Thursday, December 1, 2011

Will McFarlane ever get up the nerve to meet with Erik?

Mr. McFarlane,

As a DAILY bus rider, I echo your sentiments that the vast, vast majority of TriMet employees are good, decent, hard working individuals. They get up each day, drive me and my fellow riders to work safely and back home again at night. They deal with other motorists that seem to think that a 20 ton brick-on-wheels can stop on a dime; riders who are lost or get on the wrong bus, punks that think the F- word yelled on a bus is perfectly acceptable, parents who can't control their children...oh, the list of things that happen on a bus each and every day.

That's where I'll end the agreement.

Each day, I get on a bus that is 21 years old. And those Operators are at the mercy of that bus, and hope that the mechanics went through it the night before. More often than not, something breaks. Who gets the complaint? The Operator does.

Dispatch fails to keep tabs on the buses and doesn't re-route buses appropriately. Who gets the complaint? The Operator does for getting stuck in traffic.

Dispatch creates a re-route, but doesn't inform riders or doesn't dispatch a Supervisor to pick up stranded riders. Who gets the complaint? The Operator does for driving off-route.

Each day, dozens of scenarios happen in which the Operator gets charged the complaint, but the problem has nothing to do with the Operator.

And despite your leadership, and that of your infamous predecessor, NOTHING HAS CHANGED.

TriMet's bus service has been, and continues to be, an afterthought. There's never any money to replace buses that should have been replaced nine years ago (and federal funds would have paid 90% of the cost) - but there's money panels? No money for bus stop replacements...but TriMet can buy a fleet of Chevrolet Equinoxes? No money for basic service...but money to launch a new light rail line, a commuter rail line (whose operating costs are seven times that of a bus), and still money to hand off to the City of Portland for a Streetcar?

If TriMet is really changing its culture for the better, I'm not sure how. What TriMet is doing is forcing its dedicated Bus Operators to put on a happy face despite all that TriMet's management throws at those same Operators. They are forced to be the public face, when they are the ones that have no control of what they have to deal with - and worse yet, they have to get the blame when they couldn't have done anything.

You have my name, my address, my phone number - you know what route I ride, and what trips I'm on. That's because I post it to each complaint to 238-RIDE or And each time I am told I'll get a response...and I rarely do (and often times the response is so untimely and irrelevant I've just given up.) I have asked, repeatedly, to meet with you in person to discuss service issues that affect me and my partner riders each day on TriMet's bus system.

There is no change in the culture. You remain, holed up in an office behind locked doors, leaving your Operators to fend for themselves. You refuse to accept responsibility; to demand accountability. Your Operators are being scapegoated for the actions of you, your leadership staff and the front-line managers that refuse to do their part. At the end of the day the buck stops somewhere and it has to be you - Neil McFarlane, General Manager of the Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon.

And so far, you're refused to make the change. YOU have refused to accept responsibility for your transit agency.

As I've said a million times before, I'll see you at 5th & Hall, at the line 94 stop, any weekday at 4:50 PM. I'll be waiting to see what change there is.

But I'm not always it is business as usual at TriMet. Bus service is an afterthought...while TriMet's management and leaders are too busy concoting light rail projects and cutting bus services.