See my latest Letter to the Editor printed Thursday in the Oregonian about MAX use at the Expo Center’s Cirque du Soleil show, OVO.
Mayoral candidate Charlie Hales asserted recently that the streetcar is a better transit option than bus service because it has greater carrying capacity. Unfortunately, Mr. Hales misses an important point: theoretical capacity is irrelevant if the mode itself is not attractive to consumers.
The opening performance for Thursday night’s Cirque du Soleil was a case in point. The show is being held at the Expo Center, which offers two primary means of access: the Yellow MAX line or on-site parking (for $8 per car). I monitored all incoming trains for the 90 minutes prior to opening, and observed 183 passengers getting off. The Big Top holds 2,600 people, so if the show sold out, only 7 percent of customers arrived by light rail.
MAX averaged 14 riders per rail car, or about 9 percent of the carrying capacity of each vehicle. Automobiles were the dominant mode, with long lines for the parking lot. The average vehicle occupancy was 2.1 passengers per car, or roughly 40% of average vehicle capacity.
Neither mode came close to utilizing its theoretical capacity, but cars were far more important to the success of the show.