New budget kills free rail zone, reduces some bus service

The TriMet board adopted a new budget Wednesday afternoon that sets a single flat fare for travel around the region, ends downtown's Free Rail Zone and helps closed a nearly $12 million funding gap.

The $458 million operating budget takes effect July 1. Fare changes, elimination of the free rail area and adjustments to several routes take effect Sept. 1.

"During this budget process, the agency faced many tough choices but we believe this is a responsible and sound budget," said Bruce Warner, president of the TriMet board. "It reflects the public and the board's priority to preserve service and navigate the financial uncertainties ahead."

The decision came after nearly eight months of public meetings and discussions that resulted in 16,000 comments on the budget. Many of the cuts were prompted by a funding shortfall because of the sagging economy, potential cuts in federal funds and an unresolved union contract dispute with the Amalgamated Transit Union. Depending on the outcome of arbitration, TriMet might need to cut an additional $5 million.

Changes in the budget include:

• Internal efficiencies created to save $1.2 million.

• Fare and service changes – Elimination of fare zones and creating flat fare system adds $6 million in revenue. The two-hour fare will go from $2.10 to $2.40 for two zones to a flat $2.50 rate. An all-day ticket will cost $5. The change is a big one for riders who mostly travel inside Washington County, much of which is considered one zone.

• Elimination of the Free Rail Zone is expected to earn the agency $2.7 million in additional fare revenue.

• Bus service cuts and changes result in $1.1 million savings. Fifteen routes will be reconfigured beginning Sept. 2. Route segments that overlap with other routes will be eliminated while maintaining service. This may mean more transfers for some riders on bus lines: 6, 8, 9, 12, 16, 17, 47, 48, 67, 70, 73, 77, 82, 87 and 89. Line 9-Powell will travel only as far west as Downtown Portland; Line 17 will be combined with the former 9-Broadway to become the 17-Holgate/Broadway. The final Line 16 routing will travel along Front Avenue to Kittridge Avenue with service to St. Johns and Sauvie Island.

• Nine bus lines will have low ridership trips eliminated. Seven bus lines will have trips added to alleviate overcrowding.

• LIFT paratransit service boundary adjustments save $400,000.

• TriMet's reduces contribution to the Portland Streetcar by $300,000.

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