We knew that TriMet has been cannibalizing bus service in favor of light rail - and while they come hat-in-hand, begging for a $125 million bond measure (ostensibly to buy new buses and "upgrade" service) - and though it's been mentioned here before that the measure is worded in such a manner as to permit the agency to continue to shunt money into light rail, the situation's worse than even we thought.
But the recent release of TriMet's audited financial statements casts a very different light. According to the auditors, TriMet's total operating and non-operating revenues -- including money from passenger fares, payroll and self-employed transit taxes, and operating grants -- increased by 6.5 percent during fiscal year 2010, which ended June 30.
They've got more money, but they're still slashing bus service.
And it doesn't get any better:
TriMet is so broke that the agency actually has been selling off its light-rail vehicles for more than a decade. During 1997-98, TriMet entered into sale/lease-back transactions for 31 light-rail vehicles with a foreign investor. The agency also negotiated a series of lease/lease-back transactions with domestic investors for the same 31 light-rail vehicles, plus an additional 41 rail vehicles and two rail maintenance facilities. These transactions resulted in net cash proceeds of $15.9 million.
In 2005 TriMet entered into additional leasing agreements for 28 more rail vehicles purchased with federal grants. The agency's profit was $11.6 million.
In essence, TriMet has been pawning the family jewelry to cover credit card debt, but that's a stop-gap measure. The leasing agreements create long-term liabilities that have to be paid out of the general fund.
Obviously this situation calls for a change in strategy, yet the agency is moving full speed ahead on another round of costly rail expansion. TriMet is planning to build new lines to Milwaukie, Lake Oswego and Vancouver, at a taxpayer cost of some $3 billion.
If ever there was a perfect time to clean the rest of the Neil Goldschmidt gang out of Oregon politics and off the various "oversight" boards, this is it. Three decades of overt and covert Goldschmidt influence have ruined a once-stable state.
It needs to end.