Measuring Things…



Other interesting facts are the distance people travelled (shorter is generally better for a more sustainable environment and activities), the energy consumed or expended per passenger, etc. Some of these are hard to find, some are a little easier. King County and TriMet do a decent job providing this data, mostly. TriMet has a vastly easier website to find data on vs. King County’s, which seems to have been forced to use the “how not to build a website book”. I’m sure some bureaucrat had some say in the misguided approach, but the data is there, ya just gotta dig for it.  🙂


  1. Thats because TriMet = 570sq miles, KCM = 2134 sq mi. Costs more to go farther, and cover more ground. People come in from the far reaches of the county.

    Also see With a new Accountability Center right on the homepage. (for You) Sadly, Its better data than TriMet puts out, and is full of interesting info, including surveys.

    Our Passenger Mile/Miles traveled is 11.15 vs Portland at 9.56. People going farther on one fare obviously costs a bit more. See more comparisons from 2009


    1. Again, one of those livability things – If someone doesn’t have to go as far, that’s a better scenario. Less time to travel, more time to stay productive and focused on life. As for sq miles, that isn’t true based on wikipedia and several other sources. PDX is 134.3 sq miles of actual land, SEA is 83.87. That makes the flippin’ numbers look even worse for Seattle. But I do digress… my next thought is to tally up Vancouver BC stats and see how bad both SEA and PDX are doing. Also want to chalk up and see about Muni and SFO’s stats. It’d be interesting stuff.



      1. Well, keep in mind, these agencies serve regions, not just cities. Many of our riders ride out of the city, look at Bellevue, its population is fairly large, but its not in Seattle. We have this water surrounding us, makes things interesting. Also, I will point out that we attract much more choice riders, many of our commuter only routes are choice riders, something only TriMet wants to attract thru rail. For a rider who relies on transit, closer is better, by great measures. But for a choice rider, they’d just rather not drive into town, and use one of our 25,110 park and ride spaces, of which average 74% utilization per day. TriMet has only 12,690 spaces, and there doesnt seem to be any usage data. SFO and VAC will be similar as they serve similar markets, dense areas with less car usage. SEA and PDX are so spread out, its like cherries to grapefruits.

        While I am not saying one is better here, theres just different usage patterns between KCM and TM, what kind of service is available vs destinations. Both have their pits, and both have merits. But all in all, i think VAC and SFO are different animals, but I say compare them to each other, its not something either SEA or PDX will ever be.

      2. This is a comparison of city to city… not the surrounding cities. It would be outrageous to compare the entire metropolitan areas, for a host of reason. 😉 That’s why I’ve broken it down almost entirely to just the city cores.

  2. One other factor possibly behind Seattle’s high costs is the need to run as many one-seat trips as possible. A lot of Seattle’s bus lines overlap with low-frequency branches and limited and express variants that combine to form frequent trunk service.

    Jarrett Walker talks a lot about this on Human Transit. He’s said that Seattle could simplify its grid and have equally frequent service, but it would mean more transfers. Riders may not like the trade-off.


    1. Oh jeez yeah, that is one of the HUGE cost aspects of Seattle’s transit. They have probably 40-60% more single seat trips than say Trimet. This of course is where a huge chunk of that 2x price comes from.

      I’ve got to actually have a sit down and chat with Jarrett. I’ve been reading his material for ages and it is top notch stuff. Love it! 🙂


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