Restoring workforce, improving service, adding electric buses priority in TriMet’s adopted budget

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TriMet Board vote finalizes approval of $1.93 billion budget ahead of July 1 start to TriMet’s new fiscal year

In a unanimous vote, TriMet’s Board of Directors granted formal approval to the budget for the next fiscal year, setting the agency’s priorities in motion for the second half of 2022 and first six months of 2023. The $1.93 billion dollar budget includes $748.9 million in day-to-day operating requirements and $304.1 million in capital improvements. For the tenth straight year, the budget does not include a base fare increase.

Budget Priorities

Restoring our workforce

TriMet bus operator Niktani Somilleda

TriMet is rebuilding a frontline workforce that continues to be impacted by what’s been dubbed the Great Resignation of the COVID-19 pandemic. We appreciate our operators and depend on them to deliver the safe, reliable transit service that riders know and deserve. TriMet would need to increase our current operator ranks by more than 300 to return service to pre-pandemic levels. In January, we reduced service by 9%, to better-match staffing levels; however, resignations, retirements, promotions and departures of operators for other reasons have continued to outpace hiring, leading to canceled buses and trains and system delays for riders. Now, if we are to restore and expand service later in 2022 or beyond, it’s critical to restore our ranks.

TriMet has increased the starting pay for new bus operators $25.24 per hour, and with regular, guaranteed pay raises, all operators earn $68,000 per year or more, after three years on the job full time. In addition, TriMet bus operators receive a generous package of employment benefits, which includes no-to-low cost health insurance, life insurance, paid vacation and sick time, and a retirement plan with an 8% employer contribution. In addition, TriMet is offering all newly hired operators a $7,500 hiring bonus. 

Improving transit service

60-foot, articulated bus for FX-2 Division

TriMet is always looking for ways to make our transit service faster, more convenient and reliable. One of the big improvements our riders will see in the coming months is the launch of the first TriMet FX™--or Frequent Express–bus service, coming this fall to the 15-mile Division Street corridor, between Gresham and Downtown Portland. FX 2-Division will bring more people on board using longer, articulated buses that will allow for faster, all-door boarding and special signal and lane markings to help keep buses moving past traffic congestion.

Building for the future

During the upcoming year, TriMet will also focus on capital investments, including work on major initiatives, that improve the rider experience and our community, including:

  • “A Better Red” MAX Red Line Extension and Reliability Improvements Project that will extend the Red Line ten stations into Hillsboro and add sections of track in northeast Portland to keep trains throughout the MAX system moving and reduce delays.
  • Replacement of TriMet’s original light rail vehicle fleet, with new, MAX trains beginning to arrive later this year.
  • Funding to increase capacity at the MAX Orange Line’s SE Park Ave Parking Garage, adding two floors onto the garage as had been in original plans.
  • Completing renovation of our Powell Operating Facility to support TriMet’s growing fleet of electric buses. 

Moving toward zero emissions 

Long-range electric buses, manufactured by GILLIG

With an agency goal to fully transition to a non-diesel, zero-emissions bus fleet by 2040, TriMet will expand our electrification program over the next year, with continued exploration and testing of electric technologies. In April, TriMet announced the purchase of 24 long-range battery electric, zero-emissions buses from California-based bus manufacturer GILLIG. They will begin arriving in fall 2023 and more than double the size of TriMet’s fleet of 100% battery-electric buses to include some 35 vehicles.

Ensuring system-wide equity 

Since 2018, TriMet has offered our Honored Citizen reduced fare to riders based on income level, in addition to seniors and people with disabilities. Our budget seeks to expand participation in the program, which offers unlimited rides on TriMet buses and trains for just $28 per month.

Funding resources

Resources that support the $1.93 billion budget include $78.8 million in operating revenue, $470.1 million in tax revenues, and $164.5 million in federal funding. TriMet has been awarded federal funding from recent relief packages including: $184.9 million from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act; $195.4 million from Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA); and, $289.1 million from American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act.

TriMet utilized CARES Act funds through fiscal years 2020 and 2021 and expects the CRRSAA federal award to be fully drawn down by the end of the current fiscal year, on June 30. ARP funding is projected to last through early 2027.

These federal funds are a one-time resource, to be used to prevent, prepare for and respond to COVID-19. The funding has and will continue to be used for operations and maintenance, as well as TriMet’s coronavirus response and safety efforts. It has provided critical support that allowed TriMet to avoid deeper service cuts and layoffs. 

Fiscal Year 2023 Budget

Our approved Fiscal Year 2023 budget supports the agency’s Business Plan, the framework of objectives and strategies that we use to bring our financial decisions in line with our vision, mission and values. Review the final, adopted version at trimet.org/budget, at the start of the new fiscal year on July 1.