March 14, 2013

TriMet budget keeps fares, service steady

Portland, Ore.-based TriMet released its Fiscal Year 2014 budget. While there remains uncertainty ahead, the agency expects that there will be no service cuts or fare increases.

The key foundation of the $485 million operating budget assumes that the arbitration award for the just-expired contract with the Amalgamated Transit Union is upheld and TriMet’s offer stands, providing some breathing room and ability to invest in critical infrastructure.

The agency’s revenue projections are $28 million higher than previously projected. Part of the increase is due to a $9.5 million spike in additional federal funds dedicated to rail capital maintenance and about $4 million is related to higher inflation assumptions compared to last year.

Budget priorities include:

  • Accelerating new bus purchases, eliminating all older high-floor buses four years earlier than anticipated and reducing the average age of the fleet to eight years, which is the industry standard; $8.8 million for three years.
  • Increasing bus service to address schedule reliability and rush hour overcrowding; $1.6 million annually.
  • Continuing the Access Transit Fare Programs (previously called the Low-Income Mitigation Program); $1.3 million annually.
  • Hiring 10 operators to comply with new Hours-of-Service policy for bus operators; $1 million a year.
  • Increasing the contribution to union unfunded defined benefit pension fund; $4 million in FY14, $2 million in FY15.
  • Increasing light rail vehicle and track maintenance, plus improve lighting and stations renewal along the MAX system; $9.5 million.
  • No fare increase (a loss of $2 million in revenue).

TriMet still faces a future of service cuts and fare increases if the agency does not win the arbitration award challenge and prevail in making reforms in the upcoming contract. Current contract negotiations are at a standstill.

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