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Old Posted Jun 15, 2008, 4:28 PM
RED_PDXer RED_PDXer is offline
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Join Date: Dec 2007
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Originally Posted by westsider View Post
There were profitable local bus and rail services all over the country before, and theres no reason that someone using the service and reaping the full benifit couldn't pay their own way.
Most, if not all, the "profitable" bus and rail lines folded in the 1950s-1970s and those last few decades weren't easy for them. Government took over because the service was considered "essential" for economic activity and public equity. Everyone needs to travel to get to work, school, stores, doctor appts, etc. There are many people in every city that are unable to pay for it. Government, like any private company, determined that it would be most cost effective to get more people on public transit, and so has promoted it and upgraded it with light rail and streetcar to make it faster, more comfortable, higher capacity, etc. The side effect of more people taking public transit is that there is less air pollution (mostly for rail/streetcar riders), less congestion (the MAX carries more commuters than two lanes of autos and thus is a more efficient use of right-of-way), less land devoted to parking (which makes for more "walkable" urban areas and more compact/efficient land use patterns),

Now, a few things have changed since the private companies ran transit. UNIONS, MANDATORY DOOR-TO-DOOR TRANSIT SERVICE FOR DISABLED/ELDERLY, ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEWS, TRAFFIC/ENGINEERING STANDARDS for how rail/cars interact, PUBLIC PROCESSES, and more. Overall, I'd say the biggest difference is unions. Transit companies now pay living wages, so that operators and mechanics can afford to buy a home, take a vacation every now and then, get medical/vision/dental care, etc..

The MAX itself is cost effective to operate, the cost per ride is about $1.40, while frequent service buses cost about $2.15 per ride and all buses in general cost about $2.70 to operate. These numbers don't reflect the higher gas prices, which will certainly increase the costs per ride for buses. They also don't reflect that some people need to take two-three buses to get where their going, so while a ticket may be only $2, the average operating cost is closer to $5-6. The mandatory LIFT service TriMet provides costs about $26/ride, which is ridiculous. It's basically public taxis. LIFT service has had to expand by about 6% per year over the past few years, thanks to the ADA. This service has eaten up most, if not all, of TriMet's ability to expand bus service. I think the LIFT service has the most opportunity for improvement in terms of cost effectiveness, whereas buses and rail are pretty lean already.

Then there's bikes, which are the ultimate in terms of cost effectiveness. Far more cost effective than any other form of transportation except walking.
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