Higher fares and service cuts to come
By Mindy Cooper/The Portland Observer
After nearly eight months of public outreach to tackle a $12 million budget shortfall, TriMet has approved a series of higher fares and service cuts.
“During this budget process, the agency faced many tough choices, but we believe this is a responsible and sound budget,” TriMet Board President Bruce Warner said Wednesday. “It reflects the public and the board’s priority to preserve service and navigate the financial uncertainties ahead.”
The shortfall stems from the slow economic recovery, anticipated cuts in federal operating funds, and an unresolved labor contract for TriMet workers.
“We have few options to help close the budget shortfall,” said Mary Fetsch, TriMet media relations officer. “And cutting services and raising fares are really the two main ways we can fill this shortfall.”
Depending on the outcome of a pending arbitration over benefits with union employees, TriMet may also need to cut an additional $5 million.
“These are tough choices and tough times, but we are working to get the union contract and benefits in line with the market so we can become financially sustainable,” Fetsch said.
For the current budget hole, the agency said it tried to retain as much bus and light-rail service as possible.
TriMet also focused on transit equity to ensure changes don’t have a disproportionate impact on disadvantaged and minority populations. As part of that effort, the agency is developing a $1 million program to mitigate fares for low income residents who ask for assistance from public service agencies and non-profits.
One of the upcoming changes in services accomplishes a TriMet goal of making the fare system easier to understand by creating a flat fare for all rides. The move brings in an additional $6 million in revenue.
The zone system was created 30-years-ago in an attempt to charge more for trips that usually begin in the suburbs and end downtown, while keeping fares lower for minority and low-income riders who lived in the central city.
Over time, however, the way residents used transportation morphed as travel patterns and neighborhood demographics shifted.
The adult fare increase is 10 cents from the current all-zone fare, and 40 cents more than the current 2-zone fare.
The creation of a round trip all day pass will cost a rider the same as the current day pass, which is $5. Honored Citizen fares, however, will not change, and there will be additional LIFT services will be provided.
There will also be an elimination of the Free Rail Zone for Downtown Portland and the Lloyd District, which will result in $2.7 million in savings.