During the 2003 session of the Oregon State Legislature, TriMet sought an increase in the regional payroll tax rate. In public testimony, TriMet General Manager Fred Hansen said, “TriMet’s proposed payroll tax increase will be used exclusively to provide new or enhanced transit service.”

The legislature approved TriMet’s request, and the payroll tax rate went up every January for ten straight years. By the end of 2014, TriMet had received $34.4 million in new payroll tax revenues attributable to rate increases. Yet during that same decade, the miles of transit service offered to patrons actually dropped by 14%, while the hours of service declined by 5%.

Like a magic show, TriMet tried to distract the audience by pointing to grand celebrations for the opening of the WES commuter rail line and the Green MAX line, both of which opened in 2009. But overall service levels were reduced five times in six years, the opposite of what was promised in 2003.

TriMet’s proposed budget for 2015-16 was released last week. It calls for “expanding service through the opening of the Portland-Milwaukie light rail line.” Once again, all the attention will be on new trains, while total service levels will still be far below the levels we had in 2003.

State legislators should be asking TriMet where all the money went. But sadly, no one in Salem cares about results.

2 thoughts on “TriMet’s Great Disappearing Act

  1. It will be interesting to see if Uber and other ride sharing services impact TriMet’s ridership numbers. These ride sharing services offer door to door service, and possibly much lower taxi rates than in the past.

  2. Disappearing is an understatement. How about disappearing service

    I was a long time Trimet rider form 1992 until I become frustrated at the post Blue line charges in 1998 and final learned to drive in 2000 at 40 years old. I used to remember two ways form Rock Creek to downtown Portland and when the Blue line three busses to light rail (sunset or Willow creek). In 2014-15 I find myself back commuting on mass transit because my car is on its last leg. (I am saving up the cash and hope to purchase junker but running car in cash in Jun-July). One the first thing I noticed where was the Bus 89 that served Rock Creek and sunset transit station? Well it’s no more. Next I noted busses 47 and 48 that used to serve Willow Creek no longer stops there. One has to ride up to Hillsboro (busses 47, 48) or Sunset Transit (bus 48) center or wait for the 52, the only buss this is a feeder to light rail form Rock creek Area. Weekends are worst, bus 47 does not run on weekends.
    So where is the money going to? It not going to, light rail to nowhere and not helping riders like me.

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