After six months of extensive public outreach, Portland, Ore.-based TriMet released its final budget proposal to close the $12 million to $17 million shortfall in its upcoming Fiscal Year 2013 (FY13) budget. The budget begins July 1, 2012.
During the outreach process, staff met with more than 5,100 people at dozens of community meetings and other venues, including riding affected bus lines to solicit feedback. In all, the agency received 16,000 comments on its service cuts and fare increase proposals. Based on public comments, the agency made additional changes to the service cut proposals. The full proposal is available at trimet.org/choices.
TriMet is targeting $12 million in cuts with changes taking effect in September 2012. The unsettled labor contract with the Amalgamated Transit Union will not be resolved until after the budget begins. TriMet is proposing the $12 million in cuts and changes now, and depending on the outcome of the arbitration of the contract, may need to cut an additional $5 million during the FY13 budget.
With the slow jobs recovery, TriMet expects to receive about $3 million less in payroll tax revenues than previously anticipated.
TriMet estimates a $4 million cut in federal formula funds that are used for preventive maintenance; the agency receives $40 million to $45 million annually.
The unresolved union contract adds $5 million to $10 million to the FY13 budget shortfall. The contract expired in 2009 and both parties are heading to interest arbitration in May 2012, with a decision expected after the start of the FY13 budget.
The agency plans to:
• Eliminate fare zones/move to flat fare system, generating $6 million in additional revenue. The zone system was created 30 years ago in an attempt to charge for distance-based trips that typically started in the suburbs and ended in Downtown Portland. It kept fares lower for minority and low-income riders who lived in the central city. Over time, travel patterns shifted throughout the region, and demographics also changed with most minority and low-income riders living further away from the central city and making longer trips. Moving to a flat fare system makes it simpler for riders.
• Eliminate the free rail zone, creating $2.7 million in additional revenue. This change would eliminate free rides on MAX in Downtown Portland and the Lloyd District.
• Sell ads on TriMet website, bringing in $300,000 in additional revenue. The original proposal from February called for $500,000 in savings. By identifying $1.2 million in internal efficiencies and program cuts it will minimize service cuts and impact to riders. During this recession, TriMet has already cut 200 positions, frozen salaries for non-union employees now in its fourth year and required greater cost sharing for health care benefits.
• Reconfigure 15 bus routes, eliminating segments of routes that overlap with other routes while maintaining service to an area.
• Change routing on two bus lines. In response to community input and to make closer transfers, Line 15 will be extended between Montgomery Park and the NW Industrial area.
• Eliminate bus trips with low ridership on nine bus lines. Service will either begin later in the morning and/or end earlier in the evening, and may include extending time between trips.
• Add service on seven bus lines to alleviate overcrowding.
• Implement six different LIFT service boundaries based on time of day and day of the week and only provide paratransit trips if there is nearby bus or rail service is in operation at that time.
• Proposing a $300,000 reduction in its Portland Streetcar FY13 contribution, down $100,000 from the original proposal.