How many presidential buses does it take to equal the cost of one light rail car?

President Obama is traveling the Midwest on a new bus purchased by the Secret Service. The vehicle is painted all-black with tinted windows and appears to be the size of a standard Greyhound bus. Inside, we can assume that it’s tricked out with the latest in high-tech security gear and telecommunications and designed with a kitchen, shower, bedroom and lounge area.

Given its purpose, the price tag must be enormous.

Actually, it’s not. It was purchased for $1.1 million. A typical light rail car in Portland costs $4 million.

Regular transit riders might want to ponder that. A light rail car has hard seats, no headrests, minimal legroom and no on-board internet access.

The Presidential bus can go on any road in America, while light rail is limited to just a small part of the Portland region.

The proposed Milwaukie light rail project will cost $1.5 billion. If we cancelled the project, we could buy an entire fleet of presidential buses and run them to Milwaukie, with free coffee and donuts for everyone, and we still couldn’t spend as much as TriMet plans to spend on one mile of light rail.

Maybe transit customers would like to try the Presidential bus for a few months before we waste $1.5 billion on a slow train to nowhere.


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

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Posted by at 05:00 | Posted in Metro, Oregon Government, Portland Politics, President Obama, Public Transportation, State Taxes, Taxes | Tagged , , | 29 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Rupert in Springfield

    A very illustrative comparison! Light rail is going to be the absolute poster child for recriminations when absurd government spending is tallied up in the future. An outdated embarrassment that most of those who were present at the time will hang their heads in shame over. When the toddlers of today are the adults of tomorrow and look at people of our age with absolute loathing because of the taxes they are subject to due to our folly in the past, abandoned light rail tracks with be just one thing they will point to as they scream at us.

    • Anonymous

      You’re going to have to rid Portland and Multnomah County of the liberals if you want to institute recriminations for government overspending on light rail. Vancouver told Portland NO when the City That Works (Slowly) wanted to build light rail over the Columbia. Did that stop Portland? Hell no. They just built the train to nowhere out to the Expo Center. Unfortunately Milwaukie doesn’t possess the intestinal fortitude of Vancouver when it comes to standing up to the Portland libs. Like their Washington County brethren before them, they’re just going to roll over and take it.

      • Rupert in Springfield

        I dont think so. I am talking in the future, not the present. When my kids are adults and they have zero chance for anything because of the crushing tax burden they will be subject to.

        There are many things that contribute far more to the deficit than a mile of light rail. However few are more obvious as out of this world unconscionable spending than something so easily quantified.

  • Dogface

    Light rail is the answer to the malaise in Portland. With it people will travel all about seeing the sights, buying from merchants, having fun while not polluting our mother.
    I, for one, am proud of the vision of this fine city.

  • Anonymous

    i was inside the bus. There was Obama seated in the middle if a circular table. As the bus changed directions the chair rotated so tne Preident was always facing East toward Bethleham or was that Mecca!

  • the real valley person

    A totally ridiculous comparison. A bus for the president versus a light rail car? Why John, would we need a bus that can go on “any road in America” if its sole purpose is to cary urban commuters in and around Portland? Airplanes can technically go anywhere, they don’t even need a road. So why not compare the cost to a commuter airplane? Can’t you find something better to focus on here?

  • Stephan

    Hmmmm, I wonder how much armor plating the bus has. So instead of burning 20,000 pound per hour in fuel cost with the B747, he is burning 8 miles to the gallon with a bus?
    Thats mighty nice of him…..

  • Info

    2,303,703…….Thats the number of miles a 2012 VW beetle TDI that gest 50 MPG can go on a B-52G  bomber war weight 311,000 pound fuel load.  92 times around the earth.

    A new VW turbo diesel Polo can go  3,854,000 miles

    A new generation VW hybrid?  12,455,000 miles

     or 41,516 cars can go 300 miles each

    • 3H

      Nice…  and if you can find a car that will keep running after 2,303,703 miles please let me know because I’d like to buy one.

      I’m not sure what that comparison is supposed to show.  That we could have saved money on the Vietnam war if we had used VW Beetles instead of B-52s?

      How about a motorized scooter?  How many miles would it get?

  • Hobojoe

    I just loves the rails light,
    I ride them every night.
    I don’ts pay me no fare,
    As no one ever checks in there.
    They is great – I loves a free ride,
    I even camp out a bit inside.
    When the weather turns a little cold,
    And I need a place free of mold.
    So keep them coming,
    build them more.
    I needs to ride for free,
    That’s for sure.

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