While heading home tonight on the #9 at the end of fare-less square a, gasp, fare inspector boarded and checked everyone’s fare. Of course, as expected everyone on the bus had valid fare. I think 95% of fare evasion occurs on the MAX, since it is inherently more vulnerable. The inspector was one of the newer guys for sure, I haven’t seen him before and I think at some point I’ve met every fare inspector on the system that has been working more than 3-4 years.
The fare inspector popping on and off the bus was cool, but what got me writing this entry is pondering what the return on investment is for one form of transport over another. The obvious answer is simply, it depends. Measuring transport based solely on one measurement, such as per rider, per mile, per gallon, or otherwise doesn’t really tell one anything about returns. A person, a town or city, or society gets when people travel by one mode or don’t travel by a particular mode varies depending on too many factors that I won’t even begin to list them.
For instance, New York gains billions by slight changes in subway efficiency or a couple lines being shut down for a few days. Meanwhile, Portland loses service during the winter for days on end, and it doesn’t cause a blip on anyone’s radar outside of Portland.
Another thought, what happens if a couple major Interstates shutdown. Let’s say the I-405 shuts down in LA. The city becomes crippled beyond operation, at least, that segment of LA, which is by far a vast segment of LA. If one Interstate shuts down like that in New York, barely a word would be mentioned outside the city. But if part of the subway system is shut down, it would make world news. Why? Because in LA the Interstates are the primary mode of transport, in New York the transit is how one gets in and out of that city.
In both cities, one mode over another would obviously add or subtract differing positives and negatives. If New York had an Interstate cut into its heart, it would probably lose more money than it could ever gain from Interstate access. But add a Subway, and local values skyrocket and billions are netted just from the ridership. Do the same in LA and nobody notices. Just ask an average American about the subways in LA, they probably won’t even know they have one.
Either which way, it makes one ponder what are the best avenues of investment for the Portland area. Overall I see TriMet & Metro making some good steps in the right direction, but there are some that do concern me.