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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on July 16, 2009 10:28 AM. The previous post in this blog was Don't ask. The next post in this blog is Almost as bad as a Portland sewer bill. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

All aboard for the strip malls

Given that the WES train from Beaverton to Wilsonville has turned out to be a bit of a dud, it's surprising that the next light rail plan is to take folks down Barbur Boulevard to Tigard. That's auto territory.

Comments (21)

Oh god, no! I was waiting to hear where they would propose the next MAX line be built.... this one is even more mind blowing than the Milwaukee line. So I guess they will eventually just build rail along every frequent service bus corridor. Next up...... streetcars down MLK and Lombard. How long 'till TriMet goes belly up?

WES never made sense -- a commuter rail schedule between places where commuters don't go? Pointless. 30 minutes between trains, and if you have to stay late at work, it's a $50 cab ride to get home. Who in the world would take that?

WES ridership would pick up if they scheduled it like a real light rail line, but they don't have the money or the trains for it. Kill it now before it wastes any more money.

Barbur to Tigard, on the other hand, is a heavily trafficked corridor with decent bike access on either side. The auto commute backs up enough that light rail makes more sense there, assuming they run it on an every-15-minute schedule. It's certainly more reasonable than streetcars on NE Broadway.

Oh my... Here come the screaming NIMBYs again.

If there is a traffic corridor in PDX that could use some MAX-love, it the PDX to Tigard, Tualatin and Sherwood route. Nasty, nasty commute, which is why I did not consider buying a house in either of those places, though nice as the schools and parks may be compared to Portland.

WES ridership would pick up if they scheduled it like a real light rail line, but they don't have the money or the trains for it. Kill it now before it wastes any more money.

You really think money would stop them? Operation of MAX already costs 5x what they charge to ride it. It hasnt shut them down yet, they want to build more.
And they own the company that builds the trains now...


Yes, this would be a marked improvement over the car commute and bus commute. Essentially, Tigard, Lake Oswego, Tualatin and a portion of Beaverton are stuck either riding a bus for an hour or more to get into town or driving by car. If you drive by car you have to go at odd times to avoid traffic. This would be a great line. Why should East, West and North metro areas get a max line and not the South area?

WES is more than a bit of a dud; it's a colossal failure even by the low standards of TriMet. As of May, TM was losing roughly $31.60 each time someone boarded WES, based on the system average fare of $1.14 per trip. If someone steps up the ticket machine and pays full retail at $2.30, the loss is "only" $30.44 per trip. No other part of the TM system comes close to losing this much money; the lowest-performing bus lines lose about $11 per boarding, but the typical bus/MAX trip has operating costs of under $4.

TM is now losing almost $500,000 per month operating WES, after spending some $173 million on construction. All for 590 customers per weekday, most of whom were previous bus passengers. There is no viable exit strategy here.

BTW, the train would hever have been built if Gordon Smith had not brought home the bacon with an earmark after FTA nixed the subsidy on grounds that it failed the agency's cost-effectiveness test (defined as not costing more than $20 per trip). If you can't get over FTA's low bar, you know the project is a stinker.

TM is now proposing further service cuts even though the payroll tax rate has been icnreased twice since 2003 and total agency revenue has gone up 60% since 2004. Meanwhile, the Milwaukie LRT line will cost roughly $192 million per mile, far in excess of any rail project ever built in Oregon.

This is an agency in a self-inflicted death spiral, due to two factors: an obsession with costly rail transit, and employee fringe benefits that now equal 84% of payroll for FY 10 or $118% of payroll when unfunded post-employment obligations are factored in (as auditors must under GASB 45). There are solutions to both problems, but no one at the agency is interested in new ideas.

John Charles

"most of whom were previous bus passengers"
That's the dirty little secret that the PR people at TriMet won't let the media report.

JK: The dirty little secret of the I-5 Toy Train project is that currently transit only carries 1220 round trips daily.

For that those deluded idiots, who refuse to look at real numbers, at Trimet, City Council and Metro want to spend the better part of a $BILLION.

Thanks
JK

Does this mean there has to be a clear and present danger before we can break ground on a mass transit project? God forbid we build mass transit before it's needed rather than wait for a dire emergency we can scare the voters into approving.

There's a better and cheaper solution for transit on SW Barbur and on, serving the sourthwest, Tigard, Tualatin, LO and Wilsonville. It's better bus service with express buses, a few bus only lanes at major intersections and congested areas, and bus turnouts to help both vehicles, bikes and transit to move more efficiently.

Thinking this way could save over $1.5 billion to $2.0 billion vs. a light rail line which would drastically interrupt vehicle traffic. But that might be too simple.

The bus express lane is the right idea, but it doesn't sell condo bunkers, and it doesn't involve nearly enough construction pork for the greenwashing fixers.

Dave C. Does this mean there has to be a clear and present danger before we can break ground on a mass transit project?
JK: Yes, otherwise you are wasting money on speculation.

Dave C. God forbid we build mass transit before it's needed rather than wait for a dire emergency we can scare the voters into approving.
JK: What conceivable “dire emergency” can mass transit solve? Lets look at some prime candidates:

Peak oil is only a planner’s wet dream. A poorly thought out one as buses actually use MORE ENERGY THAN CARS. No conceivable improvement will get that less than smell cars. Especially increased density, Want to argue that?

Lets look at the energy consumption and cost per passenger-mile (pm) of the 10 biggest USA bus systems, the MPG a car must better to beat the bus and the cost of the bus (cars cost about $0.25):
City....................... BTU/pm......CAR MPG.to match.......BusCost/pm.
.............................................(1.3/car)(1.57/car)
New York, NY ...........3,222...........29.6....24.5................1.26
Los Angeles, CA ........3,649...........26.1....21.6................0.68
Newark, NJ ................3,446...........27.7....22.9................0.82
Chicago, IL ................4,590.......... 20.8....17.2................1.38
Philadelphia, PA ..........4,634.......... 20.6....17.0................1.05
Seattle, WA ..............3,041.......... 31.4....26.0................0.88
Miami, FL ..................4,186...........22.8....18.9................0.98
Washington, DC ........5,189...........18.4....15.2................1.33
Houston, TX ..............3,575...........26.7....22.1................0.89
Minneapolis, MN ........3,223...........29.6....24.5................0.88

Readily available cars can beat the pants off of these top 10 bus systems for energy usage.
The cheapest bus system is OVER THREE TIMES the cost of a car.
See PortlandFacts.com for cost of car ve transit.

Global Warming. Aside from the fact that thre was never a CO2 problem, the less energy useage of cars means less CO2.

Evacuating people in an emergency. There are not enough buses to do the job. As bad as that Texas city was with jammed freeways (they didn’t make all lanes out) , transit dependent people simply were stranded in New Orleans. Transit utterly failed.

Mobility for the poor. Help them buy cars if they can drive, otherwise give them mobility vouchers to use with taxis and jitneys in a free transport market.

Mobility for the handicapped. Give them mobility vouchers to use with taxis and jitneys in a free transport market. Will save time and be more convenient and safer since it will be door to door.

So what is that emergency anyway? The only thing that I can see transit doing well is exporting parking spaces from downtown - another subsidy to the rich downtown landowners.

BTW, LRT is so expensive, the region will go broke before we can replace all buses with rail.

Thanks
JK

Lots of good points here (thank you j. karlock).

Buses run on internal combution engines, which thanks to the greenies around here are truly the root of all evil.

If Portland is going to be "the greenest city in the world", we can't funnel transit dollars toward internal combustion, can we? NO WAY! As lw said, too simple.

I had this conversation with a tri-met planner, and got the good 'ol "the stone age didn't end because we ran out of stones....but we found a better way" argument. That, folks is their frame of mind: forget about cost, screw feasibility and logistics, these people beleive they're leading the rest of us out of the Stone Age. Someday we'll thank them for being visionaries.

Not to ramble, but I'm a property owner. Everytime we have had a tenant move in and have had to do improvements...the City busts us for "non conformance", which in my case means that I don't meet "parking lot landscaping" requirements. They're incrementally making me add landscaping strips to my parking lot everytime I "add value" to my property because it doesn't meet current City requirements. Translation: I'm losing parking spaces. Yes, The City That Works is engineering us onto public transit...and TriMet is making sure it's on rails. As infeasible as it may be.

"Lots of good points here (thank you j. karlock)." Well, I think we can officially retire the English language. Every phrase, no matter how insane, has now been used.

Peak oil and global warming are observations not theories. A couple of ranting loonies does not a debate make. Having said that, WES was always a ridiculous idea. Connecting two auto hells by train has no purpose. If compulsory car ownership is the future they will thrive, otherwise they return to farmland.

"Well, I think we can officially retire the English language. Every phrase, no matter how insane, has now been used."

Wow, that there sherwood guy is gone baggin on my use of the english languaage in a blog post...I better watch it from now on.

I better watch it from now on.

You can set your clock by Sherwood's snide, ad-hominem attack laced, factual rebuttal free responses to critics of the Portland Rail Mafia, deniers of Global Warming, and Peak Oil naysayers. It is as quintessentially British as, oh, writing the book on Colonialism.

If we implemented a commuter tax I am sure ridership would increase. Something like 20 bucks every other day sounds just about right.

Its always shocking to see individuals doubt human-induced climate change. The only scientific debate on this subject is on its severity.

For about $30 million dollars - that's right, $30 MILLION - TriMet could completely revamp the 12-Barbur line from downtown Portland to Sherwood with:

1. Brand new, Hybrid-Electric, Articulated buses,
2. Traffic signal preemption and bus lanes at most intersections,
3. "Streetcar" like bus stops at the vast majority of stops, including pedestrian safety improvements up to and including new pedestrian signals,
4. 10-12 minute service,
5. Altering nearby routes like the 1, 38, 39, 43, and 45 to serve as feeders for this route - and used the saved "hours of service" to provide more frequent neighborhood service instead of wasting these buses going in/out of downtown all day long (when the riders could make a painless transfer to the 12),
6. Add local service in Tigard, a circulator in King City, and routes connecting Tualatin, Highway 99W and Sherwood,
7. Continue rush hour express service, with brand new buses.

Even if my cost estimates were low...$50 million. That's still less than ONE-THIRD the cost of WES, and the 12 line already serves several thousand riders EACH DAY. By improving service and improving bus stops, it's a known fact that bus ridership would increase; business demand around the improved bus stops would increase; and if there's more riders, the cost per boarding goes down. By using hybrid-electric, articulated buses - your fuel AND maintenance expenses both go down; while the articulated bus does the work of 1 3/4 40' buses with no additional labor costs.

But, TriMet and Metro are so blatently anti-bus and pro-rail, that the ONLY way anything goes done is if you say "train" or "rail". Then it's an all out orgy at the Metro Regional Center to see who can squeak the first.

"Its always shocking to see individuals doubt human-induced climate change."

Not that I necessarily think you were referring to my post, but I don't think most posters here are trying to deny that human-induced climate change exists (myself included). Hardly so. To many, it is highly debatable whether routing so many resources to rail makes any more environmental sense than buses.

Being anti light rail / streetcar doesn't automatically mean someone is anti environment and a denier if human-induced global warming. It is this kind of thinking that is the problem at trimet and leads to extremely poor decisions.

most of whom were previous bus passengers

Do we have proof of that? But in general, commuter rail is going to be costly. People use it for longer trips, and it requires many different FRA rules to be met, including having two crew members.

total agency revenue has gone up 60% since 2004

Are you including money that is dedicated for things like the MAX Green Line, and wouldn't exist if those projects weren't being done?

Overall, I wish we would solve the real problem by making motorists pay for what they actually use and cause--things like oil defense, pollution clean-up, "free" parking and more. Then, we could have a rational discussion about transportation, and things like rail lines either wouldn't be needed to attract riders or would economically justifiable. If motorists paid the real cost of building and using 217, it either wouldn't exist (and wouldn't need alternatives) or WES would be crowded, substantially reducing the cost per ride by spreading the costs among more people.


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