Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Cast of Characters

This wonderful ongoing story of TriMet is made complete by the interesting and diverse characters that join me in the story.  For those of you who are new to the story, and for those of you who want a mention, I thought I'd share with you the cast before we get too deep in the story.

And yes, I'm sure you are all now sick of reading the word 'story.'

(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.)

This cast can be broken into two parts: TriMet and the the bloggers.


Neil McFarlane: TriMet General Manager. Former Director of Capital Projects at the agency. He's very good at opening a MAX line on time and on budget, but whether he's good at running the whole agency is currently up for debate.

Mary Fetsch: Media Relations Officer at TriMet. Her press releases are notoriously very professional and highly ambiguous, leaving some people wondering what may have been purposely left out.

Roberta Altstadt: Another TriMet communications officer. Her press releases can be more informative, but are fewer in number compared to Mary's. She has been front and center lately in management's attacks on the union.

Bruce Hansen: Bruce is the current president and business representative for the Amalgamated Transit Union 757, the union that represents many of TriMet's front-line workers and maintenance personnel. He has worked as a TriMet bus operator for 20 years, and therefore he knows well what goes on inside the agency when dealing with management. His tactics appear to be non-violent but firm, and he's currently leading the union to hold their own versus management's current tactics.

Jonathan Hunt: Union vice president, Jonathan gains most of his experience from working as a TriMet mechanic.

Randy Steadman: TriMet's recently hired Director of Labor Relations. Apparently, the only "relations" he's had with unions in the past was trying to bust them. Which is odd, because why would you hire someone notorious for busting unions to deal with a union you're required by law to have?

The TriMet Board of Directors:
Bruce Warner , board president
Rev. Dr. T. Allen Bethel
Tiffany Sweitzer
Craig Prosser
Consuelo Saragoza
Travis Stovall
TriMet's Board of Directors is appointed by the Governor, with each representing a certain section of the metro area. These people are sometimes derisively called the "Board of Sock Puppets" because of their tendency to approve pretty much anything placed before them by management. And while they are highly qualified as businesspeople and community leaders, whether they truly represent their transit-riding constituents is sometimes questionable.


Al Margulies: Former bus driver at TriMet, Al has been blogging about TriMet for years, writing about the problems he saw working there on (what is now known as) Rantings of a Former TriMet Bus Driver. While I don't agree with many of his views, many a Tweet debate with him has opened my eyes to see past my optimism to see the real problems in the agency. He advocates open communication in the agency, as well as fairness to employees and retirees. ( @APMargulies

Lane Jensen: When he lost his job because of the unreliability on the 81, he set out to expose any corruption he perceived to exist. His tactics have made him a target for transit cops and fare inspectors, although he never breaks the rules. It seems he has angered someone high up in the agency, causing some to believe he's trying to be silenced. ( @pdxtransitlane

Jason McHuff: Jason is a scholar of TriMet's past, and also works as a sustainably-minded software designer. He used this skill to design one of the most useful transit arrival tool, TransitMapper, and well as making the TriMet radio scanner feed publicly available (with the help of Al). His views tend to be less controversial than the prior two. ( @rosecitytransit

Adri C: Adri is a Portland high school student who is a regular rider of the 51 and absolutely loves taking the little old 30-footers to school every day (I am being extremely sarcastic). She makes her point often via photography, which almost always speaks for itself. ( @PDXtrimetrider

Alex Hawk: Alex is the glue that connects Adri, Lane, and Erik, although they don't always get along as a group. He maintains one personal Twitter handle and one transit-oriented one, and he just started his blog this year (being inspired by Al). One notable action Alex has taken is starting a campaign to be appointed to the TriMet board. Although almost guaranteed to be unsuccessful, just making a stand in this way is unprecedented in itself. ( @AJHTrimet

Erik Halstead: Erik is just an ordinary guy from Tigard who has watched his 12/94 service slowly deteriorate to the point that he now often commutes via auto. Always one of the first to criticize TriMet's postings on Facebook, I always used to argue with him supporting the agency. Well, until I realized that, although his facts are sometimes errant, his points are extremely valid. He has no TriMet blog, but is active on Twitter. @sp_redelectric

"Camelopardalis": Whether this blogging pseudonym is a derivation of this person's actual name or a nickname to shield his/her identity I do not know, but I know that s/he is a very intelligent and loyal rail operator who started the MAXFAQs blog to tell people all the interesting technical information about the rail system, especially answering questions people ask that the agency doesn't answer well, like "Why don't the MAX door buttons work?" S/he tends to understand the strategy of the agency more than the other bloggers, but though his/her blog entries are usually more technical in nature, his/her critical entries are some of the most poignant and inspiring entries in the blogging world. ( @maxfaqs

Joseph Rose: Joe writes about commuting in Portland for The Oregonian. In the past, he's been less critical and more receptive of what the agency would like him to write, but lately he has taken them less at their word and has called for the agency to do better, most recently in regard to the Hours of Service for bus operators and the "secretive" raises given to many non-union workers. Joe's blog on the Oregonian website also talks about other aspects of your Portland commute, not just TriMet. ( @pdxcommute

Dan Christensen: Another of the TriMet bloggers, Dan is currently a TriMet bus operator out at Powell Garage. ( @dan_christensen

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. ( @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, 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.

AND THEN THERE'S ME, Patrick Stanley, PSU student and future TriMet manager who hopes to someday be able to make a difference from the inside. TriMet expert and scholar since I was seven years old, I am blessed with the opportunity to try to make an external impact right now. I see myself as not in either of the aforementioned groups but in both groups, as a moderator of sorts, hopefully being able to connect both sides to see what the other side has to say. Not until mutual communication exists in this environment will there be any improvement in the situation. And I hope to aid in that communication.

So what you hear from me won't be as harsh as Al's or Lane's blogs. I won't call anybody names or say anything that may jeopardize my future career. I will, however, analyze both the good and the bad, and try to keep my bias out of it. Because, if there is anything gnarly to report, it will certainly speak for itself.

So, now that we know the characters, let's start the show...

That you may know the truth, and where it's lacking, that together we find the truth.


Please keep it clean! Thank you.