Who will train Portland to love transit?

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So, back to Randal O’Toole’s Debunking Portland. Everyone would have to admit that a key goal of the whole Portland effort was to reduce the use of cars. So a couple of decades, if not more, into this experiment and how are we doing?

Overall Transit Usage is Down

  • “More than 97 percent of all motorized passenger travel (and virtually all freight movement) in the Portland area is by automobile.”
  • “Portland transit usage grew faster than driving in the 1990s,” but “transit’s share declined in the 1980s, when the region’s first light-rail line was under construction. In 1980 more than 2.6 percent of motorized passenger travel in the Portland area used transit. By 1990, that had fallen to 1.8 percent. Over the next 12 years, it slowly climbed to 2.3 percent but still remained well below the 1980 level. Since 2002 it has stagnated or slightly fallen.”

Transit Usage as a Percentage of Commuters is Flat or Even Down

  • “During the 1970s, TrMet made many improvements in bus service, including building a downtown transit mall, increasing bus frequencies, and providing commuters with park-and-ride stations. Between 1970 and 1980, total transit ridership tripled and the share of commuters taking transit to work increased from 7.0 to 9.8 percent.”
  • Cost overruns on the first light-rail line forced TriMet to raise bus fares and reduce service. By 1990, four years after the light-rail line opened, only 6.7 percent of commuters rode transit to work — less than in 1970. Ridership recovered in the 1990s, but…only [to] 7.7. percent… buses in [Seattle] carried a smaller percentage of travel than Portland in 1980, but were ahead of Portland’s bus-and-light-rail system in 1990 and 2000.

Transit Usage as a Percentage of Downtown Commuters is, hmm, Down

  • “In 2001, TriMet was proud to say that 46 percent of all downtown Portland workers rode transit to work. Only 11 percent of Portland-area commuters work downtown, so on a regional level this is not very important. But transit did help relieve congestion and parking problems in the downtown area. By 2005,” because of service cuts after the 2001 recession and the gargantuan debt payments due to the expansion of the light rail elements of the network(sound familiar, anyone?!), “the number of downtown workers communing by transit declined by more than 20 percent, while the number driving to work increased. The result was that transit’s share of downtown commuting fell to just 38 percent.”

So, what about this experiment has worked? We have enough regulations at every level. One prays that we continue to resist Urban Growth Boundaries…