TriMet needs to tighten security, dump “honor system”

by Dave Lister

I just completed our payroll taxes for the fourth quarter. Seven-tenths of 1 percent of our gross payroll will go toward funding the TriMet system. Seven-tenths of 1 percent of the payroll of the seafood broker next door, the medical clinic around the corner and the electrical contractor across the street will also go to funding the system. Fifty-seven percent of TriMet’s operational funding this year will come from the payroll tax assessed on all employers in its service district. In this economy, it’s a burden for most businesses, but we have an obligation to the community to fund the system. Despite arguments over the virtues of rail versus buses or the location of lines, there is no argument that an efficient public transportation system is a necessary component of modern society.

There should also be no argument that those using the system have a reasonable expectation of personal safety while using the system. Unfortunately, recent events have shown what many riders have known for years: When it comes to TriMet, that reasonable expectation is not realistic.

My 31-year-old son has never owned an automobile. That makes him, in the Portland ethic, a model citizen. The reward for his model citizenship while riding TriMet’s rails at all hours of the day and night has been intimidation at the hands of roving gangs of youths, subjection to aggressive panhandling and the annoyance of dealing with the extremely intoxicated intruding into his personal space. Although his observation that most of the troublemakers are riding without paying fares is anecdotal, I tend to think that it is true.

TriMet has responded to the recent beating of a teenage girl on the MAX line, the assault of a teenage boy on a MAX platform and a fight on an east Portland bus in its typical fashion.

First, TriMet ramped up its public relations machinery to insist these incidents, compared with the total number of trips, are statistically insignificant. Technically, that is correct, but I’m not sure that provides any comfort for the victims.

Second, TriMet has insisted that anyone engaging in crime on the system will be apprehended. There have been arrests in two of these cases, but prosecution after the fact is no replacement for prevention in the first place.

Third, TriMet is pledging it will heighten security on the system by providing more officers, both uniformed and undercover. If TriMet’s heightened security measures go the way of its occasional fare enforcement stings, it will be short-lived. There will be some highly publicized arrests, more press releases for a time, and then things will slide quietly back to the status quo.

Residents in communities of future planned light-rail lines have good reason to have serious public safety concerns about the projects. In 2007, before reaching an agreement with TriMet to provide better security, Gresham Mayor Shane Bemis ordered his own police officers to ride the line within Gresham’s city limits because the crime was so out of hand. It’s no wonder that Lake Oswego is now rejecting the streetcar from Portland and Clackamas County residents are pushing back on the Milwaukie line.

It’s time TriMet finally acknowledges the failure of its “honor system” fare policy. A teenage gang member will be as little inclined to buy a ticket to ride as he will be to respect an exclusion order or show up in court on a citation. Not only would secured boarding eliminate a good portion of the criminal element, but increased fare recovery might even let government shave that payroll tax rate a fraction of a point.

Dave Lister is a small-business owner who served on Portland’s Small Business Advisory Council.

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Posted by at 05:00 | Posted in TriMet | 38 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Rupert in Springfield

    >In this economy, it’s a burden for most businesses, but we have an obligation to the community to fund the system.

    I personally have never understood this obligation. Here in Eugene Springfield we have massive articulated buses that regularly toodle around with four or five people on them. They also have massivly expensive MX lanes built for them that serve no purpose that the street already there didnt serve. Why do I have an obligation to subsidize fares so that a few people can pay less than the actual cost of their transportation? These massive busses combined with the absurd MX lanes produce far more pollution than were these people simply to use a car.

    I think its time to move past this concept that for some reason the entire community must subsidize mass transit. All that leads to is hiding when a mistake is made in planning, as there is no direct feedback mechanism and a bad transit line, or overbought equipment can go on in perpetuity because its all being subsidized and the true costs are hidden.

    Take the example of Eugene Springfield. Those articulated buses cost a fortune, and provide no more addition service because their capacity is clearly not needed. Were the lines not subsidized, a fare increase would have been in order to pay for them. The idiocy of the things would have become apparent immediatly and people would have demanded whoever  bouth the damn things be sacked.

    That doesnt happen though because there is no correlation between fare paid and the cost of the ride because the whole thing is subsidized. Were it not, people would hold people more accountable.

    An obligation to the community to fund the system? I think not. I think there is an obligation to the community not to fund them, so the community is aware of the true costs and how they are being ripped off.

    Yes, suggesting the current funding mechanism for mass transit could use some change does mean I have a hatred of non car driving people women and minorities first.


    • Sol668

      But we should massively subsidize your roads right rupert?…and you do have a hatred for the economically disadvantaged, its the corners stone of RW thought

      • Rupert in Springfield

        Yawn…could you stop with this? We have been over it endlessly. Roads in this state are paid for through federal and state taxes on gasoline. In fact only a portion of those taxes go to roads, the rest to bike lane, light rail and other nonsense.
        Please, lets be done with this one ok? Its getting dull.


        >and you do have a hatred for the economically disadvantaged

        I think I said that didnt I? Yes, the fact that I question how buses are funded means I do hate people who ride buses.

        I eat them, children, women, I dont care. Because I question subsidizing busses, yes, it is reasonable to assume I hate poor people.

        Women and minorities first obviously.

        There, does that satisfiy your idiotic argument that any questioning of government equals hatred for somebody?

        I sure hope so.

        • None

          “subsidizing busses”

          Yes, all kissing should be subject to forces of the free market, and should be unhindered by government subsidies.

          • Rupert in Springfield

            Um, OK, makes about as much sense as anything else you have posted.

          • 3H

            I think he’s making a play on words… from buss.. an old term for kiss.

          • None

            Yes, I realize that humor based on literacy is probably over Rupert’s head.

  • Bob Clark

    I recommend to my out-of-town guests they don’t ride Max anytime after 7pm or on most Sundays.  The rougher, more seamy clientele on the train become relatively dominant during these times; and the level of apprehension my friends are likely to feel rises quite substantially.

    There is so much wrong with TriMet; and so, I think Dave (the author here) is resigning to the status quo too easily here.  TriMet is a financial train wreck waiting to implode with billions in unfunded liabilities, getting worse as they add more assets requiring more maintenance.  Payroll taxes are likely to be a target for sharp hikes in TriMet’s future financial shortcomings.  Moreover, TriMet is run by appointees of a governor who’s got plenty of other distractions, such that TriMet appointmentships are political favors with some having conflicts of interest (elected managers would be better).  Then too, the labor union has obtained great leverage in raising the cost of TriMet operations well beyond reasonable market rates (2007 Oregon arbitration law).  Finally, we need to introduce some competition in the public transit market as TriMet has become an inefficient monopoly.  TriMet could be broken up into three separate entities…a light rail agency, an east side agency, and a west side agency.  Moreover, taxi cab transport should be liberalized to allow more easy entry…maybe the car rental experiment might serve some competitive purposes.

    • Sol668

      LOL you are a scared child, I never feel threatened on the max..try visiting virtually any other major metropolitan area in the US…Portland and its maxx system are completely safe in comparison

      • Rupert in Springfield

        Do you ever actually have an argument to support your position? I mean I am really curious. It seems like when anyone disagrees with you or questions government at any level all you have is they hate someone, or in this case they are a child.

        I mean seriously. Do you hang out with a crowd, where this sort of thing is taken as convincing debate?

        It’s pretty shallow here you know.

        • Sol668

          What makes you think I’m interested in debating you Rupert?  If you disagree with me you’re a brain washed idiot, I’m here to mock you, nothing more…

          Which coincidently is precisely how the right treats us…if you havn’t noticed

          • Rupert in Springfield

            >What makes you think I’m interested in debating you Rupert?

            Um, look above, you were replying to Bob Clark, not me.

            >If you disagree with me you’re a brain washed idiot

            That just about says it all doesnt it?

            >Which coincidently is precisely how the right treats us…if you havn’t noticed

            I asked you to actually give an argument for whatever position you have. Not simply name call. Obviously I treat you with a little more respect than you are capable of treating others.

          • Sol668

            Actually rupert it was you who started the “oh grow up” routine in response to one of my posts, evidently you don’t appreciate the the taste of your own medicine

  • valley person

    If Dave’s thesis is correct there would be less crime on buses, which always collect fares, than there is on Max trains. Does Dave know if this is the case or not?

    • 3H

      That is the question — he made a good case for increased security.  He made no correlation or connection between collecting fares and crime on public transit.  Perhaps there is one, but it would have been nice if he had actually taken some time to prove it.

      • valley person

        You know, even if you are only making a case for increased security, you would still want to know whether buses are more secure than trains. I kind of doubt it. There have been serious incidents on buses as well as trains. Any time you put a bunch of people in close proximity, and a high proportion of those are lower income, you are going to have crime. Whether that is more crime per capita than you would get at a shopping mall in a poor neighborhood, I doubt it.

  • None

    Why should anyone believe anything posted on Oregon Catalyst? 

    Two days ago, Larry Huss posted an article with glaring errors. Those errors were pointed out, but the article still stands, uncorrected. It shows that Oregon Catalyst has no interest in the truth, only in promoting their political viewpoint. If it takes a few lies in order to further their political ends, so be it.

    Sadly, that’s the way most of the right operates today.

    • Rupert in Springfield

      So because Huss said January 2008 instead of January 2009 you conlcude the whole blog is based on a lie.

      Obama couldnt pronounce coprsman twice in one speech. Will you therefore state the entire administration is a lie?

      Of course not, and no one would expect you to. It would be a silly conclusion to make. Just as your conclusion here is silly.

      You really didnt have much of an argument to make, you just wanted to hurl some nonsense and be inflamitory.

      Sadly, thats the way most of the left operates today.

      As we see here. Three nonsense replies from the left. Not a lot of actual logical argument to support their position. Basically just a bunch of name calling fluff if anyone dares to question authority.

      OBEY seems to be the watchword for you guys.

      • 3H

        You really didnt have much of an argument to make, you just wanted to hurl some nonsense and be inflamitory.

        Sadly, thats the way most of the left operates today.”

        I wasn’t aware you were a member of the left.   Huh.  

      • None

        Rupert, he twice said “January 2008”, and also used job-loss figures based on January 2008. This makes his whole post based on a lie.

        I realize that’s okay with the useful idiots on the right. It’s not okay for the reality-based community.

        “Obama couldnt pronounce coprsman”

        I’m not sure how to pronounce it, since it’s not a word. 

        • Rupert in Springfield

          >I’m not sure how to pronounce it, since it’s not a word. 

          Maybe you should refrain from calling people usefull idiots when you make mistakes like this one.

          corps·man (kôr m n, k r -, kôrz m n, k rz -). n. 1. An enlisted person in the U.S. Navy, serving either with the Navy or the Marines, who has been trained to give first …

          • 3H

            *sigh*… you spelled it coprsman  not corpsman.  He was spoofing your spelling.

          • valley person

            Can we get a Rick Perry “oops” out of Rupert?

          • None

            Again, literate humor is wasted on Rupert, but the rest of us can have a laugh at his expense, and another laugh when he fails to understand why he’s being laughed at.

      • None

        My other point is that Oregon Catalyst has had two days to correct the error, and they haven’t done so. It shows that they have no regard for presenting factual information. 

        Of course, the error at the beginning of the post is easy to correct, but the error in the body of the post is more difficult to correct, since it would require Mr. Huss to actually go back and find the correct figures. 

        And, apparently, that’s too much work for Mr. Huss and the people at Oregon Catalyst. They’d rather leave the false information up.

        • Rupert in Springfield

          >And, apparently, that’s too much work for Mr. Huss and the people at Oregon Catalyst.

          You can’t look up a word and you are throwing stones?

          You are just trolling. You really dont have any point and I think we both know that.

          • None

            You doofus, I know that “corpsman” is a word. But you spelled it “coprsman.” I was making fun of your atrocious spelling, and the fact that you’re too lazy to note the spell check in your browser to fix obvious spelling errors.

  • Bill K

    Why should we accept that “there is no argument that an efficient public transportation system is a necessary component of modern society”.  Maybe a private transportation system would work better?

    • Rupert in Springfield

      Probably because if you dare question government, even just as an intelectual question, not a real suggestion, the left flips out, as is on full display here.

      • Sol668

        ooh like how you flip out if we dare question your “magical” free market?

      • Bill K

        Well said!

  • DrPhil

    If riders actually have to pay, ridership will go way, way, way down.
    Plus, is it fair to charge a fare to someone who might be poor or down on their luck?
    No, it is not. If health care and food are free for the poor, why not transportation?
    I ask you this in all sincerety.

    • None

      Perhaps you could learn how to use spell check before you post.

      • Rupert in Springfield

        This coming from a guy who thought corpsman was not a word.

        • None

          As Molly Ivins said, the first rule of holes is to stop digging. I know that “corpsman” is a word. “Coprsman,” however, is not a word.

          I was making fun of the fact that you’re too lazy to pay attention to the spell check in your browser.

      • DrPhil

        perheps I culd

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