According to a report from Portland's city auditor, the folks at Portland Streetcar sort of fudged their numbers. Given our stellar city leaders, this may come as a surprise, but ridership was actually nearly 20% lower than they've reported, and on-time service was also 20% lower than reported. Imagine that.
The new findings show that estimated ridership hit 4.5 million from July 2013 through June 2014, 1.1 million less than the 5.6 million rides originally reported by Portland Streetcar Inc.
Auditors also found that Portland's claim of on-time service was flat-out wrong.
"The audit was really helpful," said Diane Dulken, a spokeswoman for the Portland Bureau of Transportation. "It's helping us improve a system that's working."
Really? Working? It's possible; I've seen at least one to two riders on the east-side line (figures for which were inflated by 35%) as it plods along, snarling traffic.
The Transportation Bureau reported that the streetcar system met its target for cost-effectiveness, at about $160 per vehicle operating hour. But city officials had no supporting documents to back up that claim, according to the audit.
Statistics submitted by TriMet to the Federal Transit Administration painted a far different picture, however. Portland Streetcar reported hourly vehicle operating costs at $323, according to 2012 data, the most recent available, compared with $142 for bus and $188 for rail.
It's a success, people! 21st-century transit!
Left unmentioned, however, is one explanation for the west-side numbers: Portland State University issues "free" passes to students and staff, accounting for approximately 26,000 "riders", and government agencies, largely distributed through the west-side downtown area, also issue "free" passes to employees (meaning taxpayers foot the bill for all of those "free" riders). This means that as many as 100,000 riders on the west-side are using "free" passes. Every day.
If you're a government employee, "a system that's working" is a very relative term.