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Rail critics make another critical misstep

In the latest installment of his continuing series, Why I Hate PMLR, (Letters, Feb. 20) Jeff Molinari proves that TriMet cannot be financially sound by comparing the Portland metro area of 550 square miles with Manhattan’s 23 square miles. How can TriMet have enough riders to meet its expenses when potential riders are spread out over 550 square miles, Mr. Molinari argues.

However, the New York public rail system serves not only Manhattan but all five boroughs of New York City, an area 302 square miles. Even Staten Island has a passenger rail line. So, the Portland-Manhattan comparison makes little sense.

OK, Mr. Molinari might argue, the population density of that area is still much higher than the Portland metro area. True enough, so let’s look at another metro area that is widely spread out and has a passenger rail system: Los Angeles. The city of Los Angeles has an area of 469 square miles. The Metro rail system in LA recently extended to Culver City, so let’s add its five square miles to LA.

The next expansion of the LA Metro system is to Santa Monica (scheduled to open in 2015), so add its 16 square miles, too. We’re up to 490 square miles. That area is or will be served by served by 6 lines with more than 80 stations. These expansions of that system has been welcomed by the people of CulverCity and Santa Monica. As I noted in a letter to the Clackamas Review several months ago, the plan to extend the system into Santa Monica, a wealthy beachside city, has not generated a “Stop LA Creep” campaign.

If Mr. Molinari is arguing that it’s harder for a light-rail system serving the Portland metro area to meet its costs from rider fares alone than it is for a densely populated area like New York City, of course that’s true. But, I would like him to consider that it is nevertheless necessary to have a rail system alternative to all cars and buses, especially because of the projected large population growth in the Portland metro area.

David Gray is a resident of Oak Grove.



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