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Tigard Mayor John L. Cook has kicked off his campaign to persuade voters to approve MAX light rail in November. As usual, the fallacious message is a parroting of how light rail will reduce congestion in Tigard. Over and over again that will be the drumbeat of the yes campaign.

The immense deceit involved with such claims cannot be overstated. Cook and other light rail proponents do not want congestion relief.

They want congestion to be painful and force people out of their cars. Metro and TriMet seek to mimic Seattle’s even worse congestion as a means to increase transit use. The long established centerpiece of our regional transportation planning strategy has been to avoid any traffic-relieving capacity improvements in order to make driving as painful as possible in hopes of getting drivers to leave their cars and take transit. Far too few have made that choice as the transit use share has stagnated for decades.

Cook doesn’t bother with any explanation for how or why he thinks light rail will reduce congestion. He knows the rest of the region is just as gridlocked as Tigard, even with their light rail corridors. In fact, he knows, like the rest of the planning community, that the Southwest Corridor is about the only corridor that is not a high-priority choke point. Still, he wants voters to agree to more of the same thing that has failed repeatedly everywhere else in the region.

Cook notes that on Sept. 5, 1986, the first MAX line between downtown Portland and Gresham opened. However, he fails to mention that it was ushered into existence with the same vision he touts today in Tigard. Yet with all of the 30 years since and the 60 miles of MAX lines and numerous stations, Cook cannot provide a single example of where that vision has come to fruition or what he wants to duplicate for Tigard.

Cook offers no current MAX station area as a demonstration of what he seeks for Tigard. How can that be? There’s plenty to choose from. Instead he just cites MAX ridership numbers without any mode share or proportionality scale to give them meaning. Cook is parroting Metro speak while avoiding every lesson Metro and TriMet refuses to learn.

Light rail (combined with high-density infill) has been the linchpin for our traffic and housing crisis. Light rail has either preceded or accompanied the many failed and heavily subsidized attempts to create the vision. Unfortunately, the visions remain concepts that look good on the drawing board but never arrive with implementation. That’s because people are not getting out of their cars and the high-density development has been a very costly net detriment to neighborhoods.

TriMet has the least credibility of any group in relation to the accuracy, significance or meaning of its ridership numbers. Citing those numbers in the way Cook has is no better than claiming WES has reduced congestion of Highway 217 and Interstate 5 as planned.

Transit use in the Portland region is actually in decline. The failure of TriMet to increase the 12 percent of home-to-work transit use share over decades contradicts Cook’s pretense that more light rail is needed. Advocating for light rail for what may be the least congested corridor flies in the face of his congestion-reducing claims.

TriMet has hurt its transit use and transit users by cutting bus service to fund light rail and failing to provide sufficient bus transit service for the most needy of neighborhoods and residents.

Numerous studies have revealed the harsh reality that Cook, TriMet and Metro are ignoring. 

For instance:

The website City Observatory writes: “All the evidence suggests that when service is strong, and buses are a reliable way to get to work, school, or the grocery store, people will take them. Instead, the problem is that fewer and fewer people have access to that kind of strong bus line. If we care about ridership, we need to restore and enhance the kind of transit services that people can rely on.

“Because of the spread-out nature of even relatively dense American cities, it will be a very, very long time before rail transit can connect truly large numbers of people to large numbers of jobs and amenities.

“Only 2% of the region’s population living close enough to walk to one of the stations. For everyone else, transit still meant taking the bus, even if they were taking the bus to a train station.”

And the Cascade Policy Institute writes that “TriMet’s ridership is declining and its level of fixed-route service is lower today than it was in 2004.”

Light rail is not a get-around-the-community kind of public transit. Buses are.

The tiny fraction of people who regularly use MAX to ballgames or airline fights is meaningless hype intended to substitute for offering any authentic and useful measurements of merit. Claiming “MAX takes cars off McLoughlin” or other roads, without evidence of how many or context to demonstrate the significance is disingenuous.

Other claims are complete fabrications. MAX doesn’t create livable neighborhoods. That’s why Cook has no example.

The MAX track record is a disgrace of immense failure to perform as intended, so much so that not a single MAX station area earned a mention by Cook. The suggestion that $13.2 billion in development occurred because of MAX is the biggest whopper ginned up by TriMet.

In truth, MAX has been bad for neighborhoods, bad for businesses, bad for transit and bad for the region’s growth.

Just go take a drive to a few station areas and see if you find one for Tigard to repeat.

Arthur Crino is a Tigard resident.

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