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Next Stop: Better Services

TriMet calls for input on service needs

Danny Peterson | 10/31/2017, 5:27 p.m.
TriMet wants to hear from you as it considers new service improvements
TriMet is considering several service improvements, including splitting up the number 4 line for increased reliability and a low income fare option. Open houses to hear from the public are scheduled over the next two weeks. Danny Peterson/Portland Observer

TriMet wants to hear from you as it considers new service improvements, including 24-hour-bus service to the airport, rerouted bus lines to reflect workers’ commutes, and splitting up the No. 4 bus, which often gets slowed down by heavy traffic, to improve reliability.

The No. 4 is the longest route in the transit system, running from St. Johns to downtown Portland and all the way to Gresham.

A recent report showed that TriMet’s ridership is down overall since 2001 and even more so in north and northeast Portland, where the city’s historic African American communities have lost population.

The report pointed to increased housing prices, which have sky-rocketed over the past two decades, as a possible culprit. Portland also recorded the sixth-fasted rise in rent prices in the nation. The high housing costs are thought to be a major factor for people not being able to afford public transportation or for being forced to move.

To combat this lower ridership, TriMet is proposing a low-income fare, which was made possible by a $678,000 federal grant from the Department of Transportation, part of a state transportation package passed by the Legislature. The proposed low-income fare would be the same cost as honored citizens’ fare, which is currently $1.25 per two and half hour ride, as opposed to the usual $2.50 for a regular adult.

“We recognize the need for a low income fare—that some folks have to choose between paying for their bus pass or feeding their family,” TriMet Communications Manager Roberta Altstadt told the Portland Observer.

TriMet officials say other factors have contributed to the lower ridership as well, such as changes in the main workforce areas in Portland.

“It used to be that downtown was the main job area. And people from the suburbs would come into downtown for work. Well now there’s job centers around the Portland airport area and Clackamas. So people need to go from north to south without necessarily coming in to downtown Portland. And our route hasn’t necessarily changed to reflect that. So that’s why we are looking at doing these improvements.” Altstadt said.

TriMet security has also been amped up in response to the recent stabbing in May where two people died and one was injured on a Max train. Aldstadt said TriMet has added 20 permanent security officers since then, and keeps a pool of on call officers from 14 contracted security companies to respond to any security issues that might arise.

No plans have been announced to increase monitoring of fare evaders, some of whom have caused violent attacks upon bus drivers and reportedly may cost the company up to a million dollar each year in lost revenue, officials said.

TriMet, however, does plan to implement a fairer citation process for evaders who are caught by giving them a 90 day window to resolve their citation before they are sent directly to court, a policy made possible thanks to a recently passed law.

Other proposed improvements include 24 hour bus service to the airport, the implementation of all-electric buses, the integration of ride services like Uber and Lyft into the TriMet trip planner app, and Max station renovations.

Many of the proposals come directly from riders’ suggestions, Aldtstadt said.

Open houses to hear from the public are planned over the next two weeks with written comments accepted until the end of the year.

“We’re presenting them to the public in these open houses to say ‘Here are some of the ideas we’ve heard from you, will this serve your area better? Will this get you to where you need to go and where you want to go?’” Aldstadt said.

For a complete list of the open house times and dates and more information on the service proposals, visit trimet.org.