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 yet...total 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.)