Saturday, July 24, 2010


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.


Erik Halstead

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


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



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?