City Club Speech
February 24, 2012
Thank you City Club President Melody Rose and thank you to the Program Committee Members
I’m grateful for the invitation to speak to the City Club, and I’m honored to be here.
I’ve attended many City Club presentations – listened to many statesmen and women – and I hope I do the podium justice.
As noted in the introduction – I became TriMet General Manager 20 months ago after nearly 20 years at the agency.
I inherited an agency inspired by a Dickens’ novel – I call it – A Tale of Two TriMet’s.(give us a break will ya)
One tale is of a world-renown transit system (nobody with any brains can understand this claim, Trimet is small town transit not even close to the world class transit systems) with roots stretching back to the original transit mall in the mid-‘70s –
· an innovator in design and construction, and delivering light rail projects on time and on budget engaging local businesses, creating jobs (big deal, light rail projects that basically go nowhere)
· A leader in customer information like transit tracker by phone, internet and text – with real time arrival (he is correct about that)
· Growing annually from 40 million riders in 1980 to over 100 million annual rides today – 60% of which are on our bus system (wow, 60% on the BUS? Nah, I thought rail was king in Portland)
Every day we move a small city…
· Think about it – 330,000 times a day someone boards a bus or a train.
· If TriMet’s ridership was a city – it would be Oregon’s second largest city! (so would every cities transit service, stupid remark)
For riders and non-riders we do a lot of good for the region.
· MAX carries 26% of evening rush hour commuters traveling from downtown on both the Sunset and Banfield freeways. (12% of Portland area commuters use Trimet)
· Westside MAX carries the equivalent of nearly 3 lanes on the Sunset highway. (huh, we need more information about this claim)
· Each day – TriMet service eliminates about 4.2 tons of smog-producing pollutants – now that’s a breath of fresh air! (how's he come up with that?)
· Supports the regional land use plans that preserves farm land and forests (Huh?)
· Whether you ride or not – TriMet keeps us all moving
In my first 20 months – I’ve continued to build on that legacy and have taken a hard line (that aint no lie, my way or the highway is Herr Macfarlanes motto) implementing several changes to ‘right the ship.’
I changed the way we enforce fares – elevating fare enforcement over education – adding 6 new fare enforcers with more to come.(42 years of past practice changed in one moment, nothing posted at any MAX stations about the fare enforcements, Trimet's is basically preying on riders, sucking every Penney out of the public because it FUNDS THE POLICE STATE, no money goes to TRIMET)
I did this because I know if you paid your fare, you want the person sitting next to you to pay his fare.(YOU DON'T SPEAK FOR ME AND PLENTY OF OTHERS)
Last July, a rider without a valid fare for the first time faced a $175 citation and possible exclusion from the system. Since this change, there’s been a 10-fold increase in the number of citations.
It’s simple: pay your fare.
I’m please to tell you that more people are buying fares and the added enforcement provides more security on the system.
I have refocused on safety.
Just days before I was selected to be GM – TriMet suffered its most tragic incident in its 40-year history.
5 people were struck in a crosswalk by a bus in Old Town – killing 2 young women.(it was an isolated incident cause by one operator, the over reaction of Macfarlane is Trimet's equivalent of a 9-11 event, a premise to build a huge bureaucracy of so called "safety experts" sucking up huge salaries and taking money from operations)
The agency launched a comprehensive review of our operation beginning with an evaluation of all of our 79 bus routes:
· including every turn and
· every stop
But I didn’t stop there – I wanted to go even deeper – in effect – create a shift in the entire culture at TriMet.(with limited effect of course, scheduling, the most important aspect of safe operation, is still inadequate on many routes)
Today – safety is part of everyone’s job description and part of their annual review.
Last year – every bus operator received intensive safety training that will continue annually.
We are on our way to a system that is not reactive, but proactive – where every employee has truly embraced safety as a core value, like the 13 TriMet operators who have driven 1 million miles without a preventable accident.(haha, Neil is sorta funny here)
I have changed our investments. TriMet’s bus fleet is one of the oldest in the country. (yup)
Our extraordinary mechanics have used every creative tool in their toolkit to keep our buses moving, even when some parts are no longer being made.
Over the next few months – 55 new buses will arrive - providing more reliable and energy efficient service.(what's the time line for that?)
I’m proposing another 54 new buses for next year.
There is no other responsible option but to take care of the heart of our system, our buses.(heart of our system, maybe Neil has been drinking because Trimet is all about LIGHT RAIL now)
Now recall my story of the tale of two TriMet’s.
Let me tell you about the 2nd TriMet tale – that of an agency slowly strangling (strangling? an operator was strangled recently but the agency is strangling?) from a union contract that desperately needs a reset.
I know we live in a blue state…a pro-union city…so what I’m about to say might make you a tad uncomfortable.
But decisions that were made over the last 30 years have gotten us to a place where TriMet union members have arguably the richest healthcare benefits in the U.S. (that is not true, see MBTA/CTA/MTA/MUNI)
It’s a contract so out of date -- some of the work rules are 30 years old and so out of touch
And the rich health care benefits aren’t just for active employees but continue on with retirees til death do us part. (bald faced lie, at 65 medicare takes over)
These benefits are:
· out of step with any of our peers
· and puts us on a path to becoming a health care agency instead of a transit agency.(Neil makes a joke here I guess)
I want to stress – this is not about union rights.
We are pro-labor with all the rights of collective bargaining. (sure you do Neil)
That’s what operators and mechanics who do an incredible job delivering service every day deserve – but it’s about the MATH.
As I mentioned, the benefits are among the richest in the country.
· $5 co-pays
· no deductibles
· no premium contribution
· no co-insurance
· Lifetime health care upon reaching age 55, (wrong, its 58) with just 10 years of service – it goes on.
This translates to a Blue Cross bill averaging $22,000 per year for each union employee (bald faced lie, I pay $330/mo for my family blue cross and it is $1600 a month for the coverage) – nearly twice the industry average – and twice that of non-union TriMet employees. (not all employees have family blue cross, many employees are single and many employees use Kaiser, which is much cheaper, so its another bald faced lie)
With no change – in the year 2020 – TriMet will be paying over 50% of its underlying payroll tax in health benefits to active employees and retirees and will continue to rise year after year. (employees wages and benefits do not come exclusively from payroll taxes, so its another bald faced lie and I have seen no statistics to back up this claim in any event)
It is simply unsustainable.
The contract with the Amalgamated Transit Union – the ATU – expired more than 2 years ago.
You may not know that in 2007 – the legislature changed the law to make bus drivers the equals of police and fire by making them strike-prohibited.
This means we are bound by interest arbitration – a process whereby a third party decides whether to pick either the union proposal or the management proposal. (based on the facts, not lies and distortions and public chest pounding)
TriMet has found itself mired in a byzantine arbitration process.
The ATU leadership has used it to engage in procedural gamesmanship including cancelling negotiation sessions, picketing my house, and stonewalling negotiations. (the union charges the same thing against Trimet, I believe the union)
Now I am the first to admit – TriMet has had to learn new ways of doing business under this law – and that we can't blame our predicament on the 2007 law alone.
It took two parties to get here over the course of 30 years.
Now we need the two parties to come together to make changes.
We can't afford to take another 30 years to change these benefits while continuing to cut service and raise fares.
Like all other working Oregonians, the ATU members must pay something for their healthcare benefits with a plan offering strong incentives for wellness.
I call upon the ATU to sit down with us at the negotiating table to negotiate a trajectory to long-term sustainable benefits.
Meanwhile – I continue to do all I can to stop the bleeding.
As allowed under state law (apparently the courts found this was not the case, he's lying again folks) – I froze the benefits to union employees - requiring them to pay for the increased costs of health benefits and froze their cost of living increases after impasse.
This too is being appealed by the ATU Leadership – together with the 248 other individual employee arbitration's requested and over 1,400 grievances filed over the last 5 years. (Trimet management has created so many unjust disciplines that ATU has been forced into this situation, Trimet continues manipulating events to suit its public relations agenda)
We must start now to reform this contract if we are ever to right this ship.
Another challenge has been the Great Recession.(hilarious, the term is a joke)
It has impacted every business in our region – TriMet is no exception.(your salary has not suffered)
· We reduced our budget by $60 million
· We eliminated 200 jobs and laid people off
· We have frozen administrative salaries – now in its 4th year (poor Neil)
· And we required our non-union employees to pay more for their benefits.
And like 80 percent of transit districts across the country, we had to raise fares and cut service.(I'd like to see some profiles of the other 20%, the ones that understand how to live within a budget)
Cutting service is the last place we look to close a budget gap. (except that it is always the first place)
It’s against everything we stand for, but our options are limited.
We currently face up to a $17 million shortfall and there is no low hanging fruit left to pick. (well you could cut all the salaries above 100k a year by 15%)
The tough decisions just keep getting tougher. (the man is laughable)
Anticipating the rough seas ahead…I launched our budget process 3 months early to have more time to gather options and ideas on where to make up the shortfall.(you mean you orchestrated a survey that gives you the results you want)
I created a Budget Task Force – 12 really smart people (you mean your hand picked cronies) from the community to help dive into our budget and help give me guidance.
We conducted an online questionnaire – 4,800 people responded – a terrific tool to get input, and provide some direction. (a directed questionnaire to get the answers that Trimet wants)
I even held the agency’s first Twitter Town Hall in an attempt to reach a younger audience.
While I think it had limited success – I can proudly say that “I’ve tweeted.”
Throughout this extensive outreach – we heard that there is a tolerance – and I use that word carefully – tolerance for fare increases in order to preserve service.
The Budget Task Force also reviewed our fare system structure – and the region’s dramatic demographic shifts and dramatic changes in the transit system since the fare system was established in 1982.
They recommended to me a major restructuring:
· Eliminating zones
· Creating a day pass priced at the cost of a round trip
· And eliminating the Free Rail Zone.
Since we are all sitting in the Free Rail Zone – let me elaborate.
What used to be Fareless Square was created in the 1970s when the region violated Federal Clean Air standards numerous times – this is no longer an issue.
Two years ago - Fareless Square became the Free Rail Zone – trips on MAX and the Portland Streetcar became free.
I’m recommending the elimination of the zone for 2 key reasons:
Number 1 – the MATH. The elimination would save almost $3 million annually.
To raise a similar amount would require a 10-cent increase in every rider’s fare.
We would expand our low-cost downtown pass for elderly and people with disabilities and partner with Travel Portland on a convention pass program.
This would support the travel and convention business that also supports many jobs for our residents.
Let me note that the Portland Streetcar is proposing to begin charging fares later this year – so it seemed a natural pivot point to forward this recommendation.
The second – It would improve the safety and security of the system.
We would be able to check fares in downtown and the Lloyd District, and interact with riders.
This would add a lot more safety and security presence on the system.
As we finalize our budget – we will continue to listen:
· We will continue to talk to our riders and stakeholder because their feedback truly makes a difference.
· We’ll release a revised service proposal on March 14– that will start the 3rd of 4 rounds of public review.
An additional challenge is safety and security – whether you’re a rider or an observer – you might hear a lot about TriMet.
The news media and transit bloggers frequently – if not daily – cover what happens on our system.(you better believe we will be watching your every move)
It speaks to the importance of our service – and transit reflects our community.
What happens in our community will also happen at times on TriMet.
We are – part of the public space.
But as police and social service providers will say – the safety net is cracking and the issues resulting are coming front and center into the public space.(the power elite are bringing GREECE to America)
Some of the issues of mental health, substance abuse and others play out on our system.
We have a responsibility to maintain the safety of our system – and I take that very seriously.
We have recently expanded the number of officers in our Transit Police Division; we’re now up to 62 officers, and they spend up to 70 percent of their time on the system.(beefing up the police state)
We also pay for a Multnomah County Deputy District Attorney to ensure any illegal activity on TriMet, whether focused at our operators and employees, or our riders, will be prosecuted.
As I always say – if you want to commit a crime – we’re the last place where you want to do that.
We have cameras everywhere – nearly every MAX platform, every train and on most buses.
And in our upcoming budget – I hope to add more presence on the system.
Protecting the integrity of the system is vital to the safety and security of our riders and our employees.
Now let me return to the Tale of Two TriMet’s.
Regarding the first tale – we have a tremendous system serving a great community.
Ridership continues to grow across our entire system… including double-digit growth for our 2 newest expansions – the MAX Green Line and WES Commuter Rail. (WES carries less than 1% of Trimet riders, green line less than 4%)
We outperform any other US transit system our size:
· we’re 24th in population
· 7th in per capita ridership (actually I thought we were #1 per capita?)
· we outbox our weight class.
There isn’t a week that goes by where a city or transit district from across the country, and even the world – wants to know how to replicate our success, including our strong community involvement efforts. (god knows why, there is nothing in Portland that is really interesting to see, the streetcars? The way to get developers to build little boxes for peasants to live in?)
The Federal Transit Administration uses us as a model on how to design and build our rail system and involve the community in building it – particularly small and emerging businesses and communities of color.(what is he talking about?)
Transportation Secretary LaHood calls us a “Template for America.” (Lahood says the same thing in every city he goes too)
I’ve been at TriMet for 20 years – and spent most of the time building the rail system we have today.(boy is that the truth)
But I can tell you its success is directly tied to the regional partners that helped make it happen:
· the City of Portland
· each of the three counties
· and our many cities.
While I know the rail system sometimes gets the headlines (which is because that is all the Trimet issues press releases for) – don’t forget our success is also directly tied to our bus system. Bus and rail work together to keep this region moving.(too bad there is never any good press about bus service)
Despite the challenges of the day I am also focused on the future.
I tell my staff that they have to “walk and chew gum at the same time.” (huh?)
While we serve our riders today – we must be prepared as 1 million more people will live in this region over the next 20 years –and we aren’t going to build more freeways or roads.
And as we age – at least I age – lately in dog years – we aren’t going to be driving forever.
We also know transit will be an important contributor to making us energy independent and reducing carbon emissions.
This means transit must play an even greater role in the future.
We’re now building our 6th MAX line – the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Transit project. (useless and stupid)
It extends from PSU to South Waterfront – over a new multi-modal bridge (there's that dumb word 'multi-modal') – to OMSI/SE Portland, Milwaukie and North Clackamas County.
We’re building the first bridge over the Willamette River in more than 40 years –
I like to think of it as a bridge to our future. (god help us)
Just last week – President Obama called the Portland-Milwaukie project an integral part of rebuilding the nation’s economy…as his budget recommended $100 million for the project. ($100 million nowhere near enough and Obama is as useless as Bush was)
The Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Project will create up to 14,500 jobs at a time we need them most.(who knows where that figure comes from)
The project is also already paying economic development dividends with the new OUS Health Sciences building being built in the South Waterfront.
To do all of this – it takes partnerships to make it happen. I’d like to thank those partners:
· The Federal Transit Administration
· The Oregon Legislature
· City of Portland
· and the City of Milwaukie and Clackamas County.
95% of the cost to build is funded by our local and federal partners – TriMet’s share is less than 5%. ($75,000,000, oh yea we have that amount laying around somewhere)
That’s been the pattern for all of our MAX lines.
This pattern is intentional – it preserves TriMet’s precious operating resources for bus and rail operations – and in addition to the jobs it creates – we get a highly efficient system with only a minimal investment.
The Portland to Milwaukie Light Rail will carry riders for:
· $1.50 each (Neil conveniently leaves out the cost for building the thing when he quotes these figures)
· compared to nearly double what it costs on the bus system ($2.90) (very questionable figures here)
That illustrates how efficient the service is. (Neil is a big advocate for the PACK THE SERFS IN LIKE SARDINES theory)
Those who know our business know that the MAX system has been the best thing that ever happened to the bus system…(he must be drunk)
Allowing scarce operating dollars to shift to bus service over time.
But let me remind you of the second tale of TriMet -- and the serious threat the legacy ATU contract poses to this great system. (CLICK HERE)
I am focused – even hard-headed about addressing this, about sharing the math honestly, and about righting the ship.
But it will take more than me – it does take a village.
Our community must insist that our system of labor relations produce results that protect employee rights – but does so without throwing our riders off the bus.(ITS ALL THE UNIONS FAULT, SURE IT IS)
This is not a struggle between Union and Management – this is a fight to restore service and keep fares affordable and to serve this region well.
I am an optimist and believe there will be a gradual end to this great recession.(don't buy that nonsense, it's a total fallacy)
One day – we will regain our footing and begin to restore service – but this will not happen if the union contract remains in place as is.
In the end – meeting the transportation needs of a growing region will require us to be streamlined, efficient and fiscally responsible.
That is a tough challenge but one that I accept.
The TriMet Board of Directors has also taken on this challenge and I want to recognize them today:(MORE CRONIES APPOINTED BY THE GOLSCHMIDT HACK KITZHABER)
· Bruce Warner, Board President
· Tiffany Sweitzer, Board Vice President
· Dr. T. Allan Bethel
· And Craig Prosser
I am grateful for their support, wise counsel and service to our region.
Let me leave with you with a few key thoughts.
· TriMet is part of the fabric of our region and knits us all together.
· It’s one of the reasons that makes this such a great place.
· It’s one of the reasons why we live here.
· It’s a reason why people move here.
· And TriMet has a great role to play in our region’s future.
Thank you – and I hope to see you on the bus!
(OVERALL , SHAMELESS SPEECH WITH PLENTY OF DISTORTIONS, typical Macfarlane nonsense. He fancies himself some sort of hero I see. He is in reality the OREGON VERSION OF SCOTT WALKER)
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