The debate about ridership on westside l ight rail and its effect on traffic continued
Wednesday, with Tri-Met saying it has attracted 1,773 new bus and rail riders in
the westside corridor
Tri-Met based its number on a count of buu riders between 6 and 9 a.m. on an average
of five mornings in October 1997 compared with a similar count of bus and rail riders
this month in the same corridor. The agencys transportation consultants counted 3,642
riders both directions in October 1997 and 5,415 this month.
Analysis: This is a real count, not a projection and is from the transit agency itself!
Ridership went from 3,642 to 5,415 an increase of 1773. Of the 5,415 total transit
users, 3,642 (67%) were previous transit users and 1773 (33%) were not. Typically
light rail lines have more riders in the first month due to the hoopla surrounding
their opening and before some riders realize that, for them, the rail is actually
worse than the bus that it replaced, so this number of new riders is probably an
Trimet found that, over a three hour period, 1773 people were removed from the freeway
for a total of 591 people per hour.
A freeway lane has a capacity of around 1800 cars per hour.
591 people would occupy 492 cars at 1.2 people per car.
492 / 1800 = 0.27, or about 1/4 of one lane of freeway capacity.
MAX removed about ONE-QUARTER OF ONE LANE worth of traffic from the Sunset during
Does Rail Reduce Congestion-2 ?
A Trimet FactSheet (year 2006, 8 years after the Westside line opened) claims that:
"Westside MAX provides the transportation capacity equivalent to another 1.2 lanes
in each direction on the Sunset Hwy."
2/3 of MAX riders would be on a bus if MAX had not been built (as shown above: "Of
the 5.415 total transit users, 3,642 (67%) were previous transit users...")
Therefore MAX carries a number of people equal to 1/3 of the number of people on
1.2 lanes of the freeway. 1/3 x 1.2 = 40% The number of cars removed is 40% of one
lane / 1.3 people per car = 31% of one lane of US-26
MAX only reduces traffic by 31% of one lane of freeway, according to Trimet's own
Those 3 lanes of the Sunset, also carry trucks and buses along with a share of commuters
equal to MAX.
18 miles of MAX cost $963 million, or $53.5 million per route mile of double track
($26.75 million per track-mile).
Freeways typically cost $5-10 million per lane-mile.
The cost was 267% -535% that of a freeway lane for removing 31% of one freeway lane
of traffic - a cost of 950% - 1900% above that of a freeway per usefulness.
The above two methods produce answers consistent with the Portland/Vancouver I-5
Transportation and Trade Partnership and we can be fairly confident that Portland's
MAX only removes less than 1/3 of one lane worth of traffic from a three lane freeway.
LRT costs about 10-19 as much as freways for the same capacity.
Final Conclusion: LIGHT RAIL COSTS TOO MUCH AND DOES TOO LITTLE