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Save Our Service!

 

Our public transit service is in jeopardy, and we need to take action now in order to avoid future cuts. If you care about the future of transit in the Portland area, make your voice heard!

 

 

The Portland area depends on public transit. Carrying 9 million rides per month, TriMet connects people to jobs and school, and brings shoppers to businesses. TriMet's bus and rail service also takes cars off the road, which helps reduce traffic congestion and air pollution. Transit plays a key role in keeping our economy—and our environment—healthy.

Unfortunately, the skyrocketing cost of health care benefits for TriMet's union employees and retirees is threatening the agency's ability to provide essential transit service. Without reform, TriMet will be forced to once again cut service and/or raise fares starting in fall 2016.

 

A matter of fairness

Since 2009, TriMet riders have endured over $43 million in service cuts, higher fares, the elimination of the Free Rail Zone, longer commute times and overcrowded buses and trains. 

Inside the agency, we made cuts to non-union employee and retiree benefits, eliminated 200 positions, and implemented executive furloughs and a non-union salary freeze for nearly four years.

Although the economy is recovering and our payroll tax revenues are increasing, our health care costs for union employees and retirees continue to outpace our ability to pay for them. As a matter of fairness to our riders, we are asking our union employees to accept modest changes to their health care benefits so we can avoid deep service cuts and fare increases, and pursue a path of restoring service. 

 

A growing gap between revenues and expenditures

Without changes to our union health care benefits, we anticipate a budget shortfall of $15–17 million in 2016, increasing annually to a staggering $195–$200 million in 2030. The cost of union retiree health care benefits is growing at compound annual rates of 15–18 percent per year. About 83 percent of TriMet employees belong to the transit union.

TriMet's revenues and expenditures

TriMet's revenues and expenditures

 

TriMet must rein in employee health care costs

By 2020, health care benefits for employees and retirees will consume nearly half of our operating revenue from payroll taxes. This is an unsustainable path. As we begin negotiations for a new labor contract with the ATU, we have proposed solutions to the union leadership that will help rein in these costs. Our proposal would bring health care costs down while maintaining a fair and competitive benefit package that is more in line with that of other public employees.

Employee and retiree health care costs

as a % of underlying payroll tax revenues

Employee and retiree health care costs

* status quo trend post-arbitration

 

TriMet in 2025: a bleak picture

On our current path, by 2025, we would need to either cut bus service by 70 percent (along with 1,100 union jobs and 125 non-union jobs over time), or raise the price of an Adult 2-Hour Ticket to $8.50 (versus $3.35 adjusted for inflation).

2015 weekday service

2015 weekday service

(current service + MAX Orange Line)
2025 weekday service

2025 weekday service

(70% service reduction)

The maps above illustrate the magnitude of service cuts needed to balance revenues and expenditures if no changes are made to TriMet's labor contract with the ATU. The cuts are based on ridership productivity. Lines with the lowest boarding rides per vehicle hour would be canceled first in this scenario. Actual proposals for service cuts would be developed in consultation with the public and would require public hearings before adoption.

 

What's at stake: more and better service for our growing region

As the Portland area grows, so does the demand for quality transit. Our region has set a goal to triple the share of trips on transit by 2035, in order to keep up with the expected growth in population, jobs and aging citizens.

The long-term vision calls for:

  • restoring Frequent Service to every 15 minutes or better all day long, and adding more Frequent Service lines
  • adding more high-capacity transit in congested corridors (whether bus or rail), starting with areas like the Southwest corridor and the Powell-Division corridor
  • expanding local bus service in areas such as Washington County to keep pace with new developments and expanding employment and education

TriMet ridership is at an all-time high, despite recent service cuts. We need more, not less, service if we want to keep our region moving.

TriMet and its labor union have a responsibility to riders and taxpayers to bring employee and retiree health care costs under control so that we can restore—and eventually grow—transit service in the Portland area to meet the rising demand.