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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Convergence is nigh

Regular readers here know that two of our favorite topics are election porn -- the tacky advertising material that one receives in the run-up to an election -- and Tri-Met -- the psychedelic transit agency, which is currently hallucinating about light rail to Milwaukie.

Well, it looks as though for the next several weeks, it's all going to come together.

Comments (13)

In May, Oregon voters approved Measure 68. This measure expanded the types of capital purchases that a general obligation tax levy could pay for. As a result, TriMet bus improvements became eligible for a bond measure.

Now wait just a minute...THAT measure was for the kids, not for buses.

Wow. On the one hand, it angers up the blood. On the other, you really have to hand it to them for being that sneaky. What else can we put on the credit card around here?

C'mon. It's for the former children.

Maintaining and upgrading the rolling stock should be a regular and planned portion of any transit agency's ongoing expenditures.

To put that up for special bonding is the sign of irresponsible management or fraud....or both. I suspect it is so that funding normally applied to maintenance will be diverted to other purposes...which I would bet are those which the general electorate would NOT support.

It's the same old ship...put the sacred cows up for a vote, while the pet pocket liners of the "friends and family programs" are shifted to the regular budget.

Next stop: No bid contracts!

How much public money was spent on staff time writing up and posting this lengthy plea? I bet it was enough to buy a new LIFT bus . . .

It's unseemly how much public agencies around here spend on PR and marketing. City of Portland agencies, and the Mayor's office in particular, are the worst. I understand why it happens, since any organization, like any person, wants to perpetuate itself, and one way it does so is by "educating stakeholders". But it's one thing for a CEO of a for-profit company to schmooze his or her investors with their own money, since they are free to take their money and invest somewhere else if they don't like it. It's another thing for a public agency to do it, since the taxpayers have no choice but to "invest" in the agency through their taxes.

When I pay my Tri-Met fare, I want it to go to running buses and trains, not lobbying. If the Tri-Met board and employees want to advocate for this ballot measure or any other issue, they should start an independent advocacy group on their own time and dime.

"measure expanded the types of capital purchases that a general obligation tax levy"

Code for water funds for bike lanes.

I got a Facebook "suggestion" this week to "like" the Yes for Transit page.

I selected "ignore." Ya know, kind of like what TriMet has done to riders, citizens and payers of the payroll tax.

I suggest that citizens of this region consider this Measure as a referendum on Milwaukie Light Rail. It is merely TriMet switching piles of obligated money around. They are attempting to take TriMet tax monies, grants, fares that should go to buses anyway and use it for MLR. Just vote "NO" against MLR on this Measure.

Lee, you're on the right track but in the wrong direction.

TriMet fully plans to go full bore with light rail, so does Metro.

You'll note, the last time TriMet district residents got a chance to vote on light rail (South|North) it failed. Yet, TriMet built Interstate MAX, Airport MAX, I-205 MAX, the Portland Mall MAX, WES, and now Milwaukie MAX is being planned - ALL without voter approval. But the bus system has taken a licking in the process.

This ballot measure is not a referendum on the light rail system. TriMet is abusing the election system and using this ballot measure as a referendum on the bus system. It knows it can't flat out ask us if we want bus service, because that is its mission. But by asking voters if they are willing to continue a property tax that was intented as an optional tax to fund a light rail expansion, and use that borrowed money for buses - if we vote "no" then TriMet will simply use that "no" vote to infer that we do not support the bus system, and it will continue its drawdown of the bus service, refuse to replace buses - AND will continue to expand the light rail system.

That...is the reason I'm voting NO! Not because I don't support the bus system - I entirely support it and use it each day. I'm voting "NO!" because this is a sneaky tactic by TriMet to reward TriMet and Metro for past fiscal mismanagement. TriMet had a responsibility to replace those buses; instead TriMet used the bus money and spent it on light rail projects that TriMet fully knew would cost more to operate but didn't have the revenue to operate; and TriMet did not ask voters for authorization to expand the light rail system. Further TriMet continues to operate the WES system that costs 7-10 times per passenger to operate than the "expensive" bus service; and refuses to either stop WES service altogether, or curtail much of the WES operations, and demand that its riders pay for the service.

And TriMet continues to refuse to answer the big question: Federal funding will pay 80% of the cost of a new bus, if TriMet simply submits a simple, routine application for it. Why is TriMet refusing federal funds for new buses and demanding that we pay the full cost - as well as pay AGAIN for our share of the buses? Why is TriMet refusing to come clean as to why it willfully and knowingly took money that was saved up for bus replacements, and squandered it for pet light rail projects? And if money is so tight, why is TriMet continuing the Milwaukie MAX and CRC projects - those projects could very easily be halted, the planners laid off, and the documents archived for use at a later date if and when the economy improves and money is later found to proceed with those projects. We needed those new buses six years ago...we can live six more years without building another MAX line.

One other comment...

Why did TriMet spend virtually none of its Stimulus dollars on the bus system?


TriMet received $53 million which could have purchased 133 new buses (40 foot, straight diesel, New Flyer D40LFR buses.) Instead, the money went to:

$1 million for bike parking facilities along the MAX line,
$1.3 million to repave 3rd and 4th Avenues ind downtown Portland,
$750,000 to replace the roof at the Elmonica MAX maintenance facility,
$1.5 million to install fences along the I-205 MAX corridor,
$740,000 to install lighting and perimeter fencing at the 82nd Avenue and Gresham Central MAX stations,
$310,000 to install ice caps on the overhead wire on the I-205 MAX line,
$2 million to repair brickwork on downtown Portland's Morrison and Yamhill Streets,
$50,000 to install air conditioning in an IT server room,
$3,054,000 to install lighting along the ODOT owned and maintained I-205 bike path,
$500,000 for pedestrian safety improvements near MAX stations,
$17.8 million for overall maintenance (including increased maintenance necessary for TriMet's older bus fleet - maintaining one of TriMet's older buses costs twice as much as maintainining one of the newer buses)
$1.7 million for MAX rail repairs
$270,000 to repaint MAX stations,
$1.2 million to install an "alternative energy" project at the MAX turnaround, which will produce enough power to power one two-car MAX train for two hours over a month's time,
$600,000 for a police station at Clackamas Town Center to provide MAX security,
$45,000 to repair "tactile pavers" at five MAX stations,
$200,000 for switch heaters along the I-205 MAX line,
$1 million for switch heaters elsewhere along the MAX line,
$125,00 for Transit Tracker signs along I-205 MAX line,
$939,000 for wayside horns in Tualatin to allow for a "quiet zone" along the WES line

What did the bus system get?
$435,000 to replace an underground storage tank at Center Garage,
$75,000 to fix a clogged storm sewer pipe at the Tigard Transit Center,
$360,000 to fix broken concrete at Merlo Garage,
$220,000 to fix broken concrete at Center Garage,
$3.2 million for the Milwaukie Park & Ride (which will also be used for MAX),
$13.5 million to construct a new fueling and washing facility at Merlo Garage,
$200,000 to install concrete parking areas on Foster Road for layover buses,
$250,000 to install Transit Tracker signs at "cross-mall" bus stops,

In other words, only $250,000 of the bus dollars actually benefit the rider. Other transit districts used the money to buy buses or improve bus stops (a major complaint about TriMet bus service - many bus stops are located on the shoulders of roads and lack anything else other than an simple sign. TriMet has actually removed schedule signs from many bus stops despite having installed new bus stop signs (a project which has ceased) with the specific purpose of having schedule information at all stops, and only one in eight bus stops has a shelter.

The subsidy for buses looks reasonable according to TriMet's advert for their bond measure. Does anybody have costs per rider on the 3 current MAX lines? I suspect that the subsidy is steep, especially on the Green line to Clackamas Town Center.

And has anybody asked TriMet to explain why they are asking us to pay for new buses if they can get 80% directly from the Feds per the post above?

Eric H, I agree with most of your thoughts, figures. We actually are in concurrence. Clackamas County Commissioners will soon put the urban renewal funding mechanism on the ballot, which is now Clackamas Co.s soul funding source for MLR. MLR is dying and maybe TriMet and Metro boards will start thinking about their true mission statements. Buses might have a future after all.

"We don't care. We don't have to. We are Trimet."

Hey Bluecollar - I heard Edith Anne was looking for you.... better watch out because Earnestine will be next...

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