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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Beaverton photo shoot pics are here

Rider photo shoot at Beaverton Transit CenterWe love our westside riders, too! It was great to meet so many of you at our Beaverton Transit Center photo shoot in September. Is your mug in this collection? Tag yourself on Facebook. (Coming soon: Shout out to Gresham.)

See all of our 2011 rider photo shoots

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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Seen and Heard on TriMet: giant paper hat, failed revolution, and sock-monkey tights

Fellow with giant cut-paper cowboy hat at transit stop.
Featured photo: as seen by @mikerigsby at one of our stops.

“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:

mikerigsby:

Giant cut paper ‘cowboy’ hat, carrying a small dachshund. Weird? Portland? Never! #trimet lockerz.com/s/150288962

dudeluna:

Riding the 8 through downtown, the sun came up. #trimet

Kaizerin:

The Green Line climbs from /the river valley, its light/ like a dawning star. #Trimet

thecitizenwill:

#trimet failed revolution: So last night was odd. Waited for a while for the protest to get off the tracks so we… bit.ly/veXwIL

ShiploadofWilco:

Although it now takes longer to get to work then before I moved here. I love not driving anywhere. #trimet

doctor_jeff:

Transit po-po! Bad boys, bad boys, watcha gonna do, watcha gonna do when your transfer’s overdue? #trimet

marcimarshall:

Solstice on the iPod, sun on the Willamette, friendliest @Trimet operator giving us a pep talk. So far, so good.

lyspeth:

Thought I’d be the most #Portland person on this bus until a little girl wearing hand-knit sock monkey tights got on w her mom. #trimet

aimee_ault:

The bus driver is giving a historical narrative of Portland and he looks like Santa Claus #trimet

japuvian:

An army of giants bestir. Escaping the wintery fingers of foggy night before morn. #trimet #pdx yfrog.com/h8p84lnj

TALK ABOUT IT: Discuss this post on Facebook

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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HOW TO: Improve your visibility when it’s dark outside

Corrinna from our on-street customer service team models high-visibility outerwear and reflective strips at Friday's "Be Seen Be Safe" rally at Pioneer Courthouse Square.
Corrinna from our on-street customer service team models high-visibility outerwear and reflective strips at Friday's "Be Seen Be Safe" rally at Pioneer Courthouse Square.

Harry Saporta is TriMet’s safety and security executive.

Now is the time to be seen and see everyone! Darker, shorter days are here and I encourage everyone to stop and think about visibility. It’s the time of year when pedestrians and bicyclists need to “dress” to be seen, and drivers should be especially alert to seeing everyone.

Here are some tips:

  1. Wear reflective outerwear. Drivers can see bicyclists and pedestrians from farther away when they shine. For example, you are first visible to a driver from 500 feet away when you are wearing reflective clothing. Compare this to just 55 feet away when wearing dark colors.
  2. Add more shine. Wear shoes, backpacks, jackets and other clothing with reflective materials. Add reflective tape and strips to your shoes, backpack, purse, bike wheel spokes, jacket sleeves, pant legs—really, anywhere and everywhere! Reflective vests and hats are great as well.
  3. Use lights freely. Before sunrise and after sunset, cyclists are legally required to have a red reflector or light on the back and a white light on the front. Invest in the brightest lights you can afford. But don’t stop there: Headlights, armbands with lights, leg bands with blinking lights, small blinking lights on your coat, purse or backpack… All of these items can  help you be seen whether you’re biking or walking.
  4. Be alert. Even if you are a sparkly beacon of light with legs, as a pedestrian, you should always use crosswalks when available and make eye contact with drivers to make sure they see you. When you’re behind the wheel, be alert and practice extra caution during winter’s rain and low light.

I saw a lot of great examples of these tips last Friday at the “Be Seen Be Safe” rally at Pioneer Courthouse Square. More than 500 people participated, and considerably more were reached via media coverage. TriMet worked for months with many, many partners and volunteers to create and organize the event. Our shared value was prevention. Because safety is everyone’s job, we worked together to convey this important life-saving message.

During my more than 31 years as a safety and security professional, I have been reminded time and time again that practicing safe behavior is a shared responsibility. Whether we’re driving, walking or biking, each of us needs to do all we can to be seen and see everyone.

WEIGH IN ON FACEBOOK: How do you make yourself visible when it’s dark outside? 

Harry Saporta

As TriMet's Safety and Security Executive, I lead the agency's efforts to make safety not only a priority but a core value. I have more than 30 years of experience in the field, having worked on a number of major transit projects around the world. Most recently, I worked in Abu Dhabi as lead of the Surface Transport Safety and Security Project. I also served as director of safety and security for the Federal Transit Administration.

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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
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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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:

doctor_jeff:

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

ejmilliron:

I heart Trimet art. yfrog.com/nty21zj

kenhiatt:

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

Kaizerin:

@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.

aschuman:

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

MarloASmith:

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

MIRder:

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/

mikerigsby:

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

japuvian:

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

zymase:

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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