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TriMet releases details of proposed service cuts and fare changes to help close a $17 million shortfall

February 8, 2012

Next phase of public process includes rider outreach and open houses

TriMet today unveiled a proposal to close the $17 million shortfall in its upcoming Fiscal Year 2013 budget. The shortfall had been projected between $12 million to $17 million, but the agency is budgeting for the higher amount as arbitration on the union contract has been delayed again. The shortfall results from the continued recession and slow recovery, an anticipated cut in federal funding and costs associated with an unresolved labor contract.

BUDGET BACKGROUND

Stagnant economy

The shortfall is part of the agency's FY13 operating budget that begins July 1, 2012. TriMet's FY12 operating budget is $444 million. With employment and wage growth stagnant, TriMet expects to receive about $3 million less in payroll tax revenues than previously anticipated.

Federal funds

TriMet receives $40 million to $45 million in federal funds for annual preventive maintenance. There is significant uncertainty in the federal budget, including the continuation of that funding level. TriMet is estimating a cut of $4 million.

Union contract

TriMet is working to bring the union contract in line with revenue growth and make it financially sustainable. The contract expired in 2009 and both parties are now heading to interest arbitration scheduled for May 2012. A recent Employee Relations Board (ERB) decision removed certain cost-saving proposals from our final offer. The ERB decision adds $5 million to $10 million to the FY13 budget shortfall, an amount that grows significantly in future years.

Developing the proposal

TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane launched the FY 2013 budget process in late October, three months ahead of schedule, to have more time to develop options to deal with the budget shortfall. This included creating a Budget Task Force to provide him with recommendations on budget choices and creating an online survey to solicit feedback from the public. The feedback from the Budget Task Force and the online survey helped the agency narrow down its options for closing the budget gap.

"We heard very clearly from the public that there is a willingness to pay more if we were able to limit the cuts to needed service," said TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane. "We also want to restructure the fare system to make it easier to understand and more equitable."

INITIAL BUDGET PROPOSAL

The initial proposal totals $17.7 million in savings, including $500,000 in internal efficiencies (program cuts and layoffs). The proposal also includes fare increases and changes to the overall fare structure, the elimination of the Free Rail Zone and service cuts. Any changes to fares and service would take effect in September 2012.

Eliminate fare zones and move to flat fare system

TriMet is proposing to eliminate the fare zones and move to a flat fare system, generating $9 million. The zone system was created 30 years ago to charge for distance-based trips that typically started in the suburbs and ended in downtown Portland. It kept fares lower for minority and low-income riders who lived in the central city. Since that time, travel patterns have shifted from downtown to throughout the region, and demographics have also changed with most minority and low-income riders living further away from the central city and making longer trips.

The benefit of a flat fare system makes it simpler for riders and makes the bus and train transfer times the same (currently a train transfer is valid longer than a bus transfer). Riders would purchase either a One-Way 2-Hour Ticket or a Round-Trip Day Pass that provides unlimited trips on buses, MAX and WES Commuter Rail. This change will also help low-income and minority riders who typically buy single fares that are not discounted, and who ride more in off-peak hours and transfer more often.

A shift to a flat-fare system:

  • Equalizes fares, making it simpler for riders and easier to enforce.
  • Reflects how people use the system, which is regionally, rather than downtown focused.
  • Makes bus and train transfer times the same – bus transfers are about an hour, while MAX transfers are two hours. This makes transfers equitable, especially for low-income and minority riders who typically travel further distances.
  • Eliminates round trips on a single fare. About 5 percent of riders take round trips on a single fare. The fare system was never intended to allow round-tripping on a single fare, which has typically benefitted riders who live near the central city or travel short distances.
  • Is in line with most transit agencies, which have moved to flat fares.
  • Eases the transition to an electronic fare system in the future.

Flat-fare proposal:

  • An Adult One-Way 2-hour Ticket would increase 10 cents and cost $2.50. A Round-Trip Day Pass with unlimited rides would cost the same as the current Day Pass of $5. TriMet would eliminate the two-zone fare, which is currently $2.10.
  • The Youth One-Way 2-hour Youth Ticket would increase 15 cents to $1.65; the Round-Trip Day Pass would cost $3.30, which is lower than the current day pass of $5.
  • Honored Citizen fares would not change—$1 per one-way ticket.

Eliminate the Free Rail Zone

Free rides in downtown Portland began in 1975 in response to numerous violations of Federal Air Quality standards. It's an exclusive benefit to downtown Portland and the Lloyd District. The elimination would save $2.7 million and provide equitable service throughout the region.

With the change in the fare structure and eliminating the Free Rail Zone would save a total of $12.2 million.

Proposed service cuts

TriMet said the last place it looks to close its budget shortfall is at service cuts. The focus is to maintain overall service to an area and minimize impact to riders. The proposed changes to bus service would save $2 million.

Reconfigure 14 bus routes

Eliminate segments of routes that overlap with other routes. This maintains service to an area but requires more transfers on these bus lines: 6, 8, 9, 12, 16, 17, 47, 48, 67, 70, 77, 82, 87 and 89.

Change routing on 3 bus lines

Routes would be modified on lines 43, 45 and 94.

Eliminate bus trips with low ridership on 26 bus lines

This would result in service that begins later in the morning and/or ends earlier in the evening, and may include extended time between trips: 15, 18, 19, 22, 23, 24, 25, 30, 34, 36, 37, 38, 39, 43, 45, 50, 51, 53, 55, 59, 73, 85, 89, 92, 96 and 155.

Eliminate some weekend service with low ridership on 3 bus lines

This would result in all Saturday and/or Sunday service discontinued on lines 22, 32 and 73.

Reduce the frequency of all MAX service except during weekday rush hour

MAX Blue, Green, Red and Yellow lines would operate at 20-minute intervals during the midday, evenings and on weekends. This would save $1.5 million.

Reduce MAX Red Line service except during weekday rush hour

MAX Red Line would run only between Beaverton Transit Center and the Portland International Airport during weekday rush hours. All other times, the Red Line would only travel as far west as the Galleria/SW 10th Ave Station in downtown Portland. MAX riders traveling between Beaverton Transit Center and downtown Portland would have about 4 fewer trains an hour outside rush hour. This would save $900,000.

Adjust LIFT paratransit service boundary to match regular transit service

TriMet's current LIFT door-to-door paratransit service exceeds Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations. The proposal is to implement six different LIFT service boundaries based on time of day and day of the week, and only provide paratransit trips if fixed-route bus or rail service is in operation at that time. The service change would save $400,000 while still exceeding ADA requirements.

Reduce TriMet contribution to the Portland Streetcar

TriMet helps fund Portland Streetcar operations, and is proposing a $400,000 reduction in FY13 contribution.

Public comment period

TriMet continues its public comment period, and feedback will help shape the final service cut plan. Comments are accepted beginning today through March 2, 2012. Comment via:

Web: trimet.org/choices
Phone: 503-238-RIDE (7433), option #5
Fax: 503-962-6451
Mail: Budget Feedback, TriMet MK2, 4012 SE 17th Ave., Portland, OR 97202
TTY: 503-238-5811 (7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. weekdays)

Open Houses

TriMet will also be holding informal open houses to answer questions and gather input from the public:

Saturday, Feb. 11
Beaverton Library Conf. Room
12375 SW 5th St.
1-3 p.m.

Monday, Feb. 13
Multnomah County's East County Health Ctr.
Sharron Kelly A & B
600 NE 8th Street, Gresham
4:30-6:30 p.m.

Wednesday, Feb. 15
Portland Building Room C
1120 SW 5th Ave.
4:30-6:30 p.m.

Thursday, Feb. 16
Clackamas Town Center
Community Room Lower Level
12000 SE 82nd Ave.
4:30-6:30 p.m.

The initial budget proposal is available at trimet.org/choices.

A revised proposal will be released in early March based on public feedback, followed by public hearings beginning in mid-March. Any fare changes would take effect on Sept. 1, 2012; service changes would take effect Sept. 2, 2012.