Friday, November 19, 2010

On reducing the Trimet budget re: CATO institute

I actually don't disagree on some of the key points that Cato brings up, but they fail to justify their overall point that privatization will accomplish their goals. There are many bloated non-government organizations out there that succumb and fail because of a lack of internal controls.

TriMet could do very well to adopt some of Cato's suggestions:

1. Reduce transit employment. I'm not talking Operators, folks - I'm talking management. According to the infamous TriMet Salary database, isn't it close to 50% of TriMet's employees aren't directly involved in service delivery (providing transportation)? TriMet is bloated - at the top - and that needs to be addressed.

2. Overbuilding. Portland uses light rail not because it's the appropriate mode, but because of its attractiveness - primarily politically. The mode of transport needs to match the need of transport - in some areas of the Portland metro area - or anywhere else - all we need is a shared-ride taxi service. In other areas, light rail is certainly appropriate. But you can't expect a neighborhood that needs just a taxi service to support a fixed-route bus; you can't expect light rail to be cost-effective when a bus will do the job; and you need to build light rail and streetcar where buses are overflowing. Portland's transit planning in that regard is completely backwards.

TriMet has for many years had the mentality of "one-size-fits-all" which is clearly not correct. Some areas need 60' articulated busses; others could use sub-30 buses. TriMet needs to look at Seattle, Vancouver, Salt Lake City and other cities to see how they can effectively mix multiple vehicles to provide comprehensive service.

3. Energy efficiency. Yes, a 40' transit bus running empty wastes a lot of diesel. Privatizing the bus operator doesn't change that.

How can you fix that? Use more fuel-efficient buses (hybrids). Run buses on schedules that match needs. On heavier routes, use higher capacity buses (artics) so that you can carry the same number of passengers using fewer vehicles. Use smaller vehicles - a Sprinter platform bus gets over 15 MPG, nearly four times that of a 40' bus - on lesser patronized routes.

Another way is to look at deadheads. A TriMet express bus, in particular, spends over 50% of its time in non-revenue service - that's driving around, burning gas, without a single rider onboard. Why are TriMet's bus garages located strictly in the center of the service area, and not where the runs start - in Hillsboro, Tigard, Oregon City, and Gresham? TriMet should disperse its fleet into smaller fleets located strategically located near the start/endpoints of its runs. Not only will this eliminate dead-heading, but also could reduce the commute length for many of its employees.

Friday, November 5, 2010

On the bond measure defeat


SP Red Electric November 04, 2010 at 9:11PM

Emma,
If your parents gave you $20 to buy clothes, and you went out and spent it on something else and then asked your parents for another $20 for clothes, how do you think they would respond? Should they give you the additional $20, simply because you can't afford the clothes yourself?
Last year, I directly (or through employer contributions tied to my income) paid $1,522.59 cents in TriMet taxes as well as an annual pass. In addition to that, I paid another $20 in federal fuel taxes that went to the "mass transit account" which pays for federal funding of transit programs, plus federal and state income taxes which are also used in part to fund TriMet programs.
I'm also a daily TriMet bus rider. I count on TriMet each day to get me to and from work, and often to other destinations too.
I have been highly disgusted after seven years of daily TriMet ridership - if TriMet were an airline, I'd be one of the elite "Frequent Fliers" - where I have encountered countless broken buses, buses that simply failed to show up, buses which passed me up, buses that were crush load, buses that were on the road but had some type of failure, bus stops which were unsafe and lacked amenities...the list simply goes on. Meanwhile, TriMet has no problem issuing blank checks for rail projects - $6 million a year handed off to the City of Portland for its Streetcar; the WES project which came in over double the initial projections and is still costing TriMet money in the form of a "quiet zone" in Tualatin - not to mention its $20/boarding ride operating cost; the Free Rail Zone that gives MAX and Streetcar riders a free ride while I pay for every ride I take... It's just like my opening analogy - I give TriMet money to operate my service, yet it goes out and blows the money on some toy. And then it has the gall to ask me for more money, but under the guise of "helping the elderly and disabled".
TriMet isn't going to grow in debt because of buses - TriMet, today, has over $873,480,000 in liabilities - debt - almost entirely because of overreaching light rail expansion. And to service that debt, TriMet must pay, out of operating funds, close to $13 million a year. That's $13 million each year that doesn't move a single passenger, or make a bus move one inch - that's paying TriMet's credit card bill.
TriMet admits that deferred maintenance on its bus fleet is costing millions each year - increased maintenance needs, Operator overtime, and of course the intangible cost of the loss of ridership and goodwill of its citizens, and the time that citizens lose because of TriMet's inability to safely and reliably operate its bus system. TriMet's service cuts and failure to purchase and deploy high capacity buses have also cost TriMet millions each year - by turning away riders who wait for a bus, but simply can't get on the bus because it refuses to allow boardings.
Passing this measure would not solve any of TriMet's problems. In fact, passing this measure would actually tell TriMet that it's acceptable to continue to defer long-needed bus investment, because TriMet would use its existing revenues solely for light rail investment and demand more credit from taxpayers the next time new buses were needed. This measure was a bad precedent and fortunately voters were smart enough to tell TriMet to get its act together.
Like you, I want TriMet to provide a good, quality transit experience no matter who one is, where they live, or what mode of transport that we use. TriMet has shown the public who is demanding better bus service that bus riders are in fact second-class citizens and that our opinions don't count. I'm sure that as a high school student you have learned about the American system of government - one must ask, why TriMet has no citizen representation, but only appointed Board members - appointed by the state's Governor, when TriMet does not even serve the entire state. As far as my "representation" at TriMet, I get just as much as a vote as someone in Jordan Valley, or Brookings, or Joseph, or Astoria gets - yet none of them have any vested interest in TriMet like you and I do.
Voting "no" on this measure was certainly a drastic action. But I never had the chance to vote "NO!" on WES, or the Green Line, or the Yellow Line, or the Red Line. I never had the chance to vote "NO!" on the Portland Streetcar, or the CRC Project, or Milwaukie MAX. Nor did I have the chance to vote "NO!" to TriMet entering the development business. I never had a chance to tell TriMet to use ARRA stimulus dollars for bus service over, say, bike paths (which TriMet doesn't own/operate, but TriMet found its share of Stimulus funding to pay for lighting on the I-205 bike path).
TriMet has every responsibility as a government agency to serve each and every one of its citizens equally and without bias. And part of that is ensuring that we all pay the same fare, and we all get the same quality of ride. It doesn't matter if we ride a bus or a train. TriMet, however, has broken that creed to the public and has engaged in a transport mode debate. And the failure of this measure is in no way a sign that the public does not support bus service - it is a sign that TriMet, as an organization, has failed to serve the public - and that TriMet must change from within, not just ask for money to solve the problem. Just as if your parents give you $20 to spend on clothes - who is to say that you'll take the next $20, and spend it on clothes?
Voting is a serious responsibility and one that I do not take lightly. My vote against 26-119 was not, as you say, from someone "who don't use it, gaining a bad reputation." My vote against 26-119 was from a frustrated, daily TriMet rider - someone who TriMet has made clear is not appreciated or wanted as a dedicated TriMet rider, and someone who is for all intents and purposes a second-class citizen. And for that...I've given TriMet some $1,550 last year, for the privilege of riding in 20 year old buses that are roasting in the summer, leak in the winter, and often break down; while standing on the side of the road in the rain with not even so much as a sidewalk to safely wait on.
How is it that giving more money to TriMet would suddenly fix that? After all, TriMet has 250 buses that are beyond the Federal Transit Administration guidelines to replace yet the bond measure would only replace half of those buses. And we'd be paying interest on those buses long after the buses have been retired and themselves replaced...

Thursday, October 14, 2010

On Fares

A person riding the MAX or Streetcar downtown gets a free ride; but a person riding the equivalent short distance on a bus downtown; or in downtown Hillsboro, Gresham, Tigard, Oregon City...has to pay $2.05.
A person riding from Forest Grove to Tigard (57 and 76/78 buses) can pay just $2.05; but someone riding from the Zoo to Sunset TC has to pay $2.35.
A MAX ticket is guaranteed to be valid for two hours from the time of purchase - no matter what day of the week it is. Per TriMet Code (TMC 19.25(G)), a bus transfer is only valid for "one hour past the scheduled end of the trip time for the bus on weekdays, two hours on weekends." But, TriMet's non-legalese fare policy which is posted on buses, states that the transfer is good for one hour from the time the transfer is issued. TriMet's simple English policy is in blatant violation of TriMet code and thus someone who boards a 12 bus in Sherwood at 6:20 AM on a weekday, per TriMet Code shall have a transfer that expires NO EARLIER than 9:30 AM because the end of that particular trip is at 8:30 AM in Gresham. If that passenger is given a transfer that expires at 7:20 AM, transfers to another bus and is cited for fare evasion, he will have a legitimate claim against TriMet for being issued a transfer in violation of TriMet policy.
On WES, you cannot pay fare with cash. On buses you cannot pay fare with a credit/debit card (but you can on LTD. Guess Eugene/Springfield is ahead of the game here.)
TriMet's fare structure and policy is horrible. Even in Seattle during off-peak hours there is one simple fare which is clearly posted on a sign mounted to the farebox. When on-peak fares are in effect (or when the bus is in the Fareless Zone) the Operator changes the sign so that there is no question what the correct fare is - it's on a sign and the fare price is in two inch print.
If you're a new bus rider at one of TriMet's 6,000 unimproved bus stops, they will have no idea what the fare is until the bus shows up, and many Operators who are already stressed from their jobs don't want to play cashier and figure out the correct fare for a rider. (For those Operators who do, thank you!)
TriMet could solve this problem once and for all by implementing a very simple time-based fare system; eliminating the confusing 1-2-3 zone system (where zone 2 is really nothing more than an overlap zone, because true one-zone tickets are extremely rare and the minimum cash fare is a two-zone fare), simplifying fares to the nearest quarter. TriMet finally made HC fares a flat $1.00, and Y fares $1.50 -- why aren't 2 zone fares $2.00 and all zone fares $2.25 or $2.50? Better yet - why not follow Seattle - off-peak fares are $2.00, and peak fares are $2.50? Or just make all fares $2.50 with a promise of new fare increases for three years?
I agree that Portland is long overdue for having modern fare card systems...TriMet is one of the last major transit systems to rely on the "flash pass"; and this type of fare "collection" doesn't allow for accurate fare counting because there is no accounting for how many riders flash a pass versus don't pay a fare and board anyways. Most other cities use a RFID card that riders swipe against a reader when boarding and exiting the bus which can correctly calculate the fare, and as an added bonus provides more detailed ridership data. TriMet relies on people to actually count riders a couple times a year for each bus - hardly accurate.
The agency usually concentrates fare inspectors in areas with repeated problems.
You mean, on MAX? It's been ages since I've seen a fare inspector on a bus. In fact the only time I did was after all the news media hoopla about MAX TVMs failing at an alarming rate and TriMet in a P.R. stunt, put fare inspectors on buses that were nowhere near a ticket vending machine. I saw maybe one or two people pulled off the bus - total - in all the times I saw the fare inspectors...yet when I'm on MAX and see a fare inspector I'm guaranteed to see at least two people pulled off the train each time...that is...if there's a fare inspector. As a daily bus rider who rides MAX maybe once a month if that...that is an alarming coincidence.

Friday, September 17, 2010

On the Tiffany Sweitzer editorial

TriMet has already taken several steps to address the revenue shortfall. The agency has eliminated programs, cut administration costs and implemented a hiring freeze.
Has TriMet eliminated the Capital Planning department - a department that is funded in part by bus riders, but provides ZERO service to bus riders? No! Has TriMet eliminated or reduced its Public Relations department which employs several highly paid personnel to do...nothing to service the transit users? NO!
As a result, more than 120 positions have been cut from the budget.
Since TriMet has no problem holding out bus operators to dry who do wrong, I want the names, positions, and salaries (plus benefits) of the 120 positions that have been cut.
Columnist Susan Nielsen blamed the budget problems on health care costs. Well, TriMet is in the final stages of union negotiations that would reduce those health care costs, but they represent only a fraction of the agency's total budget.
What "fraction"? Are we talking 1/100th? Or 1/5th?
Columnist Anna Griffin suggested that TriMet has moved too fast to build light rail. But most of the money to build MAX came from federal grants dedicated to rail investments, as well as funds from our regional partners. TriMet's share of building the five rail lines throughout the Portland area has been only about 10 percent of total cost.
And yet TriMet refuses to answer: why does TriMet not leverage available federal funding for new buses? Do you not understand that OLD BUSES REQUIRE MORE MAINTENANCE, RESULT IN MORE BREAKDOWNS, AND ARE MORE POLLUTING AND LESS FUEL EFFICIENT - all of which equals one thing: It costs more to run! Yet TriMet wants us to believe it has to pay for new buses from the operating fund.
If that is even true...why has TriMet repeatedly and continuously raided the operating fund to provide funding for light rail CAPITAL costs? Why did TriMet bail out a Colorado company to make sure WES would open; why did WES come in 200% over budget, and costs between 700% and 1500% more per passenger to run than an "expensive" bus? Why do you defend the $5 million annual cost of WES that serves so few passengers; and why do you defend WES riders paying comparatively little for their ride when in fact most commuter rail services require an additional fare that provides no transfers? WES riders should be paying at least $5-6 per ride in addition to what they pay for a bus/MAX ride before or after their trip; and WES riders should not be given free wireless internet access which costs all of us to subsidize.
And light rail costs less to operate than buses.
No, it doesn't. It seems so because TriMet plays a shell game with accounting, and shunts a lot of light rail "operating" costs to a capital expense; while forcing bus "capital" costs to be accounted as operating. TriMet's bus riders should not be forced to subsidize the cost of light rail construction, interest payments, park and ride maintenance costs, station maintenance costs, or for that matter the cost of the expensive to operate shuttle buses that exist solely for connections to and from MAX that frequently cost $10-15/per passenger; as opposed to TriMet's "mainline" buses that cost as little as a dollar per rider - FAR LESS than any MAX line (the 72-Killingsworth/82nd Avenue bus is TriMet's most financially successful route.)
Finally - why does TriMet continue to allow light rail riders downtown to get a free ride if TriMet is so strapped for cash; and why does TriMet continue to subsidize the City of Portland Streetcar - a service that COMPETES WITH TRIMET SERVICE but is not part of the regional transit system? Just shutting down the Streetcar subsidy, eliminating the Free Rail Zone, and shutting down WES would cover more than half of TriMet's budget shortfall; aggressive negotiating with the insurance carriers would result in cost savings, and buying new buses with FEDERAL DOLLARS would save TriMet millions more in lower fuel costs, better maintenance, and less overtime costs for relief drivers. TriMet could also purchase articulated buses which would result in TriMet being able to run 20 minute service on many "Frequent Service" routes but without a drop in passenger capacity - the same quantity of service for lower cost. TriMet refuses to do any of that.
TriMet has been silent on my suggestions...so Ms. Schweitzer - let's hear it. Why is TriMet so biased against the bus rider? Why is TriMet refusing federal dollars to improve the bus system? And why is TriMet insistent on running the most cost ineffective service, WES, or at least not demanding that its high-cost riders pay more for their service in line with other transit agencies in North America?

On the Trimet Bond measure

Neil McFarlane: "TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane says the agency should not be forced to choose between bus and rail service."

The problem is that TriMet HAS chosen rail service over bus service, that much is a clear cut fact. So if he claims we need a balanced system, we need to restore that balance. That may very well mean putting off rail investments for a few years.

Regardless...TriMet has consistently failed to explain why it is failing to take advantage of the various federal grant programs that will pay 80% of the cost of a new transit bus, and is readily available to Portland and other large transit systems.

I personally believe TriMet is using this ballot measure not necessarily to fund new buses...but as a proxy measure to judge whether the public supports the bus system or not. If the public votes no on this measure, TriMet will see it as valid justification to continue investing in a rail transit system while ignoring the bus system. When...in reality this measure exists only because of prior mismanagement by TriMet of its finances, by using money that was supposed to be used for bus replacements and shunting it over to expanding the light rail system as well as WES.

TriMet refused to use Stimulus dollars for the bus system, but heavily poured on the federal trough to the MAX system with numerous improvements.

And TriMet could easily find internal cost savings that would easily pay for new buses as well as restore service cuts...but refuses to. Why is TriMet spending money on the City of Portland Streetcar? Why is TriMet spending money on the Columbia River Crossing project? Why did TriMet spend money on the I-205 Bike Path?

And how can TriMet claim that rail is "cheaper to operate", when WES costs between 7-12 times (that's 700%-1200%) more than a bus to run - a WES train sits idle for 36 minutes out of every 90 minutes of "revenue service"...yet TriMet has to pay TWO crew members for those 36 minutes of time that the train sits still doing nothing. Meanwhile, bus Operators have been forced to work long (and potentially dangerous) runs without the benefit of a break every two hours, and often are forced to take their breaks at odd places (like...the corner of 82nd and Sandy?)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

On Trimet operator John Nations getting a citation

$10 says this ticket will be thrown out.
TriMet Operator was proceeding legally on S.W. 6th, had to make a left turn. Operator determined he could not safely make the turn from the left lane due to the size of the vehicle, and thus used (without conflict to other vehicles, which would simply be other TriMet vehicles in this case as the center lane is a restricted lane).
Had the Operator not used both lanes, he would have climbed onto the sidewalk putting pedestrians at grave risk due to the size of the vehicle and/or collided with a stopped light rail train on Morrison. Further, there are no prohibitions on left turns by oversized vehicles at this intersection.
At the end of the day, it was not the actions of the Operator that caused the collision. Given the choice of two evils, he chose the evil that would have prevented possible injury to pedestrians standing on the street corner waiting for the walk signal that could have been clipped by the size of the vehicle. It was the actions of a bicyclist who disobeyed a traffic control device and failed to yield right-of-way to the bus which was proceeding legally through the intersection that caused the collision.
Ultimately, this is just another example of TriMet Management making boneheaded decisions to route buses on short notice without thinking about their actions, and using low level Operators as the fall guy instead of the General Manager owning up to the routing being the issue. In Germany, for example, every Autobahn has pre-determined, and permanently signed, detour routes in the event of an Autobahn closure. If the Autobahn is closed, you simply use the next exit and follow permanently installed signs that route you to the next on-ramp. If that ramp is closed, you keep following the detours. TriMet ought to have pre-determined detour routes for each bus route and MAX shuttle, including designated safe turn locations. It's not that difficult to do. TriMet Operators should not be the fall guy because some Supervisor didn't do their job correctly.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

TO THE EDITOR

To the Editor,

TriMet’s new General Manager, Neil McFarlane, recently announced a “top to bottom” safety review of the entire transit system, which includes reviewing the safety of each and every one of TriMet’s 7,155 bus stops.

Despite my complaints about unsafe TriMet bus stops I was rebuffed personally in a letter from former manager Fred Hansen citing TriMet could not improve safety for bus passengers on streets owned and operated by other jurisdictions.

Mcfarlane decided to create a safety council naming various individuals – but not one bus rider. He did name one member of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance – an organization that has been known to encourage its members to violate traffic laws. Apparently, those who intentionally act unsafely are considered an “expert” versus the over 200,000 dedicated daily TriMet bus riders who put their lives in the trust of the transit agency and its employees; who often board at marked bus stops that are located with no safe place to wait for a bus.

A well known and respected TriMet driver had enough of one particular bicyclist and posted a story on his personal blog. Although colorful and a bit extreme it was a passionate plea from a professional and tenured driver of a 40,000 pound vehicle that carries over 60 passengers to a group of bicyclists who do not understand what their unsafe actions can do to those 60 bus riders. Buses simply do not stop on a dime; and do not simply swerve.

Instead of defending the driver, TriMet “shot the messenger”. Suspended the driver for speaking out. Why blame those within politically connected organizations when there’s a low-level employee – a driver – to blame?

It’s clear TriMet’s new Manager seeks not to improve the bus system but to continue down the path etched by former manager Hansen – play the politics game. The BTA apparently is more important to TriMet than its riders. The safety of a bicyclist who acts irresponsibly on public streets is more important to TriMet than the over 200,000 dedicated daily bus riders like myself who put their trust in TriMet to provide a safe journey that starts by accessing a bus stop, waiting at a bus stop, riding the bus, and then using and walking away from the destination bus stop. I pay a fare; the BTA and its members do not. I have little choice but to wait at TriMet’s designated bus stop whether or not it is safe (or refuse to ride TriMet and purchase and drive a car); bicyclists have a personal duty to ride their bike safely or risk injury to themselves as a result.

Mr. McFarlane, what are your priorities? Politics – or providing safe transportation? You have better things to do than to criticize your employees for speaking out publicly. A good start would be to start listening to your riders – all 200,000+ bus riders, and 100,000+ MAX riders.

Respectfully,

Erik Halstead

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

WES PROPOSAL


Al - all these WES substitutions got me thinking, here's a solution that is a sure fire winner for TriMet.

By increasing the schedule from every 30 minutes to every 35 minutes, and tightening up on the outrageous layover times (10 minutes in Beaverton, 26 minutes in Wilsonville!), TriMet can actually reduce costs by eliminating one full trainset (and thus the crew and fuel expense), and run a full rush hour schedule with just TWO trains. And the only loss to riders is up to an extra five minute wait.

Surely, if bus riders can be expected to add 5-10 minutes to cover for bus service cutbacks - WES riders can certainly do the same. This would also eliminate much of the need for shuttle bus trips (since there would always be a spare vehicle), and TriMet would not need to bother with the illegal-to-run Budd RDC cars purchased from the Alaska Railroad.

Each train would still have a 7 or 8 minute layover after each run for the required brake test and other needs, which is much more than sufficient. (And that's still generous given the "layover" time bus Operators often get at the end of a run!)

This would also allow TriMet to embargo the double-track at the north end of Wilsonville, saving the track expense that currently is required as the trains pass each other just north of the station; now trains would only pass each other between Tigard and Tualatin. And there is currently a track (the Tigard Yard Lead) which could be modified rather simply (by adding a switch at the north end) to turn it into a passing siding.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

RESPONSE TO NEIL MACFARLANE

ORIGINAL ARTICLE HERE



July 09, 2010 at 6:49PM

Mr. McFarlane,

I am a daily BUS rider. Sure, on the TriMet surveys, I'm counted as a MAX rider because once a month I might ride a MAX line to downtown or to the zoo from some westside park and ride, but DAILY I am on a bus. Twice, if not more a day.

This is what I read.

record numbers of riders on MAX and WES

No mention that bus riders are turning away from TriMet and going back to their cars because the bus fleet is old and bus stops are poor.

safety, expanding service, continuing to work with regional partners to strengthen the system

Hansen said this too, and he did nothing about the bus system. Your record of a MAX project manager does not bode well for the bus system. What are you plans to improve safety on the bus system, expand service on the bus system, and work with regional partners to strengthen the bus system?

With lower revenues, most have cut service and raised fares

MAX service was not cut, and MAX (and Streetcar) riders continue to receive free service downtown. Why do bus riders, who receive a lesser quality of service, pay more for longer waits?

My goal is to first restore our frequent-service bus lines

Does that mean that restoring frequent service bus lines, being first will occur even if it means postponing Milwaukie MAX or other MAX projects? You said it is your first priority, so let's see it happen.

investment in rail has brought $1.3 billion in federal discretionary funding

While TriMet has intentionally, and purposely, refused bus investment funding. TriMet has one of the oldest, least reliable bus fleets in the nation. Have you been on my 94X bus these last few days in the 95+ degree heat? Were you on vehicle 1430 a month ago when it died in the center left-turn lane on S.W. Barbur, requring an evacuation from the bus while the bus driver simply said "I can't keep you on the bus, but if you get hit by a car it's your own fault!" and the responding supervisor - who drove a full-size, Ford F-150 truck with flashing lights and wearing a safety vest who could have blocked off a lane and helped up across, parked his truck in front of the bus and stood outside the driver's window smoking a cigarette instead of taking care of the 30 passengers on the disabled bus (while another 94X drove right past us without stopping to take on the continuing passengers)?

it created more transportation alternatives

While eliminating bus service and leaving some to resort to single-occupant vehicle trips

reduced fuel consumption

Because bus trips are being cut and replaced by a light rail train whose "tailpipe" is in Boardman,

created thousands of family-wage jobs

How many of those thousands of jobs exist right now, today?

I invite Dave Lister and others to join me on my frequent bus and MAX rides to experience our great system and to share ideas on how to improve it.

And I invite you, as I have invited Fred Hansen (who repeatedly turned down my requests) to ride with me on the 94X bus, where we can talk about the "great" system of 20 year old, non-air conditioned buses and to share ideas on what you can do to ensure that when I pay $2.30, I get the same "bang for the buck" that a MAX/WES/Streetcar rider gets. We all pay the same fare, we all deserve the same quality of service. Can you tell me that a bus rider gets the same quality of service as a MAX or WES rider?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Re: Beaverton neighbors oppose Lombard Avenue bike line striping

It's interesting that in the greater scheme of things, it is the bicyclist community that is upset that ODOT and WSDOT want to build a replacement bridge for the Interstate Bridge, claiming that Olympia and Salem are out-of-touch with the locals who like bicycles - as a result we have a convoluted, large LOCAL process with much deferrence to those in downtown Vancouver, Hayden Island and North Portland as to the design of the bridge.


But, when the bicyclists want a bike lane in someone else's neighborhood (Lombard Avenue) they have no problem crying foul and demanding that the local residents have no right to argue against the negative aspects of the proposal; and that their views (given that it is Beaverton, it's likely that many of the supporters aren't even residents within city limits) are more important as part of the "greater good" than the concerns of locals.


Which is it? If local opinion is important, then why aren't the bicyclists working WITH residents to ensure that there is no loss of parking access; and that pedestrian safety (accessing cars parked on the opposite side of the street) is addressed? What about area lighting, that seems to be an issue as well that would benefit BOTH SIDES!!!


If "the greater good" is more important...then I implore the BTA and other bicycling advocacy groups to stop stonewalling projects like the CRC and let the damn thing get built. So what if it increases traffic - it's for the "greater good", as determined by hundreds of elected officials who manage a federally funded and recognized, bi-state highway that does not belong to either Portland, Vancouver, Multnomah County, Clark County, TriMet or Metro.


It's arguments like this that make me want to take my bike and throw it in the river. Seriously. I do not want to be associated with these loonies who have no respect for other people and the process. I enjoy having bike paths but like anything in life there are winners and losers - how do we get it to happen without losers?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Here’s a way for TriMet to save bucks

It should actually be noted that Portland has one of the weakest vanpool/carpool systems anywhere. Part of that likely has to do with the (one-time) extensive transit system that Portland boasted of, where buses could take you from anywhere, to anywhere, most any time of day.


Seattle, in comparison, has a fleet of nearly 1500 minivans, owned by King County Metro, in a vanpool system. Metro's Vanpool website lists just a handful of privately owned vans that Metro subsidizes. (In fact, TriMet used to run the program until a few years ago when Metro took it over - citing TriMet's lack of management and marketing of the service.)


But bringing "vanpool" to "buspool" is a bigger fish - not just anyone can drive a 40' TriMet bus. They do require a Class B CDL (which not everyone has); where are the vehicles parked, fueled, serviced and maintained? Do we sell off the bus fleet and have companies like VPSI and Enterprise manage the bus fleet? Or do we still have the hundreds of union maintenance employees? What about bus stops - who maintains them? While Oregon law guarantees the right of TriMet to place bus stops on public right-of-ways, does a private buspool provider have the same right? If not, then individual agreements would have to be made with property owners. What about transit centers?


That's just the mechanics...now let's talk about the bus drivers. Sure, a few of them are snotty and have no business driving a bus. I'm sure that Pamplin Media also has a few "rotten apples" on its payroll. But the majority of TriMet drivers are pleasant and friendly and just go about their job. A few bad apples is not enough reason to fire some 1500 hard working drivers.


Think about the societal impact: 1500 people, suddenly out of work. No income. Strains on unemployment. Food stamps. It's not as though these drivers will easily find other driving jobs; there is a massive surplus of truck drivers, and a shortage of truck driving jobs. Greyhound isn't exactly hiring (especially given that ODOT/WSDOT/Amtrak are opening competing with Greyhound with a tax exempt operation called Amtrak Cascades, and undercutting Greyhound's fares while collecting taxpayer subsidies to operate it). Can the Portland area absorb 1500 newly unemployed workers?


I agree that looking at TriMet's benefits package is worthwhile, but I don't have the facts to call it "extraorbinate". TriMet, under the so-called "leadership" of Fred Hansen, has done nothing to even try to defend its labor practices; in fact he has already declared open warfare on the bus system. How does TriMet's benefits stack up with other, comparable transit systems? Is what a TriMet driver gets comparable to a Metro driver in Seattle, or a Muni driver in San Francisco, or a UTA driver in Salt Lake City, or a Metro driver in Houston? Are the insurance costs, and benefits, comparable? It may just be that there is a cost to operate a transit system, and unfortunately the risk taken by a transit driver is much greater than a paper pusher at Metro or Portland's City Hall whose biggest risk is a paper cut or spilling hot coffee. TriMet drivers are outside, for eight plus hours a day, in un-air conditioned buses, at risk of vehicle wrecks and unruly, assualtive passengers. Insurance is based on risk; the greater the risk, the higher the cost. That's not a hard concept to see; yet so many people ignore it.


Let's do an honest review of TriMet's benefits package. If compared to other transit agencies that TriMet is offering too much - don't go after the drivers. It's not their fault. Go after Fred Hansen, the outgoing General Manager who approved it. (And while we're at it, let's go after him for approving the Green Line MAX, WES, millions in MAX upgrades, disinvesting in the bus system, the fuel hedge from hell, and other financial problems under his leadership.)


Saturday, June 12, 2010

ON BLIND SPOTS AND THE HORROR CRASH

I've read all of the comments and I don't see ANYWHERE where anyone is accusing the pedestrians who were injured or killed for being at fault, or responsible.

What I do see is questions as to whether Ms. Day was fully at-fault, and as Hansen stated, violated multiple TriMet policies - or whether she was following procedures that were standard operating procedure and commonly followed, which contributed to the incident. And I am with Al M. - if TriMet policy, or any other factor, contributed to the collision, there should be every expectation that those policies and factors be reviewed so that a similar incident can be prevented in the future.

It is a fact that every bus (and in fact, most every vehicle) has blind spots. Heck, my car does, and admittedly there have been a few times where I was at a certain intersection and could not see a stopped vehicle on the cross street at a four-way stop because of the size of the other vehicle, the size of the A-pillar of my windshield, and the angle of the intersection (and I know that at that particular intersection I approach, and proceed through it, very differently as a result).

It's a known fact that the fareboxes on certain TriMet buses create a blind spot.

It's a known fact that TriMet uses a mirror on its New Flyer D40LF (2000, 2200-2900 series buses) that is attached at the bottom and can create a blind spot for some drivers; there are other transit agencies that attach the mirror at the top, above the driver's window, which could potentially eliminate or reduce the size of the blind spot.

Yes, Ms. Day certainly made mistakes, that is without question. But there are certainly other factors involved that contributed to it. It's as if someone wants to say that a given collision was caused by "speeding"...no, speeding does not in and of itself cause a collision. (Else every NASCAR race would end in exactly one half of a lap because the cars simply went too fast.) But speeding is certainly a contributing factor to many collisions.

Friday, May 21, 2010

ON JOE ROSE

Who am I going to listen to...

Bus drivers, who drive TriMet buses day in and day out, and who are repeatedly ignored by management when they bring up legitimate safety concerns...

or a reporter who has had five minutes experience behind the wheel of a TriMet bus, who has repeatedly demonstrated an anti-bus bias, whose reporting clearly shows an ignorance towards bus riders issues with the transit system; who frequently lauds TriMet and its management on pro-rail issues, and who ignored the fact that the issue of the mirrors and the blind spot WERE in the D.A.'s report and mentioned as a contributing (albeit minor) mitigating factor, and which could very well have led to the decision by the Grand Jury not to indict Ms. Day (even if she said the mirror did not pose a problem, it was still in the report as creating a blind spot).

Talk about an opinion piece. This shouldn't be in Metro, it should be in...well...the Editorial section.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

BUS MIRRORS

http://media.katu.com/images/C-Tran_early_morning_commuters_board_hybrid_bus.gif

A couple days ago while walking to work I saw one of these C-Tran hybrid buses driving past me and noticed the windshield design, with the corner post window as well as the single-piece windshield that doesn't have the center post.

Here's a picture of the driver's side:

(40' variants)
http://www.busdrawings.com/Transit/washington/ctran/2008brt40/070509-9844ctran2280.jpg
http://www.busdrawings.com/Transit/washington/ctran/2008brt40/070509-9845ctran2280.jpg

(35' variants)
http://www.busdrawings.com/Transit/washington/ctran/2008brt35/070509-9894ctran2269.jpg
http://www.busdrawings.com/Transit/washington/ctran/2008brt35/070509-9893ctran2269.jpg

(29' variant)
http://www.busdrawings.com/Transit/washington/ctran/2008brt29/070509-9853ctran2262.jpg

Notice that the mirror is attached to the body from above, not below the driver, so a shorter driver can simply look below the mirror. The corner post appears to be smaller than a D40LF, and that corner window is also there.

C-Tran also has a smaller bus called the Opus (manufactured by Optima Bus, now a component of NABI bus).

http://www.busdrawings.com/Transit/washington/ctran/2004optima/070509-9851ctran2253.jpg

Same mirror design, but I can't tell from that corner post if there's a window there or not. Like the Gillig Hybrid, it also has a one-piece windshield without a center post.

Compared with a TriMet D40LFR:

http://www.newflyer.com/pix/News%20Center/Bus%20Pictures/LFR/lfr_trimet.jpg

Mirror attaches below the driver, large corner post, center post (although on the 2900s the post is much smaller than the older versions)

And for kicks:

http://www.barp.ca/bus/usa/images/tri737.jpg

Mirror attaches much higher than on the New Flyers so Operators can look below the mirror; windshield slightly wraps around to the side of the vehicle, smaller corner post.

http://www.busdude.com/TM/TM_2559_2.jpg

Mirror just below driver's eyes; driver sits higher on these vehicles and is looking down at the mirror, larger corner post than other vehicles (but not a Gillig Phantom - they have pretty large corner posts); large center post.


Just something to chew on and discuss with Dan. And make "eastcomom" have a tissy fit because she can't for the life of her understand that there are mitigating factors, as Dan has clearly demonstrated, and as the above pictures show, there are better designs than what TriMet uses on half of their buses.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

IN HONOR OF FRED HANSEN'S TRIMET

Whereas, after serving at the helm of TriMet for 11 ½ years, General Manager Fred Hansen has left an enduring legacy for the agency, the City of Portland and the region; and

Whereas, Fred Hansen created a culture of a caste system of "haves" (light rail/Streetcar/WES riders) and "have nots" (bus riders), whereas Hansen has devoted himself to catering to developers at the expense of dedicated, long time riders...

Whereas, during his tenure, transit ridership has surpassed more than 101 million rides a year as the transit system has grown and is now 7th per capita in the nation; and

Whereas, transit ridership today is a lower percentage of trips taken as a whole in the Metro region (meaning transit ridership has not kept up with population growth)

Whereas, TriMet opened the region’s first commuter rail line and three light rail lines, and is well along the way in the planning and design of the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Project; and

"the region's first commuter rail line" - a planned joke that the Federal Government didn't find cost effective, that has sucked over $160 million dollars, has directly contributed to the loss of many bus service hours, resulted in the bailout of a company with little track record, whose ridership is abysmal and has no signs of improving

Whereas, TriMet grew from four to 16 Frequent Service Bus Lines; and

And none of those "Frequent Service" bus lines exist as "frequent service" (meaning buses show up every 15 minutes or less, all day, every day) - many of these bus lines don't even have 15 minute service during rush hour,

Whereas, TriMet developed the award-winning Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program, significantly expanding inclusive contracting and workforce diversity; and

Whereas, sustainable transit operations and construction practices became a guiding principle of the agency; and

Yet TriMet is the largest transit agency to eschew environmentally friendly, high capacity buses

Whereas, TriMet dramatically improved the customer experience with new signage, better buses TransitTracker and an award-winning website; and

The new signage has not improved the customer experience, and in fact TriMet stopped installing schedules at bus stops and even went so far as to REMOVE schedules from bus stops; I'd sure like to know what these "better buses" are because they don't exist at TriMet; Transit Tracker does not exist at all but a few bus stops.

Whereas, during his tenure, the agency has built strong and effective partnerships with the City of Portland, other city and regional governments, and the community; and

...for those communities who bought into TriMet's light rail demands; and for those cities who eschewed light rail, TriMet effectively shut out from all service upgrades and planning,

Whereas, the region has gained national distinction for creating livable communities;

Which has nothing to do with TriMet,

Now, therefore, I, Sam Adams, Mayor of the City of Portland, Oregon, the “City of Roses,” do hereby proclaim Wednesday, May 12, 2010 to be Fred Hansen Day in Portland, and invite all residents to join in honoring the work of Fred Hansen.

Yes, Sam. Ride the bus with me. Yes, a TriMet bus. And let's honor the work of Fred Hansen, together, on one of TriMet's oldest 1400 series buses in the 80+ degree heat tomorrow, with 50 other bus riders (hint: there aren't 50 seats on the bus), and let's hope the bus doesn't break down. When we get to our stop, let's hope that there is a sidewalk we can get off the bus at, and a crosswalk to allow us to safely cross the street. Let's hope that we have a Transit Tracker sign or a schedule to tell us when the bus might show up, and that the bus actually shows up on time, and doesn't pass us up for being at crush load.

This proclamation clearly shows Sam Adams is so out of touch with the bus riders (two-thirds of TriMet's ridership) that once again he is only catering to his special interest group rather than Average Citizen.

Friday, April 30, 2010

TRIMET BUS DRIVERS

They are obstinate, unfriendly and generally disengaged. Tri-Met drivers intentionally jerk the bus forward or slam on the brakes when a passenger stands up to prepard for their stops. you can see them galnce in the mirror and smirk.
I've had my share of bad TriMet operators and a few I have had to complain about, but as a daily TriMet rider for many years Operators are generally at the bottom of my complaint pile.
If a driver looks up in their mirror after a hard stop it's probably because some idiot pulled out in front of the bus and they can't stop in time, so they're making sure nobody fell over. I know many Operators who intentionally will run the bus SLOWER if there are a lot of standees - for the safety of the riders (this is a TriMet problem not acquiring the proper buses for the load or running the appropriate number of buses.) I can't say I have had an Operator who intentionally jerked the bus (I've had a few rough drivers but that's more a training issue) and I know many bus drivers who run their bus like it's full of eggs and glass.
Sure, some drivers don't say "hi" and greet you with a huge smile. It'd be nice, because I know many TriMet drivers do make my day when I get on the bus, and even those who are having a lousy day - I try to thank them because they may have had an unreasonable passenger earlier, or problems with the bus, or dispatchers and supervisors that make their lives miserable. I know one Operator who demanded a clearly unruly passenger be removed from her bus by a Supervisor and the Supervisor came down on the Operator. How do you think you would respond if your Supervisor comes down on you and second-guesses you, but then doesn't bother to help you when you need it? I've seen many Operators literally stranded for hours when their buses break, and there's nothing they can do but wait for the tow rig..
.
Being a TriMet driver takes a lot of nerve. Are there a few bad apples? You bet, and there are bad apples at MY work too (No, I don't work for TriMet.) But the majority of TriMet drivers work under a lot of pressure from the public and their bosses, dealing with less than desirable tools and equipment, and they're just trying to get you where you need to go. Sometimes TriMet drivers are forced onto routes that they aren't familiar with in parts of town they've never been to, and I've helped a good number of fellow passengers get to where they need to go. I don't blame the driver, they probably had ONE familiarization run (if that) and lately all that involves is riding a revenue bus on the route before they start driving the run, instead of driving the route several times as practice beforehand.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

TRAFFIC LAWS

I might suggest that YOU brush up and re-read your Oregon Driver's Manual, because you are so wrong, on so many places.

Here's a link for you:http://www.odot.state.or.us/forms/dmv/37.pdf

Let's see:

Peds always have the Right of Way in downtown Portland

No, they don't. In fact, if you had read the Oregon Driver's Manual, you'll see:

1. No where is "Downtown Portland" mentioned. Downtown Portland does not have its own set of traffic laws; the traffic laws in Oregon apply uniformly whether you're in downtown Portland, or on U.S. 95 north of McDermott.

2. Let's look at page 45 of the Oregon Driver's Manual. It says:

"The right of way law does not give anyone the right of way; it only says who must yield. Stop signs, yield signs, and traffic signals control traffic at busy intersections. They tell drivers who may go without stopping or who must stop and yield right of way to other drivers, bicyclists, or pedestrians."

Let's see what else the Oregon Driver's Manual has to say about drivers and pedestrians:

"Remember, if you are making a left or right turn, you must yield to oncoming traffic and pedestrians. Pedestrians facing a green light may cross the street in a marked or unmarked crosswalk, unless directed by other signs or a pedestrian signal." (page 25)

"These are special stop and go signals for pedestrians. When used, pedestrians must obey these signals rather than red-yellow-green traffic lights. Pedestrians facing a WALK or walking person signal (white) may legally start to cross the street. If a DONĂ¢€™T WALK or raised hand signal (orange) is flashing or showing, pedestrians may not start to cross the intersection. Pedestrians in the crosswalk when the DONĂ¢€™T WALK or raised hand signal begins flashing should continue crossing the street." (page 26)

"Crosswalk - noted by white lines that outline an area where pedestrians cross the roadway. Drive with caution and be ready to stop when a pedestrian is in the crosswalk. Remember that every corner is a crosswalk, whether it is marked or unmarked (see Pedestrians, Pages 77-78)." (page 30)

"Generally, pedestrians have the right of way at all intersections. There is a crosswalk at every intersection, even if it is not marked by painted lines." (page 77)

"You must stop and remain stopped for a pedestrian crossing at a crosswalk (marked or unmarked) when the pedestrian is:

  • In the lane in which your vehicle is traveling;
    In a lane next to the lane in which your vehicle is traveling;
    In the lane into which your vehicle is turning;
    In a lane adjacent to the lane into which your vehicle is turning, if you
    are making a turn at an intersection that does not have a traffic signal;
    Less than six feet from the lane into which your vehicle is turning, if
    you are making a turn at an intersection that has a traffic signal; or
    In a school crosswalk where there is a traffic patrol member and the
    traffic patrol member signals you to stop.

  • You are not required to stop for a pedestrian in a crosswalk if you are
    traveling along the half of the roadway on the other side of a safety island from the pedestrian." (pages 77-78)

    "Although drivers must yield to pedestrians in crosswalks, pedestrians
    must not suddenly leave a curb or other safe waiting place and walk
    into the path of a vehicle if it is so close that it is an immediate hazard.
    Vehicles cannot stop instantly." (page 79)

    2. The speed lkimit in downtown is 25 mph for that very reason.

    Wrong again. In a business district (of which all of downtown Portland is considered) the speed limit is 20. Not 25, 20. 25 is the speed limit in residential neighborhoods, parks, and ocean beaches. (See page 34.)

    3. I would be held responsible by virtue of my failure to maintain control of the vehicle, failing to observe basic rule - Right of Way.

    I can't believe you don't even know what the Basic Rule is. The Basic Rule has NOTHING to do with right-of-way.

    Page 33 of the Driver's Manual states: "The basic rule states you must drive as a speed that is reasonable and cautious for existing conditions." This is codified in ORS 811.100, 811.105, 811.106 and 811.108. The Basic Rule covers speed, not right-of-way. However, if you are driving in an area with a large number of pedestrians, you could be held in violation of the Basic Rule if you are driving at a speed that puts those pedestrians at risk, even if you are not exceeding the posted speed limit.

    4. It is always the rule that MV's must yield to Peds, except on a freeway perhaps.

    Wrong again. See pages 77 and 78 of your friendly Oregon Driver's Manual that states where you must yield to a pedestrian. And page 79 clearly states that a pedestrian must not suddenly leave a curb or safe waiting place into the path of a vehicle and create a hazard. That's codified in ORS 811.025 and 811.028.

    That rule hasn't changed in the 30 years since I first took the DMV's knowledge test.

    Well, it looks like in the 30 years since you last took the DMV test, you either forgot some things, or are simply ignorant. I suggest you visit your local friendly DMV office and re-take the test, or visit the DMV's website athttp://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/DMV/driverid/testknow.shtml#Practice_Tests and take one of the several on-line practice tests available to you.


    Sunday, April 18, 2010

    APRIL 18

    Actually, that's not a bad idea, and in fact TriMet (along with SMART and Cherriots) could go a step further:

    1. Create a Portland-Salem express bus, likely by using RAZ Transportation or another company that has intercity (Greyhound like) buses. This new bus route would take the place of the current 1X and 2X Smart/Cherriots buses AND TriMet's 96, and provide service from Salem to Wilsonville, as well as Tualatin (the Park & Ride, not the WES station) and Barbur Boulevard TC and the Portland Transit Mall.) In addition, Woodburn would also participate and get a stop.

    (This route would be contracted out for several reasons: 1. It crosses through three different transit agency jurisdictions. 2. WES is contracted out. 3. None of the agencies have a suitable vehicle for the route.)

    2. TriMet would then institute a 76E route during rush hours from Tualatin to Beaverton. The 76E would only stop at Beaverton TC, Nimbus, Washington Square, Tigard TC, Tualatin P&R, Tualatin City Hall and Meridian Park Hospital. (This bus would essentially replace the 96, along with a new local Tualatin route that would provide local, all-day service from the Tualatin P&R along Boones Ferry Road, and another route that would provide west-east service between Tualatin and Sherwood.)

    Thursday, April 15, 2010

    APRIL 15

    The Capital District Transportation Authority (CDTA) of Albany, NY, is selling 11 Orion VI 40' buses manufactured in 1997.

    At TriMet, the 1400, 1600, 1700, 1800, and 1900 series buses are all OLDER than this fleet of buses and are still in service at TriMet. Meanwhile, the CDTA's annual report (http://www.cdta.org/documents/CDTAannualreport2008_2009_002.pdf) states:

    One of the most significant factors for 2010 comes as a result of the stimulus money allocated to CDTA. These stimulus funds will allow CDTA to advance our bus procurement program for the next two years without taking on debt. Prior to the availability of the stimulus funds, CDTA intended to enter into a ten year lease program in order to procure new buses.

    TriMet has cancelled all bus purchases; however a resolution by one of Oregon's congressional leaders will provide federal funding for about 45 new buses.

    Funding shortfalls have put us in a position where we have needed to use a portion of our federal allocation on maintenance rather than on capital projects. Unfortunately, the result of this decision is the erosion of existing capital funding and a long-term reduction in our ability to keep up with future capital needs.

    TriMet is cutting back on maintenance, in order to continue capital projects.

    Funding shortfalls prevent us from executing service expansion plans. Should funding turn more favorable, we have several planned service expansions ready to make available to the public. They include Schenectady route restructuring, Northway Express service expansion, and Bus Rapid Transit service.

    TriMet is still going full-bore with service expansion; as it admits it cannot even fund its current service levels, has already enacted two rounds of bus service cuts and has a third round planned, and is even talking of more cuts next year.

    Consistent with the fleet replacement plan during 2009, CDTA introduced 23 new vehicles into the fleet. All 23 are hybrid electric vehicles. This is roughly 1/12 of our fleet (including subfleets). These vehicles were funded primarily with federal funding allocations. Some of these funds were specifically obtained to offset the additional costs of hybrid electric vehicles. CDTA intends to continue to purchase hybrid electric vehicles as long as funding for hybrids is available.

    Not only does TriMet refuse to buy new buses; but in the few times it has purchased new buses it has refused to acquire hybrid-electric buses - even if the federal government pays for the hybrid differential in full (as Seattle has taken advantage of).

    The increase in ridership experienced in 2009 and 2008 is expected to continue.

    The CDTA is a bus-only agency, and saw ridership increases - despite being in a part of New York that has been hard hit by the recession.

    In 2009, fixed route ridership was up 11% and STAR ridership was up 13%. Demand for our suburban commuter service, Northway Express, increased 22%.

    Yet WES, the very expensive rail system, only managed an 8% increase (which translated to about 100 new riders).

    To encourage homeownership in transit supportive areas and promote transit use, CDTA offers free bus passes (for a maximum of 24 months) to new homeowners through the Homeownership Incentive Program.

    Holy Smokes!!!!!! I remember getting three all-day passes from TriMet back when I first moved to Beaverton, and again when Westside MAX opened, but that was it. And that was over 10 years ago.

    CDTA purchases new buses each year as part of a fleet purchasing program designed to make the most efficient use of funding sources and maintain a safe, reliable fleet. Each year, CDTA replaces one-twelfth of its fleet. In the past year, CDTA purchased 6 new hybrid diesel-electric vehicles, 7 STAR paratransit vehicles and 4 new suburban shuttles. Twenty new hybrid buses will arrive in Spring 2009, making the fleet 20% hybrid.

    Remember when Fred promised new buses every year, and then quickly broke the promise? CDTA sticks to a 12 year replacement age (which is the minimum age that a federally funded bus must be in service).

    Wednesday, March 17, 2010

    FREDS LEAVING

    sp_redelectric
    Posted by SP Red Electric
    March 17, 2010, 8:00PM

    Passadore gave Hansen "an A-plus."

    An A-Plus? Really? Let's see:

    1. Total dismantling of "Frequent Service" bus service, with all major bus routes operating at 17-20 minute headways during peak hours. (Most major transit systems consider "Frequent Service" to be 12 minutes or better.)

    2. Operation of the oldest bus fleet of major transit systems, with one of the most unreliable, and least fuel efficient systems. Hansen has steadfastly refused to purchase hybrid-electric buses, despite their popularity with major transit systems such as New York's MTA, Los Angeles' MTA, and even Seattle's King County Metro. Hansen's shining achievement was the "NASCAR-inspired" electric cooling fan array, a system that few transit agencies have opted to purchase.

    3. A total lack of investment in the bus system, bus stops - very few bus routes were started on Hansen's watch (the last major bus service upgrade occurred in 1998, and was planned by Hansen's predecessor). Hansen cut numerous bus routes and required bus riders to abandon TriMet, or forced multiple transfers onto pet light rail routes.

    4. Failure to follow the annual Transit Investment Plan. Hansen failed to deliver on promised bus service upgrades, including new and more frequent routes in Clackamas, Forest Grove, Tigard and Tualatin.

    5. During the fuel oil crisis of the mid-2000s, most transit agencies recorded double-digit ridership growth. TriMet, on the other hand, recorded virtually flat ridership - and a decline in bus ridership, for three consecutive years.

    6. TriMet's fares went up from $1.35 to $2.30 in the ten years - a 60% increase. Inflation during the same time period? Less than 28%. TriMet's fares increased faster than most everything else.

    7. Much of the growth in MAX came from huge park-and-ride lots and garages, not intermodal connections to/from local bus services. TOD has not taken off as it frequently promoted; numerous tracts of land near MAX stations remain undeveloped to this day. The Red Line was supposed to serve a huge mixed-use development at Cascade Station; we got another strip mall anchored by the Swedish Wal-Mart: IKEA. The Green Line has virtually ZERO TOD opportunities; neither does WES.

    8. WES was a failure, plain and simple. You cannot blame the economy; it was a political porkbarrel project that even the most optimistic federal transit planners failed to approve of. Today, the cost of WES is seven times that of the dreaded, expensive to run bus that Hansen so frequently decries.

    9. TriMet has one of the most archaic fare systems. WES and many MAX machines won't allow you to pay with cash; you can't use a credit/debit card on buses. Most major transit agencies have advanced stored value cards that are easily refillable and popular with even occasional riders; TriMet eschews them. To this day, there is still no accurate way to count ridership because the bus fare boxes can't even keep track of what kinds of fares were purchased, just the total of money stuffed inside it.

    10. TriMet refuses to purchase high capacity buses, and match bus capacity with ridership. Buses (even in our horrible economy) continue to pass up willing riders because the buses are at crush load; while other transit systems have made investments in articulated or double-deck buses (which have proven to be extraordinarily popular with riders).

    I could go on...but I'd sure like to know: What did Hansen do? He built a bunch of MAX lines (at the expense of bus service). He stuck his nose in Vancouver politics. He jetted off to exotic destinations on the taxpayer's dime. He earns more than every comparable transit General Manager, yet manages a much smaller operation and is largely a "hands-off" manager. He openly shows his disdain for the public and TriMet's riders. He was M.I.A. during every TriMet meltdown, allowing TriMet to all but shut down in poor weather - just as many Portlanders actually begged for TriMet to show them a better way to travel.

    If Passadore feels Hansen deserves an A-Plus for his work...I should be a tenured Doctorate for just paying my fare 100% of the time, riding TriMet's busiest bus routes (thus requiring little if any subsidy from TriMet), rarely using Park & Ride lots... Maybe it's time for Passadore to retire as well, require that all Board Members be elected from the public, and turn TriMet into a customer-focused organization, not an organization designed to just provide cushy political jobs to insiders and donors to the Governor's race. When the DMV and the TSA provide better service...something is seriously wrong........

    Wednesday, February 10, 2010

    http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2010/02/trimet_says_recession_to_force.html

    Posted by SP Red Electric
    February 09, 2010, 7:48PM

    1. Eliminate WES.

    2. Eliminate all "Service Planning" employees, staff, and office space.

    3. Eliminate all TriMet business vehicles (the Tauruses, the Cherokees, the Escapes, the Rangers) and require TriMet business personnel to use scheduled bus/MAX service on company business.

    4. Reduce MAX to 20 minute service west of Beaverton and north/east/south of Gateway, as well as the Yellow Line north of Rose Quarter. 30 minutes during off-peak hours.

    5. Eliminate the MAX Transit Mall Shuttle Train.

    6. Eliminate Fareless Square for MAX.

    7. Eliminate the $3 million per year subsidy to the City of Portland Streetcar; demand Portland pay TriMet to operate the Streetcar, or tell them to find their own Operator.

    8. Stop all work for future light rail expansions to Vancouver and Milwaukie. Lay off all employees involved in such. Tell Metro that if Metro demands more light rail, that TriMet will not be involved in planning or operating it.

    9. 20% salary cuts for all salaried employees. Fred Hansen gets a 35% cut (or fire him, that'd be fine by me.)

    10. Eliminate the 84 Kelso/Boring route, TriMet's worst performing bus line. Reduce TriMet district boundaries accordingly.

    11. Require those who park in TriMet owned Park-and-Ride lots to pay for parking. (Sorry, but as a door-to-door bus rider I see no reason to subsidize those who drive to a park-and-ride, usually to inflate MAX ridership.) $5-8/day for parking is not unreasonable.

    12. Reduce MAX operations to start at 5:00 AM on weekdays, 6:30 AM on weekends, and end MAX operations at midnight on weekdays, 11:00 PM on weekends (midnight on the Blue Line only, between Gateway and Beaverton.)

    13. Next service investment will be a fleet of 100 articulated, diesel-hybrid buses (read: greater capacity, reduced maintenance and fuel expense, no increase in labor cost), a fleet of 200 40' diesel-hybrid buses (to replace TriMet's antiquated 1400, 1700 and 1800 series buses, providing greater reliability, reduced maintenance and reduced fuel expense with no additional labor cost), and a fleet of smaller buses to replace the 1600s and 1900s for lower maintenance cost; these bus purchases will be paid for 80% by the federal government requiring only modest local investment. The 60' buses cost $650,000 each or a local cost of $13 million; the 40' buses cost $450,000 each or a local cost of $18 million - that's $31 million in local investment for 300 new buses providing region-wide reliable bus service, compared with the $100 million invested in WES for just 1,200 daily riders (600 unique riders) for just a few hours a day, weekday rush hours only.

    14. Require additional fares for express service. (Most transit services require a premium fare for express trips.) Consider a purchase of 20 MCI D4505 buses (similar to a Greyhound bus) for express routes so that express bus riders will feel like they're getting "better" service (they don't cost that much more than a regular transit bus, about $400,000 each - see above. They are very popular on Tacoma to Seattle express buses. Also with express buses, better utilization of the buses - currently each express bus only "makes money" less than 50% of the time they are on the road, because they spend too much time deadheading from garage to assignment, from Portland back to the 'burbs (or vice-versa), back to the garage...)

    15. Reduce or eliminate overlapping bus service in Streetcar areas.

    16. Consider outsourcing the less patronized neighborhood routes to the LIFT provider, using LIFT buses (that get two to three times the fuel economy as TriMet's larger buses, yet still seat about 20 riders.)

    17. LIFT costs need to be brought down, period. Why does TriMet need to use those large mini-buses for just one or two people; why not use more sedans and mini-vans? Consider farming more of the work to the various non-profit organizations that provide the same or similar service.

    18. Eliminate ALL out-of-city travel by TriMet employees. If they need to attend a major conference, they have internet access and a webcam. (Hey, why not cut TriMet's office internet access?)

    Monday, January 18, 2010

    The Stump - http://www.oregonlive.com/opinion/

    Posted by SP Red Electric
    January 17, 2010, 8:43AM

    Here's another analysis, from someone who has lived in the Portland area almost all his life.

    Another interesting survey shows that Portland is one of the most depressed cities in the nation - depressed, as in sad and gloomy, not economically. Maybe it's that Portlanders are so accustomed to what we have, that we don't bother fighting for something better. Sure we take a good idea from elsewhere (i.e. light rail, bike paths - two things we certainly did not invent, but they're something we do a lot of), but when we screw something up we don't bother complaining about it. We just accept mediocrity and plan our lives around it.

    Portlanders that move - yes, they move to a better place. But when it's sunny and warm you have certain expectations. No, Los Angeles is not a resort city. New York is jammed full of people. Europe costs sky high. Meanwhile, folks who move to Portland find a lack of jobs, it rains a lot, it's hard to get places (despite Portland's assertion that you can live without a car - it's possible, but it is in Los Angeles, Houston and Atlanta, too.) Yes, Portland is close to the beach and the mountains and the Columbia River, but not everyone surfs and skis. If you have a great job here and enjoy the nature, I'm sure Portland is a great city for you and that's OK.

    Another reason we don't complain much is because of apathy. How many people in East Portland bother to vote? How many of them voted last year for President, and how many voted for Mayor? (A lot fewer participated in the Mayoral race.) Many people are just tired of the divisiveness in our local decision making, where a small minority of folks have a huge voice, while the majority of residents are ignored. The per-capita income in Portland is less than $30,000; yet you wouldn't know it by our housing and development plans that frequently ignore the average Portlander, but spend a great amount of detail to attracting well-to-do outsiders to live in the Pearl and SoWa. There are only 136,259 owner-occupied homes in Portland, and another 100,000 rental properties -- that's a full 10% more rental properties in Portland than the U.S. average. We have a school district that is one of the worst - there's a reason families are fleeing for Washington County, where the Beaverton and Hillsboro school districts have been growing and building new facilities at the same time Portland is shutting down and consolidating schools. And when the public tries to speak - the school board shuts the public up.

    Our transit system is a perfect example: if you're a Streetcar rider, you are considered a "choice rider" by TriMet. But if you're a bus rider, you get socked with service cuts, poor service, an aging bus fleet...it's the perfect example of "separate but equal". Yet...TriMet's board is unelected and few have the time to be able to attend a TriMet board meeting (one of the few actually scheduled during working hours, instead of the evening hours when the public is more capable of attending).

    Portland has its good points, and its bad points too. Portland is not the greatest city - I don't know what is. It depends on what you are looking for; what's great to one person is not to another. I grew up here, my family is here, my roots are here - that's why I'm here.

    Wednesday, January 13, 2010

    http://www.oregonlive.com/news/index.ssf/2010/01/under_force_of_recession_trime/2382/comments-3.html

    I would like to know how much of the ridership decrease is actually not related to "the economy" but rather TriMet itself.

    Bus service has not seen any improvement, yet TriMet continues to roll out the red carpet for MAX and WES riders.

    Buses are old, becoming more unreliable, and now thanks to TriMet's financial situation are less frequent. Not to mention that a lot of self-inflicted pain thanks to TriMet - how much NEGATIVE news coverage, much of it directed right at the bus system - has TriMet received? And more importantly - does TriMet even bother to counter any of it with positive spin, or even positive advertising? When is the last time TriMet actually advertised the bus system? It's been a very, very long time. But they have no problem with "WES WORKS! Celebrating one year of Westside Express Service" - even though WES is widely regarded as a failure.

    TriMet likes to play with the MAX numbers - yes, a certain amount of ridership increase would be expected with a new line; but how much of that ridership increase came at the expense of ridership declines on bus routes like the 72? And how about ridership numbers for the Green Line specifically south of Gateway TC - versus the other routes? It is pretty apparently that much of the ridership on the Green Line are simply riders on the core system (Rose Quarter to Gateway) that simply board a Green Line train out of convenience - the one place where TriMet has boosted service frequency (with trains now every five minutes instead of seven to eight minutes). And yet...total MAX ridership is only up over one percent.

    How much bus ridership was lost due to the negative news coverage about TriMet eliminating Fareless Square for bus riders?

    How much bus ridership was lost due to the loss of Fareless Square? Sunday bus service? I would place a bet that much of the ridership loss was due to nothing but press coverage, and former bus riders giving up on TriMet even if their own route was not affected, or not as affected (i.e. less frequency but still service seven days a week.) And how much bus ridership was lost solely because of people giving up on the poor service TriMet offers to its bus riders?

    San Francisco - most certainly impacted by the economy and its shattered housing market - posted a ridership GAIN in the last few months. Los Angeles has reported ridership gains. And C-Tran, which would seem to be affected EQUALLY as TriMet, reported a 4.2% rider increase?

    (source: http://www.thenewstribune.com/news/northwest/story/1024721.html)

    Certainly, if C-Tran, which serves the one county in Washington with the worst unemployment rate, and connects to a city that appears to have lost so many jobs, can raise ridership - and do so by having a bus only transit system (and one with a fleet of new Hybrid buses)...TriMet is definitely doing something wrong.

    King County Metro (which serves Seattle) had a 6% decrease in its bus only transit system (not including Sound Transit Central Link or Sounder commuter trains or buses).

    Losses of 6% in Seattle, 15% in Portland.

    Clearly, Portland transit riders are giving up on TriMet. TriMet is a choice for many people, and many people are voting not with their jobs, but with their cars (and, admittedly in Portland, their bikes as well - bike ridership has actually gone up as a percentage of trips taken equal to the percentage of transit trips that have gone down.)

    Saturday, January 2, 2010

    ERIK HALSTEAD ON DOWNTOWN CHANGES

    sp_redelectric
    Posted by SP Red Electric
    January 01, 2010, 9:33PM

    The TriMet board voted 6-1 in August to start charging for buses in the zone, saying the new system would help the agency by bringing in additional revenue.

    Yet TriMet still gives away free MAX rides, still subsidizes the City of Portland Streetcar (which is not a TriMet function) to the tune of $3 million annually - with an additional $2 million earmarked for eastside loop operations, gives away free Vintage Trolley rides, gives away free parking at the Park & Ride Lots (most of which are near MAX stations), stopped charging for boarding bikes on the bus bike racks, and still pays some $20 to $30 per boarding ride for WES because its costs are astronomical.

    TriMet continues to employ staff whose job is to do nothing but plan capital intensive MAX lines to Milwaukie and Vancouver; while we have one of the oldest, least reliable, most maintenance-intensive, and most fuel-guzzing, carbon polluting bus fleets in the United States; many of the buses which carry full loads (and when doing so, actually return a profit to TriMet).

    TriMet had no problem paying "retention bonuses" to managers who ended up leaving TriMet, buying transit supervisors shiny new sport utility vehicles, and spends millions on "art". And TriMet added a "Mall Shuttle" MAX train whose job is to do nothing but run circles up and down the Transit Mall - even though there are already Green and Yellow Line trains which do the same thing every 7-8 minutes. Each of those shuttle trains runs entirely in fareless square, so those trains cost TriMet over $300 per hour to run, and collect not a single penny in revenue. (In comparison, a bus costs about $60 per hour to run.)

    So, TriMet will get $600,000 a year by charging bus riders (many of whom will just board the "free" MAX trains), so TriMet probably won't even see a revenue increase out of this - but will get to claim more MAX ridership to further its goal of discriminating against the bus system and its riders - by giving away free MAX service while making bus riders pay for a substandard service. It would be like TriMet owning a restaurant chain - placing restaurants similar to McDonald's in most of the city, and restaurants similiar to McCormack & Schmick's in a few select areas - but charging the same for a hamburger (despite the clearly obvious difference in quantity and quality.)