Troubles at TriMet ?

According to Oregon There’s an implosion heading down TriMet’s tracks

TriMet recently cut service on all light-rail lines and more than 50 bus routes. Agency managers have consistently blamed this on a $27 million revenue shortfall caused by the recession.

But the recent release of TriMet’s audited financial statements casts a very different light. According to the auditors, TriMet’s total operating and non-operating revenues — including money from passenger fares, payroll and self-employed transit taxes, and operating grants — increased by 6.5 percent during fiscal year 2010, which ended June 30.

If revenue is up but service levels are down, where did all the money go? The short answer is fringe benefits for employees. On an actuarial basis, TriMet’s cost of fringe benefits equaled 152 percent of wages for the just-ended fiscal year. That’s the worst ratio among the 20 largest transit districts in the country. Some districts, such as Denver and Miami-Dade County, have fringe benefit costs that are less than 40 percent of payroll. No other district besides TriMet pays more for fringe benefits than wages.

While Wendell Cox notes that Portland saw a drop in Work Transit Mode Share from 6.3 to 6.1% (a drop of 3%) between 2000 and 2009 while the US average over the same period rose from 4.6 to 5.0%, an increase of 9.2%. Of course, as Yonah Freemark notes, Portland saw a huge increase in Bike and small increase in Walk. These don’t of themselves actually help the transit operator.