Friday, May 6, 2011

Portland's "High Capacity Transit" Success... All 2.3% of It!

Interesting excerpts of an actual evaluation of Portland's MAX light rail in 2011:
  • High Capacity Transit is desirable when there are large numbers of people moving to geographically constrained destinations within a short period of time – such as commuters traveling to downtown San Francisco or midtown Manhattan. (Nothing in common with Honolulu.)
  • MAX was supposed to be a “catalyst for transit-oriented development” (TOD) at Cascade Station near the airport, but IKEA, Target and Best Buy are built away from the MAX stop and serviced by large parking lots. RESULT: 2.2% use MAX. (This will happen to the Ewa mall by Bishop Estate, Pearl Highlands, Pearl Ridge and Ala Moana Center.)
  • Gresham Civic Station is a suburban location that has been intensively planned for more than 25 years, with expectations that this would be a showcase for suburban TOD. The entire area was bare dirt when MAX opened in 1986. Eventually, much of the site was built-out. RESULT: Although there are hundreds of apartments close to the newest MAX station at Gresham Civic Center, only 2.25% the tenants actually use light rail. (This will happen to Ho'opili and other pie in the sky TODs.)
  • The two-day observations at Cascade Station were perhaps the most revealing in terms of assessing the oft-made claim that light rail is a “catalyst for development.” Light rail is not only irrelevant to the commercial success of Cascade Station, it is a barrier to continued development due to density requirements near rail stations. (Maybe Honolulu developers will wake up to reality.)
Finally, a quote describing real Transit Capacity (which is of course why I have been advocating a managed bus system since 2000):
  • For comparison, the highest-throughput mass transit facility in America is a simple busway managed by the Port Authority of New York-New Jersey (PANYNJ). On weekdays between 6:00 a.m.-10:00 a.m., PANYNJ operates a 2.5 mi eastbound contra-flow Exclusive Bus Lane (XBL) along westbound Route 495 to Lincoln Tunnel from the New Jersey Turnpike. The XBL carries 1,700 buses and 62,000 passengers each morning, on average, saving about 15-20 minutes in travel time. This averages about 1 bus every 8 seconds for a 4-hour period, with roughly 37 seated passengers per bus.
Full Report -- CASCADE POLICY INSTITUTE: The Myth of High Capacity Transit, May 2011.