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Examining the Rise in Transit Ridership


A recent article on takes a look at the rise in transit ridership since gas prices hit $3.00, "Who says Americans won't ride transit?".  But, as the article explains, there's a glitch:

"The rise in mass transit ridership should be great news. . .But the news isn't all that sunny. In fact, the mini-exodus from driving has exposed significant cracks in the country's mass transit systems, which are struggling to accommodate new riders. Having spent decades forsaking the bus and the train for the convenience and privacy of cars, Americans are now finding that the buses, streetcars, trolleys and trains that they left behind are strapped for cash, if they still exist at all."

We are lucky to have well-run transit systems like TriMet and C-Tran here, but do you think their are "significant cracks" in our region's transit systems?  What could our region do better for transit?  What is functioning well?


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November 12, 2008 at 8:44 PM

We rely 100% on Trimet and Zipcar; we don't own a car. We would love to have more buses on Sundays. I know that ridership is low on the weekends, but those of us who rely on mass transit every day, not just work days, would appreciate better Sunday schedules. We LOVE our mass transit system, but on Sundays, it is a long wait.



November 13, 2008 at 1:39 AM

I'm one of the early retirees at 63 yrs. of age. Many senior citizen discounts nationally and locally begin at age 62 yrs. Why doesn't TriMet do this? There would be more retired Baby Boomers riding if the Honored Citizen rates were offered to riders who retire at 62 and who are living on social security retirement benefits.

As gasoline price go down, will rider rates go down? We need recession rates now too.


Erik H.

December 7, 2008 at 8:38 PM

"well-run transit systems"? What are the significant cracks?

Crack #1 is the anti-bus, pro-rail bias exhibited not just by TriMet, but by Metro and the City of Portland as well. Two-Thirds of Portland's transit ridership is on the bus. The vast majority of Portland's geography is reached only by bus. Yet 90%+ of our planning and capital time, effort and dollars go towards rail service - which directly results in a decline in bus service.

TriMet has an aging bus fleet that is older than most comparable transit systems. Bus stops are often in poor condition and the City does nothing to improve bus stops; in fact the City claims it's TriMet's problem and TriMet says it's the City's problem; and Metro pretty much ignores the problem and refuses to spend money on bus stop improvements. Over 40% of TriMet's bus fleet is over 15 years old, high-floor (requires a lift rather than a ramp for ADA access), lacks modern amenities (such as air conditioning)... And TriMet's response is to buy only 40 buses every other year - keeping old, obsolete and unreliable buses on the road years past their intended retirement age.

As a line 12-Barbur Boulevard bus rider, I expect "Frequent Service" to mean a bus will show up every 15 minutes on schedule. What I often receive are 20 or 30 minute fact 45 minute waits for a bus is not unheard of; I see crush loads (meaning the bus driver won't stop for new passengers) because TriMet has steadfastly refused to purchase articulated buses that would increase capacity by 40% with zero increase in labor or fuel cost; I see other, less used bus routes running empty while people are literally begging for more service on the 12.

And where is the City of Portland? Completely ignorant and clueless of the problem - because the 12 line is a BUS and not a MAX or Streetcar line. The City of Portland just doesn't care. Bus riders are, in the eyes of the City, second-class citizens. Years of transportation planning and the City's own websites and public documentation prove this.

Is the City truly interested in ensuring that transit continues to be popular even after gas prices go back "to normal"? Start investing in 100% of transit riders. Stop the disinvestment in the bus system - AND make up for the years and years of disinvestment. I don't care whose problem it is, the City and Metro and TriMet are all equally guilty, and need to sit down and plan a "Bus Reinvestment Program" that takes top priority over all other transit projects.

But, I'm sure the City will tell me to "shut up" because I'm just a second-class bus rider.

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