July 10, 2009

Bus Frequency Reductions

Plan would reduce frequency by 2-4 minutes during midday, evenings and weekends

Despite an eight percent across-the-board expense cut, a hiring and salary freeze, furloughs and staff layoffs, the elimination of 4 bus lines, route changes to 20 bus lines and discontinued weekend service on 15 bus lines, TriMet still faces a $3.5 million budget shortfall. Instead of cutting more routes or reducing hours of operation, we will cover this remaining budget gap by making small reductions in bus service frequency, effective in November 2009.

These minor frequency changes would be made during midday, in the evening and on weekends, so most commuters would not be affected.

For example, buses that currently run every 15 minutes in the middle of the day would run every 17 minutes instead. As a result, on 27 bus lines, including most Frequent Service lines, the time between buses would increase by about 2 to 4 minutes.

These changes will take effect November 29, 2009. While it is never our desire to reduce service, this plan will help balance our budget while maintaining essential service in our community. We expect to restore service frequency after the economy improves.

Budget update

TriMet continues to feel the effects of the lagging economy and high unemployment in the Portland area. As of May 2009, the unemployment rate in the Portland metro area was 11.5%. Because more than half of our operating revenue comes from a payroll tax paid by local employers, we have less money for bus and rail service when unemployment is high.

On June 24, our Board of Directors adopted TriMet's Fiscal Year 2010 budget, which reflects revenues about $31 million below where we had originally projected. Here's how we're addressing the shortfall:

  • Federal stimulus money reduced our gap by about $7.25 million, leaving us with about $24 million deficit.
  • We made non-service-related cuts of 9% throughout the agency, totaling $13.5 million. This included a hiring freeze, salary freeze, executive furloughs and the elimination of 139 full-time staff positions. This lowered the budget gap to $10.5 million.
  • An initial round of bus and MAX service cuts, which saved $6.9 million, was finalized in May and will take effect in September 2009.
  • After taking these steps, we still have a $3.5 million budget gap, which we propose to cover through minor bus frequency reductions effective November 29, 2009.