maintaining a particular mix of services between modes; I care about overall service.

    Before long, the bus system will be so popular that light rail expansion becomes natural (and not perceived as a handout to developers and political donors). Not to mention, much more acceptable even by those who currently oppose light rail expansion because of what it represents today.

    I’m sure that even if bus service were twice what it is today, capital expenditures on light rail (or anything else that improves transit) would be attacked as pork-barrel politics. Just how the game goes.

  13. jimkarlock
    April 29, 2011 at 12:39 am Link

    EngineerScotty Says: Again, basic transit design. Railcars are simply bigger and can be entrained. This is probably the most important advantage of rail–but it’s only an advantage if you need the capacity, otherwise its added weight and extraneous infrastructure.
    JK: How is that an advantage for the rider (as opposed to the transit operator)? That only means LESS FREQUENT service compared to buses.

    EngineerScotty Says: But seriously–how many busses do you think it would take to replace the 20 full trains/hour across the Steel Bridge during peak hours? Dealing with capacity issues is one of the best justifications for building mass transit.
    JK: But you can run buses much closer together. At every 30 sec, you get 120 buses/hr. Could probably do six times that (every 5 sec). Then the more frequent service is better for the passengers. Of course what is better for the passengers is not necessarily better for the agency.

    EngineerScotty Says: And other than the past couple of recession years, system ridership has been on a steady climb, and the recent drop is showing signs of levelling off and reversing.
    JK: But has ridership climbed faster than the population, or has the market share been static/declining?

    EngineerScotty Says: I’m sure that even if bus service were twice what it is today, capital expenditures on light rail (or anything else that improves transit) would be attacked as pork-barrel politics. Just how the game goes.
    JK: Its not a game – light rail is tremendously expensive for very little advantage over other measures to better serve the transit dependent. Good God! – they are planning to spend $1.4 BILLION on just one line! That’s enough money to build a couple of elevated expressways from Portland to Milwaulkie AND Portland to LO – its just not good use of public money.

    Thanks
    JK

  14. Chris I
    April 29, 2011 at 7:02 am Link

    JK,

    You are trying to avoid my point by talking about transit and federal highways. I’m not talking about transit, I’m talking about bikes. Please show me how cars driving ON LOCAL ROADS are less subsidized than bikes.

    We are focusing on local roads. Where does the money to build local roads come from? For example, they are rebuilding NE Cully right now. Very little of that is coming from our state gas tax.

  15. Fundamentally, the Portland region has decided that transit is a land use tool. Transit expansion is a way to allow for higher densities of land use in growth areas, thereby allowing the Urban Growth Boundary to avoid expansions for longer periods of time (and also provide a whole host of co-benefits, such as reduced VMT, better health, lower spending by residents on travel and health care, cleaner air, an improved local economy, etc).

    As pointed out above, this does break down if the promise is broken, that is, if transit service is reduced to the point where it cannot be relied upon, whether this is due to re-appropriating the funding towards operating expansion projects at the expense of the core system (as was the case at LA MTA prior to the infamous bus riders union lawsuit), or whether it is due to the overall economy downturn (as is the case with the threatened 50% reduction in Caltrain service, or other service reductions at transit operators nationwide).

    So, Tri-Met’s challenge is to preserve core system service, while opening expansion projects that grow the pie and allow the region to meet its land use goals.

    I think it does a very good job at this in general; but when it takes a mis-step, it of course needs to be held accountable.

    However, the rest of the region must also hold up its end of the bargain. If Tri-Met opens an expansion line, the jurisdictions through which it runs must focus their land use intensity around the new stations, ensuring that the lion’s share of new residential and employment growth is oriented towards the new service and thus that the service will be successful. In general, this does tend to be the case, though the current economic downturn is certainly putting a damper on all growth, thus making this particularly difficult to achieve, especially in the case of WES…

  16. jimkarlock
    April 29, 2011 at 3:44 pm Link

    Chris I Says: Please show me how cars driving ON LOCAL ROADS are less subsidized than bikes.
    JK: Cars driving on local roads ARE NOT subsidized. They pay for their roads and upkeep through licenses, gas, and weight-mile for trucks. Bikes pay nothing related to their usage.
    A number of bikers claim to pay property tax, but so do motorcycle owners who MUST get a license and insurance.

    Chris I Says: Where does the money to build local roads come from?
    JK: In the inner city, local roads were built by the builder when a farm was converted to homes. They were then turned opver to the city for upkeep in exchange for property taxes.

    Chris I Says: For example, they are rebuilding NE Cully right now.
    JK: Cully is not a road project, it is wasteful smart growth boulevard demonstration that shows how one can spend three times what a road costs to accommodate bikes and other politically correct things.

    Chris I Says: Very little of that is coming from our state gas tax.
    JK: Please show evidence of this and expand that “gas tax” to include all user fees.

    Thanks
    JK

  17. david
    May 1, 2011 at 1:02 pm Link

    Does anyone have any information on Electric Trolleybus systems, especially newer ones? Are there any major Electric Trolleybus projects under construction or being planned right now? short-term or mid-term or long-term plan in this United States of America in any major cities? Smile!

  18. David-

    San Francisco MUNI is planning on expanding their electric trolleybus system as a part of the implementation of their Transit Effectiveness Project.

  19. some body
    May 3, 2011 at 11:08 pm Link

    It’s only fair for drivers to pay for the non-auto parts of projects like the NE Cully one as mitigation. Consider how on lower-traffic streets, bikes are able to safely share the same space as cars. Also, if part of that project for stormwater treatment for road runoff, that’s a car expense. Property owners shouldn’t have to pay to treat stormwater that didn’t come from their property.

  20. jimkarlock
    May 5, 2011 at 5:03 am Link

    some body Says: It’s only fair for drivers to pay for the non-auto parts of projects like the NE Cully one as mitigation. Consider how on lower-traffic streets, bikes are able to safely share the same space as cars.
    JK: Oh really? Do bikers pay anything at all for their use of the roads? The answer is NO.

    So, you are now arguing that it is “fair” for drivers to pay for bikes on busy streets!

    some body Says: Also, if part of that project for stormwater treatment for road runoff, that’s a car expense.
    JK: Runoff – that is what roadside ditches are for (Cully is NOT a neighborhood street). There is no reason a sidewalk cannot be cheaply added to this layout (at general taxpayer expense, not driver expense)

    Have you looked at the cost per mile of the Cully project compared to an ordinary road?

    Thanks
    JK

  21. EngineerScotty
    May 5, 2011 at 7:35 am Link

    Bicyclists pay the exact same gas tax rate as autos do, and a Hummer pays the same rate as a Nissan Leaf. :)

  22. some body
    May 5, 2011 at 5:46 pm Link

    “Oh really? Do bikers pay anything at all for their use of the roads? The answer is NO.”

    I would be fine with a bike tax…just as long as they get a 100% credit for attempting to be healthy and help do something about the health care problem.

    I thought I read that bike lanes were put in for the benefit of cars (to not have to be stuck behind slow bikes), and not bikes.

    “Runoff – that is what roadside ditches are for”

    Where would you put those ditches, seeing that in most places, the roadway, parking and the sidewalk take up almost the entire right-of-way? And, where there’s room, Portland has been building the equivalent of ditches (example)

  23. ryan
    May 9, 2011 at 4:56 pm Link

    “JK: But you can run buses much closer together. At every 30 sec, you get 120 buses/hr. Could probably do six times that (every 5 sec). Then the more frequent service is better for the passengers. Of course what is better for the passengers is not necessarily better for the agency.”

    You get to a point where it makes sense to use mass transit instead of buses, where operating costs become so expensive that the one-time (yes very expensive) capital cost of light rail/mass transit makes sense…every individual, relatively low-capacity bus requires an operators. With mass transit you can add extra cars with the same single operator, in addition to the extra built-in capacity.

  24. GregT
    May 10, 2011 at 1:09 am Link

    Can someone answer me this? I live in Dayton – I frequently ride the Yamhill County 44x bus and then TriMet in the Metro “proper” area. Why does TriMet treat non TriMet drivers and operators with such animosity? From the way I understand it, TriMet and the other “companies” (purposely in quotes) are all governmental entities getting subsidies at every level imaginable – Federal, State, local payroll taxes shielded from employees, county, Metro, cities, etc. Why is it necessary for TriMet to be so territorial and arrogant and to perceive the other operators as competition trying to encroach on their hallowed territories? And why do they make people buy passes on each system? I think a lot more people would ride, for instance, Cherriots AND TriMet if their passes worked on both systems. If Portland is becoming so expensive to live in, I think people should seek out affordable rent in less expensive locales (like Salem and Lafayette) and part of that is proving transit services which coordinate services better with each other.

  25. John D
    May 10, 2011 at 4:34 pm Link

    To respond to Greg T’s comments, it is not just Tri-Met that has issues with kind of thing, any time you have multiple transit agencies they cannot seem to work together.

    Sadly most are so territorial and worried about protecting their own territory, they loose sight of who they are supposed to be serving.

    To see a screwed up mess look down in San Francisco or Los Angeles where their is so many different agencies and they all are in a dysfunctional family relationship with each other.

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