Tri-Met's Big Blunder

By Frank Dufay of Portland, Oregon. Previously Frank contributed "Killing Pedestrians" and "Buy local, dammit!"

There's an attack on our mass transit system.

And, no, I'm not talking about the folks who want 10 lane freeways and wouldn't get on MAX if you paid 'em to.

I'm talking Tri-Met. I'm talking about flipping the bird to 8% of its customers, those of us who take the #14 Hawthorne.

Yeah, yeah, we're redoing the mall. Whoo-hoo. But during two and half years of construction, the #14 into downtown...well, not so much anymore. SW 2nd is as far downtown as it goes, despite the fact that most riders don't get off there and actually want to GET downtown... y'know Broadway, Pioneer Square, Chinatown. Well, we'll have no more of that!

And you know why? Because some genius figured if we keep the #14 off the relocated mall, they'll be room for everyone else! So we #14ers will be all by ourselves, traveling along 2nd. And when we're homeward bound? It's over the Morrison Bridge we go.

The Morrison Bridge? Isn't this the #14 Hawthorne? Well, sure, but won't the change of scenary be nice, that extra loop through the SE industrial district. 15-17 extra minutes tops, Tri-Met assures us.

Assured us at the public hearing about bus line relocations? Nah...this was Plan B, that came after the public hearings. Fact is, few folks know about what's about to happen to their commutes. Few people know that 8% of Tri-Met's ridership will now be boarding on three --count 'em, three!-- bus stops downtown.

Tri-Met says they know it'll be "inconvenient." My guess is they're hoping we stop taking the bus...the only way this absurd plan will work.

Hey, Tri-Met? Back at ya!

  • davidwendell (unverified)

    I don't think they (Tri-Met folks) understand that most people will not take mass transit if it is noticeably inconvenient. They also don't understand that if you don't have paying customers then a really good idea (rail transit) will be tossed aside because people don't want to pay a lot of money for this when there are other needs and without people taking the MAX it's primary purpose is not being met.

    Of course, inconvience can mean many things. First and foremost, this could be the fact that they don't take people where they need to go (home and work). It could also be that they feel unsafe because of the really wierd people that sometimes dominate the train (This is a general observation, wierd people don't bother me). Price also comes into account alongside frequency of stops.

    TriMet has a lot of work to do, primarily in creating a self-sustaining transportation system useful to more than the Portland community.

  • Anon (unverified)

    Holy Crap!

    You mean they expect you to have to WALK the three or four blocks all the freaking way up to the bus mall from SW 2nd?!?!? I mean, that must take a good 2 minutes!!!

    Dude, I totally feel your pain.

    Why just the other day I had to park across the street from my building, cause all the empty spaces on this side are "reserved". Loading zone my ass. Nobody "loads" anything here!

    Oh, and then get this - I actually had to walk all the way down to the corner to cross the steet. Like it's that big of a deal to have to slow down when I cross in the middle of the block!

    Nobody else understands the crosses that we must bear.....

  • (Show?)

    Doesn't the 15 Belmont currently go up 2nd as well? The #14 never went up Broadway, and I don't really think 5th/6th avenue is considered "Chinatown," so I'm not sure what your point is there.

    I must be missing something. NONE of the lines will be going past Pioneer Square. They'll mostly be using 3rd and 4th. So if most buses are using 3rd/4th, how is using 2nd a comparative catastrophe?

    Don't get me wrong--the whole process will be an inconvenience--but your point seems to be that #14 riders will be dealt an unduly harsh hand. I'm not sure I see it.

  • (Show?)

    Yeah, I'm sort of with Anon and Torrid on this one. While it's lame to have to get off and walk from 2nd, particularly if you were heading all the way to Chinatown (where the 14 does currently run, Joe), but a little exercise would do most of us good, and the rest can walk the two blocks up to 4th and catch one of the many buses that will be heading down that way.

    Also, it's rather disingenuous (not to mention flat-out wrong) to refer to #14 riders as "8% of [Trimet's] customers" when they are in fact just 8% of downtown riders, a much smaller pool than the total Trimet rider-ship.

  • (Show?)

    Reading this, I am reminded why it is the tradition in America that our largest and most well established cities are specifically prohibited from being capital - why Washington D.C. is the seat of the Federal government instead of New York, why Salem runs Oregon instead of Portland. You don't want State or National politics to become a mere extension of city politics.

    Setting aside the issue of whether this is an unfair burden upon Trimet Riders, or a grand opportunity to combat the American obesity epidemic, where the #14 stops is hardly cogent to 99% of the cities and small towns in this State. I'm pretty sure that the vast majority of us don't even know the route, much less care. It is not an issue having to do with Oregon politics at all.

    So I submit that unless you can find your example is but one instance of a more general statewide issue, that complaints about Portland bus service, garbage pickup on Stark, and that the barrista at your favorite coffee joint just totally ignores you, be kept off BlueOregon.

  • VR (unverified)

    So how do you propose that Tri-Met make improvements if they are not allowed to temporarily adjust bus lines because people like you whine and moan?

    SOMETHING has to give - because you can't build where busses are driving and you can't drive a bus through construction...

    For the record - my family uses Transit and will be significantly inconvenienced by the project - but that is just what happens some times.

    Oh, and Steven Maurer: Some states have their largest cities also as capitols. Georgia has Atlanta. Massachusetts has Boston. Colorado has Denver. Arizona has Phoenix. All of those are in the "largest and most well established cities" I would say. And there are more too, many smaller states have their largest city as their capitol - but are not large cities by comparison to those I have already mentioned. Oklahoma, Arkansas, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Mississippi, Ohio, Rhode Island, Utah, West Virgina, and Wyoming all have their capitol in their largest city. And Washington DC is America's 27th most populous city (as of 2005) which is not exactly tiny... So I am not exactly sure what you are talking about....

  • Jason McHuff (unverified)

    So how do you propose that Tri-Met make improvements if they are not allowed to temporarily adjust bus lines because people like you whine and moan?

    Jumping into the conversation, I propose a tunnel be bored under downtown. This would save gobs of operating dollars and attract cross-region riders since MAX would not be limited to 7.5 MPH (22 mins Goose Hollow-Lloyd Center) and. stoping every. other block. (Hopefully, enough money would be saved to run the present surface MAX line as a streetcar and provide a quiet, low-polluting PSU-Lloyd Dist. shuttle servce.) In fact, it would not be that much different than the "Big Pipe" they are digging for wastewater. Most of the work would be done underground so the mall would only need to be renovated, not remodeled. Jim Howell, AORTA and others agree on the idea.

  • Michael Wilson (unverified)

    Frank I sympathize with you. Trimet has terrible service where I work and it isn't about to get any better. And when they opened the Interstate lite-rail they reduced the service from MLKjr. BLvd and Killingsworth. Anyone who used to catch that one for a 20 minute ride to the Rivergate now has to catch 3 buses and it takes an hour last time I looked. So much for helping low income people Maybe we can get Mega Bus to open an operation here. They run from Chicago to Milwakie for $3 to $8. Seems pretty cheap. Bet the could give Trimet a run for the money.

  • fullerton (unverified)

    This is whiny and overreactive. In Order to get downtown you will have to walk two block and use your transfer or pass to get on another bus.

    Or you can walk a wopping ten minutes to get anywhere else in downtown.

    I don't know how to drive and I'm entirely reliant on public transit. i find trimet safe and for the most part easy to use. Though, I also don't mind walking a couple blocks to get somewhere.

  • Anne Dufay (unverified)

    I looked at the responses to my hubby’s blog post earlier in the day, and I was disappointed. Several respondents didn't seem to understand the larger issues/questions this simple "little" story was poster-child to.

    Granted, while the “simple, small story that so perfectly illustrates a larger point”, is a way cool literary device in my opinion, it doesn’t always work if people are skimming, distracted, or just don’t have good reading skills. So, Michael Wilson, whoever you are, congrats, you got it! :-)

    There is a huge issue in Portland right now about the direction/mission of TriMet as it pertains to perceived/real "value" placed on various categories of transit riders. Where ever you may happen to fall on this issue, surely it is both interesting, timely and pertinent in the larger context of where our city, our state and WE/US are going, as we move to a model of higher density and development in our city core.

    Michael Wilson raises some ongoing points of frustration that bus riders have been trying to get folks interested in for some time. More recently the questionable functionality of the new bus shelter design has alarmed some bus riders, particularly those with disabilities.

    I (and unlike my hubby, I am not a bus commuter) have issues with the decision-making on this recent issue, and how it may reflect on the larger decisions and capacity of TriMet to make those same decisions -- well.

    To put it in a nutshell, I’m a driver. I hate congestion. I don’t want grid-lock. I have to drive in the central city core. Regularly.

    What I love about this story of my hubby’s is how it’s like a spiral – if you think into it, you can just keep going. For instance, don’t you think the physics of what happens at a traffic light is just plain amazing? Why is it that adding one more car to the line adds exponentially to the “dead time” between light-changing, and take-off?

    Each car, each car you add. So much more than a factor of 1 on the way to gridlock.

    Can you stretch your mind to think about what that portends in the context of this post?

    I did ride the bus home, today. Frank had the car, as he had back-to-back meetings he could not have made, on the bus. I looked for the fat people. The ones who should walk more...

    There wasn’t a single fat person on the 14. Probably they walk too much, already....

    Someone needs to take an empathy pill...

  • Gil Johnson (unverified)

    Well, of course there are no fat people on the No. 14. All the people along Hawthorne eat health foods and ride bikes when they are not on the bus.

    Seriously, though, can someone please tell me why Tri-Met is spending tons of money to rip up downtown and divert buses and other traffic to the four winds? Nothing in that plan makes sense.

  • Erik Halstead (unverified)

    Instead of focusing on how TriMet is impacting you, or someone else (and boy do I have my list of how TriMet inconveniences me - try riding the line 12 bus sometime), maybe we should consider that the way TriMet is governed, leaves very little public input to a supposedly government institution.

    TriMet is not accountable to the public, or even Metro, or the cities or counties. TriMet is a public corporation of the State of Oregon. Its Board is composed by the Governor of Oregon - not locals. So that means the Governor gets to figure out who runs TriMet, between hosting the Joseph football team, determining how to fund State Police troopers in White City, and meeting up with his buddy "The Guv" down south to figure out how Oregon and California can work together.

    So, we have a Board of Directors who has no oversight (because TriMet is the last thing Kulongowski worries about, and probably rightfully so), and certainly no consideration for those that use TriMet. Sure, Fred Hansen's picture appears on every bus with a statement suggesting we tell him what we think. I've told him. I've never gotten a single response other than a form letter from some low-level "customer service representative" that sits in an office far, far away from where ordinary public citizens are permitted to access. I went to a TriMet Commuter Rail Open House once. I was basically shooed away by the TriMet representative. But the City of Tualatin representative at the meeting was more than happy to take 15 minutes to talk to me face-to-face (and he wasn't even an elected official).

    The problem isn't the Hawthorne bus, or the Barbur Blvd. bus. It's a systematic failure of an organziation that has no focus on its customers, and by way of which it is organized, it doesn't have to be. Try obtaining financial reports to see how TriMet is doing. You can't find them. TriMet is more than happy to spin documents that show good stuff, but anything negative is carefully hidden from public view. How many times has a TriMet survey been done, with every single respondant saying how "Option A" is the best - only to find TriMet choosing "Option F, 'none of the above'" - or choosing the option that absolutely nobody liked? Because they don't have to listen.

    But trickle-down that thought process - and you have line 12 busses that aren't scheduled to meet rider demand; line 15 busses that are going to terminate a half mile early; line 9 busses that operate every 3 minutes while line 94 busses deny boarding to dozens of passengers; and gerrymandered routes in Hillsboro and Gresham so that people will ride MAX.

  • (Show?)

    Don't get me wrong--the whole process will be an inconvenience--but your point seems to be that #14 riders will be dealt an unduly harsh hand. I'm not sure I see it.

    Assuming an extra 17 minute commute time added to how many riders misdirected home over the Morrison bridge over 2.5 years...I'd say that adds up to a significant issue. For folks in close-in SE, like myself, that's a doubling or tripling of our commute time. That's not the way to encourage mass transit.

    But then poorer folks, and the handicapped, represent an inelastic demand for transportation services...they don't have any choice, so who better to jerk around? What are they gonna do when, come January, their #14 doesn't take them anywhere downtown they used to go?

    And, yeah, in the overall scheme of things what happens to a few folks --well, OK, a lot of folks-- on a single bus line in Portland may be small potatoes. An "inconvenience" as Tri-Met calls it. But it's really symptomatic, as a few commentors get, of the bigger problem...who's making policy here? What are our priorities? Why is a major change effecting 8% of Tri-Met's downtown commuter ridership (thank you)...done without a public hearing? Snuck through the back door? Where's the analysis of what's this costing? The public dialogue?

    For good or ill, we're spending how much on the Tram to benefit how many people? There's a proposal to spend a quarter of a BILLION dollars for a streetcar in SE that isn't designed to serve existing residents...but will serve, like the Tram, as a catalyst for development. When did this become the driver of transportation policy?

  • VR (unverified)

    Seriously, some of you folks should move to other cities for a while.

    If you think transit in Portland is bad you will hate most of the other cities in the country...

    The mall is being torn up for a couple reasons.

    1. To move the N/S light rail lines onto it, keeping the E/W lines on the current alignment.

    2. To revitalize and redesign the "bus mall" to be more business friendly. The business community has been asking for this for years.

    3. To fix the bus mall. It has been decaying for a decade with only minor repairs being done.

    4. To connect the major transit lines and systems to Amtrak and PSU.

    I am sorry folks, but there is no way to not inconvenience everyone when you do construction. There just isn't.

    You want to complain about the 17 extra minutes on your ride - when I can't even get a bus line into Lake Oswego to save my soul. To bus into that burb - where I work - would take more than two hours. My spouse has a 10 minute ride into downtown on her choice of 3 bus lines. She works on 5th so things are way messed up for her during the project... But I think we'll get by just fine...

  • nuovorecord (unverified)

    TriMet is not accountable to the public, or even Metro, or the cities or counties. TriMet is a public corporation of the State of Oregon.

    Actually, it is written in Metro's charter that they can step in and take over the operation of mass transit in the region if they deem necessary.

    From Metro's charter:

    (4) Assumption of Functions and Operations of Mass Transit District. Notwithstanding subsection (2) of this section, Metro may at any time assume the duties, functions, powers and operations of a mass transit district by ordinance. Before adoption of this ordinance the Council shall seek the advice of the Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation or its successor. After assuming the functions and operations of a mass transit district, the Council shall establish a mass transit commission of not fewer than seven members and determine its duties in administering mass transit functions for Metro. The members of the governing body of the mass transit district at the time of its assumption by Metro are members of the initial Metro mass transit commission for the remainder of their respective terms of office.

    Metro Charter, Section 7 (2) (4)

  • Jason McHuff (unverified)

    Actually, it is written in Metro's charter that they can step in and take over the operation of mass transit in the region if they deem necessary.

    Not only Metro's charter, but also Oregon Revised Statutes chaper 267.020 (I think, since TriMet may be under Transportation District statutes instead).

  • Michael Wilson (unverified)

    This may be an old issue by now, but here is a link to what may be the world's best transit system. Enjoy.

  • Adron (unverified)

    Kinda funny, a socialist website with a bunch of people complaining about a socialistic government entity not being responsive to demands.

    hmpf. Now that is an irony.

  • Adron (unverified)
    (Show?) demands I should say. But then of course the Government was never supposed to be in "business" if one could call the subsidized entity of Trimet a business.

    ...and another note... Trimet DID have an open house and about 3 months of handing out flyers with #14s new route on it... I didn't hear a peep about it from ya then... did you mention the problem to Trimet?

    I've come to find, people demand something of an entity like Trimet, then it stumbles into doing something about it, then another bunch of people scream and hollar while they whittled away two or three years NOT PAYING ATTENTION.

    Come on... get with the program. "blues" are supposed to be more in touch with the community and local Government. News flash, Trimet IS part of the Government.

  • Thomas Murdock (unverified)


    I regularly ride Max westbound from Gateway TC Westbound to PGE Park. My Eastbound return to Gateway is between 5:00 & 6:30 PM.

    My concern is a seeming lack of, rather, non existent , Security. Yet at Gateway, where I have yet to see a security concern, a TriMet employe is standing about all day. The employee exhibits discipline in staying awake.

    Tonight at at about 6:30 I was in Car 317A or 307A Eastbound / Airport. At Lloyd center a gang of youth rushed the train screaming and beating with closed fits an unfortunate person. Then, before you knew it the gang was gone. The wounded passenger disembarked at Hollywood Station.

    Weekdays traveling westbound during after school hours bands of loud, aggressive high school age passengers board the train intimidating the passengers with their loud and vulgar, and on occasion , insulting, language and “ we’ll do what we want “ manner. This happens over and over again. They are fearful of no authority as none is present.

    During the after school hours you need security on the train and in early evening there should be security at the Lloyd and Hollywood stations. Train operators , understandably, are neither heard from nor seen during episodes of violence.

    Max is responsible for the security of its riders. A greater effort needs to be made to put scarce resources, Security Personnel, where and when they are needed most.

    Thank You:

    Thomas L Murdock

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