TriMet’s funding logic

A strange contradiction in public policy reasoning was revealed yesterday by The Oregonian’s excellent transportation writer. Elliot Njus reports TriMet is mulling a $1.7 billion bond offering that will cost Portland metro area homeowners an average of $150 a year for the next 30 years.

The timing of this news comes with an ironic incongruity. TriMet has recently been introspectively seeking answers to a very important research question. Why has its ridership been flat while Portland’s population has been growing rapidly and why was there a significant decline in ridership over the past year?

Njus reported earlier this week that an emerging answer to this question, that TriMet seems to be convincing itself is a serious cause, is that rising housing prices in Portland have been contributing to the decline in its ridership. I’m not sure that’s a very astute observation. Housing prices are probably endogenous to rising incomes and economic growth. Public transportation is not a normal good. That is to say, as incomes rise, demand for public transportation declines.

But, unless this is mere public relations spin, TriMet actually believes higher housing prices have been putting downward pressure on its ridership. So days after arriving at this conclusion, TriMet’s new big idea is to impose higher costs on Portland-area homeowners?

Eric Shierman lives in Salem and is the author of A Brief History of Political Cultural Change

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Posted by at 05:00 | Posted in Taxes, TriMet | 3 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Oregon Engineer

    Eric, This is progressive group think. Does not have to make sense and it is never logical.

  • Bob Clark

    Might be Uber and Lyft. Just think about it. If you are concerned about discretionary income, you should probably use the broader measure called the Consumer Price Index or the Personal Consumption Expenditure price index; rather than the narrower house price measure. These two inflation measures (CPI and PCE) are not showing much change in inflation than over the past ten years, with this last year. So, blaming housing seems dubious.

    Then on top of this: I am probably like a lot of people. If I am going cross town, do I want to have door-to-door service using my car or maybe Uber; or do I want to mess around making multiple connections on the light rail system. Please Metro we want road, not more train.

    You know what’s also wild here. The Orange line is added in 2016, and yet MAX ridership is flat in 2016. This means organic ridership numbers for the Max light rail system are actually in decline.

    I am planning to work against this train tax. Need to network with folks and pull together a plan for defeating the train tax. It’s not going to be easy because of the pro-government forces of Multnomah County. Need to get this County under 55% yes to even have a faint chance. Clackamas I should think is a NO. But how big can we make that NO. Washington County is maybe a slight NO; but this needs to be boosted towards 60% NO.

    One plus for me, regardless. Is if we can use this exercise to establish a larger number of connections. Than such larger network could be used in future tax causes.

    There is also the use of a GOP letter writing campaign to advocate the Executive Branch (Federal Transit Authority) not provide METRO matching funds for the SW Corridor light rail line.

  • mike rose

    We should all be cognizant of not only Uber and Lyft as alternative transportation options, but also the developing self-driving vehicle technologies, which will further compete with current mass transit options. The very idea of using Barbur Blvd for light rail is short-sighted, as Uber, Lyft and self-driving vehicles need paved lanes to operate efficiently. Slam the brakes on Trimet pipe-dream nonsense NOW!

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