The TriMet Board of Directors unanimously approved placing a $125 million bond measure before TriMet district voters
--from Forest Grove to Troutdale and Sauvie Island to Oregon City--this November. If passed, the measure would replace the current $125 million voter-approved bond levy from 1990, which expires next year.
The money would not add back any recently eliminated routes.
Nor would it stop a 5-cent fare increase set for Sept. 1. Instead, the bond would buy new fixed-route buses and minibuses (part of TriMet's LIFT paratransit service) specifically designed for elderly and disabled passengers. TriMet official say the ones they already have are out-of-date.
The LIFT program is a door-to-door public transportation service for people unable to use regular buses or trains due to health issues. The bond would also allow TriMet to update existing stops that may require more lighting and seating for the safety of riders, TriMet says.
Carolyn Young, a TriMet spokeswoman, cited a growing elderly and disabled population and an outdated fleet to stress the importance of the measure. One hundred fifty of TriMet's 250 high-floor buses are over 19 years old, TriMet says. The aging buses make commutes difficult for the elderly and disabled that rely on TriMet for their independence, Young says. Jan Campbell, chair for the Committee on Accessible Transportation (CAT), calls for universal access. “We really are not all that different,” Campbell says. “We all want to ride.”
Exactly how TriMet would spend the money is still unclear. TriMet says it's still in its planning stages. But while a new LIFT bus costs $90,000, a new bus with kneeling capability and air conditioning will be between $425,000 to $440,000. Improvement of stops will depend on specific needs at each location. TriMet operates 7,100 bus and rail stops so only the largest problem areas and those with the most ridership will be considered. Improvements are estimated between $10,000 and $150,000 for each station.
TriMet official say it hopes the money will help bring more money from city, county and state authorities to help improve the safety of TriMet stops through the construction of wheelchair-accessible sidewalks, crosswalks and stop signs.