Better Buses May Be the Transit Solution the SW Corridor Needs

By Rachel Dawson

TriMet may have found a better alternative to the proposed SW Corridor light rail project without realizing it.

TriMet is planning a 15-mile-long transit project on Division Street that will run 60-foot buses from downtown Portland to Gresham. The project is estimated to cost $150 million and will include expanded bus stations that offer protection from the weather and signal priority for buses to cut down on travel times by 20%. Each bus is equipped with three doors and can hold 60% more passengers than the typical TriMet bus.

TriMet discarded the idea of continuing buses along the proposed SW Corridor route in favor of light rail despite decreasing transit ridership and increasing light rail costs. Instead of spending nearly $3 billion on a new light rail line, TriMet could mimic the Division Transit Project and run high capacity buses along the route with upgraded stations for just 5% of light rail’s cost. Running buses on an already built system will save hundreds of residents and employees from being displaced. TriMet can also decrease bus emissions by trading diesel for renewable or compressed natural gas for a cleaner ride.

It’s time for TriMet to stop making excuses for light rail and do what is best for both taxpayers and commuters in Portland.

Rachel Dawson is a Policy Analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.

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Comments 7

  1. Avatar for Bruce Anderson

    Bruce Anderson

    11:59 pm - September 13, 2019

    Makes sense.
    So it will not happen, they will force the light rail through.
    Thanks for your good work.

  2. Avatar for Billie Reynolds

    Billie Reynolds

    10:57 pm - September 13, 2019

    Dear Cascade Policy,
    Finally, there is an awakening at TriMet re: buses. $150,000,000 versus $2.5 Billion for installing light rail makes a great deal of sense. Buses can go up hills, do not require installation of rails, do not impede traffic flow, etc. etc.


  3. Avatar for Larry Corbett

    Larry Corbett

    11:13 pm - September 13, 2019

    The use of dedicated bus lanes seems much more practical than a multi-billion dollar fixed light rail system. Keep up the good effort

    to seek more useful transport solutions.

  4. Avatar for jim


    1:27 am - September 14, 2019

    You wrote: “It’s time for TriMet to stop making excuses for light rail and do what is best for both taxpayers and commuters in Portland.
    Why should they when government shovels money to them, isolating them from fiscal responsibility?

    The amount of money wasted on toy trains would have increased road capacity to the point that we would have congestion free roads.
    Or it could have paid off the PERS crisis.
    But No, the Democrats just shovel money to transit in the delusion that people will get out of their cars for a slower ride to where they don’t need to go.

    Transit can only get people to 8% of area jobs in a 45 minute commute. That is why a car improves people’s income – they can find a better paying job within a reasonable commute time.

  5. Avatar for David


    4:10 am - September 14, 2019

    It is embarrassing that our transit officials are stuck on destroying the livability of our city and drivability of our streets to saddle us with 1900s technology as an excuse for transit!!! A train in our city! How Quaint! How 1900s! EMBARRASSING!!!

  6. Avatar for Mark Taylor

    Mark Taylor

    12:21 pm - September 14, 2019

    Not to mention driving multiple small businesses bankrupt due to years of construction ‘business interruptus’

  7. Avatar for Cascade Policy Institute

    Cascade Policy Institute

    4:25 pm - September 16, 2019

    This is a great point, Mark. Business owners along Interstate Avenue lost a great deal of business when the Yellow Line was implemented, and more than one had to close down or leave the area.

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