Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on February 8th, 2012 at 11:33 am
This morning, TriMet unveiled a proposal of service cuts and fare increases they plan to move forward with in order to make up for a $17 million budget shortfall. If you're a fan of transit, and of making our city one that is less reliant on private automobiles, this is not good news.
The changes include a transformation of the existing fare system by; eliminating zones, no longer allowing a round-trip on one ticket, doing away with the 'Free Rail Zone' (formerly known as Fareless Square), reducing MAX train service, and cutting low-volume bus lines.
Local writer, activist, and carfree mom Sarah Gilbert (yes that Sarah Gilbert), summed up how those changes will impact her family in a guest post on the Taking the Lane blog (note that her article was written before the budget proposal was made public; but she says her analysis remains valid):
"The proposed fare policy would force families with young children off the bus entirely. Most would go back to the car for errands and other short trips. The bus aisles will be clear of strollers. But the streets will be clogged with cars."
I can vouch for Gilbert's prediction. Even before these changes, the cost of TriMet fares for my family have led us to use the mini-van over taking the train or bus on more than one occasion. I know other people who tell similar stories. Trip choice is about competition and the cost of a trip plays a big role in people's choices. As fares rise, transit will become an even less competitive option.
Yes, some people will turn to bicycling; but given the lack of connectivity and quality in many of our urban bikeways and the added complication of traveling with small children on family errands, bikes are not as attractive for everyone. The way I see it, this just adds urgency to making our streets safer to bike on for 8-80 year olds (and it creates an even healthier market for cargo bikes!).
That being said, if the fare increases and service reductions make transit less competitive, bicycling becomes an even more appealing option. And historical usage trends show that — despite a huge disparity in investment in the bike network versus the transit network — bike use is trending upward at a faster rate than transit use.
According to the City of Portland's 2011 Community Survey (conducted by the Auditor's Office), 7% of Portlanders bike to work and 12% take transit. In inner northeast Portland, there is actually a greater percentage of bike riders (14) than transit users (13).
While biking might see a blip, since about 65% of Portlanders still drive alone to work and for other trips, it's likely we'll see more cars on the roads.
Another aspect of this issue is the importance of an accessible and affordable transit network as a natural ally of a quality bike network. In cities that work, biking and transit are seamless and they feed off each other. TriMet's MAX cuts to Beaverton specifically will impact the many bike commuters who rely on the train to get them up and over the west hills.
As our friend Andrew Seger says via Twitter, "The max cuts to Beaverton really hurts bike commuters, the west hills are a tall challenge & the bike hooks are full right now."
My hunch is there aren't as many transit advocates/activists in Portland as their are bike advocates/activists. On this issue, I think we should all be singing from the same sheet of music. On that note, there is one local non-profit, OPAL (Facebook), that is doing some great work to speak up for transit access. They had a meeting about it last night and they've got another one planned for tonight...
If you would like to get involved with this issue and help influence TriMet's budget, consider getting involved with OPAL. TriMet is also holding a series of "informal open houses to answer questions and gather input from the public." Details are below:
Saturday, Feb. 11
Beaverton Library Conf. Room
12375 SW 5th St.
Monday, Feb. 13
Multnomah County's East County Health Ctr.
Sharron Kelly A & B
600 NE 8th Street, Gresham
Wednesday, Feb. 15
Portland Building Room C
1120 SW 5th Ave.
Thursday, Feb. 16
Clackamas Town Center
Community Room Lower Level
12000 SE 82nd Ave.
As (I assume) someone who cares about bicycling, what are your thoughts about the TriMet situation? Is this something more bike advocates should get fired up about?Email This Post Possibly related posts
- Transit in trouble: Attend TriMet budget open house tonight
- Will transit's gloomy future hasten the biking boom?
- Newswire: Bus Riders Call on TriMet Directors to Restore Bus Service, Repeal Fare Increase
- City announces streetcar loop fare discussion open houses
- TriMet budget adopted: Will cuts and fare hikes lead to more bike use?