Thursday, November 18, 2010

Commentary: Why did TriMet's bond measure fail?

Daily Journal of Commerce (Portland, OR), Nov 5, 2010 by Aaron Spencer

TriMet's bond measure 26-119 failed on Tuesday with 53 percent of respondents voting 'no.' That's with 82 percent of the votes counted.
The $125 million general obligation bond, according to transit agency TriMet, would have allowed TriMet to make transit more accessible to senior citizens - a talking point some say was just a way guilt voters into passing the measure - and would have replaced as many as 150 old buses. In a message to TriMet staff posted on TriMet's website, General Manager Neil McFarlane attributed the failure to the poor economy.
Even though this measure did not pass, I believe the people in this region support public transportation and want to see improvements. They are especially mindful of how important our service is for people who rely on us the most, seniors and people with disabilities. Unfortunately, a poor economy did not work in our favor.
While the economy is likely a factor in the measure's failure, the chief reason is the public's distrust of how TriMet appropriates fund. The agency cut bus lines while planning expensive rail projects. In the past year, TriMet has run into a $137 million gap for the $1.4 billion Portland-Milwaukie light-rail project. It also began charging bus riders fare in the "Fareless Square" zone, where rail riders do not have to pay. And it raised fares by a nickel. Some voters say they voted 'no' because of the the drivers and mechanics union's fight for higher benefits.
Of course, TriMet insisted the whole time the measure would not raise taxes. TriMet said it would replace a TriMet bond measure passed in 1990 to pay for light rail. If that were so, voters' funding concerns would be moot. But the bond measure would have raised taxes after the current measure expired in 2012. If it wouldn't have raised taxes, McFarlane's "poor economy" rationale for the measure's failure wouldn't make any sense.
Copyright 2010 Dolan Media Newswires
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