Thursday, December 24, 2009
"I have these patterns of what I read in the morning and at night when I'm going home," Hansen said. "I'm one of the lucky ones because ... I can take the (bus) without changing downtown."
But the TriMet general manager isn't just along for the ride. Hansen guided the outfit through a three-year recession that left all of Portland's agencies struggling just to provide basic services.
His policies of focused investment and streamlining for efficiencies axed nearly $20 million per year in operating expenses, helping to keep the agency afloat.
Now, Hansen says, the agency is nearly back to its pre-recession revenue, and it has three major rail projects under way that will greatly expand its services. The Washington County Commuter Rail project began in October and will connect Wilsonville to Tigard and Beaverton. The downtown Transit Mall light-rail project will bring MAX service on Fifth and Sixth avenues from Union Station to Portland State University. And the Interstate 205 MAX line will link the Gateway Transit Center and Clackamas Town Center.
DJC: What were the highlights of 2006 for TriMet?
Fred Hansen: A whole series of things.
DJC: As general manager you introduced the idea of focused investment to TriMet. Where does that idea come from?
Hansen: I'm a believer that you have to be able to touch and feel things for it to be a difference. I'm a regular rider and I know those things.
What we did (in the past) was we spread whatever investments we had over a wide distance and nobody could tell any real difference. Now we're able to promote them. Here's a bus that's going to be coming at least every 15 minutes seven days a week. And as a rider that makes a real difference.
DJC: Where is TriMet sitting financially?
Hansen: We've had, as most every business in the greater Portland region in the three-and-a-half-year period between 2000 and 2003, we really saw essentially flat revenues, and that was a direct reflection of the fact that this region had lost a little over 30,000 jobs and most of our revenue is based on the payroll tax.
But what we did during that period is we launched an effort that we call the productivity improvement program, and what it was really aimed at ... was how do we get more resource out of our existing base and put it into more service. Do things smarter, do it cheaper. And as it ended up ... we've been able to save on, an annualized basis, a little over $20 million and still deliver the same service.
And we've done it in a thousand different things. Literally our frontline workers came up with virtually all these ideas. And it's everything from how do you tighten up the front-end alignment of buses so we get less tire drag because there's play in the wheel, and that means we need to use less diesel fuel. And so we've increased our fuel efficiency. And putting nitrogen, not air, into the tires because nitrogen's a bit heavier, it doesn't leak as easily, and therefore we're able to maintain tire pressure a little bit more consistently. We're a big business. ... We run 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. When the vehicles aren't out they're in being maintained, so in many ways we're a very big pick-up and delivery service that runs all the time. So we applied business practices to all those things.
DJC: What are you looking forward to in 2007, both in projects and financially?
I-205 is a lot longer alignment but, because it's in a dedicated right-of-way, we're not going to be going through as much activity like the mall. ... It's a bit easier setting because when they built I-205 Multnomah County required that there be a transit way set aside along and in the middle of 205, and we're going to use that and that makes it a lot easier.
DJC: And that downtown mall project also has requirements for minority and women participation?
We set the bar higher than anybody has ever set it before on Interstate MAX. We set a goal of having 16 percent participation in our contracting; we reached 19 percent.
A lot of people use those numbers, (but) what to us is very important is we used locally owned minority and women businesses and we put about $8.6 million on Interstate MAX into businesses that were located in that area.
And it wasn't the big businesses. This is the one- or two-dump- truck operators or the small engineering firm that's trying to get going.
DJC: I know the Portland Development Commission is looking at setting goals for minority and women participation. Is there a difference between how such a program would be implemented in an agency that oversees building construction versus transportation?
Hansen: Obviously there are differences, but the ability to break down contracts is very similar in both settings. ... So the ability to do that is there, but it takes effort and real commitment. And very frankly, we got quality work, a very low changeover level, no litigation that came out of Interstate MAX, and those are the things you can actually deliver for the community, the project and the overall budget.
DJC: All of the agencies involved in transportation in the region are feeling the budget crunch of huge looming projects, such as the Columbia River Crossing. Yet it sounds like you're saying that TriMet is doing well. Do you not feel the squeeze?
Hansen: Let me not leave you with the impression that we feel like we're doing well. We've had a very tough three years - flat revenues with normal inflation or expenses, about $10 million more a year just to stay in place. And that $20 million total essentially offset the additional (annual) costs just to stay in place. So we felt the exact same pressures. ... We're suffering much the same thing every other business and government has suffered.
We've just been able to leverage our investments in a way that's been very critical. The mall I-205 project, 60 percent of that is being funded by the federal government. And that means every time that goes into the local economy we get that extra benefit. ... What we're able to do is really build off of that and make things work.
Bridging the authority gap
DJC: Have you heard Ted Wheeler's proposal about a regional bridge authority?
Fred Hansen: I smile only because I think I was one of the sources of that idea. Obviously, you have to figure out how to make it happen but I think if you look right now the mixture of bridge ownerships are really kind of screwy. You have ODOT owning the big ones, Ross Island and the interstates, you've got (Union Pacific) owning the Steel Bridge and Multnomah County essentially with the rest of the bridges.
And they're not the highest focus certainly within Multnomah County, so you end up getting to this crisis where something's got to happen, and that's not the way we ought to be maintaining things. So, in the long run, something like an authority makes sense.
DJC: Do you think (Wheeler) is the natural champion of that?
Hansen: He certainly has the most bridges.
I was just talking with Sam Adams two days ago and we were talking a little about the bridge authority as well, and he sees it doesn't make sense that what are essentially city streets but have to cross a river are now in another jurisdiction.
How do we think smarter about this? I don't think it's going to come quickly because you need to have a revenue source that goes with that. ... You've got to have a way that is dedicated dollars so those bridges are maintained. But I think in the long run it does make sense, given how critical river crossings are to Portland.
Daily Journal of Commerce (Portland, OR), Nov 17, 2006 by Libby Tucker
Monday, December 14, 2009
The following conversation is based on an actual conversation that occurred between myself and Michael Oliver.
MO: I appreciate you calling me.
Al ; Of course, you’ve seen that site I take it
Mo; The aids thing? The state dept. called me last week, the state dept police, and they asked me if I had put up a site, and I said no, and they told me how to get to it.
I figured out what was going on, it was Jim Stenger, he’s out of the country. He’s been doing stuff to various people. So I looked at it and I thought you know, what was I gonna do. There’s not much I can do. The state dept says that the FBI is on the case.
There is a warrant out for the guys arrest. He has violated some terrorism acts. They are looking for him. What bothered me I was told, this afternoon over at BTC, that you had added a link at your web site!
MO: No I do not Al, I drive a train, that’s about all I can do.
MO: What he has done to the union is create an alternate union web page for the union.
MO: Yea, I don’t quite know where this is going.
Al: Well if the FBI is on it you got the right people.
MO: I’ve got nothing to do with that.
MO: It’s pretty extensive. Other things that he has done are order $300 worth of Pizza and have it sent to
MO: Yea, I know him well. I saved his job on more than one occasion. I was his union rep.
MO: He’s going after everybody. I never had strong words with him, ever! And now he is going after me!
MO: He drinks, he gets fucked up, and he does shit. He doesn’t even remember what he does. The guy that was at
MO; Yea, I would appreciate that, thanks, I’m sorry.
MO: He took my picture right off the union website!
MO: Thanks again.
Monday, December 7, 2009
The max incident is still a topic of conversation between drivers during layovers.
This is a re-creation of a conversation that occurred between three drivers, we will call them “Driver A, K, S”. The conversation started talking about the max child incident and them moved to max operators in general.
Driver S: “I’ve heard things about that operator, and I know that guy too! I’ll tell ya what he did one time, there were some kids causing trouble in the back, like they always do, he points to the leader of the group and says ‘hey, come here for a sec’, he was going pretty fast down the road, so the kid gets up and starts coming up to talk to him, and he slams the break on, and the kid comes flying up right to the window!
Driver A: “How do you know this?”
Driver S: “Cause he told me himself! This was back in the days that nobody cared much about this stuff, like 15 years ago”
Driver A: “Well back then you could get away with almost everything, you can’t do that now! There’s camera’s in the bus and shit! You’d be fired immediately!
Driver K decides to enter the conversation: “He sounds like the max driver I got really mad at once. I was like 10 feet from the door, it was daylight, he slammed the doors shut on me”
Driver A: “in your face?”
Driver K: “A little boy, 9 or 10 years old, held one of the doors pen for me. The other doors all slammed shut but this little kid kept the door open! So I get on the train and the max driver comes on the pa: “don’t hold the door open for anyone!” I went over to the call box and said to that guy: “Listen, you knew exactly who I was; you saw my uniform that was very rude to do that!
Driver A+S both start laughing hysterically.
Driver A: “I’m sure she did exactly what she says she did knowing driver K!”
Driver K: “boy was I mad, I was really mad!”
Driver S gets going: “You know what I hate about those Max drivers, when the bus comes up to an intersection with the Max, and they’re sitting there right, just before you get to the intersection they’ll call the light! And then they won’t pull out right away! They’ll sit there for two minutes anyway! Basically they coulda let your ass get through that intersection
Driver A: Yea, they’re fucking with us man! But leaving a uniformed Trimet employee behind that they see running for the train, that’s unreal! I wonder if it was that Cooper guy?
Driver S: “Sounds like him.” Did you see who it was “K”?
“K”: “No he just came on the PA, I was in the last car”
“A”: “The xx bus would pull into the stop late at night and the max would be there but the mother fuckers would just pull right out! They can see the folks running for the train, the close the fucking doors and away they go. Unfucking real! It’s fucking pouring rain and cold out and they know there is no other train for at least 20 minutes but they just don’t fucking care!”
“S”: “they have tricks too, they can get the doors closed even faster, they bypass the “doors are closing” announcement until its too late. The doors are already closed and then the announcement says ‘doors are closing’. The train is moving and there goes the announcement ‘the doors are closing’!
All three drivers are laughing hysterically about all this!
“S”: “Some of the kids like to go from door to door or train to train at every stop, they can see them doing it and the next time they do it the doors are closed before they know what happened to them! They can’t get back on the train! I’ll tell ya what I hate though, as a bus driver, when someone is pretending to look for the change when they are actually holding the bus waiting for someone else to show up! Or when the guy is looking for his transfer while his girlfriend is trying to catch up! ‘Just get on the bus, I’m gonna wait for her for crying out loud!’
Sunday, December 6, 2009
Many bus drivers live in a world separate from the world of current events, especially the very specific world of transit news, in Portland and of course the rest of the country. They don’t have a clue as too what Is going on around them, nor do they apparently care.
Well, the bus drivers in the break room where pretty much laughing about the situation, which I found equally disturbing.
As I came out of the restroom, I engaged the three that were joking about the whole situation. This is a re-creation of that event.
“I would not have done what she did, I stopped specially so those people could make that bus, and then she took off anyway, obviously on purpose. So now we have at least two more people running around that hate Trimet, which is not what we need. (Driver’s are chuckling as I go on) Would it have killed her to let those people on the bus? No, of course not. So what was the point of that behavior? When is the next bus, a half hour? Now they are stuck out here, in the cold! I know that every driver has the right to run their bus as they see fit, and the rules do permit that sort of behavior, but its not of any positive purpose, it just creates more an more animosity to for us as a group.”
We were talking about the rules, “once you pull away that’s it”, said one of the drivers.
My pal DT, said, “Once you get close to the end then you don’t give a fuck!” Everybody laughed, including me. “Like you, you mean.” I responded, more laughter.
The other driver, we will call him driver X, said “how many people can you leave running to you!”
Oh boy, I thought, how does Trimet get these people? Maybe they need a real shakeup in the HR department. They seem to be doing a horrible job, recruiting and hiring real schmucks.
“We are supposed to be trying to help people I said”.
Driver Y shared a story: “A long long time ago, I was driving a 57, it was late, both of my bike racks were taken, and this third guy comes up and says ‘can I throw my bike inside’? Don’t you see there are two bikes on the rack? ‘Other drivers let me put it inside’! He would have had to roll over toes to get to the back of the bus!
“I do it if there is room on the bus”, I said.
DT spoke up again, “I won’t do it any more!”
“You’re a mean ass person DT!”
DT’s eyes lit up after that one: “Trimet won’t back me up so fuck them!”