It's the trains, stupid
Tri-Met's general manager, Neal McFarlane (right), has been making the rounds trying to sell his story that the bus drivers' union is what's breaking his insolvent transit agency. We've expressed disappointment that the local mainstream media has run stories that allow McFarlane to make this case without also giving opposing views anything near equal time.
Some of the other side has now been aired -- the union's side -- in at least one later piece, in the O. But there's still been precious little discussion of our main gripe, which is that Tri-Met has trashed its bread-and-butter operations, buses, for excessive layers of "planners" and managers, and for dopey rail projects.
It's hard for us to believe that professional writers can interview McFarlane without crucifying him for the epically failed WES heavy rail project, of which he was in charge. That has turned out to be the biggest waste of money in the history of Tri-Met, and perhaps in the history of mass transit in this country. Then there's the empty east side Portland streetcar, and now the Mystery Train to Milwaukie, and next, the light-rail deck on the new bridge to the 'Couv -- a deck that most folks in that suburb don't seem to want.
And it doesn't stop there. Here he is on video, nattering about new capital projects "in the pipeline" for after that.
The local reporters and editors are also letting McFarlane off the hook on his bloated "planning" and management staff and his fancy new digs that are being set up at enormous taxpayer expense in -- surprise! -- one of Legend Dan Saltzman's buildings.
If the media in Portland were really interested in the truth, McFarlane would crawl out of every interview figuratively bruised and battered. But he's never really challenged.
When Tri-Met's hack board and its bungling management start talking rationally about terminating WES, slimming down their own house, and scrapping all their grandiose train plans for the future, maybe someone will listen to their whining about the unions. In the meantime, we find ourselves rooting for the bus drivers; although they are fat and greedy, they're far less of the problem than the dummies in the suits.
"Are we a health care provider or are we a transit agency?" McFarlane keeps asking, in a speech that he doubtlessly rehearsed to his poodle all last weekend. His performance has ensured that they are neither -- they're just enablers of construction pork projects and propagation of the Earl Blumenauer Fantasy World of shiny trains, crappy apartments, grown adults riding bicycles everywhere, and terrible roads.
They can keep interviewing McFarlane, but it's time for the smart people to look elsewhere and start seriously discussing what is going to replace Tri-Met, because it's not going to make it in its current form. Nor does it deserve to. And something tells us that the Goldschmidt Network, which has feasted off Tri-Met for years, already has a plan for picking the carcass in the inevitable Tri-Met bankruptcy. Taxpayers who have no more fleece to give had better begin coming up with a Plan C.
UPDATE, 3:24 p.m.: More on the management bloat, finally, here. On Friday afternoon, of course, when no one will see it. Meanwhile, WW today continues to drag out what should have been one story into an entire week of chopped-up bits.