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Transit Investment Priorities (TIP)

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 2015 are: 1. Making Transit Better, 2. Ensuring Financial Stability and 3. Planning for the Future of Transit.

What is the TIP? TriMet's Transit Investment Priorities (TIP) process is our guide for making investments in bus and rail service, capital projects and customer information, as well as strategies to improve financial stability and build partnerships over the next five years. We develop the TIP with input from riders, our jurisdictional and community partners 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 process helps local governments to look for ways to get the most out of our investments in transit service with their own investments in such things as sidewalks and safe street crossings, and supports their visions for the future. It also shares TriMet’s planning process and future plans so that local governments, social service providers, private developers, and private businesses can know how to take advantage of the current and future service we provide. It is the basis for TriMet and its partners to improve coordination, transit service and access to that service.

Priorities for Fiscal Year 2015  (July 2014–June 2015)

In recent years, TriMet has experienced extreme budget pressures that have affected service, fares and planned investments. Now that the economy is recovering, TriMet is able to put more service on the street, including improvements to a dozen bus lines in September 2013 and another 10 lines in March 2014. The investments adopted in the Fiscal Year 2015 budget will improve service on 26 bus lines touching over 270,000 transit trips every weekday. At the end of FY15, TriMet will have restored the number of bus and MAX hours to levels from before the Recession. The FY15 budget also marks the second straight year without fare increases. While restoring service to just above pre-recession levels marks an important milestone in the region’s recovery, TriMet continues to work hard to reduce growing health care and other post-employment benefit costs to allow for long-term financial stability. 

Below are key efforts for the current fiscal year covering July 2014-June 2015.

1. Making transit better for riders

TriMet is making transit better by improving current services by increasing frequency, maintaining and improving bus and rail vehicles and systems, and enhancing the quality of the rider experience through technology, information and amenities.

Improving current service

Given available budget, we prioritize near-term service improvements for investment and implementation each Fiscal Year through our Annual Service Plan. The Annual Service Plan describes these priorities in one or more of the following three service categories:

1) Maintain – Investments in capacity and reliability of existing services to help reduce crowding and make travel times and service more predictable.

2) Optimize & Restore – Investments in frequency and route restructuring to restore popular services reduced during the recession, and also to optimize existing service to make it faster and more convenient. 

3) Increase – Investments in new and reconfigured lines, including increases in frequency and earlier morning and later evening service, to make progress towards the visions described in Service Enhancement Plans.

Maintain
In FY15, TriMet will invest $3.4 million to improve bus service:

  • More buses will be added to 12 lines to relieve overcrowding and make trips more comfortable for riders: Lines 4, 8, 9, 10, 15, 20, 33, 44, 76, 85, 94 and 99.
  • TriMet will adjust schedules on three lines to give them more predictable arrival times: Line 71 will see improvements this summer with Lines 20 and 72 improvements coming later in the budget year.

Restore and Optimize
TriMet is investing in key services to restore service levels on popular routes, which had been temporarily cut back due to budget gaps during the Great Recession. Because they benefit the most riders (carrying 75 percent of weekly trips), Frequent Service bus lines and MAX have been the highest priority when funding is available to restore service.

  • TriMet will invest $3.6 million to add more trips into the evening so that all Frequent Service bus lines and all MAX lines will have 15 minute or better service later into the evening on weekdays. The 12 Frequent Service bus lines with improved evening service will be: 4, 6, 8, 9, 12, 14, 15, 33, 54/56, 57 and 75. Line 72 already has 15 minute service until 9 p.m.
  • MAX Green Line will have 15 minute or better service into the evening hours, matching the current service on the Blue, Red and Yellow lines.

In total, TriMet will have invested $12.3 million in expanded service between September 2013 and Spring 2015.

Improving the quality of the rider experience through technology, information and amenities

We’re continuing to make improvements to our ticketing technology, information tools and amenities to make transit easier and more convenient for our riders.

Ticketing technology

We're building a new, state-of-the-art electronic fare system (or e-fare) that will make it
faster, easier and more convenient to ride the bus or train. The new e-fare system will also cut the cost of collecting fares over the long term. Building the e-fare system will cost up to $30 million initially, but it will pay for itself over time, thanks to reduced costs associated with ticket machine maintenance, cash purchases and collection processing. Because of the complexity, TriMet will take a deliberate approach to installing the new system, with opening planned for 2017. When complete, riders will be able to choose from a variety of easy payment options including a transit-only smart card, contactless bank card and smartphones with contactless payment technology built in. TriMet is committed to ensuring that all riders will benefit from this next generation technology, so those without bank accounts or smartphones will still be able to pay their fares. Another possible benefit for frequent transit users and low-income riders is daily and monthly caps on fares paid.

As a first step towards the e-fare system, TriMet has worked with local mobile-payment provider GlobeSherpa to develop (at no upfront cost to the agency) one of the nation’s first mobile ticketing system that lets riders purchase and use fares instantly on their smartphones (iphone and Android) for the entire transit system. Riders have responded enthusiastically to the new tool. In little more than seven months since we rolled out the app in September 2013, the number of downloads have rocketed to more than 100,000, shattering our first year goal by more than 50,000 downloads. Riders have purchased more than a million tickets with the TriMet Tickets mobile app.

While we transition to the next generation of ticketing technology, we’re continuing to focus on improving the reliability of our ticket vending machines. We replaced, upgraded and updated machines and parts throughout our system. As a result, overall reliability has improved—it’s now consistently over 95 percent—and we’ve seen rider complaints drop by 50 percent.

Information tools
In 2013, we switched to a new state-of-the-art Computer Aided Dispatch/Automatic Vehicle Location system (“CAD/AVL” for short). The new system improves bus tracking and performance monitoring. It also means more reliable arrival information from TransitTracker, as vehicle locations are now updated about every 30 seconds. Our new bus radio/dispatch system now gives TriMet the technology to automatically send information to TransitTracker when a bus trip is canceled, eliminating most “ghost buses”. This is the first phase of improvements to the reliability of the real-time information supplied through TransitTracker, and future upgrades should make it even better. TriMet will also be adding GPS to our light rail vehicles, which will allow for better, more accurate TransitTracker information about MAX train locations over the next few years.

Other improvements to better our customers’ experience include investing in 59 digital information displays, to help provide more riders with timely service information. The new screens will be installed at MAX stations throughout the system gradually throughout 2014 and 2015. TriMet’s online trip planner also makes it easy to plan a trip, with information about service alerts, travel and walk times, transfers and cost. Visit trimet.org, or m.trimet.org for smartphones. There are also over 50 third-party apps available at our App Center to make our customers’ experience

TriMet's new Map Trip Planner makes it easy to plan trips that combine transit, walking and biking by enabling users to explore and print an interactive map of their route, including an elevation chart and detailed biking/walking directions. TriMet's Map Trip Planner was the first fully open-source/open-data trip planner by a U.S. transit agency, bringing high quality at low cost.

Amenities

New benches are currently being installed as part of TriMet’s Ridership Amenity Program. This Ridership Amenity Program, funded by our current advertising contractor, will replace roughly 600 existing ad benches. This new design allows for installation of rider amenities in areas where sidewalks are not wide enough to accommodate a traditional bench and still meet the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) sidewalk standards. Installation will continue through the year throughout the transit district.

In addition, TriMet has also budgeted over $650,000 in FY15 for the Bus Stop Development program to replace or refurbish other shelters and amenities at bus stops and install new shelters and seating, solar lighting, pavement and other pedestrian access improvements, including rapid flash beacons at key crossings.

Enhancing the culture of safety

Hours of Service Policy
Safety is the focus for all of our operational, planning and strategic decisions. Rather than think of it as a single priority, we embrace a "culture of safety" in all TriMet employees and all TriMet efforts. To ensure that bus operators are in a position to perform their jobs safely, TriMet and the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 757, which represents TriMet operators, agreed on a new hours of service policy. The policy was fully implemented in June 2013. Ongoing performance assessment continues to show over 99 percent compliance with the new policy.

Safety Management System
In addition, TriMet continues to implement a Safety Management System, which focuses on proactive avoidance of risks rather than just being reactive. It requires both self-examination and promotes continuous safety improvements by using formal methods to 1) predict hazards, 2) gather feedback from employees and 3) collect meaningful data. TriMet continues to hold annual safety-focused training for all operators and supervisors and also has a Request for Safety Assessment process in which employees raise concerns. The information gathered from these various channels is analyzed and assessed to identify and 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 continue to lead toward the culture of safety we envision.
In FY15, highlights of our continued investments in the overall safety of our system include:

  • Installation of Positive Train Control (PTC) on WES. PTC is mandated by the Federal Railroad Administration and requires a train control system that prevents accidents caused by human error, including train-to-train collisions, overspeed derailments, incursions into established work zone limits, and the movement of a train through a switch that is in the improper position. Many of these features are present on the current WES system, but new federal regulations require upgrades. Total cost of these improvements is estimated to be $8.5 million.
  • All of our MAX stations now have security cameras, in addition to the cameras in place on all MAX trains and nearly 90 percent of buses. The cameras serve as a valuable tool to deter crime and to help locate, track and prosecute people who commit crimes on the transit system. FY15 marks the first year of a multi-year project (FY15-FY19) to replace analog CCTV technology on TriMet’s buses and Type 1, 2, and 3 light rail vehicles with digital technology. TriMet’s new buses and Type 4 and 5 light rail vehicles already have this technology.

Ensuring our riders’ security

Crime down
TriMet and its Transit Police Division use community policing to reduce and discourage crime on the transit system. Key partnerships and a neighborhood approach to crime prevention, along with Transit Police strategies and TriMet security tools, will make our system even safer for our riders and employees.

In addition, our Transit Police Division has developed a new approach to increasing security on and around the TriMet system. Their “Transit Response Teams” use plainclothes and undercover officers along with traditional uniformed officers to help deter criminal or inappropriate behavior on the transit system. Transit Police officers also conduct Operation Bus Safe missions – random, unannounced patrols of buses to add a visible presence on the bus system.

These efforts are showing results. In 2013, reported crime was down more than 25 percent system wide over the previous year.

Fare enforcement
Over the last two years, we have strengthened our focus on fare enforcement by adding more staff dedicated to fare inspection on the system, including 16 new staff since FY2011 for enforcing fares and the TriMet Code. Our supervisors are also being trained in cultural competency to help them interact effectively with all of our customers. This is part of a policy shift from education (i.e., focus on issuing warnings) to enforcement (i.e., issuing citations for violations, and exclusions for repeat offenders).

Operator safety
TriMet made a series of changes in 2013 to enhance safety for our operators. We added a security presence at layover locations near 92nd at Flavel Street and at Foster Street, installed a metal barrier under the MAX overpass at Flavel Street to block access to an illegal camping area, and conducted an evaluation on every operator restroom area to map out security upgrades that will be implemented in 2014..

Keeping the MAX system in good shape

TriMet continues to invest in MAX maintenance and infrastructure to improve safety, reliability and on-time performance. In FY15, TriMet will budget $53 million to maintain and improve the overall rail system. This includes incorporating industry best practices, as well as implementing the Secretary of State’s audit recommendations related to system reliability. Some of the major State of Good Repair improvements include:

  • Blue Line Station Rehab (“Renew the Blue”): With work beginning this fall, riders will begin to see upgrades to 14 stations between 42nd/Hollywood and Cleveland, and will include lighting upgrades, improvements to access and safe crossings.
  • Sunset Transit Center Platform project: Sunset Transit Center MAX platforms will be replaced with work beginning this fall.
  • 11th and Holladay: TriMet will be replacing switches, turnouts and infill between tracks and ties.
  • Steel Bridge: As a partner on the Steel Bridge, we are investing nearly $500,000 in improvements over the next fiscal year to reduce delay crossing the bridge for our light rail vehicles.

Buying new buses

Riders will see 64 new buses added to the fleet in FY15. This will bring the total to 249 new buses purchased over the past four years. We’ve accelerated our annual bus purchase program and are quickly moving from having one of the oldest fleets in the country to matching the industry standard fleet age of eight years. We fell behind when bus replacement was suspended during the recession to focus resources on retaining as much service as possible.

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. See http://trimet.org/newbuses/ for more details about the features of the new buses.

Advancing bus technology

Four of our recently-acquired buses are hybrid-electric vehicles, which we are testing for performance, maintenance needs and fuel efficiency. In partnership with BAE Systems, we've also developed four experimental "super hybrid" buses with technology similar to the Chevy Volt, which are expected to be delivered in 2015.

We’re also looking hard at compressed natural gas (CNG) as a fueling option, and have a CNG option in our next bus purchase contract. With prices for CNG being consistently lower than diesel and projected to continue for the foreseeable future, this is an option that could offer long-term cost savings, while also providing benefits in terms of air and noise pollution. Due to up-front costs, we would only get the savings if we use CNG for a substantial portion of our fleet, so we are scrutinizing the long-term benefits and costs of such a conversion before making a final decision.

TriMet is also looking at the potential of fully electric buses. We submitted an application to the Federal Transit Administration’s Low and No Emission Vehicles (LoNo) grant program for an e-bus pilot project that would incorporate cutting-edge wireless inductive charging along the route to extend the vehicles’ range and operating reliability. We expect to hear about whether this application was successful by the end of 2014. If it is successful, we could have up to 9 electric buses in our fleet by 2016 to evaluate whether a big expansion into electric buses would make sense in this region.

Completing the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Transit Project

Construction of the 7.3-mile Portland-Milwaukie light rail project is on track to be completed on time and on budget. Opening in September 2015, the new MAX Orange Line, TriMet’s fifth MAX line, will connect Portland State University and inner Southeast Portland to Milwaukie and Oak Grove in north Clackamas County via neighborhoods in southeast Portland. During FY15, the project will complete safety certification and operator training in advance of the September 12, 2015 opening. The future Orange Line will expand the MAX system to 60 miles and 97 stations.

Crossing the Willamette River with a new transit bridge

For the first time in 40 years, a new bridge spans the Willamette River in Downtown Portland. At more than 1,700 feet in length, the Tilikum Crossing bridge will be the largest car-free transit bridge in the U.S., designed to carry light rail trains, buses, streetcars, cyclists and pedestrians. It will add capacity to the region’s transportation system, with more light rail connections creating better access to important destinations and reducing commute pressure on other bridges. It will open in September 2015 along with the MAX Orange Line.

2. Ensuring financial stability

Strengthening our financial foundation

We are working hard to control costs and develop a Strategic Financial Plan where we can add service, invest in the system, and meet our obligations. This plan provides a clear blue print for financial and operational decisions and is focused on the sustainability and predictability of TriMet’s financial future. A key challenge going forward is the costs of active and retiree health care benefits that are significantly higher than similar transit agencies throughout the West.

A fair labor contract for our future

Through interest arbitration, TriMet is beginning to lower its employee and retiree benefit costs with the goal of achieving a fair, affordable and sustainable agreement. TriMet union employees enjoy benefits that are well above those typically offered by other transit agencies, other government entities and the private sector.  Non-union employees have already had their benefits and pension reformed, and the agency is working to bring the union benefits into alignment. TriMet’s proposal and all correspondence regarding the negotiations can be found at http://trimet.org/newcontract.

Secretary of State’s Audit

In late 2013 and early 2014, the Secretary of State audited TriMet. The audit identified that “the most serious and looming concerns” for TriMet were related to the cost of health care benefits and the unfunded liability for retiree health care, also known as Other Post Employment Benefits (OPEB). TriMet’s pension system is closed so that new employees no longer add to the pension liability (since 2003 for non-union, more recently for union). The TriMet board has adopted pension funding plans for the closed pension plans with the goal of fully funding the pension plan in less than 15 years so it will no longer be a long-term liability.

The audit noted that TriMet had made progress in the areas of its financial condition, transparency and operations, including the creation of a Transparency and Accountability Center to provide easier access to key documents governing TriMet’s performance, decisionmaking and governance. TriMet will implement all of the audit’s recommendations by the end of 2014 that do not require agreement by the ATU. The agency will work with the ATU on the remaining items.

3. Planning for the Future of Transit

Service Enhancement Plans

In addition to our Annual Service Plan efforts, TriMet is also working with riders, residents, neighborhood groups, governments, schools and businesses to create a shared vision for the future of transit.

Starting in 2012, we began taking a fresh look at how transit service and access to transit can be improved throughout the region to support current needs and future visions. By working with our customers and neighbors about service needs and improvements, we can expand service to be more responsive to the community’s needs. As such, our Service Enhancement Plans directly advance our goal to develop more and better service for neighborhoods to support economic development and improve access to jobs, education and other everyday needs.

The first in a series of these planning efforts focused on Beaverton, Hillsboro, Cornelius, Forest Grove and Washington County, including Aloha/Reedville, Bethany, Rock Creek, Cedar Mill and Cedar Hills. This Westside Service Enhancement Planning process has resulted in a new service vision that will inform the TIP process. The result was a vision of almost doubling the service currently provided in the area. It will take years to fully implement this vision, as resources are available, but this gives us a clear guide for how to improve service each year.

The first such improvements include making a single continuous bus line on Cornell Rd (instead of two discontinuous lines) in FY2013 and connecting expanding high tech employment areas, residential areas and PCC Rock Creek with
Line 47-Baseline/Evergreen and increasing frequencies on Line 48-Cornell to meet peak period needs in FY2014.This service change went into effect in September 2013.

Now, we are working with the public and neighborhoods on plans for the other parts of the region:

  • Eastside, including East Portland and cities of East Multnomah County
  • Southwest, including Southwest Portland and the cities of Tigard, Tualatin, Sherwood, King City, Durham, Lake Oswego and West Linn
  • North/Central, including Portland west of I-205 and generally north of Division
  • Southeast, including the service plan for the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Project opening.

For more on each and to stay updated or get involved, visit trimet.org/future.

Making new Community Connections

Traditional bus service isn’t a good fit everywhere.  Some areas simply have too few people, too few street connections, or lack the mix of land uses to support a traditional bus line. A new type of transit service called “Community Connector Service” is one way for these types of areas to be served by transit. Community Connector Service can be tailored to the neighborhood’s needs and could range from low-cost fixed route bus services to flexible shuttle services. One way of making this kind of service works is for TriMet to work with cities and other partners to identify funding opportunities that would allow local government or groups to contract for shuttle services themselves. For example, the City of Forest Grove is now served by the GroveLink shuttle service in the community operated in partnership with Ride Connection and paid for by federal funds directed through TriMet.

Improving access

TriMet’s Pedestrian Network Analysis Project, developed a data-driven system to prioritize places around the region where sidewalk and crosswalk investments will provide a safer and more comfortable walking experience and better access to transit. Here are some recent shared wins:

  • The City of Portland built 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, and 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. Planning and design are underway and construction is planned to be complete by early 2016.
  • TriMet has partnered with ODOT, cities, and counties to secure some $11.5 million in future funding (FY2016-18) for transit access, safety, and operational improvements in East Portland (MTIP Regional Flexible Funds) and on three major corridors: Powell-Division, Barbur-99W, and Hwy 8-TV Hwy (STIP Enhance funds).
  • TriMet’s FY15 budget also includes funding for pedestrian safety improvements to reduce hazards at areas with more intensive land use, including NE Holladay & 7th Ave and the Convention Center Hotel.
  • Recent funding allocation of $1.9 million from the state of Oregon general fund to install crossing improvements along major roadways in 2014-2015 to parts of East Portland.  This will provide more and better connections to bus stops along lines 4, 9, 10, 20, 23, 25, 71, and 77.
  • Publicized interest from the City of Tigard to become the most walkable community in the Pacific Northwest, and a list of needs highlighted in the city’s Strategic Plan.
  • Construction coming in late 2014 for a new bicycle and pedestrian path in Gresham, linking several MAX stations and strengthening options for local community trips by biking and walking.

Making fares affordable

While being able to safely walk or bike to transit is one key measure of access, affordability is another key determinant of a rider’s ability to use TriMet. To make it easier for families to pay for their kids to get to school, jobs and other activities, TriMet is proposing to reduce its Youth fares to provide a lower cost ride for all young people in the tri-county region. The agency is proposing to reduce the single-ride ticket by 40 cents, from $1.65 to $1.25 and reduce the monthly pass by $2, from $30 to $28. Youth fares are for those between the ages of 7 and 17.

Building partnerships for priorities identified in the region’s high-capacity transit plan

TriMet is a partner in the planning effort for the Powell-Division corridor. Metro has launched the Powell-Division Transit and Development Project looking at business and housing development opportunities and potential transit capital improvements in the Powell Boulevard and/or Division Street corridors. 

The study of options for the Powell-Division corridor will be done in concert with TriMet’s Eastside Service Enhancement Plan, which is working with the public and neighbors generally east of I-205 to create a shared vision for future increased transit services. At the same time, TriMet has led efforts to get more funding for sidewalk and crossing improvements on the Eastside. Our intention is to create a comprehensive set of improvements over time for transit and access to transit on the Eastside.

TriMet is also a partner in the Southwest Corridor planning effort led by Metro. The cities, agencies, and county are working with the public and neighbors in the corridor to discuss how best to achieve a local community vision and address regional goals.   The planning process is intended to develop an action plan for local and regional agreements to build the vision through transportation and community building investments. We are also coordinating these planning efforts with the Southwest Service Enhancement Plan.

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.

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