Commenter Anandakos, a Vancouver resident who is not an anti-transit shill by any means, had this to say:
I'm a 64 year old white guy I/T person who has short hair and showers daily. The middle aged women who are the majority of riders on the Clark County expresses are resentful when I or any other guy like me sits down next to them in an empty seat on the 199 or 105. They only want to sit with other women.
And you expect them to ride down Interstate Avenue with the boom boxes and winos? Get real and get a life! If their express buses are taken away they WILL drive to work.Anandakos made several other technical arguments concerning MAX service to Vancouver which are not relevant here, go read the thread if you're interested (his comment is the first after the post).
The thing I wanted to highlight is that this is an inversion of the usual state of affairs in bus/rail debates. Anandakos is positing the existence of a class of choice transit users--in the United States--who are willing to ride a bus line but would abandon transit were it replaced with rail. Usually, it's assumed that choice riders--and the riders Anandakos describes are choice riders, as they have the option to drive--prefer rail to bus. Here, it is being claimed that a group of riders prefer the bus.
The 199 and 105 lines which C-Tran (Vancouver's transit agency) runs between Vancouver and Portland, aren't just any busses. They're express busses which spend the bulk of their time on Interstate 5, not stopping anywhere other than the Portland transit mall and a few transit centers in Vancouver. Not only that, but they're state-of-the-art Gillig hybrids, with nice interiors more reminiscent of a motor coach--ample amounts of plush seating, personal lights, etc. The following video, courtesy of punkrawker, demostrates the C-Tran express routes.
Not all busses in C-Tran's fleet are as nice; these vehicles are mainly found on the express routes.
MAX light rail, of course, is MAX. The Yellow Line generally uses newer trains, but the on-board amenities are spartan, and during rush hour, many of the trains are standing-room only. MAX generally doesn't get stuck in traffic (which can happen to the express busses), but the trains do stop fairly frequently, whereas the bus runs nonstop between Portland and Vancouver. In addition, some of the neighborhoods which the Yellow Line passes through (and the C-Tran express pass) by are the sort which some suburban ladies may prefer to avoid. I pass no judgment myself, of course, and it would be inaccurate to characterize the area as blighted (or worse)--but for those who live on in suburbia because they want to avoid interacting with others of different cultural backgrounds (ahem), a ride on the Yellow Line might be disconcerting. Like it or not, for many commuters, not having to mingle with those they consider undesirable is a key driver of their transport mode choice.
At any rate, if Anandakos' anecdote is true, it just goes to show that the social acceptability (and perceived safety) of a transit line has to do with many more factors than what sort of wheels are underneath it. The neighborhoods it calls on, and the amenities offered on board, have as much to do with it--even if one considers that steel wheels can enable a smoother ride than rubber tires on pothole-specked pavement.
[copyedited -- es]