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City of Portland Audit of Portland Streetcar Operations

The City of Portland’s Auditor published a report on Portland Streetcar performance measures on Thursday December 11, 2014. A copy of the audit can be found here

The audit found issues with five of the fourteen performance measures used; most notably ridership information, cost per operating hour, and on-time performance reporting. Below is a brief summary of each finding with more context.

Ridership

Ridership figures for Portland Streetcar can be found online. For the past 13 years Portland Streetcar has partnered with TriMet to perform counts of riders on streetcar vehicles. TriMet uses the counts and calculates weekday, Saturday, and Sunday ridership from a sample. This methodology is typical for agencies that do not have automatic passenger counters. This fall, TriMet found an issue with how it was estimating ridership from the base sample for the past fiscal year; specifically it found that some streetcar trips were regularly being double counted and this lead to a sharp increase in ridership beginning in July 2013.

TriMet corrected the issue and the data posted online and shared with our partners is now correct. We apologize for the error. Importantly, as of December 2014 Portland Streetcar has added automatic passenger counters on its fleet. These new counters will provide excellent data in a more timely and accurate fashion moving forward. We look forward to sharing the results soon. Ridership on Portland Streetcar remains strong; having added over a half million trips in 2013/14 and continuing to exceed projections. With the opening of the Tilikum Crossing in September 2015, and the addition of thousands of housing units under construction along the alignment, ridership is expected to continue to increase.

Cost per Revenue/Operating Hour

Cost per Revenue/Operating Hour is a good way to evaluate how cost-effective a transit service is and can be used to make comparisons across systems and modes. Portland Streetcar operates at $162 per Revenue Hour. The original target for this metric is $160/hour. As reported in the audit, light rail operates at $188/hour and bus operates at $142/hour in Portland. This measure is calculated by dividing the total operating budget by the number of hours the system is in “revenue service” or customer operations. For the year in question for the audit (2011/12), Portland Streetcar’s annual operating budget was $5.9 million and it operated for 36,739 hours.

The audit reported that the National Transit Database reports Portland Streetcar operations at $323/hour for the same time period. While the audit does not state which number is accurate, only that they are different, several media outlets reported the $323/hour figure as our “actual” costs. That is not accurate. The figure in the NTD is incorrect and includes millions of dollars of costs that are not associated with streetcar operations. We have been working with our partner, TriMet, to identify and correct this mistake for several months now. We regret any confusion.

On–Time Performance

Early in 2014, Portland Streetcar changed its methodology for tracking how often vehicles were “on-time.” Previously, manually entered performance logs were used to track delays in the system. Today we use GPS and track on-time performance by time-point stop and by line. The average for on-time performance is 82% today. Busses operate at 79% on-time, and MAX light rail operates at 86% on-time. These figures are reported monthly to our Citizen Advisory Committee and Board of Directors.

The auditor agreed that the change in methodology made sense and used the new method to evaluate Streetcar’s performance over time. The data provided to our customers at platforms, in apps, and on the website predict arrival times with great accuracy and we encourage customers to continue to use those resources. Now, with the switch to using GPS to evaluate the entire system, we are able to better manage systematic issues such as the locations that have emerged as either being routinely delayed, or those where operators are routinely arriving early.

2015 should be a great year for Portland with the opening of the Tilikum Crossing and increased service across the system. We are also beginning the roll-out of a regional E-fare system with TriMet and have several other service improvements in the works. Portland Streetcar will be reporting back to the Auditor in one year and we look forward to demonstrating continued success toward achieving our targets.


 

Streetcar Fleet up to 17 Vehicles

On Friday, November 21, 2014, Portland Streetcar accepted shipment of its newest streetcar bringing the total fleet to seventeen streetcars. The apple green and purple car, now known as Car 026, will begin testing next week and should begin revenue service before the end of 2014. This is the 7th vehicle from Oregon based manufacturer United Streetcar; United Streetcar has produced and delivered 18 vehicles total for Portland, Washington, DC and Tucson, Arizona since 2009.

Car 026 Delivery

The 17th vehicle is essential for the upcoming Portland Streetcar operations beginning September 12, 2015 when the completed Central Loop will provide service across the Tilikum Crossing carrying passengers in both directions around the Central City of Portland and extending the high frequency service currently found on 10th & 11th on the west side south to Portland State University, RiverPlace and the new Collaborative Life Sciences Building.

Car 026 Delivery

The streetcar was shipped from United Streetcar’s Clackamas headquarters on Friday morning and crews used jacks to lower the car onto tracks in Portland’s maintenance facility on NW Northrup.


 

5th Streetcar Mobile Musicfest
A Rockin' Success!

Streetcar Mobile Musicfest

For the 5th time in four years, bands once again joined in on the Portland Streetcar evening commute. On Friday, October 10th, 11 local bands performed on board the North/South (NS) Line from the Portland State University Urban Plaza to NW 23rd and back. Bands included 3 time participants Boy and Bean, Fatha Green, Brakemouth, Old Friend, Novosti, PWRHAUS, Moniker, Chandler Strutz/Just Lions, Frizz, Fringe Class and Moongriffin & Bernstein. Ranging from experimental jazz to electronica, bands kept the streetcars rocking from 6:30-10:00 PM.

Boy and Bean

A favorite of both riders and bands, the Portland Streetcar Mobile Musicfest has begun to inspire other cities to launch a festival of their own This September in Minneapolis,, Metro Transit had musicians perform on their Green Line Light Rail for the Rail~Volution conference. In Tampa, Florida this week, the TECO Trolley is celebrating their 12th Anniversary of operations with a performance on board their streetcars. And in the Coachella Valley of California, SunLine Transit Agency is having the ‘111 MusicFest’ with live music on a bus line that runs from Palm Springs to Indio.

PWRHAUS On Board

Don’t worry if you missed out on the Streetcar Mobile Musicfest last week! Another event will be coming your way in 2015.

For more information, visit www.streetcarmobilemusicfest.org. To volunteer or submit your band for a future Streetcar Mobile Musicfest, email info@streetcarmobilemusicfest.org


 

Additional Streetcar service between Portland State, Oregon Health & Science University and the new Collaborative Life Sciences Building

Beginning Monday, September 29, 2014 Portland Streetcar will operate a “Shadow Train” between SW Lowell & Bond and SW 3rd & Harrison. This train will be an unscheduled streetcar that will operate between regularly scheduled North/South (NS) Line streetcars. The “Shadow Train” will provide a much needed connection for students and faculty travelling between Portland State University and the new Collaborative Life Sciences Building (CLSB) in South Waterfront. The additional streetcar will operate Monday–Friday during regular school hours throughout the school year.

To learn more about the CLSB, check out OHSU's video.