Portland: Another Challenging Chart

A while back I posted some City of Portland data showing that in the past 12 years, during which four new rail transit segments were opened, the percentage of Portlanders who take transit to work, called the journey-to-work mode share, didn’t improve at all.

Several commenters wondered if data for the whole Portland region, as opposed to just the city, would look different.  One also raised questions about the representativeness of the City survey’s sample.

So Portland reader Nathan Banks dug into the Census for similar data.  His charts show census data for 1990 and 2000, plus American Community Survey (ACS) data for the years since 2000.

He’s done charts for all three of the Portland area counties.  You can see a PDF of his charts here:

Download JourneyToWork_TM_Area-2

Meanwhile, let’s just look at the chart for the all of Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas Counties — a not-bad approximation of the Portland metro area.

Pdx mode share


(Portland transit professionals: if you have insights on these numbers that you don’t want to say publicly, please email me.  If there’s a happier version of this story, I want to tell it.)

The ACS data used since 2000 is a bit less reliable than the census, so I would take the year-to-year jaggedness of the line after 2000 as indicating a rough sense of margin of error.  (Actual mode shares certainly didn’t bounce around that much.)  Still, ACS in 2002 is close enough to Census 2000 to give some credibility to the rest of each line.  What’s more, Nathan’s chart for Multnomah County, which is mostly the City of Portland, matches the  City of Portland data well enough that these independent data sources have to be taken as confirming each other’s message. In short:

  • Transit mode share is not improving, at least for work trips.  Since at least 2000 (and since 1996 in the City of Portland data) transit mode share has languished in the 10-15% range in Portland, and 7-9% for the whole Portland region.  This happened despite the openings of the Portland Streetcar, Red Line, and Yellow Line rail expansions in that time. (The Green Line opened in 2009, too late to register here.)
  • Walk commutes aren’t rising much either, despite a large influx of people into inner-city high density areas that should allow some of them to walk to work.  (You would expect walk trips to be flat across the whole region, but they’re also pretty flat in the Multnomah County and Portland data.)
  • The only growing mode is cycling, up a tiny bit in the outer counties but up substantially in Multnomah County, from 1% in 1990 to 5% in 2008.  (This squares with the City of Portland estimate a few points higher, since Multnomah County is Portland plus a few eastern and northwestern suburbs.)

Bravo for the cycling advocates, who’ve made great strides during this period.


Still, for all the investment in transit, it’s hard to feel good about these transit numbers.  Yes, this is only journey-to-work, which is not the whole measure of a city’s transport system.  It certainly feels as though the Streetcar, at least, is attracting happy riders, maybe errand and shopping and school trips rather than work trips.

But I’m not sure how to make a happy story out of this data from a transit perspective, and would welcome your thoughts.  Is Portland on the wrong track?  Or is it just trying to do something else, something more important, that these data don’t measure?


40 Responses to Portland: Another Challenging Chart

  1. samussas January 27, 2010 at 6:20 am #

    These statistics surely look grim even if we can detect small changes.
    I’m myself very interested in the relative large and steady decrease of car pooling. And since single-car usage was not rising at the same time I can onclude only that people that were car pooling choosed a new way of traveling (by transit, walking, droving alone or cycling).
    Which in my book mean only one thing, the new transit alternatives don’t met the drives expectactions or needs. The new services could be either too slow than car to commute or just not practical to use or even don’t go where they need to go.
    Secondly, the shift during the last 10 years could have been slow because the new implemented services didn’t offer more mobility than the previous ones. You even made a post on the subject about trams.
    What I will then consider is that, even if Portland open is making big investments, they are not enough and the city might need more lines and more density before the transit trend grow bigger. In this aspect, I would very well like to see the effect of the last line on these stats.
    Another obvious comment will be that the new lines don’t link employement and residential areas together or didn’t link (many/enough) new employements and residential area together. I don’t know in Portland but usually lots of jobs are somewhere in suburbia and a LRV line might not be the most effective way to connect them to the rest of the city. Even more in sprawl like geopgraphy.
    The obvious correlation is that the new lines might have a huge effect on leisure related travels, which are often directed toward a city centre.
    Such trends are actually what’s happening in Austin, TX (I think it is Austin). The last LRVs have a very big effect on leisure related journeys but not on the work related ones.
    Another interesting point in these stats is the increase in bicycle share which can be canibalizing a part of the transit share in the city itself. This reducing the number of inner-city commute on transit but since the overall transit share didn’t fall it could mean that there is a shift toward longer journeys in Portland’s network thus coincinding with the new openings and the Yellow line extension.
    By the way, if you total car pooling and drove alone decrease, you have around a 4 points decrease in car usage. That’s not too bad.
    Anyway, I’d like to see the stats in 10 to 15 years from now. Things might be very different then.

  2. Jeff Arp January 27, 2010 at 7:25 am #

    I have some general thoughts about this chart, but I am by no means an expert on transit.
    Since you are looking at mode share and not numbers of actual trips, it would be helpful to put these numbers into some sort of context. I believe the Portland area is growing and the total number of cummuters is also increasing, so the number of commuters taking transit in 08 may be a lot higher than it was in 2000.
    What would this chart look like if transit capacity didn’t increase during that time? My guess is that the Drove alone line would have gone up. I live in Milwaukee, and I think if you compared a similar chart for Milwaukee Portland transit would look like a huge success.
    A comparison with an area that is growing at a similar rate to Portland and that has not made the transit investments that Portland has could really illuminate what is really happening.

  3. JP January 27, 2010 at 7:25 am #

    As you wrote, the Green Line opened too late to be a factor in the study. The Yellow Line replaced a major bus line (although I suppose it increased capacity). The Red Line is largely for getting to and from the airport. The streetcar, well, let’s just say it’s packed with students during rush hour. So I’m not surprised that those rail lines haven’t increased transit mode share.
    What are the absolute numbers for transit ridership during the period studied? I know that major bus lines are packed with riders during rush hour; I suppose the same is true of MAX. Portland has gained a lot of population since 2000. Probably many of those new residents didn’t move here so they could cram themselves on transit every morning as though they lived in Tokyo.

  4. EngineerScotty January 27, 2010 at 7:42 am #

    I wasn’t able to locate older data, but here are total weekday boardings for the past five fiscal years both bus and MAX. FY09 also includes about 2k weekday boardings for WES, the Streetcar is not included in these stats.
    2005: 306,100 (209,200 bus 97,000 MAX)
    2006: 307,300 (207,740 bus 99,800 MAX)
    2007: 309,900 (205,700 bus 104,200 MAX)
    2008: 315,100 (207,700 bus 107,400 MAX)
    2009: 324,080 (215,300 bus 108,780 MAX/WES)
    As an absolute number, the total number of weekday boardings on the system has been increasing, as has usage of light rail and commuter rail. The bus numbers have been bouncing around, though FY09 saw a big jump–it will be interesting to see how the recent service cuts (taking affect in FY10) affect this.
    My thoughts:
    1) MAX is successful at what it does, especially during rush hour. Issues with MAX are a) it remains too downtown-focused; b) it’s too slow through downtown for crosstown trips, and c) there are lots of places it doesn’t go.
    2) The bus system, as others have noted, is being stretched thin. Lots of parts of town, especially outside the city, receive infrequent service.
    3) Still lots of sprawl. The Portland core is reasonably dense; however there is lots of sprawl within the urban growth boundary. Infill is being resisted; there is lots of pressure on Metro to expand the UGB (Washington County wants 30,000 acres) rather than upzone. (There are still more than a few hobby farms located within the UGB for instance). Given that the (bus) commute in some outlying areas exceeds an hour; this makes the bus system undesirable for those for whom driving is an alternative.
    4) Poor bus service in Washington County, one of the area’s chief emplyoment centers. Many high-tech employers are not within walking distance of MAX (which provides more than adequate service along its ROW), but connecting busses are spotty. The prevalence of office parks doesn’t help, obviously.

  5. CroMagnon January 27, 2010 at 1:58 pm #

    I wonder if the noise of the data collection isn’t obscuring a constant, but slight, positive trend.
    But I’m not surprised it hasn’t gone up too much. Partly because MAX certainly took a huge number of bus riders whenever a new service opened. It doesn’t appear that MAX can really expand rush hour capacity that much, such that some people who would ride don’t simply because of overcrowding.
    Most choice riders won’t make a transfer unless it’s rail-to-rail. Some will make rail-to-bus and vice versa. But very rarely will they do bus to bus. Some will do bus only if the distance is short, or long distance if the bus is fast. The point is, this behavior limits the tendency of people to choose transit because the coverage simply isn’t there. And with a metro region like Portland, it might never get much higher with the present suburban living arrangments and relatively low gas prices.
    What percentage people live within the magic 1/2 mile radius of a rail stop in Portland?

  6. Julie Anne Genter January 27, 2010 at 2:52 pm #

    Obviously (as you have already addressed in a previous post) I think parking requirements and prices are influencing the way that development occurs outside the core and the mode choices that people make. If parking is bundled with development costs outside the core, that provides a perverse incentive to provide more parking in the core (because inner city developers feel they need to provide parking to compete with suburban developments), which in turn suppresses prices, which makes transit less competitive.
    But I wonder if the investments in PT in Portland, while not growing transit ridership as a percentage of JTW, have nevertheless kept transit mode share from declining? What has happened in other American cities that were growing at a similar rate to Portland, and didn’t invest as much in transit during this period?

  7. Mike January 27, 2010 at 2:54 pm #

    Mathew Kahn makes three relevant points in this paper. First as additional rail routes open in a region, the new routes generally don’t add as serve (or pick up as many riders as the early routes did). Generally rail get built first on the best routes and subsequent routes just aren’t as good.
    Second, once rail routes are opened, they don’t subsequently generate that many additional riders over time. Instead the trend is that ridership gradually falls on routes over time. The only way to keep growing the system is to add new routes faster than your old routes are losing riders.
    Third, ridership is related to how centralized employment is in your central business district. CBD’s don’t provide as much free parking, that discourages people from driving.
    The problem right now is that at the same time people are moving back to the city core for increased consumption purposes (as crime has fallen in inner cities, more people are attracted to the restaurants, art galleries etc) the urban agglomerative benefits of urban location for private sector employers is falling. Private sectors employers are moving out of Office towers and moving into warehouses or just out to Edge Cities.
    Right now Portland has massive job sprawl. Between 1998 and 2006, the number of jobs with 3 miles of the CBD fell by 3.1 and the number of jobs greater than 10 miles from the CBD grew by 5.6%.
    Why that is an issue is that in the edge cities parking at work is likely to be free, so while even if there was transit on those routes, the employees may still decide to drive, rather than take transit. Because the marginal cost of driving (gas) is less than the marginal cost of transit, (increased time spent on transit over driving plus the transit fare on the route).

  8. Tomtakt January 27, 2010 at 3:46 pm #

    My theory: Land use hasn’t changed significantly, and as others mentioned, transit hasn’t expanded significantly to serve new areas.

  9. The Dude January 27, 2010 at 6:30 pm #

    Add $1/gallon gas tax in Oregon and spend that providing good transit and the graph will change quite a bit.
    I think what this is showing, as others have said, it there is abudent auto capacity and cheap marginal cost to driving. There is little incentive to do otherwise, so people take a cheap and easy approach.

  10. observer January 27, 2010 at 8:10 pm #

    The only way I can read the above is to posit that Portland is trying to get the cart before the horse.
    I live in Chicago where the Loop, i.e. the CBD, a century ago was the place where one went for shopping, business and pleasure and a transportation system (now the CTA and the suburban Metra trains) came into being to serve those ends for all classes.
    For all their faults, these public transportation system still serve the same function with the exception of central city shopping which suburban malls have practically eliminated. Yes, there is North Michigan Avenue but it tends to be shopping for the car-crazy tourist rather than locals.
    In Chicago, in short, the horse came before the cart.
    Does the central district of Portland offer so much that public transportation remains the most viable alternative?
    Or to restate the question, has the cart come before the horse?

  11. Brent January 27, 2010 at 8:10 pm #

    I don’t know Portland well enough to know if this is the case there, but lots of municipalities in Ontario have feel-good motherhood policies about improving transit modal split, and may even be making progress in their traditional market (either demographics, or land use, that already are more inclined to use transit). However, any progress in those areas is being more than offset by new development (both residents and jobs), overwhelmingly located in low-density suburbs where transit has little chance. Notwithstanding policies — and even actual measures — to increase transit ridership, transit’s overall modal split ends up continuously declining.
    (It’s analogous to the debate in Canada about the tar sands and GHG reductions — Eastern Canada is trying to make major strides in reducing GHG emissions, yet nationally they are going up because the reductions are more than offset by increases in emissions due to tar sands development.)

  12. EngineerScotty January 27, 2010 at 8:21 pm #

    Portland’s CBD has seen a great deal of residential expansion–in particular, the Pearl District–but also a decline in downtown jobs over the years. Much of this is due to local corporations being bought out by larger out-of-state ones, who then consolidate their operations in the acquiring corporation’s state. As mentioned in a prior thread, parking downtown isn’t free (and it’s more expensive than a transit pass if you have to stay all day), but it’s not in the prohibitively-expensive category.
    It’s not hard to take transit in town, especially if you are going to or coming from downtown. But it’s easy to drive.

  13. Alon Levy January 27, 2010 at 11:57 pm #

    EngineerScotty: the higher TriMet ridership is partly due to higher population. Portland’s population is up 5% from 2000, and Multnomah County’s as a whole is up 8%.
    Brent: Eastern Canada’s transit modal share is stable – Greater Toronto is managing to hold on to its share even when one includes auto-centric boomburbs like Brampton in the average.

  14. anonymouse January 28, 2010 at 12:23 am #

    The really interesting statistic to track would also be level of transit accessibility: how many people even live within areas conveniently served by transit? This would have to be calculated as something like a sum of people within a certain distance of a transit line weighted by the service level on that line. Could the trend mean that the massive investment in rail transit is attracting more and more market share in the areas served by transit at the same rate that those areas are becoming a smaller percentage of the overall metropolitan area as sprawl grows on the periphery were transit is poor or nonexistent?

  15. JMH January 28, 2010 at 2:34 am #

    I think the post regarding total ridership is a good one, and a comparison to a similar case where extensive increases weren’t made to transit service could be useful.
    Regarding the (small) shift to bicycling-walking-transit from car-sharing and single-car journeys I’m not surprised. Those willing to take a small inconvenience for the benefits of car-sharing are those most likely to take a larger inconvenience for the benefits of transit. Note that this may drive their former car-share partners back into the single-journey catagory, so the decrease in both categories is encouraging.
    A further, personal, point. At one stage my fiancée gave a colleague a life to their work from a nearby train station. That colleague would undoubtedly have been reported as travelling by transit to work, but without the car-share for the last portion of the journey, it would’ve been impossible. So the apparent decrease in car-share may not be so severe as noted. Similarly, how is park-and-ride, either by bus or by rail, being accounted for in the data, and what might be the effect of this?

  16. Jarrett at HumanTransit.org January 28, 2010 at 3:39 am #

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    JMH:  I believe Park-and-Ride trips show up as transit trips.  Another post on these stats in the next day or two.

  17. Alon Levy January 28, 2010 at 3:49 am #

    JMH: the American Community Survey instructs respondents to put down the mode of transportation by which they travel the greatest distance. For park and ride trips, this is usually transit.
    In addition, I don’t think car-sharers went to biking. Often, car-sharers are quite poor. In Multnomah County, their median income is almost as low as this of transit riders. It could just be that car-sharers are transitioning to driving as they get richer, while at the same time other drivers are switching to transit as its perceived quality gets better.

  18. Watson January 28, 2010 at 1:34 pm #

    It would be interesting to see what has happened since 2008. Gasoline prices were fairly steady during the 1990s, but tripled between around 2000 and the summer of 2008. I’m surprised this didn’t have a bigger impact on mode shares. Since 2008, gas prices have fallen again.
    Gas prices have long been higher in Canada than in the U.S. Around $1 more per gallon, on average. This may help explain the somewhat higher rate of mass transit use in Canada.

  19. Pantheon January 28, 2010 at 3:47 pm #

    On a personal note, I found riding the bus in Portland to be a surprisingly unpleasant experience. This is because the buses only run on busy streets, so waiting for the bus is a sensory overload of car exhaust and noise.
    Portland has taken a novel approach to traffic management, one that I am not certain is appropriate. To make the city more “livable”, they employ traffic reduction strategies on the smaller streets, which funnels all traffic onto major thoroughfares, where buses also run. Hence the smaller streets are very pleasant, but the thoroughfares (which are every few blocks) are far more unpleasant than even the major streets in Toronto.
    Waiting for a bus on Hawthorne, Division, 6th, or Barbur is a more unpleasant experience than I have had riding transit in any other city. It is the equivalent of waiting at the side of a highway. And at 17 minute headways, the waiting is an important part of the user experience. I wish transit professionals and city planners would pay more attention to the aesthetics and sensory stimuli of the whole transit user experience. That has to be a part of the mode share story.
    There is one line that snakes through some beautiful residential streets in the NE. That is the kind of thing I would like to see more of.

  20. Jarrett January 28, 2010 at 4:59 pm #

    @Pantheon. I don’t like waiting on arterials either, but “snaking” is slow, so what you propose sounds like a speed-for-aesthetics tradeoff, much like the one implied by the streetcar.

  21. EngineerScotty January 28, 2010 at 5:38 pm #

    There’s a difference between mere aesthetics, and not breathing in toxic fumes. 🙂
    At any rate, the solution is to discourage the cars, not run the busses away from the destinations. A way to do that is with more extensive transit lanes–Hawthorne, for instance, is three lanes eastbound from the bridge out to 12th (the 1-way section) , and then two lanes from there out to 39th or so. Madison Street already has an exclusive bus lane. Why not reserve one lane in each direction for busses for the entire length? Oh, and while we’re at it, demolish the viaduct on both streets east of the railroad tracks.

  22. Pantheon January 28, 2010 at 8:19 pm #

    On a grid network, would it be possible to have both speed and aesthetics? What if Portland created “bus boulevards”, similar to the bike boulevards? They might even be faster due to an absence of signals. Cycling mode share has gone up because of a dual approach that recognizes the importance of both practicality and aesthetics. For the same reasons that I love biking down a car-less, tree lined street, I would also love to wait at a bus stop on that same street.
    In a larger sense, I am also questioning Portland’s traffic management approach, which creates mini freeways throughout the city.

  23. Jarrett at HumanTransit.org January 28, 2010 at 8:24 pm #

    I think a Portland planner would point to Division (west of 205) or Mississippi-Albina as examples of exactly the kind of street you want.  Of course, Mississippi-Albina only works because MLK is taking the traffic, just as Division only works because Powell is taking the traffic.
    But there's no way to get buses up to a reasonable speed on a "pleasant" street, unless it's an exclusive busway, and many don't find those pleasant either.
    It's a tradeoff.

  24. GDub January 29, 2010 at 6:19 am #

    How long are the drive-alone trips? Maybe they have been trending down in time. It’s possible that people are still driving alone, but they’re driving 2 miles to work instead of 10 miles, because they moved into the city. Just a thought.

  25. EngineerScotty January 29, 2010 at 8:16 am #

    In one way, bikes are more like autos than they are like transit. Since they are personal vehicles that you bring with you for most of your journey (even moreso than the car; you can’t take your car into the office), having the thoroughfare separate from where people live and work makes sense. Who wants to live near a freeway, after all? Segregation isn’t as important for bicycles as for autos (the reason for a bikeway is to protect the bikes and riders; whereas the reason for a freeway is to protect everyone else by segregating the auto traffic), but the same principle applies–motorists and bikers have no issue with travelling some distance, at either end of their trip, to reach the thoroughfare or their ultimate destination.’
    Transit lines, on the other hand, need to be on the way. While busways can function as freeways (improving the traffic flow by isolating busses from interfering traffic), putting a busway in the middle of nowhere seldom works. It can work if everyone is going (or coming from) downtown and is assured of a bus that branches off the busway and goes near their house–an open BRT system. Other than that, dedicated transit infrastructure need to go where people live and work. Unless the transit line permits bicycles, or includes park-and-rides, the last mile is covered on foot–and as a result, better be a lot shorter than a mile.

  26. Tessa January 29, 2010 at 2:49 pm #

    I also have to agree with one of the people above that the graph seems to show steady improvement, albeit slow, even since 2000. It’s just obscured by the choppyness of the data. I think once the next census comes in, it will look much like the difference between the first two census numbers there.
    Secondly, another good point that was raised is that car trips are falling, but I don’t think all those people are jumping on their bikes. Rather, it’s likely transit is losing some riders to bicycles while at the same time gaining riders from cars. Any region that is seeing its mode share of single occupancy vehicles dropping should really be celebrating, though as many have mentioned, it could be changing a lot faster.

  27. AlexB January 31, 2010 at 10:51 am #

    Hello!?!?!? Can we just admit already that the MAX is not as cool as everyone says it is? It’s barely more extensive than Houston’s or Dallas’ or Denver’s. If they want to really get people to switch, they need many many more lines and to finish that streetcar plan they announced last year. They’ve been working on this for thirty years and they have three lines. Big deal. Just because crunchy yuppies, hipsters, and hippies live there doesn’t make it a transit mecca.

  28. EngineerScotty January 31, 2010 at 11:42 am #

    This isn’t a hipster blog; nobody here cares whether or not a given transit system is “cool”.
    At any rate, you’ve made numerous errors in your analysis of MAX, starting by not knowing how many lines are in the system. (If you count color-coded routes, it’s 4; if you count major projects, it’s 5). The Streetcar is a separate system with a separate purpose run by a separate agency housed with City government; it has little to do with MAX. I’ll agree that more lines would be useful (provided they can locate the $$$ to run them); at any rate, the sixth major expansion of the system is in design and will break ground in 2011–and the corridor for the seventh project has been selected.
    At any rate, check out this table, which shows that MAX is the fourth most-ridden LRT system in the US. Ranking ahead of it are Boston, LA, and San Francisco–all much larger cities. Of course there are two Canadian and Mexican cities above MAX on the list as well; the popularity of Calgary’s C-Tran system is remarkable given that Calgary is of similar size to Portland, and has high levels of car ownership.

  29. EngineerScotty January 31, 2010 at 11:45 am #

    D’oh… I meant Calgary’s C-Train system, not C-Tran. There are three transit systems in the US called “C-Tran” that I’m aware of (in Georgia, North Carolina, and–the likely source of my brain fart–in Vancouver, WA, across the river from Portland).

  30. Jeff January 31, 2010 at 1:05 pm #

    Perhaps it’s even easier than this commentary would suggest. My wife is from the PDX area. The metro area just isn’t that large yet. The UGBs are a good idea for keeping people close. However, the metro area just hasn’t hit critical mass yet to cause a big shift in transit usage. It probably isn’t far off, judging by the steady gains seen by Tri-Met.
    Minneapolis-St. Paul hit that mass somewhere between the time I graduated from college (2000) and today. When I left, traffic on the loop (494) and the drive into Minnie (35W) was bad at rush hour. Now? Blood, sweat, and tears all day on those two interstates, as well as on some smaller highways in the area where growth is seen. The state is building transit quickly in the area, but it’s playing from behind. The LRT from the Mall of America to downtown and the Northstar Commuter Rail projects were the brainchildren of Jesse Ventura – you read that right – and ones that would not have gone forward without his hard-headed focus that really didn’t give a hoot about his re-election, which he didn’t seek. The area has hit critical mass, with proof coming from ridership estimates that were HORRIBLY low for the Hiawatha line, with actual ridership being almost 100% higher than estimates.
    By comparison, the PDX metro area is about 25-35% smaller than that of Minneapolis-St. Paul…but it has FAR better transit. I would imagine that, as PDX grows, it will grow INTO its transit system instead of having to catch up with it.
    My two cents…

  31. Pantheon January 31, 2010 at 2:21 pm #

    Come on. You subtly diverted the discussion from lines to “projects”, which Alex said nothing of. And he’s right, there are three. Blue, green, and yellow. The red one is not even a real line, just two stops on the way to the airport. Considering the extent to which the lines overlap, a cynic might say there are really only two, plus a useless segment by the side of a freeway. Alex is right: the MAX isn’t cool at all.

  32. EngineerScotty January 31, 2010 at 3:03 pm #

    I wasn’t trying to divert anything… whether or not the red line is a “real line” or not I’ll punt on. It has about five route-miles of unique track, but whether lines to the airport count is something I’m not going to get into an argument about.
    And again–“cool” isn’t a subject I really care about, either. MAX would be cool if they served beer on board, if you ask me. They don’t, obviously. 🙂

  33. Jarrett January 31, 2010 at 3:42 pm #

    Jeff. I’ve worked in Mpls-St Paul and am intrigued by your impression of it. I’d say that Saint Paul is very comparable to Portland in scale and feel, and for that matter so is Mpls except for the larger cluster of employment downtown. Most of the MSP region’s size is just that it has way, way more sprawl, including much more job sprawl. So it’s not just a matter of Portland growing to MSP’s “critical mass”, but growing on a substantially different path.
    Portland, for example, already has pretty good freeway congestion at its small scale, because it has far fewer freeways! There will always be as much traffic as you make room for …

  34. Tomtakt January 31, 2010 at 5:54 pm #

    I lived at 39th and Hawthorne, and had a good bus connection right to downtown, where I worked a block off of Pioneer Square. I saved money with the bus, but the couple times I decided to drive in, it took less than half the time (~12 minutes instead of 30). Other than a few blocks in downtown, traffic is essentially non-existant, yet bus service is not very fast. No wonder people drive.

  35. adam January 31, 2010 at 9:34 pm #

    I’m in Portland and in a similar situation as Tomtakt, but coming from the Hollywood neighborhood. I take the 12 bus downtown to work, which is about a 25-30 minute ride for me, I can drive it in half the time. I think traffic simply isn’t bad enough in Portland to drive most people to alternatives.
    I only take the bus because I think it’s more socially and environmentally responsible. It’s certainly not more convenient.

  36. JP February 1, 2010 at 6:44 am #

    Which brings us back to the subject of being completely car-free. If you don’t have a car, in which case you don’t have to make a loan payment, buy insurance, pay taxes, buy gas, pay for maintenance, and possibly find somewhere to park it, you don’t miss the 18 minutes one-way that you lose riding the bus into downtown (which you spend reading anyway).

  37. Nathanael February 16, 2010 at 1:45 am #

    OK, what’s your problem with Portland?
    This chart shows:
    (1) Drive-alone percentage dropped.
    (2) Walk percentage increased.
    (3) Transit percentage increased.
    Sure, these are all by tiny *amounts*. Is that your complaint? Or is this:
    (4) Carpooling percentage decreased.
    (Also by a tiny amount.)
    The continuation of sprawling growth, identified by practically everyone from the area who commented, is probably pulling the numbers down. If you figure that the sprawl would normally be pulling the numbers way down, then doing slightly better than flat is clearly good work.
    And given that we know that bus service hasn’t substantially improved, fundamentally the only improvements are the rail lines. Which replaced bus lines. So this would be due almost entirely to the pure mode-share shift due to replacing buses with rail along pretty much the same route. Hopefully TriMet realized significant operating savings from the replacement.

  38. Chaz February 18, 2010 at 8:18 am #

    I’m having a hard time with this, not knowing how Portland’s transit mode split has changed relatvie to other cities. Is transit mode split going up anywhere else signficantly? As a region grows you could grow your tranist service and see increases in absolute ridership without an increase in mode split. And, my guess is that there is, in absolute terms, more job growth in the non-CBD areas of the Portland Metro. Staying still in a strong headwind while other cities get pushed back could be seen as (relative) progress. Like I said, can’t really fugure this one out until I see a similar chart for Clagary, Seattle, Minneapolis…

  39. cismontane April 7, 2010 at 8:00 am #

    given that modal share changes are heavily linked to land-use, it’s pretty hard to deduce anything from that graph without knowing where new development permits have been issued during that period. For example, let’s say Portland developed 5 TODs housing a combined total of 40,000 people during that period, and the average modal share for those TODs was 5 points higher than the average, and in the same period, Portland permitted development for 50,000 residents in areas outside of TODs and less transit accessible than the average for the city (say, at the periphery), with transit modal shares that are 5 points lower than the average, then one would expect that transit modal share overall would drop, all other factors (such as the transit accessibility of work locations) being equal? Unless we know where new permits were issued and where development occured, we can’t get to any reasonable conclusions.
    A more useful study would be a longitudinal one tracking changes in commuter behavior at the same residential and work locations during the same period… if people who were using transit at the start of people stopped using transit, then that wuold be a source of concern and worthy of further investigation.

  40. Steve September 23, 2010 at 1:35 pm #

    As a Portland resident who formerly commuted from unincorporated Washington County into downtown Portland, I’d submit that the real obstacle to more rail usage is the lack of feeder service (or alternatively parking at rail stations).
    Anecdotally, speaking for myself, my only real viable option year round was to use the car. My house was located three miles from the Sunset transit center and over a mile to the closest bus stop.
    Nevertheless, I started in ’08 experimenting with riding a bicycle to the Sunset light rail station. But, with some steep hills in between that necessitated making a stop at a downtown athletic club for a shower on the way into work. Also, being a fair weather cyclist, it wasn’t viable between October and May when the rain is nearly incessant and my work hours meant I’d be cycling in darkness along roads without bike lanes. So this never amounted more than a few trips per month during favorable weather.
    Trimet has since expanded bus service just this summer so there is now a bus route within reasonable walking distance from my house. But service is infrequent (about hourly), which still makes transit a highly inflexible option.