TriMet refines proposal for service cuts and fare changes to help close budget shortfall

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After five weeks of public comment and outreach, TriMet today released a refined proposal to close the $12 million to $17 million shortfall in its upcoming Fiscal Year 2013 (FY13) budget that begins July 1, 2012. The full proposal is available at trimet.org/choices.

TriMet has targeted $12 million in cuts and changes to take effect in September 2012. The changes have been scaled back for two key reasons. The agency is required by state law to adopt a balanced budget in June, but the unsettled labor contract with the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 757 (ATU) will not be resolved until after the budget begins. TriMet is proposing $12 million in cuts and changes now, and depending on the outcome of the arbitration of the contract, may need to cut an additional $5 million during the FY13 budget.

BUDGET BACKGROUND

Stagnant economy

With the slow economic recovery, TriMet expects to receive about $3 million less in payroll tax revenues than previously anticipated.

Federal funds

TriMet estimates a $4 million cut in federal formula funds that are used for preventive maintenance; the agency receives $40 million to $45 million annually.

Union contract

The unresolved union contract adds $5 million to $10 million to the FY13 budget shortfall. The contract expired in 2009 and both parties are heading to interest arbitration scheduled for May 2012. A recent Employee Relations Board (ERB) decision removed certain cost-saving proposals from TriMet’s final offer.

REFINED BUDGET PROPOSAL

Eliminate fare zones/move to flat fare system — $6 million in additional revenue

The zone system was created 30 years ago in an attempt to charge for distance-based trips that typically started in the suburbs and ended in Downtown Portland. It kept fares lower for minority and low-income riders who lived in the central city. Over time, travel patterns have shifted throughout the region, and demographics have also changed with most minority and low-income riders living further away from the central city and making longer trips. Moving to a flat fare system makes it simpler for riders and makes the bus and train transfer times the same at 2 hours.

Flat fare proposal

  • Adult flat fare would increase to $2.50 and be valid for 2-hours, allowing for transfers and round-trips if taken within 2-hour timeframe. A 1-day ticket with unlimited rides would be priced at the current Day Pass of $5.
  • Youth fares would increase 15 cents to $1.65 for a 2-hour ticket; 1-day ticket would drop from the current $5 to $3.30.
  • Honored Citizen fares would not change and remain at $1 for 2-hour ticket, $2 for a 1-day ticket with unlimited rides.

Eliminate the Free Rail Zone — $2.7 million in additional revenue

This change would eliminate free rides on MAX in Downtown Portland and the Lloyd District.

Sell ads on TriMet website — $300,000 in additional revenue

 

Internal efficiencies — $1.2 million in savings

The original proposal from February called for $500,000 in savings. By identifying $1.2 million in internal efficiencies and program cuts it will minimize service cuts and impact to riders. During this recession, TriMet has already cut 200 positions, frozen salaries for non-union employees now in its fourth year and required greater cost sharing for health care benefits.

Service cuts — $1.1 million in savings

The original proposal from February totaled $2 million in cuts. The cuts have been reduced by about 50 percent, with no elimination of any weekend bus service or MAX service, except for the elimination of free rides in the Free Rail Zone.

  • Reconfigure 15 bus routes
    Eliminate segments of routes that overlap with other routes while maintaining service to an area. This will mean more transfers for some riders on these 15 bus lines: 6, 8, 9, 12, 16, 17, 47, 48, 67, 70, 73, 77, 82, 87 and 89. For Line 9-Powell/Broadway, the proposal is to split the line with service ending in Downtown Portland; the Broadway segment may be combined with Line 17-Holgate.
  • Change routing on 1 bus line
    Rather than changing the routing on three lines, only one bus route (Line 43) would be modified.
  • Eliminate bus trips with low ridership on 10 bus lines
    Instead of reducing service on 26 bus lines, the refined proposal would eliminate trips on 10 lines, with service either beginning later in the morning and/or ending earlier in the evening, and may include extending time between trips: 15, 18, 36, 37, 43, 50, 55, 59, 89 and 92.

Adjust LIFT paratransit service boundary — $400,000 in savings

TriMet’s current LIFT door-to-door paratransit service exceeds Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations. The proposal is to implement six different LIFT service boundaries based on time of day and day of the week, and only provide paratransit trips if there is nearby bus or rail service is in operation at that time.

Reduce TriMet contribution to the Portland Streetcar — $300,000 in savings

TriMet helps fund Portland Streetcar operations, and is proposing a $300,000 reduction in FY13 contribution, down $100,000 from original proposal.

“Our revised proposal reflects the priorities we clearly heard from the public, which was to preserve service as the highest priority,” said TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane.

Public comment period

The public can comment on the revised proposal through Friday, April 6 at 5 p.m.:

Online: trimet.org/choices
Phone: 503-238-RIDE (7433), option #5
Fax: 503-962-6451
Mail: Budget Feedback, TriMet MK2, 4012 SE 17th Ave., Portland, OR 97202
TTY: 503-238-5811 (7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. weekdays)

Public hearings

Monday, March 19
Clackamas Town Center
Community Room
Lower Level
12000 SE 82nd Ave.
4:30–6:30 p.m.

Tuesday, March 20
Beaverton Library
Auditorium
12375 SW 5th St.
4:30-6:30 p.m.

Wednesday, March 21
Portland Building
Auditorium
1120 SW 5th Ave.
4:30–6:30 p.m.

Thursday, March 22
Multnomah County East County Health Center
Sharron Kelly A&B
600 NE 8th St., Gresham
4:30-6:30 p.m.

Tuesday, March 27
Multnomah County Library
North Portland Branch
2nd Floor Meeting Room
512 N Killingsworth St.
5:30–7:30 p.m.

Any changes to fares would take effect on September 1, 2012; any service changes would take effect September 2, 2012.

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