Revisting TriMet and Metro

Garlynn Woodsong is a planner and a frequent commenter from Portland Transport’s early days. He has recently returned to Portland after an assignment in California.

A recent visit to San Diego opened my eyes to another possibility for the reorganization of transit in the Portland region.

Currently, Metro does regional transportation and land use planning, while Tri-Met does regional transit planning (finer grain of detail than Metro), transit project construction and transit operations and maintenance.

In San Diego, SANDAG does regional transportation (including transit) and land use planning, as well as transit capital projects (construction); the transit operators just handle simple service planning, operations and maintenance.

We have previously discussed having Metro perform a wholesale takeover of TriMet, and the pros and cons of this approach.

But, what if Metro were to only take over the TriMet Capital Projects Office and long-rang planning functions, leaving TriMet to handle short-range service planning, operations and maintenance?

This would allow Metro to have a more direct link between long-range planning (coordinating land use and transportation) and the implementation of those plans; it could also handle the funding of those capital projects.

TriMet could then be freed from the political heat involved in capital projects; it could focus on its core strengths of running the regional transit system. Shenanigans involving taking from the TriMet general fund to pay for capital projects would be made more difficult… which would hopefully free up funding to pay for the operations of new lines constructed by Metro.

The two agencies would still need to work as closely together as they do today, especially with regards to find operations funding for new lines, and for projects like system-wide electrification (if something like that were to happen). But, it could be a win-win…

I’m not necessarily advocating for this move; I’m simply putting it out there for discussion of a possibility that I don’t think has been thoroughly vetted in this region yet.

Any thoughts?

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