The question of secession from TriMet

In the recent article about the Southwest Corridor project, there was quite a bit of commentary written by “joe”, who is opposed to the project (or at least appears to be opposed to any major capital construction in the Tigard/Tualatin area), and is involved, in some fashion, with an initiative petition in Tualatin to require a public vote such transit projects.  This thread isn’t for discussing the SWC or rapid transit (vs plain-old-bus-service), but another proposal that joe has mentioned in the other thread, and is also mentioned on the petitioner’s website:

The withdrawal of Tualatin from TriMet.

From the petitioner’s website:

We Do Want Tualatin voters given the right to have a public vote on transit projects, better bus transit service throughout Tualatin with more connections elsewhere  with a less costly & better bus transit system like Wilsonville’s SMART.

[Emphasis in italics added by Portland Transport]

Is this a good–or viable–idea?  Particularly from the view of transit users?

More, after the jump.

SMART history

SMART (South Metro Area Rapid Transit), which was formed when the city of Wilsonville withdrew from TriMet back in 1988.  At the time, there wasn’t many people living in Wilsonville–the area consisted of farmland, several industrial parks (most notably a Tektronix campus, now owned by Xerox), a truck stop, and Dammasch State Hospital, a now-defunct mental institution.  (The main population center of Wilsonville then was the Charbonneau district on the south/east side of the Willamette River).  Wilsonville had the distinction of having more jobs within its boundaries than it had residents.

The departure, at the time, was widely seen as a tax ploy by local businesses, who didn’t care to subsidize transit service in Portland with their payroll taxes.  (TriMet provided only token service to Wilsonville).  As part of the separation ordinance, the city of Wilsonville was required to maintain transit service for at least year, which it did (after reducing the payroll tax for transit by about half).  At the same time, the city started developing a stronger residential/retail presence, building up the Town Center area and numerous subdivisions, eventually growing to what it is today.  Rather than killing off the transit service after one year, Wilsonville kept it and expanded it,  and SMART (initially WART, until they got sick of the frog jokes :P) has grown into a reasonably-good small-town transit agency.   SMART provides six-day-a-week service, including both four circulator routes within Wilsonville (which are free), and connections to Tualatin, Tigard, Beaverton, Portland, Canby, and Salem (costing $1.50-$3 for a cash fare).  SMART used to provide service to Oregon City, but that has been discontinued.  Two TriMet services reach Wilsonville–WES (which stops at Wilsonville Station, and has a storage facility for trains there), and the 96 bus, which serves Commerce Circle in the north end of town.  Both services only operate during peak commute hours on weekdays.

Wilsonville isn’t the only part of the TriMet service district to have seceded–after TriMet was formed, its service footprint stretched as far as Sandy and Molalla, and those exurban cities (as well as Canby) have seceded and formed their own local transit agencies.  The rural areas of Damascus and Boring have also left the district, without any replacement service.  Wilsonville’s departure was by far the most disruptive, however–both to TriMet’s finances, and to the goal of providing continuous service throughout the metro area.  Unlike the aforementioned cities, Wilsonville lies with the Portland metro urban growth boundary and Metro service boundaries.  For a while, getting to jobs in Wilsonville from a residence elsewhere was a monumental pain, though WES and the SMART 8X and 9X bus lines have made this a bit smoother.  (Chris Smith, who lives in Portland and works in Wilsonville, can surely comment on this!)  There’s still the issue of multiple fares–TriMet tickets and passes are not good on SMART, nor vice versa.

What would a Tualatin transit agency look like?

At this point, there doesn’t appear to be much public discussion of the details of what such a proposal would look like, or who precisely is behind this idea.

I will concede something up front:  The service TriMet provides to Tualatin is, in this blogger’s opinion, piss-poor.  There’s no frequent service (though making the 76 to Beaverton FS has long been on the agency’s wishlist); no direct full-time connection to Portland (the 96 express and 36 go to downtown during peak commute times, and the 38 connects Bridgeport Village/Tualatin Park and Ride to downtown infrequently on weekdays), and no direct connection to nearby communities like Sherwood or West Linn.  Many of the planning documents for the SWC project, which includes more than just a rapid-transit line, include much discussion of new service options in Tualatin, and the SW Service Enhancement Plan is underway–but TriMet has long kept a wishlist of services it would like to fund, but can’t afford to.

The Tualatin Chamber of Commerce does provide a free shuttle service that connects downtown (and the WES station) with the industrial areas to the west; this runs half-hourly during peak commute hours.

On the other hand–much of Tualatin (outside the core area between downtown and Meridian Park) is suburban sprawl–single-use subdivisions along the river in both directions, and to the south along Boones Ferry Road, and office and industrial parks with large parking lots to the west; the sort of areas that it is impossible to efficiently serve with high-quality transit.  And the petitioners, on their website, seem eager to keep it that way–opposing high capacity transit in part because it might bring about “apartments” and “density”.

Were Tualatin to withdraw from TriMet (and there are legal criteria that have to be met for such a petition to be approved), some questions come to mind:

  • Would a Tualatin-specific agency replace it?   Or would a merger with SMART be attempted, and would the city of Wilsonville support such a thing?  As SMART is a department within the city of Wilsonville, could it collect tax revenues from Tualatin, or would a new standalone transit agency need to be created?  As Tualatin doesn’t have as large of a payroll tax base as Wilsonville does, would Wilsonville businesses be willing to subsidize service in Tualatin?
  • What levels of service would be provided, both within Tualatin, to surrounding communities (Wilsonville, Sherwood, Durham, King City, Tigard, Lake Oswego, Rivergrove, West Linn) and beyond?   Routes and stops, span of service, and service frequency/headway?  Would things other than scheduled fixed-route service be provided?  Would the agency run 40′ busses like TriMet does (possibly even purchasing stock from TriMet), or smaller vehicles?
  • How would existing TriMet services into Tualatin be affected?  Would the 76, 36, 37, 38, and 96 all end at Bridgeport Village, leaving service within the city to the new agency, or might certain lines (such as the 76) continue to serve important Tualatin destinations like downtown or Meridian Park Hospital?
  • How would this affect WES?  Would a new Tualatin transit agency assume a portion of the share of expenses for the WES commuter rail service (SMART contributes money to TriMet for operation of WES)?
  • Will there be any sort of fare integration with a new agency and TriMet?  Would the new agency provide open transit data (scheduled and realtime) for transit tracking apps and mapping services?  Would fare payment systems (including the new GlobeSherpa app, and the proposed e-payment system being developed) be usable on Tualatin busses?  Would TriMet fares be good in Tualatin, or vice versa?  Or would riders now need to purchase two tickets or passes for journeys that currently only require one.
  • Has any detailed financial analysis been done?  How would this affect payroll taxes levied within Tualatin?   Would they go up, or down?  Would the primary purpose of a TriMet withdrawal be improving service (by allocating all tax proceeds collected within Tualatin to Tualatin service, assuming that Tualatin is a net donor to TriMet under the current system), reducing taxes (a major impetus for the Wilsonville departure), or some combination of both?
  • What about paratransit service?  Would the disabled living in Tualatin and currently using LIFT be still able to reach destinations outside the city?  Would LIFT users in Tigard still be able to access Meridian Park Hospital?
  • How much of TriMet’s legacy pension debt would a new Tualatin transit agency assume (or be required to help TriMet fund)?  I don’t know how this was handled during the SMART secession (which predated the explosion in healthcare costs that occurred in starting in the ’90s, as well as the generous labor contract that was signed in that decade, so perhaps it was a non-issue), but I would assume that neither TriMet management nor the ATU would want the precedent set that portions of TriMet’s tax base could simply walk away, leaving retirees holding the bag.  (Otherwise, what happens if Portland tries to leave TriMet, leaving the agency without the tax base needed to satisfy its outstanding pension obligations?)
  • And finally–who, exactly, is behind this proposal?  Are actual TriMet riders in Tualatin so dissatisfied with TriMet service, and so utterly lacking confidence that TriMet and its management will do anything to improve service within Tualatin, that they are agitating for secession?  Or is this proposal being backed by entities more concerned about their tax bill then they are concerned about how frequently and reliably the bus comes?  Or by the “Stop Portland Creep” crowd–entities primarily concerned about making sure auto-dominated suburban sprawl remains the dominant land use within Tualatin, and eager to minimize the influence that Portland greens have on local land-use decisions?

Final thoughts

Given all of that–am I totally against secession?  Not completely–I could potentially be won over by a compelling story that provides satisfactory answers to the above questions.  That is, after all, why I asked them.  My first concern is good transit, not what’s good for TriMet.  Other cities do well with Balkanized transit systems, and there might be some operational efficiencies to be gained by having big-city transit operators like TriMet focus on service within the dense parts of town, and small-scale operators with different economies of scale focusing on single-family suburbia.  SMART is a good agency, and Tualatin is more similar to Wilsonville in its topography and land-use than it is to Beaverton, let alone Portland.  Were Tualatin to be served by SMART rather than TriMet, it would not increase the number of agencies within the metro area (were Tualatin served by a third agency instead of SMART, I would be more skeptical).

But separated agencies, done poorly, are a pain in the butt for riders.   Particularly if routes or schedules are not coordinated, or if separate fares and passes are needed, or if additional transfers are needed whenever service boundaries are crossed–and especially if the agencies maintain a hostile posture to each other, or engage in turf wars.  Separate agencies work well when there’s a uniform fare system and payment system, when the lines of one agency reach into the other (rather than ending at the border of the service district), and the agencies respect each other.

I would be against any secession activities that aren’t at least rider-neutral (for those who live in or travel to Tualatin).  If the whole point of this discussion is simply to reduce the tax burden of Tualatin businesses, or to ensure that public transit is never more than a niche product for the poor and desperate, etc.–then I certainly can’t support this idea.  On the other hand, if a good case can be made that SMART or another agency can actually produce better results for Tualatin commuters and residents, and do so by means other than depriving TriMet of revenue and/or jettisoning TriMet’s outstanding obligations, I’d love to hear it.

So if any proponents of secession wish to answer the above questions, or otherwise defend the idea–the floor is now open.

68 Comments

68 Responses to The question of secession from TriMet

  1. Cora Potter
    May 15, 2014 at 2:38 pm Link

    It’s not secession or no-change. There are intermediate solutions like the GroveLink model. (I work for the non-profit that operates GroveLink for the City of Forest Grove).

    GroveLink has been incredibly successful by our measures (trips per hour, cost per trip, overall ridership, public feedback/commendations). But, in order to do this in Tualatin, the City would really need to be a partner in the effort and committed to providing at least some in-kind and operating funding, as well as coordinating with TriMet.

    http://www.rideconnection.org/ride/services/grovelinktransit.aspx

    • EngineerScotty
      May 15, 2014 at 2:53 pm Link

      Oh, I agree… I consider “divorce”, in this context, to be an option of last resort.

      That said, to what extent should communities like Forest Grove, or Tualatin, or Oregon City be having to provide local service that TriMet doesn’t provide? To ask that question is to start delving into questions concerning how much service a given community is “entitled” to expect TriMet.

      (That might be an excellent topic for a future post, BTW…)

      • Anandakos
        May 15, 2014 at 4:41 pm Link

        Scotty,

        As I’m sure has occurred to you, this is an almost perfect clone of the battle underway up in King County, Washington. It’s not exact because up there the rail and intercity expresses are separately operated and funded by SoundTransit, so the current dispute is between Seattle (and doughty allies Shoreline and Lake City) and the cities and unincorporated areas of East and South King County over local and peak hour express bus service. But ignoring the “LootRail” hatred down here — which I personally think is just a red herring for opposition to all quality transit — the general arguments are remarkably similar.

        Suburban dislike of Light Rail is much less severe up north, presumably because Link is planned mostly to be BART with pantographs. There’s the nod to street running along MLK and Westside MAX-like at-grade reserved ROW on the Fifth Avenue South Busway, but everyone has pledged that those particular irritations will not be repeated. Everything planned for the future is up in the sky, down in the earth or at the very last, squeezed next to a freeway in its right of way.

        So Link through ST2 is hotsey-totsey for the suburbanites who I’ll give you dollars to doughnuts will be voting a loud and raucous “HELL NO!” on “ST3″. You see, it would build a light rail line from Ballard at least to West Seattle.

        WHAT!?!?!?! Subsidize those snotty slackers in the city???? No. Way.

        They showed their hand last week by voting about two to one against continuing Metro bus service through an extension and increase of a car tab fee.

        So now Seattle, almost certainly Shoreline and possibly Lake City will be “purchasing” bus hours from King County to avoid most of the cuts to runs in their cities. Bellevue and Kirkland may decide to do so also, but it’s not a certainty.

        One of the most voluble of the “antis” on SeattleTransitBlog is John Bailo (aka “TheMasterOfTheUniverse”) who has been advocating for Metro to be completely balkanized into single-city systems and for ST to take over all of the remaining intercity runs that Metro makes. I have to say there’s something to like about the idea; a “real” city like Seattle must have transit to allow all the creative people who want to flock together plus all the folks who want to provide them services to live in sufficiently close proximity that they don’t spend all day driving. LA tried the other model and found it wanting for a city of significant extent, to say the least. They’re developing dense neighborhoods along their growing rail network as rapidly as they can rent the necessary cranes.

        On the other hand, folks attracted to the suburbs apparently don’t mind the wasted time behind the wheel if they get to barbecue in their own little patch of backyard. I like it too, but at least I take the bus whenever and wherever I can. The important thing is that while there are suburban users of the transit system, they are much more work-oriented than the average city user. Most suburbanites think that mid-day city buses look like the empty ones running through their neighborhoods. In any case, they don’t want to pay for any transit except that which they use. So overall, suburban cities — and especially the unincorporated parts of the county — don’t want much transit at all, if any.

        There is simply no “funding formula” that produces both an equitable match between tax funding and operational expenditures and an efficient operations for a system that serves both a central city and its surrounding suburbs. Either the tax dollars go back to the funding source in terms of empty bus hours, or people feel that they’re subsidizing someone else’s different lifestyle. So having separate systems for local service makes sense as long as there is a regional system to which they can link for longer trips.

        However, I do believe it would be better for regions of the county which are economically linked and of similar density (in particular BellKirMond) to form sub-regional co-operative systems instead of every municipality going it alone. Even if all they do is “purchase” service from a vendor, public or private, there still has to be a management department and that’s a lot of overhead.

        I could see a Redmond-Kent-Auburn system and a Sea-Tac-Federal Way-Burien-Des Moines for South KC, but the two would be fighting over Tukwila’s fat sales tax haul. The little cities would join up with one of their neighbors or buy service from them.

        • John Charles Wilson
          May 19, 2014 at 8:59 am Link

          I’m doing a thought experiment on the topic of how to deal with varying transit “profiles” within a metro area, and have a potential solution:

          Since the central city and denser suburbs need far more service than outer, less dense suburbs, maybe the transit agency should plan service according to actual ridership needs, *then* tax municipalities and unincorporated areas individually, according to the cost of providing the proper amount of service to them. In other words, variable tax rates, so maybe Portland and Beaverton – or Seattle and Shoreline – have higher taxes to support more service, while suburbs which don’t need that much service don’t have to overpay and either get unneeded service or subsidise the central city.

          This doesn’t require separate agencies, just a legal change to allow transit agencies to impose individual tax rates on each municipality and a separate rate (probably very low) on the unincorporated territory of each county within its service area.

          (Note 1: I oppose “coverage for its own sake” service. Maximising ridership with available resources should be the 100 percent focus of any transit system.)

          (Note 2: I realise this proposal would work better in the Midwest than in West Coast states because in the Midwest, unincorpoated areas are divided into “townships”, which are nonmunicipal legal entities with distinct identities and rudimentary local governments. This would allow each township to be taxed seperately, whereas in Washington, Oregon, and California, all unincorporated territory within a county would have to be taxed the same.)

          • Anandakos
            May 19, 2014 at 9:35 am Link

            This has potential to be an elegant solution to the problem. It would likely have the lowest overall cost to the various municipalities, since there would be only one regional operating agency.

            However, there are as likely to be political fights with this solution as with the existing one. The suburbs tend to be anti-union and they’re likely to wave that flag, claiming that they could get operators at a lower cost than the regional agency. Ergo, in their minds they’d still be paying too much for transit service.

            But in the absence of that likely objection and perhaps some quarreling in the state legislature during the fight over the enabling legislation, it’s a positive idea. It’s certainly worth pursuing, and if one looks through appearances, seems exactly like what Seattle and Shoreline are going to be doing informally. They’ll essentially be paying a higher tax rate than the surrounding county municipalities and unincorporated areas.

    • Erik H.
      May 17, 2014 at 8:37 am Link

      You raise a good point, Cora. Since the City of Portland has managed to get TriMet to pay for the City of Portland Streetcar, I could see this model as an alternative to simply divorcing TriMet altogether.

      Take Tigard, as an example. Tigard could force Metro, ODOT and TriMet to buy a fleet of buses that would be garaged and maintained in Tigard, in a city owned facility. Then, Tigard could force TriMet into a contract to operate the buses for the sole benefit and purpose of the City of Tigard (this is, of course, in addition to TriMet’s existing service), and forcing TriMet to subsidize any losses.

      It works for the City of Portland Streetcar; it can work for Tigard, Tualatin, Sherwood, Forest Grove, Cornelius…well, anyone!

      • Jason McHuff
        May 18, 2014 at 10:22 am Link

        The City of Portland paid for/obtained the construction costs of the streetcar, and pays for a significant portion of the operating costs:
        http://www.portlandstreetcar.org/pdf/capital_and_operations_detail_FY2014.pdf

        The correct comparison would be if Tigard obtained the buses itself, replaced some TriMet service or created a need for more transit service (note that Line 17 no longer serves NW at all and development has exploded along the NS line) and paid for at least some of the additional operating costs.

        • Erik H.
          May 18, 2014 at 11:41 am Link

          In 2001 the City of Portland Streetcar received $5 million in FTA grants reallocated from TriMet, which reallocated regional funds to a local purpose.

          In 2001 the City of Portland Streetcar received $500,000 from HUD (housing) monies.

          In 2005 the City of Portland Streetcar received $800,000 from HUD (housing) monies.

          In 2006 the City of Portland Streetcar received $10M in “regional transportation funds” for a clearly non-regional purpose.

          In 2007 the City of Portland Streetcar received $2.1M in “Connect Oregon” (statewide) funds, and $650,000 in HUD (housing) funds.

          In 2012 the City of Portland Streetcar received $75M in FTA funds (which could have been used for regional uses, including local circulator bus services in all suburbs), $20M in ODOT funds (this was part of the agreement that TriMet not ask for or receive ODOT funds for bus replacements), and $3.62 million in undetermined “regional funds”.

          In 2014 TriMet (using regional transportation funds) is giving the City of Portland Streetcar $4.1M that was raised regionally for regional transit services.

          But, there’s no money to replace 20+ year old buses…

          (Using your own documentation, Jason.)

          • Jason McHuff
            May 18, 2014 at 12:17 pm Link

            Thank you for replying. The old buses are indeed being replaced (haven’t you seen the 3100s?), and my point was that the construction costs of the streetcar generally did not come from funds that could be used to fund transit operations in Tigard.

            Regarding the 2012 funding, the FTA funding was specifically for a streetcar-type project (it was not general funding) and the ODOT funding was specifically to build streetcars locally. It was different from the general ODOT transit money that you are thinking of that TriMet used for Milwaukie MAX.

            Overall, excluding the $75 million from the FTA, the City of Portland paid for almost 75% of all construction costs.

            And while TriMet does give some operational funding, the streetcar allowed TriMet to reduce service in the area even though the substantial increase in development created a need for more transit service. The area deserves regional funding just like Tigard does, and possibly even more given the higher levels of ridership, productivity and potential congestion. Valid TriMet fare holders also get to ride the streetcar for no additional fare.

            • Erik H.
              May 18, 2014 at 3:21 pm Link

              “The old buses are indeed being replaced” – 12 years too late. Why can’t MAX wait 12 years? Why can’t the Streetcar/MAX bridge be forced to wait 12 years, and the Milwaukie MAX riders have to suffer a bus transfer to complete the journey? Fair is fair…

              “construction costs of the streetcar generally did not come from funds that could be used to fund transit operations in Tigard.”

              But TriMet has played a shell game and moved general funds dollars out of the general funds budget to the capital project. for this and other similar projects.

              “the FTA funding was specifically for a streetcar-type project (it was not general funding)”

              It’s Small Starts. Which can be used for buses.

              ” the ODOT funding was specifically to build streetcars locally.”

              Then why isn’t ODOT using the money to build buses locally – especially considering the number of factories shuttered throughout the entire state of Oregon that would be well-suited to build buses? There isn’t much difference between a RV and a bus, yet we’ve shut down a half dozen bus factories. Freightliner used to have a transit bus building subsidiary; that money could have been used to keep three shifts open on Swan Island. Instead – ODOT told TriMet “we’ll give you money for streetcars, but don’t ask us for money for buses” and TriMet said “Sir, Yes SIR!” Why the anti-bus arrangement?

              “Overall, excluding the $75 million from the FTA”

              And as I’ve pointed out using the exact link and proof you provided, that is wrong.

              “while TriMet does give some operational funding”

              Which directly and negatively impacts service elsewhere in TriMet’s service district which it is legally, morally and ethically required to provide fair and equitable service to…

              “the streetcar allowed TriMet to reduce service in the area even though the substantial increase in development created a need for more transit service.”

              Yet there have been increases in development elsewhere (Progress Ridge, Forest Grove, Wilsonville, between Tualatin and Sherwood, south of Sherwood, east of Tualatin, West Linn, Oregon City) in which TriMet did not increase service to. So TriMet is providing a high level of duplicative service (i.e. Streetcar CL Line and 6 bus, Streetcar 23rd Line and 15 bus) to some citizens who pay the same taxes as those in Progress Ridge who receive NO service.

              “The area deserves regional funding just like Tigard does”

              Justify why it receives more regional funding for a transit service that is clearly not regional – when it is already more than well-served by other transit options. Again – just because it’s growing doesn’t automatically mean it gets more service; otherwise justify the lack of action on TriMet’s part for providing adequate service to other growing areas of the TriMet service district (again, Progress Ridge – NO SERVICE).

            • Jason McHuff
              May 18, 2014 at 5:32 pm Link

              How are you coming up with “12 years too late”? While TriMet has been late on replacing buses, they are expected to last at least 15 years, and no buses are anywhere near 27 years old.

              “But TriMet has played a shell game and moved general funds dollars out of the general funds budget to the capital project. for this and other similar projects.”

              Where? Where does that show up on the funding document I linked to?

              “Then why isn’t ODOT using the money to build buses locally”

              Have you asked them? And there’s already a competitive US bus-building industry, so it’s not like it needs help.

              “Freightliner used to have a transit bus building subsidiary”

              So they got out of it and didn’t want to be in the industry?

              “And as I’ve pointed out using the exact link and proof you provided, that is wrong.”

              I’m sorry, but I don’t understand. On the summary list, I count $131.4 million just from city-controlled sources, not including other sources which wouldn’t otherwise go towards bus service.
              http://www.portlandstreetcar.org/pdf/capital_and_operations_summary_FY2014.pdf

              “Yet there have been increases in development elsewhere”

              How transit oriented are those places? Are they contributing any additional transit funding like Portland is for the streetcar? Also, I wouldn’t call the Pearl District or South Waterfront “well served” by non-streetcar transit service.

            • Reza
              May 19, 2014 at 10:29 am Link

              @ Erik H.

              “So TriMet is providing a high level of duplicative service (i.e. Streetcar 23rd Line and 15 bus)”

              False. Those two lines might cross in a couple places but they are in no way “duplicative”, even a little bit.

            • Reza
              May 19, 2014 at 10:32 am Link

              @ Jason McHuff

              “Also, I wouldn’t call the Pearl District or South Waterfront “well served” by non-streetcar transit service.”

              That observation is absolutely correct.

    • rick
      May 21, 2014 at 7:30 am Link

      Also, does WES even make a profit? The Wilsonville WES parking lot has been partially leased to a biz for parking.

  2. PdxBarb
    May 15, 2014 at 4:06 pm Link

    I worked for LIFT for several years and they only provide service within Trimet service boundaries.

    From the Trimet website:

    The LIFT service area boundary is three-fourths of a mile beyond the outermost portions of TriMet’s bus and MAX lines. LIFT does not serve locations outside the TriMet District, the legal boundary for TriMet.

  3. Joe
    May 15, 2014 at 7:30 pm Link

    Cora, we would like to see Tualatin Tigard let Trimet be the responsibility of Portland & seek a system like Wilsonvilles which is less expensive & ridership is free.

    • EngineerScotty
      May 15, 2014 at 7:43 pm Link

      Do you have any detailed answers to some of the questions above–or know anyone who has done that research?

    • Anandakos
      May 15, 2014 at 11:21 pm Link

      Once again, Joe, Wilsonville businesses are not going to pay for your bus service in Tualatin nor will they pay for Tigard’s. You folks in Tualatin may have enough businesses out west along the old SP to pay for a little bit of local service, but they’re not going to pay for people going to downtown Portland or to the tech corridor. They might very well be a great adjunct to the existing Tri-Met service to downtown and Beaverton, but they don’t have the financial firepower to pay for those regional services.

    • Erik H.
      May 17, 2014 at 8:29 am Link

      Not only do I support it, but I support a wider secession from TriMet: Tigard, Tualatin, Sherwood, Lake Oswego, West Linn and Oregon City (plus the smaller towns of Rivergrove and Durham). Within this region you have a population of around 150,000 people – large enough to effectively have its own service district.

      You have an area that TriMet doesn’t effectively serve, and most of TriMet’s cheerleaders derisively use terms to even downplay the effectiveness of serving; yet there is proven transit demand. When I attend local community transit meetings, I hear a lot of anger and resentment of the Portland-centric “Let’s build light rail!”, but when it comes to local bus service, these same individuals are very enthusiastically saying “We need a bus here, and here, and going there.” There is a need for transit – not for light rail. We don’t need Portland to tell us how to grow and develop.

      • Anandakos
        May 19, 2014 at 10:04 am Link

        If those “same individuals” were riding the buses that already serve many destinations in northwest Clackamas County and southeast Washington County, the planners at Tri-Met would eagerly be proposing greater frequencies on the existing services and extending the service area. But they’re not; what you perceive as “transit demand” is nothing more than jealousy that those slackers in the city actually have the opportunity to live without a car. The nerve of them!

        I’ve ridden the local buses in and around Oregon City and Tigard/Tualatin a modest number times (about thirty as I have explored the area) and found the ridership to be almost entirely teen-agers at any time except the commute hours. You’re right that you have few truly transit-dependent folks except for kids whose parents haven’t given them a car yet.

        So go ahead and secede. Since with the exception of Wilsonville, Town Center and Tigard the area has bupkies for employment, you’ll find out that you can’t afford more service over the huge sparsely settled area than you already get and will suffer the same lack of adult ridership except for commuters.

        • John Charles Wilson
          May 19, 2014 at 10:34 am Link

          Sounds like a good case for a few “demonstration routes”. That’s what Metro Transit in Minneapolis does when people clamor for new service but the pre-existing ridership doesn’t seem to justify it. Basically, you listen to the people, plan routes and schedules that best fit what they say they want, and run them experimentally for six months. Sometimes they get results, sometimes they don’t.

      • Reza
        May 19, 2014 at 10:34 am Link

        Would this new transit service district actually have Sunday service? Unlike Wilsonville?

  4. Joe
    May 16, 2014 at 12:03 pm Link

    Anandakos,

    we wouldn’t need them too, Trimet is far more expensive.

    Scotty,

    To see just how expensive WES is, we can compare it to an express bus route in the same corridor opened last year by the transit operator in Wilsonville, South Metro Area Rapid Transit (SMART). The costs of the bus are only 3% of WES: $1.30 per mile versus $43.74 for WES.

    Transit Service from Wilsonville Station to Beaverton Transit Center

    Operating cost/mile

    Operating cost/hour

    TriMet Express Rail

    $43.74

    $949.84

    SMART Express Bus

    $ 1.30

    $ 83.17

    http://cascadepolicy.org/blog/2014/04/11/time-to-stop-throwing-money-down-the-wes-sinkhole/

    Thanks
    Joe

    • EngineerScotty
      May 16, 2014 at 1:21 pm Link

      Oh, I know that WES is expensive; we’ve blogged about that many times.

      However,
      * The FTA is not likely to permit TriMet to scrap WES, not without some fairly significant penalties. (And yes, the question has been asked here if maybe that ought to be done).
      * Were Tualatin to secede from TriMet, it likely wouldn’t get out of helping to pay for WES.

      Actually, there is good question as to whether or not Tualatin could legally (and unilaterally) secede from TriMet, without legislative intervention. It appears that cities with populations over 10,000, or portions thereof, cannot withdraw from transit districts, according to ORS 267 (the relevant state law). Tualatin has a population well over 10,000. (Wilsonville did not have that large of a population back in 1988, though it certainly does today).

      A legislative separation might be possible–though I can’t imagine such a thing being approved without the cooperation of Portland legislators. As a result, it’s unlikely that Tualatin would be able to slough off its fair share of WES operations or existing pension debt.

      • R A Fontes
        May 16, 2014 at 3:35 pm Link

        FWIW, I’m pretty sure that the WES FFGA does not have a minimum number of years of service required; that newer FFGA’s do; that the standard minimum service requirement does not exceed five years; and that WES has already been in service for over five years.

        The inclusion of two more brand new DMU’s in the FY 15 budget is a real insult to thousands of riders throughout the district who continue to be denied service.

      • Erik H.
        May 17, 2014 at 8:32 am Link

        “It appears that cities with populations over 10,000, or portions thereof, cannot withdraw from transit districts, according to ORS 267 (the relevant state law).”

        Actually, the Oregon Constitution, Article 1, Section 1, reads:

        “Natural rights inherent in people. We declare that all men, when they form a social compact are equal in right: that all power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority, and instituted for their peace, safety, and happiness; and they have at all times a right to alter, reform, or abolish the government in such manner as they may think proper”

        While ORS 267.253 does cover the communities of less than 10,000 residents, there is no law regarding areas of over 10,000 residents – and thus the Constitution would provide for a secession.

        • EngineerScotty
          May 17, 2014 at 10:10 am Link

          Like I said, the remedy in such case would apply with the Oregon Legislature. All municipal and special governments, including transit districts, are creations of the Oregon Legislature and Oregon law; unlike the relationship between the states and Uncle Sam, local governments are not co-sovereigns with Salem. Put together a serious proposal, get it introduced, and things might happen. I wouldn’t be necessarily against such a thing, though I would oppose a plan whose main purpose is to lower taxes or to enshrine the privileges of motorists. Even though we disagree on stuff, I do take you seriously, Erik, as someone who values good transit. I don’t take seriously the likes of Art Crino (or anyone else associated with the John Birch Society), and many of the other political actors on the right.

          Simply invoking Article 1 Section 1 in a claim of a right to unilaterally and unconditionally withdraw from a municipal government or special district, is probably not a winning argument.

          • Erik H.
            May 18, 2014 at 11:43 am Link

            Seriously – there are enough people in Salem that question TriMet’s motives, that putting together a secession proposal invoking the Constitutional right to secede, followed by a plan to create a transit district to replace it, has a better chance of success than seeing the a day TriMet takes its legal, moral and ethical obligations to provide fair and equitable levels and quality of service to us non-Portland residents.

            • EngineerScotty
              May 18, 2014 at 1:52 pm Link

              Constitional arguments are neither sufficient nor necessary. The Legislature has the power to create, destroy, or modify transit districts within Oregon as it sees fit, without need of any Constitional argument, and only the Legislature has that power per Oregon law (except when such power is explicitly delegated in law, as it is per ORS 267).

              I’ve never heard of a claim being successfully brought under Article 1, Section 1, demanding the right of electors in a municipal government (or a subset thereof) to abolish or secede from said agency in absence of any legally-established procedure for doing so. It’s been a while since I studied this stuff (and IANAL), but such clauses generally are intended to state the fundamental requirement of democracy, and that the holding of elections is sufficient to satisfy this requirement. Again, take this legal analysis with a large grain of salt.

          • Anandakos
            May 19, 2014 at 10:17 am Link

            Scotty,

            When has Erik H. ever made a post of this blog that truly “values good transit”? He’s one of those sock-puppet mouthpieces who argue for spending ever more money on “coverage” service that his allies on the right then condemn as “running empty”. He’s just a part of the old bait-and-switcher tag team,

            This waving about of the “Oregon Constitution” and “Tri-Met’s motives” are reliable indicators of paranoid disassociation. Since when does a legal entity have a “motive”? It probably has goals and objectives agreed by its stakeholders, but it can’t have a “motive” since it’s not biological.

            • R Whitaker
              May 20, 2014 at 9:17 am Link

              Anybody who disagrees with the Church of Light Rail or the Church of Trimet shouldn’t even be bothered discussing things with the people that frequent Portland Transport.

    • Chris I
      May 16, 2014 at 1:38 pm Link

      Again, you are either ignorant or being intentionally disingenuous. You apparently don’t know the history of WES, or why it even exists. Trimet didn’t push for it; it was Washington County’s idea, and they pushed it through. Trimet was the logical transit agency to team with for equipment acquisition and operation of the line. How do the SMART Express lines compare to the Trimet express bus lines? Maybe you should look at those numbers…

      • Erik H.
        May 17, 2014 at 8:33 am Link

        And it was Fred Hansen that championed the idea and was it’s chief cheerleader, along with then Capital Projects Director (and now GM) Neil McFarlane.

        It may have started as a boneheaded idea by Washington County, but it ended up as a boneheaded idea by a guy who is now living the TriMet retirement dream in Australia.

    • Anandakos
      May 16, 2014 at 7:59 pm Link

      So you’re going to replace the 76, 96 and the two locals via Lake Oswego with SMART service? Well if you can get Wilsonville to agree and figure out some way to pay for them I’d say what the hell, go on, skedaddle. Subject of course to a lien of the city for your portion of encumbered Tri-Met costs.

      Good fences make good neighbors.

    • Anandakos
      May 16, 2014 at 8:20 pm Link

      Dude,

      I just noticed that CPI (and you apparently) states that the SMART bus goes sixty-four miles per hour all the time ($83.17 per platform hour divided by $1.30 per bus mile). It apparently has no dead heading and it’s stops must be very brief or it’s velocity between them would be even faster.

      Since the 8X makes one trip south in the very early morning hours and one trip north at 10:30 PM in the evening, this is actually possible, though we should notify the Oregon State Patrol; they’ve got a nightly speeder.

      However, that lovely $1.30 per mile is going to double if they try to run either or both those routes with a stop in Tualatin at the rush hours. Let’s just say, “vehicles are not speeding on either 217 or I-5 at that time of day”.

      I leave it to the reader to judge the value of John Charles’ and this poster’s honesty and/or intelligence given this absolutely ridiculous — and, frankly, dishonest — comparison to WES,

      Yes, WES is overpriced; there’s no doubt about it. But as Chris I said, your county government came up with the idea and pushed it in Tri-Met.

      Maybe Tualatin and Wilsonville shouldn’t just secede from the Tri-Met area but from Washington County too?

      Confederates rampant!

      • EngineerScotty
        May 16, 2014 at 9:02 pm Link

        Not to pick nits, but Wilsonville is mostly in Clackamas County. (The county line in that part of town is a bit strange…)

        • Anandakos
          May 17, 2014 at 7:44 am Link

          Thank you, Scotty; I see that it is. My apologies.

  5. Joe
    May 17, 2014 at 11:34 am Link

    It seems I am restating things that are not being acknowledged, or accepted? I would be interested in a response that challenges these points specifically, if my claims are wrong show me where?

    Thanks
    joe

    • Max
      May 17, 2014 at 10:57 pm Link

      Joe:
      I think Anandakos did that, when he/she pointed out that you’re comparing TriMet’s most expensive service (WES) to a single bus that runs at 5am and 10PM making no stops in Tualatin and averaging an illegal 64 MPH.

      I don’t think anyone is suggesting utilizing WES as the service for the Southwest Corridor (or for local Tualatin bus service); so your comparison isn’t valid.

    • EngineerScotty
      May 17, 2014 at 11:44 pm Link

      Which claims? We agree that WES is expensive. We’ve even joked that TriMet saves money when the trains break down and they have to deploy shuttle busses.

      But as others have pointed out, WES was a county project that TriMet got its arm twisted into running. The City of Tualatin was certainly a player in the whole project.

      WES termination remains an interesting idea. But what it has to do with the idea of withdrawing from TriMet, I don’t know–a new transit agency will still likely be on the hook to help run it.

      Read my lips: Tualatin won’t likely be able to shrug off TriMet’s legacy costs by leaving. There may be good reasons to consider leaving, but this isn’t one of them.

      At any rate–we’re interested in asking you what your vision is for Tualatin transit, other than not liking TriMet. So far, I haven’t seen an answer to that question, other than comparing an early morning/late night bus run to a commuter rail line.

      • Jason McHuff
        May 18, 2014 at 10:31 am Link

        I would bet that when the trains break down, the train crews still get paid since it’s not their fault. There’s also probably extra costs to fix the train.

        • EngineerScotty
          May 18, 2014 at 1:41 pm Link

          You’re probably right–that’s why it’s a joke and not a serious policy analysis. :)

      • Erik H.
        May 18, 2014 at 3:12 pm Link

        “Read my lips: Tualatin won’t likely be able to shrug off TriMet’s legacy costs by leaving. There may be good reasons to consider leaving, but this isn’t one of them.”

        On the plus side of this argument, with liabilities come assets. If a newly created transit agency is saddled with some of TriMet’s obligations it could just as easily claim its assets – which means, as an example, Tigard could cherry-pick some of TriMet’s buses to start a Tigard transit agency. After all, Tigard’s employers, employees and citizens paid for those buses too.

        And, just as a hypothetical, what if Tigard didn’t want to pay for WES? Tigard didn’t agree to paying for it, so what legal justification would TriMet have in forcing Tigard to pay for it? WES already operates a service outside of TriMet’s service boundaries, and my understanding is that Wilsonville only agreed to pay for five years – after which there is no firm requirement or commitment to pay for future service.

        • Jason McHuff
          May 18, 2014 at 4:38 pm Link

          No, because the buses belong to TriMet and those in the TriMet district. TriMet could give Tigard some buses they no longer need (like they gave to Salem), but it’s not like Tigard owns (a part of) TriMet.

          As for WES, I highly doubt that SMART would be able to end it’s funding as it serves Wilsonville. I believe it’s Washington County that contributing funding but may not long term.

  6. Max
    May 17, 2014 at 10:51 pm Link

    I think this post omits some key facts about SMART:

    1) Connections to/from Wilsonville are not great.
    – Service to downtown Portland (9X) is just a single trip leaving WV ~10PM M-F and immediately returning.

    – Service to BTC (8X) is similarly just a single round trip – leaving BTC at ~5am and returning to WV at ~10PM M-F.

    – SMART 2X serves Barbur TC every 30-60minutes M-F (5am – 8pm), but then on Saturdays only goes as far north as Tualatin P&R every 60 minutes 9am – 5pm. This still requires a 30 minute trip on the 12 to get to downtown Portland.

    – There is no way to get to Portland on Sunday.

    2) SMART does not time connections with the 76 or 96. I used to see people on the 2X get to Commerce Circle, barely miss the 96, then pay the $1.25 to SMART (and stay on the bus) so they could race the 96 to Tualatin – where they would then transfer. Other times the 96 would leave late and they’d transfer at Commerce Circle without paying any SMART fare. This is ridiculous!

    They do time everything with WES, however.

    3) If I wanted to take TriMet + SMART to work from my house in inner-se Portland, it would take 1 hour and 45 minutes each way & cost $8 round trip per day. (or $135/mo in bus passes).

    That’s 9 -> 12 -> SMART 2X. Or I could do 9 -> 96 -> SMART 5 -> SMART 6.

    Yes SMART does offer MUCH better local service than TriMet did (and it’s fareless); but for for many commuters from Portland I’m not sure this really is an improvement.

    When WV left, SMART (WART) was created to have 1/2 the tax (.3 vs .6) and no fare. This has crept up, however, to the the point where SMART’s tax is only slightly lower than TriMet (.5 vs .72), and there now is a fare whenever you leave WV.

    I like SMART, but I think the way this is being painted as some sort of ideal transit system for Tualatin to emulate is not really the reality.

    Also: Why on earth would WV want to take on Tualatin’s transit? The city of WV is not a transit business; they’re a city government. Seems like the city of WV has enough things on its plate before they volunteer to take on managing another city’s transit.

    • Jason McHuff
      May 18, 2014 at 11:20 am Link

      Besides screwing riders by forcing them to pay again when they already have a valid transit fare, SMART also screws TriMet by keeping payroll taxes that should help fund the TriMet portion of a TriMet + SMART trip.

      Normally, the payroll tax paid by an employer would help cover the cost of an employee’s entire transit trip from work to home. However, for employees from Wilsonville, that assistance ends once they switch to TriMet, and employers in the TriMet district are essentially forced to help get the Wilsonville employees the rest of the way home (or maybe even all it if they walk from TriMet’s 96 into SMART territory).

      • Erik H.
        May 18, 2014 at 3:09 pm Link

        It should be noted that TriMet screwed Wilsonville for a very long time by providing far less than adequate service, so it’s of little to no concern that Wilsonville is “screwing TriMet”. If TriMet didn’t want to get screwed, it could have gotten its act together and provided real, decent service instead of robbing Wilsonville’s buses to pay for Gresham’s light rail.

        Regardless, there is no legal, moral or ethical obligation that the payroll tax cover the employee’s total transit trip. Portland is only one of a few metro regions that has a single transit agency, and while there are certain benefits to doing so – there are clear disadvantages. That’s why you aren’t seeing more regions moving to the TriMet model – they’re moving away from it. Look at Seattle and it’s nine different transit agencies. Look at the Bay Area – it has two rail-specific agencies, on top of the bus agencies, and MUNI. Look at the Los Angeles metro – one rail agency, several county-wide agencies, and several city agencies – which overlap. And yet I see not one region looking to consolidate or merge their operations a la TriMet.

        • Jason McHuff
          May 18, 2014 at 4:13 pm Link

          Wilsonville left in 1988 or so, so what happened before that is ancient history.

          And if the payroll tax isn’t supposed to cover the complete trip (besides fare), what is? It’s not like transit is funded by a property tax or something where funding is level across the region regardless of whether an area is more commercial/industrial or more residential.

          Regarding the Seattle area, that’s not comparable because Everett, Tacoma, etc are their own sub-regions with sizable populations and land area, and clear separation. Tualatin and Wilsonville are not.

          And I know there’s dislike of all the different agencies in the Bay Area and probably Los Angeles. Travel might be OK within one system, but good luck if you actually have to get somewhere else.

  7. Joe
    May 18, 2014 at 7:11 pm Link

    Yes Oregon City, Tualatin or any others over the 10,000 population may need some legislative assistance to escape the transit suicide pact called TriMet.

    Their studies to establish the basis for proceeding will likely encourage others to follow. Perhaps all of Clackamas County as they already have 6 communities TriMet does not serve.

    Sandy, Canby, Wilsonville, Mollala, Boring, Estacada and Damascus I believe.

    However, for whatever reason some of you are not grasping the concept of SMART being expanded as replacement service if Tualatin withdraws from Tri-Met.

    Naturally any withdraw would have to address ongoing WES rail operations and if Clack. Co withdrew MAX operations.

    That hardly makes it impossible. or unwise to seek lower cost and better bus service.

    Some earlier thoughts I forgot to post.

    Anandakos

    You misrepresent much. Wrong on CPI.

    You don’t even seem to understand that Wilsonville is not in TriMet’s district and do not pay the TriMet payroll tax.

    They instead pay a lesser SMART payroll tax and get better bus service.

    Of course Wilsonville businesses aren’t going to pay for Tualatin buses.

    As was clearly stated previously the Tualatin petition supporters would like to see, and the Tualatin Business CIO asked for, the city to study the withdraw from TriMet and the replacement of their payroll tax with a lesser tax for better transit service like that in Wilsonville.

    It may very well be the best option to join and expand SMART to Tualatin.

    Tualatin businesses would be paying less while getting better bus service just like everyone wants.

    As for your remarks about “plates in the street, miracle buses, scattering, helter skelter, bloviation etc”?

    There’s no need to get nasty there fella. That was just a story about some future transit idea.

    • Anandakos
      May 19, 2014 at 12:17 am Link

      Misrepresenting? Not really; just pointing out that Cascade Policy Institute has created a ludicrous and at a minimum misleadingly disingenuous straw man by comparing the performance of an absurdly unique pair of bus runs operating far from peak periods against an actual operating transit facility, It’s par for the course for what is basically a bunch of house boys bowing and scraping for the crumbs from rich men’s tables.

      I do know that Wilsonville is not in the Tri-Met district. I didn’t know that it was mostly in Clackamas, not Washington, County, that is true.

      As I told you, if you can convince the Oregon Legislature to “let my people go”, I think it’s a very good idea for self-obsessed and selfish places like Tualatin to be outside the urban transit system. Your needs and desires for transit are different from the city’s.

    • Chris I
      May 19, 2014 at 3:06 pm Link

      Until you put forward some numbers, your idea will remain half-baked. How much money does Tualatin currently pay in payroll taxes to Trimet? How does this compare to what Wilsonville pays for SMART, per capita? These are basic numbers that you should crunch before proposing something like this.

  8. rick
    May 20, 2014 at 7:44 am Link

    Please keep out light rail. To those who lament “subsiding” roads, how do you plan to get to the hospital if/when you need to be transported due to an extreme medical condition that you have? Roads or wait for the weather-delayed light rail?

    • Jason McHuff
      May 22, 2014 at 7:53 am Link

      The ambulance company (or whoever brings you to the hospital) should pay for the road use as they are the ones that benefit from it.

  9. joe
    May 20, 2014 at 9:33 pm Link

    Anandakos

    Wow really?

    “…Cascade Policy Institute has created a ludicrous and at a minimum misleadingly disingenuous straw man… …… absurdly unique pair…….a bunch of house boys bowing and scraping for the crumbs from rich men’s tables. ….self-obsessed and selfish places like Tualatin…….”

    Your take on the CPI study is off base and the name calling is unnecessary.

    Thanks
    joe

  10. joe
    May 20, 2014 at 9:36 pm Link

    Chris I,

    All of Tualatin’s businesses pay the TriMet payroll tax. All of Wilsonville’s businesses pay less for SMART and they have better service.

    There is nothing half baked about the idea of Tualatin or any other city studying succession from TriMet.

    Earlier you tried to excuse TriMet for WES. TriMet led the Commuter Rail charge as it advanced to full approval long before it was named WES. They assigned the full time commuter rail czar Joe Walsh to tour the region to peddle all the Commuter Rail tall tales.

    They do not simply have buses “looping through low density suburban sprawl to pick up people at their house.”

    They are more efficient than TriMet and actually have on demand service as well.

    And it is free throughout the city.

    Joe

    • Chris I
      May 20, 2014 at 9:42 pm Link

      And you still haven’t provided any data to support your idea. I guess you are just hoping that the citizens of Tualatin vote yes based on emotion and not real information.

    • EngineerScotty
      May 20, 2014 at 10:25 pm Link

      You seem to be ignoring a key point: Wilsonville has a far larger payroll tax base than Tualatin. Wilsonville can buy lots of bus service, and not charge fares, because it has Xerox and Mentor Graphics and a whole lot of other major R&D firms with large payrolls within the district. Tualatin’s biggest employer is probably the hospital.

      Which is why I was asking if anyone has done research on Tualatin’s payroll tax contribution to TriMet, vs the number of service hours spent there. If someone could say “yes, we’ve found that Tualatin businesses are subsidizing transit outside the city by a figure of $X, and by withdrawing this money could be reinvested in improving service within the city”, that would be a reasonable argument. “It worked for Wilsonville 25 years go, so it will work for TriMet today, without any more detailed financial analysis”, is a weaker argument.

  11. joe
    May 21, 2014 at 10:48 pm Link

    Chris I

    I don’t know where you get off calling the idea of Tualatin succession half baked when you haven’t provided any data to back up your baseless presumption????

    The measure on the ballot has nothing to do with withdrawing from TriMet.

    We are confident the citizens of Tualatin will vote yes to require voter approval for light rail before the city decides to bring it to town.

    EngineerScotty

    I am not ignoring anything. A Tualatin study of TriMet succession and replacement bus service would certainly included the payroll tax base, current TriMet payroll tax and what it buys.

    It may be that Tualatin can buy more, better and free local SMART for less money than they now pay TriMet. If the business CIO gets their way there will be a study.

    Are you opposed to the study?

    Where did you get your grasp of Wilsonville and Tualatin employers?

    You’re wrong.

    A quick check at city sites shows Tualatin with a bigger work force and payroll.

    Wilsonville has 800 businesses and 15,000 employees & total annual private-sector payroll of $800 million annually.

    Tualatin has 1534 businesses, 21,373 employees with a $979 million annual payroll.

    Tualatin also has industrial land and development ready and staged for new employers.

    I’ll wager Tualatin is getting hosed by TriMet and a study will show it.

    Looks like Metro wants Tigard to pay $375,000 to do a lightrail study, our city government is already borrowing against future tax revenue wonder where they think we are supposed to get it??

    Better yet to you think the mayor & councilmen should put that up for a vote in November being we already passed a measure stating our city is against new HCT construction without voter approval?

    Thanks Joe

    • EngineerScotty
      May 22, 2014 at 12:02 am Link

      Now you’re getting somewhere. Finally, some data, as opposed to some hand-waving. And no, I’m not opposed to any study–I didn’t ask the questions in the article hoping they wouldn’t be answered.

      Doing a quick bit of math:

      Were Wilsonville to assess that $800M payroll (I’ll ignore the $400 per-capita exclusion from the payroll tax) at 0.7%, that’s $5.6M. Wilsonville currently assess closer to 0.5%, about $4M–its total 2012 budget was $4.6M, including revenue from other sources (including fares and grants). In 2012, SMART paid about $120 per revenue-hour, and supplied about 33k hours of revenue service (for fixed-route bus service; I’m ignoring paratransit). Assuming a similar cost structure, an agency levying a 0.7% tax on a $9.8M payroll would get about $10M in revenue to play with, which could supply about 80k hours of bus service.

      For comparison, TriMet supplied (in 2012) 1.6M vehicle-hours of bus service, and 500k vehicle-hours of MAX service, to a service district with a population of 1.5M. Counting MAX service hours twice (MAX trains cost about twice as much to run as a bus, hold about three times the passengers, and as one might expect, have a per passenger operating cost 2/3 that of TriMet’s bus fleet), TriMet delivered about 1.6 service hours per person. SMART delivered 33k hours to a population of 20k–about 1.6 service hours per person.

      The interesting question for Tualatin: How many of TriMet’s service hours were delivered to Tualatin? Here, you probably have a point–Tualatin has a population of 27k, and I bet the portions of the 76, 96, 36, 37, and 38 that were run in the city’s borders, isn’t 40,000 hours. (Tigard is undoubtedly better off, as it actually has some real service passing through).

      A few other notes:

      * SMART bus service is slightly cheaper than TriMet’s, about $120 per hour vs $142 per hour. (I’m talking about the aggregate cost of all fixed bus service, not just any specific run). The big difference is probably that TriMet has a more generous union contract than SMART does, SMART never having been run by Tom Walsh. There would be some savings, potentially, to not being part of TriMet, but not much.

      As I said in the article–I’m not necessarily opposed to a proposal for separation which is a) financially sound, as opposed to being merely based on speculation or ideology or innuendo, and b) was designed to actually deliver equal or better service to the area. If such a proposal were to come forth, there’s a good chance I would be able to support it (not that it matters much).

      But an actual proposal of that nature would be required to win my support. Secession activities geared mainly towards a) blocking HCT, or b) cutting taxes, with little or no tangible improvements to service, don’t cut it. And while I don’t know exactly who is involved with the Tualatin petition, the Tigard one included some rather unsavory characters–persons and groups who are pretty much on record as opposing decent and well-funded public transit.

    • Chris I
      May 22, 2014 at 7:10 am Link

      First of all, as the person proposing the secession from Trimet, the onus is on you to provide data.

      As you have done that, we can now continue the discussion. One minor issue: you are going to want to look at total population, not just employees, as public transit does not just serve the employees in your city, it serves everyone.

      Wilsonville: $800 million payroll with 20,500 people: $39k per citizen
      Tualatin: $979 million payroll with with 26,700 people: $37k per citizen

      This is assuming that your numbers on payroll are correct. The next question would be: how many service hours per citizen does SMART provide in Wilsonville, and how many does Trimet provide in Tualatin?

  12. Joe
    May 22, 2014 at 9:47 am Link

    EngineerScotty

    I’d say you were the one hand waving with baseless and wrong presumptions about employment comparisons. Now you are piling up more presumptions, hand waving with invented numbers and calling people unsavory?

    You are taking this conversation sideways.

    The question of succession must be addressed by a real study and I suspect it will produce something quite different than the assertions you appear to be working so hard to pitch.

    I can just as easily presume that Tigard, Tualatin, Sherwood, King City and Lake Oswego would all “undoubtedly” be better off replacing TriMet.

    I can also easily presume TriMet is approaching an inevitable crash and service cuts that demand some planning by cities to prepare for the lost service?

    No one has or is proposing or suggesting any separation based upon “speculation or ideology or innuendo”.

    The only proposals I’ve seen have been to study the idea of replacement service to know if it makes sense. Any actual proposals for succession would come after a study and conclusions

    documented advantages. Just as was the recent case for the Boring succession.

    They did not simply hand wave at the TriMet board.

    There are no “Secession activities” that I know of other than offering ideas for a better approach than another mega project. Too often opponents are criticized as offering no alternative or plan of their own. Now you seem to be objecting to them doing so while trying to marginalize the alternative as incapable of providing any “tangible improvements to service”.

    I read your rhetoric as conflating the two issues in an attempt to tarnish both.

    The Tualatin Rail Vote measure stands alone in seeking a public vote on light rail. The succession issue is a more midterm distant pursuit.

    Your false judgement name calling of the Tigard petition reveals your own unsavory ideology and motivation.

    There were no “unsavory characters–persons and groups who are pretty much on record as opposing decent and well-funded public transit” at all.

    That was the smear merchant version from the crony beneficiary opponents of public voting on light rail. Not a one of the petition volunteers (or groups) were either unsavory or on any “record” opposing good transit.

    Thanks
    Joe

  13. Joe
    May 22, 2014 at 9:52 am Link

    Chris I

    The only proposal is to study the idea of secession to gather the data to determine if it makes sense. It is not unreasonable to suspect that such a study would show that SMART would be preferable. The basic numbers seem to show some proportionality that could equate to SMART being a good buy for Tualatin. If a study shows it would provide lower cost, better local bus service with better area connections then it should be advanced.

  14. Joe
    May 25, 2014 at 10:08 pm Link

    Engineer Scotty,

    To follow up, I sure am having a hard time figuring out your mission and where you are coming from.

    You presume things that are not true (employment/payroll) and use them to pitch some argument and say other things you should know

    are patently false.

    Such as this from the other SW Corridor conversation.

    Scotty, “And no, high density housing isn’t part of the “package”–TriMet is building tracks and stations, not condos and whatnot”

    Anyone following the region’s planning and TriMet knows Trimet plays a central role is advancing high density development.

    How in the world can you possibly claim they are not? Do you have a purpose?

    Not only is TriMet majorly involved in planning but they participate with financial incentives, land acquisition etc, that subsidize the high density development you claim they have no role in.

    Trimet sustainable development can’t post link on this site.

    Transit-Oriented Development

    TriMet’s transportation and environmental leadership has helped spur $10 billion in transit-oriented development along MAX Light Rail lines. Much of this development mixes residential with retail and other commercial use, creating communities where people can live, work and play. This approach helps enrich the human environment and reduce sprawl, traffic congestion and associated air pollution.

    TriMet is not just tracks and stations. They are “Community Building” in partnership with Metro and 1000 friends of Oregon.

    Thanks
    Joe

    • EngineerScotty
      May 26, 2014 at 12:37 am Link

      Sorry for not responding earlier, I’ve had a busy few days.

      At any rate–if my knowledge of payrolls in South Metro were inaccurate, then so be it. (It certainly wasn’t a deliberate falsehood). SMART was formed at a time when Wilsonville had a ridiculous jobs/residents ratio (more jobs than residents, actually). If Tualatin has a similar financial picture, it might be an option.

      At any rate, I am pretty much am who I say. My concern is transit, not TriMet, necessarily; though as the latter is the current provider of the former, I’m more likely to try and improve TriMet than replace it, all else being equal.

      As far as density’s correlation with HCT–yes and no. TriMet does not build apartments, or control zoning. That’s simply outside of its scope. Metro, of course, is concerned with these things, and yes–Metro does consider TOD and upzoning to be key tools in its toolbox. Metro, after all, has a whole bunch of goals it is legally required to try to meet, concerning environmental metrics like greenhouse gasses, and other indicators like VMT, and it is planning accordingly. But like I said before–Metro can’t make cities (or counties, for unincorporated areas) upzone, even if they indicate a desire to do so in planning, nor can they force developers to actually build to higher zoning designations. If a lot is zoned for high-density, and developers think that there is no money in building apartments in that location, the the lot won’t get built.

      Perhaps we are talking past each other a bit here, but yes–HCT does make upzoning more practical. A key limit on how much density one can build is car ownership; if everyone needs a car and a place to park it, that limits how much land area can be economically used for other things. To the extent that HCT makes reductions in auto ownership (either families going carfree, or having one car instead of two) possible, it enables density.

      On the other hand, just because you build it, doesn’t mean they will come. There is still plenty of vacant lots along the existing MAX lines, for various reasons. For high-density housing to be attractive to the non-poor, it generally needs to have a large concentration of amenities nearby. Portland itself has this condition, and builders are pulling every trick in the book to build apartments there, particularly west of I-205.. Parts of Beaverton/Hillsboro do as well. Tualatin, no offense, doesn’t meet this condition–very little of it is “walkable”, and it doesn’t have any amenities that can’t be found in any suburb. (By which I mean no fine restaurants, quality civic attractions, or shopping destinations that cause people to flock to Portland, and pay high prices for Portland real estate). Even if the City were to upzone its downtown around an HCT station, I have doubts that significant development would follow, unless the metro area as a whole were to see a massive increase in population, or unless Tualatin were to manage to bootstrap a “trendy” neigbhorhood that would attract large numbers of potential residents.

      Two months ago, we did an article on Mars and Venus in the development context. Tualatin, presently is “Mars” (auto-centric development), and one of your main objections to HCT seems to be that it might make it more Venus-like, with the end result that driving might be more difficult, both by reducing lanes available to cars, and by attracting density.

  15. Joe
    May 26, 2014 at 5:56 pm Link

    Scotty,

    To wrap up, of course TriMet does not “build”. That sort of red herring retort is hardly necessary.

    Metro doesn’t “build” either.

    However, TriMet and Metro are both deeply involved in development and zoning on a grand scale.

    While Metro also certainly mandates density.

    TriMet produces a Koran of sort of their activity and agenda here.

    Links won’t post here so I spelled [dot] where a period should be.

    trimet[dot]org/pdfs/publications/community_sourcebook[dot]pdf

    Much of it is misleading by omission and outright fiction while providing the promotional fodder for more of the same.
    I found it interesting how the “self guided tour” section begins with picture of the Round at Beaverton.

    That’s quite a MAX station TOD success story. Much humor.

    So much so the City of Beaverton bought a chunk of it for their City Hall.

    As for Tualatin and Tigard there is little difference. Neither have any need or use for another MAX/TOD

    Beaverton Round debacle or poorly planned clustering of housing units.

    The obstruction caused by light rail infrastructure and devouring of resources and opportunity for better bus transit service would be a detriment to both.

    Better ideas can abound if TriMet and Metro are defeated. We aim to let voters do so.

    Happy trails.

    • Anandakos
      May 29, 2014 at 6:15 pm Link

      Just to keep this thread open, I’m going to reply to your challenge about “defeating” Tri-Met and Metro. Yes, you can probably secede from Tri-Met if Tualatin is willing to shoulder its proper portion of long-term Tri-Met liabilities. And as I said before, since you’re so auto-oriented and want to stay that way, go ahead. Good fences make good neighbors.

      But you will NEVER “secede” from Metro. At least, not without repealing SB 100. Good luck with that; the business community would scream bloody murder because they’ve made long-term investments predicated on it. Your little Mad Hatter’s Party would get de-funded double-quick.

  16. joe
    May 30, 2014 at 1:38 pm Link

    Anandakos,

    You seem to have a problem addressing and responding to what is actually said.

    Why make up things to respond to?

    I made no “challenge” and “defeating Tri-Met and Metro” was regarding their plotting to force light rail upon our communities.

    Seceding from Tri-Met is a separate issue as we have discussed.

    However, opposing light rail or the idea of better transit than TriMet has nothing to do with building fences or some auto-oriented mission you’ve imagined.

    Besides the entire region is auto-oriented and all of it could use a lot better planning.

    As for “you will NEVER “secede” from Metro”?

    Who said anything about that?

    Boring is exploring that since half their community is in Metro and half is out. They’ll need some legislation I believe. it would be better if Metro did NO planning.

    There is plenty that demonstrates SB 100 has been a disaster and much of the business community recognizes that.

    You are inventing things with your “screaming bloody murder because they’ve made long-term investments predicated on it.”

    Thanks
    Joe

    • Anandakos
      May 31, 2014 at 11:24 am Link

      Better ideas can abound if TriMet and Metro are defeated. We aim to let voters do so.”

      This is not advocating seceding from Metro? My apologies that I haven’t adopted your personal dictionary, Mr. Dumpty.

      I can see that Boring would have a problem; the better solution in to ask that the entire town be included within the Metro district rather than excluded. It does have aspirations to being a small city and would benefit from participating in regional planning. Even if only to stop things it doesn’t like.

      It would be better if Metro did no planning

      Welcome to Houston, where forty story skyscrapers sit next to single family homes. I used to work for BP in one of them.

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