While Portland buzzes about impending Tri-Met service cuts to this part of town and that, a reader writes in to remind us that a good number of the transit agency's routing decisions have to do with extending its tentacles around local businesses to exact its dreaded payroll and self-employment taxes, which just increased to a record-high 0.6718 percent of wages or self-employment income. When the payroll tax was first enacted, it applied to any employer in the tri-county area -- Multnomah, Clackamas, and Washington -- but many businesses complained that they got no benefit out of their tax dollars. It was pointed out that the summit of Mount Hood was in the Tri-Met taxing district, and there was no bus up there.
The state changed the rules so that nowadays, the Tri-Met territory includes only two components: (1) all territory located within the boundaries of the Metropolitan Service District, and (2) any territory located within 2½ miles of a bus or train route. If you look at the Tri-Met service map and compare it to the Metro district map, you see a few bus routes that run waaaaaay out into the boonies, even beyond where Metro has jurisdiction. Check out that beauty in the southeast running all the way down to Estacada, for example -- I believe it's the 31. On either side of that bus line -- including on the other side of the Clackamas River -- Tri-Met gets payroll and self-employment taxes for 2½ miles.
And so when it comes time to cancel bus lines, you know for darn sure a few lines that they won't be cutting, no matter how wimpy the ridership. As our reader tells it:
Attached is part of the bus schedule for the Number 84 bus that comes within two blocks of my home. If I were to use this bus to catch MAX to go downtown everyday, I would have to catch it at 5:37am and return at either 3:15pm or 6:20pm. There is no service on the weekend.
I would like to say, I have never seen anyone ride this bus, but the truth is, I have never even seen the bus in my area. If any route should be cut, this one stands out to me.
I think the only reason Tri-Met keeps this line is to extend the Tri-Met boundary to catch some additional payroll tax for the businesses in my area. Since I work out of my home, I am within the range of the boundary and have to pay the self-employment tax to Tri-Met. Actually, I would still have to pay the tax even it this particular line were to go away, since the Number 80 bus has a stop about a mile away....
I should let you know that I am a frequent MAX rider. I usually drive to the Gresham park-and-ride stop where a gentlemen about my age was severely beaten last summer. For the most part, I have not had many problems on MAX except for the all too common rude language and the music you can almost hear (but not quite) from the iPods.