Ok, I am in week three of my new Seattle life. All is rocking along, but I must say I have noticed some serious differences between the transit options in Portland versus Seattle.
For one, both cities now have pretty much the same type of core modes.
|Bus (30~ ft, 40 ft, 60~ft)||Bus (30~ ft, 40 ft)|
|Streetcar (Skoda Style)||Streetcar (Skoda Style)|
|Light Rail||Light Rail|
|Oddball Monorail||Oddball Aerial Tram|
|Ferries (big, small, medium)|
|Commuter Rail (Engine + Passenger Cars)||Commuter Rail (DMU)|
The biggest differences I have noticed are those that impact me the most. I will go through each of those here.
- Wireless is available on the Express Buses & Commuter Trains. This absolutely ROCKS and Portland should have done this ages ago! It is NOT expensive to do these days either. Point – Seattle
- Metro & Sound Transit actually have cushy, comfortable, enjoyable seats to sit in. This is a big step up from TriMet’s Seats except on the WES BRDs. Point – Seattle
- TriMet’s fare system is about a billion times easier to use, understand, and in addition it is actually cheaper if one uses it well. Sound Transit, or Metro, or whatever – the Seattle Transit Fare System is absolutely nutsy. Major failure in my opinion. Point – Portland
- TriMet has a ton more light rail, and if you like light rail as I do, and prefer it over buses, TriMet wins in this category big time. Buses just are NOT smooth vehicles. I try to use the laptop, with the awesome wireless and I have to fight to keep the stupid thing on my lap! The longer buses are even less off a smooth ride. Not a big issue to me, I deal, but overall it really sucks. Light rail is generally just a lot smoother. Point – Portland.
Point wise, Portland and Seattle are even. 2 points each.
However, TriMet in my opinion is doing a much better job of providing transit that is easy to use over the Seattle area agencies. However the Seattle area agencies are doing a much better job at providing nice, comfortable transit that mostly works (the scheduling and mapping is horrible to figure out – mostly at the fault of Metro). I am also betting, per area resident, per cost per person, TriMet is probably doing better too. That however is a study for another time.
The other contender. If Portland had a Microsoft Transit…
Ok, so I am a private (i.e. pro-citizen/individual) operator advocate. I hate that cities have taken transit (as any long time reader of this blog knows), made authorities, taken control from individuals running and operating transit as non-profit, for profit, or otherwise. However, there is still private transportation in some areas, albeit often on a small scale. One example of a not-so-small scale operation is Microsoft’s Transit & Commuter Operations.
Microsoft itself runs its own transit and commuter operations. It includes taxis, mini-buses, and actual buses. They operate at efficiencies that Metro, Sound Transit, and TriMet could only dream of. They all provide wifi, and in normal private fashion, they cost taxpayers a whopping $0.
The dispatch system and other features of the system are integrated into the reception desks, computers, and all sorts of devices to create efficiencies in pickup and delivery of riders. Metro & Sound Transit in Seattle and TriMet in Portland absolutely need to send people to learn from Microsoft, because there is a LOT to learn from these private operators.
This alone, when working at Microsoft (which I am doing as a consultant right now) makes Seattle ROCK in so many way. Not a system I have seen compares to the awesomeness of Microsoft’s System.
Point – Seattle!
With that stated, Seattle wins hands down. Portland needs more private entity involvement.