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Boring petitions by slim margin to leave TriMet

Choice made with a very narrow margin in recent CPO vote

It has been proven once again that one vote can make a difference.

Boring Community Planning Organization Chairman Les Otto had to count raised hands three times and ask for Board Treasurer Kathy Bigelow to count hands to confirm his count.

The vote to support a petition drive to remove the Boring area from TriMet's district was approved 18-17.

One vote made the difference. But if it hadn't been cast, Otto would have been called to cast his vote.

The vote - which moved the group from five months of talking toward some action - occurred after yet another description of how TriMet could make adjustments in the bus schedule and make buses more available in Boring.

Proposed changes

Tom Mills, a TriMet service planner, presented a proposed change in schedule of Line 84 buses, adding four more stops in downtown Boring, where now only four people either get on or off the bus each day.

In the proposed schedule, which could begin in the fall, the 5:30 a.m. bus - the only bus that now comes to downtown Boring during a normal workday - would take the Kelso Road/Orient Drive route. That route also would be served by an afternoon and an evening bus.

Major differences between the current schedule and the draft fall schedule include the addition of two more trips into the greater Boring district; a much earlier arrival of the first bus to Kelso/Orient; and four more buses in the downtown Boring area.

He also suggested TriMet is thinking about adding bus stops as well as signs along the routes explaining 'flag stops.' He also is looking for possible park-and-ride spots.

Mills said TriMet is willingly proposing the changes because of its error.

'We at TriMet freely admit we've taken our eye off the ball on this,' Mills said. 'We're willing to come out here and try to fix that.'

Businesses pay a price

The question of whether the Boring area should remain inside the TriMet district, as it has for the past nearly 40 years, was brought to the CPO by Boring business owner Steve Bates.

Bates formed the Boring Business Coalition, a group of more than 60 Boring business owners, to give a voice to those who say they want to stop a payroll tax for service that's not beneficial.

Voting last Tuesday on whether the CPO should support the petition drive was motivated by a deadline imposed by the Legislature, according to Bates.

'This is the only year we can petition to withdraw from TriMet until 2016,' he told the group last week. 'The reason why I asked for the vote today is so we can get the petition process done, as we have an Aug. 31 deadline to submit the petition (to the TriMet board).'

The result of the vote does not mean the CPO is supporting the 'opt out' choice, Otto said, but only supporting the idea of conducting a petition drive to gather the sentiment of Boring residents.

If the proper number of valid signatures (15 percent of registered voters) is gathered by the deadline, the TriMet board will consider the request.

The request will be to opt out of TriMet's district and not provide an alternative, including no lift buses for qualified handicapped and elderly riders.

Should the board turn down the petition-backed request, Bates and the Coalition can take the matter to a high Oregon court for a ruling.

If the service is removed from the area, the people who will probably feel the absence of public transportation the most are those who qualify for TriMet's lift service for handicapped and elderly riders, which costs TriMet $256,000 a year, while all the large buses of Line 84 cost $102,000 a year.

One of the unanswered questions is how much revenue TriMet is receiving from the more than 200 Boring area businesses.

Mills said the answer is difficult to obtain because the tax is paid directly to the state, where it is combined with other TriMet district payroll-tax revenue and sent to TriMet in lump sums - without designation of the amount from each part of the district.

Volatile topic

Considering the type of reception Mills has received in some of the CPO's previous meetings, Otto began the proceedings Tuesday with a warning.

'Let's be as cordial and friendly as we can,' he said. 'If you disagree with any points they have, let's just make a nice, even-keeled disagreement. If the proceedings get out of hand, I - as the chair - have the power to close this meeting, and I will.'

Otto came close to closing the meeting at one point and issued another warning after two men complained to Mills they had been paying thousands of dollars over decades of being in business and no one had ever come to their business on a bus.

That comment has been the constant theme of members of the Boring Business Coalition, and is why Bates said the coalition likely would have proceeded with the petition drive, even without the CPO's support.

'By all counts,' Bates said, '20 people are being benefitted by the TriMet service out of 8,000 or 10,000 (population). My position is, that's not enough people to warrant transit service.'