A century of public transit in Downtown Portland (SLIDESHOW)

Joe Recker is an environmental permits coordinator in TriMet’s Planning and Policy Department.

Portland has a long and interesting transit history, and the Oregon Historical Society has shared some photos that document the evolution of transit in the region’s core.

Like most American cities at the turn of the 20th century, Portland developed along streetcar and trolley car lines that extended from its downtown. Transit allowed the city to grow, with cable cars running into the steep west hills, and streetcars crossing newly constructed bridges that unified the City of Portland with communities east of the Willamette River.

After World War I, however, automobiles quickly became more affordable, and Oregon boasted the nation’s first gas tax in 1918, which funded improved road infrastructure for private automobiles as well as tire-based transit. As early as the 1930’s, streetcar lines were replaced with rubber-tired and electrified trolleybuses. The increased popularity of automobiles led to a steep decline in transit ridership, particularly after World War II. This trend continued until all streetcar lines had been discontinued or replaced with buses to take advantage of the relatively inexpensive oil required for tires, road expansions and gasoline.

WEIGH IN ON FACEBOOK: How has transit changed downtown in your lifetime?

This period of disinvestment in transit infrastructure and declining transit ridership turned around in the 1970s with construction of the downtown Transit Mall on 5th and 6th avenues. Also notable was a restructuring of bus lines on the eastside in the mid 1980s that resulted in some of TriMet’s most successful bus lines today—Lines 75 and 72 among other north/south routes—to serve more dispersed destinations resulting from increased automobile use. Finally, the re-introduction of rail-based transit with the MAX Blue Line in 1986 and its subsequent expansion has provided increased transit capacity and focused attention on transit-oriented development in the region.

Find out more about the history of transit in our region by visiting A History of Public Transit in Portland.

Joe Recker

I am the environmental permits coordinator in TriMet’s Planning and Policy Department, where I work on securing permits for the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Project and other smaller projects throughout the region. I enjoy the occasional car ride outside of the city, but I primarily walk, bike and ride TriMet to get around town.

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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
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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Seen and heard on TriMet: red-light trivia, a panda, and zombie-defense plans

Person in panda suit on Portland Streetcar.
Featured photo: as seen by @aschuman on Portland Streetcar.

“Seen and Heard on TriMet” is a bi-weekly compilation of some of the funny, entertaining and uplifting content we see posted about our system every day.

Want to get in on the fun? Just include #trimet in your tweets, and your content could be featured here on our blog.

Here are some of the highlights from the last two weeks:


Today’s non-traditional MAX guy thing: knitting! Almost as cool as romance-novel guy from yesterday. Next up: breastfeeding. #trimet


I heart Trimet art. yfrog.com/nty21zj


Early morning buses are fun! Listening to the drivers “red light” trivia on the #92 #Beaverton to Downtown #Portland. #Trimet


@rlbpdx @trimet That’d be my 7:20 green line to Clackamas driver on his way back. He’s the best! Always waves at me on the platform, too.


Yep, there’s a panda on the Streetcar. #keepportlandweird #trimet #fb http://t.co/8KqotKGM


Zombie defense plans being discussed on the MAX <3 #iloveportland #trimet


From a walk through the max parking lot the other night (yep, night l @ TriMet Elmonica/SW 170th Ave MAX Station instagr.am/p/RCK7m/


Yeah dude on the #Trimet 99 rocking the velvet jogging suit, soul patch, iPod earbuds hanging off one ear. You totally humble me.


There’s a man made of silver on my bus! #trimet #dx


There are no words for the adventure that awaits you anytime you board #Trimet #Loveit

Nancy D'Inzillo

I'm TriMet's web coordinator. I assist in developing and maintaining TriMet's web and social media content (in addition to general writing and copyediting assignments). In my spare time, I enjoy freelance editing, learning new recipes, and reading books of all genres.

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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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OMSI exhibit focuses on Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Bridge and Willamette River

Did you know construction is under way on the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Bridge across the Willamette River between South Waterfront and OMSI?

It’s the first bridge to be built in Portland in over 40 years, so we want to keep everyone up-to-speed on how it’s going and what the bridge means for Portland and the river.

That’s why we’ve partnered with OMSI (and several exhibit sponsors) to create interactive kiosks featuring fun videos about the river’s role as important habitat for many animals, and about the decisions made to ensure the right bridge design was picked for the location and the project.

Be sure to stop by the kiosks on your next OMSI visit! And to learn more about the bridge and the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Project, visit trimet.org/pm.

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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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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Rider pics from our Clackamas Town Center photo shoot

Rider photo shoot at Clackamas Town Center, August 16, 2011Our rider photo shoot series continues: This time, we set up our camera at Clackamas Town Center Transit Center, where we met more bus and MAX riders eager to show their TriMet pride. (We love you, too!) Thanks to everyone who stopped by, and be sure to tag yourself on Facebook!

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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Mike Crebs: Big impact on a Little Brother

Transit Police Commander Mike Crebs

When Transit Police Commander Mike Crebs walks into Vestal Elementary School on 82nd Avenue, smiling and sporting a black uniform and badge, the students tend to see him as a kind of celebrity.

Mike spends his lunch hour on Fridays at the school as part of the Big Brothers program, where he sits and talks with his high-energy “Little” and plays kickball and foursquare. Mike’s been a Big Brother for four years, and is in his second year with his Little Brother, Norman.

Mike has worked with youth since his days on the force in Salt Lake City as a school resource officer, and then taught here as part of the GREAT (Gang Resistance Education and Training) program, in which officers take a proactive role in preventing crime. He also sits on the Board of Governors for the Boys and Girls Club.

Mike says this experience has helped him in his job running the Transit Police Division, a partnership of 17 police agencies working together to keep riders safe. Mike oversees 58 officers in four offices in a three-county area. Youth make up 17 percent of all rides on TriMet’s system, and Mike acknowledges that much of the disruptions on the system are in part caused by youth.

“Kids have so much energy. Adults, when they’re on the bus, they just want to read. But a teenager is a little more boisterous.”

“Do we blame the kid?” he asks. “I don’t think so.” But there’s a line he draws between a kid just being a kid and when to intervene. According to Mike, that intervention works best before it’s ever needed, whether it’s by being a Big Brother, a commander or just a member of the community.

For Mike, being a Big Brother is an opportunity to provide “one more asset for a young person—whether that be a parent, coach, teacher or neighbor—that one person who might strike a chord.”

WEIGH IN ON FACEBOOK: Have you been a “Big,” or helped youth by volunteering or mentoring?