Thursday, December 24, 2009


Posted by SP Red Electric
December 20, 2009, 4:50PM

Tri-Met - $ 1,900
Metro Regional Government - $ 1321
Multnomah County - $ 1,282
City of Eugene - $ 1,256
City of Portland - $ 1,246
Portland Public Schools - $ 1,217
Oregon State University - $1,188
Portland State University - $ 1,129
City of Gresham - $1,120
University of Oregon - $ 1,084
State of Oregon - $ 1,006
Beaverton School District - $ 921
Multnomah County ESD - $ 768
Lane ESD - $ 750

If memory serves me, most insurance companies set rates based upon risk.

Someone who works at an ESD, for example (notice they're at the bottom of the list) is pretty darn low-risk. They work in offices, rarely outside, rarely driving, and very few ESD employees come in contact with the public (i.e. students). ESD employees basically shuffle paper. They may be essential but they are in the eyes of insurance companies - low risk.

As you move up the ladder you get University employees who are a little higher risk - generally office work but sometimes outside; rarely use automobiles. Only a few university employees are involved in anything that could cause claims - maintenance folks, maybe some researchers - and most of the researchers (students) aren't under the plan, so those in the university system most subjected to health claims are on mommy and daddy's insurance anyways - not the school's.

Further up the chain we have the cities and counties. They employ firemen and policemen, plus the road maintenance folks. So the risk goes higher and higher.

And then we have TriMet.

Hmm. I wonder why they are up there:

Bus drivers dealing with very rude passengers who assault them.

Bus drivers constantly driving - subjected to possible motor vehicle collisions, non-ergonomic buses, heat stroke from non-A/C buses, etc.

Rail maintenance crews - working in all weather, working on energized overhead catenary and energized signalling systems, fixing rail and ballast.

Fare inspectors - no different than police.

If you compare TriMet to the City of Portland - you have a lot fewer paper-pushers, and a lot more blue collar workers doing manual labor. Whereas the City has a lot of paper pushers. The universities more and the ESDs are 100% paper pushers.

Compare TriMet not to other governmental bodies, but other similar activities. I bet the U.S. military spends more (and rightfully so). If the City of Portland were forced to buy different policies for its different employment groups I would bet that PPB and PFB would be much higher than TriMet. OSP and DOC would certainly be higher than, say, Consumer & Business Services or the Department of Agriculture or DMV.

How does TriMet compare to OTHER TRANSIT AGENCIES - King County Metro and Pierce Transit up north; SF Muni, LACMTA to the south; UTA and RTD-Denver to the east? CTA? NYCMTA? Nobody has bothered to do a like comparison between TriMet and other agencies. Where is C-Tran, or Cherriots, or LTD for comparison?


Since our taxes help pay for TriMet we should be the ones that decide who is in leadership positions over there. Then base their pay on how well the negotiate union contracts.

100% AGREED!

TriMet's "professional Board" (as they called themselves) are nothing more than political hacks getting their favors repaid to them by the Governor. Fred Hansen has been in his position for 11 years - far too long. Note that two of his chief managers have left TriMet in recent weeks - Steve Banta was only with TriMet a few years - he came from New York and is going to be in Fred's position down in Arizona. It's clear that those folks have some type of skill - while Fred (who came to TriMet from DEQ so he is nothing more than a political hack himself) is basically rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic until he is saved and walked to a new position.

We need an elected TriMet board NOW - not just for the health care question, but for ensuring day-to-day service reliability for TriMet's passengers; making sure to provide a sustainable system that doesn't depend on massive capital projects that benefit developers over the public - and ensuring a cost-effective system to taxpayers. Today - TriMet is non-of-the-above.
Posted by SP Red Electric
December 20, 2009, 8:20AM

That's an excellent point: TriMet has no problem "expanding", only to then cut back on existing services.

While WES is a little different in that track maintenance and operations (Engineer, Conductor) are contracted positions (Portland & Western Railroad) - the Green Line in particular has expanded on TriMet's financial obligations at a time it was unaffordable - and TriMet does everything in its power to then blame the "rising cost of bus operations" to cut back bus service. Nevermind that the ONE time TriMet had a legitimate excuse (diesel prices) -- when the diesel costs came down, TriMet didn't restore cut service and reduce fares. So it's clear that TriMet has an ulterior motive.

The fact is that TriMet knew of economic problems about two years before the Green Line opened...TriMet could have easily put a stop work order on the line and mothballed what was done for the future. And WES: WES costs some $20-30/passenger to operate. In comparison the average bus passenger costs around $3 - and that's only inflated because TriMet runs a lot of "MAX feeders" that are very expensive to operate (due to low ridership); the 84 Kelso-Boring line which is TriMet's worst performing route but not cancelled; a lot of express buses that spend less than 50% of their time actually carrying revenue-paying passengers; and bus passengers end up paying for various costs that are 100% MAX related - such as interest on MAX construction bonds, security and maintenance costs of park-and-ride lots and transit centers used primarily by MAX riders, and other items.

When money's tight - you don't add onto the house. When you have choice of building a rec room or replacing a leaky roof - you fix the roof. But TriMet? Let's build that rec room...and we'll just tear down the bathroom.
Posted by SP Red Electric
December 19, 2009, 7:47PM

However, they get to sit in a seat all day and work in a relatively controlled environment. I'd like to see one of them working outside on a roof in the weather, or maybe working in the mud and mess of a construction site. Or, maybe working retail...spend your whole day walking around on concrete...dealing with the same customer issues that make driving "so stressful." Oh yeah, in retail you have to try to make the customer happy, so you can't just ignore them...or cite some sort of rule and hide behind it.

I would like to point out that nearly half of TriMet's bus fleet is not air conditioned. In the summer it is known that the temperature inside one of TriMet's non-A/C buses can exceed well over 100 degrees and even over 110. It's almost always hotter INSIDE the bus than outside. And all the Operator has is a window and a small fan (that basically doesn't do anything).

I have known Operators who will show up to work on a summer day - and when they get their bus assignment as one of the older buses they will essentially call in sick right then and there because they know that within a few hours they'll suffer from heat exhaustion and will have to call out sick (while on their run) or worse.

TriMet, in its infinite wisdom, has failed to address that issue. Fred Hansen has resisted modernization of the bus fleet which directly contributes to that cause - he personally cancelled bus orders that would have replaced these old (18-20 year old buses) with newer vehicles with A/C for both the comfort of the Operator, as well as the passengers.

So while an Operator might have better working conditions than many (they aren't in Iraq, or on a factory floor) - I would say that the average TriMet Operator has a much worse working condition than the average person out there. Many of the buses are not designed ergonomically (generally the same ones that lack the A/C) and the Operator is constantly adjusting and twisting their body in ways that promote back injuries. The 1400s and 2100s have a farebox design that creates a blind spot for the Operator out the right-front of the vehicle causing the Operator to constantly shift their body to maintain visibility over that area.

In inclement weather the Operators do have to get out of their vehicle - in snow they are assisting maintenance crews putting chains on the buses; or they are digging their buses out. All in the name of getting people to wherever they need to go.

Yes, the Union certainly has some unreasonable demands; but to suggest that a TriMet Operator has a cushy job is far from the truth. Drive a bus sometime, for eight hours a day, on busy streets - all while handling fares, making the right turns to stay on route, keeping on schedule, making sure you don't hit's not as easy as it sounds. The driver's compartment of a bus is hardly an "office environment". When the stress hits, you can't just take a five minute break - you're still driving a bus. You can't just park the bus with 40 people in the back who are expecting to go home or to work.
Posted by SP Red Electric
December 20, 2009, 4:57PM

Its that I'm paying for there benefits not them. And that's the problem.
You pay the benefits at a lot of other places, not just government. Have you stopped shopping at X retailer because of their employee benefits? I agree that many governmental agencies/spending is out of control, but I honestly believe in this case TriMet is the scapegoat. Meanwhile The Oregonian has no problem supporting their runaway light rail expansions; their subsidy to the City of Portland Streetcar (at the expense of transit to the rest of the TriMet district); the WES system and it's enormous per-passenger cost that is 10 times that of the "expensive bus system". The Oregonian has never met a rail project it didn't like - but let's attack the bus drivers who make the system work.

I have to work longer so they don't, Unions have destroyed more companies then saved and You are the problem to Oregon's down fall.

...such as? Unions are the ones that destroyed Oregon? I'm pretty sure it was an ineffective government, environmental regulations (that destroyed almost all of the timber industry that supported eastern and southern Oregon), real estate speculators which drove up land and home prices to unsustainable levels, pushing many Oregonians out of owned housing and contributing to the collapse of the construction industry in Portland, the north Coast, the Columbia Gorge and Central Oregon; the lack of a sustainable, diversified economy; and Oregon's dependence on the "fad company of the day" to bring business - high-tech is moving out; wind didn't come to Oregon as expected; sportswear doesn't make anything and employs very few people overall; biotech was a biobust...

I would like to know how many jobs the union has made None. Why do you think Bowing moved and the car place's are going south.

Who is "Bowing" Bowflex? Bowling alley? Boeing? Oh, you must be talking about Boeing, the aircraft manufacturer. Where did they move? The last time I checked, the ONLY thing that moved was their corporate headquarters (non-union, by the way) from Seattle to Chicago - to be closer to their customers.

The plants are still in Seattle. They still have a plant in Portland. Yes, they are opening a SECOND 787 assembly line in South Carolina - but they are retaining the plants in Seattle for 737, 747, 777 and a 787 line, plus militarization facilities, R&D, etc.

The car places...what car places? Gas stations? Dealerships? Used car lots? Huh?
Posted by SP Red Electric
December 21, 2009, 8:48PM

The Union made Boeing move and the next time Seattle union go's on strike Boeing will close that plant down.

Again - Boeing didn't "move" factories or union jobs, they moved about 250 headquarters and sales staff.

It had absolutely NOTHING to do with the Union.

And Boeing is not going to walk away from hundreds of millions of dollars in investment in factories and other facilities if the union goes on strike again. Doing so would render Boeing worthless as a company.
Posted by SP Red Electric
December 21, 2009, 8:48PM

The Union made Boeing move and the next time Seattle union go's on strike Boeing will close that plant down.

Again - Boeing didn't "move" factories or union jobs, they moved about 250 headquarters and sales staff.

It had absolutely NOTHING to do with the Union.

And Boeing is not going to walk away from hundreds of millions of dollars in investment in factories and other facilities if the union goes on strike again. Doing so would render Boeing worthless as a company.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

IDEA: Low Cost Rail in Portland

I got around to thinking today of a possible idea to develop "low cost rail"
within our region, as a way to improve transit, build rail where rail already
exists, AND do so at a minimal cost (compared to light rail, streetcar and the
joke called WES).

There are several corridors I can name that are in the 5-8 mile range:

1. Forest Grove-Hillsboro (Hatfield Government Center)
2. Sherwood-Tualatin
3. Tigard-Lake Oswego
4. Portland-Milwaukie (yes, I know this is planned as a MAX line, but keep
5. South Waterfront-Lake Oswego (yes, I know this is planned as a Streetcar
6. Hillsboro-Beaverton (via the P&W line along TV Highway)

(NOTE: #2, #3, #4 and #5 could be considered one larger system, and #1 and #6
could be another system.)

All of these routes are existing freight railroads except for #5. All of them
have little freight traffic (except #4, and to a much lesser extent #6) with as
much as just one train a day. All of them are very short corridors where there
is little need for more than one train; or at most two trains operating at a
time per segment.

What I propose is a low cost rail system that costs $25M per route (or less) to
build, employing very basic construction, minimal improvements, and
off-the-shelf European rolling stock such as the Siemens Desiro (used by NCTD
Sprinter) or Bombardier Talent (used by OC Transpo) with a low floor of less
than 24" in height. (In comparison, WES has a floor height of about 51", or
close to four-and-a-half feet, requiring massive platforms.)

Each segment would involve construction of five stations. Each station would be
very basic - a concrete slab, a simple shelter (bus stop style), one or two
basic benches, and maybe a single area light. No platform TVMs (it would be
on-board). An emergency intercom system similar to what CalTrans uses along
highways for roadside assistance (solar power, cellular service) would exist in
lieu of the pay phones TriMet uses at other locations. No area improvements
would be built; except minimal sidewalk connections. No park-and-ride lots, or
even kiss-and-ride areas. No art. Minimal signs (no fancy signs like what
TriMet likes to install).

Each route would be given one car to run; and one or two system-wide spares
would be purchased. They would be maintained in a central location (somewhere
in the Tigard area) but a small parking area would be built for each route - a
basic building where small running repairs could be done.

As ridership increases, the system would be built to accommodate expansion -
second track, sidings, larger/longer platforms, or even electrification. (Both
of the vehicles can be purchased in diesel or electric models.)

With regards to two of the routes:

Portland-Milwaukie. I think this would be an ideal location to build such a
route. Using a second (or third) track parallel to the UP mainline, the
northern terminus would be at the Morrison Bridge, with a stop at the Hawthorne
Bridge. It would continue down to 17th Avenue - where it would run along the
western edge of the Union Pacific Brooklyn Yards. The line would have to dip
under Holgate Boulevard (or, Holgate could be rebuilt as a tunnel under Brooklyn
Yard in the long run) and then run alongside the UP mainline to Willsburg -
where it would then run on the existing P&W Tillamook Branch to Milwaukie.
Later it could continue on the P&W route to Lake Oswego, Cook, Tualatin, and
Sherwood - or from Cook, head north towards Tigard. Doing so would eliminate
the need for the expensive and totally unnecessary Willamette River Bridge;
provide a less expensive alternative to a fully double-tracked, electrified
light rail line; while preserving the option to expand later. As a six mile
route, two cars could still provide 15-20 minute service with only a single
passing siding in the middle.

South Waterfront-Lake Oswego. A streetcar line would require massive
construction of this route which passes through very sensitive neighborhoods;
the construction of catenary is sure to offend many of the very well-off
neighbors. Using a smaller DMU vehicle (and for this route I'd recommend the DB
double-decker vehicle; albeit one that is much more mechanically reliable!)
would be no different than the trolleys that use the route today; require much
less construction impact; and provide a service similar to the 35 bus that runs
up and down Macadam. It would, however, require a transfer to the Streetcar at
the north end - however it preserves the ability to upgrade in the future.
(Another option would be to extend the Streetcar down to Taylors Ferry; and
continuing the DMU option south to Lake Oswego to provide a low-cost rail option
using the existing right-of-way; while taking advantage of the favorable
neighborhood and development for streetcar ridership north of Taylors Ferry, in
the Johns Landing area.)

At only $25M a pop, we could have built this entire system for the cost we spent
on the 14.7 mile WES line (at only $166M). It provides a complete system that
provides connections to other TriMet modes and other segments at multiple
locations (Hillsboro, Beaverton, Tigard, Tualatin, Lake Oswego, Milwaukie) and
provides two links to downtown Portland. It introduces rail service at a very
low cost initially, and preserves the option to upgrade to streetcar/light rail
in the future. And last - it is done cost effectively, with little "frills" and
focuses on serving station area ridership; as opposed to developing large "free"
parking lots to entice ridership. Most of the stations area in areas that
already have significant ridership possibilities (both residential and
commercial), including Pacific University in Forest Grove; downtown Sherwood,
downtown Lake Oswego and downtown Milwaukie. And unlike WES, it uses low-floor
vehicles similar to MAX, and uses reliable, proven vehicles that don't cost $15
million a piece and are supported by companies which are in existance today (and
have served TriMet well with MAX).