Transparency improving at TriMet?

Michael at PortlandAfoot reports on a transparency initiative at TriMet:

Michael at PortlandAfoot writes the following:

As somebody who thinks the best way to solve problems is with eyeballs, TriMet’s defensiveness sometimes drives me crazy. So I was really pleased to learn the agency has just introduced a new website, which it calls a “performance dashboard,” to clearly display basic trends and statistics about the agency: ridership, on-time performance, operating cost per ride.

Among the other improvements are better communication of board meeting agendas. TriMet is also soliciting ideas as to what other things it should make public. Michael gives a good list in the comments at PortlandAfoot–go read his entire article. To Michael’s list, which mainly focuses on operational performance stats…I would add one biggie: Detailed (long-term) budget assumptions, showing assumptions and projections of revenues, ridership, fuel prices, labor expenses, capital projects, grants, etc–one of the biggest concerns many have is the agency is building infrastructure that it cannot afford to maintain. Showing us the numbers may help alleviate those concerns.

And to answer Michael’s question: Yes. :)

6 responses to “Transparency improving at TriMet?”

  1. By the way, another quick thought about transparent records:

    In Washington, state law forbids agencies from charging fees to pay for the staff time that gets eaten up by filling records requests.

    It’s a major burden on government agencies, which are basically at the mercy of anyone who bothers to file endless document requests … unless the agency were to conduct ALL its public business right on the internet with tools like, say, Google Docs or MediaWiki.

    Glass walls = no staff time wasted on public disclosure.

    My hunch is that eventually, radical transparency will be so easy and so cheap that it’ll become the norm … at least in states like Washington.

  2. My hunch is that eventually, radical transparency will be so easy and so cheap that it’ll become the norm … at least in states like Washington.

    Well, I don’t see a heck of a lot of transparency from my point of view! They ripped away company reports from my view because I had the audacity to publish that stuff on my site, and I have been threatened with all sorts of torture if I ever publish another “secret” eyes only internal document. Take a picture of an employee or patron without “express permission”, well, I don’t even want to go there.

    They are getting less transparent, not more, from where I sit!

    [Moderator: Overuse of boldface removed. – Bob R.]

  3. What is the point here?

    When the ultimate “transparency” is available,

    It gets this from TriMet

    “That’s adding apples, oranges and grapefruits together to get a completely unreasonable number,” said Neil McFarlane, TriMet’s general manager.

    and their legend of defenders turn it into meaningless fruit salad.

    Even the problem of bonding against it’s future only got temporary concern here. Concern that never returned even as bonding amount went from $40 million to $63 million.

    So if the transparency of the audit produced essentially nothing why should anyone expect additional transparency to be helpful?

    What is it that needs to be figured out with more “transparency”?

    There’s more than enough transparency right now that shows MLR is the worst project in state history.

    For observers like myself it’s abundantly clear that we are seeing a worsening trajectory of horrible asssumption and bad decisions.
    There was no sense in building Interstate MAX without assurance it would ever go to Vancouver. WES was a huge blunder and the Greenline was built in the wrong place.

    Nice track record.

    Now the $1.6 billion Milwaukie Light Rail has become the most urgent and highest priority in the region?
    And that justifies the pilfering of revenue streams?

    Gee, if we only had more transparency.

  4. There’s a lot of important data which goes beyond the required disclosures in the financial statements. And the reason why I ask for more is precisely the sorts of questions posed by the current state of TriMet’s finances.

    As far as MLR being the “worst project in state history”–it’s certainly one of the more expensive ones, but I can think of plenty of examples of blatant white elephants, ridiculous boondoggles, out-of-control budget-busters, and general incompetence (and corruption) over the years–some transit related, some brought to you by ODOT. TriMet actually has a pretty decent record of bringing in its light-rail project on time and on budget.

    I’d certainly rather spend $1.5 billion on a light rail line than on the Clackamascus Freeway. Your mileage, obviously, may vary. :)

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