Arriving in Fiscal Year 2021: More bus service, greener operations and improvements to the transit system

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TriMet’s FY 2021 proposed budget includes $607.3 million for operations, $397 million for capital improvements, no adult fare increase for eighth straight year

TriMet’s fiscal year 2021 proposed budget continues the transit agency’s largest bus service expansion in our 50-year history. With a proposed day-to-day operating budget for FY 2021 of $607.3 million, among our efforts, we plan to:

  • Increase bus service for riders by 3%,
  • Make improvements for MAX customers that will make their experience better and their ride more reliable,
  • Move the agency forward on action items for greener operations to benefit our environment,
  • Increase security staff who are on board, interacting with and helping our riders.      

In addition to the more than $607 million budgeted for operations, we plan to dedicate another $329.7 million for capital improvements, some of which will bring repairs and upgrades to the MAX system and others will expand the transit system and type of service we provide. Taking into account debt service, pass through funds that TriMet provides other governmental agencies, fund balances and contingency, TriMet’s overall proposed budget, which runs July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021, totals $1.5 billion.

What TriMet’s proposed budget does not include is an increase in the single adult fare for the eighth year in a row.

More bus service

With continued funding from a payroll tax and Keep Oregon Moving (HB 2017), TriMet plans to increase bus service by 3% or 1,334 service hours. Among the added service:

  • A new bus line: The east-west line will serve Washington County, running between Willow Creek Transit Center and Downtown Hillsboro.
  • An improved route: The Line 47-Main/Evergreen route will change and be extended, with more buses added and less waiting during the weekday commute.
  • A new Frequent Service line: Line 52-Farmington/185th will get more service, joining our Frequent Service Network of lines with buses running every 15 minutes or less.
  • More frequent Frequent Service: Our Line 6-ML King Jr Blvd and Line 12-Barbur/Sandy Blvd will provide even more frequent service with buses arriving every 12 minutes or less.

The improvements aren’t just coming in the service rolling on the streets but the amenities at bus stops. With Keep Oregon Moving funds, we’re putting in up to 100 new shelters and other amenities such as lighting and digital information displays at stops and transit centers. Bus stops with higher ridership in disadvantaged areas will receive priority.

Greener operations

The proposed budget further supports our commitment to reduce our carbon emissions to net zero and transition to a future with clean energy buses. Heading into July, TriMet will have completed a carbon baseline analysis, which will help identify opportunities to reduce our emissions. The proposed budget will also support our conversion of the MAX Light Rail System to 100% wind power and our fixed-route and LIFT Paratransit buses to 100% renewable diesel.

In the next fiscal year and beyond, TriMet will order more battery-electric buses, to add to our test of the technology by comparing different manufacturers for efficiency and performance. The proposed budget includes funding for the purchase of an additional 10 battery-electric buses, five Gilligs and five diesel buses converted to battery-electric, and the necessary charging infrastructure. We will continue to pursue grant funding opportunities to offset the higher costs of electric buses.

Improving the ride

TriMet’s efforts to improve the ride and the reliability of our transit services will continue the coming year with new vehicles, repairs and upgrades, and laying the groundwork for new and better service in the future. 

Vehicles

The proposed budget includes new buses. We’ll replace 25 buses so we can continue to provide reliable service. We plan to add 19 buses to our overall fleet to meet the needs of our expanding service. We also plan to replace 42 LIFT paratransit vehicles. The proposed budget includes $25.8 million for continued design work and initial manufacturing on the next generation of light rail vehicles. We plan to replace our oldest trains, the ones with stairs at the doors that have been providing service since 1986, with new vehicles beginning to roll out as early as 2022. Funding is also included to continue the major overhaul of our older light rail vehicles.

MAX improvements

TriMet will continue to reinvest in the MAX system to keep trains running on time and improve the experience for our riders. Among the projects planned for the coming year, includes the largest one yet to rejuvenate an existing section of the MAX system. In August, our crews will make multiple improvements to the Steel Bridge, replacing and upgrading track, switches, signal equipment and more on the bridge and its approaches. This will require a four-week disruption to all MAX lines. TriMet also plans to continue renovating our oldest MAX stations, including the E 148th Ave Station beginning in September.

Transit expansions

The proposed budget includes funding to keep major projects moving that would expand our transit service.

The Division Transit Project, a new type of high-capacity bus transit project that spans the length of Division Street between Downtown Portland and Gresham, is underway with service expected to be up and running in fall 2022. The $175 million project, with half of the funding coming from the Federal Transit Administration, will bring critical safety improvements to this high-crash corridor, with nearly 81,000 square feet of new sidewalks, some 4.5 miles of protected bike lanes, new marked crosswalks and more.

The Better Red project is in the early stages of development with a planned opening in 2023-24. The project will expand the MAX Red Line further into Washington County, giving more people a one-seat ride to Portland International Airport. It will also improve sections of track and reduce conflicts with other MAX lines at the Gateway Transit Center, improving the flow and reliability of the entire MAX Light Rail System. TriMet will pursue half of the funding for the $206 million project from the Federal Transit Administration.

The design of the Southwest Corridor Light Rail Project continues with the aim to bring a high-capacity transit solution and a consistent travel time to one of the most congested corridors in the region by late 2027. TriMet plans to pursue half of the funding of the $2.8 billion project from the Federal Transit Administration. The project would bring vital pedestrian/bicyclist safety and roadway improvements to the corridor, including 10 miles of new sidewalks and over six miles of upgraded bike facilities, along with rebuilding Barbur Boulevard bridges and bringing them up to earthquake standards. The project is contingent upon funding being approved in a successful ballot initiative in November 2020.

Increased safety presence and code enforcement

TriMet’s Safety & Security budget increases by more than $1.6 million as we provide security for customers and employees. We will continue expanding our fare inspectors’ ranks, with 8 added personnel to check fares and encourage riders to follow the TriMet Code, our rules for riding.

Affordable fares

The revenue TriMet earns from fares covers more than $124 million in current annual operating costs, or 17% of our operating expenses. The proposed budget does not include a fare increase. We will reassess a possible fare increase in our next fiscal year, after eight consecutive years without a base fare increase.

TriMet’s efforts to provide reduced or no-cost fares to those riders who need them continue. Our Low-Income Fare Program, first launched in 2019 with dedicated funding through Keep Oregon Moving, has provided some 30,000 Oregonians with TriMet’s Honored Citizen reduced fare. With Hop Fastpass® and the ability to earn a pass as you ride, Honored Citizen fare payers receive unlimited rides for just $28 a calendar month, a 72% discount from the standard Adult Fare. Riders on a low income have saved nearly $6.35 million since the program launched.

TriMet’s Access Transit programs, which provide nonprofits an opportunity to purchase fares at a discount for riders who are disadvantaged and provide free fare grants to community-based organizations through the Fare Relief Program, will continue with up to $1.5 million in fares distributed throughout the community.  

Wages and pay equity

The proposed budget includes a non-union merit increase of up to 3 percent as well as a pool of 1.5 percent to address pay equity issues and to conform to the Oregon Pay Equity Act. It does not include a union wage increase at this time as the last Working Wage Agreement expired in November 2019, and negotiation on a current contract is underway.  

Next steps

The proposed budget for our fiscal year 2021 was released to the TriMet Board of Directors on Wednesday, March 11, 2020. A formal Budget Committee hearing will be held on Wednesday, March 25 to approve the proposed budget. TriMet will then submit the approved budget to the Tax Supervising & Conservation Commission (TSCC) in advance of the TSCC Public Hearing on April 22. The TriMet Board of Directors consider adoption of the budget at on Wednesday, May 27. If adopted, the new budget takes effect on July 1, 2020 and runs through June 30, 2021.

Share your thoughts
View the proposed budget at trimet.org/budget and provide feedback through April 10.

Submit comments at:
support.trimet.org
503-238-RIDE (7433) or TTY 7-1-1
Or attend the TriMet Board of Directors meeting
9:00 a.m., Wed., March 25
World Trade Center
Plaza Conference Room
121 SW Salmon St., Portland, OR 97204.