Be wary of funding “Mess Transit”

Testimony before the Joint Ways and Means Subcommittee on Transportation and Economic Development on HB 2278 A authorizing lottery bonds for transportation projects

Chair Johnson and members of the Committee. My name is Steve Buckstein. I’m Senior Policy Analyst and founder of Cascade Policy Institute, a Portland-based think tank that promotes individual liberty, personal responsibility and economic opportunity in Oregon.
As the attached Sunday Oregonian article discusses, the kinds of public transit projects this bill may fund, especially in urban areas, are a poor use of scarce public transportation dollars.

Light rail, contrary to popular belief, carries relatively few people at relatively slow speeds compared to other modes of transportation*. It is incredibly expensive, and often doesn’t offer commuters the suburb-to-suburb trips that they increasingly demand.

Simply looking at the chart on the front page of the article, you will see three typical Portland area commutes that take about 30 minutes by car, but take two hours by TriMet. So, even though traffic congestion is a big problem, going by car is still much more convenient for many people.

I encourage this committee to look critically at authorizing public funding for what the article calls “Mess Transit.”

* “Train drain: Why transit users should oppose light-rail expansion,” John A. Charles, Cascade Policy Institute, July, 2000.

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