BBC Discovers Portland

The BBC is doing a regular series on public transportation and car use around the world. This week, they're discussing Portland.

From the item by Sayeeda Warsi (who happens to also be the vice-chair of Britain's Conservative Party):

Over the last 10 years, public transport use [in Portland] has gone up by 65% and they have managed to avoid a predicted 40% increase in congestion.

And, incredibly for a city in the world's most car dependent nation, they're eradicating over 62 million car trips a year, which means car use is growing at the slowest rate anywhere in the United States.

Read the rest. And then watch the 14-minute BBC documentary on public transportation in Portland.

Discuss.

Hat tip to Evergreen Politics.

  • Bob Tiernan (unverified)
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    When Tri-Met is the source of info it's puff-piece time. The BBC is just the latest person/group to be used to spread Tri-Met propaganda.

    Bob Tiernan

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    And you'd rather we led the nation in car trips?

    I'm all for alternative transportation ideas, not more gas-guzzling SUV's and toll roads.

    I'm happy we've slowed down car use in this area. Move to Los Angeles and commute to work if that's your idea of progress.

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    Bob -- Once more, this time with feeling... This piece was done by the vice-chair of the Conservative Party in Britain.

    I would encourage all the libertarians and conservatives who lurk around here to go read Paul Weyrich's piece "Does Transit Work? A Conservative Reappraisal"

    My liberal friends may not know this, but you surely do: Paul Weyrich is one of the most prominent conservatives over the last several decades, and is highly influential.

  • R. Murphy (unverified)
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    I’m writing this from the study in my 1910 bungalow that would be somewhere in the slow westbound lane of the Mt. Hood freeway had it been allowed to slash and burn its way though inner SE Portland. Whenever I hear the lovers of blighted suburban sprawl and soul-crushing strip malls (like Lars Larson and his crowd) griping about light-rail and streetcars, I just smile -- look out of my window at my old, beautiful, established neighborhood and just smile.

    More freeways will not help your commute – it will just chew up more of the history and livability of our city.

  • blizzak (unverified)
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    Public transit is good, but it could be even better if transit agencies and the government spend their dollars on the most effecient modes of transportation instead of catering to the biases of upper middle-class people who think that buses are "gross". The portland streetcar is the perfect example. The city of portland spent $200 million on something that goes the same speed as a bus. The purpose of the streetcar was not efficency or speed but catering to people who don't normally ride transit (streetcar is also less flexible than a bus and is a nightmare for cyclists). That $200 million could have been more wisely spent expanding bus service in north portland or outer se or something -- oh, but people who can't drive (because of economics or health) have no choice but to ride transit so the tri-met/the government gives them the bare minimum in service.

  • Buckman Res (unverified)
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    “streetcar is also less flexible than a bus and is a nightmare for cyclists.”

    Add to that the streetcar’s inability to operate in snow or slush, conditions that prompt the greatest number of the public avoid driving and opt for streetcar service.

    Blizzak is spot on about the inflexible nature of streetcars vs. busses. Chain up a bus and it gets around just fine in the snow, and its route can be altered as needed for any other situation.

    Unfortunately TriMet cuts this most efficient form of public transportation in order to finance light rail and streetcars, perceived to be more hip and cosmopolitan.

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    perceived to be more hip and cosmopolitan.

    What's wrong with being more hip and cosmopolitan?

    Surely, you're not arguing that the sole criteria for public transportation ought to be the number of bodies you can cram aboard?

    It's also true that certain kinds of transit - like, say, a streetcar - have positive economic development effects...

    Seems to me that you're being anti-economic-growth... a very un-Republican thing to be.

  • jami (unverified)
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    fun to see portland getting some well-deserved notice. interesting, though, that the beeb used a partisan reporter. do they always? she noted that this one time thirty years ago a republican didn't fix a freeway (and she way over-played the resultant bike-ability of the waterfront), but she didn't mention that every single person she talked to who is currently making a difference is SO not republican.

    i was also surprised to see portland's majesty traded in for messy shots of gresham and construction. the view from the hawthorne bridge and the future tram terminal where sam adams was standing is absolutely stunning. the reason so many portlanders commute differently is because it's dang pleasant to do it. this isn't reflected much in the video.

  • ws (unverified)
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    I still drive a car, mostly because I need to for my work. Can't really afford to support the car and pay for a monthly transit pass, so there's a lot of occasions that I drive when I'd just as soon ride light rail or the street car. Both of them are generally a sweet ride; roomy, well lit, no noxious odors, and smooth.

    I don't care how efficient busses are, riding them sucks. I compare the experience to a slightly tamed down version of those mechanical bulls in saloons, only the bus stinks and the mechanical bull doesn't . Plus, you can't, (or aren't supposed to) drink to ease the discomfort.

    Eventually, solutions will be found to deal with light rail and street car difficulties in snow and ice. Provisions for bicycles difficulty in negoiting rails will probably be devised too. In the interim, they can adapt. I see a number of skateboarders who deal with the streetcar rails just fine.

    I'm not sure how much it would increase ridership, but both light rail and street could benefit from; extra trains and cars for big events and rush hour, so everybody doesn't have to endure the Japan Tuna experience. Also, more conductors, security or whatever it takes to get the creeps either off light rail and streetcar, or in better behaviour. And finally, wi-fi, if it doesn't have it already.

    I'll grant you, there are some areas that aren't easily served by light rail or streetcar. Perhaps those areas would be better served by location specific bus shuttles.

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    Just to inject a few facts. The original Streetcar alignment and two extensions (to RiverPlace, then to Gibbs, opening this fall) cost a total of about $100M (not $200M). If someone wants to give us that extra $100M, we'll get over to Lloyd District with it :-)

    And yes, the first severe winter storm after we opened we were in a world of hurt. We have learned from that experience, and we'll we haven't had a subsequent storm as bad as that one, during the less severe ice and snow events that we have had, we did just fine, thanks.

    And then there is the $2B+ of development that has occurred along the Streetcar alignment.

  • Don Smith (unverified)
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    Chris, you aren't really giving the streetcar "but for" credit for the $2B in development, are you? Are you really saying that if it were shut down, the Pearl would wither and die? Or that if we don't do the ridiculous loop to the eastside, the eastside will never develop?

    Read this regarding Oregon's transit planning. Granted, it's from your favorite source, Brainstorm NW, and it's an opinion piece. So please, retort.

    Kari: What's wrong with being more hip and cosmopolitan?

    Surely, you're not arguing that the sole criteria for public transportation ought to be the number of bodies you can cram aboard?

    Um, yes, I think that's what we're arguing. Not necessarily as basely as that, but yes, $/ride should be as low as possible while encouraging the most people to ride as possible.

    It may surprise you all to learn that libertarians are not against mass transit. We're against wasteful, shortsighted, ego-boosting mass transit. Like a tram.

    We like to think that if you're going to take money from my family and build something with it, that it should be designed to be as cost effective and wide-ranging in (positive) impact as possible. Mass transit accounts for 3% of trips made. Can that be higher? Sure, if you opened transit up to the private sector to provide flexible, people-oriented solutions, like jitneys, shuttle vans, etc. But if you spend a quarter billion dollars running MAX to Clackamas, you're wasting my money.

    I'm VERY pro electric car, too. I'd rather the state spend a quarter billion dollars buying up junker cars and converting gas cars to electric. With a 50% subsidy on the $5,000 figure I've seen for a conversion, a quarter billion dollars converts 100,000 cars to electric. Would 100,000 customers encourage people to open up speed charging lanes in their gas stations? Or encourage people to run electric out to their driveways to charge their cars at night? Or businesses to have gas-charging parking spots? I bet it would.

    Do you think that would do more or less for the environment than requiring already-clean new cars to get just a little bit cleaner under the new CA emissions standards?

    No, instead, the Democrats come up with ethanol in Portland to combat global warming. The Republicans want to drill more. How about some outside the ox thinking on this one, focused on things that will REALLY matter?

    Nah, let's get that eastside streetcar rolling....

  • Buckman Res (unverified)
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    “during the less severe ice and snow events that we have had, we did just fine, thanks.”

    Wrong buccko. During last December’s mild slush shower Max riders who wanted to get to the airport had to be shuttled by bus from the Lloyd Center station to the Gateway station because trains couldn’t make it up the mild grade over the 205 freeway. Inclement weather 2, Max 0.

    “Surely, you're not arguing that the sole criteria for public transportation ought to be the number of bodies you can cram aboard?”

    Holy Cow, a public transit project that's efficient and gives taxpayers their moneys worth! What was I thinking??!

    Thanks for pulling me in from the ledge on that one. Now that I’ve got my mind right I vote we gold-plate the tracks, then it’ll really be cool!

  • Troix (unverified)
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    Mass transit accounts for 3% of trips made. Can that be higher? Sure, if you opened transit up to the private sector to provide flexible, people-oriented solutions, like jitneys, shuttle vans, etc

    Yeah, privitization sure has done wonders with the energy sector (ie: Enron and higher prices everywhere), the military complex (ie: Haliburton and Blackwater, to name a couple of low-benefit, high dollar companies), health care (pick a company), elections (Diebold, anyone?), etc, ad nauseum.

    I like the Libertarian take on personal freedoms, but why-oh-why must you continue to buy the nearly-religious Free Market Will Cure All crap that has already been shoved down our throats by the Repubs? The "Free" Market is a myth-- it costs us all (except the rich) plenty when not regulated. Why would public transportation be any exception?

  • jim karlock (unverified)
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    Troix I like the Libertarian take on personal freedoms, JK: Congratulations! You are halfway to becoming a freedom advocate.

    Troix but why-oh-why must you continue to buy the nearly-religious Free Market Will Cure All crap JK: Well there are a number of test cases for your side: Russia, China, N,Vietman, Cambodia, Cuba. Which one would you consider a paragon of well run markets that benefitted its citizens.

    Troix that has already been shoved down our throats by the Repubs? The "Free" Market is a myth-- it costs us all (except the rich) plenty when not regulated. JK: There is a big difference between regulations that protect people and regulations that protect inefficient businesses from competition. Examples include outlawing private mass transit in Oregon. Why should there by any barrier to running a taxi beyond safety and insurance requirements? Many business regulation are thinly disguised competition limiters promoted by entrenched special interests.

    Troix Why would public transportation be any exception? JK: Government should regulate safety and require insurance and get out of the way.

    Thanks JK

  • jim karlock (unverified)
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    JUDGING PORTLAND BY INTENTIONS, NOT RESULTS

    "Car junkies like me are becoming an endangered species" in Portland, writes British politician Sayeeda Warsi for the BBC (see http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/newsnight/4794361.stm). Warsi has fallen for the common trap of judging urban planners by their intentions, not their results.

    It is true, as Warsi says, that Portland has spent most of its transportation dollars on rail transit. Yet light rail carries only 0.9 percent of the region's passenger traffic (buses carry another 1.4 percent). In what world does it make sense to spend most of your money on 0.9 percent of your output (and not, by far, the most valuable 0.9 percent)? When over 90 percent of travel is by car, how can autos be considered "an endangered species"?

    It is true, as Warsi says, that public transit ridership has significantly increased over the last ten years. But he failed to note a significant downslide in ridership in the 1980s, when Portland began focusing on light rail and lost touch with bus riders. As a result, Portland transit today carries a smaller share of commuters and a smaller share of total travel than it did in 1980, before the region's leaders began their love affair with expensive rail transit.

    It is NOT true, as Warsi claims, that Portland has "eradicated over 62 million car trips a year." Transit carries 104 million trips per year, 58 million of which were carried by buses in 1985 before the first light-rail line opened. Portland's population since then has grown by about 50 percent, so it is likely that the vast majority of transit riders today would still be riding transit if not a single mile of light rail had been built.

    It may be true, as Warsi claims, that Portland "car use is growing at the slowest rate anywhere in the United State." But it was not true a

    few years ago and it is only true today because Portland's anti-business climate has driven away employers, leading to a stagnation of the region's economy. As Warsi failed to note, even transit ridership has fallen since 2002.

    It is NOT true, as Warsi says, that Oregon Governor Tom McCall "took radical steps to prioritise public transport over roads" in the 1970s. That is a strange rewriting of history, crediting McCall (who is regarded, with a bit more accuracy, as the father of Oregon's land-use planning system) with a series of decisions made over several decades by his successors and Portland officials.

    It is true, as Warsi says, that Portland has built bike lanes to the airport. But they are rarely used and almost exclusively for recreation, not by air travelers or airport workers. (I have ridden the full length of these bike lanes; they follow a noisy freeway but do not go anywhere that most Portland cyclists really want to go.)

    Like many reporters, Warsi seems to have judged the entire Portland area by a visit to downtown. Thanks to subsidized downtown housing, Portland's inner city has undergone a demographic change and is now occupied mainly by young singles and childless couples. Though bicycling is popular among this group, inner-city streets remain jammed with autos. Away from the inner city you will find bicycling no more popular than anywhere else in the country.

    It is NOT true, as Warsi claims, that Portland's transportation vision is a result of "true direct democracy in action." As noted in update #62, Portland voted down further funding for light rail in 1998 -- but the region is building more anyway. Voters also rejected an expanded convention center, but they built it anyway, further demonstrating the contempt the region's leaders have for democracy. Two of Portland's suburbs have withdrawn from the region's transit district so that they can provide their own, better, service at a lower cost to their residents. Construction of an aerial tramway, another transportation boondoggle, led to a huge political battle whose repercussions will have lasting consequences (see http://ti.org/vaupdate62.html). * When Portland Congressman David Wu offered the region federal funds to expand the capacity of the region's most heavily congested freeway, the region's leaders turned him down (see http://tinyurl.com/e762m) because they don't want to risk reducing transit ridership.

    If Portland-area voters had a real say in their future, they would certainly not favor the gridlock that is the admitted goal of the region's planners.

    In short, Warsi's report is based largely on myths, fabrications, and selective use of data. Warsi is the vice chair of Britain's Conservative Party. Considering his lack of skepticism and analytical skills, it is no wonder that the Conservatives have been out of power for well over a decade.

    <hr/>

    Randal O'Toole The Thoreau Institute [email protected] http://ti.org

    Please feel free to forward or reprint this article with appropriate citation. If you would like to be added to or removed from the Thoreau Institute's Vanishing Automobile updates list, send an email to [email protected]

    Back issues of Vanishing Automobile updates are posted at http://ti.org/vaupdates.html . This particular update will be posted at http://ti.org/vaupdate64.html .

    Learn more about problems with urban planning in Portland and other cities at the fourth annual Preserving the American Dream conference, which will feature more than three dozen experts from all over the United States. For more information, go to http://americandreamcoalition.org/pad06.html .

  • ws (unverified)
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    The point is how much 0.9 percent of the region's passenger traffic carried by light rail has relieved the pressure on overwhelmed highways and streets. Give the riders represented by that figure a car or a bus pass and shut down light rail and the street car for a year. Lets see what happens.

    You can't build highways and streets big enough to handle the population's travel needs. Busses and cars run on fuel. The auto industry doesn't want the public driving electric cars. (see Chris Paine's movie "Who killed the electric car?".

  • Don Smith (unverified)
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    Troix:

    Every single example you cite is an example of the antithesis of free markets. Enron was able to manipulate a California regulatory scheme that was fatally flawed. Health care? Talk to a doctor and ask if she thinks the government-imposed HMO schemes are better or worse for cost and access. Diebold is free market? You're kidding, right?

    Troix, I also didn't say take the public sector out. I said open it up. If private solutions fail, so be it. No skin off your nose. If MAX fails, however, we pay forever. If jitneys become more popular than buses, maybe buses can cease to exist. Or they'll compete to get better. Guess who weighs risk and reward better - the public or private sector? The private sector. Why, because if they fail, they are punished and accountable, financially. If government fails (Tram, schools, jails, roads, cops, health care, water bureau billing, Klamath farmers, Iraq, Katrina, Social Security trust fund robbery, et al.), it just takes more money from you to fix what it broke. Excuse me if I'm leery of a politician who calls anything a linchpin.

    Government is a horrible solution for anything that can be done freely by the market. Yes, I believe that. Grocery stores, nail salons, the stock market (insider trading aside, which is illegal anyway, and properly so), bike shops, construction, and the movies all work perfectly well without government interference. And yes, people do make money, sometimes lots of it, running these enterprises. That's the reward for their risk and sacrifice. I happily pay them. I don't happily pay the guy from the government who takes my check and wastes it. /rant

  • LT (unverified)
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    This sounds like a false choice:

    JK: Well there are a number of test cases for your side: Russia, China, N,Vietman, Cambodia, Cuba. Which one would you consider a paragon of well run markets that benefitted its citizens.

    I would suggest reading up on the times of Teddy Roosevelt if you believe the only choices are totally unregulated free market or communist countries like those mentioned above. Read about the Northern Securities Case and why that led to some kinds of regulation.

    As far as someone's "side", are you aware there are some very rich people in China and some students of those families who go to private schools? Not exactly what Chairman Mao had in mind. Sure they don't have democracy, but they don't have the totally regulated economy they once had either. And if there are provinces with poverty and rich people in the cities, will that sort of inequality and instability last forever?

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)
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    Jim Karlock,

    You see free market versus governmental in absolutist terms. Societies almost always use both. Different combinations work better in different places and times.

    Randal O'Toole's musing aside, the free-market has made a demonstrable mess of producing transportation infrastructure and planning [or not planning] communities. Randal uses statistics suggesting that less-planned southern California works better than more-planned Portland. I doubt many Portland metro area residents would agree.

    If you want to experience unplanned development locally, drive [or bike or walk] around eastern Milwaukie, an area developed without a city plan. There are so many dead-end streets and roads that run for blocks and blocks without connection to parallel routes that getting around is puzzling. Now, this is a relatively flat area with out the geographical challenges of someplace like Portland's west hills. It is bullocked simply because it was developed under the free market with government planning.

    Why not think about societal organization in terms of function, instead of working from a rigid ideological viewpoint. Your supporting evidence [and O'Tooles] just doesn't stand up to scrutiny.

    Of course you can point to problems and inefficiencies of governmental planning. But you ignore the much greater bungling of entrepreneur in building infrastructure with public guidance.

  • djk (unverified)
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    * As noted in update #62, Portland voted down further funding for light rail in 1998 -- but the region is building more anyway.

    Portland voted "yes" on the last four light rail measures put before it. The last two measures failed because of opposition from outside the City of Portland.

    So Portland, whose voters consistently voted to tax themselves to expand light rail, got more light rail. The suburbs, which ultimately voted against light rail, aren't getting it -- just the ends of the next two lines (which are mostly in Portland) poking into Clackamas County, with no present plans to expand to Oregon City.

    As a Portlander, I gotta ask: how many times are we supposed to vote "yes" on these projects before we get the mass transit we're asking for? Where's the problem with building a project that local voters repeatedly supported?

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    why does jim refute Portland statistics on transit usage with REGIONAL passenger traffic? And I love how the flatness of car usage is magically, causally related to the "anti-business climate" that has "stagnated the economy." It's as bizarre a construct as Don Smith claiming that Enron's practice of withholding supply and boosting prices was a function of California's regulatory policy rather than simple economics and outright greed. Why would I talk to a doctor to ask about access, when it's the patients who get the services? What we should be asking is why we spend twice as much on private care as all other "Western" countries pay for government care, and get nothing in the bargain. If you want to know how well privatization is going for the prison industry, google the name "Wackenhut" and "escapes."

    Private entry into mass transit (note that we have private entry of individual transit, ie taxis) results in an unstable patchwork of differentially served routes and modes not designed to complement each other, with virtually no assurance the city would own a transit "system," cohesive system architecture being critical to effective function. It's a bad idea, like any that subordinates serving the public rather than making money.

  • jim karlock (unverified)
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    ws: The point is how much 0.9 percent of the region's passenger traffic carried by light rail has relieved the pressure on overwhelmed highways and streets. Give the riders represented by that figure a car or a bus pass and shut down light rail and the street car for a year. Lets see what happens. JK: I think the most probable outcome of shutting down light rail, streetcar and the buses for a year would be less congested city streets for the following reasons: Look at LRT numbers. On I86 and US26 the rail caries about as many people as one lane of the adjacent freeway. However, before the rail was built, about 2/3 of those people were taking the bus. So the rail arguabley carries about 1/3 of one lane of freeway. Now here is the fun part: some people quit taking transit when they shut down the bus lines (to force people to light rail) because it became slower. These lost customers need to be subtracted from those 1/3 of one lane of freeway worth of people. I have seen claims over a wide range for this number, with some claiming that rail decreased ridership. It is not possible to look at the numbers since Tri-Met is now refusing top release the data on national security grounds. There are also claims that you cannot see the opening of MAX on the freeway traffic counts. The opening of light rail on Interstate ave. has definitely increased congestion because: 1) it removed two lanes of traffic; 2) the trains now control the traffic lights, so there are no more timed lights. * Buses routinely block traffic at every bus stop on many streets. Sometimes you see an empty street, at rush hour, then along comes a bus with bumper to bumper traffic after it. Removing these buses would relieve congestion. I’ll leave it to the modelers to judge what percent of those bus riders would be in SOV as opposed to car pooling.

    ws: You can't build highways and streets big enough to handle the population's travel needs. JK: Houston did it.

    ws: Busses and cars run on fuel. JK: What is your point? So does the electric car. The energy releasing chemical reaction just occurs inside the battery instead of in the cylinders.

    ws: The auto industry doesn't want the public driving electric cars. (see Chris Paine's movie "Who killed the electric car?". JK: I prefer to avoid science fiction. Tell me why the Japanese also dropped out of this fabulous market for electric cars when they just love beating up on Detroit? The real reasons lie somewhere around the issues of cost and limited range. You can’t take a long trip in an electric car, therefore it can only be a second car. My guess is that the true path to the electric car lies through the hybrids. Put in more batteries, let them charge at home and drive electric only for, perhaps, 30 miles then switch to gas. People are modifying existing hybrids for this feature and I expect that the manufacturers will pickup on this at some point. There is the problem of electric supply, which will have to be fulfilled by nukes.

    Thanks JK

  • jim karlock (unverified)
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    torridjoe: why does jim refute Portland statistics on transit usage with REGIONAL passenger traffic? And I love how the flatness of car usage is magically, causally related to the "anti-business climate" that has "stagnated the economy." JK: Appearently you didn’t read the article: it was written by Randal O’Toole. I suggest you ask him.

    torridjoe: Private entry into mass transit (note that we have private entry of individual transit, ie taxis) results in an unstable patchwork of differentially served routes and modes not designed to complement each other, with virtually no assurance the city would own a transit "system," cohesive system architecture being critical to effective function. JK: Curritbo Barzil is a privately owned system. I suggest you do a little before making such statements.

    torridjoe: It's a bad idea, like any that subordinates serving the public rather than making money. JK: Now you are getting back to the Russian model of serving the economy. The fact is that there are many fine corporations that do a very good job of serving the public. It is mostly when companies engage in illegal acts, often with the help of elected officials, that the public get screwed. Heck, look at Trimet - they are delivering transit service that is more expensive than buying a new cars. (monthly pass selling price: $74/month. Multiply five to get the real cost: $370/month. Monthly car payments on new $10,000 car: $190. Case closed.)

    Thanks JK

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    Oh how I love it when people say things that aren't true about Texas, especially the Houston area.

    Houston absoluitely did not do it. It has some of the worst congestion in all the United States.

    Two of the nation's 24 worst bottlenecks are in Houston (#2: I-610 at I-10 Interchange (West), #20: I-45 (Gulf Freeway) at U.S. 59 Interchange).

    Last year it came in #5 in the worst congestion in the United States, behind LA, San Francisco, DC, and Atlanta.

    I used to sit in that traffic almost daily when I was in college (University of Houston). My apartment looked out onto the 610 loop just a few miles from the Galleria.

    We finally started using the side streets to get from our apartment to UofH, even though that meant going through a very bad part of town (let's just say the cops won't give you a ticket for not stopping at the stop signs).

    Going home, I see the traffic has gotten even worse.

    Their solution time and time again? Build a new "loop" around Houston. The newest one is going out towards my small home town of Santa Fe, which is changing it from a small town with a rural feel into a city. Where the majority of the people in town worked in one of four areas when I lived there (farming, ranching, oil refineries in Texas City, or NASA in Clear Lake), there are now more and more people who work in Houston and have million dollar homes.

    All the freeways are doing is causing the HGA (Houston Galveston Area) to sprawl out even further. Traffic really hasn't gotten any better-- getting in on the loops can be somewhat easy, until you need to get onto I-45, I-59, or the local streets. It's a bit easier if you take the beltway, as much of it is a tollroad and you can get around a bit faster that way. But as before, you're still stuck once you have to get onto one of the other streets/freeways.

  • ws (unverified)
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    Uh-h...I thought the following was interesting:

    "Look at LRT numbers. On I86 and US26 the rail caries about as many people as one lane of the adjacent freeway. However, before the rail was built, about 2/3 of those people were taking the bus. So the rail arguably carries about 1/3 of one lane of freeway".

    Raises the question, didn't those buses occupy the same streets and freeways as the rest of the cars and busses transporting people that now ride light rail? Or did they have their own magical streets and freeways? So, it sounds like light rail really did take a lot of autos(and busses) off the adjacent freeway.

    It's not a good development to have people drop riding mass transit through withdrawal of their bus service. Let's see how big that problem really is before we draw too many conclusions. Some of those people who quit using mass transit when their bus service was eliminated, may choose to relocate to housing closer to the light rail line, as is intended.

    I also have questions about the viability of the electric car as a replacement for automobiles, particularly as they are currently used. But of course, the current use of gasoline automobiles is highly questionable.

    Most people don't generally know the logistics of mounting an industry that could provide the motoring public with electric vehicles as an alternative to their gas powered ones. The implications of production and recycling of batteries, and hazards the pose to the environment and people also aren't generally known. In their favor, though, at least on initial impression, is that they don't absolutely require fossil fuel to run. Maybe to produce the batteries or something, but no to run. Longer range could be provided by gas/hybrid vehicles if neccessary, when needed.

    I haven't checked into why Japan dropped out of the market for electric cars. If they have it's quite possible they did for the same reason, suggested by Chris Paine in his documentary regarding GM's withdrawall from electric car production. The suggestion is that GM recalled and scrapped his and many other delighted EV-1 owners perfectly functioning cars because GM considered the amount of money to be made from their production, not to be comparable to that of gas powered car production. Take that you green enthusiasts!!

  • thedude (unverified)
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    It always amazes me to see freemarketers defend the largest subsidized form of transit every invented, the "private" automobile. Simple put private industry built and ran, trains. The automobile got trillions of dollars of tax payers money to build its infrastructure. Its only those trillions that threw off the balance and forced train travel to have to be subsidized. It has to compete on an unfair playing field. Starting fresh without any government subsidy, I put my money on train travel everytime. No way can such a hugely ineffiecient and space heavy form of travel come about in a purely free market.

  • David Wright (unverified)
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    Thedude, check your history. You might want to read about the development of the Transcontinental Railway (in particular, land grants and other "incentives") before holding up trains as an example of "unsubsidized" transport.

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    David and Thedude.... Clearly, both trains and autos have been subsidized heavily by the public -- as has every single form of transportation since the dawn of time. (Roman Empire, building roads, anyone?)

    So that's not the question. The question, rather, is this: Given that the public is going to subsidize something, what's in the public's best interest?

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)
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    It's true that both railroads and hiways were built with public wealth. The railroad companies received huge landgrants, much larger than needed rights-of-way to motivate investment in rails. that was a gift in the past, though. Freight rail operation has not had huge subsidies recently, while rail has competed with truckers who continue to be subsidized by the highway/petroleum subsidies.

    Still, Kari's point holds. The US subsidzes transportation. which subsidies make the most sense? I'd say it is those that lead to the most energy-efficient movement, which are, clearly, mass transportation, especially rail. Flying is the least efficient. Personal internal combustion vehicles and their ribbons of asphalt or concrete are not much better.

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    It would be really nice if we could have some sort of train transit system that would allow you to bring your car with you-- similar to how some places in Europe do it.

    There are a lot of us who need our cars regularly throughout the day to get to places. However, nothing says we actually have to drive to/from home each day (or at least from the place you catch the train to the place you get off).

    It would also be nice if there was some sort of "express" MAX service. Where they only do a fraction of the stops so that you can get across town much faster. I don't know that this is possible on the current tracks, though, because the express would get stuck behind the regular MAX.

    It would also be nice if transit options were expanded outside of inner Portland. I know out here in Gresham there are major streets with no transit available. A large chunk of Burnside is completely uncovered. The bus down 182nd/181st only runs commuter hours, and only covers part of the street. This is a major thoroughfare.

    Getting east/west on Powell, Division, etc. is fairly easy (at least part of the way across town). But getting north/south can often times be a nightmare. Not a good way to encourage people out here to use transit. If you're going into Portland, it's fine. But any kind of travel within town is such a nightmare that we rarely do it.

  • jim karlock (unverified)
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    He/she who is hiding behind the name “thedude”: It always amazes me to see freemarketers defend the largest subsidized form of transit every invented, the "private" automobile. Simple put private industry built and ran, trains. The automobile got trillions of dollars of tax payers money to build its infrastructure. JK: You are confusing the general fund with the highway fund. The highway fund gets ALL of its money from road users fees such as the gas tax. It is these user fees that built the road system. The interstate highway system received little if any money form non-users, unlike mass transit which is mostly financed by non-users.

    thedude: Its only those trillions that threw off the balance and forced train travel to have to be subsidized. JK: Are you saying that without the highway system, passenger rail would flourish today? Even tough it is slower and more expensive than air travel. Give me a break. It was air travel that killed passenger trains by turning an expensive multi day cross country trip into a cheap few hour trip. The choice is a no-brainer for most people. Safer too. There is no going back (and we are not running out of oil.)

    Thanks JK

  • jim karlock (unverified)
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    Tom Civiletti: It's true that both railroads and hiways were built with public wealth. The railroad companies received huge landgrants, much larger than needed rights-of-way to motivate investment in rails. that was a gift in the past, though. Freight rail operation has not had huge subsidies recently, while rail has competed with truckers who continue to be subsidized by the highway/petroleum subsidies. JK: Just a reminder, Tom: Highways were built almost entirely with user fees, unlike mass transit.

    Tom Civiletti: The US subsidzes transportation. which subsidies make the most sense? I'd say it is those that lead to the most energy-efficient movement, which are, clearly, mass transportation, especially rail. JK: Energy efficiency is only one aspect of efficiency. Cost is another and time is a third. If you are shipping fresh salmon, rail is not the first choice. Same for high value things like semiconductors. People are willing pay extra for speed.

    You might also find it interesting that other people value their time more that you value your time and thus choose fast air over slow rail. Also air is a bunch cheaper when you count all expenses, like over night accommodations (sleeping car/private room) unless you want to arrive in New York half asleep and aching from sleeping is a seat. Might be ok for hippies, but bad for business. Of course it is probably the Portland way.

    The same generally applies for people choosing between mass transit and their car. Although superficially cheaper (look at the real cost), transit is generally slower and less comfortable. We are not a third world country - we have the ability to pay for our comfort. I wish transit advocates would appreciate that nicety of being a first world country. It also explains why there is no going back to 18th century transportation, as so many of Portland’s elite wish. (Actually Portland’s true elite are just getting rich - by peddling their garbage to the deluded elite wannabees)

    Thanks JK

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