portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article commentary portland metro

bikes/transportation | economic justice

RESISTING TRIMET GUTTING OF FARELESS SQUARE

At the next meeting of Transit Riders Union, 6pm, Chit Chat Cafe at PSU, 1906 SW Sixth next to Hot Lips Pizza, community members are welcome to brainstorm both on the failures of TriMet to preserve Fareless Square and bus and MAX service, and strategy and tactics activist Portlanders can take both to counter and reverse TriMet mismanagement, as well as have the TriMet board elected by voters rather than being appointed by Oregon's governor, as is the case now.
Assisted by enablers the Oregonian (news and editorial) and the Portland Business Alliance, the non-elected TriMet board of directors voted 6-1 to cut back on Fareless Square at their August 12th board meeting in the Portland Building. Organizers from Transit Riders Union (TRU) presented signatures on petitions from 1,400 transit riders, against cutting Fareless Square, but the board ignored those petitions and plans to start charging for buses in formerly Fareless Square beginning in Jan., 2009.

The Oregonian's so-called transit reporter, Dylan Rivera (who perhaps ironically went to Reed) did mention, in paragraphs 99 and 100 of his front page (two page), above the fold story, that TRU organizers did present the board with the 1,400 signatures against the cuts/fare hike, but then characterized the TRU protestors as 'heckling' the board.

TRU members did chant 'Elect the board, elect the TriMet board' and 'Shame!' after the 6-1 vote, but those chants weren't reported by the Oregonian's Rivera.

In addition, four transit organizers (Patrick, Xander, Jason and me) sent in to the Oregonian three different versions (weeks ahead of time) of an op-ed opposed to the Fareless cuts/fare hike for buses. The Oregonian refused to ever print that in the paper, even though we sent in several versions. The Oregonian's own, pro-cuts editorials (anonymous, lead editorials) were printed in the paper, of course, as was Milton Friedman-ite John Charles op-ed, printed the day before, which advocated TriMet cut Fareless Square altogether.

The Oregonian did put the anti-cuts op-ed online, just not in the printed version of the paper with their own lead op-eds, or with John Charles's libertarian, anti-TriMet op-ed.

Moreover, we also met with the Oregonian Editorial Board over cutting back on Fareless Square by TriMet, but the OEB refused to say that preserving Fareless Square was important, and reverse their editorial stance.

So, there was massive opposition to the Fareless cuts, and WWeek did do a news story a week before the TriMet board meeting (albeit on p. 9), which did quote TRU opponents, but also carried the prevailing TriMet narrative, the cuts are 'inevitable' and there was 'little' opposition -- despite 1,400 people signing petitions against the cuts.

For months, local activists have tried to get access to local corporate media, on TriMet, on Tenant Rights, etc. -- we even met in person with WWeek editor Hank Stern and a reporter on one issue, but got zip in terms of a story on tenant rights (Mercury did print such a story, but back in March, and on p. 11).

On TriMet, the next Transit Rider Union meeting is set for this Wed nite at 6pm at PSU, at Chit Chat Cafe, 1906 SW Sixth, next to Hot Lips Pizza.
At this meeting, old and new transit rider and organizers can brainstorm on ways to make TriMet accountable, reverse the cuts, and make the TriMet board elected instead of appointed by Oregon's governor.

Lastly, the primary pusher behind the cuts to Fareless Square in 2009 appears to be Portland Business Alliance, but one TriMet staffer told transit organizers that TriMet has wanted to cut and gut Fareless Square since as early as 1989. The WWeek article, however, even noted that NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg is moving that city's transit in the opposite direction, ie, creating a new fareless zone for cross-town buses in the Apple.

**************************

phone: phone: 503-222-2974
address: address: PO Box 40011, Portland, Oregon 97240