For Cirque du Soleil performance, cars prove more important than MAX

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.

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4 Responses to For Cirque du Soleil performance, cars prove more important than MAX

  1. Bob Clark says:

    To me the future in transportation mode is not in light rail or street cars. Car and bicycle techonologies are evolving to where I think we may see individual transportation mode become even more dominant. Cars and bicycles seem like they could morph very easily into electric drive. Cars are being automated to where they can park themselves, and firms like Google are working on driverless cars. The individual transport mode might also become more the size of the individual passenger, opening up road capacity. These rail projects which have 25 year bond funding terms could very easily be obsolete before capital costs are repaid (actually they are never repaid from the rail project itself but by gasoline and general fund tax payers).

    And besides, who wants to make multiple transfers and ride the slow moving crime train to events like these at the Expo. As observed, not many.

  2. I love actual data in any relevant discussion. John Charles, I greatly appreciate the research you did.

  3. SakeBito-san says:

    I second Matthew’s motion – a big part of how statist Agenda 21 bureaucracies get away with atrocities like forcibly-imposed “mass transit” – or indeed with those bureaucracies’ very existence – is because people seldom subject their lunacies even to cursory scrutiny.

    What Mr. Charles has underscored here is that cars remain the best option for transportation, though “planners” have ensured that automobile transportation itself remains severely – unnecessarily – hampered (my utter, “critical mass” disgust with PDX’ political climate and infrastructure manifestations thereof, is why I opted for a move to a place with traffic that’s orders-of-magnitude “friendlier,” in every sense – Los Angeles – and why I remain overjoyed at that decision more than a decade after moving.)

    But there is a deeper, and ultimately more important, dimension here than the pragmatic issue of “what’s the best way to get around.” That dimension is: Ethics. Its political component is: Freedom. Something I’ve never forgotten is a point that economist George Reisman made in a late-’80s debate in Irvine on the subject of freeway construction:

    The right of internal migration is as vital a human right as freedom of conscience, speech, press and self-defense.

    This is the United States of America, not Nazi Germany, Maoist China or the USSR. We do not go to government for permission to travel to another town or to change residence, and we don’t show our “papers” at arbitrary borders within our own nation. What the Agenda 21 “greens” are trying to do is engineer physical constrictions that accomplish the same thing – via the ultimate obliteration of individual, private transportation-on-demand that is afforded only by the automobile.

    We seldom stop to think of how vital to our lives, our liberty, to the pursuit of each of our happiness the simple ability to travel at will is. Without it, we’re as helpless as newborn babies – and the control-fetishists who call themselves “greens” know it.

    The core problem with transportation is not only the attempt to force people into government-run boxcars, but with the way that facilities like the Convention Center and its surrounding infrastructure are engineered to begin with: There are inadequate roadways leading to it and inadequate parking at the facility itself. By design. The result is a miserable population, forced into endless queues, forced to view other citizens not as…other citizens, but as omnipresent obstacles to mobility. Extrapolate that same engineered anthill-mode infrastructure to every other facility in the metropolitan area, from theaters and concert halls to restaurants and retail stores – every one of them an unchosen, personal battle against high-density overcrowding. ‘Ever had a box office tell you a movie showing that you’d taken your family to see had sold out – and the one after that as well? So have I, constantly, before I escaped. Add to that the endless lines, everywhere, for everything. The unseen consequence this engineered anthill is an undermining of the entire fabric of civil society; a seething interpersonal hostility that lurks in varying degrees just below the surface.

    Another big part of why I had to get out of Oregon, incidentally. I like people, and I like to like people. The Agenda 21/”smart growth” warehousing of humanity makes such things flatly impossible. If Oregonians – and people of every region – are to have a future as free, self-determining individuals, the UN’s neo-fascistic Agenda 21 paradigm must be abolished, in total, and dismantled.

  4. ValkRaider says:

    So a single event which caters to the affluent and sits at the edge of the Tri-Met service district at the complete end of a MAX line (which other than NoPo use requires a transfer from any other part of the region) still gets 7% of the people?

    That doesn’t sound like a failure to me.

    Now do your same counting for events at the Rose Garden or Memorial Coliseum. Maybe try something like Winterhawks Hockey which is attended by a more broad cross section of the population, located in the middle of the region, and where there are 4 MAX lines.

    Or perhaps if you want to focus on the Yellow MAX to Expo center (again the end of the line) you could also check an event like Roller Derby which would attract more riders than Cirque du Soleil.

    Although to be fair – you could also count at a different type of event at the Expo center which is likely to have near zero ridership – say an RV show, or the ski show, or other things which more cater to a private auto…

    Also – I wouldn’t say “more important”, I would say “more appealing”. I am not sure how this fits in with the comments about streetcar because the streetcar I use is always annoyingly full, to the point where it is difficult to get on and off.

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