The Economist, while discussing the reasons behind the decline in driving in the developing world, highlighted how Portland and Los Angeles are cities that are trying “to change the way people move around” by investing in transit. Wendell Cox, writing for New Geography, responded by arguing that while cities are investing in transit, those investments are not one of the reasons that driving is in decline. Therefore, his conclusion is that transit investment is a waste;
In the end, Portland built an extensive rail system and the riders have not come. Portland didn’t expand its highway system, and they came anyway.
I agree that although Portland has built light rail lines, and people are riding them, it has not been enough to make a dent in regional commuting trends. Why? Because, while Portland has built a relatively extensive light rail system downtown, it has not built an extensive transit system.
Transportation projects focused in the downtown will not change commuting patterns of a metropolitan region of 2.2 million. Regional change must come from the culmination of many projects over a long period of time.
For example, Portland’s 30 year plan, below, shows what an extensive transit network might look like, a network that has the potential to affect regional transportation patterns.
Therefore, while Mr. Cox sees the lack of growth in transit ridership as evidence that we should stop investing in transit, I would argue the opposite. Cities like Portland need to invest even more in transit. What is currently being investing is not nearly enough to reverse the momentum created by spending massively on highways for 50 years.
What do you think?