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Trimess
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Sunday, September 27, 2015

Fascinating piece of Trimet history here


Trimet has sure evolved from its early days. Not so sure that it is much of a good thing considering how unaccountable they are. But then again they were never accountable, even in the beginning



RG: Well, he didn't lose, but it was a big mistake on his part because there was complete opposition in Lake Oswego to becoming part of Portland, but there was some sort of redoing of the boundaries to regionalize, and as a result of those kinds of initiatives to deal with the regional issues, they pro-posed forming a Metropolitan Service District as a compromise, bringing the three counties into a regional service district, and the idea was that they'd use this and have county commission-ers and the city mayor and all that kind of stuff on the board, and they would regionalize that way.
It was going along fine, but some people decided they needed to have a vote to form it, and they needed a vote to fund it. This was in '69, and then Rose City announces that it's going bankrupt, and the transit union goes down to the legislature, and they work up this temporary legislation to save the transit union and Rose City, and they form the Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District, but it was really in conflict with the Metropolitan Service District, and so it was Connie McCready, who was a legislator at the time, who basically struck the compromise to allow this temporary organization to be created, Tri-Met, and have a provision that if MSD was formed by the voters that MSD would then assume responsibility for Tri-Met.
So that's how they put that provision in, and so the two things were formed, and MSD then was put on the ballot and it was passed in May, but then the tax base failed in November. So it was formed, but it had actually no money. Then Tri-Met was formed, and it was formed to consolidate the Blue Stage lines and Rose City, and Bill Roberts was of course made the chair.
It's funny because Ed Stewart [?], a real Gresham leader type, was telling me stories about being one of the first Tri-Met board members, and he'd have to go to the Congress Hotel and they'd have their private meetings with Bill. And really no one talked; they just sat around and Bill gave them the instructions for the month.

EB: He learned all he knows from Ira Keller.

RG: Oh, yeah. Well, I mean that's how private business boards ran, you know.
So they went through that whole business, and that's where they hired the Admiral, King, you know, to run Tri-Met, and clearly the purpose here wasn't to really do anything for transit. That's why King wouldn't hire any planners. So Ed got hired out of some pressure really from Neil's office to do something, and I was laughing because then when I showed up in '73 they'd been in existence since '69, and Roberts had pulled off the payroll tax. His major contribution to creating Tri-Met was to basically bludgeon the business community into accepting the payroll tax for transit, but they were just building up cash balances because he wanted to get enough money to build the transit mall.

RG: So expanding transit was the last thing they cared about. They had hired all these characters from Rose City. I mean, Tri-Met at that time was absolutely phenomenal, phenomenally incompetent, and very close to corrupt.
Ray Booth was the Operations Manager and was an alcoholic, and in the afternoons he literally couldn't find the floor to put his foot on it, you know. And King would be scared of him because Booth would threaten to call a strike, see? So Booth would go drinking with Schoppert,(?) see, every noon. They'd go out and have martinis and ...

EB: Is this the union guy, Schoppert?

RG: Yeah, Mel Schoppert was the head of the ATU.
I remember this guy, the Personnel Director, Putnam, and he went in to King and he said, "Eighteen of the last nineteen hires in operations are family members of existing employees," and he said, "This has got to stop."
So King calls in Booth, and Booth tells him he's going to call a strike if he pulls any of that kind of stuff, and Putnam resigns.

EB: Kill the messenger, eh?

RG: It was unbelievable. They had taken four years, you know, trying to get these little blue triangle signs up to signal where a bus stop was, and they had a federal grant for it, and they couldn't quite figure out how to do it, and it had taken them four years to get this grant approved.
So here's Neil's office running a little faster, you know, and fortunately, Lloyd Anderson was smart enough to retain Roger to do the transit mall, because basically, you know, I was the representative for Tri-Met, but I basically had total opposition internally. "This isn't going to work," and "Why the hell are we doing this," you know, "isn't the system just running fine?"
Oh, and even their scheduler, Smitty, would just basically sleep in his office. One time he woke up and he looked in his desk, you know, and he pulled out a schedule, and he comes out and says, "I changed this schedule, what is this schedule that you guys did, I thought I had changed this," you know, and sure, he had, and he didn't even check the date; the thing he had in his desk was 15 years old.
So literally all of the departments were just - well, I mean, the operators were fine and they'd go out and run the buses, but I mean King had no control in that place.

RG: Well, yeah. Steve came in about September of '74, and what had happened was earlier that year, I think it was February, related to the Mt. Hood Freeway decision, Neil had finally convinced McCall to make a change in the Tri-Met board so that there was an active board, rather than Bill Roberts running things. So they worked out the final deal to where Bill could chair the Transit Mall Committee and build the transit mall, but there would be a new board appointed.
So they were all ready for Bill Roberts to announce he was going to resign as the Chair of the Tri-Met board, but apparently they got mixed up on the timing, he wasn't going to announce it until the afternoon, and McCall slipped up and announced the new board in the morning, so they screwed up the whole orchestration of taking care of Bill. So it was "Roberts Gets Fired," you know.
So that's when Jerry Drummond and Elsa Coleman and Steve McCarthy and Ken Lewis were appointed to the board, and then King convinced Steve to be the Deputy, and that's when I almost got fired. It was really funny. At that time, when they brought in the new board, they hired 33 people for the Planning Department, so we went from one to 33.
They were interesting hires, you know. G.B. Arrington was part of that, Bob Post, Bill Allen. So there was a good set of people who were brought in - you know, who had long-term commitment to Tri-Met and the work they did, and that was to do the STS study, the suburban transit station study, and the busways from all the park and ride lots and stuff like that.
Then I remember Ernie Munch and I got assigned to plan the West Side park and ride station. We ripped off interstate money to build the park and ride lot, so ODOT let us be hired, see - well, Ernie and I were just the kibitzers from the City and Tri-Met, but Will Martin was hired to plan the park and ride lot, and Bob Bothman, you know, just let us run loose. So we had separated walkways over the freeway and different levels for bus and cars, and he built this model, you know; it was 300 parking spaces for $18 million.
So it tried to make its way up for people to review it, you know, but it was so absurd that the whole thing just basically collapsed, right? And that's when they assigned it over to the toilet designers from ODOT - you know, the guys who do the rest stops, they designed the park and ride station.
That was the best lesson from Bothman about, you know, "You really don't need any help hanging yourself, you're doing a really good job all on your own."
So all those people were brought into planning, and obviously the screws were down on trying to do something because we'd just gotten rid of the freeway, and we thought there had to be some kind of an answer, and of course the Highway folks were just beating the crap out of us about transit's not an option, right?
During the legislature we faced this battle over whether or not the thing was going to be voted on because Fred Meyer was pressing, and at the same time that Mt. Hood was going on, Doug Wright was redesigning I-205, and I got involved in that, too. Fred Meyer then, when he lost his interchange at Gateway, you know, funded Glen Otto and Vern Cook to roust up the troops and the revolt was on.
We had a measure in the legislature to require a public vote statewide on whether to build the Mt. Hood Freeway or not, and fortunately we got Al Dinsmore from Medford to collaborate with us, and we got the things referred to the Elections Committee, and he promised never to hold a hearing on it. It was leading in the polls nine to one, you know, and we were dead meat if it ever got on the ballot.

EB: This is after the City said no?

RG: Yeah, the City said no like in February '74, and then the following year (1975 session) there was a bill introduced to require an election on whether or not to build the freeway. I made the motion, and the payback for that was Glen Otto then sought an Attorney General's opinion as to whether or not I could serve in the legislature and work for Tri-Met, and the Attorney General ruled I couldn't. So I had to sue Tri-Met.

EB: Now, you had to sue Tri-Met why?

RG: Because Tri-Met had to follow the Attorney General's opinion and in essence notify me that I would be terminated when I returned to the legislature.

EB: So you sued them then.

RG: So then I had to take action, and it was great because I wanted Chris Thomas to represent me, okay, but he couldn't because he represented Tri-Met. So Frank Pozzi - Keith Burns was the Governor's Assistant at that time, and he arranged for Frank Pozzi to represent me, but Chris Thomas wrote the brief on my behalf and gave it to Pozzi, see, so Pozzi was just listed by the Governor to help keep my job. Lee Johnson was the Attorney General, and he was a Republican, so they were more than happy to beat up on me. So I had to go to court, and it took about two minutes for the Judge to rule because, you know, in the legal progression, if the Attorney General rules, then only a Judge can overrule an Attorney General's opinion as legal opinion.
We were starting the Banfield study, and Ernie and I again were the team, the City and Tri-Met team to work on the busway and rail option for the Banfield

: Two different options?

RG: Yeah. And at that time ODOT had only one option, which was Gateway, down the middle of the freeway and across the Morrison Bridge.

EB: For a busway?

RG: Or rail. Either one. And no stops, from Gateway to down-town, because you want to get those commuters down there as fast as you can, right? So Ernie and I started to work, and we were trying to move it to the side, and of course that can't be done because you have off-ramps; not allowed to do that.

EB: Because the right-of-way would get right in the middle of those off-ramps and complicate their designs and ...

RG: Well, and they couldn't figure out how to get the cars across the rail, see, and so it was just too hard. So there was no way that they would consider that option, and we fought and fought and fought, and finally started to get some leeway. Of course Neil's office was torn because they were anxious to get something done for Governor Straub, and the rail option was very threatening because no one knew anything about rail, and it was Jerry Drummond and Steve McCarthy who were pushing that, and we had no capacity, no capability.
That's when I remember bringing in - we called them the Smith Brothers, Wilbur Smith and - both guys were bearded just like the cough drops guys, and we called them the Smith Brothers; at 500 bucks a day, they were going to help us out. But in that sense Jerry and Steve made a huge commitment to try to tool up to have some capability of building rail because ODOT was thumping to separate the two environmental impact statements. See, ODOT knew that the rail information would not come in on time, could well ruin their NEPA process, and they wouldn't get it built. So they were advocating eliminating rail and were close to convincing Neil to do that, and Jerry adamantly refused to separate the two corridor studies, that it had to be one corridor study and we were going to make one decision.
That's of course when you had the Glenn Jackson, Neil, and Drummond triumvirate that was running the show. They had a tough decision to make because there was absolutely no proof that Tri-Met could produce anything to be able to stay up with a rapid construction; whereas pouring concrete, you know, and rebuilding the freeway, ODOT could do that for buses or ...
By that time Neil had convinced Glenn Jackson to separate Metro from the State, and Bothman reported directly to Jackson, so you didn't have all that going on down in Salem, all the punishment, you know.

EB: That was important, too. Right.

RG: Oh, God, yes, because then Bothman was on board to accommodate the decision of those three, and it was a beautifully set up situation.
Anyway, Ernie and I convinced them to get to the side. Bob Conrad became critical to us. Then the other part was getting them to run into the Lloyd District. They were refusing to do that. They wouldn't go up and onto Holladay Street, as much sense as it makes today, you know. I was even trying a 28th stop, but I couldn't get that one. We got Hollywood. To me it was just simple: you drop down on the right-of-way, and then you come up, and it was kind of like your own braking system, anyway. You know, as you approached the next stop, you'd just come popping back up to street level and then back down again.

EB: That's interesting because I've always wondered why we decided to do light rail. I remember being the Chair of a Technical Committee during the development of the CRAG transportation plan, and that plan called for a busway in the Banfield. What happened to change to that to a light rail decision?

RG: Well, there was a huge amount of advocacy for rail transportation, and it came from all sides. Lon Topaz' report in 1972, a PUC report on the reuse of existing rail lines, created a whole kind of mantra about, you know, a strong interest in that kind of stuff, and Willamette Traction Company was formed with Bill Naito and Bill Failing and Betty Merten, with the goal of putting rails back on First Avenue where they originally started.
Then you had the fight over Multnomah County and I-205, see, because Don Clark and Mel Gordon were adamant to have rail, and their price ultimately to Jackson for approving the freeway construction, because it was not done, was a stronger voice in rail. So you had all these different things going on, and then Drummond and McCarthy got on board with providing some horsepower behind the technical work, and so there became an increasing willingness to look at that decision, and that decision was made in '78 in October, by CRAG. Transportation decisions, of course, everybody makes them, so the City of Gresham, Multnomah County, Portland, Tri-Met, and CRAG all had to approve. The final decision was made in October of '78, and there's a kind of an interesting relationship because the election for the Metro Council was a few weeks later, after the decision on the light rail, and we had a retreat in December, and Cindy and Mike ..CONTINUE READING HERE

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