New Report: Cities should leave TriMet

PORTLAND, Ore. -- A new report is telling cities and counties outside Portland to consider not using TriMet's transportation service and possibly operating their own.

"They don't need TriMet, they need transit," said John Charles, president and CEO of Cascade Policy Institute, which released the report this week. "And they need better transit."

Charles argues TriMet will have to begin making cuts to service in fiscal year 2017 and that those cuts, combined with a large amount of debt, will eventually lead to the demise of TriMet.

The report points to TriMet's operating cost per mile and per hour being higher than five other local transit systems, including Vancouver's C-TRAN.

"I keep waiting for this blueprint out of this fiscal death spiral they're in," Charles said. "There is no Plan B. They don't know how they're going to save themselves."

Charles also argues six Oregon cities, like Wilsonville, Boring and Canby, have already proven opting out of TriMet service is possible. He lived in Sandy in the 1990s when it made the transition.

"It was instantly much better at a lower cost to the businesses that are taxed for it."

TriMet's Response

The spokespeople for TriMet said they would not be available for an in-person interview Tuesday and weren't available to discuss specific points. Instead, they sent the following written statement:

"TriMet is a critical public service to this region where 320,000 times a day someone boards a bus or train. We have been very open about the need to realign our cost structure to be in line with the market. The greatest cost driver for us is our active and retiree health benefits.

"The Cascade Policy Institute is a libertarian think tank opposed to light rail, and as such, their arguments are in part based on that opposition. Their recommendation to opt-out of the District would seriously impact the mobility and economic vitality of this entire region.

On a side note, any withdrawals from TriMet must meet certain standards established by the Legislature under state law."