Tuesday, February 15, 2011

TriMet wants money it could use for buses for Light Rail

TriMet, the agency so many outside of Portland praise, wants to use all the money it can get from a Flexible Funds Program to fund the Milwaukie Light Rail project. Doing this would not allow TriMet to obtain funds from it for 6 years for bus replacements.

This further proves TriMet wants to be a Light Rail agency, and wash their hands of bus service. Sadly, it doesn't surprise me. What is it going to take to get TriMet to use any funds it can get to replace buses that are barley holding on? I think the bus assignments should make sure that the oldest equipment runs on the routes upper management claims they take, maybe that will give them a better idea?

See the whole story at the Cascade Policy Institute Site.


Max said...

As I said on Al's blog, I wouldn't trust anything that comes out of the conservative Cato-institute funded Cascade Policy Institute or John Charles (who apparently doesn't believe that climate change is real either).

This is more than likely Cascade Policy institute's way of push an anti-transit agenda in any form.

Here's a question:
What sources have bus replacements come from in the past? Has it been this fund? I don't know the answer, but I wouldn't be surprised if the answer is "no".

punkrawker4783 said...

I did think it was kinda odd that this sort of thing came out of that place. At the rate TriMet moves tho, any anti-rail/pro-bus argument we have to highlight, and they wanted to provide the channel for that. Tho if it was reversed, I think it would say the same thing with Bus and light rail swapped. In the end its a valid point if its the truth.

Also i think "This fund" is new, but I could be wrong about that, but it sounds that way.

punkrawker4783 said...

Well, heres the ofical document to back this up, its true, TriMet wants bus money for Light Rail. ftp://ftp.odot.state.or.us/outgoing/OTC/02_February/Background/Agenda%20F%20-%20Flex%20Funds/Attachment%20A%20-%20Staff%20Report.pdf

Max said...

I did some research and actually the answer is a little more complex:

1) Yes, it is true that these funds could be applied for bus replacement (see the application FAQ)

2) No, TriMet didn't use this fund to purchase buses in the past, since the program is brand new (this is the first funding cycle).

3) This is not "bus money for light rail," since this fund was not dedicated to TriMet and TriMet had no guarantee they would have ever received the funds. Also this fund is not limited to bus investments.

4) Even if TriMet got the maximum award every year, that would only fund 4-5 buses per year; whereas TriMet's goal is to replace 40 buses per year.

So I guess I'd summarize it like this:
Yes, this is an bus-replacement "opportunity" that is now gone. TriMet may have been able to buy some buses using a grant from this fund, but wouldn't characterize this situation as a large portion of TriMet's bus replacement budget being given away for light rail funding. This fund may have helped fund bus replacement, but it would not have been a large portion of it.

punkrawker4783 said...

I guess the title is not exactly factual, but i guess just more to prove a point?

I would assume TriMet could ask for the same lump sum they are getting (6 years worth?) to purchase buses, so that would be 24-30 new buses. At this point in time, I think TriMet should be doing everything they can to build together bus money. Even if they only got enough for 5, why not add that to the 40 and get a few more? or try and group together other funds to build a better order? Its a great bus-replacement opportunity, but TriMet continues to show it will stop at nothing to make sure the MLR goes thru with out a hitch, even if that means taking money it COULD use for buses, and throwing at Light Rail. Thats my big problem here, and many of TriMets riders issue.

Thank you for summarizing, helps better understand the new program. =)

Max said...

I think maybe TriMet would have gotten funded a few times. I don't think they would have gotten the lump sum, or funded every single year for 6 years in a row -- IMO bus replacement wouldn't be seen as a sexy enough project.

But as you said, even if it only buys a few buses, every little bit helps; and this incident certainly shows which investments TriMet is prioritizing.

Mark Del Monte said...

I have to say though as I read more and more about Tri Met I am no longer thinking of them as the great agency they are made out to be. However this seems to be a problem of most agencies that have a Light Rail system. Flat out light rail looks impressive to the NIMBYS and the politicians. In turn said agency gets a pat on the back and an attaboy. Here in Sacramento we have no bus or train after 9pm and the bus that goes by my local level 1 trauma hospital stops at 6pm and not at all on Sundays. But yet we can build a light rail extension to the entertainment district that may or may not get built.