Cascade President John Charles testified today before the Joint Committee on Interstate-5 Bridge Replacement Project regarding HB 2800. His testimony follows.

The CRC Plan for Light Rail:

A Step Backwards for Transit Customers

 John A. Charles, Jr.

Cascade Policy Institute

February 2013


TriMet Yellow MAX Line to North Portland

CTRAN Express Buses Serving Downtown Portland

Capital cost of expanding  light rail to Vancouver

$932 million


2011 annual operating cost

$10.2 million

$5.04 million

Operating cost/hour



Annual hours of service



Farebox recovery ratio for operations cost



Cost/new vehicle



Peak-hour frequency

Every 15 minutes

Every 10.3-15.5 minutes

Peak-hour travel speed

15 MPH

31-45 MPH

Travel time, Vancouver to Portland

36-38 minutes

16 -18 minutes

% of passenger seating capacity actually used at the peak period



Promises of Frequent Transit Services: Hope Over Experience

According to the most recent finance plan for this project, “Light rail in the new guideway and in the existing Yellow line alignment would be planned to operate with 7.5 minute headways during the “peak of the peak” and with 15-minute headways at all other times. This compares to 12-minute headways in “peak of the peak” and 15-minute headways at all other times for the existing Yellow line.”[1]

In fact, the Yellow Line runs at 15 minute headways all day, with even less service at night.  Yet according to the FTA Full Funding Grant Agreement for the Yellow Line, service is supposed to be operating at 10-minute headways at the peak, improving to 7.5 minute headways by 2020. TriMet is violating its FFGA contract, which could lead to a denial of funding for the $850 million grant request that the CRC project plans to make.

The Green MAX line is also operating at service levels of at least 33% below those promised in the FFGA. 

The legislature should not be expanding TriMet’s territory at this time – especially into another state that already has a transit district – because TriMet cannot afford to operate the system it already has. Despite a steady influx of general fund dollars, TriMet has been cutting service ever since the legislature approved a payroll tax rate increase in 2003, as shown below.

TriMet Financial Resources, 2004-2013 (000s)


FY 04/05

FY 08/09

FY 10/11

FY 11/12 (est)

FY 12/13 (budget)

% Change 04/05-12/13

Passenger fares

$   59,487

$   90,016

$   96,889

$   104,032



Payroll tax revenue







Total operating resources







Total Resources







Note: Pursuant to legislation adopted in 2003, the TriMet payroll tax rate was increased on January 1, 2005, will rise by .0001% annually until it reaches a rate of .007218% on January 1, 2014.

  Annual Fixed Route Service Trends, 2004-2012

FY 04

FY 06

FY 08

FY 10

FY 12

% Change

Veh. revenue hours







Vehicle revenue miles







Average veh. speed – bus







Average veh. speed – L. Rail







Source: TriMet annual service and ridership report; TriMet budget documents and audited financial statements, various years.

[1] C-TRAN, High Capacity Transit System and Finance Plan, July 20, 2012, p. 4.


2 Responses to “Cascade in the Capitol: Light Rail to Vancouver vs. CTRAN Express Buses – Testimony on HB 2800”

  1. Brian Weaver February 16, 2013 at 2:32 am #

    Nice graphic, really says it all. I don’t know what is is with these transit officials, they must have some kind of decease.

  2. Carolyn Crain September 28, 2013 at 7:51 am #

    I also testified as usual. What happened Thursday was mind boggling. The C-tran board, through the intentional subterfuge of Tim Leavitt mayor of Vancouver who also works for PBS Engineering which has a contract with Tri-Met that shows Tim Leavitt to be the chief engineering staff member for that contract, agreed to let the director Jeff Hamm sign a gontract between the two entities without an actual contract to be reviewed in front of them! Dozens testified but Steve Stuart our county commissioner who had promised all along and as late as Tuesday afternoon when I spoke to him that there was no way he would vote for this was the turncoat who voted yes and the swing vote that passed it. We are now attempting to raise funds to get a court injunction to stop the signing of any contract without first being reviewed by the board and approved.

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