This morning I visited the offices of Basic Rights Oregon in Downtown Portland to talk with some of the riders who work there and at Western States Center, another non-profit organization down the hall. Everybody in the room is involved in important work in the community, especially related to the needs of LGBT residents.
This group of riders expressed many of the same concerns I hear all over our region about service cuts, ticket vending machines and the financing of the new Portland-Milwaukie MAX. I explained that although we are only able to provide a very limited number of service increases and improvements this year, our ultimate goal is to increase service significantly. But first, TriMet needs to decrease its health care costs to create a sustainable budget. Another piece of good news I shared is that by July 1, we will have replaced more than half of our oldest ticket machines. It’s not a cure-all, but we think this will translate into a better customer experience. Finally, I explained that the financing of the new MAX makes up less than 5% of the TriMet budget.
One rider asked if TriMet offers cultural competency training to its employees. I was pleased to report a new development: I have set aside funding for the next fiscal year to give a pivotal group of over 100 of our frontline employees – the ones with the most contact with customers and operators – training that will strengthen their understanding of the diverse communities they serve each day.
One rider, who recently moved to Portland from Chicago, asked about our [outdated] fare system (it was said more nicely than that)! Thankfully, I had my smartphone handy and could show the group TriMet’s new mobile ticketing app, which a small group of riders will be beta testing very soon. And that’s just the first step: We’re also moving toward a fully electronic fare collection system, which could be in place by 2017-18.
Once again, it was a great to get out and meet our riders one-on-one. Thanks to everyone who joined me for coffee this sunny May morning!