Tuesday, April 30, 2013
CRC Bridge Solution
Build a separate bridge. You're planning on making one alongside the highway bridge anyway. Have it run parallel to the river for awhile so it can ramp up to go across at a high level and a grade the MAX can climb. Do the opposite on the other side.
You surely have two problems with this:
(1) This will cost more.
(2) This will make an inconvenience for riders to
take time to make the loop.
But I answer with these suggestions:
(1) The longer you government people take to bicker
about the bridge being too low, you could have
built this by itself and be running MAX across it.
And it would probably cost less than being tied in
(2) I ride the Blue Line around the loopty-loop at
Sunset TC all the time. I'm used to it. We have
another in the Red Line looping under itself at
Gateway. I don't hear people complaining about
either of these.
Problem solved. And you just saved millions in the planning phase by reading this here.
Like Night and Day
TriMet's wonderful! TriMet's awful! Which is correct?
Look at comments on TriMet's Facebook posts. Search for #trimet on Twitter and read the tweets that come up. Ask your friends about what they think about TriMet. It is clear that the public approval of TriMet is waning. People are getting more and more frustrated by the unreliability, the crowded trains and buses, and the other undesirable aspects that we all know so well.
But, you also see a lot of people writing about how wonderful TriMet is. These positive comments usually follow TriMet's Facebook posts and are intermixed with other people's complaints and Erik Halstead's extreme calls for radical change (which are warranted but unrealistic; but that's worthy of its own post.)
But the question remains: why the severe discrepancy in these opinions? Which is correct?
Well, both. You see, it totally depends upon the lense you are viewing it through.
We bloggers incessantly inundate you with all the things that go wrong with TriMet. I think we do this for two reasons: (1) it's fun to nitpick and get attention for it, and (2) it's true! We know this because we are experts in the field of TriMet, and it doesn't take much digging to find the dirt we uncover. Many casual riders who couldn't tell you the difference between the three definitions of 'block' are completely oblivious to the issues that go on, and are perfectly content to stay that way until their 1400-series bus breaks down going down I-5 on a 95-degree day. Then, they may get a taste of this reality.
If we know it's this bad, why are there so many people who think TriMet is the best? Either they are such optimists that they would still be smiling if an opossum pooped on their foot, or there is something else at play here. Look closely at the comments. What's the common pattern? They are comparative. Almost all of the comments are worded something like, "TriMet is SOO much better than Dallas" or Phoenix or Washington DC, or wherever. Although they don't see the problems that we who have been around Portland for awhile see, they do see all the good things that we do have, and are thankful for it.
TriMet has its problems, that is for sure. But sometimes it's easy to forget how good we have it compared to other cities. That's why I'm fighting for it, because I don't want the good in it to die at the hands of someone who doesn't have the best interests of the agency at heart. But it can be better. And I hope the trend turns in that direction soon.
Monday, April 29, 2013
Saturday, April 27, 2013
You Lost Me
TriMet, you lost me.
You lost me. Not forever, but you could have had me sooner. You missed that opportunity.
Now, I'm not one to say outright that I am something special. I am no hero, I am no genius. But I am someone who can make a huge difference at TriMet. There are few people, if any, who know more about TriMet than I (who don't already work there, and I still know more than many of them). I've had many ideas of how to improve the system, some they figured out themselves after I did (like the 48-Cornell going to Sunset). And the only activity I am more passionate about is work at my church. I love all things TriMet, I know most things TriMet (and continue to learn more).
And, I'm also close to completing my Bachelors Degree in Business Logistics & Human Resources Management. So I have that going on, too.
I once was given a tour of TriMet headquarters. I talked with many people, all of whom were supportive of me and thought I was, as many TriMet employees over the years have called me, a "shoe-in."
But you lost me. I had every intention of working out an internship this summer. I would have even taken an unpaid internship. I was hoping to get in the door as soon after I graduated in December as I could. But, due to your true lack of transparency and trustworthiness, my desire to get in the proverbial door has been somewhat squelched, enough to make me go to the PSU job fair last term. And now I intend on starting out in another logistics field.
Is this because the opportunities weren't there? No, because I truly believed (through faith in God) that the opportunity to get into TriMet would be there at the right time. But as the events over the last few months have unfolded, what I so longed for became undesirable. Why would I want to work at place that has management I don't trust? Why would I want to work at a place that has taken actions that have made me lean more toward the other side, the side working to dethrone the leaders?
So, for now, I am happy to write my blog and challenge the agency to become transparent, honest, and trustworthy. The only reason this matters to me is because I love it so much. After God and family, there is nothing that excites me more, nothing that I care about seeing thrive more than TriMet. And I will get there. Someday, when the time is right, I will walk in those doors with a TriMet employee ID badge.
But for now, you lost me, I'm sorry to say. You don't realize what you're missing. Please recognize that your actions do have consequences. Together, let's work together to do things right so that there won't be any more consequences. Because I know we both want you to be the best.
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
A new name appeared on the most recent press release from TriMet. Angela Murphy is now listed on the sidebar as "Communication Coordinator" under Mary and Roberta. This was her third post.
I liked her writing style. It was professional and not obtrusive, even when mentioning the labor issues. Maybe there's hope for the PR department. However, it's getting more and more confusing to figure out what each person actually does in that department based on their increasingly convoluted job titles.
I hope to have more about the most recent press release tomorrow.
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Now (Apparently Not Yet) Blocking Retirees
Twitter still shows Al as being followed by, and still following, TriMet, which would change if someone was being blocked. Also, TriMet took notice of this issue through viewing this blog and the corresponding tweets, taking the time to not only comment on it but also ask around in the communications department to see if anyone blocked Al.
This happens from time to time, where someone in the blogging community sees something wrong and jumps to the obvious conclusion that may not be accurate. I am guilty of this here this time as well, but you can't blame us -- it looked like the obvious answer.
I give kudos to the TriMet communication department for being so prompt in trying to help get this problem resolved. This shows that there are people in that department who are trying to do the right thing, and it also shows that the aforementioned feedback is, in fact, still being received.
However, the words I said in the prior blog entry still stand as a warning. If someone does take the action of cutting off the communication between the agency and the stakeholders, these would be the perceived results. I hope no one ever takes such rash action, as it would be a detriment to both the bloggers and the agency.
Open communication is crucial to building TriMet to be the best in the business again. Hopefully, this communication is allowed to thrive; but it is also important that both sides actually listen to what the other one is saying and take it to heart. Because, maybe, it is something that can result in benefits to everybody.
Sunday, April 14, 2013
Now Blocking Retirees
TriMet's communications department went off the deep end today, by blocking Al Margulies on Twitter. This is the most ridiculous and pointless tactic the agency can use. They have missed three basic points:
1) Blocking him won't stop him from tweeting about TriMet,
2) All they're doing is depriving themselves of a valuable source of feedback and information, and
3) By blocking Al on Twitter, they are simply proving what he is saying.
Now, there was a time when I didn't listen to what Al said. I didn't like his negativity and I didn't agree with him on certain vital issues issues. But I soon found out that his voice was one of the few voices that cared so much about making sure that the agency's future is bright that he would put his back-side on the line to fight for it. And though I still don't agree with his views on things in general, I tend to agree with all his views pertaining to TriMet.
So, TriMet, I continue to call on you to prove to all your stakeholders that you are looking out for their best interests. By attempting to close off the communication between you and your strongest naysayer, you are in effect blocking out your strongest source of feedback on what's going right and what needs to change. And we both know that the goal is to be the best transit agency in America, right?
That you may know the truth, and where it's lacking, that together we find the truth.
Saturday, April 13, 2013
Apparently, TriMet's main computer system crashed this morning and didn't come back online until about 11am. Everybody is quick to blame the "faulty" new CAD/AVL (computer aided dispatch/automatic vehicle location) system that is nearly completely rolled out throughout the system. People say it was a $30 million waste of money.
However, the thing about the implementation of new technology in a business, especially when it is large and complex (like the CAD system), things rarely go completely smoothly at first. It takes time to get it right, but when they do get it right it will work well for a long time. So, in the context of the CAD system, just give it time: it's a good system, and once it's fully in place, it will be a great asset for the agency.
One more thing to remember: computer glitches aren't always the fault of the technology: there is the human factor, too. But we'll get to that in a later post.
Friday, April 12, 2013
It's the Bomb-Sniffing Dog All Over Again
TriMet's latest security-related email concerns the new inclusion of police in plain clothes to enforce fare and code policies on MAX. It also concerns me, as it leaves me wondering if it is really necessary. (That was a pun; I'm sorry.)
Ask me two years ago and I'd tell you it's a good idea. But now? No. And here's why.
TriMet is trying to fight the fare evasion war by attacking the evaders. Which is okay - there are plenty of people who just think they are above paying their fair-share. But it's not getting to the root of the problem.
We all know about the dreaded Ticket Vending Machines (TVMs) at the rail stations. The unreliability of those devices is astounding, but TriMet's unwillingness to admit the chronic issues that exist with the machines is really what is making people mad.
The other issue has to do with public perception, which TriMet PR doesn't seem to know how to manage. Public perception is created through both words and actions, and neither that TriMet is putting out makes the average rider want to trust them. If the PR department would just admit that the TVMs are faulty and assure the public that they have every intention of fixing it, then I'd be okay with the undercover cops. But they won't admit the real state of the TVMs, and even if they did admit it and promise to make amends, I don't trust that they would actually follow through.
TriMet, please convince me that you are honest and operating in the best interest of the community. Because frankly, right now I don't trust that you are. And that's sad, given how much I love the agency.
Thursday, April 11, 2013
So, they sat at a stalemate for five months, the agency using every press release (regardless of the relevancy) to get the public on their side of the squabble and both sides throwing different laws and regulations at each other trying to convince the other that "this law proves I'm right!"
The kicker is that they took the issue before a circuit court judge to determine whose legal reasoning was valid. But, to quote ATU president Bruce Hansen, "TriMet’s process for negotiations remains murky and confusing. That confusion left the judge unable to make a decision without first obtaining additional information" (atu.org). In other words, even the judge couldn't figure out who was correct, given the facts.
While I generally don't support unions, in this situation I've been forced to agree with the ATU in most things because of TriMet's obvious errors that have significantly decreases my trust. I applaud the union for holding firm for these months, as their doubt of TriMet's honesty seems more than valid. As this is a public agency and therefore an issue that the public truly cares about, forcing the agency to be transparent would be beneficial to all parties: the union and the public for obvious reasons, but TriMet also because it would give them the chance to prove to the public that they are telling the truth.
But I also am glad that the union decided now to come to the table. It is crucially important that the bargaining process begins. The union has made their point, but TriMet's incessant and needless attacks on the union will only continue and get even more crazy if things don't get going. And who knows how many years it is going to take to come up with a contract this time.
So, here's a simple compromise: TriMet gets to handpick five members of the media, and the union can't reject anyone. The ATU gets to handpick five more members of the media, and the agency can't reject anyone. And no one can reject anything they write. Now we have accountability and it still doesn't have to be public. Both sides get what they want.
It would be good practice for coming up with a contract.
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Cast of Characters
(Note: these perspectives are a combination of objectivity and my own personal views; please don't be offended if there's something you don't like, but I wrote the following in such a way as to minimize any offense.)
Michael Andersen: Michael is the lead author of Portland Afoot magazine, an online magazine about issues pertaining to a low-car use lifestyle. Therefore, transit issues are really important to him. He tends to be less critical of the agency than other bloggers, but if there's some major issue, he'll always try to be the first to report it. (http://portlandafoot.org) @portlandafoot
PLUS A FEW MORE PEOPLE, such as Adron Hall (@transitsleuth), Scott Johnson (@engineerscotty), Doctor Jeff (@doctor_jeff), Cameron Johnson (@camofportland), and Joseph Edge (@josephedge), each of whom writes or tweets about TriMet to a varying extent. OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon (@opalpdx, http://www.opalpdx.org) is a riders union that also contributes to the story by fighting for better transit service, honesty and transparency from the agencies in the local area.