New TriMet Lines Expand Liabilities

By Laura Lewis

TriMet has doubled its transit police force from 29 to 58 officers during the past two and a half years. Despite these security increases, light rail continues to attract crime. The newly opened Green Line to Clackamas Town Center has experienced a 32% increase in reported crime and a 56% increase in calls for police service since the light rail opened in 2009. The addition of police forces will cost an added $140,000 per year per officer, or a total of $43 million for 58 officers over the next 5 years, adding to TriMet’s current $27 million budget shortfall.

Despite the security risks that accompany new rail lines, TriMet continues to build. Last week the TriMet Board unanimously approved allocating $108 million for the Milwaukie Light Rail project, a seven-mile extension that ultimately will cost $1.4 billion. In addition to the financial liability this plan will bring, the project likely will result in unintended security consequences for Milwaukie residents, due to the crime light rail attracts.

In 2007 the Oregon legislature appropriated $250 million in lottery-backed bonds for Milwaukie light rail, most of which hasn’t yet been spent. The legislature should reauthorize those dollars for other purposes and cancel any more light rail expansion.

Laura Lewis is a research associate at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.