Jo and I recently went out to the Clackamas Town Center Mall. Partly just to do it, partly because one can buy really cheap ladies shoes, and Jo wanted some shoes. So off we went.
While we where out there I wondered off into thought when we boarded out north bound #72 bus. This is the mother load of all bus routes in Portland. With ridership higher than any other route it has a frequency as low as every few minutes during peak hours, and still every 15 or so minutes during the slowest hours. Riders are often so crammed onto the buses, for so many hours of service, that the dramatically subsidized fares often turn a net operational profit for this bus line. Considering the paltry amount that a fare represents of the overall cost of operations, this bares a rather amazing value return for TriMet.
Near the #72, running parallel for the busiest stretch of the route, runs the new Green Line. The Green Line has higher capacity, solely because it is using Light Rail Vehicles while the #72 route is limited to 40’ buses. The #72 along this part of the route follows 82nd Street (or Avenue, not sure what it is actually dubbed). The Green Line follows about 10 or so blocks away near Interstate 205.
[In the image I’ve made the Green Line… green (imagine that!) and the #72 line dotted dark blue]
These parallel routes have the potential to garner more ridership than any other area of TriMet’s System. Currently I suspect, but am not sure, that the Blue Line Light Rail System holds the crown of highest ridership. It sits easily within the 25-30k count during a weekday,making it easily the busiest Light Rail Line in the entire North Western United States. Seattle’s Sound Transit however works diligently to build up their light rail system, prospectively surpassing TriMet’s Blue Line with their first line.
All this led me to wondering a commonly asked question among transit aficionados in Portland and even in other areas of the country that pay heed to Portland’s System. Will the Green Line take any ridership from the current #72 Route as configured?
My Current Estimates
My current estimate is, if it does take some of the current ridership, it will only amount to 3-6% of it. I suspect 40% of the Green Line’s Ridership will be new to the corridor, and possibly half of that 50% (20% of total ridership) will be completely new to transit. These new riders will most likely be drivers who will now park at the park & rides along the Green Line Route to come into downtown or points along the route leading into downtown.
I also suspect that first year ridership, with the economy in the doldrums and the primary rider (*) base being heavily affected by the downturned economy, could be as low as 7000k per day along the corridor. About half of what the #72 Route currently carries in a day. However as things play out in the economy, I would suspect ridership to climb, dare I say skyrocket, to within 13-14k within 1-2 years of the opening of the line. This pending, we at least hold steady with 0-1% growth over the next year or two. Looking at the US economic history, this should be easy to attain, so I’m going with the estimation the Green Line will at least achieve the 13-14k per day by 2011, possibly as late as 2012.
I wouldn’t expect the Green Line Route to surpass the 13-14k estimate until the area increases the density of residents by about 20% over what it is now or gas prices surpass $3.50 per gallon. Both of these things will most likely pass around 2013 or 2014, pushing the ridership higher, but at first I wouldn’t suspect too much. With the looming elephant in the room of massive inflation. Corrective taxation for the overzealous administrations (not excluding the current one) will see a continually falling value in the dollar while seeing incomes not keep pace with valuation needed to maintain cost of living. Parity will be almost impossible to maintain, which later in the next decade will make ridership increase even more. Mostly out of monetary necessity than choice by riders. However I can imagine that the next decade will see a dramatic change in attitudes of people, I doubt any significant change will occur until about 2017-2018 at the earliest, and suspect real change to start around 2020”ish”.
However, depending on the attractiveness of this alignment being rail versus bus, a fair number of preferred riders could be attained. Currently I would be surprised for this to amount to more than 1-2k rides per day, but TriMet routes have surprised me in the past.
Anyone else have any hard guesses/estimates for the Green Line Route?