Decisions about where and when we make transit investments are some of the most important decisions facing our community today. Our choices will influence land development, travel patterns, the economy, public health and our very quality of life.
TriMet’s Transit Investment Plan (TIP) seeks to provide a framework for how transit investments will be made. The TIP is a five-year plan that is updated annually that establishes the priorities for where TriMet will expand service, on-street amenities and customer information. The TIP provides local governments with a guide for their planning processes so they can leverage our investment with transit-related infrastructure such as sidewalks and safe street crossings. The TIP is becoming the basis for partnerships to improve transit service and access to that service throughout the region. The 2005 TIP has just been released.
Our region has much to be proud of in the transit system we have today. Since 1998, TriMet boosted the number of Frequent Service lines providing 15-minute or better service, seven days a week, from four to 16. Today, more than half of all bus rides are on the Frequent Service network. Innovative partnerships in Washington County are adding new sidewalks, pedestrian islands and shelters to complement Frequent Service on TV Highway.
In May 2004, the Interstate MAX Yellow Line from the Expo Center to downtown opened four months early and served 3.9 million rides in its first year of operation. Weekday ridership is up 92 percent compared to the former bus line on Interstate Avenue and the number of business has increased by 50 percent.
These investments in our system are encouraging new riders to try public transportation. Overall, ridership increased 2.5 percent in FY2004, bringing the annual number of rides provided to 91.1 million. Our ridership is growing because we have made wise investments in the transit system, connecting people with jobs, recreational opportunities, shopping and to other people.
One measure of performance is to look at how we compare to other transit systems around the country. In terms of overall population served, we rank 29th in the country. However, in terms of number of riders, we rank 12th. On weekends, our ridership ranking is even higher, serving more riders than much larger transit agencies in Seattle, Denver and San Jose.
While we have been able to make significant transit investments in the past few years, we will not be able to expand service this year because of the continued slowdown in the economy. In addition, the high cost of diesel fuel is stretching our already limited resources. To address the ongoing budget problems we are doing three things. First, we are continuing to look for internal efficiencies. For example, we have made great strides in improving the fuel efficiency of our buses, to the point that we believe we are the most fuel efficient transit agency in the country. Second, we had a mid-year fare increase in April that will help offset record high diesel prices. Finally, we are making some strategic schedule changes and adjustments on low ridership trips to reduce costs while still meeting the needs of our riders.
Even with limited resources we have many opportunities on the horizon. We are finding new ways to improve customer service through innovations. For example, actual arrival time of buses at all 7,800 bus stops is now only a phone call away through our 503-238-RIDE line.
TriMet is committed to providing high quality transit service that meets the needs of all our riders. We will work hard and make good choices to maintain our quality of life and provide more transportation options for the entire region.