Running the Numbers on TriMet’s Slow Recovery

A more streamlined public transit system might be our new bottom line

By Shannon Daehnke August 22, 2022 Published in the September 2022 issue of Portland Monthly

Portland’s public transit system is going through a bit of an identity crisis. On the one hand, it’s fielding gripes about pruned-back routes (20 and counting) and longer wait times as it scrambles to hire 350 drivers ($7,500 hiring bonus and $25 an hour to start, anyone?). On the other hand, given that work-from-home-sweatpants life, there’s less demand overall for transit; 10 more bus lines are due for reduced service this fall. To emerge leaner and meaner, the agency is launching a new fleet of frequent-service, high-capacity bus lines, with wait times of around 12 minutes. Watch for 24 new electric-battery-powered buses to hit the streets next year, too, another step closer to the goal of being zero-emissions and diesel-free by 2040.

1,901,445 Estimated average weekly boardings in February 2020, prepandemic

585,206 Estimated boardings the week of April 19, 2020, post-lockdown 

1,038,655 Estimated average weekly boardings in May 2022

14 minutes Average weekday wait time for bus, light rail, commuter trains, and streetcar in metro area, May 2022 

$4.89 Average cost of a gallon of gas in Portland at press time (less than at its early summer peak, but still high enough to maybe get some of us back on the bus.)

$2.50 Adult fare to ride the bus, MAX, and WES for 2.5 hours; the single fare last increased in 2012

$4.31 System costs per boarding in February 2020

$7.74 System costs per boarding in April 2022 

$1.8 billion Fiscal year 2023 approved budget for TriMet