Metro mulls question of TriMet takeover

The question of whether or not Metro should take over TriMet has come up again, with state Rep. Chris Gorsek (D-Troutdale) sponsors HB3316, which would mandate that Metro exercise its authority to do exactly that.

Metro councilors expressed a lack of interest and doing so, and have expressed an opinion that a Metro takeover of TriMet would not fundamentally address the issues facing the agency, with Tom Hughes calling the idea a “solution that doesn’t solve the problem”.

TriMet critics such as OPAL’s Jonathan Ostar disagree, stating that the current board is not responsive enough, particularly to the needs of the transit-dependent.

This is an issue which has come up several times before. With Tiffany Schweizer’s impending departure (her term expires at the end of June, and she is prohibited by term limits from any further service on the board), and another vacancy on the board waiting to be filled, there will be soon two openings for Governor Kitzhaber to fill.

The interesting questions, of course, are as follows:

  • What should the board do differently? Some have advocated replacing the current GM; others would require him to pursue different policies.
  • How would a change in the appointment structure of the board, cause the board to do those things differently?

Both questions are important.

In the past several years, Portland Transit has taken looks at the TriMet board. The former post is woefully out-of-date as to the personnel (the current board roster is here), but still is accurate with regard to the legal requirements.

What could a new board do differently?

While I’m frequently critical of TriMet and of its management–and of Metro President Hughes–Hughes is correct in that many things that constrain TriMet would do so no matter who occupy the board seats. While some of TriMet’s wounds have been recently self-inflicted, many are based on decisions made years ago, which TriMet cannot easily undo. Even if you think that the past eight years of rail projects (everything after the Yellow Line) were a bad idea, TriMet is more or less stuck with them; a new board would not likely be able to, without outside help, mothball WES, for instance.

A new management might adopt a different mix of tactical measures than the current one–such as a different fare structure, a different allocation of service, or further cuts to administrative functions.

One other possibility would be a dismantling of TriMet’s capital projects infrastructure–essentially, a layoff of the bulk of the capital projects division. Most (but not all) work that is done by capital projects is funded by grants and other constrained sources, and some of the work that is done would be necessary even in a transit agency that only provided local bus service and existing rail; but there might be some operational benefits to not doing capital projects. On the other hand, if you are of the view that most of TriMet’s capital projects (or at least the recent ones) are pork-laden boondoggles, or represent an unacceptable diversion of service from the transit-dependent to those who have alternative modes of transportation (including driving), salting this particular earth might be an attractive option.

The bottom line, of course, is what should TriMet’s overall mission be? Comprehensive transit service throughout the metro area? Quality transit service in the urbanized parts (but skeletal service to sprawl)? Service that focuses on the poor? Reductions in driving? Environmental outcomes, such as reduction in greenhouse gasses or overall energy consumption? Land-use outcomes? Is TriMet’s fundamental purpose to be a social service agency, a transit agency, or a green agency? Much of the arguments over what its proper course of action seem to stem from unspoken disagreements over this.

How would a new board be certain to implement policies that are desirable?

Much of the criticism of the current board centers around the fact that it was a) appointed by a mainstream, pro-business Democratic governor (and confirmed by a like-minded Senate), who doesn’t necessarily share the values and goals of either the political right, or of many on the left; and b) it is stuffed with business leaders and other “model citizen” types–folks who have demonstrated skills in things like management, law, or finance (and can be counted on not to pee on the carpet), but who may lack understanding of, or empathy with, communities that TriMet is charged with serving–particularly underprivileged riders. Many who advocate changing how the board is selected, do so out of a desire to alter the board’s composition.

The advice “be careful what you wish for”, arguably applies here–especially for TriMet’s critics on the left.

A Metro Council takeover is the easiest means to imagine happening–the current Council’s reluctance notwithstanding. Metro already has the legal right to do so. However, the Metro Council, after all, has a similar overall political lean as does the governor’s office. Tom Hughes is (much like Kitzhaber) a pro-business Democrat who is not afraid to give the environmental community the back of his hand. Metro does have more ardent liberals like Bob Stacey on board, but it’s political center of gravity is well within the Democratic Party mainstream, and more in tune with elite politics than the populist variety. (I’m actually surprised that no Tea Partiers have managed to get elected to the Metro council, particularly from the suburban districts–sooner or later, I expect AFP or similar groups to bankroll an insurgent run for the council–particularly in District 2). And keep in mind–many of the controversial decisions that TriMet gets blamed for were actually driven by Metro and the various municipal governments.

Depending on how district boundaries were drawn, a directly-elected TriMet board would likely have a similar composition as the Metro Council–and could potentially be gerrymandered to be dominated by the suburbs; the TriMet service district has a population of 1.5 million, but the city of Portland is only around 500k.

Other arrangements that I’ve seen proposed are likely unconstitutional. One such proposal is a board elected by pass-holders, but excluding those from participation who don’t use the system. While this would undoubtedly produce a rider-friendly board, it also undoubtedly flies in the face of the one-man-one-vote principle. If TriMet were private (or quasi-private), it might have greater freedom on how its governance is structured, but going that route would deprive the agency of the plenary powers of government–most notably taxation; an agency that still depended on elected officials for revenue could not be truly independent of them.

One other possibility might be legal restrictions on who may serve on the board–other boards and commissions that the governor appoints may have restrictions on composition. (The Oregon Transportation Commission, who oversees ODOT, is required to be politically and geographically diverse, for instance). Legislating requiring that some number of TriMet board members be transit users (or even carless), or have professional expertise in transit planning or related fields, could be introduced. (Personally, I wouldn’t mind a ban on anyone involved in real estate from being on the board, but that’s not going to happen, and likely not legal). For a long time, the board traditionally had a labor representative, a tradition broken only recently when Lynn Lehrbach of the Teamsters was replaced with a nominee with no union background.

61 Comments

61 Responses to Metro mulls question of TriMet takeover

  1. EngineerScotty
    March 21, 2013 at 1:34 pm Link

    Willamette Week has more, including some words on the subject from Bob Stacey.

  2. Al M
    March 21, 2013 at 3:26 pm Link

    Anything would be better than what we have now

  3. R A Fontes
    March 21, 2013 at 6:15 pm Link

    Why would TriMet need “outside help” to mothball WES?

  4. Lenny Anderson
    March 21, 2013 at 6:44 pm Link

    If folks want to help TriMet deal with its budget issues, they should just push hard to get all public employees, including TriMet’s, union and non-union alike, into the same health insurance pool with the same benefit package. And the sooner, the better.

  5. Anandakos
    March 21, 2013 at 7:31 pm Link

    The bottom line, of course, is what should TriMet’s overall mission be? Comprehensive transit service throughout the metro area? Quality transit service in the urbanized parts (but skeletal service to sprawl)? Service that focuses on the poor? Reductions in driving? Environmental outcomes, such as reduction in greenhouse gasses or overall energy consumption? Land-use outcomes?

    What should Tri-Met’s primary purpose be?

    Well, it’s not “service that focuses on the poor”, that’s for sure. It might be a worthy goal, but if you believe that the agency would last more than ten years with that particular focus, I’ve got some old Public Housing buildings in Cleveland to sell you.

    Since Metro is supposed to do the heavy lifting on land-use planning, it’s not “land-use outcomes”.

    “Environmental outcomes”? ROTFLMAO! When has any government at any level spent as much as Tri-Met budget on “environmental outcomes”? Well, maybe the SuperFund, but it’s been at least twenty-five years since it was topped up.

    “Comprehensive transit service throughout the Metro area”? Well, it could be. It has “transit” in the phrase. But the Yahoos in Clackistan don’t like transit, and there are plenty of like-minded folks in south Washington County. Not to mention all the cul-de-sac neighborhoods in the region, which are essentially immune to transit. So “comprehensive service” is probably not a cost-effective goal, even if people wanted it.

    So, by process of elimination, the winnah is “quality transit service in the urbanized parts (but skeletal service to sprawl)”. Use it or lose it Yahoos!

  6. R A Fontes
    March 22, 2013 at 9:12 am Link

    Seriously, Scotty et al – why can’t TriMet shut WES down? Contrary to what a lot of us believed for years, there’s no minimum-number-of-years operating requirement in the FFGA and the agreement with Washington County expires this month. Admitting reality on such an expensive project which comes nowhere near forecasts, let alone mediocre success, could do wonders for TriMet’s credibility.

  7. al m
    March 22, 2013 at 10:26 am Link

    If folks want to help TriMet deal with its budget issues, they should just push hard to get all public employees, including TriMet’s, union and non-union alike, into the same health insurance pool with the same benefit package. And the sooner, the better.

    [Moderator: Personally-directed remarks deleted -- ES]
    Drivers and mechanics are not office workers. Their jobs are 100% more likely to cause ingury. Let the lying cheating gerneral manager get the law changed (cause he is afraid of transparency other wise he would not be trying to change that)then let him ‘lock out’ his workforce and bully his way to victory over the helpless working man. Oligarchies always get their way.

    [Moderator: More personally-directed remarks deleted. Knock it off, Al. --ES]

  8. EngineerScotty
    March 22, 2013 at 11:20 am Link

    In general, I think it would be a Good Idea to decouple healthcare from employment, for both the public and private sectors–though the public sector may be easier to nudge in this direction. And certainly, if we can get sufficient number of high-paid, high-skilled public employees onto a public health plan–it can attract enough critical mass (like Medicare has) that doctors FTMP won’t be simply able to ignore it (or refuse to accept it). A big problem with Medicaid and the Oregon Health Plan (and potentially a problem with Obamacare exchanges, once they start running next year) is that many doctors don’t accept these, given that they pay less than quality private insurance plans. But get enough people on these, and that problem goes away–far fewer doctors refuse Medicare patients, and Medicare patients generally don’t have a problem getting quality care.

    Al brings up one good point: To what extent should hazardous professions–and being a bus driver is demonstrably bad for you–get supplemental care? Perhaps there need to be ways to mitigate the ill health effects of diving a bus (or a truck or a train), rather than depending on doctors to clean up the mess?

    @Ron–I’m assuming that TriMet can’t simply shut down WES one its own volition and not face some consequence. If that’s not the case, then it certainly is an option that ought to be considered. Inter-suburb commuter rail doesn’t really make much sense (a line to Salem, OTOH, priced appropriately, would make more sense). And we’ve already discussed the possibility of BRT in the corridor, augmenting/replacing the 76.

  9. Lenny Anderson
    March 22, 2013 at 11:29 am Link

    Sorry to p*ss anyone off, but changing the TriMet board is not going to fix the numbers.
    Last I hear, “sitting is the new smoking!” so everyone deserves good health insurance, but not at the expense of essential public services.

  10. Anthony
    March 22, 2013 at 11:32 am Link

    Metro is too busy planning for a hypothetical 1 million car-less people in 50 years. TriMet, for the most part, follows Metro’s plans.

    Until we can get our government out of long-range micromanagement planning, expect the same results.

  11. Allan
    March 22, 2013 at 11:42 am Link

    I keep hearing (on various threads) that ‘a rail line to salem’ would make more sense. Are we talking about from Portland or from Beaverton?

  12. al m
    March 22, 2013 at 12:04 pm Link

    When people are actively engaging in attempts to destroy other peoples livelihoods via vicious propaganda those people open themselves up personally directed remarks.

    The fact that Portland Transport won’t allow them is typical Portland Transport BS as far as I am concerned.

    I want Lenny Anderson full disclosure right now!
    What is your connection with Trimet Lenny, and I expect an honest answer.

    The picture I posted of Lenny is him in an ‘official’ Trimet outfit so I know he has had a long connection with them because I know where that picture was taken.

    COME CLEAN LENNY ANDERSON!

    I want to know why you keep spitting out the exact same propaganda as Trimet does!

  13. al m
    March 22, 2013 at 12:19 pm Link

    This post is from the Tribune regarding the ‘Cadillac’ health benefits that Lenny Anderson keeps whining about:


    Troy Lindekugel · Works at TriMet

    As a union member of trimet I had no problem meeting my $4500 out of pocket expense last year. I also pay nearly $200 a month. So I’m really FN tired of hearing about our so called caddilac health insurance. Trimet continues to lie and people want to believe. Another reason the negotiations need to be public. There are also many members that were forced to Kaiser because they couldn’t afford the caddilac plan.

  14. bjcefola
    March 22, 2013 at 12:46 pm Link

    To what extent should hazardous professions–and being a bus driver is demonstrably bad for you–get supplemental care?

    This is something I’ve been meaning to ask. If Trimet employees are being injured at work in the course of employment, why aren’t they filing Workers Comp claims? That entitles them to medical care and lost wages if they were unable to work. More importantly, the WC system is much more focused on loss control than health insurance.

    Your doctor is not going to put together that x% of drivers suffer from malady y, and that the cost savings of safety practice z will more than pay for itself. The WC system will (or should).

    Incidentally, it’s a pretty serious labor law violation to discourage workers from filing such claims.

  15. al m
    March 22, 2013 at 1:26 pm Link

    If Trimet employees are being injured at work in the course of employment, why aren’t they filing Workers Comp claims?

    ~~~>Actually there are many such claims filed but Trimet fights each one tooth and nail unless it happened on the job and was easily verified.

    Most injuries occur to Trimet drivers in the form of bad backs, wrists, exposure to pathogens via a public that is no always clean, and other repetitive motion type claims. Then there is the horrible working conditions. All hours of the day and night sitting in a seat. It’s basically a horrible job but it pays good which is why people do it at all

    All repetitive motion filings are fought hard by Trimet. They will stop at nothing to get your claim thrown out. I never filed a claim but heard all about it from other drivers constantly

  16. ws
    March 22, 2013 at 6:25 pm Link

    Yeah, we get it al, driving a bus is the most dangerous job in America.

  17. al m
    March 22, 2013 at 7:13 pm Link

    Yeah, we get it al, driving a bus is the most dangerous job in America.

    Did I say that? Of course not but Mcfarlane says we should all have the same health insurance.

    That argument would make sense if we all worked in an office 9-5 Monday through Friday

  18. al m
    March 22, 2013 at 7:47 pm Link

    You people actually think we should roll over and accept Mcfarlanes baloney?

    He and all his six figure cronies who ‘work’ (if you can really call that work) in offices and go to meetings for their whole career get raises while we loose wages?

    FOGETABOUTIT!

    We ain’t rolling over. The propaganda has fooled many citizens, but it has not fooled me or the officers of ATU 757

  19. Lenny Anderson
    March 22, 2013 at 9:16 pm Link

    Hey, want to know about me? Try Google.
    But why not answer the question?:
    what’s wrong with all public employees going into the same health insurance pool with the same benefits? That’s a pool most people would love to be in!
    No all caps, no bold, no !!!, just answer the question. Thanks.
    For those of us over 65 its called Medicare, and it ain’t free, but it ain’t bad either. Sure beats what I had at 64 in the open market.

  20. al m
    March 22, 2013 at 10:49 pm Link

    ~~~>That argument would make sense if we all worked in an office 9-5 Monday through Friday

    You don’t pay attention Lenny do you?
    Our health policy was a legitimate gain bargained for and approved by
    PAST GENERAL MANAGERS
    PAST BOARD OF DIRECTORS

    Mcfarlane comes along and all of a sudden makes us the enemy and stooges like you Lenny fall for it. And he has sold out the retirees.

    Now what’s your connection with Trimet?
    You refuse to answer?

    Who does Lenny Anderson work for?

  21. zefwagner
    March 23, 2013 at 12:21 am Link

    Wow, this thread was hijacked in record time. Only a few of these comments have anything to do with the post! Our beloved Portland Transport is turning into the Oregonian… Please cut it out, people, and have a real conversation about the topic at hand.

  22. Cameron J
    March 23, 2013 at 9:01 am Link

    Surprisingly, I actually agree with Zef here. We’re waaaay off.

    It certainly can’t be a cake walk operating a transit agency. There are many purposes that it has to serve. It has to be there for people who have no other way to go- I’m surprised that people think this is not a priority, because people often don’t have or cannot afford cars, like our family. They need to be able to get places easily and affordably.

    In addition, it needs to be accessible to everyone who needs it. People who are disabled/differently abled, people who are on the outskirts of the city. I think having a skeletal system in the sprawl like Hillsboro and Gresham is a horrible idea- bus lines like the 57, 20, 4, 12 and 76 are often full to the brim. TriMet is gaining ridership by these routes and once we reach stability, expansion can be beneficial.

    It also needs to make sure its operators are taken care of. There is a massive divergence between being an office worker and transit driver that having the same health care cannot address. I don’t get the idea of Cadillac plan when you consider the Cadillac budgets admins get and the fact that it is known that pensions, benefits and all that jazz has been cut. The system will survive without a couple of attorneys and urban developers, but not with operators dropping like flies.

    However, TriMet has exposed that its priorities are instead high capacity development, spending 1.6Billion to replace a bus line on McLoughlin, and to give its already wealthy executives further raises, more than just the average COLA, (which I would argue people making around 150k a year could survive about as I look for any minimum wage job to avoid losing our house) out of budget that was supposed to be set aside for emergencies. It’s only when they get caught that they promise transparency.

    I don’t think that these can be defended. Especially given that all of its riders are being charged more for less service, even if they are low income riders. It’s becoming less accessible. And the workers are being stolen from and slandered as the higher ups go to the bank. TriMet’s immediate focus should be its riders and workforce and there is no sadder state of mind than saying the admins deserve more for being ‘important’ yet saying the benefits cut to only the grunt force is unimportant because they’re spoiled.

  23. EngineerScotty
    March 23, 2013 at 10:11 am Link

    Folks, lets drop the ad hominem. On this blog, we focus on issues and not people. We may make an exception for public figures, but nobody participating in this argument qualifies as a “public figure”.

    Getting back to the topic, Joesph Rose has more in this morning’s Oregonian.

  24. al m
    March 23, 2013 at 11:23 am Link

    Lets be clear on who it was that hijacked this post:

    Lenny Anderson Says:
    If folks want to help TriMet deal with its budget issues, they should just push hard to get all public employees, including TriMet’s, union and non-union alike, into the same health insurance pool with the same benefit package. And the sooner, the better.

  25. al m
    March 23, 2013 at 11:31 am Link

    Getting back to the topic, Joesph Rose has more in this morning’s Oregonian.

    ~~~>This is a good thing. The more we keep the pressure on the more likely we will see some change here.
    Really folks, Trimet has become completely dysfunctional at this point.
    They have lost ridership while the rest of the country is gaining ridership.
    And the light rail has been the biggest loser, down a whopping 11%.
    People are tired of being terrorized by ruthless fare inspectors and getting $175 fines for not having a ticket when the fare machines are not capable of issuing tickets.
    How much abuse can people take?
    They raise the fares cut the service and then give themselves a raise? A ‘secret’ raise at that.
    Its unbelievable really, just freaking unbelievable.

  26. EngineerScotty
    March 23, 2013 at 11:45 am Link

    Al,

    At the risk of further participating in a thread-jacking, what Lenny suggests is (partially) a longstanding goal of the organized labor movement–universal healthcare. I say “partially” because it would only apply, in this instance, to public employees–but if it included all public employees in the state, from the football coach at Oregon and the governor, down to the guy who cleans the toilets at City Hall, it would have sufficient critical mass to be able to provide good coverage to all its participants–far better than that provided by the current Oregon Health Plan, or Medicaid. Medicare (which provides generally good coverage to its subscribers) would probably be similar to such a plan, in terms of scope and quality of coverage.

    The main opponents to this seem to be a) the private health insurance industry, which dislikes competition, and b) the healthcare industry itself, which dislikes monopsonies that have sufficient market power to drive down doctors’ fees. Oh, and c) certain groups who have top-dollar health plans through employers (whether public or private), and for whom any common healthcare pool would be a step down.

    We won’t be able to have good quality universal healthcare coverage, without the participation of a significant part of the upper half of the economic spectrum. Otherwise, any public health plan will essentially be “welfare”. This is why Medicare works well–everyone participates in it, not just the poor.

    This next suggestion may be tinfoil-hattery, but I sometimes wonder if part of the “starve-the-beast” strategy of Grover Norquist and his ilk includes opposition to health care reform, for the specific purpose of bleeding public agencies and trying to erode their political support. Some GOP intransigence on the issue might be knee-jerk objection to anything Obama does; but twenty years ago (when Hillarycare was on the political agenda), the Republicans at least had a serious proposal to counter it with (one that, ironically enough, was quite similar to Obamacare). Nowadays, the political right has no serious solutions to the problem, other than free-market slogans and “don’t get sick”–and seems to act as though nothing is wrong.

  27. EngineerScotty
    March 23, 2013 at 11:59 am Link

    Michael Anderson with some analysis of how HB3316 would allocate board seats (Washington County, arguably, gets screwed).

  28. al m
    March 23, 2013 at 11:59 am Link

    The post was about Metro taking over Trimet not about union health benefits.

    And I will tell you right now Scott every time Lenny makes an anti union comment I will be there to challenge it.

    I agree with you on your health care stands.
    I agree with Lenny about single payer.

    But I will not let him make anti union remarks without challenging him.

    The two party system in this country is corrupt and ineffective.

    Both parties pander to their population base then behind closed doors they do the bidding of the power elite.

    Don’t forget it was Obama that would not allow single payer into the discussion during the hearings on Obamacare.

    And it was Obama that signed on to the ‘sequester’

    He ain’t no liberal don’t be fooled.

  29. al m
    March 23, 2013 at 12:03 pm Link

    Michael Anderson with some analysis of how HB3316 would allocate board seats (Washington County, arguably, gets screwed).

    ~~~>That has no chance of becoming law!
    Why?
    Cause that piece of s#$t governor will never sign a bill that takes away his own power!

  30. Douglas K.
    March 23, 2013 at 12:47 pm Link

    (Washington County, arguably, gets screwed).

    I wonder about the logic of letting Portland and ONLY Portland appoint two representatives. It gives Multnomah County a couple extra bites at the apple. What might make more sense, given the populations involved, would be for Clackamas County to appoint two, Washington County to appoint three, and Multnomah County to appoint four. And then have the Metro counsel appoint two at-large seats, with the requirement that the Metro reps must come from two different counties.

    Instead of having the governor pick a transit rider, require at least ONE of each jurisdiction’s appointees be a bona-fide transit dependent individual. That would get at least four regular transit users on the board.

  31. Lenny Anderson
    March 23, 2013 at 5:10 pm Link

    This idea for a differently selected TriMet board is DOA if you ask me. And any new board will face the same quandry, how to we keep this thing afloat with a bloated benefits package? Hence my posts above (which are not anti-union but ask a public employee union to be responsible partners in a public endeavor).
    Anyway, here is an idea to watch out for: Metro takes over TriMet, absorbs the planning functions as that is what they already do, then puts Operations out to bid to aprivate operator. Other transit systems do this. Now we have an entity that wants to make money, so they try to do the obvious…lower costs and increase revenue. How?
    Renegotiate their labor contracts (this could get ugly, but they would risk a strike and probably win) and ask cities, counties, or NGOs to take over and subcontract out all bus routes that cost more than, say $5 per ride. They would also want to give WES back to Washington County to deal with.
    Put the savings from both into more service on Frequent Service and almost FS bus lines and MAX…that is where the ridership growth potential is.
    I think we are better off with what we have, but for any organization to survive, no matter how you select a board, it has to make costs and revenue match.

  32. al m
    March 24, 2013 at 2:22 pm Link

    And any new board will face the same quandry, how to we keep this thing afloat with a bloated benefits package?

    ~~~>SHEESUS H SPICED, the guy just won’t stop!

    He hates his fellow Americans so much he just can’t wait to drag them down!

  33. al m
    March 24, 2013 at 2:50 pm Link

    While the master class has done such a good job with sheeple like Mr Anderson, who I still contend has a connection with Trimet management which is is withholding from us, people have to strive to stop thinking in boxes.

    The power elite, which uses mass media, leads the public to think in boxes, which is what is happening here (and everywhere actually).

    So what is the real issue here?
    The real issue here is how to use tax payer dollars.

    Everybody is in a huff over our benefit package, purportedly which could end up leading to $1 billion in liability by the year 2027.

    But how much is that $1 billion when you look at how our taxes are being uses in other ways?

    It’s nothing when compared to cost to the taxpayers on WAR IN THE MIDDLE EAST!

    You want to complain about your taxes being misused, complain about something that has some real meaning.

    Furthermore, through the masterful deception of the Trimet Ministry of Propaganda and its partner in crime the mainstream media, Trimet has attempted to portray its workers as the villain.

    By fooling the gullible and impressionable public through skillful use of the media, The skilled Trimet executives have been able to keep attention off themselves.

    Why would they want to do that?

    I’ll tell you why: There are 76 executives (these are aristocrats, they have no public function) and these 76 aristocrats are soaking the public for a combined total of $8.5 million (aprox) each and every year, not including all the little extras in their budgets like travel, etc and not including the price of their obscene pensions (Fred Hansen soaking the tax payers for $16K a month while he travels to Australia and continues adding to his net worth. The greed of these people is insatiable)

    So there you have it,the public is focused on us meanwhile they get rich.

    It’s brilliant if evil, a totally brilliant scheme.

    And best of all, it works.

  34. Ron Swaren
    March 24, 2013 at 6:27 pm Link

    Of course, al m. It’s the political class. In the private world, the “consultick”, burrowed into your hide and sucking blood with no observable results.
    http://dilbert.test.resultspage.com/comic/Consultick

  35. al m
    March 24, 2013 at 7:08 pm Link

    Of course, al m. It’s the political class. In the private world, the “consultick”, burrowed into your hide and sucking blood with no observable results.

    ~~~>Not quite sure what your getting at there Ron

    It is class warfare by the way, nobody wants to say that of course because people want to live in the fantasy world of IPhones and professional sports and god bless america land of the free (free to work your whole life away and hope you have something to live on when you get old)

  36. al m
    March 24, 2013 at 7:18 pm Link

    Don’t misunderstand me either, I am not against cutting benefits for union employees.

    Heck if it was up to me I would get a bill passed in the legislature to cut all salaries, union and non union by 20% and all that money be expressly put back into services.

    What I am against, is the vilification of union members by the executive class so they can preserve all of their gains.

    There are many things that need to be cut at Trimet John Charles speaks eloquently on the subject.

    Now if his agenda was implemented, I could get completely behind it.

    What Trimet is trying to pull off is not acceptable.

  37. al m
    March 24, 2013 at 11:04 pm Link

    While we are talking about government owned debt I think you might want to view THIS presentation.

  38. Grant
    March 25, 2013 at 8:50 am Link

    It’s been amazing to watch one person singlehandedly turn this blog from one of the few remaining bastions of civility and deliberation on the Internet into oregon live.

    I think a top-level post on the rules of engagement is long overdue. I know I can’t really read the comments on here anymore, and am considering removing this site from my regular rotation. I don’t imagine I’m alone in that.

  39. JHB
    March 25, 2013 at 10:32 am Link

    I concur with Grant. I lurk on this blog for the high-level conversation, and hope it can remain a tightly-moderated sanctuary for thoughtful rational debate.

  40. Douglas K
    March 25, 2013 at 9:40 pm Link

    I’m with Grant and JHB. It’s not hard to follow the Rules. Almost everyone who posts here does so with no apparent difficulty.

  41. John Reinhold
    March 26, 2013 at 10:22 am Link

    “but the city of Portland is only around 500k.”

    Clerical correction:

    2011 Census estimate has Portland at 593k and growing at 10k annually.

    Since the definition of “metropolitan statistical area”, and “urbanized area” differ and none of them match the Tri-Met service area – I can’t easily check and see what the population of the Tri-Met service area may be to compare the population ratio with the city of Portland proper…

  42. Erik H.
    March 27, 2013 at 7:41 am Link

    Changing our nation’s healthcare system for TriMet’s benefit is NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. Period. You might as well take it off the table, because we’ll all be dead, and our children dead, before that happens.

    Merging TriMet with Metro does not solve any problem – it just replaces the appointed Board with a Board that, while elected, has historically had its agenda and is largely Portland dominated. Metro is just a way for Portland to control the suburbs. A lot of people will be happy to see Metro killed off and its power returned to the County Commissioners – except, of course, Portland and Multnomah County.

    I see one of two acceptable solutions:

    1. Replace the appointed board with an elected board. It may not fix the problems, but at least voters will have a say in the matter. (Of course this only works provided Portland does not have a majority voice…since Portland is not the majority of the population. This is why Metro is so hated by the suburbs.)

    2. Break up TriMet and distribute its pieces to the counties. Washington County would have no problem assuming TriMet’s services. Clackamas County probably not as much (especially since four of its cities run their own transit system), so more than likely a new transit agency within the county would be formed for the remaining urbanized area.

    Of course, with #2, Portland loses the most. No longer would Portland get the $10 million regional windfall to subsidize the City of Portland Streetcar. Portland is too heavily dependent on government workers – read, workers who don’t pay TriMet payroll tax. Increasing property taxes is a no-go in Portland. People are fed up with the various income tax schemes…that would leave Portland enacting a sales tax, which would just be another regulation that retailers would despise.

    On the other hand, a city like Tigard (or Clackamas County) could enact a 2% sales tax and drop the payroll tax altogether, and be flush with operating cash to increase service from current TriMet levels. Even if one spends $250 in a shopping trip at Washington Square, we’re talking $5 – that’s still less than downtown Portland parking, and still a LOT less than Vancouver’s 8.5% (or whatever the current rate is) sales tax.

    And for those who claim such a tax is illegal…Ashland does it. (5% “food and beverage” tax.)

  43. al m
    March 27, 2013 at 9:13 am Link

    Speaking of the Trimet board of sock puppets, oops, I mean board of ‘directors’ I was turned on to Denver Colorado and their elected board. I watched THESE videos from a Denver watchdog (impressive) and saw actual dissent and heated discussions on transit.

    I couldn’t believe my eyes, a real independent thinking board!

    Can’t have that sort of thing around here. Portland is every bit as corrupt as Chicago but they wrap it in ‘green’ and ‘bicycles’ so nobody bothers looking.

  44. EngineerScotty
    March 27, 2013 at 10:31 am Link

    Just returned from a mini-vacation.

    At any rate… nobody is proposing changing the nation’s healthcare system for TriMet’s benefit. What was suggested was changing the state’s method of provision of healthcare to public employees, for the benefit of both said employees and as well as state/municipal coffers (*not* just TriMet). Such things are, I believe, permissible under Obamacare, and there actually is some support in Salem for doing this. It won’t happen soon, for various reasons, but this is not politically unthinkable.

    This wouldn’t work for retirees–who are legally entitled to the benefits they were promised upon retirement; but it could control costs better for current workers.

    A local sales tax would be a difficult sell in Oregon, simply because there is no state sales tax infrastructure for such a thing to piggyback on. In Washington, it doesn’t make a difference if a local merchant is collecting 7% or 7.5%–the procedures she has to follow are the same. Ashland’s tax is an interesting case–it basically only applies to restaurants. Do you think the City of Tigard would support a local sales tax to support intra-city transit?

    As far as which regions “subsidize” who: The current tax structure, with payroll taxes being collected at the place of employment, cause Washington County and Multnomah County to contribute far more to TriMet’s tax base than does Clackamas County (which has far less industry within the service district). Washington County is probably a net donor, but were we to assume (or desire) an equity constraint were a region’s service hours were in proportion to its payroll tax base, such a scheme would not benefit Clackamas County at all. Of course–such an equity formula only makes sense (ignoring the politics of the matter–high-employment areas can always threaten to do a Wilsonville) if one assumes that the only transit trips worth considering are the daily commute. Many people, particularly in Portland, use TriMet for more than just getting to work and back.

  45. EngineerScotty
    March 27, 2013 at 10:32 am Link

    Just returned from a mini-vacation.

    At any rate… nobody is proposing changing the nation’s healthcare system for TriMet’s benefit. What was suggested was changing the state’s method of provision of healthcare to public employees, for the benefit of both said employees and as well as state/municipal coffers (*not* just TriMet). Such things are, I believe, permissible under Obamacare, and there actually is some support in Salem for doing this. It won’t happen soon, for various reasons, but this is not politically unthinkable.

    This wouldn’t work for retirees–who are legally entitled to the benefits they were promised upon retirement; but it could control costs better for current workers.

    A local sales tax would be a difficult sell in Oregon, simply because there is no state sales tax infrastructure for such a thing to piggyback on. In Washington, it doesn’t make a difference if a local merchant is collecting 7% or 7.5%–the procedures she has to follow are the same. Ashland’s tax is an interesting case–it basically only applies to restaurants. Do you think the City of Tigard would support a local sales tax to support intra-city transit?

    As far as which regions “subsidize” who: The current tax structure, with payroll taxes being collected at the place of employment, cause Washington County and Multnomah County to contribute far more to TriMet’s tax base than does Clackamas County (which has far less industry within the service district). Washington County is probably a net donor, but were we to assume (or desire) an equity constraint were a region’s service hours were in proportion to its payroll tax base, such a scheme would not benefit Clackamas County at all. Of course–such an equity formula only makes sense (ignoring the politics of the matter–high-employment areas can always threaten to do a Wilsonville) if one assumes that the only transit trips worth considering are the daily commute. Many people, particularly in Portland, use TriMet for more than just getting to work and back.

  46. al m
    March 27, 2013 at 1:32 pm Link

    This wouldn’t work for retirees–who are legally entitled to the benefits they were promised upon retirement; but it could control costs better for current workers.

    ~~~>It appears that we are not ‘legally’ entitled to anything according to that bum in charge.
    He’s already changed the retirees deal and wants to change it more.
    See when it comes to Clackamas County honoring ‘their agreements’ Trimet expects that.
    When it comes to Trimet honoring their contracts with their past employees, that doesn’t count.

    Typical Trimet BS double standard fascism

  47. michael_pdx
    March 27, 2013 at 3:32 pm Link

    I’ve thought for awhile that it makes a ton of sense to combine Metro and TriMet – their service areas are nearly co-extensive, and their missions are pretty closely aligned.

    Arguably, Metro would be much better positioned to deliver on sensible regional solutions to land use and transportation if they could direct investments in transit.

    An example: I work in one of the poorest parts of the metro area in east Multnomah County, and have more than once thought the biggest game-changer for people who live out here would be truly frequent convenient bus service. I’m very pro-transit, but realize for lots of people out here going car-less (or car-lite) makes life much harder.

    It’s no news flash to point out that north-south service in the suburbs is far from optimal, and that might be the kind of thing Metro could take seriously in a way TriMet can’t.

    I do understand the stated rationale for demurring on a takeover of TriMet, but that really begs the question. Sure the challenges are still (daunting) challenges, but that doesn’t exactly explain why you wouldn’t give it a shot.

    My read (no inside baseball here, just following this in the papers) is that the changeover of the Clackamas County Board has made an elected TriMet board a LOT less appealing to folks looking at the question.

  48. michael_pdx
    March 27, 2013 at 3:47 pm Link

    Lenny Anderson Says:

    If folks want to help TriMet deal with its budget issues, they should just push hard to get all public employees, including TriMet’s, union and non-union alike, into the same health insurance pool with the same benefit package. And the sooner, the better.

    Exactly so! I do not understand why there isn’t more of a push toward getting all public employees in the same pool. Then, you could open the plan up to other folks who’d like to join, at pretty reasonable rates I would think, given the bargaining power a statewide health org would have.

    It’s a clumsy way to inch toward single-payer, but that’s apparently the only way this society will get there.

  49. al m
    March 27, 2013 at 5:28 pm Link

    Blah blah blah, buy the propaganda see where it gets you.
    Once the unions are broken the rest of you go down next.

    But stupid is as stupid does.

    Anyway, my real hero in the transit debate is John Charles!

  50. al m
    March 27, 2013 at 7:49 pm Link

    First they came for the communists,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

    Then they came for the socialists,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist.

    Then they came for the trade unionists,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

    Then they came for me,
    and there was no one left to speak for me.

  51. Erik H.
    March 27, 2013 at 9:09 pm Link

    At any rate… nobody is proposing changing the nation’s healthcare system for TriMet’s benefit. What was suggested was changing the state’s method of provision of healthcare to public employees, for the benefit of both said employees and as well as state/municipal coffers

    And I’m sure that will go over just well with voters, many of whom have ZERO healthcare coverage, to see that all public employees will have something better than them…

    It would be fine, if all public employees were shunted to a Kaiser-style plan, so that many employees would actually get a CUT in coverage. But that’s as likely as TriMet saying “We admit light rail costs a lot of money, so we’re going to eliminate our Capital Projects department to save $10 million a year and focus 100% on bus service, because it’s the most cost effective way to provide service to the entire region. And we’re going to cut our I.T. department and outsource it to a company in Idaho for 1/3rd what we are paying right now.”

    TriMet actively looking for ways to cut costs is an oxymoron. The healthcare issue is not going to resolve in the ways proposed above. Capital projects and past fiscal mismanagement by management MUST be fully and entirely on the table, including shutting down wasteful projects (WES, subsidy to the City of Portland Streetcar), eliminating non-core departments (I.T., Marketing and Capital Projects), reducing management ranks and pay, and considering criminal probes for those who caused great harm to TriMet by approving wasteful contracts (including those who agreed to the past labor terms – Fred Hansen, here’s looking at you with 20 years in prison) to show that no rock will go uncovered.

    We all know TriMet could fix it’s labor issues with a quick trip in and out of Chapter 9. We also know they aren’t, because Chapter 9 would absolutely destroy TriMet’s ability to expand rail. There’s a reason TriMet is engaging in a public war of words instead of taking the easy way out (Chapter 9). Read between the lines. It’s not about labor, or healthcare, or pensions…because if that were it, TriMet would have declared Chapter 9 three years ago. They didn’t. It isn’t about labor. It’s about fiscal mismanagement and unsustainable rail projects…

  52. Lenny Anderson
    March 27, 2013 at 9:27 pm Link

    I think Scotty’s analysis was pretty tight…bus service is the most expensive way to move people via transit, (except WA county’s WES), especially small suburban bus lines. Or is cost/ride data provided to the FTA just more lies? I think not. MAX and Streetcar serve more people with more reliable service at lower cost.
    Rail transit service south from Beaverton to Wilsonville would be as cost effective as other MAX lines had WA County pushed for real HCT instead of the cheaper commuter rail version. Someday we will get that fixed.
    Tom Walsh signed the sweet deal with the ATU in 1994, not Mr. Hansen who came to TriMet in ’99.
    All public employees have excellent health care coverage, including many who choose Kaiser; but they are all in different insurance pools. The way to lower heath care costs is for all us to be in one pool, or at least the bigger the pool the better. I would add everyone covered by the OR Health Plan as well to the public employee pool and allow the general public to jump in as well.

  53. EngineerScotty
    March 27, 2013 at 10:15 pm Link

    Erik,

    The common insurance pool is suggested as a cost-SAVING measure; not an additional or new benefit for public employees. There’s a reason that the medical industry generally dislikes many types of HCR, particularly single-payer: it lowers healthcare costs by paying doctors less. It does this by forming a large monopsony (or an oligopsony) that can negotiate better deals with healtchare providers.

    Would it be better if everyone were on such a plan–in many ways, yes. Medicare works great, after all. But “medicare for everyone” seems to be viewed as a Marxist plot by our political system.

    As Lenny notes, it was Tom Walsh and not Fred Hansen that gave the ATU a sweetheart deal. Unless you know something I don’t, I doubt there’s any criminal liability involved. Walsh reportedly had political ambitions beyond TriMet, which essentially made it uncomfortable for him to have opposition from labor. Unseemly, yes; illegal, probably not. Unless a politician administrator is caught taking bribes or similar, a prison term is simply out of the question. Unwise governance is not a crime.

    Outsourcing IT to Idaho won’t save much money, certainly not 2/3. Even outsourcing to India doesn’t reduce costs that much these days (wages for Indian programmers have gotten sufficiently high that the savings from doing so are a lot smaller than they used to be). And given the modern communication and infrastructure requirements of a modern transit system–IT is very much a core function, unless you think TriMet ought to return to the days of paper schedules and bus tokens.

    As far as Chapter 9 goes–the US Bankruptcy Court frowns on entities filing for bankruptcy unless they are, you know, actually bankrupt. At the present time, TriMet is nowhere near insolvent–a filing made by a solvent agency in order to stiff pensioners would certainly be frowned upon–and likely dismissed. Nor would it necessarily prevent future rail construction, since you apparently think TriMet is only interested in maintaining its credit rating to be able to finance future projects via the bond market–were TriMet to go through Chapter 9 (and possibly be re-organized), once its finances (or that of a successor agency) were back in order; it would be able to issue bonds again. A chapter 9 filing–particularly one that wiped out retiree creditors but kept bondholders whole (and bondholders generally get highest priority in such occurrences) would likely make TriMet more attractive to the bond market.

    Perverse? Certainly. But municipal bankruptcy simply doesn’t work like personal bankruptcy (where the debtor is thereafter deemed to be unworthy of credit, at least for the next ten years) or corporate bankruptcy (where the corporate entity is dissolved, or equity ownership transferred to creditors; but managers/owners lose nothing more than the value of equity they may hold).

  54. EngineerScotty
    March 27, 2013 at 11:05 pm Link

    Al,

    While I won’t moderate the remark… doncha think that quoting Pastor Niemöller on a transit blog might just be a wee bit over the top, and/or in bad taste? After all, there’s quite a big difference between increasing employees’ out-of-pocket healthcare costs and genocide…

  55. Jeff F
    March 28, 2013 at 9:50 am Link

    Since the definition of “metropolitan statistical area”, and “urbanized area” differ and none of them match the Tri-Met service area – I can’t easily check and see what the population of the Tri-Met service area may be to compare the population ratio with the city of Portland proper…

    It took me awhile to get the answer. Official figure for the Service Distrct is 1,472,331.

  56. al m
    March 28, 2013 at 11:02 am Link

    While I won’t moderate the remark… doncha think that quoting Pastor Niemöller on a transit blog might just be a wee bit over the top, and/or in bad taste? After all, there’s quite a big difference between increasing employees’ out-of-pocket healthcare costs and genocide…

    ~~~>No I don’t think so because what we are all witness to is the collapse of civilization.

    It starts with this, then it morphs into stealing bank accounts in Cyprus then America, then to total collapse of what we know is ‘normal’.

    I am I an extremist? You better believe it, history keeps repeating itself doesn’t it?

    Humans never change, they keep repeating the same patterns and we are in a period of devolution right now.

    And don’t forget everybody that says pointing to the 30’s Germany is VERBOTTEN (only 80 years ago by the way) if people can’t even look at their past then there is no way to see the present.

  57. al m
    March 28, 2013 at 11:22 am Link

    Furthermore Scott,

    Anybody with 1/2 a brain can see that Trimet is completely unsustainable, from the labor costs to the construction costs to the management salaries.

    The entire structure is flawed because the focus is not on providing transportation but providing money to people working in it.

    It’s got no long term future the only reason its still going is that it is totally financed by the tax payers and being allowed to accumulate huge debts.

    What people ignore is that much of the reason for this turmoil has been Trimet’s insistence on growing the agency even though they know its not sustainable.

    As John Charles said Trimet has not been saving for the retirees pensions, they have been using that money for everything else.

    This is a typical government management scam, the executives couldn’t care less about its union personnel, they probably planned this to go bankrupt.

    What really bothers me is the way they are beating the ‘union is evil’ drums.

    That is not necessary, there is something dreadfully scary about that.

    They have a system set up to deal with this, its called arbitration.

    Why won’t Mcfarlane use it? That’s the million dollar question. If he is so certain of his facts he should have no problem with arbitration.

    There is something very sinister at work here, hence my radicalism.

    And I’ve been right about these things much more than I would have liked to been.

  58. jimbobpdx
    March 28, 2013 at 1:45 pm Link

    Ugh. So disappointing – some pretty goofy ideas in the original post, like TM getting out of the design and construction business (what, in the middle of a $1bn+ project?).

    But mainly to see a blog that started by focusing on policy and analysis – ok, with the occasional side of snark, but that’s fine – come to resemble the middle school playground. Old Salty Al is closing in on 50% of the posts here. It’s getting to be mostly heat, little light.

    By contrast, look at the commentary on Allan Alley’s Indianapolis v. Portland cost of government piece at ORLive. Like a third of the commentors went to the data and took issue with his argument based on evidence. Who knew?

  59. EngineerScotty
    March 28, 2013 at 2:19 pm Link

    @jimbobpdx–

    To be certain, I don’t endorse the idea of gutting capital projects. Others do, however, and it does occasionally get suggested as a good idea, which is why I mentioned it: a whole lot of the “we need to locally appoint the TriMet board” tends to be code for “we need to get the Governor’s hacks off the board, and get TriMet out of the rail (and land-use) business”. The whole point to the article is that simply replacing the board is unlikely to have the desired effect; and if there is a desired effect of changing the board’s make-up, folks ought to be more up-front about it.

    Sadly, the comments on this article have diverged a bit from the intended topic…

    That said–there are quite a few groups opposed to further rail construction, for a range of reasons (good and bad): Good-government types who are convinced that it’s all pork, conservatives and libertarians opposed to any large public expenditures of transit, bus drivers who view expansion of high capacity transit as a threat to jobs, urban residents who view rail expansion as a transfer of service to the suburbs, suburban dwellers who view it (Streetcar, in particular) as a transfer of service to the inner city, homeowners who think that rail will somehow magically transform their picket-fence neighborhoods into Hong Kong, and poverty advocates who view it as a betrayal of a duty to provide social service. Many of these critics seem to take the view that TriMet should become–at least as far as future projects go, a bus-only transit agency.

  60. EngineerScotty
    March 28, 2013 at 2:20 pm Link

    @jimbobpdx–

    To be certain, I don’t endorse the idea of gutting capital projects. Others do, however, and it does occasionally get suggested as a good idea, which is why I mentioned it: a whole lot of the “we need to locally appoint the TriMet board” tends to be code for “we need to get the Governor’s hacks off the board, and get TriMet out of the rail (and land-use) business”. The whole point to the article is that simply replacing the board is unlikely to have the desired effect; and if there is a desired effect of changing the board’s make-up, folks ought to be more up-front about it.

    Sadly, the comments on this article have diverged a bit from the intended topic…

    That said–there are quite a few groups opposed to further rail construction, for a range of reasons (good and bad): Good-government types who are convinced that it’s all pork, conservatives and libertarians opposed to any large public expenditures of transit, bus drivers who view expansion of high capacity transit as a threat to jobs, urban residents who view rail expansion as a transfer of service to the suburbs, suburban dwellers who view it (Streetcar, in particular) as a transfer of service to the inner city, homeowners who think that rail will somehow magically transform their picket-fence neighborhoods into Hong Kong, and poverty advocates who view it as a betrayal of a duty to provide social service. Many of these critics seem to take the view that TriMet should become–at least as far as future projects go, a bus-only transit agency.

  61. Nick theoldurbanist
    March 28, 2013 at 3:26 pm Link

    “That said–there are quite a few groups opposed to further rail construction, for a range of reasons…”

    >>>> That’s why Metro and Trimet have hinted that there won’t be LRT built down to Tigard; it’s too politically difficult at this juncture.

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