Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Is WES underpriced?

Over at Al's, commenter Erik H. (a TriMet user and frequent critic of the agency) makes an interesting point--WES may be underpriced.  A ride on WES from Wilsonville to Beaverton costs you $2.30 (less with a pass or a discount fare), and your ticket is a transfer good for the rest of the system.  Erik dug up the prices for similar length trips on other Western commuter railroads:

  • Sound Transit, from Seattle to Kent (~16 miles):  $3.50
  • CalTrain, from San Francisco to Burlingame (14.9 miles): $4.25
  • Metrolink, from LA to Norwalk (16.7 miles): $6.25 weekdays
  • Frontrunner (Utah Transit Authority), Salt Lake to Farmington (16.2 miles): $3-$5.
And in many of these cases, the commuter service is separate from local transit; your commuter rail ticket does NOT get you a ride on the local bus or train one you get off the commuter line.  Or vice versa.

Kudos to Erik for digging up these numbers:

It's also useful to compare longer rail trips--in the 30-50 mile range, in some of these metro areas.
  • A ride on Sound Transit from Seattle to Tacoma (30 miles) is $4.75, $4.50 from Seattle to Everett.  (The agency doesn't appear to run through trains between Everett and Tacoma).  (See here for details).
  • A four-zone pass on CalTrain, which will get you from SF to San Jose, is $7.75. 
  • A weekday ticket from LA to Irvine on Metrolink (about 42 miles) is $9.25
And... since Portland doesn't have any long-distance commuter rail to compare these fares to...


Part of the issue with WES, I think, is a bit of role confusion--is it commuter rail, or is it transit?  It tries to act like both; with a fare structure (and a corridor) appropriate for local mass transit, but the equipment and service more appropriate to commuter rail.  Likewise, a CalTrain like service, with CalTrain like prices (and without the long-haul amenities and cost structure of Amtrak) would probably be useful in Oregon.

1 comment:

  1. Taxpayers Pay $1800 Per Passenger on FrontRunner in Utah, UTA has lower the Fare for FrontRunner $2.00 then .50 more for each Station. Catmeow Public Transit:


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