TriMet Drops Ridership Estimate by 13% for Tigard Light Rail

By John A. Charles, Jr.

After eight years of bragging that the proposed light rail line to Tigard would result in average daily ridership of 43,000, TriMet has quietly dropped the estimate to 37,500.

This “bait-and-switch” was totally predictable. At the start of every rail planning process, TriMet creates a high ridership estimate to get local politicians excited. Once the politicians agree to help fund the project, ridership forecasts are revised downwards. Eventually construction begins, and just before opening day, ridership estimates are lowered again.

At that point, it’s too late for politicians to back out.

TriMet promised Milwaukie officials that there would be 19,450 average daily rides on the Orange line in 2020. The actual ridership today is 12,160—63% of the forecast.

For the Blue line, ridership today is only 50% of the 2020 forecast.

The worst performer is the Yellow line, where ridership is a paltry 38% of the 2020 forecast.

While ridership is always low, construction costs are always high. For the Tigard line, cost estimates have gone up by 58% just since 2016. The current estimate is $2.85 billion.

Tigard light rail will be the most wasteful project in state history, if it ever gets built. The time to pull the plug is now.

John A. Charles, Jr. is President and CEO of Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.

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Comments 3

  1. Avatar for Alexander Marinesko

    Alexander Marinesko

    3:18 pm - February 21, 2020

    Every time light rail breaks down (which is often) it takes buses to ferry people around the blockage. Light rail requires a business tax to just break even. Buses would have been much cheaper the the billion dollar a mile light rail. Buses can change there route as ridership dictates and as road hazards appear. Metro, time to go…..

  2. Avatar for Mark Warner

    Mark Warner

    12:51 pm - February 23, 2020

    One wonders what kind of explanation Tri-Met officials would come up with when asked to explain why their initial train ridership projections haven’t been realized. Or are government departments all supposed to be immune from this type of accountability?

  3. Avatar for John P Ley

    John P Ley

    12:53 pm - February 27, 2020

    TriMet ridership continues to decline. Cascade Policy Institute continues to highlight the lies they tell citizens, when proposing new projects.

    Total MAX light rail ridership is down in spite of TriMet adding TWO new light rail lines in the past decade. Just the facts!

    Even more frustrating, PBOT plans for more “road diets”, eliminating existing lanes on major Portland streets. This will only add to traffic congestion.

    Until the people vote these politicians who support the TriMet bureaucracy out of office, the waste of our scarce transportation dollars will continue.

    Let’s hope voters REJECT the outrageous Metro $4.3 Billion transportation bond measure.

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