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Monday, December 6, 2010

Shopping quiz

You can spend $50 million on new buses, or nine times that much on a streetcar line that will do the same or less. Which would you buy?

Now guess which one the geniuses in our local government are pushing for.

Comments (20)

Streetcar shiny!

That question is too easy!
Ooooh...go by... poof! ....all gone.

Because the bus won't do (fill in the blank) development potential (that Metro conveniently leaves out will be tax-abated for 30 years).

Oh, and trolleys are cooler, and buses belch out big black clouds of smoke.

What other misconceptions will the streetcar riders put out...people are "attracted to the permanence of streetcar" (even though we will rip up a part of the streetcar tracks under the Marquam Bridge), and several parts of the Streetcar line were intentionally made as "temporary" as was the PDX station on the MAX Red Line.

There are other "bennies" for Milwaukee if it gets a light rail train from downtown as opposed to buses. It gets mixed use housing. This allows the Pearl District and the likes to export socially challenged folks out to the outer stretches of the Max lines so Pearl can enjoy more of their own kind. Come on Milwaukee jump on the light rail promotion, and make Pearl and downtown Portland richer.


Your comparison between bus and rail generously accepts the Metro figure of roughly $9 million per/mile capital cost of enhanced bus. This is a deliberately gold-plated number; it's been done elsewhere for $300,000 per/mile or less.

This whole project is not very complicated; just run express buses down HW 43 as an additional option to the current Bus #35, with stops spaced every 1-2 miles rather than TM's preferred every 2 blocks. Buy some nicer buses with reclining seats and on-board internet access, and that's all you need.

But it wouldn't cost enough and it would not rely on subsidized, high-density TODs; I guess that's why it wasn't put forward as an alternative.

Cost is a valid concern, but how do you factor in skinny route 43 and the resistant Dunthorpe crowd?

The root mistake is to accept the lie that this is about providing transit. It isn't. If it were, there would be preferential 24/7 service to major employment areas. Those services are scandalously bad and get worse every year. What it is really about is providing gigantic transfers of public wealth to favored developers and construction companies. If there were any justice, all the involved parties would be in jail.

This con job will be repeated until all metro area local governments are broke, at which point the developer/contractor sharks will move on to less completely stripped carcasses. Too bad so many think this is all fine as long as they get their micro-brews and bike lanes.

How many know that service to Pill Hill doesn't start early enough in the morning to get workers to the start of of their shifts? They have to take cars up there and hazard the huge fines until bus and tram service start, then move the cars down and try to get back before their break times expire.

I don't think it's as much about funneling money to private developers as it is being thought of as a visionary planner by putting in a streetcar. I mean, every city has buses. There's nothing particularly interesting with that. Don't overstate the importance of being applauded in certain circles. That brings a tremendous value to some politicians, even more than directing public investment to private supporters.

dyspeptic:The root mistake is to accept the lie that this is about providing transit. . .

How about changing the name then to
The TriMet Transition.

Transition of one's neighborhoods, bringing tax abated high density housing.

Transition of one's convenience for moving around the city. No more flexibility with buses but transition to the "fixed" rails.

Transition of our dollars from schools and services for the spendy light rail.

Re Hwy 43 express: "Buy some nicer buses with reclining seats and on-board internet access, . . ." And a bar, with $7.50 Bloody Maries inbound and $10.50 Beefeater martinis goin' home.

Priavate jitneys would be a fine option for LO to Portland and many other areas.

But they are banned here so that TriMet can spend many times the cost for worse service.



Jittneys first appeared in Los Angeles in 1915, as soon as cars became widely available. Under pressure from the streetcar companies, regulators imposed restrictions that stamped out the jitneys.
Years later, as the weight of the restrictions diminished, jitney services cropped up again in such places as Marina Del Rey and Long Beach. As public transit became more heavily subsidized, however, it lowered its fares, and private jitneys could no longer compete. Yet today jitneys are able to compete with subsidized public transit in cities like New York and Miami, where they are mostly illegal, and San Diego, where they are legal.

The regulations that restrict the private provision of shuttles and jitneys are largely motivated by public transit's dislike of competition. Just as the LA streetcar companies clamored for protection from the jitneys in 1915, most modern transit agencies oppose the introduction of private transit service. California PUC regulations require an applicant for a jitney license to show a "public need" for the service. Of course, wherever there is public transit, there is no "need" for a private service. Application denied.

Wha wha wha?? Private transportation that serves the people who actually want to pay for it?? How would the politicians solicit bribes with nothing to offer but letting people live in peace from social engineering?

The tax abatements Erik and clinamen mention aren't as bad as the tax-increment financing. The city has given away a few millions of dollars in annual tax abatements, but hundreds of millions in TIF.


Snohomish County's SWIFT BRT line is 17 miles long, cost $29 million (including all construction and vehicle costs) and has an operating cost of $5 million per year.

In comparison, WES is 14.7 miles long, cost $161.5 million (and climbing!!), and costs $6 million per year.


SWIFT operates every 10 minutes between 5:00 AM and 7:00 PM and 20 minutes on Saturdays and weekdays between 7:00 PM and midnight. There is no Sunday service, but riders can use regular bus route service on Sundays.

WES operates just a few hours in the morning and afternoon rush hours, with 30 minute intervals. There is no midday, late night, or weekend service; riders must use the 76 bus north of Tualatin, or a SMART bus between Tualatin and Wilsonville.


SWIFT came in $2.9 million under budget. WES came in nearly 200% over the original cost estimate, and the "official" budget of $117 million was exceeded by close to 50%.


Surveys tell us that many people who don’t ride transit now would consider taking the bus if there was more frequent service. This has been confirmed by the great success of Swift. Swift became the
agency’s highest ridership route after only the second month of operations. Carrying in excess of 3,300 passengers per weekday, Swift has far surpassed the forecast of 2,500 passengers per day by the end of the first year.

TriMet refuses to accept that people WILL ride the bus if they'd just spend a little dough on it. Although the 3,300 passengers per weekday seems weak (WES is at about 1400), it should also be noted that both systems estimated 2,500 passengers per day - SWIFT exceeded the mark, while WES is way, way short of the mark.

A water taxi service might be cheaper.


3 6 9 the people got fleeced building the streetcar line, the monkeys taxed the people until they choked and the damn thing went up in smoke.... clap clap

I have brought up the idea of water transportation several times here. It seems like such a natural here with our river and waterways.

$458 million for 3,400 passengers amounts to about $135K per head. For that kind of cash you could buy each rider his/her very own Bimmer, plus a Benz and pay to round our the proud driver's garage to a two-car capacity. Yes go by streetcar, because by the time we get done paying for streetcars and high-speed rail everywhere that we might want to go there won't be any money left for anything else.

Houston's first official jitney service growing fast


The Wave. What started as a small shuttle service for nightlife on Washington Avenue has grown to multiple shuttles now serving the Heights and Midtown, with downtown shuttle service coming soon - all with Metro's full blessing and permitted by the city's brand new jitney ordinance. There are plans to expand to Montrose, Shepherd, and Kirby - and even Austin and Dallas (not from here - intra-city, not inter-city). She is proving that private transit can work, at least in selected niches.

The Wave


is a high quality, fixed route, fixed rate, permitted jitney service running within the Washington Corridor, Midtown and the Heights, connecting people and places, while helping to resolve theses area’s immediate & critical needs. The Wave promotes ease of movement, encourages transit use and enhances existing public transportation systems, while also helping to reduce congestion and improve public safety. The Wave improves Houstonian’s quality of life by connecting people and places with reliable, safe, and easy-to-use travel choices that reduce congestion and energy use, save money, and promote sustainability, healthier lifestyles, and a more environmentally responsible community.

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