TriMet officially releases budget-balancing proposal

Mentioned in the Open Thread, but worthy of its own article. TriMet has officially released its new budget proposal (you can read the initial proposal here). Joseph Rose reports on the story here.

The highlights, many of which have been discussed previously:

  • Elimination of fare zones and Free Rail Zone.
  • Equalize MAX and bus transfer times
  • Eliminate round trips–transfers good for one direction of travel only
  • Adult 2-hour ticked would increase 10¢s; to $2.50; a day pass would remain at $5. Youth fares would go up 15¢s; to $1.65, Honored Citizen fares would remain at $1.
  • Numerous bus route reconfigurations and service hour reductions, including some routes which are truncated (and thus certain trips will now require a transfer) and elimination of some weekend service.
  • Reduction of MAX frequency to 3 tph (20 minute headways) outside of rush hour.
  • Elimination of Red Line service to Beaverton outside of peak hours, with the end of the line occurring downtown.
  • Reductions in LIFT service
  • $400k less to the Portland Streetcar

TriMet will have four open houses next week to discuss the proposal.

30 Comments

30 Responses to TriMet officially releases budget-balancing proposal

  1. al m
    February 8, 2012 at 10:44 am Link

    It’s been my experience, that TRIMET, the transit experts on PROPAGANDA and mind control of the masses, always paint this gloom and doom scenario.

    And its gloom and doom for thousands and thousands of people if this goes through as planned.

    But when the REAL cuts are made, they are not so draconian, people are “relieved” and “thankful” and then they love Trimet again.

    IT’S ALL BS AND A STAGE SHOW!

    Not one reporter asked these pin heads to prove their $17,000,000 shortfall prediction.

  2. al m
    February 8, 2012 at 10:47 am Link

    And since I am the only one who seems to be paying attention closely, today they announced pain and suffering the everybody who rides Trimet, but this is what they are really up to:

    HIRING LIKE THERE IS NO TOMORROW!

    oordinator, Information Development
    Closes Friday, 2/10/2012; union, full-time; internal opening only

    CRC Transit Manager
    Open until filled; non-union, full-time; external/internal opening

    Director, Business Programs
    Closes Friday, 2/10/2012; non-union, full-time; external/internal opening

    Engineer I – Construction Inspector (3)
    Closes Friday, 2/3/2012; non-union, full-time; external/internal opening

    Engineer III – Structural
    Closes Friday, 2/3/2012; non-union, full-time; external/internal opening

    Grants Accountant
    Open until filled; non-union, full-time; external/internal opening

    Light Rail Vehicle (LRV) Operator
    Closes Friday, 2/3/2012; union, full-time; internal opening only

    Part-time Bus Operator
    Open until filled; union, part-time; external/internal opening

  3. al m
    February 8, 2012 at 10:58 am Link

    AND NOW WE FIND OUT THE SLUGS THAT RUN TRIMET ARE LETTING THE PARK AND RIDES REMAIN FREE!

    There ya go folks, no such thing as equity around here.

  4. John D
    February 8, 2012 at 11:05 am Link

    Wow, six positions beyond operators. That is a lot…well actually it is not for the number of employees.

    Once I see the actually changes to bus service I will be able to comment more, but there is clearly changes that could be made to make the system more efficient.

    A perfect example is the 43. Does it ridership justify it to travel all the way to downtown when it parallels other bus lines within a couple of blocks?

    Another one is the 50. While ridership seems to be good on the southern part of the route, what a waste to be using two buses when they sit 25 minutes out of every hour. Cut it to one bus and run it every 45-minutes.

  5. al m
    February 8, 2012 at 11:10 am Link

    Cutting too much pretty much dooms ridership.
    People just stop using it.
    Called “the death spiral” in transit terms.

  6. al m
    February 8, 2012 at 11:12 am Link

    And they shouldn’t be doing any hiring right now.

    Just hiring to keep service going.

    These people talk out of both sides of their mouth and NOBODY CHALLENGES THEM!

  7. EngineerScotty
    February 8, 2012 at 11:12 am Link

    The question of the capital projects staff (which would include positions such as project manager, engineers, grant writers, and the like) is an interesting one–perhaps worthy of an article. Keep in mind, though, that many of these positions are paid for out of dedicated dollars. The CRC manager, for instance, will be paid for by the CRC, and does not represent money that could otherwise go to ops.

  8. AL M
    February 8, 2012 at 11:16 am Link

    “dedicated dollars”

    ~~~>Right,
    D-E-D-I-C-A-T-E-D dollars,
    from the
    F-E-D-E-R-A-L government
    that could give a rats ass about actual citizens.

  9. EngineerScotty
    February 8, 2012 at 11:25 am Link

    Jonathan at Bike Portland throws in his $2.50.

    And Al, yes–dedicated dollars, as in “spend them on this or you don’t get them at all”. There is, of course, much to be annoyed about when it comes to Federal transportation policy, and the current nonsense in DC makes that unlikely to change any time soon. But getting rid of the CRC Project manager won’t help keep bus lines operating.

  10. AL M
    February 8, 2012 at 11:33 am Link

    I mean nothing could be more helpful to the transit riding class of Portland than:

    Coordinator, Information Development
    CRC Transit Manager
    Director, Business Programs
    Engineer I – Construction Inspector (3)not just one of these highly important jobs, but three of them!
    Engineer III – Structural
    Grants Accountant

    I mean just look how helpful the FEDERAL government has been to the transit riding public!

    How dare those pesky Publicans try to take that
    helpful money away and use it for OH MY GOD
    ROADS!

    THE HORROR!

  11. igor
    February 8, 2012 at 12:07 pm Link

    I think cutting the red line to Beaverton is the most significant of the cuts outlined. Going west, that cuts the number of options from downtown in half, so the remaining blue line trains will get even more crowded.

    Going East, I’ll miss the Red line’s connection to the Green at Gateway. The Blue line is timed to just miss the Green going south, which forces a full 20 minute layover.

    I think streetcar ridership might take the biggest hit from the changes, since most of it’s route is currently free. It’s speed is only a little faster than walking, so I wonder how many will opt to do that rather than waiting, and paying.

  12. EngineerScotty
    February 8, 2012 at 12:27 pm Link

    I also should link to Portland Afoot’s coverage of the TriMet budget.

  13. poncho
    February 8, 2012 at 12:55 pm Link

    Concordia and Alameda in particular and really all of Northeast Portland takes a big hit with all crosstown service now: 72, 73-33rd, 24-Fremont, former 9 on NE 24th and NE Broadway becoming 70, the 75 on 42nd and Dekum and 77 on NE Broadway. Thats a huge part of walkable historic Portland without a single ride downtown. 73-33rd continues to unravel now losing weekend service. Nevermind frequency reductions on all these lines.

  14. zefwagner
    February 8, 2012 at 1:10 pm Link

    Good point, Poncho. I’ve noticed that for awhile now. The 73 was never really designed for success. It’s largely redundant with the nearby 9 and is pretty short, not really connecting many places. And who wants to ride almost downtown, but not quite, with the terminus at the Rose Quarter TC? That part of the NE could indeed use one downtown bus route, especially with non-peak MAX getting cut. I would like to see the 73 extended east to Parkrose TC, perhaps via Cully to provide service there. It should also be extended west to downtown. These are all good long-term ideas. Currently it makes sense to make cuts on the 73 since it performs very poorly.

  15. EngineerScotty
    February 8, 2012 at 1:32 pm Link

    Some tweets from @trimet on the issue of charging at park-and-rides, assembled into a coherent paragraph not constrained by the 140-character limit :)

    Also, fyi re: charging at Park & Rides: We have looked into charging for parking at its Park & Ride lots. However, in order to add revenue to the FY13 budget, we found it was hard to implement in a short time frame and that further community discussions needed to happen (in case people decided to start parking in surrounding neighborhoods). Further research needs to be done and will be considered as part of our long-term revenue generating strategies.

  16. Reza
    February 8, 2012 at 2:15 pm Link

    1. Hate the bus cuts.

    2. Hate the lack of charging at Park and Rides.

    I suspect people will be (if not already) up in arms over the lack of Line 17 service north of Union Station and the combining of Lines 9 and 70 in Northeast. Many people in NE along the current Line 9 will lose direct access to Downtown Portland. Areas northwest of the NW Industrial District will lose their all-day bus service, including Linnton. Pearl District will lose its only connection to the downtown core along the transit mall (the streetcar spine in the West End is not a worthy replacement).

    The one slightly good thing about the restructuring that I can see is that Pearl/NW will now get different, if not slightly better access to the Eastside with the 77 moving to Everett/Glisan. Once Eastside Streetcar opens, it may have been redundant to keep 77 on Lovejoy/Northrup with the Streetcar. However, those taking the streetcar from NW 23rd to Lloyd District are forced a transfer in the Pearl (or can walk four downtown blocks to catch the 77). In a perfect world, I would want the 17 and 77 to both travel on Everett/Glisan in Pearl/NW.

    And again, not even an attempt to charge more than a nominal amount (or ANY amount) at Park and Rides. The survey suggested a measly $1 to begin with.

    An absolute farce.

  17. EngineerScotty
    February 8, 2012 at 2:40 pm Link

    The Tribune has an, er, interesting spin on the proposal, summed up in their headline: “TriMet budget cuts could spare new light-rail line“.

    The very top of the article casts doubt on the premise, however:

    TriMet’s proposed cuts to bridge a $17 million budget gap probably won’t affect the $1.49 billion Portland-to-Milwaukie light-rail line expected to open in 2015.

    The rest of the article is fairly straightforward reporting on the service cuts. One interesting thing about the newspaper business is that the journalists who write the articles don’t get to write headlines–they’re written by someone else. (The Oregonian used to have the annoying practice of running sensationalist headlines atop front-page articles for their afternoon edition, mainly sold out of vending machines, and then putting sober headlines on the same article for their morning edition, mainly delivered to subscribers).

    While I recognize the controversy surrounding the Orange Line; it’s highly doubtful that TriMet could close its budget gap by halting the project, or that the dispute in Clackamas County over MLR funding has anything to do with the operating budget.

  18. John Reinhold
    February 9, 2012 at 10:03 am Link

    The off-peak cutting of trains per hour hurts.

    If you have to wait 20 minutes for a train at either end of your destination, and take 30 minutes to get in to town, and pay $5 per person in fares – the train is done with choice ridership.

    In off-peak hours it only takes 20 minutes to drive into Portland from Hillsboro. Off-peak driving is already faster and more convenient than MAX and with only two people in the car it becomes cheaper too.

    Why on earth would anyone who is a choice rider want to do that?

  19. 2B
    February 9, 2012 at 10:05 am Link

    For all the pain these cuts are likely to cause, is anyone else pleased about the 70 extension? Currently, it’s a bit inconvenient to get between inner SE and the Alberta area, (6 is too far west, 75 too far east) so I’m looking forward to the new one seat ride. (The 70 will head up NE 27th, taking the place of the 9.)

  20. Chris Smith
    February 9, 2012 at 10:33 am Link

    Why on earth would anyone who is a choice rider want to do that?

    But the alternative is to do even worse things to transit-dependent riders?

  21. EngineerScotty
    February 9, 2012 at 11:08 am Link

    Any time you have service cuts, you will lose ridership. You simply hope and pray that a) the ridership lost is not sufficient to eat up the savings of the cut, and b) that if and when service is restored, riders will come back.

    With a farebox recovery ratio of about 25% systemwide, and likely lower on the service hours eliminated, a) will probably be true. b) is a bit dicier, primarily because lower quality service may cause the carless to choose cars, at which point they might not bother with transit again, unless something else happens to push them back. (In other words, there is frequently hysteresis in one’s primary mode choice).

    There’s also the angle that transit agencies are frequently viewed more personally than are roadworks departments. If someone has a bad experience (or several) on the bus or train, they might swear off TriMet; but people seem far less likely to swear off city-maintained streets (“I’ll never drive on THOSE roads again!”) just because they hit too many potholes.

    One of the hard points for a cash-strapped agency is balancing revenue needs with public service and equity goals. If you want to maximize revenue, the logical thing would be to do would be to engage in price discrimination which charged a higher price to the transit-dependent, to maximize that revenue stream, but went easy on those who can easily drive, to attract them to use the service and fill the seats. (A big criticism of MAX and Streetcar construction is that rapid transit service is geared to so-called “choice riders”; when transit-dependent riders would likely benefit more from more comprehensive geographical coverage and better frequency than focused infrastructure in the primary regional travel corridors).

    Social service goals, however, frequently dictate the opposite strategy.

  22. Reza
    February 9, 2012 at 11:34 am Link

    @EngineerScotty:

    I fail to see how MAX and Streetcar can be lumped into the same category of service geared towards “choice riders”. Streetcar serves inner-city neighborhoods without a dedicated right-of-way (like a bus) at roughly the same intervals (or slightly better) as Frequent Service bus lines. Bus and MAX complement each other, while streetcar largely supplants bus.

    Streetcar may have rails, but it is not “rapid transit”.

  23. EngineerScotty
    February 9, 2012 at 12:31 pm Link

    Streetcar may have rails, but it is not “rapid transit”.

    I absolutely agree, and my choice of words in the prior comment was unfortunate in this regard. I switched thoughts in midstream. :(

    Limiting the discussion to MAX for a moment: There seem to be many bus riders in the system, with a good number of them in the inner city (though certainly not all), who are skeptical of MAX, as they view it as competitive with the bus system. In one sense, it is; a dollar spent driving and maintaining a MAX train is a dollar unavailable for bus service, and vice versa. But the same argument can be made for different bus lines–a dollar spent operating the 72 is a dollar unavailable for the 12 or the 33.

    One other objection to MAX that I suspect exists, though it isn’t voiced explicitly, is the concern that it’s surburban-focused. On another prominent local blog article (in the comments), are criticisms of MLR which essentially amount to “who wants to go to Milwaukie”? Obviously, people who live in Milwaukie (or beyond) may find the service useful as might those in Sellwood, Westmoreland, Brooklyn, etc.

    And finally–and this is where the Streetcar comes in–there’s a sizeable contingent who believe that rail is chosen as a mode not because of any transportation value, but because it appeals to yuppies. If you’re a transit-dependent rider with no other options, its understandable to be upset if you think that TriMet and its regional partners are ignoring your needs in favor of suburban commuters who leave their cars at a park-and-ride all day. And many ridership surveys do show a preference for rail over bus among choice riders.

    Interestingly enough, that’s not universal–here in Portland, there seems to be many who consider the bus system (or specific routes thereof) safe, but MAX to be dangerous. A while back, in discussing the extension of MAX to Vancouver across the CRC, it was observed that many Vancouver commuters who use C-TRAN express busses were unlikely to switch to MAX. And the author of the blog post linked to above, a prominent law professor at Lewis and Clark, is quite angry that the northern leg of the 9 will no longer go downtown, instead requiring him to transfer to the “crazy 8” or the “crime train”–his words, not mine. As a result, he has stated an intent to cease using transit when the announced changes take effect).

  24. John Dornoff
    February 9, 2012 at 2:08 pm Link

    And the author of the blog post linked to above, a prominent law professor at Lewis and Clark, is quite angry that the northern leg of the 9 will no longer go downtown, instead requiring him to transfer to the “crazy 8” or the “crime train”–his words, not mine. As a result, he has stated an intent to cease using transit when the announced changes take effect).

    A certain political bent coined the “crime train” to push their political agenda. Of course if something is repeated enough times it gets implanted into peoples brains.

    The propaganda battle against MAX has been lost and it may take a generation or may for that to change.

    Too bad transit advocates have not done a good job of giving positive propaganda not only to transit but to MAX as well. Of course it is an uphill battle that goes way beyond the discussion here.

    Most people have “their” route that they when cuts come they threaten to “never” ride transit again. Any time changes are made good or bad someone is not going to be happy.

    Personally I think that Trimet could have used this as an opportunity to take a good look at transit service across the board and make changes for the better. There is still going to be may inefficiencies in the system that could be improved.

    The biggest problem I see is that there is too many critics out there and not enough people with solutions. I know that there is one person that frequently comments on other blogs and once in a while here that has come up with ideas. While I disagree with many of his ideas as been too narrow minded, I give him credit for trying. I think he could accomplish more by approaching things in a different way, but once again at least the person tries.

    It is no doubt the cuts will hurt. So long as the transit advocates are so extremely fractured and not working together for POSITIVE change, I see little changing.

  25. Chris I
    February 9, 2012 at 2:22 pm Link

    I will still use Trimet to get downtown on occasion, but I will no longer use the 12 to get to work after they truncate it at Parkrose, forcing me into a two seat ride. I will ride my bike or drive.

    My solution? Raise taxes. Eliminate the unions at Trimet.

  26. EngineerScotty
    February 9, 2012 at 3:07 pm Link

    A few thoughts on SOME of the proposed changes to routes. These comments are merely about some of the changes to topology of the system, and do not imply endorsement of the service cuts, particularly the reduction in service hours. Jarrett Walker noted that sometimes service cuts provide an opportunity to improve network topology and eliminate redundancy–I think TriMet has attempted to do some of that here.

    1) Northern 9/70 consolidation. This actually I like; the two halves of the 9 have nothing to do with each other, and this makes it easier for the 9/Powell to become BRT in the future. It also improves the grid, by giving another N/S through route–though the gap between 12th and Chavez remains large. Given that numerous frequent routes cross the 9/70 (including MAX), I don’t find myself too upset that the 9 no longer goes downtown.

    2) The ripping apart of the 12 bothers me. I can see why this was done–the line is one of the longest in the system, and suffers from reliability problems as a result. My preference would be for the line to split downtown, but I can see why it was done this way–the inner parts of the 12 are frequent and the outer parts are not, and this eliminates the shortlining. (If one is cynical, one might suspect that this is a prelude to a future MAX line to Tigard, so 12 riders from Sherwood won’t be complaining about their one-seat ride going away–it already has).

    3) The combination of the 48/47 and 89 in Beaverton, I’m kind of meh on. One one hand, it also strenghtens the grid, giving another E/W through route in Washington County. On the other hand, and unlike the 9/70 combo above, it ISN’T bisected by frequent service, and many existing patrons use these lines to reach MAX, and now that takes longer. The pedestrian environments involved in ttransferring to the 52 at Cornell/185th, or to the 67 at Cornell/Bethany, is probably less pleasant than the transfer to the MAX at Lloyd Center. (One other suggestion–with fewer services converging at Willow Creek TC, how about routing the 88 west on Baseline and then north on 205th/206th, past Quatama, OCATE, and the Streets of Tanasbourne, intersecting with the 47/48?

    4) The shortening of the 67 is unfortunate, though the biggest offense to this line was removing Sunday service. Long term, I’d love to see the 67 extended further south down 170th into Aloha.

    5) The northern re-routing of the 6 and 8 also make sense.

    Other changes I still need to grok and have no comment on, yea or nay.

  27. John Charles Wilson
    February 9, 2012 at 6:58 pm Link

    I just sent Tri-Met three suggestions, all regarding the fare proposals. I’ll paraphrase them here:

    1. The transfer/2-hour ticket should remain non-directional. The small number of people who make quick round trips aren’t enough reason to add this complexity and potential fare dispute material.

    2. The youth fare should be either $1.50/$3.00 or $1.75/$3.50. Fares not divisible by 25 cents are as silly nowadays as fares not divisible by 5 cents would have been in the 1970s.

    3. Honored Citizens should also be able to get a day pass for two 2-hour fares, rather than five as is currently proposed. If $1.00/$2.00 provides insufficient revenue, $1.25/$2.50 would still be within FTA guidelines.

  28. John D
    February 9, 2012 at 7:06 pm Link

    Something needs to be done with the 12, as has been said it is a long route. While I can understand Chris I’s problem, truncating it at Parkrose probably makes the most sense. The route west of Parkrose has a whole different marketing matrix compared to the east and the same goes for Tigard west.

    I also agree with @Engineerscotty about the westside changes. Personally I think it would be beneficial to merge the 48 and 89 as a corridor route with at least 30 minute service (although I know that won’t happen right now). Having rode the 89 several times, I just don’t see that much of a need for the northern part of the route.

    My idea would be route the 48/49 down Cornell, Town Center and Evergreen then cut over to Cornell by the new Medical Facility. Then reroute the 88 to service some of the busier portions of the 47 route.

  29. Erik H.
    February 10, 2012 at 1:01 pm Link

    2) The ripping apart of the 12 bothers me. I can see why this was done–the line is one of the longest in the system, and suffers from reliability problems as a result.

    I’ve ridden the 12/94 since 2003 and have repeatedly complained to TriMet about the absolute poor service on the line. TriMet has, for nine years, been aware of the problem and has largely ignored it other than some minor schedule changes.

    So for TriMet to all of a sudden decide – during a cost cutting move – to have the discussion is clearly showing their disdain for the ridership. They’ve had opportunities to IMPROVE the line – and each time they’ve refused. So now TriMet is admitting that they’d rather completely eliminate most of the ridership and virtually all of the “choice” ridership to balkanize one of TriMet’s most successful and core routes.

    Any discussion of the 12/94 needs to be taken completely out of the cost-cutting discussion, and dealt with as its own topic. And TriMet needs to, frankly, apologize to the good residents of Tigard, King City and Sherwood for ignoring them. It was bad enough TriMet was less than honest about its handling of the elimination of the 95 route. It was bad enough TriMet promised to turn the 76 route into a Frequent Service line (oops, WES cost over-runs ended that) and that TriMet promised new local routes (again, WES cost over-runs eliminated that). At this point I think Tigard ought to run the transit system itself…Tualatin has talked about it, and in a brief conversation I have had with Tigard city officials, they’re definitely open to further discussion.

    What’s more appalling is that WES was designed to operate with just ONE TriMet employee to oversee the system. Today, WES has 13 TriMet employees – including a Director who makes $165k/annual and a Manager who makes $99k/year. Two manager/directors, for a line that has just three vehicles in service for seven hours a day? Meanwhile, the 12 line has how many vehicles in service, from 4:00 AM until 1:00 AM, seven days a week? Why doesn’t the 12 line have a dedicated Director? Clearly when it comes to the problems of a bus line, the S.O.P. is to shuffle paperwork until the rider gets so incredibly frustrated at the lack of response that they either give up, or stop riding; while WES riders are showered with attention starting with a Conductor aboard every train, high management oversight, and a maintenance staff that really provides no excuse for any train being broken down because people are thrown at the service.

    I agree with EngineerScotty that the 12 line should never have been an interlined service – from Sherwood to Gresham is well over 30 miles (of local, stop-and-go service), and the 12 ends up coupled with a 4 or 20 route often. Can you expect good customer service from an Operator who started his run in N.E. Portland on a 4, than ran out to Boring and back on the 84, and then on a 12 out to Sherwood?

    I also agree that Sherwood could benefit from having some routes not go into Portland – just as Estacada has its off-peak trips only run to Milwaukie – Sherwood could benefit from having its off-peak routes only serve Sherwood, King City and Tigard. But the 12 needs to maintain service from Portland-King City (the logical turnaround point – why make riders who want to travel from one side of Tigard to another have to switch buses?)…and the 94 carries a healthy number of riders south of Barbur TC, so there is little reason to stop more buses at Barbur TC. TriMet could stop some 94s at Tigard TC or King City as it’s clear there is not enough ridership to run each bus to Sherwood. But TriMet needs to have an open and honest dialog with the riders, rather than hide the proposed cut and then force riders who want to comment to travel all the way to Beaverton or Portland to have their voices heard (TriMet is not scheduling any meetings in Tigard or Sherwood. I wonder why.)

  30. John Powell
    February 11, 2012 at 12:05 pm Link

    TriMet currently sells a 7-day pass for $24 (for all zones). Especially if the free rail zone is going away, I’d like to see them introduce 3- and 5-day passes for the benefit of visitors.

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