OPAL’s Bus Riders Unite Budget Alternative Narrative
A Simplified System, Affordable Fares, Increased Revenue & Ridership Growth
Revenue-Generating Measures: $2.8 million
Moving to a flat fare and eliminating zones is beneficial because it simplifies the system. The Bus Riders Unite (BRU) analysis shows that this can be done without disproportionately impacting transit-dependent riders, while also generating both new revenue and new ridership.
TriMet’s proposal to raise $6 million from fare increases will have a significant disproportionate impact on people of color and low-income riders. POC are more likely to lack access to a car than Whites (32% vs. 19%), and are therefore more transit-dependent. POC transit riders are more likely to use cash or tickets instead of passes (55% v. 48% of Whites), and both POC and individuals making less than $20k/year are much more likely to purchase two-zone instead of all-zone tickets (45% two-zone v. 30% all-zone and 48% v. 28%, respectively). These transit-dependent riders will experience a 20% fare increase under TriMet’s proposal, as well as disproportionate impacts from further service cuts because of higher transfer rates, resulting in more missed connections.
BRU members struck a balance on adult fares, while holding the line for youth and honored citizens, resulting in both new revenue ($400,000) and new ridership (200,000 more annual boardings). Lowering the current all-zone fare will encourage new ridership and new revenue, compensated by a modest fare increase for two-zone riders. Other components include extending transfer times to three hours and providing a discount on ticket books (buy 10 get 1 free), which pays for itself. By contrast, TriMet’s proposal will result in 800,000 less boardings per year, as riders either won’t be able to afford the fare or will seek other options. BRU members also struck a balance on the Free-Rail Zone by allowing riders with proof of valid fare purchase to ride light-rail downtown during that same day of purchase. BRU members agree that TriMet should raise revenue by selling advertising and call on TriMet to heed it’s own analysis and start charging for Park-and-Ride, which will ultimately raise over $1 million/year.
Cost-Saving Measures: $9.7 million
The majority (60%) of TriMet’s projected budget shortfall is based on a conservative payroll tax growth rate (3.5%) and a speculative reduction in federal funding (10%). Reserving the right to challenge these assumptions, but accepting them for purpose of this budget analysis, TriMet’s decision to double its Contingency Fund from $10 to $20 million raises serious concerns. The Contingency Fund – set at a standard $10 million for the past three years – is designed to provide security in the event of increased health care costs or decreased payroll tax revenue or federal grants – the very basis for TriMet’s underlying projected budget shortfall. BRU members propose a more rational 50% increase of $5 million to account for the potential arbitration loss with the union, thereby saving an additional $5 million in the process.
TriMet misrepresents itself in claiming to save $300,000 in subsidy to Portland Streetcar when it is actually increasing its annual contribution to $9.3 million. BRU proposes maintaining the current subsidy of Streetcar at $6.3m, saving $3 million. BRU also proposes a more modest reconfiguration of bus routes to increase efficiency by alterating routes with overlapping service, but no service cuts due to ridership without more community engagement. BRU does not propose to further restrict LIFT service; instead, TriMet should fully disclose all discretionary spending and continue exploring ways to save resources.