Portland, Oregon, city commissioner Steve Novick is nothing if not verbose. Since his 2012 election, he’s used his publicly funded position to rail against DirectTV, driving around to look for a parking space, and–I’m not kidding–sitting in chairs. Rare indeed is the issue that the proudly progressive Commissioner Novick, a lifelong government employee, has yet to declaim upon.
Well, there is one. An audit released last week commissioned by the city of Portland found that public transit authorities have wildly inflated the ridership and on-time statistics for Portland’s streetcar. The Oregonian newspaper (which oddly called the infamously slow and shoddy streetcar service “renowned”) had the details:
The new findings show that estimated ridership hit 4.5 million from July 2013 through June 2014, 1.1 million less than the 5.6 million rides originally reported by Portland Streetcar Inc.
Auditors also found that Portland's claim of on-time service was flat-out wrong.
City goals call for streetcars to arrive on time 98 percent of the time, and officials stated that was happening. But in reality, streetcars arrived on schedule just 82 percent of the time, according to the audit.
Buried at the bottom of the article was this gem. “Commissioner Steve Novick, who oversees the Transportation Bureau, declined through an aide to comment on the audit.” (Later in the day, he did tell Oregon Public Radio that “improvements” to the streetcar were under way.) Novick’s city-sponsored blog, meanwhile, has been uncharacteristically silent since the audit was released–there hasn’t been one post since.
One would think that Commissioner Novick, a major devotee of streetcars, would want to weigh in. After all, streetcar projects nationwide are going through tribulations. Arlington, Virginia, for example, just cancelled its planned streetcar, and Cincinnati’s mayor recently said that the budget for streetcar in his city was “cooked.” I’ll grant that Novick is likely very busy fighting the great chair scourge, but he should take the time to defend the slow, expensive, and inconvenient form of “transportation” he has promoted for so long.