1990 photo album into
From the ATU/TRI-MET 20th Anniversary Photo Album, April 1990
Visitors to the Portland metropolitan region invariably
remark on how gracefully Tri-Met, its transit system,
touches the places it serves. Buses move efficiently along
the Portland Mall. MAX rail cars glide quietly along
brick and cobblestone streets. Passenger amenities are
inviting. Vehicles are clean. Drivers are friendly.
All was not always so rosy.
Born in the 1969 crisis of increasing operating costs,
shrinking service and fewer and fewer people choosing
to take the bus, Tri-Met was created as a public agency
to maintain an essential public service. Tri-Met struggled
through the 70s to modernize its fleet, to expand service
and to meet the needs of a region realizing the effects of
the auto-dependent transportation planning of the 60s.
Portland’s air was foul, highways and streets were
congested, and transportation planners were ready to
strangle neighborhoods with ribbons of concrete
Tri-Met and Portland captured national attention by
constructing the first transit mall of its kind in the country,
declaring the downtown business district a "Fareless
Square" and creating suburban transit centers with
timed-transfer service–a model for the nation. Two bus
operations facilities were added to serve Washington
County and East Multnomah County.
Air quality improved, Portlanders became more
conscious of transit’s benefit to the region. Ridership
doubled in less than a decade and reached an all-time
high during the oil crisis of the1970s, prompting even
more aggressive planning to expand bus service and add
The economic recession of the 80s, however, brought
declines in both tax revenues and ridership. Faced with
a declining market and dwindling economic resources,
Tri-Met managers and employees worked as a team on a
long-range plan to undertake the tough decisions needed
to restore stability and improve efficiency to get the
most out of each dollar invested in transit service.
Tri-Met’s 15-mile light rail line, the Metropolitan
Area Express (MAX), opened on time and under budget in
September 1986. MAX has won many national and local
awards and is widely credited for boosting Tri-Met’s
overall approval rating in the community.
Persistant and loyal employees guided by well-focused
managers continued the revival plan, and the commitment
paid off. By 1988, despite a fare increase, ridership
increased; despite an aging fleet, miles between road
calls improved; workers’ compensation expenses
dropped; accidents were dramatically reduced.
As Tri-Met concludes its second decade of service to
one of America’s most livable cities and moves into the
1990s, Tri-Met’s employees will continue to play a vital
role in keeping Portland and the surrounding region the
place that Atlanta architect Walter Carey described as
"The city every other American city wants to be".