More TriMet Budget Woes

[Updated 10/26 with full press release after the break. – Bob R.]


Prepare for more pain, this media advisory came from TriMet today:

TriMet faces budget shortfall for FY2013
Agency kicks off budget process early to develop options

TriMet will kick off its Fiscal Year 2013 budget process tomorrow at the monthly meeting of the board of directors.

The agency is starting the budget process three months ahead of schedule to begin developing options to respond to a projected budget shortfall in its FY13 budget. The FY13 budget begins July 1, 2012.

The October 26 Board meeting will be at:

Portland Building
1120 SW 5th Avenue
Room C on the 2nd floor
9 a.m.

The budget presentation will occur at the beginning of the meeting.

No additional details available until tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. Details after the break

TriMet faces budget shortfall for FY2013
Agency kicks off budget process early to develop options

TriMet today kicked off its Fiscal Year 2013 budget process three months ahead of schedule to begin developing options to respond to a projected $12 million to $17 million shortfall. The shortfall results from the continued recession and slow recovery, an anticipated cut in federal operating grants and costs associated with a new labor contract.

The shortfall is part of the agency’s FY13 operating budget that begins July 1, 2012. TriMet’s FY12 operating budget is $444 million.

“We have already cut $60 million from past budgets, but our financial challenges remain,” said TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane. “We face some tough decisions ahead and everything is on the table as we look to take corrective actions to close our budget gap and realign our cost structure.”

Stagnant economy
With employment and wage growth stagnant, TriMet expects to receive about $3 million less in payroll tax revenues than previously anticipated.

Federal operating grants
TriMet receives $40 million to $45 million in federal funds for annual preventive maintenance. There is significant uncertainty in the federal budget, including the continuation of that funding level. TriMet is estimating a cut of $4 million.

Union contract
TriMet is working to bring the union contract in line with revenue growth and make it financially sustainable. The contract expired in 2009 and both parties are now heading to interest arbitration scheduled for mid-January 2012. A recent Employee Relations Board (ERB) decision, which TriMet is asking ERB to reconsider, currently has eliminated potential wage and retiree benefit savings from the current labor arbitration. The ERB decision adds $5 million to $10 million to the FY13 budget shortfall, an amount that grows significantly in future years. There are also additional outstanding items related to the labor contract that could increase the shortfall further.

Next steps
TriMet will create a Budget Task Force with community members that will provide the general manager with recommendations on how to balance the budget. TriMet has limited options to lower costs and increase revenues. The task force will consider internal efficiencies, fare increases and service reductions.

Over the next 2 to 3 months, TriMet will develop specific options to close the budget gap. In the meantime, the public can begin to offer suggestions or comments:

Phone:503-238-RIDE (7433) select option #5
Email: comments@trimet.org
Mail:TriMet 2013 Budget
4012 SE 17 Avenue, Portland, Oregon 97202
Fax: 503-962-6451
TTY: 503-962-5811

Sign up for email alerts on the budget process at trimet.org.

52 Comments

52 Responses to More TriMet Budget Woes

  1. Bob R.
    October 26, 2011 at 9:45 am Link

    According to a press release this morning, the shortfall is in the ballpark of $12M to $17M. Press release shortly…

  2. Bob R.
    October 26, 2011 at 9:56 am Link

    Press release posted.

  3. Jason Barbour
    October 26, 2011 at 10:28 am Link

    Over the next 2 to 3 months, TriMet will develop specific options to close the budget gap. In the meantime, the public can begin to offer suggestions or comments…

    And I’ll feel free to do so right here, so we can have real discussion.
    1. Eliminate non-public-transportation-revenue-service administrative positions.
    2. Reduce remaining administrative salaries of $100,000 or more by 25%, reduce administrative salaries between $75,000-$100,000 to $75,000. (Please note: these figures are intended to be pre-tax, pre-deduction amounts.)
    3. Postpone further construction of Milwaukie Light Rail, indefinitely postpone rail planning along other corridors (CRC, SW Portland/Tigard/etc.).
    4. Publish on the trimet.org homepage a searchable listing of businesses behind in TriMet Payroll Tax payments so the public can use this as a guide when making “free-market economic decisions,” with a note that if businesses don’t want to be on this list they should pay up.
    5. Place a “head tax” on students attending any and every institution of higher education within the TriMet District. Funds would go towards either discounted or free transit service for such students.
    6. Eliminate fare zones and transfers, make fares a flat $2 for simplicity and ease of payment, encourage purchasing/using day passes.
    6a. Make the above the official response to the so-called “Campaign for a Fair Transfer.”
    6b. Eliminate the Free Rail Zone.
    7. Make fees and fines for fare evasion non-contestable.
    8. Approve the business/citizen proposal of Boring’s removal from the TriMet District and do not raise payroll taxes on the rest of the area.
    9. Any and all cuts to public transportation revenue service should be made to rail service first.

  4. EngineerScotty
    October 26, 2011 at 11:07 am Link

    This is the interesting part:

    TriMet is working to bring the union contract in line with revenue growth and make it financially sustainable. The contract expired in 2009 and both parties are now heading to interest arbitration scheduled for mid-January 2012. A recent Employee Relations Board (ERB) decision, which TriMet is asking ERB to reconsider, currently has eliminated potential wage and retiree benefit savings from the current labor arbitration. The ERB decision adds $5 million to $10 million to the FY13 budget shortfall, an amount that grows significantly in future years. There are also additional outstanding items related to the labor contract that could increase the shortfall further.

    Unless I’m confusing two different things (labor negotiations are a complex subject, after all), it appears that ATU757 prevailed on its Unfair Labor Practice complaint; and many concessions that TriMet was demanding of ATU are, for now, off the table. (In which case the obvious question is: what is left ON the table?) As noted, arbitration is in January, but there may be far less to arbitrate.

    (For those that are wondering: ORS 243.672(1)(e), cited in the order, simply requires that an employer bargain in good faith; apparently the ERB thought TriMet was not doing so. Again, what case law and precedent defines the contours of “good faith” vs bad, I have no idea).

  5. EngineerScotty
    October 26, 2011 at 11:25 am Link

    Jason,

    Item #5 is beyond the TriMet board’s power. Might not be a bad IDEA, but TriMet lacks the authority to levy such a tax.

    Regarding item #6–by “eliminate transfers” are you proposing requiring additional fares for multi-hop journeys? That wouldn’t satisfy OPAL’s goals at all, I would think–a big part of the solution that OPAL’s proposal wants to solve is that there are many poor people who find the cost of transit burdensome, but cannot afford the cash outlay to purchase a monthly (or even weekly) pass and are instead having to pay cash fares. At any rate, lowering fares likely will make the budget shortfall worse, not better, unless you think that TriMet is on the downward side of the transit Laffer curve.

    Regarding #8–I don’t know if Boring’s withdrawal would be revenue-positive, neutral, or negative. (I suspect the impact would be minimal in either case; there isn’t a large employer base in Boring, and the #84 doesn’t run all that often). Are you suggesting that the currently-planned payroll tax increases be cancelled, or no more additional ones proposed? (TriMet lacks the authority to increase payroll taxes without the consent of the Legislature). At any rate, reducing the tax base won’t help with the budget problem.

    Regarding #9–not building new rail may well save money; but cutting existing rail service is not likely to have a financially beneficial effect, as MAX has a lower per-passenger cost than bus. Unless you think that sort of trips served by MAX ought to be of lower priority than those served by bus.

  6. anthony
    October 26, 2011 at 11:39 am Link

    Isn’t the MLR project being paid for with bonds borrowed on “projected” revenue increases?

  7. Lenny Anderson
    October 26, 2011 at 12:06 pm Link

    How about some data on agency overhead/ride provided. How does TriMet compare with other comparably sized agencies?
    I hate to see it come down to riders vs Ops, but that’s what it looks like we are going to get…less service in order to provide free health insurance.
    Clearly MAX provides more rides at lower cost than bus…less than $2/; any bus route at more than $5/ride should be on the block.

  8. EngineerScotty
    October 26, 2011 at 12:35 pm Link

    @Anthony;

    Part of the MLR project is being paid with bonded operating revenues; however much of that is offset with the planned payroll tax increase; the budget includes both things. Obviously, much of TriMet’s future operating budgets are based on “projected” revenues (and projected expenses), as the future cannot be predicted. However, it would be incorrect to state that current operations have a greater claim on operating revenues than does MLR (though many here think that ought to be the case)–in fact, given that MLR is now a go and is under construction, expenses related to it probably are less flexible that other expenses. Not saying this is a good thing, but it likely is reality.

  9. EngineerScotty
    October 26, 2011 at 12:38 pm Link

    Joseph Rose of The Oregonian has now filed his report. One interesting tidbit: TriMet board member Steve Clarke floated the possibility of shutting down WES.

  10. R A Fontes
    October 26, 2011 at 1:24 pm Link

    We’ve been repeatedly told that WES elimination prior to its 20 year guarantee service period would force TriMet to repay FTA grants. Does anyone know if that would be prorated or the full amount?

  11. anthony
    October 26, 2011 at 2:13 pm Link

    Its about time for a major restructure. I vote that transit service is provided by each county (as it is in many states) so that there is local control of how funds are spent. This could actually boost ridership because there would be more local routes for where people go instead of the “we assume everyone wants to go to downtown Portland” system currently in place. Additionally, each county can determine what type of “cross county” commuter service is needed for its residents (much like Ctran’s express routes) and provide them.

    I also vote to separate the “transit for moving people” system from the “transit for inducing (subsidized) development” system so that transit dependent folks don’t see their routes cut because some developer 25 miles away wants a streetcar so that they can better market their overpriced condos.

  12. Bob R.
    October 26, 2011 at 2:53 pm Link

    Questions for Anthony –

    How many TriMet lines cross county lines (Clackamas-Multnomah, Washington-Clackamas, Multnomah-Washington), and which counties would be responsible for operating those lines. What lines should be split up and not cross into other counties? How would riders who cross a county line be served?

    How much TriMet money has gone to the Portland Streetcar compared with local contributions (City of Portland)? How many of the 12,000 daily riders are not partaking in “transit for moving people”?

    It’s interesting that the one line a board member suggested cutting (WES) is neither a downtown-centric line, nor a development-oriented transit line, nor a line that enters Multnomah County. Perhaps TriMet could just _give_ it to Clackamas or Washington counties and let them assume the debts and operating costs? Presto, problem solved. :-)

  13. Douglas K.
    October 26, 2011 at 4:41 pm Link

    From the Rose article: “What’s more, deHamel said, management wages remain frozen after four years, non-union employees are paying more for health care, and the agency has deferred capital investments such as new buses.”

    What about the health care costs of union employees? I haven’t stayed on top of this issue … are Tri-Met union members still getting exceptionally generous health benefits? Reducing those benefits may be an excellent place to get savings not just this year, but for many years to come.

  14. EngineerScotty
    October 26, 2011 at 4:54 pm Link

    That’s a big part of it. TriMet’s unionized employees are not permitted to strike (or be locked out); so arbitration is required to handle labor disputes, and so far the legal process has not been friendly to TriMet.

    Now whether or not reducing the pay/benefits of unionized bus drivers, train engineers, and mechanics is an equitable trade-off against quality transit service, is a Good Question. I consider it a matter of great misfortune that this question even need be asked at all; ’twasn’t long ago that public-sector and private sector wages and benefits for jobs of comparable skills were likewise comparable. Outsourcing and union-busting have knocked the chair out under many in the private sector–and for the longest time, many of those who have seen their own living standards decrease, rather than looking towards the wealthy who are busy pocketing the difference, instead have been looking at public-sector employees (with jobs not so easily shipped to China or India) who still have strong labor protections, and calling them “overpaid”–asserting that since the private sector middle class is suffering, the public sector middle class ought to suffer alongside (whether for reasons of fairness, or because simply that’s what “the market” demands).

    If the OWS movement tells us anything, it’s that people are starting to figure this out. And the structural problems with the US economy are largely beyond the scope of TriMet, or even the state of Oregon (or any municipal government therein); it’s a national–and a global–phenomenon. TriMet can’t fix the economy; TriMet can’t rewrite labor laws; heck, TriMet can’t even raise taxes on its own.

  15. Douglas K.
    October 26, 2011 at 5:45 pm Link

    Now whether or not reducing the pay/benefits of unionized bus drivers, train engineers, and mechanics is an equitable trade-off against quality transit service, is a Good Question.

    As a self-employed person in Portland, I pay the Tri-Met Self-Employment tax. I use the service and (even if I didn’t) I understand its benefits, so I pay without complaint. As a transit rider, I also pay for a bus pass every month.

    I don’t do these things so bus drivers, train engineers and mechanics can have better health benefits than I do (I pay out of my own pocket for those, too, not that it’s important). What I’m paying for, or WANT to be paying for, is quality transit service. If it’s NECESSARY to provide really good benefits to get that service, fine. But if trimming those benefits (until they are, say, no more generous than a mid-range private sector health plan) will get more buses running every day … well, there’s no contest. IMO, of course.

  16. Bob R.
    October 26, 2011 at 6:16 pm Link

    Well, just to add my own IMO, I’m self-employed and pay those taxes, fares, and expenses too, and I’d rather avoid a “race to the bottom” when it comes to wages/benefits if at all possible. Feels like we’re all fighting over scraps.

  17. Douglas K.
    October 26, 2011 at 8:55 pm Link

    I’m not a fan of race-to-the-bottom either, but we currently have no reasonable way to expand the scrap heap. Tri-Met has finite resources.

    Besides, the choice here is really about manpower, right? Broadly simplified, do you pay many people a little or a few people a lot? Tri-Met could keep all the drivers they have (maintaining service) while reducing per-driver compensation, or add new drivers (expanding service) while reducing per-driver compensation even more, or lay off drivers (reducing service) while keeping those who still have jobs at full compensation.

    It would no doubt suck to have less generous health benefits than today, but it beats laying off more people. (IMO, of course). Even better option from my perspective: a larger work force with crummier benefits across the board, allowing Tri-Met to hire people and expand service.

    And since Tri-Met AND its drivers are there for the sole reason of providing transit service to the public, I’d think it wouldn’t be that hard of a call.

  18. Michael, Portland Afoot
    October 26, 2011 at 11:51 pm Link

    Lenny, you’d have a lot of cutting to do if that’s the standard: last time I looked at the numbers, from January 2010, TriMet had *35* bus lines whose cost per weekday boarding ride was over $5. (The 85’s cost at the time: $5.89.)

  19. Chris I
    October 27, 2011 at 6:36 am Link

    Still not as bad as the WES cost per boarding numbers… I love commuter rail, but it needs to go. The trains would be better utilized between Vancouver and Portland. They could use two double-car trains and run them on 30 minute headways.

  20. Lenny Anderson
    October 27, 2011 at 8:43 am Link

    Thanks Michael…I know I was sticking my neck out on this, but cost effectiveness needs to be part of the criteria. The way to get cost per ride down is to add riders; on Swan Island with acres of free parking its a challenge. Maybe its time to look at a parking tax on all on-street and off-street parking slots in the entire region. Maybe just $1/month paid by property owners including homeowners. Those funds would be divided between cities and TriMet or something like that.

  21. Erik H.
    October 27, 2011 at 8:49 am Link

    1. Eliminate WES.
    (If WES cannot be eliminated, then all extra amenities shall be discontinued such as Wireless Internet and Transit Tracker signs, fares shall be moved to a distance based fare (i.e. minimum fare of $3.00 for a Beaverton TC-Hall Boulevard ride, and $7.00 for a ride from Beaverton to Wilsonville) with no transfer privileges, and daily parking rates shall be instituted. Also, WES should reduce service to a 40 minute headway, allowing two-train operation and eliminating one train from service.)

    2. Eliminate the City of Portland Streetcar subsidy. TriMet has no legal or moral obligation to subsidize a transit operation that is directly in conflict and in competition with itself.
    (If the Streetcar funding cannot be eliminated, then TriMet shall move to eliminate duplicative service within the Streetcar area – the 77 line would be truncated at Rose Garden, the 17 line would be merged with the 16 line along Front Avenue, the 15 line would be eliminated, and the 35 and 36 lines would run express through South Waterfront without making local stops.)

    3. Eliminate the Capital Projects Division. (We can’t afford what we have; we surely can’t afford to add more.)

    4. Institute fees to park in TriMet Owned & Operated parking lots, between $5 and $8 per day depending on the lot and location.

    5. Restructure the fare system:
    $2.00 per boarding on the bus. $1.00 for seniors, disabled citizens and youth.
    $3.00 per boarding during rush hours and on Express buses (no discount for seniors, disabled or youth)
    $5.00 all-day bus pass

    Distance-Based Fares on MAX

    See above for WES; no discounts on WES for seniors, disabled or youth.

    If Streetcar cannot be eliminated, TriMet’s subsidy WILL be reduced using a formula of the number of Streetcar riders who do NOT pay the regular fare, multipled by $2.00. (This includes riders who use the “$100 Annual Streetcar and Tram Pass”. TriMet will also require that the City of Portland pay for audits of ridership (that must be verifiable) to calculate this. In addition, TriMet shall annually post on its website an audited report showing the costs of services provided to the City of Portland for Streetcar service (labor and maintenance costs), the “subsidy” TriMet pays to the City, ridership, and what amount of the ridership is actually paying a valid TriMet fare.

    6. Outsource all ancillary but non-operating TriMet functions, such as H.R. and I.T. Determine if cost-savings can be obtained if these functions are merged or aligned with other government agencies to combine resources.

    7. Eliminate all management and administrative staff who are not mission critical. Mission Critical is defined as a person, task, responsibility, department or function that is DIRECTLY involved in either the operation of public transportation or the maintenance of public transportation to the extent that a failure of maintenance could result in a service disruption. This includes any employee involved with bike projects, “sustainability”, “equity”, “diversity” or similar titles.

    8. Eliminate all planning for future MAX and rail lines. This includes Barbur and Vancouver MAX proposals.

    9. Eliminate all TriMet motor pool vehicles that are not directly used in the provision of public transportation or maintenance of the system. (If a TriMet staffer can’t get to an off-site meeting by TriMet’s own public transportation services, they don’t need to go.)

    10. Eliminate all out-of-town travel. No exceptions.

    11. Eliminate all landscaping for TriMet facilities.

    12. Eliminate TriMet’s involvement in “social media”; eliminate any and all outside “feel good” messaging and advertising – any advertising or publicity MUST be related to actual service delivery or a legally mandated notice.

    13. Eliminate any and all involvement in real estate aside from what is required for service delivery. TriMet is not a development agency.

    14. Eliminate any and all TriMet “sponsorship” of events.

    15. Require that TriMet take all steps necessary to secure paid advertising on TriMet vehicles and facilities. Contract advertising at all MAX stations.

    16. Install timers that shut off electric supply to TriMet MAX and WES stations and P&R facilities when not in use.

    17. Eliminate Transit Tracker – OR, remove schedule information and plyons from MAX stations. (This was done for bus stops.)

    18. Immediate, across the board 25% salary cut for all managers and above.

    19. Immediate, across the board benefits reductions for all managers and above – managers must pay 25% of healthcare premiums (for themselves, and the entire cost for spouses and dependents), eliminate pension and convert to a 401(k) (or the public government equivalent of such) with a fixed contribution rather than a fixed benefit, and reductions in other benefits that are paid for by TriMet.

    20. TriMet shall immediately institute plans to renew its entire bus fleet, including a purchase of at least 100 high capacity articulated buses and 100 to 200 smaller community buses (to replace the 1600 and 1900 series and to right-size service on routes that must use a larger bus simply out of necessity due to a lack of smaller vehicles), all of which must be brand new, hybrid-electric propulsion buses. TriMet shall without limitation seek any and all funding sources, including city, county, state, Metro and federal funding for these buses. Doing so will reduce ongoing maintenance and fuel expenses compared to current bus operating costs.

    21. Once articulated buses are in service, TriMet will reduce mid-day and weekend service on Frequent Service routes (where applicable) from 15 to 20 minute headways; this will result in three buses per hour instead of four, or a 25% decrease in fuel and labor expense on those trips.

    22. TriMet shall end the practice of interlining unless it can be proven that such practices improve customer service AND decrease operational expense. Far too often interlined buses are delayed far off of their route causing dissatisfaction and increased overtime expense. In addition too many Operators are fatigued from long trips without breaks, and shorter routes will ensure drivers are properly rested for their trips – eliminating overtime, healthcare expense, absenteeism, the cost of extra board trips, and improving customer service (and ridership).

  22. Erik H.
    October 27, 2011 at 8:55 am Link

    Clearly MAX provides more rides at lower cost than bus…less than $2/; any bus route at more than $5/ride should be on the block.

    And I’d like to see an outside audit that also ensures that MAX related operating expenses aren’t buried as bus operating expenses; that bus capital projects (such as bus purchases) aren’t being buried as operating expense (which we all know is being done); that MAX bonding and interest expense isn’t being dumped on the bus system; that the costs of Transit Centers aren’t being dumped on the bus system.

    TriMet’s own financial reports and budgets make it impossible to truly judge bus versus MAX operating expense and TriMet takes great pains to make sure that the data cannot be extracted. The audited annual report combines all agency expenses so one cannot use the audited report to determine these numbers. There is more than sufficient reason to believe TriMet is fudging those numbers…

    It is also known that TriMet builds in inefficiencies on the bus system (i.e. failing to properly maintain buses, failing to purchase newer, fuel-efficient buses that require less maintenance, failure to purchase high-capacity buses that can carry more riders with zero additional operating expense, requiring TriMet to either run expensive extra trips OR simply turn away ridership) and also charges the bus system the cost of running replacement bus service for MAX which should rightfully be a MAX expense (since MAX gets the revenue, but bus gets the cost).

  23. Erik H.
    October 27, 2011 at 9:15 am Link

    One other thing that I clearly omitted:

    END THE FREE RAIL ZONE!

  24. Bob R.
    October 27, 2011 at 9:34 am Link

    all extra amenities shall be discontinued such as Wireless Internet and Transit Tracker signs

    While the Wireless Internet may have some ongoing expenses related to contractors, how on earth does disconnecting existing Transit Tracker signs save any significant money, beyond electricity? The signs are installed and the service is running, and even if you turn the signs off, internally TriMet still needs to know where the trains are. That’s just silly and doesn’t accomplish anything.

    (I’m not opposed to discussions of curtailing/mothballing/handing off responsibility for WES, but no need to get petty about it.)

    END THE FREE RAIL ZONE!

    As big of a supporter as I was of Fareless Square (at least downtown) and now the lesser Free Rail Zone, now that the streetcar folks have been seriously discussing (I’m a CAC member) a new fare policy that does not include “free rail”, which could lead to rider confusion, if the Free Rail Zone _must_ go, this would be the time to do it.

    TriMet has no legal or moral obligation to subsidize a transit operation that is directly in conflict and in competition with itself.

    The streetcar is neither in conflict nor in competition with TriMet. TriMet’s contribution is roughly equivalent to what TriMet would have to pay to provide bus service in the same corridor.

    the 15 line would be eliminated

    How on earth is the 15 duplicative of streetcar service? They cross in a couple of places but serve entirely different corridors. Sort of like saying you can draw an “X” with just one line because the two lines are the same.

  25. Chris I
    October 27, 2011 at 9:43 am Link

    Eric H has a very “suburbanist” view of Trimet. He lives in the areas that have the highest costs per boarding, so he will always push for elimination of everything else first. Eliminating the #15 is a ridiculous idea, as are several others proposed. Elminate any bus routes with a $5+ cost per boarding. It’s time that the suburban residents start paying for the costs of suburban sprawl, not the rest of us…

  26. Bob R.
    October 27, 2011 at 10:12 am Link

    Let’s not stray into making this about Erik directly, stick to the substance of his proposals.

  27. Douglas K.
    October 27, 2011 at 10:48 am Link

    As far as WES goes, is Tri-Met still required to keep a surplus employee on each train to check fares and do not much else? Because if so, that’s a huge waste of money right there.

  28. Jason Barbour
    October 27, 2011 at 10:48 am Link

    Item #5 is beyond the TriMet board’s power. Might not be a bad IDEA, but TriMet lacks the authority to levy such a tax.
    Then go to the Legislature and get the authority.

    Regarding item #6–by “eliminate transfers” are you proposing requiring additional fares for multi-hop journeys? That wouldn’t satisfy OPAL’s goals at all, I would think–a big part of the solution that OPAL’s proposal[…]
    I’m talking about simplifying the fare system to one ride, one fare. Two rides, two fares. Three or more, it becomes more cost-effective to buy a day pass. I unconditionally OPPOSE the Opal proposal.

    Regarding #8–I don’t know if Boring’s withdrawal would be revenue-positive, neutral, or negative.
    The PDF on the TriMet website page regarding Boring’s withdrawal says they have the authority to raise the payroll tax on the remainder of the region to “pay” for Boring being removed.

    Regarding #9–not building new rail may well save money; but cutting existing rail service is not likely to have a financially beneficial effect, as MAX has a lower per-passenger cost than bus.
    There’s also higher perceived crime, perceived diminution of the value of overall public transit, and the fact that light rail is more likely to run to generic locations in hopes that it’s close to one’s origin/destination. For example, look at Southeast Portland and see how much is within a quarter-mile distance of a MAX station versus how much is within a quarter-mile distance of a bus route.

    Oh, and something else I forgot on my earlier list:
    10. Charge developers of “transit apps” a monthly fee for access to TriMet data. This fee is to be paid by the developer and must not be passed on to users.

    I hate to see it come down to riders vs Ops[…]
    This is the first I’ve heard of riders vs. operators regarding this issue, if anything this issue (like many) is TriMet Management vs. the general public (everybody else).

  29. R A Fontes
    October 27, 2011 at 11:06 am Link

    PSI does compete with TriMet throughout its present and planned alignments.

    Obviously, people going from Powell’s to the Multnomah Central Library, for example, would be unlikely to use TriMet. But they could, and perhaps a few would, if there were no streetcar service. It competes more directly on longer trips and will even more so on the loop. Please don’t forget that the LO extension proposal includes the elimination of the faster, more convenient, and cheaper 35/36 service between LO and downtown. Of course, there the competition is at the governance level rather than at the usage one.

    The streetcar fare structure has always been problematic; particularly the $100 pass, the single-ride half-price ticket, and the all-day pass at a single ride price. TriMet subsidies to PSI should never have been so lavish as to foster those kinds of cut-rate bonanzas to streetcar riders when TriMet had no ability to offer similar deals for comparable services.

    Transfer elimination is not a good idea unless coupled with steeply progressive fares on longer rides, either by zone or time. Otherwise, it would be highly discriminatory in favor of those fortunate enough to have single-seat service on long runs and an extra dose of salt-in-the-wounds of those who find themselves with forced transfers with so-called “upgrades”. Example: From Oregon City to the University of Portland is roughly about 20 miles on the 35. From King City to Tualatin is only about two bee-line miles. By transit, it’s about 7 1/2 miles with a transfer in Tigard.

  30. Aaron G
    October 27, 2011 at 11:09 am Link

    10. Charge developers of “transit apps” a monthly fee for access to TriMet data. This fee is to be paid by the developer and must not be passed on to users.

    That sucks. The information should be considered public and people should be free to do with it as they wish.

  31. EngineerScotty
    October 27, 2011 at 11:17 am Link

    @Douglas,

    As WES runs on the general rail system and is subject to federal law (specifically, FRA regulations), it is presently required to have a minimum crew complement of two. This is widely viewed as absurd–Europe and Japan don’t have such requirements for their passenger rail systems, even though these places have far less distinction between “transit” and “mainline” rail; but ’tis true in the US.

    @Jason;

    Right now, even though the governor and one of the two houses of the Legislature are held by Democrats (and the other is a 30-30 split); is it likely that TriMet (or other transit agencies) are going to be permitted to raise taxes in the manner you suggest. The Legislature is unwilling to fund transit passes for Portland high-school students, even though it is more than happy to fund yellow bus service for suburban and rural districts (a far less cost-effective transit service).

    As far as eliminating transfers goes–I find that an unattractive idea. Transfers are for the agency’s benefit and not the riders–it does a passenger no good (and is arguably in fact detrimental) if his journey involves getting off one vehicle, standing in the rain, and boarding another–asking them to pay a second fare is insult to injury. (Distance based fares are a good idea, but a per-hop charge is a poor proxy for this).

    One interesting idea, though, that comes to mind instead: What about eliminating single-ride fares–with the smallest ticket being sold a day pass (perhaps a bit cheaper than the current day pass?) As noted previously, the problem with the current pass setup is the poor may not be able to afford the cash outlay–there’s a good reason that OPAL is concerned with the price of cash fares, and “buy a pass” isn’t a realistic option. But a lower-priced day pass may be a better solution to this problem than OPAL’s proposal (which I like in part, and have issues with in part).

    Regarding MAX: Higher perceived crime by whom? I’m more interested in actual crime statistics than “perceived crime”; I’ve never felt threatened on either bus or MAX (despite encountering my share of weird characters…) There’s a segment of the population, surely, that perceives all transit vehicles to be prison wagons that someone forgot to lock the door of; but should this nonsense guide policy? At any rate, comparing the coverage of the MAX system with the coverage of the bus system doesn’t make any sense; you might as well argue that we reduce service on the 72 because most of Portland isn’t within a quarter mile of the 72. Rather than comparing modes, ’tis better to look at individual lines, I would think.

  32. AL M
    October 27, 2011 at 12:45 pm Link

    Lots of good comments but several of you are buying the standard hype, which is being used around the world by the power elite in the ongoing war against working people:

    It’s the unions! It’s the entitlements, Its the citizens themselves that are bringing down the world by actually wanting a retirement, a health plan, a decent life in exchange for their labor, how dare they!

    That’s BS and anybody capable of abstract critical thought can figure out that this is not the real problem.

    Remember why we are in this fix, the banks, (aka power elite) have decided to horde money and eliminate loans for businesses which has caused the underemployment. Add to that the criminal health care system and VOILA, its the evil unionists that are too blame.

    Lets not look at the BLOATED BUREAUCRACY or the foolish wasteful spending habits of those who control the finances of this billion dollar organization, nope, its the unionists.

    My simple opinion is this:
    Overpaid and overstaffed bureaucracy, expansion that could only lead to bankruptcy, wasteful spending practices, wasteful union procedures and an over reliance on overtime to keep the buses running.

    The last TWO general managers have had no idea how to live on a budget.

    Now we have MACFARLANE adding all these high priced meeting mushers, supervisors, trainers, marketing, communications people after all that he announces:

    By the way public and operators/mechanics, your screwed! Too bad for you!.

    It’s the thing, you know, the 1% telling the 99% how its gonna be.
    That’s exactly what it is…

    (I represent me)

  33. AL M
    October 27, 2011 at 12:55 pm Link

    BTW-
    What’s MACAFARLANES answer, yet another COMMITTEE to look into this because he sure as hell doesn’t it to appear that he is actually making any decisions.

    That’s been his trademark, hire somebody else to take the heat.

    What the heck does Macfarlane do anyway?

    At least Fred had a good act, sort of a sideshow attraction, Neil is a total bore.

  34. AL M
    October 27, 2011 at 2:23 pm Link

    What about THIS $4 MILLION?

    Get that back !

  35. Bob R.
    October 27, 2011 at 5:48 pm Link

    Al, if TriMet could “get back” THAT $4 million, it wouldn’t suddenly be available to offset the operational budget hole.

    Half of it would just go back to the Fed’s 50% match of capital funds, and then most of the 50% local match (depending on where it came from) would most likely go to other capital projects with other agencies.

    Reducing the overall project cost by $4M would lower the total amount in revenue-backed bonds which would need to be issued, so the percentage of revenue would be dedicating to paying off those bonds every year would decrease.

    None of that is insignificant, but it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the scope of the current problem.

    Imagine you are making regular payments on a $10,000 car that you just financed for the full amount. And suddenly, you have a $2,000 bill that you must pay off in the very near term. So you go and sell the $10,000 car for the full amount and buy an almost-as-good $8,000 car on the same payment plan. In the long run, you’ve saved over $2,000 (plus interest), but in the current year your payments aren’t actually that much lower, and you don’t actually have $2,000 in your pocket to pay your immediate expense.

  36. Lenny Anderson
    October 28, 2011 at 9:42 am Link

    I think Ops should step up to share some of the pain with their riders who are paying more for less service. Is contributing something to the cost of health insurance that tough? Even my Medicare bill is $115/mo. And yes, capitalism sucks!

  37. Chris I
    October 28, 2011 at 10:30 am Link

    Free healthcare is a bad thing. I know it seems counter-intuitive, but think about it. If you pay nothing for healthcare, where is the financial incentive to practice healthy lifestyle choices?

  38. Bob R.
    October 28, 2011 at 10:35 am Link

    If only there were other industrialized Western nations on this planed that offered universal “free” healthcare to their citizens, then we could do scientific studies and measure outcomes, compare costs, etc. and see if Chris’s statement about incentives actually applies. Oh, wait.

    But let’s not get distracted by debates about “free healthcare”, it’s outside of TriMet’s jurisdiction to implement a public option or a universal health care system.

  39. Douglas K.
    October 28, 2011 at 10:45 am Link

    “where is the financial incentive to practice healthy lifestyle choices?”

    The incentive is “you stay healthy.” If your own HEALTH isn’t incentive to make wise choices, chances are “saving money” won’t play much of a role. Really, how many people quit cigarettes because they’re a drain on the wallet, compared to people who quit because they don’t want heart disease and lung cancer?

    The problem with “free” healthcare is that SOMEBODY winds up paying for it, and that various actors (providers, patients) have no incentive to contain costs when somebody else is basically writing them a blank check.

    But in this context, what matters is the monthly per-employee cost of providing health coverage. Tri-Met and its various unions have SOME control over that. From this individual standpoint of any employee, “pick up part of your own cost” is a losing proposition, since you’re being told you have to pay for something that used to be “free” to you. If I were a Tri-Met employee, I’d have no reason to go along with it.

    But from a union-as-a-whole perspective, a deal like “you agree to a deal that reduces health care costs to Tri-Met by 20%, and we will hire 5% more drivers” might be a good call. Cutting benefits costs to the employer could add more union members. (And no, I don’t know that the actual numbers would be; I just made them up to illustrate the point.)

  40. Jason McHuff
    October 28, 2011 at 2:22 pm Link

    it’s outside of TriMet’s jurisdiction to implement a public option or a universal health care system.

    True, but they could get together with the union and others around the state (such as other unions and government agencies that are also facing the problem) and try to do something about it.

    What I would like to see is everybody given a fund to pay for their health care costs directly, as well as co-insurance for catastrophic events. Besides creating an incentive to be healthy, it bypasses the insurance middle-man and encourages competition and consideration of lower-cost options.

    Overall, if TriMet could get the health care costs contained, and reduce the amount of overtime given out (which may be done to reduce health care liabilities), they would probably be in a lot better shape. And not only would that mean more union members, but also jobs for more people.

    since you’re being told you have to pay for something that used to be “free” to you

    I’d see that as a pay cut.

  41. Lenny Anderson
    October 28, 2011 at 5:13 pm Link

    Time to re-read Lenin’s “Aristocracy of labor.” When the working class is divided between “Have” (health insurance) and “Have Not” we are in a world of hurt.
    OTOH…$12-17M in a budget of $444M is what 3 to 4%…it should be managable. But TriMet must preserve the core of its very effective system…MAX and Frequent Service lines. The radical thing to do would be to increase service on these and cut bus lines with cost per ride above a certain level, say $6 (protecting, of course the 85 Swan Island!)

  42. zefwagner
    October 28, 2011 at 5:46 pm Link

    I agree with several others here that TriMet needs to take a harder look at the under-performing routes in the system, rather than doing across-the-board cuts. Hopefully Boring and others on the fringe will be successful in their withdrawals from the district. TriMet needs to be more focused on the urbanized areas of the Portland region and should not be running empty buses in rural and exurban areas. And isn’t it true that they can raise the payroll tax to compensate for lost areas? Seems like a good idea to proactively shrink the district.

    There also a lot of redundancies in the network design, like when you have an infrequent route running just a few blocks from a frequent route–in this case lots of people are walking farther to catch the frequent route anyway, so why not cut the infrequent one and boost the frequent one?

  43. ws
    October 29, 2011 at 11:01 am Link

    @ES

    “If the OWS movement tells us anything, it’s that people are starting to figure this out. And the structural problems with the US economy are largely beyond the scope of TriMet, or even the state of Oregon (or any municipal government therein); it’s a national–and a global–phenomenon. TriMet can’t fix the economy; TriMet can’t rewrite labor laws; heck, TriMet can’t even raise taxes on its own.”

    I’d hope the OWS is concerned with increasing fares and decreasing service.

    Personally, I think you have your head in the sand regarding fare increase and decrease in service and the role of unions asking for higher wages on the backs of private businesses (who pay a large share of TriMet’s) and transit riders, many of which are poor.

    My visceral reaction is yes, the union is asking too much and is causing some of these budget problems. To what extent? I don’t know, but 5-10 million more for 2013 sounds like a decent chunk of change.

    TriMet’s future budget is short only 3 million less in payroll taxes (of the 12-17 million total shortage).

    What accounts for the rest of the shortage?

    We can only blame the economy for so long. Clearly it’s not exorbitant service that’s draining the budget.

  44. EngineerScotty
    October 29, 2011 at 2:21 pm Link

    OWS seems to be concerned, first and foremost, with the structural issues in US politics and the US economy: For most people, other than those at the top, the pie has been shrinking and not growing. This includes the folks riding the bus, and driving it as well.

    Fixing this problem would go a long way to fix the problems associated with our schools, our transit, and our other public services. The wealthy and powerful have been “starving the beast” for decades. (And yes, in some cases, they rob the beast blind too).

    Short-term, there probably isn’t an easy fix for TriMet; and its budget shortfall will need to be made up with some combination of service cuts and/or employee givebacks. Long-term, there may be a fix for what ails society.

  45. AL M
    October 29, 2011 at 2:41 pm Link

    {Short-term, there probably isn’t an easy fix for TriMet; and its budget shortfall will need to be made up with some combination of service cuts and/or employee givebacks.}

    ~~~>How bout executive give backs, say 10% salary cut for all employees making over 100k to give us lowly hourly workers and example to live up to,

    AND

    ~~~>A FREAKING END TO THE EXPANSION!
    ************
    (sell the WES for scrap while we are at it)

  46. ws
    October 29, 2011 at 3:17 pm Link

    “The wealthy and powerful have been “starving the beast” for decades. (And yes, in some cases, they rob the beast blind too).”

    These are all broad assumptions.

    Is Bill Gates, with his benevolent foundations, “starving the beast”?

    Is Phil Knight, with his fairly recent sale of stock in the State of Oregon and subsequent trigger of millions of dollars in capital gains taxes hurting you and others? I’d like to thank Phil for keeping his tax dollars in the state, not to mention his donations to many charities and universities.

    I’ll be quick to condemn the 1% moving quality jobs overseas (like thousands of engineering jobs), but casting all types of people into one category has little positive effect on how we can move forward to form better political, economic, and social systems.

    Or…we can just keep blaming the rich and not solve any other pertinent problems.

    Personally, statements like this sound jealous than anything else.

  47. Bob R.
    October 29, 2011 at 4:31 pm Link

    You’re partly right, WS. It’s “some” of the “wealthy and powerful” who are “starving the beast”, not most or all. Especially in the financial sector.

    At least one recent survey shows that a majority of the top income earners do in fact support contributing more of their share via overall taxation.

    What TriMet could do about any of this in the short term is negligible, unfortunately.

  48. AL M
    October 29, 2011 at 9:57 pm Link

    Imagine you are making regular payments on a $10,000 car that you just financed for the full amount. And suddenly, you have a $2,000 bill that you must pay off in the very near term. So you go and sell the $10,000 car for the full amount and buy an almost-as-good $8,000 car on the same payment plan. In the long run, you’ve saved over $2,000 (plus interest), but in the current year your payments aren’t actually that much lower, and you don’t actually have $2,000 in your pocket to pay your immediate expense.

    ~~~>Look Bob, they have been playing so many accounting tricks nobody really knows what’s going on with that budget. They have “sold” the MAX trains to somebody or other then they are leasing them back just to do who knows what with the “accounting”, blah blah blah.

    PERSONALLY, I think its all a bunch of lies because when you look at TRIMET’S OWN FIGURES what you will see is that everything is going AS PLANNED so they are trying to tell us that somehow everything is going to change?

    BALONEY—It’s all about the union contract and trying to make union employees take the hit using the public as a battering ram!

  49. Bob R.
    October 29, 2011 at 11:24 pm Link

    Al, I was merely addressing your assertion that if somehow the $4M agreement with the cruise operator could be rescinded that it would somehow put money toward the current budget issue. Largely, it wouldn’t.

  50. EngineerScotty
    October 30, 2011 at 10:18 am Link

    Al does bring up an interesting question: Were the budget of MLR reduced somehow–who collects the windfall? Obviously Uncle Sam gets 50%–their match is on the actual project budget (up to the agreed-upon amount); but if it comes in under budget, then the match is less.

    But for the local match portion? Many of the local revenue sources–from the State, etc., are fixed-dollar contributions, not percentage matches. If the project is under budget, does TriMet get to keep the additional money? Could they retire bonds early?

  51. al m
    October 30, 2011 at 1:09 pm Link

    But for the local match portion? Many of the local revenue sources–from the State, etc., are fixed-dollar contributions, not percentage matches. If the project is under budget, does TriMet get to keep the additional money? Could they retire bonds early?

    The 1% deciding the fate for the 99%!

    No they lay the mess off on the public and the union employees, cause that is what the 1% does!

  52. al m
    October 30, 2011 at 1:20 pm Link

    They had no problem adding a whole bunch of management/executive personnel JUST BEFORE making this announcement.

    WTF!!!!!

    dis·in·gen·u·ous
    ? ?/?d?s?n?d??nyu?s/ Show Spelled[dis-in-jen-yoo-uhs]

    adjective

    lacking in frankness, candor, or sincerity; falsely or hypocritically ingenuous; insincere: Her excuse was rather disingenuous.

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