With last month's hastily approved 30-day negotiating window about to close, TriMet and Mayor Sam Adams' office this morning announced a new deal to preserve free bus and rail trips for Portland Public School students.
The deal—which Adams obtained after threatening TriMet with steep fee hikes that he would use, in turn, to pay for the passes on his own—means the transit agency will now have to give up $1.8 million in fair revenue to keep the its Youth Pass program running. Portland will chip in $200,000 and PPS will spend close to $1 million of its own cash.
It's something of a victory for Adams, criticized in some corners for playing hardball with TriMet. Adams insisted his office and TriMet management had agreed to a handshake deal in which the city wouldn't raise a stink over the demise of the equally vital Free-Rail Zone downtown and out to Lloyd Center so long as TriMet plowed those savings into keeping the Youth Pass program alive.
It's not exactly clear yet where each agency will come up with the extra money. I'm still waiting to hear back from TriMet, which by far is taking the biggest hit. Update 1:05 PM: TriMet spokeswoman Mary Fetsch says TriMet is "looking for internal savings to cover the loss in fare revenue," and not, I'm inferring, more service cuts.
The Oregonian has posted a copy of the agreement, which it says is headed to city council next Wednesday. The deal runs through the school year that ends next June. And according to a statement sent out by Adams's office and TriMet, the city, the schools, and the transit agency are all supposed to team up and press Salem for a more permanent solution to the weird fact that PPS kids are the only ones in the state who don't have a yellow bus.
Here's the statement:
Portland Mayor Sam Adams and TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane are pleased to announce a solution to continue the popular Youth Pass Program for the 2012-13 school year. Valued at $2.9 million, the Youth Pass provides free transit passes for the nearly 13,000 high school students in the PPS District who ride TriMet to get to class, to after-school activities and to work. TriMet and the City of Portland have agreed that the city will fund $200,000 of the program and Portland Public Schools (PPS) will fund $950,000. TriMet will absorb the program balance of $1.8 million in foregone fare revenue.
Over the past several weeks, TriMet and the City have been working together to ensure that PPS high school students have transit access in the only Oregon school district where high schools are not served by yellow school buses. The partners have agreed to work together to identify future sources of funding and ways to lessen the budget impact to both agencies.
“TriMet is a top-tier transit agency and a valuable community partner. I am grateful for their collaboration to ensure that Portland Public’s high school students get to class, activities and jobs - and most importantly, graduate from high school on time,” said Mayor Sam Adams. “This next generation of TriMet riders thanks them as well.”
“TriMet and the City are strong partners, and this agreement continues that partnership while maintaining this valuable transit program moving forward,” said TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane.