I’ve harped quite a bit on the importance of understanding TriMet’s mission, and so will now ask a related question:
How do we define “success”?
Cascade Policy Institute recently wrote an article claiming that only 7% of attendees at a recent performance of a Cirque du Soleil show at the Expo Center arrived via MAX. Ignoring the methodological issues with the survey that CPI conducted, the implication of the article is that MAX, at least in this case, is a failure in some sense, as it wasn’t used for “enough” trips to see the circus. The article doesn’t define what percentage of trips would be considered successful.
In the recent thread on the FY13 TriMet budget, two well-known commenters got into a mini-debate on the subject (other topics in the conversation, relevant to the union contract issue but not to this topic, have been excised from the excerpt given here). Lenny wrote:
It would seem to me that if you serve the 25th largest market or thereabouts in the nation, but your number of customers ranks 7th in the nation, you can apply the word “successful” to your enterprise.
To which Al responded:
And we shall see just how the ridership statistics per capita levels out when there is no more free ride square and no more unreadable transfers. No matter how you cut the cake Mr Anderson, only 12% of commuters use TRIMET, and that sir, is hardly my version of successful.
Thus, the questions are:
How do we define successful? Is it
- Ridership statistics (percentage of commutes, percentage of other trips, percentage of commuters using transit)?
- Mobility-related statistics (coverage, frequency, speed, reliability, trips-enabled)?
- Financial statistics (farebox recovery ratio, percent subsidy)?
- Environmental statistics (reduction of VMT, emissions measurements, propulsion systems used by transit vehicles)?
- Congestion-related statistics (reductions in highway congestion)? At the risk of prejudicing the discussion; I’ll go on the record and state that making the highways more tolerable for motorists should not be a goal for transit, even though many transit dollars are justified on this basis.
- Equity-related statistics (support for the poor and other disadvantaged communities)?
- Economic development/stimulus effects? (Payrolls or jobs created by operations, jobs created by construction activities, ability to win federal funding and other grants, etc)?
- Something else?
And if TriMet is presently not “successul”–how do we get there?
Note: I’m not so much interested in comparing TriMet and the Portland metro area to other cities; top ten lists for transit aren’t very useful. I’m interested only in comparing where Portland is today, to where it needs to be.