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.

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Posted by at 03:00 | Posted in Measure 37 | 16 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Jerry

    The main reason they have approved this 1.4 billion dollar extension is that everyone wants to get to Milwaukie. It is an Oregon resort destination with cute shops, lively entertainment, historic sites, and many other attractions.

  • Jerry

    I had commented on this in a previous post…to wit:

    Interesting. If you do the math that comes out to almost a quarter of a million dollars PER RIDER!

    What if we bought a new car (30K) for each rider and gave them a gas allowance of 5K per year. That would cover everyone for 5 years. Plus, no maintenance or administrative or operating costs for the light rail. That should push it out so that these 6,500 people can just keep driving for free forever.

    I think this might be the better plan – especially with Michigan and the automakers in such a funk. Let’s stipulate the free car be made in the USA.

    Or, we could just give the 6,500 riders the $250,000 and tell them to stay away from Milwaukie. Then no light rail would be needed at all, nor would any cars or gas. I bet people would be willing to stay away from Milwaukie for even $125,000.

    • dean

      Matt….false choice. Metro can’t spend federal gas tax funds on buying corvettes for people, but they can spend it on light rail.

      Also, given the recent experience with gas prices, the congestion we already have on our roads, and the amount of money we are sending abroad for oil, maybe mass transit funding is not such a bad idea. Consider that all those people taking the train will leave more road space for you to speed in your corvette.

      • Steve Plunk

        Dean, Metro can choose to not spend it at all. The incentives are such they feel a duty to spend no matter how much it costs or what benefits are derived. In a world of scarcity that is a recipe for bad government.

      • Anonymous

        Actually, they could.

  • Joe Patten

    Jerry: the ethereal ridership figures fluctuate at the whim of public officials, but it makes little practical difference if all the people could buy a Corvette or a Ferrari.

    Dean: False restriction of choice. Money is blind. Dollars that the the federal government will pour into the MAX will not be spent on all of the other innumerable items money can buy, even those artificially limited by the various DOT budgets. In the case of Oregon, money spent on the MAX is money not spent on roads. Metro refuses to expand freeways, highways, and local roads, then points to congestion as justification for mass transit, a rather disingenuous appeal. The problem is not too many cars but too few roads.

    The new MAX line will cost almost $200 million per mile. Light rail is considerably more expensive than a road and far less useful. Yes, funding mass transit is a bad idea.

  • Bob Clark

    Metro might not be able to buy corvettes for political and legal reasons but at a minimum they could help Multnomah county fix the Sellwood bridge so Trimet Buses can once again cross it. Instead if you want to use public transit to get from Milwaukie to west Portland you have to go all the way to downtown PDX. Milwaukie light rail is a gross misappropriation of funds. The state is even kicking in lottery dollars to this scam, which Milwaukie residents are not allowed to vote. Construction/developer companies of course love the scam, because not only do they get to build a train but all the high density condos that go with it with tax increment subsidies.

  • Joey Link

    Isn’t there anything we can do about this?

    • Rupert in Springfield

      For the immediate future, there is probably little we can do. Politicians love trains because they involve massive amounts of money spending, as well as large numbers of local jobs. Feasibility studies have to be conducted, Plans drawn and cute models built. Buses, which almost always make more sense for a given transit issue, tend to be built far away and thus don’t employ people locally in their construction. Roads for buses are generally already in place, thus no jobs their either. Really when you here talk of building rail lines, you are essentially hearing about a jobs program, not about a transportation solution.

      The fact that any politician can support this sort of project and not be run out on a rail foreshadows the long term solution.

      The long term solution. – This problem can be solved very easily. Start teach basic logic and math in schools. This novel approach to education would result in common sense citizen reaction to such as the current choo choo boondoggle. One might actually hear the phrase:

      “$200 million dollars a mile? How dull witted does one have to be to think that is going to work out?”

      • Rupert in Springfield

        Uggg:

        no jobs their either = no jobs there either
        when you here talk = when you hear talk

  • jim karlocik

    *How Much Congestion Will the Rail Line Relieve?*

    Metro projects that the Milwaukee light rail line will cost around $1400 million.
    Ridership, in 2030, is projected to be 20,000 “riders on the line per day”:

    1. 20,000 riders is 10,000 round trips.
    2. Some trips involve transfers, so the 10,000 round trips, at 1.2 boardings/trip, is 8,333 complete round trips.
    3. On average, only 1/3 of the riders are drawn out of cars, so that is 2778 people taken out of cars.
    4. On average there are 1.3 people per car, so that is 2137 cars taken off of the road.
    5. Spread over a three hour rush hour, that is 712 cars per hour.
    6. A typical lane of freeway carries 1800 cars / hour, *so that is 40% of one lane of freeway.*

    *Estimated cost of adding road capacity*
    1. It is about 4.5 miles between the MLK-Grand and Milwaukee
    2. A lane of freeway costs $5-10 million per mile.
    3. Adding two lanes to the 4.5 miles would cost between $45 and $90 million
    4. Since MAX would only accommodate 40%, of one lane’s worth of cars, adding a lane pair, would carry 2½ times as many cars as MAX would take off the road.

    *Road improvement will cost $1300 million less and provide more congestion relief.*

    *Now here is the really interesting part:*

    The Feds would pay about ½ of that $1400 million and Portland/Oregon would pay the other $700 million. But for about 1/10 the cost ($45-90 million vs. $700 million) of the local match alone, we can accommodate twice as many people as MAX would.

    Further, if we can really come up with that $700 mil, then we could spend 45-9 mil on MLK-Grand and *we would have $600 mil left over* to build a brand new four lane bridge to replace the Sellwood bridge. Since the locals don’t want four lanes, lets close the current bridge and put the new one upstream. Perhaps near where highway 224 intersects McLaughlin. We would probably still have enough left over to add a pair of lanes to MacAdam all the way to Oswego and build a few more congestion relief projects!

    Of course relieving congestion is contrary to Metro’s goal of increasing congestion until the roads are impossible to use, so we will then have to lower our standard of living and switch to the toy train’s cattle cars for our transport needs. This will make us more like New York, with its unaffordable housing and long commute times. See: https://ti.org/antiplanner/?p=485

    Why would anyone be so stupid as to spend over a BILLION dollars to solve a $45-90 million problem? I have a hint in the next message.

    Thanks
    JK

    • dean

      Jim…your analysis points up the dilemna. You add lanes to 99E, a new bridge, lanes to McGlaughlin, and so forth, and where do they all lead? The central city. Now what do you do with all these additional cars when they get there? And how do you widen all these highways through people’s neighborhoods?

      You are right. City and regional leaders have crafted a deliberate policy to allow more congeestion in the inner city, and to compensate for that by building transit, improving bicyle infrastructure, and making more pedestrian friendly streets. This policy is in place because that is what the people of Portland want, especially those who inhabit the inner neighborhoods. And these people elect officials to get them what they want.

      You want to change the policy, you have to change the people first. Yet if anything the people are moving away from your position (more cars) and more towards the existing policies.

      • jim karlock

        *Dean:* Jim…your analysis points up the dilemna. You add lanes to 99E, a new bridge, lanes to McGlaughlin, and so forth, and where do they all lead? The central city. Now what do you do with all these additional cars when they get there?
        *JK:* So we should waste BILLION after BILLION to support the rich landowners in the central city? Where will it end: when we are like LA or like NYC which in now only for millionaires? (nysun.com/opinion/houston-new-york-has-a-problem/81989)

        This is what we get with topdown land use planning. We should be allowing people to build near the jobs and the jobs are not, and have not been for decades, in downtown.

        *Dean:* You are right. City and regional leaders have crafted a deliberate policy to allow more congeestion in the inner city, and to compensate for that by building transit, improving bicyle infrastructure, and making more pedestrian friendly streets.
        *JK:* Wasting BILLIONS and killing peole with expensive and dangerous modes of transport. How can you support bikes which appear to kill people at over 10 times the rate of cars?

        *Dean:* This policy is in place because that is what the people of Portland want, especially those who inhabit the inner neighborhoods. And these people elect officials to get them what they want.
        *JK:* Utter nonsense, planner’s B.S. Portland policy is set by a small band of elite puppet masters.

        *Dean:* You want to change the policy, you have to change the people first. Yet if anything the people are moving away from your position (more cars) and more towards the existing policies.
        *JK:* More BS. You ignore history (again.) Last time gas prices went up, driving went down until people got more efficient cars, then driving recovered and went higher than ever before.

        Of course it is quite amusing to you, hear a person living on multi acres preaching high density for the rest of us. Just trying to keep the city rift-raft out of your neighborhood, eh?

        Thanks
        JK

        • dean

          Jim, like I’ve said before, if you want to be my neighbor and live on an acre or more, there are properties available down the road and up hte hill from me for less maoney than you would pay for a Sellwood rowhouse. Come on out and I’ll show you around.

          I’m not preaching anything to anybody. I’m saying the policies we have are there to serve the people who elected the policy makers. Your agument is with your Portland neighbors.

  • jim karlock

    We need to remember Metro’s founders’ reading list included a number of off the wall paranoid predictions. They were into sustainability, Ecodynamics, Caring Capacity, Ehrlich & his discredited “The Population Explosion”, Ozone Depletion, redirecting the economy toward community, the environment, and a sustainable future and life beyond economics (all in 1994!)

    That explains how they come up their insane, paranoid clap trap of a plan they are forcing on us.

    Here is the *complete Bibliogtaphy from Metro’s “1994 Carrying Capacity and Its Application to the Portland Metropolitan Area” *:

    Aronson & Charles (1993) . “The Social Caring Capacity of a Community : A Literature
    Review.” UBC Task Force On Healthy and Sustainable Communities, Vancouver B .C.

    Baines (1989) . “An integrated framework for interpreting sustainable development .”
    Report submitted to the Ministry for the Environment, Wellington, New Zealand.
    University of Canterbury, Center for Resource Management.

    Bishop et al (1974) . “Carrying capacity in regional environmental management” . U.S.
    Environmental Management. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D.C.

    Boughey (1975). Man and the Environment . MacMillan, New York.
    Boulding (1978). Ecodynamics: A New Theory of Social Structure. The Free Press, New
    York.

    Bowers (1993). Education, Cultural Myths, and the Ecological Crisis : towards deep
    changes. State University New York Press, Albany, New York.

    Brown (1994). State of the World 1994. Norton, New York.

    Brown (1981) . Building a Sustainable Society. Norton, Norton.

    Brundtland et. al (1987). Our Common Future. The report of the world Commission on
    environment and development. Oxford University Press, New York.

    Bryson (1988). “Environmental opportunities and limits for development .” Environmental
    Conservation 16(4) : 299-305.

    Burch (1971). Daydreams and Nightmares: A Sociological Essay on the American
    Environment. Harper and Row, New York.

    Campell (1985). Human Ecology. Aldine, New York.

    Catton (1980) . Overshoot: The ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change. University of
    Illinois Press, Urbana.

    Catton (1993) . “Carrying capacity and the death of a culture : a tale of two autopsies”.
    Social Inquiry Vol. 63, No 2, May 1993.

    Costanza (1989) . “What is Ecological Economics?” Ecological Economics 1 (1) : 3.

    Costanza (1987) . “Social traps and environmental policy “. Bioscience 37: 407-412.

    Culbertson (1991). “US free trade with Mexico : progress or self-destruction?” Social
    Contract 2.

    Corson (1994). “Changing Course: An Outline of Strategies for a Sustainable Future.”
    Global Coalition Tomorrow, Washington, D .C.

    Daly and Cobb (1989). For the Common good : redirecting the economy toward
    community, the environment, and a sustainable future . Beacon Press, Boston,
    Massachusetts.

    Daly (1980). Economics, Ecology, Ethics: Essays Toward a Steady-state Economy. W. H.
    Freeman, San Francisco.

    Dunlap (1980). “Paradigmatic change in social science.” American Behavioral Scientist.
    24: 5-14.

    Durning (1991). How much is enough? Norton, New York.

    Ehrlich and Ehrlich (1990). The Population Explosion . Simon and Schuster, New York.

    Ehrlich and Holdren (1971). “Impact of Population Growth”. Science 171.

    Fremlin (1964). “How many people can the world support? ” New Scientist 29 October.

    Frissell and Starkey (1972) . “Wilderness environmental quality : Search for social and
    ecological harmony.” Paper presented at Annual Meeting, Society of American Foresters,
    Hot Springs, Arkansas.

    Godschalk and Parker (1975). “Carrying capacity : a key to environmental planning?”

    Journal of Soil and Water Conservation . 30.(4): 160-165, July-August 1975.

    Godschalk and Axler (1977). “Carrying capacity applications in growth management : a
    reconnaissance.” A report to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
    U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 1977.

    Hawken (1993). The ecology of Commerce : A Declaration of Sustainability.
    HarperBusiness, New York.

    Hardin (1976) . “Carrying capacity as an ethical concept .” Soundin-as 59: 120-137.

    Hardin (1986) . “Cultural carrying capacity : a biological approach to human problems .”
    BioScience 36: 599-606.

    Hawley (1950) . Human Ecology. Ronald Press, New York.

    Henderson (1991). Paradigms in Progress : life beyond economics. Knowledge systems,
    New York.

    Heady (1975) Rangeland Management. McGraw-Hill, New York.

    Holdren (1991). “Population and the energy, problem.” Population Environment. 12: 231-
    255.

    Holdren and Ehrlich (1974) . “Human population and the global environment .” American
    Science. 62: 282-292.

    Holdren and Ehrlich (1971) . “Impact of population growth .” Science. 171: 1212-1217.

    Holling and Goldberg (1971) . “Ecology and planning.” Journal of the American Institute
    of Planners . 37: 221-230.

    Humphrey and Buttel (1982). Environment, Energy, and Society. Wadsworth, Belmont,
    CA.

    Jacobs (1991). Waste of the West: Public Lands Ranching. Jacobs, Tuscon, AZ.

    Jones and Wigley (1989) . Ozone Depletion : Health and Environmental Consequences.
    John Wiley & Sons, New York.

    Klein (1968) . “The introduction, increase, and crash of reindeer on St. Matthew Island .”
    Journal of Wildlife Mana e g ment 32:350-367.

    Lenski and Lenski (1982). Human Societies : An Introduction to Macrosociology . 4th ed.
    McGraw-Hill, New York.

    Leopold (1949). A Sand County Almanac. SierraBallantine Books, San Francisco.

    McHarg (1969). Design With Nature. Natural History Press, Philadelphia.

    McIntosh (1993). .A UBC Task Force and the city of Richmond plan for healthy and
    sustainable communities. PIBC News August 1993.

    Meadows et . al (1992). Beyond the Limits. Chelsea Green Publishing Compagny, Post
    Mills, Vermont.

    Milbrath (1989) . Envisioning a Sustainable Society. State University of New York Press,
    Albany, New York .

    Thanks
    JK

  • Jerry

    Let’s not all forget, either, that each new light rail line lights up the crime dot map like a solar flare!!

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