With Low WES Ridership, the “Next Big Thing” May Be Raising Fares

Three years ago, TriMet began operating its first heavy rail line, the Westside Express Service (WES). This line runs from Beaverton to Wilsonville during commuting hours on weekdays.

WES was trumpeted as the “next big thing,” but opening year ridership averaged only 1,156 boardings per day, less than half the 2,500 predicted by TriMet. The agency lost nearly $24 on each trip.

TriMet just finished its third full year of operation for WES. Average daily ridership is up to 1,571 boardings, but each trip still requires a subsidy of $18. This is eight times higher than the subsidy needed for the average TriMet trip and costs taxpayers $7.4 million each year.

WES turned out to be a disaster, but no one at TriMet is accepting responsibility. Agency management simply plans to raise passenger fares again, and they also will be raising taxes on businesses.

TriMet board members are not elected, so we cannot demand a management change at the ballot box. But the board is appointed by the Governor, who is elected. It’s time for the Governor to demand better performance from his political appointees.

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 04:30 | Posted in Metro, Transportation, TriMet | Tagged , , | 4 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • HurtinginOR

    Just remember, the only people using this thing are already rich, or they would not need to travel from Beaverton to Wilsonville. So, this subsidy makes me sick. Why are we helping rich people get to work?? Where is the help I need when I get sick or hungry? It is not my fault that I need help. I am out of work and things look hopeless from here.
    I want help and I want it now. I don’t want my taxes going to help some fat cat get to work. Those fatties can just drive their BMW’s.

  • North Powder, Oregon

    It doesn’t sound right that their mistake should be paid for by businesses.  We are losing enough of them in Oregon as it is.

  • Jschumann8

    Re “TriMet board members are not elected, so we cannot demand a management change at the ballot box.”

    Look back over the history of this project and you’ll find it was initiated and championed by Washington County, not Tri Met, and certainly not the current TriMet board.

    Perhaps TriMet should ask Washington County to ante up each year the difference between what it costs to run WES and the pro forma cost TriMet would incur by substituting a Wlsonville-Beaverton bus route on parallel roads with the same weekday peaks-ony service?

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