Thursday, July 28, 2011

TriMet celebrates MAX Red Line: 10 million passengers to PDX

Thomas Ngo Trimet employee states:
"ltjd: The cost of a MAX ride is less than the actual fare."

Erik Halstead responds:
That's not correct either.

TriMet only counts operating costs of the MAX system in that number, and doesn't count capital costs, overhead, interest on bonds used to build MAX and other costs.

In fact, SOME of those MAX costs are actually allocated to bus operating...and bus operations is charged with the cost of bus replacement (which is actually a capital cost) while the equivalent expense on the MAX side is not.

TriMet has a history of underreporting true MAX costs and overreporting true bus costs, and this is confirmed by comparing with virtually every other transit agency in the nation. No one - not ONE single transit agency reports its numbers like TriMet does. TriMet until recently has been very secretive about releasing financial data and refused to publish its budget and audited financial statements; today the audited statements still do not break out costs by mode (hmm, I wonder why?) while other transit agencies routinely do (since many costs on the balance sheet are specific to a mode - bond issuances, for example, have nothing to do with buses.)

That said...with TriMet's own data, the most "successful" operation is the 72 Killingsworth/82nd Avenue bus, which has a per-boarding cost of less than $1.00. That's right - not a MAX train, but a bus. The most expensive route is the 84 Kelso/Boring bus, which takes a full-size bus and a full-time operator nearly two hours to run out from Gresham to Boring and back, often with just one or two paying riders. Let's see...$125 per hour to run the bus so $250 in expenses...maybe $5 in revenue? The problem isn't that it's a bus, it's that the bus route itself makes no sense.

Erik Halstead comments:
To celebrate, TriMet’s general manager, the head of the Port of Portland and other officials handed plastic luggage tags to passengers spilling in and out of MAX trains at PDX this morning.

How much did that cost?

How much did paying the various TriMet dignitaries cost?

Now, why won't TriMet give that same consideration to each and every TriMet bus rider who has ridden the system, some since TriMet's very inception in 1970? Why does TriMet celebrate every tiny little rail "milestone" but bus riders get nothing? When is the last time Neil and Mary and Bekki showered arriving bus riders with thanks for being the backbone of TriMet and helping to its success?

Erik comments:
How much does road maintenance for vehicles add to the national debt?

Actually, zero. With the exception of one or two years during the Bush administration, all highway funds came from the Highway Trust Fund so all road maintenance was "pay as you go". No money, no maintenance.

Light rail projects are heavily leveraged; in fact TriMet dodged a bullet during the A.I.G. financial scandal because TriMet engaged in a risky sale-lease-leaseback arrangement with a number of the MAX light rail cars (that's right - taxpayers don't own them, a bank does!) and A.I.G. itself was nearly insolvent - meaning that those light rail cars almost got foreclosed upon. But The Oregonian refused to report on it...

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