Rail Transit Pipe Dream is Alive and Not-So-Well in Portland

If you’ve been following the free-market critiques of rail transit, you know that Portland, while frequently touted as “the city that works” by lefty urbanite wastrels and official city government signage and stationary, is anything but. Cato’s Randal O’Toole, a former Portland resident, did a great job debunking these claims in his 2007 study titled, appropriately, “Debunking Portland: The City That Doesn’t Work.”

Now John Charles, president of Portland’s libertarian Cascade Policy Institute, has a new report that shatters the “if we build it, they will come aboard” mindset of the current enviro-urbanist regime by attacking the completely ridiculous claim that Portland’s rail transit services offer a much-needed “high-capacity” alternative to bus rapid transit, which is often made by the TriMet Kool-Aid-drinkers. Here’s an excerpt from Charles’ conclusion in “Lightrail, Streetcars, and the Myth of ‘High-Capacity Transit’“:

The 92% market share for auto use at the circus punctures the myth that fixed-guideway transit is critical to the development of the South Waterfront District. In fact, at those few hours when large numbers of people need to be moved, the private automobile does the heavy lifting. Moreover, forthcoming research by the author demonstrates that on a daily basis, when accounting for all trips in and out of the South Waterfront district by all modes, the streetcar carries only 9% of passenger-trips, while autos and trucks account for 79% of passenger-trips and 100% of freight tonnage. The district is highly auto-dependent and will remain so regardless of planner fantasies.

Charles points out that, despite the best efforts of the greens, the metropolitan area is too dispersed and increasingly polycentric for fixed-line transit to make sense. Read the whole report here (PDF).

Also worth noting: John Charles and I earlier this year appeared on a Fox Business Network segment where we discussed the problems with rail transit, which you can watch here.