OPAL’s Pitch to TriMet

OPAL (Organizing People Activating Leaders), the parent organization of Bus Riders Unite, will be making it’s case tomorrow before the TriMet board for its “Campaign for a Fair Transfer”.

The campaign, which would extend transfer times as a mitigation for reduced frequency has been a major equity push for the organization.

Here is their proposal and analysis (PDF, 776K). Expect TriMet to be skeptical of the long term ridership gains that OPAL suggests in the calculus of short-term revenue loss versus long-term growth. It should be an important conversation.

8 responses to “OPAL’s Pitch to TriMet”

  1. Millions after millions go out of the Trimet bank account but virtually none of that actually goes to riders in the form of extra considerations, like a 3 hour transfer, which by the way is done at MUNI:

    “”Late night transfers issued by drivers on surface vehicles after 8:30 pm are valid until 5:00 am””.

    Trimet is just not rider friendly, admit it already.

  2. As a member of BRU’s Leadership Committee, I thought I’d go off-the-cuff and let people know about our perspective.

    We’ve been working on the Campaign since the beginning of 2011, and have only recently gained the clout to actually make progress with presenting it to OPAL.Since June of 2013, we’ve been meeting with TriMet staff members talking about the campaign and how we can make it work.

    We were unaware of TriMet’s serious desire to restore frequency until they actually posted it on their website. When they posted it, they immediately designated it as forcing a choice between the two, and implied that OPAL did not care about restoring frequency as long as they won their campaign. This is simply not true; as the document implies, this choice was sprung upon us without warning. While there has always been a paragraph or two about one day restoring frequency in the TIP for the past five years, there has also been the same unfulfilled paragraph about adding frequency to bus lines like the 31-King and 76-Beaverton/Tualatin. We didn’t know it was planned until TriMet had made their rounds with the media in July.

    Let it be known that we at OPAL and Bus Riders Unite do care about restoring frequency, but we believe our campaign will help more riders immediately for a third of the cost. While restoring frequency is important, it only fixes half of the routes and does not account for routes that are not frequent service like the 20 and 71. Because of this, riders looking to transfer to these lines are still going to face complications. The Campaign is an immediate asset to bus riders of every demographic all across the city, especially those of lower income and transit-dependent demographics. We have also been working with EcoNW to fine-tune the estimates with newer and more logical criteria; since then they have reduced their estimate closer to the ball-park of $2.5-3million.

    I wanted to make sure that people knew the full story and that we are aware of the “choice” but still believe it’s a false choice. With over $20 million in the bank after the budget crisis that never was last year that left a lot of bus service torn up, we feel that TriMet should not only consult the riders on what to do with the money, but keep in mind that there is enough for more than just one project.

    • Not to mention with as much tax money trimet gets we have to pay so much for fare. It’s public transit, it needs to start being offered at a public cost. Like a buck per ride. not five.

  3. In all fairness, let’s look at the flip side: The more liberal a transfer policy is for *cash* riders (emphasis on *cash* for a reason I’ll get back to), the more problems a transit system will have with people illegally selling or giving away transfers.

    I currently live in Minneapolis, where OPAL correctly points out that transfers are good for 2.5 hours in any direction. That wasn’t always the case. The history of our transfer policy is roughly as follows:

    until early 1970s: only good to next available bus at designated transfer point, no round trip, no unnecessary stopover.

    1970s to mid 1990s: good for 1 hour, calculated from the end of the line of the first bus plus any fraction of a half hour (these were the old tear-off transfers and they used half-hour increments). No round trip allowed, but “stop & shop” in the same general direction encouraged. No designated transfer points, and you could continue on the same route as long as you were going the same direction. Limit three boardings on one fare, enforced by punches.

    mid 1990s to about 2000: new, mag stripe transfer introduced. Good for 2.5 hours, exactly to the minute, from time of payment (most buses are pay-enter, but suburban expresses are pay-leave outbound). Otherwise, same rules, enforced by mag-stripe reader.

    around 2000: Number of boardings no longer capped. Directional rules still applied.

    soon after 2001: Directional rules abolished, transfer becomes essentially a 2.5 hour pass.

    We had no serious problem with the illegal sale/giving of transfers until the rules were liberalised to the point where a transfer was really a short-term pass.

    Minneapolis is thinking of taking Chicago’s lead in abolishing transfers for cash fares and only allowing them to be embedded in Stored Value cards and 31-day passes, since there would then be little or no transfer-selling.

    • John Charles Wilson, this is an interesting observation and thank you for the additional information about Minneapolis. But it’s worth pointing out that the potential risk of people selling unexpired transfer tickets applies even more so to the risk of people selling unexpired day passes. If you only need to make a short trip that takes less than three hours (but longer than two) you currently have to purchase a day pay rather than a single fare to make this trip. And once this short trip is over, your day pass would have a lot more value to a rider looking to buy a discounted fare from a rider. Whereas an unexpired transfer is likely to have only a little time left on it when a rider no longer needs it, an unneeded day pass is good for the entire rest of the day. If TriMet hasn’t identified the re-selling of day passes as a major local concern, the chance of people re-selling the few remaining minutes of an unexpired transfer ticket is extremely unlikely to be a major problem. Not saying it would never happen. But it’s not a significant concern relative to people being forced to buy a day pass instead, which has significantly more residual value.

  4. Actually I believe transit should be free, a publicly provided service like police/fire/sidewalks/streets etc.

    The problem has always been, and will continue to be, that transit in this country makes too much money for the people that are involved in it.

    It shouldn’t cost 100k a year to operate a bus (with overtime), executives shouldn’t be making mid six figure salaries and obscene pensions. Layers and layers of bureaucracy exist now with each layer siphoning off money that could be used to transport people

    Transit funds lately in this country has been more about building things than transporting people, billions are made available for capital projects but nothing to move people around now.

    And I just don’t believe what the Trimet executives say, we have no way to prove or disprove their budget analysis.

    Last year Mcfarlane claimed the sky was falling cut routes and raised fares, all the while he hid $970,000 in raises for himself and his executive staff that will continue in perpetuity.

    This year he says there is money to restore something, but in 20 years 70% of everything will have to be cut.

    How can anyone believe anything that comes out of Trimet?

  5. OPAL put it better than I ever could:

    “Stopping at restoring frequent service on some lines brings us full circle to TriMet’s old arguments: that adjusting service is the first budget strategy. With this type of stale thinking, cutting service and raising fares would again be the solution the next time the agency claims to have a fiscal crisis.”

    • With this type of stale thinking, cutting service and raising fares would again be the solution the next time the agency claims to have a fiscal crisis.”

      ~~~>Exactly, I’ve always said that employees salaries need to be cut first before even one route gets cut and at the very least cut in proportion to service cuts.
      The transit systems across this country are ‘owned’ by the executives that run them who of course answer to the agenda of the people above them, namely the people of obscene wealth.

      How do we change that? We can’t. It would take a major financial catastrophe to make any sort of structural changes. The ‘system’ right now is aiming at the employees as targets of economic cutbacks having already chopped the public to pieces. This is accomplished by what is misnamed ‘privatization’ which is a code word for lowering pay and benefits for the people doing the work. The other method being used is bankruptcy, as in Greece and Detroit, which is another method of cancelling out obligations to workers.

      Meanwhile the global elite, and their minions, the executive class, gets away with murder.

      Look Opal one year ago OPAL DISPUTED the budget crisis scenario, no major media picked up on it and at the time OPAL was unaware of the secret raises.

      TRIMET has been on a hiring binge for years now, there is no organizational changes to denote there is any sort of budget crisis.

      I just flat out don’t believe them.

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