Q&A: What the Hell is Going on With TriMet's Budget?


"TriMet loses $18 per ride on WES"
Anyone who ever looked at the original projections of Mark Hass's choo choo train knew about the outrageous cost and operating expenses of this project. Hass even said at a Beaverton NAC meeting that no public funds would be used. What a waste of time and effort. I can only hope that this derails Hass's political career.
Please, by all means, shut down WES. And maybe hold up on any new light rail expansion, regardless of who matching federal funds. Building it only half the battle; you have to maintain it as well.
They lose almost 30 dollars per ride on LIFT...
naive white libtards
Hey geniuses! Stop building rail lines!
God I hate Trimet. Stop paying administrators obscene amounts of money, stop paying fucking fare inspectors 67k, and let the suburbs pay for their own goddamn pet projects. The fact that our tax money is going to these idiots and they continue to cut their services and raise fares while asking us for more money through ballot measures pisses me off.
i've got a better idea.......let's raise the cost of riding the bus by a nickle. that will solve everything!
How about a ticket and a turnstile for the Max ?
My relationship with Tri Met is this reoccurring scenario involving a choice between a 20 minute wait in the rain for Tri Met service versus a 20 minute walk in the rain to where I gotta go.
So let me see if i've gotten this right: Trimet JUST RAISED fares last month - the 3rd (i think) consecutive Sept. that they've done so. And already are projecting yet another budget loss!? They're considering a mid-year hike and at the same time possibly cutting service ever more? Which would mean these following things:

Folks who currently wait an average of 20 minutes on the bus will continue to do so.
Whole bus routes w/ virtually NO stop i.d. no# (like the #71, 16, etc) will continue to not have any.
Bus stops in need if proper shelters will continue to be supplemented with a simple unmarked pole in the ground.
Buses will continue to be late half the time.

And they want to put part of the blame on unions? We're suppose to be heading in the OPPOSITE direction! Funny how there's never any discussion of budget cuts where it concerns defense spending, corporate spending, political fund-raising, prison-building, or mega-church construction. Only cuts and slashes when it comes to public transport, public education, social services, health care, and job creation.

And many idiots out there still wonder/mock what the Occupy movement is about.

The fareless square should be brought up again too...
They list "slow wage growth" as one of their three reasons for being over budget? I'm not clear on that. Were they predicting that the economy was going to pick up, and more people were going to start riding? Because that seems like a completely baseless prediction.
@Reymont Much of Tri-Met's budget comes from payroll taxes, where an employer pays a percentage of their overall payroll. So if wages go up then payrolls go up and tri-met's payroll tax revenue goes up. Currently the payroll tax is .6918%.
Reymont (@12), almost 60% of TriMet's funding comes from payroll taxes.
Thanks, folks. But still...on what grounds did they predict that local wages were going to grow? Did they really base their spending so far this year on the idea that Portland's economy was about to start growing?
apparently, yes
Cut the bio-diesel experiment and $1,000,000 will be saved on fuel, filter, and labor cost. Quit green washing like the windmills at the top of the green line and save another $2,000,000. The efficiency fleet modification program is saving 500,000 gallons per year so it Cost Benefits out. If they tried some CBA on their projects and trimmed the fat off management they could save a few million.

Or they could put in an rail district: all property within 1 mile of the MAX has to pay 1% property tax.
"Most of the money for capital projects has to be spent on capital projects."

Yuck. Don't give me any more of this "different colors of money" junk.

Pretty sure if TriMet weren't so hell-for-leather bent on building the orange line (why not just delay it until the economy bounces back?), they could avoid cutting bus lines and raising ticket costs.

Oh, and yes - how about turnstiles on MAX? How difficult could that really be?
Agree with Hobo #18 and others, turnstiles on all MAX stops -- and yes, get rid of Fareless Sq. -- will cut this budget shortfall in a few years. Coming from the East Coast, I was a bit surprised at how open MAX was when compared to other transit systems.

Yes, it will cost a lot of money upfront. But the retrofitting would pay for itself sooner than any small $.05 increases would in the same amount of time.

Turnstiles, eh?

1) What would it cost to retrofit our current MAX system with turnstiles, fences, etc? (Keep in mind how very open our system has been designed.)
2) How effective would this new system be at preventing freeloaders (e.g. people hopping over the turnstile)?
3) What percentage of MAX riders currently are freeloaders?
4) What percentage of those current freeloaders would choose under the new system to buy a MAX ticket, rather than find some other option?

I certainly don't have the answers to those questions, but I kind of expect people who think turnstiles are the solution to at least have a good guess. In my thinking it over, it's not at all obvious that turnstiles would be good for the bottom line.
Turnstiles sound extremely expensive to me. Altering current layout designs, installing the electricity lines under concrete or designing turnstiles with little solar panels, plus wouldn't they have to make different tickets to insert into the turnstiles? I'm sure there's tons of other expenses. That does not sound practical at this moment.

I do like the hotel tax idea. Out of state visitors won't mind too much- the novelty of no sales tax is still fun for them.
@tODD -

Well, I have an answer for at least #2 - An in-train turnstile system like other cities have would be about 100% effective at enforcing fares.
Reymont (@22), what cities? Some quick Googling on my part only turned up Moscow, although Wikipedia also noted that "This practice has caused numerous passenger complaints as it reduced the speed of boarding, compared to the traditional honor system." If you've ever seen the number of people attempting to cram on to the train at rush hour, you know that there's no way MAX could keep its current schedule if people were forced to board the train one at a time while validating tickets.

I still don't see how any turnstile system could be "about 100% effective". How do you allow people to exit the train easily? How do you prevent people jumping the turnstile? One answer could be hiring people to look out for this, but doing that would probably wipe out a lot of the savings. So how do these systems you're referring to work?
@reymont, TriMet bases their short-term payroll tax projections on the Western Blue Chip forecast.

They basically base their long-term projections, however, on the past. In my opinion, this is a big problem, because as you may have heard it isn't the 90s any more. Not just because we've lost that American vim or anything like that. Because our aging population is making the population dramatically less productive per capita. This isn't something you hear about in the national media, because TriMet's payroll tax funding structure is so unusual. It's a local problem that local elites haven't yet grappled with.

What happened here, I believe, is that the professionally forecast short-term projections caught up with the pulled-out-of-a-hat long-term projections and for various reasons found them ... wanting.

That said, of the three causes identified, the union-friendly legal ruling has a much bigger impact on TriMet's budget -- probably more than twice the size of the slow wage growth.
For my fellow tax policy nerds, here's a lot more about TriMet's long-term payroll tax problem.

I don't know answers to the questions about turnstiles, but wonder why they weren't implemented in the first place. Now we/they have to pay for Trimet cops to periodically board and check tickets.
Ya, nobody deserves to have decent health insurance in this country, AMERIKA, I keep forgetting that.

Thanks for reminding me Sarah.

But lots of folks, that work at Trimet, do deserve six figure salaries for sitting in offices and going to meetings all day long, gawd, how did I turn out so stupid anyway?