Wednesday, April 8, 2009

If You Think TriMet Service Cuts Are Bad ...

... just be glad you don't live in St. Louis, where the transit system is getting ab-so-lute-ly gutted:

The service area for this multibillion-dollar regional asset will shrink by two thirds, literally overnight.

The Metro transit agency faces an operating deficit of $45 million this year, which is expected to reach $50 million next year. Nearly one in every four of its 2,300 employees will be laid off in the coming weeks. Many highly skilled and productive employees already are being poached by transit systems in other regions.

Service will end at 2,300 of the 9,000 bus stops and shelters on Missouri’s side of the system; service in Illinois, which is fully funded, won’t be affected. A bus fleet of 320 will shrink to about 140. MetroLink light rail riders will see one-third fewer trains during rush hour. Call-A-Ride service for the disabled will be slashed.

Most city and inner-ring suburban service will be cut 25 percent to 75 percent. Most of St. Louis County outside the Interstate 270 loop will receive no service. Limited service to the Chesterfield Valley was salvaged through the end of the year as a result of a last-minute deal between Metro and far-sighted municipal leaders and local businesses.

The article at StLouisToday was written on the 27th. These service cuts are already in effect. Now, I'm no transit planner and have actually not enough knowledge to be useful, but I'm guessing if you reduced weekend TriMet service to a handful of Portland-only routes, permanently on Sunday schedules, cut back MAX service to half-hourly on all lines, reduced fixed-route service to Portland Only except during rush hours, restricted TriMet LIFT customers to 8 am to 5 pm service, six days a week, you might come close to the pain that St Louis is feeling right now.

I'm not a fan of the cutbacks TriMet's proposing, but – for now, anyway – we're doing better than most, even with the much-criticized (but still beloved) Streetcar and Aerial Tram.

If the Federal Government really wants to step up with our tax dollars and rebuild the country the Republicans have been tearing down since Reagan, a good place to start would be by funding mass transit so that all cities have decent (if not ideal) service levels.

In other words, start treating mass transit as a necessity, not as an option or a luxury. Because, if you're interested in having viable cities, it really is a necessity.


  1. I could drive or take TriMet. The cost is so close right now, though, that I look at the time spent vs the cost, and driving comes out to be more practical. I've been getting the feeling that TriMet is looking at itself less as a service for people who need to get around and have no other way to do so, and more as some kind of eco-luxury for people who want to feel good about their commuting choices. It would be interesting to see if TriMet price raises are in line with regular inflation or if they've gone above and beyond. With wages so bloody stagnant for the last decade or two, it's hard to imagine that TriMet hasn't started cutting into working folks' paychecks.

  2. Oregon aint Missouri,
    the northwest aint the south,
    and Portland aint St Louis!


  3. @ Stacy6: I feel the same way most of the time myself, both as to practicality and TriMet's approach to itself. I think a case can be made that this approach has translated into society at large, which sees TM as an elegant option rather than something that's democratic in access and can actually power the city's growth. TM could certainly make a better case for that, I think.

    My options on getting to work (which is a place I could bike to, it's about three miles away ... if I were in better shape, of course) are car, bike, and TM. Car is the obvious choice; it's actually makes more economic sense of the non-bike options.

    As far as the rate hikes, up until the fuel crisis, TM claimed that their occaisional nickel fare hikes were based on inflation, and I'm no economist, but I think they're talking in good faith there.

    Certainly TM's rate hikes have cut into paychecks, but the ridership numbers have reputedly skyrocketed, which tells us one thing: all of a sudden, a bunch of people who own cars can't afford to keep them anymore, a lot of people who commuted miles to a job and absolutely couldn't do without the car. That's what there is to be concerened right there – not that we should encourage them back into the cars, of course, but it's an economic canary-in-the-coal mine sort of thing that suggests just how soft our economy might be.

    @ al m: Well, come on right out and say what you think, fella! Dont beat around the bush so! B-)