TriMet’s budget calls for restoring and improving service; plus no fare increase for riders

Posted in TriMet News

The Fiscal Year 2015 proposed budget provides for more service if TriMet prevails in labor negotiation

For the third time in a year, TriMet will restore and improve transit service throughout the region as part of its Fiscal Year 2015 proposed budget. The FY15 budget proposal prioritizes restoring service, improving schedule reliability and reducing overcrowding to provide better service to our riders. For the second year in a row, riders will not see a fare increase, but will see more new buses in service.

The agency’s budget premise is based on a continued improving economy, additional resources from the final payroll tax rate increase authorized in 2004, and that the financial equivalent of TriMet’s contract proposal is accepted. TriMet’s contract proposal continues to reduce the growth of active and retiree medical costs and other compensation costs that are above peer agencies and the marketplace. With TriMet’s contract proposal accepted, the $607 million operating and capital budget allows for service improvements rather than service cuts.

“This budget continues our effort to achieve long-term fiscal stability, while restoring and improving service for our riders,” said TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane. “I am committed to staying on course to reduce our benefit costs so we can focus on our core mission of providing more service to our growing region. This will keep our commitments to our employees, retirees, riders and payroll taxpayers for the long term.”

Returning to FY10 service hours + more
The services improvements proposed in the FY15 budget will improve service on 26 bus lines touching over 270,000 transit trips per weekday. At the end of FY15, TriMet will have restored the number of bus hours to FY10 levels, MAX will have service hours up about 2 percent higher than when the Green Line opened in FY10, WES hours remain the same. If all FY15 service improvements were put into bus hour equivalents, it would add up to a 1 percent service increase over FY10 levels.

If the proposed FY15 budget is approved, TriMet will have invested $12.3 million in service between September 2013 and Spring 2015.

  • Sept. 2013: $2.1 million
  • March 2014: $3.1 million
  • FY15 proposed budget: $7.1 million for service restoration, peak hour and reliability investments

FISCAL YEAR 2015 BUDGET HIGHLIGHTS

In addition to improving service, the budget calls for more investment in our rail infrastructure and improved service reliability. Many of these investments dovetail with the recent Secretary of State’s audit.

Investing in service and reliability

  • TriMet is proposing to invest $3.6 million to add more trips into the evening so that all Frequent Service bus lines and MAX lines will have 15 minute or better service later into the evening on weekdays. The 11 of the 12 Frequent Service bus lines with improved evening service are: 4, 6, 8, 9, 12, 14, 15, 33, 54/56, 57 and 75. Line 72 already has 15 minute service until 9 p.m.
  • MAX Green Line will have 15 minute or better service into the evening hours, matching the current service on the Blue, Red and Yellow lines.
  • TriMet is proposing to invest $3.4 million to improve other bus service:
    -     More buses will be added to 11 lines to relieve overcrowding and make trips more comfortable for riders: Lines 4, 8, 9, 10, 15, 20, 33, 44, 76, 94 and 99.
    -     TriMet will adjust schedules on three lines to give them more predictable arrival times:  Line 71 will see improvements this summer with Lines 20 and 72 improvements coming later in the budget year.
  • TriMet is hiring new bus operators to meet growing service expansions, including the opening of the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Transit Project and to provide the service improvements listed above.  

Improving the rail system 

  • TriMet continues to invest in rail maintenance and infrastructure to improve safety, reliability and on-time performance. In FY15, TriMet will budget $53 million to maintain and improve the overall rail system. This includes incorporating industry best practices, as well as implementing the Secretary of State’s audit recommendations related to system reliability.  

Buying new buses

  • Riders will see 64 new buses added to the fleet this year. This will bring the total to 249 new buses purchased over the past four years.
  • We’ve accelerated our annual bus purchase program and are quickly moving from having one of the oldest fleets in the industry to matching the standard fleet age of eight years. Bus replacement had been suspended during the recession to focus resources on retaining as much service as possible.

Completing the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Transit Project

  • Construction of the 7.3-mile Portland-Milwaukie light rail project is on track to be completed on time and on budget.
  • During FY15, the project will complete safety certification and operator training in advance of the September 12, 2015 opening.
  • The future Orange Line will expand the MAX system to 60 miles and 97 stations.  

Secretary of State’s Audit: “Most serious and looming concerns”

  • The recent Secretary of State’s audit stated “the most serious and looming concerns” related to the cost of health care benefits and the $852 million unfunded liability for retiree health care. TriMet is working to reform these benefits through contract negotiations to be in line with peer agencies.
  • In February 2014 the TriMet board adopted pension funding plans for the two closed defined benefit pension plans. The plans accelerate funding from historic levels to bring both plans to fully funded status within 15 years. The FY15 budget is consistent with these plans.
  • The audit noted that TriMet had made progress in the areas of its financial condition, transparency and operations. TriMet will implement all of the recommendations by the end of 2014 that do not require negotiation with the ATU, as those are longer-term processes.

Contract negotiations

  • Through interest arbitration, TriMet is beginning to lower its employee and retiree benefit costs with the focus to align total compensation with our peer agencies and TriMet’s non-union employees.
  • Non-union employees have already had their benefits and pension reformed, and the agency is working to bring the union benefits into alignment.
  • After 35 bargaining sessions without reaching consensus with the Amalgamated Transit Union, the parties are now heading toward mediation.
  • TriMet’s three-year contract proposal includes 0-0-3% annual wage increase, and an 80/20 preferred provider health care plan and a $10 co-pay HMO plan, both with a 6 percent premium contribution, matching the non-union health care plan.

Keeping pace with the marketplace

  • For only the second time in five years, non-union employees will see an average of 3 percent wage increase. There will be no automatic cost-of-living increases. The wage increases will be based on performance and overall compensation. A total of $1 million has been set aside for wage increases and are included in each division’s budget.  

Give feedback
The public can provide feedback on our proposed FY15 budget via:

  • comments@trimet.org
  • 503-238-RIDE (7433) weekdays between 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
  • 503-238-5811 (TTY)
  • Mail: FY15 Budget c/o TriMet at 1800 SW First Avenue, Suite 300, Portland, OR 97201
  • All comments will be provided to TriMet’s Board of Directors
  • TriMet board meeting – public input is welcome during the public comment portion of the meeting on Wed., March 26 at 9 a.m.

The proposed budget will likely be updated as it’s reviewed by the TriMet board of directors. The FY15 budget takes effect on July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2015.