Portland is a PR machine for light rail & streetcar
Here are Some Facts About Portland Oregon
Years ago, some Portlander's obtained the details on how Tri-Met allocated costs
between Bus and Light Rail. Among the documented (not well hidden) details we found:
1) The fare inspection program was allocated to overhead despite the fact that it
was about 95% for Rail.
2) Similarly, the security cost (now a separate Transit Police force) was allocated
to overhead despite the fact that it was about mostly for Rail.
3) The insurance cost was allocated to overhead despite the fact that it was mostly
for Rail (in CA this is broken out by mode, showing the far higher insurance cost
for expensive & fragile Rail equipoment).
4) The entire park-and-ride cost was was allocated to Bus, despite the fact that
it was used far more intensely for Rail.
5) There was no accounting under Rail for the MAX feeder bus routes, routes almost
entirely used for Rail access & the biggest losers (many with FRR under 5%) in the
Tri-Met system. The cost of these MAX feeder bus routes was assigned all to Bus.
6) There was no accounting for the cost of marketing -- not just advertising but
staff propagandizing, property tax abatements, use of Federal funds to build housing
in "Light Rail Zones". Much of this cost is not within Tri-Met but in the City of
Portland, State of Oregon, & other local agencies in the Portland area. Marketing
by Tri-Met, as anyone with their ears open here, has been about 90% rail-oriented
7) The Bus costs and revenues were distorted to downplay the high FFR on express
bus routes.This was done by assuming that revenues per rider were the same for all
routes. In reality suburban express routes pay a higher Zone 3 fare & have far fewer
passengers using those elderly, handicapped, & student passes (prevalent on inner
city Zone 1 &Zone 2 trips). Also, they assumed costs per hour or mile were the same.
This is not widely amiss except that express routes tend to be less expensive because
they make far fewer stops, get better fuel mileage, & operate in smoother traffic.
The reason for this methodology is clear: they did not want people to see that express
bus routes had a higher FRR than Light Rail. Such data has been available, by the
way, from next-door CTRAN (Vancouver WA public transit) except that CTRAN has routinely
told people this data does not exist (even to Vancouver City Council members). The
CTRAN data, per WA state standards, is calculated correctly. Hence the need to keep
8) Apart from operational/maintenance costs, I might add that I have never seen any
accounting for yet another huge but hidden cost of Light Rail: the FTA capital grants
& state/local match funds used long after the system is built to redo stations, add
stations, alter parking, add garages, replacing track to do utility work under the
street, double-track, etc. Consultant studies routinely only look at initial capital
costs of rail systems, comparing them to life cycle costs of buses & bus system components
over a period of decades. What they leave out is that rail post-implementation capital
costs are enormous (at least that's the Portland experience) & likely exceed most
or all the alternative bus system cost.