Monday, January 18, 2010

The Stump -

Posted by SP Red Electric
January 17, 2010, 8:43AM

Here's another analysis, from someone who has lived in the Portland area almost all his life.

Another interesting survey shows that Portland is one of the most depressed cities in the nation - depressed, as in sad and gloomy, not economically. Maybe it's that Portlanders are so accustomed to what we have, that we don't bother fighting for something better. Sure we take a good idea from elsewhere (i.e. light rail, bike paths - two things we certainly did not invent, but they're something we do a lot of), but when we screw something up we don't bother complaining about it. We just accept mediocrity and plan our lives around it.

Portlanders that move - yes, they move to a better place. But when it's sunny and warm you have certain expectations. No, Los Angeles is not a resort city. New York is jammed full of people. Europe costs sky high. Meanwhile, folks who move to Portland find a lack of jobs, it rains a lot, it's hard to get places (despite Portland's assertion that you can live without a car - it's possible, but it is in Los Angeles, Houston and Atlanta, too.) Yes, Portland is close to the beach and the mountains and the Columbia River, but not everyone surfs and skis. If you have a great job here and enjoy the nature, I'm sure Portland is a great city for you and that's OK.

Another reason we don't complain much is because of apathy. How many people in East Portland bother to vote? How many of them voted last year for President, and how many voted for Mayor? (A lot fewer participated in the Mayoral race.) Many people are just tired of the divisiveness in our local decision making, where a small minority of folks have a huge voice, while the majority of residents are ignored. The per-capita income in Portland is less than $30,000; yet you wouldn't know it by our housing and development plans that frequently ignore the average Portlander, but spend a great amount of detail to attracting well-to-do outsiders to live in the Pearl and SoWa. There are only 136,259 owner-occupied homes in Portland, and another 100,000 rental properties -- that's a full 10% more rental properties in Portland than the U.S. average. We have a school district that is one of the worst - there's a reason families are fleeing for Washington County, where the Beaverton and Hillsboro school districts have been growing and building new facilities at the same time Portland is shutting down and consolidating schools. And when the public tries to speak - the school board shuts the public up.

Our transit system is a perfect example: if you're a Streetcar rider, you are considered a "choice rider" by TriMet. But if you're a bus rider, you get socked with service cuts, poor service, an aging bus's the perfect example of "separate but equal". Yet...TriMet's board is unelected and few have the time to be able to attend a TriMet board meeting (one of the few actually scheduled during working hours, instead of the evening hours when the public is more capable of attending).

Portland has its good points, and its bad points too. Portland is not the greatest city - I don't know what is. It depends on what you are looking for; what's great to one person is not to another. I grew up here, my family is here, my roots are here - that's why I'm here.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

I would like to know how much of the ridership decrease is actually not related to "the economy" but rather TriMet itself.

Bus service has not seen any improvement, yet TriMet continues to roll out the red carpet for MAX and WES riders.

Buses are old, becoming more unreliable, and now thanks to TriMet's financial situation are less frequent. Not to mention that a lot of self-inflicted pain thanks to TriMet - how much NEGATIVE news coverage, much of it directed right at the bus system - has TriMet received? And more importantly - does TriMet even bother to counter any of it with positive spin, or even positive advertising? When is the last time TriMet actually advertised the bus system? It's been a very, very long time. But they have no problem with "WES WORKS! Celebrating one year of Westside Express Service" - even though WES is widely regarded as a failure.

TriMet likes to play with the MAX numbers - yes, a certain amount of ridership increase would be expected with a new line; but how much of that ridership increase came at the expense of ridership declines on bus routes like the 72? And how about ridership numbers for the Green Line specifically south of Gateway TC - versus the other routes? It is pretty apparently that much of the ridership on the Green Line are simply riders on the core system (Rose Quarter to Gateway) that simply board a Green Line train out of convenience - the one place where TriMet has boosted service frequency (with trains now every five minutes instead of seven to eight minutes). And MAX ridership is only up over one percent.

How much bus ridership was lost due to the negative news coverage about TriMet eliminating Fareless Square for bus riders?

How much bus ridership was lost due to the loss of Fareless Square? Sunday bus service? I would place a bet that much of the ridership loss was due to nothing but press coverage, and former bus riders giving up on TriMet even if their own route was not affected, or not as affected (i.e. less frequency but still service seven days a week.) And how much bus ridership was lost solely because of people giving up on the poor service TriMet offers to its bus riders?

San Francisco - most certainly impacted by the economy and its shattered housing market - posted a ridership GAIN in the last few months. Los Angeles has reported ridership gains. And C-Tran, which would seem to be affected EQUALLY as TriMet, reported a 4.2% rider increase?


Certainly, if C-Tran, which serves the one county in Washington with the worst unemployment rate, and connects to a city that appears to have lost so many jobs, can raise ridership - and do so by having a bus only transit system (and one with a fleet of new Hybrid buses)...TriMet is definitely doing something wrong.

King County Metro (which serves Seattle) had a 6% decrease in its bus only transit system (not including Sound Transit Central Link or Sounder commuter trains or buses).

Losses of 6% in Seattle, 15% in Portland.

Clearly, Portland transit riders are giving up on TriMet. TriMet is a choice for many people, and many people are voting not with their jobs, but with their cars (and, admittedly in Portland, their bikes as well - bike ridership has actually gone up as a percentage of trips taken equal to the percentage of transit trips that have gone down.)

Saturday, January 2, 2010


Posted by SP Red Electric
January 01, 2010, 9:33PM

The TriMet board voted 6-1 in August to start charging for buses in the zone, saying the new system would help the agency by bringing in additional revenue.

Yet TriMet still gives away free MAX rides, still subsidizes the City of Portland Streetcar (which is not a TriMet function) to the tune of $3 million annually - with an additional $2 million earmarked for eastside loop operations, gives away free Vintage Trolley rides, gives away free parking at the Park & Ride Lots (most of which are near MAX stations), stopped charging for boarding bikes on the bus bike racks, and still pays some $20 to $30 per boarding ride for WES because its costs are astronomical.

TriMet continues to employ staff whose job is to do nothing but plan capital intensive MAX lines to Milwaukie and Vancouver; while we have one of the oldest, least reliable, most maintenance-intensive, and most fuel-guzzing, carbon polluting bus fleets in the United States; many of the buses which carry full loads (and when doing so, actually return a profit to TriMet).

TriMet had no problem paying "retention bonuses" to managers who ended up leaving TriMet, buying transit supervisors shiny new sport utility vehicles, and spends millions on "art". And TriMet added a "Mall Shuttle" MAX train whose job is to do nothing but run circles up and down the Transit Mall - even though there are already Green and Yellow Line trains which do the same thing every 7-8 minutes. Each of those shuttle trains runs entirely in fareless square, so those trains cost TriMet over $300 per hour to run, and collect not a single penny in revenue. (In comparison, a bus costs about $60 per hour to run.)

So, TriMet will get $600,000 a year by charging bus riders (many of whom will just board the "free" MAX trains), so TriMet probably won't even see a revenue increase out of this - but will get to claim more MAX ridership to further its goal of discriminating against the bus system and its riders - by giving away free MAX service while making bus riders pay for a substandard service. It would be like TriMet owning a restaurant chain - placing restaurants similar to McDonald's in most of the city, and restaurants similiar to McCormack & Schmick's in a few select areas - but charging the same for a hamburger (despite the clearly obvious difference in quantity and quality.)