Portland is getting a raise

In late April, TriMet proposed yet another fare increase for commuters. This comes after last year’s raise in fare left travelers scrounging for nickels and pennies in order to catch their ride.

In late April, TriMet proposed yet another fare increase for commuters. This comes after last year’s raise in fare left travelers scrounging for nickels and pennies in order to catch their ride. Will another new, higher fare only make commuting more difficult? What effects, if any, will this rate increase have on the quality of TriMet services?

As stated in the press release TriMet released on the matter, “a fare increase of 5 cents for Adult 2-hour tickets and $4 for Adult monthly passes…A $1 increase in youth monthly passes is also proposed.” TriMet Customer Service responded via e-mail, stating that the Portland State Flex Passes “will go up proportionately to monthly pass prices. However, the final price to the student will be based on the subsidy provided by PSU.”

In August of last year, TriMet proposed their first rise in rates in two years. The purpose of the action was to counteract the $27 million budget gap created during the recession period. The rate was increased from a neat and tidy two dollars to $2.05, which was met with more than a little criticism. Due to TriMet’s inability to make change, riders were forced to carry exact change or pay almost an entire extra dollar for their commute.

The rate rise was horrifically frustrating in several ways. Not only did it force me to dig through my couch for change and ask for a dollar’s worth of nickels at Safeway on a weekly basis, but it also failed to clear up the problems that TriMet had initially set out to solve. Their website states that the raise is to “offset the additional cost of providing service and rising diesel prices, as well as helps provide some service restoration to respond to overcrowding.” Yet, for example, anyone who has ridden the number 6 bus line is well aware that last year’s fare increase did absolutely nothing to solve the overcrowding issues.

While it is understandable that TriMet needs to raise their rates in order to maintain their “quality” of service, the truth is that five cents isn’t going to cut it. After cutting routes, jobs and valuable services such as security, they are still in the hole.

Last year, the number of fare inspectors was cut from 30 to approximately 13. Now, it is a very common transit crime ideology that increasing fare inspectors will in turn reduce crime, as it means there are more authority figures readily available to aid those who find themselves in danger.

Take, for example, the March stabbing of a 22-year-old man on a MAX train. During rush hour in the middle of the city there was not a single police officer or security official nearby, and the suspect simply walked away. I can deal with being elbow-to-elbow with smelly hobos and drunken teenagers for 20 minutes—really, I already do it on a daily basis on TriMet. But, when I run the risk of being physically harmed by an individual, I seem to find that worthy of really complaining about.

While it is important for TriMet to have the resources, it seems as if their priorities are out of step. While the justification for gas prices is acceptable, the cuts they have previously made to security and safety officials seem unacceptable. It is a tough time for everyone, and we all have to tighten our belts (but not our seatbelts—they don’t have those on TriMet either). Yet, TriMet doesn’t seem to find safety as something worth investing in.

The one security investment that TriMet is making is less than impressive. After receiving a $1.2 million dollar grant from the Transportation Security Administration, they decided to invest this useful money in the best security system available. No, not people with tazers or guns who can stop criminals; rather, security cameras: 20 of them. Hooray! We are saved!

Raising costs while simultaneously cutting services just doesn’t attract customers. As the only option in Portland when it comes to public transit, you should be setting an example as a paragon of satisfaction and safety. Instead, riders are stuck in a continuing ministry of mediocrity. ?