Your Questions for Neil

Neil McFarlane will soon take over at TriMet in the role that has been filled for some time now by Fred Hansen.

PortlandTransport has arranged to do an on-camera, sit-down interview with Neil shortly after he assumes the new job. The date has not been finalized, but in advance of that, I’d like to solicit questions from our readers to help round out our interview.

Please share your question(s) in the comments, below.

All topical TriMet/transportation/land-use questions will be considered, including those which come from a strongly critical position, but please do keep things polite, neutral, and in reference to policy & practice rather than personalities.

There is no guarantee, of course, that every question will get asked (or framed in exactly the way that you might phrase it), but we’ll do our best to select questions which represent the diverse array of viewpoints in our metro region.

(I’m also soliciting the assistance of a camera/lighting assistant. I’ve got all the necessary video equipment but would like to focus more on the interview and less on set-up. If you’re interested in participating, contact me privately at bob [at] peak [dot] org.)

55 Comments

55 Responses to Your Questions for Neil

  1. EngineerScotty
    June 18, 2010 at 12:38 pm Link

    1) Many in the community are concerned that TriMet is emphasizing new capital construction over existing operations, and is overextending itself. In many cases this is articulated as an organizational preference for rail over bus service. FTA Chairman Peter Rogoff recently took transit agencies to task for over-expansion, though as many have noted, Federal funding is available for capital and not operations. What will you do to reassure existing riders that the agency is committed to maintaining or restoring adequate levels of service?

    2) Some have a dire outlook for the US economy, and the Oregon economy in particular–believing that the the revenue projections for future calendar years to be optimistic, and that the present situation is the new reality–as more and more economic activity shifts to lower-cost regions. Extrapolating from that, some believe that the population growth projections generated by Metro will fail to materialize, as unemployment causes people to leave. If this turns out to be the case, how does that change TriMet’s strategy going forward?

    3) What is your opinion of the Lake Oswego transit project? Many believe that the project is a questionable one–that it would result in a worsening of service for many commuters (particularly riders of the #35, who would be forced to transfer to a train which appears to be slower then the bus they presently are riding); with the primary benefit to riders not projected to occur until the next decade, when traffic levels on OR43 are expected to become an issue.

    4) How is the working relationship between TriMet and Portland Streetcar? Do you see Portland Streetcar’s explicit land-use and development goals as complementary, orthogonal, or contrary to TriMet’s mission as a transit agency?

    5) Do you consider streetcar-class rail vehicles, either in mixed-traffic or on dedicated ROWs, as a valuable intermediate solution between bus and light rail? Do you see any value in addressing the present technical incompatibilities of the two systems (signaling and platform alignment) and running streetcars along lower-speed sections of the MAX network (beyond the planned joint operation on the Caruthers bridge), such as the Transit Mall?

    6) Planners in SW Washington intend to build bus rapid transit for their rapid-transit needs, and the 2035 RTP suggests BRT may be the mode of choice for the Powell Boulevard corridor; there are several reasons why BRT may also make sense for the Barbur Boulevard corridor. What does “BRT”–a rather flexible term–mean to you, and what are your thoughts on when it is appropriate (vs light rail) as a rapid transit mode?

    7) WES is widely regarded as a bad idea. Many planning documents call for WES service to be expanded, and suggest that all-day WES service may be the way rapid transit is provided for the Beaverton/Wilsonville corridor. However, the current levels of WES service are extremely expensive to provide, WES bypasses many key destinations in the corridor, and the present operating agreement with P&W, which needs to run freight on the same tracks, precludes 7-days-a-week, all-day service. Is expansion of WES a realistic way of providing rapid transit along this corridor?

  2. Bob R.
    June 18, 2010 at 12:53 pm Link

    Wow, that’s a thorough list of questions right out of the gate… thanks Scotty.

    “Orthogonal” — now I’m going to have one of those pesky “back in college” nightmares. :-)

  3. Jason Barbour
    June 18, 2010 at 1:16 pm Link

    Mr. McFarlane, congratulations again on your new job, and thanks for speaking at “Rally for Your Ride” last Friday.

    1. While TriMet promotes its new “Type 4” MAX Light Rail Vehicles and runs refurbished “Type 1” vehicles with air conditioning, many critics feel TriMet has neglected the bus side of operations, where riders are forced to wait in the elements for longer periods of time and make more transfers due to service eliminations over the past several years. When a bus arrives, especially if the run is covered by Merlo, on many routes it is almost 20 years old, built by a manufacturer that’s been out of business since 1996, lacks air conditioning and occasionally lacks heat. Many agencies bought buses with their federal stimulus dollars, however TriMet insisted on using these funds for other purposes. TriMet now contends that only a bare minimum number of new buses will be purchased over the next several fiscal years. Many have praised your ability to raise funding for projects, perhaps we will see a surprise announcement that TriMet will find the money to replace such buses?

    2. Large agencies such as King County Metro, and even Smaller agencies such as LTD and Spokane Transit operate modern 60-foot buses, while TriMet contends that unreliable buses removed from service over ten years ago are the reason the agency doesn’t operate 60-foot buses today. Many riders believe 60-food buses are already needed on high ridership routes such as 14, 72, and 75, as riders needing a ride to work or their appointment are passed up and many times made late due to this, especially as TriMet continues to operate most routes less often. Will TriMet take a fresh look at 60-foot buses?

    3. C-TRAN, not TriMet, leads the region in both the percentage of service served by hybrid buses as well as the number of hybrid buses in their fleet. Will this change during your tenure as TriMet General Manager?

    4. Several years ago, the community was promised a review of the fare system. The only thing coming out of any such process so far was elimination of Fareless Square and its replacement with the Free Rail Zone. Some critics think that TriMet is creating a “class-based” system, where as examples WES requires an all-zone fare while one can ride bus line 76 from Beaverton to Tualatin with a one-zone prepaid ticket, or that those with 2-zone passes are excluded from the MAX Green Line since the stops along I-205 including Gateway Transit Center are in Zone 3. Although the difference in cash fares are slight, it makes a huge difference for many lower income people who depend on public transit where every nickel counts. When will TriMet have a comprehensive look at the entire fare system?

  4. Ron Swaren
    June 18, 2010 at 1:37 pm Link

    1.Since the late night buses run much less frequently could we have quiet, electrically propelled buses on those—when they finally come on the market? The bus that runs by my house until 12:30 am is even causing me serious health problems, and I don’t even live on a main street. Now I know how those who live on busy thoroughfares feel (understanding that noise comes from other sources, too.)

    2. Could the lower sections of the Marquam Bridge be used for a transit crossing, instead of building an entirely new bridge only a few blocks away? Is there a federal regulation against this?

    3. Are you looking into new technologies for buses with high energy efficiency and/or greater passenger capacity. Ever considered double deckers like London, Victoria, BC or Snohomish Co.?

    4. Are you exploring ways to entice and encourage people to use buses? Looking at ways to make them more attractive to people? Would plush, commuter-type buses attract riders for longer distance routes?

    5. Would small shuttle buses–such as airports use—be feasible for late night routes? Also, could these be purchased used, and refurbished?

  5. Lenny Anderson
    June 18, 2010 at 2:21 pm Link

    What are the prospects of reducing TriMet’s health care costs under the new operators’ contract, freeing up resources for service?
    What capacity level in the light rail system will trigger an examination of the downtown subway?
    What your guess on the time frame for light rail out to Tigard via Barbur, the next HCT project for the region? Is completion by 2020 possible?
    What happens if Vancouver votes down funding for light rail operations? MAX to Hayden Island? No CRC?

  6. R A Fontes
    June 18, 2010 at 3:19 pm Link

    Automobile technology killed for-profit transit in the last century. How will you prevent technology [telecommuting, autonomous vehicles, etc.] from killing TriMet?

    What question do we need to ask you?

    What question do you really not want to answer?

  7. Nick Schillaci
    June 18, 2010 at 4:53 pm Link

    I am particularly interested in the following:

    In what ways do you see central-city MAX service in the future? Does MAX have a viable, long term future stopping every two blocks at grade through downtown Portland? Can the system grow further beyond its infancy with such a slow zone, and how do you imagine crosstown and system-wide ridership if improvements are made to speed and reliability through downtown?

  8. Michael, Portland Afoot
    June 19, 2010 at 12:22 am Link

    These are obviously terrific questions.

    Other than long-term payroll growth, what’s the TriMet economic projection that would be most damaging to the agency if it turns out wrong … and what’s TriMet’s backup plan if that happens?

  9. Michael, Portland Afoot
    June 19, 2010 at 12:31 am Link

    Also, how much money would Ray LaHood have to offer you before you agreed to reinstate the TriMet hyphen?

  10. Peter
    June 19, 2010 at 7:56 am Link

    1. Our light rail system is the envy of many and a good foundation for our high capacity transit system. Yet, while light rail is high capacity, it isn’t high speed. Will TriMet consider some efficiency improvements like skip stop spacing, express trains (with the required track additions), and other enhancements?
    2. The Portland Climate Action Plan focused on streetcar and bicycles for the meeting our region’s Climate Change goals. Will you direct TriMet to work closely with the City to make the case for increasing transit mode split by making the bus more competitive?

  11. Cameron Johnson
    June 19, 2010 at 5:08 pm Link

    Just popping in cause I couldn’t miss an opportunity. ;)

    Mr. McFarlane, I belong to a Bus Rider’s Union named OPAL. What is your view on BRU’s, who are not all roses and sugar and stuff to TriMet?

  12. Cameron Johnson
    June 19, 2010 at 5:08 pm Link

    Just popping in cause I couldn’t miss an opportunity. ;)

    Mr. McFarlane, I belong to a Bus Rider’s Union named OPAL. What is your view on BRU’s, who are not all roses and sugar and stuff to TriMet?

  13. Cameron Johnson
    June 19, 2010 at 5:09 pm Link

    :bashes Computer into wall: I hate Techonlogy.

  14. L F
    June 20, 2010 at 4:47 pm Link

    Mr Macfarlane;

    How can you justify building light rail while cutting bus service?

    How do you justify making over $200,000/yr while the “great recession” has cost thousands of jobs.

    Why do you think you need so many managers.

    http://www.box.net/shared/static/cvndf2i7hi.pdf

  15. al m
    June 20, 2010 at 10:41 pm Link

    How can you justify building light rail while cutting bus service?How do you justify making over $200,000/yr while the “great recession” has cost thousands of jobs.Why do you think you need so many managers.

    ~~>Yea Bob, ask him that!

    Couldn’t have said it better myself!

  16. jimkarlock
    June 20, 2010 at 11:59 pm Link

    In view of the fact that
    1. Trimet system costs more than driving an average car (($0.69/passenger-mile vs. $0.25) and

    2. Trimet system uses more energy (3,058btu/pm) than a small car that gets better than 31 mpg (with 1.3 passengers) and

    3. Portland area mass transit, at an average commute time of 22 min, is much slower than Portland’s average car commute time of 42 min and

    4. transit, often more than 1/4 mile away, is less convenient than a car at which is typically at the owner’s front door or garage, available without waiting and

    5. public subsidy to Trimet system is over 50¢ per passenger-mile compared to about 1.1¢ per passenger-mile (national number) for road users.
    (Data sources listed below)

    I ask: what is the social benefit of mass transit?

    If it is to help low income people, without other transportation options, why do we spend multi-hundred millions of dollars setting up a massive system which serves mostly “choice” riders at great subsidy, when targeted transportation vouchers would probably provide better, door-to door service, at lower cost with a different transport model.

    If it is to export parking from downtown, why don’t the downtown businesses pay for it?

    If it is to reduce congestion, mostly in downtown, why don’t the downtown businesses pay for it?

    Data Sources:
    1. Btu & cost is Trimet data reported in the TRANSPORTATION ENERGY DATA BOOK: EDITION 27–2008. See portlandfacts.com/top10bus.html.
    2. Commute time is from a professional transit system auditor’s analysis of U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survery, 2005-2007. See portlandfacts.com/commutechart.html.
    3. Subsidy data based on Pew Charitable Trusts study. See ti.org/antiplanner/?p=2199.)

    Thanks
    JK

  17. al m
    June 21, 2010 at 12:02 am Link

    Actually Jim, if Trimet folded completely how many economy cars could we buy?

    Maybe he has a point?

  18. jimkarlock
    June 21, 2010 at 1:58 am Link

    Lets see (from: trimet.org/pdfs/publications/factsheet.pdf):
    Tax revenue: 211 mil
    operating rants:65 mil
    other sources: 34 mil
    TOTAL______310 million

    assume you can get a small car, 2 seats (one more seat than you get on transit), in bulk, for $8,000:
    310,000 / 8 = 38750 cars EACH year.

    This is ignoring light rail capital expenses.

    Since the weekday boardings averaged 324,080 trips
    This is 124,000 people (assuming round trips and 1.3 boardings/trip)

    That means that we could buy each daily rider a car every 3.2 years (324,080/38.750)

    At an operating cost about equal to the capital cost, a new car every 6.4 years should be able to include all car costs!

    Thanks
    JK

  19. R A Fontes
    June 21, 2010 at 6:43 am Link

    Gee! Only (38750 x 6.4) 248,000 more cars on the road to replace 654 regular buses (not including LIFT vehicles) and 127 MAX units. Then we’d only need another three-quarters of a million more places to park (home, work/school, shared shopping/worship/restaurant/entertainment/etc.) and more time — a lot more time — to claw our way on our even more crowded streets and highways. What’s not to like?

  20. Just Saying
    June 21, 2010 at 7:28 am Link

    What does a fully built out MAX system look like? If the resources were available where would the transit system have MAX now?

    What are your priorities for improving bus service?

    What is the long term cost of providing service to an aging population that can no longer use their automobile?

    Are there any plans for improved transit in the auto-dependent suburbs and industrial corridor along the Columbia?

    Are there any situations where it makes sense to run both express buses and MAX for the same trips?

    How does Trimet work with jurisdictions to ensure that there are good pedestrian connections to transit, especially in the suburbs. What role can Trimet take to provide leadership on that issue.

  21. al m
    June 21, 2010 at 10:01 am Link

    “That means that we could buy each daily rider a car every 3.2 years (324,080/38.750”

    ~~>When you look at it like that I actually don’t think it is such an off the wall idea.

    The problem of course is congestion and gas.

    But theoretically it actually does make sense!

  22. al m
    June 21, 2010 at 10:10 am Link

    Here is a serious question for Neil;

    From a bus driver

    (who by the way does not represent bus drivers or trimet or trimet bus drivers or trimet managers or anything with the word trimet in it etc)

    What are you going to do to stop the continued deterioration and humiliation of your bus/rail operators by the failed public complaint system and the bloodthirsty reckless media.

  23. Just Saying
    June 21, 2010 at 12:06 pm Link

    “But theoretically it actually does make sense! ”

    Al – I thought you were a bus driver. Would you really want to be on the road if every one of your passengers was behind the wheel?

    The fact is there are many people who don’t/can’t drive.

    As for buying people cars, the actual cost of operating an automobile is over $.50 per mile – at least that is the average that the IRS allows you to deduct. The portion of that goes to purchase the car is probably about 1/5th of that. That said, while the cost of some transit trips is certainly cheaper than the same auto trip, it is more expensive for others. But in every case, its cheaper than a taxi which is the real alternative for many people.

  24. AL M
    June 21, 2010 at 1:06 pm Link

    “Would you really want to be on the road if every one of your passengers was behind the wheel?”

    As I said, THEORETICALLY it makes sense.

    Mass transit in cities obviously is the only real proposal.

    But dollars and cents, bang for the buck so to speak, JK’s idea does wash.

  25. AL M
    June 21, 2010 at 2:14 pm Link

    Here is another question for Neil:

    What is your plan and timeline to replace the sweat box torture boxes known as 1700&1800 series buses now used in the westside (stepchild) service area?

    disclaimer

  26. EngineerScotty
    June 21, 2010 at 3:13 pm Link

    TriMet does have plans to replace the 1700/1800 busses–it’s in the RTP.

    Whether the $$$ will materialize to execute those plans is another matter.

  27. AL M
    June 21, 2010 at 3:38 pm Link

    Whether the $$$ will materialize to execute those plans is another matter.

    That’s why I want him to clearly answer this. We can refer to it in the future!

  28. Bob R.
    June 21, 2010 at 4:10 pm Link

    I’m wondering if we should also include a follow-up on the ticket machine situation.

    As our readers may know, about two years ago I spent a day inspecting MAX ticket machines along with Portland Mercury reporter Matt Davis. The video and TriMet’s written response regarding policy changes can be found in this PortlandTransport post.

    I haven’t heard much more about this in past year, except for occasional anecdotes, but I just read a flyer (PDF) that TriMet put out in April, 2010, regarding updates Eastside MAX stations. In it, there is this blurb:

    TriMet has replaced its oldest ticket vending machines (TVM) with newer technology. New TVMs are operating at the Gateway, E 122nd, Rockwood/E 188th Ave and Gresham City Hall stations.

    Additionally, TriMet has doubled its TVM maintenance effort. Two crews working seven days a week allows for immediate staff response to repair inoperable machines. In addition, TriMet is focusing on preventative maintenance resulting in greater reliability of all TVMs.

    With these changes, TVM reliability has improved. In late 2008, TVM reliability (measured by percent of time functioning) was about 70 percent. In March 2010, that figure increased to 92 percent. This increase in reliability is directly correlated with customer feedback data, which shows a dramatic reduction in complaints during this same time period.

    So: To our readers who ride fairly regularly but purchase fares from the TVMs (rather than using passes), do these figures of improving from 70% uptime to 92% uptime reflect your own experiences?

    I do intend to ask about the fare system overall, such as will it get an overhaul, what kinds of technologies will be examined, etc… but should I also spend time following-up on the state of the existing fare technology?

  29. Jason Barbour
    June 21, 2010 at 4:45 pm Link

    Whether the $$$ will materialize to execute those plans is another matter.

    That’s why I want him to clearly answer this. We can refer to it in the future!

    I share the same concern (see my rant-filled question above, third reply down). Every answer to every question regarding Milwaukie Light Rail seems to involve the phrase “we have to do this.” Whenever anyone asks anything about the buses, the answer has been some sort of wishy-washy (IMO) statement that TriMet is buying some new buses. As anyone can tell you, the 40 2900s TriMet has didn’t replace all the 1400s, 1600s, 1700s, 1800s, and 1900s. According to an unofficial list, there were several hundred, and I’ll guess that most are still in regular service.

    To turn it into a question for the Q-and-A format, what I would say is: “What is the likelihood that TriMet will have capital funding bestowed on it for the immediate retiring of all 1400s, 1600s, 1700s, 1800s, and 1900s in regular service, backup, and/or contingency, upon delivery of new vehicles with modern hybrid fuel technology?”

    Unofficial fleet list reference: davesbuspix.home.comcast.net/~davesbuspix/trimet_fleetlist.shtml

  30. jimkarlock
    June 21, 2010 at 6:11 pm Link

    Just Saying Says: As for buying people cars, the actual cost of operating an automobile is over $.50 per mile – at least that is the average that the IRS allows you to deduct.
    JK: The IRS number is actually the AAA number which is designed to represent the average AAA member which is quite up scale from the average American, mainly because their average car age is 2 ½ years compared to the national American average of about 9 years. I looked at this in detail and posted the calculations and results, based on the AAA method, at portlandfacts.com/aaa_method.htm. Bottom line is that the average American car costs in the area of $0.30/mile and at a USA average of 1.6 people per car, that is about $0.20 per passenger-mile. Some claim that an average load of 1.3 people is a better fit for Portland – that gives about $0.23 per passenger-mile.

    Just Saying Says: .. while the cost of some transit trips is certainly cheaper than the same auto trip
    JK: You can travel a lot of $0.23/mile miles for a $2 trimet fare.

    Just Saying Says: But in every case, its cheaper than a taxi which is the real alternative for many people.
    JK: The correct question is: is there a better way to serve the needy? Jitneys? independent companies?, free market taxis? We won’t know as long as the government forbids competing with Trimet. And don’t forget that 83% of Trimet’s riders are “choice” riders, so they just choose to get a free ride for 77% of their transport cost by using taxpayer subsidized Trimet. (Numbers from trimet factsheet.pdf)

    As to congestion: outside of downtown, trimet’s market share is too small to reduce congestion compared to its cost. On many streets trimet actually increases congestion by its choice to have buses block traffic while loading/unloading.

    Thanks
    JK

  31. Just Saying
    June 21, 2010 at 8:15 pm Link

    “You can travel a lot of $0.23/mile miles for a $2 trimet fare.”

    Jim –

    So you want real numbers for a real trips? Lets assume each transit trip is 5 miles each direction 5 days a week for 50 weeks per year ( 2 weeks off for vacation) that is 2500 miles. The cost of insurance is $1000 and that would be very cheap for most drivers under 40 even with a near perfect driving record. That is $.40 per mile, just for insurance. Say your $8000 car (I’d like to find a decent new car for $8000) lasts 160,000 miles, that is another $.05 per mile. License fee of $100 per year, that is another $.04 cents per mile. AAA estimates Maintenance and tires at a little over .04 per mile, but of course these cars are going to cost a lot more than average since they will be in service for a very long time. We are at $.53 per mile and then you add gas. Assume $.15 per mile and you have a total of .68 per mile. That puts the cost of those 10 mile daily round trips at $6.80, without any other public costs or parking included. And if you make the trips shorter – the price per mile goes up. Cut it back to $500 miles per year and just the insurance costs are $2 per mile.

    That is of course, assuming we should take that proposal seriously, which we shouldn’t. The fact is that there are no serious libertarian proposals to replace the public transit system. Just similar lists of irresponsible, half-baked rhetorical suggestions that sound interesting but have foundation in the real world.

  32. EngineerScotty
    June 21, 2010 at 8:38 pm Link

    One issue with the IRS mileage deduction is that it does assume significant depreciation–and amortized depreciation only against mileage–the figure assumes that the same car, sitting parked in a garage, doesn’t depreciate.

    Which is not true–unlike many classes of durable goods (such as homes or transit vehicles), which only lose value with use, personal autos lose significant value with the passage of time.

    Likewise, many motorists drive older autos which have, for all intents and purposes, lost all market value above salvage value (what a junkyard would pay for the car).

    This discrepancy explains why, for persons already owning a car, it often makes economic sense to drive it for short trips, especially compared to a full-price busfare of over $2. Granted, uses of passes changes the equation, and this analysis ignores the externalities of driving, but for most motorists, the cost of driving is well less than the IRS reimbursement rate (a rate which makes a lot more sense for fleet autos driven 20,000+ miles per year).

  33. Anthony
    June 21, 2010 at 8:54 pm Link

    Just Saying:

    Where do you get your insurance? Im only 29 with a clean driving record and get my one car insured for about $350 every six months. My truck adds another $200 to the same bill… still much less then your $1000 a year for an 8k dollar car.

    Mind you if my credit were better Id have a much better rate. Sounds like its time for you to shop around a little more :)

  34. Bob R.
    June 21, 2010 at 9:16 pm Link

    Anthony – Is that liability-only or comprehensive? I’m assuming that the hypothetical benevolent government giving away all these cars would actually want them fully insured for any eventuality lest they have to give them away again in a short period of time…

    And once again in JK’s figures we find the assumption that a “31mpg” automobile is going to achieve the rated mileage on the same trip types that TriMet serves. Anyone who pays close attention to MPG, especially in smaller cars and hybrids, knows that short trips starting from a cold engine result in considerably worse MPG. At the extreme, ask any Prius owner how well their MPG does in the first 5 minutes of any trip compared to subsequent segments.

    Those numbers also incorrectly assume that the exact same group of people ride the TriMet system each day. In fact, there are many riders who ride multiple times per month but not every day. TriMet serves more actual people than JK’s estimate suggests, just not all in one day.

    The real analogy, as others have pointed out, is the comparison to taxi cabs. Suppose a taxi market were created with only basic regulation (occasional vehicle safety checks, mandatory insurance, but no limits on hours worked, vehicle types, number of vehicles on the road, and a mandate that any destination on a public road in the metro area needs to be served without discrimination) — how much would it cost to service TriMet’s riders then? How many cabs would be out on the road, vying for pick-ups?

  35. Bob R.
    June 21, 2010 at 9:24 pm Link

    According to this site, Oregon’s average annual car insurance rate is $1,573, but of course that’s an average, not for an $8K car driven 2,500 miles/year.

    As for the hypothetical 31mpg, at $2.86 per gallon (current Portland metro area average according to AAA), that’s about 9.2 cents per mile.

  36. Bob R.
    June 21, 2010 at 9:26 pm Link

    All that said, can anyone (including JK) boil that question down to a few phrases? We’ll only have a limited amount of time during the sit-down interview and can’t waste too much of it going over all the numbers.

  37. Just Saying
    June 21, 2010 at 9:33 pm Link

    Let me repeat what I concluded with:

    “That is of course, assuming we should take that proposal seriously, which we shouldn’t. The fact is that there are no serious libertarian proposals to replace the public transit system. Just similar lists of irresponsible, half-baked rhetorical suggestions that sound interesting but have foundation in the real world. ”

    Instead of inventing alternatives as straw men to bat down, like everyone taking taxis, perhaps we should ask that critics of transit start making serious proposals with a few realistic details attached. The last time I saw John Charles blather on about jitneys, he ended up proposing that government auction off monopolies on who could provide service at each street corner.

    Scotty is, of course, correct. The marginal costs of driving often mean less out of the pocket than a bus ticket in immediate terms (Although I am not sure it remains true when you consider less immediate costs like maintenance and depreciation). Parking costs change that equation downtown.

  38. jimkarlock
    June 22, 2010 at 12:56 am Link

    Just Saying Says: So you want real numbers for a real trips? … The cost of insurance is $1000 …lasts 160,000 miles, that is another $.05 per mile…. License fee of $100…….you add gas. Assume $.15 per mile
    JK: You obviously didn’t bother look very hard at the AAA method. It includes insurance. It also includes gas. And depreciation. And licensing. It includes all the items you listed above AND the cost or building roads in the taxes.

    However it is based on a realistic 15,000 miler per year instead of a prison like 500 miles.

    Just Saying Says: The fact is that there are no serious libertarian proposals to replace the public transit system. Just similar lists of irresponsible, half-baked rhetorical suggestions that sound interesting but have foundation in the real world.
    JK: WOW, what did we ever do before government monopoly public transit? What do we do without government run inter city bus service? Try freedom it used to work!

    Thanks
    JK

  39. Just Saying
    June 22, 2010 at 6:39 am Link

    “WOW, what did we ever do before government monopoly public transit?”

    In Portland, we had a bus service that was losing money and about to go out of business. Again, these “solutions” are just part of a singular libertarian fantasy that if you do away with government services the “free market” will automatically replace them with profitable private businesses.

    “AND the cost or building roads in the taxes.”

    No, it doesn’t include “the cost of building roads”. As any housing developer can tell you, the right of way for local streets is paid for by the home purchasers. After that, the maintenance of most roads is paid for with local property taxes. The current gas tax doesn’t really even cover the cost of maintenance of the highway system. That is one reason ODOT has a growing list of deferred maintenance with increasing future costs.

    “However it is based on a realistic 15,000 miler per year”

    It isn’t based on YOUR plan to replace transit trips with cars. If you want to claim that you are going to replaces 15000 miles of transit per year – that is 300 miles per week or 60 miles per day someone has to use the bus or MAX. The reality is that most people can buy an unlimited annual bus pass for the cost of their auto insurance.

    As I said, “there are no serious libertarian proposals to replace the public transit system. Just similar lists of irresponsible, half-baked rhetorical suggestions that sound interesting but have (no) foundation in the real world.” Your proposal for buying everyone an auto is just one more example of that.

  40. Just Saying
    June 22, 2010 at 8:04 am Link

    “What do we do without government run inter city bus service? ”

    Many (most?) small towns don’t have any inter-city bus service any more. So the answer is the same as for transit, we do without.

  41. EngineerScotty
    June 22, 2010 at 8:59 am Link

    Many (most?) small towns don’t have any inter-city bus service any more.

    Of course, most small towns don’t have inner cities to begin with–you gotta be a city to have an inner city. (By “city” I mean a large urban settlement; not a particular form of municipal incorporation).

    The sort of place I think of when I consider the term “small town” (a place with a population under 5,000, generally), can be walked by able-bodied individuals from end to end in a short time–general public transit in such places is seldom efficient or necessary.

  42. Just Saying
    June 22, 2010 at 9:23 am Link

    “Of course, most small towns don’t have inner cities to begin with–you gotta be a city to have an inner city.”

    Scotty –

    The question was “inter-city” bus service, meaning between cities, not “inner-city. But there are plenty of rural communities with some form of transit service mostly for the poor and elderly who lack “inter-city” bus service.

  43. EngineerScotty
    June 22, 2010 at 9:51 am Link

    D’oh!

    My apologies–serves me right for reading the net before my morning cup of coffee. :) And I agree with you that many small towns, too small for general public transit, do benefit from paratransit services.

    Most states, it seems, are unwilling to subsidize INTER-city bus service, leaving it to the free market; and said free-market (mainly represented by Greyhound in these parts) has cut back on service to smaller towns, especially those not on the way to some larger destination. There’s been an expansion of privately-run bus lines such as Bolt Bus (a Greyhound joint venture) in the East Coast, but the sparsely-populated parts of the West seem to be another matter.

  44. al m
    June 22, 2010 at 11:09 am Link

    So: To our readers who ride fairly regularly but purchase fares from the TVMs (rather than using passes), do these figures of improving from 70% uptime to 92% uptime reflect your own experiences?

    NO!

    (contrary to popular belief, I do not hate trimet, nor do I represent trimet)

  45. Bob R.
    June 30, 2010 at 5:02 pm Link

    It looks like we’re narrowing in on doing this interview around July 12th…

    If you have any additional questions you’d like to have considered, please post them here in the next couple of days. One thing that would be good to discuss is issues related to safety. At the last TriMet board meeting, a father of a girl who died in a TriMet accident gave some very heartfelt testimony (I encouraged him to add his voice to this discussion).

    On Monday or Tuesday I’ll get together with Chris and we’ll try and condense/refine these questions… the interview period will be 45 minutes or less and there’s a lot to go over.

    Alternately, if there is sufficient interest from a good cross-section of PortlandTransport readers, we could set up a “Transit Beer” meetup and whiteboard the questions… any takers?

  46. Cora Potter
    June 30, 2010 at 6:18 pm Link

    I’m always open to meetups that include beer.

  47. Dave H
    June 30, 2010 at 9:16 pm Link

    I’d be happy to help with this. There are some great questions in the thread so far.

  48. Bob R.
    July 1, 2010 at 3:46 pm Link

    TriMet has posted this press release today. Of particular interest, given the many bus-related questions above, is this bullet point from Neil’s list of priorities:

    Strengthening the bus system, including replacing the oldest buses in the fleet that are well beyond retirement

  49. Anthony
    July 1, 2010 at 6:04 pm Link

    14,500 new jobs created by the light rail? Are any of those part of the 10,000 new jobs created by the tram?

  50. AL M
    July 2, 2010 at 1:40 am Link

    “TriMet has posted this press release today. Of particular interest, given the many bus-related questions above, is this bullet point from Neil’s list of priorities:”

    Yea I already saw that. Where is your interview?

  51. Bob R.
    July 2, 2010 at 8:02 am Link

    Al, the interview isn’t until the 12th. Scroll up a bit and read the updates in the comments.

  52. al m
    July 2, 2010 at 3:05 pm Link

    OH SORRY, I thought the interview was the same day as the interview.

    woops!

  53. al m
    July 2, 2010 at 3:06 pm Link

    I meant the board meeting was when you were gonna interview him.

    Sorry X2

  54. Bob R.
    July 5, 2010 at 10:13 am Link

    OK I’m calling “deadline” today… if you have something you’d like to see asked of Neil McFarlane and its not in the discussion above, please feel free to post it here in the next hour or so. Thanks!

  55. Dave H
    July 13, 2010 at 5:10 am Link

    Thanks to Bob for the very interesting opportunity to play the Tim Russert representing PortlandTransport.com today.

    I’ll just share my own opinion, which was that he was very well informed about many of our concerns, and seems to be quite knowledgeable about the difficulties of working with a transit agency of this size.

    The conference that he ran this morning was interesting. I hope the video is good, Neil was actually quite articulate about his responses to questions. He doesn’t seemed trained to answer questions in a PR-friendly way (again, my opinion.) He seems to give real answers.

    As a group, we had some awesome questions. I really mean it, thanks to everyone who contributed.

    I feel I may have stumbled on some (many questions had to be edited to condense 2-3 questions into one), but we tried to represent everyone’s questions in a fair manner. We were limited by time, so I hope everyone feels that I found the appropriate questions to ask him. I’ll take the blame for any faults. We tried to work together to get things prioritized, and I was trying to adjust questions based on answers that were already given.

    If your question wasn’t asked I’ll take any blame, but I tried to give a fair balance with the time allotted. We basically had to skip some due to limited time. I tried to do my best to make sure everyone who submitted something had part of an answer, at minimum.

    I tried to make the best use of the time we were allotted to get the best answers to the questions. Mr. McFarlane was quite busy today from what I personally saw. I honestly appreciate that he gave us a real chance to get some real answers from him, and he seemed to have a lot of ideas of how TriMet can improve. That’s a great start from someone on for under two weeks.

    The LIFT Center was great to see in person, and Neil really seemed to know a lot about it. He had quite the in-depth answer regarding LIFT in the future than I expected for a guy with under 2 weeks on the job.

    When Bob gets things put together (I’ll admit, I may have botched trying to ask some questions) I’d love some feedback on how I did to represent everyone when Bob gets things ready. I hope that I represented PortlandTransport.com’s users concerns well, and I hope that Neil’s answers address your questions. He didn’t shy away from answering any queries we had, which is pretty good in my book.

    I hope this post is okay by Bob and Chris, but it was actually a very interesting day. It’s not a normal day I get to spend 45 minutes playing Craig Ferguson to our new TriMet director. (And trust me, I’m no Craig Ferguson.) (I know is acceptable here as well.)

    And for those grammarians wondering, the amount for the hyphen to return is likely more than we’re likely to get.

    (Reposted here from the Open Thread with Bob’s permission. I’ll also add Bob is a great Geoff Peterson and producer.)

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