Oregon Governor has some questions for TriMet

“I don’t think we’ve paid enough attention to how TriMet is doing their business.”

– Tina Kotek, to OPB

(Photo: Kotek at a PBOT open house event in 2017, by Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Oregon Governor Tina Kotek hinted at her desire for more accountability at TriMet in an interview with Oregon Public Broadcasting last week.

The exchange with Dave Miller (of Think Out Loud fame) came in response to a question he asked Kotek on behalf of Sarah Iannarone, a former Portland mayoral candidate and current executive director of transportation advocacy nonprofit The Street Trust.

Iannarone submitted a question to OPB that referenced Oregon’s woeful track record of pedestrian fatalities, high household transportation costs, and the relative absence of any focus on these topics by Kotek (either in her campaign or her public statements thus far).

In her answer, Kotek pivoted to TriMet.

Here’s the exchange:

Dave Miller: Sarah Iannarone, a former mayoral candidate who is now the head of the Street Trust, sent us this question: “Oregon was in the top 10 states for pedestrian fatalities in the latter half of 2022. Transportation is the second highest household cost after housing for many people. Yet our mobility isn’t much talked about in the governor’s agenda. What are Tina Kotek’s plans to get Oregonians moving safely and affordably?”

Tina Kotek: Thank you for the question, Sarah. In the 2017 transportation package we did, for the first time, have a statewide payroll tax to help local transit. Again, I haven’t been in office very long, but one of the questions I would have for the Department of Transportation and our local transit districts is: “How are they using that money effectively to improve lines and the pricing?” I don’t think we’ve paid enough attention to how TriMet is doing their business, and so having conversations with them will be important.

Dave Miller: What are the questions that you are most eager to ask them?

Tina Kotek: Well, are we really focusing on making it as easy as possible to move people, make that option of public transit a real option? As you know, I lived in and represented North and Northeast Portland for years, and it wasn’t easy to get on the bus and get where you need to go, and the Max was too slow, multiple stops, right? How do you really have a conversation about changing behavior? It has to be easier, has to be affordable, and TriMet plays a big role in the metro area, and I’m going to ask them what they need and see if we have to do something differently so they can do a better job serving the community.

It’s notable that Kotek zeroed in on TriMet here. There was nothing in the question that even referenced transit, yet this is what popped into the Governor’s mind. Why is it notable? Because for many years, advocates have grumbled about the lack of accountability at TriMet, and despite its reputation compared to other transit agencies in America, using the bus and MAX in our region is still not as easy or attractive to people as it should be (especially compared to driving a car).

One reason it’s difficult to hold TriMet accountable (and thus, push them to be more bold) is because their board is chosen by the governor. That means even though TriMet is funded primarily by payroll taxes and fares from the Portland region, it’s governance is controlled by lawmakers in Salem who might have never set foot on a TriMet bus.

Not only is Kotek different because she has lived experience using TriMet (and she had constituents in north Portland as a state legislator who relied on it as their primary form of transportation), she has now made public her concerns about whether or not it’s doing enough of the right things.

In my interview with former Metro President and leader of Transit Center David Bragdon last month, he said without hesitation that TriMet lacks accountability and that the solution is to change its governance structure so that Metro, our regional planning authority, has final say over its leadership.

Here’s Bragdon on that subject:

“Basic principle 100 of good governance is that those who are most effected, those who pay the bills, that’s who should be in charge. So, who pays for TriMet? It’s the people who live in this region who pay the payroll tax and who pay the fares. And while that is enabled by the state, it is not a statewide revenue source, it is a revenue source in this region and most effects this region, and those are the people who should be in charge.

… Absolutely TriMet should be under regional control… The idea that there the board should be appointed by a governor, you know, and then confirmed by state senators from Burns or Klamath Falls absolutely makes zero sense. And it’s not fiscally responsible…”

For the first time in a long time, we have a governor who understands our region from a transportation perspective and has questions for TriMet. This is definitely something to keep an eye on.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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Tim
Tim
1 year ago

Underground express MAX confirmed.

Will
Will
1 year ago

Metro can take TriMet over at any time, but it doesn’t sound like they have plans to do so. Why is that?

SolarEclipse
SolarEclipse
1 year ago
Reply to  Will

Replacing incompetent TriMet management with incompetent elected officials and management at Metro hardly seems a satisfactory solution. I couldn’t imagine what would be worse.
I ask this seriously, how are other major transportation companies in other major cities held accountable? An elected board? A nominated board? Local elected officials?

Anything would likely be better than the current setup. I stood at Gateway TC this morning and could only shake my head at how many rats (3) I saw running around all the garbage that is piling up because Trimet doesn’t take care of it. My co-workers keep telling me I should just drive and park downtown having listened to my complaining. They’ve abandoned Trimet long ago and I’m one of the few holdouts.

Chris
Chris
1 year ago
Reply to  SolarEclipse

Be careful what you wish for. The Trimet board all generally seems to support transit and probably shares the governor’s vision of what Trimet should be. A board of elected officials will take their reelection into account when making decisions and you risk getting politicians who don’t support transit on the board.

CTran has an appointed board of elected officials pulled from the city and county councils in Clark County. A change was made a few years ago so there were 3 representatives from the city of Vancouver, 2 from the Clark County council, 1 each from Camas, Washougal, and Battle Ground and 1 seat shared by LaCenter, Ridgefield, and Yacolt. There is also one non-voting labor representative.

Will
Will
1 year ago
Reply to  SolarEclipse

Sound Transit

Sound Transit is governed by an 18-member Board made up of local elected officials proportional to the population included in the Sound Transit district. Three members are from Snohomish County; 10 from King County; and four from Pierce County. The last seat is held by the Washington State Secretary of Transportation.

Translink has a more complicated structure, which should just be read about on their website: HERE

CTA

The governing arm of the CTA is the Chicago Transit Board. The Board consists of seven members, with four appointed by the Mayor of Chicago and three appointed by the Governor of Illinois. 

The Mayor’s appointees are subject to the approval of the Governor and the Chicago City Council; the Governor’s appointees are subject to the approval of the Mayor and the Illinois State Senate. CTA’s day-to-day operations are directed by Dorval R. Carter, Jr., President.

MTA

The MTA is governed by a 23-member Board. Voting members are nominated by the Governor, with four recommended by New York City’s mayor and one each by the county executives of Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Dutchess, Orange, Rockland, and Putnam counties (the members representing the latter four cast one collective vote).

The Board also has six rotating non-voting seats held by representatives of organized labor and the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee (PCAC), which serves as a voice for users of MTA transit and commuter facilities.

LA Metro

The Board of Directors is comprised of representatives from the City of Los Angeles, the County of Los Angeles, the other incorporated cities and unincorporated areas in Los Angeles County, and a non-voting member representing the Governor. The full Board typically meets once a month to review budgets, contracts, policies and programs, and make decisions about what to adopt, fund and build.

You can view the organizing structure of several European transit agencies HERE

With regards to Metro taking over TriMet, I didn’t mean that the Metro Councilors would be running TriMet directly, but rather that they would be appointing the Board and overseeing TriMet. Another option, although not legislatively enabled at the moment, would be to have the Port of Portland run it, same as they do the airports. I don’t know if that’s desirable for a TriMet level agency, but I could see it being desirable if we were serious about developing intercity rail in the Willamette Valley, and eventually Cascadia HSR.

Serenity
Serenity
1 year ago
Reply to  SolarEclipse

Plenty of things could be worse. Elected officials could at least be held accountable.

Matt S.
Matt S.
1 year ago
Reply to  SolarEclipse

My wife just got a job in Hillsboro, one block from the Max, we live about a mile from the Max. I asked her if she was going to ride ever and she said, “Nope! Too slow, unsafe, and it doesn’t have heated seats.”

Seriously, who rides it these days?!

Fred
Fred
1 year ago
Reply to  Matt S.

I do, along with a whole lot of “people experiencing addiction and/or mental-health crises” – that’s who.

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)
Editor
Reply to  SolarEclipse

Watching rats on train tracks is good clean fun. I even made up a ditty about them to amuse my toddler:

The rat sat on the track
He better get back
Here comes the six train
To squish him flat

Per Johansson
Per Johansson
1 year ago

You have heard of the bubonic plague right? (Sorry but the chaos of Portland is no longer amusing to me)

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)
Editor
Reply to  Per Johansson

I struggled through La Peste in French during the worst of covid (it was my learn to speak French project, I like learning in the deep end). So yeah, I’m familiar with the bubonic plague, and the pneumonic version also.

I think Portland is turning a corner, but I didn’t like recent news I heard second hand about the new all-black police cars.

David Hampsten
1 year ago

Totally unrelated, but the BBC recently had a story on the plague, the one from the 1300s, that it wasn’t actually carried by rats at all (or their fleas), but was transmitted only from human to human. The current Bubonic Plague is apparently genetically different from the “black death” of the 1300s, though some of their symptoms are similar.

Watts
Watts
1 year ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

There is a wonderful documentary on the plague done by a film maker named Monty Python that I highly recommend.

Serenity
Serenity
1 year ago
Reply to  SolarEclipse

Anything would likely be better than the current setup

Oh, no, no! Don’t say that! Many things could be worse.

jakeco969
jakeco969
1 year ago
Reply to  Will

I’m not sure it would help. It seems between various city, county, Trimet and Metro government/taxation/graft that at least one, maybe two of them should go. Amazing how much government exists and since things are not getting better a question for the Governor is if she will attempt a gordian knot move to actually excise some of the problems.

Will
Will
1 year ago
Reply to  jakeco969

I’m personally in favor of keeping Metro, but eliminating the counties within the Metro boundary and transferring their responsibilities to Metro. But I’d also like to see Metro constituted more like a true regional government in the vein of Ile de France or Metropolitan Lyon.

Jason McHuff
1 year ago
Reply to  Will

Yes, I’d combine the urban areas of the 3 counties, TriMet, Metro and maybe others into a Metro County or two.

Atreus
Atreus
1 year ago
Reply to  Will

I’ve asked Metro staff about this, and they say it’s just a matter of not wanting to absorb a massive organization that is far larger than them. Imagine a small company acquiring a really large company–that’s what it would be like. Metro is very busy owning and managing solid waste services, the zoo, performing arts venues, cemeteries, golf courses, Expo Center, etc plus doing all their long-range planning and growth management stuff. The last thing they want is to run the public transit system. If we want it to happen, I think we would need the legislature to force the two agencies to merge.

Michael Andersen
1 year ago
Reply to  Atreus

this

David Hampsten
1 year ago
Reply to  Atreus

A bit like #4 NationsBank absorbing #2 Bank of America in 2002 – sack all their staff in San Francisco and move the remnants to Charlotte NC, then change the name of all the NationsBank branches to “Bank of America” and keep the logo. It gutted the larger bank, but the transformation of Charlotte was truly remarkable – suddenly there was this huge migration of rich white Californians into the Deep South using public transit and demanding better services and bike facilities – maybe we could hope for something similar with Metro gutting TriMet? HSR integrated with bus and light rail at the airport, like Frankfurt or Amsterdam? Open transparent decision-making?

Michael
Michael
1 year ago

Tina Kotek: Well, are we really focusing on making it as easy as possible to move people, make that option of public transit a real option? As you know, I lived in and represented North and Northeast Portland for years, and it wasn’t easy to get on the bus and get where you need to go, and the Max was too slow, multiple stops, right? How do you really have a conversation about changing behavior? It has to be easier, has to be affordable, and TriMet plays a big role in the metro area, and I’m going to ask them what they need and see if we have to do something differently so they can do a better job serving the community.

As a fellow resident of NE Portland, I can unequivocally say that 90% of the time, no, it’s not a real option. It’s ridiculous that my weekly 15 minute drive to South Portland becomes an hour-plus trip if I were to take Trimet. When the 87 bus runs only every 30 minutes, it makes it really hard to make my trip north to get to my frequent doctor’s appointments–God forbid my appointment runs even slightly long and I get stranded next to the loud, uncomfortable, and unsheltered stop at Airport & 122nd. It’s great that we have these fancy, high capacity articulated buses on Division now, but they still only run every 15 minutes. I get Trimet’s desire to fix capacity issues by running bigger buses–it’s cheaper after all and I remember very well the operator shortage issues we were having recently–but that really only works at the margins to make transit more convenient. What Trimet desperately needs is to fix capacity by increasing frequency, as that will have the synergistic effect of making the bus more convenient for the people who currently have to make the choice between coming up with an active plan on how to get to A to B and figure out how much of a time sacrifice they’re going to make versus just hopping in the car in their garage or a few feet in front of their house or apartment and just… driving away. Headways of longer than 5 minutes along major transportation corridors is a policy failure, pure and simple.

And don’t even get me started on regional, statewide, and interstate transportation conditions. 4 daily trains between Portland and Seattle is just criminal. Compare that to Manchester and Birmingham in England (similar sizes of metro area and similar distance from each other) which has dozens of trains serving them on a daily basis.

I’m happy to see Gov. Kotek is at least thinking about the issue, but I want more than just a passing thought and some lip service in an interview while we continue to spend billions to expand highways all around the state.

Atreus
Atreus
1 year ago
Reply to  Michael

Comment of the Week!

 
 
1 year ago

Spending time in other cities — even those that do not have reputations as being transit-friendly places — really is eye-opening with regards to how bad TriMet’s service is. Go travel to any other western US city of comparable size and then tell me that TriMet’s service is in any way adequate or sensible. Especially on the west side of Portland, where service is practically nonexistent unless you happen to live right on Beaverton-Hillsdale. I’m glad that Kotek seems to recognize this issue.

Personally, I believe the issue is that TriMet seems to have an infatuation with light rail and streetcars over local bus service, bus rapid transit, or commuter rail. I see light rail and streetcars as combining the poor aspects of bus service and commuter rail without any of the positives of either. It’s slow and gets stuck in traffic like bus service, but simultaneously has the inflexibility and access issues of commuter rail. And yet seemingly all TriMet has wanted to do over the past few decades is cut local bus service and implement new light rail lines. No bus rapid transit projects —no, the FX project doesn’t count as true BRT — and no commuter rail projects aside from the absurd WES. The Southwest Corridor ballot measure shows that the majority of Portland doesn’t want another light rail line, especially along a corridor that is almost tailor-made for BRT.

In my view, TriMet needs to immediately cease to pursue any new streetcar or light rail projects and instead focus on building out their bus network. This includes increasing frequency of service, creating true BRT lines along corridors like TV Highway, Barbur, and outer Division, reintroducing service to areas that have recently had service cut in places such as the southwest hills, and introducing service to areas like Sherwood or Wilsonville. With the advent of work-from-home commuter rail probably makes less sense than in the past, but upgrading the Blue or Red Lines to true commuter rail would make a world of difference as well. TriMet’s forward together plan is a good start but doesn’t go nearly far enough.

soren
soren
1 year ago
Reply to   

cease to pursue any new streetcar … projects

This is not a trimet project. It’s a city of portland project that was explicitly designed to juice the enormous profits of wealthy real estate developers and landlords.

SolarEclipse
SolarEclipse
1 year ago
Reply to   

Transit projects are cash machines for the local construction industry. Painting some bus lanes red doesn’t make enough money for those CEOs.

jakeco969
jakeco969
1 year ago
Reply to  SolarEclipse

Which explains why there’s always enough money to build out, but never enough to maintain. It’s essentially wealth distribution to the well connected.

blumdrew
1 year ago
Reply to  SolarEclipse

It’s worth saying that this is hardly constrained to just transit projects. All spending on public works is subject to this dynamic – doesn’t really matter if it’s a road or a railroad. You better believe the contractors building the new Abernathy bridge are making a killing too

blumdrew
1 year ago
Reply to   

The FX isn’t even worth comparing to BRT. It has no substantial exclusive right of way. It doesn’t even have level boarding for crying out loud.

The SW Corridor isn’t proof that Portland doesn’t want another light rail line – just not that one. It was a very flawed project, and wouldn’t have really been a big ridership draw. Portland’s insistence on light rail, rather then something actually resembling rapid transit (like the Vancouver SkyTrain) has crippled the capacity of our public transit system for the foreseeable future, but this problem is not exclusive to Portland. Seattle is spending billions on a regional light rail system that is like 95% grade separated, but will still have huge system capacity constraints because they didn’t build the section on Rainier Ave above grade.

If you look long enough at any US city you’ll find transit projects being kicked to the curb, forgotten about, or killed by a thousand cuts while highways sit intact or get expanded. TriMet isn’t building those BRT lines in no small part because the agency that has jurisdiction over most of the road is entirely unwilling to even pay lip service to a public transit solution. Until the car-centric mobility hegenomy is meaningfully changed, TriMet will seriously struggle to build any sort of good project.

And concerning Sherwood and Wilsonville – TriMet does currently run a bus to Sherwood (the 94). They used to run service in and to Wilsonville until the city decided to leave and start their own transit service (SMART). Ditto with Canby I think. TriMet has historically been unable/unwilling to provide adequate service to the outlying suburbs, while also being unable/unwilling to provide anything other than Downtown hub-spoke service to Portlanders.

John D.
John D.
1 year ago
Reply to   

“…instead focus on building out their bus network. ”

I think you’ll appreciate some of what they are proposing for their long term system redesign.

https://trimet.org/forward/

It includes a lot of focus on adding Frequent lines.

As to BRT on TV Hwy, let Metro know what you think they should be working on. There’s a project study underway for improved transit along that route.

https://www.oregonmetro.gov/public-projects/tualatin-valley-highway-transit-project

blumdrew
1 year ago

TriMet is not a well governed public agency, and I think Metro taking control would be a good choice in terms of oversight and governance. But the transit issues in Portland are deeper than governance I think – and Metro is not immune from those issues.

In my estimation, the Portland transit philosophy is still predicated on doing as little as possible to disrupt the car-focused status quo. I mean the SW Corridor diverted away from 99W in Tigard because of “auto lane concerns”. We still have shared street-running corridors for all of our “rapid” transit lines. The Portland Streetcar (I know it’s run and planned by the city – but still) declares itself as “high capacity“, while being very very far away from that.

Could Metro improve all this? Yes. But I’m not holding my breath

Serenity
Serenity
1 year ago
Reply to  blumdrew

TriMet is not a public agency,

Fred
Fred
1 year ago
Reply to  Serenity

Yes it is. All of their employees are covered by PERS.

Zoe
Zoe
1 year ago
Reply to  Fred

Incorrect re: PERS.

Serenity
Serenity
1 year ago
Reply to  Fred

Trimet is quasi governmental. Their board is appointed by the governor.

Atreus
Atreus
1 year ago
Reply to  blumdrew

What I hated most about SW Corridor was that one of the biggest cost drivers was the projects’ insistence on maintaining 4 travel lanes on Barbur the whole way, meaning they had to include massive roadway widening and bridge replacements. If you’re going to add light rail to a highway that has a freeway right alongside it, at least take it down to one lane in each direction so people are nudged to actually take transit! And it would be cheaper and safer that way. This approach of trying to improve transit while having no impact on driving is so ridiculous.

Per Johansson
Per Johansson
1 year ago
Reply to  blumdrew

Metro improve this? The ones that brought us the failed Homeless Tax? I don’t think so

Jay Cee
Jay Cee
1 year ago

Yes. But what about the record number of traffic deaths governor?

Dave
Dave
1 year ago

Here’s a question for TriMet: why the silence on road/congestion pricing? Literally no voice in the conversation.

Baffling that, at least publicly, the regional transit agency is not using this once in a generation opportunity to leverage road pricing to its (and the public’s) benefit.

TriMet – you are not just ‘along for the ride’ here, this is a space that needs compelling pro-transit messaging and right now, you’re blowing it.

Michael
Michael
1 year ago
Reply to  Dave

Going further, Trimet 100% needs to be fully involved with any kind of tolling conversation in the region, or else the prospect of tolling raises serious equity concerns for the most vulnerable people in our region–people who have been priced out of the urban core by awful housing policy and forced into impoverishing choices to spend huge amounts of time or money trying to move around through terrible public transportation policy.

Will
Will
1 year ago
Reply to  Michael

They probably haven’t said much because they won’t receive any funds from tolling projects, which is the whole problem with them in the first place. If you’re going to do congestion pricing, the funds have to go to a) prebates for low-income households, b) expanded transportation wallets for low-income households, and c) public transit. Using them to pay off freeway widening projects – which is what we’re planning to do – is a waste at best.

soren
soren
1 year ago
Reply to  Will

prebates for low-income households

Libertarians are so loathe to exempt poor people from fees that they have to invent a new word and complicated mechanism to distance themselves from anything that resembles of compassion.

Will
Will
1 year ago
Reply to  soren
John D.
John D.
1 year ago
Reply to  Michael

I don’t have any insider knowledge, but I know that TriMet is aware of the tolling projects, and is making plans. For example, in their recent bus system redesign proposal, they made sure to highlight that if the 205 bridge tolling happens in Oregon City, they would be looking for funding (from the state presumably) for increasing the 35 to frequent service, and running some of the 76 buses out to West Linn and Oregon City.

Atreus
Atreus
1 year ago
Reply to  John D.

What’s awkward is that the Oregon constitution prohibits using toll revenue (or gas tax) for transit operations, so they would have to get some kind of special earmark from the legislature using general funds to make this strategy work.

Doug Allen
Doug Allen
1 year ago
Reply to  Atreus

ODOT has a secret memo (attorney-client privileged) from the Oregon Department of Justice saying that toll revenue is a tax, in the same category as the gas tax. The Oregon constitution doesn’t actually say this. Oregon’s courts haven’t ever ruled on whether tolls are taxes, or how toll revenue may be spent, unlike in California, where the courts have ruled that tolls are not taxes, and can be spent on transit, both bus and rail, outside of highway rights-of-way. For now, we seem to be stuck with the ODOT interpretation.

squareman
squareman
1 year ago

100% agree with Bragdon. I listened to that podcast episode and was nodding emphatically when he was saying the part you quoted.

Serenity
Serenity
1 year ago

About time the Governor questioned TriMet.

Alex Bauman
Alex Bauman
1 year ago

Are there particular issues/projects that TriMet has acted unaccountably on? What does unaccountable mean in this context? Disregarding community opinion? Nepotism?

I’ve ridden transit in at least a few of Portland’s peer cities, and in my opinion TriMet provides more frequent, legible, and comfortable service than Charlotte, St Louis, or San Antonio. Other peers I’ve ridden transit in like Baltimore and Las Vegas are better than TriMet in some ways but worse in others (mostly worse in the case of Las Vegas). In my experience TriMet provides comparable service to higher-tier cities like Seattle or Minneapolis.

Granted, I live in Eugene so I mostly experience transit in Portland as a tourist or moving through the city to Union Station or PDX (or as a relief in that it is actually a usable transit system, unlike in Eugene). But I was bewildered by Gov Kotek’s answer because of my positive experience with TriMet and my understanding that it’s generally highly-regarded in the industry, and I was also disappointed in her answer because she dodged the safety question and missed the opportunity to sell the potential for systemic change in the CFEC regulations.

David Hampsten
1 year ago
Reply to  Alex Bauman

What many cities do, Boston and DC for example, is hire professional companies to run their transit operations rather than use municipal or government employees. Their boards are still local or regional and set policies and fares, but the professional companies deal with the unions, run operations, dispatchers, customer service, bus drivers, rail maintenance, and so on. Of the big 5 multinationals that do this in the USA, 3 are French (Keolis, TransDev, and RAT-P) and two are British (First Transit & National Coach) – together they operate about 80% of public transit services in the USA and Canada as well as BOLT and Greyhound.

Luke
Luke
1 year ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

No one should be looking to Boston’s MBTA for rules on how to run a good transit system. No doubt it’s underfunded, but….Yeesh. Pair how insufficient it is to the region’s need with how little interest MBTA’s heads have in any rational change (e.g., overhead electrification of commuter rail and turning it into modern regional rail)–then look at how the country’s best transit system, NYC’s MTA, is run–and it becomes obvious that America needs to start looking overseas for lessons on how to do transit well.

Alex Bauman
Alex Bauman
1 year ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

Um, what? Citation, please? I could find zero mention on the MBTA or WMATA websites or wikipedia that operations for either agency are outsourced to contractors (except for paratransit, which is commonly outsourced nationwide).

On top of the seeming unreliability of your comment, how is it relevant to my questions? Are you saying that TriMet would be more accountable if it outsource operations to a private company? Do you think there is a big grassroots movement to privatize government functions in Oregon? Because… I don’t think that exists…

David Hampsten
1 year ago
Reply to  Alex Bauman

You might try looking up the companies themselves – naturally they boast about their contracts, but Wikipedia has the info too if you dig deep enough. And as Will rightly points out below, the French companies are all majority government-owned, precisely because Europeans really do care about running public transit well, unlike most Americans.

As for hiring contractors versus running an agency internally, do you trust PBOT, ODOT, or TriMet to run themselves well right now? If given a choice between running more efficiently by laying off useless staff versus keeping all staff at the expense of cutting services, what do they normally do? That’s right, they preserve their own jobs by cutting public services. Same as it always was, same as it will always be.

Contractors on the other hand are more interested in the “bottom line” and preserving their ongoing service contracts, even to the point of getting ride of excess staff by offering them jobs elsewhere – there’s a serious shortage of transit staff nationwide and it’s in the best interest of these companies to keep good relationships with their workers and the unions.

So yes, I think the Portland area would save hundreds of millions annually by contracting out for bus services and fire the management at TriMet – likely most of the drivers would get hired by the contractors anyway, with increased wages and benefits, while preserving their union affiliations. It would bring in experts from Europe who can actually give you door-to-door transit by bike, scooter, bus, and light rail, rather than the mess you have now.

Alex Bauman
Alex Bauman
1 year ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

Or maybe you can cite sources for assertions you post online? What, you want me to look up each of the 5 companies to see which of them contracts with the 2 agencies you mentioned? Honestly, I find your comments condescending and insulting. Digressive, unsupported, inaccurate comments are the problem with the internet.

Will
Will
1 year ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

Aren’t those French companies all government owned? Seems like it’s just hiring French versions of TriMet to run things. Which is fine.

Atreus
Atreus
1 year ago

On the one hand, this comes across a bit like an evasion tactic to avoid the question and talk about something else. But on the other hand, public transit is by far the safest way to travel so if we could get more people to ride transit that would have a significant safety benefit. TriMet’s current “strategy” of raising fares while cutting service doesn’t seem like the way to do that. They should be doing a full-court press lobbying effort to get more funding!

Per Johansson
Per Johansson
1 year ago
Reply to  Atreus

Yep Kotek is vey skilled at diverting tactics. Look at how she got everyone talking about Trimet instead of traffic deaths.

Luke
Luke
1 year ago
Reply to  Per Johansson

Well, they are related. I’ve used TriMet enough to think that–albeit privileged by my 6’5″ white-male status–safety concerns are at least somewhat overblown, and especially considering how universally bad drivers in this region are, TriMet is an obvious and necessary place to start reducing traffic deaths.

wateriswet
wateriswet
1 year ago
Reply to  Luke

Tall young white male states that “safety concerns are at least somewhat overblown”.

Fred
Fred
1 year ago

Imagine the howls you’d hear – you already hear – from legislators in Burns and Klamath Falls at the notion of people from Portland or Salem determining how they run things. Open any news release from any Republican legislator and you’ll see language about how “Portland-centric” or “Salem-centric” decisionmaking hurts rural communities. Yet the rest of the state gets a say in how Trimet runs.

Bragdon is right: Trimet should be run by Metro.

It’s nice that Tina Kotek gets a say in how Trimet is run, but she really shouldn’t.

Michael Andersen
1 year ago

Good catch!

MarkM
1 year ago

Thanks, Jonathan. I also appreciate your Q&A podcast with Mingus.

RE: “…controlled by lawmakers in Salem who might have never set foot on a TriMet bus.”

I agree! Although the context of your BikePortland story was different, I’m going to recycle and [extend] what I said here last December. “To regional public policymakers and traffic engineers: Take (make) time to explore our region on foot [and on public transit]. Live the experience. Go out on dark and rainy days, get out of your neighborhood, leave your staffers behind, and don’t do a [performative] photo-op at the end.”

In business, this is analogous to management by walking (or wandering) around. I’m always encouraged when I learn about and even see some of our reps doing walkabouts in the Portland metro region.

Carrie
Carrie
1 year ago

It’s also significant (in a very good way) that at least two of the Governor’s policy advisors are/were regular transit riders (Scannell Brooks and Power). Like many of us, they most likely have the same love/hate relationship with TriMet.