Monday, July 8, 2013

Incorrectly Correcting TriMet's Incorrect Accusation of us as Incorrect... I think.

In TriMet's newest media tactic of putting in their place anyone who says anything slightly critical about them, especially if they have the proof to back it up, I've found that TriMet themselves seem to have no clue what they're talking about, as well as deliberately downplaying something that would give them freer reign to cut service when they want.

Just recently, OPAL pointed out that TriMet was out of compliance with the Clean Air Act, which enforces that TriMet has to increase service, even if by a tiny bit, or they're in big trouble. Of course, TriMet disputes that with their blog post here.

"The Portland region is fully in compliance with Clean Air Act requirements and has been since 1996. A recent news release from OPAL incorrectly claimed the region is currently out of compliance due to transit service cuts during the recession."

Okay then, TriMet.

First, let's get the obvious out of the way.

"However, service cuts in Fiscal Year 2011 due to the recession and the agency’s unsustainable benefit cost structure would lead to a future dip below the 1 percent requirement under the current rolling five-year window."

Not even gonna touch that. TriMet knows that giving execs continued raises definitely makes an unsustainable system. Who am I to beat a dead horse?

However, there is a change TriMet is pushing. As it stands, TriMet has to have at least a 1% increase in service by capacity on a five year average window. If the system has less or even equal service to any time in that 5 year window, TriMet is in violation. Currently, TriMet has cut so much service that they are just now in the negatives.

Now that can't be, you might think. Just now? After almost every line in the system has been cut because of TriMet the union? It's just now in violation? Well, see, here's the thing. The plan cuts breaks for MAX. One two-car MAX train is equal to four buses, because it holds four times what a bus does. The same goes for WES- the one-car WES trips count for two buses.

Thus, when TriMet opened the Green Line and WES in 2008-2009, their added service went way up due to having a full-length MAX line in operation, which runs 50-80 round trips per day from 5 to 12 midnight, equivalent to 200-320 bus trips. (Combine lines 72 and 9 for 200, and throw on the 4 and 12 for 320). Add to that the 15 WES trips per direction and you have a nifty little extra 30 bus trips, which is about as many trips as lines like 10-Harold, 24-Fremont or 58-Canyon Road run.

In essence, in 2009, TriMet added 4 frequent service lines and a regular service line to their system. In 2012, they added Streetcars in the Eastside, which is another 60 round trips. Streetcar has a 1.5 conversion rate, so that's 90 trips, which is almost another line 72. It takes a lot of cutting to amount to the level of 5 frequent service lines and a normal service line, and it is to TriMet's testament that they've cut service below that amount to the point that there was more service in 2008 than their was in 2013.

However, keep that in mind, and recognize that TriMet wants to expand the window to the entire current maintenance period, which is from 2007 to 2017. Thus, TriMet just has to have barely higher service than pretty much any time in that period. If they're 1% above any point in that, they're in the clear.

In addition, the Milwaukie MAX line is opening in 2015. It will likely start at the same frequency the Green Line runs, so tack up another 4 frequent service bus lines to the fleet. Take these 9 frequent service lines (and WES) and just don't cut less than that. Of course, TriMet has fallen out of compliance despite adding the equivalent of 5 frequent service lines, and they can easily do so before 2017.

If the current rules are in place, come 2015, the Milwaukie MAX will have to match up with 2010 service, after the Green Line opened and only one round of service cuts had taken place. The Orange line will barely make that equal, giving TriMet no space to cut service. However, if they have to beat 2007 at worst, then they have the same free rein to cut as they did before this year, just after the Green Line/WES opened.

And why does TriMet want to do this? Well, as they openly state, why the hell not?

"If the current way of calculating the TCM continued through until 2017, it is projected that future years would fall out of compliance. Despite growth in service every other year from 2007 on, due to a drop in service in fiscal year 2011 caused by the economic recession, the rolling 5-year average going forward would likely dip below 1 percent."

That's right. TriMet's losing the game, so they're changing the rules. Think of it like that annoying kid who made up a new rule every time you tagged him in tag. "No, you didn't tag me! I had an unbreakable anti-tag forcefield that you can't break!" Essentially the same rule is at play here. Damn that union.

I don't get how this is being overlooked in all of this. The new rule gives TriMet more free rein to cut service, and less transparency about it. I call them out on this because they're claiming to work with us, to side with us, while openly calling us wrong and then initiating secrecy about how they are lobbying to get away with cutting service and not restoring any at all. That isn't the kind of behavior that I, as a Bus Riders Unite leader, can support. This isn't the kind of agency that I can comfortably say "I align with them, I agree with their causes." If TriMet wants to work with us, and expect us to work with them, they are going to have to go all the way with it. No more secrecy, no more dishonesty, and no more pretentious, false 'fact-checking.'