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Portland, Sydney and Public Transport

The benefits of light rail aren't just $X or Y cars, but an improvement in the urban environment and lifestyle. To frame the argument in in such simple terms is foolish and misses the point.

If any one else was lucky enough to read "A lightweight transport solution" SMH June 24, 2006 ( http://www.smh.com.au/news/opinion/a-lightweight-transport-solution/2006/06/23/1150845377399.html ) where Duffy puts forward "this city really needs is roads, lots more roads" as the solution to our transport needs, you would no doubt be left scratching your head.
Duffy picked a right bunch of nuts and vested interests to prop up is case for "more roads", Demographia, Randal O'Toole the NRMA's president Alan Evans.
portlandO'Toole is associated with the Libertarian Cato Institute and works for Thoreau Institute who among other things oppose National Parks because they are "big government". O'Toole is vehemently opposed to anti sprawl - smart-growth measures by government as they distort market forces. Duffy quotes O'Toole's average figures for "passengers a day travelled on each kilometre" ... "Light rail track it was 4620, and for a freeway lane 23,724" Only a complete ideologue could give any credence to such a simplistic analysis give the pathetic state or complete lack of public transport in almost every American city.
The major source for the article is "Demographia" which Duffy describes as "pro-freeway".
"pro-freeway" is putting lightly, Demographia is an undertakings of Wendell Cox Consultancy, who along with serving on Republican advisory committees, claims "it would cost less to lease every new light-rail rider a luxury car" and "Fundamentally, rail simply does not reduce traffic congestion".

Portland somehow typifies light rail usage around the world?

Portland retro fitted a small light rail system in to its city and now has as an entire 3 LIGHT RAIL LINES. You can see a map here http://www.trimet.org/schedule/maps/maxsystem.htm and a small "street car" line around the city centre (http://www.trimet.org/images/schedulemaps/portlandstreetcar.gif). In contrast to Portland, Melbourne and Sydney have massive public transport systems. How 3 tram lines in a city with half the population, and no geographical similarities to Sydney can be used as something of a comparison only Duffy knows.
Portland has no heavy rail system, and like most of America a deep affinity to their cars. However its US$512 million investment (with federal subsidies) is proving popular and according to the Federal Transport Authority runs at approximately US$1 less per passenger then Bus transport. The new lines have also lead to investment of about $3.8 billion in new real estate investment within walking distance of light rail stations, leading to a payoff period of 7 years from increases in property tax collection. ( http://www.lightrailnow.org/myths/m_por_2006-01a.htm )
Duffys article doesn't mention this because his article is based on the word of two ideological and political opponents to Portland only public transport system.
If you want to see a real light rail system, you need look no further then Melbourne http://www.railmaps.com.au/melbourn.png

"February 1961, the Herald described trams as "noisy, draughty and cumbrous"." versus "the more heavily used, more flexible and more cost-effective buses."

I'm going to go out on a limb and guess Duffy doesn't actually ride a bus, and doesn't have to watch and wait at the bus stop as buses full to the brim fly by too packed to let on any passengers.
The major problem with buses aside from stench and noise both inside and out is that they are an incredibly uncomfortable form of transport. Buses are important and will never go away, but they really suck to ride. As for the cost issue, bus costs never include the cost of building and maintaining roads as this is shifted to local council and the RTA and the opponents of light rail never seem to address the increase in property value and business as a result of a cleaner more comfortable local environment. Who wants to guess what would happen to property and business values along king street come light rail ?
The sums have been done and the Duffy solution is already costing us $18billion per year going up to $24billion 2020 ( See : Sydney's Transport Infrastructure: the real economics.
, http://www.thecie.com.au/publications/CIE-sydneys_transport_infrastructure.pdf ). Hate to sound like a Libertarian but Big Government is distorting market forces by propping up and pork barreling a car industry that is chocking the city.
The benefits of light rail aren't just $X or Y cars, but an improvement in the urban environment and lifestyle. To frame the argument in in such simple terms is foolish and misses the point. As well as not knowing anything about Portland and regurgitating outdated sources with vested interests, Duffy completely fails to address the wider implications and costs of Transport planning such as pollution, health, land value and impacts on out livable environment. Sydney is wasting billions on petrol and parking, money that could be far more effectively spent on solutions such as light rail that improves our environment and provide real transport alternatives.

... 25.Jun.2006 09:23

this thing here

if right wingers or libertarians are opposed to transportation systems such as light rail because they see such systems as being examples of "big government" or "wasteful tax expenditures", then how can they NOT say the same thing about road projects.

billions of dollars in tax expenditures are appropriated every year by state governments in road spending - either to build new roads or to maintain old, cracked roads and bridges. and does building more roads deliver better performance to tax payers? hell no it doesn't. building more roads does not produce any net reductions on traffic.

it's the same damn thing. tax money for transportation. so appropriating billions in road money (which doesn't lead to better transportation) ISN'T "big government", but appropriating the same amount for bus or light rail systems IS? that is senseless. it's just stupid stupid stupid.

it's just another hypocritical, inconsistant argument from the right wing.

think we all know what would happen 26.Jun.2006 03:26


i think we all know how popular (hence "economicaly rational") public transport would be if you had to actually pay for the cost of your car. i know americans like to bitch about the price of gas, but it doesn't pay a fraction of the expence for freeways, carparks, pollution, ill health and discusting streets that cars a costing all of us.