As mentioned here yesterday, TriMet's ticket machines are incredibly unreliable, and it's been reported that as many as 2,000 people a month, attempting to pay with a credit card, have had the card rejected and an electronic cancellation message sent to the issuing banks - a claim refuted by a writer for The Oregonian. However, Portland television station KATU last night refuted the refutation:
PORTLAND, Ore. – TriMet admits its ticket machines have been causing banks to cancel or suspend thousands of debit and credit cards.
Spokeswoman Roberta Altstadt said a bug in the ticket machine software caused some of the machines to flag cards as stolen.
“We believe it was affecting about 1,000 to 2,000 credit card transactions a month,” said Altstadt. “For at least five years.”
One of their many PR flacks, Alstadt suggests that people pick up some tickets while they're out buying groceries, adding, "It can be that easy." The arrogance on display at the former transit agency (TriMet having recast itself as a development agency) is simply breathtaking. Of course, there's little reason for accountability there; the board is composed of government appointees, and nobody at the agency is elected.
But the ticket machines, though needlessly inconveniencing some tens of thousands (Vancouver residents are doubtless salivating over the prospect of having a couple of shiny new ticket machines on their side of the Columbia River), are really little more than symptoms of a much larger problem.
CPI notes that the "Westside Express Service", a nearly 15-mile- long commuter rail line that TriMet opened amid considerable fanfare some four years ago, carries approximately 20 to 50 riders on each trip between Beaverton and Wilsonville; each rider subsidized by taxpayers to the tune of $40 per round trip. And rather than taking passengers off the roads, thereby reducing congestion, WES actually increases congestion - and only around 800 people actually use the train each week. And while light rail's bad enough, their WES line's even worse:
The operating costs for WES are 12 times higher per hour than bus service, but the public benefits are not 12 times higher. In fact, WES is not even equal to bus service; it is far less flexible, and the equipment is unused most of the time.
TriMet recently predicted that within the next decade, more than half of all bus routes will be eliminated due to operating losses if something doesn’t change. The Board places the blame for this on a labor union contract that saddles the agency with the costliest employee benefits package in the nation. But the union did not force management to build an absurd commuter rail line; that was a choice made by the Board alone, without any consideration of the legacy costs it would impose on future riders.
As has been mentioned here before on a number of occasions, TriMet is busily cannibalizing bus service in favor of efforts to force passengers onto their trains. It hasn't been working as planned; ridership continues to drop. Now, they're making clear their intention to kill half of all remaining bus routes, while blaming the union. Unions are, for the most part, nothing more than Political Action Committees for Democratics, and are justly loathed by many. However, they're not the problem at TriMet; managment (or what passes for management) is.
"Green and sustainable" it ain't.