BORING vs. TRIMET: Community ready to pull the plug on bus service
- Jim Hart
- Sandy Post - News
Chief petitioner is confident he will have sufficient signatures to ask for withdrawal from transit agency
At 1:55 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 30, Boring business owner Steve Bates walked into the office of Neil McFarlane, general manager of TriMet.
For Bates, opening McFarlane's door and placing a stack of petitions on his desk was the end of nearly one year of dedicated work to save Boring residents hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes.
Bates, who has a cadre of followers, is adamant in his feeling that the residents of Boring have been victims for too long.
'For 40 years, TriMet has given Boring a token service, and empty buses have been the norm,' he said in a prepared statement.
'For 40 years, TriMet has gladly taken tax monies from the Boring businesses and property owners.
'When there was a budget surplus in the past, TriMet never came to Boring to see how they could improve service to help the Boring economy.
'Instead, they gave away free rides in Portland.'
Speaking at the CPO meeting last year, TriMet Service Planner Tom Mills admitted the Gresham-Boring service was essentially unused and expensive, since the transit agency sends full-size buses with full-time drivers to pick up no one in the Boring business area and a few people closer to Gresham on the return trip.
To serve Boring, Mills said Line 84 costs $102,000 each year and the lift service for disabled passengers costs $256,000 a year.
'We recognize we're under-serving you,' he told the group last year, 'and we want to correct that. We know we can do better than this, and we want to do better than this.'
But nearly a year later only a few changes have been made, with no significant changes in ridership.
Time has produced only more frustration for Boring business owners, numbering nearly 250, according to research done by Bates using information from the Post Office as well as county and state records.
More than 80 Boring businesses have joined an independent ad-hoc group known as the Boring Oregon Business Coalition, with the expressed goal of removing Boring from the TriMet service district.
In fact, hundreds of Boring residents do not want TriMet bus or handicapped-lift services. And more than 200 Boring business owners do not want to pay the $6.82 per $1,000 payroll tax.
Representing the Boring Oregon Business Coalition, Bates said Tuesday in a phone call to the Post, just before he walked into McFarlane's office, that he and his volunteers have collected 1,118 signatures asking that Boring be eliminated from the TriMet service district. Comparing those names to the list of registered voters he obtained from the Clackamas County Elections Division last May, Bates expected 807 of those signatures would be certified as valid.
According to state law (ORS Chapter 267), if there are signatures from 15 percent (750) of the 4,984 registered voters residing within the Boring area of TriMet's district, the TriMet board must decide if it will allow the area to opt out of transportation services.
'Currently, 99.75 percent of the Boring population is not involved with public transportation,' Bates said earlier. 'That, to me, is proof we don't need public transportation in Boring.'
Leaving TriMet's district, however, will leave some people stranded. TriMet officials have reported its lift buses serve 26 special-needs people who annually make 8,800 one-way trips.
But Bates has found TriMet documents showing only 16 lift riders in the Boring area. The discrepancy, Bates suggests, is because the Boring Post Office and Boring Fire district's boundaries are much larger than TriMet's Boring-area boundaries.
In fact, Line 84 - which serves able-bodied residents in the Boring area - picks up most of its passengers close to Gresham on its return to the Gresham Transit Center.
Bates has devoted the past year to organizing the petition campaign, and has had 45 volunteers join him to walk the long roads and even longer driveways to reach Boring residents - searching for those who opposed the service or the tax.
If the Clackamas County Elections Division certifies that Bates has delivered valid signatures of at least 15 percent of registered voters living within the TriMet district (portions of five voting precincts), TriMet must conduct a survey of the area to be withdrawn from its services and then hold a public hearing before it reaches a decision.
That final action must be taken by Dec. 31, according to state law.
If the board will not allow Boring's withdrawal, Bates will appeal the matter to Clackamas County Circuit Court, where attorneys for each group will vie for a judge's decision.
The opt-out precedent has been set by Wilsonville, Molalla and Damascus, all of which opted out of TriMet in the 1980s as well as Sandy in 1999 and Canby in 2003.
Boring residents and business owners hope their community will be next.
'The people of Boring are not the villains here,' Bates said Monday. 'The business community and the taxpayers of Boring are the victims.'