Tuesday, March 27, 2012


In 2009, the good citizens of Seattle took it upon themselves to recognize the dedicated members of the public who are employed by King County Metro, and get up extra early to make sure that the rest of Seattle can get to where they need to go. And March 18th was then decreed as "Bus Driver Appreciation Day".

Down south in the City of Roses, a city that brands itself as one of the world's most transit-friendly cities, it seems that we love our light rail expansions but not our bus system - the bus system that employs over 1,200 hard working men and women who, like their counterparts up in Seattle, wake up early, drive to the garages (since we don't have 24 hour bus service), strap themselves in the driver's seat of a 40,000 pound brick on wheels, and navigate through the streets of the Portland metro area. The bus system that is the choice of two-thirds of our transit ridership, and that serves every single part of our Metro area. That connects towns like Forest Grove, Troutdale, Sherwood and Estacada, to other towns like Rivergrove, Wood Village, Cornelius and King City. And eventually, to the big cities of Hillsboro, Beaverton, Gresham and of course Portland.
Our bus drivers seem to be hated by all but for no good reason - it isn't their fault that TriMet has chosen to have one of America's oldest, least reliable bus fleets; or that TriMet has pared down bus service over the years to fund their insatiable appetite for rail expansions. It isn't their fault that TriMet reduced service so that more riders are crammed into fewer buses, or that bus stops are often nothing more than a 12 inch by 18 inch piece of sheet metal nailed onto a PGE power pole. It isn't their fault that TriMet can't seem to make sensible financial decisions - all they do is drive the bus. Yet, even with their General Manager Neil McFarlane even professing his hatred of the lowly bus, it's that bus that eventually shows up and takes myself and over 165,000 other citizens to where we need to go each day.
McFarlane might not appreciate what you do, but I sure do. My fellow riders do. The General Manager could be gone one day, and TriMet will work just like any other day. If the Operators don't show up for work, TriMet is as good as nothing. It's those 1,200 Operators who provide the service, and make TriMet what it is - a transit system.
Thank you, to each and every one of TriMet's bus Operators. Today, tomorrow, and each day that you're on the road for me.

Thank you, TriMet Operators |


Steve Fung said...

Thank-you Erik.We appreciate the love from the passengers like you.

Erik H. said...

You're welcome Steve! We riders appreciate the love from drivers like you and Al and everyone else at TriMet.

Anonymous said...

There is no better gentleman or transit scholar in the metro area than Erik; he needs his own column in the Willamette Week or something!

Anonymous said...

Yes indeed, Mr Halstead is a credit to all of us that need the buses.

And you drivers should consider yourselves lucky to have a man of that caliber defending you@

Jason McHuff said...

General Manager Neil McFarlane even professing his hatred of the lowly bus

When, exactly, did he do that? Let's see some evidence. Thank you.

Jason McHuff said...

Also, Forest Grove, Troutdale, Sherwood, Estacada, Rivergrove, Wood Village, Cornelius and King City are all cities, not towns.

Bruce Peek said...

Well yes Erik is correct. But the part about the hatred leveled at Bus operators is something we Operators know too well. Just yesterday there was a blindingly misleading hit piece about us in the Oregonian. The usual- we all have gazillion dollar a year benefits and we all make more money than Mitt Romney. Fact less than 60% of Trimet employees have the more costly ppo plan. We make $4.47 an hour less than Seattle, yet with our 600 buses we are even with their ridership- they have over 1200 buses. Seattle drivers get totally free benefits if they work more than 4 hours a day. Ridership per bus and or max train here in portland is way beyond seattles' on a per unit cost basis. So our efficiency is tons better. The efficiency thing is butressed by us having a way smaller population base here in Portland. Oh finally the Trimet board was recently caught hiding about 13million in next years budget by the Bus Riders Union. So there is no budget shortfall. In fact Trimet is awash in cash. Ridership per unit has never been higher. Fare evasion has never been lower, and the fares are now the highest they have ever been.
P.S. We're getting signs printed up and we will start picketing the Oregonian next week. Come and join us. I do not speak for Trimet management.
Bruce Peek