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

Not One Dollar More

John Charles | February 3, 2016
The State of Oregon will sell 84,000 acres of the Elliott State Forest by March 2017, in order to make money for public schools. However, ...  read more

Electric Utilities Should Call the Bluff of Green Radicals

John Charles | January 13, 2016
Two committees of the Oregon Legislature will hear presentations this week on a legislative proposal to eliminate the use of coal in Oregon’s electricity grid ...  read more

New Transportation Funding Bill: Going Nowhere FAST

John Charles | December 9, 2015
Last week Congress passed H.R. 22, a five-year transportation funding bill known as Fixing America’s Surface Transportation, or FAST. Under the terms of FAST, the ...  read more

More On These Topics

Uber and Portland: “The Future and Its Enemies” Clash in the Rose City

Steve Buckstein | December 9, 2015
The Portland City Council has voted 3-2 to let ridesharing companies Uber and Lyft operate permanently in the city. The normally “progressive” council members’ split ...  read more

New Transportation Funding Bill: Going Nowhere FAST

John Charles | December 9, 2015
Last week Congress passed H.R. 22, a five-year transportation funding bill known as Fixing America’s Surface Transportation, or FAST. Under the terms of FAST, the ...  read more

The Futility of Public Hearings

John Charles | December 2, 2015
Over the past four years, TriMet and Metro have been planning something called the SW Corridor Project. Metro describes it as a multi-modal project featuring ...  read more