TriMet Grapples with Energy Costs

TriMet’s board has adopted a corrective action plan to deal with increased diesel fuel costs (about $5M over budget for the year). In addition to conservation measures, the plan includes a 15 cent fare increase…

On a more hopeful note, in conjunction with the Bonneville Power Administration, TriMet has installed a fuel cell at its Powell Garage, testing it as a clean alternative to a diesel generator.

The release doesn’t specify whether the fuel cell is being powered directly with pure hydrogen or with methane.


6 responses to “TriMet Grapples with Energy Costs”

  1. Not that TriMet doesn’t need the money, but I’ve always wondered about the strategy of buying years worth of tickets at a time… while there’s the threat of losing the tickets, I’ve never seen anything stating that tickets bought in 2000 aren’t valid today (the tickets that you buy in 10-ticket bundles).

    Anyone know anything about this?

  2. I’m quite naive about these matters, but isn’t there any possibility of Trimet and local school districts getting some sort of credit/refund for running on Biodiesel? We keep seeing articles about how Portland is becoming a hot spot for the industry. I don’t see why we can’t turn the largest diesel consumers into more efficient and eco-friendly ones.

  3. About two years ago, I called Trimet’s customer service line and asked them about buying up books of tickets ahead of time. Not only were they okay with it, the person I talked to actually reccommended doing so as a way to save money. If you think about it, Trimet benefits too since this is money in the bank for them.

    I understand the need to raise revenue, but I’ve grown tired with these constant fare increases. I can only imagine how much money was spent relabeling all the buses and printing new fare information this past year. Judging from the boarding delays I have seen lately, quite a few people are still unaware of what the current fare is.

  4. Whats the current status of the Diesel-Hybrid buses that Tri-Met has been testing for the last year or two? Do they save Tri-Met the 25 to 50 percent on diesel promised? Are the maintenance costs comparable to the diesel-only buses? Tri-Met should not be buying non-hybrid buses until they have answers on this local testing of the diesel-hybrid buses.

    Can’t Tri-Met move on getting some orders into the manufacturer if they see good numbers and good data for the mechanics? Do they have to wait until the study has run its course?

    And can Tri-Met start looking into smaller buses for local feeder routes (Quatama/Amber Glen had a bus line with a smaller diesel bus but the employees of the area didn’t use it enough) in places like Hillsboro, Gresham, Beaverton, Gateway, Hollywood, and the Central City that might be electric instead of the small diesel buses we are mostly using now.

    Tri-Met needs to push out the envelope along the MAX lines by creating local transit zones using electric buses. Or should Tri-Met go with overhead electrical lines for the buses and work on the main routes as electric lines (82nd, Foster, Powell, Division, Burnside, Gilsan, Halsey, Sandy, Beaverton/Hillsboro, Hall, etc..


  5. Good questions. From what I’ve heard:

    *Tickets: Be warned that ticket designs do change occasionally. And I think they might actually get interest on that money, so it may not be hurting them.

    *Fare increases: I don’t blame anyone who hates the constant stream of fare increases. We’ve gone from a policy of raising fares 5 cents every other year to keep up with inflation to taking fare information out of the schedules to allow for more. If the 15-cent increase goes through, there will be a total raise of 30 extra cents in just 2 years. Moreover, it should be noted that TriMet likes to nickel-and-dime riders, instead of having bigger increases less often.

    However, TriMet is very generous when it comes to service (the most for a region our size), transfers (good for 2 hours) and Fareless Square.

    *Hybrid buses: Supposidly, now that they’ve changed the diesel bus transmissions, the hybrids use more fuel. If you want an answer, PSU’s next transportation siminar just happens to be about making transportation sustainable with the GM himself.

    *Smaller buses: It has also been said that smaller vehicles wear out quicker (and the operators get paid the same), meaning that their costs are not much lower. However, this was before diesel prices went up. Moreover, they have replaced some of the LIFT vehicles with sedans.

    *Electric buses: Portland used to have them, along with a bigger streetcar network. Also, I’ve been wondering, would they have generated as much development and ridership as the present streetcar?

  6. Here are some responses to your questions: TriMet is looking at doing a pilot project with biodiesel starting in November. We buy 500,000 gallons of diesel a month, so the supply of biodiesel is not at that level. But we look forward to testing it.

    Diesel-hybrid buses: they cost about $150,000-$200,000 more per bus. That premium is tough to swallow in this economic environment. We’re hoping for the price differential to go down, making it more affordable to purchase. They haven’t performed as well as we would have liked on mileage — it was projected that it would reduce fuel usage by 50%, but it’s more in the range of 20%. The big difference is the emission reduction — we see 75% reduction in emissions.

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