In 1986 Portland began light rail operation. The line was built instead of a freeway which would have ripped through neighborhoods and allowed for the sprawling monster to continue. However, today we see the fruits of Portland's labor and the results of what the construction of a transit network can do for a community.
21 years ago nothing was certain. However, the Portland region banded together to decide on their future. In 1986 Portland Tri-Met had 162,500 average weekday boardings, 19,600 on rail and the rest on bus. Fast forward to 2006, we see that 307,200 rides with 99,000 of those rides coming from rail. The May ridership for Portland was 110,000 average weekday boardings. What is important is that this rail push has saved gobs of cash. With a 72 cent required boost from Tri-Met versus a $1.92 for bus, you can see why the investment has paid off. 23% of Portland's operating cost is for rail yet rail makes up 32% of the ridership.
The vision of the original Lutraq plan and the network of rail lines and city centers is being quietly implemented all the time. Expected next week is an FFGA from the federal government for the I-205 Light Rail Line. Planning is underway for the Streetcar to Lake Oswego and Milwaukie Max. This plan shows that when cities put their will and collective mind into doing something it can get done. The expansion of Portland's system can be replicated but it takes time and planning. Hopefully more cities will wake up and realize the cost savings as well as quality of life improvements brought by this way of doing things.