Yesterday’s New York Times features an article on Portland’s aerial tram. Portland is the “city that loves transit”? More like, the city whose officials love to spend money on transit.
Meanwhile, the Federal Highway Administration publicly expressed criticism of Portland’s transportation planning. “It is difficult to find a transportation focus” in the plan, says the agency. I guess they didn’t get the memo: in Portland, transportation spending is about real estate, not about moving people and goods.
“The plan should acknowledge that automobiles are the preferred mode of transport by the citizens of Portland,” continued the highway agency. “They vote with their cars every day.”
And what is the result of that vote in the “city that loves transit”? Cars 98, transit 2 (see my post on rail transit for documentation). Or maybe, when we count cycling and walking, cars 95, walking and cycling 3, transit 2.
The Times mentions Portland’s (accurate) brag that transit ridership has grown faster than driving in the past decade. But it failed to note that transit still hasn’t caught up to the share it had in 1980, before Portland started sinking money into rail transit. Transit’s market share then was 2.6 percent; now it is 2.2 percent. Think what it could be today if the region had spent half the money it spent on a few rail corridors on improving bus transit throughout the region instead.
Once again, a reporter judges planners by their intentions, not their results.