State audit: Safety, health care costs top problems for TriMet

State audit: Safety, health care costs top problems for TriMet

PORTLAND, Ore. – State auditors found getting things fixed on time was one of the top problems with TriMet’s MAX trains, a report released Wednesday by the secretary of state’s office found.

The rate of completion for preventative maintenance projects for tracks and signals has dropped since 2004, auditors said.

“Over the last 10-years, the percentage of track maintenance completed on time has dropped from about 92% to about 53%, and on-time signals maintenance declined from about 100% to about 72%,” according to the report.

State auditors also found that another issue was the “fitness for duty” of TriMet’s bus and MAX operators. Auditors noted that many operators don’t get checked by a supervisor because about 30 percent of them start their shifts in the field.

State auditors also found through interviews that many operators feel their safety concerns aren’t being adequately addressed by managers.

Additionally, the audit pointed to the cost of health benefits and the $852 million unfunded liability that the agency needs to pay to current and future retirees as the most concerning financial problem for TriMet.

State lawmakers in 2013 required the “top to bottom” audit after several felt the agency needed an independent examination because it had such a big budget and impacted a large number of people.

In response to the audit, TriMet said it has made progress in improving safety but knows it can do better.

“This audit helped us better understand we have to do more to ensure employees are hearing back from us about their concerns, especially on safety related topics,” TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane wrote.

He also said the audit “did a notable job capturing the status of our fiscal condition and the need for continued reform in the area of union benefits.”