Libertarian group urges city to consider local bus service

by: REVIEW FILE PHOTO - A transit user departs a TriMet bus in Lake Oswego in this Review file photo from 2012, when TriMet was considering service reductions on local bus lines.Cities like Lake Oswego can and should opt out of TriMet, the head of the Cascade Policy Institute told city leaders Tuesday night.

Invited by the Lake Oswego City Council to present a report titled “Why Cities and Counties Should Consider Leaving TriMet,” John Charles Jr. of the Portland-based libertarian think tank said TriMet is burdened with an unsustainable union labor contract, requiring ever-growing contributions of payroll taxes from local businesses — even as service to the suburbs suffers.

Meanwhile, Charles said, it’s possible to opt out of the regional system and establish local bus service for the same or less money. He pointed to Canby, Molalla, Sandy and Wilsonville, cities that he said used resources once sent to TriMet to improve transit for their residents.

“It’s not a fantasy,” Charles said. “They hold up really, really well. It’s been done.”

Noting some Clackamas County officials have also expressed interest in leaving the regional transit district, Councilor Karen Bowerman asked how different jurisdictions might ensure there aren’t gaps in service.

Charles responded that different agencies could work together to ensure connectivity.

“Let your imagination be your guide,” he said. “You could partner with all kinds of jurisdictions if you come up with something that’s mutually beneficial.”

But even if Lake Oswego wanted to withdraw from the regional transit system, its chances of doing so seem slim, Councilor Jeff Gudman said.

Two paths exist for cities that want to withdraw from the district. One, in which cities can petition TriMet for removal, only applies to communities with populations of less than 10,000 people. Lake Oswego’s population is nearly four times that.

The other option would require a district-wide vote. Unless multiple cities partnered to sway the odds in their favor, it’s unlikely the region’s voters would let Lake Oswego pull out, Gudman said.

“I do not see how that hurdle can be overcome,” he said.

It’s unclear how the council might use the information, presented in an hourlong session before a regular meeting at city hall.

Councilor Donna Jordan questioned why city leaders were hearing from Charles in the first place. Improving transit service isn’t among council goals for 2014, and TriMet wasn’t invited to take part in the discussion, which was advertised to the public as a study session about TriMet services in Lake Oswego.

“While I recognize TriMet has a lot of issues and I’ve been fighting for better service for Lake Oswego ... I don’t think this constitutes a study session on TriMet, unless TriMet were here,” Jordan said.

Although city budget meetings are coming up, Mayor Kent Studebaker said he doesn’t intend to study the feasibility of city transit over regional bus service anytime soon.

“This is not something that’s going to happen today, tomorrow, or a month from now or a year from now,” Studebaker said.

He said he put the discussion on the council agenda because the Cascade Policy Institute report caught his attention when it was released in early January.

“People in this city are paying a lot of money to TriMet for taxes,” Studebaker said. “We’re just getting information. I don’t see any problem with that.”

In other business Tuesday, the council:

  • Approved an agreement with the city of West Linn to provide information technology management services. City Manager Scott Lazenby said the idea is similar to a partnership in which Milwaukie pays for the services of West Linn’s finance director. In addition, Lake Oswego already provides emergency dispatch services to West Linn, he said.

    The city doesn’t anticipate a need to add staff. West Linn will pay Lake Oswego $5,000 each month for consulting services under the new agreement.

  • Awarded a $143,071 contract to OTAK Inc. for work to replace an aging sewer line and pedestrian bridge in Tryon Creek State Natural Area. The sewer line was constructed in 1973 and is owned and maintained by the city. The bridge, which carries the wastewater line, is located just south of Southwest Terwilliger Boulevard; it is owned by the city but maintained as part of the state trails network in the park.

  • Proclaimed this week to be Lake Oswego Millennium Concert Band Week to recognize the band’s recent achievement, as it was recognized as one of the top community bands in the country.

    The John Philip Sousa Foundation selected the band for the 2013 Sudler Silver Scroll Award.

    The council’s proclamation noted the Lake Oswego Millennium Concert Band’s 15 years of performing free concerts in the city, contributing to cultural enrichment and providing entertainment to citizens.

    The band will formally receive its national award during a concert at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 23 in the Lakeridge High School auditorium.

    Kara Hansen can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and 503-636-1281, ext. 107. Follow her on Twitter, @LOreporter.

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