February 2 marked the five-year anniversary of the Westside Express Service (WES), the 15-mile commuter rail line that runs from Wilsonville to Beaverton. While the train’s owner, TriMet, has emphasized the steady growth in ridership, the truth is that WES has been a failure.

A decade ago TriMet predicted that average weekday ridership for WES in its opening year of service would be 2,500. The reality was less than half of that: 1,150 in 2009.

After five years, ridership is only up to 1,880 weekday boardings.

Moreover, WES is TriMet’s most expensive fixed-route service, with an average per-ride cost of $12. Thus, even if ridership continues to grow, it will not help TriMet, since the agency loses about $10 on every trip.

Meanwhile, the independent transit district in Wilsonville―South Metro Area Rapid Transit (SMART)―began its own express bus line along the same route as WES in 2013, to service customers when WES does not operate. The costs per mile of the bus are only 3% of WES: $1.30 per mile versus $43.74 for WES.

Express Service from Wilsonville Station to Beaverton Transit Center

Operating cost/mile

Operating cost/hour

TriMet Express Rail

$43.74

$949.84

SMART Express Bus

$ 1.30

$ 83.17

When the train is 34 times more expensive than the bus alternative, there’s a logical policy response: Get rid of the train. It’s time for regional policy makers to consider this option.

 

One Response to “WES at 5: Still a Financial Train Wreck”

  1. David B. February 8, 2014 at 9:59 am #

    Thanks for the report. We should all know by now that…

    Duh-Uh!
    Goverment can NEVER supply goods and services as well or as cheaply as the competitive marketplace (capitalism)

Leave a Reply

 

Other Publications by John

Elliott State Forest Management Puts Small Birds over Small Kids

John Charles | April 15, 2014
By John A. Charles, Jr. Last year the S&P 500 Index had a total return on investment of 32%. That should have been good news ...  read more

Time to Stop Throwing Money down the WES Sinkhole

John Charles | April 11, 2014
In its proposed fiscal year 2015 budget, TriMet forecasts the purchase of two additional vehicles for the Wilsonville-to-Beaverton commuter rail line known as WES. The ...  read more

Are Small Birds More Important than Small Kids?

John Charles | April 9, 2014
Last year the S&P 500 Index had a total return on investment of 32%. That should have been good news for Oregon public schools, which ...  read more

More On These Topics

Do You Know Taxes Take 30% of Your Year?

Kathryn Hickok | April 16, 2014
If every penny earned since the beginning of the year went to pay federal, state, and local taxes, by April 21 Americans would have worked ...  read more

Time to Stop Throwing Money down the WES Sinkhole

John Charles | April 11, 2014
In its proposed fiscal year 2015 budget, TriMet forecasts the purchase of two additional vehicles for the Wilsonville-to-Beaverton commuter rail line known as WES. The ...  read more

Are Small Birds More Important than Small Kids?

John Charles | April 9, 2014
Last year the S&P 500 Index had a total return on investment of 32%. That should have been good news for Oregon public schools, which ...  read more