Category Archives: Rider News

55 new buses to join the fleet in 2012

This rendering shows what our new buses will look like when they arrive from the manufacturer in fall 2012.

Great news for bus riders! We’re adding 55 new buses to the fleet next year.

As riders can attest, many of our buses are overdue for replacement. (About 150 buses in our fleet are more than 18 years old.) They’re noisy and bumpy, and some don’t even have air conditioning. Not only are these older buses uncomfortable for riders and operators, they are becoming too unreliable and expensive for us to maintain.

That’s why, using grant funding and debt service, we’re replacing 55 of our oldest buses in 2012. We’re also planning for future bus purchases, starting with a “State of Good Repair” grant from the Federal Transit Administration that will fund an additional 14 buses in 2013.

The new buses are currently being designed at the Gillig factory in Hayward, California.

In addition to air conditioning, automatic stop announcements and low floors for easy boarding, they’ll feature:

  • vinyl seats that are easier to clean
  • LED lights on the mirrors that alert pedestrians and motorists of intent to turn
  • an innovative electronic cooling system based on auto-racing technology
  • a longer, more gradual boarding ramp capable of carrying heavier loads
  • a streamlined front end

Four of the buses will be next-generation hybrid-electric vehicles, which we will test for performance, maintenance needs and fuel efficiency.

The electronic cooling system, dubbed “mini-hybrid” technology, is already in use on more than 100 of our buses and has been shown to improve fuel economy by more than 5 percent. It uses an electrified subsystem to operate at an optimal temperature range, as opposed to a standard hydraulic or mechanical fan system.

Our goal is to reduce the average age of our bus fleet from 13 1/2 years to 8 by 2020, and to replace all remaining high-floor buses (those with steps at the door) with low-floor vehicles by 2013.

A prototype bus is expected to arrive in Portland next spring, and the rest will begin shipping from the factory in the fall. Stay tuned for more details!

WEIGH IN ON FACEBOOK: What are you looking forward to most about our new buses?

Dave Whipple

I'm TriMet’s manager of marketing and rider communications. I oversee the agency's web and mobile initiatives and help build useful and usable online tools for riders. I also moonlight as a musician in my spare time.

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Budget shortfall expected due to stagnant economy, federal funding and labor contract

Neil McFarlane is TriMet’s General Manager.

Yesterday, I briefed TriMet’s Board of Directors on the outlook for our upcoming budget. I told the Board that we are in a time I am calling the “new normal.” A time when fiscal uncertainty has created the perfect storm, leaving us to face a $12 million to $17 million budget gap in Fiscal Year 2013 (our budget year that starts July 1, 2012).

Why? Three main reasons:

1. A stagnant economy—With employment in the region growing ever so slowly, our incoming revenue from employer payroll taxes (which make up over 50 percent of our budget) grows slowly too. While we didn’t have wild expectations, we were hoping to see that grow 4 to 5 percent next year. Reality has forced us to reduce our projected revenues by $3 million for next year.

2. Federal formula funds—There is a great deal of uncertainty over federal formula funds, which make up about $42 million in revenue to us. Who knows what will happen, but “automatic” reductions could go into effect and we estimate  it could have about a $4 million impact on our budget.

3. The ATU (union) contract—The recent Employment Relations Board (ERB) decision removed from TriMet’s final offer certain provisions, so some cost reductions we were hoping to see will have to wait for a future negotiation. This could mean between $5 million and $10 million in our FY13 budget.

All this said, TriMet continues to be a service our community needs and wants. We face increasing requests for more and better service. The hard reality is that we cannot afford to expand existing service levels, and I’m awfully afraid our service levels will diminish.

As a rider, I know how important it is to preserve service but it is hard to see how some cuts can be avoided. These are not easy choices. That is why everything needs to be on the table: fares, service, internal efficiencies, and current fare discounts. We will need to examine our activities and investments carefully, and make sure we are confident about the value of every dollar we spend.

These are not easy choices. That is why everything needs to be on the table: fares, service, internal efficiencies, and current fare discounts.”

To give us added time to address these issues and make those tough choices, I have created a Budget Task Force that will begin to meet in November. Given our best budget assumptions, these key business and community members will be tasked with providing me suggestions on how to appropriately balance our budget. We’re starting this process earlier than normal, which will give us more time for input from taxpayers, riders, and other stakeholders. The budget itself will come together during the first half of 2012.

This certainly isn’t the news I was hoping to share, but it is important that I share with both employees and riders what is ahead.

Here’s a link to our news release about TriMet’s budget outlook and some more background detail in the presentation I gave to the Board yesterday (PDF).

I welcome your suggestions and comments as we look for ways to close our budget gap. We will begin a formal public involvement process shortly, but in the meantime, there are several ways you can weigh in:

Phone: 503-238-RIDE (7433), option #5
Emailcomments@trimet.org
Mail: TriMet 2013 Budget, 4012 SE 17th Ave., Portland, OR 97202
Fax: 503-962-6451
TTY: 503-962-5811

WEIGH IN ON FACEBOOK: Thinking creatively, what ideas do you have that could help TriMet close its budget gap?

Neil McFarlane, TriMet General Manager

As the General Manager of TriMet, I'm responsible for running the agency. I've been here at TriMet since 1991, when I started as project control director for the Westside light rail project. When I'm not at work, I enjoy spending time with my family and riding the bus and MAX. Maybe I'll see you during my commute.

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Next-generation Trip Planner combines transit, walking and biking

Preview the new Portland Regional Trip Planner
Bibiana McHugh is TriMet’s IT Manager of Geographic Information Systems and Location-Based Services.

Last Saturday, I had the pleasure of delivering the keynote at the Pacific Northwest Drupal Summit at PSU, where I announced the beta release of TriMet’s new Portland Regional Trip Planner, the first of its kind for a U.S. transit agency.

What makes this Trip Planner different? For the first time, you can get transit, biking and walking directions in a single itinerary—something not even Google Maps does at this time. So not only is it easier to plan multimodal trips, you can get more efficient routes, which cuts down on your travel time.

Here’s what you can do with it:

  • Plan trips combining transit, biking and walking, in a single itinerary
  • Specify your biking preferences for quickest, flattest or safest routes
  • View an elevation chart of your trip
  • View car-sharing locations, so you can easily plan transit or bike trips to Zipcars
  • View up-to-date bike routes and walking paths

The app uses OpenStreetMap, a wiki-like map, to keep bike routes and walking paths up-to-date. It also allows for future inclusion of other transit systems, such as C-TRAN and SMART. Even better, it was built from the ground up with open-source software, which means it was less expensive to develop, and the technology can be used by other agencies worldwide.

This project has been two years in the making, and I’m delighted to finally be able to share it with our riders. It started in 2009, when we partnerned with non-profit OpenPlans and assembled a team of talented developers from around the world to help out. Metro provided funding through its Regional Travel Options grant program.

You can preview the new Trip Planner at rtp.trimet.org. (It’s in beta, which means we’re testing it out with users for a few months. Eventually, it will replace the map trip planner at trimet.org.)

I’m hopeful that over time, this app will help encourage more people to leave their cars at home and bike or walk part or all of the way instead. (It’s already got people talking, and the project was even featured on the White House blog.)

WEIGH IN ON FACEBOOK: Will TriMet’s new Trip Planner motivate you to take more bike/transit trips?

Bibiana McHugh

I have worked in TriMet’s Information Technology Department since 1997 and currently lead a team of innovative web developers and analysts as the IT Manager of Geographic Information Systems and Location-Based Services. I lead several open data and open source software initiatives including opentripplanner.org, maps.trimet.org, rtp.trimet.org, developer.trimet.org, trimet.org/apps. After initiating collaboration with Google for the first release of Google Transit, I helped pioneer the now worldwide standard General Transit Feed Spec (GTFS). I received my degree in Geography from the University of Kansas.

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Be alert: Protect your stuff.

Be aware of your surroundings. Keep personal belongings secure and out of sight.When out and about on TriMet, be sure to hide devices such as smartphones, tablets and iPods when not in use, and always be aware of your surroundings. When parking at a Park & Ride lot, lock your car and take valuables with you.

Dave Whipple

I'm TriMet’s manager of marketing and rider communications. I oversee the agency's web and mobile initiatives and help build useful and usable online tools for riders. I also moonlight as a musician in my spare time.

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4 reasons why transit is good for your health

Rider climbing stairs at MAX stationWith obesity rates and health care costs on the rise, experts are looking at how our transportation choices affect the health of our communities. The good news is that transit not only encourages people to walk or bike as a part of their daily routine, it also helps reduce car crashes and air pollution.

So why is transit so good for our public health?

  1. It encourages daily exercise: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommends that adults get at least 22 minutes of moderate physical activity per day to reduce the risk of heart disease, obesity, stroke and diabetes. By walking or biking to the bus stop or rail station, it’s easier to meet or exceed this goal.
  2. It supports safer streets: In communities with good pedestrian infrastructure (things like wide sidewalks, safe crossings and bike connections), cars travel at slower speeds and there are fewer crashes. And residents of transit-oriented communities typically drive less, anyway.
  3. It helps make our air cleaner: Transit takes cars off the road, which means less pollution and fewer cases of asthma, lung disease and lung cancer. Here in the Portland area, TriMet service eliminates more than four tons of smog-forming pollutants every day.
  4. It reduces isolation: Particularly for seniors and people with disabilities, transit helps reduce isolation by providing access to grocery stores, medical services, jobs and schools.

 

“For the last 60-plus years, we’ve literally built our society around the automobile and getting from point A to point B as quickly as we can. Because we choose to drive rather than walk or cycle, the result is an inactive, sedentary lifestyle. Not coincidentally, obesity also became a public health issue during this period.”
— Sheldon H. Jacobson, University of Illinois researcher

“Study: Surge in obesity correlates with increased automobile usage”

John Fall

I help TriMet communicate about the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Project by coordinating the project website and managing project social media (in addition to general writing and copyediting). I'm also a mean cook who likes to improvise recipes—ask me for one the next time you see me on the 8-Jackson Park/NE 15th.

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New! 30-Day Pass now available at the TriMet Ticket Office

New 30-Day Pass available at the TriMet Ticket OfficeIn response to requests from riders, we’ve introduced a new pass that is valid for 30 days from the date of purchase.

The 30-Day Pass gives you the convenience and savings of a monthly pass (at the same price), but you can buy it at any time during the month. It comes pre-validated for immediate use.

You can get one downtown at the TriMet Ticket Office at Pioneer Courthouse Square.

See 30-Day Pass prices

Celebrating 25 years of MAX Blue Line

MAX Opening Celebration, September 5, 1986
Riders at the MAX Blue Line Opening Celebration, September 5, 1986

On September 5, 1986, MAX Blue Line opened with service between Portland and Gresham.

It was among the first light rail lines in the U.S., and it really was the “line that started it all” in the Portland area. MAX has since expanded to 52 miles and serves all three counties in the Portland metro area.

Since the decision to build MAX, the Portland region has gained an estimated 66,000 design and construction-related jobs and $2.6 billion in earnings in Oregon. In addition, more than $10 billion in development has occurred within walking distance of MAX stations.

Learn more about MAX Blue Line

Cracking down on fare evasion: more inspectors and enforcement

Transit police officer checking fares on MAXMany of you have expressed concerns about fare enforcement on the system, particularly on MAX. We’re listening. In addition to expanding the number of staff dedicated to checking fares, we’re shifting our focus from education to enforcement. That means riders caught without a fare now get a citation instead of a warningeven first offenders.

Read about how we’re cracking down on fare evasion

Back-to-school safety reminder

Do you have kids back in school? Remind them not to cross the street in front of a TriMet bus, unless it’s stopped at a light. Always use the crosswalk, and look both ways before crossing train tracks.

Dave Whipple

I'm TriMet’s manager of marketing and rider communications. I oversee the agency's web and mobile initiatives and help build useful and usable online tools for riders. I also moonlight as a musician in my spare time.

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