With Low WES Ridership, the “Next Big Thing” May Be Raising Fares
Three years ago, TriMet began operating its first heavy rail line, the Westside Express Service (WES). This line runs from Beaverton to Wilsonville during commuting hours on weekdays.
WES was trumpeted as the “next big thing,” but opening year ridership averaged only 1,156 boardings per day, less than half the 2,500 predicted by TriMet. The agency lost nearly $24 on each trip.
TriMet just finished its third full year of operation for WES. Average daily ridership is up to 1,571 boardings, but each trip still requires a subsidy of $18. This is eight times higher than the subsidy needed for the average TriMet trip and costs taxpayers $7.4 million each year.
WES turned out to be a disaster, but no one at TriMet is accepting responsibility. Agency management simply plans to raise passenger fares again, and they also will be raising taxes on businesses.
TriMet board members are not elected, so we cannot demand a management change at the ballot box. But the board is appointed by the Governor, who is elected. It’s time for the Governor to demand better performance from his political appointees.