TriMet’s Latest Big Lie

TriMet’s $166 million “Westside Express Service” (WES) commuter rail is a miserable failure. After going 60 percent over budget, it is carrying only about 600 round trips per day. The amortized value of the capital cost alone is enough to buy every one of those commuters a brand-new Toyota Prius every year for the next 30 years. Those Priuses would be cleaner than the WES too.

Click for a larger view. Thanks to Steve Schopp for the photo.

So naturally TriMet wants to “celebrate WES” so much that it is advertising this great project on the back of its buses. Note that it isn’t asking people to actually ride the train, because that would never happen — no offense to Wilsonville, Tualatin, or Tigard, but from a transportation view the train goes from nowhere to nowhere, which kind of explains why hardly anyone rides it.

As Bojack notes, “Here in Portland, when the bureaucrats screw up, they never admit it. They’ll just tell you that what they did is a smashing success.” Of course, as someone named Ben responds, “Under federal law, if a transit agency decides a transit project is a failure and stops running it, it has to return the federal grants back to the feds. So if TriMet admits WES is a failure and quits running it, it would owe the feds at least $59 million. They might consider it to be less expensive to keep running it.”

Ironically, this ad is on the back of a number 12 “Barbur/Sandy” bus. This route is so popular that TriMet made it one of its Frequent Service buses, with service “about every 15 minutes most of the day, every day.” Except that it’s not: the fine print on TriMet’s web site notes that, “due to a budget shortfall,” the agency has “temporarily reduced frequency on some Frequent Service lines.” If only they had $166 million lying around that they could have used to keep those Frequent Service buses running.

Incidentally, the Antiplanner grew up a few blocks from Sandy Boulevard and sometimes went downtown on the #12 bus. However, I more often rode the Halsey bus, which was a lot faster because it stopped about three times after picking me up and then got on the freeway direct to downtown. When light rail opened, TriMet cancelled that bus because it was faster than the light rail and they didn’t want the train to face the competition. Great planning.

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10 thoughts on “TriMet’s Latest Big Lie

  1. mimizhusband

    In typical antiplanner fashion, while all the above data is true a $27,000 Prius would not have been the only option for the 600 riders. No accounting was made for the probability that had the WES not been built and the money had just been handed out to car dealers for them to give away cars, many car recipients would have opted to car pool (they’re all going to the same place anyway according to WES), so a Lexus hybrid could have been a reasonable choice.

    Next time, please remember that people really do want to ride together to save the environment.

  2. the highwayman

    The Autoplanner: Ironically, this ad is on the back of a number 12 “Barbur/Sandy” bus. This route is so popular that TriMet made it one of its Frequent Service buses, with service “about every 15 minutes most of the day, every day.”

    THWM: “TriMet’s Frequent Service bus lines run every 15 minutes or better during the weekday morning and afternoon rush hour. All MAX lines run about every 15 minutes most of the day, every day. (Service is less frequent in the early morning, midday and evening.)”

    The Autoplanner: Except that it’s not: the fine print on TriMet’s web site notes that, “due to a budget shortfall,” the agency has “temporarily reduced frequency on some Frequent Service lines.”

    THWM: “As of November 29, 2009, we have temporarily reduced frequency on some Frequent Service lines during mid-day, evenings and weekends, due to a budget shortfall. As a result, 15-minute service frequency is provided during the weekday morning and afternoon rush hour only. We plan to restore service frequency as the economy recovers.”

    O’Toole, taking TriMet out of context like this makes you a liar!

  3. C. P. Zilliacus

    The Antiplanner wrote:

    > So naturally TriMet wants to “celebrate WES” so much that it
    > is advertising this great project on the back of its buses.
    > Note that it isn’t asking people to actually ride the train,
    > because that would never happen — no offense to
    > Wilsonville, Tualatin, or Tigard, but from a transportation
    > view the train goes from nowhere to nowhere, which kind of
    > explains why hardly anyone rides it.

    It is not at all clear why any public transportation agency would implement a rail line where at least one end of the line does not serve the downtown employment center (in this case, presumably downtown Portland). I suppose the idea is that WES patrons will transfer to the MAX light rail at Beaverton in order to reach the downtown area of Portland, but it is generally accepted that transfers discourage transit ridership.

  4. ws

    ROT:Incidentally, the Antiplanner grew up a few blocks from Sandy Boulevard and sometimes went downtown on the #12 bus. However, I more often rode the Halsey bus, which was a lot faster because it stopped about three times after picking me up and then got on the freeway direct to downtown. When light rail opened, TriMet cancelled that bus because it was faster than the light rail and they didn’t want the train to face the competition. Great planning.

    ws:Except LR picks up and moves hundreds more people along the same line now. More than a bus ever would. Of course transportation is fast when you don’t have to make stops (and actually move people).

  5. craig

    ws:Except LR picks up and moves hundreds more people along the same line now. More than a bus ever would.
    —————————

    If all roads lead to Rome, the same goes for Tri-Met. All the bus lines lead to Max (Light Rail). We lost many of our fast express bus lines, to make Max look good.

  6. Tad Winiecki

    If I remember correctly from John Charles and Mel Zucker, the only noticeable change in traffic on highway 26 when westside MAX started operating through the tunnel under the zoo was fewer express buses. The number of cars was the same as before.

  7. mattb02

    Mimizhusband

    Next time, please remember that people really do want to ride together to save the environment.

    You are perfectly free to do so, and good luck to you. But in what world are such generous subsidies justified in support of your preference? If you’re consistent you’ll presumably be in favour of arbitrarily subsidising my desire to own ponies. You don’t even have environmental benefits in your favour for this dog.

  8. the highwayman

    Matt, the genie is out of the bottle. Selective “free market” voodoo isn’t going to help you & the existance of this despotic blog just shows that.

  9. Richard B

    I seen the Westyside Mess go by. The train is bigger than the bus but I only see it 1/4 full at times.
    “Incidentally, the Antiplanner grew up a few blocks from Sandy Boulevard and sometimes went downtown on the #12 bus. However, I more often rode the Halsey bus, which was a lot faster because it stopped about three times after picking me up and then got on the freeway direct to downtown. When light rail opened, TriMet canceled that bus because it was faster than the light rail and they didn’t want the train to face the competition. Great planning.”

    The story of my life. I am the black man that showed you my drivers license at the Washington County meeting. I told you how Trimet’s bus changes after the opening of the Westside Max and cancellation of good bus routes convinced me to finally learn to drive at the age of 40.

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