This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on November 26, 2010 3:36 AM. The previous post in this blog was Time for some strong black coffee. The next post in this blog is Too clever by half. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Friday, November 26, 2010

Sounds awfully familiar

"They have been pushing rail expansion for decades now," Mr. Rubin said, "and it has not had much of an impact in terms of increasing transit ridership. The big problem is that these are very, very expensive, and we wind up spending so much money on building these rail lines that there is not enough to operate bus service. So we wind up cutting back on bus operations and then raising fares, which drives the riders away."
Guess which city he's talking about.

Comments (9)

Glaring errors in this story:
1. Los Angeles DOES NOT SPRAWL, it is the densest urban area in the USA. It is big because there are a lot of people there.

2. LA is a lousy place for rail transit because there is no big central destination. Destinations are all over the place.

3. Building LRT only creates temporary construction jobs, then takes from the community for the rest of its life as its high costs go on and on.

4. “encouraged, in no small part, by oil interests in Los Angeles that realized the economic potential of the car”. Actually streetcar lines in cites that WERE NOT OWNED by any car or oil interests folded just as fast or faster because the bus was more flexible, faster and cheaper. Just like it is today. For instance see: Oregonian February 1, 1949 pg 9:
Although the [streetcar] fare to Gresham has been only 25 cents for one way or 40 cents round trip, most commuters apparently have preferred to pay a little more and ride busses which make better time and run oftener.

Here as a video of Tom Rubin on light rail (he was CFO of the transit agency at the time the first LA light rail line was built.): http://blip.tv/file/2743664

More videos on the fallacy of smart growth are at http://www.Portlandfacts.com/adc_videos.html


"So we wind up cutting back on bus operations and then raising fares, which drives the riders away."

That's the master plan which is why they'll do things like give away trolley rides in town, raise bus fares and if you want to build an apt close to MAX (a TOD) not let you have parking spaces for cars.

These people are totally out of touch with the reality of living in Portland and are trying to craft this SIM city alternative using what force they have.

"with the reality of living in Portland"

Oops, the article was about LAX, I was venting on Portland - my bad.

Despite billions spent Portland's Transit Mode Share Languishes.


And the other charade, that private development is spurred is an even buger laugher with MAX Lines producing nothing but government waste trying to force the high density mixed use model to work out.

With the Green Line Metro now says it was built in the wrong place.
During the promotion campaign to get approval they claimed it would spur development along 82nd. Clackamas County used that charade to justify the $10s of millions in UR funding they threw in.

Now they all say it should have been built on 82nd to spur development.

Of course it woudn't but the reason they are saying that now is because they want to spend even millions more planting the mixed use blunders at MAX stations because the Round and all the other stations have been so successful. Not.

But the Green Line is isolated next to a feeway. They didn't think of that ahead of time.

Just like today they are not thinking about the lack of development success on all of the prior lines.

Still that doesn't stop TriMet from using the whopper that MAX has spurred $8 billion in economic development in promoting MLR and the CRC.

How about this one:


The Chinese Academy of Sciences thinks that Chinese high-speed rail construction is economically unsustainable.

Here's a simple guideline I apply: when city servants push for increased hard infrastructure in a decreasing economy, there's something profoundly wrong.

Truth is, pushing hard infrastructure to "build our way" out of an economic disaster is a very common theme. People love to (mistakenly)point to FDR and the CCC and related efforts, forgetting what the government *actually* did in those days.

The light rail is being pushed for three main reasons: (1)it attracts a large amount of federal funds, and (2)it takes a very long time to implement, and (3)it *sounds* like it has a steroidal effect on the economy.

Here's a study question: what happens when you run out of money, space, and resources to keep "building your way" out of problems?

Hint: collapse.

Ben--not only was the green line built in the wrong place, it ends in the wrong place. The station is quite a walk away from the mall, and even farther from the Promenade which has "destination" stores such as Old Navy. I think the mall and Promenade owners would have been smart to have paid to have a stop actually at the mall itself, and then go under Sunnyside to the Promenade. It seems to me that it would have been a long-term investment that would have paid off well. I'm not willing to take the green line to go shopping, only to have to hike from the train to the mall, but I would have definitely have taken the train to go directly to the mall or Promenade.

Public-Private Partnership!

And had it been built on 82nd no better.

But even so the outrageous cost of it was not an investment in a shopping shuttle.

These rail lines are falsy promoted as congestion reducing, livibility increasing, development spurring and better alternatives to effective bus transit service.

None of it has come to fruition on any of the lines.

Yet the deceit continues as more of it is promoted the same way.

But there's no TriMet board members or upper management who live in Rockwood.

They also don't visit there.

The problem with Los Angeles and now Portland is that the rail supporters keep trotting out the "Streetcar Conspiracy" and how General Motors and Standard Oil conspired to kill streetcars and replace them with inferior buses...and that building rail lines is to resolve that matter as people simply want trains and won't ride buses.

When you get into the specifics of the Streetcar Conspiracy, you'll quickly read that the entire theory is based on historical inaccuracies; yet that doesn't stop the rail supporters from rehashing the same story - with the same historical inaccuracies repeated. For the record, the only "conspiracy" that was factual was that General Motors monopolized the sale of its own buses to the transit agencies it owned and shut out other bus manufacturers. And the federal court fined GM a paltry amount of just $5,000.

In particular, the federal courts found that National City Lines did not conspire to kill off the streetcar lines; in many cities whose transit systems were NOT controlled by NCL, the streetcar lines in those cities were abandoned or in the process of being abandoned. And one such example is...drumroll...Portland! Portland eliminated its streetcar system a full decade before Los Angeles did, and Portland's system was not owned in any fashion by NCL.

The rail supporters often sugarcoat rail service without considering the facts - rail service, from trolleys to the mainline railroads, were in decline from the 1920s onwards because the railroads simply had an anti-customer slant. Passengers were often treated to poorly maintained equipment, unreliable schedules, shabby depots and rude railroad employees. The automobile, once a toy for the rich, became affordable thanks to one Henry Ford and his Model T, and the citizens were clamoring for the new car - and demanding that government do something about it. (The pro-rail folks like to think that the government subsidized it from the beginning.)

By the 1950s, railroad passenger service in America was largely limited to the mainline routes, often served just once or twice a day (if that) and served outdated, outmoded depots that were often in less desirable parts of town. (Union Station, in Portland, wasn't always in the Pearl District.) By 1971, political pressure by a few forced the creation of Amtrak, which was intended to not survive beyond five or ten years - but somehow it managed to survive. (In fact the first locomotives Amtrak ordered were ordered specifically so that they could be converted to freight locomotives. And 24 of them were after the locomotives shown a tendency to derail at high speed; the remainder were scrapped and their components used in new, smaller locomotives.)

Back to light rail - in Los Angeles the rail mentality was so large that L.A. did give up on their bus system. The Bus Riders Union was formed, filed a federal lawsuit and for ten years the MTA was under a federal decree to improve bus service. While the pro-rail supporters were stewing, the MTA was forced to - and did - improve bus service. And ridership skyrocketed. The MTA now has one of the best bus fleets in the nation and is once again starting to invest in rail - while continuing to maintain its bus system.

Portland...Portland seems to be blind to the best practices of other agencies with its ego that it is the best. People from all over the world look at Portland's transit system...yet, very few actually replicate it once they return home.

Unfortunately there isn't a Bus Riders Union here in Portland and the few attempts to create one have simply not gained traction. Then again, this is a city where residents east of 60th Avenue simply have given up voting because they know that they will be politically steamrolled over by City Hall no matter what. Residents of Washington and Clackamas Counties have lost faith in TriMet as evidenced by the failure of the recent TriMet bond measure - and the failure of every TriMet measure since the Westside Light Rail measure passed back in the mid 1990s (back when TriMet had completed ordering several hundred new buses, was adding express service and frequent service, and build hundreds of bus shelters - and had plans for further bus improvements, all of which came to a screeching halt.)

Bus service isn't sexy, it isn't development...it's more like the fire or police department, or the water and sewer system. Nobody really cares when it works right - but when it doesn't, people get antsy. Our governments, however, seem to feel that they know best and have done everything in their power to mute those who need and want the bus service. Ironically it is the Democrats who are speaking loudest, even though they supposedly fight for "the people" who may not be rich, or have a lot of political clout - a description that fits most bus riders. Metro would rather kill off the bus system because it doesn't serve their self-selected constituency; and TriMet seems to have zero interest. The City of Portland could care less and would rather blanket much of the city with streetcars - a nod to the "Streetcar Conspiracy" that simply didn't happen, at least not in Portland.

Until we start looking at transit planning as planning for people, we will keep going down this black hole of doom where transit planning has been taken over by special interests who look out for developers and light rail contractors - rather than serving the citizens who rightfully deserve quality transit - even if it's on a bus.

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