After the week, or pseudo week of commuting I’m glad to be out of the suburbs and back downtown. Every trip has turned into a 10 minute bus trip, with super frequent service, or a short walk between 5-20 minutes. No necessity for a car, no necessity to visit a gas station, no necessity for dealing with traffic.
The WES is awesome, don’t get me wrong, but I’m glad to be back downtown where everything is within a stone’s throw.
First, the absolute negatives.
- TriMet got ripped off by Colorado Railcar.
- TriMet paid WAY too much for equipment that is not standard and should have gone with traditional equipment.
- TriMet hasn’t aligned the transfers and other parts of the WES appropriately.
- TriMet does NOT have a green vehicle unless they remedy their lack of ridership.
- The politicians won’t be harmed enough by the overruns, and will take too much credit for the positives.
Now the positives.
- Portland & Western is doing an amazing job running the WES. Words like flawless, impressive, relaxed, and endearing come to mind when riding the system.
- Portland & Western has a great mechanism for spreading the word about passenger rail and provides a good example (amid the negatives) of how to setup and operate on local carrier lines with good cooperation.
- The WES, because of the new tracks, definitely helps out rail traffic in the corridor and extends the freight capability of rail. This is by FAR a good thing, probably in some ways more important than the WES passenger runs.
- The county gains a competitive advantage because of this rail line upgrade.
- The WES is without doubt more comfortable, more up scale, more reliable, and internet ready than any other thing in the TriMet Fleet.
- The politicians now have a tool to provide an example of partnerships between public and private entities to further desires and requests of the public. This is a mix of positives and negatives, but mainly is positive.
Ridership: The peak I saw was 40+ for one single trip. This is acceptable from an environmental point of view, but still far too low from an economic and budget point of view. The City of Portland, Metro, and TriMet can’t keep making decisions that build out infrastructure and such at such high prices for such minimal return. They HAVE to meet more of the existing demand and stop running off on their fantasy trips to commuter rail land. They HAVE to make sure ridership demand actually exists before doing these things. I’m glad they built the WES, I think it can serve a good purpose, and it can provide a great example of what to do and not to do, but overall should they have built it? No. Should they have upgraded the tracks, or at least provided cheap, tax free, loans and such to get the tracks upgraded? Yes.
If anything commuter rail could be setup in areas around Portland that could and would be far more utilized. Salem to downtown Portland, Eugene to Portland, there are a host of places. Hopefully, the next option is to get service to Salem, somehow or in some way. Hopefully they can do it without too much cost or unnecessary shutdown of companies.
My best wishes go out to the awesome Portland & Western Crews running the WES, and to TriMet, I hope you guys get some serious ridership increases so they system can prove viable! Keep rolling, and I’m sure I’ll be out to ride again some day. Until then, I’m back to 100% urbanite lifestyles.