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Portland is a PR machine for light rail & streetcar

Here are Some Facts About Portland Oregon          

“It must always be remembered how cost-effectiveness works in the public sector: the cost IS the benefit.” - author unknown

West Side Light Rail Time & Budget

Sources for above chart - all quoted text below is from the actual article

Data used in chart above is in bold

Date / Link to article

This column contains mostly cut & pasted text from news sources linked in the date column.

(search terms were: westside    "light rail" OR MAX  million)

$295-$395 Million

Riders: 34,150

December 15, 1988

The alignment, which was estimated to cost $195.4 million

The expense of building the line from downtown Portland to that point is expected to run $100 million to $200 million more.

He envisioned a daily ridership of 34,150 on the route in the year 2005,

Open in 1997

July 7, 1992

"The line to Southwest 185th Avenue is scheduled to open in the fall of 1997, with the Hillsboro extension completed a year later."

$963 million


Sept. 12, 1998

Westside MAX Blue Line;

Hillsboro/City Center; * Opened: Sept. 12, 1998  * Length: 18 miles    * Stations: 32    * Construction: July 1993-Sept. 1998   * Cost: $963 million

24,000 riders


July 13, 1999

This number comes this graphic (divided by 365)

from the trimet publication, railfactsheet-westside.pdf,

found on their web site in January 2007 . The graphic

has since been removed from later versions of this publication.

Also, a July 13, 1999 Oregonian article reported: "westside line

has drawn an average of nearly 23,000 weekday riders since its opening"

1988  Forecast

2004 Actual



34,150 (for 2005)


cost of MAX

$295-395 million

$963 million

144-226% over budget  (or 109-172% based on later estimates)

opening date



1 years late

Table created from data found in Oregonian December 15, 1988,  July 7, 1992 , July 13, 1999 (see below), the Trimet publication, Westside MAX Blue Line;

A Trimet FactSheet claims that:: The 18-mile Westside MAX extension, built on time and on budget, began service in 1998 between downtown Portland and the western suburbs of Beaverton and Hillsboro.Construction: July 1993-Sept. 1998; Funding: $963 million; Federal 73%; State/Local 27%

On October 29, 1998, the Oregonian reported that a TRI-MET COUNT SHOWS WESTSIDE ATTRACTS 1,773 NEW RIDERS .

At its final cost of $963,000,000, that is $543,147 for each new rider  ($963,000,000 / 1773 = $543,147) A look at the numbers shows that most of the riders were former bus riders.

Here is what pages 23-26 of the Federal Transit Administration’s “Contractor Performance, Assessment Report”, September 2007 has to say:

(Charts reformatted to show just the Portland entry

Trimet’s trick is to use an optimistic projection to sell the project, then come out with a realistic one much later which is more accurate.

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