I’m Just Now Catching up to Al’s April 2014 Video of Me…

I’m sitting here digging through videos on YouTube and here’s this video Al took a while back. I’m not entirely sure who did the edits, but I have a few minor contention points. Here’s the video first:

Is the MAX dangerous based on un-correlated and non-causal crime?

Minute:Second 2:28 – 2:50 –¬†I’m seriously not even going to respond to this insertion of media alarmism and FUD in the middle of this clip. That is a seriously disingenuous association, it is dishonest to even associate that with failure or success in any way. Pulling in outlier data, and pushing and implication that the MAX is a crime train or something of that nature is just extremely cheap and petty. So it’s not even getting an answer from me…¬†just bring data next time and stop being disingenuous. I can argue this but it’s just ridiculous that this is even inserted in there, it’s at best a distraction to simpletons that will then immediately say something ignorant like, “see, it’s a failure there’s some stabbing…”

Is MAX Ridership Not 100k (or more) ?

Minute:Second 2:57 – There’s a flash of some stats from an unspecified time that are supposedly Trimet’s ridership numbers. I’d stated that Trimet ridership on the MAX was 100k or more per day, which was a conservative estimate on my behalf. The data that was shown however was not accurate. Check out the actual PDF of performance information from Trimet itself. Now scroll down to the ridership data for April of 2014 which is the post time of this video (and relatively close +1 a month or so when Al and I actually met and had this conversation). The data for April 2014 is shown below:

Note the MAX Ridership for April 14 is at 121,400. A mere 1.1% decrease over the same month in 2013.

Note the MAX Ridership for April 14 is at 121,400. A mere 1.1% decrease over the same month in 2013.

As you can see, I was being extremely generous in saying the MAX carries merely 100k passenger trips a day, when in reality it registered over 121k that month.

Answer: Yes, I was correct in stating that the ridership is at least that much. It’s the opposite of hyperbole, it’s a conservative estimate, which makes the implication I was making absolutely true.

Is bus ridership barely 3 times what MAX ridership is even with 50 or so bus lines as I said in the video?

The ridership for Trimet bus lines, all of them (not including the paratransit, which is only 21k trips) comes in for the month of April at 335,030 passenger trips. That’s some pretty good ridership.

Bus Ridership at Trimet

Bus Ridership at Trimet

but if we do some math, if Trimet MAX’s ridership is 121k, and we multiply that by x3, we get 363k, clearly more than the 335k trips that were registered.

Answer: Yes, again, my statement was a simple conservative statement that again proves the point that the MAX, by line count, carries dramatically more people than the entire bus system put together. I made no other correlations than that, so no I’m not saying one could exist without the other,¬†or any such thing. I merely stated one point.

So are there only 50 bus lines in Trimet’s System?

Well I did a little manual count (maybe I’m off by +-1?) but I got 80 bus lines on Trimet’s page here. Feel free to count. But agian, a conservative¬†guess at the number of bus lines (and yeah, I¬†should know the number of bus lines by now, but I only knew a very rough low balled amount). This makes the point even¬†more direct to the point I’m making, in that the bus system has 80 bus lines and ONLY carries 3x as much as the MAX.

Answer: Yes, there are at LEAST 50 bus lines, after counting them there are 80.

So is MAX a failure by this measure? Is it truly ridiculous?

The MAX, based on this number of lines, carrying 25% of the passenger trips but only making up 1/20th of the actual lines is by no measure a failure. Looking at that same data for April we can even find more evidence that the MAX lines are doing fine, with a cost per passenger trip at $2.02 while the bus is at $3.27.

Answer: MAX is in no discernable way a failure based on metrics of subsidies and rates of usage for buses. One could make strong arguments that it even does even better against other Trimet modes too (re: Streetcar, WES).

Is MAX Blue Line the only successful line?

Minute:Second 3:26 –¬†Is the Blue Line the only successful line? Study the data more. None of the MAX lines are operationally expensive compared to any bus lines. Even the most efficient bus lines (like the 72, 9, 4, 14, etc) do only slightly better than the Yellow Line and sometimes better than the Green or Red Lines. Most of the time they’re all extremely efficient in cost per passenger trip.

Answer: No, they’re all successful by the metrics available, even the dramatically lower ridership Yellow Line.

Is the Skytrain the only unquestionably successful transit in North America?

Answer: Yes, go look it up, I’m not digging that up for you. But it turns an actually¬†net operational profit, which means that it makes more money from fares during operations than it takes to actually run the trains. That money,¬†is then in turn used to subsidize the less efficient¬†bus service throughout the city that costs more to run per passenger trip.

…then during 4:20- some time Al wants to now say that none of this matter that transit is a human right or something, but when we compare things we have to have a metric. Nobody said anything about what transit modern purpose is, we’re comparing what is success or failure, and actual metrics.

Green Line stole ridership, is it between 22-28k per day?

Minute:Second 4:44 – Current Green Line ridership passenger trips is 24,300 at last count.

Answer 1: Yup, the ridership is at the levels I stated.

Answer 2: It did not steal ridership from the bus routes.¬†Every route that the Green Line crosses that travels east and west (this include sthe #4, 9, 14, 15, and a number of other buses) all have seen ridership increases¬†during the time¬†since the Green Line opened. The #72, which runs parallel and crosses under the Green Line has also seen its ridership maintained or increased over that same period, month-to-month and by any other metric. The data is available, to get some of the specifics you will have to get a FOIA for Trimet to dig it up, but the data is there, just from the totals that are provided on the site (just look at the link above and check out the ridership for bus/MAX) and you’ll see that overall the ridership has generally seen an upward trend since the Green Line opened in 2009 versus a downward trend.


…this blog entry is dedicated to Al. Cheers man! It’s always fun.

The Green Line Gets Car Free

Recently I was hanging out downtown and heard an interesting story over beer. It happens to be that the Green Line has achieved, for some, the ultimate. There are people living in Clackamas that have gone car free by choice! Truly amazing, America is slowly evolving past addiction. It is slow going, but it is starting to grow. Watching this ground swell of change is amazing.

To note, this could have happened with the bus lines, but it was however much less likely. Light rail enables and encourages people to drop their cars and focus on livability in ways that buses cannot and will never achieve. Buses are important, but they are not agents of change.

Green Transit

I was pondering recently, even with all the fussing the naysayers have about transit, what was accomplished when TriMet finished the Green Line connecting another couple of neighborhoods to the light rail system plus multiple park and rides.

The first thing was the system picked up another 17-18k riders per day. The riders on this line were almost entirely new at first. At least 10-15k of them. The busiest bus line in the city, the #72 plying up and down 82nd Avenue, saw almost zero change to the ridership. Being only about 1-6 blocks at various points from the light rail one might have thought some of the riders would have switched modes. The simple explanation is that the #72 serves a specific constituency and the light rail serves another constituency.

There is however one huge difference. After a period of 18-20 years Trimet will have spent – including infrastructure – less on the light rail service than on the bus service on 82nd Avenue while getting a growing ridership on the green line that will even surpass those estimates.

What does that mean?

It means Trimet will have more money to spend, operationally and for infrastructure, on other parts of the system.

Fast forward to my current city I’m living in. The light rail that Sound Transit is building is almost 10x the cost of what Portland is building. Primarily because Seattle’s Sound Transit is getting the light rail built in raised and subterranean infrastructure. This type of infrastructure is inordinately expensive. A cost, that at this point is unneeded.

Recently Federal Way requested that Sound Transit make sure the promise of light rail doesn’t disappear from the future. Right now, from a money perspective, Sound Transit has basically told the city it won’t be getting light rail. I see two massive problems here.

1. There isn’t money for the current plan to get light rail into Federal Way. That’s the plain and simple reality of the matter.
2. Sound Transit and most of the area Governments are inflexible on building light rail more cost consciously.

Now these are the two problems at the surface. Looking a little deeper, just below the surface, one will immediately notice the real problems. Both of which I’ve raised here at Transit Sleuth a number of times over the years.

The first problem is that the Government assumes the economy will do X and has almost no plans to mitigate when Y happens. Our currency is hosed, so an individual citizen of Seattle can safely assume that all plans moving forward that aren’t already under contraction and paid for are on the chopping block. Yes, EVERYTHING. Increasing funds and taxes won’t particularly help either until some politician in the White House gets the balls to do something about our currency and valuation against the global markets. Right now we’re sunk. That’s the summary position of problem #1.

Problem number two is a different beast. With the money that is allocated so far Sound Transit could do a lot of infrastructure investment. They could, in all honesty, get to Federal Way. The problem lies in Federal and State Regulation that causes Sound Transit to be rather inflexible in how or what they can do with that infrastructure money. This inflexibility we as citizens we do want and don’t want.

Either way, I digress, I hope that Seattle and Sound Transit can find a better way to get real infrastructure with high quality transit built. Right now the ambitions look good, but more reality needs brought to focus. This massive high cost light rail infrastructure probably is not the best way to go about getting higher capacity and higher quality transit to the Seattle area.