The Most Important Rail Statistic You Will Ever See

By Bill Oakey – August 10, 2014

“In 1980, Cato Institute fellow Randal O’Toole says, the census reported that 9.8 percent of Portland area residents used transit (buses, at the time) to get to work. In 2012, 75 miles of rail transit later, that number had fallen to 7 percent.”

That is a direct quote from Ben Wear’s Austin American-Statesman article on Portland’s sprawling light rail system. This is a system that cost many billions of dollars over more than 30 years, with far more Federal and state cost sharing than Austin could ever hope to see.

And don’t forget one huge factor in that figure of 7% transit ridership as of 2012. It includes all public transit – buses as well as rail. There is much more to write about, talk about, and think about with regard to Austin’s proposed urban rail, as we look to the November bond election.

But for now, let me just say it one more time. Portland has built a massively expensive 75 mile rail system. The percentage of their population that uses mass transit, including both rail and buses fell from 9.8% to 7% between 1980 and 2012.

So there you have it.


5 thoughts on “The Most Important Rail Statistic You Will Ever See

  1. Linda Curtis

    Always helpful, Bill! carries Bill’s blog because we have many agreements on fiscal issues. We at have not yet endorsed in this election. We don’t even know IF we’re going to endorse in this election.
    The 10-1 voter revolt is a work in progress. We are urging your readers to get out and see for themselves and ask the candidates the questions. We’ve provided our own on the home page at under the video at the top of the page.
    Best to you Bill, and thank you for all you do.
    Linda Curtis,

  2. Love North Austin

    Gray Panthers and Love North Austin are hosting a Town Hall on Rail. We will have panelists to answer questions from the audience about the East Rail bond.

    Date: August 26th, Tuesday at 7pm


    Jim Skaggs -Cost – Austin
    Scott Morris – Our Rail
    Bill Oakey- Austin Affordability
    Requested Panelist – Project Connect (has not confirmed)

    Location: GAMA, 8801 Research Blvd (Just north of Ohlen and Research/183)

    You can email me at: info at lovenorthaustin dot com if you have any questions!!

    Mary Rudig

    Editor -North Austin Community Newsletter

  3. Dick

    Friday’s AAS “urban rail” story said officials expect 18,000 riders in 2030. Since most riders would board the rail twice per day, the actual number of rail users would be around 9,000. Also, the 18,000 number “…includes about 6,500 rides by people who don’t currently use transit…” The math is that 6,500 rides = 3,250 persons. Ergo (1) the supermajority of rail users will be migrants from buses, which will cut into Capital Metro’s business, and (2) the City is proposing to spend $1.4 billion on a system that serves less than 5,000 persons. Only in Austin could this be rationalized.

  4. Vincent May

    The infatuation with rail has already begun eating into CapMetro’s market share. The annual ridership was 39 million in the year 2000. It was 34 million in 2013. But the population has increased 20% since 2000. CapMetro should have 47 million riders this year just to break even. They have effectively lost 27% of their former market share because they began spending gobs of money on the Red Line in 2000 and their bus fleet has been gutted. The Highland Mall train will continue this disaster.


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