Transit union cries foul as TriMet contracts out shuttle service for its own drivers

By Don McIntosh

Is Oregon’s largest transit agency incapable of operating a single shuttle bus? You might think so given TriMet’s decision to hire an outside contractor to provide temporary shuttle service for its own workers.

TriMet’s Powell Garage bus facility at 9800 SE Powell Boulevard has begun an extensive renovation that will continue through 2022. Because the employee parking lot at the site is being used as a staging area for construction, bus drivers and mechanics will need to park at the Mall 205 park-and-ride lot and be transported to and from Powell Garage by shuttle.

To provide that service, TriMet’s board of directors at their Dec. 12 meeting authorized General Manager Doug Kelsey to hire a private parking shuttle bus company, Chicago-based SP Plus Corporation. The five-minute, 1.75-mile shuttle will operate 24 hours a day, leaving every 15 minutes from each end. The board resolution says SP may provide the service for up to five years and be paid as much as $2,765,970.

That didn’t sit well with Amalgamated Transit Union Local 757. In a letter to Kelsey and the Board the next day, Local 757 officers Shirley Block, Jon Hunt and Mary Longoria said TriMet’s frontline workforce almost universally opposes the contract. “Our members have been clear with us: They do not want to get to and from work on buses driven by non-union, third-party drivers,” they wrote.

“It is the height of absurdity that Oregon’s largest transit agency would contract out an employee shuttle, redistributing public tax dollars to an Illinois-based corporation, when you already employ over 1,300 professional bus operators who are eminently qualified to provide shuttle services for their fellow employees. TriMet could and must operate this service in-house using the professional, union-represented labor force which already moves the Portland region.”

TriMet management agreed to meet to discuss the decision the first week of January.

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