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Journalist wants TriMet feedback

Posted by on February 9th, 2006 at 4:46 pm

I just got an email from a local journalist who’s working on a story about TriMet and he needs feedback from cyclists. Here are the details:

I’m working on a story about how TriMet handles complaints from passengers, bike riders, pedestrains, and so on. I’m interested in any stories people have about their interactions with their system. Are you happy or dissatisfied with how your complaints were treated? Were complaints followed up? Any help you can offer would be much appreciated. I can be reached at (503) 294-4109 or jimmayer@news.oregonian.com. Thanks!

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  • David February 9, 2006 at 5:20 pm

    I have never filed a complaint, but in one instance I was approached by a MAX employee who advised me to “strap my bike in” when using the bike racks on the MAX. He went on to mention that Tri-met was considering removing the bike racks because of swinging bicycles. After further investigation I found out he was bluffing, but it was still discouraging to be approached in that manner on the MAX.

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  • Andy February 9, 2006 at 10:42 pm

    I had a trimet bus actually pull over last week to allow me, on my knobby single speed, to pass because he said he didn’t want to “slow me down” on Dosch, in Southwest (uh, no, I was not going uphill!). Southwest roads are typically awful, where the room between bikes and vehicles can be nervy, but I do remember and appreciate his concern for my pleasure, the breeze, and primarily, the clean(er) air…. While I wasn’t minding the pacing the bus was providing, I am also sorry I wasn’t thinking fast enough to thank him more profusely when I coasted by.

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  • Hugo Scagnetti February 10, 2006 at 7:30 am

    Congratulation for your blog, I was founded a very interesting information. I have a small group of cycletourism in Spain and we spend time in trips around Europe.
    Someday in Oregon ;-))


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  • Bryan February 10, 2006 at 8:07 am

    The one time I have filed a complaint I found that Tri-Met was quick to respond and sought as much information as possible regarding the incident. I was surprised but also very pleased that they were so willing to investigate my incident with a bus.

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  • Mick February 10, 2006 at 9:23 am

    It could be worse

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  • Evan Manvel February 10, 2006 at 2:36 pm

    Overall, I think TriMet has had an open door to hear the needs of the cycling community, and I think they are making a good faith effort to be good partners. The BTA’s genesis was back in 1990, and we were advocating for having bike racks on all our buses. TriMet heard that concern and responded.

    As to the day to day conflicts, I don’t have immediate experience with them. But TriMet did reach out to us and ask us to write an article for their drivers’ newsletter about how buses drivers should interact with bicyclists, and what the law was. They ran that article last summer.

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  • Steve Scarich February 10, 2006 at 6:53 pm

    About ten years ago, I had three incidents involving Tri-Met (turning in front of me, etc.), but the third one was so blatant that I filed an official complaint. I was stopped at a red light. A bus pulled up later and stopped to my left. As the light turned green, I start forward, the bus commenced to turn right, forcing me to turn the same direction as he, or get run over. He knew I was there, and stilled turned. I wrote a complaint to Tri-Met. They responded immediately that they would talk with the driver, and remind him of the law. Interestingly, when I told Bicycle Transportation Alliance about it (I was a member at the time), they said, “yeah, that happens alot”, but had no interest in documenting my incident.

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  • josh m February 11, 2006 at 12:13 am

    i really have no complaints. i suppose. I’ve had good experiences with buses while on my bike. Last weekend I was in seattle, here’s something new… you can’t put your bike on the bike rack on a bus downtown in seattle. you have to ride out to a certain street to be able to do it!!! the bus driver let me because I had no clue, but I thought that was pretty eff’d up.
    Most drivers are pretty cool. I ride the bus mall downtown, even where it’s “bus only” and the drivers never honk at me or anything. I really can’t think of anything bad, which is odd.
    Taxis on the other hand… eff them.

    the only complaint i have about Tri-met has to do with their “lost and found”. they suck w/ that.

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  • Dabby February 11, 2006 at 1:34 pm

    I am sorry but Tri met folows up on comlaints just enough to make it go away.
    My complaints have never been resolved, even after I have been found in the right…
    I should talk to this guy.
    I have so many Tri Met issues, I hope he knows shorthand….

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  • Dabby February 11, 2006 at 1:35 pm

    I am sorry but Tri met follows up on comlaints just enough to make it go away.
    My complaints have never been resolved, even after I have been found in the right…
    I should talk to this guy.
    I have so many Tri Met issues, I hope he knows shorthand….

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  • organic brian February 11, 2006 at 1:41 pm

    Apparently, TriMet response to complaints varies widely. I’ve had issues that were definitely legitimate, where it seemed that their complaint process was just customer relations, and not meant to actually resolve anything. It has taken repeated contacts just to get the issue out of customer service, to somebody that could even address it. I know that some individuals such as Kiran Limaye try valiantly to be effective and help customers, within the constraints of an organization that is afraid to discipline personnel because of the union. I’ve heard of very outrageous behavior by drivers and other TriMet employees where no consequences were suffered by the employee, presumably because the union would have a strong response to any pay cut or firing of that person.

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  • johoro February 12, 2006 at 3:37 pm

    The reason it’s so hard for TriMet to discipline problem drivers is that they are working in an essentially unsupervised environment, so if a driver breaks the rules and only one person complains about the incident, it becomes a “he said…she said” situation. Without some coroborating testimony, TriMet is hamstrung.

    In spite of the fact that they’re working independently, I’ve rarely had any problem with the drivers. Almost all are courteous and friendly, and many show genuine interest in my bike. The few times I’ve encountered surly drivers, they seemed to be grumpy towards everyone, not just me. With as many employees as Trimet has they’re bound to get a few who aren’t ideal.

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  • Janis February 13, 2006 at 9:23 am

    I sent an email a little more than a week ago. I got a response from them about it being sent to a supervisor but have not heard from him/her yet. I was a passenger on the bus and witnessed the driver honking at a cyclists and riding way too close to his wheel. I am a little disappointed in the response.

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  • Jim Mayer February 13, 2006 at 9:45 am

    Thanks to all of you who have responded to my request for TriMet complaints and how they were handled. A few have called and spoke to me directly, which I very much appreciate. Im still collecting information, so any further stories will be welcome.

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  • Pete Jacobsen February 15, 2006 at 8:39 am

    I hope the writer notes that may Trimet drivers are very courteous. My experiences, like Andy (above) have included two times recently when the driver passed me coming up to a stop, then waited out in the lane for me to peddle by before pulling over to pick up his passengers. In both cases s/he was past me and could have pulled over and I wouldn’t have been offended – they were just nice!

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  • […] A week or so back I posted about a journalist wanting feedback from cyclists about TriMet complaints? The story ended up on the front page of the Sunday Oregonian. Our very own “Organic Brian” got the lone quote from a cyclist. Check out the story. […]

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  • benschon February 20, 2006 at 10:45 am

    TriMet talks about how only 1 in 100 cases is “substantiated.” That got me thinking that there must be a screwy definition, since I doubt that 99% of complaints are made up. Sure enough, the standard for substantiating a complaint is “two witnesses or irrefutable proof”. Are you serious? Can you think of any other company that that requires its customers to present two witnesses to verify a complaint?

    I would like to know what the TriMet does with the record of complaints besides try (and fail) to fire the absolute worst offenders. Is there a threshold of “unsubtantiated” complaints that gets them to take action? TriMet can blame the union, but this is killing their public image, and should be up for discussion at the next labor negotiation.

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  • Charles Hartman February 20, 2006 at 3:22 pm

    Re: Mayer’s article in Sunday’s (19 Feb 06) Oregonian

    I’d like to know who the “many” are who “saw the passenger [who committed assault] as a hero.”

    It’s hardly surprising that Tri-Mets rate of complaints is in decline. What’s the point if Tri-Met is only going to pay lip service, probably with a form letter telling the passenger how much they value their customers’ input–the usual line that almost every company uses.

    So did Albright (the guy who got beat up) get any satisfaction? Did his assailant face any consequences? I’ve never had an unpleasant encounter with a Tri-Met operator and I’ve seen only mild examples of unacceptable passenger relations or questionable driving practices a few times. The buses and electric cars make the city much more liveable and convenient. If TriMet could just rid themselves of the problem drivers, or assign them to some other work it would improve the system. Couldn’t management and the union approach this one issue in a collaborative rather than adverserial manner?

    What I have learnt from this article is that if I’m a victim of a crime in which Tri-Met bears responsibility, I will take it to the law (and The Oregonian) before I’d consider going directly to Tri-Met.

    Maybe it would relieve the drivers if they did not also have to be the conductors, collecting fares and checking passes and transfers. The Max lines use the honor system with random fare checks, and the car operators are in a separate compartment. This seems like a safer working environment, less conducive to driver stress. Why can’t TriMet do the same on the bus lines, or hire conductors?

    The buses on Whidbey Island Washington have no fare system at all. The authority that operates the buses says that fare boxes are a negative income proposition, i.e. they cost more than they generate when every aspect of the operation is taken into account.

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  • organic brian February 21, 2006 at 12:47 am

    Charles, the name now is TriMet not Tri-Met, and if you have any doubts about the number of haters who consider the #14 bus assailant a hero then you probably didn’t check out the OregonLive forum posts around January 17th:

    There were other forums too with similar rhetoric.

    I agree that management and the union could cooperate rather than oppose one another. It seems that bad drivers getting disciplined could help the union: when they argue for better compensation in any area for members they could cite the excellent service that union members give to TriMet, rather than TriMet having the opportunity to argue how poorly many of them do their jobs.

    “What I have learnt from this article is that if I’m a victim of a crime in which Tri-Met bears responsibility, I will take it to the law (and The Oregonian) before I’d consider going directly to Tri-Met.”

    Wouldn’t it be better to contact TriMet AND the authorities / media? This way, when TriMet doesn’t act, it gives you better leverage in the case you end up suing.

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  • Don hendrickson May 19, 2006 at 2:56 pm

    A Tri-Met driver tried to run me over today and followed up with the middle finger and a laugh. The police want nothing to do with it and Tri-met says they’ll try to find out who the driver was. I gave them the exact time, the route, and the bus number. I guess they need to hire CSI as I didn’t give them enough to go on. Very disappointing in a city that boasts about how great it is to cycle here!

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  • david November 1, 2006 at 9:54 am

    11/01/06 I just phoned in a complaint yesterday, on a driver who waited unti I was halfway to the front of his bus before forcing me over into another busy lane…with a funny-ass smirk on his face. I was so close to him, I was able to describe his looks to his moles. I’ll see what happens, plus this is my first complaint actually filed. I could have done this a couple other times in the past, but didn’t know the process.

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  • Joe Rowe January 7, 2007 at 6:44 pm

    Story #1
    I did not lose my cool when a tri-met bus nearly ran me over in the bike lane. I just wrote down the numbers and called in a complaint.

    The result:
    No justice. I could not even get the driver’s name. There is no proof that the complaint was even put on the driver’s record, nor was I able to find out if the driver had a history of complaints.

    It also took me months of calling to have them investigate. About 2 months later I got a very lame letter that included a photo of the bus video camera pointed backwards. I requested the whole video segment from all cameras and they refused. I know for a fact that those cameras are mounted on the front. I wanted the proof from the front cameras. I wanted all the frames for the minute prior and afterwards. When the bus nearly hit me it continued on past me driving in the bike lane even when there was 2 lanes of car traffic open wide. There were no bus stops anywhere nearby. There was no reason the bus needed to be in the bike lane.

    Story #2
    I was riding my bike and car traffic was at a rush hour standstill on Burnside headed East. Burnside was backed up about 4 blocks eastbound from 78th to 82nd Ave. When I got to about 81st I could not proceed because a trimet bus was pulled all the way to the right, completely blocking the bike lane. There was no bus stop nearby and there was plenty of room. I rode on the left hand side and knocked on the window of the driver and asked for his ID number. The bus and traffic were at a standstill. He refused and said to just write down the bus number. He then started to yell at me that I was blocking him and that he had the right to be in the bike lane. I then went to the sidewalk again to write down information and he opened up the door and started to yell at me. I think he was hoping some passenger was going to attack me. I just kept my cool and asked him for the name of his supervisor to which he yelled “it doesn’t matter”.

    I reported this to trimet and requested the video. I tried to call it in that day but their complaint department was closed because it was 6pm on a Friday. When I called again Monday they said the video only is kept for 48 hours.

    I think the Trimet drivers and Trimet complaint department are a bunch of liars. They don’t return calls . They all cover up for each other to keep their jobs.

    I drive my car only 2 times each month, and that means I ride my bike about 10 miles a day. I’ve had onl one close call with a car. I ride on streets that have no cars. On occasion I ride on streets with bike lanes. My worst calls have been with Tri-Met busses who were in bike lanes. Nuts eh?

    The BTA had no help they could offer me. So I’ve pretty much given up on these two incidents. I’ve kept the lame letters they sent me if you want to see them.

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