Sunday, August 29, 2010

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Hey Wait a Minute, This is a Metro Bus!

"Yes Sir, but it is still a Sound Transit Route".

This is the common response being heard a little extra these days as Metro buses appear to be taking over the Sound Transit routes. Why the confusion? Well, METROs Fares page does say "Metro Paper transfers are only valid on Metro buses". So this leads to the confusion when a Metro bus is substituted in, and when one ST route overlaps a Metro route, and not everyone reads signs, just notices the equipment, it makes it a bit harder for the operator to explain.

As of late ST Buses that serve the east routes have been caving in left and right , leaving no choice but to run the service with Metro equipment, From Metro Hybrids to the D60s and even a few Gillig 3200's. 13 brand new shiny ST Hybrids are about to take to the streets shortly, and a handful more are on order! In the meantime, you may get a variety of equipment so Sound Transit and Metro can still get you there.

As a reminder, Sound Transit Routes do NOT accept paper transfers. If you have an ORCA card, you can transfer between Metro and ST as you always have.

METRO transfers are only good on METRO routes, nothing else, .......well, maybe a bookmark too.

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.

Erik Halstead Editorial on the Bond Measure

Read about it here

I Agree!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Community Transit by Numbers

In CEO Joyce Eleanors Letter to the public in regards to service cuts, she said the agency needed to chop Sunday Service in order to save $13.6 Million. She said they worked hard to look at Service cuts and reductions. Well This blog post is to tell you what they didn't look at, Overtime!

In 2009 Community Transit paid out $2.8 million in Overtime to Coach Operators and Transit Supervisors. Just Overtime. 16 Operators made over $20,000 in Overtime, 3 made more than 35,000, and the top overtime earner made over $48,000 in just Overtime. Overtime accounts for 9.56% of the total wages for Operators, and 13.47% for Supervisors. Also, 100% of Supervisors had over time, Average OT was $13,364. 94.5% of operators had overtime averaging $5,925. Only 5.5% of operators had no overtime, this includes PT.

As Far as regular wages, the top earner made $112,639, plus $48,140 in OT for a total of $160,779.

Another Note to make, the CEO, Joyce Eleanor, Makes the Highest wage for a CEO in a Transit Agency in the Puget Sound at $204,341. Its only second in the Northwest behind TriMets CEO in Portland.

Compare to METRO? Sure, Kevin Desmond Makes $172,768. Only 6.22% of Operator Wages are Overtime with an average of $4,291. I do not know the Supervisors statistics at this time.

CT only has about 400 operators, and has $2.23 million in OT. Supervisors add about $500,000 to that, I see other places they can cut, besides service. Also, as a side note, the Overtime could fund 28 new regular operator positions at CT, Minus a few for the cost of benefits.

No Fare Metro Blog

Theres a blog I recently found, called No Fare Metro.

It's slogan is "Exploring the viability of a free bus system in Seattle". While it does have articles on Fare-Free Transit, It also features news rolls, and an article or two relating to Drivers wages. So far, most seem to be just passing on news articles, instead of opinion or editorial pieces. One thing I am surprised it does not touch on, is the RFA.

You can check it out, and see what you think, I am not really sure where it is headed just yet.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

A Low Balance Clipper Card still rides

In the Bay Area, riders on AC Transit and Golden Gate Transit have been able to use a Stored Value Card called Translink for a little while now. They have now changed the name to Clipper Card, and added SF Muni, BART & CalTrain.

In reading about this, a change to using your card on SF Muni I thought was pretty nice for card holders who might have depleted their funds. As long as you have $0.01 on your card, and you tap, you will still be able to ride. Here in Seattle, the ORCA card will let you ride, but you owe the difference as a cash fare if you don't have enough. On Clipper, the system essentially "Overdraws" your card. If you have $1.00 on your card, and it is a $2.00 ride, your card will be overdrawn $1.00. Next time you reload it, lets say with $20, you will have $19 available. I personally think this is a nice feature. With so many people going cashless, this helps if you don't have any cash because you can reload with your card later, or make plans to have cash, instead of being caught with not enough to ride.

A down fall to SF Muni, this should help some complaints about transfer times with ORCA, Clipper only gives you a 90 minute transfer period. So ORCA card users should be happy with the 119 minute transfer time they have.