Making Democracy Work

Mass Transit in Marion and Polk Counties

A local League study during 2011-12.

Article I: A Short History of Mass Transit in Marion and Polk Counties (Parts 1 & 2)

Sandra Gangle, Mass Transit Committee Chair

In 1871 Salem's first known transit company was organized. It operated horse-drawn vehicles that conveyed people throughout the city "with safety and dispatch."

Later, in the fall of 1888, a group of businessmen proposed construction of a streetcar line in order to transport legislators, who would arrive the following January, between the train depot and the new State House and on into downtown Salem. The Salem Street Railway Company was subsequently established and one and one-half miles of track were quickly laid. By 1890 six streetcar routes stretched to the city limits over five miles of track. Two years later the railway was electrified and horses were no longer needed to pull the cars. Several new private companies operated the city-wide system. By 1900 twelve miles of track were in operation.

Unfortunately, the transit system's revenue from passenger fares failed to meet its operating expenses. Litigation and receiverships brought an end to the expansion of routes and services. Eventually, the streetcar system was abandoned. Street buses were purchased in 1927.

During the 1930s Salem's buses were operated by a subsidiary of the Greyhound Lines. Oregon Motor Stages of Portland was also involved. As years went by, the demand for bus service grew. Buses were available between 6:15 a.m. and midnight Monday through Saturday with limited Sunday service as well. During World War II even those people who owned automobiles rode the buses because gasoline and tires were restricted.

After the war, car ownership fIourished and fewer people relied on buses for transportation. In 1959 City Transit went bankrupt and its assets were sold to company employees. Then in 1966 a vote of the people led to the absorption of the transit service by the City of Salem. The name "Cherriots" was chosen as the result of a "Name the City Bus" contest. Several small companies continued to operate outside the City limits.

During the 1960s suburbanization moved more people to residential areas outside the city. Growth of public transit was slow. In 1976 the system had 22 buses, carried 3500 riders per weekday and 1200 riders on Saturday. The adult fare was thirty cents.

It became apparent that public transit needed to be a separate entity with its own funding and administration. It had to be able to go to the voters and present its needs without having to compete with other services for which the City of Salem was responsible. The 1979 Oregon Legislature passed Senate Bill 462, providing for the creation of local transit districts, each of which would have an outer boundary no greater than the city's Urban Growth Boundary. After several attempts to get public approval, the Salem Area Mass Transit District was formed. Then in 1981 Salem voters passed their first property tax levy for operation of the district's bus system.

Voters consistently approved budget levies for the bus system until 1994, when a levy failed. Fare increases had to be implemented and the free downtown service was eliminated. Also during the mid-1990s, the Measure 5 property tax limitation began causing financial problems for schools and other public agencies. In spite of those difficulties, however, in May of 1995 the voters passed, by a 57% margin, a $1.5 million levy to continue current bus operations. Then a ten-year financial plan was established with long-term goals regarding growth of the bus system.

Unfortunately, the Measure 47 Property Tax Limitation Cut and Cap, which was passed in 1996, and the amended version, Measure 50, made it impossible to meet many of the goals that were included in the District's ambitious ten-year plan. In spite of that setback, however, paratransit service for persons with disabilities became effective in 1997, as required by the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA was an unfunded mandate that put the entire cost of providing services for populations that could not be served by traditional transit onto the local agency; no state or federal monies were provided.  That impacted the transit district's 10-year plan. However, the district was able to meet its goals, and cover its ADA obligations as well, with the voter-approved funding for more than ten years. Eventually, however, some anticipated service improvements, such as Sunday service, had to be eliminated. That the service did last that long is a tribute to the professional management of the transit district and the public funding that supports it.

Growth of Cherriots Service Pursuant to Ten-Year Plan

1996 was a high point in the history of the Cherriots transit services. R.G. Andersen-Wyckoff, former Salem mayor, served as the District's General Manager. There was strong business and community support for transit services. An increase in the property tax base, to $5.9 million, was passed by the voters. The District Board implemented a Ten-Year Plan, which would allow a planned, effective, use of surplus revenues as the District continued to grow.

Under the Ten-Year Plan, corridor improvements and new bus services were added. Night service was implemented, with the last buses leaving downtown at 9:35 p.m. Approximately 2,000 new daily trips were added to the schedule. Twenty-four new employees were hired, increasing the workforce to 148. Bicycle racks were installed on all buses, making the Cherriots one of the first systems in the country to be accessible to commuters with bikes.

In 1997, the District set ridership records in every category: highest night ridership (1,897), highest single-day ridership (15,459); highest Saturday ridership (11,272), highest monthly ridership (349,346) and highest annual ridership (3,857,674). Growth in the third quarter (26.24%) was the highest of any transit district in the United States, as reported by the American Public Transit Association in its Passenger Transport magazine.

In 1998, eight new low-floor buses fueled by clean compressed natural gas were added to the fleet. Since that time, all new buses ordered have been fully accessible to disabled passengers. Also in 1998, the District began operating a park-and-ride shuttle service between the State Motor Pool and Capitol Mall.

In 1999, additional park-and-ride lots and routes were established on South Commercial and Market Streets. West Salem service was improved. The District's ridership passed the four million mark. Over 4,000 rides per month were provided to persons with disabilities through the CherryLift service. Students in Salem-Keizer's middle and high schools, as well as patients and workers at major hospitals and State institutions, were served by District buses.

In 2003, the Cherriots reached its all-time ridership record of five million passengers. The District's routes had expanded to cover the entire area within the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB). Curb-to-curb CherryLift service had become available, by appointment, to qualified persons with disabilities who were unable to use the fixed-route service within the UGB. The District had even stretched its routing beyond the UGB by operating Chemeketa Area Regional Transportation Service (CARTS) between Salem and Wilsonville, Woodburn, Silverton, Stayton, Dallas and Grand Ronde.

In 2004, the City of Salem and the Salem-Keizer Transit District conducted a Feasibility Study to consider the implementation of a streetcar system to facilitate short runs between the downtown shopping center and other heavily-trafficked areas, such as Salem Hospital, the Capitol Mall and Willamette University. Several possible routes were suggested for the proposed streetcar system. Due to the high projected cost of the proposal and the difficulty of choosing the initial route for the streetcar track, the proposal was tabled.

Courthouse Square

The dedication service for the $34 million Courthouse Square transit mall took place on September 29, 2000. Unfortunately, the transit mall began to exhibit cracks and signs of structural stress approximately two years later. Then, as the decade wore on, the building's structural problems increased and the defects became more widespread. The entire Courthouse Square facility was declared hazardous to persons and vehicles and was closed in 2010. The bus transit center returned to on-street locations surrounding the closed facility. Engineers and structural experts are currently working to determine whether the facility can be repaired or must be razed and rebuilt. In either case, the costs of renewal will be in the tens of millions of dollars.

Cherriots Now

Today the District provides fixed-route bus service on 24 routes from Monday through Friday. The fleet is environmentally healthy, as all buses run on compressed natural gas or biodiesel. Also, all buses are wheelchair accessible and all have bike racks.

One-third of the Cherriots' annual $23.5 million budget is funded by local property taxes. Approximately 11-15 percent of the budget comes from passenger fares and passes, while the remainder comes from a mix of federal, state and local subsidies and grants.  In recent years, however, due to the economy, revenues from the State of Oregon have been severely reduced, causing some services, including Saturday service, to be eliminated.   

The District put transit levies on the ballot in May of 2006, again in November of that year, and most recently in November of 2008, but none was successful.  A majority of those who voted approved the tax levy increase in May 2006, but it failed because at that time state law required a "double majority" (a majority of registered voters turning out to vote and a majority voting in favor of the measure) and the voter turnout was fewer than 50 percent of registered voters.  The double majority requirement was repealed by state voters in 2008.

Additional budgetary constraints have been caused by cutbacks in other financial resources as well. For instance, Willamette University used to provide subsidies for student bus passes, and the State of Oregon used to pay for employee passes; those subsidies have gradually disappeared. Also, the 2011 legislature cut the previous allowance for Salem-Keizer School District student bus passes.

Meanwhile, the demand for bus services in Marion and Polk Counties continues to grow. Many people have been adversely affected by the recent cutbacks in service, especially the loss of Saturday service. The District is working creatively to solve some of the problems that have arisen for those passengers. The District emphasizes customer service and provides training for riders, particularly new riders who need to learn how to use the system effectively. District staff also coordinates carpool and vanpool matching services.

The big question for the future is: How will the District be able to meet the ever-growing demand for its services in the light of diminishing revenues?

NOTE: This report was based on research done by Courlette Swenson and Clarence Pugh at the Salem Area Transit District as well as information gathered by Janet Adkins from the District website.

See also, the following video on YouTube: "Understanding the Gas Tax" It is an overview of vehicle fuel taxes in America, and their role in funding our transportation infrastructure. [© 2011 YouTube]

Article II: Boomers Need Transit Options

Sandra Gangle, Transit Study Chair

Baby Boomers + born between 1946 and 1964 + are approaching the age of retirement. And there are 77 million of them + the largest generation in American history! Boomers have grown up depending on the automobile. Beginning in their teens or early twenties, most of them commuted daily between their suburban residences and their workplaces, schools, shopping centers, healthcare services and leisure activity centers. Their automobiles have been an essential component of their lives, the symbol of their independence.

According to a recent study, "Aging In Place," the mobility of Boomers is going to change as they age. Inevitably, a large share of Boomers will find that their ability to navigate by driving their own vehicles will diminish or even disappear. Millions of older adults will need affordable transit alternatives in order to remain independent as long as possible. Absent such options, 79 percent of seniors are estimated to face isolation and loneliness because they live in car-dependent suburbs and rural communities. At the same time, many seniors will suffer a reduced quality of life due to health problems and possible economic hardship due to reduced income and higher medical expenses.

The "Aging in Place" study includes an analysis that was done by the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) on the adequacy of public transportation service in 241 metropolitan areas. The CNT considered the total number of public transit lines and stops that were available in each city, as well as the number of seniors over age 65 who would need to be served during the year 2015.

Two Oregon metropolitan areas were included in the CNT study + Salem/Keizer and Eugene/Springfield. Because of their similar population totals, the Oregon locales were treated as comparables in the study. The Salem area was found to be considerably behind Eugene in planning for the needs of seniors, however. The study found that 53 percent of Salem's seniors, or 26,440 persons, will have "poor transit access" in 2015, while only 39 percent of Eugene's seniors, or 19,140 persons, will have similar difficulty. In other words, Eugene has made better progress in improving access and is expected to have safer and more efficient transit options in place for its aging population than Oregon's capitol city will have just four years from now.

The study found further that federal aid accounts for only one-fifth of the dollars that are spent for public transit. That share, however, "does not begin to meet growing needs, particularly in these fiscally-constrained times for local and state governments." Therefore, at a time when the state and local governments are experiencing great financial strain, they are going to bear the additional burden of serving the growing senior-citizen population. Without increased investment from those communities, transit districts like Salem-Keizer's "will find themselves locked into inadequate systems that leave millions of seniors without options" for safe, adequate travel.

The study recommended that Congress increase its funding for public transportation, including buses, trains, van-pools and specialized transit services. The additional funding should assist local transit districts to engage in innovative practices, such as expanding and coordinating programs and services and using technology to make transit systems more efficient and user-friendly. Also, all communities should endorse a "complete streets" policy to ensure that streets and intersections around transit stops are safe and inviting for all persons, including the elderly and disabled.


"Aging in Place: Stuck Without Options: Fixing the Mobility Crisis Threatening the Baby Boom Generation" (Transportation For America, 2011)

Coughlin, Joseph, "Longevity, Lifestyle and Anticipating the New Demands of Aging on the Transportation System", Public Works Management & Policy, Volume 13, Number 4, 301-311(2009).

Article III: LWV Positions Related to Public Transit

Sources: LWVUS "Impact on Issues" and LWVOR "Issues for Action"

The National League of Women Voters (LWVUS) position titled "Meeting Basic Human Needs" supports equal opportunity for employment and housing as well as policies that provide transportation and other support services. The position states that "energy-efficient and environmentally sound transportation systems afford better access to housing and jobs." LWVUS has used this position since 1972 to support financing some of the costs of urban mass transit from the Highway Trust Fund. The LWVUS Air Quality position supports measures to reduce vehicular pollution and to develop alternate transportation systems. The League's positions on natural resources and climate change contain language supporting pollution control, energy conservation, and resource management.

The Oregon League (LWVOR) air quality position supports pollution abatement and education programs. The position supports shared responsibility for air pollution abatement practices and states that individuals should be willing to accept restrictions on their own activities with respect to automobile use. The LWVOR position on energy conservation includes support for efficient methods of energy use. The LWVOR land use position supports the 19 statewide planning goals, of which Goal 12 is: To provide and encourage a safe, convenient and economic transportation system. This goal requires local and regional transportation plans that avoid principal reliance on any one mode; conserve energy; and meet needs of the transportation disadvantaged. The LWVOR land use position also supports recognition of the interdependence of land use, transportation, and environmental quality in local comprehensive plans.

Article IV: Interview with Allan Pollock on October 27, 2011 (Parts 1 & 2)

The following is a summary of an interview with Allan Pollock, General Manager of Salem-Keizer Transit, (pictured at right) that was conducted by Janet Adkins and Sandra Gangle on October 27, 2011.

LWV: What are the major factors that affect public acceptance and use of public transit in this community?

Allan Pollock: There are misperceptions and ungrounded fears, especially by people who don't ride the bus. Some perceive public transit as only for those with special needs, elderly, and youth who don't drive. Others think buses are unsafe. Actually, public transit is one of the safest modes of transportation.

Some people expect that a bus won't go where and when they want to travel. Unfortunately, people who believe buses can't serve their needs tend to be reluctant to support the costs of additional routes and greater frequency of service that would address their needs.

LWV: What are your budgetary concerns for the continuation of current Cherriots services (including CARTS and CherryLifts) over the next two-to-five years?

Pollock: Local funding from property tax revenue presents a conundrum. Property market values are falling, but tax revenues are increasing because assessments have not kept up with market values due to the three-percent-limitations of Measure 5. If other ballot measures come up and are approved, we could face compression due to property tax limitation. We do expect to see property tax revenue flatten or perhaps reduce in the out years.

More important is the unknown about federal funding and reauthorization of the multi-year federal highway and transit bills. These will have more effect on CARTS, which is funded by federal Rural Transportation funds and some Elderly and Disabled Transit funds, with a local match ($1 million) from Special Transportation Funds (STF).

We have also lost state funding from BETC (state Business Energy Tax Credit). Current state sources include two cents of the current cigarette tax (a declining fund), "lawnmower fund" + estimated portion of the gas tax used in lawnmowers and tractors (non-highway uses), and a portion of the DMV ID card fee that non-drivers can get.

Our only lottery funding comes through Connect Oregon funding for capital projects. Connect Oregon I, II, and III were each $100 million statewide (competitive grant program). Connect Oregon IV from last session is just $40 million. Salem-Keizer Transit did receive grants from Connect II (Keizer Station) and Connect III (Rickreall Park and Ride at Polk Co. Fairgrounds).

The state does pay local transit districts in the form of "in lieu of payroll tax" payments based on the number of state employees within the district (even though Salem's local revenue is property tax, not payroll tax based). Salem receives more than Lane Transit District or Tri-Met because we have more state employees. This is an important and reliable source of revenue for the district.

The Governor's Office is convening a work group, the Non-Roadway Transportation Infrastructure Work Group, and I will be on it; its first meeting is next month. The point I will make to the work group is that the state needs to provide a dedicated funding source for operations.

Meanwhile, we expect to be able to maintain current services. If cuts become necessary, route frequency would be the first area to look at reducing, but no routes would be eliminated unless necessary. There would be a public process as part of any service reduction.

Sixty percent of rides are work related. The biggest factor in ridership increase is gas prices. When gas went above $4 per gallon in 2008 we had a nice rise in ridership.

Growth in ridership won't affect capital costs but will affect operating costs. We can add "trippers" pretty easily and quickly to handle increased demand if the financial resources are there. Adding a new driver requires a 6-week training period.

By law CherryLift service cannot be cut.

LWV: What are your concerns about the recent news that WHEELS is terminating its transport service? How will such action affect the Cherriots?

Pollock: October 31 was WHEELS' last day. This program was run by Oregon Housing and Associated Services for seniors and people with disabilities, providing work transportation for 140 clients. We can cover a portion of their clients (about 105) who are not severely disabled (we do not provide door-to-door service) and who reside within the UGB.

LWV: What other local funding sources have been considered in Salem-Keizer and what are the pros and cons of these options?

Pollock: Payroll tax, which businesses pay. The payroll tax is Lane Transit District and Tri-Met's major local revenue source. Payroll tax is volatile, and the changing economy has affected their revenue stream. People compare us to Eugene and the services they have + comparable sized communities + but they have 2 ½ times more locally generated revenue. We get $9 million in property tax and they get over $20 million in payroll tax. When our district was formed, we were put in a separate subsection of the ORS, so a vote of the people would be required to institute a payroll tax here; it was voted on in the 1990s and was defeated. Another difference: Lane Transit District and Tri-Met have appointed board members and ours are directly elected.

The Salem Area Chamber of Commerce is supportive of Cherriots but does not support a payroll tax. If we did go for a payroll tax we should never give up the property tax. If it came to that, I would recommend that the payroll tax supplement the property tax, thereby minimizing the impact to businesses, who also pay property tax.

We have not pursued Systems Development Charges. They would not be a significant source of revenue and could not be used for operations.

Lots of transit districts in the U.S. use sales taxes as part of their revenue; that is not an option here, as Oregonians do not support sales taxes.

Other states' transit districts get a portion of their states' gas tax. Oregon's constitution limits use of the gas tax to roads; we need a constitutional amendment. One penny of the gas tax could have a significant positive impact for Oregon's transit districts; we could probably add Saturday and maybe even Sunday service.

The local Transit Occupancy Tax is for promoting tourism. There is not much money there, and we don't get any. However, a portion could be used to purchase a downtown circulator trolley.

The last property tax vote was in 2008. Keizer Chamber supported it. Salem Chamber was neutral. At that time we were seeking more money to provide the same service + a hard sell with the public. When the ballot measure was defeated, we had to cut Saturday service.

LWV: What do you think will be the impact of the Courthouse Square repair/ reconstruction project on financing of the Cherriots system?

Pollock: The biggest impact is public sentiment + some want us to fix it and others don't. The transit mall portion is our responsibility. Estimated cost is $5 + 10 million. If the Transit District can't get federal money, we can't fix it. Our only available money is our ending fund balance and we put $1 million aside at the end of the last fiscal year. We would have to cut services to pay to repair or rebuild out of current budget. We can't borrow money; by law we have to pay back loans within a year or go out to a vote of the people to pursue a bond. We paid cash (mostly federal money) for our share of the transit mall and do not owe anything on the current transit structure. Marion County still owes $10 + 15 million, however, on the building.

I believe Federal authorities understand that we were not at fault, We depended on experts and the people who design and inspect construction projects. We have kept feds informed throughout. I don't believe we are the only transit district in the country that has ever had construction problems.

LWV: Do you expect the demand for Cherriots services to grow? If so, why?

Pollock: Sixty percent (60%) of rides on Cherriots buses are work-related. One of the biggest factors in increasing or decreasing ridership is the price of gasoline. When gas went above $4 per gallon in 2008, we had a nice rise in ridership.

Last year we lost the BETC (Oregon Business Energy Tax Credit) funds that had been paying for student bus passes. This year we are seeing a drop in the number of students using Cherriots after school. We are not likely to get those funds back. We probably won't get the State employees' bus passes back either.

LWV: Does the District keep track of private, school, or government programs that give bus vouchers for clients or patrons?

Pollock: Cherriots staff was at all school registrations this fall to talk to parents and kids and sell passes. Students are eligible for discounted monthly passes. We didn't sell a lot, but we gave out information and will monitor over the first few months of school. The School District does buy some passes for students in non-traditional programs, such as early college, also for students with disabilities.

The State does buy some passes for needy clients. Some State agencies buy in bulk and sell them pre-tax to employees. We are not aware of any businesses that pay fully for bus passes. Some allow employees to buy passes with pre-tax dollars.

LWV: How will growth affect the need for additional capital expenditures and/or additional operations costs?

Pollock: Growth in ridership won't affect our capital costs, but it will affect operating costs. We can add "trippers" (additional runs to supplement service on a particular route) pretty easily and quickly to handle an increased demand. Seventy-five percent (75%) of our operating expense is labor. Adding a new driver requires a six-week training period.

LWV: What efficiency factors are commonly used to compare transit systems and how does our transit system rate?

Pollock: We submit statistics to a national database (a summary of its comparisons is reported in Cherriots' annual budget document). We compare favorably over all + we might look better in one area and less so in another. One measure that is useful is number of passengers carried per hour of service. That varies from 15 to 50 passengers per hour. Typically the corridor routes (15 minutes between buses) range between 40 to 50 passengers per hour and neighborhood circulators in the 15 to 20 passengers per hour of service. We can also keep statistics on our ridership numbers by route.

LWV: Do you have any opinion about the feasibility of implementing a streetcar system? What would you foresee as the advantages and disadvantages of such a service?

Pollock: If you mean streetcars with steel wheels and on tracks, I question whether we are big enough. I'm not sure it makes sense for Salem right now. Streetcars could be justified as an economic development engine. Even if we could get the federal government to pay for them to be installed, we would have to provide the operating revenue; that would be an issue. Would we need a separate tax just for streetcars?

In response to a follow-up question regarding a possible river crossing alignment for streetcars above the pedestrian bridge: I would think an alignment across the existing Marion Street Bridge would make more sense than going above the pedestrian bridge.  It could connect with a route along Edgewater.

LWV: Do you have thoughts about service using a trolley?

Pollock: A trolley is really a bus-type vehicle. The issue with a trolley is that we would be adding stops downtown and that's difficult to do. We don't have many downtown stops now. The buses mostly run between downtown and outside locations, not in a circular pattern around downtown.

The Transit Occupancy Tax, which is a local tax, is for promoting tourism. There's not much money there and the Transit District doesn't get any of it now. But maybe some of that could go for a trolley.

LWV: What is the process for getting public input and working with the city regarding dangerous traffic/pedestrian conditions at bus stops? (The League's "Let's Ride the Cherriots" participants noted a problem at the Del Webb transfer stop, on the way to Kroc Center; passengers had to cross the street mid-block in order to change buses and there were no sidewalks on either side of the street. A person with impaired vision was especially uncomfortable crossing the street under those conditions).

Pollock: We have discussed the Del Webb stop. It is an unusual location. We place stops at the far side of intersections so that people can get to their transfer stop more easily. We also want the bus stop to be located where people want to get off. Sometimes, it's difficult to meet all the competing needs.

Some older stops are unsafe for wheelchair access because there is no sidewalk. We could pay for a new bus stop, but if other improvements are needed (such as constructing the sidewalk), those are up to the City. Any new stops or improvements to stops have to meet ADA accessibility standards.

LWV: How is CARTS (Chemeketa Area Regional Transportation System) funded; what authority does the S-K Transit Board have regarding CARTS; and is there a citizen's advisory committee of any kind involved with CARTS?T

Pollock: CARTS is funded by Federal Rural Transportation 5310 Funds. Some federal funding comes for Elderly and Disabled Transit. A local match can come from Special Transportation Funds (STF). We contract for the CARTS service. It costs $1 million a year.

The Cherriots Board (Salem-Keizer Transit Board) has responsibility for CARTS policy. An STF Advisory Committee advises the Cherriots Board on the distribution of special transportation fund revenues. We also have two other committees, one in Marion County and one in Polk County, that advise/work with staff on operational-type issues. These committees are designed to represent the communities on service plans, routes, schedules, etc.

The ADA applies differently to CARTS, which is a service that is mainly for commuters. CARTS flexes its routes to pick someone up upon request.

Outlying communities that are served by CARTS are not paying anything for CARTS through their property taxes. That would help. Some of the routes are circular within specific communities. It seems as if there could be some support from property taxes in those communities.

LWV: How is Cherriots staff or your Board involved in regional and local land use planning and decisions? At what point is Transit District input sought or given regarding the effect of a development proposal on the transit system? In your opinion, how well does this work, and do you have suggestions for improving your role or the process?

Pollock: Transit planners work with City transportation planners. At the time of requests for building permits they get input from us. The permit application then becomes a Planning Commission issue and transit issues may or may not get addressed appropriately by the developer.

Kroc Center is good example of how we can help work out the stop configuration during development by collaborating with planners. It's not often the case that we get such opportunity. We do work with local jurisdictions. Some developers talk to us. We also work with other city staff and bike and pedestrian people. We can pay for a bus stop, but the rest is up to the city + sidewalks, crosswalks, other configurations. The School District has not involved us in conversations about their planning.

LWV: What are your thoughts on the recommendations in the River Crossing Alternate Modes Study?

Pollock: There are some good ideas there. I will look them over again and get back to you. Most of them need the support of other jurisdictions or additional funding.

LWV: Are there any other questions we should have asked you?

Pollock: Questions we ask ourselves, such as:

  • How do we show the benefits of transit to non-riders, non-users of the system?
  • Who is our customer? Riders, taxpayers, businesses, agencies?
  • How do we determine what people want? For instance, we may think Wi-Fi on the buses is a good idea, when people really want cleaner buses or something different. Good surveys or other rider feedback is important to help us make good decisions about new services.

Article V: Cherriots RideShare and Valley VanPool

Roxanne Daniel, RideShare and Outreach Coordinator, Cherriots Staff

Cherriots RideShare is a transportation options program managed by Salem-Keizer Transit. The goal of the program is to promote transportation options as an alternative to the single-occupant automobile, thereby reducing vehicle miles traveled, growth in parking demand, traffic congestion, energy consumption, and auto emissions. The program serves commuters with origins or destinations in Marion, Polk and Yamhill Counties.

Cherriots Rideshare partners with other RideShare agencies or programs in the region to jointly operate the Valley VanPool program. Now in its seventh year of operation, there are 33 vanpools and two commuter buses allied with the Valley VanPool region; the vans are comprised of both public and private commuter groups. Of the 33 vans, 18 are actively engaged in the Valley VanPool program.

There are four vans that have participated since the beginning of the program, three vans with 5 + years, with the other vans operating anywhere from 3 years to several which are new as of this fiscal year. The participating vanpools operate either 9 passenger or 15 passenger vans, offering flexibility as ridership grows.

The Valley VanPool partners are engaged in continual efforts to retain and recruit participants for vanpools throughout the region. The addition or modification of routes is evaluated on an as needed basis with drivers and assistance from the vanpool leasing companies which also receive direct inquiries from commuters. Valley Vanpool serves commuter groups by working on parking issues, addressing concerns from business and handling feedback from the public. The following routes have one or more vanpools being supported by these efforts:

Albany - Salem (2) private vans

Corvallis - Eugene

Corvallis - Monmouth - Sheridan

Corvallis - Newport

Corvallis - Salem (4)

Eugene - Corvallis (2)

Eugene - Salem (5) 4 vans, 1 bus

Lebanon - Sheridan

Portland - Salem (6) 5 vans (2 private), 1 bus

Salem - Eugene

Salem + Portland (11) private or participating thru another agency

The most accurate information remains with the vanpool routes under subsidy agreement. The National Transit Database (NTD) reports required for all vans in the subsidy program provide complete and accurate information with regard to rosters and travel data. Through Federal funds received (as a result of the NTD reporting) Salem Keizer Transit is able to offer a locally controlled subsidy program for the vans coming into the region.

Vanpool Yearly Average Statistics


Number of Vans in Cherriots Rideshare-----------------------13

Average Total Number of Participants (PT and FT per month)-----94

Average Daily Ridership (per 9 passenger van)-----------------5

Average Daily Ridership (per 5 passenger van)----------------8.3

Average Trip Length-------------------------------------51 miles

Yearly Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMTs) Saved------------------5,655,000

Yearly Vehicle Miles Traveled Saved (per participant)----------5,872

Yearly Passenger Trips Reduced (per participant)-------------159

Yearly Gallons of Fuel Saved------------------------------282,750

Total Yearly Fuel Cost Savings to participants (gallons x $3.75)--$1,060,030

Overall Savings to Society (Total Yearly VMP x $.56/mi.)--------$3,166,800

Valley VanPool Subsidy Program

Valley VanPool promotes and provides support for vanpools in the regions served by Point2point Solutions at Lane Transit District, Cascades West Council of Governments, and Cherriots Rideshare/Salem-Keizer Transit District. Each vanpool will be assigned to one of the Valley VanPool partners, hereafter called the sponsoring Valley VanPool partner. This assignment is determined by the vanpool's destination city or (in some cases) county.

In addition to assisting in the formation and ongoing support of vanpools, Valley VanPool also provides a monthly subsidy to help offset the lease cost of the van.

Subsidy Eligibility Requirements

  • Vanpools must be for commute trips with an origin or destination of Lane, Lincoln, Linn, Benton, Polk, Marion, or Yamhill counties (origin or destination must be within Lane Transit District or Salem Area Mass Transit District service areas).

  • The van may not be operated for profit by the driver or other members.

  • Vans must be leased from one of Valley VanPool's approved third-party providers (Enterprise Rideshare or VPSI, Inc.) Vanpool drivers are free to choose vanpool provider, van type, and amenities.

  • Vanpools must display Valley VanPool program contact information (as provided by Valley VanPool) on the exterior of the van.

  • Unused van seats must be made available to the public.

  • The flat rate subsidy amount (Table 1) is based upon van size and mileage. At no time may the subsidy exceed 50% of the van's monthly lease cost.

Table 1:

One-Way Miles------7-Passenger Van------9-, 12-, 15-Passenger Van




  • The signed lease agreement between the third-party vanpool provider and the vanpool driver must be completed and on file by the 15th of the month to initiate the vanpool's subsidy program the following month.

  • Regular vanpool members must register in the commuter database with the sponsoring Valley VanPool partner within 30 days of joining the vanpool.

Ongoing Requirements

Requirements for maintaining enrollment in Valley VanPool's subsidy program are:

  • The vanpool must maintain a minimum average of 50% paid members. If the minimum membership requirements cannot be maintained for three consecutive months, the subsidy will be reviewed and may be reduced or eliminated. Valley VanPool can assist in recruiting new members to fill seat vacancies.

  • Completion of monthly ridership reports by the 5th business day of the month. Fill-in forms will be provided and should be returned promptly to the third-party vanpool provider.

  • The vanpool driver (or designated organizer) must inform the sponsoring Valley VanPool partner when there are permanent route changes, schedule changes, roster changes, operating updates, seats available, and changes in driver contact information.

  • Completion of occasional surveys or other information as requested by Valley VanPool.

  • To discourage frequent changes of providers, a vanpool group may not change providers more than once in a six month period without forfeiting the vanpool subsidy. Exceptions to this include when ridership dictates that a different size van is needed, or in the event of service issues.

Subsidy is provided at the discretion of Valley VanPool depending on the availability of funding and/or eligibility of the van.

Article VI: Transit Funding Issues

Janet Adkins, Transit Study Committee Member

Funding Sources for Salem-Keizer Transit

The Cherriots' annual $23.5 million general fund budget (1) is financed by a combination of federal, state, and local revenue. Local revenues include the fares paid by passengers. The basic fare is $1.50 per trip with discounts for seniors, youth, and various pass programs. Other locally-generated revenues derive from property taxes and small sources such as advertising and are used for operations and for the local match necessary to receive federal funds. The current property tax rate for the transit district is $0.76 per thousand, which amounts to $152 on a home assessed at $200,000.

State revenues that derive from a dedicated two cents of the state cigarette tax (2) and from DMV identification card fees are directed by State law to rural transit and to transportation services for the elderly and persons with disabilities. State funds also support a portion of general operations through payments to Salem and other transit districts known as "in-lieu of payroll tax" payments.

These "in-lieu" payments are based on the number of state employees in a district. The state also funds several grant programs using lottery revenues for capital projects, such as transfer centers.

Federal funds are mainly derived from a portion of the federal gasoline tax and are used mainly for buses, infrastructure, and rural-small city transportation. In 2009 Cherriots received $5 million in federal stimulus funds, 90 percent of which had to be used for capital improvements. The money was used to buy new clean-fuel buses and accessible vans and upcoming construction of the Keizer Transit Center. Little federal transit aid can be used for operations. The local challenge is balancing affordable fares and property taxes with increasing demand for services and a federal mandate under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to provide costly paratransit services. (Note: Information on the ADA and its benefits and costs will be included in the next Focus.)

The following chart shows the percentages of the District's budget that derive from each of the identified revenue sources:

Revenue Source for S-K Transit ----- Percent of District's Overall 2011-12 Budget (3)

Local property taxes----------------------------34 %

Federal funds------------------------------------19

State in-lieu of payroll tax payments----------15

Other state grants-------------------------------15

Fares and passes--------------------------------10

State - Business Energy Tax Program----------4

State - Connect Oregon Grant (4)---------------2

Other local sources-------------------------------1

Often "farebox recovery" rates are given as the percent of operating costs covered by fares. The ten percent figure for fares in the table above is a percentage of the entire budget, not just the operating portion. As a percent of operating costs, fares cover 12 - 15 percent.

Funds through the Oregon Business Energy Tax Credit (BETC) Program were available for the past several years but were eliminated by the 2011 Legislature. The $900,000 annual income to Cherriots from BETC paid for most of the transit district's free bus pass program for high school and middle school students. This free program for students was eliminated for the 2011-12 school year.

Two other sources of revenue were eliminated in recent years. The State of Oregon used to purchase Cherriots bus passes for State employees and to pay for shuttle service between the Airport Road park and ride and the Capitol Mall area, but that $500,000 annual payment ended in 2009. Willamette University and the city of Salem also eliminated their bus pass programs at a combined loss of $100,000 per year.

The combined loss of BETC funds and the three bus pass programs totals $1.5 million per year and are reflected in this fiscal year's $23.5 million budget.

Property Tax History

Salem-Keizer Transit District was formed in 1979 to secure a funding base. It operated with individual bond levies until 1986, when its first property tax base ($1.5 million) was approved by voters. More recent measures and results are indicated below:

1993 - Payroll tax measure defeated (by 2 to 1 vote)

1994 - Property tax base increase defeated

1995 - Property tax levy passed

1996 - Property tax base increase to $5.9 million approved (district extended services)

2006 - May and November Elections: Property tax levies defeated (5) (district reduced services)

2008 - November Election: Property tax levy defeated (district reduced services)

2009 Service Reductions

Following defeat of the 2008 tax levy, Salem-Keizer Transit worked with public and interest groups on a major system redesign in order to improve efficiency and maintain operations within their predicted revenues. The result was elimination of all Saturday service (regular route and Cherry Lift (paratransit)) and changes to nearly all routes in the system. Some routes were cut back substantially; others became High Frequency Corridors with increased service during peak travel times. The redesigned routes and schedules took effect in September of 2009.

Community Transit Task Force

The Salem-Keizer Community Transit Task Force (CTTF) began meeting in 2009 after voters failed to approve the Cherriot's 2008 transit tax levy. The Task Force was co-chaired by Dan Clem, Salem City Councilor, and Kate Tarter, S-K Transit Board member. Membership included representatives of the community, businesses, and transit users. The Task Force met for two years so its members could obtain a thorough understanding of system services and funding challenges. They considered a range of service improvements with their associated costs. For example, the return of Saturday service was estimated at an annual cost of $1.74 million for hourly and $3.17 million for half-hourly service. The Task Force report to the Transit Board concluded that: the district's finances are solid and stable; changes in service made in 2009 are working; ridership is increasing; area workers and employers depend on the transit system; and that return of Saturday service is a priority. (6)

Task Force recommendations summary (June 2011):

  • Do not seek voter approval for an operating levy to expand service until economic conditions improve

  • Provide press releases, guest opinions, and letters to editors to indicate the district's recent successes and strategic plan

  • Create a work plan to improve outreach, education, and community partnerships

  • Hold a series of Town Hall meetings with Board involvement to gather ideas from the community on how to add new service and garner support for a property tax levy

  • Create a Citizens Advisory Committee to be a community voice to the Board

  • Consider list of customer service improvements

  • Place CTTF on hiatus and reconvene as needed or requested by the Board

Funding in Other Oregon Transit Districts

Like Salem-Keizer Transit, other public transit districts in Oregon are funded through a combination of federal, state, and local revenue sources. The sources of local revenue across the state, however, are quite varied. Several systems (Portland, Wilsonville, and Lane County) rely on payroll taxes instead of property taxes. (7) Tri-Met's payroll tax rate is .6918 percent ($6.92 per $1,000) of the annual wages paid by an employer. Lane's is .67 percent and the City of Wilsonville's is .5 percent. Corvallis charges a Transit Operations Fee instead of either payroll or property taxes. This fee, adopted by the City Council in 2010, is charged like a utility fee to residents and businesses within the city.

The $2.75 per residence monthly fee is expected to generate $850,000 a year. Bend and Albany have municipal transit systems that are roughly one-third funded by city general funds. Bend city voters defeated a 2008 local ballot measure to form a transit district with property tax support. Rogue Valley Transit partially supports its operations with a small property tax rate. Portland, Eugene, and Corvallis receive some of their transit funding from university purchase or partial subsidization of passes for students and staff.

In Corvallis and Wilsonville, riders on routes within the district are not charged fares. The level of fares in other districts varies.

Local funding sources vary considerably in how stable they are and how difficult they are to enact or increase. Property taxes tend to be stable but are limited, and operating levies require voter approval. Payroll taxes tend to rise with wage inflation over time and therefore may not require rate increases, but they are variable in response to the ups and downs of business cycles. A payroll tax would require a local vote or state legislation to enact in Salem. Fares can be changed by a transit district but need to be kept affordable to attract optimal ridership and maintain revenues.

Additional Funding Sources in Other States

Funding for local public transit systems in some states includes a portion of the state's gas tax or vehicle registration fee. These particular revenue sources are not available for transit in Oregon due to an express state Constitutional limitation on the spending of vehicle-related taxes. Under this provision, (8) revenue from the state gas tax (9) and vehicle registration fees is dedicated to use on roads, streets, highways and rest areas.

Sales taxes are another significant source of funding for public transit in other states that are not available to Oregon districts due to our lack of a sales tax.

Funding Outlook

Federal funding for highway and transit programs, including all formula and grant programs, are determined every four to six years in a major transportation authorization bill. Actual spending within these federal programs depends on the annual budget process and departmental appropriations bills. In November 2011 Congress passed the annual appropriations bill for the U.S. Department of Transportation for Fiscal Year 2012 and maintained most transit funding programs with the notable exception of high-speed rail funding. A long+term reauthorization bill, (10) however, has not been agreed to. The current authorization bill was passed in 2005 and expired in 2009. It has been carried forward by temporary extensions.

The major concern of both highway and transit advocates is that current levels of federal transportation spending are not sustainable even into 2013 without additional revenues. It has been necessary in the last few years for Congress to supplement the Highway Fund with general fund dollars. The federal gas tax (18.4 cents per gallon) was last increased in 1993 and is considered a flat or declining revenue source due to: inflation; improved gas mileage of cars; and reduced driving in recent years. Of the 18.4 cents, 2.86 cents goes into the Mass Transit Account, which funds roughly 15 percent of mass transit nationally, and the remainder goes into the Highway Fund (as do all federal fuel taxes and fees on heavy trucks).

At the state level, competition for funding will likely increase due to serious ongoing budget shortfalls, as evidenced by recent revenue forecasts. Governor Kitzhaber is convening a Non-Roadway Transportation Infrastructure Work Group to discuss funding options. Transit districts will be represented and are expected to promote a reliable dedicated funding source for transit. (11)

Local Salem-Keizer transit funding, mainly from property taxes, has been maintained even though market values for property have declined significantly. The reduced market values remain higher than assessed values because assessed values have been limited to a three percent increase per year since passage of property tax limitation measures in the 1990s. Property tax collections would decline in the future if additional other government taxes are assessed and the total general (i.e. not education) tax for a piece of property exceeds the $10 per $1,000 (of Real Market Value) limit set by those measures + a situation known as compression.

Salem-Keizer Transit faces future costs related to their partial ownership of the Courthouse Square building. (Note: Information on Courthouse Square will be included in a future Focus article)

The Question of Subsidies

For policymakers, the rationale for subsidizing transit is generally twofold: (1) public benefits go beyond those who use transit services and (2) many transit users, especially those with physical limitations, lack transportation alternatives and/or the resources to pay the full costs of a local system. The public realizes benefits to the extent that congestion, pollution, or fuel consumption is reduced. Public spending is also reduced to the extent that a well-used and well-run transit system reduces demand for additional road building or parking facilities.

Harder-to-quantify benefits include the measure of independence, employability, activity, and health that safe and efficient transportation alternatives may give to certain populations. (12) Some individuals who are unable to arrange travel to work, training, court appointments, or health facilities will require additional social services and possibly criminal justice services as a consequence. If transit subsidies prevent these public costs, they could make long-term economic sense. (Note: a future article in the Focus will include information on the effects of service limitations on vulnerable populations.)

Those who oppose subsidies for transit (or the current levels or types of subsidies) make a number of arguments. The CATO Institute (a free-market, limited-government think tank) and the Cascade Policy Institute (13) urge a return to private, flexible, market-based transit and suggest that low-income individuals could be subsidized directly as needed through a voucher system. CATO argues especially against federal subsidies that it thinks encourage waste by helping to pay for expensive systems, like light rail, which ridership alone does not justify and that require raising of substantial local matching funds. (14) (15)

Advocates for such projects, and the local and federal elected officials who support them, point to economic and community development aspects of such projects, as well as transportation benefits. (16) They also consider the projects as long-range investments to benefit the community.

The debate over transit subsidies, of course, is not isolated. Advocates representing either view attempt to compare costs, subsidies, and benefits. Cost-to-benefit comparisons for transportation investments quickly become complicated, especially between modes. Separate funding streams add to the difficulty. As the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) noted in 2004: (17)

Separations between federal programs and funds give state, regional, and local agencies little incentive to systematically compare the trade-offs between investing in different transportation alternatives to meet passenger and freight travel needs because funding can be tied to certain programs or types of projects. In addition, the modal structure of federal programs gives rise to advocacy for specific modes or investments.

Highway advocates often stress that road users pay for the costs of our nation's road system. Road users do pay substantial costs for the construction and maintenance of highways through federal and state gas taxes, state vehicle fees, tolls, and truck fuel taxes/fees. A portion of these revenues is also shared with city and county governments for use on their roads. But there are also general-public subsidies for roads and auto travel that are seldom recognized, including a number of direct and indirect costs:

Direct Public Costs

  • Local property taxes and local general funds that are used for roads. (Note: a small portion of local street miles are also used by transit systems, which could be considered a subsidy for transit.)

  • Local and state expenditures on highway patrol

  • Public cost to build and maintain parking facilities

  • Public costs of highway accidents

Indirect or Social Costs

  • Effects of air and water pollution

  • Effects of sprawl including loss of farmland

  • Value of time spent in traffic


1 Cherriots Adopted 2011-12 Budget:

2 Currently $1.18 per pack

3 Cherriots Adopted 2011-12 Budget

4 Connect Oregon is a competitive lottery bond grant program for non-highway4 transportation projects that was funded at $100 million a biennium beginning in 2005. 2011-13 funding was reduced to $40 million statewide. Salem-Keizer received grant approval from Connect Oregon in 2008 ($2.5 million) for Keizer Station and in 2010 ($243,000) for the Rickreal Park and Ride lot at the Polk County Fairgrounds (opened in October 2011).

5 At the time of the May 2006 vote, state law required measures voted on at other than a November General Election to have a majority voter turnout as well as a majority of votes cast in order to pass. At the May election, the measure received a majority of votes cast, but the turnout was less than a majority of voters, so the measure failed. (Note: this "double majority" requirement was repealed by state voters in 2008.) At the November transit levy election in 2006, the measure did not receive a majority of votes.

6 From Dan Clem testimony to Transit Board June 23, 2011

7 For information on Tri-Met and Lane payroll taxes see this Oregon Department of Revenue website:

8 Article 9 Section 3a, Oregon Constitution

9 Oregon's gas tax is currently 30 cents per gallon

10 Public Law 109-59, known as the Safe, Accountable, Flexible and Efficient Transportation Equity Act (SAFETEA)

11 Interview with Allan Pollock, Salem-Keizer Transit General Manager - LWC-MPC 10/27/2011

12 See this American Public Transportation Association site for reports on varied transit benefits:


14 O'Toole, Randall. CATO Institute (2006). A Desire Named Streetcar: How Federal Subsidies Encourage Wasteful Local Transit Systems.

15 O'Toole, Randal. Testimony before U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Housing, Transportation and Community Development. July 7, 2009.

16 Center for Transportation Excellence. Responding to Randal O'Toole's "A Desire Named Streetcar.

17 GAO Expert panel report on benefits and costs of highway and transit investments (2004)

Article VII: Public Transit in Polk County

Jean Sherbeck, Transit Committee Member

Polk County is served by two public transit systems + Cherriots and Chemeketa Area Regional Transportation System (CARTS) in rural Polk County. Cherriots serves West Salem and one route (2X), between Salem and Spirit Mountain Casino in Grand Ronde. (1) CARTS routes serve Dallas, Monmouth, and Independence, with one stop in West Salem after leaving the Salem Transit Mall. (2)

In fiscal year 2010 - 2011, CARTS provided 68,893 rides in Polk County and 49,989 in Marion County. This report will focus on the transit system for Polk County excluding West Salem.

CARTS Fixed, Express and Flex Routes in Polk County: Fixed Route 40 travels from Salem to Dallas, then to Monmouth, Independence and back to the Transit Mall. Express Route 50 runs twice a day between Dallas and Salem, its trips timed for commuters. Flex routes spend a set amount of time in each of the three Polk County cities picking up riders by reservation at regular stops or requested locations and delivering them within the same city or in another city on the circular route. Flex routes, which served over 16,000 Polk County rides in 2010 + 2011, do not go into Salem.

Management and funding: CARTS service is managed by Salem-Keizer Transit and operated by a contractor, MV Transportation. Salem-Keizer Transit does the planning for CARTS, hires the operator-contractor, and administers grants and allotments that are distributed through ODOT. Of last fiscal year's total CARTS funding of over one million dollars, twenty percent ($222,176) came from passenger fares. Federal and state grants and allotments provide the remaining eighty percent. Federal Section 5310 funds are for elderly and disabled users; Section 5311 provides for rural transportation systems. Where matching funds are required by federal grants, state funds are used. The two largest state sources are the Special Transportation Fund (STF) and the Special Transportation Operating Fund (STO), both for transportation for seniors and people with disabilities. Mona West of Cherriots reports that she submits sixteen different applications through ODOT for state and federal funding for CARTS. Each fund has different regulations and objectives + some are used for capital projects, others for operations, some for both uses. There is no local property tax funding for CARTS, although it is an allowable possibility for cities and counties.

Services Provided: CARTS buses are equipped with wheelchair lifts and bicycle racks. Wheeelchair users need to be able to get to the curb for both the scheduled and Flex routes. Any rider who lives within ¾ mile of a regularly scheduled route (which amounts to just about anywhere in the three cities) can be served by the Flex route with a reservation made the day prior. Flex routes also connect riders with the regularly scheduled CARTS buses.

Unmet Needs for Service: Bus service in Polk County is infrequent and inconvenient. Neither Cherriots nor CARTS offers service on weekends, or CARTS in the evening. The last run departs Salem for Polk County at 6:05 p.m. It is a barrier for job seekers to find jobs, get retraining, or upgrade their employment with such limited transit options. Potential riders cannot get to evening or weekend social and entertainment events, shopping, and restaurants.

Transit-dependent Chemeketa Community College students from rural Polk County are limited to daytime classes, as are Western Oregon University students. The last outbound trip from WOU departs at 5:30 p.m. There are no services available for agricultural and cannery workers.

Geoff Heatherington, Polk County Mental Health Manager, stated in an interview that clients on Medicaid Plus (Oregon Health Plan for children and people with disabilities) are eligible for Trip Link service, which is provided by private contractors for medical appointments only. People on standard Medicaid need to find their own transportation. Mr. Heatherington also voiced a concern that disabled clients, in group homes, for instance, are unable to attend social or other events on weekends and evenings due to lack of transportation at those times. He also observed that poor and disabled clients in distant parts of the county, such as Falls City, Grand Ronde, and Willamina, have no or very inconvenient transportation options. Even weekly service by CARTS to those locations would be helpful to bring people to Dallas for their appointments and other activities. (Incidentally, there are other transportation options in Polk County to bring residents to medical appointments, including a West Valley Hospital service, which does have a distance limitation.)

Fares: CARTS one-way fares are $2.00 for adults and $1.25 for youth (6-18), seniors (60+), and disabled. Monthly passes are $55.00 and $35.00 respectively. CARTS riders who need to transfer to a Cherriots bus must pay the Cherriots fare. It is possible for Polk County CARTS riders to transfer to other CARTS buses at the Transit Mall without paying an additional fare. Two Marion County CARTS routes stop at the Chemeketa Community College campus.

Advisory groups: There is a Polk County Transportation Advisory Committee for CARTS operations that meets quarterly. Another group is the state-mandated Special Transportation Fund (STF) Advisory Committee for Polk County. That group recommends projects to fund, reviews and coordinates planning, and reports to the Salem Area Mass Transit District Board (Cherriots' Board) of Directors. It consists of nine members chosen to represent in a balanced way the needs of seniors and people with disabilities, people in areas with no public transportation, providers of services to seniors and disabled, and transit-dependent people.


(1) Spirit Mountain Casino subsidizes this route, which coincides with the employees' shifts. There are two stops between Grand Ronde and Salem, at Rickreall Park and Ride located at the Polk County Fairgrounds, and West Salem Safeway on Edgewater Road.

(2) CARTS also operates in Marion County, with routes going between Salem and Woodburn, Gervais and Brooks; Silverton and Mt. Angel; and a southeast loop linking Turner, Aumsville, Sublimity, Stayton, Mehama, Lyons, Mill City and Gates.

Article VIII: SKATS Regional Transportation Plan (2011)

Sandra Gangle, Transit Study Chair

The Salem-Keizer Area Transportation Study (SKATS) is the designated Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) [1] for the Salem urbanized area. The SKATS Policy Committee, whose representatives include the cities of Salem, Keizer and Turner, Marion and Polk Counties, Oregon Department of Transportation, Salem-Keizer School District and Salem-Keizer Transit District, submitted a draft Regional Transportation Systems Plan on May 24, 2011. The Plan is intended to guide the region's investments in transportation infrastructure -- road systems, bicycle routes, public transit and traffic signal control systems -- from 2011-2035.

Goals, Policies and Expected Outcomes

The overall goal of the SKATS Regional Transportation Systems Plan is to plan and implement regional investments in an efficient and cost-effective manner and in compliance with all applicable federal [2], state [3] and local [4] regulations. Once the Regional Plan has been finally adopted, all local transportation systems plans will be required to be consistent with it throughout the relevant period.

The policies which have guided the Plan are known as the "7C's": Continuing, Consistent, Coordinated, Comprehensive, Cooperative, Coherent and Cost-effective. In pursuit of those policies, the drafters designed a set of common objectives for principled decision-making that they believe will result in "seamless" transportation development across the region and avoid inefficient transportation patterns and conditions. Among those objectives are:

  • Minimize fatalities, injuries and collisions;

  • Provide a Multi-Modal System to decrease congestion and reduce pollutants; and

  • Protect the environment, including air and water and endangered species.

The Plan also recognizes that federal law (SAFETEA-LU) requires the regional Plan to address the following considerations:

  • Financial constraint [5],

  • Environmental impacts,

  • Socioeconomic impacts [6],

  • Equity [7],

  • Multimodal systems [8], and

  • Energy consumption.

The Plan includes the following as desired outcomes for an effective system:

  • Able to meet the region's accessibility [9] needs for the next 20 years; Multimodal and comprehensive, moving goods and people by the mode of their choice;

  • Designed with the safety of all users in mind;

  • Equitable for all users [10]; and

  • Efficient to use.[11]

Public Transit Issues Identified

The Plan states that the current fixed-route system of Cherriots carries an estimated cost over the next 25 years of $870 million. The Plan anticipates a deficit of $234 million (27% of the needed amount), however, and states that the Transit District will be forced to do one or more of the following to continue to provide existing services:

  • increase fees,

  • pass an increase in the property tax base,

  • find additional funding streams (none are specifically proposed), or

  • reduce services further than they have already been reduced.

The Plan acknowledges that the Cherry-Lift demand-response service is consuming an increasing amount of the Cherriots' operating budget although Cherry-Lift ridership is only a fraction of the total Cherriots' ridership. The Plan also recognizes that ballot-box failures in recent years have resulted in service cuts. It concludes,"Additional sources of stable, or at least counter-cyclical, funding are necessary to allow the Transit District to provide the level of service required to provide the residents of Salem-Keizer an option in their travel." (Plan, p. 4-15)

Other Deficiencies of the Current System

The Plan acknowledges that several deficiencies in the current transportation system impede the efficient movement of people and goods around and through the Salem-Keizer area and limit the mode selection choices for travelers. The deficiencies include:

  • traffic congestion from bottlenecks, incidents and bad weather;

  • increasing population (projected to be 283,104 in 2020 and 333,696 in 2035) and employment in Salem-Keizer, which will lead to further increases in vehicular traffic, thereby increasing the traffic congestion, especially in the afternoon commute hours;

  • gaps in the system for modes of safe pedestrian and bicycle travel caused by incomplete networks of sidewalks and bicycle routes;

  • gaps in the transit system, such as the reduction of services and loss of some routes after the tax-levy defeat of 2008; (see #) and

  • gaps in the adequacy of some roads and sidewalks to meet current standards.

# The Plan drafters state affirmatively that SKATS will collaborate with the Transit District, the local jurisdictions, the State of Oregon and federal partners to "seek, identify, evaluate and recommend appropriate new funding sources for funding operations." (Plan, p. 5-5)

New and Continuing Projects Recommended by SKATS

The Plan identifies 39 transportation projects and programs for development in the region during the initial five-year period (2012-2017) that the Plan's policies will be in effect. The first 18 proposals involve new road and bridge construction, totaling $69 million. The Minto-Brown pedestrian bridge and a West Salem pedestrian path are included, but they are inexpensive compared to the other projects.

Two new construction projects will benefit Salem-Keizer Transit program, as follows:

  • Keizer Transit Center Construction Completion ($3.5 million)

  • Enhanced bus shelters, improving ADA accessibility to stops along River Road North, Broadway, Market and Center Streets and improvement of signage ($775,000).

In addition, four Cherriots programs that are already in operation will be continued, and there is provision for replacement of some old buses. (The combined cost of those programs is $5.1 million, including the new buses.) The programs that will be extended are:

  • the Regional Rideshare Program (known as Vanpools),

  • the Demand Management Program,

  • New Freedom Formula Program for people with disabilities,

  • Job Access Reverse Commute program [12], and

  • Preventive Maintenance and Mobility Management (travel-training) Program.

The complete list of projects may be seen at:

There is no clear explanation on the website as to how the planners concluded that the designated projects met the criteria set forth in SAFETEA-LU, especially the law's requirements of positive socio-economic impacts and social equity, or how they are projected to fulfill SKATS' desired outcomes for an effective system, especially accessibility, equity and efficiency of services to the whole Salem-Keizer community.


1 Areas with a population of 50,000 are required to have an MPO to ensure that federal funds are allocated in compliance with the "7C" process defined within. Areas with a population exceeding 200,000 are required to meet additional responsibilities.

2 These include: Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA), Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, 1998 (TEA), and Safe, Accountable, Fair Efficient Transportation Equity Act- Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU)

3 These include the Oregon Land Use Planning Goals, Oregon Benchmarks and Oregon Transportation Plan.

4 These include the Salem-Keizer Transit's coordinated plan known as SAMTD Specialized Transportation Plan and Strategic Plan (2010).

5 All approved projects must have identifiable funding sources that are known to be available.

6 This category includes safety and health issues and preserving integrity of neighborhoods.

7 This category includes availability of various levels of service to meet social needs, comparability of service utilizations and equality of access to job opportunities and destinations through various forms of transportation. It also includes certain intangible factors such as value to the community and value to the individual.

8 Coordination of transportation routes and services for pedestrians, bicycle riders, transit users and motorized vehicle users.

9 Accessibility is defined as "the ability to reach goods and services" which is "essential for a person to meet many of life's requirements, such as going to shop, to work, or to recreate."

10 Equitable is defined as "that the benefits and burdens of the transportation system are not disproportionately distributed, but are equally spread in the region."

11 This is defined as "provides the greatest benefits to the users of the system with projects that are cost appropriate."

12 Section 5316 funds, in the amount of $250,000 for FY 2011-12, have been given to Cherriots to provide access to jobs and job training for welfare-to-work participants, including those who need to get to jobs in the opposite direction of the normal commute pattern.

Article IX: Measuring and Valuing Transit Benefits and Non-benefits

The following excerpts are quoted verbatim from Report 20 of the Transit Cooperative Research Program sponsored by The Federal Transit Administration.

A variety of circumstances have converged in recent years which call for new, more effective means of evaluating investment and expenditures in basic public services . . .[especially] in the transportation sector. . . . . .

Several influences have fostered this interest:

  • . . . [T]he Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA) calls for a shift away from independent planning and investment for separate highway, transit, and rail systems, toward development of an integrated, multimodal system of services and facilities. . . .

  • . . .[T]he Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 (CAAA) call for . . . direct linkage between actions required to improve the nation's air quality and the actions taken to enhance personal mobility and access.

  • . . . [T]he Americans with Disabilities Act of 1991 (ADA) alters the calculus by which transit investments are to be prioritized and carried out. . . . . .

  • Government deficits and budget constraints at all levels continue to call into question the priorities for public investment generally. . . .

  • Debate continues over the relevance, importance, and impact of alternative transportation investments and strategies, with much of the debate centered on the comparative effects and consequences of transit and highway investment. . . . . .

[T]ransit benefits are traditionally understated when the merits of investment alternatives are weighed, resulting in understated estimates of transit cost-benefit and cost-effectiveness. This shortcoming is magnified because of the added uncertainties in measuring transit benefits over the long term. As a result, incomplete and imprecise estimates of long-term benefits are typically evaluated against short-term costs, further distorting cost-benefit and cost-effectiveness analyses applied to transit. . . . . . Inadequate attention is commonly paid to the comparative impacts of continued reliance on automobile-oriented investments and improvements. . . . [H]ighway projects and improvements may have cumulative consequences that are undesirable and unsustainable, while what appear to be questionable individual transit investments in the short term may be invaluable to the region over the long term. . . . . .

A Quality of Life Orientation

. . . . .[T]he new starting point for assessing transit benefits and disbenefits is the improvement in one's quality of life, i.e., an attempt to make operational one of the most frequently referred-to "intangible" benefits of transit.1 . . . . .

Transit is increasingly perceived as a service that directly and indirectly influences how effectively the community achieves its broad goals.

Public transportation services and the rationales for investing in public transportation continue to evolve. Viewed in broad terms, transportation investment decisions made at the federal, state, and local levels have tended to support consistently the notion that the benefits of increased availability of and use of transit outweigh the disbenefits.

The ability to measure the magnitude of transit's benefits and disbenefits, however, remains uneven and incomplete. . . . Nonetheless, public transit has become inextricably linked to the pursuit of an improved quality of life whose major dimensions are economic growth and prosperity, enhanced environmental quality, and improved personal safety and security. The mobility and access provided by various transit services tends to enable progress on each of these fundamental fronts.

Techniques for assessing the economic impacts of transit investment and use are not as well developed as techniques for assessing other related transit and transportation impacts.

The ability to measure the environmental and safety impacts of transit is far more advanced than the ability to assess transit's broad-based, community-wide economic impacts. Similarly, the ability to forecast short-term impacts of alternative transportation investments is far greater than the ability to forecast long-term effects. In addition, more precise analytical procedures are available to assess the impacts of repair and rehabilitation of existing infrastructure than are available to assess the impacts of expanding the capacity of infrastructure, where the question of alternative courses of action are more complex. . . .

There are promising approaches emerging with varying levels of sophistication that can improve the assessment of transit's long-term, region-wide economic impacts.

. . . . . Among the most useful are

  • Emerging sketch-planning and spreadsheet models that are driven by the outputs of widely available, traditional transportation demand and cost models.

  • Integrated transportation and economic models.

. . . . . The results of these analyses include annual and cumulative projections of population, employment, business sales, personal income, and government revenues and expenditures. These projections, in turn, allow estimates to be made of the dollar return to the regional and state economy for each dollar invested in the transit alternative being examined. In Philadelphia, the analysis indicated that the economic return to the region and the state would be over $9 for every dollar spent to fully rehabilitate and continue to operate the existing SEPTA system. Similar conclusions with somewhat smaller dollar-for-dollar returns were reached in the Chicago RTA analysis. To date, however, no comparable analyses have been carried out to assess the long-term economic impacts of major expansions to urban transit systems, or of major transit improvements in new urban areas.

The use of evolving multimodal spreadsheet models is best suited for communities and regions where transit plays a comparatively smaller role in serving regional travel needs, and where transit service is largely provided by bus and similar on-street shared-ride services.

The spreadsheet approach to analyzing transit's economic impact in smaller, less transit-intense urban areas without fixed-guideway systems recognizes the facts that: (a) in these areas the economic consequences of transit investment may be subordinate to the social consequences; and (b) a significantly higher proportion of transit's economic benefits will flow from changes in user costs rather than from nonuser impacts on the economy as a whole. . . . . .

Article X: How Does ADA Affect Services of the Cherriots Bus System?

Report of the LWVMPC Transit Study + Financial Issues Sub-Committee

The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal anti-discrimination law that mandates local transit districts meet certain standards and provide specific services1 for persons who show medical verification of a qualifying disability.2 The regulations adopted pursuant to the law require that paratransit3 services be available within three-quarters of a mile on both sides of all routes served by the fixed-route public transit service.

In the Salem-Keizer Transit District paratransit service is provided by Cherry-Lift vehicles, which pick up and deliver qualified individuals on a pre-reserved curb-to-curb basis everywhere within the Urban Growth Boundary. The ADA is essentially an "unfunded mandate." The federal government provides only minimal federal funding (about one percent of the cost of paratransit) to assist the provider with meeting the law's requirements.

Since all Cherriots buses are wheelchair-accessible, many ADA-qualified persons can board and use regular buses. However, some persons with disabilities may be unable to board and use regular buses because of an inaccessible bus stop at their boarding point or destination. For instance, the stop may have a gravel base, may lack a sidewalk access or may be located on a steep hill or at too great a distance for the disabled person to access safely on foot or in his/her wheelchair. Some riders may be eligible for paratransit because of emotional or cognitive disabilities.

Cherriots staff provides training for people with mental or physical disabilities to help them learn to board and use the regular buses. Training can be scheduled individually or for a group. The Cherriots' web page has a helpful link for Customer Service to arrange the training.

Challenges Resulting in Part from ADA Requirements:

Funding/Budget Issues: There is a significant cost to the Transit District for providing paratransit in compliance with the ADA. Cherry-Lift costs $4.5 million, approximately twenty percent of the total District budget, and provides 110,000-120,000 rides (about one percent of all rides). In contrast, fixed-route service on Cherriots buses costs $19-20 million and provides 4.2 million rides per year.

Cost vs. Fare Revenue: Every Cherry-Lift ride costs the District about $30 ($60 round-trip) because it is individually-arranged and provided. The passenger pays a $3 fare each way. In contrast, a single Cherriots bus ride costs the District $3.75-$4.00 ($7.50-$8.00 round-trip) while the passenger fare is $1.50 each way (60 cents for seniors) and is free if the rider is eligible for Cherry-Lift service. This cost/revenue difference is a large issue for the District.

Effect of Tax Levy Failure: Most of the District's budget is dependent on local property taxes. When a levy failed in 2008, the District had to find a way to meet its increasing expenses with less revenue. If service were to continue on a Monday-through-Saturday basis, the District would have had to make drastic reductions in routing and frequency of regular buses because the ADA requires that paratransit service be provided on all days when the fixed-route service is available. Therefore, the District Board concluded it could only operate Cherriots and Cherry-Lift five days each week in order to meet its budget without violating the ADA. It curtailed all Saturday service, redesigned some Cherriots routes, and eliminated a few others.

Bus Stop Issues: Some bus stops are not ADA-accessible. Some streets lack sidewalks or are on hilly terrain. As a result, some ADA-eligible riders who could otherwise ride the fixed-route buses must use the more expensive Cherry-Lift service. If more of the stops and sidewalks were accessible, fewer disabled people would need Cherry-Lifts. The City of Salem, not Cherriots, is responsible for sidewalks.

Cherriots Staff Seeks to Meet Community Needs Despite Decreased Funding:

There are 31 Cherry-Lift vans in service. The service is reservation-based and cannot discriminate or prioritize trips based on the riders' purposes; a medical trip and a trip to the hairdresser must be treated equally. For efficiency, program staff tries to schedule group trips for ADA-qualified people needing to reach similar destinations.

Educating customers is a high priority of the Transit District. Staff trainers assist disabled riders and their attendants with travel training so more of them can ride the less-costly fixed-route buses. Staff works closely with group homes to arrange group trips. Other strategies for arranging group travel are being considered in order to better use the dwindling resources.

Coordinated planning is needed when new buildings or commercial complexes are developed. Kroc Center and Salem 50+ Center were designed with Cherriots input. They both have safe, efficient access/egress routes for regular buses and paratransit vehicles.

Further Cuts May Not Be Avoided Without New Financial Resources:

Funding for Cherriots, including ADA-required paratransit, is diminishing while the demand for all transit services is growing. Baby-Boomers (those people born between 1946 and 1964) are reaching retirement age and may choose to ride buses for financial reasons as the cost of automobile use continues to increase. Some may become eligible for paratransit, due to health issues. →→→ Additional funding sources will be needed to restore the services that have already been cut and to meet growing demands for efficient and reliable service for all transit users.

Oregon Transit Association, an organization comprised of businesses, transit agencies and non-profits, plans to submit a bill to the 2013 Legislature seeking new State funding for transit, including paratransit. Various options, including lottery funds, payroll or property tax levies, or dedicated funding for disabled persons, may be considered. Congress has passed a temporary extension of the SAFETEA-LU transportation funding bill for 2012. Whether or not permanent federal funding is approved by Congress will likely depend on how much public support there is for mass transit.


1 42 U.S.C. Sec. 12143 provides in pertinent part: "It shall be considered discrimination . . . for a public entity which operates a fixed route system (other than . . . solely commuter bus service) to fail to provide with respect to the operations of its fixed route system, . . . paratransit . . . to individuals with disabilities, including individuals who use wheelchairs . . . comparable to the level of . . . services provided to individuals without disabilities using such system."

2 The definition of "disability", in 42 U.S.C. Sec. 12102, is as follows in pertinent part: . . . (1)(A) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual; . . . . [and] shall be construed in favor of broad coverage. . ."

3 As defined in the regulations, "Paratransit" means "comparable transportation service . . . for individuals with disabilities who are unable to use fixed route transportation systems."

Transit Study Financial Issues Subcommittee:

Sandra Gangle and Janet Adkins prepared this article, based on an interview with Allan Pollock, General Manager, Salem-Keizer Transit District, and District staff.

Article XI: Streetcars in Salem--An Option for the Future

By LWVMPC Transit Study Streetcar Sub-Committee

Streetcars (1) on tracks are part of Salem's heritage. The Capitol City Railway Company installed the first electric-powered streetcar lines in 1890. By the early 20th century, an extensive network of popular and profitable streetcars stretched to the four corners of Salem.

Many of the same community principles that fueled the development of early streetcar lines are applicable today. Salem residents need efficient and affordable public transportation options to safely and conveniently access their workplaces, shopping, medical, educational and leisure facilities.

The Cherriots and City of Salem commissioned a feasibility study of streetcars in downtown Salem in 2004. The consultant issued a final report entitled "Central Salem Streetcar Feasibility Study" in 2005. (2) The study summarized the attributes of streetcar systems, looked at streetcars that have been implemented in similar-sized cities, analyzed potential routes in downtown Salem, and estimated costs. Those findings are included in this article along with an update of economic and social changes that have occurred in the past decade and that directly affect transportation problems and the streetcar option. Also included are potential routes that could serve current and future community needs at less cost than previously estimated.

STREETCAR FINDINGS: The consultant's report was premised on Salem-Keizer's socio-economic condition in 2005 and the growth that was anticipated at that time. The consultant determined that a streetcar system could enhance the Cherriots system in the downtown area in providing effective and efficient transit, because of the following attributes:

● Streetcars are proven to attract 15-50 percent more riders than buses.

● Streetcars are trusted because passengers can see where the tracks lead on any route.

● Streetcars are an effective means of connecting with other high-capacity transit systems, such as inter-city buses and trains, allowing seamless regional transportation, reducing reliance on automobiles and reducing traffic congestion.

● Streetcars are most effective in densely-populated, pedestrian-oriented urban neighborhoods with mixed uses. They interface effectively with neighborhood feeder buses to provide a smooth connected way to move people from one area to another.

● Streetcars attract private funding and urban renewal funding. They have the potential to promote infill and high-density residential development. (3) Streetcar track adds value to business and residential properties along the route.

● Streetcars are electric, non-polluting and safe.

● Streetcars are popular with tourists, visitors and convention participants.

RIDERSHIP FINDINGS: The consultant's report found that streetcars usually enhance the ridership totals of a transit system, for the following reasons:

● Streetcars help build all-day usage, rather than rush-hour worker usage only, as long as the intensity and mix of land uses in an area served by mass transit is great.

● Streetcar service can be more frequent than buses, so regular commuter use tends to grow. Streetcars traveling at 10-15 minute intervals over a one- to two-mile route have shown the greatest success in attracting riders.

● Effective connectivity with a broad network of buses and trains makes streetcar use a dependable alternative to automobile use, reducing traffic congestion and amount of parking space required.

● Clear, accurate signage, maps, and time schedules make a streetcar system user-friendly.

● A starter line can be installed initially with incremental sections added based on need and availability of funding. Rubber-tired trolleys could provide a temporary transition.(4)

ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL CHANGES: A number of important changes have occurred over the past decade, many of which intensify the need for transit solutions:

Population Growth: The 2010 Census shows that Marion County's population grew by 10.7 percent and Polk County's by 20.9 percent since 2000. West Salem, in Polk County, is the most rapidly-growing residential area of Salem. Traffic, especially from West Salem and on Lancaster Drive during morning, noon and evening rush hours, approaches gridlock. Twelve thousand people per day drive into Salem from outside the city in order to work. (5) Daily attendance at Chemeketa Community College as of December 2011 is 18,394. (6)

Economic Changes: A dramatic change in the world's economy, beginning in 2007, has impacted the Salem economy. Salem's average income decreased, the result of layoffs in business and government agencies and plant closures. Real estate values and financial investments have plummeted. Gasoline has nearly doubled in price. Insurance costs have risen. Many two-car families can no longer afford their second car. Some families cannot afford any car.

Baby-Boomers, An Aging Population: Persons born between 1946 and 1964 are a huge demographic group approaching retirement age. Many in the Boomer generation drive less now than in the past for environmental, health and economic reasons. They would use an attractive alternative choice to conduct their daily travel.

Housing: Development of city-center housing and condominiums, projected to flourish before the real estate market tumbled in 2008, have not achieved the anticipated build-out. Residential housing areas remain outside the central core area. Business and residential development (YWCA, Salem Cinema, Broadway Commons) has been active on North Broadway.

Rail Bridge Refurbishment: The rail bridge across the Willamette River has been successfully converted to use as a pedestrian bridge leading from West Salem to downtown Salem. The steel bridge is of heavy-duty construction that could support an upper level for tracks and streetcars that could transport passengers over the river. Alternatively, it could be possible to put tracks on the Marion Street Bridge to align with Edgewater Street, but State ownership of the bridge and rules would likely make this plan cost prohibitive and complicated.

Convention Center: Salem's Convention Center opened downtown in 2005. The facility accommodates large groups of people for conferences and other events. Nearby parking is limited.

Annual Legislative Sessions: Beginning in 2011 the Oregon Legislature conducts annual, instead of biennial, sessions. Parking for the vehicles of workers + legislative staff, lobbyists, media representatives and visitors + is very limited on Capitol Mall.

Bus Ridership Shows Current Needs: Transit riders now seek to move from place to place for shopping, work, health care and education purposes. Connectivity between neighborhood routes and arterials, as well as frequency of service, are critical for maximum benefit. Service is needed seven days a week during hours that serve the needs of workers, employers and consumers.

Busiest Routes Illustrate Growing Need: Cherriots records for 2010 show that bus ridership was highest on routes leading to/from Chemeketa Community College on Lancaster Drive, on Center and Market Streets, on River Road to/from Keizer, and on Commercial Street to/from South Salem. The combined ridership on those routes was more than two million rides, one-half the total ridership for all 25 Cherriots routes within the Salem Urban Growth Boundary.

Connectivity to Other Cities Has been Enhanced by CARTS: CARTS buses now travel to locations outside Salem, including Silverton, Stayton and Dallas. Ridership on those routes in fiscal 2010-11 exceeded 62,000. A commuter line to/from Wilsonville is popular with those who live and/or work north of Salem. Riders are able to access further means of travel to Portland, if needed.

Intermodality Study: A 2010 study commissioned by City of Salem and Transit District stressed need for creative solutions to the congestion problem on Marion and Center St. bridges, largely from single-passenger vehicles with local destinations. (7)

Streetcar Manufacturer in Oregon: United Streetcar, located in Clackamas, Oregon, has been building streetcars for the Portland streetcar system.

Low-Cost Energy Source: Salem Electric in West Salem provides electricity at low cost.


● The City of Portland streetcar system has been extended and ridership steadily increases.

● The 1.7-mile streetcar-loop in Kenosha, Wisconsin, was built at lowest cost - $5 million. In its first year of operation, it carried 67,600 passengers.

● Little Rock, AR, constructed its 2.5 mile streetcar route across the Arkansas River Bridge at a $20 million cost and serves two cities that border the river.

● Tampa, FL, constructed a 2.4-mile streetcar line at a cost of $32 million. Additional high-tech maintenance facility and property purchase raised the total cost to $56 million. Its ridership is 950-1,250 per day.

● Tacoma, WA, constructed a successful streetcar line as a link with the Sounder Commuter Rail, which connects Tacoma with downtown Seattle.

● Other cities, including Tucson, AZ, Charlotte, NC, Cincinnati, OH, and Salt Lake City, UT, announced in 2010 that they had received sufficient funding, including federal TIGER grant moneys, to begin implementing streetcar systems.


● Lancaster Drive and Chemeketa Community College: There are several centers of high passenger use (shopping malls, Chemeketa Community College, Kaiser Permanente medical clinic, McKay High School, Salem-Keizer School District offices) along this wide, straight route.

● Keizer: Broadway and River Road North pass many businesses, apartment/condominium complexes and professional offices. This route would reduce traffic congestion on the main northernmost thoroughfare of the city.

● South Salem: The Commercial and Liberty couplet between South Salem and downtown passes many apartments, businesses and professional offices, the Civic Center and Salem Library.

● West Salem Connector Utilizing the Railroad Bridge: An alignment from West Salem over one of the existing highway bridges or the pedestrian rail bridge would provide a means of reaching downtown, the Capitol Mall and the bus transit center. One concept is to place track on top of the steel trusses and construct a "fly-over" bridge above the railroad track and Front Street onto Union Street. A West Salem connector could reduce automobile traffic on the Marion and Center Street bridges and reduce the urgency for construction of a third bridge.

● Downtown: A downtown alignment would provide efficient service to the Capitol Mall and downtown core; however, construction costs would tend to be higher than other routes.

● Incremental Implementation: Wherever the community chooses to implement a streetcar system, a one- to two-mile single-track route could be appropriate as an initial segment. Growth could occur on an as-needed basis and as funding became available.


Streetcars are fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Floor level boarding platforms make access/ egress easy for wheelchair users. Mobility devices are not required inside the vehicle. Bikes ride inside the streetcar, secured in racks.


Construction costs vary considerably, depending on right-of-way issues, underground utilities, complicated street surface, and cost of the equipment chosen.  Salem's Feasibility Study of 2005 used construction cost estimates ranging from $55 to $61 million (roughly $15 million per mile of track).  Those figures are no longer relevant as they reflected difficulties in laying track in downtown Salem.  In the past few years construction costs ranged widely, from $5 million per mile (Kenosha, WI) to over $20 million per mile (Portland, OR).  Salem should be in the range of Little Rock at $8 million per mile because of minimal below-street infrastructure on Lancaster, Commercial, Market and Center Streets (Salem's most heavily travelled corridors). A new feasibility study would, of course, be required to determine the actual cost to lay tracks on those or other streets.


The issue of implementing a streetcar system in Salem is controversial. Some of the arguments supporting and opposing such a plan are as follows:


● Streetcar routes linking residential areas with workplaces, colleges and other high-traffic destinations are popular with riders and will attract commuters and other regular users.

● Streetcars can reduce automobile congestion.

● Streetcars would improve the public's perception of, and support for, mass transit as an integrated system.

● Implementation can be delayed until adequate funding sources are identified and the Transit District's current financial constraints are improved. New technologies may become available at less cost, especially regarding alternative power sources and engineering design.


● The cost of implementation requires grant assistance for initial construction and a community commitment to support the streetcar's operation until the system achieves full potential.

● Salem's ridership potential is not as high as that of the Portland Streetcar. Because streetcars run on tracks, their routes, once chosen, are less adjustable than bus routes.

This article was prepared by League members Robert Krebs, Britta Franz, Anna Penk and Sandra Gangle. It was edited by Janet Adkins and Sandra Gangle.


(1) Throughout this report, "streetcar" means an electric-powered transit vehicle operated on tracks, usually on major city streets and rights-of-way, and following a regular route schedule. Streetcars are distinguishable from light rail, which operates on rail tracks in a dedicated right-of-way and serves a large number of passengers, often commuters, at speeds up to 35 mph. Streetcars are also distinguishable from trolleys, which are rubber-tired heritage-styled buses, powered by gasoline, natural gas, or bio-diesel, and used for passenger service with frequent stops over short distances on traditional streets. Trolley routes are usually circular and located where they are likely to attract tourists. Often privately-owned, and rented for special events, they may not be ADA-compliant.

(2) See, Central Salem Streetcar Feasibility Study, Nelson/Nygaard Consulting Associates, 2005. See also, SKATS Transportation Improvement Program 2010-2015.

(3)The Portland Streetcar was a major contributor to the extraordinary residential and business development in Portland's Pearl District.

(4) See, e.g., Opinion, Salem Statesman-Journal, September 15, 2003.

(5) Statistic provided by SEDCOR in November 2011 based on 2010 Census report.

(6) Headcount number provided by CCC President's Office.


(8) These arguments come from the letter addressed to Salem City Council, April 25, 2005, signed by Troy John Bolduc, Chair, Salem Streetcar Committee, recommending that the City "continue to pursue the potential to realize [the] remarkable opportunity of implementing" streetcars, looking at alternative routes and lower-cost construction strategies that were recommended in the consultants' study and from a similar letter to Mayor Janet Taylor signed by community leader Tony Nielsen.

Article XII: Mass Transit and Health: Are there physical activity benefits of using mass transit?

Jen Akeroyd

Most health researchers define health as physical, mental, social and financial well-being (World Health Organization, 1948). This is the first Focus article in a series that will report on the state of the evidence that explores the ways mass transit is associated with health benefits and risks. In this article a growing body of research examining the physical activity benefits of mass transit is summarized.

The majority of the U.S. population is not physically active at levels that promote health and prevent disease (National Center for Health Statistics, 2011). A strong body of evidence reports that insufficient levels of physical activity have a greater impact on mortality and cardiac events as compared to traditional risk factors for cardiovascular disease such as smoking, hypertension and hyperlipidemia (e.g. Mark and Lauer, 2003; Myers et al., 2005). Little to no physical activity has also been implicated in obesity, type-two diabetes, osteoporosis, colon and breast cancers, and anxiety and depression (CDC, 2008).

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that adults engage in 150 minutes of aerobic activity (e.g. brisk walking) every week, which translates to approximately 20 minutes per day. Even 10-minute bouts throughout the day are effective in promoting health and preventing disease (CDC, 2008).

Several researchers have estimated the time spent walking to and from mass transit stations. Besser & Dannenberg (2005) analyzed data from a U.S.-based national telephone survey of mass transit users and reported that the median transit user walked 19 minutes per day five days per week as part of his or her commute, and nearly 29% of the transit users reported walking 30 minutes a day or more. Wener and Evans (2007) used a more objective measurement of physical activity by collecting pedometer data that compared mass transit users' versus car commuters' time spent walking. They reported that mass transit users walked an average of 30% more steps per day. Wener and Evans' results are consistent with the findings of LaChappelle and Frank (2009). Using geographic information systems and self-report data from a sample of persons in metropolitan Atlanta, Georgia, LaChapelle and Frank compared the physical activity levels of those using mass transit versus driving a car to get to and from work. Mass transit users were 3.87 times more likely to achieve recommended levels of physical activity than car commuters. In summary, researchers reporting on data from across the U.S. have consistently found that the amount of walking involved in getting to and from mass transit stations is one way individuals can achieve 20 minutes of walking per day.

Are transit users walking at a brisk enough pace to achieve health benefits? While few studies have examined this phenomenon, MacDonald and colleagues (2010) used a pre+post experimental design to compare changes in body mass index (BMI) and obesity levels among U.S. residents who used a newly implemented mass transit system to similarly situated residents who did not use the mass transit system. On average, mass transit users significantly reduced their BMI by 1.18 kg/m2 over a period of approximately 20 months. The authors note that this would translate into a 6.45-pounds' weight loss for a person who is 5'5". MacDonald and colleagues projected that this reduction in BMI would translate to an 81% reduced odds (95% CI=0.04, 0.92) of becoming obese over time. Importantly, in this study the mass transit users as compared to car drivers were living in the same neighborhoods with similar commuting patterns and shared perceptions of neighborhood environments.

While there is limited evidence supporting the health benefits of physical activity of mass transit users, several scholars have researched and reported on the physical activity benefits of walking for transportation (as opposed to leisure or recreation), arguably a similar phenomenon to walking to and from transit stations. For example, Hamer and Chida (2008) conducted a meta-analysis of 18 studies examining walking for transportation on cardiovascular outcomes. They reported an 11% reduction of cardiovascular disease with 150 minutes or more time spent walking at a moderate pace. Similarly, Luoto and colleagues (2000) reported that rates of breast cancer are significantly lower in women who walk at least 30 minutes per weekday while commuting to and from work.

Overall, the current state of evidence suggests that persons who ride mass transit are, on the average, engaging in health-enhancing physical activity by simply walking to and from transit stations. However, more research is needed to substantiate these findings.


◆ Besser, L. M., & Dannenberg, A. L. (2005). "Walking to public transit: Steps to help meet physical activity recommendations." American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 29(4),273-280.

◆ Center for Disease Control. (2008). "Physical activity guidelines for adults." Retrieved from

◆ Hamer, M., & Chida, Y. (2008). "Active commuting and cardiovascular risk: A meta-analytic review." Preventive Medicine, 46(1), 9-13.

◆ LaChapelle, U. & Frank, L.D. (2009). "Transit and health: mode of transport, employer-sponsored public transit pass programs, and physical activity." Journal of Public Health Policy, 30, S73-S94.

◆ Luoto, R., Latikka, P., Pukkala, E., Hakulinen, T. & Vihko, V. (2000) "The effect of physical activity on breast cancer risk: a cohort study of 30,548 women." European Journal of Epidemiology, 16, 973-980.

◆ MacDonald, J.M, Stokes, R.J., Cohen, D.A., Kofner, A, & RIdgeway, G.K. (2010). "The effect of light rail transit on body mass index and physical activity." American Journal of Preventative Medicine, 39(2), 105-112.

◆ Mark, D.B., & Lauer, M.S. (2003). "The prognostic variable that doesn't get enough respect." Circulation, 108, 1534-1536.

◆ Myers, J., Kaykha, A., George, S. et al. (2005). "Fitness versus physical activity patterns in predicting mortality in men." American Journal of Medicine, 117, 912-918.

◆ National Center for Health Statistics. (2011). "Health, United States, 2010: with special feature on death and dying." Hyattsville, MD.

◆ Wener, R.E. & Evans, G. W. (2007). "A morning stroll: levels of physical activity in car and mass transit commuting." Environment and Behavior, 39 (1), 62-7.

◆ World Health Organization. (1948). Preamble to the Constitution of the World Health Organization as adopted by the International Health Conference, New York, 19 June - 22 July, 1946; signed on 22 July 1946 by the representatives of 61 States. Retrieved from

Article XIII: Salem Willamette River Crossing Alternate Modes Study

Summary prepared by Janet Adkins, LWVMPC Transit Study Committee Member

The Salem Willamette River Crossing Alternate Modes Study, completed in April 2010, was funded by the Oregon Department of Transportation and jointly directed by the City of Salem, the Salem-Keizer Transit District, and the Mid-Willamette Valley Council of Governments. The study team and a stakeholder group identified a range of projects intended to decrease peak-hour single-occupancy vehicle travel across the river by an estimated 8 percent or more over a twenty-year planning horizon. According to the Study, if these projects were implemented, they would help to reduce congestion, accommodate future travel demand, increase travel options, and extend the service life of any potential future crossing improvements. The Study also estimated costs and effectiveness for most of the alternate mode projects. The Alternate Modes Study is available to the Salem River Crossing Project team as it prepares the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for river crossing alternatives. The Study recommendations are also intended to be considered by local agencies as they update their long-range plans.

The Alternate Modes Study begins with some interesting baseline travel information: Based on 2000 Census information, 74 percent of Salem area residents drive alone, 15 percent carpool, 3 percent take transit, 4 percent bike or walk, and 4 percent work at home. Of those West Salem residents that are employed, 77 percent worked on the east side of the river.

The projects identified in the Alternate Modes Study included bike, pedestrian, parking, and carpool projects, as well as the transit oriented projects listed below. The full study can be downloaded at

The transit-oriented recommendations:

  • Bicycle / transit integration + including bike parking, accessibility, etc., around bus stops

  • Transit signal priority at key intersections + permits bus driver to extend green lights

  • Downtown circulator trolley bus

  • West Salem Transit Center improvements; change commute routes to bypass the Center

  • Real-time transit tracker at some stops using GPS

  • Provide direct transit service from West Salem to major destinations such as Willamette University & Salem Hospital

  • Install transit queue jump lanes for buses to allow them to cut in front of the line of traffic, reducing the delay for buses

  • Increase service on CARTS routes in Polk County

  • Improve Park and Rides west of Salem

  • Improve transit service to the Edgewater district

  • Increase service frequency to West Salem

  • Stabilize and grow transit funding

  • Develop a group to work with major employers in downtown to implement transportation demand management strategies

  • Acknowledge & reward commuters who adopt alternate mode

  • Improve transit's image and recruitment of passengers

  • Reduce the direct cost of transit passes to employees and commuters