Thirty organizations call for fair transfer reform at Tri-Met

The following organizations are calling for change with the fair transfer system at Tri-Met, including Street Roots. The campaign is being led by OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon. Come out and join us tomorrow morning and have your voice heard!

Groups: Alliance for Democracy, African Women’s Coalition, Association of Rail and Transit Advocates of Oregon, Catholic Charities Resettlement Program, Center for Intercultural Organizing, Central City Neighborhood Association, Coalition for a Livable Future, Community Alliance of Tenants, East Portland Action Plan, Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon’s Oregon Interfaith Power and Light Project, El Programma Senior Program, Head Start Mt Hood Policy Council, Human Solutions, Jobs with Justice, Josiah Hill Clinic, Latino Network, Multnomah Youth Commission, OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon, Oregon Tradeswoman, Portland Community Reinvestment Initiatives, Inc., Portland Youth and Elders Council, Powellhurst-Gilbert Neighborhood Association, ROSE Community Development, SEIU Local 49, Sisters of the Road, Street Roots, Upstream Public Health, Urban League of Portland, Verde, VOZ Workers Rights.

Background: OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon has been organizing transit riders – particularly transit-dependent riders from working class families and communities of color – to build a stronger public voice in transportation decision-making. As part of this community mobilization, OPAL’s Bus Riders Unite community group has prioritized the Campaign for a Fair Transfer as a primary issue of importance. TriMet’s current transfer time policy – one hour past the “destination point” on the bus, or two hours from time of purchase on the MAX – is not equal or sufficient for many transit-dependent riders who use the system to meet their basic needs. The Campaign for a Fair Transfer seeks to equalize and extend the transfer time to three (3) hours for all daily boardings and provide transfers through the end of evening service for boardings after 7:00 PM.

Many of our members are experiencing hardships in the face of severe cuts to service and continued fare increases. Many of those who once relied on monthly passes have either lost the benefit along with their job or simply can no longer afford the cost and are now relying on transfer fares. Given increased headways, transit riders are frequently missing connections or being passed up by overcrowded buses, resulting in increased physical and mental stress and health risks. Despite a significant decrease (15%) in bus service the past two years, bus ridership has only decreased slightly (3%), meaning that demand for bus service is as strong as ever and rising. Yet service hours per capita are at the lowest levels since 1975, considering cuts through September 2010.

Flawed TriMet Cost Analysis: After reviewing OPAL’s feedback on TriMet’s preliminary cost analysis, TriMet acknowledged that the projected fiscal impact of the transfer extension policy was inflated due to incorrect assumptions in their own analysis. TriMet now believes that the cost of implementing the proposal is half of its initial projection. Specifically, TriMet estimates the cost of extending transfers to three hours for all daily boardings to be as low as $900,000 per year. The cost of extending transfers through the end of evening service for boardings after 7pm may also be as low as $900,000 per year, and TriMet acknowledgesd that this estimate is based on an arbitrary assumption that 50% of all transit riders after 7pm are making a return trip and would not be able to take advantage of the extended transfers. In total, this cost represents less than 1% of TriMet’s operating budget. OPAL and independent economic experts continue to see flaws and red flags in TriMet’s analysis and will review these adjusted calculations.

TriMet included no analysis of increased revenue due to increased ridership as a result of the transfer policy change.  TriMet acknowledged its inability to accurately estimate the benefits of the Campaign for a Fair Transfer. Data from other similar transit authorities indicates that a transfer extension results in increased ridership with the potential to completely offset any minimal cost of the policy change. In fact, our initial analysis shows that adoption of our proposed transfer policy could increase farebox revenue and be a fiscal net positive for TriMet.

TriMet also acknowledged that it is important to consider the significant public health benefits and equity considerations of the proposal, which they have yet to incorporate.

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