Video Feature – Neil McFarlane Interview – Part 1

Last week, we sat down with TriMet’s new General Manager, Neil McFarlane, for an interview featuring your questions.

We have over 40 minutes of material. So that people can digest this via YouTube and comment, the interview has been divided into five segments, the first of which is shown today:

This segment provides some background and context, and gives Neil a chance to speak about his priorities. There’s not much Q&A here — reader questions begin in the following segments.

The complete list and schedule, after the break:

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
Part 1:
Introduction, Safety and Priorities
Part 2:
Funding, Capital Projects and Budget Concerns
Part 3:
Health Care, LIFT Service and the Fare System
Part 4:
Mode Choice, Technology and Rider Involvement
Part 5:
Future Planning, The Big Picture, and…
23 Comments

23 Responses to Video Feature – Neil McFarlane Interview – Part 1

  1. al m
    July 19, 2010 at 10:07 am Link

    I see he is starting with the “great recession” rhetoric again.

    Talk is cheap, let’s see what he actually does.

    14,000 jobs? We keep hearing that too.

    Obviously I am skeptical on this claim.

    My first impressions of Neil are pretty good, just from watching him in the media like this.

    He seems like he is a “real” part of the “transit culture”.

    Fred never looked like he was an actual transit person. And he wasn’t.
    He had never had a transit position till he came to Trimet.

    Damn good production Bob, better than anything we will ever see in our local popular media.

  2. Bob R.
    July 19, 2010 at 10:14 am Link

    Re: 14,000 jobs.

    We structured the interview with a series of primary, general questions and then potential specific follow-ups to each. The strategy was to drop the follow-ups if we needed to move things along to get to all the primary questions in the allotted time. (And, to be honest, we were a bit caught up in the technical mechanics of just getting things done…)

    Unfortunately, two of the Milwaukie-related follow-ups that didn’t get asked were how this 14,000 jobs figure was derived — what it really means, and the other was specifically about the bonding of operating funds to pay for part of the Milwaukie light rail project. Dave and I both regret that last one because a number of people from various perspectives had asked it.

  3. EngineerScotty
    July 19, 2010 at 10:18 am Link

    Any chance a transcript will be produced? I’m an old fart who prefers to read than watch–plus, I’m at work, where streaming video is discouraged….

  4. Bob R.
    July 19, 2010 at 10:19 am Link

    Yes, Scotty, you are hereby nominated to watch the video and type out the transcript, while at work. :-)

    Seriously, if I have time, I’d like to do one, but it probably won’t be today.

    Anyone here want to volunteer? Please contact me privately at bob at peak dot org.

  5. Just Saying
    July 19, 2010 at 1:52 pm Link

    I have to admit, I kept waiting for the interview or at least a balanced presentation on the issues. Instead it starts with an agenda, I stopped listening.

  6. Bob R.
    July 19, 2010 at 1:58 pm Link

    Hi Just Saying –

    Can you describe the agenda you see in the video? We endeavored to incorporate the full array of viewpoints both expressed by our readers and by speakers at the last board meeting.

    In the full series of videos, Neil receives the bulk of the speaking time, well over 30 minutes of largely-intact material.

  7. Dave H
    July 19, 2010 at 2:37 pm Link

    Just Saying, I too would like to know what agenda was being promoted? The first three questions we asked were basically:

    Other than safety (which he had spoken about that morning at a press conference) what are his other priorities?

    Second was asking how he planned to take on issues that weren’t a part of his background which was on the rail side of things.

    Then we had the only safety questions of the interview based on a very recent accusation of TriMet. It’s an accusation thrown at MAX a lot, and I think it was fair to directly ask if people should be concerned about new light rail in their neighborhood.

    The only agenda I had was to ask about topics that come up on this board often and try to cover as many topics as we could in 45 minutes.

    As Bob mentioned, page 3 of my notes from the interview were to ask about the 14,500 jobs. (Specifically it was “What is the basis for this number, and how many are permanent private-sector jobs?”) It was intended as a follow up to a question that was already answered, but I was hoping to get back to it if we had spare time as part of the future plans/big picture questions.

  8. AL M
    July 19, 2010 at 3:21 pm Link

    What’s that logo at the beginning of the video?
    Looks like a skateboard with a sort of Trimet logo and an eagle all mixed together?

  9. Bob R.
    July 19, 2010 at 3:28 pm Link

    It’s the PortlandTransport logo that’s always been at the top of the blog. :-)

  10. AL M
    July 19, 2010 at 11:08 pm Link

    Your right, it is the logo, wtf is that logo anyway?

  11. AL M
    July 19, 2010 at 11:09 pm Link

    Its the moving across the screen that threw me off!

  12. Bob R.
    July 19, 2010 at 11:15 pm Link

    That’s a question for Chris. To me at least, it’s a rose with wheels, and perhaps wings. Eye of the beholder?

  13. Chris Smith
    July 19, 2010 at 11:16 pm Link

    It’s a rose (as in ‘the Rose City’) with wheels.

  14. EngineerScotty
    July 19, 2010 at 11:49 pm Link

    Nice work, gents! Eagerly awaiting part 2!

  15. Just Saying
    July 20, 2010 at 7:30 am Link

    I never got to the questions. I heard a couple people complaining at a public hearing and a variety of other statements from the current media narrative about the challenges the agency faces. You may consider that objective and balanced. I don’t. In any case, it is an agenda.

  16. Chris Smith
    July 20, 2010 at 7:36 am Link

    Sounds like ‘context’ to me.

  17. Bob R.
    July 20, 2010 at 7:37 am Link

    The statements from the people at the public hearing were representative of who showed up and show that criticism comes from both the left and the right. The focus on safety in the intro was reflective of the fact that TriMet chose to hold a press conference about it on the day of our interview. Our characterizations of the challenges TriMet faces are accurate.

    Our only “agenda” was to represent the situation at hand and the questions of our readers without distorting the views of others and without unduly amplifying any particular viewpoint.

    If you think what we did is merely repeating the “current media narrative”, perhaps you haven’t seen just how far unhinged that narrative has become.

    You are, of course, welcome to your opinion. If that’s what you genuinely took away from the piece, fine. But there was no “agenda”, of the nature you describe, at work behind it.

  18. Just Saying
    July 20, 2010 at 8:22 am Link

    “Sounds like ‘context’ to me.”

    I think that is correct. Its putting McFarlane’s answers in someones preferred context rather than letting them speak for themselves.

    “Our characterizations of the challenges TriMet faces are accurate.”

    Trimet has lots of challenges. You could just as easily define the challenge TriMet has as meeting increasing demand for transit service in areas with low density employment. How to provide service to emerging development where ridership remains low. etc.

    If you want define the challenges Trimet faces, isn’t that a question you ask McFarlane? Why should we have to listen to someone else’s opinion about that question first?

    “show that criticism comes from both the left and the right”

    Which again, is defining the discussion in terms of the media’s political ideology narrative. What makes buses right-wing and trains left-wing or vice versa?

    “how far unhinged that narrative has become.”

    There is nothing “unhinged” about that narrative. It is hinged to creating and holding an audience. Boring, complex, un-photogenic information need not apply.

  19. Chris Smith
    July 20, 2010 at 8:34 am Link

    Its putting McFarlane’s answers in someones preferred context rather than letting them speak for themselves.

    Is it a “preferred” context, or an accurate representation of sentiment in the community?

    Sure, Steve Schopp is not my preferred spokesperson, but that doesn’t mean some his views are unrepresentative of the community.

  20. Bob R.
    July 20, 2010 at 8:55 am Link

    What makes buses right-wing and trains left-wing or vice versa?

    Nothing. And nothing in the video stated such. Sounds to me like you’re reading way more into the piece than is there.

    Why should we have to listen to someone else’s opinion about that question first?

    Maybe _you_ shouldn’t have to, but then you already know a lot of the background on TriMet. These videos have an audience beyond Portland — in fact I’ve received comments from Chicago and Norway.

    We spent 3 minutes out of 40+ reflecting the local context for our viewers. That’s all.

    At least nobody (yet) accused me of being a Stalinist like when I posted the Type IV car breakdown video.

    Anyone have anything to say about what Neil actually said?

  21. Just Saying
    July 20, 2010 at 9:28 am Link

    “I’ve received comments from Chicago and Norway.”

    Great – so now they have a misleading impression of the real issues. They are listening to McFarlane’s comments thinking that a 5 cent fare increase will have a serious economic impact on low income people in Portland.

    “Is it a “preferred” context, or an accurate representation of sentiment in the community?”

    I doubt it is representative of “the sentiment in the community. I suspect if you ask most bus riders, their larger concern is having to stand up and drivers who aren’t very smooth in their operation of buses. Motorists are probably concerned about buses blocking the lane when they stop. The actual concerns of the community are pretty mundane. Of course they don’t have a grant funding them to show up and testify for the media at hearings.

    “Nothing. And nothing in the video stated such.”

    No, there isn’t. But what exactly did you mean when you said you were representing critics from the left and right?

  22. Chris Smith
    July 20, 2010 at 9:57 am Link

    I suspect if you ask most bus riders, their larger concern is having to stand up and drivers who aren’t very smooth in their operation of buses.

    I suspect if you actually watch the whole interview series, you’re going to find that viewpoint well represented…

  23. EngineerScotty
    July 20, 2010 at 10:00 am Link

    I thought the presentation was fair.

    As far as which style of rolling stock is “right wing” and which is “left”–for every conservative who screams that rail is an expensive socialist boondoggle, I can assure you you’ll find a DFH convinced that rail is a pernicious tool of capitalists employed to segregate, subjugate, and ultimately destroy effective transit for The People.

    (If it isn’t obvious, of course, Steve Schopp of The Oregon Catalyst is a conservative critic of the agency, whereas Joseph Santos-Lyons of OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon is a critic on the agency’s left.)

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