We're here to make the Portland area a better place to live by providing transit service that is safe, dependable and easy to use. To this end, our goals in Fiscal Year 2013 are: 1. Continue focusing on rider needs, 2. Enhance financial stability, and 3. Build partnerships for growth.
What is the TIP? TriMet's Transit Investment Priorities (TIP) program is our roadmap for investments in bus and rail service, capital projects and customer information, as well as financial stability and partnerships over the next five years. We develop the TIP with input from our jurisdictional and community partners, riders and the general public. The TIP addresses short-term issues as well as our region's long-term transportation and livability goals.
How is it used? The TIP helps local governments leverage our investments in transit service with their own investments in infrastructure (such as sidewalks and safe street crossings), and supports their visions for development. It is the basis for TriMet and its partners to improve transit service and access to that service.
Priorities for Fiscal Year 2013 (July 2012–June 2013)
In recent years, TriMet has experienced extreme budget pressures that have affected service, fares and planned investments. Below are highlights from our plan for the current fiscal year covering July 2012–June 2013.
1. Continue focusing on rider needs
Create a culture of safety by implementing a Safety Management System.
Safety is the focus for all of our operational, planning and strategic decisions. Rather than think of it as a single priority, we are creating a "culture of safety" in all TriMet employees and all TriMet efforts.
We are building on our existing safety-oriented work program to implement a “Safety Management System.” This means using an integrated and sustainable approach to safety that is proactive and, ultimately, predictive. It requires self-examination and promotes continuous safety improvements by using specific methods for predicting hazards, gathering feedback from employees and collecting meaningful data. The information will be analyzed and assessed to control the safety risks. Such a system will allow TriMet to determine the need for further actions by sharing knowledge and information. Ultimately, it will lead to the culture of safety we envision.
Prioritize restoration of 15-minute or better service on Frequent Service Bus and MAX lines.
Because they benefit the most riders, Frequent Service bus lines and MAX will be our priority when funding is available to restore service. Resources will first be put toward improving reliability and overcrowding on these lines. We will make specific decisions about the balance of service restoration with public input through our annual service plans, and we will provide specific proposals for how to do this through our TIP and budget processes. TriMet is struggling to achieve financial stability (see section 2 below), so it may still be many years before funding is available to fully restore Frequent Service on bus and MAX lines.
Expand service to relieve peak-hour crowding.
TriMet is always looking for ways to increase capacity and cost-effectiveness of existing bus and rail service. As such, we are improving service efficiency and rider comfort by making small adjustments to schedules and routes. This includes eliminating low-performing trips on some bus lines, as well as adding trips to relieve overcrowding during rush hours and improve on-time performance.
Continue efficient, safe and timely construction on Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail.
Construction on the 7.3-mile Portland Milwaukie Light Rail Project began on the new Willamette River Bridge in July 2011. The new MAX line will connect Downtown Portland and Portland State University through South Waterfront to Southeast Portland, Milwaukie and North Clackamas County. The project is expected to create up to 14,500 jobs and generate up to $573 million in income through its opening in 2015. Our emphasis will be on sound management to complete the project on time and on budget.
Expand bus service to enhance local community connections.
Due to extreme budget pressures, we have had to cut transit service over the past four years. For FY2013, service cuts were modest and emphasized reorganization of lines for greater efficiency. We are also reconfiguring service in a number of places to make our bus lines more efficient. For example, in Washington County, we reassembled parts of bus lines to create a new route from Hillsboro to Sunset Transit Center on Cornell Road. As part of our Service Enhancement Plans, we will identify priorities for service reallocation and expansion to improve local connections. As of fall 2012, we are working with stakeholders on the Westside. We will focus on the Eastside and Southwest in 2013-14.
Maximize efficiency and comfort of current service by simplifying and streamlining the fare system.
In September 2012, we switched to a "flat fare" system (no fare zones), which made it simpler and easier for riders to get around.
Increase TriMet presence on the system through a focus on fare inspection.
We continue to strengthen our focus on fare enforcement by adding more staff dedicated to fare inspection on the system. Our FY2013 budget provides for 10 additional staff on top of the six new supervisors hired in FY2012 exclusively for enforcing fares and the TriMet Code. This is part of a recent policy shift from education (issuing warnings) to enforcement (issuing citations and exclusions, even for first-time violations).
In the first year of the focus on enforcement, citations rose 84 percent and warnings dropped 55 percent, as a result of this policy shift and staff investment. When we had to end the Free Rail Zone downtown due to a budget shortfall, it provided the opportunity for additional fare-based security checks on vehicles traveling downtown.
Continue making customer information improvements.
We will continue to enhance on-street service information for riders by deploying new two-sided bus stop signs, recognizable by their unique shape and distinctive blue poles. The signs include Stop ID numbers and stop-specific Quick Response (QR) codes for use with our popular TransitTracker real-time arrival information system. We expect to have Stop IDs posted at 85 percent of our bus stops by the end of 2012, and at all stops by July 2013.
Digital information displays will be added to all Eastside and Westside MAX station platforms over the next three years. This will enhance our ability to provide service and safety alerts to riders and further increase access to real-time arrival information.
To help riders plan their trips, a new multi-modal online Trip Planner was launched in August 2012. It can plan transit, bike and pedestrian trips (and combinations of those modes), and will eventually include enhanced accessibility features, such as information about wheelchair-accessible trips.
2. Enhance financial stability
Bring employee benefit costs to a sustainable level in line with other transit agencies.
Health care costs for TriMet's union employees more than doubled during the last labor contract, and the benefit to pay nearly all costs for active union employees and retirees is unsustainable. In 2009, our Board of Directors adopted a policy to bring the agency’s health care and other post-employment benefit costs in line with a sustainable financial forecast. With this direction, TriMet proposed a labor contract with the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 757 that was more financially sustainable.
In July 2012, TriMet’s Last Best Offer was selected in binding arbitration and took effect as the union contract through its expiration in November 2012. While this arbitration result relieves the pressure for additional budget cuts this fiscal year, the overall need to change the agency’s cost structure remains imperative. Without these changes, growing health care and other post-employment benefit costs threaten TriMet's ability to provide service at the level that people need and the region calls for. In FY2013, we will continue to work with the union to negotiate a fair benefits package that is in line with the market and peer agencies, and includes more contributions from employees and retirees.
Increase employee productivity through improved attendance.
In addition to unsustainable benefits costs, another major cost is low attendance among some employees, forcing costly staffing substitutions to keep buses and trains running. To address this problem, we are increasing management attention and supervisory support for operators who are experiencing attendance problems. This will also help increase the productivity of all employees by reducing the burden resulting from others’ absences.
Increase fare system efficiency by moving to a "flat fare" structure and preparing for electronic fares.
As noted above, TriMet has moved to a "flat fare" system. This change is helping to speed up boarding and reduce travel time for riders, while reducing the fare collection burden on operators so they can focus on safe and comfortable vehicle operation. The flat fare system will also make it easier to switch to a more efficient and convenient electronic fare collection system in the future. We are currently planning to test an electronic fare system with the opening of the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Project in 2015. If successful, the system would be deployed system-wide by 2017.
In conjunction with this effort, TriMet is also working with local mobile-payment provider GlobeSherpa on development of a mobile ticketing system that will let riders purchase and use fares instantly on their smartphones. Of course, smartphones are only one possible method of electronic payment, but it is a good way to test the potential of such a system. We expect to make this convenient new service available to all riders as early as summer 2013.
Improve operating efficiency by meeting maintenance and replacement needs.
Due to the recession, we have deferred bus replacements over the last several years, which helped avoid cuts in service. While this was a necessary choice, it has become a long-term threat to our transit system as many of these buses have become too unreliable and expensive to maintain. They are also uncomfortable for our riders and operators.
Using money from grants and TriMet funds, we are replacing 55 of our oldest 40-foot buses in 2012, 70 more in 2013 and about 40 more each year after that. The new buses will be low-floor buses that are easier to board for all riders (especially those with mobility devices) compared to our older fleet. By 2017, we will have replaced all of the remaining high-floor buses in the fleet (those with steps at the door). The new buses are also more efficient and have much lower emissions. Four of the new buses we received in 2012 are hybrid-electric vehicles, which we'll be testing for performance, maintenance needs and fuel efficiency. We're also developing four experimental "super hybrid" buses with technology similar to the Chevy Volt, which are expected to be delivered in 2015. We will also look to begin renewing our 30-foot bus fleet in 2013.
3. Build partnerships for transit growth
Engage customers and constituents through a series of Service Enhancement Plans, starting with the Westside.
Starting in 2012, we began taking a fresh look at how transit service and access to transit can be improved throughout the region. By talking with our customers and constituents about service needs, improvements and funding, we can become more efficient, streamline service and engage in continuous improvement. As such, our Service Enhancement Plans directly advance our goal to develop more and better service for the region, with new service starting once the economy rebounds.
The first in a series of these planning efforts focuses on Beaverton, Hillsboro, Cornelius, Forest Grove and Washington County, including Aloha/Reedville, Bethany, Rock Creek, Cedar Mill and Cedar Hills. This Westside Service Enhancement Plan will result in a new service vision that will inform the TIP. The Westside Service Enhancement Plan will identify areas for future service and opportunities to partner with jurisdictions and the private sector for access to transit improvements including biking and walking to bus lines and MAX. In future years, the effort will focus on other parts of the region, with the Eastside and Southwest identified for 2013-14, the Southeast in 2014-15 and the North in 2015-16.
Continue leveraging jurisdictional partnerships to improve access to transit.
We are working collaboratively with our regional partners on the Pedestrian Network Analysis Project to develop an objective, data-driven system to prioritize places around the region where sidewalk and crosswalk investments will provide safer and more comfortable access to transit. Here are some recent “shared wins” in improving access to transit:
- The City of Portland is building more than six miles of sidewalks in East Portland in 2012 and 2013, including along SE Division between 148th and 174th and on Stark Street between 122nd and 162nd. The City's East Portland Active Transportation to Transit grant includes bike access and parking at TriMet stops and stations, including sidewalk segments along SE Division between 100th and 148th to be completed through the 2014-2015 Regional Flex Funds Allocation from Metro. Also on Division, the City of Gresham is building a “Complete Street” path/sidewalk project. These combined improvements will result in continuous sidewalk coverage along Division from the Willamette River to Downtown Gresham, for the first time ever.
- Using its Major Streets Transportation Improvement Program (MSTIP), Washington County has committed to building sidewalks and improving crosswalks that will help people walk to transit on Cornell Road, Farmington Road, Walker Road, Walnut Street, Baseline Road, Farmington Road, the Pacific Highway/Gaarde Street/McDonald Street intersection, and 198th.
- Funded through ODOT Flexible Funds, Multnomah County’s Arata Road Pedestrian and Bicycle Improvements Project includes pedestrian access to transit.
- ODOT and the City of Portland are improving SW Kelly Avenue between 1st Avenue and the Ross Island Bridge for pedestrian safety and access to transit, including bus stop improvements and pedestrian/bike and lane reconfigurations for safety.
Continue building new and existing partnerships for priorities identified in the region’s high-capacity transit plan.
TriMet is a partner in the Southwest Corridor planning effort led by Metro. The project partners are working together to define a set of land use, transportation and community building investments and strategies that best achieve local and regional goals and develop an action plan for local and regional agreements to build the vision. We are looking at opportunities throughout the Southwest Corridor, which runs north-south from Portland to Sherwood and east-west from Lake Oswego to Beaverton. Discussion about "early wins" in the Southwest Corridor include improved job access in the Tualatin-Sherwood area and updated bus routings in parts of Lake Oswego and Tigard.
TriMet is also a partner in the planning effort being launched for the Powell-Division corridor, another top-tier priority identified in the high-capacity transit plan. The region has agreed that this is the next high-capacity transit corridor to pursue after Southwest Corridor. The project will officially kick off in 2013.
Due to the effects of the Great Recession on payroll tax revenues, combined with uncertainty in state and federal transportation funding and unsustainable health care costs for union employees, TriMet has experienced multiple years of extreme budget pressures, resulting in repeated budget cuts, including service reductions. This funding instability comes at a time when there is increasing demand for transit service.
In developing our FY2013 budget, we framed the challenges and choices we are facing in today's difficult economic environment, while detailing how the agency is working to control its own costs. This dual task is a central focus for us for the foreseeable future and is the underlying basis for our Transit Investment Priorities.