Category Archives: Media

Mass Transit Is Making Gridlock Worse

Mass Transit Is Making Gridlock Worse says nationally known economist Stephen Moore

Lars says it’s part of the “war on cars”

Local conservative radio host Lars Larson teed up the topic of mass transit making traffic congestion worse. He based his remarks on a great column by economist Stephen Moore.

“The scandal here is that mass transit is adding to traffic congestion problems across America. It is also blocking mobility as we divert billions of gas tax dollars, which are supposed to get spent on road repairs and expansions, to white elephant transit projects with minuscule ridership that, in most cities, is shrinking.

Meanwhile, the public is increasingly infuriated by traffic gridlock. In 2018, the average driver lost $1,348 by sitting in traffic.”

Sounds like the Portland metro area, right? One recent study indicated Portland has the nation’s 7th worst traffic congestion. Furthermore, polling by both the Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC) and Portland Metro indicate the number one prior citizens want fixed is traffic congestion.

Moore adds:

Even the urban myth that billions of dollars of big-city transit subsidies are needed to help the poor and minorities is fatuous. The percentage of Hispanics using transit has fallen 21% since 2000. Over the last two decades, almost 1 in 5 black commuters has stopped riding transit. The percentage of people with incomes below $30,000 who use mass transit fell over the last 20 years, while those with incomes above $75,000 has risen.

Ironically, the most significant change in transportation over the past several decades is that millions more poor people and minorities can afford to own a car and drive where they want and when they want. For low-income households, transit is something not to aspire to but to be liberated from. Studies show conclusively that owning a car is literally and figuratively a road to higher incomes for those at the bottom.

For TriMet, light rail ridership peaked over a decade ago. Furthermore, in spite of adding TWO new MAX light rail lines, total ridership today is below numbers prior to the expenditure of several billion transportation dollars to build two new MAX light rail lines. Here are the numbers from a FTA (Federal Transit Administration) graphic.

And that is just the light rail ridership. Bus ridership for both TriMet and CTran are down significantly as well.

Here is TriMet bus ridership — down 9.4 million passengers from a 2009 peak. That’s a 14% decline.

Here is CTran ridership numbers. Total ridership peaked two decades ago in 1999 and we’re down roughly 1.5 million passengers.

Stephen Moore comments: “The latest transportation data underscores the futility of transit as a solution to inner-city gridlock. Today, fewer than 1 in 20 commuters take transit to work.”

The 2018 PEMCO survey validates Moore’s comments, here in the Pacific Northwest. 94% of people prefer to use their private cars for transportation.

Stephen Moore added:

Yet urban planners arrogantly refuse to listen to what commuters want, as they pour money into fashionable light rail systems that people use the least. Transportation expert Wendell Cox has noted that for the exorbitant cost of transit subsidies in many cities, “It would be less expensive for taxpayers to purchase every transit rider a brand-new Prius.”

Take a listen to the commentary and discussion on Lars!

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ADDITIONAL REFERENCES

Uber & Lyft carry more people in Seattle than Sound Transit’s light rail carry, the Seattle Times reports.

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TriMet Drops Ridership Estimate by 13% for Tigard Light Rail

Cascade Policy Institute  (here)

By John A. Charles, Jr.

After eight years of bragging that the proposed light rail line to Tigard would result in average daily ridership of 43,000, TriMet has quietly dropped the estimate to 37,500.

This “bait-and-switch” was totally predictable. At the start of every rail planning process, TriMet creates a high ridership estimate to get local politicians excited. Once the politicians agree to help fund the project, ridership forecasts are revised downwards. Eventually construction begins, and just before opening day, ridership estimates are lowered again.

At that point, it’s too late for politicians to back out.

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Frustrated with Traffic? According to PBOT, That’s Your Problem

Cascade Policy Institute (here)

By Rachel Dawson

The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT), the agency charged with building and maintaining the city’s transportation system, is shifting the responsibility of improving traffic congestion away from itself and onto individual residents.

This was made apparent in a recently released 2018 report provided by Bloom Communications that surveyed Portland residents’ attitudes and perceptions of the Bureau. The contents of the survey are unsurprisingly critical of PBOT and demonstrate Portlanders’ increasing frustration with the region’s transportation system.

Of the themes that emerged, survey participants were generally concerned with safety on public transit, potholes and degrading roads, increasing traffic congestion, and PBOT’s lack of vision.

People want safe and efficient commutes. 81% of participants said that driving their car was the safest way for them and their families to commute, as they have greater control over who they come in contact with and what happens to them.

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TriMet’s plan for a $2 Billion tunnel under the Willamette River will eliminate a dozen downtown light rail stops

TriMet’s MAX light rail system has two huge weaknesses. One is the Achilles heel – all MAX light rail trains use the 117-year-old Steel Bridge. The other – they can only put two cars in a train, due to the length of a downtown Portland city block. Both weaknesses were known and ignored in the original creation of Portland’s light rail system.

Read about their plan to spend over $2 Billion on a tunnel that will eliminate a DOZEN light rail stops between Lloyd Center and Goose Hollow on the west side of downtown. (here)

Portland expands “Road Diets”

PBOT’s “Rose Lanes” project will add to traffic congestion

Eliminating vehicle lanes on already overcrowded arterials

Portland has had a “war on cars” for a long time. After killing the Mt. Hood Freeway, activists stopped a planned western bypass (“ring road”) to compliment I-205. They have successfully fought much needed expansions of I-5 at the Rose Quarter, and a host of needed improvements to major arterials.

The last major addition of vehicle capacity was I-205. It opened in Dec. 1980. That resulted in a 10 year reduction in the number of vehicles using I-5 via the Interstate Bridge and reduced traffic congestion. Regional population has doubled since 1980.

Recently, Portland has begun reducing the number of vehicle lanes on several regional arterial streets and eliminating parking. Here’s a news report highlighting a 50% reduction in vehicle lanes on 2 miles of NE Glisan.

Here’s the full KOIN news story.

That is just the beginning.

The Portland City Council recently approved a PBOT (Portland Bureau of Transportation) plan for major lane and parking reductions. They plan to start by eliminating one lane in each direction on the Burnside Bridge.

You can view the full plan here.

A look at the broader, city wide plan shows how far reaching the road diets may be. Lanes and/or parking will be eliminated near intersections. On many of these corridors PBOT will eliminate one vehicle lane and parking in each direction for several miles, creating a “bus only” transit lane. (Note the yellow line light rail extension into Vancouver at the top.)

With fewer lanes on all those major arterials, the other side roads and arterials will get even more congested. ODOT told the TOLLING Policy Advisory Committee in 2018, 80,000 vehicles are diverting off regional freeways and highways and on to side roads due to the lack of vehicle capacity. Once TOLLING is implemented on all of I-5 & I-205, ODOT estimates an additional 50,000 vehicles will divert! Where will they go, with even fewer lanes to handle the diverting traffic?

Portland now has the nation’s 7th worst traffic congestion according to one recent transportation survey. It’s that bad because regional population continues to grow, yet Portland refuses to add needed vehicle infrastructure. Instead they spend billions on light rail and transit which continues to have declining ridership.

The west coast city takes the No. 7 spot as one of the worst city for commuters. Studies have shown that the congestion comes from roads that haven’t expanded as fast as the newcomers who have moved into the city.

Willamette Week highlighted the plans effort to favor transit over cars.

While cars are stuck in traffic, buses will be able to cruise ahead on time. Eudaly and other city officials hope that will encourage more people to ride the bus in a city where transit ridership is flat.

and

The Rose Lane Project, while inexpensive by city standards, was initially seen as a radical move in Portland neighborhood politics—because it removes road lanes for driving and parking.

Transit won’t solve the traffic congestion problems. TriMet bus passenger boardings peaked in 2009 and are down 14%, a decline of more than 9 million boardings thru 2018. Light-rail ridership peaked in 2012 with 35.2 million originating riders, losing 11% or 4.2 million originating riders by 2018.

Portland’s “War on Cars” actually started in the 1970’s. Here’s some excellent history from Beyond the Oregon Myth created in 2014.

 

A 2018 PEMCO transportation survey of the Pacific Northwest indicates 94% of people prefer to use their private vehicles. Mass transit does not serve them well. In Seattle, more people use Uber and Lyft than ride the Sound Transit light rail.

An April 2019 Oregon Transportation Commission survey found 51% of citizens want to “expand and improve interstates and interstate bridges.” Another 14% want expanded arterials.

Metro’s 2019 poll showed people’s top priority is roads and highways. The Portland Tribune summarized: “On its own, improving public transit is a lower priority than making road improvements and the more overarching goal of easing traffic — voters still overwhelmingly rely on driving alone to get around,” reads the poll’s conclusions.

Elected representatives and transportation officials should be responding to the needs and desires of the people. That means creating new transportation corridors and adding new vehicle infrastructure.

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REFERENCES

The creation of the I-205 corridor which opened in Dec. 1982 created a 10-year reduction in the number of vehicles using the I-5 Interstate Bridge. The following is from a RTC graphic.

In 2018, WSDOT reported there were 310,000 crossings of the Columbia River daily, using the Interstate Bridge (I-5) or the Glenn Jackson Bridge (I-205).

Transit ridership continues its decline. TriMet total bus ridership is down by 9 million people.

TriMet’s MAX light rail ridership is down, in spite of adding TWO new light rail lines.

(Federal Transit Administration)

Another graphic from CTran here in Clark County. Ridership peaked in 1999.

More mass transit won’t solve interstate traffic congestion problems. CTran has seven “express” bus lines into Portland. Five run the I-5 corridor and two run the I-205 corridor. Total “express” bus line ridership is down. In 2018 CTran reported only 1,422 people used any of the seven express bus lines on an average day.

Uber & Lyft carry more people in Seattle than Sound Transit’s light rail carry, the Seattle Times reports.

The original Oregon plan for a “ring road” in the 1960’s and 70’s, allowing vehicles alternative routes to using I-5. It was to be completed 30 years ago, by 1990.

RTC — Take a Stand Against Oregon’s TOLLING Scheme

Oregon legislators call for immediate TOLLING due to increased costs of ridiculous “community redevelopment” project, aka I-5 Rose Quarter Project

My remarks to the Feb. 4th Regional Transportation Council Board.

HERE.

My original remarks to the RTC regarding Oregon’s HB2017 were in June 2017, 2 1/1 years ago.

Nearly two years ago, I came before this body and discussed Oregon’s TOLLING legislation. I was stunned that it had NOT been discussed. Why wouldn’t my RTC Board want to be informed and to make input regarding that legislation?

Roughly 6 weeks later without input from the RTC, TOLLING “beginning at the border with Washington”, was passed by the Oregon legislature.

We had 74,000 Clark County citizens pay $221 million in Oregon income taxes in 2017. Another 44,000 “other” WA citizens paid $104 million, of which the majority were likely from Skamainia and Cowlitz Counties.

Now Oregon wants to pick the pockets of SW WA residents to pay even more, via their outrageous TOLLING scheme. Ultimately, Oregon wants to TOLL ALL highways and freeways in the Metro area, including I-5, I-205, I-84, I-405, US 26 & 217.

Even more incredible, is ODOT’s Rose Quarter proposal which adds NO new through lanes to I-5. It was originally $450 Million. HALF that money was going to “community redevelopment”, building two concrete lids over I-5 and a bike/pedestrian bridge.

Today the project has ballooned 70% to $795 million. There are calls to “beef up” the 2 concrete lids so real estate can be built on top, at an added cost of $200 – $500 million.

Oregon legislators want to IMMEDIATELY implement TOLLING in order to cover the increased costs rather than pull the plug on the “community redevelopment” parts.

SW WA citizens should NOT be funding Oregon’s “community redevelopment”. Transportation money should NOT be used to create real estate. WE here in SW WA should never pay for it. Will you come out against funding Oregon’s “community redevelopment”? Will you come out against Oregon’s TOLLING scheme?

As I have told you in the past, on Seattle’s I-405, fully 43% of TOLLING dollars go to the cost of collection. That is an outrageously expensive way to pay for transportation. The gas tax costs under 1% to collect.

TOLLING will cause HUGE numbers of people to divert onto side roads and into neighborhoods. ODOT told the TOLLING Policy Advisory Committee that 80,000 vehicles currently divert, due to the lack of vehicle capacity. If TOLLING is implemented on ALL of I-5 & I-205, an additional 50,000 vehicles would divert.

Think about that – 130,000 vehicle diversions is almost the number of vehicles that cross the Columbia River each day using the Interstate Bridge!  When Oregon imposes TOLLS on all area freeways, the number of diversions onto side roads and into neighborhoods will only increase, causing a huge nightmare for local families.

Take a stand against Oregon’s TOLLS!

Outrageous Rose Quarter Project Cost Up 70%

It’s Community Redevelopment, Not Transportation

From the beginning, the $450 million Rose Quarter project was a pork-barrel boondoggle. Fully HALF that price estimate was going to pay to create real estate — two concrete lids over I-5 and an outrageously expensive $30-$50 million bike/pedestrian bridge the bike community doesn’t want.

That means $225 million was the price of extending auxiliary lanes on I-5 for safety. Now ODOT is informing citizens the price tag is up roughly 70 percent.

ODOT told citizens the project will not improve traffic congestion because they are not adding new I-5 through lanes. “We fully admit that this isn’t going to eliminate congestion at the Rose Quarter,” said ODOT’s Travis Brouwer.

Multiple Portland politicians told citizens it was a “community redevelopment” project. “If somebody came to me and said, ‘Ted, do you want to spend half a billion on a freeway expansion?’, I say, ‘No and hell no,’” Mayor Ted Wheeler said at a 2017 City Council hearing. “But that’s not what this is.” (OPB)

Scarce transportation dollars should not be spent on community redevelopment. “If Portland wants to put lids and all that kind of stuff on freeways . . . we’re not paying for it,” said Sen. Lee Beyer recently. “That’s a local decision, local desire … It’s not part of the state highway system.” (OPB).

Now ODOT is fibbing again. They blame “inflation” on the cost ballooning nearly 70%, from $450 million the legislature approved in 2017, to $795 million. That’s pure BS.

Inflation is running between 2% & 3%. The time frame for building the project is only eight years after legislative approval. Inflation would increase the $450 million price to $527 million @ 2%, or $605 million @ 3%. Heads should roll at ODOT for the mismanagement and deception in this debacle.

Finally, the entire HB2017 package was $5.3 Billion. How many of those projects had no inflation calculated?

The original $450 million Rose Quarter project was 8.5% of total transportation spending authorized. Now at $795 million, that equals 15% of total spending. If the “community redevelopment” activists get their way the $1 BILLION plus expenditure could equal 20% or more of total HB2017 spending.

In fact some real estate and “community activists” are pushing to beef up the lids to support 7-15 story buildings. That would add $200 million to $500 million to the price tag on top of the $795 million.

The rest of the state should be outraged and pull the plug on this unacceptable “community redevelopment” project. Our transportation dollars are vitally needed elsewhere!

Taxpayers should put this in context. The 2018 PEMCO survey reported 94% of Northwest citizens want to use their privately owned vehicles.

An April 2019 Oregon Transportation Commission survey found 51% of citizens want to “expand and improve interstates and interstate bridges.” Another 14% want expanded arterials. (OTC).

Metro’s 2019 poll showed people’s top priority is roads and highways. The Portland Tribune summarized: “On its own, improving public transit is a lower priority than making road improvements and the more overarching goal of easing traffic — voters still overwhelmingly rely on driving alone to get around,” reads the poll’s conclusions.

Citizens want point-to-point service in either privately owned vehicles or Lyft/Uber vehicles. Uber and Lyft now carry more people than Seattle’s Sound Transit light rail. (Seattle Times).

Use the $450 million to expand metro area roads and freeways; use it to build new transportation corridors. It’s been 40 years since a new transportation corridor was built: Interstate 205. Serve the people and their transportation needs and desires.

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REFERENCES

The original proposal, as shown in an ODOT graphic.

It has now morphed into a real estate developer’s dream. Note all the 7 to 15 story buildings in glass on the right (east) side.

The January 2020 ODOT report indicates the following is the “purpose” of the Rose Quarter project.

PROJECT PURPOSE
The purpose of the Project is to improve the safety and operations on I-5 between I-405 and I-84, and within the I-5 Broadway/Weidler interchange. In support of this purpose, the Project will improve local connectivity and multimodal access in the vicinity of the Broadway/Weidler interchange, and improve multimodal connections between neighborhoods located to the east and west of I-5.”

I-5 safety and congestion – The segment of I-5 between I-405 and I-84 incurs 3.5 times more crashes than the statewide average and has some of the highest traffic volumes in the state (12 hours of congestion each day). The Project’s auxiliary lanes and wider safety shoulders will reduce frequent crashes and save drivers nearly 2.5 million hours of vehicle delay each year.

Here is ODOT’s graphic showing the “before and after” of the Auxiliary Lanes that will allegedly cost 55% of the project, or $442 million. (ODOT)

The 2019 METRO transportation poll indicated the majority of people still rely on their cars to get around. Here it shows 88%!

When I-205 opened, it provided a decade of traffic congestion relief on I-5. Here are the numbers.

 

TOLLING: “Not so fast!”

Trying to stop TOLLS in Oregon before they start

KOIN news reports on citizens effort to stop TOLLS on I-5, I-205, and other Oregon roads, unless VOTERS give their approval first. Julie Parish is interviewed.

ODOT’s Don Hamilton tries to “spin” the possible negative impacts, “if” the TOLLING initiative (IP-10) is passed. It’s pure BS.

There are already 80,000 vehicles already diverting on to side roads today. The TOLLING Policy Advisory Committee was told an additional 50,000 vehicles would divert to avoid the TOLLS, if tolling were implemented on all of I-5 and I-205 in the Portland Metro area. That’s 130,000 vehicles diverting INTO neighborhoods and the side roads that are already overcrowded. But ODOT won’t discuss that aspect of the TOLLING.

Want to STOP the TOLLING until the people have a vote? Click HERE to go the the Vote on Tolls website.