There are No Benefits to Light Rail in Tigard – Vote No on Measure 26-218

    In My Opinion Tigard Life welcomes Letters to the Editor on various topics affecting Tigard. Letters should be limited to 500 words and emailed to [email protected].

    For the past eight years the Tigard City Council has been pushing the idea that TriMet should build a light rail line through the city because it’s “our turn.” 

    Now, we are being asked to endorse a new permanent payroll tax in November (Measure 26-218) to pay for construction of this $2.8 billion project. Voters should carefully think about what “our turn” for rail really means.

    First, in order to build the line, TriMet will need to bulldoze 220 homes and businesses for the right-of-way. Why is that good for Tigard? Where will the thousands of displaced residents and workers go?

    Second, the Southwest corridor is already well-served by buses. If rail is built, it will simply cannibalize bus ridership. That has always been the pattern with TriMet’s light rail construction.

    Third, there is no consumer demand for more rail. TriMet’s light rail ridership peaked in 2012 and has been declining ever since. In fact, by 2019, TriMet’s five light rail lines were carrying fewer riders than the four lines that were operating before the Milwaukie project opened in 2015.

    As of August, TriMet’s weekday peak-hour ridership for light rail was down 70% from a year ago. Most train riders have left for personal health reasons and have already made other arrangements. They won’t be coming back.

    Fourth, there is no way for Tigard to ensure that TriMet promises of rail service will ever be kept. For example, when TriMet secured federal funding to build the Yellow Line to North Portland, it promised to provide 6 trains per hour during peak periods during opening year in 2004, with gradual increases to 8 trains/peak-hour by 2020.

    We’re now in 2020, and TriMet has never come close to keeping its promise. For the past decade TriMet has only operated 4 trains/peak-hour – 50% of the legally required service

    If the Bridgeport Village line is ever built, the Tigard City Council will have no recourse when the promised service fails to materialize.

    Finally, Measure 26-218 will impose a permanent new jobs tax on the region, on top of the two other transit taxes we already pay: TriMet’s long-running employer payroll tax, and the statewide transit tax that every worker has paid since the start of 2018.

    Light rail is not an amenity; it’s an expensive nuisance for the neighborhoods unlucky enough to have train lines running through them. We should be thankful that Tigard has so far escaped TriMet’s empire-building, and ensure that it stays that way by voting against Measure 26-218.

    – John A. Charles, Jr., President & CEO, Cascade Policy Institute