A Corvette or a Toy Train?

By Joe Patten

I drive a car. Odds are, you do too. In fact, given the choice between the MAX, bus or car, 97% of Portland residents choose to drive every day. Why then did Metro unanimously vote to extend the MAX to Milwaukie at a cost of $1.4 billion, including a new $340 million downtown bridge without car lanes?

Even granting TriMet’s very generous estimate of 20,000 riders per day on the new line, that money could instead buy each person a brand new 2009 Corvette with gas and insurance for five years. A Corvette or the MAX, which would you choose?

In a city which prides itself on its mass transit system, why do so many Portlanders choose to drive? Let’s go back to the basics. As every fifteen-year-old is well aware, a car allows the driver to go anywhere at any time. Cars are engines of freedom.

Forget the MAX, forget buses, forget bikes. Life is complicated, and time is scarce. The MAX is an amusing toy train, but in the real world, Portlanders value the freedom to drive wherever they want whenever they want.

Given the choice, I would pick the Corvette over the MAX. It’s too bad that Metro isn’t giving anyone a choice.

Joe Patten is a research associate at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market research center.