Open Letter to Our TriMet Passengers and Community

Editor’s note: I’m not the author of this, but I really don’t think anyone minds it being reposted here. I took the liberty of linking some relevant material from older MAXFAQs posts, Al M’s blog, the Oregonian, and other sources to support the claims made.

Over the past several years, TriMet’s top management has repeatedly used budget woes as their excuse for raising fares and reducing transit service to this community. Then, they point the finger at the union workforce, blaming the costs of health benefits for workers and retirees. We believe that claim to be false; but, it is difficult to counter an agency spending over $500,000 each year on PR to spread its version of the truth. Now, it’s time you heard the truth from TriMet’s workers.

We are the people who keep the system running. We watch how this bureaucratic agency works from the inside, we know where its skeletons are buried, and we are saddened by how dysfunctional it has become. Here are the serious consequences of that dysfunction.

TRIMET’S DYSFUNCTION PUTS SAFETY AT RISK. It’s not just fatigued drivers, it’s also buying new buses with enormous blind spots while forcing train operators to frequently drive without any side vision at all. It’s a bus dispatch system programmed to cut off calls after two minutes, even when it’s a driver reporting an angry man with a gun. It’s buses and rail cars so filthy that they’re making operators and passengers sick. And those are just a few of the many serious safety issues we deal with daily.

TRIMET’S DYSFUNCTION PUTS SERVICE QUALITY AT RISK. It’s not just the reduced runs, it’s also forcing us to issue fare evasion citations when we know the fare machines are down. It’s making schedules so tight it’s impossible to guarantee our passengers will make their connections. It’s reducing the number of bus shelters in neighborhoods where we serve the highest number of elderly and disabled passengers.

TRIMET’S DYSFUNCTION PUTS PUBLIC FUNDS AT RISK. It’s not just spending millions on new furniture, it’s also signing what the Portland Business Journal calls “the biggest office lease of the year.” It’s spending nearly $2 million dollars giving new buses a “nose job” so they’ll look like trains. It’s having 161 managers being paid a base wage of over $75,000 a year, 55 of whom get over $100,000. This is to supervise a schedule-driven transit system service that can essentially run itself.

TRIMET’S DYSFUNCTION PUTS WORKERS’ HEALTH AT RISK. People think our jobs are easy, but the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Labor indicate transit operators become disabled earlier, die younger and get assaulted more than people working in other professions. Studies have called it the most stressful job, resulting in absenteeism, chronic illnesses and high medical costs well into retirement. We have a small pension plan (not PERS), and only a small minority of workers who have retired early with full health coverage.

We are public servants. We are not perfect. Some of us are far from perfect. But we are two thousand people whose work lives are dedicated to providing you with the best service we can. Meanwhile, TriMet’s PR department is using your tax money to mislead us all, issue after issue. What we ask is that you consider our viewpoint in the months ahead and evaluate the facts for yourselves.

The People Who Keep Public Transit Rolling

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8 responses to “Open Letter to Our TriMet Passengers and Community

  1. Hi Camelopardalis,

    I have never done this before, but if I wanted to address the TriMet board, how do I do it? It may do no good, but I want them to see the face of Average T.M. Rider.

  2. Portland Transit Lane

    Reblogged this on Portland Transit Lane and commented:
    This is a VERY good read. This is the TRUTH about TriMet, it’s management, and the scumbag Neil McFarlane who is running the transit agency to the ground. Read up, readers, and lets kick Neil out of town!

  3. My oh my, trimet seems to forget public transport hasn’t been the most stable industry in portland.

  4. Pingback: TriMet opens budget battle by warning of 70% service cut by 2025 | Portland Afoot

  5. I generally agree with and have been witness to all the points in the article. However, I’m not sure what he is referring to in “new buses a “nose job.” New flyer no longer makes classic look(20xx,22xx-28xx) busses, so all the 29xxs had to be the restyled variants. Gillig is pushing the more efficient restyled look. (which are horrible for so many reasons *cough* 96″ not 102″ wide track *cough*)!

  6. Riding trimet for a family of 4 costs17 $ round trip. To go to work and home is now more than 10% of my gross pay. (5 hour shifts, min. Wage) Fire all of you and hire people who have a sense of fairness to your community!

    • I’m not even sure where to begin with this. I could point out that it’s not the operators who want the option to strike, knowing the detrimental effects a strike would have on the transit dependent. It’s not the operators who design/vote in/support service cuts and fare increases. I could suggest that you put in an application to be a part time bus driver if you want in on these oh-so-generous wages and benefits. Maybe it’s the 6-figure executives at TriMet pulling in sweet bonuses and raises that you want to take up your concerns with.

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