YVR Lutyens, in a comment to the post below, provided a lot of great data that might otherwise be missed unless I reprinted it here as a separate post. I’d certainly welcome response from Portland readers.
Portland may have things going for it like good coffee and great beer – I am a fan of the small block pattern downtown – but skepticism and criticism of its transportation policy are well founded. Unless you are Wendell Cox, Portland just isn’t a transportation success story.
There are successes like the increase in cycling, but the other transport metrics aren’t great and aren’t improving much. A comparison with Vancouver is telling:
Here are the APTA daily ridership stats in thousands for 2012 Q2 for Translink and Trimet:
Diesel Bus: 609.2
Trolley Bus: 230.0
(Numbers don’t total because there are some extra things like commuter rail and Seabus.)
These statistics favour Vancouver in several ways:
• They don’t include Portland Streetcar at about 11,000 per day
• C-Tran in Vancouver WA has about 20,000 per weekday so that would be more than Abbotsford Mission which is probably around 8,000 per weekday
• These are unlinked rides, so Vancouver has an edge with a transfer based system
• Vancouver is a shade larger
But even so, Vancouver just demolishes Portland.
The difference shows up in mode share statistics as well. These are from thetransportpolitic.com, October 13, 2010:
Vancouver – Translink:
Portland – MSA:
The Portland MSA is broader than Translink’s operating area as it includes Vancouver WA. Both data sets are trip diary data sets which aren’t the most accurate and the US data is just commuting trips. This would explain part of the walk difference, but it doesn’t help transit because transit use is usually higher for commuting than for other travel. US data doesn’t add to 100% which shows how wobbly it is.
These are the statistics for the City of Portland:
Portland – City:
Aside from cycling, they aren’t great either. City of Vancouver transit numbers over 20%.
The transit gap is borne out in the financials of the transit agencies (in thousands):
Translink Fare Revenue – 2011: 444,743
Trimet Fare Revenue – Year Ending June 2012: 140,513
And we think our transit agency has budget problems. I think both of these include bus and station advertizing but those numbers will be negligible. Neither agency covers the whole metropolitan region. The outer suburban agencies aren’t much but probably a bit higher for Portland.
Portland has invested a little more than half of what we have in capital costs, and provides a greater operating subsidy per ride, yet with all that investment, it is no better than Seattle. In reality, Portland just isn’t a transit intensive city. The youtubes for a day in the life of transit in Vancouver and Portland also illustrate the point. Translink’s is just busier.
Of course there are other qualities to a transportation system beside transit ridership statistics. There are things that make life more pleasant or fun. Like Portland’s cycling infrastructure, downtown streetcar and possibly the aerial tram. But there is nothing like poor frequency to take the fun out of transit use, and Portland is plagued by poor frequency. Where MAX is interlined, it runs at a reasonable frequency, but most of the legs of the system run every 15 minutes or so. That really isn’t rapid transit.
It is possible that Portland actually is great, just that Vancouver is actually even more great. But I look Vancouver’s transportation system and see many things that aren’t that great, and Portland is worse on nearly every metric.
At least they have beer.