“Fort Knox” is how employees refer to TriMet’s new downtown offices at Harrison Square. The name was inspired by the high security and locked doors that control access in and out, as well as by the $1 million management spent to buy furniture for the pricey new office space.
Management’s work environment is a stark contrast to that offered to many frontline workers and TriMet passengers.One example is the TriMet ticket office on SW 6th at Pioneer Square. These workers are responsible for making sure that passengers get prompt and accurate fares—whether in person, online or through the mail. Some of these key workers spend their shifts in broken down office chairs that have been repeatedly repaired with scotch-tape. (See photo.) Not surprisingly, ergonomic injuries are occurring.
Others in this work group labor and take their breaks in a windowless, poorly ventilated area that has an inadequate heating and air conditioning HVAC system. Even on cool days, the space remains stuffy and hot. (See photo.) There is no HVAC whatsoever in the employee “quiet room” that is currently being used by a nursing mother and those who fall ill. That room sports a shabby 20-year old couch and a filthy rug. (See photo.)
Above and beyond the quality of workplace conditions is the issue of employee security. While the Harrison Square management team is protected by layers of security and locked doors, the ticket sellers have none of that. Passengers upset about fare costs and cuts in service have spat on them, grabbed at them and otherwise physically threatened the workers’ safety.
This neglect of safety is nothing new. Recently, we’ve seen manager indifference toward two bus operators threatened by a gunman and a tepid management response to the knife attack on a bus operator exiting a portable TriMet toilet in an unsafe area. This persistent indifference suggests the inescapable conclusion that managers who work in TriMet’s “Fort Knox” are concerned only about their own safety.
To think that these working conditions have no impact on passenger service indicates a lack of basic understanding about human nature. Anyone working daily in an unhealthy, injurious, unsecure and filthy environment is hard pressed to deliver service with a smile.