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Coalition to fight TriMet budget

We All Ride the Bus accuses transit agency of prioritizing rail over buses

A new coalition has formed to fight TriMet's proposals for closing a projected $12 million gap in the annual budget that takes effect on July 1.

The coalition calls itself We All Ride the Bus. In a Friday morning press release, it came out against the fare increases and service reductions TriMet has proposed to help close the gap.

'TriMet's current budget proposal will severely impact communities across the Metro area, limiting access to jobs, school, services and social activities for those already suffering through a down economy. Due to the cost increase and the areas where service cuts will likely be concentrated, families that rely on transit the most, including low-income families, people of color, immigrants and refugees and people with disabilities will be the most impacted,' said the release.

The coalition includes the Working Waterfront Coalition, the Center for Intercultural Organizing, OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon and the Northwest Industrial Neighborhood Association.

'As large numbers of people and businesses continue to recover from the recession, an affordable and reliable bus system is more important than ever to help spur jobs,' the release quoted Larry Harvey, President of the Working Waterfront Coalition and We All Ride the Bus coalition member, as saying.

Among other things, TriMet has proposed eliminating the Free Rail Zone that serves downtown and the Lloyd District and replacing all other zoned with a single two-hour ticket.

According to the release, the coalition will release an alternative budget proposal at a Tuesday, March 27 press conference. Some clues about what it might contain are included on the coalition's website, however. It says TriMet has prioritized light rail projects over bus service and calls for moratorium on capital construction projects.

Buses account for two thirds of all TriMet rides. TriMet should invest in buses the same way theyur invest in MAX and WES,' says the website, referring to TriMet's light rail system and the West Side Express commuter line between Beaverton and Wilsonville.

The website also calls for TriMet to charge premium fares for premium services, which it says includes Park and Ride centers and the West Side Express commuter rail line between Beaverton and Wilsonville.

The website also calls on TriMet to release more information on how the current shortfall occurred. TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane has placed much of the blame on what he calls an unsustainably generous union contract.