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Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Dear Tri-Met board of directors

Specifically, Richard Van Beveren, Tiffany Sweitzer, George Passadore, Sue Van Brocklin, George Richardson, Lynn Lehrbach, and Robert Williams:

The situation with the fare machinery on MAX has become completely intolerable. I think it may be time for someone like this abused passenger to see you in court. If I were the judge, I'd declare the entire MAX completely fareless until you got off your duffs and came up with a program that fixed the machines and kept them fixed.

You could take the costs of the repair and maintenance program out of this fellow's salary.

With friends like you, mass transit doesn't need enemies. It's time for a "MAX rider's bill of rights." If you won't draw one up, maybe our readers will.

Comments (24)

Yeah, totally agree with you on this one. The ticket machine reliability is really quite poor... give all riders the means to actually PURCHASE tickets (both cash & card, since this society is moving more towards plastic).

This is so comical. The whole agency including the Tri Met board of directors are really an incompetent lot. They will get a little more heat and then sacrifice Hansen, who will be off to pursue other interests. After he is gone, a national search will bring on another flake. Nothing much else will change, that bureaucracy will just keep rolling on.

Funny -- I have had many bad experiences with TriMet's inability to collect fares, which forced me to either 1. be a reluctant criminal or 2. miss whatever appointment I'm trying to make via mass transit. or 3. skip the whole thing and drive instead.

Upshot: in a city with otherwise great mass transit, I typically choose stress avoidance over environment responsibility, and pick option 3.

I've expressed this to TriMet customer service numerous times, and I have always been amazed at their obtuseness in denying the problem. I've been told at various times by Trimet customer service to do all of the following when the ticket dispenser doesn't work:

--just get on the train and don't worry about it

--get off at the next station and buy a ticket

--record the dispenser number and tell the fare inspector when you get busted

--you should purchase packs of tickets at Fred Meyer- those ticket machines never work

--it's your responsibility to obtain a ticket. If a dispenser doesn't work, you just need to find an alternative.

All very helpful, don't you think?

It's amazing to me how a fairly minor glitch in usability can break a whole system. ...and so far, TriMet has been completely deaf to this issue. Unfortunately, the recent violence on the trains only feeds the zero-tolerance attitude they have to fare avoidance, and places more regular riders at the mercy of their broken machines and seedy rent-a-cops.

For the two years I lived in the East Bay and commuted to San Francisco daily for work, I never once had any trouble paying my fare on BART. If something was broken, a ticket agent was there manually taking money.

Of course, having an agent there taking money would not be in the spirit of the honor system.

Since I only use MAX once or twice a month now, I buy a ten pack of tickets. When the validators at the Gresham Central Transit Station were broken for almost a year, I simply got a transfer from a bus driver. I know a bus isn't always handy at every stop, but this method worked for me.

The inspectors were swarming at the Hollywood stop yesterday at 5:30. Safety in numbers, I guess.

God bless my employer for buying me an annual Tri-Met pass so I don't have to deal with the ticket and validation machines. I take MAX and/or a bus to work every weekday, and so we only need one car. I'm thus a big Tri-Met supporter.

But this fare problem is ridiculous, especially at a time when more people are using they system due to high gas prices. There aren't as many fare inspectors for the system you would expect for the number of passengers it carries. That and the devil-may-care attitude about broken vending machines shows you the low priority Tri-Met puts on collecting fares. If Tri-Met actually had to survive on fares rather than taxes, you can bet we'd have a division of inspectors and every machine would be fixed lickety-split.

Maybe the state Legislature needs to intervene in this one.

I travel frequently for work and use mass transit when available . I have yet to encounter ticket machine problems in other REAL cities, like I do here in Portland.

If anyone ever has any complaints they can call Tri-Met Customer Service Supervisor @ 503 962-2444 and ask for Tim Ennis.

A couple of times when I've run into broken ticket machines, I've snapped photos of the broken message on the screen on my phone, just in case the ticket Gestapo came calling.

Thank goodness in 8 months of riding MAX to work before I moved to inner Southeast, I *never* saw anyone checking fares...

If anyone ever has any complaints they can call Tri-Met Customer Service Supervisor

GMAFB. It isn't as though they haven't heard all about the broken machines. It's time to stop the snow job and start fixing the problem.

I'd hardly call the whole organization inept because of some malfunctioning ticket machines. Considering the overwhelming size of the trimet organization with thousands of miles of bus route and hundreds of miles of rail, a handful of broken machines each day hardly seems like the end of the world.

Easy fix? Put the fare machines from the buses right on the MAX trains. I've never encountered a broken bus fare meter.

The solution to this constant problem is something that every other city with a rail system uses: hire a human being to sell tickets in a little booth. Sure, go ahead and have machines, too, but when they break down or when you need change, you to to the ticket booth. And, hey, they can also give you verbal information on connections and directions to out-of-towners.

Installing a ticket booth and hiring maybe 100 ticket agents would probably cost less, in the long run, than continuously upgrading and repairing the machines. I don't get this mindset of buying expensive machines to do things not as well as a person.

Obviously, there would have to be some psychological screening in the hiring process, so that the security guard bozos aren't employed in a service capacity. But there are a lot of young people moving to this town without jobs and they can't all be employed slinging caffeine.

Yeah, just make sure the agents are in bullet proof booths.

I had a bus driver berate me because I was a nickel short of the required fare.

Driver: Would Safeway let you buy something if you were a nickel short?

Me: Safeway can make change from a $20 bill.

She let me ride, but listening to her yammering made it the most expensive nickel of my life.

Time to update that 1960s slogan used on Ma Bell;

"We don't care. We don't have to. We're Trimet". Bumper stickers anyone?


As a business owner who has paid thousands of dollars in TriMet Business Taxes, I'm amazed the cretins that run TriMet haven't devised a turnstile system for access to their trains. Virtually every other transit system in the country uses one. Why not these scum at TriMet? If nothing else, it would keep the non-fare paying bums, drunks, and assorted low lifes off the trains. Also, I agree that it's way past time to have an independent investigation of TriMet. Hey George - get on the ball or I post your personal home phone number all over the net!

Didn't some Port of Portland traffic 'wavers' drag a guy out of his car window a few years ago for being a little mouthy? How long before Tri-Met employees rough up someone for a wisecrack and have to give him the equivalent of four or five fare inspector salaries. This one could have gone that way.

At least riders can depend upon MAX to arrive on time and actually stop at its stations. The chronic problems I've experienced with Tri-Met have to do with buses that don't show, are late, are early (WORSE) and who sail right by unless you're practically out in the street with a flare in each hand.

There's no way a rider can win. If you get right on the curb and wave, the driver chews you out for not staying back from the curb. If you don't get out to the curb or street and wave, the driver chews you out for not giving them enough indication that you want to ride. If you complain that the bus arrived 5-10 minutes early as you were approaching the stop, drivers say that you should be at the stop at least 15 minutes before the bus is expected. Yup and that only makes it more frustrating when the expected bus doesn't come at all and there is an additional 1/2 hour wait for the next one.

This isn't the only place it happens, but an example: In St. Johns just east of the Safeway, there is a #4 and #44 stop. Anyone who rides Tri-Met knows that there must be a million #4 buses an they seem to pass by almost constantly. There are usually at least two #4 buses laying over at the stop, blocking the stop itself and leaving nowhere for arriving 44s to pull up next to the curb. Riders have grown used to anxiously staring up the road so that they can run to the middle of the road and flag the bus down. If they don't, it will drive by because the driver can't see through the #4 buses to where the riders are waiting. Unfortunately elderly or disabled passengers can't do that. One of my friends who is 65 and uses a motorized wheelchair has been repeatedly left at the curb at this stop.

Oh, and gotta love those $2.05 fares. Whoever came up with that figure wasn't thinking of the customer's convenience.

Don't worry. It will be rounded off to $3 in no time.

It is true that the continuously unreliable fare machines, like many of even the smallest and commonest of problems, is an issue that only the people at the top are empowered to address. Which makes the most bewildering chapter of her story the part where she initiates contact with the fare inspectors. Hilarious. Where does she think she is, the spa deck of a cruise ship? Maybe she should have flagged down a police officer to help her in her distress. Unbelievable. I guess it's hard to remember Jose Santos Mejia Poot if you've never heard of him.

If you have a problem with the ticket machines or the ticket-validating machines - just get on the next train anyway. Use the intercom to alert the driver of the problem. Usually they will pause at the next stop long enough for you to purchase/validate a ticket. I've done this many times, as the ticket validating machine at my MAX stop doesn't function about 50% of the time.

Use the intercom to alert the driver of the problem. Usually they will pause at the next stop long enough for you to purchase/validate a ticket.

Are you kidding? I just get on the train and have a seat. If they ever hassle me (about 1-in-1,000,000 odds), I'll take my chances with a judge.

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