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How TriMet is Funded

Like most transit agencies, the money allocated to TriMet for building our transit system is different from the money for operating it. Here's how TriMet is funded:

Operating Revenue Sources chart

More than half of TriMet's operating revenue comes from business payroll taxes.

Operating funds

TriMet's operating funds pay for the day-to-day administration and operation of bus and rail service, as well as most of the cost to replace and rehabilitate vehicles, equipment and aging infrastructure.

Our primary source of revenue for operations is a payroll tax paid by businesses located within the TriMet district boundary. About 22 percent comes from fares, which is typical for many transit agencies. The remainder comes from state and federal grants and other sources.

The Oregon Legislature gave TriMet the authority to increase the payroll tax by 1/10 of 1 percent over a 10-year period to pay for service improvements and expansion of the transit system. The TriMet Board of Directors approved the phased-in increase in 2004, and as a result the tax rate has increased 1/100 of 1 percent each year since 2005. This money is paying for the operation of new service including MAX Green Line, WES Commuter Rail, and Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail operations and debt service. It is partially paying for Portland Streetcar service to Riverplace, Gibbs, Lowell and OMSI, and TriMet's LIFT Paratransit Program.

Though it was affected by increased unemployment during the Great Recession, the employer payroll tax is a reliable and growing source of revenue for transit.

Capital funds

Our capital funds pay for transit construction projects such as WES Commuter Rail, MAX Green Line and the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Project.

These funds come from a different pool of money, largely in the form of grants from the federal government, and are often allocated many years in advance. We also receive a small amount of state and federal money for other capital improvements.

These funds are allocated to us for specific capital investments, so we can't use them to pay for day-to-day operations (or to fill an operating budget shortfall).

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