TriMet ridership dropped in the weeks after a double slaying on a Portland MAX train—but the transit agency has yet to release full numbers, and it's unclear what effect fears about safety have played in the use of light rail.
The agency logged 8.2 million rides on buses and trains in June—an 0.9 percent decline from June 2016.
In a July 26 TriMet board of directors meeting, general manager Neil McFarlane said that that June's MAX ridership was down 2.3 percent.
McFarlane blamed reduced attendance at the city's Rose Festival parades.
"When we compare June of this year with last year, we were down in ridership a little less than 1 percent," McFarlane said at the meeting. "Most of that can translate to reduced ridership on the MAX system during the two Rose Festival parades—ridership and attendance of the parades were down this year compared to previous years."
That may be correct—the Rose Festival was overshadowed this year by a rise in political extremism and street violence. But the most obvious source of that unease was Jeremy Christian's fatal stabbing of two men riding a MAX train on May 26, after they tried to stop his hateful rant against two African-American teenage girls.
In the wake of the killings, TriMet moved to increase transit police. Both rider advocacy groups and the transit drivers union opposed TriMet's decision to beef up security—saying armed police officers riding MAX trains and buses would only make poor riders and people of color feel more anxious.
It's still unclear if TriMet's decision met the intended goal of making riders feel safer.
The agency publishes monthly ridership reports on its website, typically within three weeks after the end of each month.
But the most recent report of MAX, WES and bus usage is two months old—for the month of May.
A TriMet spokesman says the delay may be caused by the person who usually handles data going on vacation.
On Aug. 1, WW asked to see June ridership figures. Today, TriMet released a few numbers.
"We do not have enough data yet to indicate if the May 26 incident, or the increased security presence, had any effect on ridership," says TriMet spokesman Tommy Moore.
"Many external factors affect ridership," Moore continues. "The economy, price of gas, weather and special events can all have non-cyclical impacts on ridership. Also, specifically to June, Rose Festival parade attendance has been dropping over the years and we saw less people lining the streets and on board than previous years."