Your Questions for Neil – “Round 2” – The Videos – Part 4

Here is the final installment of our recent interview with Neil McFarlane, based on questions submitted by the readers of Portland Transport. Today’s Part 4 talks about future projects and other miscellaneous questions.

Parts 1 and 2 |
Part 3 | Part 4

Special thanks to multiple volunteers who have compiled transcripts of these videos. There is also an embedded closed-captioning track on the YouTube videos (Click the “CC” button on the video player to view).

19 responses to “Your Questions for Neil – “Round 2” – The Videos – Part 4”

  1. 14,000 jobs, yea right.
    Even if it was true they are only temporary jobs.
    Land use and economic development!
    Yup, that’s it, its not transit anymore, he said it himself.
    He talks about the “workhorse” of the system, the bus service, but notice how it’s the last thing he talks about, not the first.
    Very telling isn’t it?
    There was a good TWEAT regarding the future of Portland’s transit network.

    Dave, your way to nice.

  2. He talks about the “workhorse” of the system, the bus service, but notice how it’s the last thing he talks about, not the first.

    Al, you’re commenting on Part 4 of the video series. If you review the transcripts, you’ll see that Mr. McFarlane talks about buses a lot, and there are several statements in support of restoring and expanding bus service in part 1. At the end of Part 4, which you’re referring to, he concludes again with buses. You may not agree that he’s doing what he pledges, but it’s incorrect to argue that he’s not even talking-the-talk.

  3. Al, to defend myself we were already pressed for time, and I didn’t want to go taking things away from the questions asked on the site. The format wasn’t that of a late night talk show, but that of trying to ask as many questions submitted by the users of this site as possible in the time allotted. (I asked most of the questions way too quickly to try making sure to not waste time. Sorry.)

    I personally had a number of questions come up that I’d like to have asked as he answered various questions, but I wanted to fit in those we had scripted first.

    I’d have liked to ask if he was concerned about sprawl in Clark County from the CRC. I’d also have liked to know if he felt that serving downtown and a community college was enough to make extending MAX across the Columbia financially worthwhile.

    I’d also like to know if he thought that if the Lake Oswego Streetcar is built, would an extension to Sellwood across the new bridge be on the table? And also, what are the chances of extending the Milwaukee MAX to Lake Oswego on a new bridge, either with or without the streetcar extension?

    Another question I’d like to know more about would be TriMet’s plans to better integrate with future high speed rail proposals for the region. I’d also like to know what future the Green Line MAX might have in Clackamas county. What are the odds it might be extended past Clackamas Town Center? I’d love to know if or what time frame we’d look at to get MAX along the WES corridor.

    A question I wanted to ask when we were discussing the segment about fare inspectors would have involved how TriMet might be able to work with the state or federal programs to expand their emergency services presence. Maybe a bus driver wouldn’t be a peace officer, but what if we could give incentives for operators to be certified in CPR and basic EMS services? What if we took ideas from the idea of Air Marshalls and had a few TriMet operators who also happened to be armed OSP officers?

    As long as people want to play the fear card, are there cost effective solutions that we might be able to use to help protect both TriMet’s staff and riders from escalated situations?

    Unfortunately I’m not Charlie Rose, so I didn’t really have a chance to do all the follow up questions that might have been nice. If anyone wants to submit any of these if we get another chance at another follow-up with Neil I’d be happy to ask them.

  4. Maybe Neil or TriMet should just set up a Formspring account.

    ~~~>Now THAT is funny!

    Dave you did a great job, in all seriousness.
    I’m not a big Neil Macfarlane fan, as may be obvious.
    Actually I really really miss Fred, things were really different under his leadership.

    The vice has been tightening hard on me since Herr Macfarlane has taken over the gulag.

    It’s been bad for us operators over the past year, real bad, on lots of fronts.

  5. You miss Fred Hansen?

    ~~~> Yes, he was a humanist, the difference in the two leaders is obvious.

    Neil is part of this republican fascist movement. He was using Scott Walker tactics before there was a Scott Walker.

  6. Lets keep comments focused on the issues.

    That said, comparing Neil McFarlane to Scott Walker seems a bit of a reach–TriMet, so far, has only opposed ATU at the bargaining table. Neither TriMet, nor anyone in Salem, have made any attempt to strip transit operators (or other public employee) of most of their collective bargaining rights altogether, which is what has been occurring in Wisconsin. Were the state of Oregon to attempt a Scott Walker, we’d be seeing proposals (imposed via legislation, not negotiated at the bargaining table) like a) ATU can no longer collect dues through payroll deductions; and b) the union can no longer bargain over hiring/firing/promotion practices, route assignments, or other issues (which would mean in practice the abolition of seniority, and it would become much easier to fire operators for whatever reason). We might have seen this sort of thing had Chris Dudley won the election; but Kitzhaber isn’t about to play that game.

    (Some years back, tenure was legislatively abolished for Oregon’s public school teachers, but the teachers’ unions still are able to bargain over a broad range of issues).

    Neil McFarlane, as GM of TriMet, lacks the authority to do anything of the sort that Walker has been trying in Wisconsin, and like has been seen in other states.

  7. Furthermore, if Neil were like Scott Walker, he’d be canceling all pending and future rail projects, rolling back service to a subsistence level, laying off bus drivers left and right, making asinine remarks about how “the war on cars is over”, auctioning off as much rolling stock as he can on eBay, and bragging about how much money he saved for the taxpayers (while neglecting to mention that the vast majority of the savings goes to the folks in the top income brackets).

  8. And he would ensure that the CRC and all other highway projects were pushed through quickly, to benefit his highway construction backers. I would imagine he might not take too kindly to our land use laws, as well.

  9. I didn’t see much if anything that was either revealing or explanatory from Neil.

    For instance I’ve already heard or read McFarlane’s dance around the OPEB problem.
    Here again he did the same.

    At 5:25 McFarlane brushes off TriMet’s $816 million unfunded OPEB liability.
    It needs an additional $75 million set aside per year to keep it from growing.

    McFarlane, “TriMet is no different than anyone else in the country in having to deal with rising health care costs.”

    Neil knows that is not the central and huge problem with OPEB. The problem is it isn’t funded at all.

    Long ago TriMet made agreements for these “Other Post Employment Benefits” that pay all the health care costs of retirees and their families for life. But they never put aside any funds in a trust account to fund it.
    Now they are $816 million behind with still NO MONEY set aside and it’s growing at a pace that will land it over $1 billion in one more year.

    Last year TriMet saw their cost of fringe benefits rise by the $27 million and made $27 million in cuts while blaming the economy.

    Now when asked about TriMet’s financial status
    McFarlane says the economy has improved slightly and some improvement may come from new labor contract concessions.
    But with rising fuel costs and the elephant in the room, OPEB/fringe benefits, it is inconceivable that TriMet will be able to avoid another round of huge cuts.

    A $75 million per year unpaid OPEB bill is not going away and there is no tooth fairy.
    So why can’t anyone get a straight answer out of TriMet regarding what plans they have to pay their bills?

  10. One more.

    How is TriMet going to pay the debt service on their MLR bonds? That borrowed $63 million will be backed by their operations revenue and require some $100 million to pay it off.

    I suspect TriMet is banking on using the Milwaukie Light Rail funding as a ponzi scheme to keep them afloat and kick the can down the road a bit.
    That would explain why they insist on this $1.5 billion project going forward immediately.

    When 100s of millions of bond dollars go into TriMet and no one really scrutinizes where it goes all things are possbile.

  11. I think they want it to go forward immediately for design and construction issues related to the bridge. They have a very tight window for in-water construction. If they miss this season, the entire project will be greatly impacted.

  12. Trimet is insisting on going forward “immediately”?!? Light rail to Milwaukie has been in the planning stages off and on for over 20 years, closer to 30 years. This project didn’t just come out of nowhere. If anything it should have been built 10 years ago with the South/North project, but Clark County was particularly short-sighted.

  13. Aaron,

    I’m perfectly aware of the length of planning.

    However, TriMet is pushing forward without funding.

    They wer afraid to go to voters, never got any new local money, couldn’t pass their levy and have failed to identify any genuinely available revenue at all.

    The claptrap financing scheme is an illegitimate funding plan that robs Peter to pay Paul at many levels and adversely affects many government services including their own.
    With indiference it will take millions from various existing payrolls and move it to payrolls of Light Rail related entities.

    It is the worst charade of funding to date.
    Reckless by magnitudes never seen in Oregon and it should be extremely bothersome even for rail advocates.
    But it appears to be of little interest.
    Presumably because this is so important it rises above all other priorities. Why?

    I truley believe TriMet doesn’t care if a plan B means the MLR doesn’ get built. They have hooked into the lottery millions and would settle for the bridge and streetcar loop as a “first phase”.
    And while doing so will skim many millions from the bonds and use them for ???


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