TriMet announces reorganization of Operations Division with goal to improve service to riders

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TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane today announced a reorganization of the Operations Division with a goal to improve service to riders with greater reliability. With both an expanding and aging system, McFarlane is making changes to realign the agency to provide greater focus and accountability on vehicle and rail system reliability.

Effective Nov. 11, McFarlane is separating Maintenance of bus and rail systems into a new division, led by Maintenance Director Tom Nielsen, who will report to the Interim Deputy General Manager (IDGM). The Transportation Division for the bus and rail system remains under the direction of Executive Director Shelly Lomax, who also reports to the IDGM.

“We are growing the transit system at the same time we’re managing an aging system,” said McFarlane. “This requires us to be even more focused on our vehicle and track system to deliver more reliable service to our riders.”

The change does not add any new staff or expenses. The position of Director of Transportation Operations, recently vacated through retirement, will not be filled, and the direct responsibilities shifted to Lomax.

In a memo to staff, McFarlane notes that “a sharpened focused on accountability will help us manage our business efficiently and deliver improved outcomes for our customers, our employees and our stakeholders.”

McFarlane noted that parts of the MAX system are nearly 30 years old and in need of increased investment to better maintain a state of good repair and reliable service to customers. Recent disruptions caused by aging infrastructure demonstrate a need for more focus on the maintenance of trains, signals and switches.

As announced last week, TriMet will make $2.5 million in track and switch improvements throughout the system over the next year and a half. Additionally, over the next two and a half years $585,000 in federal grant monies will be used to replace and improve signals, gate mechanisms and other electrical systems. Much of the federal State of Good Repair funds are dedicated to preventive maintenance and rail enhancements. This money complements TriMet’s annually dedicated funds for rail maintenance and improvements.

Over the past three years, McFarlane has focused on investing in the agency’s bus fleet, among the oldest in the country. More than 215 new buses have been purchased since McFarlane took over as General Manager in 2010, as part of an annual bus purchase program he initiated, with 125 vehicles already in service. The agency is on track to match the industry standard for the age of bus fleet by 2016.

McFarlane said the changes will improve the agency’s operations and service delivery, and that “riders will see a difference.”