Saturday, August 14, 2010

Editorial: TriMet losing points fast

TriMet was named "Americas Best Large Transit Agency" by the APTA is 1989. A title TriMet has not earned since. Why? Well we can examine why San Diego won the award for 2009. "MTS has also substantially renewed its bus fleet, adding 224 new vehicles over the last three years." In the last 3 years TriMet has added 40. They have not even added as many new buses in 10 years! And now, they want a bond measure to buy new buses, coincidentally 2 weeks after the Milwaukie MAX line funding was shorted.

San Diegos award continues on "On the labor front, MTS re-negotiated union contracts that resulted in higher starting pay for new hires and for top-step bus operators, but implemented significant work rule changes that resulted in reduced absenteeism, limited overtime, and savings that allowed MTS to completely absorb the higher pay." TriMet can not agree on union contracts, because it can't get its money affairs in order. This hurts employee moral, which trickles down to the riders, and makes it un-enjoyable. One last note on why San Diego got the award "During the last three years, ridership climbed 12.3 percent from Fiscal Year 2006 to FY 2008. Fare revenue jumped 12 percent over the same time period and subsidy per passenger decreased 14.1 percent. Farebox recovery increased to 38.4 percent in 2008". TriMet continues to experience a loss in riders, mainly because they are cutting essential bus service & running unreliable equipment, that people want to avoid. The "I love MAX" mentality TriMet management has will fail if buses keep disappearing, like it or not.

A TriMet bus driver runs over 5 pedestrians, TriMet still, has not technically fired the driver. She was placed on Administrative Leave. If you hit a pedestrian in a crosswalk here in Seattle as a bus driver, they tell you "That will end your career here". This is the same as PPD Officers getting off scott free after killing someone for no good reason (as viewed by the public).

A TriMet bus hits a Bicyclist. Fortunately the Bicyclist will be OK. This is shortly after the pedestrian incident, which occurred after the GM planned to roll out a safety program. It also appears to be a left turn accident. This can only say the safety program either still is inefficient, or nothing has changed.

HUGE Service cuts continue to be targeted to bus riders. Cancelation of more routes, the Westside hardly has any service on weekends! This last round, after about 3 or 4 rounds, finally include MAX, but still fails to include one of TriMets lowest ridership/highest cost lines, WES. Meanwhile, the Feds cut back funding for the new MAX line, so now they are going to try and "Make it work". In other words, force it. Instead of trying to "Force" the finds to bus service, that is see if they can re-direct the money for a new fleet, bus stop improvements and more. New bus service and equipment is essentially a capital project. Lets not forget the slap in the face purchase of 4 Hybrids, thats can be trashed on line 72. C-Tran has more hybrids, and are a much smaller agency.

The agency is wasting taxpayer resources controlling blogs ran by employees. Dan Christensen and Al Margulies have both been called into meeting to talk about their blogs. Its these individuals way to expressing themselves, leave them alone. Technically, it is not TriMets place to tell anyone, including employees, what they can say about anything on their personal blog (unless it releases sensitive confidential information).

The money being spent is being viewed by many as not being spent wisely. Ridership is down, Fares are up, Service is being cut. But hey, they have TransitTracker by text now, with ADs! It is not exactly a way to earn points, the biggest point loser for TriMet in my opinion is the lack of respecting the public response. The public does not want light rail right now, they want buses, and a bond measure is the wrong way to go about it when you have a light rail project no one wants right now, in limbo. WES still runs far below expectations, despite being the FOCUS of the public response, nothing was done. Once you, TriMet, start listening to your passengers, you will see changes for the better, and TriMet wont always have a negative item attached to it. One way to open up to the public, is to open up TriMet. Agencies such as Sound Transit and BART publish the Board Meeting Videos online, Sound Transits CEO writes a weekly email on what they have done and what they have spent, its an idea TriMet should embrace.

I will say, I have seen more of the new GM in the news representing the agency more than Fred Hansen ever did, and I think that is a step in the right direction, but he still has a long way to go to remove the impression Fred left.

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