Like flowing water that takes the path of least resistance, so too will people when deciding how to get from point-A to point-B. Unfortunately in Portland today, driving a private car is still way too cheap and easy so it’s not surprising that the majority of people still prefer to drive.
To get the transportation results we need in order to save lives, save time, save money, and save our health; we must make options to driving more attractive. In Portland that means we must get more out of our significant investment in transit.
While they’re good at chasing mega-projects (including ones that have nothing to do with transit), TriMet is not doing enough to make bus service great. The result is fewer people taking transit — and more importantly, more people opting to drive.
A recent report by the Federal Highway Administration showed that more American are driving — but transit ridership is going down. In the Portland region there was a 1.3% decrease in the amount of people who use transit from 2015 to 2016. This trend should cause concern to everyone who cares about safety and livability. But as Streetsblog reported last week, two cities who bucked that trend — Seattle and Houston — have managed to increase transit ridership. Why? It could be because they both made significant investments to improve transit options – particularly bus service.
TriMet is working on bus improvements and they can’t come soon enough. We think it’s crucial for the success of cycling — and for Portland’s future in general — that transit gets better. You can help TriMet help themselves by taking their Rider’s Pulse Survey to share your input. (You might have to join their Rider’s Club before you can take the survey.) Learn more about other projects in their “Making Transit Better” initiative here.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and email@example.com
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This survey seems mostly focused around safety of riders, and not about improving service.
Safety and comfort, including time spent waiting and how unpleasant is that location where you’re waiting 15 minutes with small children after walking them across 6 lanes to reach your stop? Our intersections are so wide, you need a bike just to get across the street.
TriMet has many routes that are busy, with many buses full of riders. However, the majority of routes have very low ridership. I am amazed at how often I see a bus with less than 5 people on it. Why does TriMet continue with such a large bus on a route that has low ridership, instead of having smaller shuttles in service for routes that do not need a huge bus? It is frustrating to see so many with 1 person enjoying the ride.
I was told by a TriMet employee several years ago that they have to run full-size buses on all routes because of their union contract. I don’t know if that is still true (or if it ever was–it doesn’t make much sense).
That’s definitely not true – TriMet uses some shorter buses on a few routes.
Bus 51 is a short bus because of tight turns in the SW Hills which will have new bus options in several years.
The difference in operating costs is negligible. The driver is the biggest cost, and a 30ft bus is barely more efficient than a 40ft bus. There are a lot of advantages to having a standardized fleet.
And keep in mind that many of these busses do fill up on portions of their route. At times they are close to empty, yes, but at other times they are quite full.
Many low-volume routes are subsidized by various sources: Payroll tax for most Trimet routes; Rural routes by state governments; routes to colleges by the colleges themselves through student fees or from education districts (PPS or MHCC for example); and routes that serve hospitals and other institutions by social welfare agencies (HUD & HHS are big subsidizers.) Politics can also play a part, including in smaller towns such as Gresham or Troutdale, who could do what Wilsonville and Sandy already have done, leave Trimet and start their own local service, subsidized entirely from state funding sources. For Trimet, this can be a very unsavory, but real, threat.
I bring my dog to work, and he’s too big for a crate, so transit is not an option for me. Too bad, because I’d like to have the option of a bus ride – that might let me walk half way with the dog and then get on the bus, etc. As it is, I tow him in a trailer or drive.
What percentage of commuters in Portland bring their dogs to work?
More comfortable, quieter, electric buses!
Electric buses are nice and quiet, but do have their drawbacks. I used to live in Seattle, where many routes are electrified.
– Whenever electrification has been proposed in Portland, everyone complained about the unsightly overhead wires that would be required. Personally, I never minded the wires in Seattle: it was just part of the look of the city, and no different than what you have with light rail and streetcars. But I do acknowledge there’s a lot more overhead visual clutter on streets with the “trackless trolleys”
– Reliability is a bit of a problem. Buses don’t travel on fixed trackways like trains, and need to have long spring-loaded, swiveling struts to contact the wires overhead. These frequently fall off the wires (especially going around corners), instantly stalling the bus and causing a minute or two of delay while the driver goes outside with a pole and reconnect the errant strut to the wire.
– Seattle is financially better suited to providing this service than Portland, because the former has a city-owned utility (City Light) that provides power at half the price of privately owned utilities like Puget Sound Energy, PGE and PacifiCorp. I’m sure that even at private-provider rates there’s a big energy cost savings vs. diesel, but not as great as it is with public power (which, bizarrely, Portland voters always reject at the ballot).
– If you’re going to electrify a route, you need to electrify the entire route. Including the low-ridership areas where the cost of stringing wires is harder to justify, and the higher hills where the wires are more likely to get coated in ice. Few of TriMet’s routes are strictly urban: even those that run downtown usually serve far-flung suburbs at their other end.
All that said, I would welcome electric buses in Portland.
Batteries solve three of the four problems you identified.
I actually agree with Kitty. Battery-powered buses are a great idea. I’m not sure how long they can run on one charge, however I’d imagine charging stations can easily be installed at route termini.
batteries can be charged inductively along the route and battery prices are dropping far faster than anyone has predicted:
i care about the particulates, air toxics, and greenhouse gases that trimet buses spew far more than i care much about comfort, noise, or unseemly wires.
There isn’t enough bus routes on north / south roads on the westside. Bus 56 needs service to connect Sylvan to Raleigh Hills.
TriMet’s mission is to make service “safe, dependable and easy to use”. https://trimet.org/about/mission.htm
There is nothing about making service fast. So I think it is simply not in TriMet’s mindset to create a transit system that could function as a viable alternative to cars. That would also explain why the GM supports street widening — it does not contradict TriMet’s mission.
I agree TriMet could do more to improve speed. Most of their urban routes average 8-12mph. In other words, not faster than a bike. However, they aren’t doing nothing about it: the Division project will soon bring faster arterial Bus Rapid Transit (aBRT) to that route.
Not as fast as traditional heavy BRT (which operates at Light Rail speeds), but it is much faster than conventional local buses, with many Light Rail like features: stops spaced 1/4-1/2 mile apart, prepay on the platform instead of standing in line to pay the driver, simultaneous boarding through front and (extra-wide) rear doors, and direct walk-on (or roll-on, for wheelchair users) access from raised platforms. Also free WiFi.
We just got our first aBRT route in the Twin Cities last year (the A-line), and it’s an enormous improvement over regular buses. Also has brought a big increase in ridership, not surprisingly. Starting next year Metro Transit is going to be bringing us a new aBRT route more or less every year from here on out, with multiple routes now in the planning or construction phases.
Hopefully TriMet will follow this success, with Division only the first of many aBRT routes for them.
Another benefit of aBRT, which I believe TriMet is planning to include on Division: signal priority for approaching buses. It’s not as absolute as the prioritization that trains get, but the A-Line buses in St. Paul and Roseville tend to get the green most of the time. Fewer stops + less time sitting at each stop (despite more riders at fewer stops) + less time sitting at red lights = big time savings.
BRT was meant to be a cheaper light rail alternative, now we need a cheaper BRT alternative? IMO, the features you described should be standard for all bus routes. BRT without dedicated lanes will suffer.
Yes Adam, we do need a cheaper and “lighter” alternative to conventional “heavy” BRT. Traditional BRT is meant as a direct alternative to Light Rail: rapid, longer-distance transit on major corridors that in many cases have been widened to accommodate it, with stops spaced generally 1/2 to 3 miles apart. It’s cheaper than LRT but still costs a lot of money, mostly for land acquisition, busway construction and road reconstruction.
The lighter alternative, becoming known as aBRT, doesn’t generally provide the full speed of hBRT, but costs a fraction as much (a couple million per mile) while providing a pretty big reduction in travel time vs. conventional buses.
It still requires significant investments, which is why it is not (yet!) the standard for busy bus routes. Raised platforms (similar to steetcar platforms) must be constructed at each stop, along with generally nicer shelters and other amenities (including fare-reading machines) than standard bus stops, special expensive buses must be purchased, and the line needs to be integrated into the city’s (cities’) signal timing network(s). But like you, I look forward to the day when most busier bus routes work this way.
It seems that one of the main reasons why people don’t take mass transit to work isn’t the routes themselves or the frequency of trips, but the fact that many routes simply take too long. I feel this is because too many routes require transfers downtown, which greatly increases the miles travelled and requires commuters to go through slow, high-traffic areas. More focus on crosstown routes, particularly east-west routes to the north and south of the city center, would I feel greatly improve overall transit times and lead to a substantial increase in ridership.
This is a common problem, not the speed, the belief that the goal, and not trip, is most important. Vision Zero will require a reset of our views on what is ‘better’.
“There is more to life than simply increasing its speed.” – Gandhi
““There is more to life than simply increasing its speed.” – Gandhi”
Yeah, but when someone’s transit trip to work takes 90 minutes (one way) and they can drive it in 30 minutes, Gandhi isn’t likely to convince that person to get out of their car.
I’m not concerned with speed – I’m more concerned with wait times at transfers. Even a 15 min wait is unacceptable to me. This is directly tied to frequency – if we could get a bus every 5-10 mins or so all day, the need to focus on schedules or worry about making a transfer – lest you wait outside in the cold for 30 mins – are eliminated.
In your view, should Trimet operate fewer bus lines in exchange for more frequent service on their more popular lines?
distance/time = speed. First you say you’re not concerned with speed, then you say you are. Thanks for illustrating the true issue.
Paikiala, that’s absurd. I don’t care how fast the bus is moving. I care that I am not waiting half an hour in the cold. The time I care about is the time not spent on the bus. Time waiting for a bus is about convenience, not speed.
Wait time is a function of speed and number of vehicles.
My main concern is not to have to deal with the stress of making a bus connection. Our low frequency is the greatest problem with TriMet IMO. I am perfectly fine with the trip taking longer as long as that transfer is convenient.
Would you prefer a smaller network with better service than we get today, or a larger network that serves more people, but doesn’t perform as well on core lines? In other words, what are you willing to trade for more frequent service on the lines you use?
I would prefer greater funding of public transport and less funding of highway widening.
It’s easy to make tradeoffs when you don’t have to trade anything off. (The new TriMet will be so beautiful! You won’t believe how good it will be!)
But posed another way — if TriMet had more money, would you prioritize improving existing routes, or serving more people?
TriMet has decent coverage of the metro area. I’d argue for increased funding to be used for improving existing routes.
I have an issue with the first two paragraphs here. You write that driving is too cheap and easy. That sort of implies you would like to make driving more expensive and more difficult. I assume in the second paragraph, you meant to write that you want to make driving “less” attractive not more. There are plenty of people for whom driving is a necessity and, making it more difficult will cause them real harm.
I don’t think you are going to win many converts by writing you want to make drivers lives more expensive and less convenient. There are plenty of people who are drivers but, also bike-sympathetic. I think you’re going to make them less sympathetic if you are seen to be lobbying to make their lives harder.
I though the rest of the article did a good job of focusing on how to improve transit to make it more competitive with cars on cost and convenience.
Drivers should be paying the full cost of their transportation choices – rather than being subsidized by the rest of us, by the feds, by artificially-cheap gasoline, etc. Yes, that will result in people paying more.
The problem is, most drivers don’t realize they’re being subsidized at all. They think one of the reasons their costs are so “high” already is because they’re subsidizing all of the non-drivers. Heck, I felt that way 4-5 years ago before I started getting into riding my bike more and reading blogs/sites like this.
I do think some advocates emphasize making driving less convenient too much, I’d rather the focus just be about making transit/biking more convenient. Granted, they often go hand-in-hand; with limited space, making alternate modes more convenient implies that driving will be less so (especially when adding safety to the mix). But from a purely diplomatic/PR-type view, I think it looks better to have a “I want to make this better for me/us” stance rather than “I want to make this worse for you.” The latter feels more personal, even if, in the end, making driving worse ultimately improves their lives.
I took the survey (I still ride TriMet quite a bit, taking 14 rides while I was in town last week), and mentioned my biggest safety concern: even at stations, pedestrian crossings of trackways only have audible and not visual warnings when a train is crossing the track. I know that because of ADA, TriMet can’t have crossing gates that lower across pedestrian paths, as they have in Japan. But they could have flashing lights (as we do at all light rail/pedestrian crossings here in Minneapolis). Really not rocket science here. Dozens of pedestrians have been killed by MAX over the years, and I’m quite sure a number of them would have been prevented by this simple and obvious measure.
Another access issue I forgot to mention: bike access into and out of some MAX stations is not what it could be. Example: 205th/Qatama station, which I frequently use. 205th has bike lanes, but no ramp connecting up the curb up to the station. If you want to get into the station (which is on the south side of the tracks), you need to remember to get up onto the sidewalk on the NORTH side of the tracks, quite a few yards away. Not a huge deal once you’re used to it, but easy to miss especially at night, and the point is it could be much better than it is. The Millikan Way MAX station has the same issue if I remember correctly.
In TriMet’s defense, they are often working with property owners that do not want or will not permit certain modifications on their property to facilitate transit or users of bikes. It is a delicate game of begging, asking, and negotiating with property owners (private and public) to make adjustments to the system.
The two stations I’m talking about have TriMet property fronting directly up against the roadway. The ramps I’d like to see would be entirely on TriMet property. Private property owners have nothing to do with it, and in fact at the Quatama station I have to use a private (apartment complex) driveway apron on the opposite side of the station in order to access it from the bike lane.
You could try not arbitrarily closing down stations for no other reason than you tear up the sidewalk and we see no actual results, removing ALL the trees from all your stops, remove 90% of the benches where people may sit down, NEVER keep to a schedule, maintain filthy vehicles (the smell is awful!), have next to no enforcement of fair offenders (apparently due to race) and/or terrible, loud and obnoxious behavior and having schedules that make no sense at all where, during peak times the trains are so crowded that it feels like Tokyo and yet the rest of the time the trains are nearly empty. And don’t even get me started on trains simply not showing up at all with no notice whatsoever.
And this stupid “electronic fare” system you have that has been explained to NO ONE, will obviously have NO enforcement since it’s just a stick on a wide open platform and you refuse to enforce fares and you don’t seem to have a plan for all the workers out there that get their tickets through their employers.
I take the train both ways, every day, and have for almost 5 years now, from Gresham to Portland and back. I think I have some idea what’s going on.
A good example is closing down the City Hall stop (by the Mall no less) in Gresham for 4-6 weeks and simply saying, well… get the train at either the Transit Center or Civic Drive 1/2 a mile away. How? It’s not like you have reliable buses and, from what I see, no-one really wants to walk 1/2 a mile in the rain (which it does all the time). And why? What was wrong with the stop? Other than the maze of silly crossings you’ve been putting in because, apparently, people are morons and can’t see a train coming, I’ve seen nothing but tree removals in 3 years.
You will never convince people to use transit more as long as you have Californians moving up here. They will drive. They will complain about traffic, yet they will drive. It is as simple as that. These are not Oregonians. Oregonians are a dieing breed in Portland, face it.
I agree with many of your complaints, including that the trains are often overcrowded, but I would take exception to the claim that they’re ever remotely as crowded as those in Tokyo. I’ve been on a few rush-hour Tokyo trains. They have gloved attendants at some of the stations to physically push more people onto the vehicles, and it’s pretty normal to be physically pressed up against people around you on all sides. Never experienced that on a MAX train, even once.
Why? Are people too stupid to pay attention to their environment? A train is kind of hard to miss.
Yes, though I would substitute “distracted” for “stupid”.
That’s the typical response when I bring this up, but actually a train is pretty easy to miss. I think many regular train riders like myself have noticed this, but requires explanation for those who haven’t thought about it:
Most stations have walkways across the tracks and, when there’s a center platform, two separate crossings at each end. Four crossings. No train ever passe through more than one of these crossings at any given time. Sure the trains make an audible warning anytime they’re coming through, but at any given time when you hear that “jing” there’s only a 25% chance that that train is going to cross your path. When you’re in a busy station there are lots of noises and commotion, most of which do NOT apply to you. I’ve seen a lot of people get complacent and have close calls. Hasn’t happened to me, but after more than 2000 MAX trips I’ve seen how easily it can happen.
Visual warnings are more specific, and tell you when there’s a train crossing YOUR path. Big, big difference. These are the standard in other developed countries (like Minnesota, apparently). Would be nice if TriMet caught up with this.
“we must make options to driving more attractive.” Aaaah – “alternatives”, please, rather than “options”. I read that twice in horror before the intent was clear.
On top of how slow and crowded TriMet is during commute times, $5 a day just isn’t inexpensive enough to entice anyone who doesn’t already use public transportation. Take more money from gasoline, or somewhere, to subsidize public transportation or nothing will ever change.
I agree with your comment about price (I think transit should be free), but gas taxes cannot be used for transit in Oregon without a constitutional amendment.
Hence the ‘or somewhere’ qualifier.
As if that’s much of a barrier. The Constitution gets changed at literally every election cycle and it has over 400 amendments for some really bizarre things
Any idiot can write a Constitutional amendment and many did — until 2012, it was riddled with grammatical and spelling errors (including “govenor,” “Constition”, “seperate,” “cheif,” “independant,” “authorizeing,” “Suprume,” and “injuctions)
Yes, costs are too high for justification to get my family onto a Trimet train for a leisure trip downtown. Much cheaper to drive and park. This would be different if it was just me going on a daily commute downtown, but then I can bike, so why would I wait and pay for a trimet? Tri-met has been mismanaged for years, and their costs and obligations continue to grow out of control. Their shotgun approach to citywide transit could use some “smart” technology, and perhaps one day they will have a fleet of Tesla buses, but I have no faith that even the best of new ideas to change the transit system could be implemented in a cost-effective or efficient manner after the project gets compromised on build-out. Trimet will always continue to be a subsidized, sloth-like, government agency which takes a bottom-up approach to serving the public, with the focus on most needy, most vulnerable members of the public. (And this is, for better or worse, not great, but okay; the Trump plan would be to dismantle it, take the money and make it into vouchers to use on Uber, which is obviously, not a plan). Their costs will continue to grow, and their service will continue to have little appeal to many members of the public. Although, I never use Tri-met, if I did, I am sure I would be glad for it – and still complain about frequency of service on my route (and those pesky cyclists always riding their bikes in the way of the bus).
I would like to see more effort in urban planning to unhitch the cycle-mode wagon from the tri-met horse. It seems that city Bike infrastructure is too frequently an afterthought to city tri-met infrastructure.
$9 a day in Denver. And they wonder why their trains are empty most of the day.
Thanks for posting this Jonathan. I provided a lot of feedback on my persepective that the most unsafe portion of my TriMet experience is always the walk to/from the bus/MAX stop, usually do to lack of snow/ice shoveling on the part of TriMet itself.
I should add that Seattle’s Rapid Ride system is mostly an aBRT implementation. Dedicated busways are nice and can provide LRT-like speeds, but cost a lot of money and can’t be implemented just anywhere. They’re different tools for different jobs, and both have their place. Insisting on hBRT everywhere (just like insisting on LRT everywhere) is making the perfect the enemy of the good.
I will also add that while the Twin Cities’ first aBRT line has been a resounding success, our sole hBRT line has not been a ridership success (although it is wonderful to ride). That’s mostly because it was built to a low-density second-ring suburban area with low transit demand, not strictly because of the merits of hBRT. But it does highlight that limited transit dollars need to be concentrated where they’ll provide the maximum increase in ridership and benefits to riders.
Both are important! Although I welcome investments like BRT that improve bus speeds, averaging 16mph instead of 10mph doesn’t do you much good if you stand around at a stop for 20 minutes waiting to make your connection. Frequency becomes really important for rides that involve transfers. It was a major blow to many people’s commute times when TriMet dropped Frequent Service from a number of lines (some of which have only recently been restored) in the wake of the Great Recession.
One of the benefits of aBRT is that it doesn’t entail the same costs, or a decade of planning, like hBRT and LRT, and is a more efficient use of transit dollars – precisely because that helps enable more frequent service.
Any idea if there’s a connection between Seattle’s big increase in transit ridership and the collapse of their bikeshare system?
No. Their system was garbage from day one. I experienced it. Not to mention the asenine helmet law.
Seems like if there were a few streets going N/S and E/W that only bikes, peds, and local residents were allowed to use, cycling might make a big jump in numbers. A place that was really safe to ride. Intersections might be a problem, but that could be worked out.
Getting some articulated buses would be a start.
We had articulated buses once. They were a disaster. But TriMet is ready to give them another go on their Division Street “It’s Not BRT” BRT project.
What kind of disaster occurred with articulated buses? Mechanical problems? Too long for Portland’s short blocks? Minneapolis and Seattle (the systems I’m otherwise familiar with) both have lots of articulated buses.
As I recall the problems were particular to the buses TriMet bought, not system issues, but I do know that the experience left such a bad taste that it is only now, decades later, that TriMet is willing to take the plunge again.
Well, trimet has proven they can’t pull off standard practices. Despite multiple agencies around the country pulling it off. Like, articulates buses. If it was a “disaster”, then they own that. They also own repeating the myth that somehow they weren’t responsible and were the victims.
The truth is, they don’t want articulates because it’s far cheaper than light rail.
I haven’t heard about TriMet claiming victimhood; can you clarify what you are referring to? I also don’t think they dislike articulated buses because they are cheaper than LRT. Where did you hear that?
Victims= bad taste in mouth, don’t want to “try” again. It’s code.
Rail systems are the most expensive to construct and operate. Lrt can’t go around anything. Lrt is dependent on thousands of moving parts…People and equipment. But, it’s not a choo choo and it doesn’t enrich companies.. forever.
Trimet could have put down and run a brt system for a fraction of the cost. But that means smaller budgets…And people are paid off of budgets.
I don’t share you conspiratorial outlook on this issue; perhaps because I was here was involved (to a small degree) in the decision making process for several of the Max Lines. I know what people were talking about, how planners thought about the issue, and very little of the process involved consideration for choo choo companies and eternal enrichment.
I’d invite you to get involved with the next big potential LRT decisions — likely Powell or SW Portland. Sometimes participation helps you understand what the issues and tradeoffs are. I can assure you BRT will be discussed and considered, as it always is.
It’s conspiracy. It’s fact given that men and women seek to enrich themselves at the highest levels. Brt is cheaper at every turn in every way in every metric.
Or, in your view, trimet hasn’t aggressively cutting service, building trains where they aren’t needed and doing a good job of ignoring everyone who doesn’t agree with them. And…Pretty much hosing bikes where ever possible.
How many miles of paths have they built? How many could they have built?
Everyone was duped with max, including me.
No, in my view conspiracy theories are usually bunk.
And..get some BRT routes going that are direct.
All of the BRT proposals I’ve heard of for TriMet (aBRT on Division, and hBRT for SW Corridor) are pretty direct.
As of this writing, although batteries are coming down in price they are still pretty expensive for something as large as a bus. A battery pack sufficient to power a bus along an entire typical route would still cost an enormous amount of money – and take up a lot of space on the bus.
The additional weight of a really large pack also significantly reduces the efficiency of a vehicle, creating a diminishing-returns problem that effectively limits the overall range that’s possible. Electric cars with cheap lead acid batteries had this same problem for decades – limiting practical range to a few dozen miles even if you filled the whole car with batteries – until more weight-efficient batteries came along recently. I believe that even with Lithium technology this is still a substantial problem for something as large as a bus. Even with today’s technology, having substantial vehicle range requires that the vehicle be relatively small.
Some of this could be dealt with by having smaller hot-swappable battery packs (which would still be at least appliance-sized). That would require minor delays every few miles, and the creation of stations where this hot-swapping would be done, but might make the idea feasible.
Don’t tell Seattle!
King County’s battery buses will only have a range of 25 miles on a charge, and Metro will be spending nearly $1 million per bus.
I’m not saying battery-powered electric buses can’t be a viable (and cost-effective) option eventually, but they are not there yet. I’d want to wait until a few early adopters have worked out the kinks and driven down the price before I’d advocate for TriMet (or MN’s Metro Transit) to invest in BEV buses.
Cool. For almost 3x as much money as a conventional bus.
And… Ladies and gentlemen, this is why trimet is allowed to continue to offer poor service and overspend. Because , you know, questioning is considered “conspiracy”. Thanks kitty!
Perhaps you could be specific about who is being enriched, and how. Without evidence, all we have is Obama tapping your phones and busing thousands of illegal voters to New Hampshire.
Your insertions of current events detailing a crazy man won’t bolster your argument..or lack of one. If you do not understand how private or public bureaucracies work in regards to one amassing the largest budget or project, I really can’t help you.
“Building trains where they aren’t needed” -> MAX lines mostly follow major transportation corridors, and as far as I know every line has exceeded its ridership projections.
“Hosing bikes wherever possible” -> One might argue that the Streetcar has substantially hosed bikes, but that wasn’t TriMet. If anything, the Orange line gave us some pretty significant improvements for bikes.
“Aggressively cutting service” -> TriMet did significantly cut back service when the Great Recession hit, but so did every other transit agency in the country. TriMet had to cut more than some systems because its operations are primarily funded by an employment income tax, which is more sensitive to recessions than sales or property taxes.
I don’t disagree with you that BRT can be much more cost-effective than LRT, but in pretty much every high-capacity corridor anywhere, rail is always considered preferable if you don’t consider cost constraints. It’s permanent (even non-transit users usually know where it is, encouraging occasional use), it can hold far more people per vehicle and it’s much friendlier to the handicapped. I don’t think agencies are going with rail so they can have bigger budgets, they’re doing it because it’s nicer to have if the budget allows.
But as we all know, budgets are limited. BRT and aBRT often make more sense from a financial perspective, and I’m glad there’s momentum behind these alternatives. Better to have more than one tool in the toolbox.
Brt is far, far cheaper. Trimet could have simply built dedicated roads. Tracks are really really expensive.
Mr. Peduto said the reason the proposal calls for Bus Rapid Transit rather that an underground light-rail system is simple: BRT would cost a maximum of $240 million and could be completed by 2021, and light rail would cost upward of $3 billion and take at least 15 years to complete.