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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on January 27, 2012 11:42 AM. The previous post in this blog was Pearlies' dream: 30-story apartment bunkers. The next post in this blog is Come up and see me sometime. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Friday, January 27, 2012

Tri-Met collapsing under its own train madness

Making it much more expensive for honest passengers to ride, all the while cutting bus service, is just going to accelerate the death spiral. Goldschmidt crony Fred Hansen parachuted out just before the plunge became obvious. Why his hapless successor took the gig is anybody's guess.

Tri-Met's allowed itself to be Blumenauered into oblivion. You'll have to ride a bike, because there won't be a bus, and the streets will be pretty much blocked to cars.

And now we're up to a five buck minimum entry fee every time we go downtown? The phrase "ghost town" comes immediately to mind.

Comments (28)

Amazing what Trimet could do if it had, I don't know, maybe $250 million, from the state or maybe the Lottery to improve its service. Hire more fare inspectors, restore frequent service, bring back the Fareless Square for bus service, buy some brand new buses and trains for the existing lines. Wonder where that kind of money could be found . . . Hmm. Well, anyway, off to do some errands in Milwaukie . . .

Read the article and the flat rate is something I've always thought would be a better idea. The zone idea has always been lame.

On the other hand, the idea of the pass only being good in one direction is ridiculous. And how on earth is a driver going to know what direction the rider is coming from or where they traveled on the first leg of their trip?

It's a sneaky way of doubling the fare without coming right out and admitting it; worse than one of the inchy-inchy fare increases.

Unenforceable.

These people are insane!

I don't know, maybe $250 million, from the state or maybe the Lottery to improve its service

The problem is that TriMet agreed NOT to seek state funding for new buses for five years as a part of the funding agreement for Milwaukie MAX. So between spending the money it collected as depreciation expense on the buses on MAX, and not being able to use state funding - it can't afford new buses that would actually LOWER its operating expenses...while building a new MAX line that will INCREASE its operating expense. (Think about it: A newer bus is cheaper to run than an older bus. A new MAX line has an operating cost that is greater than zero, the cost before the MAX line. Plus with the MAX line, you still have to run the buses anyways.)

That's why TriMet tried to pull the scheme to get taxpayers to pay for a bond measure to pay for...well, what TriMet was supposed to use its own internal cash reserves, plus available state and federal funding, for. But TriMet blocked those off in order to build a MAX line. And taxpayers weren't fooled. They voted "NO!" on the measure because of TriMet's financial situation.

And what does TriMet do? Why, it continues its light-rail-at-all-cost path, all the while complaining that buses cost so much more to operate (without addressing the fact that it has only itself to blame for the increasing costs of operation...)

Right now, TriMet doesn't need any more money. If anything, TriMet ought to just be flat out dissolved...let the individual cities or counties run the bus system, let Washington County deal with WES, let Portland deal with the Streetcar and the Yellow and Red Lines, turn the Blue Line and the Green Line over to Metro, and shut down all future light rail planning including a stop work order on Milwaukie MAX.

Wilsonville, Canby, Sandy and Molalla all showed that a city-run bus system is much more efficient - and customer focused - than a massive, heartless, faceless monstrosity that is beholden to developers and other governments before the citizens.

How many "low income" people from Gresham or Hillsboro ride all the way downtown, and how many of them are riding more or less locally to/from work or to run errands?

Also, this pretty much tips the scale in favor of driving on the rare occasions when I go downtown. Between the increased cost and the significantly longer travel time, MAX just isn't worth it any more.

Given the hypocrisy of having a public (albeit push-) poll as to what Tri-Met could do regarding its budget, then having a secret group scheming these fare increases, McFarland should be fired. And take half the management, and all of the deveopment folks with him.

I propose the term 'crisis' no longer be allowed in regards to education or public transportation in Portland.

They are permanent wrecks.

We need to keep in ind that the taxpayer already picks up about 75% of the actual cost of riding Trimet.

And Trimmet actually spends MORE on each daily user than it costs the average (under $70,000 income) American to own and operate a car.

Once you own a car, you seldom save money by using Trimet as $2.00 will take you about 8 miles in the average car.

The reality is that mass transit is very expensive. (And it uses more energy than small cars!)

Thanks
JK

Running TriMet on a profitable basis should be very easy. They have been given a monopoly by the local government and many of their customers have no other choices. Yet they still can't figure out how to make money!

That management team must be as dumb as a barn door.

Unions.

I have the solution for TriMet. Heck, it's one word:

Turnstiles

"We think this is a brilliant idea."

--Portland area used car dealers

"Running TriMet on a profitable basis should be very easy. They have been given a monopoly by the local government and many of their customers have no other choices. Yet they still can't figure out how to make money!"

The rule of thumb is that eighty percent of the cost of operating a transit system are personnel costs. Let your compensation package get far enough out of whack, and you can lose money no matter how much you charge.

We should be discussing what to do as TriMet collapses (what's next - a $10 fare round-trip?). We could allow the establishment of a jitney bus system - where private operators use small buses to transport people on fixed routes for a fixed fare. Jitney bus operators could make a decent living, given that they wouldn't be locked into TriMet's labor benefits package and huge bureaucracy.

There are many problems with the so called jitney bus operations - these include, but are not limited to - safety, responsibility (including drug testing), liabibility protection, compliance with ADA equirements, schedule coordination, and on and on. Jitney buses work if you're in Cruz Bay, but do not work well in larger cities. Anyone using the transit "system" in Moscow in the mid-90's probably knows what i am saying.

On the other hand, Tri-Met seems to be in a transit death spiral. Over-committed in huge long term capital projects and give-aways in labor contracts, Tri-Met is faced with a list of bad choices - all of which promise to make the Portland Area Auto Dealers Association and Big Oil very happy. There may be one bold option left....

Making its true assets and outstanding liabilities avaialble, Tri-Met could declare bankruptcy. The labor contracts would wither into history. The capital projects could be mothballed or permanently abandonned and a new organization with new leadership could be formed to carry on, hopefully with a focus on customer service, efficiency and the long term sustainable provision of transit services which ultimately support, if not boost, the economy.

Funny little state, Oregon. Anywhere you go, it is patently obvious that public transit must be a guarded resource, except in Portland. Paris, New York, anywhere, there is simply no way to get on to anything without paying, period.

Another example of Oregon's sickness of liberality; we only just got around to establishing a registry for narcotics-consumers, so that health professionals can know who they are dealing with. I had a guy once tell me his back was hurting because he helped carry a casket for a fallen soldier, killed in Fallujah, the day before. Always wary of unusual stories, I called my source at the Oregonian, and there had been no war-related burials in Oregon that month. I try not to get angry, as a general rule, but thinking this particular story over, I got ticked off and called the cops. The cop looked at the fellow's name and said...oh, I know this guy...he used to work on the police force...we had to fire him because of his drug problem...

So I was very happy to see the registry finally up and running. Except that every time I have tried to join the cyber-fold of persons allowed to view the list of users, I try the link and the page just refreshes. Eventually, I'm sure Oregon will have worked out the kinks and we will have a registry, and opiate-dependent folks will wise up and quit telling tall, sick tales.

"There are many problems with the so called jitney bus operations - these include, but are not limited to - safety, responsibility (including drug testing), liabibility protection, compliance with ADA equirements, schedule coordination, and on and on"

...its funny that we somehow have a functioning taxi system, despite the above issues.

Running TriMet on a profitable basis should be very easy. They have been given a monopoly by the local government and many of their customers have no other choices. Yet they still can't figure out how to make money!

Not to mention they are exempt from all taxes (income, property, and fuel taxes), don't have to pay for vehicle registrations (they have to pay a small one-time fee to DMV for the license plate), all of their capital investments are handed to them on a golden platter by the federal and state government, they aren't required to pay much of their infrastructure and puts their rail infrastructure on land owned by other entities...

Its the unions. They are even killing our Twinkies. Not that I want a Twinkie, its just knowing they were available should the need strike.

But then TriMet could offer free Twinkies as an incentive, boost ridership and save those union (Twinkie maker's) jobs.

frequent rider: There are many problems with the so called jitney bus operations - these include, but are not limited to -
frequent rider: safety,
JK: Require commercial driver’s licenses & driving history checks.

frequent rider: responsibility (including drug testing),
JK: Does Tri met drug test?

frequent rider: liabibility protection,
JK: It’s called insurance. All privately owned vehicles are required to have it to operate on Oregon’s public roads.

frequent rider: compliance with ADA equirements,
JK: Only if they receive Federal subsidies.
A better way of handling that whole issue is to recognize it as a needed public welfare and let the government pay door-door taxi (or jitney) fare.

frequent rider: schedule coordination, and on and on.
JK: Who needs a schedule? Taxi’s don’t have a schedule. There are many better options.

frequent rider: Jitney buses ... do not work well in larger cities.
JK: I read that New York has thousands of jitneys that work just fine in the low income neighborhoods. (Its just that they are not legal.)

frequent rider: Anyone using the transit "system" in Moscow in the mid-90's probably knows what i am saying.
JK: So what’s new - nothing works very well in communist countries.

frequent rider: There may be one bold option left....and a new organization with new leadership could be formed to carry on, hopefully with a focus on customer service, efficiency
JK: The root problem is that Trimet gets its money from politicians, instead of from riders. That makes them do what the politicians want done, instead of what the riders want done.

Thanks
JK

Forget about Jitney, with the highest per capita skin joints in the city, we should just incher to the title of "Bangkok of the West". Little zippy scooters and pedal cabs. With all that Chinese debt, would be could the North America spearhead of cheap copied Chinese crap sold here backwater.

Incher = "Inch"

Would be Could = "We could be"

Its been a long night folks, lol.

One thing that is interesting is that King County Metro owns a fleet of 1,000 minivans for vanpool service. TriMet was so inept at even running the carpool hotline that Metro turned it over - and has done not much better. Metro does partner with two companies (Enterprise Rent-a-Car is one of them) to lease out vans...

TriMet could purchase vans (even Sprinter vans, that could theoretically be assembled right here in Portland by Freightliner), then lease them to Jitney operators who would be given an assigned area to operate (with some overlap for competitive purposes). The vehicles would be maintained by TriMet (or TriMet contract companies); TriMet would provide insurance; the jitney operators would lease the vehicles and be responsible for fuel. Much like how liquor stores are operated in this state - they are privately run but publicly owned.

If a leasee doesn't do their job, they can be booted out and a new leasee takes their place.

You have consistency in service, you have safety, insurance, maintenance...and at the same time more and better service at lower cost.

I've posted this before, but some years ago I lived in Seattle and found Metro's bus service so well-routed, available, and affordable, I sold my car to save a ton of money.

A few years later I moved to Portland and found Tri-Met's bus service so ridiculously routed, poorly scheduled, and not very affordable, I was forced to purchase a car again.

Things aren't run right here.

I assume the price of WES is going up too? Just curious....

Mr. Grumpy wrote:
I was forced to purchase a car again.

I'm in the same position -- we were down to one car, and it mostly worked. Now I'm glad to get the second car back. Personal transportation = more freedom.

Now that crazy incentives (including Cash for Clunkers) are long over, there seem to be plenty of affordable used cars out there again.

Given what has been going on with TriMeth lately, I have the feeling that I'll be using it more often than I did before I got rid of it... and I can crank up the radio.

"Things aren't run right here."

Ya think?

Keep Portland weird.

TriMet should have dumped the zone scheme years ago. I've never understood the rationale for it, as a one-zone ride in the suburbs can take you much farther than a three-zone ride closer in. It also needlessly complicates things for newcomers, and the 30-cent difference has grown less and less significant as base fares have risen, to the point where several years ago I stopped buying 2-zone tickets. By using an all-zone ticket for every ride I avoid having to constantly choose which kind to use (and risk a fine or having to pay again if I use a 2 and then change my plans and go out-of-zone). I also don't mind the hike to $2.50 as that is in line with a lot of other systems. But jeez, TriMet, leave the transfer system alone. A transfer that's good just in one "direction" (in a multi-directional system) would confuse riders even more than the zone system does now.

The way it works in Seattle is a bit different but I actually like it.

On the buses, there are two zones - inside Seattle, and outside Seattle. During non-peak hours the zones don't make any difference - you pay $2.25, you get a transfer allowing you to continue on another bus.

During rush hour (6-9 AM and 3-6 PM) then you are subject to a peak hour fare. Travelling within one zone (either within, or outside, Seattle city limits) you pay $2.50. If you cross the city line you pay $3.00.

Note that this doesn't apply to light rail - because light rail is operated not by Metro but by Sound Transit. (Which gets interesting because in the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, you can ride a bus within the tunnel for free but not a train.) Light rail has a distance based fare. For $2.00 you can ride from Westlake Center to Beacon Hill...but to ride to Sea-Tac will set you back $2.75.

The current system is just over 15 miles...close to but slightly less than the distance from Portland to Gresham.

What I'd like to see is a simple $2.00 fare ($1.00 for children/honored citizens) on the bus with a two hour transfer. You can ride for 2 hours and then you pay a new fare. It's that simple.

On the Streetcar, it would also be $2.00 to ride, but it'd be for a single ride in one direction (you can't just stay on the Streetcar, you'd be required at the end of the loop to pay a new fare.)

On MAX, a distance based fare that starts out at $1.00 to board, and then it goes up from there. A maximum fare from Gresham (Cleveland Avenue) to Hillsboro (Hatfield Government Center) should be around $10. Maybe $8. The fare would be just for one trip on light rail, so transfers to a bus would require a bus fare.

On WES, the minimum fare should be $3.00 and go up to around $8 or $10 for a Wilsonville-Beaverton ride. Same thing - transfer to bus/MAX, pay a new fare.


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