TriMet is Run By Pull Politics, DUH!

I commonly see this statement that TriMet is disconnected from its ridership.  Of course it is, ridership & customer retention are one of the lower priorities.  One would expect such from a publicly operative entity that is run primarily by Government means.

TriMet Priorities (Public Government Entity)

1. Assure funding from Government/taxes.
2. Assure continued interest from key officials.
3. Maintain operations and incur as large a tax collection/service base as possible.
4. Maintain fare revenue through ridership.
5. Maintain equipment to assure maximum ridership via lowest cost.
6. Encourage and gain ridership.
7. Maintain employee happiness.

Those first two priorities pretty much sum up the largest part of concentration on TriMet's part.  Which really equates to TriMet being more about appeasing the city & Metro than the citizenry and users of the system.  One of the MAJOR problems of disconnecting the system from a profit or Trust (Business entity) based priority.

If TriMet where truly a private entity and where allowed by removal of subsidies to competing systems, we could get some honest priorities.

TriMet Priorities – (Privately Operated)

1. Make money & profits for owners & primary constituents.
2. Server as many people as possible to increase revenue.
3. Assure employees are happy to maintain efficiency and encourage further ridership & revenues.
4. Expand system.

TriMet Priorities – (Privately Operated non-Profit)

1. Make money to maintain system.
2. Server as many people as possible to maintain revenue.
3. Assure employees are happy to maintain efficiency and encourage further ridership & revenues.
4. Expand system.

TriMet Priorities – (Publicly Owned, Privately Operated – i.e. group owndership)

1. Make money to maintain system.
2. Server as many people as possible to maintain revenue.
3. Assure employees are happy to maintain efficiency and encourage further ridership & revenues.
4. Expand system.

One can see easily that the priorities are less, and the functional push forward is much more focused.  When you withdraw these tertiary motivators (the City, Metro, & other urban planning engineering manipulators) you'd have priorities that aren't perfectly matched to the rider, but at least VASTLY more aligned than that of the current public entity.

As it stands, unless there is a national awakening, we have what we have.  It is one of the, if not the best system for this city size.  But we won't do better unless the restraints and unfocused issues are removed, and that is FAR FAR outside of TriMet's control.

TriMet's behavior is a symptom of larger issues, and should not be contested.  What needs to be focused on is the problems associated with the City, Metro, and Political Pull System.  We fix that, we'll get our transit system back.  Until then, there isn’t any point in complaining about TriMet’s politically motivated behavior, because that’s exactly what WE the citizenry have allowed by letting the Government encroach in the business of transportation.

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2 Comments

  1. I agree 99% on the matter, but in a sense I have to disagree in that TriMet seems to be "more guilty" of this mentality than other governmental agencies.

    For example, I’ve had to contact government employees at other levels, and have always received quite, prompt, courteous responses – and action. As one example I contacted ODOT regarding a burned out streetlight at my bus stop (being on a state highway). I received an initial e-mail within 24 hours, a promise to fix it on a specific time, a follow-up e-mail apologizing for the delay, and it was fixed. Even though it required a specialized electrical crew with a high-reach cherry picker, since the particular lights are mounted higher than a normal streetlight.

    Another example was during a Commuter Rail project meeting in Tualatn a few years ago (long before construction started) – the TriMet guy seemed annoyed to be at the meeting and having to answer my questions and at one point was basically wanting me to shut up, the City of Tualatin guy was friendly and made sure all my questions were answered even after the meeting.

    I think the biggest change to TriMet would be to force the Board of Directors to be elected, not appointed, and to create a "wall of separation" between TriMet and other agencies and make TriMet more autonomous from Metro and the City of Portland (and all other cities/counties/ODOT). Yes, there will have to be some intergovernmental relationships, but I think TriMet and Metro are way too cozy right now, giving Metro way too much voice in TriMet planning/operations. If TriMet were a "business", TriMet and Metro would be under investigation for anti-trust violations, and Metro would have to "divest" of TriMet – all but prohibiting Metro from having a transportation planning role.

    Not that I have a problem with that option, either 😉

    Reply

  2. "If TriMet were a "business", TriMet and Metro would be under investigation for anti-trust violations, and Metro would have to "divest" of TriMet – all but prohibiting Metro from having a transportation planning role."

    Well written! Excellent analogy.

    Reply

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