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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

TriMet's PR Fiasco: Cut Service, Raise Fares, Reward Management

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Tue, Mar 12, 2013 at 10:14 AM

You've maybe seen this already in GMN, but it bears a bit of reflection.

Turns out TriMet—which very publicly held out its hands last year to snatch millions from riders in fare hikes amid service shifts—very quietly decided at the same time to up the pay of its top managers non-union administrative employees by $910,000, including bumps to top management.

That bombshell came from two stories posted yesterday—first by Portland Afoot and then by the Oregonian. The news is sparking reader accusations of disingenuousness and malfeasance at an agency that held up years of employee pay freezes to bolster its arguments last year while wrangling with a sizable a budget shortfall.

From the O's story:

[TriMet General Manager Neil] McFarlane said a 3 1/2-year pay freeze had contributed to rapid turnover in the executive and management ranks at a time when the transit agency is fighting for its life.

However, as TriMet held several months of public hearings on proposals to trim $12 million from its fiscal year 2013 budget last year, the pay raises didn't come up. Not once.

Indeed, the general manager praised the sacrifice of non-union workers "now in their fourth year" of a pay freeze.

Meanwhile, the agency used an opaque budget item labeled "contingencies" to fund raises for managers making around $111,000 or more.

TriMet, predictably, says the pay bumps were needed to retain talent. The knowledge of such top-flight administrators might come as cold comfort to TriMet users, who now pay up to $2.50 per ride, part of a rate hike that disproportionately affects low-income riders.

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