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

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