Planners to Vancouver: Light Rail or You Get Nothing

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But it’s always good to look back at some of the assumptions made about mass transit and especially light rail. Because it isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. Our friend Randal O’Toole, a bicycle enthusiast, free market transportation expert, and Oregon resident, who works for the Cato Institute recently writes about St. Louis’ light rail system:

Despite investing hundreds of millions of dollars into light rail, the share of St. Louis-area commuters using transit has actually declined to 2.8 percent today from 6.9 percent in 1979.

Metro’s buses today consume more energy and emit more greenhouse gases, per passenger mile, than a typical sport utility vehicle. Its light-rail lines do better, but consume almost as much energy, and emit almost as much greenhouse gas, per passenger mile, as the average car.

Moreover, even where rail operations do save energy, this savings almost never makes up for the huge energy cost of rail construction. Highway construction also consumes energy, but because highways are more heavily used than rail lines, their energy cost per passenger mile is far lower.

Read the rest here.

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14 thoughts on “Planners to Vancouver: Light Rail or You Get Nothing

  1. I listened to the interview with Tom Potter on Bob Miller this morning on my way to work and I have to say, I have never been so utterly pissed while driving my car.

    Victoria, you should pull the audio for your show.

    He actually said (and Bob had to ask him “did you just say…”) he wants to force people out of their cars and ride light rail.

    I dont want to be a pimp for the Victoria Taft show, but she has been saying this for some time…

    “Vancouver, if you think your immune to the rainbow city council, think again”.

    I’m always all like “Yeah right, whatever”.

    And all I could think of after the interview was how GD right she’s been all this time, which pissed me off even more.

    Damn you Victoria, and your GD insight! 😉

    I am 5th generation Vancouver and with the thought of all the BS, tolls, light rail, I am thinking of moving to Denver.
    Maybe Montana.

    This whole thing just reeks of fraud.
    So far they have spent 40 million dollars and haven’t done a damn thing.

    10 dollar one way tolls (you know it will be).
    Bob says “Wont people just go upriver and use I-205 for free?”

    Potter says “Yeah I brought that up, and nobody had an answer. My guess is we will have to toll I-205 as well”

    40 million dollars to study it and you didnt think about drivers averting the tolls?


    The whole thing needs to be investigated. We are getting fleeced here.

    I blame Washington state officials for driving out the companies, thus sending us all to Oregon to work.

    Potter said 50,000 people cross that bridge every morning from Vancouver


  2. todash19: I didn’t hear the radio program this morning, but you are right on here. Tommy Potter and his Toadies on the City Council are just about as crooked as the Chicago city government was under Mayor Daley some 30 years ago. (Mike Royko, where are you when we need you?)

    Thankfully for Portland Tommy is in office for only about 5 more months. That’s the good news. Bad news is that TramSam will be following as mayor. More of the same old same old.

    And todash, if you actually do move to Montana and are not too concerned about the cold winters, consider north central Montana, like Cut Bank, Shelby, or Havre. CB and Shelby are about 4,000 each and Havre has about 10,000 and a college, Montana Univ.-Havre.

    And there is a huge wind farm of about 130 windmills going in between CB and Shelby. And the people there are all for the project, unlike the enviro-kooks around here. We get the CB paper each week and are following the progress closely.

  3. I like riding the max, I can get off at the stops and walk to where ever I want or take my bike and ride it where ever I want. How is that for freedom?…..

  4. Can anyone help explain the relationship between corrupt government and a Mayor having an opinion on transporation? Iknowhowtospell, I think you are awesome for making people think. Conservatives have gotten lazy, they attack like a pit bull when they think someone is not agreeing with them.

  5. I fail to see how a Mayor stating he desires to FORCE people, supposedly a free people, out of their cars is merely expressing an opinion.

    For those that like riding Max, good for you. But, why do I have to pay for your transportation? Why is it taxpayer subsidized?

    CTrans raised a sales tax to keep some bus lines going, one right past my home. The fact that the bus rarely has more than 2 people on it apparently means nothing, taxpayers foot the bill.

    Portland fought the 205 bridge and at one time even said they would have to close it from time to time, due to pollution. Seems to me the expected pollution never materialized.

    Portlanders retain a Tom McCall attitude in thinking they are better than others and “outsiders” must be blocked. Ya’ll ain’t that great.

    Royce Pollard is no better than Potter and seems to think he is still commanding a Military group. Clark County voters consistently voted down light rail, but it’s being shoved down our throats anyways.

    Portland, your Max line breed’s crime, hasn’t relieved any congestion and is not dependable.

    Lincoln closed his infamous Gettysburg address with “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” He obviously failed to envision the Socialist Left denying voters wishes today.

    I think ya’ll know where you can shove your light rail.

  6. todash19: I share in your frustration to. Only there not only after yanking people out of there Cars,but they want to force people to move out of the Rural & Suburban Area’s and back into the Socialist Crime ridden Urban Area’s. This escaped the left back in 1945 because of the Love affair that Americans had with the car at that time and continues today.
    I think (the forced use of) Public Transportation , Passenger trains, light rail, are all apart of whats called CENTRAL PLANNING. Unionized Trains were replaced by Cars back then. FDR’S New Deal was shattered because of this. I never want Unions or a train schedule in charge of my daily activities ever.

    PS: CNS My neighbors PIT BULL would like to meet you. He’s Hungry

  7. Yep lets almost double the cost of thebridge , not releave much if any congestion for how many riders again. Was that about 2.8% of the population ride mass transit.( 50k people cross into portland daily – 2 Billion dollars =4 million $per rider , how much is the fair going to be to ride it????)What a waist of tax payers money !

  8. To me, this just goes to show that someone who sounds crazy and seems to be spouting the same old bull about their opposition sometimes understands their foes far better than others give them credit for.

  9. Lew..

    I can understand your frustration but please keep in mind.. Not all of us in Portland are the brainwashed minions who believe in centralized planning and Light Rail as the final answer in everything.

    I myself use MAX everyday to go to work during the workweek.. but I still use a car to go to OTHER places when I need too. it works for me because my apartment is not too far from a station.. But MAX has its problems.. and crime is one of them.. another problem is that its not as convient as
    Tri-Met or the Portland City Coucil makes it out to be

    But look at all the meetings that were being held about this bridge replacement.. In EVERY newspiece I heard or read…. there was always a line or paragraph in supporting a provision for Light Rail. It almost light a brainwashing convention that had to be put in every line.

    Portland likes to tought itself as “progressively enlightened” in its planning.. I prefer to use the line “progressively totalitarian” in its planning and its trying to force Vancouver into its mix. What blows my mind is all the talk of making the bridges on the Columbia and the Willamette as toll bridges.. talk about your traffic jams…..

  10. Lew,
    The Personal vehicle is tax payer subsidized as well.

    What I never see in the calculations, which try to claim that mass transit is using more than its share of resources, is the percentage of the national highway system used for the personal vehicle versus mass transit.
    For every mass transit vehicle I see, hundreds of personal vehicles.

    NOT ALL the funding comes from gas tax.
    The land used is often Federal, State or Country owned.

    How much federal land is used for personal vehicle operation, versus mass transit?
    How much for personal vehicle use instead of walking or bicycling.

    There is only so much room, and we need to share it.
    Mass transit does this far better than the personal vehicle.
    Bicycles and Pedestrians use the resources even more efficiently than mass transit.

    I am actually tired of subsidizing your transportation.

    Even if one adds in my mass transit use, I am sure that my use of tax funded transportation would come out way lower than yours (and lower than most).

  11. “There is only so much room, and we need to share it. Mass transit does this far better than the personal vehicle. Bicycles and Pedestrians use the resources even more efficiently than mass transit.”

    Fine for the Portland and Maybe the Vancouver metro areas.. But even those numbers are in dispute.

    But Mass Transit will not solve the transportation needs of the REST of the state.. Because in many areas.. there will NEVER be a mass transit for them to use.

    As for the Federal Highyway system… 46,837 miles are Interstate. The whole system is patterned simular to the German Autobahns.. but at much lower speeds.

    What would you have people do Eileen? Move to Portland to satisfy the requirement of people to use Mass Transit?

  12. I never suggested that people, who do not live in areas where there are a lot of commuters, be forced to move to such areas.
    I did not suggest that no one ever operate a motor vehicle.
    I only point out, that in areas where there are lots of people, needing to move around, that mass transit is a much more efficient use of available resources (to include energy and the physical space available).

    I find it hard to believe any study that tries to show that mass transit uses more fuel and/or more space (unless it is a very inefficient poorly designed system).

  13. Actually, Eileen, it’s not really hard to imagine. A transit system that is poorly laid-out would be little-used and thus, consume more resources per person than an automobile. A transit system that uses outdated technologies would generate that result. A transit system that is a poor percieved alternative to a personal vehicle would generate that result. By the last one, I mean that if a light rail system was percieved by potential consumers to not get them to where they want to go as quickly and easily as the alternative, they’ll use the alternative. I use a bus to get to college from my house but only because it’d be extremely difficult to use my car for the same purpose. Even using the bus, I skip ahead to one of the transit systems up the line to save travel time due to how congested traffic is. The congestion is due to poorly-designed roads where the solution has been known for 20 years and studied just that long but is never implemented. That in and of itself brings up yet another way that mass transit could be more inefficient: the infrastructure it relies on is badly-designed. A major road from Sherwood to Tualatin (coiincidentally called Tualatin-Sherwood Road) is 20 years out of date and horribly congested because of it. A bus that was forced to use this road would offer riders extraordinarily little improvement over the alternative.

    That is how a mass transit system could turn out to be more inefficient and costly than the alternative, Eileen. There’s alot of ways to botch it and government is good at all of them.

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